Weighty response

A visitor to our office requested to speak with me — and expressed great surprise when I approached the counter.

“You’ve lost a lot of weight!” the stranger exclaimed.

I get this once in a while, so I was somewhat prepared.

“I haven’t lost any weight. Actually, this is the heaviest I’ve ever been,” I said.

“But your picture in the paper…you look much heavier,” he said, a bit confused.

I put my hand at neck level. “The photo’s from here up,” I reminded him. “I have a fat face.”

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Fox Theater, the poster

14390-Fox poster 3.jpg

At one point about all that construction crews had found inside Pomona’s Fox Theater were dead pigeons. But when an internal wall was knocked out recently, this vintage movie poster was uncovered. It’s for “Christina,” a 1929 silent film starring Janet Gaynor.

The Fox, as all schoolchildren know, opened in 1931. Perhaps “Christina” played there in a revival later on, or the poster was used as theater decor at one point, as movie posters sometimes are. It was a Fox film, by the way.

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Farewell, ‘Only in L.A.’

Today’s column is about the end of Steve Harvey’s “Only in L.A.” column in the Times, to which I contributed items for a dozen years. In fact, what turned out to be Steve’s last column ended with an item from me. (Talk about going out with a whimper.)

Here’s a link to that column , to a photo tribute to “Only in L.A.” and to a best-of. And, why not, to an Amazon listing for his “Best of Only in L.A.” book.

I always thought when Steve retired, he should host a luncheon, maybe at the Redwood, the unofficial Times tavern, for his regular contributors. I’ve seen their names so many times I can come up with a decent invite list from memory: Phil Proctor (I assume he’s the Firesign Theatre guy but never asked), David Chan, Hank Rosenfeld, Lisalee Wells, the woman (Arlene something?) who runs the acting school for elders. We could include Bob Patterson of Alta Loma, who made it into print several times.

If you have thoughts about Steve’s column, feel free to leave comments below.

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Sixth Street

What with heavy traffic on Mountain Avenue in Upland on Tuesday, I wasn’t able to get into the freeway lane to head back to work. So I hung a left on Sixth Street in Ontario and took it east. Much to the consternation of Sixth Streeters, I’m sure, who don’t like it when their quiet street is used as a freeway alternate.

That’s why “traffic calming” devices were installed a decade ago. These were small planters in the middle of the street that make motorists to pay attention and slow down. (Whenever I mention traffic calming, I always get an amused note in the mail from Sixth Streeter Bruce Henning, who finds the islands slightly ridiculous. We’ll see if he finds this online.)

The islands to the west are small and rather ineffectual, as they’re easily maneuvered around; the islands east of San Antonio Avenue are bracketed by curb extensions that do force you to go slow.

I was in a state of zen-like calm, lulled by the traffic island greenery and the mature trees along the right side of the street, until I looked ahead and saw a sudden lack of greenery. Namely, the green light at Euclid a block away was turning yellow. Oh well. It just gave me more time to admire Sixth Street.

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‘Distant’ ambitions

I’ve been taking “The Distant Land of My Father” to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Claremont on weekends to have some focused time to read it, and also get out of the heat. After almost three weeks, I’m three-quarters of the way through and am enjoying it.

On Sunday I ran into my friend Vince Turner there, held up the book and noted that it had been chosen by the Claremont: On the Same Page people for everyone in town to read.

Turner, his finger on the pulse of Claremont as always, took a more practical approach.

Instead of foisting a 400-page novel on a time-pressed public, he said, “They should just pick a magazine for everyone to leaf through.”

Claremont: On the Same Newsstand?

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‘Distant Land’ of downtown L.A.

Here’s a great vicarious tour of downtown L.A. circa 1938 from Bo Caldwell’s “The Distant Land of My Father” (p. 125), as the grandmother escorts the 7-year-old girl newly arrived from Shanghai around. This was all one paragraph but I’ve split it in half for easier reading:

“She took me to Olvera Street, the oldest street in the city, and we ate taquitos and held Mexican jumping beans in our palms. We shopped at Woolworth’s and at the Broadway department store, where she bought me Bass Weejun loafers and Keds sneakers. We walked through Pershing Square and listened to soapbox preachers and browsed through the books at the Parasol Library. We bought strawberries and watermelon and just-baked peach pie at Grand Central Market, then rode Angels Flight, a small funicular railway that went up and down Bunker Hill.

“We went to Germain’s Nursery on Hill Street and bought packets of California poppy seeds that Gran said we would plant in the back corner of her yard. We stopped at Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakers and bought Dutch Girl cookies and coconut macaroons and Saratoga potato chips that tumbled out of a metal chute as they were cooked. We ate lunch at Clifton’s Cafeteria, or went to Philippe’s for French dips and lemonade, where I drew patterns in the sawdust on the floor with the toe of my shoe.”

Nice to see that about half the stuff she name-drops is still around — of the 11 places, five still exist, and that will be six when Angels Flight is back in service. I have no idea what the Parasol Library was, btw.

