Saturday, September 13, 2008

Purple Haze

The automatic settings on my little camera don't cut it when it's dark. Woe is me! I've had to actually read the manual! Last night I went shooting in the dusk.

You're seeing the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the background; this part of the mountains is part of the Angeles National Forest. The foreground is the low-lying parts of Hahamongna Watershed Park. At dusk that's coyote domain. Boz's hillbilly cousins start heckling him from out where he can't see them.

The twinkly part in the middle is NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.Who do you suppose was working late on a Friday night? They think up all sorts of things over there. The mind boggles.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Permanently Parked

What was I doing Monday night and all day Tuesday that was so important?

See, this boarded-up apartment building's been sitting up on blocks in a parking lot at the corner of El Molino and Union for a year. A year. Waiting for bureaucracy to figure out what was going to happen to it. Everyone was tired of it, let me tell you. Even the bureaucrats. Some people wanted to get the project underway, some people wanted to live in the building, some wacky people wanted to actually use the lot to park in, and some people just wanted to stop being forced to look at the thing.

Well, finally they closed down Union St. Monday night through Tuesday and moved the Evelyn Broadway apartments. And I missed the photo op of the year.

John and I stopped by the new location today at the corner of Union and Mar Vista. The historic Evelyn Broadway apartments are ready for their new foundation. (No one mentions why they're historic--someone must have mentioned the word within earshot of a reporter and it stuck.) Now everyone's happy, except probably the folks who live in the teeny pink house next door.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Things are Not Always Black and White

This cat knew just where to sit to capture the light of the sunset. Sitting was all she had to do. She had no decisions to make, no responsibilities weighing on her.

I tried the picture in black & white, but I prefer this one in color.

Whether or not black & white works depends on what we're looking at. Sometimes the subject is better suited to that medium. Then again, sometimes a picture requires us to view it with all the colors available to us.

May we always have the insight to know when to see with all our colors, and when to see simply in black and white.

Thin Red Line

I messed with this picture (gee, can you tell?) because I want you to see that red line on the road. If I don't myrtilize the picture, the line fades out of your vision, like this:

The line is turning north from Colorado Blvd. onto Sierra Madre Blvd., heading up toward Pasadena High School.

I've turned that corner over and over again but didn't notice the red line until the other day when it finally caught my eye. What's it for?

Aha. It can only be one thing. It's marking a route.

This is the relatively inglorious part of the route of the Tournament of Roses Parade. Floats turn north here off of Colorado Blvd. and wind things up near the High School. I only say "inglorious" because this part's not seen on TV. The floats are still beautiful here, and thousands of parade viewers still line the route. In fact there's RV parking near the high school, and one of the parade's honored traditions, the Post Parade Showcase of Floats, takes place there every year. For people who don't want to camp all night in the cold (and it does get too cold here for the likes of me to sleep outside), the Post Parade Showcase is a calmer, warmer way to see the parade. You can walk among the floats and see them close up for a reasonable fee.

I find no reference to the red line on the web. If you've got info, let us know. Can the float drivers see it under their floats? Do they look for it between the posies on the windows of their flower-bedecked Mac trucks? Or do they just know the way?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


If you're not from Altadena, you can be forgiven for not knowing these folks. But a true Altadenan will at least recognize the gentleman on the right. He's Scott Webster, part of the third generation of Websters to own and operate Webster's Pharmacy, Liquor, Hallmark, Fine Stationery, post office, uh...

Yeah. It gets confusing.

Enter Lori Webster. She and her husband Scott own Webster's Fine Stationers, part of the original Webster's. Lori wants to clear up the confusion. After Lori read my post about Amy's Patio Cafe, she sent an email asking me to post about Webster's.

Hey, I'm not in the business of advertising, I said. I'll write what I write. No promises.

Come on up the hill, she said.

Webster's is the second-oldest business still operating in Altadena. (The oldest is Altadena Hardware.) Webster's sprawls over almost the entire 2400 block of North Lake Avenue. When I first moved to Altadena, you could stop in at the liquor store and buy batteries, step into the pharmacy and pick up a prescription, then head downstairs to the stationery store to buy stamps. Before you were through you might have bought a gift in the card shop, had it wrapped and sent it out via UPS, and you never had to go outside.

