Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A peek beneath the tent

My famous friend, artist Elizabeth Garrison, let me use one of her ceramic pieces to illustrate a Patch column. See it here; click to enlarge. The tile is just a taste, a mere sip, of what's to come. Garrison, along with artist/partner Victor Henderson will have a new installation opening this year, and I'll give you all the info when the time comes. Or go to her blog -- Pasadena Adjacent -- link on the blogroll. (That's all for now as I still haven't figured out who you have to sleep with to get a second paragraph on Blogger.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Anyone know a simple new blogger format similar to the old one? I can't even put in space between my pictures and my text. So I removed all my text (the words of which, needless to say, were the cleverest, the most insightful I've ever written. They would have made you weep with their perspicacity, rueful humor, and similarity to Mark Twain, the Huckleberry Finn years. And don't expect to ever read those words, because I deleted the whole thing in a fit of pique. And if I misspelled pique, or misspelled misspelled, it's because spell check isn't working, either).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Your Carriage Awaits

And says hubba-hubba

Homemade, and

cooling its heels on Holliston in Altadena.

The owners, they don't need no stinkin' Lojack.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our Town, Our Murder

Murder is easy -- fictionally speaking, and a pretty nifty dramatic device. When a writer or movie director adds a corpse and a detective to a roomful of pretty people, we’ll get suspense for sure, romance perhaps, and certainly an hour or two of entertainment

Which is ironic. Because in real life, there’s no entertainment value in murder, though local TV news remains unconvinced of that fact. Murder is nothing but misery and waste.

The boy or man found dead and lit on fire in Altadena Sunday morning didn’t find fame in his lifetime. But he’s famous now, for a few days, anyway.

It’s a pity he’ll never know that television news vans gathered on Windsor in his honor, and reporters went door- to-door, hoping to mike up something of prurient interest. He was worth oh so much more to them dead than alive. (More on Patch)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Don't ask me where you're going

At night, it gets extraordinarily dark at the foot of the hills.

That which might be deemed basic requirements in other towns, we consider afterthoughts.

Our street lights, those that we have, now and again, work when the mood strikes and lightning doesn't. And every few blocks there’s a street sign -- a warrior wounded by a Santa Ana wind, or a driver, angry or drunk. The signs don’t point so much as suggest several possibilities -- east and west, of course, but also down below and to the sky.

If you try the sidewalks, you’ll get derailed; our sidewalks start somewhere mid-way down a street and end at someone’s garage. Then pick up again, oh, maybe three or ten houses later, which folks find whimsical or irrational, depending. When it comes to gentrification, we blow hot and cold.

Because I walk at night, cars often slow to turtle speed and ask directions.

Some people are born knowing the earth’s coordinates, I really believe that. And no matter what, no matter when, they just somehow know where they are on this earth.

That’s not me. Though I have perfect pitch.

What I don’t have, among many other things, is a sense of direction, so when people ask directions, I can’t visualize where it is they want to go or, when they ask me, where we stand.

If it’s very late, their questions often have a desperate urgency. And I feel compelled to offer something. Forgetting for the moment that accuracy isn’t beside the point, it is the only point.

So I respond, say something, throw forth a north and south. Is this a desire to help my fellow man? Or just an automatic reflex to have an answer for every question.

When they speed away, I promise myself, never again will I tell anyone where they’re not and how far they are from where I’ve never been.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Art on Palm and Home Invasion

When the Zane Grey estate holds an open house or free urban homestead workshop, I’m there. Under false pretences usually, but with lots of company. Of the fifty or so people assembled at the last goat husbandry class, for example, just how many really planned to one day sit on a milking stool and squeeze that thingy? No, I could tell most everyone belonged to my tribe – The Opportunists. We seize any chance to wander around an interesting bit of Altadena’s historic private property.

Which brings us to Art on Palm, the twice-yearly, one-day-only outdoor Altadena art show.

The first time I went, it was just an excuse to take a legal walk down a private road and look around the old residential canyon called Wildwood Park. But my dubious intentions for visiting Art on Palm turned strangely honest when I actually bought something.

If you’re interested in art and fine craftsmanship -- ceramics, collage, jewelry, painting, woodcarvings -- no doubt you already plan to attend. But if the lure of local artists and a private canyon doesn’t call your name, then, this year for the first time, how about the opportunity to tour one of the Wildwood Park cottages, built more than a century ago.

These days, Wildwood is within walking distance of drug stores, gas stations and whatever else makes up Altadena’s current town center. But it wasn’t always so.

At the turn of the last century, Wildwood and the cottages were a long train or buggy ride from anywhere, located at the crossroads of barely-there and nothing-much. Pasadena had been incorporated for just 14 years, and Henry Huntington wouldn't buy his San Marino for another three.

There's more on Patch, but I prefer this abbreviated version, with some wrap-up, of course. I was asked to excise the bit where I got a private tour of the historic cottage and when I raised my camera, realized I had left the battery at home.

My editor thought that part sounded unprofessional. And so it was. And so I am.

But I don't mind admitting to public embarrassment. In some odd way, I find it soothing.

Wish I could go back and edit the whole piece down. But you know, in the past year and a half, I've written more than 90 columns on Patch. And with that kind of volume, I've learned that at some point you've just got to stop fiddling and let it go.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's my eye, and I'm beholding

Newt is an acquired taste.

Give her time; she'll grow on you. I doubt anyone ever appreciated their very first sip of Dalmore 64 Trinitas.

And besides, as a purebred Sphynx, Newt may be worth a lot of money, but she's no cream puff. Apparently she survived another brush with death, because when she came to my door today her tail was stitched up from top to bottom. She's a pip, I tell you. And fearless. And beautiful.

Newt reminds me of this guy I knew when I was growing up. He was little. We were all little, but Chip was really little, half our size. He came from a family of big people, tall parents, and two older brothers who played football. I guess they had no more feet or inches left when it came to Chip.

Still, Chip was the kind of kid who always had his arm in a sling or a patch on his eye or his middle digit taped to one of those tongue depressors. He was a scrapper.

If anyone teased Chip, it was at their peril. Maybe he couldn't reach to punch a fellow in the jaw, still he could run full force and head-butt someone right in the gut.

I wonder where Chipper is today. Probably in charge of some multi-billion dollar corporation, or in prison, or both.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When Wildlife Cuts the Cheese

If you don’t like the way skunks smell, you’re not alone. Skunks don't like the way skunks smell, either. And this is fortunate, because it means they don’t spray on a random, recreational basis, but only when danger lurks and it's absolutely necessary.

Still, and not to be indelicate, skunks suffer from a certain amount of leakage. Their scent glands secrete some odor constantly, and most particularly during the mating season. Which explains why, when it comes to sex and the single skunk, coupling is a strictly utilitarian affair and speed is of the essence.

Unlike crows, wolves, and even the occasional humans, there’s no romance, after-glow, or lifetime commitment in the skunky mating ritual.

After a quick consummation, the boy skunk and girl skunk slink away as quickly as possible, in opposite directions. Last one out is a rotten egg, or at least smells like one. And they make no promise to meet or see each other ever again.

It should come as no surprise that skunks live a life of quiet and odoriferous solitude.

But a word here, in defense of skunks. They're not fighters – they do not attack their own kind, or any other kind, with tooth or nail or knife or gun. Their best defense is an olfactory offense. They turn the other cheek, as it were. You’ve got to respect an animal that doesn't want to inflict mortal wounds, just some temporary pain in the aesthetics. (More on Patch)