Rex Reed: ‘Tarnation’

Sunday’s column is about David Grossberg, an Ontario man who sent letters off to a bunch of older famous names to get their opinions on the decline of handwritten correspondence in favor of e-mail.

Snippets from their replies are in the column. Here are a few others I liked:

* Rex Reed: “What significance in a sophisticated society does a ‘smiley face’ have, and what in tarnation does LOL mean?”

* P.J. O’Rourke: “Rudeness and sloth in the guise of ‘informality’ exert their perennial appeal … When words had to be carved in stone, we got the Ten Commandments. With the quill came William Shakespeare. The fountain pen produced Henry James. The typewriter, Jack Kerouac. And all we have to show for the computer is the blog.”

Hey!

* Lee Iacocca: “Writing a personal letter to someone has always been important to me. I have the original handwritten letter I wrote to my father the day I was made president of Ford Motor Company.”

* Hugh Downs: “Etiquette is after all, kindness, and it can be manifest in the terse realm of e-messages.”

* Jack Kemp: “While I do email and messaging on my Blackberry, there’s nothing like a written letter to convey sincerity, honesty and the integrity of meaning.”

* Andy Rooney, who wrote a column about Grossberg’s letter, also sent him a typed reply. Referring to Grossberg’s insurance office address in downtown Ontario, the letter’s last line grouses: “’211 West ‘B’ St’ is one of the most characterless addresses I ever wrote and if I lived there I’d move.”

Until the downtown redevelopment project forced him to move his office, Grossberg had an address on Euclid Avenue, a name Rooney would probably like. Grossberg got a kick out of Rooney’s column and letter and plans to frame them and hang them prominently in his office.

Look for my column in the paper or online on Sunday.

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Restaurant of the Week: Omana’s

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Omana’s, 1050 W. Holt Ave. (at Currier), Pomona

Omana’s is a Juanita’s-like taco stand at about 1000 W. Holt Ave. in Pomona, near St. Joseph’s church, where I had a good burrito before Monday’s council meeting. (At Omana’s, not at St. Joe’s.) Tacos are $1 to $1.25, burritos are $3 to $3.50 and plates are $4, so you won’t spend much dough. My carne asada burrito had meat, beans and salsa. It was ruder than most neat American-style burritos, but quite good.

*Update July 2014: The minimalistic writeup above was from the very early days of these posts. I returned one afternoon this month for another visit. Omana’s has a limited menu, basically tacos and burritos. You order through a window and can eat at one of the four red picnic tables. From the friendly counterman I got a carne asada burrito and Coke for $5. The burrito was in what I believe is the more authentic style of Mexico, where the filling is almost a stew, and very good. This is a good spot.

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Restaurant of the Week: Malott Commons, Scripps College

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Malott Commons, the Scripps College dining hall, 10th Street (at Columbia), Claremont

I was invited to lunch Thursday at Scripps by Judy Harvey Sahak of the college’s Denison Library. Claremont Colleges’ food won a deserved rave from a visitor and blogger from Occidental College. I ate last year at Pomona College’s Frary dining hall and was impressed.

Harvey Sahak bragged that the Scripps food service is the best of any of the colleges and told me I had to try it.

Well! It’s all you can eat, and I can’t even tell you all the stuff they had, they had so much. Let’s see: a good salad bar; four kinds of soup, including sourdough bread bowls; an array of gourmet-style hamburgers, deli sandwiches and paninis; four varieties of wood-fired pizza by the slice; a pasta dish called eggplant roll-a-tini; barbecued beef brisket and cornbread; meatball stromboli; and vegetarian dishes cooked to order.

I had cream of asparagus soup, pizza with tomato, salad, meatball stromboli (a sandwich in a pita-like bread) and a slice of beef brisket. For dessert, frozen yogurt. Plus an iced tea. Harvey Sahak insisted on treating. Price is $5 for colleges folk and $7.50 for anyone else, not that anyone checks ID. Anyone can eat at the college dining halls, and while they don’t exactly publicize that fact, they don’t discourage the public.

Best dining deal in town. And the food is a long way from mac and cheese and mystery meat.

