Pasadena walks

Some of my most exceptional experiences in Los Angeles weren’t in the Santa Monica beach or the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Why even the eye-opening Griffith Observatory wasn’t the best of everything I did.

The one thing I treasure about every city I’ve ever visited is the time I spent walking around the city’s ordinary streets—not just the downtown areas, but also the residential parts of a town, the school district, the supermarket street—the places where locals feel most at home. These places are more than just an everyday thing for people. They’re their lifestyle, their comfort zone, places they prefer to spend time at. That’s what I love about a city—being a part of the locals’ lifestyle even only for a few hours.

Buildings in Pasadena

And so, not wanting to disturb my colleagues’ sightseeing plans, I stepped out onto the street early one morning just to see what’s what.

As I strode along the streets of Pasadena, I came upon architecture both old and new. Stores reaching for the sky barred at the early hours, mere hours away from playing host to the hundreds of folk who’d come in for bread and butter. Coffee shops buzzed with conversations, while vending machines whirred away, energised by the same Joe they poured out.

Political and social opinions drenched passers-by, with clever wordplay on signboards and uncanny shop names, their lights snuffed out, though not for long.

Summer sunlight streamed through the trees, touching buds with their golden rays, awakening birds, bees, and their birches too. The smell of warmth spread through the air as empty roads stretched before me, challenging me, mocking me, to go as far as I can go. I found myself following the light, towards familiar street names, reaching unfamiliar territories, halting for the traffic signs and crossing through broad walks, stepping on sidewalks with plants for aisles, and staring at a Tesla or a Mercedes, a Beetle or a BMW.

I had the whole town of Pasadena for myself.

And as the clock struck eight, like most people in the locality I entered Trader Joe’s. Unlike them, however, I was there for window shopping. On my way back to the hotel I stopped at the coffee shop I’d seen earlier, only now it was overflowing with breakfasters. Carrying my pumpkin pie about 20 minutes later, I walked back to where I stayed, ready to begin a day of work—just like any other person.

And that’s the difference between a tourist and a traveller. We experience far more than what’s on the brochures.

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Hey, Joe!

A coffee shop signboard on the streets of Austin

A coffee shop signboard on the streets of Austin

The morning glory

sunrise on the horizon

first cup of coffee

Stay cool

Dunkin Donuts cold brew

Somewhere on the streets of Miami

Warm summer breezes

rejuvenating cold shots

walks to remember

Morning

Dripping drip by drip

Filling whole the hole with life

As blood, black coffee

Hardworking

“Large. Extra frothy almond milk with cocoa, cinnamon, and brown sugar.”

It wasn’t the first time that Ben bought, and Jenny handed him his boss’s beverage. In her four years as barista, countless Bens had rushed in with profuse requests.

As the afternoon rolled in, their bosses called them aside.

“What’s up?”

“You need to work harder. Unless you show some real progress, I may have to cut down on your pay.”

She’d missed her break, and he his. It wasn’t new—they’d skip meals just to ensure others didn’t. And they knew better than to slight each other’s work.