Posted in Diet, Exploration, Holidays, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel

Celebrating in Old Town: Personal Challenge, Day 35 (10.21.12)

This weekend felt like my own personal birthday gift from the heavens–they gave me rain!  It finally cooled down and felt like October.  It would have been better to see the leaves change color but I will take what I can get.

Russell’s Meatloaf dinner with a Bellini drink

For my birthday, I decided to hang out with my friend Ida in Old Town Pasadena.  I had a craving for my staple comfort food–mashed potatoes and gravy.  So I searched Yelp for a diner in Old Town Pasadena.  The search mentioned Russell’s on Fair Oaks.  The reviews described it as being a diner type establishment that was always crowded.  So I was imagining a 50’s style diner or even something like Denny’s but Russel’s was neither.  Russel’s felt like a very fancy restaurant, a perfect place for a first date.  Yes, there were booths but they were more elegant than a typical diner.  There were lamps instead of cheesy light fixtures.  There were classic paintings by Masters like Picasso and Van Gogh covering the walls; it almost felt like an art gallery.  There was classic music playing and a fancy looking menu.  However the food was similar to a diner menu, but again a more upscale diner.

We both ordered a Bellini, even though it didn’t really seem to go with my meatloaf and mashed potatoes dinner but I liked it nonetheless.  Ida ordered the Chicken Breast dinner.  We were both pleased with our meals and I do have to say, the mashed potatoes were amazing.  But we both agreed that the Yelp reviews did not do this place justice.  It wasn’t what we expected . . . it was better.

After dinner, we decided to check out the Old Town Haunt on Raymond and Colorado.  I have done the Knott’s Scary Farms and the Universal Halloween Horror Nights.  I am the kind of person who laughs through a Haunted House.  I am usually laughing at the girly girls who are screaming.  It takes a lot to scare me.  But I read a lot of good reviews for the Old Town Haunt and the actual Haunted History of the building where the haunt occurs.

Old Town Haunt

When we first arrived and got into line, we were excited about possibly being scared.  Unfortunately, my excitement turned sour when the group of inconsiderate 20-something a**holes started smoking in line, breaking a whole bunch of city ordinances.  They didn’t even care when I was vocal about my allergy to smoke and started coughing.  In fact, they all decided to light up so I had to excuse myself from the line.  Being the good friend that she is, Ida braved standing near the IAs.

Personally, I will never understand the selfishness of smokers.  There are so many people in a small area waiting to go into the haunt, many were children.  If you want to smoke and kill yourself, that is your prerogative but why force the rest of us to choke on your second-hand smoke just because you have a sad, pathetic addiction that will lead you to an early grave.  I like my life and I have seen too many people die from lung cancer–some never smoked a day in their lives but their family members did.  OK, that is my rant for the day.

Thankfully, Ida and I were put with a group far away from the smoking IAs.  And from the minute we took our first step down the staircase into the basement of the Old Town Haunt, all our grievances were forgotten.  The decor was amazing.  Our experience started with a tour guide (who is also the organizer of the event).  We asked him if we could work for him and he said all we had to do was talk to the ticket taker on our way out.  From that moment on, our excitement grew and our adventure began.

We did spend most of our time laughing at the people in our group–even the guys were screaming and freaking out.  I got three hugs from the different characters throughout the maze.  The decor was so authentic.  The costumes were freakishly good and we were even startled a few times.  The area where it was pitch black and we had to feel our way through–then crawl our way through–was pretty awesome.  This was by far the best haunted maze I have ever been through.  Universal and Knott’s have nothing on the Old Town Haunt.  And the best part, starting on Thursday, Ida and I will get the chance to haunt the maze and cue up a little scares of our own.

After the Haunt, our adrenaline was pumping so we decided to try yet another place in Old Town Pasadena.  We headed over to Lucky Baldwins for drinks.  The 21st was the last day of their Oktoberfest specials so I decided I would partake in the festivities with the t-shirt, glass and German beer special.  Finally, good German Oktoberfest beer to redeem the disappointment from the Montrose Oktoberfest.

All and all, it was a great birthday (spent with a great friend).  It’s funny how sometimes everything just seems to fall into place.  Originally I had wanted to go to a play but we opted for the Old Town Haunt instead.  That slight change in plans led to an opportunity I wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t decided to go to the Old Town Haunt and ask if we could volunteer.  Now I have my plans set for Thursday where I will get the chance to do something I have always wanted to do, work in a haunted house.  I can’t wait for Thursday!!

