Sunday, January 31, 2016

Puddle pros and cons

Reflection in a puddleReflection in a puddle

When my daughter was young, there was nothing she liked better than when I would drive through a puddle and cause huge plumes of water to rise on both sides of the car. Today's rain reminded me of that, and made me think about some of the pros and cons of puddles.

Puddles can be fun. Kids (and dogs) love to splash about through a puddle. And puddles make for beautiful reflections, such as in the picture on the left. On the other hand, if you're a pedestrian, those same plumes of water raised by passing cars can soak you in seconds. And puddles like the one on the right are very intimidating. How far will you have to walk out of your way before you can find a place to cross this street?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Throwback picture book

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On Wednesday Steve wrote about Takis from Cafe Opa. Tonight we had a birthday celebration dinner there. It was a fun gathering in the homey surroundings of the cafe. Looking around, I was surprised to see a picture book of Greece on display.

IMG_7817 as Smart Object-1What was so amazing to me was that it was the same edition book I bought as a souvenir on my first trip to Greece—unbelievably over 30 years ago. What a small world! I love visiting Greece, such history, and I like the food, so a visit to Cafe Opa brings up good memories of exploring the Parthenon as well as traditional eats.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” 
~ Saint Augustine

Friday, January 29, 2016

Urban decay

Old window

When the back side of your garage is basically unreachable, you don't worry too much about its upkeep. The result is the sort of decaying, ramshackle look that never fails to appeal to me.

"I find beauty in decay. I like to see nature conquering what man has left. I believe that old buildings have a soul, and when I photograph these places I try to capture a piece of that soul."
~ Julie Shiel

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Humans of Downey - Velma


"My daughters are the central focus of my life right now. I pick them up after school. I take them to the library to do their homework. I take them to the Whittier hills to hike along the trails. One time they found a snake and they were so afraid of it. We went early one Saturday and the sun was just coming up. We heard a rustling in the bushes just next to us. My daughters jumped and yelled, 'What was that, what was that?' So we went over and saw the snake. It was about 18 inches long. My daughters both said, 'Mommy, let's get out of here.' That was something that didn't happen every day so they were so excited.

"I got married when I was 20 years old. While we dated for several years, I think I was too young to see the effects on me of his anger. But after we were married and we had two children and he still didn't change, I didn't want my daughters to grow up in that environment. He still hasn't changed. So now I am training my daughters to look for friends and eventually a husband that will treat them the way they want to be treated, with respect and honor."
~ Velma

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Humans of Downey - Takis


"My wife and I came to the United States from Greece mainly because I wanted to attend the university here. I had just finished going to the University of Athens. When I came to the US, I attended Cal State Long Beach, then I went to UCLA where I studied economics. Then I taught economics at Cal State Long Beach. When I got tired of teaching, I went into construction. We built water tanks, the ones you see up on the mountains here in California. After I retired from construction, I got involved here at the Opa Cafe because I live here in Downey.

"All four of my children went to Downey High School. My first two children were twins and are on the Downey High School Hall of Fame. My children have had the privilege to go to Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia. One child is a professor at University of Chicago, another is an IP lawyer, another is a computer programmer, another is a manager at the Fountain Valley Costco.

"Food is very important. You are 80% of what you eat so you have to be very careful what you put in your body. And I did that. I'm 72 years old and very healthy and I think it is because I follow the path which was set by Hippocrates. Doctors take the oath of Hippocrates, you know? He started his book by saying to the people, 'Your food must be your medicine and your medicine must be your food for a healthy life, to avoid having the problem. Because once you have the problem then you come to see me, I can manage it but I cannot push it away.' Greek food has this quality. Like olive oil has many vitamins. People that eat it get the side benefits. I say, 'Good life to you.'"
~ Takis

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lonely tree

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This tree stands alone at the end of the "old" Rio Hondo riverbed on its own little patch of ground. I'm not sure if the tree is still alive, but it is massive and just a little creepy.  It would be the perfect tree set in the middle of an enchanted forest. If you tilt your head a little to the right, it almost even looks like it has eyes that are watching you.

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show." 
~ Andrew Wyeth

Monday, January 25, 2016

The back bay

Newport Back Bay

After we visited the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve yesterday, we continued to follow the coast southward on Pacific Coast Highway. At Newport Harbor, we turned inland and took a side road that follows the Upper Newport Bay. The road soon enters the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve.

