Welcome to Pasadena, Where Everything Is Perfect

Jun 8, 2015

600px-Pasadena_City_Hall_at_nightI live in Dallas now, but until October 15, 2014, and for thirty-two years before that, I lived in Pasadena.

To confess that I miss Pasadena is such an understatement that I may as well not even enter the confessional. It is like saying “I like dessert” when the reality is that I would live on sugar products 24/7 if I stood a chance, calorically and nutritionally, of getting away with it. There was an article out recently, about how eating chocolate cake in the morning helps you lose weight. By paragraph two, this little sugar piggy was reaching for brownies.

I am a Pasadena piggy, too.

Without question, the City of Roses is “the City of my Heart.” It seems inevitable in a way, this passion of mine. After all, the rose has been a symbol of immortal love since antiquity, and my love for Pasadena is not only immortal, but indestructible. It is vampire love. I can’t sink my teeth deeply enough into the throat, the pulse points, of the city. Certainly, nothing short of a stake through my heart will kill this insatiable thirst of mine for my beloved…And, even then, if heaven is Heaven, Heaven will be Pasadena.

Recently I returned to the City of Roses for a visit and, as I drove east along California Boulevard, my heart both lifted and broke. There they were, all my old friends, waving hello and blowing kisses –the palm trees, the Deco and Craftsmen buildings, the mountains, the jacarandas and jasmine, plus everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, people on sidewalks. People walking. People streaming across rose-painted crosswalks, just as I used to do without thinking twice.

Just as I used to do—each word a seismic wave, forcing the chasm in my heart open further.

No one walks in Dallas.




The scent of jasmine from the bushes over there is soft. The patio, here beneath my feet at ‘my Starbucks,’ where I am writing this, is hard. But does this stop me from rooting myself into the clay of this place, my one and only garden city, as deeply as possible? Not for one moment. Instead, as I dig my toes into the pavement, I take huge gulps of the air, the way you do when doctors ask you to breathe in. Then I try not to breathe out; I want to hold the place within me for a while.

Actually, a while is a lie. The right word is forever.

Of course, roses have thorns, and the lessons I am learning do more than scratch the surface of things. They draw blood.

Joni Mitchell wrote “Big Yellow Taxi” in 1970. There is a reason, I now see, that the lyrics have haunted me ever since I first heard them at a party in my girlfriend’s basement in St. Louis, Missouri. They were readying me, alerting me…

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”

Not even half-once did I feel that way when I dumped St. Louis for California. Dumping California, however, for Dallas…Oh, but California!

Yes, yet again, Joni says it best:


Oh, it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers…




But, for now, it is time to stop pining. “The Big Yellow Taxi” has brought me home. California, I’m coming home.

“IN PASADENA!!!” I texted my Dear Friend in Dallas.

Obligingly, my phone dinged me back. “Where everything is PERFECT.”

Our little game involving this catchphrase was born last December. DF and I had flown in from Dallas to celebrate an early Christmas with my daughter and, that morning, were touring my favorite haunts. We began with breakfast at Dupars.

“These are the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted,” DF announced.

“Well, OF COURSE,” I retorted. “This is Pasadena, where everything is perfect.”

We laughed and our proverb took wing. If we saw a good movie, of course it was a good movie. This was Pasadena, where everything is perfect. If traffic flowed smoothly, of course, it flowed smoothly. This was Pasadena, where everything is perfect. If the sight of City Hall from our hotel window took our breath away, of course it took our breath away. This was Pasadena, where everything is perfect. If the sun rose successfully, of course it rose successfully. This was Pasadena, where everything is perfect.

Of course. Of course. Of course.

The rose is not only a symbol of passion but of heavenly perfection.




What is not quite so perfect is the drought here. Oh, the sky is as gorgeous as ever—that endless ethereal expanse of blemishless blue I dream of on grey days in Dallas. (Dallas’s own drought has ended, thanks to so many weeks of rain; subsequent flooding that made the national news.) So, too, the grey and rose mountains…But the trees! The poor, parched trees! Never again will the term “sickly green” be confined—at least for me—solely to human skin tone.

I am not one to slow down at the site of an accident. I can’t even watch people pretend to suffer in movies. I hide my head or leave the flick. Observing the slow, inevitable browning of the trees is torturous – water torture at its worst because, like the rest of us, I can’t do a damn thing about the fucking drought. I can’t ride in, a white knight with a water hose, to the rescue.

Thus, yet again, we are soul sisters—my city of my heart and I. I am parched with thirst for my city the way my city is parched for water.

Yet while I can’t help my city, I can help myself. I can do something about my own drought.

And it is the City of Roses that reminds me of this. The rose is not only a symbol of immortality and perfection but of balance.

On one side is the rose’s beauty, representing promise, hope, and new beginnings. On the other are those pesky thorns, which symbolize loss, defense, and thoughtlessness.

Now, as an unabashed Libran, balance is a concept I grasp as unthinkingly as I toss bags of Circus Animals cookies into my cart. (Dallas markets don’t carry them.) Sans balance, Librans droop just as much as roses do without balanced portions of sunshine and rain.

So, too, I must weigh my love for the City of My Heart against my need to make my home in the city of the Dear Friend of my heart.

The previous sentence is a mouthful, and I apologize for that. But my mantra assures me that, muddled mouthful or not, it can be pulled off. I will right both sides of my scales because Pasadena is perfect and I am a Pasadenan and, somehow, between us, we will make this work.

Not perfectly perhaps, but good enough.




Copyright © “Welcome to Pasadena, Where Everything Is Perfect” by Jenine Baines.




“Welcome to Pasadena, Where Everything Is Perfect” is the first in a series of monthly nonfiction musings that Jenine will be sharing with HP readers.

Enjoy more of her work in “Write Here”:
Scribblings: Week 25
Scribblings: Week 15
Scribblings: Week 14
Scribblings: Week 13
The Rabbit in the Moon
Sorrow Tree
The Deflowering of Silence
The Morning the Egg ExplodedToo Beautiful
May I Have This Last Dance, Mr. Banana Nose?
Into the Bay Forever
No Two Blades of Grass
How Long Is Never?
Golf Course
Too Beautiful
Oh, to Sing



Photo, top right, Pasadena City Hall by Oleknutlee at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of jasmine by B. Navez (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, blooming red rose, by Flying jacket (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo, rose bud, by Amada44 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

4 Responses for “Welcome to Pasadena, Where Everything Is Perfect”

  1. Charles Bronwn says:

    You realize the chocolate diet was a hoax?

  2. Jenine Baines says:

    Hi, Charles. Yeah, I figured. Too good to be true, eh? But still, “I have a dream…” 🙂

  3. Karen Pollock says:

    We moved to Phoenix after 30 years in Pasadena/South Pasadena. It’s been five years and I’m still not over it. I feel you.

  4. Jenine Baines says:

    Thanks, Karen. There is something so very special about Pasadena, isn’t there? It’s why I am hoping to find a way for monthly “fixes.” I droop like a dry flower without them.



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