Monthly Archives: November 2012

arcadia alley walk 2

Alley Arcadia 2 025I didn’t really grow up with alleys . There were only one or two in my neighborhood .Alley Arcadia 2 016

Now I live in Arcadia and Arcadia has alleys .  When I walk I tend to use the alleys because they are quieter than the streets , more interesting in some ways , more conducive to reflective thought perhaps . Alleys are the raw city scene , the back of the closet , the under-the-rug sweepings of daily life . Walking alleys I can hold the bottom-of-the-pocket clumped lint of life and wonder how it got there . I can look into back yards , peer over unadorned crumbling fences .

And what do I see ? Some of you by now are wondering am I some kind of a nut . By walking alleys I am climbing the abandoned ladder up against the  mansion’s back wall . I can look into the bedroom , not the spotless entry hall , and see how people really live . Is it neat in there even though not a place on display or  is it a junk pile when the front of the place is pristine ?Alley Arcadia 2 035Is it voyeurism , though , some weird tawdry behavior on my part ? Think what you will , but I say no . It’s just a neighborhood exploration , a peek behind the curtain , a look into the eyes of an aging suburb . Is it an attempt at expose ? No .  I like the backyards better , the weedy walks , the forgotten ladders , the sudden farm wagon sitting alone behind the chain link , the random signs posted , the half-tended plantings , the meters and the refuse bins and the occasional heaps  of rubbish.  It’s all character , isn’t it , the often uncollected data of the everyday , part of the city ensemble , it’s demur corium .Alley Arcadia 2 021

But you say : It’s just an alley !  Sure it’s just an alley . It’s a place intended for the trash trucks to come to haul away their loads , away from where the people are . It’s a place to put a car so the street view of a house won’t be overpowered with garage .Alley Arcadia 2 019

It’s a good place to walk , too ,  in a safe neighborhood , when you’re tired of the pedestrian sidewalks  .Alley Arcadia 2 024Alley Arcadia 2 029Alley Arcadia 2 018

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happy holidays

Shop clerks this week have been saying   ” Happy Holidays ” to me .  I parrot  ” You too ,” or   “Happy Holidays ” in response . But I don’t know what holidays they mean . Thanksgiving was last Thursday .  Christmas comes around in about a month . Is it some Jewish holiday that I am unaware of ? What holidays do they mean ? All of them ?

Is it ” holiday season ” ? If it’s holiday season is it de rigueur to say ” Happy Holidays ” whenever the urge strikes . Is it part of the prescribed store clerk courtesy to have to say ” Happy Holidays ” to every customer ?

I suppose ,  now that I’m retired ,  holidays have lost some of their character for me . Every day is a holiday for me . They used to be holidays from work .  Now ? Holidays  used to be some hope of a little time off . But now none of that at all .

Maybe ” holiday season ” now means ” shopping season ” .  What is called Black Friday began this year on Thanksgiving Thursday. There were more sales on Black Friday this year than last year . Statisticians broke it all down statistically . The media reported all the stats as if someone cared .  The people who make a living charting the stats are , no doubt , waiting for a few holiday days off .

Local grocery stores are already selling Christmas trees , though only the artificial ones so far . When I was in Best Buy yesterday I  heard Bing Crosby crooning Christmas songs . My next door neighbor has put up his Christmas lights already .  Multi- colored lights are blinking along the edge of his roof  . His step ladder is still set up in his front yard . Next come the candy canes in the  front yards up and down the street , I guess . Meanwhile , Santa must be warming up his reindeer , stuffing his pipe , checking his sleigh .

I think the Hollywood Christmas Parade is already done . I saw a photo in the paper . Maybe the photo is from last year , though . The Monrovia Christmas Parade is coming . Always on a Thursday , my pool night .

