Friday, January 31, 2014

The cost of convenience

Convenience store

One of the businesses that does stay open late in Downey is the convenience store at the local gas station. This store, as is typical of convenience stores, offers a little bit of everything, with the benefit of being open late to suit my whims, with no waiting in line. All it costs me is a little higher price for my late night ice cream snack.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Digging ditches

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Downey has been doing a lot of street repair work lately. They repaved Brookshire from Firestone Blvd to Imperial Hwy. They also redid the cement curbs along the same area. Now they are redoing any damaged curbs on the side streets that connect to Brookshire. This is one of them.

It's one of the things I don't mind them spending my tax money on. It makes for a much smoother ride and the water flows better during a rain.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Look for the sunshine

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I enjoy passing this home on one of my bike ride routes because it looks like it's always smiling at me.

P1030194“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder - Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter nights continued

Night lights

And in another area of Downey, the corridor is well lit, but empty. Businesses close down early in this part of town.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Winter nights

Night lights

Our recent warm spell has made it comfortable to take a walk after dinner. But walking through the empty streets reminds me that winter nights have a very solitary feel to them.

"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself."
~ Ruth Stout

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How the other half lives

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I had to share just a few more pictures from our adventure this past weekend with friends in South Bend, Indiana.

IMG_3060 as Smart Object-1One of the things about living in Downey, CA, is that you forget how dramatic "real" weather can be for the other parts of our country. I find it quite daunting to think how much more effort goes into clearing the driveway just so you can back your car out so you can go to work!

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baby it's cold outside

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We are in South Bend, Indiana, for the weekend for a birthday party for a special 2-year-old. The connection to Downey is that the friends we are visiting used to live in Downey.

IMG_3053 as Smart Object-1We are in the Home of the Fighting Irish ~ Notre Dame and it's COLD! Today it snowed and is currently 14 degrees outside.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Well coordinated

Blooming trees

Every year when these trees in my neighborhood bloom, I am struck with how well the trees complement the color choices used to paint the house.

Blooming trees

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Perceived reality

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The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) is located here in Downey. It is located in several buildings once owned by Rockwell and Boeing, who even left several satellite dishes. One is about 20 feet across.

LACOE serves the citizens of Los Angeles County by helping the public school districts follow the educational laws of California. Another function it fulfills is to distribute federal funds for Head Start programs. The responsibility of dispersing these funds carries with it the responsibility of making sure that the funds are being used in the best interest of the children.

There are multiple organizations that LACOE funds with the Head Start monies. It tracks the progress of each of these organizations for adherence to federal standards. When an organization falls below the federal standards, LACOE assists them to improve their processes. If they do not improve within three years, they are released from the program and another organization is found to replace them. The children will probably never know there was a change unless they get a new teacher.

This group outside of LACOE's main building is protesting LACOE's decision to cancel the organization's funding. The organization got the parents and children to protest based on the assumption that the Head Start program their children were involved in was being cancelled. But only the provider of Head Start programs was being changed. Not the program itself. And it should improve.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Relaxing in the suites

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I took a ride over to the Embassy Suites to look at their lobby. I always enjoy going there to see the atmosphere they have created in the midst of a busy inn. Next to the Firestone Grill Restaurant, the koi fish pond, with its cascading waterfall, has a way of relaxing even the most stressed of us.

P1030176I wonder if they are any good to eat?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Medusa trees

Furman Park tree

The advantage of winter is that you can see what the leaves hide the rest of the year—the shape of the tree. These trees, of which there is a long row in Furman Park, always make me think of Medusa.

In Greek mythology Medusa was generally described as having the face of a hideous human female with living venomous snakes in place of hair. These branches, swirling every which way, remind me of those snakes.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The winter orange

Orange tree

The Orange Estates area of Downey is living up to its name right now. All of the orange trees are covered with oranges that are just getting sweeter and more orange every day.

February, March, and April are the peak season for the California navel orange, when the oranges are at their sweetest. According to Produce Pete, look for oranges that are shiny and heavy in the hand.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rio Hondo River Walk

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It was such a beautiful day, and once again felt like summer. The sky was blue and filled with puffy clouds. Both dogs were ready for an adventure. We couldn't resist heading out to the Rio Hondo riverbed.

IMG_2816 as Smart Object-1Once you are there, the path is wide and the surroundings give you a sense that you are removed from the city.

Did you know that in Downey the Rio Hondo River was once known as the "Old River" because it was the old course of the San Gabriel River. The Old River School was named for it, and Old River School Road was named for the school. It's not much of a river these days, it has become a concrete-lined channel for flood control.

