I’m proud to be a contributor to Literary Pasadena: The Fiction Edition, a variety of stories seemingly from one place. But Pasadena is many places.

One reason I read is to expand my view. This is also one reason I take photographs, and one of the reasons why I write.

Every day, for more than five years, I’ve posted a bit of writing and a photo on my blog, Pasadena Daily Photo. It’s not a project I’d recommend to everyone. If I had known what I was getting into when I started…

…If I had known, I’d still do it, because I’ve learned more about Pasadena in five years than most people learn about their hometowns in a lifetime. Yet I’ll never know all of my city, because Pasadena is complicated, diverse, and always changing. We’re known for the Rose Bowl, the Tournament of Roses Parade, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Craftsman homes. But like proverbial iceberg tips, these famous institutions define limited views of Pasadena.


El Super Burrito, 3631 Colorado Blvd., is accustomed to having its picture taken

More than once I’ve received a comment on my blog saying, “That can’t be in Pasadena. Where is that?” We all find our corners and settle in. We cozy up to what’s familiar, and close the doors. But I recommend stepping outside of boundaries whenever possible.

For instance, I’m shocked that some people fear my Northwest Pasadena neighborhood. I wonder if they’ve ever strolled our tree-lined, Craftsman-heavy, lower-property-tax streets. And when I mentioned East Washington Village to a journalist friend he didn’t know where it was. He had never been to—nor, sadly, had he eaten pastry in—our Little Armenia.


Do you get Hastings Ranch?

I’m guilty, too, of not stepping out. I’m too timid to wander with my camera through Pasadena’s wealthiest neighborhoods, afraid I’ll appear to be a snoopy, middle-aged burglar. I’ve taken plenty of pictures on the east side, yet I don’t have an understanding of that part of town. And I do not get Hastings Ranch. Do you get Hastings Ranch?

I want to. I want to get it all. But just like I can’t read every book or write every story, I can’t get all of Pasadena.

I first read about Sally Miller and her dog, Otto, the year my husband and I, in an O. Henry sort of way, each gave each other Hometown Pasadena, the book, for Christmas. (We kept both copies—one for the house, the other for my car.) Sally and Otto set out to walk every street in Pasadena. They accomplished that and then some. I’d like to do that, too, but I’d have to stop every few yards to take a photo. It would take me half a day to traverse the eight culture-rich blocks between Los Robles and Fair Oaks along Orange Grove Blvd. The trek from Holly Street to La Loma bridge via Arroyo Parkway would require a week. I’ve taken thousands of pictures in the Arroyo itself, but there are thousands more to take, and along the same route another photographer would take completely different photos than mine.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, seen from Hahamongna Watershed Park

I won’t try to photograph all of Pasadena. I have too many other things to do. I won’t try to write about all of it, either, but I’ll write about what intrigues me: the people I don’t understand but desire to, the neighborhoods where I’m too timid to poke my camera. Just as my blogging task is not to record all of Pasadena but to record my Pasadena, my storytelling task is not to tell all stories but to tell my stories. My stories don’t necessarily come from the corner of the world I’ve settled in. They might come from corners I want to know better.

The Virgin of Guadalupe gazes over Worcester Avenue just north of Orange Grove Blvd.

The Virgin of Guadalupe gazes over Worcester Avenue just north of Orange Grove Blvd.

Pasadena is home to 138,101 citizens. I can never know all there is to know about our 23.2 square miles because there are 138,101 ways to see Pasadena as home.

An anthology of stories is full of truths, none of them the same. But in the case of Literary Pasadena: The Fiction Edition, they all come from the same lushly diverse town.

– Petrea

Find out more about Petrea Burchard by visiting her website, here

3 replies
  1. Barbara Radisalvjeivc
    Barbara Radisalvjeivc says:

    I have been trying to find a blog topic I can be really passionate about. I know it’s my local area, which I love as you do Pasadena. I like your approach to your city. I think I’d like to take that approach to my North San Luis Obispo County area, which for me encompasses Templeton, Paso Robles, and the surrounding wine country. I’ve been trying to write articles on these places, but articles aren’t my first love. Sharing my favorite places is my first love.

    I had to laugh at your being afraid of being mistaken for a burglar as you roamed neighborhoods with your camera. I have had that same fear, and even in one of my own neighborhoods a few blocks away a suspicious man asked me what I was taking pictures of. I explained it was his beautiful tree.

    Another time I was in quest of a blooming almond tree. I knew where the old orchards were, and parked on the side of the road to walk around. But first I saw a vacant lot with some little yellow wildflowers. I walked into it and was on my knees trying to get a good photo when a truck stopped beside me to ask what I was doing. It turned out to be an acquaintance I worked with on a campaign and he lived up the hill.

    I told him I was looking for an almond tree in bloom and he said he had the best one and invited me to roam his garden and acreage at the top of a hill and take photos to my heart’s content. I did. Mostly though, I roam the vineyards and downtown looking for interesting people and photographs. It makes me see my area from a different perspective when I have a camera in my hand.

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