Card-carrying library patron


I got an Ontario City Library card the other afternoon. I had always thought of getting one, especially after shaming Gary Ovitt into signing up a few years ago, under the theory that the guy whose name is on the building ought to have one. Since I only work here rather than live here, I didn’t know if I qualified.

But then I was volunteered (note verb tense) to help get library cards to kindergartners, and that seemed like a good time to ask what the rules are, because it felt like if I were handing out cards, I should have one. Turns out anyone can get one. So I got one.

Later, the library director, Helen McAlary, told me there’s no residency requirement because so many potential users may work in the city but live elsewhere, or have some other reason for wanting to visit.

There’s not even a minimum age. “Even a newborn can be given one,” she said. “But we prefer they be old enough to know what they’re getting.”

I didn’t check anything out, and given all the unread books and unwatched DVDs in my home, I don’t know when I will. But I can, if the mood strikes. When the circulation clerk told me I could check out 20 items at a time, my heart beat a little faster. It took me back to the excitement of getting a library card as a boy and all the happy hours I spent at the library.

Thanks, Ontario.

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Column: Latest dirt on Claremont City Hall is in a mound


A mound of dirt was fronting Claremont City Hall on Monday. Baseball? No, it’s part of the renovations to the landscaping. Ontario City Hall has also torn out its lawn. That’s the first part of my Wednesday column, followed by five Chino Valley items, three Culture Corner items and one about the royal family that comes from (why not?) a reader in La Verne.

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Reading Log: August 2015


Books acquired: none

Books read: “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,” Jules Verne; “Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?” Diane Ratican; “Deus Irae,” Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny; and “Valis,” Philip K. Dick.

August ended with four books read. Well, technically, August ended with three books read, but I finished “Valis” at lunch on Sept. 2, so I’m counting it.

“Why LA? Pourquois Paris?” was left on my desk at work, by unknown parties; presumably it was a freebie sent to us, as it was published this year. The author is from Pasadena and has lived in Paris. She wrote chapters comparing her two favorite cities, LA and Paris, in various ways, enlivened by many pages of whimsical illustrations. Lightweight but charming. I jotted down many ideas from the Paris sections in case I visit again, as I suspect I will. The LA advice is pretty good too.

I’d read “A Journey to the Center of the Earth” as a lad but remembered not a whit of it. After reading “Around the World in 80 Days” and rereading “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” in recent years, I wanted to tackle this one too, in my childhood copy. I read it in an unusual way: a few pages in bed per night. It took me six or eight weeks this way. Normally I would never read a novel in such incremental fashion, but 1) it’s episodic, 2) the chapters are short and 3) it’s not compelling. The science is laughable — dinosaurs and an ocean-like lake under the Earth! — but the story is cute, and a little better than the other two Vernes, maybe because the narrator is likable.

“Deus Irae” and “Valis” are two latter period Dick novels, and purely by accident they made a good pairing, both being about spiritual concerns and both including, in passing, the idea of God existing in a humble brown clay pot. Also, in the first one, a character thinks he can find God by hallucinating on drugs; that idea is dismissed in one line in the second.

I couldn’t possibly describe the plot of these two books to anyone’s satisfaction, but they’re among Dick’s better books. Some say “Valis” is his masterpiece, and while it was a little static for me, it was very good.

The three novels are all purchases dating to my childhood or young adulthood. Only eight of those very old books remain on my shelves to be read. Progress.

What did you read in August, and have you read any of my four?

Next month: More progress, and almost certainly something by Robert Benchley.


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Column: Not a doctor, but he delivered a medical school

Did you know there’s a nearly 3,900-student collection of medical schools in downtown Pomona? Well, maybe you did, but if you didn’t, you’ve probably heard the name or seen the signs for Western University of Health Sciences and wondered what it was. It began 38 years ago under the direction of founding president Philip Pumerantz, and despite long odds, it succeeded. With Pumerantz’s retirement, I ask him how he did it. One answer: a motivational showtune. Find out more in my Sunday column.

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Restaurant of the Week: Lobster Grill


Lobster Grill, 3210 Chino Ave. (at the 71), Chino Hills; closed Mondays

I’ve passed by Lobster Grill when seeing movies at the Harkins 18 but only visited recently after a positive comment on FB from reader David Saw about the lobster rolls. As a lobster roll fan, I figured I should give the place a try.

On my first visit, though, I went with something different. The menu is much like Pacific Fish Grill elsewhere in town, with seafood plates and sides, and the style is fast-casual, bringing the cost down. So I ordered grilled swordfish ($12) with garlic butter sauce, rice pilaf and steamed vegetables; it comes with a thin piece of garlic toast.

Pretty good, and on a third visit my order was very similar, only with mahi mahi ($12) instead. I didn’t like it as much and the vegetables are kind of boring.

Now, how about that lobster roll? That came on my second visit: the sandwich, New England style, with fries ($11). This is a cold roll with a kind of lobster salad, on a warm piece of folded bread that will remind you of Sizzler’s “Texas toast.” I prefer the Connecticut style of lobster roll, which is served warm, but this was a good New England roll, with a generous helping of lobster. The fries were tasty too.

The menu is slightly more seafood-intense than the local competitors, with clams, mussels and oysters on the half-shell, and with Cajun buckets ($28 to $35). That said, I’m a little wary of ordering oysters from a place that doesn’t really specialize in them, and for the same reason I’ve shied away from crab legs and such.

Overall, I prefer Pacific Fish Grill. But Lobster Grill is all right for the basics, and the parking is easier than at the Shoppes, where Pac Fish is. Candidly, I don’t remember much about Fish-O-Licious, so I’m not sure where it rates in the Chino Hills spectrum (as opposed to the Chino Spectrum Marketplace) of cheap-ish seafood joints.

The Lobster Grill interior is pleasant enough, orange plastic seats and paper-covered tables, although lately I’ve just been happy for the air conditioning.




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San Dimas center now fresher, easier


Sometimes I’ll shop at the Fresh and Easy in San Dimas, which is at Bonita Avenue and San Dimas Canyon Road. I used to go to one in Upland, but after the chain’s drastic cutback, the next-nearest F&E is in Fontana. The San Dimas store is in a newish center, built circa 2008, around the time of the recession, and has been otherwise unoccupied.

But no more. On my last visit, suddenly there were tenants: Butter Cafe and Bakery, My Nail Spa and 3rd Street Pizza, all visible above, left to right. One or two storefronts are still unoccupied, but this was a vast improvement. I go to the center about once a month and don’t believe any of these were there my previous visit. (Based on its website, Butter is worth a look.)

A Fresh and Easy manager, who had been transferred from the closed Day Creek store in Rancho Cucamonga, told me that unlike many locations that were leased, the grocery chain owns the whole center. “We’re not going anywhere,” he said.

Good to hear.

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Column: From rape victim to addict to survivor

Alisa Kaplan was the victim of a gang rape in 2002 that made news around Southern California and beyond for its shocking nature. The Rancho Cucamonga teenager successfully weathered the two trials it took to convict the assailants but descended into alcoholism and drug addiction. Now sober and advocating for victims herself, she’s published a memoir and talks to me for a long, emotional Sunday column. It’s the first time I’ve written anything quite like this, and the first time we’ve run an editor’s note warning readers they’re about to encounter graphic language. Be prepared.

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