Thursday, September 8, 2016
More of My Pasadena History
If you are a frequent reader of the blog, you know that much of what appears on here is an exploration of two of the main characters of my life, my mom Jill Crane and her best friend Bill Tunilla, and the years spent with them in Pasadena.
Whenever I walk around my old Pasadena stomping grounds (often), I take note of the changes versus all the things that have stayed the same, and I take it all so personally, thinking things like “When I was a kid, I had no idea they would build a Target on this block someday.” I have a hard time keeping up, and often give Geof (who is unfamiliar with the area) directions that apply to the Pasadena of two decades ago, like the other night when we went to a movie at a Pasadena theater he hadn’t been to before and that I guess I hadn’t been to since I saw “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” which seems like just last year or something but was actually released in 2005 (I looked it up). I told him “Just park behind this building,” but there was a structure in the place where I’d imagined the old parking spaces to be, but that was okay, because there was a brand new parking lot the next block over, where I’d imagined a building to be – when was the parking lot put there? How and why do things change in the place I feel to be mine? I used to think my fascination with walking the same blocks of Pasadena I used to walk as a kid and revisiting the mostly completely changed old spots I used to know had something to do with my interest in time travel – I believe that time travel is possible, and to some degree, when I re-walk the same paths from my childhood, I get the feeling that such repetition and circling back will someday be a part of what makes time travel possible.
But I have totally done too many drugs, and I think my belief in time travel sounds like a drug-person’s thoughts, right? I just recently discovered a different way to describe my fascination with Pasadena as it relates to my childhood -- Metaphysical Solipsism, "a type of Idealism which maintains that the individual self of an individual is the whole of reality, and that the external world and other persons are representations of that self and have no independent existence" (http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_solipsism.html). It’s true that to some degree, when I walk around the old streets I used to walk with Bill (dead) and mom (dead) it seems weird that the place exists when my old Pasadena companions don’t exist anymore, and I do sort of believe, against logic or the decent amount of self-involvement, that Pasadena is mine.
I’ve been sort of researching my personal landmarks for years, for facts to flesh out my own personal Pasadena, and in particular, facts about the location of House of Fiction, Bill’s old bookstore, where I spent so much of my childhood just hanging out and getting primed for a bohemian adulthood (I remember sitting at the store and pondering the poster for the 1980’s Bukowski biopic Barfly that hung from a wall, thinking it was pronounced “Barflee” and wondering what one of those was, and then, years later, when Bukowski-literacy was a necessity to a writer-drinker, thinking “Oh, it's Bar-fly”). Every so often, I’ve done internet searches on Bill’s name and the House of Fiction, as well as other of my own landmarks, partially to satiate my old curiosities about certain places I remember, and partially to help flesh out my writing when Pasadena appears in my writing. I didn’t used to be able to find much, but about half a year ago I stumbled on http://pasadenadigitalhistory.com/, which provides history and photos of many of these landmarks of mine.
For instance, when I was a kid, it was one of my – goals? predictions? – that I’d be familiar with gay culture someday, and there was a gay bar called Nardi’s next door to the bookstore that I was always so curious about, always trying to see inside, and excited when I’d hear their Juke Box through the wall, often playing that Smithereens’ song “A Girl Like You.” I am so intrigued by the Pasadena Digital History information on the bar:
from the site:
Only infomation given on envelope, is Nardi's bar. Do not know whom the people are in the photo. Date taken: 4/14/1945. Nardi’s existed at 665 E. Colorado Boulevard under a variety of names. In the 1943 Pasadena city Directory it is listed as Elmer Nardi Liquors; 1947 Nardi-Waldorf Cafe; 1960, the Waldorf Café, and in 1970, Nardi’s. As near as we can tell, the bar was demolished in 1998 to make way for the Laemmle theater complex
I also had a childhood fascination with flophouses and there was one two doors down from the bookstore, “Crown Hotel,” which was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I'd gotten to go inside it when it was a filming location for a while, and one of my grown-up friends, Michelle, used it to film her short film Pin Feathers, but it was just an empty building at that point -- none of the rumored hookers or their imaginary retired hobo flatmates lived there anymore.
I don’t know – I’m writing about my solipsistic nostalgia sort of jokingly above, but the fact of the House of Fiction having been demolished (currently the site of the movie theater where I saw Me and You and Everyone We know), and of Bill and Mom both being dead, of course gives me a feeling of deep sadness, and I am both pained and grateful for the constant dreams I have of us all spending long hours hanging out at the bookstore together, though the store is usually partially demolished and often under new management. I found a short film (below) on Vimeo the other day (by film-maker George Porcari) that is about the House of Fiction and Bill, and it is the jewel of my Pasadena-personal research – my poor mom and poor Bill leaving their sanctuary at the end, on the day the store closed, slated to be torn down and turned into something more profitable, the way it always goes in this fucking country.
All generalizing aside, nothing special ever survives, ever.
The House of Fiction from George Porcari on Vimeo.