Hotel Shirley -Sierra Madre, California

Updated 8/17/14

Inchoate intimations of immortality!

Text and Photos © 2017 Dorian Cohen

My homage to my years in Sierra Madre.
Check out my Sierra Madre Page, to read a newly added excerpt from my Pinney House memoir.

Strange convergence; my two former Sierra Madre residences: actual and floral facsimile. Early 1983.

I moved directly from the Pinney House to the Hotel Shirley. I never referred to it by that name -- it  was " Piedmont South" because of its shared affinities with my apartment on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Psychic leylines coursed between them -- or so it seemed to me.

Both apartments shared a vibe particular to residences in commercial districts; not merely the activity and clamor associated with living above businesses,  but a blurring of the public/private realm.  I felt strangely voyeuristic gazing out on Kirsting Square. Conversely,  passersby stared into my windows at night if the drapes were open and the lights were on. Eye contact with strangers  -- that was unnerving.

If memory serves, I purchased the two historic B &W photos at the Keepsake, a boutique on the ground floor of the Shirley which occupied the former site of McGowan's Camera.

Strange times. The two bedroom was listed in the Pasadena Star News. I remember checking out the apartment one night. I climbed the stairs, nobody there;  the door unlocked, electricity cut, but once my eyes adjusted, there was sufficient illumination from the street lights on Baldwin through the windows to get the basic idea. Funky, moody, noir  -- my kind of place.

A daytime visit confirmed a certain shabbiness -- but I was sold. There were two odd skylights; one above the convergence -- it wasn't actually a hall -- but the space where the two bedrooms and bathroom came together.  The bathroom also had skylight and a lanky claw foot tub was compensation for the lack of a shower. My Piedmont Avenue apartment also had a claw foot; but this one was exceptionally long -- I could stretch out completely.

 The floor was overgrown with a weedy brown shag. A lighter, even coarser weave bedeviled my bedroom -- like the pelt of a yeti -- it would have defeated a vacuum -- if I had owned one. Among the many eccentric features of the place were dual front doors  perpendicular to each other. One opened directly from the outside hall into the living room, its twin to the left, swung absurdly into my tiny kitchen --like a vestigial portal.

Kersting Court, the "Pod distribution center" in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers was visible from both bedrooms that overlooked Baldwin.

Kersting Court. One night I heard a couple of loud drunks. A fight erupted --   they began slapping each other like cartoon characters before losing impetus, and staggering away together. Another time I spotted a former girlfriend striding across Baldwin directly outside my window. I raced downstairs pursuing her, before finding myself  face to face with a stranger; as if I had entered a cliche movie scene.

 My best friend Fred. A portion of my record collection is visible. 

An episode of the television show, The A Team  was filmed outside my apartment. I was away, but heard an excited report from my neighbors. Mr. T. right there on Baldwin! To this day I seldom watch TV; one of my few admirable traits.

The Hotel Shirley, like the Pinney House were low-rent apartments, poorly configured and maintained, but affordable.

Keith & Chas hanging out.

A handyman's incompetence made for this aesthetically interesting sequence.

False Ceiling/True Art.

During a period of intense melancholy, the sickly yellow sunlight filtering through the dusty drapes, impelled me to long aimless walks on Sierra Madre Blvd

Craig clutches kitschy nude!

Thrift shop art spiced up the place.

Green Formica coffee table, salvaged from the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

Sierra Madre's most famous film Invasion of the Body Snatchers had an idyllic/apocalyptic tone as did Testament, some of which was filmed outside my bedroom window, circa 1983.

My friend Fred posing with his Deuce and a Quarter on Baldwin at Kirsting Ct. So long ago.

My former apartment cheek to jowl with the long vanished  Juicerator home office.

Northwest view from my room -- a rainy afternoon, clouds lingering in the clefts of the San Gabriel Mountains.

The plastic Fresnel lens attached to the window was from a gift store in San Francisco.

S/E view from the kitchen sink. Neither patio nor ventilation shaft; it was a stucco and tar paper no man's land. The Japanese can work wonders with these kinds of enclosures, but this was no Zen space; just a toilet for the neighbor's cat. 


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