Fireworks and fantasy

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If you own a unicorn in Rancho Cucamonga, you’re on the horns of a dilemma and might face a downward spiral. This sign at 19th and Haven was altered; you can see “unicorns” is pasted over the word “fireworks.” The photo was posted to a Facebook group and shared with me by reader Elizabeth Peterson Rynear, who said the sign had been removed by July 4. So if you do own one or more unicorns, it’s hard to say if animal control will be after you or not.

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Column: The Huntington is closer than you think

Sunday’s column has a bunch of Claremont items, starting with the odd coincidence (or is it?) that both the outgoing and incoming presidents of the Huntington Library in San Marino are from Claremont. (Will we Claremont residents get a discount? Are we in with the in crowd?) Also, malaprops are discussed after a recent flub of mine. Incidentally, the “editor’s note” in this column is mine. I just thought a reaction was called for.

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Restaurant of the Week: Smashburger

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Smashburger, 13855 City Center Drive (the Shoppes at Chino Hills), Chino Hills

Chino Hills gets interesting restaurants these days. In this case, the city got the Smashburger chain’s first Inland Empire location — yes, even before Victoria Gardens. I met a local friend there for lunch to try it out.

I’d heard of Smashburger, which is based in Colorado and operates in 32 states, but I hadn’t had a chance to eat at one. It’s one of the wave of better-burger restaurants. They use fresh, not frozen Angus, egg buns and fresh produce. You can get fries with rosemary, olive oil and garlic. And their shakes are made with Haagen-Dazs.

The one at the Shoppes is in a walkway across from Panera and a few yards from Dripp. It’s bigger inside than it looks. The menu has eight burgers, with create-your-own options (including six kinds of cheese), plus chicken sandwiches and salads. It’s unusual to find a Cobb salad at a place like this, but they have one. They also have a black bean vegetarian sandwich and veggie frites, which appear to be carrots and string beans served in a basket like fries.

I had the classic Smashburger ($5.39, below) with Smash fries (the ones with rosemary, olive oil and garlic, $2.29) and a Butterfinger shake ($4.59).

It was a very good burger, very close to the two I’ve had on the East Coast at Shake Shack; it was heartening, in a weird way, to know I can find their local equivalent. The fries didn’t do much for me and I left half of them. Good shake. (Trivia note: I’m a sucker for Butterfingers in ice cream, such as at Foster’s Freeze.) Did I want it as a malt? Sure. How about with whipped cream? What the heck. No extra charge for either. And you get the old-school metal cup with a little extra shake left.

My friend had the buffalo and blue cheese burger with sweet potato fries (next photo). He liked both and was especially taken by the fries. At least someone at our table finished his fries.

You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. They also check on you and take your trays, at least when it’s only moderately busy, like when we were there. I liked it.

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Reading Log: June 2015

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Books acquired: “Open City,” Teju Cole; “The Imperfectionists,” Tom Rachman; “A Pail of Air,” Fritz Leiber; “Slogging Toward the Millennium,” Bill McClellan; “A Walker in the City,” Alfred Kazin; “Eat Mexico,” Lesley Tellez.

Books read: “The Best of Fritz Leiber,” Fritz Leiber; “The Other Glass Teat,” Harlan Ellison; “The Point Man,” Steve Englehart.

June was not a shining month for me, book-wise, in a couple of ways: It was a rare month in which I bought more books than I read (I really try to avoid that), and I read only three books, not the usual four or more.

On the other hand, those three total nearly 1,100 pages, and two of them have languished unread since the early 1980s, so this wasn’t such a bad month. And to have bought only five books on a vacation in which I visited four bookstores demonstrates remarkable restraint, at least in my eyes. The sixth book is by a friend and was a must-buy.

