The skies outside were gloomy, but inside Jay Berger's shop there was cheer to spare on Tuesday.
The Chatsworth florist spent the day doling out a dozen free roses to anyone who promised to be a "good neighbor" and give 11 of the flowers to strangers. The idea, he explained, was to lift spirits in a city rocked in recent years by riots, fires, floods and earthquakes.
Berger estimated that his store would give away as many as 1,200 roses by day's end. Although most visitors were pleasantly surprised at the offer of free flowers, Berger said a few were put off at having to raise their hand and pledge to give them away to their neighbors.
"Women seem to be real OK about it," he said. "The men seem a little bit more intimidated by it."
One woman left to spread the flowers around a Chatsworth convalescent home while another said she planned to surprise parents at nearby Lawrence Middle School. Berger explained that in a small way he was trying to rekindle the sense of community created when residents came together after the 1994 earthquake.
"If we do things like this once in a while, maybe we can revitalize it," Berger said.