Just doing our jobs in Pomona

Lured by the false promise of excitement about the future of the day labor center, two TV stations sent cameramen to Monday’s Pomona City Council meeting.

One set up on the left side of the dais, the other, a late arrival, on the right. He was assembling his camera as the meeting was under way, aiming and focusing about two feet from the elbow of Councilman George Hunter, who was standing there handing out Home Beautification awards.

Councilwoman Paula Lantz interrupted to ask: “Could the cameraman wait until after the presentation to set up the camera? I think it’s disrespectful.”

“Just doing my job,” the operator said, somewhat disrespectfully, while continuing to practice focusing and swiveling.

The day labor center item didn’t come up on the agenda until 9:51 p.m. For a change, speakers on both sides of the issue were respectful. The center’s budget was trimmed by a modest 10 percent.

Only the cameraman on the left was still there. Sometime around 8 p.m., the cameraman who had made such a fuss had left.

I stuck around until 10:40 p.m., feeling I was in too deep to leave despite the lack of action. After all, my presence requires a complicated setup too, what with opening my notebook and uncapping my pen.

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Why L.A. needs another Olympics

China is spending $43 billion on its Olympics to improve air quality, etiquette and transportation in Beijing, the most ever spent by a host city on the Games, according to Monday’s L.A. Times.

For instance, not one, not two, but three subway or light-rail lines are opening.

All this made me think L.A. could really use another Olympics. Not so much for the prestige of the Games, but just to get itself to focus and tackle some long-standing problems.

Gangs, smog, traffic — an Olympics could create the civic will to solve them all!

Heck, maybe Montclair should host the Olympics. At least then the MTA would give us the Gold Line.

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Empire eating, and blogging

Inland Empire Restaurant and Food Reviews is the name of a blog I discovered last week, and while the name is awfully literal, so is The David Allen Blog, right? So let’s not hold that against it.

The posts are a kind of diary of the unnamed writer’s lunch outings, heavy on photos, light on text. The photos of the food are fun.

This blog really does cover the Inland Empire — restaurants from Riverside, Corona, Upland, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga and good ol’ Pomona have received writeups. Whoever the writer is, he/she gets around.

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‘Pomona A to Z’: letters on the letters

[My encore of “Pomona A to Z” is complete, but here’s a followup column — originally published July 3, 2005 — of reader reaction to the series.

The comment from the Ontario reader really cheesed me off — imagine his chutzpah in thinking, after I’d devoted a year to writing favorably about Pomona, that I’d find his snobbish put-down of Pomona to be hilarious! — so it was with relish that I zinged him back. But everyone else was nice, and Judi Guizado’s letter is so brilliant I’m thrilled to re-present it.

As a final note, “A to Z” taught me a lot about Pomona and since then I’ve learned how little I knew when I wrote it. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading, or rereading, these columns anyway.]

Readers ‘letter rip’ on A to Z

With the 26-part series “Pomona A to Z” having ended, some readers are having trouble letting go.

“Don’t you have any more letters?” Pomona Councilman George Hunter asked me after Z for Zanja. “Could you do some diphthongs?”

Complex vowel sounds aside, I’m sorry to see the series end too. After all, for 26 Sundays I always knew where my next column was coming from. Now what?

“Perhaps you should reprise ‘A to Z’ for all Inland Valley cities,” C.J. Fogel, a former newsroom colleague, wrote to suggest. “Or how about ‘A to Z’ but using Khmer, the world’s largest alphabet? Moving on from ‘tha,’ we now have ‘pha’…”

Well, yours truly wrote about pho, so why not pha?

I brought my A-game to “A to Z,” hoping to have fun — and I did — while nudging people into looking at Pomona in a new light. It was successful, at least up to a point.

Jim Downs, a 28-year resident of Ontario, said he enjoyed reading about the valley’s other big city.

“I found out some interesting things about Pomona each week, and I even thought about going to see one or two of them,” Downs wrote. “But then I thought, ‘It is Pomona!'”

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

“An underrated city” is how reader David Fleury described Pomona, and he’s got it exactly right.

Fleury, who spent 24 years in Pomona, insisted he learned “so much” from my series, which is quite a compliment. He can’t have learned more than I did, though.

I knew very little about Pomona going into “A to Z.” Even now I know just a smidge — but it’s a good smidge.

Thanks to everyone who nominated people, places and things, by the way. True, I could have done the series without you. But it would have stunk.

Will there be another “A to Z”? Probably.

Downs, the Ontario resident quoted above, requested an “Ontario A to Z.”

