About David Allen

A journalist since 1987, David Allen has been writing a column for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin since 1997 and blogging since 2007. He's a native of Illinois and lives in Claremont. Otherwise his commute to Ontario would take days. E-mail David here. Read recent columns here

In praise of libraries and library taxes

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On Monday I emailed L.A. book critic, KPCC contributor, lending library owner (Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights), former NEA official and literacy advocate David Kipen to share my column about Measure PPL on Tuesday’s ballot to aid the Pomona Public Library. He’d cared enough to attend a Pomona council meeting in 2012 about the library.

He replied with a short but thoughtful essay for me to share if I chose — and I do choose.

“Name me a great man or woman who never owned a public library card. I defy you. On the off chance they don’t use the card much anymore, it’s because they’ve parlayed early library use into the kind of success that buys you any book you need, or earns you access to a great university library.

“The only reason I can think of not to support a library bond issue is if you’ve been so burned by the dumb things government sometimes does that you don’t trust it anymore to do a smart one. I can understand that. I can understand it better than a former G-man like me ought to admit. But I promise you this: If you think your government wastes your money now, just wait until your local library cuts its hours, or closes completely. Just wait till people without library cards start casting the deciding vote — the few of them who bother to vote at all — to elect your leaders. Then you’ll see what government incompetence really looks like.

“But if I can’t convince you to support your library, just make me this one promise in return. After the library bond passes without you, do me a favor and pay a visit to your new library. Look around you. See a librarian, who could be making triple the salary in a law firm across town, helping somebody who just lost a job find work. See a librarian connecting patrons with novels that somehow make them feel just a little less alone. See a librarian reading to kids whose parents don’t make the time to. See all this — and then see if you don’t, like me, find yourself supporting library funding every chance you get.”

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Reading Log: October 2014

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Books acquired: none

Books read: “The Machineries of Joy,” Ray Bradbury; “Chips Off the Old Benchley” and “No Poems, Or Around the World Backwards and Sideways,” Robert Benchley; “The Tomb and Other Tales,” H.P. Lovecraft; “God and Mr. Gomez,” Jack Smith.

Welcome back, bookworms! (“Thank you, Mr. Allen.”) Time to share what we read in October. I’ll start: Five books, all from favorite authors.

I’ve read a book per year by H.P. Lovecraft for four years now, one by Jack Smith per year for three and the same for Robert Benchley for a couple of years, I think. And Ray Bradbury is, of course, one of my absolute favorites, one whose oeuvre I’ve been rereading; it’d been a year or two since I read anything by him.

“Machineries,” from 1964, is where Bradbury started softening, a process that only picked up momentum from here, alas. Still, it’s got some sharp stories amid the gauziness.

I read Benchley’s “Chips,” a posthumous collection of humorous essays that had been published but uncollected, over a few weeks; it was disappointing. Dusting off my Benchley books, I noticed that “No Poems” had a note inside of the 13 essays I hadn’t read in the slightly shorter British edition that I’d had previously. Why hadn’t I gone ahead and read them when I bought the book three or four years ago? No idea, but I went ahead and read them, completing a second Benchley book this month. The extras weren’t so hot, but the book as a whole is much better than “Chips,” with a lot of prime material.

Lovecraft’s “Tomb” had a lot of marginal material too, as it’s plumped out with some teenage stories and later fragments. But the bulk of the collection is in the Lovecraft mode of atmospheric, slightly purple horror.

Lastly, 1974′s “God and Mr. Gomez” by Smith, the late L.A. Times columnist, is his most famous, telling the story of his and his wife’s decision to commission a Baja vacation home from a man named Romulo Gomez, who is quite the character. People love this book, the only one most people know; my guess is that’s because it hangs together as a book better than collections of random or related columns, and because building a getaway in a foreign country appeals to dreamers. I liked it, but didn’t love it.

As for the origins of these books in my life, “Machineries” dates to childhood, “Chips” may go back 20 years and “No Poems,” “The Tomb” and “Gomez” are relatively recent, probably within the past five or six years. I think “Gomez” came from Bookfellows in Glendale (It’s signed, by the way), “The Tomb” from downtown LA’s Last Bookstore in 2011 and “Machineries” from the long-gone Double R Book Nook in Olney, Ill.

So that was my October. I wanted to read a Dave Barry book, or finish another Poe collection, but that’s okay. I kept pace with four authors and that was satisfying. I have more books by each to read and will steadily make my way through them.

What have you been reading?

By the way, the photo below is extra-boring because the Benchleys don’t have dust jackets; that’s “Chips” on the upper left and “No Poems” at upper right.

Next month: another month of weird heroes.

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Possible new names for Deja Vu

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The Deja Vu strip club outside Montclair is no more, with a bar slated to occupy the building under the same owners, Tollis Inc. It’s the subject of my Sunday column. To eliminate any hanky-panky, San Bernardino County planners and lawyers set down a list of possible new names for the business. I couldn’t resist sharing them.

From the conditions of approval:

“Tollis shall select the name of the business operated in the Building from the following names, which have been mutually agreed to by the Parties:

a. Ontario Food & Beverage

b. Deja Vu Comedy and Sports Bar

c. The Gay 90′s

d. The Roaring 20′s

e. Deja Vu Bar & Night Club

f. Hammered Harry’s

g. Club Paradise

h. The Iron Rail, or

i. Shooters Sports Bar.”