In a satisfying boost for my ego, I was even recognized by a couple of readers, a college employee and her mom. All in all, a pleasant outing.

* Update October 2014: More than six years after the above, I came back for lunch and photos. Malott has various stations to visit: a salad bar, Healthy U (vegetarian, vegan and allergy-free), Pizza and Stuff, Grille, Traditional Favorites, International, and Bakery and Desserts. Wow! See the day’s offerings below.

(The bakery thoughtfully had vegan brownies and gluten-free cookies. It also had Dr. Bob’s ice cream, mango sorbet, regular cookies and Cinnamon Crunch treats.)

I had Korean tacos, both beef and tofu; kimchi; a slice of pizza; and a tuna melt; as well as some salad. For dessert, ice cream. Does life get much better than this? Although Scripps is a women’s college, anyone is allowed in the cafeteria, and “most of the CMC boys eat here,” I was advised.

There are three small-ish dining rooms. One stately room, pictured at bottom, is unexpectedly nicknamed the Bikini Room because the stained glass patterns evidently form into a pattern resembling a woman in a two-piece, or maybe a series of women in a series of two-pieces. I couldn’t see a thing. I can never see Magic Eye pictures either.

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1,000 comments

Thursday this blog hit a milestone: its 1,000th reader comment, courtesy of Kristin McConnell. Cool, eh?

Granted, probably 82 of those 1,000 comments are from “Hal Linker,” but it’s still an impressive number. It seems that as long as I write about nostalgia or food this blog will never get lonely. (To paraphrase Bogie in “Casablanca” about the letter of transit.) Sometime I’ll have to write about nostalgic food and see if the blog explodes.

Anyway, thanks to all for contributing.

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Combo plates

Had lunch Wednesday at Shalimar Garden, a combination Pakistani/Chinese restaurant at Holt and Main in Pomona. (The building, which began as a Bob’s Big Boy, has gone through many permutations.) Referring to the twin cuisines, reader Bob Terry advised me: “Be sure to let us loyal readers know how the tandoori eggrolls are, or the orange peel lamb.”

Of course the cuisines aren’t really mixed. I had a beef dish whose name I don’t recall (it was No. 14) and it was pretty good. There was only one other customer there, not a good sign. My waiter, who’s Chinese, said when a customer orders off the Chinese menu, he goes into the kitchen to make it himself.

Other combination restaurants I’m aware of: Giuseppe’s, an Italian/Middle Eastern place in San Antonio Heights; Golden Wok, which has burgers, donuts, Chinese food and Louisiana fried chicken, in Pomona; and Walter’s in Claremont, with Afghan, American and Italian food.

Bon appetit!

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Bigger turtles

Waldo Peirce, a American painter and bohemian (1884-1970), may be most celebrated for playing one of the all-time great practical jokes. This took place in the 1920s when he was living in Paris. I learned about it from Bob Dylan’s XM Radio show last year about April Fool’s Day.

Here’s how Wikipedia tells the tale:

“Peirce … made a spontaneous gift of a very small turtle to the lady who was the concierge of his building. The lady doted on the turtle and lavished it with care and affection.

“A few days later Peirce substituted a somewhat larger turtle for the original one. This continued for some time, with larger and larger turtles being surreptitiously introduced into the lady’s apartment.

“The concierge was beside herself with happiness and displayed her miraculous turtle to the entire neighborhood.

“Peirce then began to sneak in and replace the turtle with smaller and smaller ones, to her bewildered distress.”

As Dylan ended his version: “Waldo Peirce, a man after my own heart.”

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Nothin’ but Narod

The vanished community of Narod, which usually makes me think of the insult-name Nimrod, was pronounced NAY-rod. Located in then-unincorporated territory that is now part of Montclair, Narod retains a certain cachet among oldtimers, as well as those of us who like funny names.

Here’s a portion of an e-mail from Bill Gunn, a former Ontario boy (his dad owned a typewriter shop downtown), who tells us a bit more about Narod:

I knew Narod very well. My mom had friends that were down and out who lived there in the late 1940s and we used to visit and help them out.