If you haven’t checked this blog for a few days, or are a first-timer, scroll down this page to the post from last week titled “Clifton’s Cafeteria,” which you may also find of interest.

Everyone in Claremont is supposed to be reading “Distant Land.” Are you?

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Indie theaters

Today’s column is about the Laemmle movie theater in Claremont. Scroll down on this blog a bit for Thursday’s Laemmle post and click on “comments” — they’re all over the map and all the more fascinating for it. Feel free to add on there, especially after reading the column.

In recent years, numerous attempts at showing so-called art movies in the Inland Valley have been made. Circa 1997, there was a short-lived effort at the AMC 30 Ontario Mills. It had a name but I can’t recall it: Cinema something-or-other? AMC Cinematheque?

(The AMC Select promotion, a more recent innovation, has hung in there longer, this week giving us “Transsiberian,” “Brideshead Revisited” and “Henry Poole is Here.”)

The Edwards Mountain Green in Upland went all-art in the summer of (I think) 1999 for something like a week, playing “The Red Violin,” then closing for good and becoming a Michaels crafts store. That’ll teach ‘em.

Mary Noonan of Claremont phoned Friday to say the UA Theater at Montclair Plaza had one screen of art films for a spell. I hadn’t heard that. And of course, several people said in the earlier blog thread about Laemmle that the old Village Theater showed quality films.

Of course, the best purveyor of indie films in the Inland Empire is a video store: Video Paradiso in Claremont. They have all the classics, new and old: Fellini, Antonioni, Godard, etc., etc. Check it out.

Any other comments or examples?

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Restaurant of the Week: New York Pizza Company

This week’s restaurant: New York Pizza Company, 1013 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Mulberry), Upland.

NYPC was formerly located in an obscure part of West 11th Street in the Upland Sports Arena pay-to-play building and moved to Foothill and Mulberry, next to Philly’s Best, a few months ago.

They have a huge array of pizzas with over 50 toppings to choose from, plus salads, pasta, subs and burgers. You order at the counter and they bring your order to your table. It’s clean and comfortable, a very modern interior with corrugated metal accents, and with clocks giving the time in Italy, New York and Upland. One wall, perhaps 15 feet long, is covered with a photo mural of Times Square, with NYPC’s sign Photoshopped in. Ha ha. By the way, can it be true that Times Square has two Sbarros in two blocks? Well, it IS Michael Scott’s favorite N.Y. pizza parlor…

I’ve been to NYPC twice in recent weeks, plus a third visit in their old location a few years back. But I can’t say I’m a fan. The first time was because a friend was working there. I went more recently to check out their new location and possibly blog about it, but a different restaurant that week ended up in this space.

In that visit, I had the pizza slice special (slice, salad and soda) and for whatever reason, the “pizza of the day,” the odd but strangely compelling Baked Ziti Pizza, called to me. It was a slice with, yes, baked ziti pasta, sauce and ricotta cheese on top. It was as weird as it sounds, albeit quite filling.

I decided to go back last week, order a conventional slice and write about it. I got the slice-salad-soda special again, this time with a plain cheese slice ($7.55 with tax).

One thing in NYPC’s favor, you get a lot of food for the money. The salad isn’t bad and the slices are enormous wedges bigger than your head. That said, this doesn’t seem like New York-style pizza to me. The crust is on the thick side, rather stiff, and it’s impossible to fold a slice in half to eat it, as New Yorkers (and those who love them) like to do. You’re just holding this giant triangle with two hands and moving it toward your mouth.

The sauce is rather bland, too, something I’d noticed on previous visits.

I’m a little surprised to be saying this because I like all kinds of pizza (while generally turning up my nose at Domino’s, Little Caesar’s and the like) and really like New York-style pizza. They do very good versions at San Biagio’s in Upland and Anthony’s Italian Kitchen in Rancho Cucamonga.

You may like NYPC’s pizza — people’s taste in pizza varies considerably — but if I go back, it will be to try a sub.

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Pilgrim’s progress

Do you mind if I offer a belated earthquake story? Hope not. I just heard this one a few days ago.

There’s scaffolding around the tower of Pomona’s stately brick Pilgrim Congregational Church, as you may have noticed if you’ve driven on Garey Avenue north of Holt in recent weeks. Repairs to the bricks and grillwork is the reason.

Well, there were workers on the scaffolding when the earthquake hit, parishioner Don Sturgis told me.

“One workman said that he looked up and saw the tower leaning over him. Another was on the tower roof and indicated that he was afraid that the roof would fall in,” Sturgis said.

But they had nothing to worry about.

“These workers had no idea that the same general contractor for this current work, Mark Sauer Construction, was given a $1 million contract in 1993 to earthquake-retrofit the church structure and adjoining Pilgrim Hall that were built in 1911,” Sturgis said.

That earlier work tied the walls together so that rather than the walls moving in separate directions, “the structure could move as a single unit,” Sturgis explained. “This is exactly what happened (in the quake) — the tower still stands and, except for some cracked plaster, no structural damage occurred to either building.”

Whew. I’m sure the workers were glad to know it — after the world, and their knees, stopped shaking.

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