Reading Log: April 2018

Books acquired: “After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame,” Lynell George

Books read: “The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits,” Paul Williams; “The Fifties,” David Halberstam; “Land of 1000 Dances: Chicano Rock ‘n’ Roll from Southern California,” David Reyes and Tom Waldman

I spent the end of March and almost all of April on a single book: “The Fifties,” an overview of the decade by journalist David Halberstam. It’s 733 pages, plus notes and an index, hence the long reading time.

Halberstam makes a case for the ’50s being more interesting than they’re given credit for: a decade of consumerism and new suburbs, the expansion of leisure time, the fear of communism, the challenges to conformity (civil rights, the Beats, Kinsey, Elvis and more) and America’s awkward lurch toward superpower status. Because many of the people and events within were vaguely known to me, due to references in other reading or viewing, I found this fascinating, and as the sections tended to be just a few pages they didn’t amount to overkill. Filled with deft character sketches and colorful detail, it was surprisingly readable. But I wish I had a dollar for every time Halberstam describes someone as “shrewd.”

Off and on since March, I read “Land of 1000 Dances,” a history of Chicano rock from the L.A. barrios, starting with 1950s dance bands and continuing through Ritchie Valens, Thee Midniters, Cannibal and the Headhunters, El Chicano, Los Lobos and lesser-known bands and figures, often through original and candid interviews. Pomona gets a bunch of mentions as it was on the Chicano performance circuit that included El Monte, Paramount and East L.A. You’ll need a curiosity about the material and about rock history to read this, but I have those, and I found this rewarding.

“The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits,” which I had on my nightstand for a month or two and also managed to finish in April, is an unusual book in two ways. The high concept — an assortment of movies, music/concerts, art, writing and more are chosen to represent the peak of a century’s culture — seemed like a millennium-ending gimmick, and with idiosyncratic choices: “Two-Lane Blacktop,” “Things We Said Today” by the Beatles, “Old Path White Clouds” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I put off reading it for nearly two decades. But Williams proves to be a good guide, exploring the randomness of not only his picks but of how art comes to be, and not taking it too seriously. He even includes “Ulysses,” which he hadn’t read, to stand in for those great works we always intend to get to, but don’t. Ha ha!

Making my lapse in reading it all the more shameful, I was among the patrons who gave the author $25, I think, to finance its creation. Williams was not only a pioneering rock critic, he was a pioneer of the Kickstarter concept with this and a subsequent book. “20th Century” was then published by a legitimate publisher, but my copy is the signed, bound printout given to patrons.

“The Fifties” (published 1993) was bought at a newsroom book sale, used, for about $1 in 1999; “1000 Dances” (published 1998) was bequeathed to me by a departing newsroom colleague in 1999; Williams’ book was published in 1999. Yes, every book this month fell into my hands in 1999. I should have read these while wearing flannel.

How was your April, readers? We’re all anxious to find out.

Next month: a bit of Benchley, and more.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Meat Cellar

Meat Cellar, 160 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Harvard), Claremont; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Meat Cellar was already the subject of a Restaurant of the Week post, in 2016, only now it’s moved a few blocks west to the old Wolfe’s Market, and the old location has become a Meat Cellar-owned spinoff, Burger Bar. So it seems best to start over.

The new Meat Cellar is probably triple the size, a full-service restaurant with a full bar, an open kitchen and, as before, a meat case like a butcher. That in a way serves as a nod to the space’s century as a grocery until its demise in 2017 (although the back part of the building continues as Wolfe’s Kitchen and Deli). There are two dining areas, one near the bar and the other near the kitchen.

I went in for a weekday lunch recently on a day off. Here’s the new menu; click for a larger view. (I’m glad I took a photo, as Meat Cellar currently has no website and its Facebook page hasn’t been updated since July 2017.)

The menu is greatly expanded from the original location; it’s still got the sandwiches, steak frites and other items from before, but now there’s salads, appetizers, desserts, more small plates and far more seafood.

They brought out a piece of cornbread, which was tasty, and a dollop of butter almost the size of the cornbread, which went unused.

I ordered the farmers market salad, a new item, with chicken ($13 + $5).

