This article was first published in our July 2021 Print Edition.
“You Can’t Go Home Again.” Or so Thomas Wolf told us in his novel about one man’s frustrating attempt to re-capture the world of his youth. I read it in High School with profound interest.
By Ken Chow
But I’m here to tell you he was wrong.
The lessons in his epic novel still ring true, but in my case I’ve been able to find a delightful balance – a way to connect the past and present – in my hometown. I grew up in Pasadena, near the corner of Mountain and Allen in the 60s and 70s. Our big family shopping trips happened at FedCo, our entertainment Mecca was the Hastings Ranch (drive in) theater, and “exotic” fare was to be found at El Torito. The skies were smoggy, the night life was limited, and I Loved Every Minute of It.
When I drive through town today, part of me still hopes to catch a glimpse of Gill’s Grill, the Home Savings and Loan building, or Macabob’s Toys (sigh). But for every missing landmark of yesteryear, there are reminders of that reassuring permanence: our beloved Colorado St. Bridge with its elegant and tragic history, the seemingly unchanging Victory Park, where we played with our new toys on Christmas day, and (thank God) Domenico’s Pizza, where you can still get the greatest antipasto on the planet. It still feels like Pasadena, and I continue incorporating its changing face, however grudgingly, into my personal zeitgeist.
A sense of history and identity
While my life’s exploits (and errors) took me far away at times, my notion of self, of place, of permanence was born and remains rooted there. I think that’s because, unlike many Southern California communities, Pasadena had a sense of history and identity, one that was indelibly etched into me, and which I think still contributes greatly to its ongoing appeal as a place to live. Pasadena originated as a destination in its own right, an oasis nestled at the foot of the beautiful San Gabriel mountains that represented a more genteel alternative to the rapidly growing sprawl to the south.
Of course, the unceasing forces of economics being what they are, purchasing a house now requires a chest full of gold bullion. And more’s the pity, as it seems that a less diverse variety of families will raise their children in this wonderful place. Of course, I am sure we could all regale each other with fond and detailed memories of our youth, but this is a celebration of a place that IS, and which continues to anchor my sense of being. It nourishes my soul every time I think about it.
How very lucky we are.
Ken Chow was born and raised in Pasadena, lived on the East coast for several years, but is now back on the Home Planet, living near the beach, and digging it.
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