I’m all for it, but the Gold Line light-rail extension from Pasadena to Ontario, a topic of today’s column, is very far from a sure thing. Hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe even billions of dollars, are needed, L.A. officials have other priorities and there’s no identified funding source.

Still, in the best-case scenario, the leg to Azusa would open in 2013 and the portion to Montclair in 2016.

The worst-case scenario? An asteroid would strike the Earth and wipe out life as we know it. Oh, and anyone still living would be a vampire.

I have my fingers crossed for the best-case scenario.

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Redevelopment strikes blog

How about this blog’s snazzy new appearance?

Much more lively, I’d say. Needless to say I had nothing to do with it, other than asking that the search function be made functional, which it now is.

The look is a pleasant surprise. And gosh, we even have advertising. Must be the same ads on all the blogs or something, though. If it were just for my blog, you’d think Vince’s Spaghetti or Donahoo’s Chicken would be sponsoring me.

Any comments on the new look?

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11 years, six months

Monday was my 11th anniversary at the ol’ DB.

Yes, it was on March 10, 1997, that I started work here as a reporter, assigned to cover Fontana City Hall as my beat. That lasted a month before I was reassigned to Upland. An editor explained that beats were frequently switched so that reporters don’t get stale. I think she was sparing my feelings. Either that, or I get stale quickly.

Speaking of anniversaries, today Wednesday marks my sixth month as a blogger. I started this blog on Sept. 12, 2007. I know, I said it was six months a month ago, but this time it really is. The other time it just seemed like six months.

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Technical difficulties

Things have gone a bit wonky with the blog, as you can see.

It started when I told the online crew that the search function wasn’t functioning. They opened up the hood, poked around and unfortunately must have pulled the wrong wire. The text is still here and I believe you can still leave comments, but the blog looks even more basic than it did before. We’ll get it back to normal soon, if not better than normal.

In the meantime, enjoy the soothing expanse of white.

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‘Pomona A to Z’: I is for Ice Cream

[This one was not only fun, it was delicious. Dr. Bob’s, a premium ice cream business, has been written up all over and it’s based in good ol’ Pomona. I’m not sure if the ice cream is still sold in downtown Upland, but it’s still sold at the county fair each fall, as well as at finer restaurants.

The only other update is that one of the runnerups, the Indian Hill Cinemas, has closed, leaving Pomona without a single movie theater.

This column was originally published Sept. 12, 2004.]

You’ll scream, because Pomona’s I is for ice cream

My series “Pomona A to Z” continues to inch along. With the letter H last week, I imagine it’s time for I, isn’t it?

It is. Now, call me an idealist if you must, but Pomona’s interest should be illustrated. So consult this idiosyncratic itinerary of I candidates:

* I could be for Indian Hill Cinemas, the valley’s only independently owned theater. The $4 matinees revive memories of decades past, and the 1970s decor doesn’t hurt either.

* Indoor Swap Meet, the place to go for inexpensive items.

* Islamic education, specifically, the City of Knowledge School, a K-12 academy that earlier this year produced a student with a 1600 SAT score.

* Indians who once roamed the Ganesha Hills.

* Indian Hill Boulevard, the most ethnic, intriguing stretch of which stops at the Claremont border.

Impressive! But before you get impatient, let me identify my choice: I is for ice cream. Namely, the plant on the Pomona fairgrounds where an exclusive brand of ice cream is made.

There, Bob Small cranks out Dr. Bob’s HandCrafted IceCreams, a premium label sold at upscale markets and restaurants throughout California, besides delighting fairgoers.

At $3.50 for a single-scoop cone, Small’s ice cream won’t be mistaken for a supermarket brand.

“We’re at the high end,” Small told me with pride. “We’re always the highest priced at the retail market.”

Small, incidentally, isn’t a medical doctor — he has a doctorate in business — but he’s got the cure for what ails you, and you don’t even need a prescription.

A professor who teaches wine, beer and spirits courses in Cal Poly Pomona’s hospitality school, Small started Dr. Bob’s in 1999 with friend Bill Baldwin as “kind of a lark.”

Small develops the recipes, using premium ingredients like Scharffen Berger chocolates and real vanilla for flavors that are less sweet but more intense than most ice creams.

Among his flavors: Peach, Fig, Black Raspberry, Vanilla Peanut Butter Chunk and Brown Sugar Pecan. Dr. Bob’s is defined by its chocolates, including The Works: dark chocolate ice cream spiked with three types of chips.

The top seller is still vanilla.

Dr. Bob’s is a minimum 16 percent butterfat — another reason four out of five doctors don’t recommend it — and is dense, too. It’s about 35 percent air, compared to a startling 50 percent in most major brands.

