Saturday, May 24, 2008

Giant Asparagus

After rains like the ones we've had over the last couple of days, our crops prosper. Here's some of the giant asparagus that grows here, just beginning to sprout. Soon there will be enough to feed the locals all summer. (See husband for scale.)

Okay, it's called Agave Americana, or Century Plant. It's a succulent that needs very little water. It takes ten years or so to grow very big, bloom once, then die. This one's getting close to blooming. The blooms will come out at the tops and sides of those tall stalks. Eventually the stalks will dry out and fall over, at which time you don't want to be walking along the path.

We're west of the Brookside Golf Course, just north of the Rose Bowl Stadium. If you walk your dog there, keep Fido on a leash. Dogs just love a putting green, and the fence has some intriguing, dog-sized holes in it. People! Balls! Carts to chase! What fun! Fido! Come back!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weird Weather

Yesterday we had hail in Pasadena, snow in Baldwin Park and a tornado in Riverside. You could say the weather in southern California's a for May.

More rain today (yay!). Drive with care.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

City Symmetry

There are more impressive buildings in the world than Pasadena's City Hall—the Taj Mahal, Versailles, and I could go on—but a small building can be an architectural gem.

I can't find a less-than-lovely view of City Hall. At each corner of the courtyard is a stairwell. All four are housed in towers identical to this one, with the same elaborate reliefs, wide open window and belvedere on top. I like climbing up inside (even the stairs are beautiful!) and looking out to the mountains. Looking up from below is nice, too.

The courtyard's a good place to take your book, but you probably won't read it. It's more fun to watch what's doing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Superfluous Detail

Architectural details like this enchant me. Architecture went through a period in the mid- to late-20th Century where this type of detail was often thought unnecessary. But we're starting to see the return of art for art's sake. This edifice is probably from the early 20th Century. Do you know where it is? Plain sight, busy corner, but who makes a habit of looking up?

The function of this meticulous brickwork is to look good. Is that function enough?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bungalow in a Box

It's legal to take photos from the street, but I feel awkward taking pictures of peoples' homes. I'd feel weird if I saw someone taking a picture of my house. Go to Google Maps, type in your your address and click on "street view," and you'll know what kind of weird I'm talking about. So I was lucky when I found the owner of this house pulling into his driveway, because I wanted a photo of his home and I wanted his permission to take it.

This house, in Pasadena's Bungalow Heaven, is special because it was made from a kit. Kit houses were popular in the 1920s, and Pasadena sports several good examples. (There's one on my block; according to the owner it was ordered from a Sears catalogue.) The one you see here is from Pacific Ready-Cut Homes. It was built in 1924 and first used as a model by the Gregg and Beaman Company, distributor of the kits in Pasadena.

Here's an article by Rosemary Thornton about kit houses. The first picture looks like the house above. Thornton co-authored a book about kit houses with Dale Patrick Wolicki. (You can try Pasadena Public Library, too.)

When ordering your kit, you could choose from among several home styles. The kit came with everything you needed: doors, windows, wood, cabinets— even light fixtures. And instructions, of course.

The homeowner I spoke to yesterday said he'd had his house bolted to the foundation, and he was going to do some work on the roof. Show me a southern California house where that never happens, kit or no kit.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eclectic Avenue

Del Mar Blvd. between Lake Avenue and Arroyo Parkway is purple with the bloom of Jacarandas right now. Ben posted a pretty shot at the sky is big in pasadena. I tried to get the effect of the avenue of trees—bright purple along both sides of the road, as far as the eye can see. But you have to stand in the middle and I didn't want to get arrested. (Letty would call me a piker.)

If you're a local, you need to get on your bike or in your car and take a ride down Del Mar—maybe down and back—while the Jacarandas are in bloom.