Monday, April 24, 2017

Humans of Downey - Julio and Stella #2


"When we first came to America, the fastest job I could find was as a seamstress in downtown LA. They paid by the piece and I was not very good. I was making $3.00 a day and sometimes sewed my finger. Then I was able to get a position at Teledyne in Hawthorne. But the work was always the same, day after day. I earned minimum wage, but we had medical insurance for the whole family. The building was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It was a nice job.

"But then I got pregnant with our daughter, Brenda. Julio said we need to change things. You need to go back to school. The real estate agent that sold us our first home motivated me to get my license. While I was pregnant with Brenda, I had to be in bed a lot. I was swelling because I was retaining fluids. But it allowed me to study at the same time. She was born in November and I got my license the next February. I worked for Century 21 and was doing very well.

"Twenty years ago my broker decided to retire since he had heart problems. He rented his broker license to me for a few months while I went to school to get my own license. Soon after I got my own license, he passed away. Since then I have opened my own office, which allows me to work on my own. I keep my clientele and they keep calling me. I help my clients whatever their needs are: residential, commercial or investment property. I work all over California and I will drive wherever my clients need me to go. I don't have any other agents in my office because that relieves me of the stress of making sure they are doing things correctly. I can put all my attention on my clients' business."

~ Stella

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Humans of Downey - Julio and Stella #1


This is Julio and Stella. They immigrated from Argentina in 1978 and they are a great example of living a life of hard work, honor, and uprightness. Pam, Joan, and I had the pleasure of being welcomed into their home recently. Today and tomorrow, I will share some of their stories. After that, Pam and Joan will share some pictures and thoughts about their beautiful home.

"When we first came to America, we rented a house in Inglewood. After we had been there for 10 months, we started to look to buy a house. I had a friend, he was my boss and he encouraged me to buy a house, but I said I didn't have the money. He said he would help me with the money with a $3,000 down payment and I just needed to pay him back in two years. He wanted me to buy a house around $30,000. Stella and I looked around and we found a house in South Gate for $52,000. I told my friend about the house we were going to buy and he got scared. He said this is more than what I said to look for. You will have problems making the payments. I said that I would make the payments as I promised. He said, the money I gave you I'll need in one year, not two. I said no problem, I'll pay you back in one year. Actually, we paid him back in 6 months.

"In Argentina I went to engineering school. This is where I learned to work in wrought iron and wood. When I came to America, I started working in a machine shop. Then, after two years, I started making wrought iron security doors and security windows. But we didn't have a shop to work so we did it in my garage in South Gate. We added customers little by little so we bought our first shop near Florence and Alameda. As we grew our business, we sold that shop and bought a larger one. But then I started doing more finish home construction. We do room additions, roofs, plumbing, electrical, concrete—anything to do with construction, we do it.

"I run my business the old way. The people tell me what they want done, I tell them what I will do and how much it will cost. They say how do you want the money and I say I will go first doing and you will come behind with the money. We shake hands and I start. As we have been talking, I have been taking pictures in my head. I have pictures of what the inside will look like and what the finished product will look like. Once I had a customer that wanted some work done on his home. I listened to him, took my 'pictures', went back to the shop, calculated a price, and then sent him the bottom line. He liked the price but he wanted something in writing. I sent him a piece of paper what I was going to do and the price. He said he wanted more detail and he was going to fax me what he meant. He faxed me 40 pages of details. I called him and said everything that was on his 40 pages was on my one page. He agreed and said go ahead with the plans."

~ Julio

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Big sisters


This little girl was definitely taking care of her little brother as they walked around the park.

"My first job is big sister and I take it very seriously!"

Friday, April 21, 2017

Miles to go

Bike path

I took a walk along the Rio San Gabriel riverbed bike path last weekend, near Wilderness Park. Even though it was a nice day out, the path was still pretty empty. (I imagine it will start getting crowded in a few more weeks, as the days get longer and longer.)

Gazing down the path brought these words to mind.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep."
~ Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Study in lines


One of the essentials of photography is the study of lines. Lines tend to draw our attention to themselves and then draw our attention to other aspects in the photo. Done well, the lines should draw your eye to the subject in the picture. See if you can tell what I was thinking was the subject in this picture. *

study in lines 2

By the way, this tree is just outside Porto's Bakery. I love how the lights play off the leaves.

