Wednesday’s column bids farewell to actor Ed Nelson and Chaffey High icon Ed Berryman, both of whom died recently. Also, I plug my next book talk, and I briefly recount my vacation activities.
I had a good week off even if I didn’t travel anywhere exotic. Wednesday’s column has a short version of my activities, which I cut down for space. Here’s a little more.
First there was the Paul McCartney concert at Dodger Stadium. Belying his 72 years, McCartney performed for nearly three hours and ran through three dozen songs, even at that only scratching the surface of his Beatles and solo work. What a night.
I saw three very entertaining movies that week: “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Hercules” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” the Tom Cruise movie that blends sci-fi with “Groundhog Day.” Criminally overlooked, it was the best of the three, and was also the cheapest; I saw it at the bargain-priced Academy in Pasadena, where my matinee ticket was $2.
(On my way to Pasadena I stopped at Donut Man for a strawberry doughnut, which was $4. A $4 donut and a $2 movie? Has the world turned upside down?)
Naturally books were part of my break. I read three: Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass,” Chris Nichols’ “The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister” and Owen Hill’s “The Chandler Apartments.”
Two days of balmy weather awaited me in Ventura, where the temperatures were in the low 70s, not the low 90s. I checked out two bookstores in Santa Barbara, the Book Den and the Granada, but my attempt to eat at Julia Child’s favorite taqueria, La Super-Rica, was foiled because it was closed the day of my visit.
I did get in a game of bowling at Wagon Wheel in Oxnard, a place along the 101 that has enticed me for years due to its quaint name, large neon sign and freeway frontage. In fact, the Wagon Wheel used to have a motel, skating rink, restaurant and other uses, and it still has its own street (“Wagon Wheel Road”) and freeway exit. Everything’s been torn down for a new development, though, except for the 32 lanes.
Two journalist friends claimed to be poor bowlers who couldn’t break 100, so to make it interesting we decided I would take them both on, my score against both of theirs. Then they had the game of their lives. The final scores: 133 for me, 123 for Wendy and 113 for Cindy. I couldn’t beat them collectively, but at least I beat them individually.
Of course I made one Metrolink trip, meeting a friend in Larchmont Village for lunch and a walk. And I sought out two Jonathan Gold-approved eateries I’d been meaning to try forever: Chili John’s in Burbank, where they’ve been serving chili from behind a U-shaped counter since 1946, and Bulgarini Gelato, a highly regarded Altadena gelateria.
I worded it that way purely for the pleasure of typing “Altadena gelateria.”
I was surprised when the Courier put my April 9 talk at Rhino Records in its calendar of events — in which I was described for the first time in my life as “reporter and author” — because, after all, we are competitors. It’s a friendly rivalry, though, and the Courier is mentioned in my column now and then. Also, I’m a subscriber and live in town.
I was even more surprised when a reporter and photographer from the paper showed up to my talk. You mean I’m getting actual coverage? I was. The reporter later interviewed me by phone and the whole thing turned into a two-page spread, with two photos, in the Courier’s Friday issue. Gosh!
Well, I couldn’t have asked for a better presentation, and even a journalist friend of many years said she wasn’t sure she could have written a better story about me. So, my gratitude to reporter Sarah Torribio and photo intern Helen Arase. I got a kick out of the whole experience, including seeing a couple of my cracks during my talk making print, and being “Mr. Allen,” in the Courier’s New York Times-style of respectful address.
The Courier wisely doesn’t give away its product for free online, so I can’t link to the story, but I photographed the two pages; click on the photos for a readable view. The issue is on sale at news racks through Thursday.
In Sunday’s column: a Metrolink crime blotter; RC’s Metrolink parking fee rubs some the wrong way; news from Upland (including a Beckham sighting); and a John Wayne movie mentions San Dimas.
Today marks 40 years since President Nixon announced on live TV that he would step down the next day. I write in Friday’s column about my understanding of Watergate as a child through TV and comics, and what I learned about it this summer through research. You’re encouraged to contribute your own perspective, then and now.
Alamir Flatbreads, 426 Auto Center Drive (at Indian Hill), Claremont; open daily
Alamir joined Fattoush in 2013 as Middle Eastern restaurants seeking some synergy from the Super King market, which took over from the former Albertsons below the 10 Freeway and which caters to Middle Easterners. Alamir previously was located in Anaheim.
It’s kind of bare inside, lots of tables and not much else, and was pretty quiet on a recent Wednesday evening. But I was confident because of a reader’s recommendation. Alamir has about two dozen flatbreads, round like pizzas but smaller, lighter and much cheaper.
I had the zaatar and cheese, which is dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and olive oil ($2.50) (you read that right). “Is this really 10 inches?” I asked, to make sure I was getting an entree at that price. I was. The version without cheese is a mere $1.75.
After a trip through the pizza oven, the flatbread was done. It looked like a pizza but with a thin, soft, floury crust. (Bottom one in the photo below.) It had a little too much dry spice for my taste, like if you shake on too much oregano, but it tasted good, and I liked the concept and the price. I would get a different flatbread next time, though. My big-spender friend had the chicken chipotle flatbread, which was $6. Showoff. It had a very light sauce, spicy cheese and boneless chicken chunks. A chicken fan, he said he really liked it.
