Column: Stone wall dates to Route 66 days

A long stone wall along Claremont’s Foothill Boulevard wasn’t exactly invisible before, but its full extent became more obvious when much of the greenery in the parkway was torn out as part of an improvement project. I look into (but not over) the wall in Friday’s column.

This column, by the way, began as a blog post, but it proved long enough that I thought it might as well be a column. So I expanded it and rewrote it quite a bit.

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Restaurant of the Week: Luchador Urban Taqueria

Luchador Urban Taqueria, 341 S. Garey Ave. (at 4th), Pomona; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday

Luchador, named for masked Mexican wrestling, opened in December 2018 in the former Papa’s Tacos spot around the corner from the Fox Theater. I had tried Papa’s only once with friends prior to a concert by the National, and we were so hungry, one memorably said, “This is the worst Mexican food I’ve ever had. But I can’t stop eating.”

Luchador, by contrast, is by the chef and owner behind Corazon Urban Kitchen, Sergio Nogueron. He had opened Corazon downtown, then after a spat with his landlord moved it uptown. Corazon closed a few weeks ago. But Luchador seems to be going strong.

I ate there in May, the afternoon of the Alejandro Aranda concert outside the Fox. I forget what I’d wanted, but they were out — it was a busy day, what with the crowds — so I went for the sopesitos, one carnitas, one al pastor, plus a pineapple agua fresca (total $8.23 with tax).

They were delicious and just the right amount of food, filling without weighing me down. There’s not much seating, a couple of tables inside plus a bar. A woman behind me said to her friend about her own meal: “This tastes like what my grandmother would make. My mom’s mom.”

I meant to come back, but it took me a while. Last Saturday, chatting with a friend downtown at Cafe con Libros, we headed over for an impromptu dinner. She’s vegetarian and got taquitos de papa ($8.50); in deference, and also because I’d had steak picado at lunch, I got two veggie tacos ($2.50 each). The restaurant was busy, which was encouraging. We got a sidewalk table. It was too dark to take photos of our food.

My tacos, on handmade tortillas, had poblano and bell peppers, onions, spinach and cactus, an unusual mix (no beans?), but it worked. The taquitos weren’t the typical fried tubes but more like rolled tacos. “They were very good,” she said, impressed. “I thought they might be saturated with grease and crispy. I could taste the potatoes.”

Pomona has a few restaurants in the modern Mexican movement, not the same old stuff (that we love) but with a more creative touch, better ingredients and with multiple vegetarian or vegan options. Many are along Garey: Dia de los Puercos, Borreguitas, Just Vegana, El Jefe and Luchador.

It’s a good trend. And Luchador is a good spot.

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Hollywood and Vine Metro Station

The Hollywood and Vine station of the Red Line subway was produced in 1999 by pioneering Chicano artist Gilbert “Magu” Lujan. He spent some of his later years in Pomona. My 2004 interview with him is in my book “Pomona A to Z.” I’m a fan of his subway station, which I’ve seen dozens of times. I took photos on a couple of recent visits.

The piece is titled “Hooray for Hollywood” and pays tribute to the fantasy of the movies in various ways. Above, the tiles form a pattern that is probably meant to evoke the Yellow Brick Road from “The Wizard of Oz.” At top, a couple of vintage movie cameras stand near pillars resembling palm trees.

Dozens of hand-painted tiles on the walls meld movie and Chicano imagery, especially cruising cars, a particular interest of Lujan’s.

Note the film strip-like molding around doors.

The ceiling is made up of film reels. The effect is kind of hypnotic, isn’t it? On the platform, walls seem to have film sprockets and stars (see below). That touch had never occurred to me until I was looking closely. Ditto with the music notes that are part of the decoration on the stair railings.

In an appreciation after Lujan’s 2011 death, L.A. Times arts writer Christopher Knight concluded: “Luján’s unexpected vision of cinema as mass transit yielded one of the most engaging stations on the Metro Red Line.”

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Column: Oldies act has nod to Ritchie Valens’ history at fair

One tidbit I couldn’t squeeze in abbreviated form into Friday’s column on the fair gets a longer treatment in Sunday’s, as I highlight the coincidence of asking if there was any Ritchie Valens tie-in at the fair (Valens played there in 1958) and then stumbling across one. That item doubles as a mini-profile of a musician and his wife who perform at the fair. That’s followed by a few Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette. To steal from a Valens song title: Come on, let’s go…to my Sunday column!

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Column: LA landmarks pop up at fair

I visited the LA County Fair on Wednesday for the first time this season to take a walk around and see some sights. I focused on the LA Pop Architecture show on the hill, but also stopped at a vegan food stand and the Millard Sheets Art Center. That’s all part of Friday’s column.

It was a fruitful visit that will result in a column item or two on Sunday and possibly a full column next Wednesday. Above, the trippy art piece “Emergence.” Stand in front of it and the elements might appear in motion.

