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Cate le Bon Chats With Us Before Her Performance at Amoeba Hollywood April 30

Posted by Billy Gil, April 28, 2014 06:24pm | Post a Comment

Welsh singer-songwriter Cate le Bon produced one of our favorite, underappreciated (well, by those who didn’t hear it) albums of 2013 with Mug Museum. Blending the cool demeanor and husky voice of someone like Nico with jagged post-punk guitars and beats, Mug Museum sounds like a hard-to-place unearthed precious relic, like something whispered into your ear.

She’ll perform at Amoeba Hollywood April 30 at 7 p.m. Before the show, we caught up with le Bon, who recently moved to L.A.

What spurred your move from Wales to Los Angeles?

I have always been intrigued by Los Angeles ever since coming to the city to rehearse with Neon Neon way back when. When the opportunity presented itself to record an album out here, which has always been a dream of mine, it felt like it was time to bite the bullet. Money mouth etc. ...The weather is also a definite perk.

I read that you wrote most of the album in your home country, but I do feel a bit of SoCal sunshine poking through in Mug Museum. Do you think the new locale affected the sound of the album?

It has most definitely seeped into the album, but how, I am not able to say yet. I think that will become apparent to me when I listen back in many years.

It has to be a huge change. How do you feel playing and recording music here differs from doing so in the U.K.?

Continue reading...

That's not amazing -- California's Gold, Huell Howser, has passed away

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 7, 2013 01:49pm | Post a Comment

Huell in the Antelope Valley amongst California Poppies (source: Cameron Tucker)

I am utterly gutted to hear that Huell Howser has passed away.



I heard the news as I was writing about my exploration of Irvine for this blog, and simultaneously planning on exploring the route of the Expo Line Phase II tomorrow. If it weren’t for Huell, I may not have had the idea of doing either. (When I was approached about working for KCET, one of the names I proposed was California's Fools Gold, a self-deprecating homage -- they went with Block By Block instead). I’m sure he inspired a lot of other people to go on adventures in their back yards too (this page has a map showing the communities he visited). Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I will miss him terribly.


Huell canoeing on Mono Lake (source: Cameron Tucker)

Back in November, Huell announced that he was retiring amid rumors that he was seriously ill. Just last week I was chatting about him with a customer at my shop and the customer expressed his dismay. I too was saddened by his retirement but expressed that he'd earned it and that even his biggest fans have, in most cases, hundreds if not thousands of episodes to catch up on. Still, the customer hoped that someone would soon fill his shoes. I expressed doubt that any single person could.


At the amazing Gourmet Cobbler Factory in Pasadena -- in the San Gabriel Valley (image: KCET)

It's impossible to know how many adventures Huell Howser inspired. I suspect that he's one of John Rabe's biggest heroes. (Check out Rabe’s episode with him here). I loved his earnestness, enthusiasm, unpretentiousness, boundless sense of adventure, energy, and intelligence. Despite the fact that Angelenos are constantly told that we are obsessed with celebrity, glamour, fame and fortune; Howser showed thankfully little interest in any of that. He even seemed to hint at a healthy disgust with politicians and ambivalence for authority.

Instead he championed the everyday, the immigrant, the ignored, the uncelebrated and in doing so showed what really makes California truly special. 


Huell's hometown

Huell Burnley Howser was born 18 October 1945 in Gallatin, Tennessee, a small town in the Upper South near the border with Kentucky. His name was a portmanteau of his parents' names, Harold and Jewell. He received a BA in history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.





After serving in the Marines he began working Nasvhille’s WSM-TV, where he traveled around the central part of the state and Kentucky in a motor home filming what he called "happy features." 

Huell with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn in the 1970s


After spending some time at WCBS in New York where he hosted a show called Real Life! (and later, To Life!). In the age of Candid Camera, The Gong Show, Real People, and That's Incredible, New Yorkers seemed confused by segments on window washers and "turkey mavens." Howser was later told that New Yorkers were uncomfortable being touched. In 1981 Howser moved to hug-friendly Los Angeles where there's no shortage of people happy to be on camera. It was in Los Angeles that he stayed.


Huell Howser with the Del Rubio Triplets in 1987 (source: KCET)

His career in LA began with him reporting for KNXT (now KCBS). He then briefly worked on Entertainment Tonight which is kind of remarkable since when he next moved to KCET (then a PBS affiliate) in 1987 and began producing his Videolog segments, he showed himself to be a one man antidote to ET -- and the other shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Access Hollywood, Extra!, and all the other shows that seem so determined to make Los Angeles look awful.





The first episode I remember seeing was Visiting… With Huell Howser episode #903, in which he visited Iwasaki Images of America in Gardena to learn about how plastic food commonly seen in the display windows of Japanese restaurants is made (something I was and am fascinated by as well). The previous episode had been about visiting Cambodia Town in Long Beach. The following was about Downtown's LA Barber College. The most recent episode I watched was episode 104 of California’s Gold, “Cornish Christmas.” 


Howser with a construction crew underground in L.A. (source: Cameron Tucker)

In an interview with the LA Times’ television critic, Robert Loyd, he expressed “Let's explore our neighborhood, let's look in our own backyard, let's go down to Koreatown and buy some kimchee. We won't do a story on what it's like to spend the night in a $10,000 hotel suite.” I thought he had the best job in the world and the best attitude to boot. Though he once claimed to be a Methodist, he had the soul and outlook of Laozi.


Huell Howser in his former residence in Midtown's Hancock Park neighborhood (source: Kevin Hively)


Though outgoing, friendly, and on TV all the time, Huell was guarded about his private life – which I really respected. He was one of the few people on TV who didn’t seem interested in promoting himself as a celebrity, even though he was one. He never bothered to go out of his way to deflate tired, cynical stereotypes of California, he just ignored them. Likewise, he understood that Californians come in all shapes, colors and accents and in a culture where southern accents are almost always equated with stupidity and/or bigotry, he was not only proudly southern, but unprejudiced, and intelligent. 




He was often parodied albeit more-often-than-not, lovingly. I'd bet that all of his self-professed fans have an imitation of him. He turned up on The Simpsons twice, the Beverly Hills, 90120 episode "Jobbed," as well as Thoughts of Suicide on an Otherwise Lovely Day and Who Killed the Electric Car? He leant his voice to Winnie the Pooh, and was mentioned on Weeds. He has a hot dog named after him at Pinks, a honey ham & pineapple cheeseburger at Peggy Sue's 50s Diner (in Yermo), and his face on a bottle of milk from Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy (in the Southeast LA County city of Montebello).


He passed away at his Palm Springs home on 7 January 2013, aged just 67. We should all honor him by undertaking adventures at the next opportunity and keep our eyes open the what's amazing all around us. In 2000, Huell said "I have this theory that when I die, my tombstone will say, 'Huell Howser: he did the pig story,'" -- a reference to a profile he did of a 500-pound pet pig named Porky who then lived in a Powderly, Kentucky. In a 2003 story in Los Angeles Magazine he was quoted saying, "Seriously, what I want to do is to be saying 'Good night' and fall over dead in a sand dune and have the credits with the sand blowing over my body and the people at home just going, 'Well, I guess that's Huell's last show.' That is the way I would like to die." RIP Huell!

Click on this link to share your memories on KCET's page

*****

California Fool's Gold -- A North Orange County Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 5, 2012 07:00pm | Post a Comment
SHE HAD ORANGE RIBBONS IN HER HAIR -- NORTH ORANGE COUNTY



It comes as something of a dismaying surprise to me how casually many seemingly intelligent Angelenos freely dismiss Orange County. Iv'e grown used to (if still somewhat surprised by) the out-dated chauvinistic attitude of New Yorkers and San Franciscans. But while those widely and rightly shrugged off by knowing Angelenos, many of those same sorts of hollow, outdated mis-characterizations tend to be freely expressed about regions like LA’s Westside and Orange County without apparent irony. This blog entry, then, will focus on the communities of North Orange County with the hopeful aim of introducing readers to some of what makes it a region worthy of reexamination and exploration.



Jim Morrison - "Orange County Suite"



DIVERSITY IN ORANGE COUNTY


Orange County Panorama - source: Yashar Sahaleh


Although often stereotyped as a uniformly white suburb, Orange County – especially North Orange County – is in fact highly diverse. There are large numbers of Armenian, Chinese, English, Egyptian, FilipinoGerman, Irish, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Palestinian, Persian, Salvadoran, Scottish, Syrian, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese-Americans, to name a few. Orange County is home to the largest community of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. North Orange County is home to several ethnic enclaves, including Little Arabia, Little Saigon, and Little Seoul. In fact, 45% of Orange Countians speak a language other than English at home. With a population that is 44% white, 34% Latino, 18% Asian, 2% black, and 1% Native American, there is no racial or ethnic majority. In fact, last month Forbes magazine published “America's Most Diverse Neighborhoods And Metros” placed Orange County in their 7th spot – above Los Angeles County.


NORTH AND SOUTH ORANGE COUNTY


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of North Orange County


Whereas Los Angeles County is often separated into numerous smaller regions (the Eastside, Hollywood, the Harbor, Midtown, the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, the Verdugos, &c), Orange County (being much smaller) most often tends to divide into just two – North Orange County and South Orange County. Some South Orange Countians portray North Orange County as a lawless border region where illegal immigrant members of Mexican drug cartels and Vietnamese home-invaders terrorize “real Americans” as society crumbles around them (and a bald eagle cries). Their Birth of a Nation-esque views are often voiced in the comment sections for the OC Weekly and OC Register and are virtually indistinguishable from those of your garden variety internet trolls.


Costa Mesa skyline at dusk


There are real distinctions between North and South Orange County. The north is more crowded, urban and developed. It bustles where the south seems to relax. It’s the area that I’m much more familiar with  both because most of what brings me to Orange County (friends, food, entertainment, &c) is located in the north… and readers of this blog have consistently voted more heavily for North Orange County communities to be covered over those in South Orange County.