It’s got strawberries, currants, romaine, feta and more, plus balsamic vinaigrette. I liked it: It felt like a meal, with chicken and strawberries in nearly every bite.

The interior is rustic, with exposed rafters and ductwork, a skylight and wooden slat tables. Service was low-key and professional.

The new Meat Cellar, which opened earlier this year, was a hit immediately; drive past any evening and you’ll see plenty of diners inside through the large windows. Due to the small parking lot, Meat Cellar has valet parking, possibly the only restaurant to offer this in the Inland Valley, and you’ll see cars parked on the streets around the neighborhood for two or three blocks. It’s a more intense use than Foothill or the primarily residential neighborhood is used to, for sure. But it’s a good use of the space and a great addition to the local dining scene. Congratulations to them.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

That Zornes mural in the Claremont Post Office

Zornes’ most-viewed work is the mural inside the Claremont Post Office, which wraps around all four interior walls. (Photo by Gene Sasse)

The 1930s mural in the Claremont Post Office that wraps around all four walls near the ceiling is sometimes said to depict the view from the four points of the compass. When I wrote about Milford Zornes in my column in January, I said that was the lore, but that his son-in-law hadn’t heard the story.

It’s probably true: In my files I later found a 2007 Claremont Courier story about a talk the 99-year-old artist gave to the local Democratic Club concerning the mural.

“His design proposal was accepted without change,” reporter Bob May wrote, “and depicted the views one would see if they were on the post office property, looking in the four directions, north toward the mountains, west toward the citrus industry, south toward horse pastures and farms, and east toward the colleges and a Mexican settlement.”

(While the design was accepted without change, that’s only because Zornes fought for it and Millard Sheets, a WPA official, intervened on his behalf; postal officials didn’t like the design and had wanted the mural confined to one wall.)

Subsequently I went into the Post Office, admired the mural anew and took photos. The mural is overhead, and much longer than single photos can convey, so consider my photos merely a general guide.

This is the view looking north toward the mountains.

This is the view looking west toward the former citrus area.

Here’s the view looking south toward Chino.

And here is the view looking east toward the colleges.

“For all the criticism it took, I think that time has settled the fact that Milford was right about putting it on four walls and not one,” says son-in-law Hal Baker, who wrote the Zornes biography that was the subject of my January column.

Have you visited the Claremont Post Office? It’s at 140 N. Harvard Ave., and well worth a look. You can get a dose of culture while also mailing a letter.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Column: Honoring a reporter and what she represents

Sunday’s column pays tribute to my former colleague Monica Rodriguez, who got a warm sendoff from the Pomona City Council last Monday. I went there to be supportive and thought I might write an item on it, but some of the comments were really touching, and the whole thing provided an opportunity to reflect on newspapers and on Pomona.

Left to right above, Rubio Gonzalez, Adriana Robledo, Ginna Escobar, Monica Rodriguez, Robert Torres, Cristina Carrizosa, Elizabeth Ontiveros-Cole and Tim Sandoval.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan

Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan, 818 S. Mountain Ave. (at Mission), Ontario; open daily

Ontario doesn’t show up as often in these Restaurant of the Week posts as some cities. So when a friend suggested meeting at a carnitas specialist in south Ontario, I was all for it. Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan is in the shopping plaza on the southwest corner of Mountain and Mission.

You order at the counter, by a steam table of meats. Here’s the menu; click for a larger view. As befits the restaurant’s name, it’s pork-intensive: pork, stomach, skin and the carnitas mix, pork with brains.

But they also have beef. My friend got the two-taco combo: one pork, one birria, which is stewed beef, with rice and beans (about $9, below); I got the same, except both birria. This wasn’t on purpose. I can get a little tongue-tied at unfamiliar and ethnic restaurants.

Their tacos are large and meaty; I ate about half the beef with a fork before picking up the remainder. We both thought the tacos were quite good. She bought a bag of housemade pork rinds for her parents.

A couple of weeks later, I returned for two carnitas tacos, again as a plate. Couldn’t very well write about Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan without trying the carnitas. It was tender and flavorful.

Next door there’s a La Michoacana Ice Cream shop in case you’d like to continue the theme and maybe cool off the spicy salsa.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email