Column: Writer Junot Diaz says the kids are all right

I attended an author talk at Scripps College Tuesday night for Junot Diaz, who won a Pulitzer for his debut novel, and he had enough interesting things to say that I decided to write about it in Friday’s column. That’s followed by items about my own book talk, a dismaying reaction to my shirt (!) and a Valley Vignette.

Above, Diaz multitasks by signing a book for me while mugging for the camera.

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Ray Collins remembered at bakery

Ray Collins, the Mothers of Invention co-founder, lived out his last years in Claremont and was a familiar presence in the Village. He also started his days with coffee at Some Crust Bakery, as captured in a Google panorama photo not long before his 2012 death.

Now, Some Crust is paying permanent homage to Collins through a beautiful and elaborate memorial, a sort of altarpiece, with many little filigrees, like the 45 rpm adapters at each corner. It hangs at the end of the hallway that leads to the restrooms and kitchen entrance. It’s one of those little things that did not need to be done, but the fact that it was done speaks volumes.

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Column: Joan Baez’s Claremont ties involve folk(s), famous cover

Photo of Baez performing in 1973 via Wikimedia Commons

In a way, Sunday’s column on Joan Baez has been 15 years in the making, if you count that in 2002, a list in the Courier of celebrities with a Claremont connection began this way: “Joan Baez — folk musician, lived in Claremont with family for a year.” That was vague, and as it turns out inaccurate, but it piqued my curiosity.

A few other pieces of information came my way slowly, including a mention in a book I read last October, “Another Side of Bob Dylan.” In May, though, after being reminded via an interview that Baez was inducted a month earlier into the Rock Hall, a light bulb went off and I realized this would be the perfect time to delve into the topic.

What followed was a month of research in between other columns: contact with various Claremont Colleges officials and a Honnold-Mudd librarian, two interviews, a few dead-ends, the purchase of an album at Rhino Records, internet searches, a query to a Claremont nostalgia Facebook group, a scroll through Courier microfilm for 1960 and 1991 at the Claremont Public Library, a never-answered email to Baez’s publicist (oh well) and maybe a couple of things I’ve forgotten.

Here it is, the definitive account of Baez’s connection to Claremont. Also, the only account of Baez’s connection to Claremont. But if I was going to do it, I wanted to try to do it right. Hope you find this extra-long column of interest.

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Farewell, Rounds Burgers

Rather than a Restaurant of the Week today, let me say goodbye to one of my regular haunts, Rounds Burgers in Claremont, which (sob!) closes Sunday (May 28). It’s previously been subject of a RofW post, in 2013.

The fledgling chain started in Claremont and West Hollywood and expanded to Sherman Oaks and Pasadena, but WeHo and, er, SherO have closed. Is Pasadena closing too? The Claremont location appeared to change hands a couple of years ago, leading to an exodus of employees, some of whom ended up next door at the ill-fated The Rim. But I kept eating there.

I never introduced myself to the staff or sought to learn about the business. I’m writing this simply as a regular. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure why I ate there so often.

It was at the south end of Claremont on Auto Center Drive, not in the Village. The burgers were good, but not my favorite. The custom order sheets could be a pain to fill out. Preferred items were dropped: first pesto mayo, which went great with the Swiss and mushroom burger I assembled, then the whole wheat bun, then the pretzel bun.

Once I had a chicken sandwich that was overcooked and rubbery, which put me off ordering it for a while; not long afterward, they phased out pineapple, a favorite topping for the sandwich.

So Rounds wasn’t perfect. But they offered coupons often, and I liked the place aesthetically. It was spacious, with high ceilings, and generally was at least half-empty. For my purposes, it offered a psychic comfort level, where I could take the Sunday paper or a book, relax for 90 minutes with a buffer zone around me, and not worry about anyone needing my table. At rare times when most of the tables were taken, there were two communal tables, often unoccupied, where I could sit in peace.

The benefits of this kind of semi-public space are not to be taken lightly.

Also, despite the shrinking menu, I belatedly found a sandwich I love: the mucho mushroom (my beloved mushroom and swiss combo), but as a turkey burger. Let me say, generally I don’t order turkey burgers, but this one had a better taste than the beef. Better for me, and better tasting? That’s rare.

Last Sunday I ate lunch at Rounds for what is likely the last time, ordering the sandwich I like, and splurging on chili cheese fries as a last hurrah. Consider this post a tribute to a fallen eatery, one where I spent many an hour. Thanks for feeding me and for the use of the space, Rounds.

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Column: Event knit together future of L.A., Claremont

I attended a documentary screening and talk by the LA Times’ architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, in Claremont last week and found its discussion of LA’s future intriguing enough to try writing about it. I hope the results are interesting to the non-architecture crowd. Some Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette round things out in Sunday’s column.

By the way, after the talk I hung around the lobby reception in hopes of meeting my fellow ink-stained wretch, whose work I follow, but there are some awfully gabby people in Claremont, and Hawthorne was generous with his attention, so eventually I gave up — moments after taking the photo that goes with the column.

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