Saturday, July 16, 2011

Linda Vista Branch Library

The Pasadena Public Library has kits for your book club to check out. Each kit includes study questions and materials for getting the most out of the book your group is reading, plus 12-15 copies of the book. Anyone with a library card can check out a kit. Go to the search page at the library's website and search "words in the subject/kits."

I shouldn't tell you this because the number of kits is limited and I want them to be available to my book group. When I checked the website last night there were 38 kits, down from 39 a couple of weeks ago when I was searching for a kit for my group. 39 might seem like enough, but the fiction always seems to go first. I couldn't get what I wanted. To my horror, I was forced to check out a memoir.

Damn if it didn't turn out to be fantastic. (The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.)

And damn if that isn't what a book club is for--opening your eyes to something you weren't looking for.

I expanded my library horizons, too. I usually go to the Central Library but the kit I wanted happened to be at the Linda Vista Branch. I'd never been there before. Now I know a new quiet spot to work. I don't know where the coffee is (there's got to be coffee) but isn't the children's area cute? That furniture takes me back.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parking Lot Graphic

Trader Joe's parking lot on a sunny day.

I have groceries on the brain. Shopping is on today's to-do list.


Update, 9am: you may note the 4:30am post time. I woke up moments before, remembering I hadn't posted. This is rare. I don't have a system exactly, but posting is an integral part of my day.

I usually choose a photo first and prepare it. This gives me time to think about what to say about it. In this case I had chosen the photo but forgotten to think. I don't think I could even spell what goes through my mind at 4:30 in the morning.

Yet I really do have to get groceries today.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ce N'est Pas Une Tomate

Is it a picture of a tomato on the kitchen counter or is it art? 

I'm not fishing for compliments. I'm trying to make a decision.

When does an object become representative of something else? Where does art happen? On the kitchen counter? In the camera? On the computer screen? In the eyes of the beholder?

And what does it have to do with Pasadena?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Author, John Vorhaus: Those Who Can Do

I recently came across a post by John Vorhaus at Writer Unboxed. When he mentioned his upcoming workshop at the Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town Pasadena, I wrote to him right away. Not only is John from the San Gabriel Valley, he's also a prolific author and an experienced writing teacher. Please welcome today's guest author, John Vorhaus.
I’ve been a writer forever. Then one day I became a teacher of writers, and the very next morning woke up with a big headache, because somebody told me, “Those who can’t do, teach,” and that made me feel sad. But then I asked myself, well, why do I teach? The answer was simple: I teach because it helps me learn; whenever there’s something I want to understand better, I try to find someone to pay me to teach it. I’ve done that with writing, public speaking, poker, even mime, and I’ve found it a very effective life strategy; I commend it to your attention. 

I also teach, though, because it helps other people (mimes, writers, poker players, what-have-you) and I seem to get a great deal of pleasure out of helping. The joke I tell on myself is, “Don’t thank me, I define myself through service.” But John Wesley Harding says, “Your jokes will become your reality,” so I guess mine has.

Still, though, "Those who can't do, teach," what do I do with that? For one thing, I can look at my body of work and say, "Hey, now, that's just not true." After all, I've written more than a dozen books, including novels (The California Roll, The Albuquerque Turkey), writing books (The Comic Toolbox, Creativity Rules) and many, many books on poker. So you can't say I'm not entirely a "can't-do" guy. But even if I were, so what? I happen to think I'm a pretty darn good teacher, in that I can communicate instruction clearly and helpfully, I care about my students and wish to see them improve, and I have a passion for the work. With all of this in mind, I've managed to kill the ugly little ogre of, "Those who can't do, teach," and replace him with a much friendlier, cuddlier motto:

"Those who can do, do both."

Which brings me by roundabout means to my upcoming workshop, Living the Writer’s Life (August 13 in Pasadena). Like all my writing classes, it's designed to help writers close the gap between where they are in their writing lives and where they want to be. We'll cover a lot of global writing issues related to the practice of writing, and also lots of nuts/bolts stuff like killing writer's block, building great characters, and creating stories from scratch. So come along if you want to have a day's worth of writing fun and be a better writer when you're done.

But that's not the point of this post. Really, it isn't. Because whether you come to my workshop or not, I have your attention now, and thus the chance to speak to you directly. So let me say this: If you're a writer, keep writing. If you have any artistic or creative passion, keep chasing it. Win or lose – best-seller or no seller – chasing your passion is the number one way to make your life rise. The number two way is teaching, so you might try your hand at that. Because those who can do, do both.

And – take it from me – teachers always learn.

John Vorhaus resides in cyberspace at and tweets, for no apparent reason, @TrueFactBarFact. Stop by and say hi.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It's a given that we run, bike, hike, ride our horses and walk our dogs in the Arroyo Seco. We also park our world-famous football stadium, our childrens' museum and our aquatic center there. And around those popular people magnets, we park our cars.

The parking lots need occasional maintenance, and I joined a clean-up last weekend. Wilson Lau, Watershed Coordinator at the Arroyo Seco Foundation (ASF), put out the word on the Arroyo Seco chat list ("What better way to show love for your country than to clean up the Arroyo?...Gloves and trash bags will be provided...") and I posted about it here on PDP.

I expected the turn-out to be small, but it was small. Besides Lau and Tim Martinez, a college student, native plant expert and one of the ASF's top volunteers, the only person to show up besides me was a PCC student who shuns the spotlight, so to speak. The four of us cleaned several large islands in two hours. 15 or 20 people could have done the whole parking lot in about 90 minutes, but I doubt they would have had more fun.

Our parking lot islands are populated with black sage, little red berry and California rose. The latter's hips shimmy in the photo above and its thorns wrote their tale on my forearms. I got an excellent upper body workout. 

The islands, and the spaces next to them that look like they're paved with beige bricks, are a permeable filtration system that removes trash and impurities from storm water before it runs into the Arroyo stream bed. I never knew a parking lot island could be an engineering marvel, but in Lot I they are marvels indeed.

Another marvel is the number of cigarette butts down there getting filtered out of our water. An amazing amount of cigarette butts. I said to Wilson, "Are these things major polluters? Or do they biodegrade?" He said "Oh, they biodegrade if you give 'em a hundred years or so."

If you'd like to be informed about Arroyo volunteering opportunities, you can fill out the ASF's volunteer form. There's always something to do. It's likely you'll meet Wilson and Tim in the process. Big plus.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Zen Monday: #154

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.

Just write your thoughts as they come to you. If you put them here in the comments, we can all read them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vintage Altadena



Ahhcross the street from Tangles and Locks, you'll often see these babies parked in all their vintage glory (and I do mean glory) at what is now called Paulie's Service Station. (Used to be Ronnie's Automotive. Enlarge the top photo to see the Ronnie's sign.)

I went back and forth about whether or not to blur the license plates, which I usually do for privacy's sake. But if you own one of these babies, when your plans require you to go incognito, you take the other car.

I'm not a car freak. I don't ordinarily call cars "babies." But ahh...