Monday, December 31, 2007

greetings from the temple of smoked meats

As you may have guessed, we're absorbed with holiday shenanigans and then some -- and on top of it all, I leave tomorrow for 10 days up in the holler to see my mother through surgery. Yes, I'm from Appalachia, and we pronounce that Apple-LATCHa, thankyouverymuch.

At the moment, in fact, we are in beautiful sunny northeastern Ohio. Not so much with the sunny.

K and I volunteered to cook supper for the family tonight (latkes, smoked sausage, and blintzes with cherry sauce for dessert), so we headed off the supermarket ("the Click") -- and that's what I'm here to write about.

You know I have elaborate opinions about grocery shopping around Pomona, and I don't exactly suspend judgment when I'm away from home. And shopping at the Click was an eye-opening experience: Don't tell me that modern communications have smoothed out geographical differences.

Our list: Lemon, a fresh veg for dinner, smoked sausage, beer, snacks, and ice cream.

Grab a basket
I now remember that when we moved to California 13 years ago, I found the grocery aisles awfully cramped, and the horizontal aisle (the cashier-line overflow lane) most of all. I had forgotten about that, but the Click reminded me in a big way. Such vast expanses! I felt like I was strolling a linoleum prairie.

Pick up a lemon
Then there are the differences dictated by climate -- otherwise known as the produce section. It's just inside the door, like at the Von's and Albertson's on Foothill, but keep an eye out, because if you blink, you'll miss it. There's a decent supply of apples, but the citrus section was almost exactly the same size as the trunk of a Miata -- and it contained peaches (at $5.29/lb.) as well as oranges, limes, and lemons. What's that you say -- you want grapefruit? Tough luck. Here, have a single lime for $1.99. Welcome to the Frozen North!

What veg do you want for dinner, honey?
The green veg display was a mixed bag. The zucchini looked pretty good ($1.99/lb.), as did the green beans ($2.99), although there was only a mixing-bowl's worth of them. I spotted two, count 'em, TWO crowns (not bunches) of broccoli, to K's relief -- he does not share my adoration of the broccoli (rhymes with "Adoration of the Magi," of course).

Arugula, to my surprise, was well represented -- on the herb rack, in one-ounce blister-packs, as if we would need no more than a tablespoon, minced finely. And one ounce was $1.99, just like the 14-oz. bags we buy for salad at Trader Joe's.

Where do you think smoked sausage would be?
Other differences are dictated by demographics, and things look considerably brighter here. As you probably know, northeastern Ohio is dominated by Slavs of various nationalities, and boy howdy does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny.

Back in Cali, smoked sausage resides in between the bacon and the hot dogs in the run-down suburbs of the meat counter. But in Slavlandia, cured meat products have the whole back of the store, with separate signs in giant letters reading BACON and FRANKS and SMOKED SAUSAGE, the way that our stores have signs that read "Produce" and "Dairy." As K marveled, "We truly are in the temple of smoked meats."

Hey, we need beer!
We moved to Cali from Georgia, where we couldn't buy beer on sunday or after 11pm, so we thought we'd died and gone to heaven when it came to beer. Anchor Steam! Pete's Wicked! Imports in every store!

But in fact we don't know from beer compared to northeastern Ohio. They have such an amazing selection of local beers here, I almost passed out. When I mentioned it to K's mother, she scoffed and told me that the other store has a much better selection.

Your mom wanted snacks
We did get potato chips as commanded, but while wandering the aisles, we saw a container of sauerkraut balls. Both K and I are krautophiles -- we looked at one another, and no one even needed to say, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?" Into the basket they went. (In the event, they weren't half as good as the sauerkraut cakes I make from scratch.)

Um, don't need wine
On the other hand, this ain't no wine heaven. Barefoot Red was $10.99, I kid you not. There's no Trader Joe's around here, but if there was, I bet they'd sell Eight-Buck Chuck.

We should get the ice cream last
Just as one outer wall was devoted to smoked meats, the whole right wall of the store was lined with ice cream coolers. Slavlandia clearly loves its ice cream, because each brand had several sizable cases and a big sign overhead -- and a dozen brands we'd never heard of, many of which are local premium creameries. (We still got Haagen Dazs, to be safe.)

All done
After having checked out, we passed a large table of marked-down Christmas items. I think we both deserve voluminous praise from all quarters for having resisted the temptation to buy My First Drumkit for the niece and neph -- but every child we know gets a drum from us sooner or later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

keeping up with the pomones

Everyone else has been blogging about last night's city council meeting and the fracas between Mayor Norma Torres and Police Chief Joe Romero, and I refuse to be left out.

Not that I went to the council meeting. I wanted to, I tried to, but a bottle of wine with a colleague was too tempting, especially as I won't be seeing her for a good long while. Go ahead, mock me.

But I do have something to say. When the fracas first came to our attention, I wrote to Mayor Torres expressing my disappointment -- an actual paper letter, since those tend to carry more weight with elected officials than emails that take 30 seconds to dash off. Supposedly, anyway; I have yet to receive any reply at all (surprise, surprise).

Yesterday morning, I sent email to each of our city council members, saying this:
Just a quick note to express my strong support for Joe Romero. I'll do
my best to come to tonight's council meeting, but in case I don't make
it, I wanted to let you know how disappointed I am in the Mayor's recent
behavior in this matter, including her letter to the *Daily Bulletin*

Please join me in supporting the police chief!

Thanks very much -- and keep on doing a great job!
I got a nice reply from Paula Lantz within the hour. She can't possibly remember me from our brief meeting back in august, but she certainly wrote a nice personal letter -- matching my rhetoric and responding directly to my note.

Then, this afternoon, I got email from George Hunter, reporting on what happened last night. Without his permission, I won't post his reply, but it was personal and specific, and I was generally quite satisfied.

No word from the other council members with published email addresses (one doesn't have email, it appears).

For some reason, the first hit I got on the phrase "city council" was for Lubbock, Texas, where I was conceived (so I am told). I wonder why Lubbock tops the list, above the councils of larger and flashier municipalities?

Friday, December 7, 2007

animal planet

I spent enough time in Central and South American in my wayward youth to recognize the sound of a flock of parakeets before I saw the 100+ green bellies overhead. It's quite a racket, and full of menace, like some flying threat out of Harry Potter. All the cats ran for cover the moment they heard it.

My neighbor says that the flock of parakeets hangs out in the LP every year about this time, for a couple of weeks. She thinks they spend the rest of their time in Arcadia. Does anyone know more about them?

It is amazing to me that such a bizarre animal -- garish, noisy, and cheeky -- does so well in the non-native wild. There are escapee flocks in Austin and San Francisco, and probably plenty of other places as well.

Switching from the avidae to the felidae, the stray-cat situation is I think pretty much under control. Yesterday morning I trapped Wombat (the stray mom) and took her to the vet for spaying. Goodbye, $125. In the afternoon, I trapped the friendliest of the kittens and took her in for similar treatment when I picked mom up. Luckily, my neighbor is going to pay when she picks it up and takes it home this afternoon.

We still need to catch and spay the last two kittens, but my most serious cat concern is taken care of: After seeing me put Mom in a box and then Sister in a box, the kittens want nothing to do with me, our porch, or Voiceover. For his part, Voiceover is much, much calmer.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

mid-week update

So, I called the city this morning about a composting program. The person on the phone was quite friendly and gave me the phone number of the head honcho, except that she is out with the flu or a bad cold (interlocutor wasn't sure which but said that boss was really miserable yesterday). More info to come.

I never did find a home for the kittens, although I found a home for the mom. They are now at the obnoxious-teenager stage, which is starting to annoy Voiceover (our cat). In order to avoid dealing with them, Voiceover either wants to stay indoors or lights out for the frontier across the street (where he scraps with various adult cats).

Clearly, this cannot be borne; the kittens must go, and before they start spawning. I called six different pet-rescue places this morning, and none of them have space. I have advertised at work, twisted friends' arms, put ads in the Recycler and Craigslist, and been generally obnoxious to everyone. The only thing I haven't done is take them to the Farmers Market and sit next to the bouncy house and the coloring-book station, and I'm afraid that if I do that, my friends with kids will never speak to me again.

Do I take them to the pound and hope for the best? Call animal control? What's a meg to do?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

give us our daily bread

I haven't yet managed to call the city to find out if they'd be interested in some help to get a composting program off the gound, but I'll report back when I have.

