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.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘A to Z’ from ONT


Ken McNeil, formerly of San Antonio Heights, is spotted on a plane back to Reno reading his newly purchased copy of “Pomona A to Z.” Do you have yours?

(“Spotted” is a joke: His wife, Pam, took the photo at my request. They’d each visited our newsroom and, get this, they each bought their own copy of my book. They didn’t want to have to share. If all couples took this approach, I could almost double my sales.)

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘Pomona A to Z’ in RC


If you’re in or near Rancho Cucamonga, come to the Archibald Library, 7368 Archibald Ave. (just below Base Line) tonight for the 20th anniversary party, 7 to 9 p.m. I’m due to be interviewed for a few minutes by Library Director Robert Karatsu around 8 p.m. and will then sell and sign my book, “Pomona A to Z.” I’m curious what Robert will ask me and how many people in RC will buy my Pomona book. I’ll bring plenty and wait to be surprised, one way or the other.

Should be a fun night with lots of other things to do too: storytime, crafts, Beatles cover band and more. You can also meet my colleague Joe Blackstock and learn about the library’s history.

Isn’t the above photo cool? It was shot by my friend and former colleague Marc Campos in the Norms parking lot. I didn’t know what effect he was going for until I saw the photo later. Ha! I was even wearing a yellow shirt!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Claremont Courier writes up ‘Pomona A to Z,’ me

courier1 (1)

I was surprised when the Courier put my April 9 talk at Rhino Records in its calendar of events — in which I was described for the first time in my life as “reporter and author” — because, after all, we are competitors. It’s a friendly rivalry, though, and the Courier is mentioned in my column now and then. Also, I’m a subscriber and live in town.

I was even more surprised when a reporter and photographer from the paper showed up to my talk. You mean I’m getting actual coverage? I was. The reporter later interviewed me by phone and the whole thing turned into a two-page spread, with two photos, in the Courier’s Friday issue. Gosh!

Well, I couldn’t have asked for a better presentation, and even a journalist friend of many years said she wasn’t sure she could have written a better story about me. So, my gratitude to reporter Sarah Torribio and photo intern Helen Arase. I got a kick out of the whole experience, including seeing a couple of my cracks during my talk making print, and being “Mr. Allen,” in the Courier’s New York Times-style of respectful address.

The Courier wisely doesn’t give away its product for free online, so I can’t link to the story, but I photographed the two pages; click on the photos for a readable view. The issue is on sale at news racks through Thursday.

* Update: Turns out the story can be found online here.

courier2 (1)

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘A to Z’ double-header

I’m doing not one but two book signings Saturday for “Pomona A to Z.” The first is at Claremont’s Rhino Records, 235 Yale Ave., from 1 to 3 p.m. The second is at Pomona’s Magic Door Books, 155 W. 2nd St., from 7 to 9 p.m.

Evidently I’m the starting author at both places. Let’s see Clayton Kershaw try that.

The Magic Door signing is sure to be low-key, given the intimate size of the store, and you get the benefit of the Second Saturday Art Walk (but the downside of searching for parking).

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing at Rhino: Will I talk a little and read a chapter? Or will I just sign? I definitely won’t sing.

I’m anxious about the Rhino thing and am doing my best not to think about it. After all, they have a small stage where Berlin, Dengue Fever and other bands have performed, which is probably where I’ll be, and the idea of standing there talking into a microphone, and gazing out over the aisles — as some continue their shopping and wonder why this man is talking at a record store — is kind of intimidating! And yet, what other chance will I ever have to do it?

In related news, after falling from No. 10 to No. 23, “A to Z” is back at No. 12 on the Rhino sales charts for the week, behind Judas Priest and Jack White but ahead of the Black Keys and Weird Al Yankovic. Not bad for a book — the only book in the Top 25.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘Pomona A to Z’ party


Look at all the people! I’m standing up in the background by the banner, talking to my friends Elizabeth Casian and Doug Evans and feeling somewhat overwhelmed.

Pomona’s literati and glitterati turned out July 18 for the launch party for my book “Pomona A to Z.” Delayed at work, I walked in the door of the Downtown Pomona Owners Association office moments before the official 5:30 p.m. start and people were already waiting for me. I didn’t have plans for a reading or questions — I didn’t have any plans, really — but there was no need to fill time: I sat down, a line formed and I didn’t budge for the next two hours.

Having been to my share of book signings as a fan, I knew the drill, even if I hadn’t expected to ever be doing it myself: Shake hands, chat people up, ask how to spell their name and think up something to write in their books — in ink, which is unforgiving.

