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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Looking for Something to Do? Free Events April 30 to May 6

Here are events scheduled Saturday, April 30, to Friday, May 6.

All events are free, so take a look -- and don't you dare say there's nothing to do in Pasadena!  

The family-friendly Spring Swing Social Saturday, April 30, from 1 to 8:30 p.m. in the courtyard at One Colorado will include ping-pong, board games, face painting and ice cream treats (while supplies last) from 1 to 3 p.m., swing dance lessons with the Stevens Sisters of Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association at 5:30 p.m. and live music performed by Leftover Cuties at 7 p.m.
April is National Poetry Month. Adults will create their own poems during an interactive class led by a representative from the literary and arts community Poetry Solves Problems Saturday, April 30, at 3 p.m. at Hill Avenue Branch Library

Teens are invited to an afternoon of epic battles and a lot of fun with a Super Smash Brothers for Wii U throwdown Tuesday, May 3, at 3:30 p.m. at Santa Catalina Branch Library.

The first Tuesday of every month is free admission day at Kidspace Children's Museum. On Tuesday, May 3, from 4 to 8 p.m. children will create caterpillar puppets, make beautiful butterflies, enjoy nature-themed stories and watch a puppet show based on "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." 

Children will enjoy the art and science of bubbles, including rainbow bubbles, squares, triangles and bubbles that bounce and float inside other bubbles Wednesday, May 4, at 11 a.m. at San Rafael Branch Library. One child from the audience will be chosen to step inside a giant bubble! Parents, don't forget your cameras! (The event will repeat Thursday, May 5, at 3:30 p.m. at Lamanda Park Branch Library.) 

Bass/baritone Scott Graff, accompanied by John Rusnak on piano, will perform classical works Wednesday, May 4, from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. for the popular Music at Noon recital series at Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

"The Corn Is Green" (1945, NR) starring Bette Davis and Nigel Bruce will be shown Wednesday, May 4, at 1 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library. A schoolteacher in Wales becomes the mentor of a talented young miner and seeks to get him into a university, to the chagrin of the town squire.

Children will create special Mothers Day gifts Thursday, May 5, from 4 to 5 p.m. at Hastings Branch Library. All materials will be provided.

Violinist Ken Aiso and accompanist Valeria Morgavskaya will perform works by Mozart, Saint-Saëns, Britten, Lalo, Sarasate and Wieniawksi Thursday, May 5, from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music

A new load of garden-ready mulch from Pasadena Public Works Department street tree trimmings will be available to Pasadena residents Friday, May 6, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the southeast corner of the parking lot at Victory Park. In addition, Athens Services will provide 10 cubic yards of compost for pickup after 10 a.m. Bring your own shovel, container and gloves. The opportunity will continue daily until supplies are depleted. The next availability will be June 3.
The first Friday (and third Thursday) of every month is free admission day at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. On Friday, May 6, from noon to 5 p.m. enjoy the current exhibitions Claire Falkenstein: Beyond Sculpture; Brett Weston: Significant Details; and Kat Hutter and Roger Lee: Another California Day; and everything else the museum has to offer.

"The Big Short" (2015, R) starring Brad Pitt and Christian Bale will be shown Friday, May 6, at 1 p.m. in the Scott Pavilion at the Pasadena Senior Center. Predicting the credit and housing bubble collapse of the early 2000s, four men in the world of high finance decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. You do not have to be a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to attend.  

Sounds on South Lake presents indie folk singer Kyle Britton and soul and folk singer Laura Jean Anderson Friday, May 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. at 455 S. Lake Ave. (courtyard next to Paul Martin's American Grill). Britton will perform at 5 p.m. and Anderson at 6 p.m. This is a family- and pet-friendly event. The free music series will continue every Friday in May at locations throughout the South Lake district.

The first Friday of every month is free admission day at the Norton Simon Museum. On Friday, May 6, from 5 to 8 p.m. enjoy the current exhibitions Drawing, Dreaming and Desire: Works on Paper by Sam Francis; Duchamp to Pop; and everything else the museum has to offer.

See Urbanature at Art Center College of Design's Williamson Gallery ongoing through July 3 featuring works by 14 urban artists who are seeking to define their relationships with nature.


Centennial Square in front of Pasadena City Hall will be transformed into an outdoor concert space Saturday, May 14, at 8 p.m. for Music Under the Stars, the annual gift to the community from the Pasadena Symphony and Pops. The orchestras will be joined by special guest stars Dale Kristien, Norman Large and Katherine Strohmaier plus the JPL Chorus for a celebration of music from Broadway, the movies and the Great American Songbook. Come as early as 6 p.m., bring a lawn chair and a picnic dinner or purchase dinner onsite.  

