Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Float Decorating

My son and I spent Tuesday helping out on the Boy Scout float. We were at the Rosemont Pavilion, which is a huge warehouse across the street from the Rose Bowl where Phoenix Decorating Company is building many of its floats. During the day, we cut flowers (including the carnations pictured above), pinned "Christmas Green," moved around buckets of flowers, and stuck vials of roses onto the float.

Float building is a rather amazing mix of highly professional artistry with hordes of volunteer helpers. The Phoenix site says it takes 20,000 hours to decorate an average float and 16,000 people volunteer (I think just for the 19 Phoenix floats). Our float had a Phoenix manager who had a book detailing the sequencing of how, where and importantly when the flowers are applied. He kept us all moving in one direction or another and kept boys off of the scaffolding.

Despite all the work being done, there is a wonderfully festive atmosphere at the Rosemont Pavilion. There are maybe ten floats being built there in the giant warehouse and each effort has its own band of volunteers. Many hundreds are jammed into the warehouse -- people from many different groups and cities. Camera crews are wandering around shooting the float construction. And tours are going on constantly with folks from all over being led through the Pavilion to watch the floats being built.

This is the flower tent that serves the Pavilion. Like a giant florist shop. Smells great in there!

Yeah, I know this is outside my East of Allen jurisdiction. But, sometime Friday morning all these flowers will actually be East of Allen. Stuck and glued onto floats, they'll move down Colorado Blvd. and cross Allen Avenue. From Colorado, the floats will roll onto Sierra Madre Blvd., which is a short walk from our house and where we'll see the parade.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hastings Ranch Christmas Lights

This house is on Riviera Drive. Kinda hard to see but these characters are from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, a stop action Christmas TV special that has aired every year since 1964. There's Rudolph, Santa and the Abominable Snow Monster. I think Hermey the Elf and Sam the Snowman are in there too. This is the one where Hermey the Elf (who wants to be a dentist) and Rudolph (with his red nose) find common cause as outcasts. The special was narrated by singer/actor Burl Ives, who amazingly enough, has now been mentioned twice on these pages.

The Hastings Ranch displays are an annual tradition going back to 1957. We went several times last year and I enjoy it every year.
I've always been impressed that so many in the Hastings Ranch neighborhood join in with the annual "light up." But, from driving around, it seems that participation may have dropped off this year.
Before driving looking at lights, I took the kids to Hamilton Park, which is in the Hastings Ranch neighborhood. As we are known to do, we stayed until it got dark.

This weekend was just great weather-wise -- warm and generally clear in the mid-70's. It was nice weather to do some yard work, go to the park and then amble around looking at Christmas lights. Forecast for Christmas is clear and windy in the high 60's.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas 1878 at the Sierra Madre Villa

A 19 foot high Christmas tree, carols, sweet lichi nuts and a new cart for your donkey....

From the History of the Famous Sierra Madre Villa Hotel by William Lauren Rhoades, son of the proprietor:

When Christmas time rolled around the real fun began. I will describe a typical Christmas day in the late seventies. The day before Christmas was one of excitement for all were preparing the gifts, some driving into Los Angeles, a thirty mile drive, to get the last few gifts needed and to shop for all the rest and only about two dry goods stores, two book stores and a few other places to purchase but that made it all the more exciting. There was a tree to sit up fully ninteen [sic] feet high, that was the height of the ceiling, and a spread of branches in proportion. Then the trimmings, popping the corn and putting on the cornucopias, hanging the glass balls and the angel on the top. That day the Chinese boy, Sam, made mysterious trips to Mother's room with packages coming from the servants and Chinese on the ranch.

Christmas morning was always the opening of an eventful day. I well recall Christmas of 1878. After breakfast I was taken out to the front of the house and there stood my donkey, which was given me two years before to ride and I named her after my Mother, Jennie, and there she was hitched up to a two wheeled cart made to order with a swell leather seat, the running gear was painted red and the body black, the harness was black with shining brass buckles. The guests all stood round enjoying my delight. I took Mother in at once and we drove off in style and many were the happy days I had with the children at the Villa in that turnout.

Christmas morning the coach that ran to the San Gabriel Southern Pacific Railroad Station daily for the mail and passengers, was ready to take any who might wish to go to the Episcopal Church in San Gabriel, as was the custom on Sundays. Then the day passed and all were in readiness for the big event in the evening with the Christmas tree.

Rhoades goes on to describe the evening festivities that took place in the hotel parlor with the Rhoades family and hotel guests attending. Christmas carols were sung and the tree was "stripped." There was a gift exchange with Villa's many Chinese workers. Rhoades reports that, to the delight of hotel guests, the workers would enter the parlor with a flourish. Dressed in fine silks, the workers had "their heads freshly shaved with their cues hanging down their backs with red ribbons braided into their hair." They came bearing gifts of sweet lichi nuts, ginger and dainty cakes. In turn, the workers were given a fattened pig for roasting.

The author of this account, William Lauren Rhoades, was the son of William Porter Rhoades. The elder Rhoades was the proprietor of the Villa and co-owned the Villa along with his father in law, artist William Cogswell. The young Rhoades lived at the Villa over much of his childhood.

The full history written by William Lauren Rhoades is at this excellent neighborhood website.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Eaton Wash 12-13-09

This picture of Eaton Wash was taken Sunday just north of New York Drive. I like this spot because it is the last point at which you can see (and hear) the water flowing over a natural stream bed. South of New York Drive, the Wash dumps into the Eaton Wash Reservoir and then is diverted into settling ponds and concrete channels.

The last two years, I've taken photos of the Wash near this place. The Wash was my first post in March, 2008 and I posted another shot of this spot in February, 2009.

Going back to 1932 and 1967, plans were made for an Eaton Wash trail running north to south through East Pasadena. As we enter 2010, we have a trail of plans, but still no trail. Note to City Leaders: The Eaton Wash trail remains the most important planning issue for East Pasadena. C'mon folks, let's get this done.

In case you can't get out to the Wash and can tolerate my camera's weak movie feature, I hope you enjoy the sound of rushing water at the city's edge:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Abbot Kinney and Mt. Wilson

While we're on Abbot Kinney....

