Thursday, January 31, 2013

Political issues


Being a civil servant isn't always cutting ribbons, kissing babies and making important plans for other people. Sometimes, it’s helping people through a tough time that neither of you have much control over.

DSC_0301Councilman Vargas recently organized a community meeting for his district to talk about CalTrans’ widening of Interstate 5 where it goes through his district. He brought two city engineers to discuss the ramifications to the residences in the area.

There will be street closures, major streets that will go from four lanes to two and other through streets that will be converted into cul-de-sac streets. For 18 months, several hundred families will be subjected to construction noise, dirt and traffic nightmares.

There was a crowded house as the mike was passed around the room so people could ask questions and make comments. The councilman is trying to ease his constituents through this difficult but necessary time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Downey Counts" volunteers

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Last night I wrote about the first meeting at the Moravian Church to prepare volunteers to go out into the streets and document our homeless neighbors.

IMG_0290The intention is that once we have figured out how many homeless there actually are, we can be more effective in helping them and providing the services that are needed. For the next two nights, volunteers such as the ones pictured here will be hitting the streets to help.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Downey Counts

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Counting the homeless in Downey:  Pastor Christie Melby-Gibbons of the Moravian Church of Downey has helped to coordinate an effort in our community to provide services for the homeless. Tonight was the beginning of that effort. A group of civic leaders (including Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard pictured above with Christie) and concerned citizens met at the Moravian Church for a training meeting in preparation for the first step—counting the homeless. Volunteers also prepared hygiene kits for the homeless who agree to participate in the survey. The kits include hygiene products, a fast food meal card, and a fleece blanket.

IMG_0303 as Smart Object-1Mayor Mario Guerra attended. Here he is being recorded by Downey's own documentary filmmaker, Julian Park.

It's not too late to get involved. The homeless count and surveys will take several nights. If you are interested in helping, email Pastor Christie at

Sometimes it's easy to walk by because we know we can't change someone's whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.
~Mike Yankoski

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gloom of night

Downey Post Office

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

That's what it says on an inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City. But in reality, the post office shuts down during the gloom of night. The delivery trucks are lined up and ready for the next day's mail, when neither rain nor heat will keep our mail carrier from showing up with the mail.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Backyard art?

Rio San Gabriel riverbed yardart

On our riverbed walks, we pass the back sides of houses. Mostly just fences, but occasionally, we see an extension of the yard. Sometimes a vegetable garden (which seems like a very cool use of the space), or sometimes a dog run. We've even seen a goat!

Or, in this case, yard art. A wildly eclectic bunch of statues and figurines that makes me very curious about the front of this house.

Rio San Gabriel riverbed yardart

The writing on the wall...

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Continuing with our walk along the Rio San Gabriel river... we went as far as the freeway overpass.

IMG_0273This area (under the Santa Ana freeway, where the 605 splits off) is not the beautiful scenic part of this walk. Although it is certainly interesting. The underpass has generally been tagged quite extensively. While we didn't investigate thoroughly this trip, there was definitely new "writing" that has taken place. I even found my daughter's name scrawled in one place. I'm pretty sure she did not do it...

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Friday, January 25, 2013

North or south?

Rio San Gabriel Riverbed

Earlier this week, before the rain returned, we took a walk on the Rio San Gabriel riverbed.

Looking to the south in this picture, one might wonder why. It's not very attractive, although I find the seemingly unending concrete riverbed intriguing, and even picturesque in its own way.

But turn around, and you'll see why. We headed north, where the sides of the riverbed are lined with trees, and the riverbed itself is thriving. Flocks of geese stop here often to rest and feed before continuing their journey south.  And directly in front of us (on a clear day) is an excellent view of the mountains. (Yes, that's Mt. Baldy again.)

Altogether, a very nice walk!

Mt. Baldy

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Backyard splash


Don't get me wrong, I love the rain. But on days like this, when it feels I've somehow teleported to Seattle, I miss the summer. I went back in my pictures and found this one of my cousin jumping in the pool trying to perfect his cannon ball. My brother's underwater camera was the hit of the 4th of July party.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lively ghost town


I am becoming more and more obsessed with history. To learn about people and places that existed years and years before I walked around on this earth just fascinates me. I do have a hard time remembering the sequence of things though. I can't remember when the Civil War was compared to the Gold Rush. World War I—before or after the great depression? Is that what caused it, or was it the Wall Street Crash?

I hear tidbits of history and eat them up like I was a part of it, but then I forget them anytime it's actually needed. I just learned tonight that California became a state in November of 1850 but we didn't hear about it in Los Angeles until twelve weeks later (thank you Mayor Guerra). I wonder how long I'll remember that...

