The Sierra Madre Playhouse

We are always looking for interesting things to see and do in the communities we visit. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to take a short Sunday afternoon drive out of Pasadena and into the city of Sierra Madre. I can hardly describe it as a city – it seemed more like a quiet little community nestled in the shadow of the beautiful foothills. We stopped for a leisurely lunch at The Only Place restaurant. It might not be the only place to eat in Sierra Madre but it’s certainly a great place to eat. I discovered the Santa Fe burger – served on sourdough bread with grilled bell peppers and Swiss cheese accompanied by a delicious potato salad – totally yummy.

    Across the street from the restaurant was the Sierra Madre Playhouse. This funky little 99 seat theatre was built in 1923. It’s now a community theatre run by a non-profit board of directors. They are dedicated to presenting culturally sound and family oriented theatre. We had Googled what’s happening in Pasadena and noticed that something was playing that very evening.

The box office opened for an afternoon performance and we ran across the street to check it out. A welcoming older man took our names and told us he could make a special deal for us, his Canadian friends, if we came back at 7:00 to see the evening show. True to his words we got two tickets to see The Liquid Radio Players for $10.00 each. This improvisational, 1940’s style radio show had been listed as LA Weekly’s comedy pick of the week.  

The theatre was lovely – small, comfortable seating and able to evoke a sense of nostalgia for when such venues were the norm. We were greeted at the door by a beautiful young woman giving out small candy treats. As audience members we got to choose the genre for the evening show – science fiction. Fitting, as this was a special Halloween performance. We chose the title – The Alien from Kentucky; character names – a villainous alien named Gorkan (an audience member’s last name); two young sweethearts named Scarlett Rose and Willy; and three 1940’s type radio sponsors – Shooties Oatmeal, Acme Plumbing, and Condom’s Hair Cream. That one got a good laugh.

The next hour and a half was filled with wildly funny antics as the narrator and five actors, plus sound man and keyboardist, improvised their way through a story of aliens from Mars landing in a farmer’s cornfield. In the end the earth was saved and romance bloomed.

We were pleased to explore Sierra Madre – a place with such a small town feel during a time we had thought would be our big city hustle and bustle part of the trip. If you are ever in the Pasadena area, please check out the Sierra Madre Playhouse. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

A Travelling Guide for Women like Me

Someone out there could make a bundle of money writing a guidebook for the older woman (like me) who wants a bit of adventure but who is not interested in killing herself in the process.

One of my nieces just posted a blog entry about a seven-day hike she and a friend took up Mt. Kilimanjaro. As I read her description, I pictured them almost sprinting up the mountain. I was put in mind of the way people play through at a golf course when she described how they passed other hikers and left them far behind. I am starting to wonder if most guide books are written by people like her.

We middle-aged, adventure seeking women require a guidebook that tells it like it is. Let me elaborate – the other day we did a hike up to Watson Falls – the highest waterfall in Oregon. It was to be a .3 of a mile hike to a viewing bridge with an elevation of 250 ft. over that distance (facts, by the way, you find out only in the parking lot) Several guidebooks described this as an easy walk– do not be deceived – this is not an easy walk. Though I must admit, it was well worth the effort. All I’m saying here is that we need accurate information.


Still on the topic of a realistic guidebook – we wanted to explore the Umpqua River Hot Springs – according to some sources an easy .3 of a mile (why is it always an easy .3 of a mile?) walk from the parking lot. An outdoor, rustic and undeveloped spring – a true wilderness hot springs. I was resolved to push my comfort envelope out a bit by going along with the idea of exploring this hot spring.

I love hot springs – the type where I pay to get in and once inside I am greeted with pretty pools of steaming water. I read through the information we had on the springs and the material was very clear in stating that people should be prepared to wear bathing suits – well for God’s sake – that’s obvious – right?

After a few wrong turns and stopping to study the map we located the forest service road that would take us to the springs and arrived to be confronted by the following sign.

We ran into an older couple in the parking lot who had camped out the night before and had already enjoyed the springs a few times. The woman told Bruce, wearing what I imagine was a pitying smile as she looked in my direction (OK – ya, ya, ya – she was probably smiling nicely – I admit to being overly uptight by this time – refer back to the nudity sign), that the hike up to the hot springs was a bit of a scramble. I’ll say – it looked almost perpendicular to me. She naturally made her way up the incline like a mountain goat – no doubt quite prepared to deal with the nudity issue like it was an everyday occurrence. It is times like this that I wonder if I am really suited for adventuresome, holiday travel.