Posted in Life, Spirituality, Writing

The Story of Devil’s Gate Dam

After the strange feelings, and weird structures, that I experienced yesterday at the Devil’s Gate Dam, I decided to do a little bit of research on the site.

Devil’s Gate Dam

The Devil’s Gate Dam was the first flood control dam in Los Angeles County.  Built in 1920, the dam is located at the narrowest spot in the Arroyo Seco.  In the section where they wanted to construct the dam, there was a rock formation that resembled the profile of a devil, hence the naming of the dam as the Devil’s Gate.

There are so many urban legends about this area that it is hard to know where to begin.  The main urban legend claims that this area, which some call the Arroyo triangle because it includes Devil’s Gate Dam, Suicide Bridge & the Cobb Estate, is one of the seven portals to Hell.  There are claims that the Native Americans even believed this was a gateway to the afterlife and they avoided this area.  Then there are the mysterious disappearances and murders of children, the majority are unsolved, who were hiking, camping or riding their bikes through the area.

Others claim that the portal to hell opened when Jack Parsons came into the picture in the 1940s.  Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist who co-founded the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL, located just north of the dam), was an infamous occultist with ties to Aleister Crowley and fellow occultist (and Scientology founder) L. Ron Hubbard.

On the Dam with JPL to the North.

Together, Parsons, Crowley and Hubbard believed that the Devil’s Gate area held great magical power and energy that could increase their own powers.  Many believe this is why Parsons chose this area as the location for JPL.  It was the perfect place for these three men to conduct their magical rituals and work on their project that was referred to as “Babylon Working,” a summoning of the entity known as Babylon that would aid them in the creation of an “anti-Christ,” a child who would eventually destroy mankind.

I’m not sure if it is really a portal to Hell but I can say, after my visit, that there is something dark and sinister there.  But for me, I felt it more in the area south of the Dam, the part of the Arroyo Seco that will lead you to “Suicide Bridge.”  The area to the north with the beautiful view of the mountains and all of the willow trees in the canyon, it seemed more serene.  But I didn’t actually walk down in that area.

This is one of the Obelisks located on the north side of the dam. You can see Parsons’ JPL in the distance.

Though I did think it was strange to see obelisks on that side of the dam.  In ancient times, a pair of obelisks were placed in front of a pylon, a greek term for a monumental gateway.  There were two obelisks but they were located off to the side, closer to the east side of the dam.  Actually, now that I think about it, the obelisks were on either side of a rock formation.  I may have to go back there for further investigation.

The south side of the dam is the part that freaked me out the most.  In order to get there from the top of the dam, you had to walk through this dark tunnel under Oak Grove Drive.  Walking through it just gave me the chills and it was 92 degrees out.  As I reached the edge and looked into the canyon, I couldn’t see the dam.  There was a rocky path to the left.  It probably wasn’t my best idea but I decided to walk down that path, regretting my decision once it was too late to turn back.  The path was covered with rocks, making the path hard to navigate and it was quite slippery.  I started to think that maybe the rocks were there to deter people from going down into the canyon.  But it was too late for me.  Then half way down, out in the distance amongst the trees, I noticed ropes hanging.  It looked like those old lynching trees that were in the history books.  I immediately looked up the trail, wondering if I should turn back.  Every instinct was telling me to turn back but the writer in me was telling me to continue on my path.  I listened to the writer.  And it helped to see people jogging on a path below.

Ropes hanging from the trees on the south side of the Dam.

I finally reached the bottom and to my right, I saw a clearing and a trash can.  I stopped dead in my tracks when I reached the clearing.  There was this wooden structure in front of me.  I now knew that the ropes were actually attached to swings, high up on the structure–too high for anyone to actually swing on.  Then I also noticed that there were symbols attached to the ropes in the front part of the structure.  Instantly, my mind thought these were satanic symbols of some sort.  On my hike to the Dam, I kept seeing the roman numeral 4 painted on all the rocks.  That could just be teenagers messing around but this, this was something significant.  There was a warning sign posted on the front, right beam of the structure.  But I couldn’t move.  Everything inside of me, my instincts and the writer, told me not to go toward the structure.  I used my phone to take a picture and then I turned around and continued on my journey.

