Thursday, December 31, 2015

Humans of Downey - Alexis


"I started back in 1999 when we had a roller coaster on the float and one of the memories I have about that is, it was raining the day they had judging. I was only 13 and you're supposed to be 16 to be up on the scaffolding. But they had to have the roller coaster reseeded and I was this little kid who's scared of heights as it is, trying to reseed the track with seaweed.

"Another memory I have is we had a western theme float a few years back. Kind of Knott's Berry Farm theme and it took me three days to build a vulture. It was to sit on top of a tree. From here in Downey, it takes us 6 to 7 hours to get to Pasadena on New Year's Eve night. Sometimes, the items that are too high or that need to be placed on the float just before the parade will need to be transported in cars, so we form a caravan. My vulture sat too high on the float to make it under some of the bridges, so we had to transport it in a separate car. Boy, it's cold on New Year's Eve."
~ Alexis

For more on the Downey Rose Float Association, click here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Humans of Downey - Kelley


"I am the Construction Chairman for the Downey Rose Float Association and have been for over 25 years. I started decorating floats 36 years ago. My neighbor and his sister were going to come down and decorate a Rose Parade float. I wanted to go. My parents said, 'No. You're on restriction.' So I faked a pout, stormed to my room, closed the door, jumped out the window, then over the fence, met my neighbor on the next block and went to decorate a float. They were a little upset when I got back but they said I could have been doing something worse. I've been down here ever since.

"Back in 2000, I designed and built a roller coaster on our Rose Parade float and then I rode in it at the Rose Parade. We plan for every little part of the parade. Except for one thing that year. Where we were positioned in the parade was in the back. So when you're moving forward on Orange Grove, you move forward, you stop, you move forward then you stop. Well, the float weighed 40 to 45 thousand pounds. By starting - stopping, starting - stopping, it put a little more load on the transmission that we hadn't planned on.

"Now, as we're coming up to that famous turn onto Colorado Blvd. The one with all the grandstands and the TV cameras, I'm riding the roller coaster around and my brother is screaming at me, 'The transmission is boiling over.' I could only talk to him for a brief two seconds every time I came around to his spot. So I told him, 'I don't care...whatever you got...get me past camera.' So, I heard him yell through the float, 'Give me all the water. If I don't get the water, I'm going to pee on this transmission.' But once we got past that famous turn, it's mostly downhill with a few spots of uphill. After the turn it's a constant flow. It's not start - stop, start - stop. So, it was less stress on the transmission. Of course, I had to get rid of that transmission when we got done."
~ Kelley

Visit Downey Rose Float Association.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reflections, in pine

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I am always drawn to reflections. Here you see not only the pines reflected, but also lost leaves floating in the water. These pines are beautiful, majestic, but here, as reflections, they are somehow less imposing; even still, they hold a kind of mystery, a magic.

"Children see magic because they look for it."
~ Christopher Moore

Monday, December 28, 2015

Seats of luxury

Downey Promenade Cinemark Theater

Tonight was my first experience at a "luxury" movie theater. The new Cinemark Theater at the Downey Promenade features luxury loungers, so that you can lie back, put your feet up on the footrest, and put your drink in the armrest that you don't have to share with your neighbor. It almost makes the price of a movie ticket worth it!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

It's not me

Dieting sign

After a month of celebrations, birthdays, holiday festivities, and too many chocolate stocking stuffers, I find I really have nothing else to say today, except "I can't stop!" It's a good thing that the New Year, with its foolproof resolution system, is right around the corner.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Lost in translation

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Christmas time is a little different in California. The leaves are still changing colors. In fact, just a few weeks ago, this tree was multi-colored. Today, it was the overall deep orange of late fall, and with the sun glowing through the leaves...

"Komorebi". Technically an untranslatable word. This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees—the interplay between the light and the leaves.