In the meantime, it must be time for a food post, since M-M-M-My Pomona seems to oscillate back and forth between neighborhood agitation and dining reports.

For this dining report, we head back to Claremont, and indeed, the new mall, as I have been to le Pain Quotidien twice this week. As you may know, it is a chain, based in Belgium and with outlets in France, Kuwait, Lebanon, Russia, the UK, and NYC. I'd give it pretty good odds of lasting, although it's imperfect. (I refer here to an anonymous comment a few months ago hypothesizing that 60% of the businesses in the new mall will be closed in a year.)

The main thing you must know about le Pain Quotidien is that it is PRRRRRRRICY. Most of the things I had were good, but it was still a bit of a rip-off. The coffee is good (not quite as good as Some Crust's, but better than Starbuck's), but it is $2.85 for 11 oz. The hot chocolate is tasty, but a small will run you $4.15. The pastries are $3.75, and you'll drop $5 for a cup of soup and $7 for a bowl. Meanwhile, the service is friendly but inexperienced, which I know will come as an enormous surprise to you. (There are a couple of exceptions: You'll see waiters moonlighting from the Press and Casablanca.)

In general, le PainQuot seems to be imposing a preciousness surcharge, and judging by the custom this week, it looks like they can get away with it. I was pretty disappointed in the Jambon de Paris sandwich, but everything else I had was good, and I've had good reports from friends. In the late afternoon, it's a nice place to read or write Christmas cards, and I don't mind paying a salubrious-environment surcharge, so I'll go back. But it won't be often, unless my employer gives me a 10% COCLA (Cost of Café Living Allowance).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

fish fry: worst or first?

I'm spinning the comments from the previous post off into a separate post, because it's a theoretical issue rather than having anything to do with compost (although my inner anarchist notes that discussing governments always involves large amounts of compost). Namely, should the city address problems on a worst-come-first-served basis or in a more distributed fashion, working on a selection of bad and not-so-bad problems that cause both a spot of bother for middle-class residents and serious harm for the city's poorest?

Anonymous wrote yesterday, in part:
Sorry for the rant, and I do agree the city has "larger fish to fry" than composters, but it's a start. Shouldn't it be in a city where the average resident would never contemplate a Smith & Hawken composter, that the city actually makes it happen.

I may be taking this post farther than Meg intended, but should we really be arguing for mediocrity? Can this city move forward if it never looks beyond those "few other problems"?

An excellent question (and, Anonymous, you can hijack the comments any time). I see both sides of the issue, to be sure. On one hand, it really is bogus for me to be whining for a composter when babies are being shot on our streets and the median family income is $12,000 below the national median, even though our cost-of-living index is so much higher.

On the other hand, addressing our effete middle-class concerns surely makes Pomona a more attractive place to move for other effete bourgeoisie, who will then get involved and work to improve the town for everybody. I'd also argue that on average, the middle class is less easily intimidated by city hall, so a strong bourgeois presence may agitate toward improved, more transparent city governance.

That class question cuts both ways, it seems to me. Who am I to demand the city buy me a fancy-schmancy Smith & Hawken composter? But then who am I to say that composting is a middle-class issue?

BTW, Anonymous -- and all your anonymous comrades out there (if any)... I would take it as a great favor if you'd end your comments with a pseudonym, just so I know which anonymous poster said what. You don't have to -- keep commenting, in any case -- but it would help build community if we had some name, any name, to attach to a given comment. It would be nice to be able to tell Conan The Librarian apart from Captain Underpants.

Monday, November 26, 2007

compost redux

Several people -- not just Ed in his recent comment -- have expressed Santa Monica envy re the discounted composters. One pal even wondered if he could bribe K into picking up one for him (and then said, "Oh, I guess I oughta return his cds before I ask a favor like that.")

Maybe I'll call up the city tomorrow and see what it would take to get something like that started for Pomona. I gather that it's a special deal with S&H, as a number of municipalities around the country have the exact same pricing structure.

I think we'd absolutely have to have the non-resident boost, since all the Claremonters will be swarming city hall asking for their Smith & Hawkenware. But there are worse things than Pomona earning a reputation as the greenest town in the Pomona Valley -- without going so far as to astroturf public lands. Talk about the tragedy of the commons!

Friday, November 23, 2007

happier than a pig in shit

The Santa Monica city government has a special deal: For $25, city residents can get a fancy-schmancy Smith & Hawken biostack composting unit. The best part of the deal is that for a mere $10 more, non-residents can get one too. So a few weeks ago, K. picked one up for us on his lunch hour.

It was dead easy to put together, and since then we have been getting our compost on quite happily. I feel mildly guilty about having the mow-and-blow guys (whom we inherited from the previous owner), but the fact is, without them, composting would be more of a challenge: We have no trouble collecting the kitchen scraps that can't be used for stock, but raking leaves (read: carbon sources for the compost) is pretty much beyond us. Yeah, we're capable, but it ain't never gonna happen.

But thanks to the mow-and-blow guys, we always have a bin full of leaves and clippings to toss into the compost bin with the eggshells, squash rinds, and limp greens. And when I say "toss," I mean with a shovel and (meager) upper-body strength (yeah, so says the woman who can't lift a hand to rake the yard).

The results have been pretty amazing. In less than a month, all of our kitchen leavings and yard scrapings have generated a pile of stuff that is well on its way to earning its compost certificate. Before I left on my business trip, there was a two-foot-high pile of multicolored gunk, but when I got back, it was only a foot high and all brown, with a pretty consistent texture, smelling vaguely of garden. It's a miracle!

Pretty soon the question is going to be what to do with the compost. We can put some on the roses, and of course my container garden, but I don't see any point to fertilizing the grass. If you need compost, drop us a line!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

one tree, two tree, dead tree, blue tree

I thought K. might wade in to post some Pomoniana while I'm off on a business trip, but I see that I'll have to do it myself (said the Little Red Hen). Three cheers for Marriott's free wireless!

I learned something on this trip: When a fruit tree is dying, it puts out one last enormous crop of fruit before it gives up the ghost, called a "distress crop." The moment I heard this, I knew that was what went on with our plum tree this summer. The guy who was telling me about it said that often the crop is so big, it breaks branches (check), and the fruit, while plenteous, isn't very sweet (check).

Dawn Van Allen pointed out that the tree wasn't long for this world when she was over in September, and now it really shows. One whole portion of the tree is bare and dead, and the gems of crystalized sap that dot the bark are of increasingly-large carat. Once the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving (the first time we will have had the table pulled out to its full length in the new house!) is over, we definitely need to make an appointment with Tracy the Alpinist-Arborist.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pomona, city of mystery

Lincoln Park residents know Crime Corner well: Garey and Alvarado. The Stater Brothers is home to drug-dealers and general no-goodniks; the methadone house draws former sinners that could go off the rails at any moment; and the Auto-Lodge features more peignoir-clad ladies lounging in doorways at mid-day than is quite proper even in a Tennessee Williams play.

Now I've noticed something else -- Avarice to add to the Lust, Sloth, and Gluttony that we pass by every day.

Namely, why is the Philips 66 charging 11¢ more per gallon than any other station? K. -- who takes his motor sports seriously -- hasn't heard anything about P66 being special as gas goes. The station itself is as grubby as you would expect of Crime Corner. And yet self-serve unleaded was $3.37 yesterday.

If it was a front for drug-dealing, I would think the prices would be normal, in order to promote enough honest traffic to cover for the dishonest (à la dry-cleaners and copy shops). I hardly think it's a crypto-bordello, despite all the promising jokes about putting a tiger in your tank (if you're old enough to remember the old Esso ads) -- a gas station doesn't really provide much privacy to get your happy ending on. I just can't figure it out.

Any hypotheses out there? And failing that, any suggestions for how Crime Corner can cover the other three cardinal sins (wrath, envy, and pride, in case you've shaken off your parochial-school training)?

Thursday, November 8, 2007


If you live in SoCal and have a hankering for a composter, the city of Santa Monica is here to help. For $35 ($25 if you actually live in Santa Monica), they'll give you a Smith & Hawken Biostack composting unit. This weekend I had every intention of making my own (after buying a plastic garbage bin and a 1/2" hole bit for the electric drill), but I could spend that time better on other things. Esp. since K volunteered to pick up the composter on his lunch hour.