* The answer is: the traffic on Firestone Blvd.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Humans of Downey - Jose


"Back in Mexico when I was 13 years old, I landed a job in the state of Veracruz. They were working on a gas pumping station for Phoenix. I started out as a 'helper'. So, as I hung around, I watched the welders and I learned how to pipe feed and other aspects of welding. After that job, the company asked me to stay on and I finally got to weld by myself after a couple of years. I worked all over Mexico at that very young age. Then I ended up in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

"Then in 1969, I came to the U.S. to work. Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there wasn't very much safety on the jobs. You didn't care about wearing safety glasses or ear plugs or covering your hands with the protective gloves or your feet with steel-toed boots. So, there were a lot of accidents, bad accidents. I remember once we were working in the North Sea. This crane was carrying this large piece of 48-inch pipe. And they didn't have a flag man. The flag man keeps an eye on everything and everybody that is happening during the job. But the crane operator didn't notice one of the workers was in the way of the pipe he was moving. The pipe smashed him pretty bad. Other unsafe activities like drinking on the job were common on those extended jobs. That isn't how it is anymore. Now, the first thing that happens before you do any work is they have a safety meeting. Then they have another big meeting once a month.

"My biggest job was an oil platform we built for the North Sea. Each leg of the platform weighed 17,000 tons. To get each leg onto a giant barge to be shipped to the North Sea, they used a giant crane called Thor. I went with the barge and stayed out at sea for three months to complete my portion of the job. One of the platforms we built was destined for the waters off Alaska. When they turned it upright, the legs sank too far into the sand and rock. So, they decided to take it out. But the feet were stuck, so they dynamited the sand but with too much explosive. It cracked one of the legs. We were called out to repair what they had damaged. Later they found a better spot with less loose sand."

~ Jose

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter feast


A big part of our lives is the family gatherings we have celebrating holidays important to us. This Easter was a beautiful day spent with friends and family.

IMG_1879-1“Easter is a time when God turned the inevitability of death into the invincibility of life.”
~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

Monday, April 17, 2017

I won't grow up

Tree climbing at Wilderness Park

For me, the best part of any park was always the trees. Which ones could be climbed? Which ones had the perfect seat for surveying my surroundings?

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I won’t grow up.” 
~ Peter Pan

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Elaine's garden revisited

Rose garden

About three years ago, I wrote about this garden, created by Dave Lopez in memory of his wife Elaine. In those three years, the roses have flourished, to the point that the abundance of white made me stop this week for a closer look.

Rose gardenIt has grown into a beautiful and peaceful place.

Messiah Lutheran Church

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Duck, duck, goose


I watched these ducks race across the lake in the same formation. The duck in the front kept dipping his head down in the water  and the other two kept an almost formal following.

"In matters of style. swim with the current; in matters of principal, stand like a rock." 
~ Thomas Jefferson

Friday, April 14, 2017

Egg-cited about Easter

Easter yard art

The family at this house decorates for every season, so it's always fun to go by and see the current decor. For this Easter, there are lots of pastels and eggs.

"Easter is the only time of year when it's perfectly safe to put all your eggs in one basket."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Humans of Downey - Emmanuel


"I'm the only musician in my family. People will ask me, 'Oh, do you have family that are musicians?' Many of my colleagues at USC, their parents are musicians. But for me it was the opposite where I was the first one. It was more like seeds were planted in me: a jazz seed, a classical seed. The story my parents like to tell me is, every time I went to sleep when I was young, they would play me different kinds of music. So, it was little things here and there. My second grade teacher was and still is a radio disc jockey for KKJZ, a jazz station from CSULB. I've always had a fascination for classical music. I went to the music center when I was young. These little things just grew out of me, they found me.

"I started playing the trombone in the fourth grade. I went to an after-school music program where they taught you music theory for the instrument you chose. People will ask me, 'Why did you choose the trombone?' But I didn't choose the trombone, it chose me.