Although not quite as large as the Bolsa Chica reserve, this coastal wetland is one of the largest in southern California. It too is renowned as one of the finest bird-watching sites in North America. The multi-purpose road (that is, hikers, bikers, and the occasional car) is a three-mile path that follows the bay to its far end.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The wetlands

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

I had out-of-town family visitors this weekend, so for some fresh air, we went a little further than our Downey riverbeds, down to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. According to the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands is the largest saltwater marsh between Monterey Bay and the Tijuana River Estuary.

Bolsa Chica Ecological ReserveWith approximately 5 miles of trails to be explored, the wetlands are a great place for walking. But most of all, the wetlands are popular with birders. Hundreds of bird species, such as this willet, have been spotted here during the fall/winter or spring/summer seasons. (321 out of Orange County's 420 bird species were sighted here in the past decade.)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Time for a little fresh air

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A great way to get some good exercise is to take advantage of one of the riverbed paths we have in the Downey area. Whether you ride a bike or are just out for a walk in the fresh air, we have riverbeds on both the east and west borders of Downey.

IMG_7718 as Smart Object-1On this day, we decided to walk the Rio Hondo riverbed—alongside Treasure Island Park and around the split where the overflow riverbed cuts off. Of course, to follow the overflow branch, we had to enter through a gate that had been cut open. It made for a good afternoon adventure (although the gate at the other end of the riverbed was locked, so we did have to retrace our steps to get out).

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Friday, January 22, 2016

One out of every three

Dogs on the riverbed

About 36% of the US population owns one or more dogs. That's more than one out of every three households. But a walk along the riverbed will definitely skew your impression, where it seems that every backyard has its dog (or dogs) on guard. Some, like this pair, are curious and appear friendly. Others, like a German Shepherd with a loud and constant bark, were intimidating (even if his tail was wagging).

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Humans of Downey - Sandra


"Some of my happiest times were when I was growing up in El Salvador. I remember being around my cousins and playing. We never worried, 'Is something going to happen to us?' When I was in the second grade, we would play softball. But we did not have the regular ball. We would get some newspaper and squeeze it very tight. Then we would get a piece of hose and wrap it around the paper. We used our hands for a bat as we gathered after school to play a game. The ball wasn't heavy so they would throw it to you and you would hit it with your hands and run around the bases. Those were really happy times.

"When I came to America, there was a civil war in El Salvador. Before that, I had taken some classes in English, but I still didn't know very much when I came here. Especially, I didn't know how to communicate in this culture so I took some ESL classes to improve. At first I would take the classes during the day but then I started to work and so I switched to night classes. I have taken many years of ESL but it has paid off.

"The differences from my old country to my new one is tremendous. El Salvador is a third-world country. It is very poor. And so it is very different here. You can do so much more with even a little here. I am so happy that this is my country now. You can achieve what you want here. As long as you want to, as long as you want to work hard. You can do it. That is the big difference. In El Salvador it is really tough, really tough. If you are poor, you are poor and it is really hard to get out of there. And over here there are more opportunities."
~ Sandra

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Humans of Downey - Myrna


"During Mother's Day or my birthday, my two children would give me flowers or a card. They would write out lots of loving words to me. 'I really love you mom.' 'You are the best mom.'

"I come from a different country and when I came here, everything was really different. When I came here I was 18 years old and I lived with my mom and dad. I didn't know any English so I had to learn from the environment. My first job was working for a company that made the food trays for the airlines. The food was already cooked and I would put it together on the tray, then a machine would wrap it up for its trip to the airplane. After that I went to school for a year to learn and be certified as a manicurist. And now I have my own place to work here in Downey."
~ Myrna

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On the wire...

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I know everyone has heard of a bird on the wire, but what about branches not just sitting on the wire, but actually grown through?

IMG_7699 as Smart Object-1These "logs" on the wire made me smile when I saw them on a walk along the Rio Hondo riverbed, along the edge of Treasure Island Park. Part of what made them funny was that the trees that had once been connected to those branches were completely removed.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Urban debris

Riverbed debris

In the "wild," rivers can get blocked by fallen trees. In the city, this riverbed channel is blocked by shopping carts and sofas.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What lies beneath

Winter leaves on the riverbed

To continue the winter theme...

