Saturday, December 20, 2008

Party Animal

I'm like a lot of people. I'm not doing as much Christmas shopping this year as I've done in years past. As a consequence I haven't been out photographing shop displays, Santa visits and holiday festivals. John and I have been working hard and spending time with friends.

What shopping we're doing, we're doing locally. But it wouldn't hurt me to get out a little more. I realized that while leaning out over the edge of the upstairs plaza by the Trader Joe's on Lake Avenue, thinking "Wow, this is fun."

Friday, December 19, 2008


The Huntington closes at 4:30 p.m., so usually you leave during daylight. But when John and I took the curator tour of the new exhibit, Beautiful Science, at the Dibner Hall of the History of Science at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (mouthful! breathe!) we got to stay late. The Huntington is magical anytime, but especially after dark.

Collis P. Huntington was tireless at making things and money. He's also said to have been a jerk. When Collis died he left his railroad fortune to his nephew. Henry soon began amassing a collection of irreplaceable books and art. Then he married Arabella Huntington, his uncle's widow, who was quite the collector herself.

Arabella had a son and she left him well off. But the Huntingtons left the bulk of their fortune to the rest of us. We inherited four art galleries, fourteen gardens, a place of world-reknowned scholarly study and - well, this part is mine - a collection of early Shakespeare editions including one of the few extant First Folios. The first time I saw it I cried.

When I studied one summer at the British/American Drama Academy at Oxford, some of my teachers were members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Our teachers asked the Bodleian Library to show us their First Folio and the library officials refused. Not even a peek. Snobs.

The Folio at the Huntington is under special glass so even though it's mine I can't touch it. But I can see it. So can you.

This is what Henry and Arabella did for us. It's what the current caretakers of the Huntington do for us every day. And the legacy grows.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Day Without a Bag

You know those web searches you start, thinking you're going to find one thing and you find another? I was searching recycled gifts. (Go! Look! I found some great stuff.) I also found out that today's a holiday! Whoopee! December doesn't have nearly enough holidays in it.

Today's A Day Without A (Disposable) Bag, "Our Holiday Gift to the Environment." Heal The Bay sponsors this second annual "Day" in an effort to address a huge problem. For folks who haven't tried it, now's your opportunity to see how it feels to BYOBag when you shop. Kinda like the Great American Smoke-out. No commitment, just a toe in the water.

Here's a quote from the website: "More than 6 billion plastic bags are used in L.A. County each year. Disposable bags cost our fiscally strained cities up to 17 cents per bag for disposal (this does not even include the environmental costs). Plastic bags are made from fossil fuels. Americans use over 380 billion bags every year, throwing away this precious, non-renewable resource."

I took this photo in the hills above Santa Paula. It's beautiful, empty country. In the middle of nowhere we stopped so John could take a picture with his cell phone. I turned and there was this...bag.

I don't think the problem's insurmountable. I'm seeing more and more reusable totes at the farmer's market, the grocery store and other retail shops. People make fashion statements with them in all kinds of styles. So while you're calling me Pollyanna (or some other moniker of your choosing), do the world a favor and pick up a reusable tote bag for your shopping today. Then use it again tomorrow. And the next day, too. And so on. You get my drift.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Appealing Court

The Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals building is stunning on any day from any angle. But when you're walking in the Arroyo with clouds mumbling above, it's impossible to resist snapping away. Snap snap snap snap snap whine whine....oh, was I doing something else?

The building was originally a luxury hotel, though very little of the original structure remains. Between 1920 and 1937, four different architects took part in designing the new hotel. Sylvanus Marston, Garrett Van Pelt, Myron Hunt and George H. Wiemeyer all had a hand in creating the structure we see today. It was remodeled in the 1980s "under the design direction of" J. Rudy Freeman of Neptune & Thomas, and from what I hear it's magnificent inside. Since I've never been involved in a federal case, I haven't had the pleasure of finding out for myself.

Read the link. It sounds luscious. I need to see if I can get in there sometime. You know, just wander around a Federal Courts building and take pictures. Shouldn't be a problem.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Coffee Gallery (#7 in a Quest)

The Coffee Gallery on North Lake Avenue is as much a part of the Altadena community as is Altadena Hardware or Webster's. Every morning the locals hold round table discussions at (where else?) the round table in front, where local, national and international issues of the day are settled over coffee, pastries and a decent egg and spinach croissant. There's a conference room you can reserve for your writers group and a back room for musical performances or stand-up comics. Everything you need to know about Altadena is pinned on the community bulletin board, and everyone you want to know, or just about, will stop through at some point during the day.

I'm quite familiar with the Coffee Gallery. When John and I first moved to Altadena we thought it was called "Awake and Open" because of the sign that hung above the sidewalk, alerting us to caffeine. We liked the coffee and the laid back atmosphere. It was a good place to hang.

The photo above is of barista Fly in a rare moment of peace after last Friday's monumental morning rush. That day the local chapter of the Independent Writers of Southern California met at the Coffee Gallery, in addition to the usual regulars, and the cook didn't show up. Fly was on his own. He handled it with grace and even humor. Mid-morning was much quieter.

I like the food, when I can get it. At any another place if the cook hadn't shown up, the manager would have been in the kitchen cooking, making sure the customers were fed. At the Coffee Gallery, well, we all had to make do with bagels and muffins. And to give you an idea of the vibe of the place, we were fine with that.

I stayed after the meeting and sat with my laptop near the front to enjoy an extra cup of coffee. The huge picture window views Lake Avenue and lets in a lot of light. I got some work done, but I was too hungry to stay long. Still, I'll go back. For me, the key with the Coffee Gallery is to go at a time when it's not crowded (and when I'm not hungry). It's a great little place with free wifi, and guess what: no music! They don't play any music! Eureka!!!

The Coffee Gallery marches to its own drummer. After all, its website url is But as long as those drums are silent, hey - I'm there.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Zen Monday: #27

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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Last Fall Color

This post was inspired by USElaine who said in comments yesterday, "I wonder how long I can get away with posting autumn photos..."

This is it. Autumn is over. It's officially cold here. I officially didn't wear enough clothes yesterday. I officially froze.

I have observed a kind of denial in southern Californians other than myself. They don't want to believe it gets cold here. People don't own winter coats. Some people never think to turn the heat on in their houses. ("It was so cold in our house last night, we almost had to turn on the heat!") Many homes aren't even insulated. "This is California!" people say. "We don't have winter!"

I beg to differ. We don't have what you might call winter in Chicago. The temperature doesn't get below freezing or anything. But I'm a transplanted Chicagoan. I moved here for the heat. And when the heat is gone, I MISS IT.

The winter solstice is December 21st, but I don't need a calendar to tell me it's cold. There aren't enough socks in Pasadena to keep my toes warm. I comfort myself in the fact that I don't live in denial.