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Restaurant of the Week: Kiku Sushi

Kiku Sushi, 3090 Chino Ave. (at Emerald Way), Chino Hills; open 11:30 to 10 p.m. daily

Chino Hills has more good Japanese restaurants than any other Inland Valley city. I tried Kiku Sushi recently; it’s in the same center that has a Harkins 18 cinema and a few so-so restaurants. Kiku means “chrysanthemum.”

A friend and I arrived just as the place opened for lunch, which I say to explain the photo below of a seemingly empty dining room. The restaurant was nearing capacity by the time we left.

Apparently Kiku is known for its all you can eat sushi, but that’s how I (crunch) roll. I just ordered off the sushi menu.

I had albacore ($6.50) and yellowtail ($7.50) nigiri sushi, with large pieces of fish. Unusually, besides the two pieces each on rice, a third piece of each fish was provided. That was new to me, but a nice bonus.

I also got my standby, the salmon skin cut roll ($6). (As the tuna melt is my baseline sandwich, the salmon skin cut roll is my baseline sushi.) Not the best version I’ve had by any means, but acceptable.

My friend got the tonkatsu bowl ($7), a fried pork cutlet over rice. No Japanese food enthusiast, she liked it.

Service via an English-language server was helpful. A giant video screen played YouTube music videos, which was a little tacky. A better touch were the slatted screens over the windows, which muted the light coming in from outside. It’s hard to block out an ocean of asphalt, blinding noontime sun and throngs of people headed for the multiplex a few yards away, but the screens did a commendable job of creating a cozy atmosphere.

Kiku is fairly average as far as Japanese restaurants go in Chino Hills (and some on Yelp say it’s really gone downhill after an ownership change), but I’d go there again for a semi-civilized meal before or after a movie. It’s got to beat Buffalo Wild Wings.

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Column: Stories onstage, anxiety backstage at ‘Unheard LA’

Do you want to know about the “Unheard LA” show in Claremont last Saturday that had yours truly as a participant? I went back and forth on that, before deciding that perhaps you would, even if you weren’t there. Tipping the scales, writing about it was a simple way to share the video for the show. Read about it in Wednesday’s column, and if you watch the video, be kind. (I start at about 33:00, but all 90 minutes are worth watching.) Above, a view of me from the audience. Look at all the people! Maybe it’s just as well I couldn’t see them.

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Reading Log: August 2019

Books acquired: none

Books read: “What to Eat,” Marion Nestle; “American Fried,” “Alice, Let’s Eat,” “Third Helpings,” Calvin Trillin

Happy September, readers! Welcome to our monthly books chat, here at the end of beach reading season. We don’t seem like a beach-reading-season crowd, but ehh, it seemed like something to say.

All the books I read in August had to do with food. How many books, though? It depends on how you count.

You’ll see four named above and only three in the photos. That’s because “The Tummy Trilogy” is, as the name suggests, three, three, three books in one. But when I bought it, I already owned one of the books individually, unread.

You could say accurately that I read two: “What to Eat” and “The Tummy Trilogy.” On my personal list of unread books, I listed all three “Trilogy” titles individually. So I’m saying, also accurately I believe, that I read four. To bolster my case, I switched from the “Tummy” paperback to the “Alice, Let’s Eat” hardcover at the appropriate time before returning to “Tummy” for the third book.

Book lovers will be arguing about this for years, I predict. (Note: Not really.)

Now, let’s dig in.

“What to Eat” (2006): Fair and sensible advice by America’s best-known nutritionist based largely on what you’ll find aisle by aisle in your supermarket. Marion Nestle advocates for food with fewer ingredients, less added sugar and fewer chemicals; thus, in the scheme of things, Coke is better than no-cal versions, butter better than margarine. While I learned a lot in reading this, it’s also true that of the probably 10,000 facts in these 500-plus pages, I’ve retained about a dozen. But they may serve me in good stead.

“The Tummy Trilogy” (1994): “I’m a specialist; I just eat,” Trillin says of why he doesn’t cook. This collects his three books about food — published in 1974, 1978 and 1984 — all of which I found equally enjoyable. The New Yorker writer travels far and near to investigate catfish, crawfish, country ham, pan-fried chicken and other regional favorites, often with commentary from his wife and daughters, with frequent laudatory mentions of his native Kansas City. This is as much domestic comedy as it is food writing. His youngest’s finicky tastes inspired the last piece, “Just Try It.”

Where did I buy these three, er, four (or is it five?) books? “Tummy” came from Changing Hands Books in Tempe, Arizona, in 2009, “What to Eat” from Borders in Montclair in 2008 and “Alice” from I’m not sure where circa 2007.

Will you let us know what you read in August in the comments? Provide your own count of your total, please. I’m worn out.

Next month: a few cc’s worth of titles.

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Column: Rialto cousins went to LAX to greet the Stones

In my third (!) column about the Rolling Stones relating to San Bernardino, two cousins tell me about a teenage adventure in which they went to LAX to see the band arrive on June 3, 1964. Their moms and siblings came along. Also, a man shares the story of watching the band flee Swing Auditorium after their first concert there, and, jumping ahead to a couple of weeks ago, a friend tells me about her adventure with the band at the Rose Bowl concert. So many adventures, all in Sunday’s column.

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