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Equinox Eve [Mar. 19th, 2015|07:34 pm]
Time flies when you're having daylight. I just realized that it's going on seven o'clock, and I'm still sitting at the computer because there's still daylight coming through my drapes. I was going to go do other things but the light made me lose track of the time. I just spent half an hour looking at a daily photoblog from Sierra Madre, a bucolic old suburb of Los Angeles that sits on the piedmont of the San Gabriel Mountains east of Pasadena.

When I was a kid I lived in a house in the hills on the south side of the valley with a view across it to the mountains, several miles away, and I remember watching the distant lights of Sierra Madre and its neighboring towns come on in the evening. We drove through the town a couple of times in those days, but I didn't get very familiar with it until I was older. Some friends used to play jazz at one of the local bars one night a week, and I frequently made the trip there with them. I developed an affection for the odd little town, which always had a vaguely bohemian air about it despite most of its residents being fairly well-to-do.

There were quite a few of Victorian houses there, and a large number of California bungalows of the arts-and-crafts era, and above the town was Sierra Madre Canyon, which was long a refuge of artists and bohemians of various sorts. There were oak trees everywhere, and still are judging from the photos in the blog. It was one of those places where dogs were allowed to roam free but seldom bothered any of their fellow pedestrians. Lacking through roads to the more distant suburbs the street were usually quiet. Even the small business district had little traffic.

Fans of the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers might recognize the place, as much of the movie was filmed there. The little triangular park seen in the movie is right in the center of the town and is a remnant of the Pacific Electric Railway, the interurban trolley system that once provided metropolitan Los Angeles with more-or-less rapid transit. The triangle originally housed the line's station, right at the end of the Sierra Madre line.

The blog includes a photo of the town's cemetery, a rather rustic place full of carved headstones and the ubiquitous oak trees. The drummer in the band I used to see carved a number of those headstones, stone carving being his day job. The cemetery also has a movie connection. Some of the scenes in Hitchcock's Family Plot were filmed there. If I could afford it (and if there's still room in it,) I'd like to be buried there. It still looks like a traditional cemetery, and it would be nice to have my cadaver molder within sight of my childhood home across the valley.

The landscape of Sierra Madre is very green in the photos, but it might not be much longer. A couple of days ago the state's Water Resources Board said that California has one year's worth of water left in storage, and new restrictions on water use have been imposed statewide. My guess is that they aren't strict enough. People will still be allowed to water their lawns twice a week, for example, and I doubt that will do much to stave off the crisis. We should really be considering the likelihood that chronic drought and little winter snowfall are going to be the new normal. It's probably time for Californians to give up the private lawns and other thirsty vegetation and plant something more drought tolerant.

For now, my lawns are still green, but I don't intend to water either of them this year. For the last couple of years I've let the front lawn die back but kept at least part of the back lawn green, but it's time to go totally brown. I should probably get rid of the oleander bushes in the back yard, too, as they are real water hogs. So are some of the other shrubs. I'd go with drought tolerant native manzanita in their place were it not for the fact that manzanita tends to explode (I mean literally explode, going from smoking to a ball of fire several times as large as the bush itself in an instant) when it gets near a fire, and that's something I don't want to see. It's too bad, because a nicely trimmed manzanita is actually an attractive plant.

I'm going to use the bit of daylight left to look at the poor lilacs in the back yard. There are very few blossoms this year. There were going to be more, but a couple of cold nights and that bit of rain last week killed a lot of them off. They bloomed too early this year. A lot of things bloomed too early this year. It's going to be a dull spring that starts tomorrow.

[User Picture]From: daisydumont
2015-03-20 11:27 pm (UTC)
I remember Kevin ... darn, I'll have to go to IMDb for a sec... McCarthy and that scary movie, for sure. In a minute, I'll follow your link and see if the town looks familiar.

There's been a lot of noise in the news about "megadrought" and the need to restrict water usage. Scary as hell. I wouldn't plant manzanita either, if it explodes as you describe.

Oh, speaking of California, today's news is also full of talk of arsenic in the kinds of wines that I've been willing to pay for. Great. It remains to be seen how the arsenic got into so many brands of it!
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[User Picture]From: daisydumont
2015-03-20 11:29 pm (UTC)
That's a very pleasant-looking cemetery!
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2015-03-21 01:27 am (UTC)
There's arsenic in just about everything we eat and drink. Some foods concentrate more of the arsenic from soil and water than others do, but they all pick up some. The inorganic arsenic (most organic arsenic is considered harmless) is mostly left over from the period it was used in common agricultural pesticides. It has accumulated in the soil, and it's going to take a long time for it to leach out. In the meantime we get a bit of it in everything, especially in products (like fruit juice) made from crops that concentrate the stuff the way fish concentrate mercury in their flesh.

The FDA has an interesting article on arsenic in apple juice, which was a scare that went around a few years ago. I don't know if the FDA has set maximum arsenic levels for wine yet, but it's 10 ppb for drinking water and apple juice. It would probably be set be a bit higher for wine because, presumably, most people don't drink as much wine at a sitting as they do water or juice. European regulations allow 100 ppb for wine, which is twice what the lab that reported on California's wines found in them.

I'm less concerned about arsenic in things than I am about the residual effects of all the lead we pumped into the environment during the leaded gasoline era. Lead is pretty nasty stuff. There's even a hypothesis that lead poisoning was a major contributor to spike in crime that began in the 1960s and has subsided since lead was removed from gasoline.
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[User Picture]From: daisydumont
2015-03-21 01:36 am (UTC)
Wow, interesting! Thank you. I'll relax a little about having some budget-priced pinot grigio in the evening. ;)

I'd never heard of the connection between lead poisoning and crime. Huh.
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