Ode to The Castle

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There she stands, in all her magnificent decrepitude, the Castle Green.  She has graciously presided over Pasadena for more than a century.  Since 1898, when the families of the great industrialists first arrived (with their enormous steamer trunks) to stay for a warm winter enveloped in the heady scent of orange groves.

People in the park ask if the Castle is haunted.  I tell them about the uniformed bellman I saw carrying pillows and blankets in my hallway one day.

They ask if crazy people live there.
Crazy?   Possibly.
Eccentric?   Definitely.
Artistic?  Certainly.

People who care about history and architecture (more than water pressure) ride in a wrought iron cage to their gorgeous apartments with stately picture windows and gracious balconies.

Everywhere you look is an embellishment of iron, plaster or marble. Heavy red velour draperies frame delicate white lace curtains that billow in the breeze.  There’s carved and polished wood here, mossy-hued tile fireplaces there, the antique furnishings bathe in the golden glow of turn-of-the-century style tungsten bulbs.

The Castle Green.

Living there was both a pleasure and a privilege.
It’s hard to say good-bye.

Some Shout Outs

To Some Tremendously Talented Young Friends

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Levon Henry

Levon Henry, musical prodigy and progeny of Joe Henry and Melanie Ciccone, was one of eleven students invited to The White House to participate in a Jazz Workshop sponsored by the Thelonious Monk  Institute.  First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters were on hand to welcome the students.

Levon and the talented ten worked with some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians including Branford, Ellis, and Wynton Marsalis. The students also attended a Duke Ellington Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center.

Levon and his graduating cohorts in the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble also opened the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl last weekend.

And, Levon has received a very generous scholarship to The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music , which he will be attending in NYC this fall.

Congratulations Levon!

Ryder Bach

Ryder Bach

Ryder Bach has been cast as the lead in “Girlfriend,” a world premiere musical wound around the tender love songs of Matthew Sweet’s landmark album.  “Girlfriend” opens at Berkeley Rep, on April 9.

In the world premiere muscial, boy meets boy. It’s an eternal story turned upside down, a dual-Romeo duet directed by Les Waters. “Girlfriend is the breathless testimony of a fool for love,” raves Rolling Stone, “a rock ‘n’ roll valentine that delivers subtle wisdom with an exhilarating kick.” Fall in love with the boy next door (Ryder) at Girlfriend.

Ryder recently returned from NYC where he was (oh so close) to being cast for “American Idiot,” on Broadway.

We’ll see your name in lights Ryder, it’s only a matter of time!

Xander Pollock

Xander Pollock

Xander Pollock has secured a paid graphic design internship with Experts Exchange, the number one resource on the Web for solving technology problems.  Experts Exchange is based in San Luis Obispo.

Xander will also be working remotely with Attention Span Media, a social media studio and pioneering developer of online entertainment.   This is in addition to his continuing position as Senior Designer for CalPoly Athletics.

“We Are the Mustangs”

I wonder when he will have time to attend classes?

Woohoo Xander P!

Small World, Isn’t It

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Photo by Matt Logelin

Some things are just meant to be.

A couple of weeks ago I was trying to figure out if I could get my friends Matt Logelin, Melanie Ciccone and Joe Henry in one place at one time for a remarkable set of reasons.  Matt is a long-time fan of Joe’s.  When we bought a house next-door to Joe and Melanie, I didn’t know who Joe was, but Matt did.  Matt has all of Joe’s CDs which means, he has been listening to Joe for a very long time.

I went to a couple of Joe’s shows at Largo with Matt and Liz, and Matt and our friends/co-workers.  I planned to introduce Matt to Joe, but Matt is kinda shy (well, he used to be).  The last show both Matt and I attended, I introduced him to Melanie (we were working up to Joe).

Melanie has been reading Matt’s blog.  Melanie has a special empathy for Matt’s daughter Maddy.  When Melanie was born, the doctors wheeled her mother from the delivery room into chemotherapy.  Eighteen months after Melanie’s birth, her mother lost her life to breast cancer.  Melanie thought she might be able to offer some perspective as a child who grew up without her mother.  Matt said he would be happy to get together with Melanie.

There were just three hitches.  I was trying to arrange this before I move out of LA, Joe was about to go on tour in Spain and Matt’s tragedy has catapulted him to celebrity – which means he and Maddy travel everywhere all the time.  So, as Melanie and I were emailing back and forth trying to plan a play date, Mel sent me a message that said, “my Joe had dinner with your friend Matt in New York last night.”

It seems that Joe was playing with Alan Toussaint at the Village Vanguard.  Joe called his agent to invite her to the show and she brought her new client, Matt, along.  The three of them ended up having dinner.  Additionally, Joe introduced Matt to Elvis Costello, which made Matt doubly happy.  Now these two men live mere miles from one another in Los Angeles but they met in New York, because it was meant to be.