The concrete walls of the Rio Hondo riverbed are covered with a variety of vines. In summer, these vines are thick with green leaves that completely cover the concrete. But in winter, most of the leaves fall away, revealing the tangle of branches underneath.

Winter leaves on the riverbed

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Trees in winter

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A couple of days ago, Steve blogged about winter nights. So, I thought I would share about our trees in winter.

IMG_7711 as Smart Object-1Even though we live in Downey (in beautiful southern California), our trees still experience the effects of the colder weather. I like the look of the trees when they have shed their leaves.

IMG_7693 as Smart Object-1

Friday, January 15, 2016


Yard art raccoons

Juxtaposition: positioning two things close together (or side by side) to compare or contrast.

This racoon family brings to mind a peaceful forest scene. And I suspect that a member of this household is a bicycle enthusiast. But the combination of the message "It's all about the journey," next to the raccoons, made me laugh.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Humans of Downey - Louis


"I like playing soccer because we get to run around the field and we get to have lots of team work during the entire match. I also enjoy the competition of like-minded players.

"I had to try really hard to get on this team, the Downey High School team. Every day, before school and after school, I would come out to do training with the team to show the coaches that I was dedicated and wanted to be part of the team. It paid off because now I'm part of the team. I play left defender, which means I stay on my goal's side of the field to defend against attackers of the other team. I like being a defender because of the importance of that position. If there were no defenders then the goalie would have no one to help him out when the attackers came. It is a team sport.

"I would like to make it into a college level team of even higher. It will take a lot more dedication, hard work, putting in more effort to being more of a team player. Then I will need to show the coaches how much I want to be on their team. I need to show them that I want it more than other players. I don't think I have the physical abilities to play on that level now, but that is why I'm on this team, to build myself into that level of player. My coaches are helping me and training me to become better as a player."
~ Louis

This interview took place after the first league match between Downey HIgh School and Lynwood High School where Downey won 2-0.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winter nights


One of the great things about Downey is the temperate climate. It seldom gets too hot in the summers, one or two days above 100, and not too cold in the winters, the coldest for the days around the 50s and then 30s for the night. Going into this evening, though, I felt a definite chill in the air. The trees have given up all their leaves and the wind cuts right through my sweatshirt.

DSC_0704The moon is a waxing crescent right now and seems to be covering up to try to keep warm.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Local island adventure

IMG_7708 as Smart Object-1

On the west edge of Downey is a finger of land that is known as "the island," surrounded on one side by the Rio Hondo River and on the other by the Los Angeles River. It makes for a different kind of river walk adventure.

IMG_7707 as Smart Object-1According to Wikipedia, the Rio Hondo 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. The "New River" is the present course of the San Gabriel River.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Riverbed reflections

Rio Hondo Riverbed reflections

Before our riverbeds were encased in concrete, our Downey rivers were meandering creeks most of the year. But in the winter rains, they turned into dangerous rivers that carried away everything in the flood plains that they overflowed. Downey is in one of those flood plains, so it's thanks to these ugly concrete walls that we weren't at risk during the recent rainstorms.

Rio Hondo Riverbed reflectionsNow that it's been dry for a week, the Rio Hondo River is nearly, but not quite, back to normal. There's still enough water in the riverbed to completely cover the bottom, and to form reflections, whether it's the sky above or the power lines stretching off into the distance.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Back to the riverbed

Rio Hondo bike path

We took a hike today along the Rio Hondo bike path. After our recent rainstorms, people were enjoying getting out in the sun and its gentle warmth.

Rio Hondo bike pathWe were passed by numerous bicyclists, both individuals and groups. The bike path stretches for 17 miles and passes two Downey parks: Crawford Park, where I usually enter the riverbed, and Treasure Island Park, where we started today.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Welcome to downtown Downey

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I like the new lighted sign that landmarks the entrance to downtown Downey. One fun thing is that the lights in the sign change colors, rotating from red, purple, and blue to green.

IMG_7680 as Smart Object-1"When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go, downtown
When you've got worries all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help I know, downtown."
~ Petula Clark

Friday, January 8, 2016

What the cat sees

Cat in the corner

I don't have a Downey picture today. Not a single one. Maybe it's the rain, the cold, or my sniffles. But one way or the other, I didn't make it out this week with my camera.

