No cross words out of me

The Claremont Courier’s crossword puzzle of Feb. 3 was brought to my attention by the Courier’s editor due to the clue for 17 Across: “Longtime Claremont writer for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.” My name is the answer to a crossword puzzle? I’ve finally made it!

I doubt I’ve ever successfully worked a crossword to the end, but at least this time there’s one sure answer, and I felt comfortable filling it in in ink. (On a photocopy of the puzzle. The original must be kept minty-fresh.) How many Courier readers were stumped, I wonder?

Click on the image above if you’d like to try to work the puzzle yourself.

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Column: For widower, these negatives were a positive

A man’s quest for photos of his late wife led him to the Pomona Public Library, where a vast collection of photo negatives turned up a packet of photos from their 1957 wedding. The story makes up Sunday’s column, an early Valentine’s Day edition. Above, senior librarian Pat Lambert holds up one of the negatives; below, a scan of one of the negatives, showing Jess Kraus and his bride, Janet.

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Column: Complaints about flooded streets rain down on Chino

I attended Tuesday’s Chino council meeting and learned that more than three dozen residents had pelted City Hall with letters about impacts of the recent rains in south Chino, which is only partly developed. Officials urged patience, explaining that further development will provide money to improve streets and drainage. Also: a clutch of Culture Corner items and a Valley Vignette, all in Friday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: Los Jarritos

Los Jarritos, 3191 N. Garey Ave. (at Foothill), Pomona; open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Sundays, until 2 p.m.

For years this restaurant was known as Los Jarritos II, because the original Los Jarritos was on Towne Avenue near downtown. But that one closed a year or so ago, it seems, turning the more-popular II into simply Los Jarritos. Probably as it should be. I never went to LJ I but have been to II several times over the years. It’s in the Grove Center south of Foothill Boulevard.

It’s a well-liked spot, busy with takeout orders and with full service in the two dining rooms, where tables are neatly arranged in rows on the tiled floors, lots of natural light flooding in through the floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. They sell menudo on weekends, filling pots that people bring in from home. Los Jarritos isn’t fancy, but on the other hand it’s in better shape than a lot of restaurants in aging shopping centers.

I was there for lunch this week with John Clifford, a frequent commenter on this blog, who has been blogging at Eating Garey for the past year as he hits every food establishment on that thoroughfare. His wife, Deborah, tagged along. He blogged about our lunch the next day, a post that can be read here.

Los Jarritos has a short menu, consisting mostly of burritos, although they’ll make you tacos, enchiladas or breakfast (where burritos again seem to be the main event). Asada, shredded beef, chorizo and machaca are the main fillings. I went with chicken, Deb got asada and John got a chile relleno and enchilada plate. (I’m not sure of the prices as Deb grabbed the check while I was interviewing John for an upcoming column, bless her heart, but the burritos were around $7 each and the total came to $35 with drinks.)

John found his rice pleasantly garlicky, his beans creamy and his entree very good, other than his chicken enchilada being on the dry side. Deb liked her burrito and side of beans. John and I were unexcited by the liquid salsa, although Deb was all praise. My burrito was a little dry, as chicken tends to be. I recall liking earlier meals more, probably asada and shredded beef burritos, if memory serves. It had been five or six years since my last visit.

Service was acceptable, and it was interesting to see the ebb and flow in the two hours we spent eating and blabbing: Plenty busy upon our 1 p.m. arrival, nearly empty by 2 and, around 2:30, half full again as a new wave of customers drifted in.

Los Jarritos, now the one and only, is hanging in there as a solid neighborhood choice in north Pomona.

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‘The Void’/’The Warp Gate’

An unusual Inland Valley phenomenon of the 1980s was named The Void. I had heard only passing references to it over the years until a description by Kent Crowley in his Foothills Reader history column in 2015 about local Halloween-ish spots. Let me quote him in full (with one interjection).

“Ghost hunters are warned to stay away from the corner that extends from Route 66 north to Base Line Road along Benson Avenue near the Upland/Claremont border” — can you follow that? — “because in the 1980s thrill seekers sought a rumored mysterious ‘void’ on the property that gradually enveloped people in total darkness and unearthly silence. Some say the void was a gateway between dimensions or between the spirit and material worlds.”

Some say, eh? What about the rest of you? Did you ever experience The Void? Have you heard stories about it?

Update: On Facebook, where almost no one had heard of this — not surprisingly, since it can’t possibly exist — one man invoked the alternative name for the phenomena: The Warp Gate. He wrote: “Still there…south of 210 where they’re building new homes. Does that mean the new homeowners will disappear? Lol.”