Overall, then, it wasn’t such a bad month. The books weren’t bad either. I want to single out the Leiber collection, which based on the store stamp came from Ventura’s Book Rack, I would say about five or six years ago, although it may really have been bought at Ralph’s Comic Corner in the same city. I hadn’t read anything by Leiber, a respected fantasy writer, but I’m glad I read this. Most of the stories are distinctive and a few were remarkable, such as “The Man Who Never Grew Young.” It’s one of those pieces of writing where when you realize what he’s doing your mouth falls open. I bought another out-of-print Leiber collection on vacation just to have one around.

Ellison’s book is the second of two that collect his LA Free Press columns on TV from the late ’60s and early ’70s; as before, his essays are more about youth culture, politics and the times than about TV. But this does serialize a script he wrote for “The Young Lawyers,” as well as present two blistering, over-the-top columns after the episode was filmed and aired in a manner not to his liking. The copy I read is from the ’70s, purchased in the past decade, but I have an ’80s edition that I got when it was published, making “The Other Glass Teat” one of the older unread books on my shelves.

I got 150 pages into a 450-page third book that there was no way I was going to finish in June. Rather than finish only two books this month, I set that aside (look for it next month) to read the 350-page, but breezier, novel by Englehart, a well-known Marvel Comics scripter of the 1970s. I bought it used a couple of years after its 1981 publication but never felt compelled to read it. It’s about a San Francisco disc jockey who gets embroiled in mystical doings, which Englehart ends up explaining at more detailed length that was probably good for his plot. “The Point Man” is still commonly found in used bookstores, and he’s since written one or two sequels.

We’re halfway through 2015 and I’ve managed to stick, more or less, to my reading plan for the year. I’ve read 35 books, but as 17 of those were read in one month (March), and with some large books ahead of me, I’m not going to get much past 50 this year. My next six months are likely to involve more old science fiction, with a smattering of fiction and nonfiction (my annual Jack Smith book still lies ahead). How was your month, and are you reading what you hoped to be reading?

Next month: That book I started in June (assuming I finish it), and more.

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Oldest surviving restaurants in LA

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The Los Angeles Beat blog compiled an amazing list of LA and environs’ oldest surviving restaurants, organized by year of opening. Oldest: Santa Clarita’s Saugus Cafe, 1905. A number of Inland Valley restaurants are on the list, including Sycamore Inn (1939), Vince’s Spaghetti (1946), Magic Lamp (1955), La Paloma (1966) and more, even if they can be hard to spot in scrolling.

Oldest restaurant out our way: 1918’s Golden Spur in Glendora. (Photo from the KoHoSo site.)

See the list here, and congratulations to Nikki Kreuzer for the labor of love in putting it together, and in adding to it based on reader comments.

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Remembering Don’s Hobby Hut

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Above, the vacant lot where Mustang Books used to stand.

In January I posted about the demolition of Mustang Books, a long-standing dirty book emporium on Upland’s Central Avenue. But that wasn’t the first business in that building. Michael Guerin, who was the subject of a 2012 post about the Grove Theatre Pal Club of his youth, emailed me about more innocent shop of the 1960s. Take it away, Michael:

“Every time I pass the site of the former adult bookstore on the west side of Central just south of Foothill I am reminded of an earlier hobby shop that occupied the building.

“It was the 1960s and the concrete block building at the front of that lot was owned by a man named Don Domes and operated under the name Don’s Hobby Hut.

“This was at the time the only decent place to buy model cars and airplanes, early remote control aircraft and other hobby stuff.

“Don was a trendsetter in that he even had discontinued Revell or Monagram plastic model kits up on the high shelf available for some exorbitant price for those that were real aficionados.

“That place may have kept me alive in my elementary school years even into early teens.

“I don’t know that anyone’s mentioned it and it certainly doesn’t show any Google searches but I thought I would reminisce about it anyway in case it comes up in other conversations about local history.

“I think it closed down in the late ’70s or early ’80s and later as we all know it became a hobby shop of a different sort before being closed down and later bulldozed.”

Thanks, Michael. Now, if someone ever Googles “Don’s Hobby Hut Upland,” they’ll get one useful result.

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