This little dilapidated piece of rubble was part of a mine opening in the silver mines of Calico, California. A few miles east of our little town (126 actually), Calico remains a ghost town of the rush of the late 1800s. Walter Knott bought the land later and moved a few of the original homes and stores to Knott's Berry Farm where he could bring it back to life in honor of the men.

It's a great place to take the family to camp or horseback ride or just sit on a porch rocking chair and sip a sarsaparilla.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To go, please

Tacos Don Chente

The tables at Tacos Don Chente were pretty empty at dinner time tonight. That's because when you think about eating out on a week night, you're usually thinking about take-out—a nice dinner at home with your family, a dinner that you didn't have to cook.

That was certainly the case here, where the phone lines were busy and people were constantly coming through to pick up their dinner.

And yes, dinner was good!

Monday, January 21, 2013


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You couldn't really tell what it was from a distance. It took me a while, almost until I was just under the tree, to realize it was someone's toy plane. Unfortunately, whoever owned this plane will probably not get it back. It appears to be securely lodged up in this tree.

IMG_0253 as Smart Object-2Somehow seeing this plane reminded me of the movie Airplane. One of my favorite quotes from the movie: 

"There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope  you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?"

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bridging the gap

The bridge at Wilderness Park

To wrap up my afternoon at Wilderness Park last weekend, here's one of my favorite views.

It's a favorite of many. During the warmer months, there are almost always photo shoots taking place here. But with last week's cold weather, the ducks and I had it all to ourselves.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Practice makes perfect...


Today was tryouts for Northwest Downey Little League at Furman Park. We caught the tail end as we were taking our usual route around the park. Even though the fields were emptying, kids were off to the sides practicing their skills.



They were fun to watch, but I bet this little "batter" would do better if he kept his eyes open when he swung at the ball. Here's to a great season and probably a lot more practice.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The ugly duckling?

Ducks at Wilderness Park

At the park last weekend (before our warmer weather returned—notice those jackets!), the geese held sway at one end of the park (see The goose takes a gander) and the ducks ruled at this end.

Ducks at Wilderness ParkAt least, they did until this guy appeared. I first noticed him looking all stately and quiet on the other side of the lake. But apparently the idea of all that bread being spread around was too tempting for him.

He landed with a splash in the middle of the ducks, where he stuck out like a sore thumb. Then he made a nuisance of himself trying to hoard all the treats.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

And the verdict is out

Los Angeles Courthouse, Downey

Now that I'm done with jury duty, I can tell you all about my case! Well, I'm sure you don't want to know every detail but what I will say is, out of all the courts I've been to for jury duty (Los Angeles, Compton, and now Downey), Downey is by far superior in every way.

I've always felt this was a laid back community, but this week and last week really proved me right. The bailiff, for example, was so polite and very easy to communicate with, a concept I am not used to from other courts. From the security guards at the front door to the judge in his throne, everyone was as nice as could be. Of course they were official and to the letter of the law, but you get what I'm saying. I actually wouldn't mind getting jury duty again if it was here. (That was not a request though!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Walking with the mayor


I needed a picture idea for tonight for our blog and couldn't think of anything. So I put out a message on one of the Downey pages of Facebook and immediately got responses from events all over Downey! The first one was "walking with the mayor," a new program Mayor Guerra is promoting for "Healthy Downey." Pam and I met the group at the Downey High football field/track and set off on our laps.

It was a lot of fun getting out with part of the community that I don't see very often for something we could all use a little more of. This is me (far right, front group) chatting with the mayor about school safety. It was great having this kind of low key event to just talk to people and find out what's going on with our city. Come out and join us next week!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy flowers


These flowers caught my attention today. They were growing on the side of a neighbor's house. There was something about these red flowers, it was almost like they were celebrating the warmth of the morning sun. They seemed vibrant with a "happy personality."

"Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock."
~ Henry Ward Beecher, Star Papers: A Discourse of Flowers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The goose takes a gander

Goose and dog at wilderness park

Can a goose and a dog ever find common ground?

Goose and dog at wilderness parkEveryone was enjoying watching this feathered and furry meeting at Wilderness Park. The pup wanted so badly to make this an up-close-and-personal relationship. But the goose was having none of it. Firmly standing his ground, he gave the pup a piece of his mind.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Circular reasoning

Skid mark circles

OK, this isn't what I had planned to show you today. But after yesterday's post about the "crop circle" that mysteriously appeared in our neighborhood, I was startled to discover another circular skid mark today.

