Pomona, goddess of candy

Did you know we have Pomona to thank for Halloween?

The ancient Celts celebrated their new year on Nov. 1, “when the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to mankind,” a Reuters story on Halloween explains. This was known as Samhain.

When the Romans invaded Gaul and Britain in the 1st century A.D., the Romans assimilated Samhain into their day for Pomona, their goddess of fruit. And this in turn was blended into the Catholic Church day of observance for saints, known as All Hollows Eve, then All Hallows Eve, then Halloween.

So Pomona played a part in the creation of Halloween, and also in one tradition of the holiday.

Says Reuters: “Pomona’s symbol is the apple which might explain the origin of bobbing for apples on Halloween.”

What about the origin of eating candy until you’re sick? I don’t know who to scapegoat for that.

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Lust, cautiously

Sunday evening I ventured to the Claremont Laemmle to see the new Ang Lee movie, “Lust, Caution.” This is the first NC-17 movie to play Claremont and the first such movie produced in several years. It got the rating for its sexual content.

Slightly furtively, a friend and I bought tickets, gave them to the ticket-tearer and took our seats. The theater was two-thirds full with people of all ages. I think I saw a former councilwoman but under the circumstances decided not to make direct eye contact.

The story is set in China in the 1940s when Japan controlled the country. A Chinese collaborator with the Japanese regime is targeted by a group of amateur patriots from a drama troupe. A woman from their group manages to get close to him. Very close. NC-17 close.

Honestly, this was a classy movie and the two or three sex scenes were uncomfortable to watch (on purpose) but not especially long — at least not relative to a movie that lasts 2:48. I doubt it was as shocking as the torture-porn of the “Saw” and “Hostel” movies that somehow get R ratings.

While I liked “Lust, Caution,” it moves at, shall we say, a stately pace, and I don’t see myself watching it again. It’s very well made, and worth watching, but perhaps more to be admired than loved. In its final week, it’s playing just one show a day, at 5 p.m., and ends Thursday. So if you’re motivated to see it, this is no time for caution.

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Bread puddin’

Toward the end of my Flo’s Cafe column on the women in the back who do all the baking, the pair said their bread pudding was something special. In print I expressed the desire to go back and try it sometime.

Well, three friends corraled me into hitting Flo’s with them for a Friday lunch, to be followed by bread pudding. (It’s made on alternate Thursdays; banana pudding is made the other weeks.) So we made the trek to Flo’s, the one at the Chino Airport, on Merrill Avenue just east of Euclid Avenue.

I’ll say upfront that I can take bread pudding or leave it. The Flo’s version was tasty, though, and we agreed the bread was chewy, not soppy, and not too sweet. We asked the waitress how it’s made, and she said the bread is actually the bakers’ housemade cinnamon rolls. How about that?

Incidentally, the manager and I exchanged a wave from across the room midway through lunch. My guess is that she told our waitress that the writer of the Flo’s column was at the table. I say this because as my retired friend Ken, who had bantered with her throughout the meal, paid the tab at the register, she told him, “That was a great article you did on us, and I liked your column a couple of days ago too.” He had to tell her the writer was the guy standing over there.

I suppose she naturally assumed the writer must be the witty guy, not the quiet guy. Not the first time that’s happened to your shy scribe. Oh well, as long as she likes my column…

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Venture into the Black Lagoon

Call me a crabby misanthrope if you must, but although I like street life, I hate street fairs, and seeing Claremont’s streets overrun on Village Venture gives me the heebie-jeebies. I don’t want a handcarved wooden duck, I don’t want kountry klutter signs, I don’t want pottery or informational brochures or beaded jewelry.

So as usual I high-tailed it out of town. I went to Glendale’s lovely Alex Theater to see, of all things, “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” in 3-D.

Everyone upon entry was handed paper glasses, with a blue lens for your left eye and a red lens for your right. Wearing these with actual glasses proved tricky but not impossible, and the 3-D effects were, well, effective: fish swimming right at us, harpoons headed our way, clawed man-fish hands groping off the screen and toward our faces. The whole thing was a hoot.

Unanswered question: Why do monsters always want our women? Frankenstein, Werewolf, King Kong, the Creature, they always find human women fascinating. Hey, me too, but aren’t there werewomen, queen kongs and creaturettes for them to kidnap? Sheesh.

Anyway, it was the kind of afternoon I like, and if you went to Village Venture, hope you enjoyed it!!

