Friday, December 30, 2011

Trees and Cars

Yesterday I went to an event around the corner from this street, and I saw these two cars that had been damaged by a falling tree in the recent windstorm.  This morning I went over to take some photos and ran into the owner who was meeting with someone from a car-salvaging company.  These cars were in the driveway when a huge deodar cedar tree, which I would have mistaken for a pine, fell on them.  The tan car has a 6-inch thick branch piercing the roof that goes all the way to the floor board.  The lower photo shows another deodar cedar on another part of the property that is similar to the one that fell.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Breakfast

Christmas morning can be a challenging time for a single Jewish guy who wants to go someplace for breakfast. Every year I get in my car and drive toward Pasadena.  Very few places are open, but I always seem to find one.
One year, the bakery next to Mi Piaci on Colorado was open. Another year, it was Robin's in Hastings Ranch. It seems to vary from year to year, and I can't count on any place to be open from one year to the next. 
Several years ago, as I made my way into Old Town on Christmas morning, I noticed that Ruby's Diner at the corner of Green and Fair Oaks was open. Ruby's was a '50s-style diner that had great food and waiters and waitresses dressed in 50s-style outfits. It also had an electric train that went around on an elevated track above the dining area. (Ruby’s has long since left Pasadena, but can still be found in some other Southern California locations.)  
Sometimes my swing-dancing friends, and I would go there in the evening after a dance at Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association and dance in the aisles between the tables to the 50s music they played on the speaker system. I was really happy that Ruby's was open that Christmas morning.
Upon arriving, I realized that I needed to buy an LA Times to read as I ate, but decided I'd wait until after I ordered my meal. As I entered, a young woman greeted me and asked me if I was there for breakfast. I thought this was a rather odd question. It was around 8:00 a.m., so what else would I be doing walking into a restaurant?
I noticed that the waiters and waitresses were not wearing their usual red and white Ruby's outfits. Instead they were wearing blue jeans and flannel shirts. I thought, "That's funny, but it is Christmas. Maybe they just thought they'd let them wear regular clothes." 
I was taken to a booth, and I sat down waiting for someone to bring me coffee and a menu and take my order. As I waited, I noticed that instead of the usual salt and pepper shakers on the table, there were those little paper envelopes. I also noticed that the utensils were plastic. I thought, "Well, it's Christmas. I guess they didn't want to bring in a full crew of dishwashers and table bussers."
I sat for quite a while without getting a menu or being offered a cup of coffee. I was becoming a little impatient, when suddenly two young waitresses appeared at my table. One had a pot of coffee and the other had a rectangular styrofoam plate containing scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast, which she began to place in front of me.
"What's this?" I asked.
"It's breakfast," one of them said in a tone that suggested the answer should have been obvious.
"But I didn't order this," I said.
Just then a lightbulb went on in my head.
"Is this a free breakfast for the homeless?" I asked.  
"Yes," she said.
"Oh," I said as I thought about sliding down under the table from embarrassment,
"I can't eat this. I didn't realize...  There’s no sign or anything out front…"  
"Don't worry about it," she said, "We have enough food to feed 500 people and only 50 have shown up. We're just going to have to throw it out." 
So reluctantly, I began to eat my free Christmas breakfast. I looked around sheepishly at the other diners. There were a few homeless-looking people, and a few large tables of what appeared to be special-needs patients.
I had to eat my breakfast without the company of a newspaper because, you see, I felt so guilty for being there, I didn't have the nerve to show I had disposable income by getting up and spending a quarter on the LA Times.
After I was done, I went over and offered to pay for my food or to make a donation.
The waitress said, "There's no way you can. We don't have registers working, and all the food's been donated and paid for. We're just going to have to send all the leftovers to the park where they're serving lunch, and there will be way too much food." 
I just shook my head and rolled my eyes, still very embarrassed. At least, as they say, I got a story out of it!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Small Town

Members of the South Pasadena High School Band make their holiday rounds by playing in front of Shakers diner and Bristol Farms Market. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Cover for Trout Fishing in America

"The cover for Trout Fishing in America is a photograph taken late in the afternoon, a photograph of the Benjamin Franklin statue in San Francisco's Washington Square.

Born 1706--Died 1790, Benjamin Franklin stands on a pedestal that looks like a house containing stone furniture. He holds some papers in one hand and his hat in the other.

