Thursday, December 28, 2017

CHRISTMAS TREE LANE





Whoops, I see what with cooking, hostessing, eating, socializing and worshipping, I'm a little behind here,

A couple of weeks back, I devoted a column to a December tradition in my neck of the woods Christmas Tree Lane.

Here's how the piece begins:

Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, known for the rest of the year as Santa Rosa Avenue, is a Southern California holiday tradition. The approximately .07-mile stretch, between Woodbury Avenue and Altadena Drive, is lined on both sides by Deodar Cedars (“Cedrus deodara”) that, during December, are festooned with more than 10,000 lights. Its association claims it the oldest large-scale Christmas lighting spectacle in the U.S.

Santa Rosa Avenue was the former driveway of brothers Frederick and John Woodbury who, in 1880, bought 937 acres in the scenic San Gabriel Foothills, named the parcel Woodbury Ranch and founded what is now the unincorporated area known as Altadena.

The trees were originally grown from seed brought back by John Woodbury after a trip to Italy. In 1885, ranch superintendent Tony Hoag oversaw the original planting of the 3-foot saplings.

In 1920, local merchant Fred Nash was inspired, with the help of the Pasadena Kiwanis Club, to drape the tree branches with colored electric Christmas lights: white, red, green and blue.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

There's still plenty of time to view The Lane--hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas.








Monday, December 25, 2017

THE CLOSE AND HOLY DARKNESS




Assuming he recorded it near December 25, I would have been five months old when Dylan Thomas read this version of his "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

I listened to the story last night, alone in my bed, after the Vigil Christmas Eve Mass, and after the final prep of home, kitchen, living room, bathroom, balcony, garden and my heart to cook and receive guests today for dinner.

"I said some words to the close and holy darkness--and then I slept."

Merry, merry Christmas to all of you. Thank you for the stupendous gift of yourselves, your readership, your own lives and hearts. God bless us, every one.

Monday, December 18, 2017

LONG LIVE THE WILDERNESS


VIEW OF THE MOUNTAINS FROM
MY CITY OF PASADENA

My dear friend Greg Camacho from San Antonio, Texas, wrote yesterday morning quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins, from the poem "Inversnaid":

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.



SUCCULENTS ON MY BALCONY,
DREAMING...




Monday, December 11, 2017

MCMANUS & MORGAN FINE PAPERS

OLD-SCHOOL! WE SHOULD ALL KNOW OF
THIS PAPER STORE NEAR LA'S MACARTHUR PARK
AND THE MAN BEHIND IT: MR. GARY WOLIN.

This week's arts and culture column gives me real pleasure to present.

Here's how it begins:

McManus & Morgan, established in 1923, is in its 94th year. Owner Gary Wolin has been its brains and heart for around the last 50.

Located at 2506 W. 7th Street, just west of MacArthur Park, this cultural treasure occupies a ground-floor space in a 1924 Spanish Revival building that, until recently, time pretty much forgot.

The store shares customers, physical space and a unique esprit de corps with its neighbor, Aardvark Letterpress.

Back in the day, the Otis College of Art, the Chouinard Art Institute and the original Art Center College of Design were all within shouting distance. The area was heady with artistes who patronized the store — among them reputedly Ansel Adams, June Wayne, Ed Ruscha and designers from every major Hollywood studio.

But eventually the colleges moved, MacArthur Park became a haven for drug addicts and petty criminals, and seedier times followed.

Through it all, McManus & Morgan endured.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

LUX AETERNA: THE CENTENNIAL LIGHT BULB

THIS BULB, IN FIRE STATION #6 IN LIVERMORE, CA,
HAS BEEN BURNING CONTINUOUSLY FOR OVER 100 YEARS!

This week's arts and culture piece concerns the marketing phenomenon known as planned obsolescence.

Here's how it begins:

High up near the ceiling at Fire Station #6 in Livermore, California, burns an electric bulb that has continuously thrown light for more than 100 years.

Known as the Centennial Light Bulb, this small object — approximately 2 ½ inches in diameter and 4 inches long — has been the subject of the late, great Huell Howser’s TV show “California Gold,” a story by NPR’s Terry Gross and countless articles, essays and word-of-mouth stories.

A short Vimeo documentary called “Mysteries at the Museum Centennial Bulb” is one place to start.

In December 1971, Jack Baird — who at the time had been the paid Livermore fire chief for 13 years — noticed that the light had always been on. (Unexplained is whether the light had ever been turned off.) For years the firemen considered the bulb a kind of talisman and developed the tradition of gently tapping it on their way out of the station when responding to a call.

Since a typical lightbulb lasts only about 1,000 hours, Baird set out to discover how long the lightbulb had been on. Where did it come from? he wondered. Who was the manufacturer? He contacted local reporter Mike Dunstan, at that time a young man, and asked him to help investigate.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

VIGILS, ON THE EVE OF THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT




"Vigils, sleep, agony, death--God shares all of these states of the human condition with us because He was also a man, but a man present everywhere because He was God. He is present first of all in the Church; he is present by His grace within us as He is present in the Sacrament on the Altar; He is present wherever two more three are gathered together in His name as He is present in each one of our brothers. There is no encounter in which we do not encounter Him; no solitude in which He does not join us; no silence where His voice is not heard deepening, rather than troubling, our silence.

What a grace! But a grace we do not have the right to keep for ourselves. Let us not be like Nicodemus who conversed with the Lord only in the secret of the night. Our hidden life with Christ ought to have some bearing on our lives as citizens. We cannot approve or practice publicly in the name of Caesar what the Lord condemns, disapproves, or curses--whether it be failure to honor our word, exploitation of the poor, police torture, or regimes of terror. If, according to the promise made to us on the Mount, we had been meek, we would have possessed the land."

--François MauriacThe Son of Man, from the chapter "The Executioners of Christ"