But I couldn’t get the weird symbols out of my head.  It looked like an equals sign, with an X (multiplication) under it and a plus sign that had been stretched into a cross.  All three symbols were tied together on the same ropes, creating one big symbol.  If this were Burning Man, this would be an art piece making a commentary on education and religion (the swings for school aged kids)–now this is my interpretation.  But when something like this is located in an area called “Devil’s Gate” and is considered one of the seven portals to hell, I’m pretty sure it isn’t an art piece.  Where are the Supernatural Winchester boys when you need them?

I am definitely going to need to do some more research on this area and the symbols I saw.  There just might be another trip over there in my future.  If you are interested in other stories about the Devil’s Gate Dam, check out the links listed below.

The weird wooden structure with the swings and symbol

Links about the History & Urban Legends of the Devil’s Gate Dam:

Posted in Astrology, Life, Spirituality, Universe

Once In A Blue Moon

Tonight, look up into the sky and gaze upon the Blue “Salmon” Moon.  This is a very special moon for multiple reasons.  The first being that it is the last Blue Moon until 2015.  And for those who don’t know, a blue moon means it is the second full moon in a month.  It isn’t actually blue.

This is also the Pisces Blue Moon.  When the moon is in Pisces, the fish, it is a time to seek wisdom and oneness.  In Celtic tradition, the Salmon was considered the wisest and oldest of all animals.  They believed that the salmon, known as Bradan, gained its wisdom by feasting on the nuts of nine hazel trees growing around the Well of Segais, the well of wisdom.  There is a tale about a young boy named Deimne who gained knowledge and wisdom while watching over the cooking of the Salmon of Wisdom.  The boy was given the task to “watch the pot” when the hot juice splattered and a small piece of salmon skin landed on his thumb.  Deimne’s immediate reaction was to stick his burned finger in his mouth, transferring the knowledge and wisdom of the Salmon to the young boy.  He was then given the nickname “Fionn” meaning “bright” and he would go on to be a great hunter and warrior in Celtic-Irish mythology.

Personally, I find it a bit ironic that the tale of  Fionn mac Cumhaill (aka Finn McCool), a great mythological hunter and warrior, is linked to this particular Blue Salmon Moon (Thanks to Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook).  Today, a great, and perhaps some day mythological, hunter of the moon and stars was laid to rest.  Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, passed away this week and his family mourned him in a private memorial service today.  His family even mentioned that tonight, we should all look up at the moon and wink at Mr. Armstrong as he gazes down at us from the heavens.  The Universe planned it perfectly.  We say goodbye to the first man who walked on the moon on the night where we observe the last Blue Moon in 2012–the last Blue Moon until 2015.

But no matter what you believe or how many Instagram pictures are posted of tonight’s Full Moon, I think we can all agree that every Full Moon is a sight to behold.  We should always look at it as a reminder that the Universe is so much bigger than we are.  The little things that upset us don’t matter in the great scheme of things.  We need to let go of the past, enjoy the present and look forward to our unknown future.

But if you feel you need a little extra guidance, wisdom and knowledge this celestial evening, Kristin Madden of Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook has a few suggestions:

Seek wisdom and oneness on this Pisces Blue Moon.  Fill a shallow bowl, with no inside marking, with pure water.  Sprinkle a touch of ground hazelnut, hazelnut liquor, or hazelnut flavoring on top.  Pass your left hand, then your right hand over the water, attuning yourself to its energy.  Still your mind and allow your experience of Self to expand to include everything in every reality.  Continue to expand your awareness until your current identity is just one small part of who you are.  Tell yourself that you encompass all things and that you will retain some of this wisdom when you return to your body.  When you are ready, gradually return to normal awareness.

In other words, go outside or sit by a window and take in the Blue Moonlight.  Breath (and meditate if you wish), relax, and enjoy this celestial beauty that begins our extended holiday weekend.  Don’t forget to take a moment to remember the man who achieved the impossible by leaving the first footprints on the moon.  Be inspired and find ways to make your own footprints in the Universe!

Posted in Astrology, Life, Spirituality, Universe

Time To Find Your Path

Tomorrow’s Full Moon is the Pathfinding Horse Moon.  With the moon in Sagittarius, it is a time to choose a new path or direction to take in our life’s journey.

How do we do this?  Well, you look at where you are and where you really want to be then you have to decide how to get there.  Simple, right?  I’m a Libra so I would have to say this is pure torture.  Trying to make a decision on which path I should take is an extremely difficult task for a Libra.  I will use my trusty Pros and Cons lists.  I will think of all the different possible outcomes for each decision.  I will ask my friends and family for advice.  I will go see a psychic or ask my own Goddess or Angel cards.  Then I will pray for a sign from the Universe, guiding me toward the right path.  Then I will finally make a decision.  But once I make that decision, I will constantly wonder if I made the right choice.  But once again, I am a Libra.