Today's tasks: Cut down the volunteer ficus tree that is currently where we want the composter to be (Dawn Van Allen recommended taking it down anyway); put together the composter; load her up; and clean off the porch railing where one of the pumpkins has left its rotting spew.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Woo hoo, Fish Fry!

I've been happily following along in David Allen's blog as he explores Pomona's dining possibilities. He just finished singing the praises of the Pomona Fish Market, which sounded like a pretty fun, low-key kinda place.

Meg & I tried cruising by last week, fairly late, only to find the place closed, and the bar next door chock o' block with a bunch of motorcyclists, with bikes lined up and down the road for quite a ways. Cool, but not scratchin' my fried-fish itch.

We headed down Friday at lunchtime, out-of-town guest in tow. The place was nothing fancy, but was reasonably friendly. It took 'em about 10 minutes to fry up our fish to order from the huge front case, and deliver them on plastic plates with plastic forks ("No knives! No knives!").

We had oysters, sand dabs (with bones), and snapper, and it all seemed pretty solid. The breading was really thin corn-meal, which was different from both the fish-fries of my southern youth and my more recent encounters with fish and chips at various pubs. I wonder if it just a tradition from another region? The place had a bunch of references to New Orleans, or perhaps the Asian counter-woman had brought it from some other place...

All in all, it was a fun, cheap lunch.

a shout-out to the Brothers

I could start a whole new blog on grocery-shopping in the West Inland Empire, and I'd have posts for at least a year. I may start a "stations of the cross" series, in which your intrepid shopper takes you to her favorite ethnic grocery stores, one per episode.

But that's for another day. Today, I just want to say: However much they suck in other ways (can you say "bread"?), the Stater Brothers on Garey has a great produce section. Sure, it ain't the farmers' market, but they have a decent selection of organics, and they have both vegetables and fruits that the hoity-toity Claremont stores can't be counted on to have (kale, rhubarb, parsnips...). The produce section is clean and attractive, and there's always an employee there, stacking oranges or whatever. And the prices are lower than at the Foothill and Baseline supermarkets.

I'll still visit the ethnic stations of the cross when I can, and we're now hooked up with Tierra Miguel CSA, but when I need a quick punnet of mushrooms or bunch of tatsoi, the Brothers are there for me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Beware the Lincoln Park axe-murderer!

I am hereby filing formal notification of intention to become a homicidal maniac. It's not my fault, though: I blame one particular wingman of the squadron of ice cream trucks based at 629 Briggs Ave., Ontario.

The one currently parked in front of our house for a cig break.

The one that hasn't bothered to turn of his @#$%$%$¶§ music.

The one that decided today was a great day to run through his entire repertoire of Christmas music.

I'm going now to ask him to either turn off his music or move along, and if he doesn't comply, I'm going to strangle him with my bare hands, after I pummel him to death with my little gnocchi fists and ram popsicle sticks into his eardrums.

Forget bordellos on wheels (does anyone else think of For the Love of Ivy or is it just me?) -- the real menace is ice cream trucks parking on the streets of our neighborhood and increasing the murder rate!

And I'm only half-kidding, in case you're wondering.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

recycling ethics

K has a post cooling its heels in the "Draft" penalty box, but until he decides it's fit for general consumption, I thought I'd kvetch about something that has been chipping my paint for some time.

If you're an early riser -- and certainly if your desk looks out onto the street and you try to get a little work done in the quiet of early morning -- you have probably noticed the unprepossessing characters wandering from bin to bin, armed with a garbage bag or shopping cart, into which they toss all the recyclables that can be brought in for cash.

I'm of two minds about this. On one hand, rummaging through trash isn't a fun activity, and if these folks are that down on their luck, then I don't begrudge them the 13¢ they net from our recycling (most of which is paper and wine bottles).

On the other hand, the value they scavenge is taken not from us but from the city; our 13¢ presumably offsets the cost of the recycling program. A recycling program that loses more money than necessary is a bad thing, but a recycling program that is shut down because everything of value is plundered in the dim of dawn, that's a tragedy.

Whaddaya think -- should I sit out on the porch like Granny Clampett[1], rocking, chawin' on my corncob pipe, and shooting at the scavengers with my 30-06?

[1] Yes, I know Granny wasn't a Clampett but a Moses. But if I'd said "Granny Moses," you'd have thought I planned to throw paint at them.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

now to clean up all the puke

The pumpkin puke, that is. In addition to the pumpkin with a hatchet in its head, I carved a dyspeptic pumpkin. Not original with me -- our brother-in-law mailed me a photo of a puking pumpkin several years ago, and I've always meant to steal the idea. If Halloween weren't a family holiday, I would have artfully arranged an empty vodka bottle (or ouzo, for an early-autobiographical note...) next to it.

We survived the night pretty well, largely because Mrs. Tiki, Admiral Seamus, and Shhhh came over to help out. Mrs. Tiki brought a tiramisu and a growler of Rogue's Dead Guy Ale, Shhhh brought a bottle of wine, and the admiral brought his mixology A game, so we some some great cocktails to see us through the hordes.

And there were hordes. And more hordes after that. And then a mob, a throng, and a couple of swarms, followed by an onslaught.

We went out for a walk yesterday morning to see the decorations (and these are my two favorites), and we got to talking to a fellow on Lincoln who was putting the final touches on his display. He said he got 800 kids last year -- so we broke out in a run, heading straight for the 99¢ store to get more candy.

In the event, we had enough, but only just. Here's what we started out with (and that's a 10-ream paper box):
and this morning we have about two cups' worth of Tootsie Rolls and a handful of micro-Snickers. At two pieces of candy per person, I'm guessing we had about 300 or 400 visitors.

There were some great costumes -- many bought but some created with a capital C. My favorite, though, was a tiny little girl in a princess outfit... who growled out her "Trick-or-treat!" and "Thank you!" in the scariest voice she could muster. I see a comedian in the making (or else a cultural-studies professor).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

we're creepy and we're kooky, we're altogether ooky

We perch on the eve of our first Halloween in Lincoln Park.

If all the decorations didn't tell us that the neighborhood takes the holiday verrrrrrry seriously, our neighbors certainly have. One by one, everyone within a three-house radius has stopped by to warn us to get a lot of candy. No, a LOT. They gesticulate wildly and imitate backing a skip-loader of Mallomars into the driveway.

So, K and I headed down to the 99¢ store to load up on moral decrepitude in edible form. We had a houseguest this weekend who Does Not Approve of candy, and I feel a little guilty about being party to the porkery that is about to ensue. But no way am I going to be one of those killjoys who hands out shiny new pencils (ugh).

Did anyone read the article in yesterday's LAT, in which they interviewed a bunch of professional experts about Halloween? I particularly liked the several who said that with their own kids, they let the little darlings pick out three favorite pieces of candy and then they give the rest away. For one thing, how sadistic. And for another, if candy is so terrible, isn't giving it away even more unethical? If they had the courage of their convictions, they would burn it, in a grand rite (perhaps in the center of Lincoln Park!), wearing appropriate ceremonial garb.

No, it seems obvious that if Halloween has any purpose at all, it is as a reversal holiday, where the lowest on the totem pole spend a day pranking[1] those at the top, like Kalends for the Romans or England's Feast of Fools. It's not a big reversal for the kids so much as it is for the parental control systems: kids may gorge on candy all through the year, but on Halloween, it's with permission. And we all know that kids have a high tolerance for the scary and the gross -- higher than adults' tolerance by far -- but on Halloween, parents allow the love of the ooky to show itself.

Oh yeah, about the 99¢ stores: We checked out both the one on Foothill (between Towne and Garey) and the one at the corner of Towne and Arrow, and I'm here to report that the latter outstrips the former by several furlongs. At the Foothill store, we only found one bag of acceptable candy whose expiration date was in the future -- and given the hygroscopic, bacteria-inhibiting nature of sugar, that's gotta be a really bad sign. The T&A store also had a much larger selection. And most of all, it had cheerful employees in costume, including a long-haired kid dressed up as Jesus. We saw him walking across the parking lot, heading to the Golden Ox, as we pulled in, and when he saw me grinning, he grinned back and gave me the Sign of Peace.