We are always surprised , Bill , Willie , Dan , and I , as we approach the pool place that day and find no  place to park .  Inexplicably ,  streets are blocked off , crowds line the street in front of the pool hall , cops and police cadets wave us off . Bill rolls his window down and tells the cop , ” But it’s our pool night !” The cops don’t care .  We end up having to park several blocks away and wade through a crowd of excited kids and parents . Members of the high school band are tuning their instruments . Hawkers are selling glow sticks and cotton candy . Everyone is  waiting for Santa Claus . He’ll be along later , we hear .

We have never seen Santa there . We always half-intend to go outside when he goes by . When we eventually emerge   Santa is already gone . The crowds are gone .  The temporary street barriers and patrolling  cops have gone .  Tim , the pool hall owner , says , ” You guys got no Christmas spirit ” .

” Did you see Santa ? ” I ask him .

” Course !” Tim lies . He never moved from behind the bar all evening .

” O.K. , then what does he look like ? ” Willie asks Tim .

” Like he did last year ,” Tim says . ” One or two more wrinkles ,” he adds .

As we pass a city maintenance worker on our way back to the car , the guy says   ” Happy Holidays ”  to us .  He is a heavy guy with  a white beard and he is  wearing a red suit as he  sweeps  up parade trash .  No one dares say ” Thank you Santa ” , but we are all thinking it .

” Happy Holidays  to you , too !”

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about salvation and again pope tweets, a poem



FOR THE POPE’s tweet . JESUS .







GOD  WHISPERING  THROUGH THE PINON PINES  pope don’t tweet me bad . 

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papal tweetery

  My friend Joe tells  me the pope is starting to tweet . I’m not sure exactly what that means  because I don’t tweet and I’ve never actually seen a tweet , as far as I know . I wouldn’t know a tweet , though , if one walked up and punched me in the nose .

   From what I understand , people , some big shot politicians nowadays , and celebs , and everyone under , what ? , thirty ? , forty-five ? , tweet . They , apparently , hold their little electronic devices all day long and text tweets . I think tweets are texted . Right ? Maybe not .

  The way I understand it , whatever a tweeter does all day is such vital information that it must be shared . ” I am in Ralphs checking out the asparagus ” , or , ” Just had dinner at Spago . So 90s ! ” The politicians would tweet this kind of stuff , I guess , and stuff like ” My opponent has ringworm ” .

    There is an army of people , I assume , all over the globe waiting for the latest tweet . They are the anxious tweetees hooked on endless tweets from whatever tweetors interest them . I imagine that once you start you get hooked pretty easily ; it’s highly addictive , I suppose . Watch , Tweets Anonymous is coming !

   So , how does the pope fit in to all of this  ?  He’s starting to tweet in about a month , Joe writes . I suspect that  Joe tweets . Nothing wrong with that , I suppose . I wonder if when someone tweets you , can you tweet back ? Probably doesn’t work that way . Obama couldn’t answer all those responding tweets , even with a staff to help . The pope couldn’t either , no matter how bored he gets  sitting in those drafty old Vatican buildings in between encyclicals and Vatican Councils and trips to South America .

  So how often is he going to tweet ? What will be the nature of his tweets ? Will it really be the pope tweeting or some red-beanied subordinate ( I almost said “flunky” , but I don’t want to go to hell yet ). Joe blogged about it . He seems quite concerned . He referenced the whole pope tweeting thing to literature . He wanted me to blog about it . I told him no . I don’t even know what a tweet is . I don’t care if the pope tweets . Besides , Joe got a little sacriligious in his email urging me to blog about the pope . What’s next , Joe said , Pope Pizza Parlors ? White pepperoni , he suggested , could be developed and marketed as “Like delicious hosts “, or something like that . But , I believe in live and let live . Let the pope try out tweeting to see if he likes it . Is this any reason to make fun of him ?

    The pope is infallible on matters of faith and morals . Isn’t that it ? Not necessarily infallible on other stuff . He might be a real dope on other stuff . Wrong all the time . Who cares ? Besides , neither Romney nor Obama courted the pope during all the falderol leading up to the election . Doesn’t the pope matter any more ? Even Bush had his picture taken with the Pope .

