Saturday, October 30, 2010


It's about time I acknowledged that Halloween's coming tomorrow. Better late than never.

I like this holiday because of its roots in the Celtic holiday of Samhain (the Wikipedia article is well-researched). We've strayed from those origins, but there's still something pagan about dressing up as someone you're not and running around in the dark, begging for treats while threatening to play tricks if you don't get them.

Around my neighborhood, styrofoam grave stones fill the yards, ghosts dangle from trees and skeletons rise out of grassy front lawns. Horrid goblins hang from the neck above doorways, spiders crawl along rooftops and certain doors, when opened, emit screams.

I wonder how parents explain all this death to their children. My first thought is this is a good way to introduce them to it. Death is fun! It's only scary in a Boo! sort of way. Maybe the subject of death doesn't come up, at least not with the littlest ones. Maybe it's all just candy and costumes.

But of course Halloween is about death. That's what the Celts celebrated at Samhain--the end of autumn, the approaching winter, the symbolic death creeping over the land. It's a fine time, at season's change, to note that we walk in a world others once walked, and to acknowledge that in some ways they still do.

We live in the homes they built, we absorb the art they created, we learn, over and over again, how their actions shaped our lives. If we're lucky we get to see the ruins they left behind in Rome, in Paris, or in Altadena. We live among the dead and this is a good thing. This weekend we acknowledge and celebrate them.

Friday, October 29, 2010

PDP/PPM Books Contest, week 2

I love the faded writing on some of the buildings in Old Town. This says "Keller Bros." something. I can't make it out. I wonder what kind of business the Keller brothers had in there.

We're looking at the back of the Braley Building on Raymond Avenue. The Braley has housed a lot of businesses: an antiques mall, a sandwich shop, an accountant, a theater company, a beloved Italian restaurant--all at the same time, all when I was first discovering Pasadena, all gone now.

The Braley recently underwent a renovation it didn't really need, but new owners can do that if they want to. In this photo taken this past May, if you look closely you can see a worker putting the final touches on the etchings in the middle window on the right.

Who is the owner of the Braley Building?

That's today's contest question. I've given you all the information you need to Google the answer, so you don't have to be a local to figure it out.

Let's review the contest rules:

1. Email the answer to me. There's a link to my email in my profile at the upper left. You have until midnight tonight, Pasadena (Pacific) time. Answers in the comments section will be rudely ignored.

2. That's all you have to do.

3. This weekend I'll toss all the correct answers into a hat and ask my cutest, most innocent neighbor child to draw one name. (The job of cutest/most innocent neighbor child will revolve throughout the duration of the contest. Last week it turned out to be Linda. The kids were all at the park or something.) I'll announce the winner in Sunday's post. (That's Sunday. Last week it was Monday. Change of plans.)

4. PRIZES! This week, once again the prize will be a brand new copy of Hometown Pasadena 2009-2010, thanks to Colleen Dunn Bates and Prospect Park Media. I started with five, but last week's winner, Tracie Cohen of Los Angeles, has deprived me of one. Now I have four of these to give away, so the contest will go on each Friday for four more weeks--plus an additional week when Colleen and I will give away a copy of At Home Pasadena, the lovely, hardcover coffee table book about beautiful living in our beautiful town.

I'm very excited because at some point during the contest one lucky winner will receive a copy of the brand new novel, Helen of Pasadena, by Pasadenamanian Lian Dolan. The book won't be available on Amazon until November 1st but I saw it at Vroman's yesterday. And you can whet your Helen appetite by reading chapter one here.

Many thanks to Colleen, Lian and all the Prospect Park Media writers for making this contest possible!

And a Happy Birthday shout-out to my sister, Ginab.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's All High Tech To Me

I was going to post a photo of the entryway to the Guggenheim building at Caltech, but I like this shot better. Like yesterday's photo, I took this one inside on the second floor.

From the two shots, yesterday's and today's, you'd might guess the Guggenheim is a sleek, 21st century building but the exterior is actually more classic-looking. Inside, though, it's all high tech with natural light, modern art and glass display cases showing old documents and artifacts from early Caltech work.

The transition from classic, late 1920's exterior to modern interior is due to a renovation by John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, completed in 2008. The linked article shows a photo of the interior of the conference room above; be sure and check out the slide show, too.

I'm intrigued by the document on display in the foreground. Could it be some world-saving formula, typed by Einstein's secretary?