We have not gone all out with the decorations (which is an understatement). Next year we may concoct a mad-scientist theme, but this year we're making do with two pumpkins (one of which will have a hatchet planted in its noggin, so say hello if you're on our street). And friends are coming over to hang out and help hand out candy from the skip-loader in our driveway, so a fun time should be had by all.

Now, sing along with me:
Our house is a museum
Where people come to see 'em

We really are a scree-am

The L.P. families.

So put a witch's shawl on,

A broomstick you can crawl on,

They're gonna pay a call on

The L.P. families.

[1] Yes, I used "prank" as a verb! That shows that I'm keeping my head in touch with America's youth! Suck it, Fowler!

Monday, October 22, 2007

smoke gets in your skies

I don't know which fire it's coming from, but the sunlight this morning has definitely got that weird smoky cast. It's almost apocalyptic feeling. Beware of vampires!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

everybody was kung-fu fighting

As I have blogged extensively on my non-Pomona blog, we got a cat about five weeks ago. We've been holding off on getting a cat for, oh, about 16 years now, due to schedules, travel plans, and landlord preferences, but now that we own our home, it was time. We named him Voiceover.

Our block of Lincoln Park is extremely catty. Just within two houses in any direction, there are 12 cats, all but one of them indoor-outdoor cats. And that's not even counting Wombat and the kittens (who still need homes, people!).

Needless to say, with that many cats, there will be some catfights. Voiceover has done a pretty good job of asserting his property rights over a piece of land that had been treated as communal property for so long, but he does have a nemesis, Wheezer (whom I called Condi, for her imperialist tendencies until I learned her name).

Wheezer wasn't interested in our porch when no cat lived here, but once it was claimed, she just HAD to make it hers. Consequently, there are several set-tos per day.

In one of them, about three weeks ago, Voiceover sustained a respectable puncture wound in the head, which got all abscessed and made his poor head swell up like a gourd. You can imagine the consequences: vet, surgery, plastic clown collar, indoor life, unhappy cat.

He's now all better and back on his normal rotation -- of egress and ingress, but also of tangling with Wheezer. I've taken to dashing outside and squirting them both whenever they fight, but does anyone have any other suggestions for pacifying Catlandia? Keeping Voiceover inside isn't really an option; he's not much fun when he's criminally insane.

Friday, October 19, 2007

OSH kibosh, by gosh

Can I just say, I LOATHE Orchard Supply Hardware. Actually, I don't loathe OSH; I just loathe the one on Foothill and White. When we lived in the Yay Area, OSH was our hardware store of choice, at least if the little local joint didn't have what we were looking for. It was a big-box store, but at least it was a regional chain.

I'm generally opposed to shopping at big-box stores. There are only a few things I buy at Von's/Albertson's/Stater Bro's; most of our food comes from farmer's markets and ethnic groceries, plus some TJ's action thrown in. That goes double for hardware stores. For one thing, I had various dealings with both Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus when we lived in Atlanta, and there is no way in the world I'm shopping at Home Despot.

Lowe's, too, got no love from me, but the final straw at OSH (when a 17-year-old cretin kept screwing up the keys he was duplicating for me and then insisted that he was supposed to charge me for all his fuck-ups -- $17's worth) drove me through their big blue doors.

And OMG, it's a paradise by comparison. I don't know how they manage it, but every employee seems to know both the name and location of every tiny frob and widget in the whole hangar. Whereas an assistant manager at OSH had never heard of crown molding and didn't know where picture-hanging equipment was, K. walked up to a young employee at Lowe's in the barbecue grill section, held up a broken piece of plastic from our sprinkler system, and was told "Aisle 4, on the right, about 10 feet down." Another time, a Lowe's worker assured me that I didn't need a new tool and that our superbar would work just fine (and he was right).

All of which is to say, C&E Lumber on Towne is a pretty cool place, but they've got some stiff competition.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


We had houseguests from the UK this past week, and before they set off in their rental car up through the Mojave, we thought we should stoke them up with a good Mexican breakfast. (Don't bother with jokes about fuel efficiency and gas-powered vehicles -- we already made 'em all.)

Pomona has several options, of course. Guasalmex, unfortunately, doesn't open until 11am on saturdays, so that was right out. K. turns up his nose at Casa Jimenez, although I'm pretty fond of the place (except for the margaritas -- they truly blow).

While I was walking back from downtown with our visitors, we stopped by El Molcajete, which is the new name of the place on Palomares and Holt that I always thought of as Osama (it was really Osana). It looks pretty good, and the breakfast menu had a number of tasty-looking offerings. What time do you open on saturdays? Eight am. Exxxxcellent!

Saturday morning we got up and moseyed down to El Molcajete, only to find it shut up tight. After enough door-rattling, we got someone to pantomime to us that they didn't open till 10am. Doh!

In the event, we ended up at El Merendero, the new location of which we hadn't tried yet. Three of us got eggs 'n' chorizo, and one had Mexican eggs (a scramble with peppers, tomatoes, and onions). Everything was good, although I like Casa Jimenez's huevos con chorizo slightly better. And the selection was definitely slim, compared with the rich offerings of both CJ and El Molcajete. But our guests were amused by folks coming in bearing pots from home, to fill with caldo de rez to go, which I've never seen at Casa Jimenez. (I'm fairly sure they weren't getting menudo, because the sign said "No menudo until 11am.")

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

High-Tech Portable Solar Clothing Dehydrator

Alas, I'm not quite ready to convert the house over to my dream of an all-solar existence, with power and hot-water heating and all the rest (I suspect I'd have some hoops to jump through to get this past the historic district folks here, anyway), but I at least took one small step.

I'm delighted with my little clothes line[*] -- my clothes feel so much better when they've been hung to dry, and I love the idea of saving a little energy. On a hot day, it's almost faster to hang the clothes than put them in the drier. Sure, it takes a couple more minutes, but it is definitely worth it.

I actually spent a fair amount of energy looking for a retractable clothes line in the retail stores around here, but finally had to order it on-line. WTF? Where are the environmentalists? Where are the folks who need to get the clothes line out of their back yard for parties? Bizarre.

At least I don't have to worry about being told I can't have a clothes line at all.

[*] I'm slightly less delighted with the brown grass in the picture, but that's a different rant...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

or is it just a game in my mind, Sharona?

Over on Claremont Insider, they wonder about our name: "hey, didn't they lose an M?"

Yes, Virginia, we did lose an M. It all started at the Pomona Heritage Restoration Workshop, back in August, where we met the new owners of the house we almost bought. They were our kind of people, so we became friends with them.

Such good friends that the other day, they confessed that it absolutely bugged the crap out of them that we had the wrong number of Ms, at least if we were trying to invoke the Knack.

Of course I rushed to the computer and listened to the song several times over. How could we have gotten that wrong?!? We can't be intellectually bankrupt in our very moniker!!! Must! Take! Action!

I counted every single Knackian stutter, and they were right: In nearly all the iterations, Doug Fieger sings four "muh"s, not five -- although there is one five and a couple of threes.

And so we had to change the name, just in service of honesty and fairness. We wouldn't want to spark some kind of SharonaGate by passing ourselves off as something we're not.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I gather that I take an unusual position on organic produce. I'm all in favor of it (barring exhorbitant cost), but not because eating organic might grant me a few more months of good health. Frankly, I'm unpersuaded that hyperfertilized and overinoculated foods are demonstrably bad for the body. No, I buy organic because I AM convinced that hyperfertilization and overinoculation have a terrible effect on the health of the farm workers. And that's good enough for me.

I used to get a farm box from Pax Organica, which worked out reasonably well, although not nearly as well as my beloved Planet Organics in the Yay Area. But they stopped delivering to Claremont, and I had the sense that they were generally declining in quality anyway.

Now some friends and I are trying to get a delivery set up for Claremont (because I'm the only Pomoniac in our posse) with Tierra Miguel. Is anyone in the readership interested in going in with us? If Claremont is an issue -- if you're carless or whatever -- I can drop your box off if you're in or near Lincoln Park. Drop me a line if you're interested.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Our block is extremely catful. Nearly every house has at least one cat, and one house has five. So it took me awhile to figure out that our neighbor's cat (whom I call Wombat, because she looks like one) was not in fact our neighbor's cat, but a stray.

Specifically, it took a litter of kittens, which lives between our two houses.

My neighbor across the street has offered to go halvsies on having Wombat spayed, but I don't know what's going to happen to the kittens. I certainly am not going to pay for all three of them to be neutered, and I don't want them to become neighborhood strays and fertile menaces.