Then the statue speaks, saying in marble:


Around the base of the statue are four words facing the directions of this world, to the east WELCOME, to the west WELCOME, to the north WELCOME, to the south WELCOME. Just behind the statue are three poplar trees, almost leafless except for the top branches. The statue stands in front of the middle tree. All around the grass is wet from the rains of early February.

In the background is a tall cypress tree, almost dark like a room. Adlai Stevenson spoke under the tree in 1956, before a crowd of 40,000 people.

There is a tall church across the street from the statue with crosses, steeples, bells and a vast door that looks like a huge mousehole, perhaps from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, and written above the door is "Per L'Universo."

Around five o'clock in the afternoon of my cover for Trout Fishing in America, people gather in the park across the street from the church and they are hungry.

It's sandwich time for the poor.

But they cannot cross the street until the signal is given. Then they all run across the street to the church and get their sandwiches that are wrapped in newspaper. They go back to the park and unwrap the newspaper and see what their sandwiches are all about.

A friend of mine unwrapped his sandwich one afternoon and looked inside to find just a leaf of spinach. That was all.

Was it Kafka who learned about America by reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin....

Kafka who said, 'I like the Americans because they are healthy and optimistic.'"

                                           -  Richard Brautigan


Friday, October 28, 2011

Police Unions, South Pasadena, and Art Salinas

I appreciate and respect the work of those who serve as our public safety officials. On the other hand, I have serious concerns about some of the tactics their unions employ. 

In a column in the Pasadena Star News on February 2, 2010, Larry Wilson wrote of a law firm in Upland, CA called Lackie, Dammeier & McGill. They are former police officers who advise police unions on the tactics they should use to obtain higher wages and benefits. Wilson revealed what was on the firm’s website back then.  The more controversial stuff has since been moved to a private area of the website.
Wilson wrote, “We know what the lawyers have advised officers' associations to do—guilt-trip the electeds, give money to their campaigns, use crime as a wedge issue in order to scare the public, use work slowdowns and the blue flu to get what you want.” 
Wilson went on to describe what else was on the website, “From "Negotiations After Impasse": "Now is the time those political endorsements, favors, and friendships come into play." From "Political Option": "The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of, `do as I ask and don't (tick) me off."'
From "Let the Games Begin": "Storm City Council"; "Billboards - Nothing seems to get more attention than a billboard entering the city limits which reads that crime is up and the City could (sic) care less about your safety," even when that is not true.
"Public Ridicule - Blunders by the City Manager, Mayor, or City Council members or wasteful spending should be highlighted and pointed out to the public at every opportunity."
"Focus on an Individual: Avoid spreading your energy. Focus on a city manager, councilperson, mayor or police chief and keep the pressure up until that person assures you his loyalty and then move on to the next victim.”
Ironically, just one day after Wilson's column appeared and only a short time after it was clear that Police Chief Watson would be sent packing, Councilman Mike Ten thought it would be a great idea to show a video, Police Officers Under Attack, at the Council meeting. Well, we know that Mr. Ten's on board with the program.
So how do these tactics play out in South Pasadena? Four years ago, David Sifuentes, a Fire Captain and union official with LAFD, who’d only recently moved to town, was elected to City Council. Sifuentes received about 95% of his campaign contributions from the police and fire unions. His campaign manager was Jeffrey Monical, a public-safety union consultant who runs a firm called Lavell Communications.
Next thing we know, Sifuentes and Monical decide that it would be a great idea not to renew Police Chief Dan Watson’s contract although they never pointed to anything specific that made this necessary. In fact, in the entire time Sifuentes has been on the Council, he never once discussed the police department with Watson. 
When Watson tried to get answers about why the Council didn’t want to renew his contract, he was told by the City Manager that some Councilmen were “uncomfortable” with him calling them, and he was ordered not to contact them. 
So it’s clear, it wasn’t anything Watson had done that made Sifuentes and Monical move Watson out: Watson points out that Sifuentes never had a substantive conversation with him about the police department. Maybe he wasn’t as favorable to the POA as they wanted him to be, but it appears that the primary reason was they wanted to pay off retired sergeant Joe Payne for deciding not to run for City Council. There is no doubt that Sifuentes knew that Payne would be the next police chief before Watson even knew that his contract would not be renewed.   In an article in the South Pasadena Review on October 26, 2011, Watson says he was aware from two sources in early 2010 that Sifuentes had told people that Payne would be the next Police Chief.  This was before the job was even announced.  Even in December 2009, people around City Hall were saying that Payne would be the next Chief. 
Payne admitted to the South Pasadena Review that he’d discussed the job with SIfuentes “months earlier.”  This is what South Pasadena got when it elected a POA-backed candidate. 
After the spontaneous community uproar at the removal of Watson, it appears that Sifuentes feared he would lose if he ran for reelection—something that would not be good for the higher political aspirations he’s rumored to have.
So what did he and Monical do instead? They found a surrogate candidate, Art Salinas. Salinas is one of the few candidates who is taking union money—his largest contributor to date is the POA—and at his campaign kickoff, he introduced Jeffrey Monical, the union consultant, as his “campaign advisor.” 
Salinas is saying all the right things. He even says he objects to the back-room way that Watson was removed, says he won’t tolerate back-room deals. Wanna bet?  Do you really think Salinas will be “his own man” when Sifuentes, Monical, and the POA come knocking with the next step in their game plan, whatever it may be? 
I recently emailed Salinas and asked him how he could expect us to believe that he’s against back-room deals when he’s supported by the champions of the back-room deal. Salinas’ answer was as you might expect.
First he points to the fact that 4 of 5 councilmen supported the decision, “I must believe their decision was based on what they believed to be in the best interest of the City. If it was a bad decision, and done in an underhanded, non-transparent, manner, how do 4 of 5 support it?” 
Well, let’s see, maybe it’s because they all felt beholden to the POA and its political pressure. Maybe it’s because we have a Council of horse-trading less-than-honorable players. It appears that Cacciotti and Putnam were under heavy POA pressure to go along with the plan. Sifuentes and Ten were already on board. 
Salinas goes on, “Furthermore, if as you say Mr. Sifuentes was responsible, that he got three other Councilmen to agree with him says a great deal about his leadership ability.“
Really? Even bullies have leadership ability. That’s exactly what they do have. What they don’t have is character and good intentions. Leadership ability is only part of the story. It’s what you do with it that matters. 
Then comes the bizarre part, “If Dr. Schneider was against the move as he says, if it was done improperly, and if it was so wrong for the community, why didn’t he stop it? Isn’t that what we want from our leaders?” 
Salinas’ thinking is so twisted that he’s willing to blame the one councilman who refused to go along with the plan, and who, by the way, was the only one not beholden to the POA. This in spite of the fact that his own backers, Sifuentes and Monical, were the perpetrators of the plan.
Sounds to me like Salinas has drunk the Kool-Aid.  Do we want a guy who thinks like this on the City Council? Can we trust that when it’s crunch time Salinas will not be right there, ready to do whatever Sifuentes, Monical, and the POA want?  I don’t think so. 
There’s a reason the POA is putting its money behind Salinas.  They will want a return on their investment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Letter in the Star News

