Pastrami burger

Now and then a few of you have urged me to try a pastrami burger — most recently Charles Bentley, in his comment on my post about eating at a Krystal’s in New Orleans. I admitted that while I still planned to sample one sometime, I found the whole concept of a pile of pastrami atop a burger to be intimidating.

But that comment put the pastrami burger back on my mind. One lunch hour last week, feeling like eating a burger and having business in Pomona, I decided to revisit Bravo Burgers and go for it.

Bravo brags about its pastrami, and I knew its burgers were pretty good. Seemed like a good place to try the two in tandem.

(I’ve heard Bravo Burgers’ chili cheese fries are top-notch, btw, but a sense of decorum kept me from getting those and a burger topped with pastrami. I got the regular fries and a Coke.)

Well, I hate to break it to Charles like this, but I didn’t care for the pastrami burger.
Not that Bravo’s wasn’t an exemplary version of the sandwich. It no doubt was.

Me, I like my burgers fairly simple. Usually I don’t even get cheese. Pastrami was akin to another condiment, one with a salty tang, getting in the way of the beef. For me, the pastrami diluted the pleasure, rather than increasing it. Your mileage may vary.

There was another issue that gnawed at me as I gnawed at my sandwich. Sure, I eat a fair amount of unhealthy things — as well as a fair amount of healthy things, I hasten to add — and perhaps some of those items are as unhealthy as a pastrami burger, or worse.

But they don’t seem as bad. Each bite of the pastrami burger filled me with guilt. Also, fat and salt. Mentally blocked, I couldn’t really surrender to the sandwich.

Was that a hiccup, or my heart seizing?

So it was an anxious lunch. Just as well I didn’t develop a taste for a pastrami burger, I suppose. I’ll continue to enjoy my pastrami and burgers separately.

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Lost: one idea

Believe me, generating ideas for this column is no problem. Besides all the ideas cluttering my desk, my files and my brain, I have a dry-erase board on my desk that has, let me count, 34 column ideas, some of which have been there a long while.

Why? Newsier material keeps coming up and it’s not often I’m able to tackle one of these perennials. And it seems as though every time I get to one, and wipe it off the board triumphantly, I add another one or two.

It occurred to me the other day that I can explain every word or phrase on this board — except one.

“Towne house”? This apparently refers to a house I once saw on Towne Avenue in Pomona, but I have no recollection of what it means.

I suppose I should erase it, but, darnit, something made me write “Towne house” on there. Maybe the meaning will come to me.

Any, um, ideas? *

UPDATE: I remembered what “Towne house” means! And of the four comments so far (as of 11 a.m. Thursday), none are correct — although they’re all good guesses. Keep guessing, if you like — but expand your thoughts to the entirety of Towne Avenue, not just the Pomona part.

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That was fun, in a briefly scary way. I was standing in the newsroom preparing to leave for an appointment with my periodontist when our building shook, then shook again.

Biggest earthquake I’ve experienced in my 14 years in SoCal. I arrived here a couple of months after the Northridge quake and I’ve only felt one or two little quakes since then. (A native, finely attuned to such matters from birth, may have felt many more quakes but they haven’t registered with me.)

My periodontist, in Upland, said he was suturing a patient after gum surgery and was a half-second away from another stitch when his office shook. The patient must’ve loved that.

Hope that Yangtze and other unreinforced brick buildings in Ontario and environs are all right, although we already know of damage in downtown Pomona.

Hearing that the quake was centered near Chino Hills makes me wonder if the Shoppes (you remember how to say it) are OK.

I’m headed for home now and have my fingers crossed nothing broke.*

UPDATE: Nothing did.

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Free at last

Ahhh, a rare week without Ontario and Pomona council meetings!

It’s the fifth week of the month, meaning our friends in Ontario and Pomona have already had their get-togethers for July. Last time this happened was April.

I forget what it’s like to have five nights in a row free of work obligations, just like normal people. In fact I almost filled time by going to Monday’s Upland council meeting before getting hold of myself.

Come to think of it, though, one evening this week is spoken for. Thursday evening, Charles Phoenix is speaking to Fairplex Friends and leading a tram tour of the fairgrounds, 5:30 to 7:30. (It’s free, but reserve a spot by calling 510-5606.) That’s a must and it won’t seem much like work.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to leaving work at 6-ish and spending time with friends, or just relaxing at home. Like I said: Ahhhh.