Photo credits: One Colorado, Flocabulary, Nintendo, Mom It Forward, Acorn Newspapers, Warner Brothers, Children's Guide Blog, BBC, Preen, Visit Pasadena, Spectra, Kyle Britton, Laura Jean Anderson, Norton Simon Museum, Williamson Gallery, Pasadena Symphony and Pops.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Moon, Spoon, June

Now that I have been retired for just over four years (can you believe it?!), I have been venturing back to my love of creative writing after having spent nearly 40 years writing in the advertising and municipal government worlds.

Writing more creatively, as I did prolifically as a child, teenager and young adult, is not so easy to come back to in one smooth leap after all those years of writing print ads, video scripts, news releases, annual reports, speeches and so much more. 

I've been writing to my heart's content lately, some prose, some poetry. I'm not ready to share anything yet.

I did take Petrea Burchard's four-week Story Kitchen workshop last month and found it to be a productive pathway to writing my novel that will be based on real events.

It occurred to me earlier today that there is only one week of National Poetry Month remaining and that I should do some kind of related blog post. 

When I was in college more than four decades ago, we studied poems by W. H. Auden in Professor Gross's 20th century literature class.

Anyone who has been an English major knows the drill: Read and re-read a poem, silently and out loud (because a poem is meant to be heard) while paying attention to the punctuation that can help guide the voice of the reader and keeping an open mind to understand and perhaps interpret the intention of the poet and really appreciate the poem, if possible, on a gut level. There is a structure as well as a freedom to it all.

Then there was poetry writing. Another professor gave each of us an assignment to write 100 poems in one week. It sounds impossibly daunting, doesn't it? But it really wasn't. The entire point was to write. It was a grand experience.

This all may seem like a lethally dull drill to people who are not big literature and poetry aficionados, but it's not.

I was very fortunate to have had wonderful literature teachers in high school and college who inspired their students to love great works by making them relatable and enjoyable and fascinating, including poetry. 

I feel badly for people who never had this kind of experience in school. For them, great literature may always seem like too much of a drudge to bother. They will never know what they're missing.

But I digress.

So there we were, learning some of the poems of W. H. Auden over the course of three weeks or so, from his beloved 1937 "As I Walked Out One Evening" with its narrator, singing lover and noisy city clocks to the brief, haunting "August 1968" written after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia.

One of Auden's poems that really spoke to me during that time, and still today, is "Musée des Beaux Arts" written after he spent some time in Brussels, Belgium, during the late 1930s. One of his visits was to the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique to see paintings by Dutch masters.

He was inspired by the 1558 Pieter Bruegel painting "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." The painting is based on Ovid's "Metamorphoses Book VIII, Daedalus and Icarus."

On a large screen, Professor Gross showed us a slide of the painting and had us drink it all in quietly before he introduced the poem. At first glance the painting seemed simply to depict a lovely spring morning by the sea. I'll never forget the lights still being down in the room and my discovery of little details in the painting I had not noticed just moments before. 

His reading of Auden's 1938 poem brought to life the farmer who is too busy focusing on his plowing to notice Icarus plummeting from the sky and landing in the sea while a fisherman leans over the edge of the water to look at fish below the surface, never seeing that just a few feet away the legs of Icarus are poking out of the water as he drowns. And also in the painting, though not mentioned in the poem, a shepherd looks up at the sky but in the wrong direction to see what has happened to poor Icarus. Some things never change: While one person is in distress, others go about their regular business, never observing a thing.

First, here is the painting.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
By Pieter Bruegel 

And now the poem.

Musée des Beaux Arts
By W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on. 

Happy National Poetry Month. The Pasadena Public Library has hosted ongoing events since early April. 

One event remains, this one for adults. This is from the library's April newsletter:

"Be a poet! Create your own poem through an amazing interactive process led by a poet from Poetry Solves Problems, a literary & art community. Saturday, April 30 • 3 p.m. • Hill Avenue [Branch]"

And finally, here's Stephen Burt at a TED talk enthusiastically discussing why people need poetry. 

Who are your favorite poets?

Photo credits: Free Library of Philadelphia, Academy of American Poets, Burns Library at Boston College, Michele Wal, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beulah the Adventurer

I have kept photos of Beulah Easley (1882-1931), my paternal grandaunt, in my phone gallery as inspiration ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2015.

Breast cancer claimed Beulah's life in 1931 when she was 49 years old. In those days it was a death sentence for most women, with only a one in 20 rate of survival.