With such a series, “we could discover some little-known or forgotten facts about Ontario with which we could wow and amaze our friends in other humdrum communities not nearly as interesting as our area! Whaddaya think?”

It’s a great idea, but I do have one worry.

What if people from Pomona refuse to check out the attractions because, after all, “It IS Ontario”?

You may recall that I stole the alphabet concept from a fine, funny PBS documentary by Rick Sebak, “Pittsburgh A to Z.”

I recently shipped off all 26 columns to Sebak, who was so excited he wrote me, then called me.

Turns out the Bard of Pittsburgh had already quoted me on the back of the DVD version of “A to Z” (available at www.wqed.org), and how cool is that?

Sebak called my series “totally fun to read” and encouraged me to do more. The “A to Z” concept, incidentally, wasn’t even his — a Pittsburgh museum official suggested it.

“You can’t copyright the letters of the alphabet,” Sebak added cheerfully. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a marvelous gimmick. Take it and run.”

When readers least expect it, I will.

But first, I’ll let two of you run with it. Because two separate e-mails from two separate readers took an alphabetical approach to critiquing my series.

Judi Guizado wrote:

“I found your columns to be amazing, beatific, classy, delightful, edifying, first-rate, groovy, heartfelt, interesting, joyful, kindhearted, laudable, masterful, neat-o, orderly, praiseworthy, quirky, reminiscent, scandalous — oops, sorry, wrong column; that one’s for Pomona’s self-imposed pay raise — transcendent, unusual, valiant, well-written, Xeroxable, yatterless and zestful.”

Guizado would like to thank the members of the Academy, plus Webster’s Thesaurus.

And Ruth Wells chimed in with this:

“Allen’s Bulletin Columns Did Effectually Furnish Great Highlights, Interesting Jewels, Knowledge Listing Many Nuances of Pomona’s Quintessence — Restaurants, Specifics of our ethnic citizens, Tableaus of Today, Unforgettable, Valued Works of the past, X-cellent Yarns, Zealously told.”

I’m awe-struck, blushing, content, dumbfounded, etc.

Now let’s let the alphabet rest a bit. We’ve given it a heckuva workout.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, a workout for your eyes.)

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‘1 Dead in Attic’

No, that’s not the headline atop the Bulletin’s “click picks” list online. It’s the title of a collection of post-Katrina columns from Chris Rose of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

I picked up a copy at Beckham’s Bookshop while visiting the City That Care Forgot, having heard good things. I dipped in, liked what I read and bought it. By the time I’d left for home I’d read about half, finishing the back half a few days ago.

Excellent stuff. Rose became a voice for the Crescent City, chronicling the community’s collective despair, helplessness and triumph. He defends Mardi Gras, cheers for the Saints and finds a strange sense of excitement when the first stoplight is turned back on. There’s also the story of Miss Ellen, his shut-in neighbor who whiled away her time after the hurricane by painting pictures on blown-off roof shingles.

By the end of 2006, where the book ends, Rose was recovering from a near-breakdown, much like his city.

He’s rarely angry in his columns but usually direct, empathetic and often very funny.

So, for anyone interested in a ground-level view of New Orleans’ recovery, as well as in reading a real columnist for a change (ahem), “1 Dead in Attic” is recommended.

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Restaurant of the Week: Sal’s Pizza and Bagelry


Sal’s Pizza and The Bagelry, 2095 Foothill Blvd. (at D), La Verne

I’ve passed this combo restaurant on Foothill at D Street probably hundreds of times, but for whatever reason it never occurred to me until a couple of weeks ago that I ought to actually eat there sometime.

I had been inside once. Circa 1998, for a feature story, a photographer and I spent a day driving around the Inland Valley to check out banks that had been converted into other commercial uses. I don’t have access to that story, but the La Verne building had been some sort of a bank — anyone remember which one? — and the main entrance was then The Bagelry. Sometime in the past few years, Sal’s Pizza was added.

(The sign out front advertises the building’s two less-visible businesses, Taco Factory and Juice Stop. Because of the strange spacing, I always read the sign in jest as Taco Juice/Factory Stop.)

Anyway. The restaurant seats 87, plus another 20 or so on the patio, so it’s quite large. It’s pleasant enough, tiled everywhere. A lot of restaurants would envy the generous patio. Speaking of generous, the sprawling menu has bagels, bagel sandwiches, salads, sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, pizza and pasta, and there’s an espresso bar.