These are, as nearly as I can tell, perfectly shaped circles. It seems unlikely that a driver could make such a perfect circle intentionally. Joan asked, in yesterday's post, "Could some intelligent being have done this?" Given that this circle covers both directions of a busy Downey street, I think we have our answer: No!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


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I'm not sure when this circle "cropped" up, but certainly it happened overnight. I came across it on my morning walk. One day it wasn't here, the next it appeared. How could this have happened? I was also intrigued to notice how the shadow of the light pole intersected the circles...very compelling, don't you think? I've heard of crop circles in southern England, never in Downey!

I've read about "intelligent beings" using Euclidean geometry to form these circles. Could some intelligent being have done this? We may never know. Should I be ready for a close encounter?

Friday, January 11, 2013


Downey Gateway sign

I guess it's official—with the sign up, Downey Gateway is nearing completion. A downtown corner packed with eating places. Not restaurants, exactly, but not your typical fast food places either.

Downey Gateway storesWhat a difference a couple of months make. (Click here to compare to November.) The signs are up, the kitchens are beginning to look like kitchens, and the seating areas are filling in with seats.

This seems like the kind of area that is likely to bring a lot more foot traffic to downtown. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Downey Gateway kitchen

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sunset serenity


As I came home today with the setting sun behind me, I decided to climb the eight flights of stairs to get to the top of the Embassy Suites building so that I could get the best view of my city. Since it was so clear however (it rained last night), all I could focus on was how far I could see! The mountains to the north were clear and snow sprinkled and the Hollywood sign (pictured far right) glimmered in the sunset behind the Los Angeles skyline. Both God-made and man-made creations dazzled me today.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Midnight snack


It's the middle of the night and you just got home from work. You're hankering for something sweet. Where can you go? Thrifty's of course! I've been coming here since I was a kid, although the single scoops were a lot cheaper back then. I always get the same—single scoop, chocolate chip cookie dough.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Good morning LA


One of the things I appreciate about living in Downey is how close we are to so many places. This morning I headed out to explore a little of LA with a friend. We ended up about 20 miles away on Mulholland Drive. The morning was beautiful. We stopped at a scenic point to take in the view. (You can even see the Hollywood Bowl in the bottom right corner.) 

IMG_0216 as Smart Object-1 We also had a great view of the iconic "Hollywood sign." According to, the message of the sign remains the same as it has always been:  "This is a place where magic is possible, where dreams can come true."

The magic worked for me. We managed to take 5 freeways as a part of our morning jaunt and had almost no traffic. In LA, that is a dream come true!

Monday, January 7, 2013

My tree under siege

Tree under construction

For some time now, I've laid claim to this tree. And now, my tree is under siege, surrounded by scaffolding and tarps and chain link fencing.

This has led me to a second conclusion—it's not just that this is my tree. It's also my wall. The pattern and color of the brick wall are what give life to the images of my tree. (See here and here.)

Someone has decided this needs to change. When I mentioned the "always changing" nature of my tree in my last post about the tree, this wasn't what I had in mind!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Take out tonight

BJ's takeout

I enjoy eating out, but I have less and less patience these days for long waits. So getting food to go from BJ's Brewhouse at the Stonewood Center is the perfect quick-and-easy compromise.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A bit of the bubbly

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I woke up sick today and pretty much spent the day in bed. About half an hour ago I realized I had a post to do today and no picture. So, I am cheating a little.

New Year's eve we spent the evening at our house with a group of friends. We ate, played games and celebrated with champagne. I don't drink champagne often, but when I do, I love to watch the bubbles as they rise up in the glass.

"I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty." - Lilly Bollinger (Bollinger Champagne Family)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fundraising starts early

Downey Rose Parade Float

Each year after the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Downey float returns to Downey and sits in the Embassy Suites hotel parking lot so that everyone can enjoy the finished float up close.

Downey Rose Parade Float fundraisingNot only is the Downey float built by volunteers, it's also funded by volunteer donations. There's no city funding, no corporate sponsor. So fundraising for each year's float goes on all year long. You'll see the Downey Rose Float Association at the summer concerts and other events, and selling fireworks for the 4th of July.

And the fundraising starts here, when flowers from the float are for sale to anyone who wants a souvenir.

Downey Rose Parade Float

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pictures of people taking pictures

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As we turned the bend in the road, we all gasped at the beauty before us. Who cared if there was no snow to play in? The view was worth the drive. We pulled over and couldn't get a wide enough angle to let in all the beauty. Here, Pam takes a few shots of Mt. Baldy, as it is lovingly nicknamed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ah, winter...


January and February really are our winter months in Downey. It starts to really cool down to a chilling 47-55 degrees (Fahrenheit) and you can see the mountains from the streets on a clear day. Even the leaves on the trees decide to dress their part for this season. Some even fall off completely!