Wet view at Bon View

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Ontario reader and fiscal watchdog Earl DeVries sent this photo of Ontario’s Bon View Elementary after reading mention in Friday’s column about its newfound status. “This school has the money to put up a new sign as the International Baccalaureate School but can’t fix its sprinklers,” DeVries groused. “I guess there is no drought in OMSD, even in their coffers. Money and water to waste.”

He added that the school has three flag poles but only flies two flags. Maybe the third flag could be for Waterworld.

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Bye-bye, Brand Bookshop

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Brand Bookshop is one of my favorites, both for what it is and where it is. It’s a great used bookstore, open since 1985, with personality and a deep selection of 100,000 books. And it’s located on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, the downtown drag, with shops and restaurants all around and, across the street, the grand 1925 Art Deco Alex Theatre and a second used bookstore, Book Fellows. Best block in SoCal? Well, it’s not, but it’s in the running.

Brand, alas, is closing next month. Owner Jerome Joseph, who’s in his 80s, suffered a fall last year and can no longer run the business, according to a sad story in the Glendale News-Press, and his son, Noriaki Nakano, who’s 66, is ready to retire.

The store, at 231 N. Brand, never really made the transition to the Internet age, and up until a year or two ago still contacted customers (like me) by postcard to announce sales. I only visited once a year or so, but I usually bought something and sometimes sold something.

Joseph was a bookstore owner of the old school. He knew his stock well and had a quick wit and a sharp tongue. He referred to employees, even his son, in gentlemanly fashion as Mr. or Ms.

“Mr. Nakano!” he would call out. “Do we have” — and he would name a title. “We do, Mr. Joseph,” his son might say.

A small touch, but the store sold handmade bookmarks made from laminated foreign postage stamps. I think they sold for $1 from a basket in front of the register; Joseph once gave me one with my purchase. It’s lovely (see picture at bottom) and I still use it.

One that got away: a vintage slipcased set of the then-three “Dune” novels by Frank Herbert was on the paperback SF shelves about three years ago for $15, or maybe $12. I saw it, thought about it, walked away. Ten minutes later, having persuaded myself, I walked back to claim it and it was already gone.

One example of the store’s personality: the copious number of categories. The LA Times says a master list was available at the counter and bore “1,500 highly curated categories,” citing a few: Papacy & Vatican, ESP, General Military Aviation, Sea Adventures, Gold Rush and Shrubbery. The ones I loved were in the sociology area, side by side on the same shelf: Hoboes and Elitism and the Rich (see below).

Passing by on the 101 on June 5, I stopped at Brand for old times’ sake. Books are 50 percent off the marked price. Shelves were starting to empty, although they still had tens of thousands, and to slip into alphabetical disarray.

I didn’t buy anything as I’m on a book diet, but I’m glad to have stopped in to say goodbye to paths I have trod many times: graphic novels to classics to science fiction to mystery to fiction and then through the doorway to the store’s far side: books on books, humor, music and California. In retrospect I wish I’d bought a second bookmark.

Bookfellows (238 N. Brand) is arguably superior, at least for genre reading, and I’ll still visit it on days when the Alex (216 N. Brand) screens a classic I want to see, but I’ll miss having that other store, Brand Bookshop, the third leg of a great cultural triangle.

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Column: ‘Pomona A to Z’ now in convenient book form

Sunday’s column has my first mention in print (i.e., not on my blog) of my upcoming book, “Pomona A to Z,” and details about the launch party this Friday. And there’s an awesome photo.

I had originally figured I would write a whole column about my book, but modesty got the best of me. Instead, the column continues with four Ontario items and five Culture Corner items, as well as a plug for this blog.

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Restaurant of the Week: Salpicon

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Salpicon Salvadoran Cuisine, 2252 S. Euclid (at Philadelphia), Ontario; open daily

There aren’t many places around here to get the food of El Salvador, where pupusas (thick, stuffed tortillas) are the most common export. Pomona’s Guasalmex is probably the best known local spot.

But I was advised to try Salpicon, which is just above the 60 Freeway in a shopping center with a Food 4 Less and not one but two restaurants specializing in food from the Mexican state of Sinaloa. (A Chipotle is also muscling its way in.) I went in for dinner on a recent World Cup soccer night.

Salpicon is clean, well-lighted and pleasant, with high-backed booths, a dozen colorful paintings of Salvadoran scenes, two TVs and sitdown service. I went for the salpicon dinner ($12), a sort of salad of finely chopped beef mixed with onion, mint, lemon and radish, served at room temperature. The dinner came with rice, beans, small lettuce salad and plantains, seven of ‘em, plus handmade tortillas.

This was enough food for two, on a plate like a serving platter. I liked it all. The beans were especially interesting, pureed into a texture like a spread. I took half my dinner home and got a second meal out of it.

To drink, I had an ensalada, an agua fresca described as pineapple water with diced pineapple and apple ($3.75); tasty and healthful.

Salpicon — see the menu here — has breakfast, soups and salads, eight entrees, a variety of pupusas and a few desserts, which looked tempting. I guess I could have eaten one-third of my dinner and had dessert…

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Farewell to a reader’s friend

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This pillow chair, useful for reading in bed, was one of those cheap objects that prove incredibly useful and durable. My parents bought it for me for Christmas when I was about 15 and I used it ever since — until earlier this year, when I decided the poor thing had supported me, or at least my back and my reading habits, long enough.

Mine was purchased by mail order (probably Sears), and in the intervening years I never saw another one until relatively recently, when I found them at Target. Wow, they still make these things! They’re known alternately as chair pillows, pillow chairs, bed rests and reading pillows.

I resisted parting with mine, though, even after sending it through a giant washing machine at a laundromat, which got it clean but also worsened splits in the fabric. Bits of orange foam kept popping out. This thing had stuck with me and I was sticking with it. And, on 90-degree summer nights, to it.

After a couple of years of this, I finally decided to buy a new one.

I did, for a mere $10, at the Target in Pomona, and wondered why I hadn’t done this earlier. The old one went into the trash with little regret. I guess I needed to wait until the time felt right. I like the new one too. It’s a comfortable way to sit up in bed without messing with pillows.

Above is the tattered old one with what I think was the last book I read with it: Neil Young’s “Waging Heavy Peace.” Farewell, old friend, and thanks for the support.

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‘Too bready’: Restaurant of the Week descriptions

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Rather than give you a Restaurant of the Week right before a holiday weekend, here’s something Restaurant of the Week-related that I’ve meant to share for weeks now.

My friend Pam Arterburn gave me a silly but thoughtful homemade gift back in March for my birthday: She power-read her way through all my past restaurant blog posts and compiled her favorite descriptions or observations into a poster. Ha ha! (Click on the image for a larger view.)

You can judge for yourselves what the phrases add up to, but she said she was struck by how low-key and middle of the road they were, and so was I. With a couple of bolder exceptions (“excellent,” “amazing”) they stake out very modest territory. What can I say, I don’t feel qualified to write these restaurant posts anyway, so why go out on a limb?

Before you ask, she placed Bieber stickers on the poster because I’m a superstar. Obviously.

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