Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Zephyr (#5 in a Quest)

I tried again.

The Zephyr Coffee House and Art Gallery on east Colorado Blvd. is a popular spot in an old Craftsman house, with an atmosphere like no other place I know in town. You can sit on the serene, outdoor patio or the closed-in front porch, or in one of the comfortably-decorated, well-lit rooms.

I know there's going to be music playing wherever I go, so I've got to get past this music thing or else stay home. But at the Zephyr the other day it was a little ridiculous. There was different music playing inside than outside and something else playing in the kitchen and all of it was loud, so if you sat near the doorway from one section to another you'd be listening to two different kinds of music. Near the patio door, which is by the kitchen, you could hear all three.

ARGH. (Is that how you spell "I can't stand it"?)

At the Zephyr they accept cash only. That's unusual, and something folks need to know before they go planning a lunch on the Visa or debit card. But I made a point to go when I wasn't hungry. I've had one greasy omelet there and one crepe that was maybe enough for a snack. I don't think of the Zeph as a lunch spot, but I'm in the minority. It's always busy there at lunch time.

I got an iced coffee (no complaints, no raves) and sat outside near the speakers so as not to mix it up with the music from inside. It made me mad that I had to choose my seating that way. I had a negative attitude and was off to a bad start. But I was determined to sit there and write. And lo and behold...eventually I did. The bubbling fountain and the pretty patio finally got me into a groove.

A variety of international music played outdoors. Good stuff. A woman near me worked at her laptop wearing earplugs. A clue for me for next time.

Mind over music! Late in the afternoon I moved inside when the air grew chilly. I ordered tea (they serve Tazo teabags) and sat in the porch area. That room seems quieter than the others. The music changed to the kind of stuff you hear in a yoga class - background. As the sun went down, they forgot to change the CD and there was no music at all.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Superfluous Detail: Playhouse Alley

They didn't have to do this. They didn't have to put that shield, or whatever it is, on the side of the building. It's in an alley, for heaven's sake. Nobody sees it. But they did it anyway, so it's a superfluous detail, and that's why I love it.

This one's on the Pasadena Playhouse building, the south side, looking out over Playhouse Alley. Those scallops on the lower part are shadow from the building next door. Click on the picture to enlarge it so you can see the little lion heads on the soffits. (The soffits are above El Molino Avenue. Just look up!)

All these lovely details were designed for the Playhouse by Pasadena architect Elmer Grey. The 1924 structure has an illustrious history. It has always been a great theatre. May it always remain so.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Daniel Boone's Horse

Wander south from the parking lot in Lower Arroyo Park along the east side of the wash, and you'll soon come across this equine sculpture leaning against a tree. In the couple of years I've been traipsing about the Arroyo the sculpture has evolved: a stick here, a bit of bark there. But it's the same horse I've come to know.

You may remember Dave Thomson. In the early days of this blog, Dave sent me a couple of pictures that ended up as posts: Bad Stunt Weather and It Was Something Special. Both were photos I could never have gotten because I don't have a decent telephoto lens and because Dave's a good photographer. Here's another photo from Dave I could never have gotten, this time because it was taken before I discovered the Arroyo.
Dave's words about this photo:
"I would say that was taken at least 3 years ago. Remarkable the hoss has hung in there so long."

Well, yes and no.

The only things the same on this horse, as far as I can see, are the right hind leg and a stick that goes across its left side horizontally. The rest I can't be sure about. I don't know who created the original sculpture (it reminds me of Deborah Butterfield's work), but it's a communal artwork now. The denizens of the Arroyo keep it together, one stick at a time.

I think next time I'm down there I'll relieve its belly of a stick or two. Poor thing has put on so much weight it can hardly stand up.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's a Grind, All Right (#4 in a Quest)

Here's what I've been looking for: the perfect coffee shop where I can take my laptop, enjoy a cup of coffee and perhaps a bite to eat, and get some serious writing done away from the distractions of home.

Commenters here have given me a list of great suggestions, and I'm ticking them off one by one. Yesterday I crossed off the Daily Grind.

The Daily Grind is a chain, which should have been my first clue. The Pasadena branch sits at the southwest corner of Green and DeLacey Streets, tucked away from the sidewalk with a large, inviting patio out front. Bit with music blaring inside and outside, it's hard to concentrate. I could have left, but then how could I blog about it? So...

I had an iced tea - strong, fresh-brewed, very good. They offer a variety of coffees, snacks and sandwich wraps. You can get free wifi with a purchase, limited to two hours.

The service was friendly and the place is clean, but music is a deal-breaker. It was too loud even for conversation, much less writing. I couldn't write a grocery list in that atmosphere.

So I took my iced tea to go. Didn't get much writing done.

If you're by yourself and you want to have coffee and listen to some music, the Daily Grind might be the place for you. But if you want to have a conversation there, you're going to have to yell.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Old Paint

Fraser Alley isn't a creepy, wouldn't-want-to-meet-'em-in-an-alley kind of place. It's clean, safe and walkable. That doesn't make it cheesy. I love the backsides of Old Town Pasadena. You can still see the old signs painted on some of the buildings. Some people call it touristy, but I think it's charming.

Old Town was once a dive, from what I've read. By the late 1940s, after World War II, it had become "skid row." Businesses moved out, nobody cared, and by the 1970s it was wrecking ball time. Almost.

But the fact that nobody cared about this part of town served to preserve the buildings intact. A bunch of smart people decided to revitalize old Pasadena and by the 1990s the plan was in full swing. Now we have a vital downtown with gorgeous preserved architecture. Old Town Pasadena is unique. Boutiques, restaurants and even chain stores occupy beautiful old buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Guess I should take some photos of the fronts of them, huh?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Zen Monday: #25

On Zen Monday you experience the photo and tell us what it's about, rather than me telling you what to experience from viewing it.
There's no right or wrong.
If the photo evokes something in you, that's all it is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chicken Rights

I took at least a hundred photos at the anti-Proposition 8 rally on the steps of City Hall yesterday. It was a peaceful part of a nationwide protest. The sign in the photo above refers to Proposition 2, which passed.

I think I'll let the signs do the talking.
In Pasadena, 57% voted no on Proposition 8. I love this town.