Posted in Around Town

Clowns to the Left of Me, Proctor to the Right

Pasadena-specific blog post alert. Those of you who read may be curious about AP’s alignment with the Republican party. Does he really mean it? Yes. Is it logical for a working-class young guy who is interested in politics and a no-BS approach to become a Republican in Pasadena, especially after observing local political machinations? Yes. Is he doing it just to be annoying? No. Does he like it that some people are annoyed? Yes. Does AP have a sense of humor that is best described as “equal opportunity offender”? Yes. Does AP get it right on some of the issues? Yes, that’s why a lot of people read his blog. Should the ARTS buses expand their hours of operation? Yes.

There’s an article in the 2 June 2008 New Yorker entitled “The Dirty Trickster: Campaign tips from the man who has done it all” by Jeffrey Toobin. It’s about Roger Stone, who in his years as a political consultant, “…crossed the line between respectability and ignominy, and has become better known for leading a colorful personal life than for landing bigtime clients.” However, the guy has worked on high-profile campaigns, like George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Bob Dole in 1996 (he was forced to resign due to a sex scandal). Stone was involved in preventing the recount of votes in Miami-Dade County in 2000 (there is “some controversy about his precise role” the article says).

AP is no Roger Stone clone. Stone has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back. “Women love it,” he says. AP would probably go with a wrestler. After all, there are no graven images of Sid Tyler. (Any photos you may have seen of Sid Tyler are reasonable facsimiles.)

The article helped me understand the historical context for why someone like AP would become a Republican:

“He (Nixon) identified with the people who ate TV dinners, watched Lawrence Welk, and loved their country…

Nixon recognized the effectiveness of anti-elitism—a staple of American campaigns even today—as a core message. “Everybody talks about the Reagan Demorcrats who helped put the Republican Party over the top, but they were really the Nixon Democrats. The exodus of working-class people from the Democratic Party was started by Nixon. The realignment was delayed by Watergate, but it was really Nixon who figured out how to win,” Stone said. “We had a non-elitist message. We were the party of the workingman! We wanted lower taxes for everyone, across the board. They were the party of the Hollywood elite.”

AP identifies with people who like Wendy’s and watch Dr. Who and The Prisoner. AP doesn’t like what he perceives as Pasadena’s “Us up here gotta help them down there while making sure things are stay exactly the same for us up here” attitude. That attitude smacks of snobbery and hypocrisy, and it is an easy target for humorous jabs. If it wasn’t at least partially true, we wouldn’t be reading his blog and laughing.

Still, there are a lot of “up here” people, along with just regular people, who make significant contributions of time, money, or both to make Pasadena a better place. My guess is that AP wouldn’t argue with that, even though most of the people I’m thinking of really loved the film Sideways. Me included.

We were cringing along with Miles, the unpublished writer who wouldn’t stoop to drink merlot, but then showered himself with the winery tasting room’s spit bucket (upon learning that his book is not going to be published). We even turned away from merlot ourselves (for a while…we’ve gone back).

Meanwhile, we were laughing hard at Jack, the guy who popped open a bottle of unrefrigerated, rare champagne in the car when they first hit the road; the guy who charges the golfers on the golf course that hit into Jack and Miles; the guy who, when Miles dismisses a wine that tastes “like the back of an LA school bus,” unapologetically and unpretentiously replies, “Tastes pretty good to me.”

Posted in Let's Get Visual

Scouty Goodness

The Scout is out and about in the beautiful California landscape. He’s working on a car commercial for that automobile manufacturer that, you know, wants you to “See the USA.”

Earth’s dry skin. (Adjacent to Arco Pond Levee Road, Trona, CA)

Area adjacent to Trona Pinnacles Road, Trona, CA.

My high school cinematography teacher, Mr. Albert, would call that shot above a “Kung Fu” shot (remember the opening sequence of the television show?) The Master says, “To suppress a truth is to give it force beyond endurance.”