   I doubt that he’ll tweet faith and morals stuff . Do you think he will ? He might just tweet dumb stuff like what he bought at the supermarket , or where he’s going on his next trip , or how the Popemobile needs new tires , or how bad the weather is that day, or how his mitre fell off , or how mad he is at the butler . Maybe he’ll tweet dumb jokes : ” A pope , a rabbi , and an imam walk into a bar…..”  Maybe he’ll just give advice .

   I say good luck to Pope Benedict on his tweeting . I also say , however , that if he is not actually doing the tweeting himself , then it’s cheating and not kosher . But , to be honest , I don’t really care one way or another . I’ll never get the tweets . If it’s really important he can email me . Or hold a Vatican Council .

   Joe , I read your blog about the papal tweet ( The Pope Tweets , Coming of the Toads )  Relax . Perchance you protest too much !  I , on the contrary , rest in the wisdom and comfort of the Beatitudes : Blessed are the techno- ignorant , for they shall be spared the tweets .

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everyone should have a hobby

    I have a friend who is into Jane Austen . She flies all over to attend Jane Austen events : New York , Seattle , London . She reads whatever latest book about Jane Austen appears  ( and lots of them do ) , whatever Jane Austen -related film comes along ( and they do from time to time ) . She has studied foods from Jane Austen’s time ; she has danced dances that Jane Austen might have danced . She has dressed for Jane Austen events like Jane Austen may have dressed . She probably often dreams Jane Austen dreams .

Everyone should have a hobby . Golf ? Do you know golfers ? Then , enough said .  Baseball ? Did you ever know one of these guys who can recite every baseball statistic from Abner Doubleday to Rhy Hyun-jin ?  I know a couple . One guy’s dream is to visit every major league stadium in the country some summer . He wanted me to go along . I told him no , no thanks . He can give you details about every stadium , too . He loves baseball . He loves everything about baseball .

Today Ada and I went out to Moorpark to see a Civil War reenactment event for Veteran’s Day . When I mentioned that last night to a Vietnam War vet friend of mine he said he was against such glorifications of war . ” Do they have Vietnam War reenactments ? ” he asked . ” Do they have Korean War reenactments ? ” Maybe he had a point , but I suggested that it’s just a weird hobby and not a glorification of the Civil War . He wasn’t convinced .

This  event was a big deal in Moorpark . The reenactors camp there for the weekend . They have set up rows of white canvas pup tents , ( but RVs and trailers, I noticed ,  are clustered not too far away) . There were hundreds of these people . They dress appropriate to the historical period . They pride themselves of the authenticity of their clothes and the materials used in the clothes ,  of the type of buttons used in the clothes and , no doubt , the stitching , etc .

We watched the reenactment of the Battle of Bloody Lane , which was part of the Battle of Antietam that took place near Sharpsburg , Maryland in 1862 . It took a half an hour . Cannon fire . Gunfire . Smoke . Small groups of Federal troops marching and rebel troops defending the sunken road ( ie. the bloody lane ). An announcer explained the sequence of the battle .

Before today’s  battle Lincoln spoke . He was sitting next to Jeff Davis and the two of them answered questions from the crowd . Davis had a disturbingly un-southern accent . Otherwise , they knew their stuff . It was a little shockingly unhistorical to have these two on the same stage . But , why not ?  After the battle , Lincoln read the Gettysburg Address . After Antietam and not Gettysburg ?   Again , though , why not !

There were a few zoave soldiers dressed in their red pantaloons and red beanies . A couple of them talked to a small group of us . The zoave uniforms were from north Africa , they said . One of these guys was about seven feet tall . Another reenactor , dressed in the more common blue federal uniform , walked up to this tall guy and said , ” I always like to meet a man I can look up to ” . 

There were dance lessons , dances from the Civil War era , of course . One of them was the Virginia Reel . Several people joined in . Some of them were reenactors who obviously had  danced these before . Others had fun learning . A couple of Asian kids joined in , too , who were part of a group of ten or so visitors . I doubt that they spoke any English , but these two listened to the caller , watched , and made the right moves . Everyone had fun and the music was pretty .

