On vacation

As noted at the top of Sunday’s column, I’m on vacation this week, as I was for part of last week, and there won’t be another column until June 15. See you then. And pay attention to my Twitter feed (a feature on the right-hand side of this home page) if you’d like to see some of what I’m up to.

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Wall of hot dog fame


On a visit to Windy C’s Chicago Hot Dogs in Upland last year, owner Freddy Johnson insisted on taking my photo and adding it to his wall of celebrities, many of them Chicago-based. He printed out the photo and had me sign it on the spot.

Faced with a photo of myself that would be framed on a wall for all to see for some time to come, I was put in mind of the “Seinfeld” episode in which a coffee shop waitress asked Jerry to sign a photo of himself and he wrote “Nothing could be finer than eating in your diner”; after Elaine mocked him, he tried to grab the photo back. With trepidation, I wrote “Hot dog! This Illinois boy loves the Wrigley,” the name of the menu item I was eating: a dog with sauerkraut and cheese (pictured below).

I returned for lunch recently, the first time since the photo. Eyeballing the inscription, I didn’t feel the urge to grab it back or hide my head. But then, Elaine wasn’t there to shame me.

(My Restaurant of the Week post from 2011 on Windy C’s has particularly entertaining comments, by the way.)


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18 years

On March 10, 1997 I walked in the doors of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin to start my first day of work. Hey, that’s 18 years ago today!

I wasn’t new to journalism — I’d put in a decade at papers in Victorville and Sonoma County — yet Ontario and the Inland Valley seemed vast and mysterious, not to mention smoggy. Now it’s all like a small town to me.

There’s been a lot of changes in 18 years. The landscape is somewhat different, what with Victoria Gardens, the Colonies, the Shoppes and the 210 Freeway. Newspapers, including this one, are very different. At this point I can count my lucky stars to be among the dwindling number of people employed by a newspaper.

Thank you for your support. Onward to 19 years!

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Column: Expectations can be taxing during Washington, D.C., vacation

Anyone making our national pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., has a long list of sites they want to see, or feel pressured to see. I wasn’t immune during my visit there earlier this month, but knowing I couldn’t see the proverbial “everything,” especially in four days, I tried to relax and focus on what I liked most. You can read about that in Wednesday’s column.

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‘All That Jazz’ (and ‘A to Z’)


Larry Fox had me on his “All That Jazz” program on KSPC-FM on Saturday afternoon, where we played a few jazz songs that I brought in and talked about my columns, this blog, restaurants and my book “Pomona A to Z.” It was a lot of fun and, I’m sure, revealing of my thought processes and style. If you tuned in, how did I do?

* The interview, as well as my 2010 visit, can be heard on the KSPC website.

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Journalists: Unprepared, but resourceful


I bring a notebook along on assignments, but what about when I’m not on assignment?

We journalists do carry special notebooks, long and thin, but they can’t routinely be carried around unless you’re a woman with a purse or don’t mind sitting on a notebook in your back pocket (I do). Sometimes I remember to bring along a pocket-sized notebook, but not often. Frequently when I see a funny sign or want to remember something, I’ll scribble a quick note to myself on a random piece of paper at hand, maybe an ATM slip or even a straw wrapper.

One morning last week I ended up conducting a short interview, semi-impromptu, at the Claremont library with the Friends of the Library president, but I hadn’t thought to bring a notebook home from work the night before. I made do with two receipts in my pocket. Had to turn one over to finish up. Good thing I’d made a couple of purchases or I’d have had to ask for a piece of paper.


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What I did on my vacation

I had a good week off even if I didn’t travel anywhere exotic. Wednesday’s column has a short version of my activities, which I cut down for space. Here’s a little more.

First there was the Paul McCartney concert at Dodger Stadium. Belying his 72 years, McCartney performed for nearly three hours and ran through three dozen songs, even at that only scratching the surface of his Beatles and solo work. What a night.

I saw three very entertaining movies that week: “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Hercules” and “Edge of Tomorrow,” the Tom Cruise movie that blends sci-fi with “Groundhog Day.” Criminally overlooked, it was the best of the three, and was also the cheapest; I saw it at the bargain-priced Academy in Pasadena, where my matinee ticket was $2.

(On my way to Pasadena I stopped at Donut Man for a strawberry doughnut, which was $4. A $4 donut and a $2 movie? Has the world turned upside down?)

Naturally books were part of my break. I read three: Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass,” Chris Nichols’ “The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister” and Owen Hill’s “The Chandler Apartments.”

Two days of balmy weather awaited me in Ventura, where the temperatures were in the low 70s, not the low 90s. I checked out two bookstores in Santa Barbara, the Book Den and the Granada, but my attempt to eat at Julia Child’s favorite taqueria, La Super-Rica, was foiled because it was closed the day of my visit.

I did get in a game of bowling at Wagon Wheel in Oxnard, a place along the 101 that has enticed me for years due to its quaint name, large neon sign and freeway frontage. In fact, the Wagon Wheel used to have a motel, skating rink, restaurant and other uses, and it still has its own street (“Wagon Wheel Road”) and freeway exit. Everything’s been torn down for a new development, though, except for the 32 lanes.

Two journalist friends claimed to be poor bowlers who couldn’t break 100, so to make it interesting we decided I would take them both on, my score against both of theirs. Then they had the game of their lives. The final scores: 133 for me, 123 for Wendy and 113 for Cindy. I couldn’t beat them collectively, but at least I beat them individually.

Of course I made one Metrolink trip, meeting a friend in Larchmont Village for lunch and a walk. And I sought out two Jonathan Gold-approved eateries I’d been meaning to try forever: Chili John’s in Burbank, where they’ve been serving chili from behind a U-shaped counter since 1946, and Bulgarini Gelato, a highly regarded Altadena gelateria.

I worded it that way purely for the pleasure of typing “Altadena gelateria.”

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Back on the beat

My vacation trip home to the Midwest went well and I arrived back in Claremont on Saturday night. My first outing was Sunday morning, when I stopped at an ATM in the Village.

“Are you back from vacation?” a stranger (or at least a reader whom I didn’t immediately recognize) shouted from his car at a stop sign. I whirled and, surprised, said yes.

“Good! Looking forward to your next restaurant review!” he said before turning the corner. His companion in the passenger seat must have asked what that was about, because I heard him say my name to her.

I can’t ask for a much better welcome back than that — a greeting from a reader of this blog, the only ones who knew I was away, moments after first stepping out.

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