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Inland Empire books

After a comment from reader Bob Terry about Z for Zanja, in which he referenced the tome “Windows in an Old Adobe,” I heard from another Bob, reader Bob House. He writes:

“Mention of ‘Windows in an Old Adobe’ got me to revisit the Inland Empire section of my bookshelf to find ‘A World of Its Own’ by Matt Garcia, ‘Claremont: A Pictorial History’ by Judy Wright, ‘Mexican Serenade’ by Pauline Deuel (about the Padua Hills Theater and Players), ‘Pomona Queen’ by Kem Nunn and ‘Sleeping Giant: An Illustrated History of Southern California’s Inland Empire’ by Rob Wagner (and published by the Daily Bulletin).

“I’d really like to hear what other books about or set in the Inland Empire you and other readers may have or know about.”

There are a fair number of city histories, Bob, although to be candid, most leave an awful lot to be desired in the readability department. We can only hope my colleague Joe Blackstock writes a history someday; as his Daily Bulletin columns prove, he not only knows his history, he knows how to research and he can write, too. Most of our history writers, bless ’em, can do only one or two out of the three.

That said, a few of the books on my shelves: Charles Phoenix’s “Cruising the Pomona Valley”; Don Clucas’ “Light Over the Mountain,” about Cucamonga, and “Upland, a Century of Community”; Ruth Austen’s “Ontario” and William King’s “Pomona,” two coffee table books; Gloria Ricci Lothrop’s “Pomona, a Centennial History”; and another Bulletin-published book, “Witness to a Century,” by Blackstock and Wagner.

Anyone want to add to the list?

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Armchair Traveler: Seattle, Wash.

[Well, with “Pomona A to Z” finished, my Sundays are now free here on the blog. But I like the idea of rerunning a past column.

For now, what with travel costs soaring and a lot of people planning stay-cations, I’ll satisfy the armchair travelers by rerunning a few past columns about trips I’ve taken. Let’s start with this Aug. 30, 2006 column about Seattle. Unanswered question: Does anyone read the Internet from an armchair?]

No monotony, and no monorail, on Seattle trip

Just got back from my first-ever visit to Seattle, the hip destination George Costanza once derided as “the pesto of cities.”

Seattle has always intrigued me, and it’s not the coffee, grunge music, flannel or rain.

What intrigued me was the Space Needle and the Monorail.

As you may know, they were built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The Needle is a 500-foot spindle with an observation deck at the top. The Monorail is an almost noiseless train that whooshes from the Needle to downtown on an elevated track.

At some point in my childhood, which was largely spent watching “The Jetsons,” gaping at NASA moon landings and playing with my Major Matt Mason astronaut toys, I became aware of the Space Needle and Monorail and decided they were awesomely futuristic.

Today they are awesomely retro. I know they were only built to impress the out-of-towners, but as an out-of-towner, I’m fine with that. In my mind, the Needle and Monorail were working examples of the shiny future we were promised, like flying cars and steak dinners in pill form.

So off I went. My first day in town, I read Seattle Weekly’s “Best of Seattle” results, which included “Best Place to Send Tourists.” Answer: “Elsewhere.”

Ha ha! I suppose 10 months of rain a year makes people bitter.

Somehow, though, my visit coincided with a stretch of dry, sunny, warm days. And even though I was carrying a guidebook and a map, the locals were friendly.

One evening, I walked to Safeco Park at game time hoping to buy a Mariners ticket. As I approached the ticket booths, a man walked up to me and said, “You need a single ticket? Here’s one for free.”

Thus, I watched the Mariners come from behind to beat the Red Sox 4-3 from a decent seat without spending a nickel.

Yes, my visit involved a lot of luck. But not all of it was good.

A poorly written sign at the Monorail station, which is at a downtown shopping mall, broke the bad news. “The Monorail is temporary out of service,” it read.

Can we get this thing running? C’mon, I’m leaving in three days!

Thwarted in riding the Monorail to the Space Needle, I took a bus. Ascending to the Needle’s observation deck cost $14, but this was no time to be cheap. In exchange, I got a 360-degree view of Seattle. I was so excited I almost bought a souvenir T-shirt.

(Later I got a similar view from the landmark Smith Tower for $6. The Smith tour guide dismissed the Needle as “a restaurant on a stick.”)

After the Needle I checked out the adjacent rock ‘n’ roll museum, the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project, and its Science Fiction Museum, which has, among other cool stuff, Capt. Kirk’s chair.

Once outside, I was delighted to see the Monorail whoosh by right above me into the Seattle Center station. Employees, alas, said it was just a test run during repairs. No passengers allowed.

The next day I called the Monorail information line. “Good news!” the recording said. “The Seattle Monorail is back in service as of Friday, Aug. 11!” As this was Aug. 26, the recording clearly wasn’t in any better shape than the Monorail.