Of all communities in the Southland, right now Anaheim in North OC and Irvine in South OC are tied for first place (leading all LA County communities). To vote vote for Orange County neighborhoods and communities, vote here. To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here


HISTORY OF NORTH ORANGE COUNTY

For thousands of years before the Spanish Conquest, what’s now North Orange County was home to the Acagchemem and Payomkowishum nations. It was also home to the Chumash and Tongva people – two seafaring people who, some evidence suggests, may’ve had dealings with Pacific Islanders All spoke languages in the Takic family and likely, therefore, migrated to the region from the Sonoran Desert.

All of California was claimed for Spain in 1769. In 1822, it became part of the newly-independent country of Mexico. Two years after the USA defeated Mexico in 1848, California became a state and what’s now Orange County was made part of Los Angeles County. On 11 March, 1889, Orange County seceded from LA County. In 1900 there were only 19.696 residents of the then-new, mostly agricultural county. The 1920s saw significant growth and the region’s population first surpassed 100,000. In the 1950s and ‘60s Orange County’s grew incredibly quickly. Since then, every decade has seen further growth although it has slowed considerably.


POLITICS IN NORTH ORANGE COUNTY




Although Orange County has long been characterized as a stronghold of Republican and Right Wing politics, today a mere plurality of 44% of registered voters are registered with the GOP whilst 32% are registered Democrats. Additionally, though still one of the most conservative regions in Southern California, Republicans in Orange County often have more in common with Libertarians than the far right, science and equal rights-denying neo-Con variety. North tends to grow increasingly Democratic with that passage of time. Nowadays, among what most people consider to be North Orange County, Yorba Linda and Villa Park are only incorporated communities with overwhelmingly Republican constituencies.


CULTURE IN ORANGE COUNTY


Segerstrom Center for the Arts


Many people scoff at the suggestion that there’s culture in Orange County (just as they do about Los Angeles). It’s never been clear to me what either camp of haters means by “culture” since there are numerous art galleries, botanical gardens, cultural events, historic sites, live music venues, museums, performing arts centers, a variety of restaurants, revival movie theaters, &c in both regions – some of which I will touch upon below. So without further ado…the communities of North Orange County.


*****

ANAHEIM



Anaheim is the largest city in Orange County (population-wise). To all but those that think that Disneyland is in Los Angeles, the city of Anaheim is largely synonymouse (sic) with that theme park. Less well-known but equally amusement park is the tantalizingly-named Adventure City.

Anaheim was founded by Bavarian immigrant winemakers in 1857 and incorporated in 1870 – making it the second oldest city in (then) Los Angeles County. “Heim” is German for “home” and “ana” refers to the Santa Ana River. As of 2010 Anaheim’s population was 53% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 28% non-Latino white, 15% Asian (mostly Vietnamese and Filipino), 3% black, and 1% Native American.

A large number of the white population are Arab (primarily Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian) and the city is home to Little Arabia aka Little Gaza Strip. Other Anaheim neighborhoods include Anaheim Hills, Anaheim Resort, Downtown Anaheim, East Anaheim, the Platinum Triangle, and West Anaheim. The so-called “Platinum Triangle” was, according to the Orange County Business Register in 2010, the fastest growing region in the county. To read more about Anaheim, click here!





Anaheim is the birthplace of musicians Don Davis, Eden Espinosa, Jeff Buckley, Jennifer Warnes, Marcus Mumford, No Doubt, and Tairrie B. as well as actors Alli Mauzy, Alyson Reed, Austin Butler, Connie Needham, Lisa Tucker, Milo Ventimiglia, Moon Bloodgood, and Rosalind Chao.


BREA



The city of Brea includes the neighborhood of Olinda, named after the former Olinda Village which was incorporated as part of Brea in 1911. The city is known for its public art program which, since 1975, has placed over 140 artworks throughout the community. Brea, which means “tar” in Spanish, is a reference to the town’s early and close relationship with the petroleum industry. The Brea-Olinda Oil Field was discovered in 1898. Eventually, oil gave way to citrus groves which in turn gave way to industrial parks and suburban residences. The population of Brea today is about 67% white, 25% Latino,18% Asian, and 1% black. Brea is the birthplace of actress Stephanie J. Block.


BUENA PARK



Buena Park, whose motto is “the center of the Southland,” is home to two amusement parks, Knott's Berry Farm and its sister park, Knott's Soak City. The former was founded in 1887 by James A. Whitaker, a grocer from Chicago. It wasn’t incorporated until 1953. The so-called “E-Zone” district is home to Pirate's Dinner Adventure Show, a Medieval Times, and a Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum. The population of Buena Park is roughly is 45% white, 39% Latino, 27% Asian, 4% black, and 1% Native American.


COSTA MESA


As home to Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Orange County Fair, Isamu Noguchi Gardens, Talbert Nature Preserve, South Coast Plaza, and a couple of so-called "anti-malls,” Costa Mesa has arguably earned the nickname, “City of the arts.” I still find it amusing that the largest employer is McDonald's.

Prior to 1920 Costa Mese was known as Harper. It didn’t incorporate until 1953. Today it includes the neighborhoods of Cliff Haven, Mesa Verde, the Theater & Arts District, the Metro Center, the City Center, and Santa Ana Heights.



Musical acts from Costa Mesa include Bill Madden, Cowboy Buddha, Measles, Naked Soul, The Pressure and Xployt (aka Joe Public), and Supernova. Movies filmed there include Suburbia and In the Shadow of the Stars. To learn more about Costa Mesa, click here.


CYPRESS


Due to the preponderance of artesian wells in the area, the city of Cypress was at one time called Waterville. It incorporated in 1956 as Dairy City, in part to preserve its agricultural character from suburbanization (as did neighboring Dairy Valley (now Cerritos) and Dairyland (now La Palma). All the dairy-centric communities nonetheless suburbanized by the 1960s. Only a year after incorporation its citizens voted to change its name to Cypress, after the trees planted as a wind break next to Cypress Elementary School.




The population of Cypress, according to the 2010 census, is about 54% white, 32% Asian, 18% Latino, and 3% black. Two of its most famous sons are actor/singer/yoghurt-peddler, John Stamos and famed golfer/philanderer, Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods.


EL MODENA


Source: Orange County Archives


El Modena is a small, unincorporated community surrounded by the city of Orange. For much of its history it was a barrio set aside for Mexican-Americans. Through annexation, El Modena High School is now located within Orange although El Modena still has the El Modena Community Center and the Jones Victorian Estate (built in 1881).


FOUNTAIN VALLEY


Mile Square Park - image source: Justin Kim

Fountain Valley’s motto is “A nice place to live.” It was originally known as Gospel Swamp and later, Talbert, before its incorporation in 1957. Until the 1960s it was primarily agricultural. The population today is roughly 57% white, 34% Asian, 13% Latino, and 3% black.It’s home to an historical site, Courreges Ranch, although it’s not open to the public. Thankfully, the historic buildings in Heritage Park are.


FULLERTON


Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, California

Fullerton is the town where Hawaiian Punch was invented in 1934. In 1949 it’s where Leo Fender invented the Fender Telecaster. It’s also the birthplace of a couple of seminal Orange County Punk bands: The Adolescents and Social Distortion – other music acts from Fullerton include Belay My Last, Coco B's, Derek Shawn O'Brie, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, Gwen Stefani, Jay C. Easton, K-Nobs, Kid Ramos, Lit, Stacey Q, The Daisy Chain, The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra and Tui St. George Tucker. One of the town’s major cultural attractions is the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.



Fullerton also includes the neighborhoods of Downtown, Fuller Park, SoCo, and Sunny Hills. The population is 54% white, 34% Latino, 23% Asian, and 2% black. To read more about Fullerton, click here.


GARDEN GROVE


Downtown Garden Grove

Garden Grove has been a "capital of" numerous things from its early days up until the city was incorporated in 1956. Over the years it's been declared the chili-pepper capital of the world in the early 1920s, the poultry capital of the world a little later, the egg capital of the world not long after that, and the strawberry capital of the world in the late '50s.

It includes the neighborhoods of the Central Industrial District, College Park East, Colonia Manzanillo, Downtown, Little Seoul, Old Ranch, South of Katella, Uptown, West Garden Grove, and part of Little Saigon. To read more about Garden Grove, click here.


HUNTINGTON BEACH



For a city primarily associated just with surfing, Huntington Beach – aka “Surf City,” has a number of surprisingly varied attractions. There is surf culture aplenty and Main Street is sometimes referred to as “The Jersey Shore of the West” but there’s the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, a Richard Neutra-designed public library, the kitschy/charming Old World Village, beautiful Central Park, clubs with Vietnamese New Wave/Italo nights, and more.



HB also includes the neighborhoods of Huntington Harbour, Sunset Beach, Surfside (or Surfside Colony). The population of the city is 77% white, 17% Latino, 11% Asian, and 1% black. It is the birthplace of metal band Avenged Sevenfold, reggae group The Dirty Heads, rap rock group (Hed) P.E., folk singer Matt Costa, pop punk band The Offspring, power pop group Hellogoodbye, ska punk band Reel Big Fish, ska group Suburban Legends, and punk band The Vandals. To read more about Huntington Beach, click here.


LA HABRA



La Habra takes its name from Mariano Reyes Roldan’s Rancho Cañada de La Habra. Just north, in the Puente Hills of Los Angeles County is La Habra Heights. La Habra was incorporated in 1925. In that same decade, Rudolph Hass planted the Hass Avocado Mother Tree there and began producing one of the world’s most popular cultivars of the fruit. The tree ultimately died in 2002.




La Habra is the birthplace of metal band The Funeral Pyre, singer Jennifer Hanson, and musician Rusty Anderson. The population of La Habra is approximately 58% white, 57% Latino, 10% Asian, and 2% black.


