The Fenyes Estate

The Fenyes Estate on Pasadena’s “Millionaires Row” with Back Yard Gardens

Yesterday Martine and I toured the Fenyes (Hungarian for “Bright,” pronounced FEN-yesh) Estate on Pasadena’s Orange Grove Boulevard. We had wanted to go a couple weeks earlier, but there was an intervening event that closed the tours for that day. Fortunately, the docent couple who gave the tour knew their subject cold, so we had a great time. It is always interesting to visit a millionaire’s mansion built over a hundred years ago. One obtains a view of what life was like not only for the family of the owner, but also the servants. The Fenyes Estate is only a few hundred feet of the more famous Gamble House, built by the Gambles of the Procter & Gamble fortune.

The Parlor of the Fenyes Mansion

In the photo of the parlor above, several of the chairs have little footstools. They were an aid to modesty so that the long dresses would cover every inch of bare skin on the women’s legs, er, I mean, limbs. Eve Fenyes, wife of Dr Adalbert Fenyes was a noted painter in her own right, and specialized in plein aire subjects. In addition to the usual portraits, which are of high quality because of Eve’s talents.

Dr Fenyes had his own talents besides medicine. He was the first to use X-Rays in his practice. In addition, he was a noted entomologist (whose collection now sits in a San Francisco museum) and an expert gardener. The grounds on which the house sits are beautifully landscaped.

The Music Room of the Estate

In addition to the piano and early Victrola shown in the above photo, notice the elegant stairway to a mezzanine-level for singers. There is no door to the right on this level. There is also a trap door set in the floor for entrances by actors engaged in various entertainments put on by the family.

Even though there are only two houses of this sort on Orange Grove Boulevard that one can tour, it is clearly worth visiting them to understand how we all got where we are today.

 

If You Say So!

We’ll Take Your Word for It

As I took this picture some twelve years ago, I have no idea what this picture is all about. In those days, I used to take a lot of beach walks as a form of exercise. What really motivated me, however, is that there was usually a book store either on the way or serving as the final destination. Now that most of the bookstores in the area have been shut down to satisfy the itching of palms of greedy landlords. The only two that remain—Sam: Johnson in Mar Vista and Small World Books on the Venice Boardwalk—have survived only because the bookstore either owns the building, or a family member of the owner runs the bookstore.

I need to do more walking, though I feel some apprehension as the hot season begins raise beads of sweat on my forehead. No matter. I could wake up early on Sunday and time my walk to get to Small World Books as it opens at 10 am. The things I have to do! Apparently the walk is not sufficient motivation on its own.

As I continue to stare at the picture above, I realize what the photo is about. I strongly suspect that it refers to some benefit conferred by Falun Gong, the Chinese spiritual practice currently outlawed by the Communist Party in Beijing. How did I figure it out? After I wrote the second paragraph above, I looked up Falun Gong on Wikipedia and noticed that the first character in Chinese on the banner is the first character in the name of Falun Gong. Check it out for yourself here.

 

Turks & Armenians

Poster for Armenian Protest Against the Genocide of 1915

I decided to go today to the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax to read a book of Umberto Eco essays and have a nice lunch. Although I finally made it, a number of obstacles arose. Today was the March for Justice to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the Turks. As there are a whole lot of Armenians in Los Angeles, there were numerous street closures and bus re-routings, including the MTA #217 that turned on Beverly Blvd rather than continuing south on Fairfax to 3rd Street, where the market is.

The walk didn’t discombobulate me much, as I merely had to walk a half mile. But to most of the bus patrons, it was confusing borderlining on tragic. (The area is full of Russian immigrants who didn’t understand the bus driver’s announcement of the detour.)

Armenian Marchers and LAPD

In general, I find myself very pro-Armenian. Partly it is because Martine truly loves the way that Armenians prepare chicken. I am also pro-Turkish. I am against the genocide, but the guilty parties to that event are long gone. The Young Turk government of Enver Pasha was guilty of the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. If you are interested in the subject, see Elia Kazan’s film America America (1963). So I am very anti Young Turk, but that’s ancient history, so it doesn’t much matter any more. What confuses me is that the current leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, refuses to own up to his country’s past infamies, of which there are many. Why? His government was not to blame for them.

Southern California is full of ethnic minorities of all kinds, including a few racial ones as well. It makes living here interesting. And it makes for some fascinating cuisines.

 

A Gathering of Readers

Looking Out from the South Entrance to the Festival of Books

For the first time since the event moved from UCLA to the University of Southern California campus, I attended both days of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. It was exhilarating to see so many people in one place who were united by the simple fact that they liked to read. Also, many of the attendees brought their children along because they wanted them to read as well.

Based on what was on offer, many of the books were not to my taste. I did buy titles by Jeddu Krishnamurti, Gabriel García Marquez, Magda Szabo (a fellow Magyar), Gwen Katz, and Dorothy B. Hughes; and I will probably read all five within the next couple of months.