The next day found us in Ashland and very close to the Jackson Wells Mineral Pools. The place is quite beautiful – nestled among tall pines – my kind of hot springs. Imagine my shock when I get there and see a large sign on the wall that reads – Clothing Optional starts at 7:30pm! People of Oregon – what have you got against bathing suits? Thankfully we had got there with a good hour and a half to spare before the arrival of the clothing optional crowd. We had a wonderful time.

Now, I’m going to just go out on a limb here and describe Jackson Wells as a new age sort of place. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for people being themselves. If you are a person who talks in a hushed tone with a startling number of ooohs and aaaahs thrown into your conversation – then I say, go for it. If you are a person given to going into great detail on the subject of crystals, the things your true heart tells you to do and how your aura is pulsing today – well – more power to you. If you are the kind of person who feels the need to twist your body into Circe de Solei type movements over and under the spa waters of the small hot pool you are sharing with at least a dozen other people – what can I say? You gotta be you. If you want to spend your time carefully scooping up each and every bug from the huge swimming pool and throwing it over the high wall while proclaiming that this bug should go in peace – it’s your life. I’ve sure got nothing against any of these people – but for some reason (all about me, of course) I was hard pressed not to double over laughing most of the time. I controlled myself by focusing on the older lady in a Myrna Lloyd type pink bathing cap who took up one corner of the pool and simply closed her eyes. She had to have been at least eight and the serenity on her face as she soaked up the pleasure of the hot mineral water was quite beautiful.

A nice message at the entrance to the hot springs at Jackson Wells

Loving the holiday while bemoaning the need for a guidebook that tells me what I need to know. Still being my good old judgemental and observant self. What more could a writer ask for?

What is it About Cleaning?

OK fellow writers and readers – I’ll tell you one thing about me – two hours of cabin cleaning makes the writer’s desk that I couldn’t get away from fast enough this morning, look pretty darned good!

The other day I was fortunate enough to read a great little blog post by The Jilted Genius – entitled Monday Muse  The Genius mentions the Monday morning blahs of coming back from her walk to an apartment that needs cleaning. The words really struck a chord with me.

What is it about cleaning? I am a well-organized person – except when it comes to cleaning. I have always wanted to be one of those people who are super organized about housework – the type of person who schedules certain jobs and keeps up with things. This person – who lives only in my imagination – approaches the daily tasks of cleaning with the calm of a koi swimming idly in a peaceful pond among the beautifully blooming water lilies – swishing gently to and fro through the cleaning tasks with dignity. Well – suffice to say I have never achieved this Zen of Cleaning. I am always behind the eight ball. Jobs get done because we’re having company or because I have reached my maximum level of tolerance for mess – or my maximum level of denial about what is actually surrounding me. Call it what you will. I tear madly through the cabin looking like something from a horror movie – on my face is a look of pure malevolence – all I need is a chainsaw screaming in my hand, waving it over my head to complete the picture. I literally want to kill every person who has put a single thing out-of-place in this cabin. To hell with the fact that there is only Bruce and I and the dog – and we can safely assume the dog doesn’t misplace her things. I assure you, I am as messy as Bruce so my homicidal thoughts are definitely uncalled for.

When I taught at the university and lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in the city – mostly all by myself – I had to hire a cleaning lady. I couldn’t seem to organize myself to clean the bathroom – ever. Like that Taylor Swift song – never – I mean like never, ever. It was embarrassing. I claimed I was too busy teaching and holding down a couple of research positions. The reality is that I have always viewed my life as one that is too busy for cleaning.

It’s the starting that is the biggest challenge. I liken this to the anxiety that can often accompany the beginning a writing project – be it a paper, an article, or a work of fiction. There is this poised on the edge feeling that I find quite uncomfortable. I suppose it’s about knowing you have to step over that edge into something else. I usually bargain with myself a bit. I say something like – OK – I’ll do this for thirty minutes and then stop. Or I put some music on and challenge myself – can I finish 1000 words before the end of this album? Can I get the bathroom done in fifteen minutes? Once I do start – on the writing or the cleaning – the anxiety disappears along with the need for bargaining and challenging. And of course, like many of you, when I push the chair away from the desk after a good day’s work, or put the vacuum cleaner away and look around the tidy cabin – there is this amazing sense of satisfaction. I always tell myself – remember this – remember how good it feels when you’re done. But – I never do. I mean never – like never, ever.

Lake Tahoe – me being way too busy for cleaning