Reading log: July 2010

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Books acquired: Too many to list.

Books read: “The Loved One,” Evelyn Waugh; “Let Me Count the Ways,” Peter DeVries; “City Lights,” Dan Barry; “The Lurking Fear,” H.P. Lovecraft.

Notice anything about my list this month? I mean besides that I bought 12 books and can’t be bothered to list them. All the books I read have an L in the title. Yes, on purpose. It was an oddball experiment to trick myself into reading a few books from my shelves I might not have gotten to otherwise.

Either my reading has taken a playful turn, or I’m so overwhelmed that I’ve abandoned all principle. I’m hoping it’s the former.

“The Loved One” is a British satire on America’s obsession with grand funerals for pets and people alike. Funny, albeit not as funny as I’d hoped. “City Lights” is a collection of New York Times columns on people and places in the city, all gracefully written. The two winners this month were “Let Me Count the Ways,” a comic novel (disgracefully out of print) about a couple with diametrically opposed views and their confusing effect on their son, and “The Lurking Fear,” a collection of cosmic horror stories by the revered pulp writer, who is not for every taste, certainly, but who was for mine. It’s the first Lovecraft I’ve read, but not the last. Ditto with DeVries.

For those who like to know where/when the books came into my hands (hi Doug!): I bought “The Loved One” in 2008 at the late, lamented Second Story Books in Claremont. “City Lights” was purchased at the NYT shop at LaGuardia before my flight home in 2009. “Let Me” was bought at Powell’s in Portland in 2007, as was “The Lurking Fear.” I felt better about revisiting Powell’s a week ago after reading two more of my unread purchases from that trip. In fact, I read the last half of “Fear” on this vacation.

As for August, I’m trying to bear down on a couple of Twain collections I’ve been reading since May, with hopes of finishing one, or both. Not doing the one-letter thing this time, although I’ll probably come back to that in some future month.

What are you folks reading, and have any of you read any of the above?

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How much does your city manager make?

If you live in L.A. County, this LA Times chart will tell you. The Times used 2009 total taxable income to give a clearer picture of managers’ actual pay — a canny approach, since base salaries often don’t include other compensation perks that vary by city.

As the related Times story figures it, the average city manager salary in the county is $209,000. The Pomona, La Verne, San Dimas and Diamond Bar managers are all under the average — and that’s before Pomona’s manager, like other city employees, took a 10 percent cut because of a furlough — and Claremont’s manager is above.

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Restaurant of the Week: Taylor’s Cafe

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Taylor’s Cafe, 7049 Chino Ave. (at Euclid), Chino

Perhaps the Inland Valley’s only weigh station/steakhouse combo (unless Fleming’s in Victoria Gardens has added truck scales), Taylor’s is a delightful contradiction. The intersection itself shows Chino in transition: tidy tract homes on one corner, cows or fields on a couple of others, Taylor’s and a few semi-trucks on another.

The window-free restaurant and bar is nothing fancy: a paneled bar with a bug zapper and an adjoining room with equally austere furnishings that include a vintage, but empty, cigarette machine. The cafe has been there for decades and caters to an oldtime Chino dairy crowd. It’s relaxed and informal.

I’ve been to Taylor’s a couple of times for breakfast, but I’d never had a steak. A friend who swears Taylor’s has the best ribeye around invited me out recently at lunchtime. We sat in the paneled bar, the TV news showing hopeful news about the oil spill, and had the ribeye lunch ($14) with salad, fries, French bread and slices of bleu cheese.

The steaks, medium rare, had a peppery tang and minimal fat, and were enormous, probably close to a pound each. Excellent for the price, and awfully good for any price.

They also have top sirloin for $10 and porterhouse for $16, plus burgers for $6. Cheeseburgers are also $6. Breakfast, served until 3 p.m., includes pancakes, eggs, huevos rancheros and Basque sausage. Some swear by the carne asada burritos.

I wrote a column on Taylor’s a couple of years ago; you can read that by clicking below. A long review on Yelp can be read here and a neat writeup with photos can be found here.
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City of Books

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Now that’s the sort of city I’d like to live in. But “City of Books” isn’t a real city, just the motto of Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore.

I spent four days in Portland last week and probably six hours (over four visits) at Powell’s, self-described as the world’s largest independent bookstore. One million books over nine rooms, four floors and 68,000 square feet that covers an entire city block. They hand out maps to help you navigate.

I limited myself to seven books. Just browsing was enlightening. My boy Mark Twain filled 11 shelves. Dickens filled nine. Powell’s stocks used and new books together, a consumer-friendly touch. Powell’s doesn’t have everything, but if you can’t find something to interest you, you’re not looking very hard.

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The pleasures of Portland

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My second visit to the Rose City, following one in 2007, occurred last week. Do you want to see photos? Of course you do.

The city’s unofficial motto (above) decorates a parking lot. Said lot was across from Voodoo Doughnut (below left) — motto: “The Magic is in the Hole” — where I waited 20 minutes for a doughnut. I felt dumb, but it was clearly the thing to do, and the result was pretty good. Meanwhile, check out the homemade wheat toast with housemade raspberry preserves (below right) at the spectacular Fuller Coffee Shop, and (below that) the banana pancakes from the original Original Pancake House.

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Finally, the Portland streetcars (below) are a great way to get around downtown. For most of their route, a ride is free, even more incentive to use them. Wheeee!

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Pomona High fire, May 14, 1956

This is described as the only known footage of the fire that gutted Pomona High School, and it probably is. The event is still described as one of the most traumatic in the city’s history, even though no one was injured. Classes were never held again in the East Holt Avenue building, which was later torn down and replaced by a shopping center. The school was rebuilt elsewhere in town.

I’m not sure what I think of the “Chariots of Fire” theme as background music, but the video is fascinating, if sad, viewing.

A separate video made last year of a former student’s reminiscence of the event can be seen here. It’s informative and moving.

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