Monthly Archives: May 2018

ah ! you said that .


Grand Grocery Company. Lincoln, Nebraska, 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by John Vachon. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

I skimmed over a blog post that a friend of mine wrote : 10 things you need to know (unsponsored).  I didn’t get it . I didn’t read the post carefully , though , because ……… well………ten more things to know ? I don’t think so . Certainly not all in one day . Hell, I’m retired , for heaven’s sake ! Let’s start with  1 thing you need to know  and then see how that goes . mark twain plays pool

I must say that I’m way more relaxed now that I’m retired . Time pressures used to mean more , I think , when I had to spend so much time at  work . Time off was a big thing then , and pinching any of that time meant  stress. Any odd surprises that interrupted time off was a potential stress —- plumbing problem , traffic delay , any delay ……..mark twain and chickens

I’ve seen  posts on Facebook mostly , that list 10 things  this or that , ten best whatever , ten reasons this or that or ten things to avoid  . Saint Peter has a form you’ve got to fill out , I hear , when you reach ( okay , so maybe not you ! ) the Pearly Gates : Ten Reasons You Should Get Into Heaven ; or was it a list : Ten Best Activities To Do In Heaven ?man newspaper chair 1880

Ah , maybe I just imagined that .musical man

So , tell me again the ten favorite vacation spots in California . And then tell me the ten best small cites in the US for retired people . Tell me , because I’m not going to try to scroll through the computer process , shifting left and right in a slow slalom avoiding the endless ads . My computer is so slow it stumbles on the ads and by the time I have read the ten things it’s tomorrow and everyone has gone home  , some of them to happy hour at their usual watering hole .

I’ll tell you what . If you think that I should know ten or so things , thises and thats , then write them out one at a time , one per sheet of paper . Address an envelope to me and stick a stamp on it and drop the thing in the mail . In the US , I admit , it’ll cost you a few bucks by the time you’ve sent all ten . But , hey , it’s worth it , I’m sure . Right ?

Well , I’m in Poland now for awhile so you’ll have to invest  even  a few more bucks ; but if you think that I should know whatever it is  and you’re absolutely sure , then I’ll be happy to review the information . Stamps are available in grocery stores these days too , as well as the Post Office , or online I’m pretty sure . Just any stamp would do as far as I’m concerned , but it might be nice if you would  choose a specific one that you think  I might appreciate . And , by the way , any scrap of paper does it for me .  I don’t need any fancy paper . And , certainly , don’t buy a card in a store . For ten messages ? No one has that much money .1914 washing achine

I fully realize that I’m rambling a bit here , just killing some precious time  ; but I’m retired so I’ve got a different perspective on things from what  you may have .  I’m trying , truth be told , to avoid reading with more attention the ten things that my friend says that I need to know . I’m afraid that I should have read that post decades ago . If only I had known those ten things when it mattered ! No doubt now is way too late . That train has certainly left the station , as they say ; or , no use closing the barn door at this late date  ; the horse has gone for good ; probably has assumed another identity and has a FB account and reposts stuff all day long .cowboys old

Well , I’m just rambling. Ah , you said that , didn’t you ?  balloner 1898

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szczecin, poland

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public railing

By 2014 I should be able to walk from home over to a brand new  metro station and go to Azusa or downtown L.A. or to Long Beach or to Hollywood and North Hollywood . Now I have to drive over to the Sierra Madre Villa station to catch the train . The new station will be built at 1st Street and Santa Clara .

The tracks are already there . They’ve been waiting there since the Red Cars stopped rolling in the late 1950s .

In those days I could’ve hopped on the Pacific Electric interurban  at 1st and Santa Clara and gone to San Bernardino or Redlands or finally out to Corona . Or I could have gone west into Pasadena and downtown L.A. or out to Glendale or Burbank . Or down into Hollywood . Or all the way to Long Beach or to San Pedro or to Redondo Beach or to Hermosa Beach or to Santa Monica all the way along the shore to Santa Monica Canyon .

Ada and I one Sunday took the  metro to Redondo Beach . My brilliant idea . We climbed on at Sierra Madre Villa station [which is , so far , the end of the line and does not go as far as the town of Sierra Madre ] . I thought that it would be fun to spend the day at the pier in Redondo .

Think again .

The ride took almost three hours . We went Gold Line to Red Line to Blue Line to Green Line .  We got off at the Redondo Beach station . Maybe it is actually somewhere in Redondo Beach . I’m still  not sure we weren’t in Lomita or some other forlorn location . We found ourselves in an industrial park , abandoned on Sunday . No one . There was a bus stop but no posted schedule . We waited for a bus . And we waited . We were stranded and considering catching the next train home .