One woman told me she thought there’d be a line around the block, which is a bit unrealistic for a book signing by someone who’s not, say, Hillary Clinton. But the line was to the door, usually had eight or 10 folks in it, and some said they waited half an hour. Everybody was cheerful about it. It was all very flattering, believe me. It beat my usual Friday night routine, which is to unwind in a Starbucks by myself and read.

A few close friends came, and one co-worker, and various Pomona people, some whom I know well, some whom I know only slightly. Among the latter was a music fan named Alonso, who had approached me at the Pomona Christmas Parade to tell me how much he liked my column on the late musician Lou Reed. Willie Campos, who was featured in one chapter as a devotee of discount stores, tried to swap me a painting for a book, but we took his $20 instead.

I met brand-new people too. One treat was finally meeting Michelle Dubas, whom I’ve known via email and social media for eight or nine years; I remember her because, like me, she’s a fan of the 1970s TV series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.” And I met Jill Carol, who like me has two first names; a photographer (her Pomona blog is That’s So Second Street), she had contributed a photo of my parade appearance to this blog.

One couple, John and Patti, told me they’d read all the “A to Z” columns when they were first published and had been waiting 10 years for a book version. They like my book because, unlike other Pomona books, it’s “intimate,” John said. I liked that.

Besides books, I signed a cast for Jerry Tessier, and I met the Goddess of Pomona, who’s shorter than you’d expect. She also sounds suspiciously like Upland artist Dee Marcellus Cole. I signed books for three members of the Pomona City Council (all women) and for one former member (also a woman). I also shook hands with an Upland City Council member, Gino Filippi, who waited in line with a friend but didn’t buy a book. Men!

We sold 61 books, not a bad evening’s work. I would have liked to float omnisciently above the room; I saw things from the limited vantage point of being seated in one corner. The photo of the whole room was startling to see. A lot of people came to see me!

Thanks to Sally Egan for the photos. She also photographed me for the book cover.


I stall for time while thinking up something lame to write in a book for my friend Alan Saunders. By the way, I’m wearing the same shirt as on the book cover so people would recognize me. Also, it was next in the rotation.


I’ll sign anything except a blank check. This is Jerry Tessier, who renovated the Fox Theater, the Claremont Packing House and the Padua Theater. In the achievement for which he will be best remembered, however, he bought five copies of my book.


“Pomona A to Z” and I get the blessing, I think, of the Goddess of Pomona.

booksign5Danielle Soto, left, a former councilwoman, and Paula Lantz, a current councilwoman, display their books proudly. As they should.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

No. 10 with a bullet


“Pomona A to Z” is on an end-cap display at Rhino Records (235 Yale Ave., Claremont) right when you walk in, my book placed between Led Zeppelin vinyl reissues and Morrissey’s new album. This is such a thrill, I’ve gone in twice just to admire my end-cap. As of Sunday, Rhino had sold four copies of my book, enough to put me at No. 10 in sales for the week. Morrissey was No. 1.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Coming soon: ‘Pomona A to Z,’ the book


For years, people have asked, “When are you going to do a book?” At last I have an answer: “On July 18.”

That’s the release date of “Pomona A to Z,” a collection of newspaper columns by yours truly from a decade back. Each of the 26 columns, published in 2004 and 2005, featured something unique or unusual in Pomona for each letter of the alphabet.

This book has been in the works for more than a year, but this is the first I’ve mentioned it. For one thing, I didn’t want to get my hopes up until the book was in my hands, i.e., real. Also, I’ve hesitated to beat the drum too hard by starting too early. Now that we’re close to a release date, though, it’s time you knew. (And note that you blog readers have the scoop before print readers.)

For your $20, you get the original 26 columns, and the photos, as well as a couple of related columns that rounded up the reaction. You also get introductions before each letter that update the original columns. There’s also a foreword by KPCC-FM host Steve Julian, a Pomona native, and an introduction by me. It’s a paperback, 244 pages.

All this and, at no extra charge, a dedication, front AND back covers and a copyright notice. Gosh!

Readings and signings will be announced as they’re set up, but I can tell you now that a release party is planned for the evening of July 18 in downtown Pomona (where else?). Mark your calendar.

In the meantime, here’s a press release, here’s the Amazon listing, here’s the Facebook page and here’s a blog post by Chris Nichols of LA Weekly. The publisher is Claremont-based Pelekinesis. The writer is a familiar name, but I can’t place him.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘Pomona A to Z’: letters on the letters

[My encore of "Pomona A to Z" is complete, but here's a followup column -- originally published July 3, 2005 -- of reader reaction to the series.