So, does anyone need a kitten? They are utterly adorable, and they are getting used to people. They eat dried food (when I put some out), and I think they'll be ready for adoption in a week or two (and would probably be just fine now). There's one grey tabby, one almost-black tabby, and an unusual-looking streaky calico. Please, ask your friends and neighbors!

I'd love to find a good home for Wombat too, for that matter. She's very sweet and affectionate, and she's only about 8 months old, I'm guessing.

Write me if you are interested in one or all of them.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

report from the new mall

Everyone in Claremont is really excited about the Packing House/Village Expansion, and we were certainly looking forward to its opening. In the event, though, we are disappointed on nearly every count.

I could post daily for a month about the establishments they've brought in, and how they all seem to be run by first-time business owners. Even in the places that I frequent frequently, like the wine bar, they are friendly but they don't really know what they're doing (e.g.: serving white wine in stemless glasses, "because they look cool").

Last night, before seeing Across the Universe at the Laemmle (which you absolutely must see if you're between 35 and 55 -- plus you'll be the oldest person in the theater, for a change!), we hit Casablanca for dinner. I had been there for lunch a couple of weeks ago and wasn't all that bowled over, but K. hadn't tried it yet.

In a word: mediocre.

First of all, the food is solidly Lebanese. So why are they naming it after a city in Morocco? Beirut is 3200km from Casablanca.

The decor, too, seems to be the work of someone who has never designed a restaurant before. Not only is it not Middle Eastern -- lots of wrought iron, along with touches of the Baroque -- but the lighting is seriously hosed. In the back of the restaurant, you have your choice of sitting in shadow (without a candle or lamplet) or under a 150W spotlight.

Our waitress, although kind of charming in a geeky way, was the ditziest thing ever. She screwed up orders, she brought the wrong thing to the wrong table, she waited on later arrivals before earlier arrivals -- and all in a station that only held four tables. A guy who was giving off son-of-the-owner vibes kept trying to help her, but often he made things worse.

There was a systematic attempt to upsell on everything. I've worked food service, and I know that it has to be done subtly, but there was nothing subtle about this. They have removed the least expensive wine from the wine list, and instead they recommend the two most expensives ones, without telling you the price. And the wine list looks like it was chosen by the manager of the Albertson's, for that matter. Similarly, with the beers, both the waitress and the son-of-owner guy kept pushing K. to get the Almaza, an extremely bland Lebanese beer we've had at Grapevine (and which they charge more for than the Bass).

The food was okay but not great. For once, we got mains instead of making a meal of starters, as we usually do at Grapevine (which I think is the parent or at least godparent of this place -- except that Grapevine is worth returning to. They even play the same mixtape!). I got the lamb chops, rare, which were too salty and more "seared raw" than rare. They were certainly edible -- I don't mind eating lamb completely raw -- but they showed no skill at all.

K. order the salmon kebab and got the salmon filet, which he was too nice to send back. The filet was fine, although it was slightly overcooked, being quite dry in the center. Both our dishes were served with sides of mashed potatoes, boiled milled carrots (those baby-finger things that are good for snacking), raw onions sprinkled with sumac, and a grilled anaheim pepper. Not particularly good, and the mashed potatoes, while flavorful enough, had been done in the food processor, so they had that gluey thing going that happens when you break down the starch molecules.

We might be back, if we're in the nabe or something, but I'd far rather go to Grapevine or Darvish.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The other day we had Dawn Van Allen, doyenne of the Garden nursery on Garey, over to consult about our little plot of heaven. She showed up with a huge bag and a landscaper's tape measure (on a little wheel and everything), but she realized immediately that we just needed a basic introduction and assessment of our plants. I really appreciate the quick and cheerful gear change; it can be hard to get experts to set aside their expectations and provide what you need sometimes.

In the event, we learned an enormous amount, and it was money very well spent indeed (and not that much money anyway -- $75 for a good hour and a half). Things we discovered:

• The saucer magnolia that's dropping all its leaves is doing just fine. (In fact, it is now starting to bloom.)

• The washingtonia in front of the house does indeed have to go.

• We must not, as we had planned, put something else there that won't mess with the foundation. Instead, we should put up hanging plants. Protecting the front porch from view is begging for burglary.

• The Dr. Seuss tree? It's an overgrown euphorbia (aka spurge)!

• The plum tree is not long for this world. We haven't been near it since it stopped fruiting (does that make us neglectful?), so we hadn't noticed that it's covered with crystalized sap.... Termite damage. It's at the end of its lifespan anyway, she said.

• The place where the plum is going to used to be? A great place for the lemon tree I've been wanting!

• We need to uproot the ficus before its taproot reaches China (or, actually, a thousand miles south of Mauritius).

Overall it was a great experience, and I recommend a yard consult for anyone who has just bought a house. And if you just bought a house in Pomona or nearby, Dawn is an excellent choice. If you live in the nabe, you should also stop by and check out her nursery -- it's pretty impressive. Even if K. used to think it was a restaurant and would bug me to eat there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

spreading the love

There are only a few things we miss about living in Claremont. One of them is having a local, in the British sense -- a pub where they know you (and preferably one that's staggering distance from home).

In Claremont, that was the Press. Also known as TFP, for "The Fucking Press." It acquired that name at the Black Watch (in Upland, if you're not familiar with it), where a pal of ours asked if they had mixed drinks and the barwench said to a barfly, "What does he think this is, the fucking Press?!?"

The first bartender at the Press that knew my name was Darlene. You may have seen her there: She has incredibly long, dark brown dreadlocks and a smile on her face.

Darlene was hit by a car while cycling a couple of weeks ago and spent a week in the ICU with head trauma. Being one of the Sprinklerville Irregulars -- hanging out, bartending, bicycling around town, hanging out some more -- she doesn't have insurance with which to take care of her whopping medical bills.

So monday night the Press had a benefit for her. A whole bunch of different bands played, including the band of one of our Lincoln Park neighbors (I forget their name... Volcano something?), many of them quite good. It was an amazing collection of Claremont's finest.

They were also selling t-shirts, as pictured above. If you see someone walking around town wearing a black-and-blue LOVE t-shirt, you'll know that the wearer is an FoD -- Friend of Darlene.

I'll post if there are any other benefits etc. For now, I'm off to Harvard Square to make sure that my favorite bartender there has health insurance....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

paystubgate rippling outward

Slashdot has gotten hold of Paystubgate (the flap over Claremont Insider's posting of paystub information gained from the city's website, and the city's subsequent demand that Google remove the post). 122 comments in 12 hours, as of now.

For those who aren't familiar with Slashdot, it's a general news aggregator for the geek set. But the comments pretty much prove that in spades. And it's so high-traffic that the Insider may be "slashdotted" -- slowed down or taken offline by the sheer volume of hits following linkage there.

I generally take Claremont Insider with a grain of salt; the rhetoric is often too hot-headed to be all that persuasive. But the way that the city of Claremont has responded to the whole affair suggests I review my credence-giving policy toward the Insider. Somehow I imagine that wasn't what the city had in mind, but it's just desserts.

K and I are most surprised, I think by Google's completely rolling over at the first missive from the city. We knew Sergey and Larry (distantly) when we lived in the Yay Area, and I really thought better of them. I mean, sure, they capitulated to China's demands, but only after a lot of back and forth. Now, though, as K grumbled, it seems like anything goes if you send them a note with "Esq." after your name.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

who let the dogs out?

We finally got a cat to go with the house. We've been talking about it for a while, but one of us was always traveling, and then we had to figure out which shelter to use. (Everyone recommends West End, a no-kill shelter, but considering that we wanted a middle-aged cat, not an adorable kitten, it seemed more virtuous to save our cat from a kill shelter.)

Last weekend we went down to the Inland Valley Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and checked out the offerings. We selected a likely candidate, but he had just been arraigned and still had to serve out his sentence -- so I went down yesterday to pick him up.

The pound is packed in saturday mornings. It took me about two hours to get him, and I already had the application filled out and everything. Most of the time was spent waiting and watching. I got to see dozens of people bring in animals that they couldn't handle or keep (lots of moving to new apartments, lots of behavior problems), plus some strays that folks had trapped. And lots of newborn kittens, beyond measure. Often people brought in a shoebox of kittens with their eyes still shut, and I'm guessing that they just put them down immediately, rather than nursing them to health.

