Monday, January 30, 2023

San Gabriel Mountains - January 30 Snow Edition

When I got to Victory Park this morning, it was cold and overcast.  My phone said 45 degrees.  I looked to the mountains for snow.  I saw only clouds.  

But, I knew there were snowy mountain tops behind the clouds.  So, I waited.  

I stood in the middle of the park, with my mountain view framed by light poles and trees.  As the morning wore on, more and more people came to the park. Some walked dogs, One lady pushed a dog in a pink stroller.  A few parents showed up with small kids.  I saw an occasional PHS student. City workers tended the park grass.  

No one was looking toward the mountains. I waited.

The clouds didn't exactly lift and I wouldn't say the sun shown through.  Instead, the clouds just became less dense and the snowy mountain top appeared.  No alarm went off. Not really any drama or great reveal. But, beautiful nonetheless. 

And people noticed where they were. Dog walkers glanced north to the mountains.  A lady walking on the path took her phone out for a picture.  I did the same.  

Then, I heard honking.  Not the honking of a car, but that of birds.  Geese to be exact.  The birds flew right in front of me.  I tried to get a picture of the birds flying with the snowy mountain backdrop.   

Well, not exactly the picture I had in my mind.  But, I did get snow and birds in the same shot.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Reflections on Eaton Canyon Reservoir

With the recent rains, Eaton Canyon Reservoir has a good amount of water.   This is the view looking north from the medical buildings on Washington Blvd., across the street from St. Lukes.  The San Gabriel Mountains are reflected in the reservoir water.  Just a beautiful view.  

This is the evening sunset view over the reservoir from New York Drive looking west to St. Lukes and the palms lining Washington Blvd.  Very nice view actually.  Can't do much about the Edison power lines but try to ignore them. 


Saturday, January 21, 2023

Wild Parrot Brewing -- 5 Star Review

Last night we had dinner (plus a flight of beer and glass of wine) at Wild Parrot Brewing Company, which is a fantastic addition to East Pasadena.  They share space with Rosebud Coffee at the corner of East Colorado Blvd. and Roosevelt, just a few doors down from Fedde Furniture. 

This is primarily a brewery and tap room with ample tables to hang out and enjoy some excellent beer.  They had a fine selection of home-brewed beers and ciders on tap.  I tried a flight of different beers (served in four-ounce glasses placed in a cupcake tin) and was happy with all the selections. But, I definitely favored the West Coast IPA.  

Food is not the main attraction here, but their offerings were quite good. We enjoyed a spicy grilled carnitas sandwich and nachos topped with carnitas.  Looks like they have special BBQ and hamburger days too. 

Anyone living in East Pasadena will get the Wild Parrot name.  The green birds are familiar local sights and the sound of their shrieks unforgettable. How the birds got established here is a distinctively East Pasadena story that is told (with some artistic license) in humorous posters on the walls of the Wild Parrot Brewing Company.  

Now, about a decade ago, right here in this blog, I told the story of our local wild parrots. As the art depicts, the parrots' story is connected with the rise and fall of the old Simpsons Garden Town that was also located on East Colorado Blvd.  In what remains one of this blog's all time most visited posts, I told the story of a scrappy entrepreneur named Hal Simpson, his nursery and bird farm, and the fire that both destroyed his business and liberated the forebears of our local parrots.   

This bird looks like he could use a cold IPA on tap at, where else, Wild Parrot Brewing Company.  Great new spot.  We will be back.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

2023 Rose Parade -- from East Pasadena

Our New Years was brought in with a healthy dose of the Sierra Madre.  We weathered a rainstorm at RT Rogers Brewing Co.  where I enjoyed their red IPA.  The next evening, we were back in downtown Sierra Madre to see the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association send off its 2023 rose parade float.  Then, of course, it is never too cold or rainy for a stop at Mother Moo.