The dogs don't mind that the river on the other side of the wall is concrete. They had fun running along the path, sniffing new smells, chasing birds and just enjoying being outside.

"In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous."
~ Aristotle

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Leaves

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I love Downey in the winter! I guess it's because we don't really have true seasons, but it is really nice this time of year. The sky is generally clearer, the mountains seem so close and the trees are full of color. Of course, it hasn't felt like winter with 80 degree days....

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"Autumn is a second spring, where every leaf is a flower"
~ Alburt Camus

Friday, January 17, 2014

Where there's smoke

Wildfire glow

I woke up Thursday morning thinking that I must have woken up earlier than usual—nothing else could explain that beautiful sunrise glow on the walls. But no, instead, it was the result of the smoke in the air from the wildfire burning in our local mountains, about 30 miles northeast of us.

There's never been a wildfire in Downey that I can remember. But we are impacted all the time by the wildfires in the surrounding mountains. Smoke fills the air; schools are closed or the kids are kept inside; ash covers parked cars. And neighboring cities send help. Two Downey fire department engines were dispatched to assist.

As of tonight, the Colby wildfire is 30% contained, due to the fact that the weather cooperated and the winds died down today. But 1700 acres have burned, and at least five homes have been destroyed. At least four people have been injured.

Too high a price for a little early morning golden glow.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Change in usage

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When I was in my late teens, I had my first visit to Downey. I grew up in La Mirada, a city 7 miles east of Downey, and the only knowledge I had with Downey was that the Carpenters singing group was from there.

La Mirada didn't have any military recruiting offices, so I went to this small strip mall on Paramount Blvd in Downey to go through the process of enlisting in the army. They had me take an aptitude test that gave me several options for my training. I chose to go to X-ray technician school. Once I finished my enlistment, I was able to get my license to be an X-ray technician in California without going back to school. I also received several benefits from the GI bill.

The recruiting office for all the armed services is now on the corner of Firestone Blvd and Patton Road, across from Downey High School.

What was your first visit to Downey?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Parking tickets

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Back in October of last year, there was a letter to the editor of the local Downey Patriot asking why cars parked on Paramount Blvd outside the Saturday swap meet in a no parking zone were not ticketed. I thought I would see if I could capture this phenomenon for you.

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
~ Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)

Not even parking tickets.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A meeting of the minds

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Tonight was the City of Downey Council Meeting. It was Mayor Fernando Vasquez's first meeting as mayor and it was standing room only. Awards were handed out. Some of the honorees:  the Downey Rose Float Association, local school kids who had won an art contest (the pictures will be featured in the Patriot), the previous board members from Downey Community Hospital.

IMG_2783 as Smart Object-1IMG_2767 as Smart Object-1Then came the agenda items. We were attending the meeting to support the DMOA (Downey Museum of Art). The council was scheduled to decide between the DMOA and a proposal from the YMCA for use of a building located in Furman Park.

The council decided to pursue the option using the YMCA's proposal for the Furman Park location and to work toward getting the DMOA a site closer to Downtown Downey.
The decision was made around 11:30pm... and the meeting went on until after midnight. A long day for the City Council.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government."
~ Thomas Jefferson

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wedding at the park

Wilderness Park wedding

Wilderness Park, where I stopped by yesterday for a quick visit, is probably Downey's prettiest park (although you wouldn't know it by this particular view). So it's natural that people want to hold their weddings or quinceaƱeras at this park.

Wilderness Park egretIt's not unusual to see many wedding and quinceaƱera parties scattered around the park. However, it was sunset when I stopped by, and I think this couple was posing for a last-minute shot before they left, while their remaining friends and this great egret looked on.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The unfolding sunset

Wilderness Park

Sunsets are amazing. They happen every single day, but they still catch me by surprise when I have the opportunity to watch the sun sink below the horizon, as I did this afternoon at Wilderness Park.

"When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, 'Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.' I don't try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds."
~ Carl R. Rogers

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Angeleno Heights

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Continuing on our adventure exploring the secret stairs of the Echo Park area, we walked to an area known as Angeleno Heights. Established in 1886, this is a small quarter in the Echo Park region known for its steep streets. As one of the oldest districts of Los Angeles, it is also known for its high concentration of Victorian era homes. Our walk led us to Carroll Avenue, where a high percentage of both Eastlake and Queen Anne style residences can be found.

IMG_2708 as Smart Object-1What a treat it was to find these homes. It was like stepping back in time. And we weren't the only ones. We ran across several other "tourists" admiring the picturesque neighborhood.

