Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Anything can happen

Mexican calendar girl
Monday morning, a person that I don't usually think has my best interests at heart called me to alert me of a job opportunity I should check into.

So I did. Yes, it's for real. Another person - someone who does feel beneficial to me - is going to learn more and give me the scoop.

If it's real, I may be very lucky. But because I've been disappointed before, I'm trying to avoid counting my chickens.

But you know what? I'm leaving town this weekend, and I'm not going to think about it! Whatever is meant to happen will happen.

We are traveling to Mexico City for the weekend. [The Man I Love] is there for work, and I am just going along to explore! And share with you.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

In bloom in my garden

Here are some roses from my garden, cut today.  The apricot-colored hybrid tea is "Abbaye de Cluny." It's one of several modern bred roses known as "Romantica" - intended to bring back fragrance to large-flowered hybrid teas. However, in my garden, it's fragrance is eclipsed by the other roses sharing its vase.

The two big pink roses and the darker red bud are "Star of the Nile" - this rose is not as vigorous as I'd wish it to be in my garden, but the blooms have the most amazing fragrance, which probably comes from its parent, the Austin rose called "The Yeoman." A strong and penetrating fragrance evoking the Oriental resin myrrh, this rose perfumes the entire room.

The yellow is a David Austin rose called "Happy Child" - its a low-growing version of his famous "Graham Stuart Thomas." Also fragrant, but in a kind of wholesome, apple-fruity way.

The light pink rose, nodding its head down, is another Austin, "Sharifa Asma." It also has a wonderful, intense fragrance.

What's in bloom in your garden?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Breakfast at Philippes


"The Italians had the Renaissance," says one of three old men clustered round the end of the long table in the front room at Philippes, 7:00 in the morning, talking about the world.

"Every modern invention we use now came from the Italians and the Jews." He's a handsome ruin, he is; straight nose, brown skin and noble brow, like an Aztec painted in a mural.

Across the table, a big Chinese man, tonsured like a fat old friar plants one massive hand on the red formica and shifts his bulk on the wooden stool. He'd come lurching down the stairs from Ord Street, cutting the breakfast line, but the counter lady in her prim blue uniform had waved him off. "No. Go on over there," she said, "you can't cut here."  Somehow, though, he snagged a cup of coffee; it steams before him.

Eggs over easy, corned beef hash and warm biscuits fill the cold void that comes with a too-early morning. Hot bitter coffee helps, too.

Later today the lines of customers will thread between the tables, shuffling their feet in the sawdust bellying up to the glass counters placing orders for french dip sandwiches, beers and plates of pickled beets, but now in the morning it's more relaxed, quiet, and you can park on the street outside.

Glasses tinkle in a plastic tub on the dish cart pushed by a woman wearing a folded paper hat, clearing trays and discarded plates, wiping spilled sugar. Two kids with knit caps elbow down over their chili bowls. A thin man, white-hair and glasses, winces like a cracked walnut over his Chinese language newspaper.

Over my shoulder, the old mens' voices contour up like cars cresting a hill then rolling down. "There's none of us getting the Nobel prize this year." 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Adventures galore

L.A.'s flower district, early morning - click to "embiggen"
 I've been very busy - suddenly, I'm not sure why! A lot of unconnected things have converged at the same time.

On Monday evening, I attended a dinner event at a posh Los Angeles iconic location. Although I adored the dinner conversation with a famous actor best known for his portrayal of an other-worldly character - very logical, I might add -  it took me 2.5 hours to drive there from my office, only 7.3 miles away! And I spent some of the time wondering if our dog Jack was OK with only a morning walk.

Then Tuesday I did my assignment of editing an arts newsletter - only to find on Wednesday that I left out an important story. I had to scramble to issue an addendum.

Next Monday there is an event that I have promised some creative input - I promised to design table centerpieces - and I've been putting it off. So today was the day I had to really get serious and work on it. This morning at 6:30 am, I went downtown to the Los Angeles Flower Market to buy the plants and containers I needed.

