About David Allen

A journalist for more than 30 years, David Allen has been chronicling the Inland Valley for the Daily Bulletin since 1997 and blogging since 2007. He is the author of three books of columns: "Pomona A to Z," "Getting Started" and "On Track." E-mail David here.

Column: Dry your eyes: Frantz Cleaners to keep cleaning

Unexpectedly, the buyers of the Frantz Cleaners property decided not to turn the buildings into offices but instead leased it to a Frantz employee to continue the business. That’s good news. Meanwhile, a Pomona reader is pleased to meet me, and Rancho Cucamonga’s Magic Lamp Inn is closed at least temporarily, its future uncertain. All that is in my Wednesday column.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Reading Log: May 2023

Books acquired: “Tales of an Inland Empire Girl,” Juanita Mantz

Books read: “The Best of Frederik Pohl”; “The Best of Keith Laumer”; “Slow Learner,” Thomas Pynchon; “He Kept His Day Job: Fanfare for the Common Musician,” Dan Bernstein; “Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom,” Carl Bernstein

Welcome, readers, to my monthly post about the books I read the previous month. In May I finished five: three story collections and two memoirs by retired journalists with the same surname. Who says I don’t seek out variety?

“Best of Frederik Pohl” (1975): As many of these involve satirical warnings about advertising, public relations, politics and consumerism, these stories from 1954-1967 can still seem refreshing, their skepticism of future trends warranted. And “Day Million,” about sexual identity and practices of the distant future, is astonishingly prescient. These may not all be Pohl’s best, but they’re good to excellent. (However, the math essay “How to Count on Your Fingers” is baffling, as is its inclusion here.) (Bought in 2007 at Glendale’s BookFellows, RIP.)

“Best of Keith Laumer” (1976): These nine stories, published from 1961 to 1970, are sometimes elegiac, sometimes satiric. Laumer imagines a dormant war machine in a town square that springs to life, humans who transplant their consciousness at will into idealized forms stored in their closets and aliens bent on destroying Earth as part of a big-budget interstellar film epic. In a story from ’62, “Cocoon,” humans spend their days looking at a screen and lose all motor function. Where do SF writers get this crazy stuff? (Bought in 2007 at Anaheim’s Book Baron, RIP.)

“Slow Learner” (1984): This rounds up the famously private Pynchon’s college-era short stories and prefaces them with a modest, funny, self-critical introduction whose very existence is remarkable. It’s as if Salinger put 20 pages of autobiography at the head of “Nine Stories.” I’m not sure these stories are quite as bad as Pynchon makes them out to be. But other than “The Secret Integration,” they’re not very good either. (Bought in 2011 at North Hollywood’s Iliad Bookshop, very much still with us.)

“Chasing History” (2022): Rather than reflect on his glory days, Bernstein winningly focuses on the start of his career: learning the ropes at the Washington Star as a 16-year-old copy boy and progressing to taking dictation from reporters in the field and now and then getting his own byline. With assistance from a bunch of his old colleagues, he pieces together a vivid, detailed account of 1960-65 D.C., the Kennedy years, the civil rights era and the workings of a top-flight newsroom. It was worth documenting, although I can see how some would lose patience for 350 pages of it. (Received as a gift in 2023.)

“He Kept His Day Job” (2023): A slim, engaging memoir by a retired Riverside Press-Enterprise columnist, this focuses not on newspapers but on his sideline of music-making, starting with reluctant childhood music lessons through high school band, the Stanford Marching Band and various jazz and brass ensembles the trombonist has participated in since. The thesis is that some people regret having abandoned an instrument and Bernstein is here to offer encouragement. If you play, and especially if you play in a community band of some sort, this might be for you. Written as it is by a man who knew how to compress his thoughts and keep readers engaged, the stories never bog down. (Bought in 2023 from the author.)

Not a bad month. The Pohl collection was my favorite of the five. The Pynchon was kind of a dud. After the introduction threw so much shade on what was to come, I figured, correctly, that the book might have peaked right there and considered whether I should just scratch it off my to-be-read list. But at a modest 193 pages, it seemed like I might as well knock it off and claim credit for it. Not sure that was the right decision, but the world now knows that I read it, and perhaps that’s worth something.

