Fair sign flashes on

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The Museum of Neon Art in downtown L.A. (136 W. 4th), which already has Montclair’s old Midway Building Materials sign with its animated bricklayer in its collection (albeit in storage), is now displaying a familiar sign from Pomona: County Fair Pie A La Mode.

It’s on loan from James McDemas and John English and will be displayed indefinitely. Nice setting, too.

Museum executive director Kim Koga told me the duo “got all three of the pie-a-la-mode neon signage and all of the smaller hand-painted signs that went along with it.” They apparently did not get any pie or ice cream, however.

Here’s an earlier blog post about the museum.

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Angels Flight returns

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Like I said in Wednesday’s column, that singular downtown L.A. attraction is back. Here are two photos I took. This was covered more formally by the Los Angeles Downtown News and by the L.A. Times, which had a story and photos.

Related: Millard Sheets’ painting “Angels Flight” is getting renewed attention. Here’s a link to the image and a short writeup from LA Observed. It’s my favorite Sheets painting too — even if it does leave out Angels Flight!

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The holy grail: ‘Dark Carnival’

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(Click on the thumbnail photos above for larger images.)

“Dark Carnival” was listed on the “Books by Ray Bradbury” page in all of his old Bantam paperbacks of my childhood, and yet I could never find a copy. Somewhere along the way I learned why: The 1947 story collection, Bradbury’s first, was published only in hardcover by a small publisher, Arkham House.

Only 3,112 copies were printed and the book often goes for $3,000. Original price: $3. “Ray Bradbury brings something surprisingly new and delightfully different to the field of the supernatural,” reads the jacket copy. The book was reprinted in 2001 in a limited edition, not that I knew about it, and (sigh) it now sells for about the same price as the original.

I had been okay with missing out on “Dark Carnival” until embarking on my quest to read all the Bradbury stuff I’d never read. Then I decided to take this gap in my knowledge more seriously, compiling a list of all the “Dark Carnival” stories — 27 in all — and figuring out which ones had been reprinted, and where.

Many appeared with minor rewriting in the Bradbury collection “The October Country” in 1955, and more showed up in later anthologies and collections; a few more are in a British-only paperback. Four stories, however, have never been reprinted, with RB deeming them too poor for re-release.

I know someone who owns the original: Dwain Kaiser, owner of Magic Door Books in downtown Pomona. Kaiser is a longtime science fiction fan and collector who believes he paid $10 for his copy.

I made a deal with Kaiser, a friend of mine: Since the book is too expensive to buy and too valuable to borrow, could I sit in his store and read those four stories? I could.

And so I went in, sat down on a rainy Saturday and polished ‘em off. Frankly, two of the four, “The Maiden” and “The Night Sets,” were indeed lame, but “Interim” and “Reunion” were okay. In any event, I read them.

Now I’m reading the last of the reprinted stories so that I can say, after 30 years of Bradbury fandom, that I’ve read “Dark Carnival” — without going broke.

Thanks, Dwain.

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Restaurant of the Week: Aoki

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Aoki, 2307 D St. (at 3rd), La Verne

Aoki has been a fixture in downtown La Verne since the ’90s, anchoring a busy corner near the university. Outside there’s a protected patio; the interior is homey, with photos of customers along one wall and a mom and pop atmosphere.

I’ve been there a few times over the years and dropped in for lunch on Wednesday.

I got a two-combination lunch ($7.95), choosing sushi and sashimi. This comes with a bowl of miso soup and, as can be seen above, rice and a small salad. The sushi and sashimi both included salmon, tuna and yellowtail. It was a satisfying lunch and a good deal for the price.

It may be another year or two before I make it back, but I suspect Aoki will be there waiting.

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Not the wurst that could happen

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A week after a Metrolink/Gold Line jaunt to try out Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park, Sunday saw me repeating the experiment, this time at Wurstkuche in downtown L.A.

I got off the Gold Line Extension at its first stop, at Alameda and 1st, and walked about four blocks to Wurstkuche, a well-regarded Belgian beer and housemade hot dog place in the Arts District. (Like Good Girl Dinette, it’s on LA Weekly’s LA 99 list.)

There was a line to get in, but that was fine, and an employee handed out copies of the menu. I had the sundried tomato and mozzarella dog of smoked chicken and turkey with caramelized onions and sweet peppers, plus Belgian fries with curry ketchup, a Manhattan Special cream soda and, for dessert, a toasted apple pie ice cream sandwich between oatmeal raisin cookies. Total: $19.48.

The bar/dining room, in exposed brick, features communal tables covered in butcher block paper. A nice ambience. As for the food, it was fine stuff. The dog had a good snap and it was cradled by a dense, crisped bun. The fries were disappointing, but maybe I’m not a Belgian fry guy. I like ‘em better at Back Abbey in Claremont.

I got through another couple of chapters of “Roughing It” before heading for home. Another satisfying outing to a new-to-me part of L.A.

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Lucky 13

Today marks my 13th anniversary at the ol’ Daily Bulletin. Yep, it was on March 10, 1997 that yours truly reported for work for the first time in Ontario, having moved here days earlier from Victorville and its Daily Press newspaper.

One of the best moves I ever made — not that that was obvious at the time.

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Recycling mystery

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Photo: Will Plunkett

Reader Will Plunkett of Rancho Cucamonga noticed this lineup of everything-under-the-(desert)-sun recycling containers while visiting Death Valley and wondered about the one at the far left. He asks: “Is this the mysterious way California will help its struggling economy, with an unknown product?”

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Two cheesy poems

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In the Claremont Village, the former All Ways Travel storefront (Yale between Bonita and Fourth) is being converted into the Cheese Cave, a frommage-centric shop. While the space is being renovated, butcher block paper covers the windows. But those windows have also become the best site for poetry outside the Folk Music Center down the street.

First the owners put up a self-penned poem about their venture, above. Then, it appears, a would-be customer responded with a second poem, which is now displayed alongside the first, at right.

Click on the images to see larger, readable versions. (Sorry about the glare that obscures a few words of the shop’s poem.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Rocco’s Taccos

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CLOSED; now Rosy’s Tacos

Rocco’s Taccos, 669 Indian Hill Blvd. (at Holt), Pomona

Yes, Rocco’s really does spell its product that way, a joke that may or may not be worth the confusion. Rocco’s recently filled a space where every tenant, it seems, is doomed to failure after its year is up. (The most recent victim of the curse was Pittsburgh Broasted Chicken.) But perhaps Rocco’s will escape that fate.

I had a quick dinner there Monday before a council meeting. The woman behind the counter was cheerful. I asked if there were any specialties and she recommended the fish and shrimp tacos. At $1.75 each, they were pretty good.

Besides the usual tacos ($1.15 to $1.75) and burritos ($4.50 to $5.50), Rocco’s also has an array of tortas ($5). One is the La Cubana. I wonder what’s in the one named La Pomona?

I wouldn’t say Rocco’s lives up to its slogan of “Best tacos in town” (see photo); in fact, last time I checked you could get better tacos across the street at Mariscos de Ensenada No. 5, although you’d have to factor in the time and money for table service. But as a taqueria, and for the money, Rocco’s is okay.

If the name or logo ring any bells, the same family also owns Rocco’s Pizza in Montclair. Can Rocco’s Sushi be next?

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