Some of my titles are better than others.

For more Caltech photos, click on the Caltech label below.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Serene Science

Speaking of happy accidents, today I came across this photo in my files. I knew I had taken it at Caltech, but couldn't remember exactly where.

One day nearly two years ago (and I assure you I'm not digressing), Boz and I met a woman walking her dog. I had my camera, as always, and when I called to Boz the woman recognized his name. "You're the Pasadena Daily Photo lady," she said, or words to that effect.

Long story short: we became friends. It turned out she worked at Caltech and she invited me for a tour of the campus. I took this photo on that tour in March of 2009.

I don't know why I haven't posted it before except I forgot I had it, and in all that time I forgot what it was. So when I came across it I dashed off an email to my friend to ask her what it is.

She said this room is "on the second floor the Guggenheim building on campus (one of those flanking the Olive Walk between the Athenaeum and the turtle pond). This building houses GALCIT, the Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology." She sent me the link, too. If you click it you'll see a photo of a fantastic balloon. I got a picture of it deflated, which is cool but not as cool as seeing it full-blown. The Guggenheim building has an attractive entryway. Maybe I'll post that tomorrow.

My generous friend is Bellis, a regular commenter here. I'd say meeting her was a happy accident except it wasn't an accident. We both have dogs, we both live in Pasadena, and we both like to walk our dogs in natural settings. You could say our meeting was a happy accident waiting to happen.

The Caltech campus is one of Pasadena's most beautiful places to walk. The sun has returned and we're having a gorgeous autumn. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Accidents

This isn't at all what I was trying to photograph, but some accidents are happy ones:

like how I ended up at a temp job in the 90's with a supervisor who is still my best client;

like when my regular doctor wasn't available and the nurse practitioner diagnosed and treated my problem that he couldn't help me with (poof! new regular doctor);

like when I stumbled upon Paris Daily Photo online and it inspired me to create Pasadena Daily Photo;

like how the rental house fell through at the last minute and John and I had to take a place in Altadena, thereby discovering the good life in The Dena (we got married in that back yard);

like when we ended up at the wrong animal shelter and instead of a vanilla lab we adopted Boz;

like when I went to see my friend perform in an improv show and her friend John was there too (see photo);

et cetera.

Got a happy accident? Let's hear about it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Zen Monday: #118

Zen Monday is the day you experience the photo and give us your thoughts rather than me telling you what I think the photo's about.

I look for a photo worth contemplating or, failing that, something odd or silly. And unless I absolutely must say something, I stay out of the comments box until the end of the day to avoid influencing the discussion.
You know, because it's so deep and meaningful.

There's no right or wrong. We're here to have fun.


Thank you all for entering the PDP/PPM Books contest Friday. I promised to announce Friday's contest winner today. Tracie Cohen, you are the big winner! I'll email you and make arrangements to send you your book, Hometown Pasadena 2009-2010 from Prospect Park Media.

22 out of 23 entries got the right answer to the question, "What's the closest cemetery to Pasadena's northern border?"  It's Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena.

Thanks for entering! Another chance to win comes around this Friday.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Time Skies

Looking north to Pasadena from Raymond Hill.

On a fall day in Illinois when I was about fifteen, the skies were like these skies--cloudy and restless. It was my first year in high school. The route home from school was about a mile, maybe a little more. I could have cut through the neighborhoods to Lions Park but instead I took Taylor Street, because it was straighter and it got me to the same place. I guess I was in a hurry.

As I crossed the bridge over the Kishwaukee River a feeling of sadness overwhelmed me. It was a beautiful melancholy, an adult feeling I'd never felt before. I wanted to understand it, to keep it.

I slowed down and cut through the park, shuffling through the mixture of pine needles and autumn leaves on the ground. I didn't have words for the feeling, but I knew Time was moving--I was moving. There was no stopping either of us and precious things were being left behind. The brand new knowledge of that enormity was what I wanted to savor.

I stayed among the pine trees, as though stepping out into the open would end the spell. A trickle of river ran alongside the grove, and from where I stood I could see the small shelter by the baseball diamond. The park was empty. I waited as long as I could, hiding in the trees and holding my new feeling until some kids came along on bikes, breaking into the autumn silence. It was time to go home.

Fleeting time is a familiar concept to me now. It's just as enormous as it was then--no less beautiful and no less sad.