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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On vacation

I’m leaving today for a family visit in St. Louis. Hooray!

Columns will continue appearing all week, but other than links to those columns, this blog will take a break. You can follow me on Twitter, either formally or by watching the feed along the right-hand side of this page, for the occasional bit of entertainment while I’m away.

See you next Monday.

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Column: Austin: come for the ribs, stay for the bats


Wednesday’s column is about my vacation last week in Austin, Texas. Here are a few photos to illustrate moments from my column. Above, the line outside Franklin Barbecue from my place in line. An equal number of people ended up behind me.


Above, a piece of surveying equipment seems to watch two construction cranes at work, a sign of the city’s building boom, especially by the waterfront. Below, a ghost bike is part of a memorial to those killed by a motorist during the South by Southwest music festival.


Below, a Frito pie, which is chili, cheese and onions atop a bed of Frito corn chips. Not bad, with the chips more interesting than saltines, but not something I’d order again, I don’t think.


And, lastly, here’s a view of the Congress Bridge bats and the people watching them.


Videos: The animatronic LBJ at the presidential library tells a corny joke (it’s like the Bulletin’s Slice of Wry in oral form) and bats pour out from under the Congress Avenue bridge.

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Column: Half a century gone and wondering what’s ahead

I turned 50 recently, two weeks ago today in fact, and I reflect on that in Friday’s column. Well, mostly I just joke about it.

I started writing this one just after my birthday but dropped it to write about the Sunkist sign instead, then returned to it before vacation to retool it over the course of a couple of hours, which largely involved deleting some reader comments and putting more of myself in it. The result is better, I think, but there wasn’t much time to think about it. I’ll be curious to read it myself to see how it turned out — but not just now.

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