And Now, a Word About Pasadena

Feb 5, 2011

Writers both famous and undeservedly little-known have lived in, or passed through, Pasadena and her sister towns, and we’ve collected some of their bot mots about these towns. Here’s Part 1 of our favorites; stay tuned for Part 2 soon.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Now I was truly in “God’s country”—the real Southern California which is peerless…. Next day, February 1, 1885, a thirty-mile walk through beautiful towns, past the picturesque old Mission San Gabriel, and down a matchless valley, brought me at midnight to my unknown home in the City of Angels.
A Tramp Across the Continent, Charles Fletcher Lummis

The house was on Dresden in the Oak Noll section of Pasadena, a big solid cool-looking house with burgundy brick walls, a terra cotta tile roof, and a white stone trim… There was a heavy scent of summer on the morning and everything that grew was perfectly still in the breathless air they get over there on what they call a nice cool day.
The High Window, Raymond Chandler

Quacks are plentiful in Pasadena, and they are very popular, especially with the wealthy, middle-aged matrons on whose diamond-studded hands time, alas, hangs heavier than a six spade bid doubled and redoubled.
— “Croesus at Home,” Morrow Mayo

Pasadena is a place of gated and walled estates. Cal Tech, and the Norton Simon Museum, and the Huntington Library, with its permanent collection of Gainsboroughs and Romneys, its first folios and Gutenbergs, are all located in Pasadena. More Nobel laureates live in Pasadena than in any other American city. South Pasadena is more… cozy is as good a word as any.
Smoked, Léon Bing

Pasadena? I’ve heard that’s where very old people live in very big houses with their parents.
— Edith Oliver, theatre critic for The New Yorker

To California, in its natural features, I owe much. Its calm sublimity of contour, richness of color, profusion of flowers, fruit and foliage, and the steady peace of its climate were meat and drink to me.
The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (about her time in Pasadena), Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Tiny ramshackle houses gave way to stores, and then again to houses, albeit nicer, as they crossed into Alhambra, and nicer still in South Pasadena. Now the median was lawn and tended bushes. The sign said San Marino and the houses were nicer still….

Suddenly the houses were large and lovely, the dream realized. They sat back on wide lawns; their inner workings were modern American, the latest plumbing, the latest wiring, the latest central air. They were lath and plaster, but their looks were diverse copies of English Tudor and French Provincial, Monterey Colonials, brick Williamsburg, and sprawling modern ranch. Their grounds were manicured and flowers still bloomed despite it being December. A few already had decorated Christmas trees in big front windows framed with lights.

Mad Dog whistled. “This is definitely the high-rent district.”
Dog Eat Dog, Edward Bunker

Monty lay still, and smoked a long time. Then, in a queer, shaky voice he said: “I always said you’d make some guy a fine wife if you didn’t live in Glendale.”

“Are you asking me to marry you?”

“If you move to Pasadena, yes.”

“You mean if I buy this house.”

“No—it’s about three times as much house as you need, and I don’t insist on it. But I will not live in Glendale.”

“Then all right!’
Mildred Pierce, James M. Cain

I’ve watched what divorced women do in Pasadena: They sell the big house, move to the lovely two-bedroom condo off South Lake Avenue and lose 20 pounds through a new regime of stress and yoga. Somehow, in that first year post-divorce, they find the will to blow dry their hair and attend the school holiday program solo, smiling a lot and laughing wildly at wildly unfunny comments. Eventually they get their real estate license or land a job at a local charity, hopeful that someday, once their kids are out of high school and through the eating-disorder/painkiller-addiction/low-GPA phase, they’ll meet a nice man, remarry and travel to Europe as a couple.
Helen of Pasadena, Lian Dolan

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