Tomorrow is Friday, and I will put the final touches on my centerpieces, but also in the afternoon I'll be attending a writing seminar. I'm looking forward to Saturday, and time to relax.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Every picture tells a story

Click to "embiggen"
 We're driving by 529 E. Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles. This is the ruin of the Church of Greater Works, a Sanctuary for the Homeless.  Begun in 2000 to minister to the homeless, the church occupied a historic church building that began in 1903 as St. Paul’s German Evangelical Church.

On August 11, 2010 around 7 pm, a fire broke out that was later determined to be arson.

Today, this is what you see when you drive by on Washington Boulevard.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How the other half...washes their hands

 Hotel Bel-Air ladies room. Cloth hand towels.

My other photos came out crappy, this is all I have.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Out and about in East Los Angeles

Click to "embiggen"
The Azteca Pet shop, on Whittier Boulevard at Sydney, just west of the 710 freeway.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why we garden, why we wait

Back in the spring of 2010, I received a gift from a fellow gardener. Well - truth be told - it was a gift I solicited myself.

I had taken a garden tour and was entranced by a beautiful rose I'd seen. After a bit of thought, I decided to write a note to the gardener, thanking her for her hospitality, and asked if I could have a cutting off that rose. Clara graciously invited me to her garden, and by October of the same year, I had a tiny rooted slip.

This spring, it just bloomed for me for the first time.

My little slip has turned into a healthy, sprawling, climbing rose that is covered with clusters of buds opening to cool pink pompon-like flowers, with a delicate scent. Clara told me her mother had brought the rose from Colombia, and that it's name is "Silva Madre." I have never found a reference to it online.

Healthy rose on its own roots
So, now, in addition to Clara's vigorously blooming plant in her historic Hancock Park garden, there's one in  Topanga.

Flowers are just 1 1/2 inch across
And if you want one....you can have one too. Only you might have to wait a couple of years for the flowers. Just call me. This is how we save lost roses.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


 Having a  hard time taking in recent happenings. There is so much pain and destruction.

Borage, or borago officianalis, is an annual herb that has many beneficial qualities. Its flowers are some of the best blues in the garden, a pure and sky-colored blue.

Both the leaves and flowers are edible, with a faint cucumber-like taste. The flowers make attractive garnishes for salads.

As a traditional medicine, borage is good for treating gastrointestinal maladies, and as a tea or infusion, it helps regulate hormonal inbalances, and relieves the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes.

As a companion plant in the garden, borage is often planted with tomatoes, because its flowers and fuzzy foliage confuse some tomato predators like hornworms.

Borage flowers are often used to garnish that traditional Britsh cocktail, the Pimms cup. Say...when is cocktail time, anyway?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday flowers

Spring is coming, and we've been busy. This weekend we went to a garden center and bought some vegetables and flowers to put into our deck containers. We also bought a small lime tree to grow in a pot.

The garden is looking tatty, but still beautiful. All the roses are on the brink of bloom - the garden is filled with buds.

In a week or two, the place will be full of roses.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Road kill catalog

Any daily activity gives you the opportunity to carefully examine the minutiae of your surroundings and so it is with the daily morning walk I take with Jack, my dog. A fine connoisseur of coyote pooh, dried turds, and piss-glazed garbage bins, Jack takes his time exploring our rural road. And I tend to focus on its asphalt surface, as a precaution against road hazards in this dog-infested neighborhood.

Jerusalem cricket, from Wikipedia
 So I’ve noticed the annual cycle of small road-kills that appear on the blacktop with some regularity. There’s an astonishing bug that appears, a grotesque creature like a miniaturized human baby, a chitin-armored fetus, its round infant head larger than its claw-limbed body. Pale fleshy gold in color, its appearance made me recoil in horror the first time I saw it, but now I appreciate it. It’s a Stenopelmatus fuscus, or Jerusalem cricket.

Our small local lizards end up smashed on the road too frequently. For some reason, they always appear belly up, curled in a kind of ecstatic agony, something akin to Jack’s own luxurious belly-up defenseless sleep.

Lizard safe on my windowsill
 I don't know how it is the lizards end up smashed on the road, because everytime I see a live one, stock still in the sun, my tiniest movement makes him dart away in a streak. Have they swooned belly up, lolling on the sun-hot asphalt, only to be taken unaware by a car tire?