On Saturday, I attended two panels by Times reporters, one on world travel and one on homelessness. Because the seat next to me was vacant at both panels (was it my deodorant?), I found myself answering the inevitable question as to whether I was saving the empty seat with something obscene in Hungarian.

Times Panel on Editorial Policy

Most of the time, I was in remarkably good temper. I didn’t like buying my lunch from food trucks, as there is a certain mediocrity built into the delivery medium. Three of the best remaining bookstores in L.A. were represented with interesting selections: Vroman’s Bookstore from Pasadena, Book Soup from the Sunset Strip, and Kinokuniya from Little Tokyo.

There were a lot of booths manned by authors who were using the Festival to push their books. I felt a little sorry for them, but I can understand how they felt, dishing out so much cash for so little return. (I make one exception: Gwen Katz, who was recommended along with her book by my friend Bill Korn).

It’s great that the MetroRail Expo Line is now fully operational, as I would much rather pay $1.20 for public transportation than $12.00 for parking in a distant structure. I am already looking forward to next year’s Festival.

 

So Much for This Rainy Season

I Doubt We’ll See Another Drop for Many Months

The rainy season of 2017-2018 turned out to be something of a bust. Oh, we had one good rain that killed a lot of poor people in Montecito. That whole range of hills that abuts the Coast Highway between Santa Monica and Gaviota is subject to mudslides whenever there is a short period of intense rain. It happened to the pretty little coastal town of La Conchita in 2005, and this time it was Montecito’s turn.

I just looked ahead to the forecast for the next 10 days. On Thursday, April 19, there is a 20% chance of rain—which probably just means a few droplets in the mountains and foothills. Most of Southern California will continue to be bone dry until the end of the year, if not longer.

The term “April Showers” doesn’t have much meaning in a Mediterranean climate zone such as the one I live in. If you were to drive for an hour and a half east of here, you would wind up in the Mohave Desert. Drive eight hours north of here, and you would be in the wetter Northern California zone. There are some 20 climate zones of 24 possible classifications to be found in California. I just happen to occupy one of the drier zones.

 

 

The Face of L.A.

By Now, he Majority of L.A.’s Population is Hispanic

Probably one of the reasons our Presidente hates California (other than the fact that we all pretty much despise him) is that there are so many Hispanics here. And I mean Hispanics of every variety, from Mexicans and Central and South Americans to Cubans and Puerto Ricans and even a few real live Spaniards. And here in Los Angeles, we pretty much get along with one another. I mean, after all, the city was founded in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciúncula, long before there were any gringos in evidence. It was then part of Spain, then part of Mexico, and eventually part of the United States of America, who stole it fair and square from Mexico. We even got the papers to prove it.

I remember vividly when my brother and I had our first tacos. It was in New York City, of all places, where we were attending the World’s Fair of 1964-65. We bought it at the Mexico Pavilion. The real reason I was in the Big Apple was to check out New York University’s graduate school in film. Well, I wound up not going there because I didn’t like Haig P. Manoogian, who was top man there. I don’t think he liked me very much either. (Michael Scorsese, who attended NYU, thought Manoogian was hot stuff; but then he was a filmmaker, and I wasn’t interested in making films.)

When I finally picked UCLA as the place to go, I thought I would prepare myself by buying frozen food that purported to be Mexican cuisine. It really wasn’t. In fact, it was about as bland as any other frozen food available in Cleveland. It was not until I took the train to L.A. that I encountered the real thing. And I liked it, and I still do.

I’ve lived here now for more than fifty years and haven’t been raped once. Will someone please mention that to the Tweeter-in-Chief?

 

 

On Angel’s Wings

Angel’s Wings Cactus aka Bunny Ears Cactus

On Wednesday, I drove down to the South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The garden admission price for seniors was only $6.00, and I wanted to go somewhere where I could take a nice walk and sit down to read a book.

There is an interesting story behind the garden. At one time the land around there was under the ocean, and a layer of diatomaceous earth formed. This mineral substance is used for filtration and for insulating or strengthening building materials. Consequently, in 1929, the Dicamite Company began strip-mining the diatomaceous earth, followed by the Great Lakes Carbon Company. By 1956, the mining activity came to an end; and the site was sold to the County of Los Angeles, which used it as a sanitary landfill.

Those days fortunately are over. It was decided to turn the property into a botanical garden, which it is today. There is a road around the property which makes for a nice mile plus walk, and there are numerous trails that cut through the center. There used to be a lake, but I suspect it was allowed to sink or evaporate during the recent California drought.

California Poppies (Our State Flower)

Nowadays there ever more interesting plants on display, from the monstrous Moreton Bay Fig Trees to California Poppies—not to mention Angel’s Wing Cacti. I like the idea of properties being returned to nature, even if it is under manicured circumstances. That’s what happened on Vancouver Island in Canada, when a disused quarry outside of Victoria became the world famous Butchart Gardens. The South Coast Botanic garden isn’t quite there yet, but I have high hopes.