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4th of July Parade: Chester, CA

Chester 4th of JulyChester 4th of JulyChester 4th of JulyChester 4th of July

I didn’t intend to attend a small town 4th of July celebration.  After solo camping at Juniper Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park, I could’ve only hoped for a coffee shop to be open on the holiday as I travelled from Lassen down to Quincy for the High Sierra Music Festival.  Thankfully, I found so much more than coffee.

While enjoying a pre-parade Bloody Mary at the local tavern, I spoke to a man who grew up in Plumas County and currently resides in Sacramento.  There, he works in office furniture installation, but he aspires to work in sports management.  Using my girly charms, I learned that being a high school student in Plumas County is not so different than being a high school student anywhere else- you spend most of your time blaming all your problems on geography and then you grow up to realize that home isn’t half bad.  I also learned that the two largest employers in Plumas are the US Forest Service and the local mill.

My back hurt from so many nights sleeping on the ground, so I hung in a forward fold (uttanasana) in the street before the parade began.  An older woman came over to me and said, “That looks like it feels good. What are you doing?”  As an over-eager recently certified yoga instructor, I aided her into the low back release.  It is fair to say that she was at-risk for Type 2 diabetes, but she informed me that she had recently started going to Curves and she was enjoying feeling in control of her body again.  As she rose from her forward fold, I noticed she was wearing a Tea Party tee-shirt.  This is when I was reminded that being an American is complicated.

We can’t agree if government is responsible for our health or our education or our privacy, but we do believe in freedom.  I guess we also mostly believe that day drinking, abiding by a certain color scheme, listening to a certain classic rock genre, and putting our karate educated youth on display is an appropriate way to celebrate that freedom.

As I waited for the parade to begin (can you tell there was a lot of waiting for the parade? People put their lawn chairs out before I rode through town at 7 AM, the parade began at 11 AM, and it lasted for about 30 minutes.  The wait-time to parade-time ratio was significant), a man offered me his spare lawn chair.  He was probably a Tea Party member as well, but it didn’t matter if he was red and I was blue, or green, or none of the above because we were able to be grateful to be American, together.  We also worked as a team to collect candy thrown by parade participants for his grandchild like it was a patriotic Halloween.

February Skies

Mack Sennett StudiosFebruary Skies

Today, they predicted thundershowers.  I received text messages from friends saying, “Have you noticed it’s a rather blustery day?” And my roommate ran around our unheated apartment yelling, “Why is it so cold?”  The other day I got on the bus and, though I try not to spread negativity, it felt necessary to exclaim to the stranger next to me, “It’s freezing out there.”  He, in all his Frenchness, responded, “Well, it’s February.”  Though I may complain, if February keeps bringing skies like this, I say, “Keep ‘em coming!”

Balian House

Balian Mansion Christmas LightsBalian Mansion Christmas LightsBalian Mansion Christmas LightsBalian Mansion Christmas Lights

If you walk into a grocery store and march straight toward the ice cream aisle, you’re not going to find a carton of Balian ice cream.  But, if you grew up in Los Angeles, you’ve probably had some before.  The East Los Angeles company, founded by Habib Alexander Balian in 1928, supplies LAUSD cafeterias.

According to Manta, the family business makes about $3 million a year.  The amount seems to be enough to maintain ownership of their 3.5-acre Altadena mansion and deck it out for their annual Christmas display- a family tradition since 1955.

Check here for directions: Mendocino Lane and Glenview Terrace, Altadena

Pampas Grass

MiscanthusMaiden Grass foliageMaiden Grass at Fossil Ridge Park

Searching “Los Angeles native grass” does one no good when attempting to identify this plant because, as it turns out, this grass is native to South America and is rather invasive in North America.  Hence, the plant is named after the Argentine lowlands called the Pampas.

Nethercutt Museum

Facade of Nethercutt Museum1934 Packard LeBaron Sport Phaeton1905 Franklin E/Gentleman's RoadsterNethercutt Museum placard Car mascots   Car Mascott     Car Mascott   Car mascott   Car mascot

It’s almost like walking into Wal-Mart.  Even if you remembered to pocket your shopping list from the kitchen counter, there’s something about the sheer volume of the space that renders you uncertain of what you had planned to accomplish.

So, I started small- car mascots.  In display cases lining one of the Nethercutt Museum’s warehouse walls, there are 1100 car mascots to peruse.  After I revved my engine, so to say, I moved on to the 130+ cars on display.  Each had their own informational plaque.  Each had their own unique history. But, they all managed to find their way Sylmar.

I later found out this was the Nethercutt Museum, not the Nethercutt Collection.  The Collection is in an entirely different warehouse down the block.  For more information about this unique display of antique automobiles, check here: 


Bird of Paradise

The official flower of Los Angeles                                                            The official flower of Los Angeles.

Balboa Highlands

Eichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler HomesEichler homeEichler Home

Often when we talk about a building, we talk about the architect.  This is not the case for the homes of the Balboa Highlands, which are most often referred to as “that Eichler tract in the Valley.”

A. Quincy Jones, Frederick Emmons, and Claude Oakland designed these modern, post-and-beam, indoor/outdoor homes.  The developer, Joseph Eichler, is acknowledged as the brains behind this operation because of his beloved developments up and down the state.  This development was completed in 1964 and gained Historical Preservation Overlay Zone status in 2010.

There are 3 types of houses in this development.  To the layman, we might call them the flat houses, the pentagonal houses, and the ones with the carports.  Since I’m no architectural historian, I’ll leave it to the layman.



Chinese Flame Tree

Yellow FlowersRed leaves close leaves

It seems once you start noticing these trees, they turn up everywhere.  With its yellow flowers in September and soft red flowers in October, who could complain?





Callistemon CallistemonCallistemon trunk

There are 34 different kinds of Bottlebrush.  I believe this one to be the Weeping Bottlebrush. But, I don’t believe a tree can weep when it has pipe cleaners for flowers.



Forest Lawn

View of Forest Lawn from Los Feliz Blvd.Forest Lawn View from the heights of Fletcher and GlendaleGlendale Forest Lawn statue of David

Even though it was founded in 1906, there’s way more than a century’s worth of history here -from Michelangelo reproductions to Michael Jackson’s grave. For more info about its famous graves, the largest wrought iron gates in the world, the world’s largest framed canvas painting, a stained glass recreation of DaVinci’s “Last Supper,” etc… check here:

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