Reading Log: January 2016

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Books acquired: none.

Books read: “Slogging Toward the Millennium,” Bill McClellan; “The Hour After Westerly,” Robert M. Coates; “Long After Midnight,” Ray Bradbury; “The Day After Tomorrow,” Robert M. Heinlein; “Twelfth Night,” William Shakespeare; “Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement,” Rodney Rothman; “Now Wait for Last Year,” Philip K. Dick.

One month into 2016 and I’ve knocked off seven titles. That sounds good, doesn’t it? Great start to the year and all that. I read much of the first three titles above in December, though, which means seven is inflated and likely to be my high for the year. Uh-oh: That means for the next 11 months, it’s all downhill. From optimism to despair, all in one paragraph. This is why I’m a professional, because I’ve got range.

Anyway, my books for the month are, in the order above, a 1990 book of newspaper columns from St. Louis; a book of literary short stories from the 1940s; a 1978 Bradbury collection; a 1940s sci-fi novel; a Shakespeare comedy circa 1602; a 2006 humorous memoir; and a 1960s sci-fi novel.

The Heinlein was problematical as it was quasi-racist, and weak stories outnumbered strong ones in the Bradbury. The Shakespeare play wasn’t among his best, although even so-so Bard is very good. The first line is famous: “If music be the food of love, play on…”

Coates is out of print and neglected, but this was a very good book, with the title story worthy of “The Twilight Zone.” McClellan tells a good story. Dick’s novel was among his best. Rothman’s memoir may be of the most general interest.

Feeling burned out at 28, the TV writer hit upon a neat idea: Why not move to Florida and test out retirement by living in a senior community, playing shuffleboard and eating early dinners? It’s funny, as you’d expect, but he learns to take the retirees seriously as individuals, and there’s an undercurrent of sadness about the end of life.

Did you notice all the titles dealt in some way with time or the calendar? Yes, that was on purpose, a loose way to bring in a variety of books. Oh, and despite the photo, obviously I didn’t read the entirety of “The Riverside Shakespeare,” only one play within.

Where did my books come from? The Shakespeare is my college textbook, collecting all his works in one massive book. My copies of Bradbury and Dick date to the early 1980s. The others are from the past decade. Can’t remember where my Heinlein came from. Coates and Rothman were bought at Powell’s in Portland in 2013. McClellan was bought in St. Louis last year.

How is your reading year beginning? I hope it went well but is all uphill for you.

Next month: maybe only one book. :-(

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Your two cents: The Eagles ‘were great’

In my column on the Eagles after Glenn Frey’s death, honesty compelled me to note that I wasn’t writing as a particular admirer of the band: “(Candidly, I can’t say I’m a fan of the band, although I do still have my 45 of ‘Hotel California,’ bought when I was 12. At six minutes, eight seconds, the song was good value for the money.)”

A reader who didn’t give her name left me a voice mail, which I’ll quote in full:

“Mr. Allen, I happened to read your article in the paper today about Glenn Frey. It’s too bad you feel so badly about the Eagles, because they were great. And I’m sure you’re one of those stupid Beatle fans — ‘I want to hold your hand’ ignorance. I used to read your column all the time. I won’t be reading it EVER AGAIN, because you are that dumb.”

Wow! She did not have a peaceful, easy feeling!

I laughed out loud at least twice while listening to her voice mail and enjoyed playing it again and again to accurately transcribe it. A colleague said dryly, in response to the caller’s sign-off: “Good, who wants you?”

Always interesting what people take from a column or how they interpret it or what they read into it. I do like the Beatles, as most of us do, but I don’t think it’s an either-or, or that I shouldn’t be allowed to not love the Eagles. But correct me if I’m wrong.

(Previous Your Two Cents posts can be read here, by the way.)

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Column: Eagles had a longer run in Ontario than you knew

The Eagles perform at the Citizens Business Bank Arena. 5/22/10 Ontario, CA. Photo by Kelly A. Swift

The Eagles perform at the Citizens Business Bank Arena. 5/22/10
Ontario, CA.
Photo by Kelly A. Swift

Friday’s column presents some news that surprised me: Not only did the Eagles (whose founding member Glenn Frey died this week) perform in Ontario in 1974 and 2010, but they rehearsed for their 2013-15 world tour here too, in secrecy. I’ve also got a couple of Culture Corner items and word of an O’Day Short tribute event.

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Restaurant of the Week: Arturo’s Puffy Tacos

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Arturo’s Puffy Tacos, 15693 Leffingwell Road (at Lambert), Whittier; closed Sundays

Only a couple of times before (Covina’s Capri Deli, San Bernardino’s Mitla Cafe) have I written a Restaurant of the Week about a spot outside the Inland Valley. Both were worthy spots, in business for decades, that seemed of potential interest to you.

Arturo’s in Whittier is a similar case. I wanted to go there as I’d had puffy tacos while on vacation in San Antonio, Texas, in November, at Ray’s. Puffy tacos are kind of a San Antonio thing. Except they’re not, exactly, because they may have originated in Southern California in the 1960s at Arturo’s, and Art is said to have exported them to Ray’s. (The official story is here.)

I met up with the New Diner blogger at Arturo’s one night earlier this month to try the SoCal version. Arturo’s was brightly lighted and occupies a vintage if divey building with this quaintly awkward motto emblazoned along the roofline: “For a new taste in Mexican food try California’s only…the original Puffy Taco.”

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It’s a walk-up, where you order through a window, pick up your food inside and dine there. I got two puffy tacos: carne guizado ($2.50) and carnitas ($2.65), plus a horchata ($2.05); the New Diner, who’s gone vegetarian on us, got a bean and cheese burrito and taco.

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There were customers when we arrived and nobody when we left near closing time on a weeknight. The walls have a lot of San Antonio memorabilia.

A puffy taco comes in a flash-fried shell that turns flaky and delicate. Have you had cinnamon crisps, those pseudo-Mexican puffy chips dusted with cinnamon as a dessert? I’m not even sure where I’ve had them, Taco John’s maybe. Well, puffy tacos are kind of like that.

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Jonathan Gold once rhapsodized about Arturo’s in LA Weekly: “I’m not sure how I managed to live in Los Angeles this long without even knowing that these puffy tacos existed.” So has OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano, who advised readers: “It’s as if a taco dorado decided to evolve into a sope but quit halfway, and it combines the pleasures of the two: thick yet airy, earthy, crispy, golden, one of America’s great regional treats.”

I don’t think I’ll develop a taste for them, but they’re interesting in the best sense of the term, and the carne guizado filling, a beef stew, was especially good. The tacos seemed identical to the ones in Texas — and, obviously, are far more easily obtained.

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