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In 1984, the City of Los Angeles recognized Angeleno (now spelled Angelino) Heights as a historic district. Under the preservation plan, the zoning prohibits unsympathetic remodeling of historic houses and requires new construction to resemble original architecture in scale, massing, and materials.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

The secret stairs of Echo Park

Echo Park

For Christmas, a friend gave me the book Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. So today, three of us explored Echo Park Lake, an area of Los Angeles about 15 miles from Downey.

Echo ParkThe stairs pop up here and there, letting you move between the lake and the neighborhoods that sit above and around the lake. Some of the stairs are rather fancy, like the double staircase at right. Some of them are narrow, steep, and a bit worn. Some are short (12 steps) and some are long (84 steps). But they were all quite fun.

I've never been to Echo Park Lake before. It has a wonderful view of the Los Angeles skyline (above), from a different direction than what we typically see.

Several parts of the lake are covered with netting, which at first glance looked kind of trashy. But it turns out that we picked the right time to visit. After a two-year rehabilitation project, the park has only recently been reopened to the public. The Secret Stairs book comments that the park is the site of the annual Lotus Festival, even though the lotuses have died out in recent years. But part of the rehabilitation project is the restoration of the lotuses, and the nets are a part of that effort.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sea turtle

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I thought you would like to see another yard art I spotted on my daily bike ride. This one is a little less fearsome than yesterday's yard art so I could get even closer.

P1030171It must be a sea turtle. You can see the barnacles on his shell.

Green sea turtles can stay under water for as long as five hours even though the length of a feeding dive is usually five minutes or less. Their heart rate slows to conserve oxygen: nine minutes may elapse between heartbeats.
http://www.defenders.org/sea-turtles/basic-facts

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tree bases

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I see this tree on my bike ride to work every day. I think it has a wild and free look about it. It reminds me of walks in the forest, so peaceful and yet abundantly alive. Look at the smaller plants and creatures at the base.

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One never knows what one might find at the base of a tree in the forest.

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A child is born

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I know Christmas is over, but I also had one more Christmas picture still to share. I found this original nativity scene on a rooftop in our neighborhood a couple of days before Christmas. I liked the originality as well as the simplicity.

"The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic, it was not a place of myths allegorized or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true."
~ G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Monday, January 6, 2014

Oh Christmas tree

Christmas tree

One final Christmas shot, at least from me.

I enjoy Christmas decorations that can be appreciated during the day time. This tree, with its candy cane trunk and oversized ornaments, must have been great fun to decorate.

"Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!"
~ Traditional

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Don't feed the cats

Rancho Los Amigos

The Downey Rose Float is stored in a building on the abandoned south campus of Rancho Los Amigos Hospital. It's a fascinating and picturesque area, and we've done a lot of posts from here. I couldn't resist snapping a few new shots on my way to see the float last week.

Rancho Los AmigosThe buildings are still abandoned and boarded up. And the feral cats are still everywhere, along with the warnings not to feed them.

Back in 2008, there was talk of building a data center here, but the plans were blocked because of the cats. At that time, there were 150 wild cats. Efforts were made, obviously unsuccessfully, to relocate the cats to barns where they could be useful in hunting rats. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Rose parade aftermath

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Joan wrote earlier this week about Downey's award-winning entry into the Rose Parade. Today I found the float in the Embassy Suites parking lot.

Each year the Rose Parade Float Association sells flowers off the float to advertise the float and to raise money. I stopped by and spoke with Kelley Roberts, the construction foreman, to learn some stats about the float. It runs on a 350 cubic inch engine to power all the weight of the float.

P1030163The Royal court is available to inform the public about the float.

P1030162This princess has crowned one of her subjects with a long stem rose from the float.

Friday, January 3, 2014

To everything there is a season

Fall colors in winter

Seasons in southern California rarely pay attention to the calendar.

We're now officially two weeks into winter, but what I've been noticing lately is the explosion of fall colors on my neighborhood streets, as if the trees suddenly realized they're late and need to make up for lost time. (Click on the picture for a larger version where the colors show up better.)

"Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."
~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Evening practice

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I went by the Rio Hondo Golf course this evening to see if there would be any action on the 2nd of January at 8pm. I found these men braving the cold to practice the greatest game on earth.

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This is Carlos setting up for a 200+ yard drive down the middle of the fairway. Sorry I couldn't stop his action even with a flash. You can see the ball streak through the night sky.

P1030152Then he stopped to watch the ball fade into the dark at the back of the driving range.

Downey sponsors group golf lessons on Thursday nights at 6:00pm taught by Scott, the local PGA Pro. Check out the dates here and you'll enjoy a lifetime of walking through some of the most beautiful land on earth while chasing a little white ball.