Speaking of Pohl, I have a second story collection of his, “Platinum Pohl,” that is a true career best-of, from 1949 to 1996. There is very little overlap between the two. I actually began reading them both simultaneously, tackling the stories in order of publication year, bouncing between the two as needed. After finishing “Best of,” which ends in 1967, that means I’m about one-third of the way through “Platinum,” with 1968 through 1996 still ahead of me. It’s such a long book, some 500 trade paperback, small-ish print pages, that turning to it now is much less daunting than if I were starting it from scratch. Sometimes as readers we must trick ourselves, right? Look for that book here in July, probably.

Note that two of my books this month were acquired in 2007 and another in 2011, besides two from 2023. The backlog clearance continues.

How was your May, readers? What have you been reading? And has your reading strategy ever involved tricking yourself in some fashion into making a daunting book seem less daunting?

Next month: Across the ocean, across the sea.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: LA County Fair was cooler (brrr!) than ever in 2023

With the switch to May from September, the LA County Fair is seeing a lot more long sleeves and jackets. Attendance was up over last year, a sign that fairgoers generally like the change. I write about that in my Sunday column, as well as how the fair has lowered its attendance count downwards pretty dramatically, and why, and what some of you had to say about Thummer upon the fair mascot’s 75th anniversary.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: David Lindley celebrated at open-mic tribute

Lindley was never as well known as the plethora of names he played behind, who include Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, John Prine and Bruce Springsteen. Often called a musician’s musician, Lindley lived since 1976 in Claremont. He died in March, and in the absence of any other memorial service, the Folk Music Center hosted an open mic on Sunday that attracted local musicians, friends, admirers and some collaborators, including the first name mentioned above. I was in the audience and pleased to be there. I write about the event in my Friday column.

I’ll add that I never met Lindley and thus felt I had nothing to contribute earlier, although I did persuade our editors to run a wire-service obituary for him. But if there was a local event, I thought, that’s more up my alley. And so it came to pass.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: Campaign to save Plaza Theatre nears finish

Have you ever seen Palm Springs’ Plaza Theatre downtown, or been inside? The 1936 theater has been closed since 2014. But a “Save the Plaza Theatre” campaign is close enough to its $16 million goal that construction bids may go out next month for a renovation that will allow the theater to reopen. I got a tour for my Sunday column.

A short backstory: I’d noticed the theater on my two previous visits and followed the campaign online from afar. Before my visit earlier this month, I looked for updates, saw that things had really picked up steam and thought the timing would be better for a column. My thinking was that surely some of my readers, especially in Riverside County, would know the theater. So I emailed the campaign to gauge the interest in coverage by the Press-Enterprise (etc.) and got an affirmative reply within an hour.

This is the first time I’d set up an interview in the Palm Springs as a vacationing journalist, and I have to say it was a success.

I still have one more Palm Springs column to write based on more reporting from my visit. Look for that soon.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: Frantz Cleaners to hang it up after 85 years

Known for its rooftop sign and “In by 10, Out by 4” motto, Frantz Cleaners in Pomona is closing June 7. Kay Richards, who’s owned the legacy business since 1970, is retiring and has sold the property. The business began in 1937 downtown and moved to Garey and Orange Grove in 1952, shortly before the freeway opened. I write about Frantz in my Wednesday column, as well as about Gloria Molina’s quilting at the LA County Fair.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: ’50s newspaper thriller ‘Scandal Sheet’ delivers

I was going to Palm Springs anyway, for what has become my annual visit, but I made a point of finally attending the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, an annual weekend of noir thrillers, purely to see a newspaper-themed movie. It was great fun. Also, the weather in Palm Springs was just how I like it, and you will find more from Palm Springs in my columns shortly, in a mini-preview of coming attractions. That’s my Sunday column.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: Vested interest: Fair mascot Thummer turns 75

Thummer the pig debuted as the Los Angeles County Fair’s mascot in 1948, making this his 75th anniversary. He’s gone through a lot of changes, including his fashion, name and even gender. I root around in this pig’s history for my Friday column.

I was a little surprised, by the way, to Google Thummer on Thursday and find that there is no history of the character online beyond a single paragraph. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. When you cover Pomona, you’re always breaking new ground.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email