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Pomona’s (authentic) Vietnam veterans

My Oct. 7 and Oct. 18 columns on Xavier Alvarez, the non-war non-hero from Pomona, prompted a lengthy note from Steve Fletcher of Van Buren, Mich. I’m sharing it here in full because there’s no way to squeeze all his comments, and his list, into a column:

“I’m now living in Michigan but I grew up in Pomona, and served in Viet Nam. I’ve been reading the articles about this individual who lied about his service and about being awarded the Medal of Honor.

“There are many of these frauds walking around now claiming to be Viet Nam heroes, there are even websites that have been created to expose them. When they are found out they’re usually ostracized from society, some have even relocated and changed their names to escape the shame of what they’ve done.

“I don’t understand how this guy can continue to serve in any civil position of responsiblility after they have clearly exposed him, and even have it on tape. I believe we should show our respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by shunning these charlatans, and preventing them from obtaining positions of responsibility.

“It is in the memory of the following people that I write this to you. Maybe you can publish this list sometime, these are the REAL heroes from Pomona.”

In a followup e-mail, Fletcher explained where he got the list: “The list was taken from the official Viet Nam wall list in Washington, DC. The list gives the ‘home city of record’ of each member, i.e., the city they designated as living in when they enlisted or were drafted (as I was). I would venture to guess that there are more people who were from Pomona who had relocated as did John Larimore before going in the service.”

Click below to see the list of Pomona’s Vietnam War dead, and draw from it what you will.
Continue reading

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Traffic-choked … La Verne?

Did you read this week that La Verne is getting $400,000 from county transportation funds?

The money is for a system to monitor and adjust traffic lights on White and Bonita avenues and on Arrow Highway to keep traffic moving. As a taxpayer, I think I speak for everyone when I say: What a relief! Once downtown La Verne gets a handle on its hellish traffic, we can all sleep easier.

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Restaurant of the Week: Anthony’s Italian Kitchen

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Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, 11368 Kenyon Way (at Milliken), Rancho Cucamonga

At last week’s Rancho Cucamonga council meeting, a proclamation was given to Anthony’s Italian Kitchen in honor of — wait for it — 10 years in business. Does a decade in young Rancho Cucamonga qualify you as historic?

Despite the arguably premature award, I had to admit I hadn’t eaten at Anthony’s, nor had I even heard of it. To erase my shame, I headed to the Albertsons shopping center on Milliken just below the 210 for lunch Monday to try it out. The center doesn’t appear to be thriving. Anthony’s is one of just two or three restaurants.

It’s a real hole in the wall, with just four tables. Two were occupied by sheriff’s deputies, who soon had to rush out on a call, and the other by a lone diner.

The walls are crowded with plaques from youth sports teams and testimonials from fans. A postcard from one admirer begins: “In the Last Judgment, Anthony’s Pizza will sit at the right hand. It’s that good!” The far wall (which isn’t that far) has three video games and a pinball machine with a “Demolition Man” theme, a tie-in to the 1993 Sly Stallone-Sandra Bullock movie.

More deputies came in, and a steady stream of people arrived to pick up take-out orders, including a man with an eight-ball tattooed on his neck; I hope he had better luck with his meatball sub than with the rest of his life. The lone diner told me I looked familiar and asked if I’m a writer. I replied that I write for the Daily Bulletin and my picture is in the paper. “Brewster?” he inquired. Stifling a sob, I gave him my name, and he said he likes my work, although I’m wondering if he was complimenting me or Lou Brewster.

I’ll tell you now that my gold standard is San Biagio’s New York Pizza in Upland, where I always get the single slice, salad and soda combo, for $5.12. There is no single slice-salad combo at Anthony’s, so to get a salad I got the No. 3 combo: two slices of cheese pizza, a salad and a soda, all for $6.89.

The Anthony’s salad is very similar to Biagio’s, being iceberg, shredded mozzarella, tomatoes and black olives. The pizza is similar too, thin crust with a lightly spiced sauce, but with (maybe) a bit more cheese, marginally thicker crust and a slightly wider cut.

Excellent stuff, and at first blush I’d rank Anthony’s a close second to Biagio’s for Inland Valley pizza. (If you prefer a medium or thick crust, you’ll have your own opinions.) The menu includes a dozen specialty pizzas, hot and cold subs and a range of pastas.

