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.
"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."
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
Once again, bright colors and sunset lighting combined to create a stunning effect. This tree, just like the one I saw six years ago in a different location, stopped me in my tracks (or at least the nearest parking spot), so that I could capture the bright yellow blossoms against the rusty red wall.
We might not turn Downey Avenue green like the Chicago River, but there are still plenty of St. Patrick's Day celebrations going on in downtown Downey this evening. The biggest one appeared to be at Bastards BBQ, where signs of Irish green were everywhere.
Did you know, according to Wikipedia, that Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival? Even though less than 5% of California's population is of Irish ancestry, you'll see celebrations and reminders everywhere. And 83% of us wear green—or risk getting pinched!
"My next big adventure is going out to Texas next November to go hunting. We'll be after whitetail deer. I try to go hunting about once a year. Last year I went to Houston and did a hog hunt. I got a 504-pound hog. This year, though, I'll be going just north of Dallas. Once we get our deer, we have it processed and I'll bring home the steaks, tenderloins, and other cuts.
"I usually go with my cousin, plus we take along people who have never hunted before and don't know the basics. It's our way of teaching good hunting fundamentals. I grew up in Oklahoma where my uncle Wayne taught me how to hunt. We hunted mostly deer, but we did some turkey hunting. Turkeys can be tough to hunt because they are pretty smart. You have to shoot them in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun. Anywhere else and you ruin the meat. For a deer, I use a 30.06 rifle. You need to hit them in the vital area, around the heart and lungs so it's a quick kill.
"I was going to propose to Pauline on New Year's Eve just before midnight. Her family knew, because I asked her parents' blessing. Her sister found out and she told Pauline. Well, that kind of ruined the surprise. Later, I kind of lied to her telling her that when I asked her parents for their blessing, they said 'no.' They said I couldn't ask her. At that point she said, 'That's OK, we weren't ready anyway.' Which kind of scared me since I was going to propose three hours later. But she did say 'yes' later that night."
"My husband and I met while we were part of the college group at Calvary Chapel of Downey. We served together and I fell in love with him because of his love for people. For our first date, he told me that his boss had given him tickets to see the musical 'Wicked.' I later found out that he had bought them himself because he wanted a reason to take me out. It was a great date night and it began the next phase of our relationship. James has always been a funny guy and that carried into our dating times. When he asked me to be his girlfriend, it was on April 1st. He said he did that just in case I said no, he could say, 'April fools.' We've now been married 4 years and it's been fun.
"Obviously, since we are young, we are looking into that next stage of life of having children. If children are in our future, God willing, then that will be quite an adjustment. I'm really excited about that, but there are a lot of fears attached to it also. I think it will be fun. I think the biggest fear is the change in our current routines and freedoms. Currently, we can stay out late if we want. We can just get up and go on a vacation when we want. But at the same time, we want children and we know God will walk us through all the changes."
PS James, Pauline's husband, will be tomorrow's post.
Once again, my attention was caught by flowers in bloom. This house is a study in contrasts (more on that tomorrow). On this side, you see the results of our abundance of rain this winter. Flowers are blooming everywhere and, as usual, the sight of them lifts my heart a bit.
The Downey Patriot recently published an account by Downey resident Kathy Perez of a Carpenters tour she took. The tour covered numerous Downey locations that were a part of the Carpenters' lives, such as their family home, their school, and their church. The story reminded me that not too long ago, I spotted this electrical box that is decorated to commemorate Karen and Richard Carpenter and their spot in Downey's history.
The colors and even the texture of an animal's fur are supposed to help them blend in with their surroundings. This cat almost makes it happen. I stopped to take a picture of another cat that was all gray. He was easy to pick out in this front yard. This cat sneaked up behind him and chased him away (about 10 feet away). Then he paused long enough for me to get this shot.
"Some people say that cats are sneaky, evil and cruel. True, and they have many other fine qualities as well." ~ Missy Dizick
"My first car was a '65 Ford Mustang. I bought it in 1985. I was struggling back then. Our family was very poor back in Mexico. We barely had enough to keep ourselves fed. I had to find a lot of ways to earn money. I made things and sold them. I worked on other people's cars. I sold my bikes. I worked on people's yards. I took care of their dogs. All to get enough to buy my dream car. Also, I spent money only on absolute necessities like food. I wouldn't even buy myself a pair of shoes. That car cost me 30,000 pesos, which back then was about $1,500. The owner let me pay it off in 10 payments.