LA PALMA


Miller Street in La Palma (1960) - image source: Orange County Archives


La Palma was incorporated in 1955, originally as Dairyland – an agricultural community zoned to exclude housing developments. Nonetheless, after the last of the dairies moved away in 1965, the name was changed to La Palma, after La Palma Avenue, and it was suburbanized. It is, area-wise, the smallest city in Orange County. The population today is about 48% Asian, 37% white, 16% Latino, and 5% black.


LITTLE SAIGON


Asian Garden Mall

Unlike fellow North Orange County ethnic enclaves Little Arabia and Little Seoul which are both fairly small, vast Little Saigon sprawls across parts of Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Midway City, Santa Ana, and Westminster (and, to a lesser extent, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Irvine, and Stanton). It’s the oldest, largest and most populous Vietnamese enclave in the country. It was established in Westminster although Garden Grove is now home to about 10,000 more Vietnamese than that city.



Two business pioneers, Danh Quach and Frank Jao, established the first Vietnamese businesses along Bolsa – Little Saigon is actually often referred to as Bolsa. Around the same time, in 1978, Yen Ngoc Do began publishing Người Việt Daily News. There are now more newspapers -- The Little Saigon News and Vien Dong Daily News as well as TV and radio stations including Little Saigon TV, SBTN TV, VietFace, VNA TV, Saigon TV, Little Saigon Radio, and Radio Bolsa.

Not surprisingly, it is home to a vast number of quality Vietnamese restaurants.


LOS ALAMITOS


Not to be confused with Rancho Los Alamitos, in Long Beach, the Orange County city of Los Alamitos was incorporated in 1960. The name, “Los Alamitos,” is Spanish for “The Little Cottonwoods.” The population today is approximately 71% white, 21% Latino, 13% Asian, and 3% black.

For decades the main industry in Los Alamitos was sugar beet production. Today the top employers are Los Alamitos Medical Center, Arrowhead Products, Trend Offset Printing, SuperMedia, Pharmacy Advantage, Bloomfield Bakers, Systems Services of America, Alamitos West Health Care Center, Timken, and MDA Information.


MIDWAY CITY


Despite its name, Midway City is not an actual city. It’s a “census designated place” jointly presided over by a chamber of commerce and a homeowners’ association. The “Midway” of its name comes from its being nearly equidistant to Huntington Beach, Long Beach, and Santa Ana.


Midway City began life in 1922 when John H. Harper purchased 200 acres due to its location near a stagecoach stop and the Huntington Beach Oil Field. Harper began selling lots the following year. Over the years it’s been chipped away at with annexations by Westminster and is now made up of several small, disconnected sections.

Some of the highest profile businesses include Dakao Poultry, Baladi Poultry, and Midway City FeedStore. In 1994, Midway City became the subject of mockery when several school campuses banned the playing of POGS. As the Vietnamese population has grown, the community has become unofficially part of Little Saigon. The population today is roughly 48% Asian (mostly Vietnamese), 34% white, and 29% Latino. It was the birthplace of actress Dedee PfeifferMichelle Pfeiffer’s sister.


ORANGE


Eichler Tract in Orange

Orange is fairly unique among Orange County communities in that it preserved many of its older homes, rather than demolishing them. As a result, there are many attractive Craftsman homes near the neighborhood of Old Towne. It’s also home to three Eichler tracts, more than half of the total in Southern California. It’s motto is “a slice of old town charm.” Other neighborhoods include Olive, Orange Hills, Santiago Hills and surrounds the communities of El ModenaOrange Park Acres and Villa Park.

Prior to 1873 the community was known as Richland. That year it changed its name to Orange since there was already a Richland, California. The population in 2010 was 67% white, 38% Latino,12% Asian, and 2% black.

Orange is the birthplace of actress Amber Lynn, comedian Brad Williams, actor Jason Lee, and singer Toni Childs. To read more about Orange, click here.


ORANGE PARK ACRES



Orange Park Acres is an unincorporated community surrounded by the city of Orange. In 1894, Ferdinand Keifhaber purchased a 2,000 acre farm that was part of a Spanish land grant known as Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. In 1911, the Kiefhaber family sold a portion of the land to C.C. Chapman, Dr. Randell, Mervin Monnette, and Frank Mead Sr. In 1928, the latter two formed the Orange Park Acres Corporation of what is today Orange Park Acres. It remains mostly residential with a pronounced rural, equestrian character.


PLACENTIA



The city of Placentia’s name is Latin for “a pleasant abode.” The population is 62% white, 36 % Latino, 15% Asian, and 2% black. It’s recognized locally as home to The Bruery, Knott’s Berry Farm Foods and some supposedly excellent Mexican restaurants. It’s also the birthplace of punk bank Agent Orange and the rap-rock group Kottonmouth Kings.





ROSSMOOR



Rossmoor is a planned community developed between 1955 and 1961 by Ross W. Cortese. Part of the design involved not one but two shopping centers -- Rossmoor Village Square and Rossmoor Business Center. The latter was annexed by neighboring Seal Beach in 1962 and renamed The Shops at Rossmoor (even though they're no longer in Rossmoor). Rossmoor is walled off from the surrounding communities by a red brick “separation barrier.” The population behind the wall is 85% white, 12% Latino, and 10% Asian.


SANTA ANA


Santa Ana has the second largest population in Orange County, after Anaheim. As with most of Orange County, it was formerly dominated by a non-Latino white population back in the mid 20th Century. As late as 1970 nearly 70% of the population was white. As of 2010, an even larger majority (78%) was Latino. The rest of the population is 11% Asian, 9% white, 2% black, and 1% Native American. This radical shift is undoubtedly the reason that online comments about the city tend to laughably compare it to Juarez or Tijuana.

In reality it’s one of the county’s primary cultural centers – home to the Bowers Museum, CSUF Grand Central Art Center, El Centro Cultural de México, Discovery Science Center, Heritage Museum of Orange County, and more. The Observatory (formerly the Galaxy Theatre) was where I was lucky enough to see a live performance by Italo/Vietnamese New Wave legend, Gazebo.

In short, it enjoys a bustling nightlife, daytime, art scene, food scene and many historic sites. To read more about it, click here.


SEAL BEACH



Seal Beach Pier - image source: Ajumma's Pad

Seal Beach is located in westernmost Orange County, adjacent to Long Beach in Los Angeles County. It also includes the neighborhoods of Leisure World and Surfside Seal Beach. It was previously known as Anaheim Landing. It later became known as Bay City but since there was already another Bay City, it was renamed Seal Beach when it was incorporated in 1915.

As of 2010 the population was 84% white, 10% Asian, 10% Latino, and 1% black. In 2011 Seal Beach witnessed Orange County’s worse mass shooting when Kenneth Caleb murdered eight people at a beauty salon. Seal Beach Councilman Gordon Shanks offended many when he remarked, "These things are not supposed to happen here. Maybe in Compton." Many were quick to point out that there had never been a mass shooting of that magnitude in Compton’s history.


STANTON


Stanton, California's Del Taco #10

Stanton grew up along the Los Angeles Interurban Railway’s Santa Ana Railway Line, which formerly connected Watts to Santa Ana beginning in 1905. It was incorporated in 1911. The fickle city then dis-incorporated in 1924. It once again incorporated in 1956. For such a small city, it is blessed with the presence of numerous, small parks.

Stanton’s largest employers are CR&R, Sam's Club, The Home Depot, Adventure City, and All Metals Processing. The population is 51% Latino, 21% white, 24% Asian, 2% black, and 1% Native American.


TONNER CANYON



Tonner Canyon is an undeveloped area in the Puente Hills just south of Rowland Heights at the southern edge of LA County’s San Gabriel Valley. Nearly all of the 5,700 acres are owned by the City of Industry. The Orange County portion was formerly owned by Brea Cañon Oil.


VILLA PARK



Villa Park is a small community completely surrounded by the city of Orange. It incorporated in 1962. Its declining population has turned it into the smallest city in the county, population-wise. The small city is mostly residential – comprised of about 2,000 single family homes. There is one shopping center with a Ralph’s grocery store, a pharmacy and more. There are zero public parks and few streets have parking lots, perhaps to dissuade visits from outsiders. Its motto is “Villa Park, the hidden jewel.”

The population is 78% white, 16% Asian, and 10% Latino. 60% of residents are registered Republicans. It’s the birthplace of no known notables in any creative field as far as my (minimal) research has turned up.


WESTMINSTER


Vietnam War Memorial - Westminster, California

Westminster was founded in 1870 by Reverend Lemuel Webber as a Presbyterian temperance colony, its name a reference to the Westminster Assembly of 1643 (which laid out the basic tenets of Presbyterianism). Its motto is “The city of progress built on pride.” Before its incorporation, Westminster (along with Barber City and Midway City) was considered to be part of “Tri-City.” Upon incorporation it annexed Barber City (Midway City remains unincorporated).

In the 1970s, it received a large influx of Vietnamese refugees. Today the population is 48% Asian (85% Vietnamese), 36% white, 24% Latino, and 1% black. Nowadays it is home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese-Americans in the world. Any visit should include checking out Asian Garden Mall (Phước Lộc Thọ) and a meal at Bo De Tinh Tam Chay (which I'm responsible for adding to Urbanspoon).

Westminster is the birthplace of documentarian Harrod Blank, professional gamer Ken Hoang, dance crew Poreotics, and the a cappella group, the Westminster Chorus.


YORBA LINDA



Yorba Linda is an Orange County community that borders the Inland Empire’s San Bernardino County and whose motto is “Land of gracious living.” It’s named after Californio rancher, Bernardo Yorba. It was primarily agricultural until the 1960s, when the population began to grow rapidly.