Narod, I hope someone has pictures of it, because it’s a hard place to describe or believe — two-story buildings lining the west side of Central below Holt. It was catty-cornered from the old Valley Drive-In Theatre which was on the northeast corner of Holt and Central. Narod was on the southwest; but 1/4 mile south of Holt.

Narod was for very poor people, illegals and folks drawing minimum social security, etc. But for a 5- to 10-year-old boy it was just another interesting place to explore.”

The lore on Narod, incidentally, is that it was named by a railroad man named Doran, who simply reversed his name. Anyone want to add other facts, near-facts or good guesses about Narod?

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Of boundaries and bus(s)es

This e-mail came in response to a column a few weeks (yikes) ago about the Ontario house with the topo maps. I meant to post the e-mail here but it slipped past me. Well, better late than never, here’s what George Ehrnman had to say. I like the part about how he and his wife met:

Read with interest, as always, your column on the house on Rosewood Court with the wall of topographic maps. I would like to elaborate on a couple points.

When my wife, Sammy, and I were students at Chaffey High School (Class of ’54) she and her family lived on Mills Avenue, which formed the boundary line between Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. West side of the street — Pomona. East side of the street — S.B. Co.

Had they lived on the other side of the street she would have gone to Pomona H.S. and we would likely never have met. But instead, she was bused to Chaffey H.S.

I used to drive her home after school, going along 4th Street which became San Bernardino Road; if memory serves me the change point was Central. This was, and still is, like Mission Boulevard becomes 5th St. in Pomona. (She may have been “bussed” on the way home too!)

During that time the greater now Montclair area was not known as Narod. Narod was a much smaller area along Central. I believe the larger area was known to the residents as Monte Vista, after the name of the Monte Vista Water District that serves the area. But there was no Monte Vista Post Office and my wife’s family got their mail at a box in the Pomona Post Office.

At some point, late ’50s or early ’60s, the good folks of “Monte Vista” decided to incorporate as a city, but they were denied a post office by that name because it was already taken. A check of a current AAA map of California reveals no city called Monte Vista — perhaps it has been swallowed up into a larger city. So they looked to their neighbor on the west and turned Claremont around to Montclair and got their post office. I think Montclair sounds better than Omapom, don’t you?

A final irony. My wife and I now live in one of those tiny spots on the old maps, Alta Loma, on a street called Monte Vista.

Thanks, George. And nice of you to provide your future wife “buss” service.

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‘Pomona A to Z’: M is for Magu

[To pay tribute to Pomona's Arts Colony, M was for Magu, the city's most lauded artist. A couple of years back, he moved to Ontario for cheaper rent, I'm told, but he's still an important figure in Arts Colony lore. This column was originally published Oct. 10, 2004.]

An up-close look at Magu, artist of note — and cars

The magnificent madness that is “Pomona A to Z,” my series examining the municipality one letter at a time, this week moves to the letter M.

Which M will represent Pomona in this miscellany? Among the multitude:

* Mission Family Restaurant, a coffee shop dating to the 1940s as Hull House that still ladles up hearty fare downtown.

* Masonic Temple, a grand building at Thomas and Fourth erected in 1909.

* Mountain Meadows Golf Course, a public course adding 18 holes of gentility to Ganesha Hills.

* Mother Smith, who in 1936 founded Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation.

* M & I Surplus, your one-stop shop to prepare for the apocalypse.

Marvelous! So which M will be Pomona’s milestone? Showing my moxie, it’s none of the above.

M is for Magu.

Who’s Magu, you ask? That’s Gilbert “Magu” Lujan, the pioneering Chicano artist from East L.A. who now calls Pomona’s Arts Colony home.

His credo is hard to argue with.

“I aim to reflect Latino experience in art,” Magu told me.

But how he does it doesn’t conform to the fine arts world.

Lowrider cars, pyramids, Mexican altars and bright, bright colors are among his hallmarks.

He once put on a slide show for art students at UC Irvine. Subject: graffiti. He views it as ethnic calligraphy.

“That’s not art. That’s what you people do,” one student told him.

Yet Magu is no primitive: He has a master’s in fine arts.