Moon over TurretLast weekend was the Castle Tour.   There are the most amazing apartments in this building, and the people who come to see them are all so very interesting.  Somewhere between 800 and 1,500 fans of fine architecture attend.  I mostly sit alone in my turret and write, so greeting and chatting with 800+ people is really fun, but pretty exhausting.

Early in the day, Devin Thor walked in and said, “This is fantastic, when can I move in?”  I told him, “the first of July,” and soon after he and Willow Healy were signing the lease.   Devin and Willow recently sold their home in Santa Clarita.  He works just four blocks away at Parsons, and Willow is a mystery writer.  And so the tradition of the writer in the turret will continue.  The location is ideal.  There are plenty of mysterious characters here.  And so it was meant to be.

The architect, in the Moroccan room, with the T-square

Tired towards the end of the day, I closed up the apartment and went in search of the after-tour dinner.  It wasn’t ready, but some of the Castle residents had begun to gather in the parlor downstairs and I realized I wanted to get my camera.

I returned to the apartment, leaving the door open behind me.  I walked back from the living room, through the bedroom and into the dining room (this was a hotel, so all the rooms are adjoined in a straight line) and who did I find but Emilio Estevez and his girlfriend Sonja.

Now I can’t think of any other writer/director/actor that I’d have something to say to, but I was so moved by “Bobby,” which Emilio wrote, directed, and acted in, that I thought about writing him a letter to tell him so.  So there we were, just the three of us, and I babbled and made a utter fool out of myself, but I had the awesome opportunity to tell him how much I enjoyed his movie.

If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.  Emilio’s homage to Robert F. Kennedy features an outstanding star-studded ensemble cast featuring some standout performances by Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Laurence Fishburne and Freddy Rodriquez.  Put it on your NetFlix list today.

I later ran into Sonja and she told me how much it meant for Emilio, to hear how much his movie meant to me, and that a letter would be even better.  And so Emilio, your letter is on its way.

Meant to be.

Party at the Castle

Party at the Castle

Matt Logelin Announces Book Deal

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Huh? A book? About me?

This announcement appeared in this week’s issue of publisher’s weekly:

Maddy & Me

Pitched as The Last Lecture meets Marley & Me, Matt Logelin’s Adventures with Maddy: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Extraordinary Community That Healed Us, went at auction to Amanda Englander at Grand Central. Rachel Sussman and Eve Bridburg of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth brokered the deal for North American rights.

In the book, Logelin, who started a blog and founded the Liz Logelin Foundation after his wife died 72 [sic] hours following the birth of their daughter, offers advice on, and his own experiences, dealing with grief and loss. Per Grand Central, the auction was “heated,” with seven publishers vying for the book.

Congratulations Matt!

What a Difference Four Stars Make

FrontWhile raising kids in the big house in South Pasadena, our expendable income was always small. That’s why we resorted to taking mooch vacations – staying with friends and relatives. If we stayed in a hotel at all, it was located at the edge of the 5 somewhere between here and there.  That’s why the last few days were such a treat.

We recently returned from a three-day trip to Phoenix in search of housing.   AP paid for the trip which included food, rental car and according to the paperwork, “a reasonable hotel.”  Hmmm.  So, I booked at The Four Seasons.  It’s off-season in the desert, which meant that the room was only $129 a night. Not bad for our first experience in a five-star hotel.

ArizonaBiltmoreOthers encouraged us to stay at the Biltmore, but we’ll have plenty of time to visit The Biltmore, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed resort right in the heart of Phoenix.  The Four Seasons, Scottsdale at Troon North is about 40 minutes north of the city.  There we sought an answer to the question, “will we like the desert?”

I lived in the desert, briefly, twice before.  I attended school for a semester at NMSU in Las Cruces, where New Mexico, Texas and Mexico come together along the edge of the Rio Grande.  I enjoyed my time in that little section of the Southwest, two-stepping with cowboys and eating sopaipillas.

Danny and I also lived in the high desert for nine months while running The Mojave Desert News. In Mojave, an ugly  truck stop on the way to Mammoth, the unrelenting wind cut through the foothill pass like a machete, ripping up anything green and sending tumbleweeds as big as Volkswagens bouncing down the streets. It was dismal and brown.  The whole time we were there, we couldn’t wait to get out.  In the back of our minds we were fighting the fear that Phoenix would be like Mojave.

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It isn’t.  From the Google Earth satellite, Phoenix looks very dry and brown.  But when you get up close, the desert plants are varied and beautiful.  Jack rabbits hop and salamanders skitter across your path and in the cool(er) night air the stars twinkle brilliantly.  But what’s not to like about The Four Seasons, where the staff constantly asks if there is anything else they can do for you and answer any request with “of course. ”

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When you go to the pool, you select a cabana equipped with misters.  They cloak your lounge chair in a cushy terry cloth cover, bring you fresh towels and a pitcher of ice water with lemon slices, and come around with cool watermelon, cordial glasses filled with frozen grapes and raspberry parfaits.