"Here at the Downey Theater is the first time I played in a stage concert. It was the first time I conducted also. People will also ask me, 'How did you choose conducting' Again, it chose me. It was at an 8th grade concert, the jazz portion of the winter concert. At the time I was the class president. My band director told me he had something for me to do. He said, 'Come direct the band.' I had no clue what to do but I did it and the seed was planted. The bulk of my conducting training was at the Bard Conservatory of Music in New York. Currently, I am working on my master's degree, taking conducting classes, and playing trombone for the USC orchestra."

~ Emmanuel

PS I met Emmanuel after a recent concert of the Downey Symphony at The Downey Theater where he played trombone.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Humans of Downey - Steve


"The very first art piece I remember making was when I was 10 years old. I still have it. I did it in crayon and it was titled, 'Misery on a New York Sidewalk.' It was cubic and very abstract. Interestingly, I had never been to New York or even seen abstract art before. It was received well, though, my mom loved it.

"The first piece I ever displayed in public was about nine months ago. I've spent my working career as a writer and editor. Over the years I have created multiple art pieces for my own enjoyment. A while ago, I decided that before I died of a heart attack with a bunch of art pieces in my garage that will probably get thrown away, I would get them out there for others to see. So, about a year and a half ago I started visiting art galleries and talking with the owners, asking them how could I get involved in the art world. I went to a place called The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. The director there liked my stuff and he encouraged me to get my pieces in the public eye by entering my art in places that had open calls for art. I had my first piece of art displayed in public nine months ago at that gallery.

"My creative process is usually like this: I work at night at a workbench with a lampshade overhead. Then I try to step inside the piece. It's like I'm part of the piece and wandering around in it or like I'm in a dream world. So all my pieces are actually psychological or dream-like. It's unconscious. I don't do anything with an end product in mind. I just start to build on what's there. It seems to have a life of its own."

~ Steve

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Homelessness in Downey


Looking at this picture, you might think it was of a camping trip in the middle of a beautiful field. It is actually one of the many homeless dwellings to be found in and around the Rio San Gabriel riverbed area of Downey.

IMG_1773-1In the second picture, you have to look more carefully to see the couple of tents sheltered by the trees.

Seeing these tents and the dozens of others in the area makes me wonder. How did people end up here and what should we be doing in response?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Do pigeons get a bum rap?

Birds at Wilderness Park

I thought that yesterday's birds just flew away after being chased by the sisters, but a chance glance upwards revealed dozens of them perched in the tree over my head.

Birds at Wilderness ParkAre these pigeons or doves? It turns out that the two are very similar, almost interchangeable. In fact, what we typically call a pigeon is most likely actually a rock dove.

But while there's very little difference between the two, there is a lot of difference in the names. For the dove, we read things like, "The Dove, on silver pinions, winged her peaceful way." (James Montgomery). But for the pigeon, we hear, "From the sanitary viewpoint, a pigeon is a rat with feathers."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The care and feeding of birds

Feeding the birds at Wilderness Park

These sisters couldn't decide if it was more fun to feed the birds or chase them. Either way, they were having a great time at Wilderness Park today.

Taking my daughter to feed the birds at Wilderness is one of my favorite memories. And of course, we always brought a loaf of bread. It never occurred to me back then that this wasn't very good for the ducks and geese. It turns out that bread is like junk food for most birds—filling, with no nutritional value. Their natural diet is more likely to consist of seeds, vegetation, and even fish. Bread can get moldy quickly, and large pieces can get stuck in the birds' craws.

So the next time you go to the park to feed the birds, take along some bird seed. Enjoy feeding the birds, and knowing that you're providing them with a healthy diet.

Feeding the birds at Wilderness Park

Saturday, April 8, 2017



Twilight in the islands is "Magic Hour." It is my favorite time of the day.

“Twilight fell: The sky turned to a light, dusky purple littered with tiny silver stars.”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Friday, April 7, 2017

Big and little

Furman Park tree and boy

A big tree. A little boy. A study in contrast at Furman Park.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Humans of Downey - Julio


"The e-recycle idea came up because a lot of my clients were asking me, 'Hey Julio, can you help me get rid of these old electronic items?' I told them that I was having the same problem. I didn't know where to dispose of my own stuff. So I came up with the idea, 'What can I do for my community?' There was no one local to collect this stuff, but I did find someone out of the area. I made a deal with them that I would be a drop-off point with my bins and they would come and pick up the items once a week.

