Your two cents: ‘Puerile’

My Sept. 2 column led reader John Lamm to read an earlier column and then send me the following email, with the neutral subject line “Your work.” Here’s his missive in full.

“I read your column in today’s paper — specifically your account of a reader’s possession of copies of the Senate Watergate Hearings, and in that column you referred to your August 8th column. So I dredged up and read that column also.

“I am certain that as a chronicler of current events (at least within the 909) you also feel that your ‘take’ on various events of the past has some merit, simply because you have the forum to present that ‘take.’ I can assure you it doesn’t. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more vacuous, puerile or less-informed stab at wit or wisdom as your blather and version of the time and events of the phenomenality prescient Nixon Presidency you recall in your column.

“Your ‘take’ on Richard Nixon, his presidency, and specifically the events leading up to August 8, 1974 is as erudite as the assignment given the Rialto School District’s 8th graders to prove or disprove the Holocaust.

“In short, you are an idiot.”

Ha! Give him this, he knows how to write a punchy ending. A “sir” would have increased the disdain, though: “In short, sir, you are an idiot.” We could then imagine the finger snap with which he would have dismissed me.

Was the column that bad? It meandered, it was composed of random thoughts on Watergate, but you weren’t expecting a tightly written essay that cut like a diamond, were you?

By the end of the reader’s email I laughed out loud because it’s rare that I get such a rude letter, so it’s kind of a treat. All sorts of replies went through my mind: “You read two of my columns and then spent precious minutes crafting a put-down email; who’s the idiot here?” “Thanks for your ‘take’ on my ‘take,’” “My bosses loved that column and they’re the ones who pay me,” “How can I help you if you won’t tell me how you feel,” that sort of thing. Also, I considered asking if “phenomenality” is a word, but then, I’m an idiot so of course it must be.

My preferred response: “Thanks for letting me know. Best anyway.”
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Your two cents: ‘Snootiness’

My recent Restaurant of the Week post about Pomona’s Brick Market and Deli led to an email exchange with a Pomona friend that was unexpected. Reread the post first. It helps to remember that I live in Claremont. First she wrote:

“Interesting review. I’d argue that Pomona is smart and sophisticated as well. Sanctum, The Rookery, Pomona Downtown, The Pomona Art Walk, Vintage Renewals, etc., all have Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m assuming they are all on Yelp since Yelp is customer-generated.

“I also don’t think Pomona should be more like Claremont. Pomona has a thriving artistic and ethnic culture, and I wouldn’t want that to change. If you walk around the residential neighborhood here at night, people are sitting on their stoops listening to music and laughing. It’s a really dynamic part of Pomona that I truly love!

“I’ve bought quinoa and wasabi peas at WinCo. They probably have the other stuff, but I’ve never checked (never been a big biscotti fan).”

To clarify, when I said The Brick is “active on Yelp,” I meant that management responds to almost every comment, which is unusually pro-active. Anyway, I don’t disagree with anything she wrote, but clearly she didn’t like what I wrote.

Later, she wrote that her email had been “extremely gentle and completely toned down from how truly offended I was by your post.” She said she saw Claremont “snootiness” in this line from the blog post: “They seem like a smart, sophisticated bunch, the kind of business you’d expect to find in Claremont and thus great to see in Pomona.”

Obviously no offense was intended on my part; if anything, readers usually tell me I’m too kind to Pomona and, if they live in Claremont, too hard on my own town. What I was trying to get across, and perhaps failed at, was that what is essentially an organic convenience store, with high-end sandwiches, struck me as the sort of business you’d find in the Village rather than Pomona, and especially not at an intersection with a KFC, a vacant grocery store, a donut shop and a drive-thru burger stand.

But I’m curious if you folks — anyone, but particularly those of you who live in Pomona or used to live there (John, Deb, Ren, Andy, etc.) — were offended or thought I came off as condescending. Be honest. Your thoughts on the Claremont-Pomona dynamic, Pomona gentrification, etc., are welcome as well.

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Your two cents: ‘Do you do…?’

I had this email exchange recently with someone whom I expected at the start was at least an occasional reader.

Him: “Do you do reviews on anything? My friend is hosting a Car & Bike show event in Pomona this weekend on 3/22/2014 which will be an annual event, but this is their first year hosting the event in pomona. Would be great if you can join us, and maybe do a quick interview with the owner? Thank you so much David!”

Me: “Sorry, Mike, but car shows and such aren’t really my bailiwick. Good luck on your friend’s show, though.”

Him: “Ok what about businesses?”

I was tempted to reply, “What about them?”

Me: “Do I do reviews of businesses? No.”

Unable to let this go, he sent one more.

Him: “What do you do then?”

A variety of responses came to mind, such as “Things other than reviews of car shows and businesses,” “Ask someone who reads my columns,” “My bosses are probably asking the same question,” etc. Instead I replied: “Things like this” and linked to my column on the citrus packing house in Upland.

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Your two cents: ‘Crummy’

This potential column item has languished for a couple of weeks, so I’ll use it here.

At the library telethon in Rancho Cucamonga, two readers introduced themselves separately and offered commentary. The first rushed up to meet me and said she’d wanted to make a point of doing so after reading that I would be there.

“Your columns are kind of funny, when I get it,” she said. I thanked her but felt a little bad if I’ve confused her.

Some time later, a second woman cheerfully nattered on for a while on various topics. At one point she said, “Where did you park?” Um, in the garage. Why? “I’d like to see your new car,” she said. Referring to my former car, a Toyota Corolla, she continued: “I once saw that crummy car you used to drive. I’m so glad you got rid of it.”

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Your two cents: ‘Is this…?’

For the Bulletin staff, having your phone number at the end of your story often means fielding calls from readers who think you’re the contact for that company, nonprofit or issue, even when the body of the story contains contact information. Evidently they just impatiently skip to the end. Stories about job fairs, for instance, always prompt one or more calls to the reporter from readers, to use the term loosely, who want a job.

In that spirit, I had this exchange with a caller recently.

Me, picking up: Newsroom, David Allen.

Caller: Is this Mel’s Drive-In?

Me.: …

Me: This is the Daily Bulletin newsroom.

Caller: This isn’t Mel’s Drive-In?

Me: This is the newspaper. Mel’s closed two or three years ago.

Caller: I was reading about Mel’s Drive-In on the Internet and your number was there.

Me: Yes, I work for a newspaper, and I wrote about Mel’s when it closed. That was three or four years ago.

Caller: Oh.

For the record, Mel’s closed in October 2010. And if you do a Google search for “Mel’s Drive-In Rancho Cucamonga,” my column is indeed one of the top results, under the headline: “Farewell to Mel’s Drive-In, which is driving out.” Which would seem to be a pretty good tipoff the restaurant isn’t there anymore, but maybe that’s just me.

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Your two cents: ‘Lazy’

Responding to my Oct. 16 column about parting with my 1999 Toyota Corolla, reader Robert Kiensler wrote in full:

Why do novice drivers feel obligated to write about their car neglect as if it’s anything more than being cheap and lazy? A mini will cost a pretty penny to repair and the Toyota will end up in the hands of an illegal alien. Any running car is worth double the money you gave it away for. Being uninitiated (lazy) lost you six hundred more out of pocket!

There are a lot of issues with Kiensler’s blast of negativity: How exactly am I a “novice driver”? Or “uninitiated”? “Car neglect”? My mechanic would disagree with that. And Kiensler couldn’t resist playing the illegal alien card. But let’s peer through the haze and look at his complaint.

WAS I lazy to part with my car for $650 to the dealer instead of selling it privately? Even if I could have gotten “double,” to my mind, another $650 may not have been worth the trouble of figuring out how to get two cars to my house, and then advertising the car and dealing/haggling with potential buyers.

But maybe that’s a lazy person’s thinking. What do you think?

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Your two cents: “Liberal a-holes…”

In Friday’s column I wrote: “While it was no shock that Barack Obama won a second term, and won California, did you know he carried San Bernardino County? He got 51 percent to Romney’s 46 percent. Remember that the next time you read those anti-Obama, ‘wake up, America’ letters on our Opinion page. They don’t reflect majority sentiment.”

A voice mail left on my phone Friday morning from an anonymous caller before I got into the office, quoted in full: “Liberal a-holes spent eight years writing about Bush in the Bulletin letters section. I never heard you remind them he won the popular vote in San Bernardino County. Why was that? C’mon, put down your Obama poster and get out of bed. Fool.”

My point was that Obama carrying conservative San Bernardino County was a surprise. I don’t think Bush carrying conservative San Bernardino County surprised anyone, did it?

Reasonable people may disagree — question: are there any reasonable people left? — but I did enjoy additionally pointing out that, given the 909′s reputation, we must not be as Republican as we used to be. I was directing the comment partly to the rabid Obama-haters that they ought not to assume everyone agrees with them, but also to those on the other side of the fence, who might appreciate the perspective that a majority locally may agree with them.

Anyone want to toss in their two cents on this fellow’s two cents?

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Your two cents: ‘Ungrateful’

I get so few angry letters or comments that it’s kind of a treat when I do. Thus, my pulse quickened the other day at a belated comment here by reader Jeff in response to my Dragon Loco Restaurant of the Week. Since you wouldn’t have seen it unless you keep close tabs on the “Recent Comments” section, let me present it here in full:

“Wow, This Guy!!!! David after working for daily bulletin for decades you haven’t gone nowhere. This Kid is the future, he is bring something different and new, not like the antique places you like and over done…. We seen it ate it, been their. I visited Dragon Loco After your review. Let me Say you are totally wrong, the ingredients are fresh and great. What do you now about ingredients you are just a run down columnist that just writes about the past and places from the past. I admire this kid he has something going on and it will catch on. you are a ungrateful person for him trying to contact you, WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE NEW YORK TIMES!!!! Come on man…… BE THANKFUL PEOPLE STILL READ THE NEWSPAPER AND KNOW WHO YOU ARE……… YELP, AND ALLEN BORGEN, LOVE THIS PLACE….. AGAIN WHAT DO YOU KNOW, RUN DOWN COLUMNIST.”

Wasn’t that awesome? Who I think I am indeed!

I just reread my blog post and my criticism, to my eyes, seems awfully mild, especially compared to the above. You can find my official response attached to his comment after that blog post.

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Your two cents: ‘very misleading’

Our RC Now blogger Wendy Leung used to print the occasional email or voice mail transcript of a reader comment under the heading “Your two cents.” What the heck, I’ll try it too. This was an emailed comment from a Lemon Festival official about my column last Wednesday on an Upland council meeting. The email was also sent to 20 other people, many of them at City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce or Fairplex, which certainly put me in distinguished company.

“Dear Mr. Allen;

“Your article about the Elephant rides and the Upland Lemon Festival was, as usual very misleading. If you had taken the time to read the article in your newspaper in regard to why the elephant rides will not be at the LA County Fair this year, you would have learned that it had nothing to do with safety or any other aspect other than a change up of theming at the fair.

“Have Trunk Will Travel has a safety record beyond reproach. They promote the breeding of Asian Elephants and have had elephants give birth at their ranch due to there program, which is privately funded. You try in vain to cast them in villainous role when nothing could be further from the truth.

“Have you seen their facility, or the custom trailers that were made specifically for the elephants, or better yet, taken the time to call them or ask questions? I will venture to say you haven’t, as most journalists would much rather write something without any facts as that is what responsible journalism is all about, is it not?

“How many people were able to see or even ride an elephant at the Lemon Festival? How many people were able to talk to Have Trunk Will Travel and LEARN about the elephants during the festival? Thousands. One person makes a negative comment, and out of nearly 100,000 people that’s what you choose to write about. Amazing. Perhaps we should ban all clowns, balloons, cotton candy, carnival rides, petting zoo’s & pony rides too, as I am sure there is someone that was scared by or doesn’t like them for what ever reason.

“Gary & Kari Johnson have done more and continue to do more for the welfare, preservation & conservation of the Asian elephants than you could ever imagine. If all animals were cared for and provided for as well as their elephants, this world would be a much better place. Next time, please take the time to learn the facts, prior to writing something just to sell news papers.

“Mark Hill
Founder Upland Lemon Festival”

Personally I think Mark read more into what I wrote than was there. I never said anything about “safety,” for instance, and don’t believe I cast anybody in a “villainous role.” (I also doubt that what I wrote sold any newspapers, although the idea that I did is flattering.) But what do you think? Was my commentary misleading or unfair?

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