One of our local peaks was nearly named after Kinney -- and not just any peak. Mt. Wilson was, for a short time, referred to as Mt. Kinneyloa. In 1887 a US survey team mapped the local mountains renaming the peak as "Mt. Kinneyloa" in honor of Mr. Kinney and his foothills ranch. However, as described in The Mount Wilson Observatory by Allan Sandage, the name change was short-lived. Sandage writes:

The ensuing local uproar - led by Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis - was fierce. In a scathing editorial Otis extolled Don Benito Wilson as "one of the foremost citizens of Los Angeles County and Southern California. If [Kinney] hungers and thirsts after a mountain [to be named after him], let him build a trail to the summit of one of the many Sierra Madre peaks yet unchristened, with chisel in hand. and let him cut deep into the face of its topmost granite rock the talismanic word KINNEYLOA, but keep Wilson's Peak for Don Benito."

Otis' editorial was not only hilarious with its image of Kinney chiseling his name on a mountaintop, but was apparently effective. Except for the surveyor's map, the peak continued to be named after Don Benito Wilson.

Thanks to Nat Read, who relates this story in his excellent book Don Benito Wilson: From Mountain Man to Mayor.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Abbot Kinney and the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel

The extension of Kinneloa Avenue brings to mind the name of Abbot Kinney. He is celebrated for founding Venice. Before that he was an influential conservationist and rancher. He and good friend, John Muir, were instrumental in establishing the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve, forerunner to the Angeles National Forest.

But, were it not for the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel, Abbot Kinney may never have set foot in Southern California.

It's a good story and here it is:

Sierra Madre Villa Hotel, ca. 1886, Carleton E. Watkins
Courtesy of the California History Room
California State Library, Sacramento, California

Abbot Kinney was both gifted and privileged. Educated on the east coast and in Europe, young Kinney became fluent in six languages. At the age of 26, Kinney travelled to Egypt in search of fine tobaccos for the family business. But, instead of returning home when business was done, Kinney embarked on a world tour. Over a three year period, he travelled through Europe, Asia, Australia and Hawaii.

Having seen the world, Kinney decided to return to New York. In January 1880, he arrived in San Francisco and waited for a train to take him east. However,travel eastward was temporarily blocked by snow storms in the Sierras.

Rather than sit idle in San Fransisco, Kinney booked a train south to visit the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel. Kinney had heard of the Villa and its healthful climate. He was an insomniac and asthma sufferer and anxious for a respite. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, he immediately drove out to the Villa. But, in his haste, he had not made reservations.

So it was that one January evening in 1880, Abbot Kinney arrived at the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel only to find that the hotel was full. Fortunately for Kinney, the owner (possibly William Cogswell) took pity on the weary traveller. Kinney was offered accommodations in the Villa's parlor. He would have a pool table for a bed.

Kinney had a magnificent night's sleep. He awoke refreshed and quickly became enamored with the area. He cancelled his plans to return to New York and continued his stay at the Villa.

Abbot Kinney had found home. He had visited the world's greatest cities and had the means to live anywhere in the world. But, he chose for himself the foothills above what is now East Pasadena.

Soon, Kinney purchased 550 acres of mesa land just west of the Villa. There, he built Kinneloa. The rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, November 27, 2009

If These Walls Could Talk

A couple of months ago we painted and fixed up a small bedroom. I posted then about the layers of wallpaper we had to remove. We also did some wall repair. When we removed a portion of the drywall we found this message written on the inside of the wall.

The writing seems completely "random" as the kids would say. But, it is not. In the late 60's Scope mouthwash ran a series of television ads featuring "The Green Phantom." In the ads bottles of mouthwash were mysteriously delivered to folks with bad breath. Accompanying the bottles was a note signed by The Green Phantom and urging the recipient to use the mouthwash. The ship captain, teacher, manager or whomever received the mouthwash would then interrogate their underlings trying to unmask the offending Green Phantom. The whole thing was pretty funny.

I very vaguely recalled the ads and found them assembled for viewing at this Duke University website.

Don't know who left the message, but I sure like their sense of humor. The Green Phantom, being associated with the competing Scope, would be just the sort to steal Listerine. Gave us a big laugh.

We closed the wall leaving this silly fun message intact. Just as work was done 40 years ago and as we did work this summer, I am sure that someone in the future will again work on this small room in this old house. We'll leave for them the joy of uncovering this amusing plea.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Some interesting turkey facts on this Thanksgiving Day.

These are wild turkeys. They are the biggest game birds in North America. Wild turkeys have dark feathers to help them blend in with their surroundings. They eat seeds, berries, acorns and small insects. At night, they evade predators be sleeping on tree branches.

Wild turkeys populate many areas of the country. Seems wild turkeys were also native to the Los Angeles basin. Don't know if any wild turkeys remain here. But, there are wild turkeys in northern California. The flock above was photographed in the Sierra foothills.

None other than Benjamin Franklin championed the turkey for the nation's Great Seal. Dismissing the bald eagle as a scavenger of bad moral temperament. Franklin preferred the turkey because, "though a little vain and silly" it is a "Bird of Courage." I think Franklin more loathed eagles than exalted turkeys. He also made a case for putting a rattlesnake on the Great Seal. More seriously, he quite poignantly proposed a dramatic scene from the Book of Exodus.

Ever wondered how the turkey got named? The Story of How the Unofficial Bird of the United States Got Named After a Middle Eastern Country is an entertaining piece on the MIT website that explores the question. And yes, our word "turkey" was named after the country Turkey.

The turkey on your table this afternoon is a distant cousin to the birds that fed the Pilgrims or which roam wild in the foothills. The National Turkey Federation website describes modern turkey production. Domesticated birds have been bred to maximize breast and thigh meat, can't fly, and have white feathers which don't leave pigment spots when the bird is plucked. The NTF reports that per capita consumption of turkeys in 2009 is estimated to reach 17 pounds. Seems like a lot to me.

All right. Time to get going.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lincoln Portrait By East Pas Pioneer Used in School Curriculum

President Abraham Lincoln by William F. Cogswell
White House Historical Association (White House Collection)

William Cogswell is a fascinating part of local history. About a year ago, I wrote about William Cogswell, the famous artist and East Pasadena pioneer. I've also written about the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel, which Cogswell founded in 1876 with his son-in-law, and the mystery surrounding his contribution to the Pasadena Public Library.