“The less air, the more ice cream there is, and the more dense and rich the product will taste,” Small said.

Dreams of a retail empire stopped at a single store in downtown Upland, but Small’s wholesale business is booming. In 2003 he sold the equivalent of 30,000 gallons.

Dr. Bob’s — see — is sold in Gelson’s supermarkets and scooped locally in the Sycamore Inn, Walter’s, Spaggi’s, The Press, Pizza N’ Such and the Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch. You can buy it by the pint at Wolfe’s Market and Cal Poly’s Farm Store.

It’s been featured on the Food Channel and just last month in Sunset and Bon Appetit magazines. Darn, I got scooped.

The Pomona plant opened in 2002 at the fair’s invitation. Located across from the livestock barn, the plant does retail sales during fairtime — now through Sept. 26 — and last fair served more than 15,000 customers.

So how does Dr. Bob’s crew make ice cream? Small let me behind the scenes to watch the production of two tubs of a popular flavor: Strawberry, Sour Cream and Brown Sugar.

A local dairy combines the cream and sugar to his specifications. At the plant, ice cream maker Jorge Morales put it in a 20-quart freezer for 10 minutes to thicken along with sour cream.

What came out was smooth and silky, if only partly finished. After a taste, I told Small he could do well marketing that.

“Yeah, we could,” he agreed. “A sour cream ice cream. It could go with certain desserts.”

Morales turned the spigot and half-filled two 2.5-gallon tubs with the mixture. He spooned in strawberry compote and cupfuls of brown sugar, stirred with a spatula, topped off the tubs with more mix, compote and brown sugar and stirred again.

Somehow I can’t see Ben or Jerry doing it this way.

Smoothing the surface, Morales covered the tubs and put them in a minus-40 freezer to harden overnight.

The ice cream comes out so hard, “it’s like a deadly weapon,” Small joked. It’s then tempered in a minus-20 freezer, the temperature at which it’s sold.

I didn’t have 24 hours to wait, so Small uncapped a Cappuccino Crunch, The Works and Brown Sugar Pecan for samples.

Just what the doctor ordered.

(David Allen, M.D. (doctor of mirth), writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.)

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Pomona’s secret garden

Some of you may have seen the full-page feature in the Home section of the L.A. Times on Feb. 21, “Where nature truly ruled,” about an influential, “wild” rather than manicured garden “tucked into a tough Pomona neighborhood.”

Well, that article caused some of us to sit up and ask where the heck this garden is. Or was, since it’s on the way out — its tenant, John Greenlee, deciding to give up the lease after 30 years.

The Goddess of Pomona blog got on the case and tracked down the location. An open house was arranged. And so, on Feb. 29 (sorry for the delay), the bamboo gate was opened and, in shifts, a few dozen of us entered.

It’s a quarter-acre in size, with winding flagstone and dirt paths that make the property seem larger. There is bamboo everywhere, a boulder-lined sunken garden, a pond, two small houses obscured by overgrown plantings, orange trees and native grasses. It’s watered now and then but not mown or shaped.

Birds chirped in the trees and other than the satellite dishes visible on the neighboring properties, the place seemed like an oasis. It was peaceful and serene.

You can see photos and a writeup at the Goddess’ blog.

Since the garden is closed, I won’t give the location, other than to say it’s across the street from the Pomona Cemetery. “A tough Pomona neighborhood”? Well, an unlikely one, perhaps, but at least it’s quiet.

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Restaurant of the Week: Monaco’s Pizza


Monaco’s Pizza, 7325 Day Creek Blvd., Suite 101 (at Base Line), Rancho Cucamonga

Monaco’s is in the Henry’s Market center at Base Line Road, just up the road from Victoria Gardens. The interior has an upscale look: There’s a greeter’s station and the decor includes faux-marble tabletops, dark wood chairs and wine bottles behind glass.

The menu has a page with the restaurant’s backstory. I didn’t finish reading it before the waitress arrived but did manage to glean that the same family ran Sal’s Red Devil Pizza prior to this restaurant.

We ordered the seafood linguine ($16) and the cheese ravioli ($9.50). They came with dinner salads, which were basically iceberg lettuce, cheese and olives, with dressing in a small plastic container, as if we’d ordered the food to go. This salad would cost $3.50 if ordered separately.

Now, this is essentially the same salad you get at San Biagio’s in Upland, only San Biagio’s is an unpretentious place where you order at the counter. The Monaco’s salad is kind of a weak for a place with upscale pretensions. The entrees, however, were perfectly acceptable, if not up to the level of the decor.