President Richard Nixon was born there in 1913, the year after it acquired its first post office and began receiving electricity. His home, where he lived until 1922, and the adjacent Richard Nixon Library and Museum are the city’s chief attractions. I visited the museum once but became so engrossed by Dan Quayle’s memoir, Standing firm (with its frank discussion of his beef with Murphy Brown and Potatoegate) that I never made it past the gift shop.

Yorba Linda was incorporated in 1967 and also includes the neighborhoods of Carlton and East Lake. In some ways it feels more like a typical South County city. The population is 75% white, 16% Asian, 14% Latino, and 1% black. About 57% of its inhabitants are Republicans.

It’s the birthplace of guitarist Eric Charles "Erock" Friedman (Creed and Submersed), actress Mitzi Kapture, singer Sabrina Ryan (of The Cheetah Girls), and the metalcore band, Atreyu.

So there you have it – a brief and by no means complete entry to North Orange County. Get out there and explore, vote and share your experiences!

Continue reading...

Nature's a language, can't you read? -- Seasons in the Southland

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 20, 2012 03:45pm | Post a Comment
A FEW GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT ANGELENOS

While I caution anyone attempting to make generalizations about a group as diverse and large as the 13 million or so people known as “Angelenos,” I have nonetheless made a couple of observations about a much smaller subsection, my Los Angeles friends, that I have to assume share more widely-held views with Angelenos with whom I'm not personally acquainted. Just one example; as far as I can tell, only in Los Angeles do people say things like “only in LA” about things that happen pritnear everywhere.

In this entry I'd like to address and reflect upon another completely nonsensical but widely held view – that Los Angeles (and presumably at least the entire Southland and possibly all of SoCal) has no seasons or weather.


Los Angeles's The Byrds weighing in on seasons...


IN ONE CORNER -- THE SPOILED BABIES


As far as most people are concerned, temperatures in Los Angeles are usually quite pleasant. The daytime average is 24 °C (75 °F). The warmest days rarely exceed 32 °C (90 °F) and rarely dip below 15°C (59 °F). When temperatures deviate from this narrow comfort zone, legions of thoroughly-spoiled (and acclimated) complainers express their indignation on various social media and to their friends. As someone who has truly suffered through 48 °C (118 °F) heat and -42 °C (-44 °F) I have little sympathy for our weather whiners -- we have it so easy!



IN THE OTHER CORNER -- THE BLIND HATERS 


The other camp express the exact opposite opinion. They complain about the lack of seasons and weather (to which they are seemingly either willfully blind and/or ecologically monolingual). When it’s hot in November, for example, they typically post things on Facebook like “Really LA? 85 degrees in November?! I’m so over this city!” They're continually threatening to relocate (or move back) to London, New York, Portland, or San Francisco but never seem to leave Los Angeles, instead remaining and inflicting complaints upon their friends year after pleasant year. This group whiners concerns me even more than the former because it's a bit like a monolinguist dismissing all languages other than theirs as meaningless noises. Both groups of fools need to get wise...



TIME OF THE SEASON 


Image from Matt Jaffe


There are all kinds of indicators of seasons to those with open eyes, ears, minds, mouths and noses. What vegetables are at the farmers' market, what sort of parties are happening, what type of movies are in theaters, what people are wearing, &c. There are also, of course, meteorological indicators but many people are maddeningly unable to recognize them.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I was often asked by friends back home if I “missed having seasons.” Sure, I miss breezy, cool spring days with flowers popping up through the fragrant, soggy, thawing soil and swimming in the just-thawed pond. I even miss sticky, sweltering summer nights spent drinking on a porch with a fan in the window and watching fireflies and heat lightning – and swatting mosquitoes. I miss the Rivendell-vibe of Autumn twilights, when cool winds carry dead leaves and the comforting smell of fireplaces -- perhaps following a visit to an apple orchard. I even miss the brittle, arctic chill of icy winters when I used to take deep breaths, play hockey, go camping, and go ice diving. Despite all of that and the fact that I rarely experience anything similar in Los Angeles, I don’t miss seasons. Mainly because I still have them. For that matter, everyone in every climate on Earth does. 


LEARNING TO READ 


When people visit California for the first time (including yours truly), they often remark with surprise that it’s a desert. The popular tropical icons of the region – palm trees – suggested to me that it would be more like the city in Florida where I briefly lived than the town in Languedoc where I did for an even shorter period. I was pleasantly surprised, mind you, by this surprise.

I had no interest in living in the glamorous, celebrity-obsessed, semi-tropical (or alternately gang-plagued war zone) that I’d seen depicted in film after film. I was pleasantly surprised that Los Angeles was more Latino, more Asian, more varied, more diverse, more cultured, and all around more interesting than I’d expected. I was also surprised that it was less black, less white, and less vertical than I’d expected, based on my experiences with other cities. I was absolutely grateful that it was less plastic, less violent... and not semi-tropical.


Having grown up in the South and Midwest, I didn’t arrive to Southern California fluent in the language of its seasons. I arrived in the summer and Christmas caught me off guard -- I hadn't noticed any snowstorms. When it started raining heavily almost every day I made an effort to learn the  native language.


CHAPARRAL

Image source: Larisa Stow


The lingua franca of the Southland is Chaparral (or Mediterranean). I’ve never really liked the term “Mediterranean” because it suggests to me that the climate found in parts of Southern California, Argentina, Australia, Chile, and Mexico is somehow a version of that found in sea between Europe, the Levant, and North Africa (as if Europe's climate is the original) rather than an indigenous phenomenon. It also suggests the kind of Eurocentrism that's gotten the region into serious trouble.



REMAKING SOCAL IN ANOTHER'S IMAGE


Image Source: Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries


Today roughly 54% of Angelenos trace at least some of their ancestry to Europe. The largest European ethnicities in Los Angeles are SpanishGerman, Irish, English, Italian, and French. Of those, only two countries of ancestral origin (Spain and Italy) are dominated by a similar biome (whilst the southern parts of France have it too). In the past Los Angeles was even more European-American -- even sold as the implicitly Protestant "White Spot of America." European immigrants as well as American ones from the Midwest and the Northeast, often attempted to adapt the landscape to their tastes rather than adapt their tastes to their new home. Native plants were largely replaced by homeowners who desired thirsty, manicured, useless grass lawns and rose gardens like those of their temperate homelands. 


Image source: huval

Developers were crazy for palm trees -- only one species of which, Washingtonia filifera (the California fan palm) is actually native to California. Despite the fact that they further tax our already taxed water supply and provide little shade, they were popular as they gave the impression of Los Angeles being an "exotic" desert oasis or tamed bit of semi-tropics. The palm tree fad peaked in the 1930s and now many of the iconic trees are nearing the end of their lives (or being killed by weevils). Thankfully, the LADWP is now in the habit of replacing them not with more palms, but rather with more water-wise trees adapted to the chaparral.


THE NATURAL LANDSCAPE



The area occupied by the City of Los Angeles is not a desert although parts of Southern California and  the Los Angeles County are. The Mojave and Colorado Deserts are just over the hills. One of the reasons California is so-often miscategorized as a desert is because back in the day water barons wanted to justify their huge engineering projects that redirected water from other regions, casting themselves as the city's saviors in the process. Their projects did truly transform the environment. For example, the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys were mostly dry grasslands with trees mostly growing along the banks of streams and in the surrounding foothills -- although they'd by then been transformed by centuries of use by the Spanish as grazing pastures. Major transformation of the Southland's landscape began with the Spanish Conquest of not just the indigenous people but the indigenous environment. The Spaniards planted palms, eucalyptus, mustard and crops for both their animals, their slaves and themselves. 

The hills and much of the Los Angeles Basin are still dominated by sclerophyll shrublands. In other parts of the world this biome is referred to as fynbos, kwongan, mallee, maquis, and matorral. Although I'm thankful for the shade and water, they come at a cost. I'm even more thankful that (and hopeful because) many people are increasingly embracing native plants and at least water-wise xeriscaping which often utilizes non-natives but less thirsty specimens. And while I'm at it, why don't we have more extensive green roofs, permeable roads and river beds?

And now a look at the seasons of the Southland...


*****


CHAPARRAL WINTER


image source: Rodney Ramsey


There are several indicators of winter's arrival to SoCal. The year usually begins with a short but occasionally intense rainy season. A desert usually receives less than ten inches of rain whereas Los Angeles usually receives between fifteen and twenty. As a result of the rainfall, vegetation flourishes, the chaparral (and distant desert) blooms, and the pollen count rises – resulting in people with allergies becoming measurably crankier.

The air becomes amazingly clear and distant snow-capped mountains emerge. The nights are long and cold. Not inland cold, thank heavens, but legitimately cold -- especially if you don't have a proper coat in your possession. On average the temperature drops to about 9°C (48°F). The record low, −6 °C (21 °F), was recorded on 20 January, 1922.

Winter begins with the Winter Solstice, which comes between 21 and 22 December and the sun sinks beneath the horizon around 16:45. For the indigenous Chumash, Winter Solstice meant honoring the sun with several days of feasting and dancing and it was the biggest religious ritual of their people. Winter solstice also marked the beginning of the calendar of the Tongva, who arrived some 10,000 years later. 

California grows about 80% of the USA's vegetables and fruits. In winter, asparagus, avocados, blood oranges, cabbage, carambola, cardoons, collards, grapefruit, green peas, kale, kiwis, kumquats, leeks, lemons, lettuce, Medjool dates, mushrooms, mustard, navel oranges, passion fruit, pears, pommelos, rutabaga, satsumas, scallions (good year round), spinach, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tangelos, tangerines, treviso, and turnips are all in season.








CHAPARRAL SPRING


image source: LA Observed

As winter transitions into spring, the days begin to grow warmer, longer, and usually drier with most rainfall ending around April. The first day of spring is the Vernal Equinox, which occurs around the 20th of March. Like autumn leaves elsewhere, in Los Angeles we get colorful, falling spring flowers (and flower-like spring leaves) from Bottle BrushesBougainvilleas, and Jacarandas which add a pastel beauty to the landscape yet are received with moaning from haters of beauty for the "mess" they make... on the ground... in nature. 