Mr. Cogswell's most famous work, his official White House portrait of Abraham Lincoln, is being studied as part of interesting new curriculum for junior and senior high school students in Ohio.

Cincinnati Public Media, a PBS affiliate, has developed a curriculum titled "Remembering Lincoln." In a section called "Appreciating Images," students study and contrast Lincoln portraits painted by George Healy and William Cogswell. In 1869 the portraits were submitted to Congress as part of a competition. The winning portrait would hang in the White House. Congress appropriated $3,000 for the winning artist.

Of course, Cogswell's portrait won and remains part of the White House Collection today.

Cogswell was a fascinating and talented guy who made a huge contribution to our local history. I am glad to see him getting some well-deserved attention.

One more thing. The curriculum cites to East of Allen (which is how I learned about it).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

J.F.T. Titley: Vile Villain or Bumbling Benefactor?

I don't want to leave the subject of Mr. J.F.T. Titley without a little more musing about the man's true character.

The easy conclusion is that Mr. Titley was a greedy rotten scoundrel - a guy who preferred bilking poor householders over building communities. Kind of like, to put a seasonal face on it, the cold, evil, Henry Potter.

But, maybe that's being a little too simplistic.

Just maybe, our Mr. Titley was more like good old Uncle Billy -- a well-meaning type, whose bumbling ways were apt to misplace a few thou here and there.

In a hundred years, not much has been written of Mr. Titley. And after this humble post, I can't say that anything more will ever be written of him. So, I'm feeling a heavy burden here to give the man his due.

I've got to say this for the man:

He started a small town out of virtually nothing. It was a town of beautiful cottages that the big city newspaper described in the most appealing fashion. A town with homes that catered to poor families who worked hard but struggled mightily to make ends meet. The Times article credits Titley with the goal of being a "benefactor" to the poor and trying to give the poor a chance to own their own homes.

I'm impressed that he gave this small town his own name -- Titleyville or Titley Town. Hints that he thought grandly of himself and of the town he created. From the Times' description of Titleyville, seems a measure of pride would have been well deserved.

So maybe, just maybe, J.F.T. Titley was a good-hearted guy whose business acumen fell short of his big plans and noble aims. Though he enraged many of his own townspeople and added to their financial hardships, in the end, seems he achieved a pretty meaningful goal. He created a small town of beautiful cottages which families of modest means could own.

Maybe, just maybe, J.F.T. Titley is the kind of guy who deserves to have a street named after him. Most certainly, Titleyville is a place worth remembering.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

J.F.T. Titley: Founder of Titleyville and Namesake of Titley Ave.

Organ music played in the background as I opened the attachment labeled, "Titleyville.pdf." A story from the May 3, 1908 Los Angeles Times appeared. The headline was gripping:

"WHOLE TOWN LOSES HARD EARNED HOMES: Poor People Discover They Have Been Paying Installments to A Man Who Doesn't Own Land - Poor Dupes Threaten His Life."

Whoa!! The music grew louder. Here were answers to the mystery of Titleyville and little Titley Ave.

Indeed, there was a Titleyville and its setting was one of beauty. "Titleyville is a town between Lamanda and Arcadia. It lies romantically under the bending bows of the trees and its cottages are covered with vines and roses."

And, indeed, the town was started by one J.F.T. Titley around 1900. Titley is described as an enterprising man who wanted to give poor people a chance to own their own homes. His "grand idea" was to build small homes in Titleyville, then sell them to people using installment contracts.

Understanding how Titley sold his real estate is key to appreciating the tragedy that ensued. Titley didn't sell homes the way we do today. Persons contracting with Titley agreed to pay him a monthly amount toward purchase of their home. Only when the buyer finished paying all the required installments, would Titley transfer title.

At least that is how it was supposed to work.

But, as is often the case with aspiring real estate moguls, Mr. Titley needed money. Using Titleyville as collateral, he obtained a loan from Pasadenan Susan Reeves. Titley got money for a new venture and Reeves took a mortgage on Titleyville.

The stage was set for tragedy to befall the hard working denizens of Titleyville. Though Titley continued collecting installments from his buyers, seems he neglected to pay Mrs. Reeves. Finally, in 1904, Reeves foreclosed.

Those who paid their installments to Titley were left with nothing for their hard earned money. They had a contract with Titley, but Reeves was the owner.

Though she had other options, Reeves allowed the people to stay in their homes. New installment contracts were made. Buyers had to go back to square one in paying for their homes.

Mr. Titley became persona non grata in his own town.

The good folks of Titleyville wanted the man's hide. Town leader, Mr. Estrada, said "It would not be safe for that man to ever be seen here again. I do not say that I would kill him, but others here feel so that I guess he would never leave here alive. I know that I would fix him so that he would have to spend a few months in the hospital."


Many thanks go to Roberta Martinez, author of the wonderful new book, Latinos in Pasadena. and to Paul Secord for graciously sharing their research into Titleyville and Chihuahuita.
Sure seems like J.F.T. Titley was a first rate scoundrel. But, we might be terribly mistaken if that is our final view of the man. More in my next post.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Road Under the Freeway - Part 2: The Last Remnant of Titleyville

Titley Ave. is a stub of a street that starts at Foothill Blvd. and runs south a few hundred yards where it dead ends into the 210 freeway. When Kinneloa Ave. is extended northward under the 210, it will connect up with Titley Ave. In turn, Titley Ave. will be renamed Kinneloa Ave. Little Titley Ave. will be no more.

When Titley Ave. goes, so too will any physical reference to an old place named "Titleyville."

Not that Titleyville was ever an official city or town. There were no "entering" or "leaving" signs, city councils or chambers of commerce. But, for half a century, the name marked a place where hundreds of people made their homes, did business, and raised families.

Depending upon the source, Titleyville spanned the years 1900 - 1950. The village center was the site of the present day Target store (previously Fedco) on East Colorado Blvd. The unofficial boundaries seem to be east of Eaton Wash, south of Foothill Blvd. and north of Colorado Blvd.