Ironically, I am in a weird place where I do feel like I have to make a lot of life choices about my future.  So today, I turned to someone I know and trust, Hot Dog.  I had just told him about my accident a few days ago so he was anxious to see me and get me whatever I needed.  He picked up dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and arrived at my house, ready to take care of my needs.  What I really needed was someone to talk to and he was ready to listen.  We went for a walk in my neighborhood (mainly to walk off the carnitas) and talked about what was bothering me.  Like any close, good guy friend would do, he poked fun at some of the decisions I made and actions I took.  But mostly he was in agreement with me that I needed to change things in my life.

I know where I want to be I just have no clue how to get there.  I need to let go of the past once and for all.  My past is holding me back.  So I guess whatever direction I wind up choosing, I need to make sure that it is in the opposite direction of my past with the future I want directly in front of me.

Now, if you are like me and you have a hard time making decisions, Kristen Madden from Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook suggests:

“To explore your path and any new directions you might take, you will need a pendulum (a ring on a string will do), and your life-adventure map.  Create your map by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper.  divide the circle into a pie graph, with one section representing your current path.  Into the other sections, place your potential paths, hopes and dreams.  Take your pendulum and ask what paths are most aligned to financial, academic, spiritual, or emotional success, then let the pendulum help find your direction.”

Now if the pendulums, tarot cards and psychic guidance methods freak you out, you can always ask the Magic 8 ball.  I have a fortune telling Yoda doll that I often ask for guidance (yeah, I’m a Star Wars geek) when my Magic 8 ball seems to be having issues (when it tells you “Future Unclear.  Ask Again Later.”)

Good Luck!

Posted in Astrology, Life, Photography, Spirituality, Universe

Annular Solar Eclipse With The New Moon in Gemini

Today marks this month’s New Moon, located in Gemini.  It is also an Annular Solar Eclipse that is said to produce a ring of fire (is anyone else thinking of Johnny Cash, besides me?).

This ring of fire will only be visible in certain parts of the world.  If you are in an area where you won’t be able to see it, thanks to current technology, you can watch it streaming live over the internet.  One site covering the footage is Slooh.  They will be streaming it live, starting in Japan.  Check their site for “showtimes.”

You can also watch the eclipse live from Mt. Fuji thanks to Panasonic.  Or watch footage from the Hong Kong Observatory and Space Museum.  Or check in with amateur astronomer Scotty Degenhart broadcasting from Nevada’s Area 51.

Here in the west, we are supposed to get the best views of the eclipse, the “Black Moon” and the ring of fire.  “The western United States will enjoy bizarre solar effects that only occur every few decades. In the annularity path, which will be about 147 miles (237 km) wide when hitting our shores, the black moon will stand like a bull’s-eye in front of the sun, its motion through space in-your-face obvious,” said astronomer Bob Berman, who will be a commentator on the Slooh Space Camera webcast.  “In a wider zone that includes most western states, the sun becomes an eerie narrow crescent,” Berman added. “At maximum eclipse, the lighting on the ground will grow strange. Shadows of trees and bushes will contain thousands of tiny crescents, as spaces between leaves become pinhole cameras.”  So it should be quite the sight to see.

Now this is all according to astronomers, Astrologers, of course, have a different view of the Solar Eclipse.  According to Risa D’Angeles, Astrology columnist for the Santa Cruz Good Times, the new moon as a solar eclipse signifies that something essential in our lives has come to an end.

“Eclipses signify endings and beginnings.  Lunar eclipses (at full moons) are times when exterior realities disappear. Solar eclipses are times when an inner subjective reality has completed its cycle. It disappears. These endings (and beginnings) can be subtle or very apparent. Eclipses have a six-month influence—three months before and after the new or full moon. With Sun entering Gemini the entire world begins to see duality and polarity. This is the task of Gemini—to gather and disperse all aspects (sides) of information. When we see and experience duality, what emerges is discernment and discrimination so authentic choice can be made. We (humanity) are at a crossroads in our world and, as one Age (Pisces) withdraws and the new Aquarian Age is forthcoming, important choices must be made. Our choices determine our future world. For we are to create this new world coming. Presenting duality being Gemini’s task, we thus understand Gemini’s icon of the twins, two brothers, two lights—one waxing (growing in light, the new world), one waning (lessening in light, the old world). In Taurus, we were given the opportunity to become enlightened. In Gemini we are shown the dual realities. Which “light,” which “brother,” which side will we choose?”