Around the middle of the year, in late spring, the cold waters of the Pacific current known as the California Current meet a high pressure formation known as the California High. The result is a thick, sticky marine layer known colloquially as June Gloom (as well as, depending on the month: GrayprilMay GrayNo-SkyJuly, or Fogust). The weather is typically hot but the sky is overcast although rain is fairly uncommon. Instead, the thick marine layer usually burns off later in the day.

Many crops remain in season but are joined at the market by newly seasonal apricots, Asian pears, artichokes, arugula, basil, black-eyed peas, cherries, cucumbers, fava beans, fennel, fiddle heads, figs, grapes, green beans, green garlic, maize, melons, mint, morels,  nectarines, nettles, new potatoes, okra, parsley, peaches,  peppers, radishes, ramps, raspberries, rhubarb, snap peas, snow peas, spring onions, strawberries, summer squash, sweet onions, tomatoes, and Valencia oranges.

 







CHAPARRAL SUMMER


image source: Ricardo DeAratanha for the Los Angeles Times

Summer begins on the Summer Solstice, which falls between the 20th and 21st of June. At Burro Flats in the Simi Hills is a painted cave that served as a gathering place for the Chumash, Tataviam, and Tongva. As the sun moves across the sky on the longest day of the year, a notched sandstone peak casts a shadow across a carving of a bear claw surrounded by carved indentations. To the south, the Acagchemem looked to the stars of Orion's belt and the Pleiades to forecast summer's return. 

Summers tend to be long, dry and hot… hot but usually not that hot. Summer highs average in the high 20s  low 80s °F) although the inland areas and valleys especially are usually quite a bit warmer than the coastal areas. At night it can be surprisingly cold -- well, cold if you've acclimated to a climate where high teens (low 60s °F) counts as "surprisingly cold." Not too bad really and probably the reason a large percentage of the population has chosen to live here for thousands of years.

The days are sunny and long, ending in some beautiful sunsets and moonrises. Under those long sunny days, bell peppers, blackberries, boysenberries, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupes, carrots, cherries, chickpeas, chili peppers, cilantro, figs, eggplant, garlic, gooseberries, limes, marionberries, onions parsnips, pineapple guava, Plums, pluots, radicchio, ramps, sapote, shallots, shelling beans, soybeans, sweet peppers, tomatillos, and zucchini (and zucchini blossoms) flourish.







CHAPARRAL AUTUMN



Fall begins with the autumnal equinox, which occurs on the 22nd or 23rd of September. For the Chumash it fell during the month of Hutash, and was observed with a harvest ceremony which seems to have been marked with a degree of solemnity. 

In autumn, the dry, hot, violent Santa Ana Winds sweep across Los Angeles as the nights grow longer and more orange. Fires are common – caused by both lightning and firebugs. Some years the hillsides burn on all sides, the sky turns ashy and it begins to feel like something from the imagination of  Dante Alighieri or Hieronymus Bosch. When the winds finally subside, the less-feared Santa Ana Fog often replaces them.

Although many are available in other times of the year, Autumn is when apples, a second crop of artichokes, Belgian endive, broccoli, carambola, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, cherimoyas, daikon, escarole, fennel, a second crop of figs, frisée, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, lemongrass, persimmons, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkins, quinces, and rapini are all at their best. 



Tom Russell - "Santa Ana Winds" (live)








...and, as seasons are cyclical, winter returns. So to repeat my earlier statement, I do miss the seasons of my youth but I don't miss seasons. I'm enjoying them every day.

*****

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Altadena, The Community of the Deodars

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 17, 2012 11:18pm | Post a Comment
INTRODUCTION TO ALTADENA


When people hear the disyllabic sounds, “alta” and “dena,” I would wager that most of them think of the well-known City of Industry-based Alta Dena Dairy, which was started by the three, Missouri-born Stueve Brothers in Monrovia, California in 1945. Oddly, more than five minutes of internet research haven’t helped me figure out why they named their dairy after a fellow San Gabriel Mountains community located some miles west of their hometown. Nonetheless, I based my map's "typeface" on their logo.



For a community that's never bothered incorporating, Altadena seems to have a very strong sense of pride, place and community. The first time I think I visited Altadena involved walking there from my workplace in Pasadena. Although my journey involved little more than crossing a freeway, once I arrived I felt as if, proverbially speaking, I was no longer in Kansas.


CHARACTER AND CHARACTERIZATION OF ALTADENA

Undoubtedly part of Altadena's unique vibe is owed to its particular racial and ethnic demographics. The population of roughly 43,000 people is 40% white (mostly English and Lebanese), 27% Latino (mostly Mexican), 24% black, 6% Asian – making it noticably less Asian, and much more black than most of the San Gabriel Valley. Indeed, it feels very different from most of LA. Within the community the vibe varies greatly too. Laidback, working class West Altadena feeling worlds rather than miles away from wealthy, woodsy East Altadena, which convincingly enough (for some) stood in for Beverly Hills on the series Beverly Hills, 90210. The foothill neighborhoods swing between eye-searingly dull suburbs and rustic, bohemian and slightly creepy enclaves. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Altadena


Like Pasadena, Altadena's neighbor to the south, most of Altadena is situated on a broad alluvial slope at the mouth of the Crescenta Valley, partially separated from the San Gabriel Valley proper by the Kinneloa Mesa at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains in the east and the low, rolling hills of San Marino and South Pasadena to the south. I’m assuming that this is why it’s most often considered to be part of the San Gabriel Valley but The Verdugos region by the LA Times – despite the fact that none of it is located in the Verdugo Mountains or their smaller geographical siblings, the San Rafael Hills and Shadow Hills

To many, Altadena has a reputation as a high crime area. In researching for this blog entry I’ve read descriptions stating that it’s “gang infested" or "the ghetto." As with all of LA, people tend to perpetuate, exaggerate and overstate how dangerous an area is. The average amount of violent crimes reported in Altadena per month is 1.8. Its violent crime rate is lower than that of neighborhoods like Chatsworth, Eagle Rock, Silver Lake, West Hollywood and plenty of other places less-often (or never) characterized as ghetto. While any and all violent crime is lamentable, fear of it should not factor into one's exploration and enjoyment of any neighborhood. The sad fact of the matter is that "gang infested" and "ghetto" are thinly-veiled code words for young, black men and Latinos.

There seems to be a bit of a buzz about Altadena as of late (click here to listen to an "Off-Ramp" segment) and in this episode I was accompanied by Maryam Hosseinzadeh, who spent a large chunk of her childhood there.  It was a hot day and the air was really fragrant. Walking around I inhaled the scent of huge evergreens and even a tiny clove cigarette butt on the ground. 


ALTADENA HISTORICAL SOCIETY



We started our exploration at the Altadena Historical Society, a non-profit founded in 1935 by 
Mrs.
Frederick 
Marsh. Although at the time the community was only a few decades old, they published their first history in 1938. Today the society offers lectures on historical subjects, tours of historical sites, and boasts a large collection of fascinating artifacts and materials from Altadena’s surprisingly rich history. ($25 membership buys newsletters, program announcements and discounts on events. $50 buys all that plus 4 limited edition reproduction vintage post cards of Altadena).



Upon our arrival we met Sherry Cavallo, an Altadena resident who moved “from out east” some 35 years ago. We also procured an invaluable guide to locals sites of note which we used to determine much of our day’s course. The next place we checked out was accessible from the Historical Society’s parking lot, the Woodbury-Story House. The house was built in 1882 for one of Altadena's founders, Captain Frederick Woodbury, and his wife, Martha. More on them later. First a bit of history.


ANCIENT AND SPANISH ERAS

For approximately 7,000 years, the area that now makes up Altadena was home to the Hahamog'na band of Tongva. Hahamog'na was the leader of the band which lived in two villages -- also named after him -- in the upper Arroyo Seco area. Hahamog'na encountered the Spaniard Gaspar de Portolà on his 1770 overland expedition through the area, a precursor to the Spanish Conquest. The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was established in 1771 in present day Montebello before relocating to modern day San Gabriel a few years later. Hahamog'na’s lands were stolen by the mission and claimed for Spain. Hahamog'na was converted to Catholicism and re-named “Pascual.”


MEXICAN ERA

In 1834, Mexico (including California) gained independence from Spain and the lands that now include Altadena (along with present day Pasadena, San Pasqual, South Pasadena and parts of San Marino) became part of the 58.29 km2 Rancho el Rincon de San Pascual. It was granted to retired artillery lieutenant Juan Marine by José Figueroa. Marine passed away in 1838 and the land passed to José Pérez and Enrique Sepúlveda. They died in 1841 and 1843, respectively, and the land was granted to Manuel Garfias.


AMERICAN ERA


In 1848, following the US’s victory in the Mexican-American War, the old land grants were honored by the victors. Garifas sold off portions of his land to finance the building of his home. By 1858, all of the lands had been purchased by Benjamin Wilson, who in turn sold to John S. Griffin in 1860. Griffin sold a portion to Dr. Benjamin S. Eaton, who developed water sources from the Arroyo Seco and Eaton Canyon later in the decade, allowing for a development he, Griffin and Wilson called the San Pasqual Plantation. The project failed by 1870. In 1873, Wilson negotiated a deal with Daniel Berry, who represented a group from Indiana who founded “The Indiana Colony” in Pasadena. The portion that became Altadena was sold to two brothers from Marshalltown, Iowa -- Fredrick and John Woodbury – in 1880. Fred had his mansion – the Woodbury-Story House – built in 1882 and still there today. (It's been featured in commercials, episodes shows like Ghost Whisperer, LXD, of and music videos by the likes of Debbie Ryan, Lost Prophets, Nicole Sherzinger, Shwayze, and films like Dark Reel).