I have not found the origin of the village's name. I assume there was a Titley family in the area around the turn of the century, but haven't seen any reference to them. Spanish speakers had another name for Titleyville -- "Chihuahuita" or Little Chihuahua. The later name was possibly given in recognition that some early residents immigrated from Chihuahua.

Whatever the name, by the 1920's there were 350 residents, primarily Latino, in an established village. Many residents worked in area vineyards, orchards or packing houses. As historian and civic leader Roberta Martinez points out, this was a vibrant little village.

Martinez writes about Chihuahuita in her excellent book, Latinos in Pasadena. Because it was a distance from Pasadena proper, there was a self-sufficiency and definition about the place. Chihuahuita had two stores with shopkeepers who lived in the village. It supported two churches -- a Roman Catholic Church and a Methodist Church. And there was a school, which opened in 1915 as Titleyville School and was later renamed Chihuahuita School.


So what happened to Titleyville/Chihuahuita?

The combination of time and growth gradually overcame the little village. Bit by bit the distance and distinction between the urban City of Pasadena and rural lands to the east were diminished. The old communities of Lamanda Park and Titleyville gradually melded into East Pasadena. And the old names lost their currency until one day the only physical reminder of Titleyville's existance was a stub of a street dead-ending into the freeway.

Soon, even that last sign of Titleyville will be gone.

Check out Pasadena Adjacent for more on Roberta Martinez and her book.

Also, a brief but nice discussion of Titleyville/Chihuahuita is in the East Colorado Specific Plan.

New Road Under the Freeway -- Part 1: Kinneloa Extension

It is not every day that we get a new route under the freeway. Above is a picture of the work in progress to extend Kinneloa Avenue from Colorado Blvd., under the 210 to Foothill Blvd. That's Team Chevrolet on the other side of the tunnel. All of this is courtesy of city plans which call for the street extension to offset increased traffic expected with more development near the Sierra Madre Villa metro.

View Lamanda Park, CA in a larger map

Toward the bottom of the map you can see Kinneloa Ave. Seems likely that Kinneloa Ave. once led to Abbot Kinney's estate, which was located on the mesa above present day New York Drive. Over time the length of Kinneloa was chopped up until all that was left of the avenue was a short stretch of road running south of the 210 to Del Mar.

Don't know whether the Kinneloa extension will help traffic, but it stands to be an important link to establishing the long-planned Eaton Wash trail. The thin blue line on the map is the Eaton Wash. The opening of Kinneloa will provide a route for trail users to traverse the freeway and stay near to the wash.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bear Signs -- Bear Poop

My favorite photographer got this shot of bear poop in front of our house.

It is all pretty interesting. To think that this giant animal stopped (I assume they stop) in front of our house to deposit his or her load. The whole pile is big -- about football sized. You can tell what the bear has been eating. Judging from the green and orange chunks above, it looks like this bear had eaten some apples, carrots or peppers. Years ago we found a bear pile in our backyard (across the fence from our neighbor's trash can) that had parts of an ice cream carton in it.

There is a lot on the Internet about how to recognize bear scat and stories of people finding bear scat with parts of pizza boxes and even bike chains. And, of course, there's the Man vs. Wild episode where Bear Grylls washes the undigested parts of bear poop and eats it. Lots of surprising stuff about bear poop.

Now that it is November, I'm seeing fewer signs of bears. No signs last week at all. No trash cans down. No dog barking. We are doing what we can to discourage the bear from coming our way and maybe it is working.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Earthside Wild Grape Wine

You know those grapes I posted about last month? Well, they're on their way to becoming wine. Here's the story:

In early September we went back to Earthside to sample the grapes. Since many had already turned to raisins and others were on their way to waste, I decided it would be OK if we picked a bag or two of ripe grapes. We ate and picked. Don't know why, but "foraged food" always tastes especially good.

By the way, these are Wild Grapes, Vitis Girdiana also called Wild Desert Grapes or southern California Wild Grapes. They are native to southern California and grow in chapparal woodlands, streamside, or canyon bottoms. The grapes were used by the Cahuilla of southern California for wine and raisins.

Here's our bounty all washed and ready to be crushed, which I did by hand.

Straining the grape juice. Cleaning the buckets and straining the juice, you do that repeatedly.
After adding yeast, it was less than a day before the juice started to ferment. Then its just a matter of time, mixing the juice up, straining and re-straining the juice.

Here's the finished product -- Earthside Wild Grape Wine, Vintage 2009.

The whole process was fun and we learned a lot. There are certainly things we'll do different next time. Mainly, the recipe we used called for added water, which we won't do again. Meanwhile, figure we'll open the first bottle sometime early next summer.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vin Scully at Work

Came down with a bad case of nostalgia the other day. Just being at the stadium sends me back to my first game as a boy. It was a long time ago, but I still have the tickets.

The Dodgers don't miss a beat on this nostalgia thing. Everywhere, you see the old and the new. There are the retired numbers over the outfield. Fans wear Dodger jerseys with player names that span the decades. And Dodger Vision -- that giant TV screen in left field -- runs clip after clip that blends the the old stars and the old glory with the new.

Then there's Vin Scully. He's been calling Dodger games since 1950. In one man, he connects Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Robinson to Ramirez, Koufax to Kershaw. And he connects us to all the history that is the Dodgers.

Like millions of others, I've heard Scully's voice my whole life. Over transistors, in backyards, on bikes, in cars, stores, homes. Wherever there's a radio, there has been Vin Scully, his stories and Dodger baseball.

So, here's Vin Scully at work. Unfortunately, my camera couldn't get much detail. But, it shows enough to make my point.

Scully's the guy in the KABC booth, calling the game solo, as is his custom. Blue shirt and tie. Headset on, he's got the game below, a monitor in front and pages neatly arranged on his desk.

I like how Scully's work style contrasts with the TBS announcers. The TBS booth looks like a flurry of activity -- three monitors, notes on the desk, notes on the wall, announcers flipping pages with help standing behind. But, Scully is the picture of control in his neat, organized booth. And while the other announcers have slumped shoulders and their heads down, the 81 year old Scully is sitting tall at the edge of his chair, eyes forward.

Doing his job, sitting at the edge of his chair, at 81 years old!

Scully, the Dodgers, Los Angeles -- its all been an unbelievably good fit. For all of us.