So instead, I am pondering my cat. She is staring at the wall. She's been staring for several minutes now, and she hasn't moved. If she's just pouting, that's OK. I can handle that. But—if she's watching a spider, I want to know about it—and leave her to get rid of it while I wait in the other room!

"Strange rules of cat behavior #1: Stare at something that isn't there until your owner actually starts freaking out."

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Humans of Downey - Veronica


"One of the times I like to think back on with smiles is my days in high school. I miss those days now. Everything is different now. Back in high school, I just wanted to graduate, work, make money, and have a car. I never thought about those days as I was going through them and now I kind of regret it. I mean, now I'm married, I have a son, there's just too many things I have to take care of. I just feel sometimes like I have too many responsibilities and I want to go back to those other days when the burdens were lighter. I miss those days. But then...

"The first time I saw my son (he'll be two next week) I was so grateful, so happy. I never thought I was going to love a person like I love my son. It's hard to explain what happened. When I held my son in my arms in the hospital, everything changed. I didn't want to go back to the old days anymore. He just changed my life completely. I love being with him, spending time with him, seeing him grow. I can still remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. His first word was mom."
~ Veronica

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Humans of Downey - Stephanie


"When I was a little kid, I would always cut Barbie's hair. I don't know why, but I didn't like her long hair. I always wanted her to have a bob. They never sold her with a bob, so I gave her one. Also, I would cut my friend's hair. They were trusting friends plus, they couldn't see the back of their heads. Then one day I decided, I should go to school and become a hair stylist for real and get paid for it.

"I had my first child when I was 19 and he was born with a congenital heart defect. That stopped everything in my life. He had a hole in the wall that divides the two halves of the heart. The two major arteries were switched so that the only place where the blood was getting oxygen was at the hole. He has had multiple open heart surgeries and now he is an active 9 year old with a pacemaker. Going through that time has helped me to be thankful for the little things in life. For being alive, being able to live each day."
~ Stephanie

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sunset and rainy nights

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Driving down Firestone Blvd. at sunset. It was a beautiful night and the downtown area felt somehow ready for the end of the day. Just one day later and the rain adds a mystical, peaceful feel. I love the rain. Pluviophile, a lover of rain, someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.

20160105_171327"Rainy days,
Rainy nights,
Wash the world, 
Set to right.
Cleansing streets,
Set apart,
Rainy days,
Cleanse the heart."

Monday, January 4, 2016

Now showing

Avenue Theater Facade

The Avenue Theater in downtown Downey is only a facade. The original facade showed the opening of West Side Story (see The Avenue Theater - now and then). But after some vandalism destroyed some of the facade, it was repaired, and when it "reopened," Casablanca is now on the marquee.

"Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…"
~ Rick Blaine, Casablanca

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What's your season?

Second Tyme Around Shoppe window display

What season is your coloring? If you're a "winter," your coloring is overall very vivid, so you shine in black and other colors that have a strong jewel quality to them.

Second Tyme Around Shoppe mannequinSo it's only fitting, in this winter season, that the Second Tyme Around Shoppe has outfitted its window displays with black, white, and red clothes and angry birds.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The tide rolls in


It is early January, and the ocean is cold and turbulent at the Seal Beach pier, a short 30-minute drive from Downey. We spent a morning enjoying the warm sun and the dramatic seas as we welcome in the new year.

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Exploring the Everglades

Downey Rose Parade Float 2016

Once again, Downey won the Founder's Award for this float, "Exploring the Everglades." I went to see the float up close yesterday afternoon, before it started its slow trip from Downey to Pasadena for the parade this morning.

Downey Rose Parade Float 2016The float is built entirely by volunteer labor. (See Humans of Downey - Alexis and Kelley.) The core team from the Downey Rose Float Association works on the float all year long, but the most frenzied activity takes place during the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, when any and all are welcome to come help.

I arrived too early yesterday to see the full Downey court seeing the float off. But there were still plenty of volunteers there, proudly getting their pictures taken in front of their work.

Maybe it's just because I love animals, but I think this is my favorite float yet. There are three panthers and five blue herons.

The float will be parked at the Embassy Suites Hotel starting Monday. You can see the float up close and purchase flowers.
Downey Rose Parade Float 2016