Finally someone else got off at our stop . You have to catch a bus to the beach , he said . It comes about every hour  on weekends . Or every two .  About a half hour to the beach , he said .

Great. Thanks . Are you waiting for the bus too ?  I asked . I think that he suppressed an impromptu laugh . No , he told us , I’m waiting for a friend of mine to pick me up . And in a few minutes he was picked up and was gone .

So we waited .  And eventually  a bus came . The bus driver was new on the job . It was his first run on this route . He was from Africa . He was happy to have a couple of riders , I guess . We rode through residential streets , stopped at endless stop signs , picked up one teenage skate boarder who rode two blocks and then got off . More residential streets . The sun itself was thinking about calling it a day . The bus driver was talkative , thrilled to be driving the bus although he said that he didn’t like all of the stop signs .

In 1910 someone could have taken the Red Car to Redondo Beach. That rider then  could have debarked at the pier and could have walked right down to the beach from the tracks , spent the day having fun , and then hopped back on and come home . In those days the Redondo Beach stop was at the beach , not miles away in some forsaken expanse  .

In 1900 I could have gone to Sierra Madre on the Red Car . I would have stepped off at Kersting Court and maybe pondered taking the excursion up through Altadena to Rubio Canyon and then along the steep narrow gauge  track up the mountain curves to Mount Lowe for the day . There would have been no smog to interrupt the view to the sea . It would cost a couple of dollars  but it would have been a trip to remember .

Our major freeways mock the old P.E. Red Car rights-of-way which are long gone .  They follow the same courses . No one thought of keeping the tracks , maybe , and maintaining a dual system .  What about incorporating the public rail system into the freeway system ? When I board the Gold Line I see the 210 Freeway on both sides of the track . It could have been done .

But not in L.A. We junked the Red Cars . We would rather have had our fins and our wing windows so we could flip our cigarette ashes out and fly along  freeways with a sense of individual freedom . We forgot to leave the rights-of -way so that we wouldn’t later have to buy them back at astronomical cost .

We let a good thing go .

By the time Ada and I got to Redondo pier the sun was setting . We did a quick walk-through , had a corn dog ,  and went home . A blind man rode the bus with us from the beach most of the way to the metro stop . The African driver was there . It was like old home week . We chatted all the way . The blind man had a loud laugh and was full of local lore . Another teenage skater hopped on along the route and was immediately intimidated by the small group of us already aboard with our big smiles and our loud conversation . He hopped off at the next stop . Maybe it was his plan all along .

It took us three hours to get home . In 1950 it would have taken seventy minutes  because the Red Cars slowed at road crossings . In 1920 it would have taken fifty-five minutes . If we were on the freeway driving home from Redondo Beach to Arcadia these days , however , we might still be on the way .

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war memorial

A veteran of the War To End All Wars sits lonely in the park  , day in and day out . No one pays much attention any more . The world has moved on .Other wars have come and gone since the 1918 armistice  and other generations of warriors find other corners from which to watch the world .

Our grey veteran is quiet now . No more roar . Lost the fire .

In Essen , Germany , in 1902 , forged in Freddy Krupp’s factory , our cannon was born into what was to be a growing German arsenal to be used in World War I .

Post-war treaties forced German disarmament . Artillery pieces were among the categories of armaments to be gotten rid of . Unwanted and illegal in the homeland , our cannon arrived on American shores with  a brother . The city of Pasadena sponsored the two refugees and then decided one would be enough .

The other was sent to Sierra Madre to sit in the park . It faces Sierra Madre Boulevard and aims at the mountain . It guards nothing but memories . A symbol .

The second world war brought another generation’s sacrifice with another round of tragedies and triumphs.

The old cannon had to do double duty to honor these WWII vets . But then along came the Cold War , Korean Conflict , Vietnam , Afghanistan , Iraq , and all the conflicts in between , the countless conflicts in the world’s corners .

There is a newer memorial in Sierra Madre Memorial Park  to honor veterans of all the wars . On it are photos and names and the name of whatever particular war the veteran was involved in . 

A local man built another memorial . No cannons . No uniforms . It is a compact wall of stone . It weeps . It is a weeping wall with no label or engraved explanation . It sits in the park between the other monuments and weeps . 


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Fishy , fishy , in the sea . Timpie , timpie , timpie tee . Isabel my willfull wife does not want my way of life .

What does she want then ? says the fish .

She wants to live in a mansion .