He has all the accolades a baseball announcer could ever have. What more to say than thank you.

And, I suspect, Vin Scully would return the thanks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dodgers 3 Cardinals 2

You can watch a million games and you won't see what happened tonight.

The improbable stage was set: Bottom of the ninth, Cardinals up 2-1. With two outs, James Loney hits a routine fly ball to left. Surely the game is over. But, amazingly, Cardinal left fielder Matt Holliday drops the ball. At the last minute he turns his glove away and the ball smacks him in the stomach. After the game one Cardinal complained that Holliday lost the ball in a sea of white towels the crowd was waving. Holliday said it was the lights. No matter. The Dodger's had new life.

With this one improbable error, you could feel the crowd's expectation. It was as if we knew the Cardinals were going to unravel and somehow the Dodgers would win. And it happened.

The team and the crowd went wild.

Mark Loretta got the game winning hit. Dogpile on Loretta. This was a stunner.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Four East Pasadena Issues for the General Plan Update

As promised, here are my top planning issues concerning East Pasadena that I think should be discussed and be part of the city's updated General Plan.

1. Eaton Wash Trail

And the winner of the award for longest planned project never built is ..........................
The Eaton Wash Trail!
Seventy-eight years after the first plan, we have a trail of plans, but still no trail.

First, there was this 1932 plan that I posted on a year ago.

1932 Plan for Eaton Canyon Park

Then there was the 1967 plan approved by Pasadena's Director of Parks. Really a plan for a park and trail extending from Eaton Canyon south along the wash to the southern city limits. Exciting stuff. But, the plan went nowhere.

Instead, over the years, bits and pieces of the long planned park were carved away for developent. A few acres here and there for housing developments, 30 acres for an industrial park and so it went. The old plans gathered dust on a shelf.

Then, 40 years after the city's '67 plan, the city revived plans for an Eaton Wash trail in the 2007 Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Less ambitious than earlier plans, but still holding on to the goal of a north south trail along the wash.

But, the city has never gotten behind the trail in any serious way. Most of the noise for a trail these days is provided by others -- the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy , Pasadena's Open Space Now, local bloggers and Cal Poly graduate students. The city has largely been passive while others push an Eaton Wash trail as part of a web of proposed regional trails.

In 2008, Cal Poly graduate students produced the Emerald Horseshoe Concept Plan: trail connections for the Los Angeles Region. In particular, Part 4 (be patient, it takes some time to load) of the Concept Plan presents the trail plan. With cues from decades old plans, the Concept Plan takes the Eaton Wash trail to another level -- the students revived old plans for public use of the Eaton Wash Reservoir and for a migratory bird sanctuary. They propose an Eaton Wash Plaza where the wash crosses at Colorado Blvd. and give details of how the trail connects to other trails to the north and south of the city.

The Eaton Wash trail, especially as envisioned in the Concept Plan, has the potential to directly connect the city with Eaton Canyon and with the city's natural landscape. The trail would be a much needed defining element of East Pasadena and a recreational attraction used by people across the city.

Certainly the city would have to change spending priorities to build the trail. And LA County would need to cooperate. All possible and all appropriate for a general plan discussion. Pasadena is a resourceful city. Projects the city wants tend to happen. It is time for the City of Pasadena to take hold of this long-planned project and do what it takes to build the trail.

2. Open Space

Preserve open space. Absolutely. Positively. No exceptions.

Be proactive about planning the open space under the Edison power lines. East Pas has dozens of acres of land zoned open space and sitting under power lines just growing weeds. Now that Edison is making all kinds of "green" noises, why not seize the moment and be proactive about using this land for more than weed fields. Urban farms? Community gardens?

City owned land adjacent to the Eaton Wash and between Orange Grove and Foothill. The land is zoned open space but was approved for an ice rink building 500 feet long, 116 feet wide and 54 feet high plus a parking lot for 150 cars.

The 1994 General Plan requires the city to "preserve and acquire open space." However, the city's zoning code allows construction of massive buildings, such as the proposed ice rink and a parking lot for 150 cars, on "open space" zoned land. What's the point of the open space designation if you're just going to pave it and construct massive buildings? I think there's a disconnect between what the General Plan requires (or should require) and what the zoning code allows. The zoning code should be changed.

3. Development Near the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Station
This is a big big issue. If or when building resumes, there is likely to be a lot of pressure to develop within 1/2 mile (generally walking distance) of the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Station.

Traffic is already congested along Foothill and Rosemead. Obviously how new development impacts traffic will be a huge issue.

If there are new developments, what kind of uses will they be? I'll admit to some disappointment over the lone "transit oriented" project we've seen so far. As originally planned, the corner of Foothill and Sierra Madre Villa and the old Stuart building was to include a mix of uses, including office, bio-tech uses, and some housing. Somewhere along the way, that plan got jettisoned and the entire area is now primarily devoted to housing. I'd rather have the mix of business uses and potential work opportunities than just more housing. But, hopefully future development around the metro will bring in more business uses.

Also, maybe I'm just not clued into swanky '50's styling, but the Stuart apartments just don't read enduring quality and design to me. They don't reflect the same quality or appealing design as the historic Stuart building that fronts the apartments or the Kaiser office building to the west. The apartments more reflect the untitled design of the SMV Metro Station, which seems uninspired to me as well. Standards need to be higher for future development.

4. St. Luke's Medical Center

I've posted before on the proposal to develop the St. Luke's site with condos and assisted living. DS Ventures, which bought from Cal Tech, paid way too much for the Public Service zoned St. Luke's property anticipating that they'd be able to jam condos on the site. The proposal is now on ice as the owners apparently work their way through bankruptcy. Pasadena needs to evaluate the best uses for the site and adjoining neighborhood without regard to the price paid by the westside developer. This is an exceptional and rare property with great history. Likewise, future plans for the property should be extraordinary as well. Among other possibilities, future use should include return to medical services and medical research.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Updating Pasadena's General Plan -- October 6 Meeting

The city is updating its General Plan. There are a lot of ways folks can get involved and have their voices heard. A whole list of meetings and surveys is here. For those in East Pas, there is a meeting this Tuesday, October 6 at 6:30 pm at the Stuart Pharmaceutical Building (now apartments) at 3660 E. Foothill. City representatives will talk about emerging themes for future planning of the city and receive input from those who attend.

