Monday, May 12, 2008

L.A. Without a Car: Day Three

To Pasadena today. The Gold Line, part of the electric rail network, originates at Union Station and runs through Pasadena to the adjacent town of Sierra Madre. We lived in Sierra Madre for seven years in the 1960s. I've been back only three or four times since then, and on some of those trips we passed through quickly. My challenge today is to reorient myself. I got off at the Memorial Park station and immediately found myself in unfamiliar territory. I knew the street names and I knew which direction I was going, but I could not remember seeing any of the buildings.

I walked by an indirect route to the Norton Simon Museum which I have previously visited, though it had not yet been built when we lived here. This museum, which houses works collected (incredibly) by one man, has a good selection of European masters from the 14th through the 20th century, with a particularly impressive collection of Impressionist painters and 20th century sculptors. Some of the sculptures reside in the enclosed garden, a serene lake surrounded by a magnificent variety of plants and trees. This is where I ate lunch.

Several school groups were touring the museum, each with a tour guide. One guide was explaining a self-portrait of Rembrandt. She asked the student how they could tell if a person was intelligent. By his eyes, of course. And the intense gaze of the artist showed how intelligent he was. Poppycock! Obviously she'd never stared into a mirror while painting a picture of herself.

Colorado Avenue is the main east-west street in Pasadena, the route of the Rose Bowl parade. The western end is now filled with high-end stores, one after another. Alleyways between old brick buildings have been made into charming pedestrian walks with small shops and colorful plantings. When we lived here, I didn't frequent this part of town. I have a vague memory that it was a neighborhood of auto dealers and run-down stores. I recognized City Hall and a near-by church, but they seemed to have been reoriented by 90 degrees.

As I continued east, I scrutinized each building carefully. Many have obviously been built in the past 40 years, but even the old ones kindled no memories. Growing tired of walking, I caught a bus. We passed a Target store, and I suddenly recalled that 40 years ago the building had been a nice department store. Robinsons? I shopped most often at the Broadway; I think that building is gone.

Transferring to a Lake Avenue bus, I started to feel a few glimmers. There was the place that had been a conditori where my cousin and I stopped for pastry. I left my infant daughter with him to take my toddler son to the bathroom. While I was gone, a passer-by admired the baby and asked my cousin, who seemed to be the father, how old the baby was. He replied, "I have no idea." The building that is now Macy's was an elegant department store whose name I have forgotten.We lived in the adjacent town of Sierra Madre for seven years in the 1960s. I've been back only three or four times since then, and on some of those trips we passed through quickly. My challenge today is to reorient myself.

Wild Oats was then Jorgensen's, a gourmet grocery store. When I turned onto California Street, there was Pie and Burger, a favorite haunt of Caltech students. The Caltech campus, where my husband had been a grad student and then an assistant professor, was finally familiar ground. His old building is still there and so is the faculty club where he rented a bed in the open-air loggia the first year he was a grad student. Since he had an office, he only needed a place to sleep, and he couldn't resist the price of $12 per month.

Having succeeded at last in synchronizing my memories of 45 years ago with the reality of today, I took the Gold Line back to Union Station and the motel.

I have not figured out how to upload photos from my XO computer to this blog. And I don't quite understand why several pictures I took with the XO disappeared. I may add pictures after I get home, so check back next week.

Oregon pedometer -11,086 steps


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