The comment from the Ontario reader really cheesed me off -- imagine his chutzpah in thinking, after I'd devoted a year to writing favorably about Pomona, that I'd find his snobbish put-down of Pomona to be hilarious! -- so it was with relish that I zinged him back. But everyone else was nice, and Judi Guizado's letter is so brilliant I'm thrilled to re-present it.

As a final note, "A to Z" taught me a lot about Pomona and since then I've learned how little I knew when I wrote it. Hope you've enjoyed reading, or rereading, these columns anyway.]

Readers ‘letter rip’ on A to Z

With the 26-part series “Pomona A to Z” having ended, some readers are having trouble letting go.

“Don’t you have any more letters?” Pomona Councilman George Hunter asked me after Z for Zanja. “Could you do some diphthongs?”

Complex vowel sounds aside, I’m sorry to see the series end too. After all, for 26 Sundays I always knew where my next column was coming from. Now what?

“Perhaps you should reprise ‘A to Z’ for all Inland Valley cities,” C.J. Fogel, a former newsroom colleague, wrote to suggest. “Or how about ‘A to Z’ but using Khmer, the world’s largest alphabet? Moving on from ‘tha,’ we now have ‘pha’…”

Well, yours truly wrote about pho, so why not pha?

I brought my A-game to “A to Z,” hoping to have fun — and I did — while nudging people into looking at Pomona in a new light. It was successful, at least up to a point.

Jim Downs, a 28-year resident of Ontario, said he enjoyed reading about the valley’s other big city.

“I found out some interesting things about Pomona each week, and I even thought about going to see one or two of them,” Downs wrote. “But then I thought, ‘It is Pomona!’”

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

“An underrated city” is how reader David Fleury described Pomona, and he’s got it exactly right.

Fleury, who spent 24 years in Pomona, insisted he learned “so much” from my series, which is quite a compliment. He can’t have learned more than I did, though.

I knew very little about Pomona going into “A to Z.” Even now I know just a smidge — but it’s a good smidge.

Thanks to everyone who nominated people, places and things, by the way. True, I could have done the series without you. But it would have stunk.

Will there be another “A to Z”? Probably.

Downs, the Ontario resident quoted above, requested an “Ontario A to Z.”

With such a series, “we could discover some little-known or forgotten facts about Ontario with which we could wow and amaze our friends in other humdrum communities not nearly as interesting as our area! Whaddaya think?”

It’s a great idea, but I do have one worry.

What if people from Pomona refuse to check out the attractions because, after all, “It IS Ontario”?

You may recall that I stole the alphabet concept from a fine, funny PBS documentary by Rick Sebak, “Pittsburgh A to Z.”

I recently shipped off all 26 columns to Sebak, who was so excited he wrote me, then called me.

Turns out the Bard of Pittsburgh had already quoted me on the back of the DVD version of “A to Z” (available at, and how cool is that?

Sebak called my series “totally fun to read” and encouraged me to do more. The “A to Z” concept, incidentally, wasn’t even his — a Pittsburgh museum official suggested it.

“You can’t copyright the letters of the alphabet,” Sebak added cheerfully. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a marvelous gimmick. Take it and run.”

When readers least expect it, I will.

But first, I’ll let two of you run with it. Because two separate e-mails from two separate readers took an alphabetical approach to critiquing my series.

Judi Guizado wrote:

“I found your columns to be amazing, beatific, classy, delightful, edifying, first-rate, groovy, heartfelt, interesting, joyful, kindhearted, laudable, masterful, neat-o, orderly, praiseworthy, quirky, reminiscent, scandalous — oops, sorry, wrong column; that one’s for Pomona’s self-imposed pay raise — transcendent, unusual, valiant, well-written, Xeroxable, yatterless and zestful.”

Guizado would like to thank the members of the Academy, plus Webster’s Thesaurus.

And Ruth Wells chimed in with this:

“Allen’s Bulletin Columns Did Effectually Furnish Great Highlights, Interesting Jewels, Knowledge Listing Many Nuances of Pomona’s Quintessence — Restaurants, Specifics of our ethnic citizens, Tableaus of Today, Unforgettable, Valued Works of the past, X-cellent Yarns, Zealously told.”

I’m awe-struck, blushing, content, dumbfounded, etc.

Now let’s let the alphabet rest a bit. We’ve given it a heckuva workout.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, a workout for your eyes.)