I have looked at those photos of Beulah so many times on my phone, taking some sense of comfort in silently and tearfully asking her to watch over me. (This is the first time I've ever revealed this to anyone.)

But breast cancer is not what motivated me to write this blog post. That inspiration came from my sister Charlou, who commented on this Facebook post of mine yesterday about Beulah being in the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Charlou wrote, "She had an interesting life...An independent woman when that was unheard of."

She sure did and she sure was. 

My siblings and I grew up with stories about Beulah and her siblings -- four brothers, including my beloved grandfather Jess Harper Easley (1891-1983). Fortunately, along with all the family stories on my father's and my mother's sides, there is a wealth of lovingly saved archival photos, documents, letters, telegrams, scrapbooks, family bibles and so much more memorabilia that are now in my possession for safe keeping and genealogy research.  

This is a precious page in her mother May's (my paternal great-grandmother's) autograph book, signed by Beulah when she was a child.

Being the only girl in the family didn't mean Beulah was all ribbons and lace. She held her own with her brothers, all of whom were younger than she was.

Let's just say she was the alpha chick.

Here she is, top right, in an Easley family portrait with her parents (my paternal great-grandparents) and her brothers in 1895.*

Jess Harper Easley, at the lower right, known by my siblings and me as Grandad, told me many times over the years that Beulah developed confidence and independence at a young age, was a leader at her schools in their hometown of Lebanon, Missouri, and had a healthy spirit of adventure.

She left Lebanon in 1902 at age 20 all by herself to have a grand adventure by train on her way to be a Harvey Girl in Albuquerque, New Mexico (but first she traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, for the job interview with the Harvey House personnel department).

She journeyed out west via the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway at the expense of the Fred Harvey Company, stopped and saw sights all along the way and finally arrived at the then-new Alvarado Hotel, part of the Harvey House family. 

The Alvarado Hotel was next door to the Albuquerque train depot, which included the Harvey Indian Museum.

There are more exterior photos here.

And here are a couple of interiors:

There are more interior photos here.

With the exterior designed by architect Charles Whittlesey and the interiors by Mary Colter, the Alvarado was considered one of the crown jewels of the Harvey House hotels in the west, incorporating native culture into its mystique, identity and Mission Revival and Craftsman styles.

Beulah is second from the top in the photo below with three other Alvarado Hotel Harvey Girls. The appearance and demeanor of Harvey Girls, on and off the clock, were held to very high standards.

Beulah stayed at the Alvarado for nearly a year. In addition to the $17.50 monthly salaries earned by Harvey Girls (about $450 today) at the turn of the last century, they received gratuities plus free lodging and meals. For single young women with no families to support, it was a pretty good deal given the alternatives of being school marms or housewives.

Some of the finest chefs in the nation also were employed at Harvey Houses, where travelers and other customers experienced a high standard of fine dining and gracious service in the large area of rural Kansas, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico generally known at the time as the wild west.

The 1946 MGM musical spectacular "The Harvey Girls" starring Judy Garland memorialized the profession of Beulah and so many others whose job it was to bring civility and hospitality to the wild west. The film, based on a novel with the same title, won an Academy Award.

Being a Harvey Girl isn't the end of Beulah's story.

She left the employment of the Fred Harvey Company in January 1903 after she got a telegram telling her to come home to Lebanon because her father, my great-grandfather Edward Merritt Easley (1846-1903), had passed away. 

Beulah stayed in Lebanon for a few months to help her newly widowed mother May, who still had four boys to raise in the midst of her grief. 

Then she headed off for another grand adventure, again all by herself, this time to San Francisco. She put her waitressing skills to work at a downtown restaurant while living in a nice boarding house and exploring every inch of that city.

She met Nicholas Kramer at some point. He was a German immigrant five years her senior who arrived in San Francisco in 1889 and owned a bakery where he made bread and cakes and pastries and such. They eventually married and she worked the front counter. 

The bakery was destroyed as a result of the April 18, 1906, San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires.

A few months later Nick and Beulah moved to Los Angeles County where they started a new life -- and a new bakery -- in Redondo Beach.

Here's Beulah in Redondo Beach in 1925:

I have never come across a photo of Nick Kramer. I wish I knew what he looked like. My genealogy trail on him comes to an end with the 1930 U.S. Census, which shows him and Beulah still living in Redondo Beach and working in the bakery. They never had any children.

Beulah died of breast cancer in 1931 at a hospital in Los Angeles.

Although there are many more photos of Beulah, for the purposes of this blog post, here is the final one I'll include of her (I created the circle), taken in 1930 on a visit home to Lebanon when she was 48 years old.**

There is a lot that I know about Beulah and a lot that I don't know.

