Column: Stones rolled into San Bernardino for U.S. debut

It’s a famous piece of rock lore and local lore that the Rolling Stones, who of course are from England, made their American concert debut in, of all places, San Bernardino. With the band performing this Thursday in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl, the timing seemed right to investigate. I may have pieced together the definitive account, and it’s in Sunday’s column. If my account is not definitive, it’s at least the most recent, right?

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Column: How a ‘ghost town’ became Pomona’s Arts Colony

A panel last weekend at the School of Arts and Enterprise in downtown Pomona for the Arts Colony’s 25th anniversary was a chance for participants to tell stories about the last quarter century, but also about the pre-Arts Colony days, when downtown was a kind of no-man’s-land. I share some of those stories, with some follow-up questions, in Friday’s column. Above from left, Joshua Swodeck, Ed Tessier, Bill Moore, Phil Graffham, Marci Swett, Rebecca Hamm, Chris Toovey and Joy McAlister.


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Restaurant of the Week: Chapala Restaurant

Chapala Restaurant, Bar and Grill, 1542 W. Holt Blvd. (at Benson), Ontario; open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., except Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

You could date your longevity here by whether you know the low, long building at Benson and Holt as Last Round, or Las Playas, or Antonio’s, the latter of which occupied the corner for a few decades until the mid-’00s. The latest restaurant and bar is Chapala.

I learned of its existence from a rare mention of an Inland Valley restaurant in the Times food section’s news briefs column. The paragraph cited Chapala’s ceviche towers, tortas ahogadas, birria de res and handmade tortillas, plus mariachis on Friday and Saturday. To be clear, the Times didn’t visit; the mention was merely a rehash of a news release.

Still, I was impressed by the savvy of a local restaurant able to insert itself into the Times. So when a small group wanted lunch in Ontario, I chose Chapala. It’s named for a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco by a lake, accounting for the restaurant’s lighthouse logo.

The building has two halves, a restaurant side and a bar side. We checked out both and both were empty at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, perhaps not the best sign. We were seated in the bar area. I counted nine TVs, so it’s probably a fun place to unwind after work and watch sports.

Two had shrimp tacos ($2 each), said to be “all right” but served on cold tortillas. Handmade, but cold. Someone else got carne asada tacos ($1.55 each), which he said were “good.”

I had a chicharron torta ($6.75), decent but unexceptional.

The asada guy also got a shrimp cocktail ($13). He said the shrimp had been frozen and thawed in the cup, which might have accounted for the watery cocktail sauce.

Perhaps we came at the wrong time and ordered all the wrong things. But for what we experienced, Chapala was disappointing. On the bright side, we weren’t disturbed by the conversation of other diners.

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Mural at Mosaic Apartments, Pomona

I’ve admired the tile mural at Pomona’s Mosaic Apartments (1680 S. Garey Ave.) while eating next door at DeAnda Taqueria. It’s a panoramic aerial view, complete with birds, and includes the fairgrounds, the Fox Theater and more. The mural is so long it’s impossible to capture in one photo. So here are three views, shot one night after dinner, and a rather dim view of the pleasant exterior of the three-story complex, which has 46 units classified as affordable.

Update: Cultural Arts Commissioner Joshua Swodeck reports: “Such a great mural. Designed by local artist Jason LaMotte and the mosaic production work was led by Alba Cisneros. It’s a beautiful public mural in District 3 right on Garey Avenue put up in 2017.” I didn’t know who had produced the mural, so I’m pleased to be able to give credit.

Swodeck also provides the handy guide to the scene, below. I’ll have to open this blog post on my phone at the mural some time and follow along.

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Column: Springsteen’s Berdoo lyric: Was there a a real Joe’s Cafe?

A month after I wrote about the Boss lyric “‘cross the San Bernardino line” on the song “Sleepy Joe’s Cafe” on his latest album, “Western Stars,” I return to the topic with some speculation about a real-life place, long gone alas, that could have served as inspiration. Also: the ONT escalator is fixed, plus a Valley Vignette regarding Upland, all in Sunday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: H. Salt Fish & Chips, Chino

H. Salt Fish & Chips, 12461 Central Ave. (at Walnut), Chino; open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. except Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.

Last Saturday I had to be in Chino for a 1 p.m. event and thought I’d find a good spot for lunch beforehand. But I was hung up at home washing clothes — ah, the bachelor life — and didn’t get to Chino until almost 12:30. I didn’t know of an interesting place downtown that I hadn’t tried, so I gave up and pulled into a shopping center to the reliable New York Pizzeria, where I could get a quick lunch.

Then across the parking lot I spotted an H. Salt Fish & Chips. For the novelty of it, I went there instead.

There aren’t many H. Salts left. In 2017 when the one in Upland was closing, I wrote about that. The Upland interior still had a bunch of aging, original decor with Tube maps and Big Ben photos. Chino’s is a little newer, maybe from the ’80s, and utilitarian. Like Upland, the owners here are Asian. The menu has fish and chips, clams, shrimp and a few more items.

I got the London Special ($5.65), two pieces of battered cod plus fries, plus a 20-oz. bottle of soda ($2).