I had the Route 66, a sandwich of turkey, swiss, tomato, onion and pickle, and got it on a plain bagel, toasted ($5.95-ish), and an iced tea ($2-ish). I didn’t expect great things, and didn’t receive them, but the sandwich was acceptable. There were several customers, including a young guy on a laptop at the espresso bar and an older couple in a booth, each reading a paperback as they ate silently.

Anyone tried the pizza?

* Update, March 2014: I came back for the pizza: the Sal’s Special (small $14.45), which has sausage, bacon, green and red peppers, pepperoni, onions and mushrooms. The thing was a beast: the toppings generous, the crust bready but crisp on the bottom. The large chunks of sausage were especially notable. I ate half and got two light meals out of the other half. Sal’s would not be my go-to pizzeria, but I would go back. (By the way, Taco Factory and Juice Stop are both gone.)


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Still a lotta Starbucks

The 600 Starbucks that are closing aren’t having much of an impact in the Inland Valley. Only one store, on 4467 E. Mission Blvd. (at Ramona) in Montclair, is shutting down. Thanks to Meg at M-M-M-My Pomona for steering us to the list. Only eight locations in all of California are closing.

Tuesday evening I took Vineyard to Holt on my way to the Ontario council meeting. A brand-new Starbucks is nearing completion on that corner — the sign is up. That was a surprise to me. But I did know about a Starbucks under construction at Vineyard and Fourth, replacing a Sizzler. Both operations will be within blocks of the Daily Bulletin and can’t be more than a mile apart.

Meanwhile, there’s still a Starbucks at Vineyard and Foothill, plus a second one inside Albertsons on the same corner. Both are across the street from Coffee Klatch, which valiantly hangs in there, and good for them.

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Bagel store’s closing leaves a hole

Reader Gail Sundberg writes:

Dear David,

I read your column all the time and really enjoy it. Even though I am not a native Ontarian I grew up there and love reading your pathways back in time to The Hot Dog Show, Burger Lane and Wags (have you heard about the Oasis?). When Mi Taco closed it was like a part of my past was gone. When my friends and I got our driver license next door at the old DMV, we would cruise their drive-thru as a rite of passage. Yes I remember it all — when it was cool to cruise the Ontario Plaza or getting a hot caramel sundae at Henry’s in Pomona. Yeah, those were the days.

Well, why am I writing to you? You have heard all of that before.

For the past 10 years, just about every Sunday my cousin Shelley and would meet at 42nd Street Bagel in Rancho Cucamonga. The girls knew our order by heart: “two onion bagels, one lightly toasted, one just sliced, a small cream cheese, two coffees and a glass of water.”

We even had a favorite table. When the weather was nice, we would sit outside and talk to the other customers who brought their dogs. My cousin and would talk about our week, plan vacations or just discuss family. We would get the ads from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and see what we needed to get at Target — so convenient.

We found out today [Sunday, 7/13] that 42nd St. is closing.

As Shelley and I were leaving the manager came running out to my car to tell us it was their last day of business. We were in shock. We looked at each other…what were we to do? The manager came back out and she could tell we were shocked because we just sat there staring at each other.

We asked about the other 42nd Streets, Upland and Claremont. Granted we live in Rancho and it was so convenient for us to meet there. She didn’t know about the Upland store on Foothill but said the one in Claremont would just be changing its name.

In our usual Sunday routine we ended up going to Target. Seeing Panera Bread we thought we would check it out as a possible substitute. Can you imagine, no onion bagels? We drove the various shopping centers looking for something close, casual and friendly…nothing! If it’s not a restaurant chain, fast food or a mega-breakfast place for the after-church crowd, there is nothing.

Once again life as I know it is changed. Thanks for reading.

Hey, thank YOU for sharing, Gail. I suppose Claremont is a long way to go for an onion bagel if you live in Rancho Cucamonga. The only bagel alternative that comes to mind is Bruegger’s Bagels in the Ontario Mills food court.

If you can break the onion bagel habit, Panera is certainly Target-adjacent. You might become a fan of Dolce Cafe in Montclair, which has pastries and is a block or so from that city’s Target. Or enjoy another pastry shop, the homey Local Baker in downtown Upland.

Anyone have any better ideas for Gail?

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‘Things’ past

Sid Robinson has joined the blogosphere. A Claremont High grad who may be best known for his years as L.A. County Fair spokesman, Sid has been blogging for a few weeks now.

I just discovered his blog this week when he wrote about “Things that aren’t here anymore,” kindly noting yours truly’s role as a collector of such ephemera.

Sid wrote a post sharing memories of places he enjoyed growing up like Thriftymart, Value Fair and Magic Tower Burgers. Oh, and a Keds shoe store run by midgets. Good reading, and he even has a few photos.

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