After she married Nick, did she ever feel trapped working in bakeries? As she greeted customers, placed scones in boxes tied up with string and rang them up at the cash register, did she long to hit the road or the rails and embark on another exciting adventure? Or was she perfectly content in marriage, happily staying put? 

We will never know. 

What I do know, or choose to believe, is that she watches over me.

* Back row: Joe (1884-1971) and Beulah (1882-1831); bottom row: Crouch (1888-1978), Laclede (1893-1906), Jess (my paternal grandfather, 1891-1983). Their parents are Edward Merritt Easley (1946-1903) and May Crouch Easley (1864-1932).  

** Back row: May Crouch Easley, Alma Kleiner Easley (my paternal grandmother, 1900-1969), Beulah, Maude Feibleman Easley (Crouch's wife, 1888-1972); front row: Jess Easley, David Easley (my father, 1925-2008), Crouch Easley.

Photo credits: Easley family collection, Fred Harvey Photo Collection at University of Arizona, Keystone View Company, MGM.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Getting Older Isn't for Sissies

Yesterday my friend Jane Rodriguez and I went to the Pasadena Conference on Healthy Aging at Pasadena Church of the Nazarene, which has abundant meeting rooms, auditoriums and outdoor spaces.

There were about 300 people there, from ages 50 to 80+.  Here are Jane and me after lunch on one of the big patios.

Fritz Coleman, everyone's favorite weathercaster at KNBC-TV and a stand-up comedian, kicked things off at 9 a.m. with rollicking keynote schtick titled "Laughter Is the Best Medicine." He had everyone yucking it up for 20 minutes!

On the same stage, the Tap Chicks entertained us with a fun routine to the Jan and Dean song "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" (she got a speeding ticket for being the terror of Colorado Boulevard!). 

Then it was time to get down to business. There were 30 workshops with something for everyone, whether you grew up listening to The Andrews Sisters, Elvis Presley, The Supremes or KC and the Sunshine Band. 

Your grandmother never saw anything like this. Workshop titles included Hearing Loss After All Those Rock Concerts, Boost Your Brain Power, Finding Romance After 50, Simple Steps to Grow Your Own Small Business, Estate Planning for Baby Boomers, Stroke Prevention, Senior Housing Options and so many more. 

I'm just coming out the other side of breast cancer after nearly a year and Jane is recovering from some injuries and surgeries, so we decided a couple of health-related workshops were just the ticket. 

The first was Stay Healthy the Natural Way led by Dr. Amaliya Santiago. It was so informative, covering everything from health conditions associated with aging to developing balanced anti-inflammatory eating habits to the "dirty dozen" foods that should be consumed only if they are organically grown. There was much more info as well, including lifestyle factors, how to manage blood sugar naturally and a funny discussion about the wonders -- and potential dangers -- of poop!

Here's Dr. Santiago making her presentation. The Q&A afterwards was very helpful as well.

Laura Wending, program director at Cancer Support Community in Pasadena, led a workshop titled Helping the Mind, Body and Spirit Through Illness. Her discussion ran the gamut from how emotions affect the digestive system to mind/body/spirit connections and techniques for tapping in to them, including movement therapy, art and music therapy, humor, journaling and poetry, hypnotherapy, guided imagery, labyrinth walking and more. It was really fascinating.

Jane and I took plenty of notes at the workshops, each of which lasted one hour.

Lunch outdoors included healthy sandwiches, Sun Chips, fruit and camaraderie. . .

. . .and entertainment! The Tap Chicks lampooned El Niño, which never happened in Southern California despite all the promises from scientists and forecasters. I shot a little bit of video of their "Singin' in the Rain" routine. It was fun (really) to watch as we sat in the heat! (Sorry it cuts off at the end. I'm new to the video trimming app.)

I want to give a shout-out to Kevin Uhrich and André Coleman, editor and deputy editor, respectively, of the Pasadena Weekly for this week's issue. They included a meaty article about the Pasadena Conference on Healthy Aging, published a guest column by Pasadena Senior Center Executive Director Akila Gibbs, included a memorial tribute to Cynthia Rosedale and ran with a story idea I suggested to them about Gen Xers beginning to join the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers on the older-adult landscape.

The cover art was a great interpretation of that concept!

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, the Pasadena Senior Center is one of my PR clients.

Remember, older adulthood isn't for sissies (or as Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens put it on Justified...well, you'll have to click here to see how he put it!

I love this graphic I saw on Facebook recently:

Now go out there and live a life!