Wow, that’s Lara Parker in that Kung Fu clip (Master says, above). She played Angelique in one of my favorite shows from way back, Dark Shadows. I used to race home from school to watch it.

Main Street, Trona, CA. Trona was built as a company town, and today is home to a soda ash processing plant. I love its Twilight Zone appeal.

No photos of Trona Pinnacles this time around…maybe next time.

Let’s go north, shall we?

Movie Road, Lone Pine, CA.

Highway 190, Lone Pine, CA.

Crowley Lake, Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Grant Lake, Mammoth Lakes, CA.

All photos © Tim Down

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Congratulations and best wishes to everyone getting married today. It’s been a long wait, and I’m really happy this day is finally here.

Posted in Around Town, Issues

The First Graffiti of Summer

But first, a bit about Santa Monica.

I celebrated Father’s Day by taking my dad to Santa Monica, the town that maintains a firing squad for anyone caught smoking anywhere. We sat on the patio sidewalk in front of this place, and my dad asked the waiter server if he could smoke. He knew the answer would be no, but he wanted to see what the guy would say. Server-dude said it’s okay to smoke six feet away from the eating area.

Minutes later, another restaurant patron lit up while sitting at his table. I’m not sure if server-dude saw this or not. No one was at the table next to the guy. In fact, no one was within six feet of this guy. No one was offended. No one said anything.

Later we walked through Palisades Park. I pointed out the “No Smoking” signs. We walked out to the pier, which is also a no smoking area. I saw two elderly tourists, a European-looking couple, both with a cigarette in hand. I thought how incredibly ridiculous it would be for a police officer to approach them and request that they extinguish their smoking materials.

Aggressive anti-smoking ordinances are only effective if they can be enforced. When ordinances are so comprehensive as to be unenforceable, they just end up being silly. Santa Monica, you’ve gone too far. Everyone, even smokers, knows that smoking is bad, even the blind smokers that have to buy the special cigarette packs with the surgeon general’s warning in Braille (not really, I just made that up). I can’t imagine Santa Monica wants to yank cigarettes out of tourists hands and end up losing tourism income. Or will nicotine replacement soon be available at the Visitor’s Center?

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It’s been weeks, people, WEEKS since I’ve seen any egregious graffiti in my little corner of District 1. That really doesn’t mean much considering how I’ve been chained to my desk working on a project. Anyway, this little Father’s Day gift was deposited at the northeast corner of Lincoln and Montana.

In fairness, the WWMHS was not on the wall. It’s just that I figured out that I could put text on photos, so I had to try it out.

Posted in Writing

Sunshine on the Blather

I’ve been interviewed by none other than AP, and you can read about it here. AP notes that this blog is photo heavy, and for sure I have to give a shout out to The Scout for that.

Breckenridge Road, Bakersfield (photo by Tim Down)

An invitation – me to you. For the past few years, I’ve been attending Terrie Silverman’s Life Stories Workshop. Terrie has helped me gain confidence as a writer, and believe me, the starting place was somewhere down near the center of the earth. I still make an occasional trip into to those soul-sapping climes, like right now as I’m typing this. Still, thanks to Terrie, I’m generally breathing fresh air and maintaining this blog which has lots of photos.

We’re hosting a reading this Friday in Pasadena. There will be 7-8 writers reading their work, no more than 10 minutes each (and believe me, Terrie will not let anyone go over). Afterwards, we have wine and a nosh. Tickets are $8, but half off if you mention this blog! Susan of Cancer Banter and Open Mouth Insert Fork will be performing (not reading!) her Pole Dancing piece, and she is fabulous in person.

Date: Friday, June 13, 2008

Time: 7:30 pm

Place: Church of the Angels Parish Hall, 1100 N. Ave 64, Pasadena (south side of Church Street).  Street parking is available.  MTA bus 256.  I can give you a lift home if needed.