I also got to see a happy ending and a grand mal tantrum. One guy was bringing in his rottweiler for adoption, because he was being transferred overseas. The guy was just about in tears about losing her (her name was Rosie). A little earlier, a guy came in looking for his dog, who had escaped (days before), and he had just been told that he was too late -- they'd put the dog down. He too was almost in tears. You can guess what happened: Rottweiler guy told Euthanasia guy how wonderful his dog was, and Rosie went home with Euthanasia guy. The staff were all glowing with happiness.

The tantrum was another thing entirely. I never did figure out what this guy was trying to do, but he wanted to get the licensing records on his neighbor's dog, and the staff wouldn't give them out. The guy completely blew his top, starting out with "You don't know who you're messing with" and "I'm friends with the mayor of Rialto" (response: "Not in our catchment area, sir") and ending with the phrase "You fucking pet Nazis" -- at which point a security officer appeared at his elbow and escorted him out, saying quietly, "We don't allow anyone to call people Nazis here." Go, pound!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

sangria stories

It all started with some friends calling us up and inviting us over for a Labor Day picnic. Indoor picnic, that is (although the burgers were grilled outside, with short speedy bursts of attention from the cook). When I asked what we could bring, they suggested a summery cocktail, preferably by the bucket; I think we were all having visions of sitting around in the darkened house, throwing back drinks and watching the kiddo build and fly rockets.

And indeed, that was how it turned out. I wanted to make sure that we could drink lots without passing out and choking in a pool of our own sweat, so I made a wimpy but strongly-flavored sangria.

First stop: Stater Brothers, for some fruit to chop into the elixir of wine, brandy, juice, and club soda. (BTW, sangria is a perfect application for those sugared-up Australian wines like Yellow Tail.)

Where I actually saw a drug deal, as Goddess of Pomona has been muttering about for yonks. (Where is GoP, anyway? She hasn't posted in nearly a month.) A guy was lounging on the grass strip at the edge of the parking lot; a car pulled up; they had a brief conversation; the guy pulled a small packet out of his duffel bag; he got some bills; the car drove off. It was just like they do it at the lowrises in The Wire.

Once I had fruit, I had to chop fruit -- and there my troubles began. Moreover, I had warning: As I was setting the fruit up on the counter, I spotted -- and killed -- one lone ant. Won't you join me in a chorus of "Dumbass, don't you know anything about ants?"

Apparently I don't. After making the sangria, I was feeling pressed for time, and I left the sticky equipment on the counter for cleanup later. Oh yes, you holier-than-thou, clean-up-as-you-go little angels, just keep on smirking.

Upon my return to the kitchen hours later, there was a two-inch wide column of ants marching in from the window and scaling Mt. Peel-And-Chop. Out with the Windex. Thanks to the magic of ammonia (and yes, I know it's an environmental nightmare, but even the Buddhist nun I know kills ants, with regret), thousands of ants were dead in the space of 30 seconds. It was a regular ant Thermopylae!

The more perspicuous among the readership may wonder why Thermopylae. After all, Leonidas eventually lost, and Xerxes went on his merry way. But we all know that's what's going to happen in the long run: I may be able to able to stop them for now at Thermopylae the window, but they'll overrun us in the end.

Friday, August 31, 2007


I don't know who actually broke the news (possibly LA Observed), but a couple of months ago, all the SGV blogs were abuzz with the fact that Pasadena Now has outsourced its city hall beat to India, where a nice young man hired off of Craigslist reports on all the latest news using nothing but the web. Since then, at least one blog has had a good time taking the piss, to everyone's delight.

This morning's Franklin Avenue -- not usually first on the 909 beat -- reports that the outsourcing ain't over yet. Apparently KHIZ, based in Victorville, is not afraid of bloggy opprobrium: They produce "the Inland Empire's only newscast" in Erie, Pennsylvania. Clearly it's waaaay more than 15 miles on the Erie Canal.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

claro que si

We threw a party for a friend's Nice Round Birthday last night, and one of the shopping stops was Claro's, in Upland. If you're not familiar with it, you should be: It's a pretty darn good Italian market, at Baseline and Mountain, just north of the Stater Bros. [Actually, in finding the link, I learned that there are several locations.]

I usually get fancy prosciutti (they have several kinds, ranging from $6/lb to $25/lb), salami, olives, and cheeses there, but they also have a deli case of prepared salads, a freezer full of stuff, various Italian dried goods, a pastry case, and an alcove full of overpriced wines. Oh yeah: They have good inexpensive dried pasta.

I had forgotten -- assuming that I ever knew -- that they are closed on wednesdays, so the party had to go without. Trader Joe's isn't terrible for charcuterie; it's just not nearly as good as Claro's.

But the reason I'm posting is that in their window was one of those Public Notice: Change of Ownership signs. Say it ain't so! Not Claro's! Argh!

I was so nonplussed that I hopped out of the car to get a better look, and it's a good thing that I did. Next to the big yellow sign was a small sign informing us that they are not selling Claro's, but that the family matriarch died and left her portion of the store to other family members -- which, under state law, requires a change-of-ownership posting. Phew, crisis averted.

So: Shop at Claro's, but don't go on wednesdays. And always read those change-of-ownership signs carefully, checking to see if the tiny "stock change" line has been circled.

Monday, August 27, 2007

as long as it's not a *dirty* martini...

How can we get this guy elected mayor of Pomona? I bet there would be no unseemly scrapping with blogs if he held the reins...

(Hat tip to Admiral Seamus for the link.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

roll up your sidewalks!

We've done it a million times since we moved to California 12 years ago: Go see a 7pm flick and then wander around town looking for somewhere, anywhere, to eat. When we came west, we thought we were moving to the promised land, and in many ways we were, but what is it about Califas that shuts down the eateries at 9pm?

It happened again last night, but we stumbled on somewhere different: Sakura Ichi (beware -- tons of Flash, embedded sound, and "lorum ipsit" gibberish) in the Mission Promenade complex across the street from city hall. Verdict: Snazzy decor, mediocre food.

I spent a good chunk of my 20s living in Japan, and Sakura Ichi ("Cherry Blossom One" -- sounds like a spaceship name) reminds me of Asian nightclubs. Everything is black and white and red all over, and there's even a wall of vertical red neon rods behind the bar. The light fixture is the size of a spaceship (perhaps Cherry Blossom One?). All in all, it's like walking into a very swanky cosmopolitan bordello, except that bordellos don't usually have black-laquer booths that seat six. They do have tatami rooms (at least in Japan), but I didn't see any futons in the ones at S1 (which is how they style themselves -- à la spacecraft).

Before I let the bordello theme go, I have to mention the "gum-cracking hostess," as K. called her. On first glance, everything seems completely kosher: You walk in, and a tiny Asian woman in kimono calls out the usual Japanese restaurant greeting. But she says "irasshai," not "irasshaimase" (too casual for the hostess), and her kimono, as I saw later, was entirely appropriate for a bordello: It was a snap-off fake, and underneath she had a giant t-shirt and knee-length leggings (paging Cindy Lauper...). I will say, it was a good fake -- it fooled me, at least in that light.

The last thing about the hostess was that she wasn't Japanese, nor were any of the other employees. And that foreshadows the menu, which is Japanese in nomenclature and ambition, but mainland Asian in general tenor and flavor profile. I'm not sure where on the mainland (Taiwan, perhaps?), but definitely not Japanese. The miso soup had too many different ingredients in it (and not enough miso); the chicken donburi was just boiled chicken on rice; the pickles were definitely Chinese (too much sugar, not enough salt).

K. had the chicken donburi and was deeply disappointed, which was partly his own fault: He was expecting oyako ("parent & child" -- ie, chicken and egg) donburi, whereas the menu just mentioned chicken. But it certainly looked like a dog's dinner.

I was luckier: Because my spidey-sense was tingling, I steered toward something that was more about construction than cooking -- and even then I was worried. In the event, I ordered chirashi ("scattered") sushi, which in this country is basically a bowl of sushi rice with some pieces of fish on top. The rice was pretty good, which assuaged my biggest fear; treatment of rice is a big differentiating feature between Japan and China. The fish (salmon, yellowtail, salmon roe, tuna, shrimp, octopus, and something bland I didn't recognize) was all perfectly good, so I was satisfied, if not ecstatic.