What's so important about a General Plan? Well, a city's General Plan guides how a city develops -- where growth is allowed and how much. For instance, the city's 1994 General Plan called for development in the city's downtown and at metro stations. For better or for worse, that is what has happened. The General Plan called for protection of existing residential neighborhoods. For the most part, that has happened as well.

Imagine a Great City

The story of the city's current General Plan is a good one. It is told in the preface to the Land Use Element adopted in 1994. The story has all the elements of a good land use dispute -- a voter approved initiative to slow growth, lawsuits filed to challenge the initiative and a city leaders grappling with what to do. The city had to appease a citizenry that voted to limit growth and legal arguments of those who wanted growth.

The result was a campaign to "Imagine a Great City" and create a new General Plan. Pasadenans responded in droves. Charged to imagine a great city, 3,000 people attended more than 50 workshops to work out the city's future. When a consensus emerged, a handful of farsighted residents oversaw the wordsmithing. A General Plan emerged that has guided the city's development ever since (and served as a model for other cities).

Though we lived well west of Allen, I took part in the workshops, meetings, hearings and such that led to the new Plan. It was pretty exciting stuff -- deciding a city's future. One way or another, I've since tried to stay in touch with city planning efforts.

Public interest in city planning is not at the fever pitch it was 20 years ago. But, it probably should be, at least on the east side of town. The plan to drive growth downtown and near metro stations has played itself out over much of the central and western parts of the city. East Pas, with metro stations at Allen and Sierra Madre Villa, has seen some "transit oriented development," but could be in for a lot more. There are other issues out here too -- development of open space, use of the Eaton Wash, plans for St. Lukes and more.

Before Tuesday's meeting, I'll try to list some of the planning issues I see affecting East Pasadena.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

San Gabriel Mountains -- From Santa Anita

I think I've posted more pictures of the San Gabriel Mountains than anything else. The mountains are our "most dominant scenic assets."

Views of the mountains -- really good panoramic views -- are few and far between. Though the mountains loom a mile high behind us, it is hard to see or feel the full force of their presence. The built out city predominates.

But, if you're looking, there are mountain views to be had. Among the reasons I like East Pas are the many ground level mountain vistas that still remain. Victory Park has great views to the east. Neighboring cities have some great views too.

For this view, I travelled all the way to Arcadia. The view from Santa Anita is hard to beat.

We were there yesterday, which was Free Friday (admission is free every Friday). Watched the horses, lost a little money, but enjoyed terrific mountain views.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bear Sightings -- Bear Swimming in Upper Hastings Ranch

The Star News reports today that a bear raided some trash cans and then strolled through an Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood apparently chased by Animal Control officers. No pictures, but the story says the bear stopped periodically to swim in some backyard pools.

Here's the part of the story I didn't like: "Had the bear damaged property, the law would have required that it be destroyed, California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Harry Morse said."

It is hard to know what has gone on before with bears in this neighborhood, but the state response seems a little heavy handed and premature. For the most part, I think folks who live near the mountain's edge welcome sightings of wildlife and take responsibility for themselves and their property. That seems right to me. There are many things you can do to deter wildlife from getting into your trash for instance.

But, is it really that stark for the state authorities. You call them and if there's any property damage -- bang the bear's gone? Isn't there something else they can do? I would think a little more measured response is in order from the state authorities. There must be some reasonable alternatives that have not been explored.


This summer we've seen an increase in wildlife activity in NE Pas neighborhoods. I think the increase started even before the fires. The Station Fire burned a lot of wildlife habitat and presumably either killed many wild animals or forced them into unburned areas of the mountains. Since the unburned areas are closest to neighborhoods, it will be interesting to see whether we see even more bears and other wildlife in our NE Pas neighborhoods.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wallpaper and Nails

One of the joys of rehabbing an old house is uncovering what was done by those who came before. In painting a small bedroom we found three different papers on the wall. Actually all of these were hidden under a fourth wall paper -- a solid rattan kind of paper. That paper had been painted over in green and then tan.

I think there should be a rule that prohibits more than three layers of wallpaper. Kind of like a roof. If you get to three layers of wallpaper, you have to tear it all off and start new.

We also found some square cut nails. Very cool stuff. These old nails didn't have the pointy ends of newer wire nails. Can't imagine hammering these blunt metal things into wood all day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Every morning around day-break I take the dog out. It is a great time to see stuff.

Like this spider. I see it every morning. Same spot. Just hanging out seemingly in mid-air.

We have a little game going -- the spider and I. Spider sits motionless in the center of its web. I watch the spider from a distance. It makes not one move. Probably sleeping, I think, or tired from a long night at work. So, I try to sneak up for a picture, a really good one. I don't make a sound and carefully move to within a few feet. Somehow spider hasn't yet noticed a couple hundred pounds of human creeping toward it. I'm gonna get a great shot. I slowly raise my camera, focus, and just before the click -- BAM -- the spider is gone scampering over its web and out of sight. Spider wins. I lose. One more blurry picture to delete.

If not great with the camera; I am persistent. This morning I finally got a passable shot. I couldn't get the spider in mid-web, but did get an interesting shot of it working away at the edge of its web. I'll take it.

I'm not a big spider guy. But they are fascinating to look at close up.

I don't know what kind of spider this is. It is big. The body is about the size of a quarter. The web is well constructed and about three to four feet across. Above is a side view of the web. Not something I'd like to run into at night. Fun stuff first thing in the morning.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Alligator Pears

I've been watching our avocado tree for many many moons. Going on six years to be exact. No production. Not a single avocado. Nada.

So this year we decided to do something dramatically different. We watered the tree. And ta-da. We have avocados! Lots of them.

I'm so excited to have avocados actually growing on our tree that I've gone a little overboard with documenting the tree -- from flowers to little fruit and now larger fruit. The photo above was taken a few months ago when the Jacarandas were in full flower and the moon happened to be out. If you look carefully you'll see baby avocados hanging toward the bottom of the photo.

This picture kind of shows why some call avocados "alligator pears." A nice descriptive name for a fruit I think.

I grew up with avocados. My grandfather grew them (and watered them I bet). He grew both Hass and Fuerte so we had avocados most of the year -- boxes of them.

