Saturday, August 23, 2008

Amy's Patio Café

Altadenahiker and I scolded Café Observer (in a loving way) when he admitted he'd never been to Amy's Patio Café. We love Amy's: much classier than a diner but just as friendly.

John and I ran an errand in Canyon Country yesterday morning. We were late and had to skip breakfast. By the time we got back we had worked up an APPETITE for Amy's. We missed the breakfast rush and were too early for lunch, but they fixed us up some eggs, stat. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of the zucchini bread that comes first thing to every table, but it didn't survive long enough for the camera to come out of my purse.

A little review of Amy's:

Food: Classy but not snooty. They serve breakfast and lunch made with fresh ingredients. Although you can get straight-up fare, you can also opt for more adventuresome omelets, sandwiches or salads. They give you enough and the coffee's good.

Service: These people are good-natured. I think owner Lauren requires it. And I don't know if she always does this, but she stopped by our table yesterday and has done so when I've visited previously, too.

Ambiance: Airy. There's no actual patio, but the huge picture window, ceiling fans and greenery make it seem like one. The music is quiet and they don't air-condition the place to freezer proportions. You can go in your hiking clothes or your business suit.

Prices: Mid-range. We paid about $15 each for a big breakfast, including tax and tip.
Location: Southeast corner of Lake Avenue and Altadena Drive in Altadena.
Parking: Teeny lot right there. More on Lake just south.

Yesterday I forgot to ask Lauren who Amy is, but if memory serves, Lauren named the café after her mother. I couldn't find a website. The link above is to their MySpace page. I friended them. That's appropriate.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I was certain this gathering of turrets was another creation by Leo until I ran into Leo himself. "Not this time," he said. So I don't know who made the little castles in the foreground.

The fortress in the background is the Devil's Gate Dam. I know who built that, if Wikipedia's article is correct (though I think Wikipedia's a place to begin one's research rather than end it): the Los Angeles County Flood Control District built the dam in 1920.

Hard to believe we ever needed flood control, isn't it?

All things change. Even castles are impermanent. Droughts too, and that's no fairy tale.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Arf Imitates Art

There's plenty of graffiti around town. Some of it's interesting, even good. I haven't posted much because I think of it as vandalism. No matter how artistic it is, it's still defacement of property and I don't want to promote it. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Boz is an artist. He vandalizes the Arroyo all the time. I found biodegradable/compostable dog waste bags at Whole Foods, so once he's completed an art project we take it to the nearest art receptacle. There are plenty of them, conveniently but discretely placed along the path in the Lower Arroyo Park.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fields of Dreams

John and I love to take Boz for long walks in the (relatively) wild fields north of the Devil's Gate Dam, an area locally known as "JPL." (We don't actually walk the dog at the Jet Propulsion Lab. As much fun as the lab might be for us I don't think the scientists would appreciate the intrusion and I'm sure it would all be lost on Boz.)

Many people use the area, properly named Hahamongna Watershed Park. I often see horseback riders, runners, bikers and hikers, plus ground squirrels, lizards, rabbits and all kinds of birds I couldn't begin to name. But I hadn't seen a guitarist until the other day.

I'm usually shy about photographing people but this was an opportunity not to be missed, so I approached the man and asked if I could take his picture. He said, "Shoot away, have fun." He began to play and I began to shoot, and it was fun (though it was still lost on Boz). The al fresco musician's name is Ronnie Ray Fields; he practices in the park because he loves it there and dreams of getting better. I thought he sounded pretty good. John and I noticed he was being a good neighbor, too; his amplifier was turned down low and as we stepped away the sound faded quickly.

The experience was encouraging. Maybe I'll be bold enough to ask for a photo of a human again soon. Folks can always say no but they might say yes, and I might meet more interesting Pasadenyites like Ronnie Ray Fields.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From Pandemonium to Pasquale

When LizBeth Lucca, artistic director of the Repertory Opera Company, invited me to photograph a dress rehearsal of Donizetti's Don Pasquale, I was glad to go. The Repertory Opera Company is the group I enjoyed so much last April when they performed Music in the Mansion at the Fenyes Mansion of the Pasadena Museum of History.

Last Sunday night was the first dress rehearsal for Don Pasquale, which opens this Thursday at 8PM at the Neighborhood Church of Pasadena (details here). If you've never been to a first dress rehearsal the chaos might shock you. But I felt right at home amid the inevitable wardrobe malfunctions, missed entrances and forgotten lines. After all, the purpose of a dress rehearsal is to iron out the kinks.

The singing, though, was something else altogether. Above, soprano Keiko Clark sings the role of Norina. Thursday night she'll be singing with, among others, Conrad Immel as Don Pasquale. I know from my stage experience that by then the lights will be in place, entrances will be perfectly timed, and the performers will be as comfortable in their parts as Michael Phelps is in the water.

Director Lucca, a trained singer and actor herself, teaches an acting class for opera singers and prides herself on a company with acting chops. Even in rehearsal, the comic moments had me laughing out loud. In the short time I was there, the kinks got smoother and smoother, and the excitement of opening night filled the air like music.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Zen Monday: No Parking

Oh go ahead. Try.

Zen Monday is the day you experience the photo then tell me what it's about, rather than me telling you what to experience from viewing it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Climb Begins

Saturdays are busy on the Sam Merrill Trail, but yesterday was the first time I ever saw a troop of U.S. Marine Corps recruits take to the path. The sergeant (front row, center) was amenable when I asked if I could take a photo, but now that I look at it I'm not sure all the recruits wanted their picture taken. However, they were ordered into formation and they posed with their mascot, Banzai. This group is from the Pasadena Substation.

They're at the beginning of a learning process and it's not going to be easy. Already things were tough on the trail. One recruit had trouble keeping up; it was hot, the recruit wasn't in shape and the sergeant had to yell. It was going to be a long hike.

John and I did a short hike, part way up. On the way down we passed a brief altercation between the sergeant and a civilian hiker who thought the sergeant was being too harsh.

Archetypally, it was an argument between protector and protected.

That sparked a discussion between me and John about whether or not the Marines should have been training in public view on the Sam Merrill trail. It's clear we need a military, as unfortunate and medieval as that may be. And the training can be tough, it can get ugly. And although we well-protected, well-to-do, insulated non-military types benefit from it we don't want to be exposed to it, do we?

If you read my blog you know I'm one of those lefties who despise war, but I can tell the difference between the fight and the fighter. The young people I saw on the trail yesterday may end up as supply officers, soldiers, engineers, recruiters... Regardless, they volunteered to serve their country, our country. I don't know what sent them, whether they're escaping something or seeking something. I only know I'm grateful and I hope they find what they need. That recruit who struggled up the hill was struggling with more—with self and with Self. And there are bigger battles to come.

I wish them all safety and success.