Then a year or so ago, they boarded up the openings between the different sections and made it all into separate businesses. Customers had to go outside to get from one store to another. There was no longer a stairway between the pharmacy and the stationery store. Instead there was a wall, and that wall felt symbolic, like a barrier between Webster's and its customers. When I asked employees what the deal was, the answer was "business reasons." Kinda vague.

Yesterday, Lori Webster told me she believes that approach was a mistake. She says business hasn't been great lately and she thinks the economy isn't the only reason. She wants to reopen the lines of communication with her customers. So here's her story about why Webster's changed:

Harold "Frank" Webster founded the store in 1923 and his son Bill, now the aging patriarch, worked in the store all his life. In recent years Webster's had become a behemoth, too big for its britches. They were losing money to shoplifting. They were too diversified. Bill's advisers told him it would be more profitable to split the store into parts rather than be spread too thin, and he had long been contemplating a change.

Now Bill's ready to retire, and though he's not active in day-to-day operations he's still chairman of the board. It was time to make that change while he was alive and active, so his children could benefit from his knowledge while they learned to run things, rather than wait until after he was gone.

Many of the long-time customers have been like family to Bill. Lori thinks the customers should have been informed more clearly, perhaps even been involved in the change. She's all about involvement. Lori's been a mortgage banker, an aerobics instructor and a decorator (her displays highlight the stationery store), but this is the first retail business she's owned. She and her husband Scott (he's Bill's son and Frank's grandson) own Webster's Fine Stationers together. They're going to involve their part of the Webster's legacy in the community in a new way.

See, Webster's has been around for 85 years, sitting up on that hill in Altadena, and for a long time they didn't have to do much to be involved in the community. I mean, they were Webster's, the center of Altadena. Everyone came there and that was that. But the town changed around Webster's, then Webster's changed, and people didn't take to it. At least that's Lori's explanation.

Lori wants to make Webster's Fine Stationers the center of Altadena community life again. Here are the beginnings of her plan:
She's specializing in ecologically responsible and fair trade products;
She's featuring products made by Altadena artists, including cards and jewelry;
She has her own blog about the store;
She's working with the Altadena Chamber of Commerce to have a belated grand opening. She's dedicated to involving Waste Less Living and to benefitting the Quality of Life Center;
She just joined the board of directors of the Quality of Life Center;
She's wearing me out.

I recognized Scott Webster when I was introduced to him yesterday because I've been patronizing Webster's for years (though I admit I haven't been there as much lately as I used to). The amazing thing was he recognized me. He knows his customers. You should stop in and say hi to him. He'll probably recognize you, too. Now you know Lori as well, and I know she wants to meet you. Or stop in to all the different Webster's stores. It's a step back into history. In the old days they were individual stores, before the Websters bought them up and linked them together. There's a lot of change going on up there and change can be a good thing.

Webster's isn't just a store (or just a family of stores). It's part of Altadena's history. And history changes. What else can it do?

Hey, I'm not in the business of advertising. I write what I write. I just happen to love my community--Pasadena, South Pas, Sierra Madre, San Marino, Altadena, the hills, the San Gabriel Valley, all of it.

And Webster's was a part of it long before I was.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Zen Monday: #15

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

The Zen photos are now numbered instead of titled, so as to leave more to the imagination.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yard Sale

Yard sales are popular in Pasadena. At a good one you'll find all kinds of deals: furniture, clothing, dishes, books. You name it, people sell it. At a bad one you'll find mostly junk, or the prices are too high and the seller's not willing to bargain.

Weekends around here it seems there's a yard sale on every block. This kind of selling is typically American, and I imagine it goes on around the world as well. In the Midwest we used to have garage sales in summertime. In England I believe they're called "boot sales." We have good weather, so we get to pawn off our junk on each other year 'round.

After I took this photo I met the man in the picture. He said he thought yard sales might have originated in southern California. Maybe so. If not, I'd be willing to bet we're at least the capital.