Posted in Around Town, Let's Get Visual

Retail is Tough in this Town

Times are tough for selling stuff in Pasadena. The furniture store at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Montana Street closed a while back after limping along for over a year. Considering that former furniture giant Levitz is closing its retail locations (due to bankruptcy) I guess this isn’t much of a shock. I mean, how often do you really buy a couch? For me it’s one of those once-every-10-years kind of things.

We did our part for this little store. Bought a couch (it was time). Bought a rug. Nice stuff. I’m very thorough, so of course I dragged The Scout to every furniture store in town to make sure we weren’t missing something. The Scout is fussy particular about his likes and dislikes…part of that whole visual artist thing. And he really liked the couch at this store best. We were more than happy to find what we liked at a local business.

Home - couch

Ah yes, blogging at its finest. Our couch on the Interwebs for the world to see. No wonder real journalists look down their noses at bloggers.

Here’s a bit of the rug while I’m at it.

Home - rug

Kinda looks like something Miss Havisham would own, doesn’t it?

Now there are signs up that a dental clinic is moving in. I’m guessing this will be a for-profit enterprise.

Dental clinic under construction

Do we classify this under healthcare or under “service economy“? I’m holding out for the day when healthcare is not primarily a money-making enterprise.

Still, I’d rather something in that space than nothing.

= – = – = – = – =

A Plug for Perry’s Joint: Across the street from the dental-clinic-to-be is Perry’s Joint, 2051 Lincoln Avenue, Pasadena (very Altadena adjacent!). Perry’s has great sandwiches, free wireless Internet, and exceptional service. 626-798-4700. Street parking in the front, more parking in the back (note: spaces in the back are snug).

Posted in Around Town, Issues

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m a week late. But I went to the “Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Choir Festival” at All Saints Church, Pasadena thanks to the invitation of my friend L. The music was spectacular, but my favorite part were the readings between the musical performances—MLK on racism, on economic justice, on militarism.

Here’s a link to Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence By Rev. Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967. This speech is 40 years old and still relevant on so many levels. An excerpt:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

Posted in Around Town, Books, Let's Get Visual, Writing

Steve Martin with Carol Burnett

Steve Martin and Carol Burnett were in conversation last night courtesy of Writers’ Bloc and Town Hall Los Angeles over at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Steve & Carol

They swapped anecdotes and the occasional barb (all in good fun). Carol is charming, and Steve is a good sport for getting out there and talking about himself. Even though it is clear he will never return to stand-up, he seems curious about how a live audience will respond to him at this stage of his career—or even who that live audience is.

In the case of last night, the audience was a lot of 40ish and 50ish white folks who braved the elements and plunked down $20. The audience was enthusiastic and appreciative on the front end. The conversation went well, with both recounting tales of face-to-face negative fan feedback. In Carol’s case, it was a man in a hallway just after Carol had finished her performance. She knew she’d bombed, and she remembers looking down and seeing the tears on her shoes. “You stink!,” the man said. In Steve’s case, a woman in an antique store asked him if he was the one she had seen on Johnny Carson last night. When he said yes, she sneered, “EEEWWWWW.”

The Q & A session was pretty good too, but the lighting on stage made it almost impossible for Carol and Steve to see the questioners (even though the house lights were at least partially up). The facilitator didn’t notice that the audience was starting to leak out toward the end, so rather than a proper send off (Carol was more than ready to give a gracious bow) the evening ended rather unceremoniously. Middle-aged people love their icons, but apparently they loathe long lines even more. The audience quickly dispersed to the lobby to get in line for the book signing.

Martin’s latest book, Born Standing Up, chronicles his early career, from the magic shop Disneyland to performing at Knott’s Berry Farm. After a brief stint at UCLA in the theatre department, he got a job as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. When CBS canned the show, Steve pursued his stand-up career, meticulously recording what worked and what didn’t work (a practice held over from his magic shop days).

Operating from the premise that you can question anything, Martin questioned the very nature of stand-up comedy. He refined his show, developing a ‘no-punch line’ approach that was cumulative. Laughs would build and build, then roll. The houses got bigger and bigger; ultimately the arenas that Martin could fill were too big for his nuanced comedy, and he moved on to films.

SM 3

SM 4

SM - The Mighty Hand of Steve

The might hand of Steve reaching for yet another book. He signed hundreds, and was very gracious about doing so. Way to be, man.

Posted in Books

Books Fall Open…

…and I fall in. I love nothing better than diving full body into a book (not literally, silly). I love to be overtaken by another world, to walk through the world that the characters inhabit, to be transported to another place in time.

