Sunday’s column is about the sun-over-the-mountains backdrop in the La Verne Council Chamber, which is coming down after some 30 years. The story of how it got there is a little confusing, but kind of funny.
Books acquired: none
Books read: “Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan,” Howard Sounes; “Positively Fourth Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina,” David Hajdu; “Positively Main Street: An Unorthodox View of Bob Dylan,” Toby Thompson; “Gentlemen of the Road,” Michael Chabon.
I hit the road in November, reading books with “highway,” “street” (twice) and “road” in the titles. (In real life I didn’t stray far.) Three are biographical studies about Bob Dylan, the much-traveled singer-songwriter, each with titles spun off his songs, while the fourth is a novel.
Let me say from the outset that I’m a major Bob-head who owns all the albums and has read many of the books. I also own a bunch I haven’t read. The Nobel announcement prompted me to read one in October, and that created the momentum that made me want to keep reading. The Sounes bio, published in 2001, has been on my shelves most of that time, and it’s likely the definitive Bob-ography. So if I had an urge, finally, to read it, and others, it was an urge worth pursuing.
It’s light on chin-stroking and guesswork and heavy on facts about his life, including the revelations that he’d married a second time and had a sixth child, and also that he owns a coffeehouse in Santa Monica. Go elsewhere for insights about the music, but come here for a last roundup of childhood friends, Village folkies and ex-lovers. Intriguingly, family members contributed on the sly.
The Hajdu book came out the same year. I went in knowing little about Mimi and Richard Farina, and skeptical they merited equal attention with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, but this thoroughly researched book (with an interview-by-fax with Richard’s pal Thomas Pynchon!) brings the lesser-known Farinas to life. It also scrubs some gloss off the Dylan legend, offering the novel theory that he didn’t really find himself until ’64 and his fourth album.
Circa 1969, Thompson had the novel idea of visiting Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota to interview people who knew him as a boy before he began obscuring his past. The hard information herein could probably be condensed to one chapter, so the book is more about Thompson and his pilgrimage, and the novelty of learning, say, “this is where Bob got hot dogs with the gang.” It’s naive, lame and self-absorbed — and a little embarrassing as he and Dylan’s high school girlfriend get chummy — but kind of fun anyway.
To get another “road” book in, and one that’s not about His Bobness, I read Chabon’s 2007 novel “Gentlemen of the Road,” a modern, literary attempt at a swords-and-sandals-type adventure novel. I’d say it was a way of leavening this month’s Reading Log, but since Chabon’s working title was “Jews With Swords,” maybe unleavening would be more accurate.
Anyway, and to my dismay, the giddiness of the opening chapters faded for me into a story that I was anxious to have end. Sincerely done, but I don’t think it lives up to its pulp influences.
The Chabon book was bought at Borders; the others were purchased used between 2002 and 2010, although I’ve forgotten the details. At least they’re from this century. They also constitute books 34, 35, 36 and 37 of 2016.
If you’ve read any of mine, chime in, but otherwise, share what you read in November.
Next month: books 38, 39 and 40.
In Friday’s column, Upland’s fired city manager (with a name that I love to pun with; see headline above) gets a new job that may seem a lot like his old job. Also: five Concert Corner items, two Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette.
Owen’s Bistro, 5210 D St. (at 7th), Chino; 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays
Considered among the Inland Valley’s finest restaurants since its opening in 2003, Owen’s Bistro is located across from the Chino Civic Center in a brick building that dates to the early 20th Century, and practically the only part of downtown that actually seems like a downtown.
I’d been to Owen’s only once, years ago, for a lunch; it’s a little out of my normal price range and I hadn’t had a reason to return until a friend suggested meeting there, which I was all for.
The restaurant is in a picturesque block in an otherwise-drab area of ’70s and later buildings; from the rear, the exposed brick and original painted advertising signs seem surprisingly urban.
The dining area has a concrete floor, brick walls, iron gates at each end and no roof, merely a curtained roof that retracts. It’s a unique space, with ceiling fans and space heaters to even out the temperature. An indoor lounge seats 20.
The menu is short, with seasonal items and local produce. Eight entrees range from $22 to $42, and there are appetizers, salads and a soup. We ordered bleu cheese toasts ($8), she got a frisee and walnut salad ($7) and I got the camping trip (!) ($23), salmon on a hot stone with potatoes and greens.
The toasts were the size of bruschetta but with bleu cheese and pears, delicious. The salad had feta, green apples and dried cherries and was enjoyed. The salmon came out sizzling in a bowl with greens and, thanks to lavender placed under the stone, was meant to have a “forest aroma.” I didn’t notice, but I did notice how good the salmon tasted. An unusual but tasty dish.
Two singers performed jazz to recorded backing, and it was so pleasant, and unobtrusive, not to mention taking place on the other side of the room, that I didn’t even notice the music was live for quite some time. A nice touch.
The service left a little to be desired, although at least it was well-meaning. The salad was requested to come out at the same time as my entree but came later, after a quizzical look from my friend when my food came out solo, and itself a bit late. Despite being told we could get to our 7 p.m. event with plenty of time, we didn’t have time for dessert.
Coincidentally, a work colleague ate at Owen’s not long before I did. He said he and his wife were told they would be seated soon by someone who disappeared, twice; a daughter and elderly mother got the same treatment. Once seated, his wife ordered the angus ribeye, which took so long to cook, someone came out to apologize for the delay. What arrived was so large it might have weighed two pounds. Most was taken home and provided three more meals.
It was perfectly prepared, and for $39, quite a deal, and he felt the same about his medallions of filet mignon, at $32, but the service, which included getting someone else’s bill, was more comical than desired for a nice evening out. “It was like nobody there had ever worked in a restaurant before,” he said.
There are those who say scoffingly that Owen’s is the Inland Empire’s idea of fine dining. The food in these twin experiences was very good, and we had nothing to complain about, really, on that score. The staff, though, seems a little disorganized. I recommend Owen’s anyway, but be prepared for things to go wrong.
Big doings in Upland, where the City Council embarked Monday on a path that may lead to contracting out for fire protection. I report on that in Wednesday’s column.
Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s death reminds me that some 20 years ago he was apparently a familiar sight in the Claremont Village. (He left about the time I moved there, alas.) Sunday’s column pays tribute through color gleaned from talking to a bunch of people who saw him or waited on him. Above and below are views of the window display in his honor at the Folk Music Center.
Friday’s column begins with an account of Monday’s La Verne council meeting, followed by a half-dozen Ontario items and a Valley Vignette from Chino.
Wednesday’s column starts with a cute story about the late musician’s 2010 concert with Elton John in Ontario and continues with two cultural notes and a long item about the two mayoral farewell events last week.
Goodbye events took place last Thursday for the mayors of Upland and Chino. The former, for Ray Musser, was at the Carnegie Building. Above, he gets a plaque and is applauded by council members, with his wife, Fern, to the right.
Dennis Yates’ more formal event was at Chino’s Planes of Fame Museum, a unique setting. For the speeches, Yates was sat in a rocking chair, not his usual position of authority, as speakers praised and mocked.
Paul Avila had his last full Ontario City Council meeting last week, and naturally I was there. I write about it in Sunday’s column.