Other astrologers look at the “Ring of Fire” as something destructive on a global scale.  For example, when we had the SuperMoon, the craziness was supposed to revolve around the individual and their inner circles.  Where as a Solar Eclipse bringing a “Ring of Fire,” has more of a global impact, such as severe floods.  It is somehow linked to Neptune and water (some of these astrology sites are very complex in their explanations).  So this eclipse has the potential to bring about deep cleansing of the soul (as represented by the Roman Goddess Egeria, goddess of the Healing Spring).  But because the New Moon is located in Gemini on the fixed star Alcyone in the Pleiades (“Seven Sisters” star cluster), there is also the potential for a flooding of tears, sorrow and broken hearts.

In all honesty, I don’t want to think about the possible negative repercussions of this celestial event.  Instead, all I can think about, as a photographer, is “how can I take pictures of this rare event?”

Posted in Astrology, Life, Spirituality, Universe

The Super Scorpion Moon

On Saturday, May 5th, the Super Moon rose into the Southern California sky.  Per usual, I went out onto my balcony to take a picture of this amazing site.  In some ways, it made me homesick because I know the view was so much better back east.  I started to imagine what the Moon would have looked like rising over Higgins Lake (Northern Mid-Michigan).  The reflection would be amazing.  But instead, I am in SoCal where I had to wait for it to peak out from behind the mountains and then appear above the trees in my backyard.  It was still a breathtaking sight.

Aside drom Saturday’s moon being a Super Moon (the Full Moon that is closest to Earth during that year), this was also the healing Scorpion Moon.  This moon is described by a simple phrase. “what hurts us can also heal us.”  Scorpions are deadly but in some cultures, the scorpion venom has healing properties.  In Egypt, they are studying the use of the venom as a painkiller.  Similarly, the Chinese have long deemed the scorpion venom as an analgesic.  I guess it also coincides with the buddhist belief that through suffering, we can find truth and happiness.

So it is said that during this Scorpion Moon, you need to “have courage to move through pain into healing and strength.”  This is a time for what is called “Scorpion Meditation,” where you think about painful experiences.  “Start small, with a fairly minor hurt, and move up gradually to more difficult situations.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  Imagine walking through a desert with scrub bushes, cacti, and many different sizes of rocks.  One small rock draws your attention–you turn it over to find a scorpion that stings you.  The sting evokes all the memories and the pain of that experience you called to mind.  Allow the pain to pass through you without resistance.  How did you survive?  What did you learn?  How can it make you stronger?  Feel resilience and strength fill your being as your healing begins.” ~Kristin Madden, Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2012.

Personally, this explains why I have been overthinking some past situations lately.  I want the suffering to end so I can move forward.  So I am taking the steps needed to get the answers that will provide me with a ticket to the future while leaving the baggage of the past behind.

Posted in Holidays, Life

Happy May Day!

Today is May 1st, May Day.  It is also International Workers’ Day, a celebration of the international labor movement and a holiday for the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886.  Labor Unions, all over the world, are marching, rallying and even striking (at LAX today) on this first day of May.  It’s amazing how this one day can contain so many different meanings to so many different cultures, many located right here in the United States.

Aside from the labor unions commemorating International Workers’ Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) declared May 1st as “Loyalty Day,” originally called “Americanization Day,”  a day set aside for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.  This started back in the 1920s as a counter to communists and was officially declared a national holiday by the U.S. Congress in 1958.

For the Latino immigrant population, May 1st is the day for the Great American Boycott, a general strike of undocumented workers and supporters seeking immigration reform legislation.  This started in 2006 and is still going strong today, especially in downtown Los Angeles.  It was all over the news this morning.

And not to be left out of all of the rallies and demonstrations, the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA movements are also planning demonstrations throughout the country.  There are four rallies planned just for the Los Angeles area.

But for me, I like to think of May 1st as “May Day,” the festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of Flowers.  A festival where people dance with ribbons around a maypole and a Queen of May is crowned.  It is the celebration of Spring time (and fertility).  It lets us know that the long days of winter are behind us (though it is ironically raining here in Los Angeles today–our form of winter weather) and the long days of summer are in our future.  It’s the whole “April Showers Bring May Flowers” ideal that we were taught as children.  No violence, no demonstrating, no anger, no protesting–just ribbons, dancing, celebrating and flowers.