At the gang infested border of Altadena, Fair Oaks makes a sharp right-angle before heading into the hills. Here it plays host to liquor stores and more liquor stores, and places where you can get a fast, small buck on a paycheck that may or may not be in the mail. Most of the Altadena crimes take place in this vicinity. Recently, a 90-year old woman was found dead in her home, beaten then burned, or burned then beaten. Not many people walk this part of the street, though some empty store fronts, strangely, so strangely, have quite a few customers.
It isn’t until you hit the hills that Fair Oaks Avenue relaxes again, sliding by a middle class section of homes, many fronted by that mono-dimensional rockery so popular in the 60’s. Any day of the week you'll find one house or another under siege by leaf blowers.
Fair Oaks dead ends where Zorthian Ranch begins.
Altadena reveres its characters. Zane Grey, Rodney King, Richard Feynman, Professor Lowe, Emily Harris, Zeke the Sheik … the brilliant, the crazy, con artist, criminal, the monumentally lucky, or unlucky. By Altadena standards, Jiryar Zorthian, hit enough criteria to be considered legendary.
Zorthian, an Armenian who escaped Turkey, was also supposedly an army intelligence officer in WWII, an expert horseman, a championship wrestler, an artist – and maybe he had been all that in actuality.
But I doubt he would have made the favorite-son list had it not been for his 45-acre mountaintop retreat. It had horses, dogs, goats, guests, a few structures and lean-to's, and a view straight out to the ocean. It also had huge amounts of jettisoned junk and trash, tossed carelessly into the canyons. Remainderings from salvaged-art projects. Enough to dam up one of the mountain streams until the County intervened.
But most of all, I suspect, Zorthian is remembered because of all the naked girls. And the wife who didn't seem to mind.
(More to come.)