Books Fall Open

Recent transportation-via-reading has taken me to France in 1940-41. I’m reading Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. The book is composed of two novellas. In the first, Parisians are fleeing their city just ahead of the Germans marching in. The urgency of flight coupled with characters’ varying dilemmas–I must take my manuscripts! I must take my ceramic collection! I must take mama’s fine silver and linens!–show the reader how dire situations magnify both strengths and weaknesses. The propensity of most of us is to stick with what is known, while the crisis unfolds more rapidly than we can imagine. In flight, the mayonnaise on the sandwiches gets runny and the sandwiches are thrown away. Hours later, there is no food to be had anywhere, for any price.

The second novella is about the German occupation of a farming town. The (mostly very young) Germans do their best to be humane, speaking in French, playing with the local kids, etc. Illustrating that most soldiers are made, not born, we encounter a musician drafted into the German army, mourning his “…music, still waiting to find expression. Musical phrases, delightful chords, subtle dissonances stand poised…wild, winged creatures frightened off by the crash of weapons.”

Still, deep distrust remains: not only between the French and the Germans (many French seem to remember 1914, and even 1870, like it was 5 minutes ago); but also between different classes of French society.

What is remarkable about this work is that it manages to look on the war from such a broad point of view that one would think it was written after the war was over. It is a heart-wrenching experience to read Némirovsky’s even-handed observations of the occupation, and then to know that she died in Auschwitz in 1942 (of typhus). Her husband Michel Epstein was killed in the gas chamber there one month later.

I Nemirovsky

Némirovsky with her daughter Denise Epstein


Site dedicated to Irène Némirovsky

L’Affaire Némirovsky by Benita Eisler

NY Times reviews Suite Française here and here too.

The Borzoi Reader (a publication of Alfred J. Knopf, the publisher)

Book Browse biography, which includes information about what happened to Némirovsky’s daughters during and after the war.

UPDATE: I will take this opportunity to reply to Susan’s 161 meme. The idea is to turn to page 161 of the book you are currently reading, and record the sixth sentence on that page. Here goes (I counted the partial sentence at the top of the page as #1):

“The passions he described, his feelings, his scruples, this history of a generation, his generation—they were all old, useless, obsolete.”

Now for the tagging (feel free to take your time, and feel free to ignore all together if you like)–
Cancer Banter
Red Stapler
The DHX (this is a two-fer!) Eye Level Pasadena & Kathy’s Blog may be a better way to do this tag though.
KP – (my lurker) you could post your response in the comments, anonymously if you like.

Posted in My Stuff

People Leave & Kids Shed Kid Status

I’ve lived in Pasadena over two decades. I stay, other people go. Several times, I’ve had really good friends move to other parts of the country, leaving a big hole in my social circle. I’ve grieved and then moved on. Actually, I believe that some kinds of loss, like the loss of a friend through moving (or death), are permanent. One never really ‘gets over’ the loss. It is simply loss.

One of my good friends is moving back to France. She met a great guy, and the long-distance approach isn’t working. They want to be together. I’m going to miss her. Yes, we’ll e-mail, but it won’t be the same as getting together in person (at her cute beach-adjacent apartment in Redondo).

Kids also grow up. When mine were little, it seemed like 9 more years until high school graduation was an eternity. Now I’m counting the years AFTER high school graduation. Scary.

My son is going up to UC Berkeley today. He’s transferring in from Pasadena City College. Cal didn’t have room for him last fall, so he waited until now. The proud momma in me could not resist passing this on, even though he’s the one that did the work to get there. (Well, I did volunteer quite a bit.)

Since he spent part of his educational career in Pasadena Unified schools, and they will be so pleased that one of their own is matriculating at a UC school, I thought I’d recount a bit of his journey.

At this point, C plans to major in philosophy. Continue reading “People Leave & Kids Shed Kid Status”

Posted in Around Town, Let's Get Visual

Heritage Square

What’s going on at the embattled Heritage Square here in Pasadena? It’s been an empty lot (except for the house) for months. I drove by today around noon and this is what I saw.

Heritage Sq wide

Lots of cars on site.

Heritage Sq trailers

Some trailers too.

Heritage Sq car 2

Heritage Sq car 1

People (I almost recognize that guy on the left) washing an unusual car.

Anyone know what is going on?

Posted in Cool Stuff, Let's Get Visual

Wind Farm – Coachella Valley

Wind Farm Approach

Approaching the wind farm in the Coachella Valley.

Wind Farm 2

Wind Farm 1

Wind Farm 4

Wind Farm 5 Train

Obviously, this is not a passenger train. Still, the sound of a train makes me think of Joni Mitchell’s song “Just Like This Train

Well I’ve got this berth and this roll down blind
I’ve got this fold up sink
And these rocks and these cactus going by
And a bottle of German wine to drink

Wind Farm 6 row

Wind Farm 7 Train

I love trains in an irrational, Fellini sort of way.

Wind Farm double row

Wind Farm Row

Best use of this wind farm as a location in a feature film? Robert Altman’s The Player, of course.