Friday, December 25, 2015


Joseph, Mary, and Jesus

"When the shepherds had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
Luke 2:17-19

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Humans of Downey - Alexandra


"I was blessed with two loving parents that were very giving. One Christmas I asked my mom, 'Why are you going to work? Stay home, all the moms stay home.' She replied, 'No no, I need to go to work so you can live in this nice house and go to your private school. I'm still here.' I feel like I had a super woman for a mom. She ran her business, she ran home to feed us, ate dinner with us.

"Another Christmas she was so tired Christmas Eve that she couldn't wrap all the presents so she put them in the bathtub to hide them. I remember going in there in the middle of the night and I noticed something popping out of the tub, so I went over to see what it was. I found all my toys the day before Christmas. She said, 'Wow, Santa must of come early. He knows how good you are.'

"I like to give others presents year round. I teach my kids to give not just at Christmas, but when it will help others. When people least expect it. I know an older lady who lives in her car and I know where she stations the car. Our kids were saying, 'I know Santa isn't going to her house because she doesn't have one so Santa can't go there.' My daughter said, 'Can we wrap some gifts and give them to her?' I thought that was nice and it came from her. So we did that last year and we are planning on doing it again this year. So, tonight we'll wrap some gifts and drop them off to her.

"We know of some random people that live under a bridge and near the freeway. When people think, 'Well, who should I give to?', you don't have to know their names. I don't like to give presents to people I know because it's like expected. I'd rather give to a random person that doesn't know me. I just get more pleasure out of it. I feel that it isn't an obligation but it came from my heart."
~ Alexandra (Owner of Ocean Breeze Spa Salon, Downey)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How old is that product?


I had to go to the hardware store today to get some wood glue. I decided while I was there to look at some other products down some other aisles. Down one aisle, I spotted this product. The first thought that came into my mind was, "This product hasn't been touched in quite some time. Not even by the staff. Maybe I should check the freshness date on the label."

"The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web.”
Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The lights are on

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I love Christmastime when so many homes are decorated with lights. It is fun to discover new houses as I'm driving through a neighborhood. This house had an amazing array of lights and a winter genre—including a penguin (if you can find it).

Christmas gift suggestions:
"To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect." 
~ Oren Arnold

Monday, December 21, 2015

A more permanent nod

Downey Promenade

Yesterday I showed you some of the Promenade at Downey marketing slogans that give a nod to our aerospace history. Today's picture shows some of the more permanent acknowledgments of that history.

First is the address. The new street that has been created to access the Promenade is called Apollo Way, after the Apollo space program that built 17 command and service modules here.

Then, these large murals cover several of the buildings that have been completed so far. This mural shows not only our aerospace history, but the borders on each side acknowledge the Downey Studios that used to exist here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Honoring our space history

Downey Promenade

Through its architecture and displays, the Promenade at Downey will honor our rich aerospace history. But I was amused at how its nod to history starts with marketing, with slogans such as "We have liftoff," "Reimagining space," and "Walk in space" proudly displayed on the construction fencing.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The star appeared

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Here we show you another winner of the Downey Holiday Home Decorating Contest 2015. The category is Best Overall Religious Display.

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"Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love."
~ Lucinda Franks

Friday, December 18, 2015

Santa's helpers

Stonewood SantaStonewood Santa helpers

Jolly Old Saint Nick doesn't always bring a smile, especially to small children. After all, the kids are suddenly expected to chat with a complete stranger while sitting on his lap! And that's when Santa's helpers, including the kids' mom, are needed.

It took a lot of effort to get these two to smile, but Santa and his helpers were patient and persistent, and eventually won some smiles.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Merry Christmas from Shared Stories

writing class 12-15

This is the Memoir Writing class that meets every Thursday at the Norwalk Senior Center. We get to read stories from this class's writings every Friday in the Downey Patriot under the heading "Shared Stories." These stories are real-life stories that the writers can hand down to be read by future generations. But we get to enjoy them now, each week. This week's story is titled "My Doll House" by Karen Borrell about receiving the gift of her dreams.

