Chopped-down trees on Holly Street

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Ordinarily there would be hell to pay if the city of Pasadena were to suddenly and apparently capriciously chop down 30 mature — and huge — shade trees.

It’s a city of trees, after all. All them astronauts can see the green from space.

But in the case of the 15 carobs that lined the former YWCA side of Holly Street near Centennial Square, and the 15 that lined the former YM side as well, the city’s Forestry Department says that they were diseased and had to go.

And, truthfully, there is in their absence a magnificent new view of City Hall, and Holly is filled with new light. And the Mediterannean carobs were that new no-no, non-natives.

To replace the carobs (and their stinky pods), the foresters are soon to plant that most groovily indigenous of all local trees, Engelmann oaks, an endangered species the northernmost habitat of which is Pasadena and which have been greatly depleted by development.

So, those are going to be spectacular. And right now, so is the open space.

At Kate’s place


Kate, the owner of Crepevine in Old Pasadena, celebrated the third anniversary of her small, casual French bistro Monday night with a little party for her friends and customers.

By the time Phoebe and I walked in a little past 8, it was cheek-by-jowl time. We squashed together and talked with friends we didn’t even know were regulars too and drank red and white from plastic glasses and grabbed at the plates of passing pizza. We were all happy to be crammed in because it was a kind of celebration of the fact that everyone loves Kate, which is the reason her restaurant works. Oh, it also very much works because of the mussels in white wine and the croques monsieurs and the wine list filled with unusual, affordable bottles mostly of the Spanish and Gallic persuasion rather than the usual overpriced, unthoughtful dreck. It’s the best small-joint list in town.

Which is my point here. In these economic times, restaurateurs who want to stay open will do so on the force of their personalities. You have to be there for your personality to
be expressed. It would be like Europane without the creative presence of Sumi — there’d be no point. Crepevine has survived two major kitchen fires — what’s a little recession, after that?

People were talking about the closure of that other charming bistro, 750 ml in South Pas, and about the fact that L.A. owner Steven Arroyo of Cobras & Matadors and many others simply couldn’t be there much. (The Mission Street place will reopen as a woodfired pizza purveyor, certainly a smart move for the times.)

It’s a lot of work, and you have to show up to do it.

See you sometime at Kate’s place, which, while the mail may show up at 36 W. Colorado Blvd., is down the alley past Jake’s burgers and billiards.

A different election: Wednesday’s column today

FIRST-TIME voter Orlando, 24, called in to Patt Morrison’s show on KPCC Tuesday afternoon at 2 while driving on the 210.

“Man, I was feeling so good when I went into that polling booth that I was just laughing,” he said.

He’d skipped other elections but promised never to do it again.

Then Patt rang up Caltech political science professor Mike Alvarez, a leading expert on how and why people vote, and on the mechanics of doing so. Alvarez was in Albuquerque checking in on one of the swingingest of swing states.
“It’s a different kind of atmosphere than I’ve ever seen here before,” Alvarez said. “People driving by are honking and waving. They’re standing on the street corners waving signs. I’ve never seen this kind of politicking. There’s just a level of excitement …”

I’d felt that excitement around Pasadena all morning. On my morning run in the Arroyo Seco, other runners I passed by were exchanging greetings with more enthusiasm than on most days. Even at noon, my polling place was hopping much more than usual. Poll worker Martha Denzel thought the turnout so far was higher than she’d ever seen. At Civic Center Cleaners, every single customer had an “I voted” lapel sticker, and, seeing mine, they smiled and waved.

It was like an antic holiday. The joy in participating in the democratic process was more akin to that we see in countries in which voting is new and cherished than to our ho-hum about elections past.

And I had my own 210 election moment. Far ahead of me in my eastbound lane, I saw an older Dodge minivan plastered with six support-our-troops ribbon stickers — three yellow, three red, white and blue — one with a “Keep my soldier safe” motto.
Also, I saw as I got closer, most unusually for that public sentiment, the van had a “Bring our troops home” sign. Then the kicker: In the middle of them all, an Obama for President sticker.

This mix of sentiments were indicative of a different kind of service-member family politics than we’ve ever seen before. It was that kind of election.

It was also an election that was covered differently than anything we’ve witnessed. Four years ago, I wasn’t a blogger; now my digital camera is always in my pocket, and I was posting a picture on our Web site of No on Proposition 8 volunteer Stephanie Foley of South Pas minutes after I shot it. At the office, along with the other online coverage, I was checking out Plodt, the new entrepreneurial venture of former New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser, an e-mail friend since I interviewed her for the paper years ago.

It’s a Twitter thing, in which visitors to constantly rate everything about their lives on a 10 scale. Tuesday, on her Political Anxiety chart, Amanda wrote: “Feeling hopeful, and oddly emotional. mood 9. 1 minute ago.” Earlier: “Voting booth smelled of bad vegetable soup. food 0. about 4 hours ago.” Culinary criticism, political punditry — it’s an interconnected world, baby.

At one polling place in America

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No on Proposition 8 volunteer Stephanie Foley of South Pasadena stands on the sidewalk just over 100 feet south of my polling place today at the Linda Vista fire station. We know it was far enough to be legal — poll worker Bill Denzel measured it off with a length of string provided by the registrar of voters. Or perhaps provided by his wife, Martha. There was another No on 8er on the sidewalk 100 feet north of the station. Going in late because I’ll be working late tonight and wanting to avoid a wait at the booth, I gardened, ran with Charlie on the damp Arroyo Seco trails north of the golf course and did chores around the house. When the rain started at 4 I got up to turn off the sprinkler system and then was so election-day anticipatory that I couldn’t really get back to sleep.

Big day in America.

No lines at noon for my precinct, the flats of Linda Vista, but there was a five-minute line for the Annandalers in the same room. Former Altadenan Dixon Ridgway of the Palms area near Venice reports a 90-minute line this morning in West L.A. Martha said that there was a couple who arrived at 6 o’clock this morning. Informed that the polling place didn’t open till 7, they said that they knew, but wanted to make sure they didn’t have to wait in line. So … they waited for an hour in order to not have to wait.

It’s electric around town today. May the best man win and most of the propositions lose.

More pictures, with Sharon Yamashiro and other neighborhood poll workers and the many languages of voting in California:

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When journos get hitched

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Sonya Geis and Gene Maddaus met as fellow staff writers at the Pasadena Star-News. They are both wonderfully gifted writers and reporters — natural bird dogs, naturally skeptical, blessed with a healthy innate notion that authority is naturally to be questioned. When I hired them, I had no idea that romance would bloom. But it did, and they up and got married last month in Sonya’s home state of Minnesota, with Gene’s family jetting in from upstate New York. There was a party for the couple a few weeks ago in the back patio at Warszawa in Santa Monica where I took this shot. Both have moved on from Pasadena — Sonya first to the Washington Post’s L.A. bureau and then to “Which Way L.A.?” and “To the Point” at KCRW, Gene to our sister paper, the Daily Breeze, in the South Bay. But they are not forgotten here — and we miss them. Mazel tov!