This letter from M.A. Abassi appeared 

in the Pasadena Star News yesterday.  

I wish I knew who M.A. Abassi is.

Letters to the editor: South Pas 


South Pas council
With the City Council elections coming up in South Pasadena, residents should take note of the endorsements each candidate is receiving, which serve as a reliable indicator of where their allegiance will lie once in office.

Larry Wilson's recent column reveals that candidate Art Salinas is being supported by Tom Jacobs and the police union. The same union that was instrumental in the coup to remove former Chief Dan Watson. It is also to be noted that Salinas has hired well-known union political consultant Jeffrey Monical as a campaign advisor.

If you think that the police union is supporting Art Salinas because he is tough on crime, think again. The South Pasadena Police Union, like all public employee unions, hopes to handpick those City Council members who will vote for the union's interests when the time comes to re-negotiate the union contract.

As many other cities have discovered recently, those contracts often come at the expense of the taxpayers and residents of those cities. The more money that goes toward police salaries and benefits, the less money is available for libraries, schools, social services and infrastructure improvements.

In deciding who to support, follow the money and watch the endorsements - it can tell you all you want to know about the candidate.

M.A. Abbasi
South Pasadena

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Larry Wilson's Pasadena Star News Column

September 21, 2011. Pasadena Star News 

Columnist Larry Wilson comments on an

 exchange between me and South Pasadena

 Police Chief Joseph Payne.

Larry Wilson: When a police chief 

dares to post online

THE South Pasadena watchers among us, weary of the disaster that has been the turgid construction project on Fair Oaks Avenue being the only subject of conversation in town, harken back to the glory gossip days of last year, when a police chief was ousted in a political coup.

Regular readers will recall the situation. And they will recall that, here in the post-Wild West, chiefs of police outside a megalopolis don't report to an elected mayor or the members of a city council. Democracy is not the point here - it's the taint of patronage, and favoritism, that comes with political placements.