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Slow Sunday

My usual practice, as you may recall, is to not only avoid the Super Bowl but to get out and about during the game. Due to the chilly weather and press of things to do, inspiration was lacking, and my early thought of training in to LA was dropped.

But after a quiet hour at home tackling some paperwork clutter, a long-overdue and satisfying task, I ventured to Montclair to make a run to Target, which was relatively unpopulated, and then to Barnes and Noble, which seemed to have a normal amount of customers, although by that point the game may have been over, or ending. I’ll have to plan better next year.

If you skipped the (yawn) big game, what did you do?

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Reading Log: January 2017

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Books acquired: none

Books read: “Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters,” Anne K. Mellor; “A Tramp Abroad,” Mark Twain

Happy New Year, readers! A fresh year, a fresh start. What will this year hold for our reading lives? Books and plenty of ’em, let’s hope, with good ones outnumbering the duds, likewise.

January saw me finish two books. Not an auspicious start, perhaps, but one has to start somehow. And as these books were rather dense, maybe it qualifies as an auspicious start after all. One was a biography and analysis of Mary Shelley’s life and work, the other an 1880 travel memoir by America’s arguably greatest writer.

You’ll recall that last year I read “Frankenstein” and “The Last Man,” not to mention Muriel Spark’s biography of Shelley. Putting a bow on my mild obsession, Mellor’s book (bought earlier in the year at Iliad in North Hollywood) was begun in December and finished the first few days of January.

The UCLA prof approaches her subject from a feminist perspective, and she’ll make you think of “Frankenstein” in a fresh way, both textually (disaster occurs when a man tries to have a baby without a woman — mull that a moment) and biographically (when Victor Frankenstein flees from his newborn creation, is Shelley criticizing her husband’s poor parenting skills?). Good analysis of the underrated “The Last Man” too. For scholarship, quite readable, but it’s docked for use of the words “teleological,” “semiotics” and “phenomenological.”

Twain’s fourth of five travel memoirs has been a sort of white whale for me, to invoke another great American author. I was reading a Twain a year through 2011. I planned to read “A Tramp Abroad” in 2012 and then 2013. In my review of my 2013 reading at the start of 2014, this is what I wrote: “How did I not read any Mark Twain for two straight years?! Definitely I’ll read ‘A Tramp Abroad’ this year. Of course, last year in this space I said I’d be starting it ‘any day now.’ I won’t make that promise, but I will read it.”

Heh. What with one thing or another, it kept getting put off. But last year I read his “Autobiography,” and early in January I started “A Tramp Abroad.” Let me note that I read an abridged version in high school, one prepared by Charles Neider, a respected Twain scholar, who said the full book was padded with digressions and dull appendices. But as a grownup, and more of a Twainiac, I wanted to read the full book (bought from Amazon back when I thought I’d be reading it momentarily).

“Tramp” does have its ho-hum passages, and overall Twain’s journey through Germany and Switzerland doesn’t have quite the zing or variety as “Innocents Abroad,” “Roughing It” or “Life on the Mississippi.” So, big deal, it’s a 4-star book, not a 5-star book. “Tramp” is wry, smart, sly, insightful, descriptive and hilarious. You owe it to yourself to read Chapter 13, in which Twain stumbles around his hotel room in the dark rather than risk awaking his travel companion. It is so relatable, one of those pieces of writing that bridges the gulf of years, and if you don’t laugh aloud, you have a funny bone of stone. Visit your local library or download the book just for that chapter.

All that said, Neider’s compressed version of “Tramp” would suit most readers. But I’m happy to have read the full version. It felt very good getting this one out of the way at last, and ditto with the Shelley holdover.

February will see me pick up the pace a bit, I think. For 2017, I may hit 40 again, my total from last year, and many of the books I expect to read are ones that have been waiting for me the past couple of years as my reading choices skewed to my oldest books. I’m really looking forward to this reading year. It feels like I’m back on track.

How was your January, and what do you expect from 2017 as a reader?

Next month: Four or five books, man — with “man” in their titles.

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Who let the dogs out?

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A woman and her daughter were leaving Waba Grill in Rancho Cucamonga last Thursday and encountered this parked car “with three cute canines who appear to be trying out for a Subaru commercial,” reader Louise Shane, who passed along the photo, reports.

“The German Shepherd remained calm and quiet in the rear, the ‘driver’ Pit Bull appeared to be looking past the steering wheel to get a better look at my friend, and the ‘passenger’ was standing guard barking and barking, protecting the car and his/her car mates.”

As long as they don’t slip the car into neutral, everything’s cool.

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