The food came out in a few minutes, piping hot. The thick, stiff batter is not what your better fish and chips places would use, of course, but if you like H. Salt, and miss H. Salt, the food here will be to your liking. The crinkle-cut fries were fine. And lunch for $8.24 was easy on the wallet.

On Wednesday, by the way, a reader phoned asking if the couple from the Upland H. Salt ever found a new location. I had to tell him no, not to my knowledge. But maybe Chino will be an acceptable substitute.

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Reading Log: July 2019

Books acquired: “Star Light, Star Bright,” Alfred Bester; “The Best of,” “Tunnel Through Time,” Lester del Rey; “The Discomfort Zone,” Jonathan Franzen; “The Best of,” Raymond Z. Gallun; “Twenty Days With Julian & Little Bunny by Papa,” Nathaniel Hawthorne (!); “The Essential Hemingway,” Ernest Hemingway; “The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper,” John D. MacDonald; “A Ghost at Noon,” Albert Moravia; “The Brothers of Baker Street,” Michael Robertson

Books read: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert M. Pirsig; “California Dreamin’ Along Route 66,” Joe Sonderman; “On the Road With Bob Dylan,” Larry “Ratso” Sloman; “The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture and Style,” Nelson George

Regards, readers! The above mass of “books acquired” can be explained rather simply: I took a vacation at Powell’s City of Books, conveniently located within the city of Portland, which is served by an airport. I bought seven books at Powell’s and its main branch, plus four graphic novels, and in Seattle, my next stop,I  picked up another three from visits to five bookstores.

That overshadows the “books read” list, but if you’ll take a second look, you’ll see I finished four books, all nonfiction and all with transportation as a sort of theme, at least in their titles.

Let’s run through them, starting with “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (1974). Have you read this? A reader, who was a motorcycle buff, gave me a copy in late 1997 and wrote in it: “Some alternative reading for the holidays. Perhaps you’ll find ‘some humor’ in it.” Exactly why he put quotes around “some humor” wasn’t clear. Anyway, some 22 holiday seasons later, I packed it in my bag for my San Diego trip and got started on it there.

The experience got off to an auspicious start. At breakfast one morning when I was only around page 25, a fellow diner, probably in his early 60s, saw the cover and told me how much the book had meant to him over the years. He planned to read it again, for the third or fourth time, in an attempt to understand it better.

Outside the restaurant, a man who may have been homeless walked past me dragging a large piece of cardboard. He too looked to be in his early 60s. He saw the cover in my hand and said with a knowing smile, “That’s a classic.”

Alas, over the next three weeks no one remarked upon the book. And it’s a very weird one. I did not find much humor in it.

“We do need a return to individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption” (p. 323) is an unusual message in a book hailed as a countercultural classic. I liked the motorcycle journey and father-son stuff, found the “metaphysics of quality” lectures baffling and rolled my eyes at the philosophy class drama. Your (motorcycle) mileage may vary. It’s a polarizing book, with people either loving it or hating it, and for those who love it, my congratulations.

“California Dreamin’ Along Route 66” (2019) was sent to me by the publisher, Arcadia Books. It’s a nice (B&W) collection of postcards, Caltrans images and recent photos of surviving buildings with capsule histories beneath. One favorite: When a truck slammed into a Victorville diner in 1962, “the cook prepared the driver a sandwich and then shut down the place for repairs.” Downside: The rigid formatting of these Arcadia books can get numbing.

“On the Road With Bob Dylan” (1978) is a book I resisted reading since buying a copy circa 1980, not able to persuade myself to read nearly 500 pages about the Rolling Thunder Revue tour, even if the headliner was my favorite artist. Recently I decided to read it after realizing I couldn’t part with a book I’d owned so much of my life. But since my copy was in near-perfect shape, but wouldn’t be if I read it, I sprung for a beat-up, trade paperback reissue found for $6.

Just as expected, the tour account is self-indulgent, although self-mockingly so. But it was a fun read, and Ratso deserves props for insinuating himself into the tour to the point he was able to quote Dylan’s wife, mother and the headliner himself. Minor note: This “revised edition” didn’t fix typos from the original. Poor Eric Andersen, still remembered here as Anderson.

“The Hippest Trip in America” (2014) traces how “Soul Train” began and how it evolved. I watched the show in its 1970s heyday, marveling at the glimpses of black life. My hometown apparently had no black people at all. While the book has fun anecdotes, a dozen or so dancer profiles is too many, and the shortage of photos is a drawback. That many of the interviews came from a then-current VH1 documentary rather than from original reporting is disappointing. So the book is a bit superficial, coming off as more of a prose tie-in to the movie than a standalone product.

So, my favorite book is the one on Dylan, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend any of them, especially for people not already interested in the topics. The only one I disliked, though, was “Zen.”

As noted, “Zen” and “Route 66” arrived as gifts, nearly 22 years apart. “On the Road” was originally bought at, probably, a B. Dalton in 1980; the edition I read came from LA’s Last Bookstore a few weeks ago. And “Hippest Trip” was bought used at Claremont’s Rhino Records a few weeks ago as well.

How was your July, readers? Did you read books or simply maintain motorcycles or go California dreamin’? Let us know in the comments.

Next month: books about food.

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