Friday, October 26, 2012

Castle Guard

I shared some history of the Castle Green previously, so this time I think I'll share a little of my personal history that converges with the Castle Green.  I have a few stories, but this is the right one for the season.  I was in my early twenties. I was employed and single.  Old Town Pasadena at that time was considered rundown and seedy, and it was in a sense.  At the same time, it offered wonderful nightlife opportunities - several drinking and dancing venues within a two or three block radius, good music with no cover charge, ample free parking, and the absence of stuffy, pretentious, or timid people.  I think it was pretty safe.  There was a nice crowd of friendly people and good friendly bouncers as well.  My girl buddies and I would go there for the evening and drink a little beer, and flirt and dance for hours.  Sometimes we found different ways home.  It got so sometimes I'd go by myself, because there was this almost Cheers-like vibe, and I'd always find people I knew.

So it was Halloween.  Or maybe only almost Halloween.  There may have been a costume party in one or more of the bars, or perhaps I just decided to wear a costume.  I'm pretty sure I came with my friend, because while I might have had the nerve to walk into a bar alone, I can't quite imagine I'd do so in costume.  It was, I thought, kind of a cute costume - a circa 1910 bathing dress, probably real, that I borrowed from my sister.  In hindsight, it was a little frumpy.   It was pretty chilly out, but I left my jacket in the car, because it didn't go with the costume.  The jacket was a 1970s model puffy down parka with velco pocket closures.  I always stashed my purse under the seat of the car, because purses are a nuisance when you're dancing.  The evening passed and eventually I returned to my car.  My first thought was that I left the window open, but I quickly realized my window had been broken out.  My jacket and my purse were gone.  I had my keys and my license on me.  I think I decided not to report the crime until the next day, although it also seems possible that I went to the nearby police station and was told to come  back the next day.  If you follow the blog closely as I'm certain nobody does, you're now thinking that I was a serial victim in my youth, but not so.  You now know about the only two times my wallet was ever stolen.  And nothing worse ever happened.  

The next day I reported the burglary to the Pasadena Police, who I believe never solved the crime.  Later that same next day I got a call from a man who lived in the Castle Green and took daily walks around Central Park and had spotted my wallet in or near a trash can including sufficient identity to contact me.  I think I got just about everything back with the wallet.  I don't know that I even had credit cards in those days; it was probably mostly photographs.  The purse and the jacket were not found.  The nice man who found my wallet stuff I think had some position of importance vis a vis the Castle Green.  His name was something like Robert Hall.  I picked my wallet remains up from him, I think, and he gave my an abbreviated tour of the lobby.  Although it is possible he mailed the wallet to me and I met him and got the tour some months later on an unrelated occasion.   I sent him a thank you note with a good luck charm.  I miss that down jacket sometimes when I'm cold.  Sometimes I miss the old bars of Old Town Pasadena, and being young and not so wise.

Long post about not much.  A lucky charm as a prize for anyone who read the whole thing and can prove it.           I like the painting.  I've had pretty good painting luck lately.  I'm glad I stuck around in the damp weather and finished it, and talked my fellow painters into staying too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


There's a restaurant in South Pasadena known as Shakers.  It was previously known as the Salt Shaker, but the name was changed.  The name might have been changed because the Peppermill, which was owned by the same people, went out of business.  It may have been because the population became more health conscious, and reduced its salt intake.  Possibly it was just because Shakers sounds snappier, and might have any number of possible meanings.  This is painted from a photograph I took of shakers at Shakers.  It was a happy day.

