Fifty

1964

In Pasadena a few weeks ago, I chuckled at Pizza Man’s sign, saw the possibilities and couldn’t resist a selfie that includes the relevant portion. And here the photo is today, my 50th birthday. I’m glad not only that I’m still around, but that I have it together enough to remember that I took the picture.

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Brand new me

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Due to reader complaints (!), I had my column photo retaken recently. The previous one was shot by one photographer who took the entire staff’s portraits one day in late 2012. It was like class picture day in school, except there was no advance notice.

I trooped in as ordered. Most of the instructions had to do with squaring my shoulders and turning to the side while facing the camera. A bright light shone on me. No attempt was made to amuse me, such as by squeezing a squeaky toy or jingling a bell.

My idea for a mug, as we call them, was to make my expression all-purpose. No need to look too giddy if the column it accompanies might one day happen to be about nuclear fallout. I tried to keep my smile modest.

Months flew by, seasons passed, and suddenly one day in mid-2013 the mug showed up online and in print as my new official portrait. (The print version is round and the exact size of a dime. It looks like I’m being viewed through a porthole. The online version is from the chest up.)

That small smile turned out to be impossible to spot without a magnifying glass. Also, the open shirt, high collar and low angle combined to render a version of me that did not fit my persona, or really resemble me closely.

“Why do you look angry?” one friend asked. “You look tough,” a co-worker said. “Are you going to beat me up?” a third worried.

Through fall and winter, I made three requests for a new photo. Finally, when a higher-up suggested I pose for a photo for publicity purposes, I brought up the mug. A fresh one was shot the next day. Two colleagues, Liset Marquez and Monica Rodriguez, also had new, more flattering portraits taken.

This time I resolved to smile. Laugh, even. Jennifer Cappuccio Maher obligingly kidded around with me as she clicked the shutter in our studio. A day later, the new photo showed up online, and a few days later in print. Looks far better, although I wish I’d checked a mirror and buttoned one more button.

A few people (including Upland Councilman Gino Filippi) have told me it’s a big improvement. And a reader from Upland named Rosemary emailed me under the subject line “Your smiling face” as follows:

“Thank God you have a new picture for your column. The other one made you look like a very unsavory character. (Are you?) I enjoy your column very much, especially when you write about your Metrolink trips into L.A. You have a nice smile, what took you so long to attach it to your column?”

Gee, I dunno (digs toes into dirt). I just hope no one complains when I write about somebody who died and my photo looks like I’m yukking it up.

davidallen

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Super?

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Evidently there was some sort of sporting contest yesterday, but once again, I missed the whole thing.

It’s an annual tradition here that we discuss what we did instead of watching football. In my case, I took part in a morning Secret Stairs hike in Hollywood that involved Bronson Canyon and the Batcave from the 1960s “Batman” show (see above), followed by lunch in Los Feliz. That was all before the big game, though, and for the game itself, I was sore enough from the hike, and tired enough from the early start, that I sat on the couch like many of fellow countrymen and -women. Except I was watching the tail end of the DVD “Stones in Exile,” a documentary about the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” album (only my favorite ever), and then listening to a disc of Louis Armstrong’s “Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography” while reading the CD booklet.

If you stayed away from what “everyone else” was doing, share the details below.

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Private ‘stache

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At the Upland firefighter party last week marking the mustache-growing Movember effort, paste-on mustaches were distributed to anyone who didn’t have the real thing, which almost no one did. I donned one. Councilman Gino Filippi, who did the same, told me: “You kind of have the look of Clouseau.” Flatterer.

Filippi later emailed me a photo he took of me taking a photo. My camera looks absurdly small, like a “fun size” candy car, but it gets the job done (sort of).

fakestash2

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Column: How do you break in a new car? Road trip!

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Wednesday’s column is about my vacation, from which I returned Friday. (Unless you paid attention to my Twitter feed, you wouldn’t have known I was gone, as columns and blog posts kept appearing. Neat trick, eh?) I took a road trip up to the Bay Area and back along the coast. Really nice.

Above, the CDs I brought along, atop my California road atlas. Below are a few paragraphs I cut from the column, picking up right after I respond to my friend’s comment about mp3s. I chopped ‘em for space and maybe relevancy.

A few sights along the drive up:
• A shared sign for a new shopping center in Delano has space for logos of a dozen tenants. Only two slots were filled: McDonald’s and Walmart. Well, that covers the lowest common denominators.
• “It’s Happening in Soledad,” a billboard read. Next line: “Gateway to the Pinnacles.” This left me confused where “it” was really happening, Soledad or the Pinnacles.
• Rest stops are a true blessing to the weary traveler, and a couple of the ones on the 99 in Tulare County were especially clean and modern-looking. Nice job, Caltrans. My sole complaint: California maps on display at the rest stops tend to be about water use or Spanish missions and never pinpoint where you are. Is it a secret?
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