"I am very big on being ecologically friendly. My business is to re-manufacture printer toner cartridges so that the used cartridges aren't thrown into the landfills. This also saves my clients 40% on each re-manufactured cartridge. We reuse the hardware of the cartridge by taking it apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together. Then we put new toner inside and it works like new. We know which kind of toner works best depending on the printer the cartridge is going into.

"Before I moved here to Downey I had a warehouse in East LA. A neighbor company had a fire start in their section of the building, which spread to my part and destroyed my inventory. When I came to Downey to rebuild my business, I decided I would offer something for free to show my customers what I could do for them. I am very good at fixing things. I went to businesses and told them that if they had a broken printer, I would fix it for them free of charge. I just wanted them to give me a chance to show them the value and service I could provide them. Once I got some capital, I invested it by buying broken or unwanted printers. I repaired them to like new. Then I offered them to companies for free if they would buy some of my re-manufactured toner cartridges. You can read about it on my website here."

~ Julio

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Vazza Cafe


Vazza Cafe is located just outside the north entrance of the Downey Library. With plenty of outdoor seating and our recent pleasant weather, it seems the perfect place to read a good book while enjoying your favorite latte. You can check out their Facebook page here.

DSC_0040They also deliver in this cute little golf cart. Give them a call and support a local Downey business.

“I don't really like coffee, she said, but I don't really like it when my head hits my desk when I fall asleep either. ”
~ Brian Andreas

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The beginning and the end


I am in Hawaii for the week and was struck  by the symmetry of the sunrise and the sunset. The beginning and the end of the day. Each has its magic and allure.

20170126_181300-1"If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God."
~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

Monday, April 3, 2017

The golden poppy

California Golden Poppies

Poppies abound in Downey this spring! (See Local wildflowers for more.) This time, it's the California Poppy, our state flower since 1903. April 6 is California Poppy Day.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Safe and secure

Secure house

The signs at this house made me chuckle the other day. The house is not just protected—it's protected by two different security systems!

"I have six locks on my door, all in a row. When I go out, I lock every other one. No matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three."
~ Anonymous

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Going green


This vine-covered house made me wonder if the owners started with just a few plants here and there and then one day looked up and realized the entire front was covered. Either way, the result was beautiful.

"It's not easy being green."
 ~ Kermit the Frog

Friday, March 31, 2017


Wagon wheel bench

When I drive around the residential streets of Downey, I see a never-ending variety of porch decor. I particularly like this wagon-wheel bench. It looks like it could have been hitched to a pair of horses in the old days, for a Sunday afternoon drive.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Humans of Downey - George


"My first car was a Volkswagen van. A friend of mine wanted to sell it and he wanted $300. He had done some work on the van to make it more distinctive and he even showed me a photo album of the tickets he had gotten while driving that van. I said, 'That's quite a collection of tickets. When I fix it up, I'll try and not get so many tickets.'

"I was a young kid still in high school and didn't know very much. Early on, I drove it down to Huntington Beach. On my way back home, I blew an oil seal and was blowing a lot of smoke out the back. My oil was pretty dirty and so the smoke was pretty black. It was so thick I couldn't see anything out the back window. I just wanted to get home so I could fix it. But before I got home, the police pulled me over. I didn't know what neighborhood I was in but my friend did. The police gave me a sobriety test and asked me some questions and were giving me a hard time. My friend told me that we were in the 'industrial area'. When the police decided I was harmless and not from that area, they let me go with a warning.

"I went home and ended up selling that van to a junk yard for $100. To this day I regret selling it. It had a pancake Porsche engine and I let it go for $100. What was I thinking? I was told that there will come a lot of women into my life. They will come and they will go and you will never remember them all. But you will always remember your first car."

~ George

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Humans of Downey - Dario


"Some character traits I am modeling and training my children to build into their lives are patience, how to work with other people for a common goal, and the acceptance that some things require hard work to accomplish. My dad, who made his living in construction, taught me to work hard with my hands. My job requires me to use my hands. My children see me and I bring them alongside with me to work around the house as I repair things, work in the garden, and in my woodworking. This table I'm building will be strong enough to last long after I'm gone. I want my children to be part of things that will last. These character traits will help them accomplish lasting legacies.

