Today's L.A. Times turned its gaze toward one of Echo Park's doggier traditions: In a corner of Peter Shire's ceramics and sculpture studios' -- during their annual Christmas sale -- the Echo Park Animal Alliance has a Santa Event, which raises funds for the organization. You can have your dog's photo taken with Santa, who has a real white beard, not a glue-on. Or it can be your photo. Last year, my family -- minus my husband, who declined to be in the picture -- was photographed. In the picture, Santa was smiling, I was smiling, Rosie the dog was smiling, but my daughter frowned and looked near tears. She wasn't sure about this Santa business. It's one of my favorite holiday pictures. This year was the first in six years that we have missed the Peter Shire Studio sale. We would have gone, just to see neighbors and see the ceramics, not to mention take a doggy photo with Santa, but we had previous plans on the other side of the city. It's just as well as so many of our friends and family have received Peter Shire studio works for Christmas and Hannukah that we couldn't with a straight face and heart give them more. In any case, it's always a thrill to see familiar faces in the newspaper. And today I recognized not just some of the people but a pair of Basset hounds who walk in Elysian Park. I never knew their names were Gracie and George.
Last year I was trotting down to the sale, and I ran into a neighbor, Christine, who grew up here. Her mother was the first female member of EXP, the Echo Park gang. (One of these days I will ask Peter Shire if there is a connection between the gang and the EXP signature on the bottom of his studio pieces. Echo Park, California notes that an ExP frieze was cropped out of the Times photos this morning.) I asked Christine if she was going to the sale, and she said no, she already had some Peter Shire pottery. "He did my portrait," she said. And I remembered a monograph of his platter portraits of people in the neighborhood. One of the portraits showed the face of Geno, who was known by some as Geno Palomino. Geno grew up in the house I live in now. He may have been an addict, and he died at about age 30 of AIDS. Shortly after my husband and I moved into our house his family returned here. They scattered ashes in the open lot behind the house. Another trace: Down on Echo Park Avenue, scratched into the concrete on the sidewalk is the name Geno.