Arizona road trip!

My recent few days in the Phoenix area encompassed more than posing with a Daily Bulletin under a Baseline sign. Among the sights:

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The men’s room at the retro Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert has a GI Joe theme and features a TV over the urinal. Here’s a writeup. I believe the video is the movie “Team America World Police.”

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I also saw an Arizona Diamondbacks game at Phoenix’s Chase Field. A friend and I traveled there via (be still my heart) light rail.

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This Dairy Queen (629 E. Main St., Mesa) caught my eye during a drive past. I went back one night for 1) the neon cone and 2) a Dilly bar.

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I have a soft spot for the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants, which have a theme that might be described as “corporate folksy.”

Rocking chairs out front, a gift shop of nostalgia items, a dining room with farm implements on the walls and pretty good food. There are no Cracker Barrels in California but I stopped at the westernmost one, west of Phoenix, on my drive back. A cactus in front of a rural-themed restaurant? Whatever works.

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That evening I had dinner at the Wheel Inn in Cabazon, a very good diner, and despite the strong winds and threatening weather (a far cry from the sun in Arizona) took a photo of Claude Bell’s famed Cabazon dinosaurs.

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‘Curse of the Werewolf’


2011 is the 50th anniversary of an early Hammer horror film, “The Curse of the Werewolf” — who knew? — and Pitzer College, of all places, will commemorate the achievement with a free screening Saturday at 5 p.m.

“Curse” can be seen in Avery Hall’s Benson Auditorium, 1050 N. Mills Ave., Claremont. Here’s a map.

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Reading log: April 2011

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Books acquired: Too many.

Books read: “There’s a Country in My Cellar,” Russell Baker; “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Mark Twain; “California Crazy and Beyond,” Jim Heimann; “The Computer Connection,” Alfred Bester; “Comic Book Culture,” Ron Goulart; “Confessions of a Crap Artist,” Philip K. Dick; “A Case of Conscience,” James Blish; “Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress,” Candacy A. Taylor; “10 Minute Clutter Control Room by Room,” Skye Alexander; “The Batcave Companion,” Michael Eury and Michael Kronenberg.

Nurse, give me 10 cc’s of books. Or 10 books with two C’s in the title. Yes, from my groaning shelves of unread books, for April I chose 10 books with a couple of C’s in the title. No real reason, other than to make a game of it and to entertain you here. Most were books I’d been meaning to get to and a theme sort of coalesced.

Ten books in one month is also a personal best. Woo-hoo! (Maybe for “Books read” I should also have written “Too many.”) The first two, by Baker and Twain, were the longest, and they were 99 percent read by the beginning of April; in fact, I started Baker’s collection of columns in January. The rest were read throughout April.

Ten is too many to discuss here individually, but they include newspaper columns (Baker), a literary classic (Twain), science fiction (Dick, Bester, Blish), architecture (Heimann), comic book analysis (Goulart, Eury and Kronenberg), nonfiction (Taylor) and (gulp) self-help (Alexander). (It wasn’t all that helpful, either.)

Readers of this blog, i.e. you, might particularly enjoy “California Crazy and Beyond,” which is about mostly L.A.-area roadside architecture — restaurants, gas stations and such that resemble a recognizable object. The 909 example pictured is the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, in which the standalone rooms look like tepees.

(The book’s bibliography, by the way, cites a 1997 article I wrote for the Victor Valley Daily Press, days before changing jobs to come to Ontario, about a building in Victorville shaped like a lighthouse. This book was published in 2001 and I bought it at Powell’s Books in 2007. Nearly four years later, I find my name in it. I’ve really gotta catch up on my backlog.)

Another book some of you might like is “Counter Culture,” an ode to “lifer” waitresses at coffee shops and diners around the country. Turns out many of them love their jobs and keep working into their 60s, 70s and 80s not because they have to (in most cases) but because they think the activity keeps them young. It was illuminating and touching.

Some of these books I’ve owned a long time. The Blish and Dick novels date to my teenage years, the Twain to my college years and the rest to various later dates, the Batman book, from December, being the most recent.

The letter C must be fairly common in titles because even after reading almost 2 percent of my backlog in one month, I still have four unread books with a couple of C’s in their title. If April had had 31 days (or maybe 40), I might’ve gotten to them.

For May I’m returning to a smaller number of books with a greater variety of letters.

So what have you been reading, readers?

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Daily Bulletin on Vacation

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It might look like I’m catching up on the latest news close to home in, say, Rancho Cucamonga, but this photo was taken in Tempe, Ariz., during a recent vacation. Baseline Road isn’t an interstate route. Arizona has its own version of the street.

Photo: Tom Gibbons

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