That’s, um, quite the gamut. So the new business will either have an 1890s theme, or a 1920s theme, or a tropical theme, or maybe a Hooters knockoff theme, or…

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Restaurant of the Week: Taqueria Guadalupana

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Taqueria Guadalupana, 820 E. Mission Blvd. (at Towne), Pomona

I was on foot at Towne and Second one recent evening looking for a place to eat. This proved more difficult than expected, as Los Jarritos was closed and Nancy’s Tortilleria, also on that corner, was closing. I’d left my car in the garage at Western U figuring I could find grub nearby. But I pressed on on foot, knowing Mission Boulevard three blocks south would have a few options.

And it did. I opted for a place on the southeast corner: Taqueria Guadalupana. The broad windows and brightly lighted interior were friendly and welcoming. It’s a small place with a limited menu of tacos, burritos and tortas with seven meat choices: cabeza, al pastor, asada, lengua, buche, chorizo and pollo. I suppose I should try tongue, brains or cheek someday, but not yet: I went for al pastor (marinated pork) in burrito form ($5.50). With a medium jamaica drink ($1.25), dinner was $7.36 with tax.

Decor is limited and so is the seating, although it feels expansive compared to Tijuana’s Tacos. I sat at a communal booth, in view of the open kitchen, a telenovela playing on the TV and a Virgin of Guadalupe mural on one wall. The burrito was very good, warming the stomach and the soul.

The menu is slightly broader than I indicated: They have menudo on weekends and something called carne en su jugo, which turns out to be a beef and tomato stew. Might be good on a cold night.

On my way out, I noticed another Mexican spot on the northeast corner. The sign was dim but the name was Taqueria la Oaxaquena. A sign out front touted 60-cent tacos on Tuesdays, which this day was. Oh well. I can always go back. For tonight, I was glad to have found Taqueria Guadalupana.

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Let’s Roll: Bowlium Lanes, Montclair

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I intended to write a series of posts on bowling alleys, set up a format to do so, produced one on San Bernardino’s Arrowhead Lanes in November 2011, and then never wrote another one. Oops. Well, here’s the second in the series, and I promise not to wait three years for the next one.

Possibly my favorite local bowling alley, Bowlium Lanes offers a burst of style on a dispirited stretch of Holt, even if the enormous pole sign fell victim to sign codes a few years back. Behind the flagstones, arches and dingbats on the exterior you’ll find more retro style inside: a cozy enclosed diner and vintage signs for restrooms and cocktails.

The interior is well-maintained too. The lanes are kept well-oiled (possibly too well-oiled) and they have plenty of balls to choose from. The scoring machines are tricky to program, with directional arrows in multiple colors for navigation, and I kind of hate them. The graphics on the overhead screens are entertaining. Besides the bowling, there’s a pro shop, a bar and a game room.

Bowlium is open 9 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. That’s not 24-hour bowling, but 17-hour bowling is impressive.

Address: 4666 Holt Blvd.

Number of lanes: 32

Owner: Scott and Teresa Poddig

Year opened: 1958

Architect: Powers, Daly and DeRosa

Neighbors: vacant lot, quaint real estate office, elementary school

Games: Game room

Bar: Yes, with vintage “Cocktails” sign

Coffee shop: Yes, with counter and stools

Ambience: The Jetsons meet the Flintstones

Deal: Monday 9 p.m. to midnight: $1.25 per game, but there are more here.

Website: bowlium.com

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Village Venture 2014

For Village Venture, the popular crafts fair and street festival that took place Saturday in Claremont, I arranged to sell “Pomona A to Z” in the parking lot of Rhino Records, right by the sidewalk to catch foot traffic. As promised in print, I showed up at 11 a.m.

It got off to a good start when a woman with a walker approached to say she’d been waiting since 9. (She had left and come back, thankfully.) “I couldn’t remember when you said you’d be here,” she admitted.

Over the next hour, I sold four books. Might have been more if I were the type to shout toward passersby, “Pomona in 26 letters! Get-cher copies of ‘Pomona A to Z’ right cheer! Meet the author!” Instead, I sat quietly and read an H.P. Lovecraft book.

A few readers approached during that time just to say hello. One said her husband had bought a copy the day before from the shop Heirloom. One woman, whom I don’t recall ever meeting, remarked, “You’ve lost weight.”

Another walked up with a friend in tow. “I love you to death,” the woman said. She talked about how she enjoys my column and how much better she likes the Bulletin than the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, because as a Pomona resident, the Bulletin has more news of interest to her.

I gestured toward my book and said leadingly, “Pomona…?” “I’m short on cash,” she said (without asking how much it was) and quickly left. That’s okay. My book’s target demographic is people who only tolerate me.

I can’t complain about selling five: I left with $100 in my pocket, pretty good for an hour’s work. And it was nice to meet everyone. Even the odd encounters were entertaining.

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Column: In Ontario, ‘White Zombie’ actress was a bundle of energy

Friday’s column is about the screening in Upland of “White Zombie,” which served as a tribute to actress Madge Bellamy, who spent her later years in Ontario and died in Upland. Also, two unusual 909 sightings in the national media and a plug for Claremont’s Village Venture, which takes place Saturday. I’ll be selling books from 11 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of Rhino Records.

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