To help them ripen up, my mom used to stuff avocados in the towel drawers. The towels were soft and warm and protected the fruit while it ripened. It was a common thing in our house to go to the towel drawers and dig around for a ripe avocado.

Then, of course, if you found a ripe avocado, you'd need some fresh lemon to go with it. And some toast. Salt and pepper. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I'm told we have a couple of months before it is time to pick. I can't wait.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Since our Coyote Encounter, I've been trying to get a good picture of one of these sneaky varmints. I see a lot of coyotes around here, but for a myriad of reasons have never taken a decent picture of one -- it is too early for good light, or I can't get the camera out in time, or I get the photo, but it is of the coyote's hind end as he escapes into the bush. Never a decent shot.

But, early this morning turning a corner, I caught this guy by surprise. He froze and we froze. The camera worked and I got this shot.

When we lived more toward central Pasadena, we occasionally saw coyotes who would roam the street early in the morning. They are very good at what they do, which is sneak around and scavenge any food they can find. And they are not picky eaters. So, with more people there is more food around to scavenge, which allows for more coyotes.

Since moving to NE Pas, near the foothills, we regularly see coyotes. Mostly they're out in the early morning. I've seen them at night eyeing our chickens through the chicken wire. We also hear their hyena-like yelps. Here's sample of what a pack of coyotes sounds like courtesy of the LA County Agricultural Dept.

Our big Coyote Encounter was a year and a half ago. We had just started keeping chickens and were introducing our young hens to their newly built outdoor coop. Well, the gate to our otherwise super-secure coop was apparently left open. I made it outside just in time to see a coyote grab a hen in his mouth and run away. It was a sad day.

But, fortunately it was still spring and we were undeterred. We went right out and got six more day old chicks and started over. Since then, we make sure the gate is latched. We also have a dog, who barks like crazy whenever predators are near.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Earthside Story Continues -- California Wild Grapes

These are California wild grapes growing at the Earthside Nature Center across the wash from Eaton Blanche Park. I've been watching these for months now, waiting for them to ripen up. And here they are. They are surprisingly tasty little things. They have a small seed in the middle, not much pulp, and resemble (to this connoisseur -pronounced with a long "e") a very light sweet concord grape.

The vines plainly had been loaded. Many grapes, however, have already turned into raisins. Others have been eaten by birds. But, plenty ripe purple fruit remains. We had alot of fun sampling the wild grapes and even some wild grape raisins.

Earthside was a nationally known native plant garden, but has not been tended since about 1996. That means these grapes have not been irrigated for a long long time. No matter. These have flourished on their own.

I took this picture last May and it shows how the vines sprawl over the fence at the northern edge of Earthside. Reportedly California wild grapes aren't good wine grapes. We may test that out. However, the wild grape is strong and disease resistant and is used as rootstock for wine grapes.

Bonus picture of Mt. Wilson from the nature center kiosk. Two dead redwood trees have been removed opening up this vista. As you can see, the transmission towers high atop Mt. Wilson still stand.

Extra bonus shot. Here's a bench under a sycamore where you can eat your wild grapes. As you can see, a tractor has turned under much of the brush that took over the garden this summer.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bear Signs - bear on the patio

This seems to be our year for bears. At 2 am a couple of nights ago we got up to see what the dog was barking about. We stood on one side of sliding glass doors leading to a patio and watched as a bear ambled by just on the other side of the doors. Unlike the bear that climbed our tree last July, this was a very very large bear -- several hundred pounds I'd say. And unlike the "teenage bear" we saw in July, this animal was not the least concerned about our madly barking dog. It was amazing to be less than five feet away from such a large wild animal.

The fires may have chased the bear down the mountain. But, I think he was around even before the fires. Someone has been throwing around our trash cans. One morning I went out to find our large city-issued green waste barrel completely flipped over and standing on its lid. I have a hard time standing that barrel up when it falls. It took something really big, like that bear, to turn the barrel completely over.


Stronger than expected smell of smoke this morning. So much that I've closed the windows and started the air (which I hate to do). The Mt. Wilson cam still shows burning and smoke to the east. Hopefully nothing has erupted closer than that.


Incredible photos of some of the fire's devastation over at Altadena Hiker.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our Feathered Guests

The Station Fire displaced animals as well as people. We opened up our little chicken coop to take in some hens that normally reside in the evacuated area of NW Altadena. Including our hens, last week we housed 18 chickens -- almost triple our normal number.

In general things went well. From our standpoint, there really was little additional work in caring for the extra chickens. Got extra eggs (and extra poop) for a little extra food and water. Not bad.

We did, however, learn about a thing called the pecking order. There is definitely a hierarchy among hens and they sort our their ranking by pecking each other. When we put the two flocks together, the natural pecking order of our flock (and the guest flock) was disrupted. Dominant hens pecked at the heads of those who are beneath them to the point of plucking feathers and opening skin. There's a wonderful article on chicken pecking order here.

I talked to my dad (an old chicken and everything else farmer) about the pecking. He recommended mixing hot red pepper in Karo syrup and spreading it on the heads of the chickens getting pecked. The theory is that the pecking will stop once the bird gets a load of pepper. A quick Internet search turned up lots of home remedies for pecking mostly involving spreading some horrible substance over the head and neck of the chicken getting pecked. In commercial flocks they trim the chickens' beaks to prevent pecking.

All guests have safely returned to their home roost. The situation here is back to normal.


The Mt. Wilson cam today is pointed east and shows a pretty healthy fire still burning.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Station Fire -- Friday Status - In Praise of Fire Bloggers

All signs are good. Only the faintest smell of smoke this morning at home. Smoke is light in downtown Pas as well. Red squares on the modis active fire map (indidcating fire activity within 24 hours) continue to dwindle and remain concentrated north-east of Mt. Wilson. I saw no activity on the southern front of the mountains. Accuweather still projects a cooling trend starting tomorrow with a high of 87. They forcast mid 90's today.

Last night Marcia attended the community meeting at Paznaz. I was playing soccer dad and couldn't make it. Her most vivid recollection of the meeting (aside from the crowd) were the comments from the Forest Service supervisor who emphasized that the size and devastation of this fire is unprecedented in LA County. Scrolling around the modis active fire map you get a sense for the ground this fire covered -- stretching from Santa Clarita to Acton to Altadena to Mt. Wilson and still heading east.

