50 percent can’t see 71

A view from the 10 Freeway looking east

After my column last summer on the “Corona na” sign on the southbound 57 Freeway approaching the 71 and 10, an anonymous reader wrote me a letter about another oddity in the same area:

“As motorists approach and enter Pomona while driving east on the 10, they observe seven signs announcing Highway 71 (the Corona Freeway) and there is a two-lanes-wide exit/transition to the southbound 71.

“Conversely, motorists driving west through Pomona on the 10 are given no hint at all that Highway 71 exists.”

True. As the saying goes, you can’t get there from here. The 71 North doesn’t connect to the westbound lanes of the 10, nor can you get directly from the 71 North to the 10 East, only to the 10 West.

Because there’s no direct way to reach the 71 South when driving west on the 10, I take the Dudley/Fairplex exit, drive a few blocks south to Holt, hang a right and get on the 71 there. Presumably this will all be taken care of when the 71 becomes a freeway through Pomona — construction of which may start in 2020.

Pomona’s White Avenue only has an exit from the 10 for eastbound travelers too. If you’re headed west, there’s no exit for White, just as I believe the Kellogg Drive exit is only accessible by westbound travelers as well. Pomona has a lot of freeway quirks and this doesn’t even cover them all.

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Column: Shoppers’ memories of Broadway store live on

On Monday I compiled comments I’d solicited on Facebook about the old Broadway store into several usable paragraphs to have ready after Tuesday morning’s demolition ceremony for Wednesday’s column, due a couple of hours after I got into the office. But the ceremony proved lively enough that I didn’t have room for the previously prepared material.

So I set it aside to use in Friday’s column. Very little goes to waste here. I also have some Culture Corner items, an item about some upcoming appearances by yours truly (two of them this weekend) and a Valley Vignette. Above, a view of the store under construction from early 1968.

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Restaurant of the Week: Grill 8

Grill 8, 7890 Haven Ave. (at Church), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Grill 8 opened last year in the northern reaches of the Virginia Dare center, near Cake Among Us and the bike shop. A friend and I met there for a weekday lunch recently. Inside there’s reclaimed wood, an array of hanging bulbs and a communal counter, besides booths and tables. The place was tidy and clean.

The menu has burgers, other sandwiches, wings and salads, plus a soup of the day. They also have local beers on tap and a happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.

You order at the counter. (The website says they have “full-service dining,” but no.) My friend got the turkey avocado sandwich ($9), with havarti cheese and olive salad spread, plus a side salad; I got a turkey burger ($11), with white cheddar, and garlic fries as my side. (A third choice is onion rings.) I scraped off the avocado; sorry, not a fan.

We liked our meals. My burger was a little dry, which can happen with turkey, but it was fine. “Fun atmosphere, good food,” my friend summarized. Agreed. I would go back. I’d rather eat at the more sedate and comfortable Grill 8 than the Five Guys across the street.

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Column: Former Broadway store falls to wrecking ball

Demolition was already underway, but a public ceremony Tuesday at Montclair Place to mark the end of the old Broadway department store involved a crane with a wrecking ball slamming into the facade. Fun! I was there to witness it and write about it for Wednesday’s column. Above, a view of the store from Central Avenue; below, the south side of the store as the wrecking ball swings.

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Remembering the Bookworm

The Bookworm operated at 229 N. 2nd Ave. in Upland from 1974 to 1996. That means it closed a year before I showed up in the area, alas. Above is the storefront today, which sells antiques and architectural salvage. From 1997 to 2015, it was the Sideboard.

It was launched by nine women who had experience at the hospital auxiliary: Jo Ann Chalfant, Mary Gattas, Marge Melillo, Mary Ann Robinson, Barbara Rusche, Marilee Wake, Georgia Westphal and Robbe Wilcox, according to a Daily Report article about the opening.

What prompts this blog post is a recent article in the LA Times by Thomas Curwen about the closing of Caravan Books in downtown LA after 64 years due to the owner’s retirement. Curwen wrote:

“The landscape of Southern California is littered with memories of lost bookstores: George Sand on Melrose, the Bookworm in Upland, Fahrenheit 451 in Laguna Beach, Papa Bach in Santa Monica — shops that reflected a more idiosyncratic city.”

In an email, Curwen told me he was trying to hit the four points of the compass with those four stores. He never visited the Bookworm, but he said, “I do know that it had a good reputation.” That someone outside the area knew about the store and would think to mention it two decades later is impressive.

Here’s everything I know, or think I know, about the store.

A bookworm was the mascot, the idea of Robinson’s daughter Tricia and rendered by Westphal in images around the store and on employee smocks, according to the Report.

The store sold new rather than used books. Ray Bradbury signed books there at least once, but probably more, part of his mission to support small bookstores and libraries. A friend remembers the store as Jo Ann’s Bookworm, a hint that perhaps Jo Ann Chalfant, one of the founders, became the store’s face.

“We wanted to open a store with soul,” Chalfant said in the 1974 story. And perhaps they did, at least until the soulless chains took over bookselling.

If you remember anything about the store, feel free to chime in in the comments.

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Restaurant of the Week: Alex’s Tacos

Alex’s Tacos, 941 E. Mission Blvd. (at San Antonio), Pomona; open daily 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

In Pomona, Mission and Holt are prime taqueria corridors. On Holt, I like Tijuana’s Tacos; on Mission, Taqueria Guadalupana is a winner. But there are others. Lured by reviews on Yelp, I’ve been trying Alex’s Tacos, in a small, battered building a couple of blocks east of Towne Avenue.

Entrance is through the back, from a parking lot that has been full the couple of times I’ve tried it. Might be better to park on the street or a block over on Caswell. There’s a popular boba shop in the building next door, by the way.

Alex’s has a half-dozen booths, often full, and a counter where you can sit to eat or await a takeout order. The menu is tacos, burritos and quesadillas, with a variety of meats, including one I hadn’t seen on a menu before, sessos. I googled it. Let’s say zombies would go right for it. But there’s pork, chicken and beef as well as tongue, stomach and more.

They specialize in birria, the stew that you can get as either beef or goat, and that you can get in taco form. My first visit I got three birria tacos: two goat, one beef ($1.85 each). They came double-wrapped in flaky tortillas, with red and green salsas on the side. The meat was tender, and while my nod would go to the beef, my mind might change by next time.

My next visit, I got an al pastor burrito with everything ($6.10), delicious, the pork nice and crisp.

Realizing they had hard-shell tacos (tacos dorados), I ordered three al pastor tacos on my most recent visit ($1.85 each). The outer tortilla came crisped lightly, but still flexible; the inner tortilla was warm. I prefer soft shell, but these were good.

Alex’s also has menudo on weekends and based on Yelp reviews has a consomme for $1 that people seem to like.

Service is brisk but polite and you’ll probably have to wait a bit for your food due to demand. Be patient, it’s worth it.

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Column: In line at chicken eatery, it’s always crunch time

On a day off last week, I decided to try a popular restaurant in L.A. known for its long lines (and good food), Howlin’ Ray’s. I thought a weekday would have a shorter line. No such luck. But like with other ridiculous experiences, I thought, well, I can get a column out of this, so I’ll tough it out. The result makes up Wednesday’s column. (Print readers, bless their hearts, will miss out on the tweets embedded in or hyperlinked from the online version.)

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