Done , says the fish . Go home to your mansion . But after some time the mansion seems too small , too shabby . Others have better, bigger . Fisherman is in the back room with his beers watching the Dodgers losing as his wife vacuums . He is contemplating possibilities .

Later , again with the fish : Fishy , fishy , in the sea …………

Same problem . She wants a castle now .The mansion’s too small . Then she wants to be king because the castle needs a little higher social status .  King ? Poor fisherman goes back and back again to the fish . Fishy , fishy ………. What does she want now that she’s king  ?  Everyone is her subject . What does she want now ?

She wants …………….

Go back , then , says fishy . And the fisherman goes back .

Now , we know fish are magical beings , and shape-changers , and slippery . Strangely , the fisherman , who should know fish , asks the fish favors , talks to the fish and hears answers . He determines that the fish can help him solve some of his problems . Can he provide a better life for his wife ? He lives in a starter hovel but wants to move up and then up again and then up again . [ In this economy ! ] Is it his wife who asks for the castle or is it his idea ? Does the wife even know that he’s out talking to fish ?

Dear , here’s your new kingdom , he tells the wife . He thinks that’s what she wants . Maybe she does . But maybe she doesn’t .

Aside :

My friend Ivan went with his contractor friend Torbin to talk to a rich couple about renovation of their mansion . Ivan said the couple argued and sniped at each other all the time they were there . They wouldn’t agree on a thing . Torbin worked out an estimation and gave them a price to do the work . The man looked at Ivan and said : What do you think ?

Well , you have to know my friend Ivan . He’s opinionated and he speaks his mind . What I think , he says to the couple , is that you both should go to marriage counseling . Your problems won’t be fixed by renovating the house . If , after a year or so , you still want to do the work on the house , call us .

Torbin was chastising Ivan all the way back to the truck . You ruined another job for me , he said . And this would have been lucrative !  Why don’t you just once keep your big mouth shut .

Because they don’t need a better house , Ivan said . And when we finish the work they won’t be satisfied .

Timpie , timpie ,timpie tee , fishy , fishy  in the sea . Isabel my willful wife , does not want my way of life .[  Finally the fisherman asks for too much and the fish sends him back to the original hovel ] . But the fisherman  doesn’t give up . He goes one more time to talk to the fish .

You again ? says the fish . He sounds annoyed . He gives the fisherman a fisheye stare . He spits out a golden ring . You want that ? he says .

The fisherman stares . Are we still in the same fairy tale ? , he asks .

I’m a fish , man ! , says the fish .  Go away .

But  then who’s gonna solve my problems ? asks the fisherman . The fish doesn’t answer . It turns its fish head around , splashes down into the water , and  swims away .

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The two Angels Flight cars , Sinai and Olivet , move slowly up and down the hill on a cable . They started in 1901 when a man named Eddy dreamed them up and built the little railway .

Millionaires lived at that time up at the top of the hill , Bunker Hill ,  in ornate mansions . They could lean their wealthy heads back against their antimacassars  and look down upon Los Angeles . They moved out soon enough , though , to newer , more exclusive  sections of the expanding city  and they left their fancy homes behind to slowly rot  , to be chopped up into apartments , rooming joints  , and flop houses .

By 1969 Bunker Hill was home to 22,000 working class people living in the aged architecture  and the city decided they all had to go . Out with the old and in with the new  !  The old funicular railway had to go , too . Goodbye Sinai . Goodbye Olivet .

The two old  wooden cable cars sat in storage for twenty-seven years . By that time the Bunker Hill neighborhood remained only a quaint  character in old movies , John Fante books , and it survived only in gray photographs  of how things used to be . The city eventually rebuilt Angels Flight a half block south of the original site . Instead of going up to homes now , the cars climb up to what is called California Plaza . California Plaza is full of  people at tables eating lunch or sipping coffee .  Some relaxed tourists are mixed with more harried office workers who seem to be  periodically  coughed out of the nearby highrises in coagulated clumps . They eat in a rush  and chat in shop talk gulps  .

The city is considering raising the cost to ride Angels Flight  from 25 cents to 50 cents . The ride takes a minute or two up from Hill or down from the tabled slice  of renovated city called California Plaza .  Across Hill St. is the old Central Market selling fruit and tacos and Chinese food . When the Grand Central Market started in 1917 , the price of  the cable car down to it from  Bunker Hill homes was a penny .

Someone saved a part of an older L.A. when they stored Sinai and Olivet and eventually rebuilt Angels Flight in 1996 . I’d pay 50 cents every once in awhile  to ride the old L.A. funicular railway because I’d hope to be haunted for a minute or two by the spirit of L.A past .


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