This group of writers have built a community by sharing each other's stories in class and also by sharing each other's lives. Many of these writers have been in the class for over 10 years. Others are brand new. Go by the class some time and see what you think. I think you'll like it.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
~ Anaïs Nin

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Humans of Downey - Sylvia


"My dad and grandfather were in charge of getting the Christmas tree. One year they wanted to be frugal so they went at the last moment and they brought home to the family a 'Charlie Brown' Christmas tree. It was scraggly, small, but we made it look the best we could. I remember that to this day. Grandpa isn't with us anymore but we remember him when we remember the 'Charlie Brown' tree. We love to remind my dad of it.

"I'm glad they did it because now we have the memory to look back on each year. We say, 'Remember when you got that 'Charlie Brown tree?' Now we get our own trees and don't let dad or grandpa go. That's what we got for letting them pick a tree and being frugal, also known as cheap. In the end it didn't matter how the tree looked. It was about the family time. I love that story. Every time I watch 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' I laugh."
~ Sylvia

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

And the winner is...

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A City of Downey Home Decorating Contest 2015 winner for Area 3. Music softly plays in the background of this nativity scene.

IMG_7493 as Smart Object-1“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.” 
~ GK Chesterton

Monday, December 14, 2015

A chip off the old block

Andy and Betty Wolfe with Woody and Chip

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to Andy and Betty Wolfe (Humans of Downey - Andy and Betty part 1 and part 2). They were in the process of adding a new member to their front yard family. Now I'm back, to see the finished product, appropriately named Chip.

ChipChip isn't quite finished, although you can't hardly tell. He still needs a little more hair. (Apparently, you have to add just a little at a time, or it falls out.) You can't see it in these pictures, but since Chip is just a kid, his feet don't quite touch the ground—and his boots sometimes fall off.

Already, Woody, the "dad," is so life-like that passers-by call out greetings to him. Now Chip can add to the fun (and occasional confusion) as he and Woody share a cup of coffee on the front porch.

Thanks, Andy and Betty, for allowing me to be a part of this process.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

There's always the train

Union Station, Los Angeles

These Santas, along with their helpers, seem to have forgotten that Santa travels by sleigh. We spotted them in Union Station in downtown Los Angeles (across the street from Olvera Street).

Union Station holds what I think is one of the most beautiful rooms in the city. This is the original ticket lobby, with the ticket counters on the right. I nearly always arrive when the room is blocked off for some special event. This means that I can't go in to explore the area in greater detail. On the other hand, it means that there isn't a single person to block my view.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


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Sometimes it's easy to forget how close we are to the city of LA. And this time I don't mean geographically close.

IMG_7483 as Smart Object-1We went to Olvera Street this morning. As we ambled down the charming and tiny street, we came across a plaque on the side of one of the buildings, The building had once been owned by John G. Downey–the same Downey who founded our city.

Did you know that Downey was the youngest ever governor of California and until the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003, Downey was the only governor of California to be born outside the United States.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Most use of lights

Downey Christmas lights

Before we visit some of the winners of the Holiday Home Decorating Contest 2015, I thought I'd show you my nomination for the "Most Use of Lights" category. This display at the end of a cul-de-sac really lights up the neighborhood while perfectly outlining the house and landscaping.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Humans of Downey - Sam


"I am a Coptic Orthodox Christian from Egypt. Christmas is a special day for me and my family. Me, my wife, and the children love Christmas because it was the day when Jesus Christ was born and we love it. The family comes together and we have a lot of happiness and love.

"We celebrate all this month. We use the Advent candles and other symbols to tell us the story of Jesus' birth. We have the biggest Christmas tree in our home. Every year we try and decorate it differently. Last year we used crystal and this year we will use fabric. Our big celebration, when all the family gets together, is on the 24th."
~ Sam

Note: Sam is the owner of the Green Olive restaurant in Downey. He is standing in front of his new location, which will open in February at the Promenade.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Humans of Downey - Rene


"The last time I got to be with my great-grandfather—he just passed away six months ago—was last Christmas. We got to go see him last year for his birthday because his birthday is on Christmas. He was 96 years old. My daughter, who was one year old at the time, was with us. He got to meet his great-great-granddaughter. He cried. We had five generations together at the same time."
~ Rene

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


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For the tree lighting service at the Civic Center, there was a snow patch with an amazing snowman on guard, ready for pictures! The kids played until the snow was soooo packed and icy that the Explorer volunteers had to "rake it up" to make it fun for the next group.

