Laughing matter?

You may recall the comedy club that was announced as coming to downtown Pomona’s Opera Garage building on Thomas near Third. As late as July, the Gerrymander was said to be opening in September. Well, the club is still coming, but obviously it’s missed its target date.

I ran into Cathy Tessier, the club’s landlord, at the Claremont Packinghouse the other morning — neither of us was injured — and I asked her about the club’s status. She said getting an elevator up and running to the second-floor club was proving more difficult than expected. Apparently elevator repairmen are in such demand, they make plumbers and cable TV repairmen look speedy.

The club won’t open until January, Tessier said.

Until then, looks like we’ll have to continue to rely on the Pomona City Council for our improvisational humor.

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Second Street dreams

I’ve visited Pomona’s Second Street on a couple of occasions recently, which may be what inspired not one but two dreams the other night as your bleary-eyed blogger lay sleeping.

In the first, I happened to be downtown when I saw people converging on the Glass House nightclub. There was a rumor that the Rolling Stones were playing a rare club date there in just a few minutes. The event had been so hush-hush that, amazingly, tickets were still available.

My problem was, I had already paid $15 for a ticket to see the band She Wants Revenge (note: this is a real band but I’ve never heard their music) at another (note: nonexistent) club downtown that night. Did I want to waste that money by seeing the Rolling Stones instead?? Clearly I’m no more spontaneous in my dreams than I am in real life. Nevertheless, I was swept up in the crowd going into the Stones show. Alas, my dream ended before the concert could start.

In my second Second Street dream of the night, I was again downtown and was stunned to see that the Glass House exterior, and much of that block, was halfway through an extensive remodeling. How had I missed this? I was just down there a few days before!

From there I dropped into Magic Door Books, which was open, but completely bare inside, and freshly painted. The owners weren’t in. A customer came in and asked me for help finding a certain section of books. I was going to show him but realized there were no books. I didn’t know what to say. At this point I woke up.

What does all this mean? I guess the changes coming to Second Street have me excited but anxious. It’s also possible I need to get out more. Say, to Euclid Avenue.

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Orhan Pamuk (that’s not a typo)

Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 Nobel laureate for literature, spoke Thursday night at Claremont McKenna College, and it was yet another count-your-lucky-stars moments, to get to hear a world-class thinker and writer expound so close to home, and free of charge.

Pamuk read excerpts from two of his essays, one describing Istanbul, the other constituting a monologue from his daughter’s point of view on all the reasons she didn’t want to go to school. (Among them: “The teacher gives me a nasty look, and she doesn’t look too good to begin with.”) He talked about why he writes, listing a series of explanations: he “can’t do normal work,” he likes to be alone, he likes the attention, he likes the smell of paper and ink and he wants to read books like his. He also spoke of representing Turkey to the world through his work.

Pamuk, as you may know, faced prison for speaking openly about the Armenian genocide, which his government refuses to acknowledge. After an international outcry, he was instead accused of “insulting Turkishness,” a charge that was quietly dropped. He didn’t talk about that directly on Thursday, nor did he say anything about the faltering move in Congress to press Turkey on the genocide issue.

“If your country is troubled, as mine is, those troubles find their way back to me in journalists’ questions, and then I cannot shut up my mouth,” Pamuk said. Other than that remark, he did a good job of shutting up his mouth.

Afterward he signed books. “Snow,” his most popular novel, sold out right before I got to the sales table. Instead, I picked up “The Black Book,” a novel whose back cover notes that one of the characters is “a popular newspaper columnist.” Maybe I can pick up some pointers.

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Restaurant of the Week: Pomona Fish Market

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Pomona Fish Market, 295 S. Park Ave. (at Third), Pomona

With time to kill before Monday’s Pomona council meeting, I thought I’d try a south Pomona taqueria for dinner. But once I hit downtown I swung by the Pomona Fish Market, a take-out place at Third and Park streets.

I’ve always been curious about the market, which has a vintage neon sign (restored a few years back) and seems out of place in the neighborhood. But the view from my car always made me unsure if one could dine in, as the front window has big letters reading “Fish to Go.”

Not to worry, the interior has seating for eight, plus an outdoor patio. My order was taken by a woman behind the supermarket-style display case, which was about half-stocked with fish on ice.

There’s a limited menu of fried fish plates, such as sole, sand dabs, oysters and shrimp, served with fries and cole slaw and all priced under $7, as well as a couple of sandwiches. I got the catfish plate ($5.95). Well, the slaw was a bit dry, but the fries were acceptable and the fish, fried in a light coating of (I think) flour, wasn’t bad at all. I’m not a fried fish guy, but if I were, I’d probably go again. The food’s a darn sight better than Long John Silver’s.

The Fish Market has been in Pomona for decades. In researching city character Urban Ziegler on Progress-Bulletin microfilm last summer at the library, I found an April 1, 1937 ad for the market, meaning it’s at least 70 years old.

Prices included haddie, 35 cents a pound; cod, 20 cents a pound; sea bass, 29 cents a pound; and halibut, 25 cents a pound. The ad boasted: “An Exclusive Fish Market is the Best Place to Buy Fish.” Oh, that snooty Pomona.

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Clearman’s, golly!

Clearman’s Village near San Gabriel was a collection of shops with fake snow on the roof, built around a restaurant, Clearman’s Galley, starting in 1968. The restaurant was housed in a converted 1913 Alaskan mail boat. John Clearman, the developer, also founded the North Woods Inn, another theme restaurant, which looks like a hunting lodge.

Well, the Village is gone, demolished to make way for a Kohl’s, as reported recently on the Foothill Cities blog. I believe the boat will be relocated to one of the North Woods Inn locations.

