Column: Out-of-towners, here’s your guide to staying afloat in Pasadena

Pedestrians make their way across the street on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena on Dec. 24.

Pedestrians make their way across the street on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena on Dec. 24.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

First, let me apologize to our visitors from the Midwest for this improbable cold snap. Pasadena rarely has this much frost on the window panes. The other night, I went down to the wine cellar and found the Pinot Grigio at an almost undrinkable 38 degrees.

As you can imagine, keeping our hogs fed and the cows milked in such harsh conditions has been a real challenge. By the grace of God, we’ll push through. In Pasadena, we’re known for our grit during difficult circumstances.

Welcome. But let us warn you that Pasadena is not all it seems. There is no lake on Lake Avenue; don’t even bother looking. Coyotes run loose everywhere; they’re almost like pets. At sunset, the trees fill with these Day-Glo green feral parrots that seem to come out of nowhere and now threaten to take over the entire San Gabriel Valley.

That’s probably why, in Pasadena, we live like there’s no tomorrow. It’s the parrots. And the unforgiving winters. And the mostly forgettable food. In Pasadena, only the strong survive. And we trust you Hawkeyes fans will too.


When all else fails, head over to the 35er, a dive bar on Colorado Boulevard that doubles as our emergency preparedness shelter. Sticky old saloons are where the locals meet up during enemy attacks, or when stock portfolios plunge. Or after stuffy debutante dinners.

Yes, we still have debutantes here — like coyotes, they run freely in the streets. Meanwhile, churches and libraries line almost every street. In the summer, you’ll still see the occasional seersucker suit.

You’ll find that Pasadena is a deeply traditional city, leery of wicked impulses or primal encounters. It’s where people come when the bright lights of Glendale get to be too much.

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To mark your visit, we have decided to stage a little parade. It will start three hours before you wake up on New Year’s morning, and last for approximately two months.

It’s a pretty parade, virtually always the same. Hundreds of thousands of spectators show up anyway. In a nutshell, that explains Pasadena.

Unknown to many, sports has played a major role in Pasadena’s development into a world-class destination. The great Jackie Robinson grew up here, on a scruffy little street near the stadium itself.


There’s also this annual bowl game, of course, and the Wrigley family, which once owned the Chicago Cubs, used to winter here. The 21-room mansion the old man built for his wife, Ada, is now the Rose Bowl headquarters.

You’ll witness all sorts of history this year. For the first time, after 126 parades, the Lakers have entered a float. We can only assume it’s to celebrate the team’s excellent performance this season.

The only other conceivable reason would be to honor Kobe Bryant, who — like our parade — has been around since the dawn of time.

The Lakers deny this. The other night Jeanie Buss stood outside the tent where the float is being built and insisted —- as demurely as a debutante — that Kobe would not be aboard the Lakers float because he has a game that night.


“He’s gotta ride in the parade, Jeanie,” I said. “Why else would you do this now?”

Yes, there is a game. It’s at night, 7:30. Hours and hours and hours after the end of the parade. For him not to ride is nonsensical.

So there’s that to look forward to. Wait till you see the reaction to Kobe. You would think that he personally ended the drought, polio, communism, and drove away all those screechy wild parrots.

The Lakers float will be entry No. 59, arriving in the third quarter of the parade, with the other major floats — by then, a few TV viewers are actually awake. Expect the float to hit TV corner at around 9:15 a.m., give or take.


See what you think. To me, the Lakers float looks like a medical instrument, something that they use to prod you or take an internal temperature.

I like that in a float.

“Every Second Is an Adventure” is the float’s name. I don’t see any irony there; I see only hope.

Also keep an eye out for a big basketball topped with orange lentils. It’ll be easy to spot as it circles the rim — teasing, tempting, circling, teasing, tempting.…


Will it go in? Will it fall out? Will Kobe be aboard? Will Kobe fall out?

These are the issues we obsess over here as we begin the new year.

Thanks for joining us.


Twitter: @erskinetimes


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