The next morning, from our house in East Pasadena, we go over to Sierra Madre Villa Avenue then west on Orange Grove to Sierra Madre Blvd.  We have walked to the parade, but these days prefer to get a ride.  The parade comes right up Sierra Madre Blvd. which has a grassy center median which makes for great parade viewing.  

Over the years, we've seen the parade from many vantage points -- choice seats in the grandstand at Orange Grove/Colorado (with hot chocolate and donuts available under the stands), Lake/Colorado, at my office at Wilson/Colorado and in more recent years, on Sierra Madre Blvd.  All are good. But I have to say I prefer our local Sierra Madre Blvd. spot the best. The view is excellent, and you don't have to get up early.  You can roll on over to the parade around 9 am and still get a good spot.  

Another thing I like about the parade and the football game are the flyovers.  At least in East Pasadena, and I assume elsewhere in town, you can hear and see these flyovers from your home.  This year, two B-1 bombers flew over the parade start and then did another flyover at the start of the rose bowl football game.   

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Road Trip to Field of Dreams - Return to Pasadena Continued

As we left our hotel in West Des Moines, we drove onto Mills Civic Parkway and saw a Scooters coffee across the street from a Caribou coffee.  We chose Caribou and turned onto Interstate 35 heading south.  Within a few miles, we were out of the city and back travelling through the green Iowa countryside.  I liked that the city was so close to the country.  I regretted that we had not seen more of Des Moines.  

We charted a course to Abilene, Kansas, where we planned to see the Eisenhower Presidential Museum.  I am not sure how I missed this, but Interstate 35 runs due south through Osceola, Van Wert and Decatur City and then right into Missouri.  Surprise.... we were going to Missouri.  

Just over the Missouri border, near Eagleville, we stopped at the Missouri welcome center.  To say this was a welcome center or rest stop does not do the place justice.  The usual brochures and local displays were there but also a beautiful mural depicting all things Missouri. Just off the parking lot there was an open field planted with flowers and grass.  Amid all the plants was a herd of bronze buffalo.  We spent some time wandering among the bronze herd.  You could almost imagine what the plains must have looked like centuries ago.  

Once on the road, we realized we would not make the Eisenhower Museum that day.  It was 340 miles to Abilene, and the museum closes at 3:30. We needed a Plan B.  Now that we were in Missouri, we looked at what we could see around Kansas City.  There was the Jesse James home.  That looked interesting. But, wait..... Independence, MO is the home of the Truman Presidential Library and Museum,  We had started the day thinking we were going to Kansas to see Eisenhower, but now we were on our way to Independence and Truman. 

It was a stroke of luck.  I really enjoy the presidential libraries. They tell the story of the president and his family and the challenges of the day.  We gladly spent half a day at the Truman Library.  The next day we continued on to Kansas and, fair is fair, spent a half day at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.  Both the Truman and Eisenhower libraries were incredible educational experiences and both, for very different reasons, quite moving.

Now, I could write alot about these presidential libraries, the men, the families and their times.  But, I will let the Truman and Eisenhower statues get to the heart of it.  Both libraries are planned with bronze statues of the presidents outside the library. The Truman bronze is modestly larger than he was in real life -- his bronze statue standing maybe a foot taller than his real life 5'9"  --  and blends in nicely with the surrounding library grounds. The former clothing salesman and last president without a college degree is seen engaging others with a congenial tip of the hat.  After playing some piano, Harry even had time to stroll the grounds with me.  

It is a completely different scene over at the Eisenhower Library. The bronze Ike is raised on a pedestal and dominates the Library entrance and grounds. No blending in here and no mistaking that Eisenhower was a five star general, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, and oh yeah, president too.  Like our visit to the Truman Library, our time at the Eisenhower Library was an incredible experience.  

We stayed at the Eisenhower Library until closing time.  Then it was time to hit the road. Where would we go?

At this point, all planning was on the fly, which suited me but drove Marcia nuts.  After leaving Cedar Rapids, we had no reservations and had not even settled on a route back to Pasadena.  We had "discovered" the Truman Library, then made it to Topeka for the night.  Eisenhower was the last must see stop for the trip and there was nothing else to do in Abilen, KS.  