All in all, it's a workable option for late-night dining, although it definitely has a party vibe and seems geared toward young Asian hipsters ($1 sake bombs, anyone?). And you'd have to choose your meal rrrrrreally carefully. But it'll do when you're not in the mood for an all-night taco at Alberto's.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

m-m-m-m-m-my magnolia

There is a small magnolia tree (at least, I believe it is a saucer magnolia) in our front yard, and over the past three weeks or so, the leaves have been turning brown. It's looking quite forlorn, and both K and I, in our new state of home-ownership, take every botanical whimper as an accusation of poor parenting. It gets plenty of water, but not too much, I think; we're abiding by the previous owner's watering plan, pretty much. Are saucer magnolias just very sensitive to heat? Or to new owners? Or do they normally go brown in August? Any advice from the assembled company would be most welcome.

The King's Canyon trip was followed by an excursion to the Getty and Venice Beach, and today we're off to the Huntington and Gamble House -- there's nothing like trying to cram all of California into six days. Real blogging will resume as soon as I spend more than eight hours straight in Pomona.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

drive-by shootings

My desk faces the street, and I've noticed at least one drive-by per week: A middle-aged person in a shiny sedan stops outside our house -- always on the other side of the street -- and snaps a couple of photos of the house from the car. It never fails to arouse the urge to go charging out there. "What are you doing? Are you from the Department of Homeland Security? If you're from the FBI, we have nothing to do with the drug dealer you arrested here three years ago. Now, I'll take that camera, if you please."

Yeah, right -- we know that's exactly how it would happen.

I think I've figured it out, though. They've got to be realtors doing comps for houses that they're bargaining on. At least, I hope so.

We're off to King's Canyon to go camping with a friend visiting from the east coast; blogging will be light for the next few days.

Friday, August 17, 2007


We received a certified letter yesterday. Well, actually, we didn't; instead we got the little orange slip saying they tried to deliver it but we weren't here. Well, actually, they didn't; I was sitting in the living room when the mail carrier dropped off our mail, and she made no attempt whatsoever to see if anyone was home. And the orange slip was already filled out, because she just walked up to the house, dropped off the mail, and went on to the next house.

That's just about the only thing I miss about living in Claremont: our wonderful postman, Tom. He's like Mr. McFeely or the benign mailman from a 1940s picture book -- and I wrote a letter to the Postmaster General praising Tom when we moved away. No response from the PG (or Tom's supervisor, whom I cc'ed), though -- maybe the letter was misdelivered.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

a day late and a dollar short

This past weekend was the Pomona Heritage Restoration Workshop, which we had been looking forward to since before we even moved into the neighborhood. I recommend it to anyone interested in older houses, not just folks in the neighborhood. I met folks from a number of surrounding towns, in addition to those from down the street.

We also met and hung out with the people who bought the house we withdrew our offer on... which, in the event, turns out to be rather convenient, because today's email contained a note from a friend who moved away while that offer was on the table, in which she said that she'd sent us a little something -- at the other address. Ruh-roh!

The restoration workshop was about the best way you can spend a saturday. Everyone was really nice (especially when we helped clean up afterwards -- people thanked us way more than necessary), and we were pleased to see a level of diversity that mirrors the area. As K said, we were afraid that it was going to be bunch of fussy yuppies wanting information of dealing with contractors, but in fact it was normal people needing information on how to do the work themselves.

Most everybody seemed a lot handier than we are, although 1) I could be imagining it, 2) that's not saying much, and 3) we're getting handier every week. My project for today is to knock some shelves out of the laundry closet, so Cagles can come install our new washer and dryer (finally! sorry, Frantz). Removing shelves might not seem like much, but these have been painted into place several times over, so I think my putty knife and I are going to spend a lot of time together today.

I've also discovered that early morning is the only bearable gardening time. Yesterday I whacked the morning-glories out of the plum tree (those things ought to have a German name in light of their invasional tendencies... although, as an American I suppose I have no room to talk), and this morning I repotted a bunch of herbs. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Friday, August 10, 2007


Like everyone else in the neighborhood, I imagine, we got a flyer today for a local construction company (read: guy). He looks pretty cool -- lives in the area, does things we need, is licensed and bonded.

All except for one thing: his name. Who names their company TNT Construction?!? I mean, I'm sure they do a bang-up, knock-out job, but I don't even like the word "TNT" to share a sentence with our home. I can just imagine it now: K asks, "Who were you thinking of to work on that closet?" I answer, "Oh, let's just use TNT." And that's the last you ever hear from me -- and no jury in the world would convict him.

cat calls

Now that I'm back from the East Coast, and K is on his way back from his conference, we can finally get a cat... with one big if: IF there is some magical moment in which the pound is open and K is not at work.

In preparation for this big step -- a step that I've been talking about for years -- I got online and did my homework on the local animal shelters. And all I have to say is, when did adopting an animal from the pound become a diabolical process designed by a committee made up of Nazis and New Agers?

It's amazing what some of the shelters require. There are extremely nosy forms to be filled out in advance (so that they can call your references -- no, I'm not kidding), multiple interviews (with humans, not animals) to schedule, and mucho dinero to shell out. They're taking the word "adopt" waaaaay too seriously; getting a cat is clearly modeled on the process for adopting a white infant with no disabilities.

And then there are the suitability clauses: If you plan to let your cat outside, no cat for you. If you rent rather than owning, no cat for you. If you've used the word "pet" as a noun in the last year, no cat for you. If your chakras haven't been aligned recently, no cat for you. I guess I'd better not tell them that I've eaten both cat and dog (overseas! 25 years ago! and I didn't inhale!), huh?

I understand the need to make sure that the animals are going to end up in healthy environments (and not back in the shelter or on the street), but invading our privacy and making huge financial demands isn't the way to find them good homes.

So, if anyone knows of an adult cat looking for a good home, leave a comment.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

dateline: Lincoln Park, 7:49pm, Thursday, 9 aug 2007

What's with the helicopter circling overhead nonstop? Judging by the geometry of the flight pattern, there's a hostage situation in our garage, but if there is, no one informed me of it.

Where does one go to find out the late-breaking news? I'm already on the police chief's email alert list.

Now there's a silver truck idling outside the house. I think I'll go doublecheck the garage for hostage situations...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

dine out, dine in

I don't know how a full week passed since the last post -- must have been all that painting and carpet-pulling that caused me to lose track of time.

I have a few restaurant updates to report:

• Guasalmex, at Holt and Garey, now has chicken pupusas, but only for take-out. I can't imagine why they don't serve them in the restaurant (are they afraid of litigation?), but I didn't ask when I was picking up the big bag o' pupusas to take to some friends' house.

• Lela's on Second Street seems to have packed up its tent and skulked away in the night. That's a blow for Pomona's dreams of having an "entertainment district," but its good news for anyone who wants a nice meal out. Maybe that's why Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares still hasn't aired that episode.

• Last night as my big bag o' pupusas and I were heading over to said friends' house, I passed the new Korean restaurant Koki's, in the same strip mall on Indian Hill as Pho Ha. We still haven't tried it, and I don't think we will be soon: A Hummer had crashed into the front window, such that its back end was poking out, wheels in the air, with glass spewed everywhere. Firetrucks and ambulances were on the scene in force.

UPDATE: On the way back from Ikea to get a rug for my study, I checked out Basha Market, on the corner of Arrow and Sunflower. It's a good bit bigger than the Upland Farmer's Market (which, as you may know, is in fact a Middle Easter grocery store), with a larger meat counter, more pastries and take-out food, and better produce. Definitely worth the drive.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

goings on about town

Thanks to GoP for the electrician rec. I've got a call in to him, despite the fact that we did in fact get hold of another recommended electrician, who proceeded to cause us both to fall out in a dead faint when he informed us that the electrical panel is a sizzling menace (and indeed it does look like a dog's dinner back behind the fuses). Second opinion, here we come!

On the up side of home ownership, one of our neighbors stopped by yesterday morning with a gift: a used copy of the Sunset Western Garden Book, which she claims as her bible. It was tremendously generous of her, and we were both pleased that she (rightly) took us for used-book people. She'd bought it at Magic Books, down in the 2nd Street "entertainment distract" (sorry, I can't say that without snickering), and she talked up the bookstore as much as she talked up the book. Beat that, Welcome Wagon!