As he tells it, teachers always advised him to draw from experience. Is it his fault his experience involves classic cars and junk-art barrio gardens?

Early criticism only emboldened him.

“At that point,” Magu told me, “I knew I was onto something.”

For three decades Magu, 64, has had fame, or at least notoriety, as a painter, sculptor and muralist.

In 1974, as a member of the art collective Los Four, Magu helped curate a groundbreaking exhibit of Chicano art at the staid L.A. County Museum of Art.

More recently, he designed the Hollywood and Vine subway station with car-themed art on its tiles.

Two of his pieces just left the L.A. County Fair, and more Magu is now at Pomona’s dA Center for the Arts.

But let’s back up. Why the nickname?

It came in adolescence when friends noticed him crowding close to art to get a closer squint, just like Mr. Magoo, the nearsighted cartoon character.

He didn’t like the name but eventually embraced it. His live/work studio is even dubbed Magulandia. His kingdom includes two subjects: his grown son, Naiche, and a friend, Ricardo Silva, both fellow artists who room with him.

Crowded with art, furniture, an upright piano and even Magu’s 1954 Chevy pickup, the ground-floor studio is a former machine shop with a rollup door.

(I suppose lugging the Chevy into an upstairs loft would have been impractical.)

Encouraged by a friend, Magu moved to the nascent Arts Colony in 1999 and instantly added cachet. His new address has practical benefits over L.A.

“People ask why I live in Pomona. I say: ‘Parking,’” Magu joked.

Since 1994, the colony has succeeded in populating the near-empty blocks of downtown west of Garey Avenue, and even lured a Starbucks. Yet rising property values are putting the squeeze on artists.

Magu, who said he’s never made much money, cut his 3,000-square-foot space in half to economize.

Although he complains a lot, Magu’s work and themes are sunnier — at least on the surface — and in conversation he frequently pauses to smile and josh.

“I’m going to tell you my secrets,” Magu said. “Humor. I think humor softens people’s view of my culture.”

Whimsy and Mexican folk art traditions cloak his ideas to make them more palatable, he said.

Because Chicanos, his preferred term, are torn between two cultures and are never entirely accepted by either, they make up a third, hybrid culture, he argues.

Thus, his art employs images Latinos in the Southwest grew up on: cartoons, TV icons, altars, exaggerated cars, garish colors, cactuses, burritos and tacos.

Visual puns abound. Verbal puns pepper his conversation.

“I use the car,” Magu said, “as a cultural vehicle.”

I trust he wasn’t steering me wrong.

(David Allen, this newspaper’s millstone, writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Good Time Cafe

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Good Time Cafe, 2923 Chino Ave., Suite H4, Chino Hills

Attentive readers will remember the debate in this space about the lack of real Chinese food in the Inland Valley. Since then I’ve written about a find in Chino Hills, the Peking Deli. Well, here’s a second Chino Hills Chinese place that’s just as good.

Good Time Cafe occupies a wide, shallow storefront in the 99 Ranch Market center at Peyton Drive and Chino Avenue, just a bit south of Pomona. As the sign on the door promises, it serves Taiwanese-style cooking. The menu boasts 192 items, including an astonishing 47 appetizers. Granted, some of them are only for the hardy — pig blood rice cake, anyone? — but there’s plenty for the rest of us, and dozens of soups, noodle and rice dishes, seafood and meat entrees, vegetarian items and a category called potage, a kind of porridge.

Oddly, unlike the rest of the menu, names of the menu’s 22 beverages are untranslated from the Chinese. Better ask for help there.

I had Tainan’s Peddler Noodle, dried rather than as soup. It had noodles, ground sausage and a tea-simmered hardboiled egg, a dish made in what I’m told is the style of street food in the Taiwanese city of Tainan. It was delicious and filling. This $4.95 entree came with a free pot of hot tea. Total outlay with tax and tip: $6. You can’t beat that with a chopstick.

Service was friendly, the dining room was immaculate and a flat screen TV broadcast Chinese language news. To sum up, yes, I had a good time at the Good Time Cafe.

And I’m looking forward to my next meal here, even if it’s unlikely to be No. 176, fried kidney with sesame oil.

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