"Some people are worth melting for."
~ Olaf

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Kissing babies

Downey City Councilmen at Christmas tree lighting

Babies and politicians have gone together since way back in President Andrew Jackson's day, in 1833. Although not kissing a baby has never been proven to cause an electoral defeat, no one wants to take a chance.

But as Mayor Pro Tem Alex Saab discovered, you can't please 'em all. Council Member Roger Brossmer, Mayor Luis Marquez, and Council Member Sean Ashton had better luck with their crowds at tonight's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Parade prep

Downey Christmas Parade prep

This afternoon was the Downey 64th Annual Christmas Parade. But before the parade can take place, numerous bands and teams and groups—and floats—have to be gathered together. Here is one of those floats making its way slowly to the staging area.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

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As a child, I only knew the fake, white plastic Christmas tree that my mother had purchased years before. Usually the first week of December, the box would be brought in from the garage and I would help assemble and decorate the tree.

As an adult I gave up the fake white tree and opted for the experience of a fresh tree every year. Now, the first week in December is usually when we go out and look for a fresh tree. Whether you prefer Douglas or Nobel Fir, Home Depot was ready today for the fresh tree buyer.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring
Is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.”

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ho ho ho!

Santa Claus decorations

Judging for the annual Holiday Home Decorating Contest took place yesterday, and the winners will be announced next week. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying spotting the many incarnations of Santa Clause and his elves around town.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Poetry really does matter


This is Frank Kearns. Frank is a transplanted New Englander who calls himself SoCalYankee. He and his wife are actively involved in the arts here in Downey. This picture was taken recently at the Stay Gallery where Frank was reciting some of his poems. You can see more of his bio here. Frank is a regular contributor to the Poetry Matters column in the Downey Patriot.

“Poetry is emotion put into measure. The emotion must come by nature, but the measure can be acquired by art.”
~ Thomas Hardy, as quoted in The Later Years of Thomas Hardy by Florence Hardy

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Humans of Downey - Mikail


"Within a two month span, my daughter, Mikaila, was born, and I opened this restaurant. When she was one year old, I thought, 'Oh, this little life is dependent on me for everything.' That's what pushes me to work harder, it pushes me not to fail. I don't care how tired I am, I do it for her. Without her, I don't know if I'd still be doing this. I know my wife gives me support, but business ownership is hard work. Every business is hard, but the restaurant business is harder because I'm in it. And sometimes I say, 'Aah, I don't want to do it anymore.' I might fail, but I can't because of this little human being right here, which I love more than any thing. She pushes me to be a better person. Not that I was a bad person before. I liked to hang out with my friends and have a drink and stay out. But now, after work, I want to go home and hang out with my kid.

"What's most important to me during this Christmas season is my daughter. She just turned 4. As she gets older, more of this stuff becomes about her and less about me. I have fun doing things for her. A couple of days ago, she helped decorate the Christmas tree for the first time. She is old enough to want to help out now, so even if she puts things in the wrong spot, how happy she gets. That's what makes me happy. I love taking videos of her all the time. Christmas now is 100% her. She'll tell me what she wants for Christmas. This year it's a Doc Mobile. Some Disney character is a doctor and has this Doc Mobile, which I'm getting her for Christmas. She's really excited."
~ Mikail

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The colors of Christmas


It is December, so it is the season of Christmas. I was drawn to this red bush, lit up with Christmas lights. It was so festive and yet so every day. It seemed like the best way to show off the beautiful Christmas colors....

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
~ Norman Vincent Peale