I finished T.C. Boyle's new book on the way back from visiting my mother up in the holler (I'll get around to posting about the book on the other blog soon), and I felt like something fun and easy. Not being a big fan of genre fiction, I have always turned to children's books to scratch that itch. In grad school, particularly, children's books were about all I could read.

So I hied me down to the Pomona Library. Both of us are happy to be out of the clutches of the LA County Library System, which blows in more ways than Elizabeth Barrett Browning can count (at least judging by our experience in Claremont). Pomona has a well-planned, if underfunded, small municipal library, with a real library director (not just some functionary chosen according to the Peter Principle) who is involved in the life of the city. Sure, it has its faults -- and I'll discover more of them -- but there's a lot to be said for the place.

I had not until the other day explored the children's room. It was full of kids doing all kinds of things -- reading, studying, coloring, talking about books with the librarians. All you parents can snarl at me now, but there are a lot worse things than spending all your time at the library. Look at me! (Oops, bad example.)

The underfunding of the library really shows in the children's room, although I'm not entirely sorry. The Claremont children's room has a fairly aggressive policy of weeding out older books in order to make space for the newest ones, meaning tons of Magic Treehouse and Gossip Girls bilge and one lonely Encyclopedia Brown book. Bias toward the new? Not so much a problem at the Pomona PL. Several copies of The Trumpeter of Krakow, a full of range of EB (Brown, not Britannica), all the Boxcar Children you can eat.

I generally limit myself to one book per decade (publication date, not decade of my age -- that was how the library of my childhood limited their circulation). That lets me achieve some breadth and prevents me from carrying home whole shelves. That can be a challenge at Claremont, where everything is from the 90s and the naughty-aughties, but it's eminently doable at Pomona. In fact, it affords an opportunity to assess the trajectory of library budgets (at least for the children's room): While the aughts are pretty well represented, the 1990s seem to have been a time of real belt-tightening.

My last observation is that Pomona and Claremont have very different attitudes toward children's nonfiction. The latter town counts on parents to provide information access through other channels, while the former takes seriously its role as a place to find information, even for early readers. While I don't read much children's nonfiction, I wholeheartedly support that policy, esp. given how the library seems to be used by the community. My only quibble is that historical fiction set before the American Revolution seems to be automatically classified as nonfiction. If anything, it should be the other way round, with most medieval and antique "history" for kids cataloged as fiction.

The current PL is the finest architecture the early 1960s (I'm guessing) had to offer, but isn't the earlier incarnation a handsome specimen?

Friday, July 27, 2007


Our realtor has an electrician she swears by, and we have great need for an electrician: Neither of our studies has an electrical outlet near the possible places for a desk. In my study, for example, the two outlets are behind the door and on the three-foot wall between the door and the closet.

Our realtor's electrician, however, does not need us. After many phone calls, promised appointments, and what not, he finally admitted that he does not have time for our job.

So, can anyone recommend an electrician?

[I have posts brewing on The Garden on Garey, the children's room at the library, and a couple of other things, but right now our electrical frustrations take precedence.]

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I love the nightlife, I got to boogie

Over on the Foothill Cities blog, Publius wondered what we thought about having an "entertainment district" in downtown Pomona, as the Daily Bulletin recently discussed. I haven't consulted K, but I am just fine with it. As everyone has been saying about the Laemmle's branch office in Claremont, finally we won't have to drive to Pasafriggindena.

Most of the places we've lived in the last 20 years have been one form of entertainment district or another, even if our San Francisco entertainment district (SOMA) came with a methadone clinic next door (which, btw, makes whatever drug dealing goes on in Lincoln Park look like, well, a walk in the park).

In Atlanta, we were part of the move to preserve the residential character of our nabe, the Virginia-Highland area. We loved being able to walk to supper (come to think of it, Pomona is the first place we've lived where we couldn't amble down the street for a meal) but having the Buckhead yuppies block our driveway didn't go down so well. And then there was the time we woke up to hear two drunk women peeing in the grass right outside our window.

In Claremont, we lived about as close to Village nightlife as you can get -- but, of course, they roll up the sidewalks at toddler bedtime there, so the biggest downside was living in boutique hell. As K. is wont to say, "There are five places I can buy a little black dress, but nowhere to buy a nail." (People then think that Claremont is some kind of tranny heaven, a notion he then has to disabuse them of in a hurry.)

Pomona, it strikes me, is in a perfect position to develop downtown as an entertainment district. It isn't taking over an established residential neighborhood, and I will be utterly unsympathetic toward anyone who buys one of the new downtown lofts and then whinges about the noise. The first time it happens -- and it will, I guarandamntee it -- look for a furious post here.

Also, diversity is one of Pomona's greatest strengths. I was eager to escape Claremont's overwhelming homogeneity (in class, color, creed, you name it), and Pomona seems to have an amicable mix of most everything. Admittedly, I've only lived here a short time, and I invite denial in the comments, but the heterogeneity doesn't appear to have engendered a pitched war for resources (as in the film Flag Wars, which we've just seen and will post about in more detail). Our gangs seem to go by names like Ghost Town Sharkies, not "La Raza Against Yuppies" and "Preservationists United Against Undesirables."

My only hesitation is the use of Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade as a model. Pace, GoP, but I utterly loathe that place. It gives a new meaning to the 19th-century diagnosis "galloping consumption," and I break out in hives at the very thought of it. Bring that to Pomona, and we might have to leave town.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

coyotes bagged my groceries

I'm back from beyond, and just happy to be home. The timing of my research trip was seriously suboptimal, but since I applied for the grant back in October, long before I knew that we'd be moving at the end of June, there was no way around it.

K. seems to subsist on nothing but orange juice, yogurt, and beer, at least judging by our refrigerator. When I got home, the first thing on my to-do list was grocery shopping. At Sprouts!

I probably had overinflated hopes, because I was somewhat disappointed. Packaged and prepared foods seemed well represented, although the deli stuff was more on the mayonnaise end of the spectrum than the balsamic vinegar end, if you know what I mean.

Produce was inexpensive, but the selection wasn't great -- I was looking for some dark greens (having brought some wonderful hickory bacon back from up in the holler), and all I could find was one bunch of so-so kale and two bunches of very sad collards.

Meat I wasn't shopping for, so I can't pass judgment. Bulk goods were pretty decent (and thank god for that). Cheeses were a half-step worse than Von's (ditto the selection of hummus et al.).

But bread! Mein Gott im Himmel, was it grim. I had read GoP's review, but still. Lots of pre-bagged loaves of sliced sandwich bread in hippy-dippy brands, but next to nothing in the way of quality bread -- a few baguettes, some loaded-with-goopy-ingredients foccaccia, enough sticky buns to feed a small nation.

On my research trip, I met a couple of people who teach in the rural midwest (Missouri and Minnesota). Both of them had coped with the bread question by starting to bake their own. If GoP's Campaign for Real Bread doesn't succeed, it may come to that. Because no way am I paying $8/loaf at Wolfe's when I don't feel like braving TJ's.

Oh yeah: Suckiest. Bagger. Ever. Tomatoes at the bottom, under the hummus and milk. Heaviest items all in one (flimsy) bag and lightest items in another. Milk packed upside down. Next time I'll bag my own, thanks. And definitely bring your canvas, because their paper bags aren't strong enough to re-use (and they don't have handles).

In other news: My study faces onto the street, so I can sit at my desk and watch the world go by while I'm having Deep Thoughts. Actually, the birds are more interesting than the world; there's a mockingbird that likes hopping around in the magnolia outside my window.

It would be great to put up a bird feeder, as well as to fill the birdbath out back (came with the house). But I'm hesitant... the nabe is full of cats, and I wouldn't want to be leading the avians to slaughter. Nothing's more dangerous than an unfenced pool, right? Feel free to weigh in with your opinions.

I did see a portent yesterday that the cats may soon have a predator of their own: As I was turning onto the 10 eastbound at about 4pm -- in the midst of heavy traffic -- I saw a coyote snuffling around in the triangle of dirt between the interstate and the onramp. Gave me a dirty look too. I was under the impression that the coyotes hadn't crossed the 10, but apparently that's not the case. I have nothing against coyotes -- esp. where we've moved into their territory (I'm talkin' to you, Padua Hills!) -- but we ought to be able to let our cats out in a hundred-year-old neighborhood, dagnabbit.