"A quirk my family has is that we make our own wine. We purchase the grapes, then at my dad's house we use a giant stainless steel press to squeeze the juice out. Then there's a long fermentation process where you leave the juice in the vat and mix the juice and the grapes over a period of time. When it is ready, you filter out the solid pieces and leave just the wine. The art of turning the grapes into wine and not vinegar is in the ingredients and timing. If we mess up, the results are useless. But if we do it correctly, which is most of the time and mostly because of my dad, we have our own vintage of wine to drink."

~ Dario

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Shadows of the past


I like shadows and this was such a fun set of shapes, I couldn't resist a picture.

"Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see." 
~ Martin Luther King

Monday, March 27, 2017

Covered in yellow

House with tree with yellow blossoms

Spring isn't just the season for flowers. It's also the season for trees to blossom. I'm still waiting for the streets lined with jacarandas, but meanwhile, I'm enjoying the variously colored trees, such as this one covered with yellow, that are exploding around town.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Is Lazy Dog for the dogs?

Lazy Dog patio with dogs

You bet! With their dog-friendly patio and their special doggie menu, dogs get a warm welcome at the Lazy Dog restaurant in the Promenade.

One of the doggie rules is "no begging." Of course, no one said, "no  looking intently, longingly, and silently into your master's eyes." Because even though these pups had food of their own, everyone knows that what's on the table is way better than what's under it.

Lazy Dog meals

Saturday, March 25, 2017

To sell or not...


Ready to sell your home?

I passed this sign a few weeks ago and it made me smile. I thought it was a pretty clever way to appeal to both English and Spanish speakers.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Someone else's treasure

Alleyway trash

There are many ways to get rid of used items. You can try to sell them online, or hold a yard sale. Sometimes, if you don't think the items are worth much, you can simply put them in your alleyway. It's surprising how often your "junk" will find its way into other hands. (And if it doesn't, you can call the trash company for a "large item pickup.")

This scene reminded me of another "alleyway" full of someone else's junk-turned-into-treasures, from my recent trip to Paris.

Paris antique shop

Thursday, March 23, 2017

It could have been worse


The bridge on Firestone Blvd. that crosses over the Rio San Gabriel River was under reconstruction for over a year during 2014 and 2015. (See our posts here and here.) The construction was completed last year.

On my way to the Costco Warehouse in Norwalk yesterday, I passed over the bridge and noticed this damage. I came back to see just how bad it was. I don't know if you noticed, but the guard rail is damaged at both ends. I'm not sure how that happened. It will have to be fixed or replaced along with the now-mangled fence that prevents cars from plunging into the riverbed below.

“Don't be very frightened, Marilla. I was walking the ridge-pole and I fell off. I suspect I have sprained my ankle. But, Marilla, I might have broken my neck. Let us look on the bright side of things.”
~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Downey is a giving community


This electrical box is just outside the Mimi's Cafe on Firestone Boulevard. It depicts the many facets of giving that the Assistance League of Downey participates in.

DSC_0438[1]The one I'm most familiar with is the thrift store on Downey Avenue. My wife and I pass by it during our evening walks. We love to see the window displays. They always have a theme and are very creative. Go and check out what's inside sometime, and then support the Assistance League by purchasing something.

We have many posts of the thrift store here.

We have also posted regarding the Assistance League's Casa De Parley Johnson here. The house was designed for Parley Johnson and his wife Gypsy. After her death in 1986, the house was bequeathed to the Assistance League.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Here comes the rain


It was on my drive home today that the rain started really coming down.

"Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain." 

~ Langston Hughes

Monday, March 20, 2017

Local wildflowers

Downey wildflowers

I always thought that if I wanted to see wildflowers in bloom in the spring, I'd have to drive for a couple of hours in any direction. But it turns out that Downey has its own patch of wildflowers, in the parkway next to an empty lot. This patch (maybe 200' long and 6' wide) is overflowing with poppies. I recognized mostly oriental poppies, and even a few of our own California golden poppies.

Just goes to show what a little rain can bring.

Downey wildflowersDowney wildflowers