It took me a while to figure out why the hotel was so beautiful and then I got it.  No Four Seasons is like any other Four Seasons.  Each lighting fixture, or table or artwork was commissioned for exactly that space.  The photos, even the professional ones on the Four Seasons site don’t do it justice.

We stayed in a Sante Fe Territorial style casita, with everything you could want:  a kiva fireplace, a balcony, a mini-bar, a gigantic bathtub.  You should go there.

Sculpture

Public Art in Downtown Phoenix

When we weren’t luxuriating at the pool, we were looking for a place to live.   Despite the 105 degree weather, we found Phoenix quite pleasant.  It feels like a cross between Palm Springs and Irvine.  People there complain about the traffic, but I was making left-hand turns downtown at rush hour.

The Copper Cobra

The Copper Cobra

We found a 2 bedroom, 2 bath plus loft apartment, three minutes by Metro rail to Danny’s office in the Copper Cobra.  Three minutes in the other direction sets you smack in the center of downtown and yet, where the apartment building is located, it’s very quiet.

Roosevelt Square Apartments on Portland Place

Portland Place

It’s not the Castle Green, but what is?  It should do us fine until we find a place to buy in the Phoenix central historic district.

Castle Green Tour Tomorrow

Moon over TurretSorry for late notice, we’ve been a bit busy looking for a place to live in that hot place (more on that soon), but tomorrow is the Castle Green Open House.  In addition to the regular fun, my talented young friends from “Get in More Fights” will be performing in the ballroom.

If you have never been on the tour, I recommend it highly.  There are many amazing apartments. Also our fantastic unit is up for rent or sale.  Castle living anyone?   Hope to see you there.

Here’s the event press release:

Among Pasadena’s many claims to fame is the beautiful, and to some, mysterious, Castle Green, built in 1898 as an annex to the resort Hotel Green.  Now privately owned apartments, the building will be open for its annual Spring Tour on Sunday afternoon, June 7th.

One of Pasadena’s last historic hotels is now the private residence of designers, musicians, artists, writers (okay I added that), collectors, and other dwellers. Those interested in history, creative interior design and cultural heritage will see the original interior of this unique city landmark, normally closed to the public.  While trained docents will be available, you may walk at your own pace through the original public rooms and over 20 individual apartments.  See the Grand Salon, the Moorish and Turkish Rooms, the Palm Room, Sunroom and Veranda, the open cage elevator, fireplaces, hand-carved woodwork, and marble staircases, the bridge, artist studios and the Penthouse.

The semi-annual tours of the Castle Green are organized by volunteer members of the non-profit support arm, Friends of the Castle Green, whose mission is to provide and implement restoration to the building. All funds raised through the tours and merchandise sales are dedicated to the preservation of this landmark building.

Castle Green – June Tour

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

99 South Raymond Ave. Pasadena 91105

1:00pm to 5:00pm

$20.00* adults, children under 12 are free.

www.castlegreen.com

Reservations are NOT required.

Some of the famous individuals associated with the Castle are Tim Burton, film director, animator (Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas) and former resident; Charles White, noted African-American artist who had his studio in the cupola on the bridge; and Marcel Duchamp, the French artist closely associated with the Da Da and Surrealism movements.

Among the many films shot at the Castle are The Sting, The Last Samurai, The Little Rascals, Wild At Heart, We Were Soldiers, and The Prestige, and television shows including CSI Miami, Cold Case, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, the X-Files, Brothers and Sisters (season finale), Heroes and Numbers.

Saying Goodbye

Up until this weekend I have been focused on our move to Phoenix — looking forward with both hope and trepidation to a new start in a new place.  But in the last two days I have been feeling deeply sad at what we are leaving behind.

Our Friends

Who we don’t see often enough and often take for granted

Melle Belle and Joe Henry

beauty peonyThursday I was able to spend an entire lovely afternoon with my friend Melanie.  Melanie has a very busy life.  The hours we spend in each other’s company are few, but treasured.  Melanie who calls her husband by both his names, as in “Joe Henry would like to see you before you leave,” and asks after Danny with “and how is your man?”

Melanie who expresses herself uniquely, wears her heart on her sleeve and is truly the kindest, most compassionate person I know.  She and “her man” are the essence of quirky cool.  Melanie, with her distinctive designer-hippie style.  (I won’t say crunchy-granola because that earned me a punch in the arm in the dressing room the other day).  And Joe with his signature pompa-do and his passion for spiffy shoes and jackets.

