What’s in a name?

Readers tend to ask me the same general questions, namely, ones that might occur to anyone (do I work at home, what’s my favorite column, how’s the paper doing, did you grow up here, etc.). But now and then a question seems to come out of nowhere.

For instance, there was the woman who, after a book signing in Pomona in February, asked conspiratorially,¬†“Are you really bald or do you just shave your head?”

This brings us to last week, in a Q&A in Rancho Cucamonga, where a man threw a very original Q at me: “Is ‘David Allen’ your real name or a pen name?”

After a couple of seconds of gaping at him, I replied, “Because ‘David Allen’ is such a glamorous and exciting name, it can’t possibly be real?”

“It’s a yes or no question,” he said defensively. (It’s not, though, is it?)

For the record, it’s my real name. I’d like to think that if I wanted a pen name, I could come up with something a little more exotic.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Quite ‘and’ honor


On Thursday I spoke to the Rancho Cucamonga Kiwanis Club and received a gift in a be-ribboned box, which I opened that evening at home. Expecting a coffee mug, the typical takeaway from these gigs, I was instead surprised with….punctuation. This statuette is now in an honored position on my desk — at least until Crosby Stills Nash Young tell me it’s theirs and ask for it back.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: In kindergarten visit, he came bearing library cards


In a series of classroom visits by library representatives, Ontario kindergartners are all getting library cards. I asked about tagging along and instead wound up making a visit myself — and reading to children. Yikes! But, anything for literacy. I tell the story in Friday’s column.

Above photo by Courtney Saldana of the library; photos below by Jana Dupree from Ontario-Montclair School District. In the bottom photo, the adults are, from left, teacher Sally Kinderstuth, Saldana and myself, all of us overshadowed, I think, by the giant on the right.



Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Card-carrying library patron


I got an Ontario City Library card the other afternoon. I had always thought of getting one, especially after shaming Gary Ovitt into signing up a few years ago, under the theory that the guy whose name is on the building ought to have one. Since I only work here rather than live here, I didn’t know if I qualified.

But then I was volunteered (note verb tense) to help get library cards to kindergartners, and that seemed like a good time to ask what the rules are, because it felt like if I were handing out cards, I should have one. Turns out anyone can get one. So I got one.

Later, the library director, Helen McAlary, told me there’s no residency requirement because so many potential users may work in the city but live elsewhere, or have some other reason for wanting to visit.

There’s not even a minimum age. “Even a newborn can be given one,” she said. “But we prefer they be old enough to know what they’re getting.”

I didn’t check anything out, and given all the unread books and unwatched DVDs in my home, I don’t know when I will. But I can, if the mood strikes. When the circulation clerk told me I could check out 20 items at a time, my heart beat a little faster. It took me back to the excitement of getting a library card as a boy and all the happy hours I spent at the library.

Thanks, Ontario.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

“Special assignment”


My assignment isn’t quite as special as the firefighter’s, and definitely not as dangerous. To explain this note in today’s print edition, my column for Wednesday was very different, and on a sensitive but newsworthy subject, one potentially of interest to our sister papers around LA. So we decided to hold it to run Sunday, where it will have more impact anyway, and make sure we’re presenting it right.

That’s a good call, even if it meant forgoing a column for Wednesday.

Now, I’ve got to get to work on Friday’s column, as well as tomorrow’s Restaurant of the Week blog post.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Vacation food: New York



And here are some of the food sights from the New York City leg of my vacation. Above, a slice of pizza from a random spot in the Meatpacking District, which I point out mainly because it’s fun to type “Meatpacking District.” Anyway, it was a treat to walk from the sidewalk into an open storefront and buy a slice of pizza, a very New York thing to do and something that’s hard to pull off in the Inland Valley.



On the Lower East Side, another great place name, friends and I ate at Russ and Daughters, a Jewish deli, getting the Hattie, a platter with, clockwise from lower left, baked salmon, sable, lox and (only partly visible) kippers, and potato salad in the center. I got a chocolate egg cream. The appeal of egg creams is lost on me, but it was as good as any other I’ve had. The platter was delicious and came with a basket of bagels, bialys, pumpernickel and more.

Most surprising sight at Russ and Daughters, and maybe my whole trip, was that among the wall displays over one booth was the scene below, cans of Ontario-made Graber Olives. Huh!


In Washington, D.C., last fall I became acquainted with the East Coast chain Shake Shack, and was happy to have a chance to try them again. This is high-quality fast food.


And I returned to a favorite from my only previous visit,¬†Junior’s in Grand Central Station, where I got chocolate swirl cheesecake.


My last food before blowing town was a doughnut from Dough in Bed-Stuy. (Another place name that it’s fun to casually toss off, like a local.) They had only a few flavors, most unusual. I got hibiscus. Oh, man. Thick, chewy doughnut, with thick, flavorful icing and a few leaves of actual hibiscus. This is the first doughnut I’ve had to rival Donut Man’s strawberry doughnut, and I had to travel across the country to get it.


Sorry you can’t immediately satisfy your cravings for these items, or the ones from St. Louis, but you can always book a trip if so inclined…

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Vacation food: St. Louis


In lieu of a Restaurant of the Week post, here’s a report of eats from an exotic land, St. Louis, where I vacationed recently. Above, frozen custard from local favorite Ted Drewes (since 1929); below, the exterior of Crown Candy Kitchen, famous (since 1913) for its ice cream treats, tin ceiling and, more recently, its BLT made with a dozen slices of bacon. Love the brick building and vintage Coke sign.




Toasted ravioli (with a cup of marinara for dipping) is a local innovation, as is St. Louis-style pizza, made with a crisp, cracker-like crust and processed cheese, cut into squares. It’s not to everyone’s taste, and it’s reminiscent of cheese and crackers, served hot. But I like it. (Those are anchovies on the half nearest the camera, by the way.) Both examples are from local chain Imo’s.

Below, pork ribs, brisket, slaw and applesauce from Pappy’s Smokehouse, plus a Fitz’s soda, bottled locally.


Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: His St. Louis vacation was in the cards


Wednesday’s column recaps highlights of my vacation, the Midwest part, and addresses the question of whether St. Louis is worth a visit. While you may be as unlikely to book a flight there as you would to Des Moines or Enid, the unsung city has more to offer than you might think: free museums, a giant park, a great baseball team and more. Plus water, and plenty of it.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Daily Bulletin on Vacation, Pt. 2


While in New York, I made a pilgrimage to — because the Empire State Building is passe — the intersection at which the cover for the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” album cover was shot circa 1989, Rivington and Ludlow on the Lower East Side.

Admittedly, it was a letdown, and I’d have had to have the album itself with me to compare then and now. Even then, the corner was somewhat fictional, as the Paul’s Boutique sign was added for the photo shoot.

Instead of a downscale sportswear shop, the corner now has a wraps place. One nice touch today is a street art mural of the boys on the side of the building, commissioned by a man who lobbied unsuccessfully to have the intersection honored as Beastie Boys Square.

Here’s my 2014 column on the album’s 25th anniversary and its Claremont connection.


Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email