I've been eating at Salt Shaker/Shakers for many years.  Used to go there sometimes after the bars closed with English friends who liked eating liver and onions, and breaking into song, which the waitress said was not all right.  My husband and I ate breakfast there on weekends with our infant son in the carrier and our neighbor and the Los Angeles Times.  There's a dish that includes chili and eggs, that has at different times been known as Great Eggs and Eggs Incognito and Great Eggs Incognito.  A family favorite.  There was probably a smoking section at first, and then the smokers were relegated to an outside patio.  We had quit smoking long before.  Finally a city ordinance banned smoking altogether, and the only the patio remained.  The patio became the place to dine with your dog.  And we had a dog and loved our dog, and what could be better than dining with a dog?  If you don't have a dog, or you don't love your dog quite so much, there's some other stuff to like about Shakers.  It has extremely anachronistic architecture.  It has really good fresh baked goods.  It's so old and familiar to me, I'm not really sure whether it's good or not.  It's kind of comfortable and familiar like an old uncle or an old sofa.    

I used to think still life paintings were kind of trivial and useless.  But I figured out that with the right composition of light shapes and dark shapes, they had as much visual validity as any thing else.  I like dramatically lit inanimate objects, because drama and stasis are juxtaposed, and I'm confused and amused.  I've also been reminded of the power of objects.  We give power to objects, because they are the repository of our memories.  Sometimes things outlast the people who owned them and used them.  There is comfort in the solidness and usefulness of objects.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Last Saturday, I painted at the Pasadena Playhouse.  It was a busy morning.  Pasadena Artwalk was going on in the street.  In the Playhouse courtyard, the Friends of the Playhouse were holding a bazaar to raise funds.  I edited out all the people, and guessed at what the ground looked like.  By and large I like it, although I'm not too thrilled with the busy and confused top of the fountain.  One the nicest Friends of the Playhouse envisioned the painting as a item for their silent auction.  So I gave it to her.  I signed it and photographed it and gave it away.  In return, I can attend a performance as a guest, and get some free marketing.  Another good tip from the Friends of the Playhouse is that you can get a free tour of the Playhouse - anybody, pretty well anytime. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

El Alisal

As the title might suggest to you, I painted this at El Alisal, the home of Charles F. Lummis in Northeast Los Angeles beside the Arroyo Seco.  El Alisal, I just learned, is Spanish for alder grove, although these foreground trees are sycamores. 

I like this painting a lot.  I think I was pretty inspired, not just by the visual surroundings, but also by the history of the place, including the absolutely brilliant artist friends of Charles Lummis.  Lummis, I believe, was the world's most interesting man.  The real one.  If you judge a man by his friends, or the work of his hands, or the mark he leaves on the world, or his departure from dull convention, his passion, his talents, or his vision, or any other measure I can think of as I sit, Lummis was extraordinarily interesting.  I leave it to you to learn about him, if you don't already know.  Charles Lummis built his beautiful home out of Arroyo stones.  This building is behind it.  I don't know what purpose if any it served in the life of Lummis, but it was a nice subject for a painting, and spared me the challenge of painting stone walls. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Station No. 11

This is the police station on York Boulevard in Highland Park.  It is the oldest standing station of the the Los Angeles Police Department.  It now serves as a museum.  I haven't seen for myself, but I understand that it has some interesting displays that barely scratch the surface of the LAPD's very storied past.  Last time I was inside this station was more than half my life ago.   

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you're about to hear is true. I'd left my wallet out on my desk in my room in my college dormitory.  I walked away for just a few minutes.  Then I couldn't find my wallet.  It took me a long time to convince myself that I hadn't just misplaced it, which seemed likely, but eventually I reported it missing.  Several months later, I received a call to pick up my wallet at the police station.  It was in an evidence bag, a plastic bag with numbers.  It smelled of mildew, and nothing in it was useful anymore.  A boy had been caught stealing and led the police to his outdoor stash of wallets.  He'd already been tried and convicted before the police told me they had my wallet.

I like the look of this police station.  I'm pretty sure it's been in lots of movies and television shows.  It's not quite as Easter egg colored as the painting.  I painted it from across the street under a tree outside Coco's which used to be Bob's Big Boy.  I used to have a roommate that worked there.  That's another one of the City's stories.