"The car was running, but very badly. The engine was very bad. It was putting out lots of black smoke and the transmission was slipping all the time. The paint was so-so, but it needed tires. But in my head I had a vision of how beautiful that car could look. So, the first thing I did was to pull the engine and transmission out because my father in Mexico was a mechanic. That was an advantage for me. After I pulled the engine and transmission, I sanded the paint off. It had ten layers of different colored paints: orange, yellow, white, green. All kinds, it was like a rainbow. Once I got it down to just metal, I painted it black cherry. That color lasted 15 years. The first girl I gave a ride in my new car is now my wife.
"Later, I moved to the United States, but I left the Mustang in Mexico. I missed it. I would say, 'I want my car back, I want it back.' The reason I wanted it back though was that I was going to give it to my oldest son. But in the beginning of his driving years, he didn't like the Mustang. He was more into the smaller Japanese cars. When his friends from high school came over, they would see the car in the garage and ask, 'Hey, whose car is that?' and he would answer, 'Oh, that's mine.' And then they would say, 'What are you doing with this little Toyota when you have this classic Mustang? Nobody has a car like that.' And he would say, 'Na, I don't like it.' Then about two years ago, I told him that if he didn't want the car I was going to sell it. I didn't want it in the garage anymore since no one was using it. It had a new engine, new tires. All it needed was a new paint job. Then one day he comes to me and says, 'Hey dad, I want to talk to you.' I thought it was about grades or girls. He said, 'You know what, I want my car.' I told him it wasn't his car anymore since he told me he didn't want it. 'No, no, I changed my mind. I've even saved my money to send it to get a paint job.' Now it's his.
"I have a great many memories in that car and now it's going to stay in the family."
The house I wrote about yesterday benefited from all the rain we've had the last couple of months. But it's not just the intentional blooms that benefit—the unintentional blooms (otherwise known as weeds) take advantage of the rain too. In the case of this section of alleyway, the ground was bare a month ago. All we needed was a month of rain, and now there are blossoms (and weeds) everywhere!
"Our next big adventure is to figure out how to do the things we want to do. Our circumstances are a little different than most. We have a set of show dogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, that we take to shows. It’s our responsibility to take care of them and we can’t just leave them.
"Then there’s just life in general. We’ve gotten to the stage where this is bothering us and that is bothering us. The doctor said, ‘Now get ready. You’re getting to that age.’ And I said, ‘Thanks for that news.’
"Then there is this. We had two children. A boy and a girl. We found out when our son was 6 years old that he had muscular dystrophy. So, we took care of him. The doctors said he probably wouldn’t live into his teen years. He died at age 36. For the last 25 years he couldn’t do anything. He was on a respirator, he couldn’t feed himself, he was confined to a wheelchair. So, our privilege was to take care of him full-time.
"So, now it’s getting out in the world and doing or living the things we haven’t done for the past 25 years. A lot of people used to ask us when we were taking care of our son, ‘Don’t you miss going out and stuff? Like to dinner?’ I said, 'No. I am eating out. Food is being brought to me and I don't have to cook.' My other enjoyment during those days was to go to the market. The simpler things in life you enjoy more or you find things out of them that bring you more joy than someone else might think of that didn't have the circumstances with our son.
"There is one thing I'm looking forward to in the future though. I love Neil Diamond. Every year I would see on the TV that he was coming to put on a concert. And every year I would say, 'I wish I could go, I wish I could go.' Well, with that in mind, my husband got on the computer and he bought us tickets for Neil Diamond's concert in August at the Forum. That is the first item on my bucket list that I get to check off. Little things like that make life more enjoyable."
"My mom, Leona, made up my first name by switching the two parts of her name around. I take care of little ones and Sue is easier for them to say. My husband's name is Ken, so my daughter's name is Kimberlee. My granddaughter's name is Ashlee and my grandson's middle name is Lee.
"My husband and I met at Warren High School. I was going with his best friend who decided he liked another girl better than me. So, 'C'est la vie'. Well, we got to talking since we already knew each other. Then he asked me out to the Homecoming Dance. I later found out that I was the only girl he ever dated. We continued to date through high school, although most of our time together was because of his being in Marching Band and I in Drill Team. Wherever they went, we went. A month to the day after I graduated, we were wed. I was 17 and he was 19. We've been married 50 years this July. We have lived most of our lives in Downey."