EARLY AMERICAN SETTLERS

One of the first homes built in the area is Virginia-native Eliza Griffin Johnston's on her Fair Oaks Ranch which, built in 1862. Englishman Walter Allen established the 502-acre Sphinx Ranch in 1878. His home, despite its historical distinction, was demolished in 1928. In 1882, the Johnstons' house was moved from to its current location to make way for the construction of the James Crank House ( featured in Catch Me if you CanMatilda, and Scream 2). The Eastlake-style Lewis Schumann House was built in 1888 for the Coloradan family who’d moved to the area in 1883. Scott and Kay Way moved into a Victorian farmhouse then-surrounded by ten acres of exotic gardens they named “Idle Hour.” Las Casitas Sanitorium was built in 1887 (it became a private home in 1895).  


MOUNTAIN VIEW



The Mountain View Mortuary & Cemetery was established in 1882 by another early resident, Levi Giddings. Over the years, 14,000 people have been buried there including Charles Richter, Eldridge Cleaver, George Reeves, Octavia Estelle Butler, Wallace Neff, Wilbur Hatch and obviously, many others. On the day of our visit a scene was being filmed, presumably for a movie, involving an LAPD funeral. Extras in cop uniforms lounged around comfortably and upon passing, we noticed that many of the LAPD cars were painted sloppily and therefore presumably not meant to be filmed in close-up.  


THE WOODBURYS AND THE AVENUE OF DEODARS



In 1883, after a trip to Italy, John Woodbury brought Deodor Cedar (Cedrus deodar) – indigenous to the Himalayas – to Altadena and had 135 of them planted them along Santa Rosa Avenue (where Woodbury was planning to build his mansion). The work was carried out by a labor force made up of Chinese workers who also lay the open river-rock gutters that line the street. Woodbury abandoned the construction of his home in 1888 when the boom busted.


CHRISTMAS TREE LANE



In 1920, after the trees had matured, one fourth of the 1.1km stretch was lit for Christmas following the efforts of then-president of the Pasadena chapter of Kiwanis, Frederick Nash and advertised as the "Mile of Christmas Trees." In 1927, an Altadena chapter of Kiwanis formed and the Avenue of Deodars came to be nicknamed Christmas Tree Street (later Christmas Tree Lane). Over the years, especially in the mid-20th century, Christmas Tree Lane was the subject of many colorized postcards. In 1990 it was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1990 and designated as California Historical Landmark No. 990.  


ESTABLISHMENT OF ALTADENA

In 1887, the Woodbury Bros formed the Pasadena Improvement Company and attempted to sell lots of their Woodbury Ranch in a subdivision they called The Woodbury Subdivision --just as a great land boom was about to bust. Earlier, in 1875, a nursery had been established in the foothills by Byron O. Clark, who’d named it Altadena Nursery before moving away. The Woodbury’s contacted him and he gave them permission to rename their subdivision Altadena.


OWEN BROWN'S GRAVE

Although abolitionist Owen Brown (son of famed abolitionist John Brown) died of pneumonia in Pasadena, he was buried on Altadena’s Little Roundtop Hill near El Prieto Road. A memorial plaque was later added that stated “Owen Brown, Son of John Brown, the Liberator, died Jan. 9, 1889.” The monument also included two iron ornaments meant to represent freedom from slavery. Mysteriously, after the land was purchased by new owners in 2002, they were removed.


MILLIONAIRE'S ROW




Despite the presence of the aforementioned settlers, Altadena's population was spread out, sparse and devoted primarily to agricultural concerns until a group of mostly Midwestern millionaires began to build mansions along Mariposa in what became nicknamed Millionaire’s Row. One of the earliest to establish a home there was Irish-born Chicago map magnate Andrew McNally and his friend, Colonel George Gill Green – a veteran of the War Between the States and patent medicine entrepreneur. Another printing magnate, William Scripps, moved to Millionaire’s Row from Detroit, Michigan in 1904, to his home known as the Scripps Estate.


SCRIPPS




The Scripps Estate is a three-story Crafstman-style “Ultimate Bungalow” designed by architect Charles W. Buchanan and built in 1904. In 1979, the home faced the threat of demolition and was saved when purchased by the Pasadena Waldorf School in a deal negotiated by Altadena Heritage. Renamed Scripps Hall, it was was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.






Scripps also opened The William A. Scripps Home for Aged People in 1913 in a home originally built by one Thaddeus Lowe (more on him in a paragraph), for his son, Thad Jr. Its name was changed to “The Scripps Home” in 1962. It closed in 2007. All of the facilities except the small Gloria Cottage (built in 1914) were demolished in 2008 by developers and its residents were relocated to facilities in Alhambra. Today the old Scripps Home sign hangs at the Altadena Historical Society.

*****

PROFESSOR THADDEUS SOBIESKI COULINCOURT LOWE & the MOUNT LOWE RAILWAY



New Hampshire-born aeronaut, adventurer, scientist, inventor and dreamer, Professor Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe, famously scaled Oak Mountain (bragging he was the first white man to do so), planted an American flag atop it and re-named it Mount Lowe after moving to Los Angeles in 1887. His friend and fellow Altadenan, Andrew McNally, ensured that the new name stuck when his Rand, McNally & Co. maps labeled it Mount Lowe on their maps. Lowe, formed the Pasadena & Mt. Wilson Railroad Co. in 1891 with a Canadian-born engineer David J. Macpherson, who’d drawn up plans for a scenic, mountain railroad. Unable to obtain the rights to scale Mount Wilson, the duo turned their sites to Oak Mountain, near Lowe’s new home in Pasadena, where he'd moved in 1890. The first section of the Mount Lowe Railway opened on 4 July, 1893. Ultimately the line would grow to include three sections: the Mountain Division, the Great Incline, and the Alpine Division. The Mountain Junction railway station was located at the corner of Lake and Calaveras.


Part 1: The Mountain Division




For the Mountain Division the railway used a trolley that traveled from Mountain Junction Railway up Lake Avenue before passing through the Poppyfields District and ended in Rubio Canyon, at the base of Echo Mountain. At the Rubio Canyon terminus stood the 12-room Rubio Pavillion guest house and station.


Part 2: The Great Incline & Echo Mountain



The second stretch of the railway required passengers to transfer from the trolley to a funicular train which took them to the summit of Echo Mountain. At the mountain’s peek there was the 40-room Echo Chalet hospice. In 1894, it was joined by the addition of the 80-room Victorian Echo Mountain House. Ultimately the site included an observatory, a casino, a dancehall and other structures which came to collectively be known as White City.

Echo Mountain is separated from its neighbors by Las Flores Canyon, Rubio Canyon, and Castle Canyon. Boy Scouts assisted in development of the mountain by locating "sweet spots" where people yelled for entertainment – in some cases aided by the use of “echophones.” Today, with the train long gone, it’s primarily accessible by the Sam Merrill Trail and a fire road that begins in Millard Canyon.


Part 3: The Alpine Division & Mount Lowe



The third section of the railway opened in 1896. After crossing Los Flores Canyon, rounding the “Cape of Good Hope,” and passing through Millard Canyon and Grand Canyon, the train arrived at Crystal Springs. At this terminus there was a 12-room chalet called Ye Alpine Tavern, which had been built in 1895. Mule rides were conducted from there on a trail known as Mount Lowe Eight (for its figure eight shape) and there were tennis courts and a wading pool as well. Mount Lowe is primarily accessible by Chaney Trail as well as a fire road.


The End of Mount Lowe Railway

From the very, start Lowe’s adventure was, in most ways, a disaster. The train operated at a loss from day one. By 1899 Lowe was in receivership to Jared S. Torrance. A whole series of disasters struck over the years to come. The Echo Mountain House was destroyed by fire in 1900. Henry Huntington's Pacific Electric Railway took over in 1902. A 1905 fire destroyed more structures. The Rubio Pavillion was destroyed by a flood in 1909. Having lost his fortune, Lowe moved into his daughter’s home in Pasadena and died, aged 80, in 1913 and was buried in Altadena’s Mountain View Cemetery. In 1928, a wind storm felled the observatory. A 1936 fire destroyed the tavern. In 1938 the railway was abandoned and today, all that remain are ruins. Lowe’s life was dramatized in the 1972 Walt Disney miniseries, High Flying Spy, part of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.



The last remaining vestige of the lower part of the railway, the Pacific Electric Railway Substation #8, was used for retail from 1942 (after the electrical switching equipment was removed) until 1979. It was restored and repurposed for offices in 1980.

*****
ZANE GREY ESTATE


Zane Grey Estate - photo credit: Alex Tarr


The large, Mediterranean Revival-style home known as the Zane Grey Estate was originally built in 1907 for a Chicago business machine-manufacturer, Albert Herbert Woodward from designs by Elmer Grey (no relation) and Myron Hunt. In 1918, western author Zane Grey moved to Southern California. Two years later they purchased the Woodward home and made several additions. Grey died in 1939. 

ALTADENA TOWN AND COUNTRY CLUB



The Altadena Town and Country Club was formed in 1910 by five members of the Altadena Improvement Association. In 1911 they purchased two acres of a former dairy farm and built a small bungalow-style clubhouse. It was damaged by a storm in 1913 and subsequently enclosed by a new, larger clubhouse. The current building was designed by club member, David A. Ogilvie. It acquired its current name in 1946, when it was reorganized and incorporated as an equity owned member club.