By the time I see them they’re usually flattened husks dessicated like a cut-out from duct tape, but once I came upon one freshly smashed, its silvery belly like supple leather, its jaws oozing a deep dark red blood as flushed with oxygen as yours or mine. I hadn’t thought before that lizards would bleed red.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thematic Photographic - Leaves

Carmi at the blog "Written, Inc." posts a photographic challenge each week at Thematic Photographic. This week, the theme is "Leaves."

Here, the intricate shape of the thick, leathery leaves of the California native shrub Fremontodendron stand out against the white plaster wall, as striking as the bright gold flowers.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Joy contained

This weekend, as in past years, I enjoyed the Theodore Payne Foundation's Native Plant Garden Tours. If you're near L.A., it's a great bargain every spring. $20 buys you a pass to visit over 40 private gardens, all featuring plantings of California native plants. What could be a better bargain than that?

There are some truly magnificent gardens on the tour - you can get an invitation behind the fortified gates of the Brentwood and Beverly Hills elite, to see the feats of designers that get free reign with their money. Or you can visit the homey, much-loved gardens of dedicated plantsmen-and-women whose body of knowledge about growing California plants will amaze you.

But one of the nicest gardens I visited this weekend was one that was new on the tour - and it was an unexpected pleasure.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

High on air

Click any photo to "embiggen"
 At the base of the tall building, a crowd assembles, waiting. The buzz of excitement fills the air.

Then, high above, a single figure appears at the edge of the roofline, teetering on the brink, and then it slowly leans over and....

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Updates on the job-hunting front.

After I met with a person inside my organization to talk about my job prospects, I've had some developments, both good and maybe not so helpful. Since the beginning of March, I've been assigned a weekly creative project that I really enjoy. That's been fun.

I also was asked to pitch in on another project in our department - I met with my colleague and have just begun working on the project.

On the maybe not so helpful front - I also volunteered to help out in another department where there may be an opening soon. There are some staff shortages, and I offered my help. But the amount of time I could offer was not what they needed, so they referred my offer to another division.

Yesterday I reported to work at the other division, and found out that what they wanted me to do was basic data entry as they implement a new software system. Not very challenging, and it's really not a potential transfer opportunity, But my colleagues there are super nice, and it's a chance to learn about the software they are adopting.

In my own department, I filed the paperwork for four of my colleagues to move to other jobs in our organization. Congratulations to them! But it's bittersweet. Today I just learned that another colleague, who was hopeful about a transfer opportunity, was not chosen. He and I both commiserated together. He said to me, "I really hope you get something, but on the other hand, if you weren't here I wouldn't know how to get through this." I told him the same thing.

Yesterday, I was asked to a meeting to help set the policy adapting my work after I am gone. Apparently, my "expertise" is valuable enough that they want me to advise them. But then today I met with the person who will be writing the policy, and it was pretty clear that she wants me to tell her what to write in the report that will be presented under her name.

Amid this, I'm trying to steer the remnants of my department into its final dry dock. Attitudes are bad, people are demoralized, and I can't allow myself to give in to negative feelings, because we have to make sure our remaining clients are properly provided for.

This evening, I got an email from a former colleague, still in the organization, with whom I had clashed in the past. She forwarded me a job posting that she'd found, and kindly asked me if there was anything she could do for me.

Losing your job sucks. Job hunting is painful. People can be kind. Whatever happens will be okay.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Poppy season in California

The state flower of California is the California poppy, or Eschscholtzia californica. These beauties were in full flower at the Sanford Winery in the Santa Rita Hills.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The modern era

LaFond winery tasting room
Though the winemaking trade is ancient, in some parts of Southern California it's almost brand new. Santa Barbara County's rolling valleys were planted with grapes as early as 1782, but by the time Prohibition was implemented in 1918, the wine business in the county had collapsed.

Today's booming wine business didn't really revive in the County until the 1970s. So it shouldn't be surprising that the face of Santa Barbara Wine Industry is a distinctly modern one.

If you've toured the great and ancient vineyards of Europe, and explored the stone monasteries and half-timbered cottages and tower-embellished chateaux, you might find it a little disconcerting that one of the richest troves of wine tasting rooms in Southern California happens to be located in a pre-fab industrial park behind a Home Depot big box store in downtown Lompoc, CA.