Pausing for Pinkberry in Pasadena

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Have you tried the trendy frozen yogurt yet? It’s been the craze in LA, now the SGV has it. Pinkberry moved into Old Pasadena this month on Fair Oaks, just a door or two south of Cheesecake Factory where the Badabing Pizza used to be. Saturday night in Old Pas, looking for a parking space, getting change for the meter (thank you guy at Jamba Juice), annoying my wife who wasn’t so keen on my stopping to satisfy my sweet tooth yet keep me on my diet. The store is small, tiny, and the staff makes yogurt cups (they only have plain or vanilla and green tea) faster than that place down the street, 21 Choices. It took me a good 45 minutes to get a nonfat yogurt there with bananas and stawberries.
The Pinkberry is real yogurt. It was surprisingly sour. My colleague described it as “tangy.” It swirls up nicely in a cup and you can pack it kiwi, strawberries or carob chips and almond slices. It’s a bit pricey — about $5 or more for a medium cup with toppings.
I can’t say I’m obsessed. Not sure it’s heroin chic. But I enjoyed eating something that has not yet landed in Northern California. Call it “Only in LA,” as the woman seated at the tiny table from San Francisco told me. The City By The Bay doesn’t have it. Love getting one up on NoCal. Then she mentioned Beard Papa’s, which I tried when visiting San Francisco last August. They’re these delicious cream-filled pastries that also come encased in semi-sweet chocolate. Guess what? There is a Beard Papa’s store on Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia, just south of Huntington Drive. Good for once a month. Definitely NOT on the diet, though.
Pinkberry, which is low-fat and low-carbs, may become a habit. Just keep it out of San Francisco.

The San Gabriel connection

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John Steven McGroarty

If it weren’t for John Steven McGroarty’s writings, the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium would not exist.
On Wednesday, 95 years will have passed since the first performance of McGroarty’s amazingly successful “The Mission Play” was staged.
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His play was based on the history of Father Junipero Serra and the California missions and ran for 20 years straight (take that, “Fantastiks”) and was seen by 2.5 million people. In 1924, the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium was built to house the overflow who came to watch McGroarty’s play.
I confess to not knowing the history of the San Gabriel Civic, nor much about McGroarty, who was also a journalist, the state poet laureate (1933-1944), and a two-term congressman.
That is, until Saturday, when I went to a party put on by the Independent Writers of Southern California (my wife is a member) at the McGroarty Arts Center in Tujunga, the house where McGroarty lived. Upstairs, in a dimly lit study of wood-beamed ceilings, were other artifacts from his life. They included: a wooden night stick given him by Los Angeles County Sheriff Biscaluz; a copy of his column “From the Green Verdugo Hills” that ran in the L.A. Times; and a silver Tournament of Roses trophy with the inscription “Mission Play float, Jan. 1, 1924.”
McGroarty’s poems won him the poet laureate job, including one called “Just California” memorized by school kids for years after.
But being a fan of politics and a protector of the environment, I found this item of interest. It was a letter written to a constituent in 1934 while McGroarty had been in Congress just a few months: “One of the countless drawbacks of being in Congress is that I am compelled to receive impertinent letters from a jackass like you in which you say I promised to have the Sierra Madre mountains reforested and I have been in Congress two months and haven’t done it. Will you please take two running jumps and go to hell.”
Seems like the guy never lost his ability for telling it like it is.

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McGroarty Arts Center
Tujunga, Calif.

Whatever happened to pensions and gold watches?

While Michael Moore and many presidential candidates criticize America’s lack of universal healthcare, it is the same healthcare system that is causing Americans to live 20-30 years into retirement. A good thing, yes, unless you outlive your savings and have no pension to fall back on.

Consider these facts from an e-mail by a group called Americans for Secure Retirement:
– 70 million American workers have no option for any kind of retirement benefit through their work
– 77 million baby-boomers will begin retiring next year.
– Pensions are disappearing. A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that over the last two years, more than 25 percent of companies closed their pension plans to new employees and 12.9 percent said they planned on freezing pension benefits.
– That same group calculated this whopping statistic: America’s elderly are facing an “income shortfall” between 2020 and 2030 of at least $400 billion. They won’t have the money to cover basic living expenses or long term care.