I went back on my own for lunch to try the pizza. I read a bit more of the Monaco’s story, such as the family’s arrival here around 1960 and someone’s (the mother’s?) employment at Nordstrom, but once again had to order before I could get very far. I ordered a small pizza with anchovies and mushrooms ($14). Pretty good stuff, with generous, quality toppings and a moderately thick, slightly crunchy crust.

My friend Bob, who lives in the neighborhood and recommended the place, especially likes the pizza. If I lived nearby I’d probably go there more frequently. (For one thing, maybe then I could finish reading the family’s story.) But Bob agrees the food is more casual than the decor.

* Update, February 2014: I returned with a friend for dinner and to take photos. He had a calzone, I had a pizza. As with the above, which was with a different friend, neither of us was particularly impressed by the food, only the decor. The calzone was cold in spots and the sauce bland; my pizza was okay but nothing special. And I took a photo of the menu’s “story,” which is also on the Monaco’s website. The same family has owned Sal’s Red Devil Pizza since 1991 and opened Monaco’s in 2006.



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Mickey in Pomona

No, not Mickey Gallivan of the Pomona Historical Society — Mickey Mouse.

John Clifford of Pomona found the cartoon “Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip” on YouTube. The 1940 cartoon begins with Mickey and Pluto attempting to board a train in Burbank (“Elevation 16 3/4 Feet,” says the sign on the depot). At the end of the cartoon, the conductor throws them off the moving train.

“Gosh, Pluto, I wonder how far it is to Pomona?” Mickey asks, dazedly. Then he looks up and sees the sign on the depot: “Pomona, Elevation 6 3/4 Feet.” He squeaks: “Pomona! Hey, we’re here!”

Or as the German Dutch subtitles in this version render the conversation: “Jeetje, hoe verzou ‘t zijn naar Pomon…Pomona. We zijn er.”

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Our compliments to the cafeteria chef

Courtesy of a link from the Claremont Insider blog, here’s a charming blog post by a visitor from Occidental College about the amazing food selections at the Claremont Colleges.

Love the bullet point list.

I’ve eaten at a couple of the Claremont Colleges cafeterias and likewise found the food tasty and plentiful, its range and depth impressive and kind of hilarious. I missed Sushi Day, though.

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‘Moby-Dick’ update 2

When last I wrote about “Moby-Dick,” on Feb. 6, I was at Chapter 54 and page 248.

Since then I’ve read 47 chapters and 209 pages and still am not done, although I’m getting there, inch by inch. As of Monday I’m up to Chapter 102 (out of 135) and page 457 (out of 577), reading at least four pages every single day since Jan. 1, and sometimes more. Sunday I read 32 pages, which took an hour of concentration at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, where I’ve read big chunks of the book. (I know I should read at Starbucks, since Starbuck is Ahad’s first mate, but I like Coffee Bean better.)

Also since Feb. 6, the Claremont Insider blog devoted a post to my quest for the White Whale. Strange to think that the big news in Claremont that morning was that a Claremont resident was reading “Moby-Dick,” but just when I was coming to grips with that, they quickly went back to deriding the Claremont elite and all was right in the world. I did appreciate the attention on myself and the book.

So here’s where I am: The Pequod is still on the open ocean and, despite Ahab asking passing ships “Hast thou seen the White Whale?” two or three times already, we’ve yet to see him.

Do I feel cheated? Not at all. It’s an amazing book, full of poetry and philosophy and humor. The anticipation and buildup is part of what makes “Moby-Dick” a classic.

The book is full of digressions about whales and whaling. Entire chapters are devoted to the parts of the whale, such as the skin (“The Blanket”), the forehead (“The Prairie”), the spout (“The Fountain”), the brain (“The Nut”), the head (“The Battering-Ram”) and the tail (“The Tail”). An editor could pull all the digressions out and leave a book half the size that would have thrust and momentum. However, at that point you would have a nice whaling tale for boys. It’s the digressions, in my opinion, that make the book.

The whale — Leviathan, as Melville often calls it — was in his day, and ours, the most incredible mammal in existence, and yet still somewhat mysterious and unknowable, at least at that time. The way he explores and ruminates upon each aspect of the whale, and details how each bit was mined and used by man, can try one’s patience at times, but I find those chapters among my favorite, and the most lyrical. They make the whale loom even larger in our imagination.

At any rate, I’ve got 120 pages to go, or about four hours of reading; two minutes per page is as fast as I can go with Melville, as he takes a lot of concentration. I should finish by the middle of March.

Hopefully the whale shows up by then.

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