After toying with heading back to Colorado, we settled on Albuquerque as our next desitnation.  So, from Abilene, we drove west on the 70 for a bit, then turned south at Salina. We got stopped for gas in Liberal, KS, home of the Liberal Bee Jays.  

We were in farm country, but this farm country was flat and dry -- very different than what we saw in Nebraska or Iowa.  Then, occasionally the countryside bloomed.  Below is a sunflower farm that was so stunning, we stopped to admire the acre upon acre of flowers.     

The day was wearing on.  The car was pointed toward New Mexico, but we would need to stop for the night.  As night fell, we were weary of traveling for the day.  

As we crossed from Kansas into the Oklahoma, it looked to me like the panhandle was a tough place to live.  Through the dimming light, I could see more than a few abandoned buildings and from my air conditioned car I knew it was both very hot and very dry outside.  It was dark as we pulled into Guymon, which is the largest city in the panhandle with 13,000 people.  We found our hotel, which in the light of the next morning turned out to be next to a junk yard.  

On to New Mexico.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Road Trip to the Field of Dreams -- Our Return Trip Back to Pasadena

On July 4, we said goodbye to the Hancock House.  To this point, we had carefully planned every day of our road trip. But we had absolutely no plans for how to get home. It was pouring rain as we made our way down to the Wayfarer in Dubuque's historic Millwork District .  We sat down with our coffees, Road Atlas and iPad expecting to plot a route back to Pasadena.  

Predictably, we spent far too much time at the Wayfarer.  Instead of planning a route home, my attention was diverted to an excellent exhibit around the corner from the Wayfarer.  The exhibit, titled Millwork Portraits, consisted of photographs and biographies of men and women who worked for decades in Dubuque's Millwork District. From roughly 1900 to the 1960's Dubuque was the nation's largest producer of windows, doors and other millwork.  After the '60's the plants started shutting down with the last company closing in 2014. The exhibit told the stories of the people who lived and worked in the city and of a once nationally prominent industry that was now gone.  The stories lent a context and history that made me appreciate Dubuque all the more.   

Still without detailed plans for our return home, we left Dubuque heading head south. We would figure it out along the way.  Fortunately, we already had tickets for that night (July 4th) to see the Cedar Rapids Kernals play the Quad City River Bandits and had reservations at an interesting Cedar Rapids BnB (Belmont Hill).  

At the Kernals game (photos above) we got our first real introduction to Midwest humidity.  Hot with some light rain, the temperature was a real feel of 100 degrees.  The heat didn't deter us or the capacity crowd that was there for Class A minor league baseball with fireworks after the game.  Mr. Shucks, the Kernal's mascot did a great job entertaining the crowd with the typical corny minor league mascot gags.   

While in the Cedar Rapids area, we visited the town of Olin, which was my grandfather's hometown.  The cemetery, where several relatives are buried, was on a hill which provided a sweeping view of the farms below.  The view of the surrounding farmlands was spectacular.  I recalled a few things my grandfather had said about growing up in Olin - about his work in a store, fishing on the Wapsipinicon River, and the "two-seater" they had as an outhouse.   

We had a great breakfast at Belmont Hill where our hosts regaled us with stories of the 2020 derecho that destroyed half of Cedar Rapids' tree canopy.  We left Belmont Hill later than expected but enjoyed visiting with the hosts and other guests. We were completely without plans. So we visited the Amana Colony which was on the way to Des Moines.  I suppose seeing the woolen mill was the highlight.    They had a couple of interesting coffee and pastry shops, but the seating was closed off apparently due to Covid concerns.  In retrospect, I wished we would have gone to the living history farm instead.  