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Going like 60

Dexter MacBride was handed a Valentine in the fourth grade. The sender had scrawled in pencil “Dickster McBrick” across the envelope. The shaken fourth grader has been using that grade school insult as a motivating moment for the rest of his life, which on Saturday reached a ninth decade.

In law school, in Atlanta, his application for the debate squad was shot down when the coach said “I wouldn’t have you under any circumstances.” So, MacBride signed up for the oratory contest and won first place.

While active in the American Society of Appraisers, he wrote a book on eminent domain. The book caught the eye of the Iceland government who invited him to Reykjavik to give a seminar on real estate appraisals. The Indonesian government sent him to Jakarta, where he pointed out that the backward way they were appraising a property’s worth — by the amount of sweet potato yield — was costing them millions in tax revenue.

Then it was on to Lithuania … back to California where he used his law degree not to bleed clients dry but to open a mediation service. Oh yeah, he also served on the Diamond Bar City Council, helped write its first general plan, and followed all this up with a term on the Mount San Antonio College Board of Trustees when he was 81.

“Little by little, I began to say, Dickster McBrick, is that really you? Are you that inside person that doesn’t speak up very often, that little voice that is smarter than we are?” he said.
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Politics, popcorn and slabs of meat

Amid the roasting kettle corn, the slabs of pork and the trinket vendors of the Friday night Monrovia Family Festival is a political tug-of-war.

Competing tables manned by passionate volunteers lure passers-by into either the Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama camp.

As in the polls, the Hillary people seem to have the upper hand. But the Obama faithful are gearing up for an all-volunteer call up Sunday, 3 p.m., at the famous green “card shack” in Monrovia’s Library Park, at the corner of Myrtle and West Palm avenues.

“I call Hillary the Manchurian candidate,” counters the Obama ’08 publicity chairman, Ralph Walker, who hosts a local talk show on KGEM called “Beyond the Headlines.” “She crosses her t’s and dots her i’s, but that is not the real candidate. Barack Obama is more like ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’

Walker says he has 35 verbal commitments. But this is Southern California, where the beach, the backyard pool and those tasty barbecue ribs at Jake’s take precedence. “We’re looking for anybody who wants to get involved. Some people like to go door-to-door and meet people, others work the phones. Some just donate,” he said.

Starving them out

The hold Republicans have on the state budget — Day 46 and still no state budget — is like a blockade in war. They are starving them out. Legislators are not getting paid. But while most lawmakers can afford to miss a paycheck or two, you can’t say the same for their legislative staff.

Staffers for state Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, have not gotten paid since June 30, the last day of the previous fiscal year. Only those with accounts at certain banks, such as Wells Fargo, that accept the state’s I.O.U., can get cash. The others are out of luck.

That is unfair. It’s one thing to punish the legislators for botching the budget, it’s a different matter to punish their staff.
Also, Scott said he’s heard from 35 nursing home employees who work for companies that contract with the state. They are not getting paid, either, and may soon lose their jobs.
All may be fair in war and in partisan budget battles. But tell that to these regular employees with rents and utility bills to pay.
I can’t help but think what a huge outcry there would be if this were happening to teachers or prison guards.

Personal stories from the Angeles

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IVE written about the Angeles National Forest for 21 years but never the way Norma Meacham Rowley does in her new book, The Angeles Was Our Home.
As someone who grew up in Glendoras Big Dalton Canyon, Rowleys collection of vignettes puts the reader on her front porch listening to forest workers and nature lovers alike spin tales of critters, wildfires and other magic moments.
They are precious people; each one is a story, said Meacham Rowley, 75, of the 300 or so who answered her inquiry: Name your most memorable forest moment.
The book is a scrapbook of man vs. nature accounts, essays, even poems from Forest Service personnel broken up by historical photos, including those from the collection of her husband, Gordon T. Rowley. Gordon is retired from the service after 30-plus years. The couple were named Citizens of the Year by Glendora for 2006-07.
The stories from out in the field really touched me because it was part of my growing up, she said. Because their home is situated in whats now the Glendora Wilderness Park, rangers and hotshot crews would stop by to shoot the breeze. People would tell us stories as we sat on our patio and I thought, no one is writing these down. It seemed like a part of history.
Stories like George Geers first day on the job, as his 1959 VW bus struggled up Highway 2. Geer was pressed into service when a fire broke out:

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Antidote to Barry Bonds

Appropriately, I was at a baseball game when Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking 756th home run. I stood and applauded as the announcement lit up the outfield screen at Angel Stadium. What kind of message was I sending my two athletic sons, Matt, 17 and Andy, 15, I wondered. Was I saying I condoned cheating, if indeed, Bonds did use steroids to help him pass Hank Aaron?

I was conflicted and my body was consumed by a halting ache. I love baseball, grew up with a dad who took me to Yankee Stadium, watched Chris Chambliss hit a home run that sent my boyhood Yankees (who were awful) into the World Series in 1976 for the first time in 12 years. My cheering was an inborn reflex, my baseball gene going off, celebrating a baseball milestone.

Thoughts earlier in the week, after Yankee Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th home run, went to May 1967, when me, my sisters and my brother made such a ruckus in the back seat of my father’s Chevy Impala after hearing the call by Phil Rizzuto of Mickey Mantle’s 500th home run on the car radio. We were traveling in the Bronx, a few miles from the stadium, when The Mick hit it and we celebrated right there on Gun Hill Road.
My dad had to pull over or risk an accident.

But there was no such overwhelming emotion Tuesday night. Just a reflex, then a lament followed by doubts and sadness.

Baseball shouldn’t be that way. There’s no joy in wondering if a 10-time millionaire was injecting illegal substances to grotesquely grow his muscles. Baseball should be fun, exciting, a pure escape.

If you’re sick of Barry Bonds and of all the scandals plaguing professional sports, there is an antidote for us fans.
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Bring on the Rally Rat?

The O.C. Register reported that Angel Stadium of Anaheim had 118 vermin (i.e. rat) infestation violations at hot dog stands, kiosks and in-stadium restaurants as reported by the health inspector since 2005. And 33 of those were “major” vermin infestations. That compares unfavorably to Dodger Stadium, which had only seven and PetCo Park in San Diego, which had only 2 during the same period.

As a die-hard Angel fan — a season tickete holder for the past three years — I am reeling.

I’ve eaten their hot dogs and enjoyed their tasty “Italian beef” sandwiches. So have my kids. I can say right now, as I type those words, a feeling of nausea and helplessness permeates my body. And I’m not talking about the Angels’ hitting attack.

It’s been um, tough these last nine years convincing my fellow baseball lovers in the West San Gabriel Valley where I live to root for the Angels, after all, this is still Dodger Country. I cheered on Arte Moreno’s billboard campaign, his marketing reach into the San Gabriel Valley, agreeing that Angel fans don’t just come from Orange County. There have been Angel cap spottings in Pasadena, Alhambra, Temple City.

This story will make it harder to be at the front of the line defending the old Angels vs. Dodgers debate. Though I still bleed Angel red, I’ll be stopping at the Burger King for dinner before entering the stadium when I return to my seats Wednesday night.

“It wasn’t me!”

The first thing I remember “CJ” Mitcheltree saying was “Go Pirates!”
That was because he was on my son’s Temple City National Little League Team, the Coast Pirates, back in 2001. Now, the 18-year-old Temple City youth has been arrested in connection with several violent hate crimes, including the stabbing of an African-American man in May at the Carl’s Jr. on Las Tunas Drive in Temple City (see “Hate crime ring said broken,” Aug. 3, and “Stabbing suspect surrenders,” Aug. 2, reported by Frank C. Girardot. Also, check out Girardot’s blog “crime scene” also in www.sgvtribune and
What’s he saying now?

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