All around the encampment reenactors were answering people’s questions , giving demonstrations , showing off  their uniforms and hoop skirts or having their pictures taken . Most of them could probably tell you what foods were eaten during the Civil War , how they were prepared , what tools people used , how much this or that item cost in Civil War era dollars , what the furniture of the time was like , how to properly use a spitoon and what the women of the day might think of spitoons  , and what games the children played . Many of these reenactors , I thought ,  probably dream 1860s.

Sometimes I wish I had a hobby . ( Maybe not this one ) .


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saloons & poultry

  I’ve been doing some reading about Arcadia . Arcadia calls itself  the ” Community of Homes “.  I have yet to discover how the City chose that mundane city slogan : Community of Homes ?  I do have a theory or two , though .

I’ll guess that when the Arcadia chose that slogan the city of Arcadia was not known as a city of homes . An older slogan , by the way , called the city The Queen City  . Why Queen ?  I guess that moniker wouldn’t fly  or ,  as Texans might say ,  that dog won’t hunt .

In the twenties and thirties Arcadia was a poultry-raising city , the egg capital of Los Angeles County  . Rex , my passed neighbor , used to tell me about the old days when he was a kid in Arcadia . It was all chicken ranches , he’d say . I thought at the time that he was exaggerating ,  remembering wrong .  But he wasn’t .

Rex used to tell me about he and his buddies taking the Red Cars down to the beach . I should have listened better . I should have asked more questions about early Arcadia . I should have asked about The Wigwam , for example ,which was a snack shop in the early days two blocks from  here . The Wigwam  was covered with palm fronds  and had armchairs outside . Was it still there when Rex was a kid ? Nowadays a McDonald’s sits on the Wigwam spot .

I talked to a talkative gal who used to live not too far from here in the 1940s . She talked about riding along Santa Anita Avenue . ” Double Drive ,” I said . Her eyes lit up . That’s what they used to call Santa Anita Ave .

” Yeah , that’s what we used to call it , ” she said . Visions of the 40’s were flying around the room . ” And we used to go to Carpenter’s Drive -In over on Huntington , ” she said .

” Were you a wild teenager ? ” I asked her .

She nodded . There was a new light in her eyes , a sly smile , and  she looked directly at me . ” We couldn’t be too wild ,” she said . ” There was a curfew . And gas rationing . ” 

Her father had been a soldier stationed at the Balloon School in Arcadia which was where the County Park is now . It was on the site of old Lucky Baldwin’s first race track . That track lasted only two years in operation because California outlawed racing soon after the track opened for business . The Army trained crews to raise huge hydrogen balloons which were used during WWI as spotters to locate enemy positions . When her father left the army he went to work for the guy who owned Seabiscuit .

Before the poultry farms and the Army balloon school , the new city of Arcadia , begun by old Elias J. ” Lucky” Baldwin , was on it’s way to be a gaming city . It had , immediately , at least eleven active saloons . In all of them gambling was a big activity . One of Lucky’s daughters , Clara , owned and operated one of the most active saloons .  Almost all  of them offered gambling , and Clara’s place was said to offer the services of prostitutes . That was, evidently ,   a well-known fact , mentioned in several contemporary publications , but worded more  politely or , at least , indirectly .The first ordinance issued by the new city instituted  alcohol licensing . The first city council was made up of  Baldwin relatives and employees . E.J , himself, was the first mayor . The Arcadia of the time , with about 600 residents , was known as a sporting city . One train a day came there from downtown Los Angeles. Later , Henry Huntington built a trolley line out there and tolleys left and arrived to and from  L.A. every twenty minutes .

” Let’s call it Community of Homes ! ”

” Better than City of Saloons .”

” Better than Chicken  City “.

The city leaders of the time wanted to mold a prosperous city . They outlawed poultry raising within city limits . They issued more building permits that put more and more subdivisions on what had once all been Lucky Baldwin’s land . More homes and more businesses . It’s a  city in need of a slogan  writer .

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