COBB ESTATE -- HAUNTED FOREST


 The Cobb Estate in 1930

                                                                  Haunted Forest" 2009 - photo credit: Kansas Sebastian


At the northern end of Lake Avenue sits the 107-acre Cobb Estate – nicknamed the Haunted Forest. Lumber magnate Charles H. Cobb and his wife, Carrie, had a large, Spanish-style mansion built for them in 1918. Cobb, a Freemason, died in 1939 and his will stipulated that his estate be given to the Scottish Rite Temple in Pasadena. The Freemasons sold it a few years later and it went through a succession of owners over the next few years – including the Sisters of St. Joseph. It was purchased by the Marx Brothers in 1956 but gained notoriety as a hangout for juvenile (and adult) delinquents. In 1959, most of the home was demolished. The Marx Brothers’ estate sold the land in 1971 and local preservationists purchased the land. Sometime later, stories involving the usual cast of KKK members, Satanists and murdered children began to circulate. In 1978 the gates were deemed sufficiently spooky and were filmed in the movie, Phantasm.


LA VINA


 


Chicago doctor Henry B. Stehman opened a hospital in Pasadena in 1909, a colony of 17 bungalows, after moving to California to recover from tuberculosis. Shortly thereafter, he and the newly-formed Pasadena Health Camp Association purchased Eugene W. Giddings' 160-acre vineyard in the hills and named their new hospital La Viña. The help cover operational costs and patient treatment, the hospital raised horses, chickens, turkeys, and cattle; grew orange trees, grapefruit trees, and vineyards and operated its own post office. In turn they sold eggs, grapes and milk. A children’s wing was added in 1934. The Las Flores Canyon fire destroyed it all in 1936. A new Myron Hunt-designed building opened on the site in 1937. In its final incarnation it operated as a respiratory hospital. In 1978, its offices served as those of the Warren County Sanitarium in the film Halloween. In 1992, after a lengthy battle, the La Vina McMansion gated community replaced Hunt’s building.


Many of Altadena's historically significant homes were built in the 1910s. Other significant homes from the era include the Frank Keyes House and the Mount Wilson Tollhouse (both built in 1911), The Chambliss/Benzinger House (built in 1914), and The Frederick Popenoe House (1919). There’s also a small neighborhood of Crafstman homes dating from the period on the 1900 block of Mar Vista Avenue.


THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY







The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875. The Altadena building was completed in 1920. The esoteric society is supposedly an altruistic one devoted to seeking hidden knowledge but there’s a creepy vibe that made me feel like I’d stepped into a Giallo film – probably just a combination of eerie silence suddenly shattered by the arrival of a noisy flock of ravens.


RONNIE'S


photo credit: I Am Not a Stalker


Ronnie’s Automotive Service is a gas station built in 1920. It's supposedly been featured in many commercial and movie shoots although all I could find on imdb was Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story (2004), where it is listed as having been the site of something called “hot girls’ car wash." I Am Not a Stalker says it also appeared in Crossroads (the Britney Spears one), Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, and Transformers.


FARNSWORTH PARK



The 15 acre Farnsworth Park was purchased by Los Angeles County in 1921 and initially used as a tree nursery. In the 1930s, General Charles S. Farnsworth successfully lobbied to have it turned into a park. In 1934, the impressive, stone William D. Davies Memorial Building was completed by the WPA. The park was named Farnsworth Park in 1939. For the last fifteen years it has hosted an annual summer concert series.  


OLD ALTADENA COMMERCIAL/CIVIC DISTRICT

Between 1924 and 1926, developers LG and MA Collison oversaw the construction of buildings on the 900 block of East Altadena that constituted Altadena’s first commercial district. It later grew to include Altadena’s first fire station, first sheriff station, an architect’s office, a grocery store and a beauty salon.


JANES VILLAGE 


 


Between 1924 and 1926, a number of English-styled cottages were built – largely by Elisha P. Janes -- supposedly to attract World War I veterans with a new taste for the Old World. I've never been to England so I can't really say whether or not Janes Village really evokes Albion or not but for those that have but that's the kind of charming simulacrum that makes Southern California turn.


THE BALIAN HOUSE



The home now known as the Balian House was built in 1922, originally for Burnell Gunther and his mother, Jennie. Its current owner is ice-cream magnate George Balian. Since 1955 the house has been widely known for its increasingly over-the-top Christmas displays which transform the pink Mediterranean into something of a Yuletide playhouse that would turn Pee-Wee Herman's bow tie green with envy.


LA SPOLANA SPANISH REVIVAL NEIGHBORHOOD



On par with the Craftsman neighborhood and Janes Village is the La Solana Spanish Revival neighborhood. The Spanish Revival-style homes designed by B.G Morriss and built by the BO Kendall Company in the 1920s.


THE BOULDER MANOR

Built in 1922, the Boulder Manor was the first home built on Boulder Road as a wedding present for Howard Edgecomb’s wife, Thelma. Its grounds used to also include a stocked, artificial stream. 


WEBSTER'S OF ALTADENA




Webster’s is really a complex of connected six buildings and a beloved landmark to locals. The original, central building was originally Bailey’s Drugstore, constructed in 1926, and later purchased by Harold Frank Webster and his brother. After buying out his brothers share he opened Webster’s Soda Fountain. The next building, to the north, was added in 1930. In the past, the six buildings were connected by an open segment wall and operated as separate departments. Sections included Webster’s Liquor Beer & Wine, Webster’s Health Mart Pharmacy, Webster’s Fine Stationers, and Webster’s Shipping & Supplies. At one point there was also a video rental store.Webster's was featured in at least one episode of The Wonder Years. In 2010, the pharmacy was sold by members of the Webster family to Michael and Meredith Miller, former owners of South Pasadena’s Fair Oaks Pharmacy, who remodeled, reorganized and renamed it Webster's Community Pharmacy. The rest of Webster's -- including the liquor store, stationers and thrift store are still Webster family operations.


WALLACE NEFF



Though born in La Mirada, Andrew McNally’s grandson Wallace Neff began his architectural career in Altadena with his design of the St. Elizabeth of Hungary, completed in 1926. Influenced by Mediterranean and Spanish architectural schools, his synthesis came to be known as the California architectural style.


ALTADENA MEDIA

Altadena was formerly served by The Altadena Press, who released their first issue on 21 November, 1929. It ran until 1944. A complete set of the papers can be found at the Altadena Historical Society. It was succeeded by The Altadenan, which ran between 1944 till 1977. The Altadena Chronicle was printed from 1977 till 1983. From at least 1936 - 1954 there was also the Altadena Weekly. Beginning in 1922, Paul F. Johnson briefly broadcast Altadena’s only radio station, KGO, from his home (Sagemont).


ALTADENA GOLF GARDENS



photo credit: Altadena Historical Society

Altadena’s first miniature golf course opened in 1930 at the intersection of Lake and Foothill. Live musical accompaniment scored the golfing, broadcast throughout the park. The park closed after just two years of operation. There’s still a remnant of the course, however, behind Lifeline Fellowship Christian Church.


ZOTHARIAN RANCH





Armenian Jirayr Zorthian immigrated with his family to New Haven, Connecticut. As a teen, he attended Yale's school of fine arts. After graduating, he spent part of the 1930s travelling and studying in Africa and Europe. Returning to the US he rose to prominence as a muralist with the WPA -- mostly painting in the South and East. During World War II he designed propaganda posters. After the war's conclusion, Zorthian and his wife, Betty Williams, moved to Altadena where they bought a 27 acre ranch in the foothills which they named Zorthian Ranch.



Charlie Parker at Zorthian Ranch (best audio available)


After a divorce, Zorthian married his second wife, Dabney, and added an additional 21 acres to their holdings. On the ranch, Zorthian experimented with building techniques, erecting many structures and making sculptures and objects out of found materials. The Zorthians also organized music events and threw parties/bacchanalias for their eclectic assortment of bohemian friends/luminaries (Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Buckminster Fuller, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, John Lautner, John C. Lilly, Richard Feynman, William Saroyan and others). Charlie Parker recorded a live set at the ranch, released as At Jirayr Zorthian’s Ranch, July 14th, 1952.


Additionally, the ranch has been used as a shooting and filming location. Jirayr passed away in 2004, at 92 years of age. Dabney passed two years later. It's currently inhabited by one of their five children. Today it hosts an annual New Los Angeles Folk Festival.


ZEKE THE SHIEK


photo credit: Root Simple

Tim Dundon (aka "Zeke the Shiek" aka "The Guru of Doo Doo" aka "The Sodfather") was born in Altadena in 1942. His family lived adjacent to Mountain View Cemetery. In his 20s, as a plasterer, he fireproofed buildings. He later got into ironwork... and boxing... and pill-popping (bennies, reds, Percodan and more). He raised snakes, had a pet coyote, and hung out at Zorthian Ranch. It was only after dropping acid that he graduated to the so-called "gateway drug," marijuana. A weed shortage in 1967 led to a new found interest in gardening. Gardening was the gateway to composting. That interest in composting turned into an obsession.



He was arrested in 1985 for cultivation, sales to a narcotics officer and possession of mushrooms with intent to distribute. Out on bail he was arrested for possession yet again. He defended himself in court as his alter-ego, Zeke the Sheik, and ended up serving eighteen days. In 1990 his huge compost pile (located on land owned by Mountain View Cemetery) burst into flames -- bacteria and fungi give off considerable heat as they feast on compost. In 1999, his pile had grown to a height of more than forty feet and he ran afoul of zoning officials. The cemetery was faced with possible fines and the pile was bulldozed. Dundon still lives and composts in Altadena in the Mountain View home that grew up in that is now full of lush vegetation growing from rich soil and shared with geese, ducks, chickens.


NUCCIO'S


Photo taken from Sazanka (who do NOT represent Nuccio's, it should be noted)

In 1935, Joseph and Julius Nuccio opened Nuccio’s Nurseries in Alhambra and specialized in Azaleas and Camellias, they sell over 600 species of the latter. In 1946 their father, Giulio Nuccio, bought forty acres of land in Altadena at the nursery’s present location. Today it’s managed by Tom and Jim Nuccio.


