Studio Art Hall, Pomona College

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Pomona College has an ambitious new building, the Studio Art Hall, deemed important enough to be visited and considered by the LA Times’ architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, who called it “absolutely worth visiting, despite the imperfect results. He further says:

“It’s hard to think of another recent project in Southern California where the forms are so forward and the material and color palette so muted. Imagine a piece of writing in all-caps but small type, or the Sex Pistols played at extremely low volume.” Ha ha!

I’m no architecture critic, nor do I have the time for a tour of the finer points, but I checked out the exterior the other morning; the building is southeast of Bridges Auditorium and replaces our old friend, the Replica House, the home built in 1937 as a replica of Pomona College’s 1888 founding building.

The outdoor stairs are, to employ architectural jargon, pretty cool.

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Restaurant of the Week: El Fortin No. 3

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El Fortin No. 3, 5368 Riverside Drive (at Ninth), Chino

A specialist in food from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, El Fortin occupies an unassuming aqua-and-white building a little east of busy Central Avenue below the 60 Freeway. I’d been meaning to go for some time. When an interview took me to that part of Chino, I went in afterward for a late lunch. (The first El Fortin (“The Fort”) is in Fullerton, the second in Stanton, according to its website. Yelp commenters appear to prefer Chino’s.)

It’s not fancy inside, with worn booths, tables, Oaxaca posters on the walls and TVs at either end of the dining room showing soccer. But it was comfortable and clean. The server brought me some very good chips with salsa and cheese.

I pored over the menu and ordered the plato especial: marinated pork and beef, plantains, guacamole, refried beans, fried cheese and, substituting for a chile relleno, a cactus salad ($8.50). I upgraded to handmade tortillas for $1 more and ordered a Jarritos soda.

The food took a little while but was well worth the wait. Delicioso! I cleaned my plate. Also, the handmade tortillas, crisped in a pan, were excellent, and they were served in a basket wrapped in a kind of doily.

The table service was friendly and the place had a nice vibe to it. And with my bill came four tiny pieces of gum, in various flavors. Back at the office, I showed them to a Latina colleague who lit up, saying she hadn’t seen Canel’s gum since she was a girl. I shared them.

Thank you, El Fortin No. 3.

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Up, up and away, in our beautiful balloon

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My Saturday morning flight in a hot air balloon from Upland’s Cable Airport to the best landing spot we could find in Claremont is the subject of Wednesday’s column. Here are some additional photos. And you can watch a short video from near the end of our flight. Above, I’m hanging on for dear life and we haven’t even left the ground.

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And we’re off! This photo and the one at top are by Christine Canepa.

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Here’s my view of essentially the same scene: a former (?) homeless encampment southwest of Cable.

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Here’s pilot Paul Cheatham with (I think) Pitzer College in the background.

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That’s the Arco station below at Foothill and Claremont Boulevard. We were drifting northwest and hoping for a decent patch on which to land, which we found at Chaparral Park.

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Above, the Eagle has landed. Actually, it’s not the Eagle, it’s the Hummingbird, Cheatham’s name for his smallest balloon. The balloon was deflated and packed away. Thus ends Dave and Paul’s Excellent Adventure.

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Al Martinez, 1929-2015

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The longtime LA Times columnist died Monday at age 85 of congestive heart failure.

I met him in Pomona in 2009. He was at Pilgrim Congregational Church as part of the Big Read for Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” to talk about his career, which included a book about his dog, Barkley. I had him sign my copy of “Dancing Under the Moon.”

I was, darn it, too shy and awed to really engage him in conversation, what with so many people around, but I did write a few paragraphs about what I observed at the dinner afterward. Martinez and his wife, Joanne, whom he called in print Cinelli, her previous name, had a conversation about his speech that was much like the exchanges that enlivened his columns.

Martinez: Could you hear me all right?

Cinelli: I could hear you pretty well.

Martinez: What does that mean? Could you hear me or couldn’t you?

Cinelli: I could hear you fine.

Martinez: Then why did you say ‘pretty well’?

Cinelli: You don’t project.

LA Observed, the site where he continued to write after the Times retired him, has a tribute.

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Foothill and Mountain, Upland

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These two old-time photos were sent to me by reader Joe Mannella. The one above is said to date from 1946. The future Stinky’s is on the left. The view is looking east on Foothill, or Route 66, with Mountain Avenue beyond the building.

An even older view is below. This is said to be from 1934, looking north on Mountain from Foothill.

These are not the best photos — they’re reproduced the size I got them, if you click on the images for a larger view — and yet they give us latecomers a glimpse of how rural Upland once was. It’s hard to reconcile these views with today’s busy intersection with retail stores, restaurants and gas stations and multiple lanes of traffic.

Thanks, Mr. Mannella.

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