I was a bit weary as we got to Des Moines.  We had gotten a late start, it had rained all day, Amana Colony was disappointing, and we had travelled all of 120 miles. It was getting dark and raining so hard we could not read the street signs.  We needed a hotel and desperately needed a laundromat too. We headed south on highway 35 and somehow found a hotel in West Des Moines.  As the day's luck would have it, the hotel was nowhere near a laundromat. After some searching and driving, we felt our way to a laundromat and something to eat. The day ended in more than a little frustration. 

But, the morning was a new day.  Skies had cleared.  We stopped at Caribou Coffee and hopped back on highway 35. Of course, we never did plan our route home.  Maybe part of my resistance to a plan a route home was that I wasn't yet done with Iowa.  I enjoyed the green countryside, rolling hills and streams.  I wanted to explore the Mississippi north of Dubuque, tour farms, visit the Herbert Hoover home, check out Iowa City and there was more to do in Dubuque beginning with the Tiffany windows at St. Lukes.  

Alas, more Iowa would have to wait for another time.  We pointed the car south and hoped to make it to the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas.  But our next stop would be someplace I did not expect: 


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Road Trip to Field of Dreams -- Day 8 - at the Field of Dreams

The day started with breakfast in the dining room. The Hancock House is a true mansion.  Elegant and richly appointed, the dining room instantly transports you back to the late 1800's and way up in social class. Simon is the perfect host and a captivating storyteller.  Once all guests were seated and had coffee, he regaled us with a very lively history of Dubuque and the Hancock House.  

At the table, my big surprise came to life as our two kids walked in to join us for breakfast.  They had caught a flight from Dallas to Cedar Rapids (how many can there be?), rented a car and drove out to Dubuque.  Near midnight they had knocked on our door and in a sleepy groggy state, I opened the door.  They were so out of context, and I was so sleepy I did not believe what I was seeing.  Did they know they were in Iowa?  Or was this some kind of dream?  Well, the next morning in the Hancock House dining room, the dream became real.  All four of us were together in someplace we had never been.  We were in Iowa, having breakfast at the Hancock House mansion.  And we were going to the Field of Dreams.  Crazy!  

 After breakfast, our family headed west.  It felt good to have all four of us in one car.  That's a routine thing when they were young.  I am probably speaking just for me, but I loved those family road trips.  Once the kids grow up, those trips together are but warm memories.  Getting the whole family in the car is not so easy.  

We drove up and over the Dubuque bluffs.  Now, with the Mississippi River behind us, green farmland all around and the Field of Dreams ahead, in many ways my trip was complete.  More than I could have imagined.  

We passed through the farm towns of Peosta, Epworth and Farley, then turned off 20 and headed north on Jamesmeier Rd., then left on Prier and north on Black Hills. This was rural Iowa.  Endless corn fields.  A few farmhouses and silos. Signage is thankfully spare.  Black Hills dead-ends into Lansing Road and a left turn takes you to the Field of Dreams.  The Field is on part of the old Lansing family farm.

We turned up the driveway and found a parking place among rows of cars on a bumpy dirt lot.  I saw license plates from many states.  Cars parked and families piled out.    

The four of us unloaded from our car.  We grabbed our lawn chairs, gloves and baseball.  Along with everyone else, we headed out to the Field.    

As in the movie, the baseball field is framed by rows and rows of green corn.  Marcia and I had just travelled through Nebraska and most of Iowa so we had seen a lot of corn.  Nothing particularly special there.   As for the baseball field -- it's basic, just a backstop, dirt infield and grass.  I've seen hundreds.  It is all so ordinary, I thought. But, somehow magical too. I watched as parents and kids, brothers and sisters, old and young, played catch out on the field.  To my southern California senses, the sky was more blue, the white of the clouds more brilliant and the grass and corn greener than anything I was used to.  To me it was unmistakable.  There was a mysterious beauty about this baseball field - this Field of Dreams.  

The four of us found a spot along right field, put down our chairs and walked out onto the outfield to play catch.  We had brought our gloves -- one borrowed from Uncle John, a used one from Play it Again, a new softball glove and my ancient Wilson.  The four of us spread out across right and center, throwing and catching the ball as we moved.  