THE PASADENAN THREAT

As greedy, gourmandizing Pasadena grew, it steadily devoured chunks of its neighbors through annexation. In 1888, South Pasadena incorporated as its own city, protecting it from obliteration. East Pasadena and Altadena never did. Today East Pasadena has been almost entirely annexed by Pasadena but Altadena, despite never incorporating, successfully fought off the attempted wholesale annexation in 1956 after decades of small annexations. (As a result, Pasadena pulled the plug on Christmas Tree Lane which resulted in the foundation of the Christmas Tree Lane Association in 1957 to take over).


GREGORY AIN TRACT


Ain, Johnson, and Day's Park Planned Development was begun on Highland Avenue in 1946. Some people (well, maybe a couple) may know that Gregory Ain is one of my absolute favorite architects (I’ve mentioned Silver Lakes’ 1947 Avenal Cooperative Housing Project and Mar Vista’s 1948 Modernique Homes in previous entries).


CASE STUDY HOUSE #20

 

 
The Bass House - photographed by Julius Shulman 


Buff, Straub and Hensman's Case Study House #20 was built in 1958. The famed USC trio of architects built the residence for the great graphic designer/filmmaker, Saul Bass. The man had an eye for modernist beauty.


ALTADENA LIBRARY




David Oliver Green's "The Tree of Life" (1969)

Altadena’s first library operated out of a classroom beginning in 1913. The Altadena Library District was formed in 1926. The first structure built specifically to be a library was completed in 1938. The Bob Lucas Memorial Branch Library was built on Lincoln Avenue in 1957. The Main Library was built on Mariposa Avenue in 1967, designed by Boyd Georgi. It is located at the former site of Colonel George G. Green’s home, which was demolished to make way for the library.



Green's carriage house, built in 1889, remains.
 


ALTADENA IN THE 1970S

As a result of the extension of the 134 and 210 Freeways into Pasadena in the 1960s, and following the desegregation of the Pasadena Unified School District in 1967, much of the area’s white population moved away from the area. Whereas before 1960, the black population had been only 4%. By the 1970s it was much larger, with some neighborhoods having black majorities for the first time in their history. As Altadena went through sometimes tumultuous changes, its sense of community seemed to grow. In 1975, five Altadenans formed the Altadena Town Council. Though it has no legislative or legal authority, it continues to attempt to express consensus opinions of Altadenans to the County of Los Board of Supervisors.


INTERNATIONAL BANANA CLUB MUSEUM

The International Banana Club® Museum opened in 1976 – about 20 years after the Panama Disease devastated the staple (and, I'm told, vastly superior) Gros Michel banana resulting in our now eating slushy, almost-flavorless Cavendish bananas (thanks Science Friday!) . Anyway, I may dislike the fruit but the museum must love them as the museum has, with over 17,000 pieces, the world’s largest collection of banana-related objects. It's listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as “the world’s largest collection devoted to any one fruit.” Sadly for local bananaphiles, (but boon to banana-lovers in the Inland Empire) it moved to Hesperia in 2006. 


CHARLES WHITE PARK


Charles White Park was dedicated and named for Altadena artist Charles White in 1980 after he died in 1979. White was also well-known for having served as Chairman of the Drawing Department at the Otis Art Institute in the 1960s and ‘70s. From 1980 till the early ‘90s the park hosted the Charles White Memorial Arts Festival. The Altadena Arts Council and White’s son, artist C. Ian White, have recently focused their efforts on trying to bring the festival back.


TOWN HALL

Altadena got its first town hall in 1991 when a structure originally built as a barn in 1891 (with several additions and remodelings and a stint as a home) was moved to its current location from its original site at Lake and Sacramento.


ALTADENA FARMER'S MARKET





In February 2011, the Arroyo Time Bank and teamed with Mariposa Creamery owners Gloria Putnam and Stephen Rudicel to host the Altadena Urban Farmers Market at the Zane Grey Estate. I was there to help set up. It was done underground but obviously not very secretly and issue with permits, fees and neighbors resulted in its being shut down not long after. In 2012, the famers market returned as the Altadena Certified Farmer’s Market returned to Loma Alta Park (right next to the Altadena Community Garden) with necessary permits.  


******

ALTADENA IN FILM & TV 

In addition to the aforementioned TV shows and films, there are at least a few other times Altadena has appeared on screen -- though often as somewhere else.





On Beverly Hills, 90210, Minnesotan parents Cindy and Jim Walsh moved with their teenage daughter, Brenda, and their 31-year-old son, Brandon to a home in Beverly Hills… which was actually in Altadena (1675 E Altadena Ave). Their friend Dylan McKay moved a couple of doors down the street, to a bungalow at 1605 E Altadena.



Though named after a Valley community with a long-established and large black enclave, Neil LaBute's Lakeview Terrace, is based on events that happened in Altadena, concerning John and Mellaine Hamilton, an intteracial couple who were terrorized by a black LAPD officer, Irsie Henry. It was, however, mostly filmed in Walnut.



Currently, Kentucky-born director Allison Anders (Gas, Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca, Grace of My Heart, &c ) is planning on filming her next film, The Amorous Humphrey Plugg (named after a Scott Walker song) in her Altadena home.


MUSIC OF ALTADENA

I’m sure there are more musicians from and bands who’ve formed in Altadena – that’s where you, the reader, hopefully comes in. Maryam pointed me to The Moore Brothers and The Sundowners. The internet pointed to R&B singer Major James.


Photo credit: Altadena Above it All


I also don’t know of any traditional live music venues. As I mentioned, Zorthian Ranch, somewhat regularly hosts musical events. There’s also The Folly Bowl, Susanna Dadd and James Griffith’s backyard amphitheater where they’ve hosted music events and other follies, since at least 2007.


ART-ADENA

The Underground Art Society is an Altadena art gallery owned by Ben McGinty. Its permanent collection includes works by over 65 artists. They have art show/parties on the first Friday of every month that take place between 7:00 and midnight. McGinty is (or at least, was) also a member of the Altadena Arts Council – established in 2003 and whose Altadena Community Arts Center is located in the Loma Alta School Center


ALTADENA EATERIES


We did not use the guide to determine our next destination, which was to be lunch. Maryam suggested Oh Happy Days Natural Food and Café. Normally I wouldn’t be opposed to a vegan restaurant but I’d had a great, late night and awoke hungry as a horse and was desirous of something heavy to be washed down with copious amounts of coffee. We tried to go to Fox’s – an old school, family-owned joint that opened in 1955 and is known for breakfast and lunch and homey atmosphere. Unfortunately they were closed. So we ventured over to Amy’s Patio Café – a gruyere asparagus omelet sounded amazing. Unfortunately for us, they were also closed. Across the street is El Patron, situated in a tiny, triangular building constructed in 1951 that has hosted a succession of eateries including the Echo Café and most recently, CJ’s Wing Café.
 


My eyes proved to be a bit larger than my stomach and I ordered both a mushroom quesadilla (which, though listed as an appetizer, would’ve been sufficient on its own as a meal) and nopalitos con huevos. I thought the chips and salsa were so-so. The chips, I suspect, were store bought and the tomatoes in the pico de gallo hadn’t ripened sufficiently to the point where discernible flavor had emerged. The other dishes, however, were good and our waitress was great.


Overall, Altadena has a relatively small restaurant scene (and one surprisingly and thankfully short on chains). Other places to grab a bite include Bill’s Chicken, Bulgarini Gelato (which Maryam extolled the virtues of), Coffee Gallery, Dutch Oven Bakery, Everest Restaurant, Fair Oaks Burger, Jim’s Burgers, Mota’s Mexican Food, Pasties By Nancy, Patticakes the Dessert Company, Pizza Joe’s, and Poncitlan Meat Market.


HIKING ALTADENA


Photo credit: Bill Qualls


With Altadena extending into the lower San Gabriel Mountains, hiking is one of the best pastimes one can take enjoy in Altadena. The Altadena Crest Trail, Gabrielino Trail, Rubio Canyon Trail, The Sam Merrill Trail, and the Ridgeline Trail all reveal stunning views of the San Gabriel Valley and access places like Millard Canyon Falls, Inspiration Point, the aforementioned ruins of Lowe’s misadventure, and other treasures. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time in our day to hike at all so I look forward to coming back another time. 


GRAVITY HILL

We did have time to check out Altadena's “gravity hill” at a bend where E Loma Alta Drive becomes Rubio Canyon Road. Apparently, a school bus full of children drove off the road killing everyone on board and if one puts their car in neutral, the tiny ghosts of the dead children push your car uphill, against gravity. Another explanation is that the various angles of landscape such as trees, streets, homes and landscapes interact in such a way as to make it appear that one’s car is rolling uphill when, in fact, it’s rolling down. During our visit, neither youthful ghosts nor landscape angles conspired to make us feel like we were rolling anywhere but down... something I didn't feel warranted commemoration of with a picture.


DRINKS IN ALTADENA

There are very few places to grab a drink in Altadena. Although not a bar, George's Drive-In Liquor seems like a popular place to grab some liquor, take it outside, transfer it to a cup and hang out on a heavily-tagged bus bench. We stopped by to grab something non-alcoholic and a group of young men and a woman sipped from their styrofoam cups, nodding politely and seemingly attempting to appear nonchalant. The liquor store also offers incense in scents including Ghetto Love and Chronic Killer. There's also Johnny's Liquor.






It wasn’t until we concluded our day that we decided to go to a bar, forsaking the Altadena Ale House for the only other bar in down, Rancho Bar. Back when I worked in Pasadena, I occasionally headed up to Rancho to join a group of Pasadenan friends. However, it wasn’t until having spent the day exploring the neighborhood that I noticed how much it’s covered with clippings and artifacts about Altadena – like a the historical society if it had beer and was packed with regulars. Our bartender was cheerful and her pit bull was friendly.



Coyotes and pickup trucks in Altadena


After waiting a bit, we headed back to our homes. Physically, it’s a short distance between Altadena and Silver Lake but Altadena’s distinct vibe serves as an example of just how much variety is packed into the wonderful Southland of ours.

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