Toasting you with a lite

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In the late 1970s, there was a brief craze for generic brands. This lite beer was cooked up by General Brewing in downtown L.A. and marketed at Ralphs supermarkets. I remember hoisting a few of the $1.99-a-six-pack specials. Let’s just say the price was right. It was at least as good as Billy Beer, named after the president’s low-life brother. The rains unearthed this buried can on my running trail in the Arroyo Seco, and last Saturday someone placed it artistically on the branch of an oak. Happy new year!

Jessica Alba at Jones Coffee


Actress Jessica Alba may regularly rank No. 1 on such as’s list of 99 Most Desirable Women in the Galaxy, but when it comes to punctuation, she’s no English major.

I can forgive a lot in a girl, but introducing apostrophes in this capricious manner on a poster she signed for Chuck Jones at his family’s most excellent coffee shop on South Raymond Avenue … well, it’s a deal-breaker.

I’m guessing the Pomona native was shooting a flick in Pasadena when she discovered how good Jones is. The local favorite recently moved into bigger and better digs down the street from its original location, with more room to spread out the laptop and stay all morning over lattes and pastries. The family grows its own coffee on a plantation in Guatemala and roasts the beans right here.

Old man river in Pasadena

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Wednesday morning, with the rain still coming down, they — “they” being county flood control — hadn’t fully released the water coming down from Devil’s Gate Dam in the Arroyo Seco concrete channel.

This morning — Christmas eve eve, with the six days straight of rain behind us — they have, and it’s as brown and way wilder and almost as voluminous as the Mississippi. The Colorado. Seco no longer. This shot is just west of the Rose Bowl, where a fleet of Lincoln Town Cars were parked just out of this frame. Is it Wisconsin brass in town prepping for the big game New Year’s Day — or Texas Christian?

A river in the Big Ditch

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Twenty … five, I guess it is, years ago, I did a cover story for the old Pasadena Weekly about the Arroyo Seco that my editor Pam Fisher headlined The Big Ditch.

This morning, in these record rains, with no golfers on the course and me in a watertight rainsuit, I took Charlie for a run all over the north holes of Brookside, a romp he always enjoys. Tried to stick to the cart paths as my shoes were getting squishy. We went over to the concrete channel and looked down into the roar of what is being released from Devil’s Gate … nice show.

A new stream in the Arroyo

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The Big Ditch in the middle of Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco is of course running knee-deep and very fast from Devil’s Gate to the L.A. River in a days-long downpour like this. But there’s some water in it almost every day of the year.

By Saturday, though, this ordinarily bone-dry seasonal tributary was roaring like the East Walker during a big release — without the large-shouldered brown trout.

It’s at the start of my favorite dog-running trail where West Drive meets Washington Boulevard just west of Brookside Golf Course.

California Crack Up

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Pasadena Poly grad Joe Mathews, above, is the author, with Mark Paul, of the new analysis of what ails the Golden State, “California Crack Up.” Joe spoke to the annual fundraiser for the Charles Cherniss Tournament of Toys the other day at a lunch at Smitty’s on South Lake — that’s architect Andrew Sussman in the frame as well.

Joe and his co-author are big-thinking iconoclasts. He doesn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy of redistricting reform helping California back to a rational politics. In a chapter called “A More Direct Democracy,” they point out that legislative districts are the same size as in 19th-century California, when few people were here, and so map out a system that relies in part on many more representatives getting involved at a local, council-style level.

100,000 miles


I remember in 1982, in graduate school at Thunderbird in Glendale, Arizona, pulling over to the side of the country road when my 1972 Volvo 145E’s odometer rolled over to 100,000 (analog) miles and taking a (film) picture of it …

So the other night, when my 2003 Mini Cooper did the same, I pulled over to the curb outside the Norton Simon Museum on Colorado Boulevard and snapped this six-figure shot.

Volvo was running a little rough at that time in its life. Cooper is running like a top …

Ode to a Cuban cigar


My father, E. Milton Wilson of Claremont, painted this version of a puro de Habana on one side of a postcard and mailed it to me after penning a poetic lament on the back, including this: “Hey, those missiles are gone / No nuclear dawn / Flashed red as we awoke — / So, please, can I have my smoke?”

Happy 83rd on Sunday, Dad!

Christmas in Altadena

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When I was growing up in Altadena, this home and garden on Mendocino was where family physician Dr. Haines lived, across from the Town & Country Club. Now it’s one of the five houses that will be on tour in a benefit for Saint Mark’s School the evening of Friday, Dec. 3 and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. For ticket information, go to