I had plenty of neat experiences — too many to list. Among them: browsing at bookstores and the Rem Koolhaas-designed Central Library, noshing at Pike Place Market, learning some bizarre and hilarious local history at the Seattle Underground tour, riding a ferry to
Bainbridge Island and grabbing a burger at Dick’s Drive-In.

My last day, I checked the downtown station again. The test runs must not have gone so well, because the Monorail was still broken.

So I left Seattle with only half of my personal “Jetsons” experience fulfilled. Too bad, but I’m philosophical about it.

After all, it makes sense for the Monorail to still be in my future, tantalizingly out of reach.

(David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, within depressingly easy reach.)

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Siskel and Ebert remembered

As you may have heard, “At the Movies” is being overhauled without Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert, news that made me think back to the show’s early days with Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.

When I started watching the show, circa 1980, “At the Movies” was on PBS and the duo were just coming into prominence. It was a hoot to watch them argue about movies. They were never rancorous but they could get arms-and-elbows with each other, Siskel employing dry wit, Ebert’s owlish face bobbing forward pugnaciously. They could be pretty hilarious as they ridiculed movies they hated.

Watch them go at it here about “Bachelor Party.”

Without Siskel, who died in 1999, the show was never the same. Roeper was fine but an intellectual lightweight compared to Ebert. I stopped watching it regularly some years ago. The idea of two critics talking about the latest movies was out of the box and a lot of fun, and perhaps it can be reinvented.

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The Good Earth bargain

I stopped at Borders in Montclair Thursday on my way back to the office from buying Vampire Weekend tickets in Pomona. Wanted to check a reader-contributed Pomona factoid from, of all things, Rachael Ray’s magazine.

In the new-release section, there’s something really new: a table of cardboard boxes full of $3.99 books. Little of interest, unsurprisingly, but for some reason, perhaps a miscalculation of a Pearl S. Buck revival that never happened, they have something like 20 trade paperback copies of “The Good Earth.”

If you ever wanted to read it, this would seem to be your time. In no rush, I picked up the lone copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night.” At $3.99 for a novel that lists at $15, I couldn’t believe my luck.

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Vampire Weekend!

Yes, the hot band of 2008. They’re playing — wait for it — Pomona.

Sept. 16 at the Glass House. That’s a Tuesday. Vampire Weeknight?

I saw a notice of the show in Thursday’s L.A. Times Guide (the last issue, btw) as part of its list of upcoming shows at various venues. Tickets went on sale Saturday. The show precedes two dates at L.A.’s Wiltern Theater on Sept. 17-18.

On my lunch hour, I headed for Pomona’s Glass House Record Store a couple of storefronts from the venue. Tickets are still available, maybe because the Inland Valley is light on Columbia grads. Picked up two tickets, $23.50 each. Two opening acts, including Abe Vigoda, a rising band from (believe it or not) Chino.

I wasn’t immediately sold on Vampire Weekend. A friend had loaned me a burned copy of their debut CD early this year and a couple of spins didn’t do much for me. Weeks later, I was riding in another friend’s pickup and eventually noticed the catchy, vaguely familiar CD he was playing. Turned out it was Vampire Weekend. They kinda snuck up on me. Bought the CD myself and it quickly became a favorite.

“I see a mansard roof through the trees”! Bom! Bom bom!

For me, this is the biggest Glass House show since the White Stripes in 2005. Can’t wait.

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Restaurant of the Week: Lollicup


Lollicup, 4323 E. Mills Circle, No. 104 (at Concours), Ontario

Lollicup is a chain of tea and coffee shops specializing in boba drinks; there are other local locations in Chino Hills (14320 Chino Hills Parkway) and Pomona (961 E. Mission Blvd.) But the Ontario location, which is operated by a family from Indonesia, also sells food.

The menu has a few fried snacks, which may be common to other Lollicups, but the Ontario store has a small bakery-type case atop the counter, a sign near it about taro pudding and various jellies, a few bagged items for sale to-go (Dendeng Sapi, described as sweet beef jerky, and something crunchy-looking called Rempeyek) and a short lunch menu displayed on the counter. A chalkboard had five or six specials, including Soto Ayam (a soup) and several noodle dishes.

From the specials I ordered Mie Goreng Jawa ($6.50), which was much like pad Thai, with thin noodles, onion, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes and chicken. It was too much for one meal; I took the other half home. For a beverage, I had a jasmine milk tea ($3.25) with boba (35 cents).

The interior seats 20. It basically looks like a Starbucks except with tables. Kind of cute. There’s a Korean-style yogurt shop, Berry Trees, a couple of doors down but when I left I was too full to go in.

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