Other varieties include kafta, plain cheese, scrambled egg and cheese, sojouk and kafta. They also have a traditional veggie pizza, calzone, and triangles with spinach or cheese. Most of the items are $6 or less. See the menu here; the website’s out of date, but the menu is fairly current.
A little different, but interesting, and the prices can’t be beat.
In Wednesday’s column: A thief makes off with the utility bill payment dropbox at Montclair City Hall but doesn’t get much for his effort. Also, more items from Montclair, Culture Corner items from Chino Hills and Pomona, and details of my next three book signings — two of them on Saturday, the next on Aug. 21.
I’m doing not one but two book signings Saturday for “Pomona A to Z.” The first is at Claremont’s Rhino Records, 235 Yale Ave., from 1 to 3 p.m. The second is at Pomona’s Magic Door Books, 155 W. 2nd St., from 7 to 9 p.m.
Evidently I’m the starting author at both places. Let’s see Clayton Kershaw try that.
The Magic Door signing is sure to be low-key, given the intimate size of the store, and you get the benefit of the Second Saturday Art Walk (but the downside of searching for parking).
I’m not sure what I’ll be doing at Rhino: Will I talk a little and read a chapter? Or will I just sign? I definitely won’t sing.
I’m anxious about the Rhino thing and am doing my best not to think about it. After all, they have a small stage where Berlin, Dengue Fever and other bands have performed, which is probably where I’ll be, and the idea of standing there talking into a microphone, and gazing out over the aisles — as some continue their shopping and wonder why this man is talking at a record store — is kind of intimidating! And yet, what other chance will I ever have to do it?
In related news, after falling from No. 10 to No. 23, “A to Z” is back at No. 12 on the Rhino sales charts for the week, behind Judas Priest and Jack White but ahead of the Black Keys and Weird Al Yankovic. Not bad for a book — the only book in the Top 25.
Books acquired: none.
Books read: “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time,” Jeff Speck; “The Portable Poe,” Philip Van Doren Stern, ed.; “What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East,” Bernard Lewis; “The Gateway Arch: A Biography,” Tracy Campbell.
A random month of titles, and like last month more nonfiction than is typical for me. I read a book on how pedestrian (and cyclist) life tends to make towns and cities more pleasant and livable, a fat book of Edgar Allan Poe pieces, a scholarly attempt to explain Middle Eastern history and a sociological, political and architectural look at St. Louis.
“Walkable City”: A chatty exploration, published in 2012, of what makes a downtown work: two-way (and narrow) streets, fewer and more expensive parking spaces, senses of scale and place, bicyclists, pedestrians, lively storefronts, places worth walking to, working neighborhoods as opposed to isolated landmarks (LA’s Disney Hall is criticized), trees, transit and, in a small surprise, awnings.
“Portable Poe”: It’s tough to find a uniformly excellent Poe anthology: Either they’re missing a few great stories, or there are too many weak ones, or they don’t include any of his poetry. What decent Poe book wouldn’t have “The Raven”? Many of them. This one, published in 1945 and totaling, ulp, 666 pages, offers a wide-ranging overview of his every writing mode, except maybe we don’t want an overview if that means we have to wade through his dull, dated essays and articles. Useful in its way, with a good selection of stories and poems both, but more Poe than you probably want.
“What Went Wrong?”: I had hoped for a clear, concise summary of centuries of Middle East history, which admittedly is a lot to expect. Published in 2002, “What Went Wrong” was okay, informative if dry, but for this neophyte, Lewis was so scholarly and history-minded, he didn’t really answer the provocative question in the title. What went wrong? (Subsequently I learned that Lewis favored the invasion of Iraq and may not have been the best person for an even-handed history.)
“Gateway Arch”: Deeply researched but very readable exploration of one of America’s most instantly recognizable monuments, which also happens to be a piece of modernist sculpture. Campbell’s book, published in 2013, explores the three-decade effort to remake the St. Louis riverfront (40 square blocks were leveled), the wrongheaded thinking that separated a tourist attraction from downtown, why once-great St. Louis has faltered — and yet why the Arch is still astonishing.
Not counting three books received as gifts, I’ve bought only three books in 2014 and have read two of them, both this month: “Walkable,” bought in Austin, and “Gateway,” bought in St. Louis. (The third, already underway, will be read in August.)
“Poe” came from a vacation last year, where it was bought at Moe’s in Berkeley, and “Wrong” was purchased at the B&N in Rancho Cucamonga back in 2002 or so, when getting to know more about the Middle East was on our minds. I got bogged down in the (very long) introduction, realized this might not be the book for me and set it aside before recently resurrecting it, for good or bad.
I’ve read the Poe intermittently since last fall (there was overlap with other Poe I read in the interim too), started “Walkable” in March before putting it aside for later and began “Wrong” in May, so this was in part a month of wrapping up a few books in progress. How was your month? Is summer proving to be a good season for reading, or a poor one?
Next month: many slim books.
Sunday’s column is about a Navy pilot from Pomona who died 50 years ago Tuesday during a retaliatory air strike for the Gulf of Tonkin skirmish. Researching it was a learning experience: I’d heard of the Gulf of Tonkin incident and resolution but didn’t know much about them. Anyway, it seemed worthwhile to remember Dick Sather a half-century after his death, and I hope you’ll agree.