They serve me tea (Melanie) or espresso (Joe) and allow me to cry at their kitchen table.  They feed me comforting kindness (Melanie) and enlightened philosophy (Joe).  I am inspired by Joe’s music and the way his songs capture life’s poignant moments, turning pain into poetry.  I appreciate way he enhances the unique essence of other exceptional artists for the whole world to hear.

Mel and Joe let me babysit their magnificent mansion while they are away, and in that peaceable kingdom where I enjoy space and art – music and light, I have had the distinct privilege of listening to the sound of Lucretia Garfield’s footsteps as I fall asleep.

Melanie and Joe, you will be missed.

Last night we celebrated Danny’s last day at work and last weekend in LA with dinner at Mi Piace some of our favorite people.

Bill and Carol

flower 3Bill is my oldest friend in LA.  We worked together in the corporate communications department of The May Company way back in 1982.  I think our friendship used to make Danny nervous, but that was before Danny made Bill into one of his best friends.  Now the two of them plan outings (usually to see a movie in which stuff blows up) without consulting or including me.   Now I understand how Bill felt the time I called and said “Hi Bill, can I talk to Carol?” and he said, “but you used to be my friend.”  We are still friends to the both of them, though we don’t see them nearly enough.

Bill is a big silly.  He always makes me laugh.  Early in our friendship Danny said to me “that Bill chats like a girl,” which is true and probably why we are such good friends.  I’m not speaking of his demeanor, okay maybe a little bit, but his ability to endlessly discuss things other than sports.  But as much fun as Bill is, he is also the perfect person to go to for the really important stuff.

Important stuff is something Bill knows a lot about.  Bill is a psychologist who trains military chaplains embedded with the U.S.  Navy Seals, how to help with psychological trauma in the field.   See what I mean?  Important stuff.

And Carol.  I admire her opinions.  She knows where she stands and she will tell you with great conviction where that is.  Me, I listen and watch and wait and three years later I make up my mind.  Maybe.  The world needs people like Carol to keep things moving along.  I suspect she keeps Bill moving along, otherwise, he’d mostly chat and laugh.  Carol’s laugh comes from up from her toes.  When Carol laughs, so does everyone else, and with Bill at the table there is plenty to laugh about.

Bill and Carol, you will be missed.

Lori and Lenny

flower 2We have kids the same age who kindergartened and GATEd and graduated together.  That has kept us in close proximity for a lot of years.  Like Carol, Lori is one of those people who keeps the world in general, and her family in particular, moving in the right direction.   Lori gently coaxed me into a lot of school projects which I agreed to reluctantly but for which I was later grateful.  I am pretty sure it was Lori who said, “let’s do a USO show,” and boy did that snowball into something; something enormous, yet gratifying.

Lori has always been my go-to person for matters related to school and community.   Like Carol she has strong opinions and knows where she stands.  If I brought up a school-related topic Danny would ask, “Well, what does Lori Rusch think about that?”

When I talk to Lenny (which was often at Bingo – don’t ask – it’s something Lori got me involved in) my brow is often furrowed in consternation.  Lenny tells a good story.  It’s usually about Lenny and something he has done recently.  My first response is usually, “You did WHAT?” and my second is “Why?”  If you know Lenny, you understand this completely.

In addition to his straight job, Lenny is a potter and conceptual artist.  His work is less about the outcome than the experience of making it.  Don’t ask Lenny what that art piece is about unless you really want to know, because he will tell you, and for a very long time.  But I am happy to listen, and furrow my brow and say “uh-huh,” because Lenny has an unusual take on the world, and while I don’t always understand him, he is mighty amusing.

You can find Lenny doing something someone his age probably shouldn’t be doing at Burning Man.

Lori and Lenny, you will be missed.

Mary, Mary

flowerI met Mary when our kids were in nursery school together.  We both had boys who retreated into the comfort of their clothing.  For Julian, it was his red Mickey Mouse sweatshirt.  For Alex it was his green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas.  There is something very special about the bonds you cement when raising toddlers.  It takes good friends to get you through that.  Our toddlers and our teens both presented us with a variety of challenges, and we got (and are getting) through them together.

Mary brings elegance and grace to every gathering.  She rarely arrives without a beautifully wrapped gift or a special note.  When she asks you a question, you know that she is truly interested in your answer.  No matter what is going on in her life, there is always room in hers for yours.  She sees the best, and brings out the best in others.

Mary has a new man in her life who is bringing the best out of our Mary.  It’s lovely to see her so radiant.

Mary, you will be missed.

There are more good-byes to come

Table SettingMy ANS trio.  My Yahoo pals.  My Mom-Anons.  My writer’s group.

My life is so much richer because of all of you.

You will soon be out of sight, but you will never be out of mind.

with love,

Karen