I thank the Rancho Cucamonga council for tipping me off to a good restaurant, and hope Anthony’s makes it another 10 years, and beyond.

* Update, February 2014: They’ve made it another seven years, to 17. I returned for two cheese slices and a soda ($6.43 with tax), and to take photos. Excellent pizza: Slices are thin crust, doughier at the edge, and measure about nine inches wide. Two made for a filling lunch. The menu has a lot of specialty pizzas, 15 subs and a few pastas. The video games are gone, but seating is still limited, with a few more seats outdoors; it’s largely takeout and delivery.

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More on the Knotts

Here’s a belated, but still welcome, note from Bob Poff of San Dimas on a perennial topic:

“I have read with interest your reporting on Walter and Cordelia Knott and their connection to Pomona.

“In 1991 the San Dimas Festival of Arts recognized the Knotts with the Spirit of the West Award. We did this after learning about their early years in Pomona. They were represented by their grandson Steven at the banquet when the award was presented. Steven received a bronze sculpture and in the Festival’s collection is a portrait of Walter and Cordelia, painted by Leslie B. DeMille of Sedona, Ariz. It is on display at San Dimas City Hall should you like to see it.

“Also on display at City Hall is an edition of the same sculpture that was awarded to John Wayne. Unfortunately he passed away before the presentation. Just thought you might like to know.”

Thanks, Bob.

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Light entertainment

Unwittingly I participated in Lights Out LA, in which many county residents were encouraged to turn off at least one bulb between 8 and 9 p.m. Saturday, by going to the Claremont Forum from 8 to 10:30 p.m. for its first concert in its new home in the Packinghouse.

John York and Patrick Brayer, two Claremont fixtures, have performed together off and on for a decade. The duo shut down the Forum’s longtime home on College Avenue a few months ago with a concert. (Because it was lightly attended, they did a second one.) Now they opened the new Forum musically.

Some 60 of us in folding chairs packed the place. York and Brayer performed in a portion of the room decorated with two floor lamps and a rug for a homey feel, York playing acoustic guitar, Brayer alternating between acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin and pedal steel.

They traded off lead vocal duties. Brayer did originals like “Freedumb” and “She’s Pretty as Alcohol”; York covered “Walk Away, Renee” and “Highway 61 Revisited” and sang a few originals, including “The Earth is Getting Warmer,” which he co-wrote with rock oddball Kim Fowley. He quipped that Fowley has a reputation as “the Darth Vader of rock.”

The patter was friendly and warm, the musicianship sharp.

“We know there’s other things you could be doing, so it’s really cool that you’re here,” York said shortly before the final encore, a cover of “Go Now” (pertinent lyric: “We’ve already said goodbye…”).

All in all, a fun evening, and one of those small-scale community events that makes you feel plugged in. Even when the lights are supposed to be off.

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Blade Runnin’

I trekked to L.A. Sunday to see “Blade Runner: The Final Cut” on its final weekend at its only location, the new Landmark theater at the Westside Pavilion. Great movie, obviously, except that even though I’m a fan who’s seen its various iterations probably four previous times, I really couldn’t tell you what was different about this version. Always good to see it on the big screen, though.

A few tidbits about life in “Blade Runner’s” Los Angeles, 2019, that were noteworthy here in 2007:

1) It rains all the time; this is meant as oppressive, but compared to the past couple of bone-dry years, it was kind of pleasant;

2) Harrison Ford’s character twice is seen reading actual newspapers, meaning yours truly may (whew!) be employed for a while yet;

3) Judging by the neon billboards, the defunct Pan Am company will be revived; and

4) The current downtown L.A. condo boom will be shortlived. J.F. Sebastian lives alone in the decrepit Bradbury Apartments and says to Pris: “No housing shortage here. Plenty of room for everybody.”

After the movie, I walked a block for lunch at the Apple Pan, the burger stand celebrating its 60th anniversary. Hadn’t been there in a few years, but of course it’s exactly the same, with the same guy behind the U-shaped counter hustling to serve everybody. The service is dryly efficient and hilariously blunt. Ordering takes no more than 5 seconds.

Counterman: “Yes?”
Me: “Steakburger.”
Counterman: “Cheese?”
Me: “Yes.”
Counterman: “Fries?”
Me: “Yes.”
Counterman: “Coke?”
Me: “Yes.”
Counterman: “Anything else?”
Me: “No.”

Was my lunch good? Oh yes.

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