I bring this up to note that Rancho Cucamonga’s Magic Lamp Inn, the rococo structure on Foothill Boulevard, was another Clearman production. The man liked high-concept restaurants and eye-catching buildings, that’s for sure. The ‘Lamp, which has a Middle Eastern sign and name and an Old World design, was founded in 1955 and is still going strong. No Kohl’s in its future, thankfully.

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Pomona’s pooch

Reader Richard E. Nunez writes with an intriguing question:

“I have been trying to find out the name of the dog on the seal of Pomona. Nobody seems to know at City Hall. So if you could help me with this, that would be great. Thanks.”

I wasn’t aware the city seal even featured a dog, but by golly it does. View an image here.

Pomona with a dog turns out to be mythologically correct. An online search turned up the tome “Manual of Mythology” by Alexander Stuart Murray, in which the entry for Pomona reads: “Was goddess of garden fruits, and was represented wearing a wreath composed of such, or holding in her hand a horn of plenty full of them, with a dog by her side.”

My understanding is that little is known about the Roman goddess Pomona, so perhaps her dog’s name, if he/she had a name, is lost to history. That said, can any students of mythology shed any light on this?

Alternately, I suppose we could simply make up an appropriate name for a dog that would belong to Pomona the goddess/Pomona the city. How about Taco?

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RIP, the Cellar

The Cellar, 195 N. Central Ave. in Upland, is gone, which caused me to reflect on the high turnover in that building.

Sneakers was the tenant in the late ’90s, the only time I ventured inside. There was at least one other restaurant or club in there between Sneakers and the Cellar, probably two (the name Penguin’s comes to mind), and no doubt there were many more before Sneakers.

At one point post-Sneakers an operator had (I think) Jello wrestling matches in a desperate attempt to get customers in the door, until police cracked down.

And yet year after year, optimistic entrepreneurs keep leasing the building, sure they can make something work. In fact, another business already appears to be moving in to replace the Cellar.

Anyone remember previous tenants there?

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Ask a Mexican about Ultima

Gustavo Arellano, who writes the “Ask a Mexican” column for the OC Weekly, came to Pomona Saturday afternoon to talk about “Bless Me, Ultima,” the Rudolfo Anaya novel that everyone in Pomona is asked to read as part of an NEA-funded program, the Pomona Big Read.

Calling it “an amazing book,” Arellano told an audience of 50 in the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center that he first encountered it in English class in Anaheim and was won over — first by its profanity (“That was the first time I had ever seen curse words in a book”) and then by its power. He said the novel, about an immigrant boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II and torn between his mother’s desire that he become a priest and his father’s that he become a laborer, is “as American a novel as you’ll find.”

During the Q&A, nobody asked about “Ultima.” Instead, they wanted to know about his column. He said he gets 50 to 60 questions a week and has a backlog of several hundred, enough to keep him going six years if no one ever again asked one.

“People are just fascinated by Mexicans,” he said with a smile. Aren’t we, though?

I hope to write about the various city-reads efforts (Pomona, Claremont and Rancho Cucamonga) in print this week or next. Meanwhile, I’ve gotta get back to “Ultima.”

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Guasti Cafe fan opens negotiations

I wrote in Wednesday’s column (read it here) that the Guasti Cafe — home of big breakfasts and 25-cent coffee, and known until 2005 as Homestyle Cafe — will close Oct. 31 and relocate to Chino. Reader Randy Volm writes:

“David, I don’t know about you, but I have been a longtime fan of the Homestyle Cafe since it opened in 1985. I have always enjoyed their wonderful food (huge portions I might add) and the warm hospitality of home no matter how busy they were.

“Personally, I wouldn’t care if they had to raise the price of coffee to $1. Even that would pale in comparison to what other establishments are charging. Why, even Denny’s I believe is charging $2.25 for a cup of coffee.

“In closing, I don’t care about the extra distance to get to the new Homestyle Cafe (I’m in Upland). To me, it will always be worth it.”

The cafe’s owners will be cheered by an Uplander’s willingness to follow their restaurant to Chino. But Randy, did you have to say you’d pay four times as much for one of their cups of coffee? You might give them ideas.

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Restaurant of the Week: Gandolfo’s

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Gandolfo’s New York Delicatessen, 9090 Milliken Ave. (at 7th), Rancho Cucamonga

Rancho Cucamonga, which has a Central Park, now has a Big Apple-themed deli. Gandolfo’s New York Delicatessen, in a strip center at 7th Street and Milliken Avenue, is a chain operation with an array of sandwiches, all with NY names: the Holland Tunnel, the Yonkers, the Greenwich Village, the Throgs Neck Bridge, etc. (Gandolfo’s own name makes me wonder if the “Lord of the Rings” wizard has gone into the deli business.)

I went there a couple of weeks ago and had the Little Italy, a cold deli sandwich with ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone ($5.49 half/$8.49 full). Not bad. I went back on Thursday with an East Coast transplant who grew up in Rhode Island to get his take on it. He had the Bronx Barbecue, with roast beef and cheddar ($4.49/$7.49), and I got the King of Queens, with pastrami and Swiss ($4.69/$7.69).

We were mixed on the experience. Service-wise, we had to pick up our order at the counter despite being told it would be brought to us. My friend wasn’t impressed by the sauce or the bread on his sandwich. I found my sandwiches acceptable both visits. But we agreed the place was a little cute for our tastes. Keep in mind I’m not generally a fan of chains.

Still, a NY-schooled friend who has seen the menu is enthralled by the place names, and other New York expatriates may find Gandolfo’s a nice haven. Bear in mind that according to the corporate website, there are no Gandolfo’s in New York, and the headquarters is in Utah.

* I returned in January 2014 and had a very good, peppery egg salad, half a sandwich with a cup of chili and a soda ($9, below).

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