I suppose, I've played catch thousands of times, with hundreds of people and in countless places -- backyards, front yards, streets, schools and fields.  But, never on the Field of Dreams. And never with my whole family.  Although it felt good to catch and throw the ball.  This catch was not really about the catching and throwing.  This was about the people -- my wife and kids - who journeyed with me to this place.  

It's not just me. For more than 30 years, the Field of Dreams has been home base for the Ghost Players, which is a troupe of local baseball players who have travelled the globe with a baseball comedy show and more.  We had planned our Field of Dreams visit to see a Ghost Players performance.  They did not disappoint.  Wearing replica 100-year-old White Sox jerseys, they recreated the movie scene where White Sox players of long ago come out of the corn and jog onto the field.  There was an inspiring speech from the Ghost Players' catcher, then they entertained the crowd with cornball skits.  After the show, we took a picture with the team.

Last August, baseball writer extraordinaire, Benjamin Hill, wrote about the Ghost Players. He interviewed longtime Ghost Player Larry Shieltz, from Peosta.  Larry talked about why they still carry on after 30 years: "What we do mirrors the movie.... It's about redemption and second chances. And the message to take the time to say, "I love you." or to thank somebody.  That's what we really preach in our daily routine and what the Ghost Players are about."   

Before I end this historically (at least in the annals of east of allen) long post, I want to revisit the movie's story line.

In Field of Dreams, an Iowa farmer (Ray Kinsella) is prompted by a mysterious Voice to do the exact opposite of what a farmer is supposed to do.  Moved by the Voice and at the risk of losing his farm, he plows under his crop of corn to build a baseball field.  The farmer's obedience to the Voice results in a baseball field where dreams come true.  Initially others' dreams come true. Shoeless Joe Jackson gets to play baseball again. Moonlight Graham, who played one inning in the majors but never got to bat, gets to bat.  A tired old writer named Terrance Mann, who dreamed of playing in Ebbets Field, recovers his passion for writing and is invited to join the players in the corn.  

As for Ray, the Voice had promised, "If you build it, he will come," and "ease his pain."   In the movie's closing scene, we find out what the Voice meant.  We learned earlier in the movie that Ray's greatest regret was telling his father that Shoeless Joe, his father's hero, was a criminal and then refusing to play catch with his father.  The regret was sealed when his father died before Ray could make things right. In the final scene, Ray's father appears at the Field and father and son play a game of catch that heals the decades-old regrets.  The story has come full circle as we realize that the catch is healing to his father, but pain the Voice really spoke of was Ray's own pain.     

But that's not all of it.

When Shoeless Joe first comes to the Field, he asks Ray, "Is this heaven?"  Bemused, Ray responds, "No, it's Iowa."   In the closing scene, the same question is asked.  Just before the two have their catch, his father asks Ray, "Is this heaven?"  Ray again says, "It's Iowa," but then asks his father, "Is there a heaven?"  His father responds, "Oh yeah, it is the place dreams come true."  At this point, the music rises and Ray slowly turns to scan his farm with his eyes finally resting on his wife and daughter who are sitting on the porch swing.  Ray smiles as he realizes that maybe his dreams are coming true and maybe his little farm and family is, for him, heaven. 

Is it any wonder there is a line at the Field for pictures on the porch swing?   As we finished our house tour, we waited for a family photo on the porch.  There is nothing formal about it, but one family takes the photo of another and so on.  The family ahead of us was down from Minneapolis and I took their picture.  In turn, they took our family photo. 

So, these posts of our road trip cross country to the Field of Dreams ends with a family picture on a porch, which is really the whole point of the matter. We travelled 2,000 miles to Dyersville, Iowa.  But, it was never about Iowa.  It was about dreams and, most important, it was about family. In a wonderful way, our big road trip ended exactly where it started months earlier at our home in Pasadena when, with my family around, Marcia gave me that extraordinary birthday gift.