Urban Exploration: Field Trip Day Pasadena via Team Cartwheel Art

Posted by


Congregating in Old Pasadena’s Mercantile Alley, Team Cartwheel Art (initially only three members strong) set off to explore historical landmarks along the “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure”-style map provided by the organizers of Field Trip, on eof our strategic partners. The first stop designated by Team Cartwheel Art – Cindy Schwarzstein, Chuckles Risos and myself, was the Guinness Book of World Record-holding Bunny Museum. With Candace (the “Bunny Lady”), Team Cartwheel Art learned about “Hunny Bunny,” the first collectible Bunny that her husband Steve ever gave her, as well as the proper way to say ‘good-bye’ in their company: the Bunny Bump.


We exchanged Bunny Bumps and made our way to Tom Lamakie, played by one of the many (un)timely-dressed actors dispersed throughout the days mission. With KTLA’s Adrian Huerta in tow, Tom Lamakie gave us details about Jack Parsons and numerology, and then directed us to go see Detective Sullivan in Kendall Alley.

After assuring us he was “off the sauce,” Detective Sullivan explained his run-in with infamous gangster Mickey Cohen at that very location in 1949 – “Stabbed me right here see? Just above the collarbone,” he tapped below his shoulder and took a drag off his faux-cigarette. “What finally took him down?” Chuckles asked. “What do you mean? He’s still out there! He got away that time, but not before I gave him three slugs in the leg!” It was our own Google research that verified Cohen died in his sleep in 1976.

1273728_10151891064520973_925144655_oChuckles doing her best Mickey Cohen impersonation with Detective Sullivan

Upon confirming the trivia fact that the Greek god Apollo appears in the display window of the Gold Bug, Team Cartwheel Art picked up another member – Esperanza, who was volunteering with the event. We gawked at freeze-dried animals for quite some time before departing towards the now abandoned Raymond Theatre with our new recruit, where we identified an old movie projector as a relic of the establishment.

En route to the next landmarks, Holly Street Livery Stable and a larger-than-life statue of Jackie Robinson’s head, we were joined by Scott Gillies (also known to our all-female group as “Cute Fella” – a name Chuckles bestowed upon him) – an aficionado of urban scavenger hunts, who was extremely helpful in navigating our route. Scott said:

I love location based apps, like Field Trip (with Atlas Obscura), because it shows you little hidden gems that you drive by everyday, in a city that you’ve been living in for years. Pairing the app with a full day event, with actors and fun games, was a great way to experience the secrets of Pasadena.


With Team Cartwheel Art now at five members, we pressed on past Pasadena City Hall and Old Pasadena Star News Building to locate the old YMCA building and became acquainted with the Pasadena Arts & Crafts movement via a real-life Julia Morgan – an architect from the period who was instrumental in its development. We then moved on to experience a bit of zen in the garden at the Pacific Asia Museum – a collection which was started by Grace Nicholson in the early 1920’s – where Cindy and I discovered how we both learned about the goddess Quan Yin (a statue of her stands above the koi pond in the garden): Myself through hanging out in tattoo shops and Cindy through having studied Sanskrit.

Next we journeyed to the Pasadena Playhouse, where “A Streetcar Named Desire” was being performed under the guidance from historical playwright Tennessee Williams, who coached Field Trip members in the most notoriously known scene from the play.  Tennessee instructed with rapt sincerity and intensity:

…Read the lines as though the little child is going to break out of that man’s body….Fight that brute!

Our “Cute Fella” Scott played a great Stanley Kowalski, and I had the honor of reading for the part of Stella. From there we headed over to see Jack Parsons trapped in time in the Pen and Stationery section at Vroman’s bookstore.

Chuckles with “Jack Parsons” In real life, Parsons was studly occultist and adventurer, rather than a bookish type

“JACK PARSONS!!” exclaimed Chuckles. “What a gentleman, and a scholar. Cute Fella asked him the time just to see him use his timepiece. He was just not quite sure where he went wrong in his notes, but the answer was there somewhere! I asked about the ‘frog in the bowl’ notation.”


Our last official stop as a group was to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, where the King of Pop (the best darn Michael Jackson I’ve ever seen) explained the secret behind being able to moonwalk correctly and spent some time teaching us the legendary dance move, as well as how to pose for photos like a star.

1267223_10151891072315973_404803240_o (1)

From that point, we meandered past the Luggage Room and made our way to the historic Hotel Green – the final destination of Field Trip Pasadena, where an “after-party” reception including snacks, drinks, entertainment, magic, clowns and music was hosted for participants.Chuckles, herself a clow said:

“I got to witness the magic of Ryan Majestic. He is delightfully captivating… [As well as] a wonderful group of clowns [who] performed, and gave birth to a lovely fish, wrapped in a blanket. Turns out my favorite parts of the day were all due to one individual, Deciptimus Mundum. He was responsible for time travelling the historic figures, designing the cool business cards and codes, and hiring the entertainment. Thanks Google and Atlas Obscura and whomever else was responsible for a super neato fun, fun day!

1274874_10151891074020973_1484057272_oMusic, fun and drinks awaited us at Hotel Green

Overall, Team Cartwheel Art agrees: Field Trip was a fun day! We learned a lot about Old Town Pasadena, and about various characters and places within its history.

While I’m not certain if every detail will stick with me, what I will remember is the sense of community I felt among everyone who was on the Field Trip; Perfect strangers joining as a group to spend time, all working/walking together to attain bits of interesting cultural trivia. One of my favorite aspects was interacting with abandoned storefronts, buildings and alleys – surroundings that most of us fail to examine. I think the next Field Trip should be to Skid Row!

Want to explore your city and make every day an adventure? Download the free Google Field trip app for your smartphone and join Cartwheel Art and other content providers like Atlas Obscura, Zagat, and Thrillist in discovering the unique.



1 Comment

  1. Irina Netchaev
    October 8, 2013

    Looks like a fun day and love how you captured the spirit of Pasadena! I love the alleys in Old Town… so many fun places to explore!


Leave a Reply