[ Yahoo! Maps ]

Directions to
1100 N. Avenue 64, Pasadena, CA 91105

I hope to see you there!

Posted in Let's Get Visual

Summer Light

You may have noticed this morning that summer light has arrived here in Southern California.

You know summer light is on the way when you see the jacarandas blooming.

Jacarandas at Caltech. (Photo courtesy of Eye Level Pasadena.)

We had a lot of rain this past winter, but we (meaning the able-bodied two of us in my humble abode) have not cultivated our own green thumbs.

Our back yard has been busy cultivating itself.

The lemon tree, untouched by human hands. Our style of gardening gives “organically grown” new meaning.

The inclination of the back yard is to shield us from too much summer light, knowing it to be directly related to summer heat.

That’s very kind of you, Back Yard, but you’ve outdone yourself.

You’ve subsumed the clothesline by doubling a plum tree. The clothesline is metal, Yard, and you are not. Know that you must return the clothesline to me when the time is right for me to hack the plum tree into submission. I don’t know when that time is, but I’m going to google it and find out.

You’ve let this bush go from huge to massive:

I don’t know the name of this bush. I’ll find out, I promise. In the meantime, could you please make it go to sleep? Just look (below, left side) how big it is. That is big enough, thank you.

Oh Back Yard, the Ume (Japanese apricot tree) is lovely. You know I love the white blossoms every January.

But whatever am I to do with the fruit from this tree that has been carpeting the back yard for the last couple of weeks?

I’m not going to work myself up into a lather of guilt about the fact that I’ve actually thrown quite a few of these away. But please, they are still dropping at the rate of 2 per minute. You know by now that I’m not going to make Umeshu.


Years ago, a woman who owned a Japanese restaurant in Long Beach would stop by once a year and take the apricots—she made Umeshu. She may have retired; I don’t know. Here’s Ume for Beginners if you want to have a go. If you’re local, I’ll drop the fruit off to you.

I know I’m very fortunate to have a plot of earth to call my own. One of these days, it would be nice to rise to the occasion of actually taking care of it. I mean, a bit better than I do. Does one grow into this sort of thing? (pun – ouch) Will I wake up one day and long to be in the garden instead of reading a book?

In the meantime, there are those who regularly inspire me with their domestic aplomb. Each of them understands deeply the garden-to-table connection:

The Fabulous Kitty – Check out her blog post on how to make biscuits.

Pasadena Housewife

Tableau Vivante

A Thinking Stomach

and of course Miss “All Politics is Personal” Havisham, aka Purple Wysteria Hysteria Chili Queen of Sierra Madre

Posted in England, Travel

Old Blighty – Part 7 (The End)

London is not like the rest of England, just like New York City isn’t like any other place in the US of A. So if you really want the full meal deal, I’d recommend some time in London, and some time out of it. Most people go to Oxford, but Cambridge is much prettier (and relatively close to London). There are many other outstanding cities to visit: York, Chester and Bath leap to mind. There are dozens of others as well.

Traveling with an older person magnified the quick pace of London vs the pace of the rest of the country. Here’s my dad in Savile Row, his own sartorial splendour courtesy of the National Press Club, contemplating the meaning of “bespoke tailors.”

We ended up in Savile Row because I happened to read that Linda McCartney’s photographs were on view at the James Hyman Gallery (5 Savile Row).

(sorry, that’s a bit crooked, and I can’t take the time to fix it…)

One of the greatest things about travel is the serendipity of stumbling upon things. After we went to Hamley’s to buy the Tardis coin collector (piggy bank for you Yanks), it was an easy walk to see this exhibition. A perfect thing to do in the morning before going to Heathrow for an afternoon flight.

Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like we checked in, dropped the luggage, then had to go up two long escalators, only to walk through a large, expensive retail area, then find our way back down another escalator to get to the correct gate.

I hope to be back in that green and pleasant land soon.

Here endeth the Old Blighty series. Cheerio!