Friday’s column is about my vacation in Chicago, from food to attractions to an unusual shuttle ride from the airport. Have you been to Chicago yourself? What were your impressions? Above, “Cloud Gate,” or “The Bean” as it’s popularly known, in Millennium Park.
Snow Station, 1 N. Indian Hill Blvd. (at railroad tracks), Claremont
Claremont is a good ice cream town, or more accurately frozen dessert town, for which it doesn’t get enough credit. In the Village there’s Bert and Rocky’s (traditional ice cream), A La Minute (nitrogen ice cream), 21 Choices and Yogurtland (frozen yogurt), with another 21 Choices and a Baskin Robbins near each other on Foothill. And now there’s Snow Station.
Formerly a Verizon store, and then Pie St. pizza, this little shop is at the south end of what we might call the American Apparel building. Blink and you’ll miss it. Snow Station appears to be winning the battle despite its location.
It’s a franchise of a slightly different concept, a vegan ice cream parlor, although it’s not billing itself that way. The offerings are described as a blend of ice cream and frozen yogurt, both non-dairy because soy milk is used. “No longer do vegans and lactose intolerant individuals have to watch while others enjoy ice cream or frozen yogurt,” the back of the menu reads. The result is said to be lighter in calories, which I can believe, because it’s not dense.
Flavors and toppings are reminiscent of Yogurtland.
There are three sizes: mini ($4), baby ($6) and hungry ($8). My first visit was with a friend, and we each got the mini size, which looks like the kind of cup in which you’d get two scoops. For that price you get your choice of ice cream, topping and drizzle. I went with peanut butter, bananas and honey; my friend got raspberry, Heath bar and nothing. (She was a fizzle on drizzle.)
What you get is snowy, almost like shaved ice, snow with milk or homemade ice cream from the days when you churned it yourself. (Have you had the latter two? I have, although it’s been decades.)
“This is very refreshing, isn’t it?” my friend said. “It’s very tasty. This doesn’t give you brain freeze, either.” I agreed.
I liked it enough I went back a couple of weeks later. This time I got pineapple with strawberries and honey, another good combo, at the same size. I will say Snow Station isn’t quite as satisfying as traditional, dense ice cream, or even frozen yogurt. Another customer was heard to say, by way of praise, “It’s almost fluffy.” But it’s unique, light and very good.
Also, it’s kind of cool when a Metrolink train goes by.
Books acquired: “Preston Falls,” David Gates; “From Bill, With Love,” Bill McClellan; “The Fiddler on the Subway,” Gene Weingarten; “The Silent Invaders,” Robert Silverberg; “The Best of Henry Kuttner,” Henry Kuttner; “The Puppies of Terra,” Thomas M. Disch; “Marooned on Mars,” Lester del Rey.
Books read: “Forgotten Bookmarks,” Michael Popek; “The Complete Stories,” Flannery O’Connor.
Greetings, bookish ones! We’re halfway through 2016, a year that (among many other things) has seen me read 19 books, my slowest pace since I started these blog posts in January 2009 (a mini-essay that included the offhand promise, “If I remember, I’ll write one of these posts each month”).
In my defense, if one must defend one’s reading pace, a few of these books have been long, including one of this month’s. Too, though, I’ve taken fewer Metrolink trips, which would reliably provide time to read 50 or 100 pages, and my coffeehouse visits, rather than give me reading time, have given me laptop/wifi time.
So I’m on pace for a mere 38 books. That’s 38 more than most Americans are likely to read this year, but not up to my usual standards. I have a pretty good idea what else I’m likely to read this year, give or take, and while I might put on a burst of speed and get to 40, at this point 35 or 36 seems more likely.
Well, let’s get to what I did read. All of June, the last week or so of May and the first day of July was spent reading the 550-page “Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor. She’s the author of the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” read by many, including me, in school. Generations of students have quietly and humorously rendered the title as “A Hard Man is Good to Find.” But it’s a great story. In a college class, we read at least two of these 31 stories.
This book has haunted my shelves ever since, awaiting the day when I would read the whole thing. That day finally came — over a period of about six weeks. Actually, I intended only to reread those two stories and abandon the book, but then I read another, and another, and gave in, committing to the whole thing.
O’Connor, who died in 1964, was a Southern writer who wrote about the South in mid-century. Her stories can be funny and horrifying, sometimes at the same time, and most have a devastating impact. Some find her stories too cruel, her characters too idiotic, and it’s true too that her concerns, often race and class, as well as morality and duty, are repetitive. I ate these up. O’Connor should be as well known as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and she’s more consistent than either. Highly recommended.
“Forgotten Bookmarks” was compiled by a bookhound who photographs unusual items left in books acquired by his family’s used bookstore. He has an enjoyable blog. I expected to enjoy this book more than I did; the problem, I think, is that too many of the items are curiosities like letters left in 19th century books. There just wasn’t much fizz here.
That book was a gift from earlier this year, while O’Connor’s dates to my college days, probably 1985. There’s a sticker on the back from the University of Illinois campus bookstore, although I’m pretty sure I bought it at the campus used bookstore, Acres of Books, now long gone. Aside from my Shakespeare omnibus, from which I read a play now and then, “Stories” was the oldest unread book in my possession. My goal the past couple of years was to finish all my “Illinois” books by June 2016, 30 years after my move to California, and I almost made it. Onward to California books!
You’ll note I bought seven books in June, the result of visits to six bookstores, most of them while on vacation. I’ll post soon about the lone non-vacation store.
How was your June, readers, and how is your year shaping up at this halfway mark?
Next month: the end times (in a manner of speaking).
In my first column since returning from vacation, I write about Claremont’s Independence Day parade and Speakers Corner, both quaintly homespun activities. Also: Culture Corner items and some notes on reminders of home during my vacation. All this in Wednesday’s column.
Susan Wood worked for Peter Sellers when she was Sue Evans and living in London, hired as his personal assistant and spending a decade minding his affairs. She tells me about it for my Sunday column.
(Secrets behind the columns: I wrote this prior to vacation but held it to help the editors fill up the paper since there’s a minimal staff for the long weekend.)
To reiterate from the end of Wednesday’s column, I’m on vacation for the next week (at this point), with a column filed for July 3, to help the editors fill a paper during a three-day weekend. I’ll be back at my desk July 5 — and with a column due about three hours later. Well, I’ll deal with that then. Also, I saved some items in case I need them, which I probably will. Enjoy the tail end of June and the July Fourth weekend!
Perhaps the most unusual Independence Day activity locally is the Speakers Corner in Claremont, meant to celebrate the First Amendment. Wednesday’s column starts with a few words about that, followed by two culinary items with Chino Valley connections, an update on an old-time journalist mentioned here recently and a note that I’m on vacation.
It’s been 11 years since Pomona’s last movie theater, Indian Hill Cinemas, closed. Now, a company named Maya Cinemas is pushing to build a multiplex not along a freeway but in downtown. The story makes up my Sunday column.
The bell tower on the Chaffey High campus in Ontario hasn’t told the correct time consistently, or rung its bells, in years. But everything is now working again after the whole assembly was replaced, and the chimes can be heard on the hour from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, even from blocks away. The story is in my Friday column.