Choosing Pasadena

Jul 31, 2010

In celebration of the magazine’s fifth anniversary, my friends at Arroyo Monthly asked me to write an essay about living in Pasadena. Here’s how it starts:

Colleen Dunn Bates; photo by Suzanne McNulty

What happens when Pasadena and Los Angeles compete for the heart of a SoCal native

The word “hometown” is heavily weighted. It evokes community, family, history and stability. Whether real or longed for, a hometown implies a sense of belonging, perhaps even of nurturing. No matter that so many Americans move so frequently — as a society we still place a high value on at least the idea of a hometown.

As someone who grew up with a strong sense of rootedness in a very big city — Los Angeles — I’ve always put a lot of stock in the importance of a person’s hometown. When my husband and I started thinking about leaving Silver Lake in 1992 to find a larger house and a more kid-friendly neighborhood for our 2-year-old, we put a lot of thought into what we wanted in a hometown for our children, and we found ourselves gravitating toward Pasadena. There we found tree-shaded sidewalks perfect for pedaling tricycles. We saw kids playing in the front yards of storybook houses. Preschools seemed plentiful, as did dogs and parks. The crime rate was a lot lower than in early-’90s Silver Lake. A new area people were calling “Old Town” had a wonderful toy store and a great bagel shop (both, alas, gone now). House prices weren’t cheap, but they were far more affordable than those to the west in the family-friendly neighborhoods of Hancock Park, Santa Monica and the Palisades. When we factored in the manageable commute to the Hollywood and Valley studios where my husband worked, Pasadena appeared to be the perfect hometown for our young family.

And yet, I worried. I loved Los Angeles, and I feared that Pasadena would be too provincial. When I was an L.A. teenager and young adult in the ’70s and ’80s, the Pasadenans I knew — mostly my parents’ friends — were lovely people but not exactly cosmopolitan. The stereotypical Pasadenans of that era dressed only from Talbots and Brooks Brothers, socialized only with people from their club and/or their parish, never went to movies or concerts and thought going out to dinner in L.A. was the height of adventure. It was hard enough to make the transition from freewheeling twentysomething to diaper-changing thirtysomething. I didn’t want to go straight to geezer in the process.

Read the rest here at pasadenaweeklycom.

3 Responses for “Choosing Pasadena”

  1. Love the article, Colleen! You’ve captured many of my sentiments about living in Pasadena.

  2. I relate. You can’t take the Chicago out of me, but I am in love with and ensconced in Pasadena. It’s my hometown.

  3. Kat says:

    I’ll always have been raised in the Midwest– but California, and particularly Pasadena captured my heart early… and will always have it. Nice article.



Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena