Old tree, new art

Here’s a new, but perhaps not entirely unfamiliar, piece of art in downtown Ontario. It came about after the city’s arborist determined that an ash tree next to City Hall in the Conservation Park was past saving.

“Rather than cut it down, we commissioned an artist to create something in keeping with the Conservation Park,” assistant city manager Al Boling said.

And so the tree was stripped of bark and limbs, and woodcarver Eric Garcia created “Shamel Ash” with chainsaw, hand tools and a blowtorch. The trunk now appears to be made up of flowers, butterflies, seeds, caterpillars and a praying mantis. Cost was under $5,000.

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Reading Log: September 2018

Books acquired: “The Annotated ‘Big Sleep’,” Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson and Anthony Rizzuto, editors

Books read: “The Sheep Look Up,” John Brunner; “The Maltese Falcon (Film Classics Library),” Richard J. Anobile; “Cats, Dogs and Other Strangers at My Door,” Jack Smith; “The Perfect Horse,” Elizabeth Letts

It seems it was September, not March, that came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, based on my animalistic titles last month. My reading encompassed a science fiction novel, a collection of newspaper columns, a nonfiction World War II account and a stills-and-dialogue version of a film noir classic, all with a critter in the title.

I’d been wanting to read “The Sheep Look Up” since being struck by its summary in a display at the science fiction museum at Seattle’s Space Needle in 2006, and remembered its unsettling cover from book racks in the 1970s. So that’s the edition I acquired a year or two later (from where, I forget). At 450 pages, it was a little intimidating and I kept putting it off, but I took it with me on my overseas trip and, after reading “The Trial,” read almost half by the time I returned.

This sprawling, character-filled novel (1972) charts environmental ruin (acid rain, unbreathable air, poisoned water, a sun that never emerges) that people manage to ignore even as their quality of life erodes. Experimental, but easy to follow, with black humor and real anger at the fouling of Earth. Brunner’s alarm about pesticides and antibiotics that no longer work hasn’t quite been borne out (yet?), but “Sheep” is still scary and deserves to be more widely read.

“Cats, Dogs and Other Strangers at My Door” (1984) collects some 30 years of columns by the LA Timesman about the cats, dogs and birds that found their way to his and his wife’s Mount Washington home. I love Jack’s writing but had some trepidation about this one, as a non-pet person. As the seventh of his nine books, which I’ve been reading in order, one per year, it was this one’s turn. But no need to fear. His clear writing, sly humor and observations about the foibles of both human and pet alike made this book another semi-forgotten gem.

“The Perfect Horse” (2016) chronicles the little-known tale of the purebred horses rescued at the end of WWII by equine-loving American troops before the Russians could grab them for horsemeat. Some of them were shipped, at least briefly, to Kellogg Ranch in Pomona before being dispersed to auctions in other states. I saw Letts give a talk at Cal Poly earlier this year, bought the book to help me with the resulting column and got it signed. I read the few Pomona pages in writing the column, then put the book aside. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the time on it, as it’s not really my thing, but thought if I were ever going to read it, it should be this year, and so I inserted it into this animal month.

Well, it was frequently quite good, with Letts playing up the drama and humanity of the men involved. But there may be too many characters, riding camps and breeds for the reader to follow for the narrative’s own good, and the story kind of trails off, as the dramatic rescue in many ways seems to be for naught. Life is often like that. Still, maybe I’d have been just as well off skipping the book after all. (Among the copious works cited in the back is my own Kellogg column from my Pomona A to Z series, although I can’t imagine it was of much help.)

As for “The Maltese Falcon” (1974), it’s one of a series done by Richard Anobile in which he presented portions of old comedies, or even full movies, as frame blowups accompanied by typeset dialogue. I have his “Casablanca” and two Marx Brothers books.

Now that we can enjoy “The Maltese Falcon” in our own home anytime we like — I’ve since watched it again on Blu-ray after finishing the book — this is an antique. But “Falcon” is such a great movie that the chance to linger over its details and chuckle in recognition of favorite moments is not to be dismissed. Also, you might learn something; in my case, despite repeated viewings, it was exactly how Captain Jacoby figured in, which had glided right past me.

I bought “Falcon” at Powell’s Books in Portland in 2016. As mentioned, “Horse” came from Cal Poly in 2018. “Cats, Dogs” and “Sheep” date to the mid-2000s, prior to the Reading Log, from used bookstores, although I’ve forgotten which ones. Smith’s, like my others by him, is signed.

How was your September, readers? Hope you read some good books, and not too many dogs. Let us know in the comments section.

Next month: a favorite author or two.

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Restaurant of the Week: D Grill Boy

D Grill Boy, 4323 Mills Circle (at Concours), Ontario; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily

Formerly a Lollicup, this small eatery has a new name. Not a great name, but a new name, since June, with new owners to match. A friend and I checked it out recently for lunch.

D Grill Boy is an unassuming place, mod and with communal tables. The menu is mostly hibachi-style grilled entrees — chicken, steak, shrimp, salmon, lamb or chicken katsu — with rice and vegetables. You won’t get a floor show from the chefs, like at Benihana, but you’ll also pay a lot less.

There’s also yakisoba dishes (stir-fry noodles with chicken, shrimp or steak), which are Japanese, and loco moco (rice, gravy, eggs, with sausage or Spam), which is Hawaiian. Additionally, they make tea drinks, milk tea, slushies, smoothies and salted cheese teas.

I had steak and chicken ($11.59) with — why not? — one of the salted cheese drinks, a matcha green tea with cheese foam ($5.29). My friend went one better by getting steak, chicken and shrimp ($14.59), with an upgrade to fried rice ($1.50), plus a watermelon slush ($4).

He pointed out something about the steak and chicken that I was beginning to notice myself: They tasted, essentially, the same. Had I closed my eyes, I might not have been able to tell the difference. As a non-cook, I couldn’t tell you why they would taste the same, but maybe were both overdone. “The shrimp was the best — by far,” my friend concluded.

Our drinks were OK. (I didn’t like mine $5.29 worth, but I liked it.) You might be better off getting a beverage here than food: There are many more options, including 16 slushies and 15 smoothies.

Overall, the food might be comparable to WaBa Grill — but unlike WaBa, you can get boba. And maybe that’s enough.

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Column: Mysterious noise as rocker tangles with John Cage

I attended an unusual concert last Friday at Claremont’s Little Bridges, an experimental music event involving a minimal John Cage score and contributions by former Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. I write about it in Wednesday’s column.

For a little backstory, I had not initially planned to write about the show, only attend for fun (although I did bring a notepad and took notes, just in case).

But then I was told the LA Times was covering the event. That got my competitive instincts going. While it wasn’t like I was going to out-write or out-think the LAT’s classical music critic, it seemed a shame to have a Claremont piece in the Times and yet ignore the event myself.

Monday afternoon, I decided to try writing a blog post about the show. After a few paragraphs, I thought, this is getting kind of long; let me cut and paste this into our article software and see HOW long. Well, it was around 500 words, which is verging on the length of a short column. Huh. Seemed like a waste to just post it here, so instead I decided to give myself a break and turn it into a column.

Possibly of interest, my blog style and my column style are slightly different, and so I adjusted the writing a bit and added a few paragraphs, with the finished result coming in at around 750 words, shorter than usual but long enough — especially for a column about a rather arcane musical happening.

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Former Love’s to become pizzeria

A few restaurants have cycled through the building at 3272 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona over the years, with Casa Jimenez being the most recent. I was surprised to learn from a friend a while back that it was originally a Love’s BBQ. I knew there had been a Love’s on that corner, Foothill and Garey, in the 1970s, across from the famous Henry’s Drive-In, but had never thought that relatively modern-looking restaurant with the tile roof was it.

I bring all this up after noticing on the Planning Commission agenda last week that an applicant was seeking a conditional use permit to allow beer and wine at that address for a new pizzeria. Good news, since the building has been vacant a few years. So while driving past on Sunday, I pulled into the lot to take photos.

My guess is the pizzeria won’t be a chain, given the generic “pizza” sign. Based on the interior, which has been gutted, they’re starting from scratch.

Do you remember Love’s or other restaurants that used to be there?

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Restaurant of the Week: Borreguitas

Borreguitas, 977 S. Garey Ave. (at 10th St.), Pomona; open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays

This is a rarity, a vegan restaurant, and in a smaller subset, vegan Mexican. A vegan friend who lives nearby had eaten at Borreguitas several times since its July opening and invited me and two other friends to lunch.

Seating about a dozen, it’s a small place, sandwiched (possibly with sprouts) between a barbershop and La Fuente, a 24-hour Mexican restaurant. The story is that there’s an ownership connection with La Fuente, where vegan items were introduced and ignored because nobody really knew about it. Borreguitas, however, seems to be a hit. In the two hours we were there, people kept cycling through or picking up to-go orders.

The menu has tacos, burritos, quesadillas, mulitas, enchiladas, tortas, pozole and ceviche, all Mexican staples, only with soy meat, vegan nut cheese and the like.

Of our group of four, three got the “asada” burrito with either red or green salsa ($10). I photographed the green. You can imagine the red, I trust.

“This is magnificent,” one carnivore declared. “This sauce is fantastic.” (He had the red. Maybe I should have photographed it instead.) “This was the best vegan burrito I’ve ever had. Also the first,” he clarified. “But it won’t be the last. I’ll be back.”

The second carnivore also liked his burrito and said, “I will gladly take my meat-loving friends here.” He had earlier joked: “My comment is, ‘Add a little meat and: delish.’ You don’t need to put that.” I didn’t need to, but I try to go above and beyond.

Of course the vegan liked it. She’d had it before.

I had the street tacos, four of ’em ($1.25 each): two “asada,” two “al pastor.” They looked much like the real thing, dusted with cilantro and chopped onion, the asada looking steak-ish, the al pastor ruddy, with (a nice touch of authenticity) thin-sliced pineapple on top. Even though they were all from soy meat, there was no question which was which.

They did taste fairly convincingly of the meats they replicated, although the mouth feel wasn’t the same. Neither was the fat content, of course. I also had one of the aguas frescas, pineapple-spinach ($3), an unusual combination but one that worked. Someone else got a horchata ($3) and liked it.

I’d be open to returning, even if I prefer the real thing. Borreguitas is definitely a welcome addition to Pomona and the rest of the valley. As I write this, Borreguitas has 61 reviews on Yelp and a five-star ranking.

As you might expect, customers were mostly young, including a hipster with a lumberjack beard. But they also included families with young children. It was a nice scene, akin to something you might see in Silver Lake.

By the way, Borreguitas means little lamb. “Which is adorable,” one friend remarked, “but which they don’t actually serve.” Maybe over at La Fuente.

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