That's why we have city managers, appointed by the elected leaders, to whom all other professional staff in the city report - usually with the exception of a city attorney, and sometimes a city clerk; in the case of South Pas, the treasurer is also elected.

But it was very fishy, as I reported, the way popular, affable former Chief Dan Watson was drummed out of town. (From all reports, by the way, the former LAPD commander is doing fine as the new chief in Mammoth Lakes, an excellent place to round out a career.) His ouster seemed to many in town to come out of closed-session council meetings, not any independent action by the city manager. It also seemed to come out of the blue, and to not be tied to any dereliction on Watson's part. Word was, I reported, that the former South Pas officer who was installed as chief had talked about running for council himself, and that a cabal of the current council talked him out of it by dangling the chief's job before him.
I called the council members who went along with the putsch - Mike Cacciotti, David Sifuentes, Philip Putnam and Mike Ten - the Gang of Four, and lauded Councilman Richard Schneider for not going along with the purge.

I know that Sifuentes is not running for re-election. But I see that he was at the kick-off for candidate Art Salinas, and that his campaign manager is Jeff Monocal, who works with the police union. Tom Jacobs, head of the police union, was at the event, and was introduced.

But something I find particularly interesting is an exchange I read this week in the comments section of a South Pas blog. Local Ron Rosen, who I think sometimes calls himself "Mr. Earl" in anonycommentary, writes: "Looks like we have someone using an assumed name. If I were guessing, I'd guess it's one of the players in the story. Mike Ten? Joe Payne? David Sifuentes? A member of the POA?" Then a certain Joseph Payne responds: "Not me, Ron. The days of `Mr. Earl' notwithstanding, I have never felt the need for disguised posts, and I resent your reckless inference to anonymous posts. To put your claims in perspective, when a police chief loses the support of the council, city manager, and the POA, it's time for a change of scenery . . . Any one of those three spells trouble. As far as my appointment, sometimes the ends justify the means."

Do they?

This past Sunday, the chief bowed out bowed out of the conversation, promising to comment no more.

Friday, April 15, 2011

All American Asphalt

Ever since All American Asphalt has been tearing up Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena, several of us pointed out that the work crews didn't look very professional, and some of the work looked shoddy.  Today we bring you the reinstallation of the newspaper stands in front of Starbucks/Wells Fargo at Fair Oaks and El Centro.  It seems that one of the stands is facing the wrong way.  Yes, folks, the stand in the lower right opens out to the street, as you can see by the way we propped the door open.  Shoddy, unprofessional?  Whatever could we have been thinking?

Too bad they took away the "Sandblasting" sign before we could take a picture of it.  It looked like something a 7-year old would have done, and the writing was barely large enough to see.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lost and Found

I found this print in a frame in South Pasadena on April 1.  If it's yours, contact me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Earth Quakes and Tsunamis

I do a gratitude list almost every morning.  I have a hard time being thankful that my part of the world is OK when other parts of the world are not.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hahamongna with a Twist

What do you do when you get the day wrong for the Hahamongna Walkabout?  You watch a frisbee golf tournament.  That's what!

Here's what I learned: Frisbee golf is very sophisticated.  Like regular golf, each player has several frisbees that they use for different situations, depending on what they need to do.  There are putter frisbees and distance frisbees and frisbees that curve and frisbees that go straight and frisbees that glide.  Each player carries a bag of frisbees around, just like golfers carry bags of clubs.  These are not your regular frisbees, either.  These are all special frisbees.  Some guys were telling me that the frisbee's characteristics change as they get beaten up, and some of them get better.  It's against the rules to manually alter a frisbee, but changes that occur naturally from using it are ok.  Below is one manufacturer's chart showing all the frisbees it makes and what each one's characteristics are.

A disc golfer goes for the hole, which is that basket thing in front of the red car next to the dumpster.  The disc in mid-air is right in front of the rock behind the red station wagon.

Here's what I came to see to begin with.  Here's the info on the Hahamongna Walkabout scheduled for  February 19, 2011.

Monday, January 17, 2011

No on 14 - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Would you want your daughter to marry a realtor?" In 1964, Proposition 14 was on the California Ballot. The purpose was to overturn the Rumford Act, which prohibited discrimination in housing. The California Realtors Association supported Proposition 14, thinking homes would be harder to sell if neighborhoods became mixed, or perhaps that property values would fall if people began to move out of neighborhoods in large numbers. Proposition 14 passed by 65%, but was later declared unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a button from the anti-14 campaign.