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

‘Pomona A to Z’: Z is for Zanja

[Well, here we are at the end of our little recap of my 2004-05 "Pomona A to Z" columns. I had the topic for Z picked far in advance, relishing the neatness of ending the series the way it began. People kept asking what Z would be but I think the only person I told was Mickey Gallivan, and that's only because I interviewed her for it. This column was published June 19, 2005.]

You’ll really dig Pomona’s letter Z

Zounds! “Pomona A to Z,” which began in this space last (gulp) July 18, today finally reaches the 26th letter: Z.

Yes, it’s been a zigzag path to Z, but now we’re at the zenith of the “A to Z” ziggurat!

Here we can sip zinfandel, munch on zwieback and dance to zydeco music, while reminiscing about the Z Channel and musing about the zeitgeist.

But let’s hold the zeal until Z is revealed.

Admittedly, my job would be a lot easier if Pomona had a zoo. But to my surprise, the city is zaftig with Z’s:

* Zarzuela, or Spanish musical theater, performed annually at Ganesha Park by (whoa!) the L.A. Opera.

* Jim Zorn, a former quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks who set 10 school records in football at Cal Poly Pomona.

* Tom Zasadzinski, Cal Poly Pomona’s official photographer.

* Dorothy Ziolkowski, a hard-workin’ volunteer for the Friends of the Pomona Library.

* Zzooms Bail Bonds, located near the police station, the better to zoom in to get you out.

Blow me down with a zephyr!

Our Z, of course, is none of these. Admittedly obscure, this Z was there at the start of Pomona, and it’s still there today.

It’s zanja.

(No, not ganja, which was there at the start of Jamaica, and is still there today — zanja.)

Pronounced “sahn-ha,” this was the stone-lined ditch that carried water to Pomona’s first settlements.

It was dug beginning in 1840 to bring water from San Jose Creek to the adobes for irrigation and personal use.

“It was the first water system,” says Mickey Gallivan, president of the Historical Society.

Short segments still exist outside the three remaining adobes: La Casa Primera and Palomares Adobe, which are public, and Alvarado Adobe, which is privately owned.

I learned about the zanja when I visited La Casa Primera (1569 N. Park) for the letter A. Docent Luis Guerrero showed me the ditch in the back.

Going out the way “A to Z” came in, we’re back to the beginnings of Pomona.

Two ranchers, Ygnacio Palomares and Ricardo Vejar, were given title to 15,000 acres of former mission land in 1837, when California was still part of Mexico.

Vejar settled in the south. Palomares took the north, building La Casa Primera, the first house in the Pomona Valley.

He soon had a neighbor. He invited his cousin, Ygnacio Alvarado, to build a house a stone’s throw away.

(Archaeological note: This stone has not been found.)

Alvarado dug the zanja in 1840. It was enlarged as more settlers moved in and needed water, according to an 1888 report by the state engineer.

Palomares moved to a new, larger home in 1854, now known as Palomares Adobe (491 E. Arrow Highway), and a zanja was dug there, too.

A drought in the early 1860s killed thousands of cattle in California, making vast ranches hard to sustain. Vejar borrowed money at predatory rates and lost his holdings.

Palomares’ widow sold 2,000 acres of the homestead in 1874 for $8 an acre to two investors. The sale spelled an end to the Rancho San Jose days — but paved the way for Pomona!

Investors sold off lots for the fledgling city, which incorporated in 1888 with a population of 3,500.

Progress eventually zonked the zanjas.

“The little ditch that had brought water from San Antonio Canon across the sandy waste lands became tunnels and pipe lines and irrigating ditches …” wrote Bess Adams Garner and Miriam Colcord Post in a Historical Society pamphlet.

In L.A., a zanja resurfaced, literally, in March 2005. The Zanja Madre (“Mother Ditch”), the city’s primary water source from 1781 to 1904, was discovered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which was grading land for a rail line.

The 4-foot-wide, brick-lined ditch was quickly reburied out of concern people would develop an interest in history.

In Pomona, the zanjas have been seen by generations of children on field trips to Palomares’ two adobes. The adobes are open to the public from 2 to 5 p.m. each Sunday.

The longest zanja is at La Casa Primera. Two feet wide and almost two feet deep, it’s lined with rock and has a bottom of dirt and pebbles (and dead leaves and weeds).

The zanja begins at the corner of Park and McKinley, then winds behind the house. It passes under a fig tree reputed to be 150 years old and disappears into the pavement at the rear of the property.

A zanja runs through it.

Hey, that could be a movie!

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, columns that should be ditched.)

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email