An overflow attended last night's meeting in Lee Chapel on the Paznaz campus. Plainly many people in the foothill communities of Altadena, Pasadena, Arcadia and Sierra Madre are interested in getting more information about the fire. Seems that officials who organized the meeting underestimated the level of interest.

Which brings me to the subject of fire blogging. It's important. And so are neighbohood email lists. When the air is thick with smoke, ash is falling and the helicopters are flying overhead, you want to know what's going on. And when your neighborhood is threatened by fire, you want information focused to where you live.

During last year's Chantry Flat Fire, local blogs were simply the best source of information about where the fire was burning and about threats to SM, NE Pas and East Altadena neighborhoods. The Foothill Cities Blog stepped up to serve as a kind of clearing house with clips and links to local blogs and traditional news sources. Bloggers in Sierra Madre tracked the fire's movements seemingly street by street. I posted photos and narrative from a NE Pas perspective. When we could see the fire from our neighbor's back yard and scrambled around for information, it was the local blogs that were most helpful.

The altadenablog has just been incredible in covering the Station Fire. The material they have posted and the many comments left by readers and other bloggers have been the best source of fire news for our area.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Station Fire -- What's in a motto?

Motto on Pasadena Fire Department truck.
Powerful stuff.


Station Fire -- Thursday Morning

I just got back from walking the dog. It is definitely smoky out there this morning in our NE Pas neighborhood. It is kind of a dissapointment because last night I did not smell the smoke and hoped this thing was over.

The modis active fire map on google shows a vastly reduced level of recent fire activity. The red squares (indicating fire activity within the last 24 hours) are now concentrated on the west flank of the fire which has moved well north and east of Mt. Wilson (due north from Montrovia and Duarte). There are red squares on the west flank too (heading toward Santa Clarita) but most of the remainging recent activity is on the west side.

The Times reports that the Mt. Wilson towers and observatory is going to be saved after a five day battle. That is a complete turnaround from the start of the week when reports were that the fire was going to overtake the towers.

Meanwhile, the heat wave continues. Accuweather projects a high today of 96. That's well off record heat, but up from the normal high of 89. Their prediction for Saturday is a high of 87, which would be a welcome change.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Station Fire -- Wednesday Morning

This morning, for the first time in several days, I awoke to relatively clear air. There was no smoky smell and no ash at my home in East Pasadena. As I drove into work with my car windows down, I did notice the smell of smoke by the time I reached downtown Pas. But, I don't see any flames this morning and the news, for seemingly the first time in ages, is reporting positive signs.

The google modis fire detection map (which depicts recent major fire activity) shows a spot of fire southwest of Mt. Wilson that looks near the very top of Eaton Canyon. According to the map, fire in this area occurred 12-24 hours ago. I hope that means the fire is on its way out. I don't see any other active fire spots on the map on the south face of the mountains. The fire seems headed north-east behind Mt. Wilson.

I have the press of work this morning. But I hope to later post some thoughts about last year's Chantry Flats Fire, the current Station Fire and fire blogging.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Station Fire -- Tuesday Morning

Seems we're settling into a routine of sorts -- very smoky mornings with clearing air and visibility in the afternoon. This morning we awoke again to lots of smoke and some ash falling.

According to the modis fire detection map on google, the fire has now moved south of the Mt. Wilson towers and observatory. The map shows fire to the north and south, kind of sandwiching the towers. Movement of the fire south of the towers is a new development. I have been watching for movement of the fire to the south slope of Mt.Wilson, which is due north of East Pasadena. So far, I haven't actually seen fire on the south slope of the mountains, but the map certainly shows that it has moved this way.

The Star News and others report that the fire won't be under control for two weeks. I look at the map and wonder where the fire will go in that time.

The pyrocummulus cloud caused by the heat of the fire has been spectacular and chilling at the same time. The photo above was taken yesterday afternoon from my office in downtown Pasadena. Petrea has a great photo out today.

Accuweather says we'll hit 104 today. That's off record heat (111 in 1955) but well above the normal high of 89.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Station Fire -- Monday Morning from East Pas

We awoke againt this morning to very strong smell of smoke. So much so that we did something we almost never do -- we turned on the air conditioner. Yesterday morning we had the same thick smoky air and it cleared by early afternoon. We'll see what happens today.

Meanwhile, we hear and read reports that sometime last night or today the fire should reach the transmitters high atop Mt. Wilson. Fire maps, like this one from google, show the fire bearing down on Mt. Wilson. We also keep checking the Mt. Wilson tower cam which, when its on, has tremendous photos. As of daybreak (photo above), the towers were visible and we didn't see flames.

I've since gone into work and am writing this from my fourth floor north-facing office in downtown Pas. Though just a few miles away, the mountains are entirely concealed by gray-brown smoke.

Lots of local bloggers are doing great work on this fire and we check them reqularly. Altadenablog has been the lead dog and a great source of information. Ben at the sky is big has a list of local bloggers following the fire, including yours truly.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Station Fire -- From Hastings Village

We awoke today to the strong smell of smoke, which thankfully has dissipated. But the fire seems to have spread east and north as this view from the Hastings Village shows. If you zoom in you can see the towers of Mt. Wilson shrouded in smoke. The Mt. Wilson tower cam has had some tremendous shots of the towers with a smoky backdrop.

Update: The Tower Cam is back up and now shows flames behind the transmission towers. (8/31 at 5:00 am)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Station Fire -- DC 10 Super Tanker

From our house we watched airplanes and helicopters fly to and from the Station Fire, which is burning west and north of Pasadena. By far the biggest plane in the sky was this orange and white tanker that flew probably a dozen or more missions. Based on a quick search, I think this is a DC 10 Super Tanker. Photos and film of the tanker are here. According to 10tanker.com, the plane can carry 12,000 gallons of water or fire retardant and is a "game changer."

I was amazed at how low this huge plane was flying. On this shot, I just leaned back and looked up.

In other fire related news, we just took in some chickens that have been displaced. So far all birds seem to be on their best behavior. More tomorrow.