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.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Vegetable Carnage

As a kid, I loved gardening. I happily grew the common, easy houseplants, like swedish ivy and jade plants and I even tried my hand at miniature roses. Twenty years of apartment living blunted my enthusiasm, so it's been interesting dealing with gardening again, in the new house.

I just bought a pair of by-pass pruners (with nasty hooked blades) and had at the roses, taking care of a month's worth of rose hips and a few small dead branches. I even cut down a vine that seemed to be happily winding its way around several of the rose bushes (yeah, the vine wasn't a rose, I'm not quite that pitiful at this stuff!). Hopefully, all that stuff I read about as a kid still applies -- who knows?

It really is strange, after all those years of having no yard, to be fussing with this stuff, and worrying about crabgrass and watering schedules and all the rest. Yow. But kinda fun.

What does this have to do with Pomona? Well, after working in the yard, I like a cold beer. I'm not sure where to get good beer in Pomona. I recently discovered the City Market (at Indian Hill and Arrow in Claremont) which has some great beer at amazing prices, plus RC Helicopters. Just what I look for in a store, but kind of a drive...

Like GoP, I enjoy shopping at the Stater Bros. on Garey in Pomona. It's great to have a grocery store within walking distance. While I share GoP's desire for nicer bread at the store, I have to admit that my real complaint is with the lack of selection of poseur beers. Last Friday, I couldn't even find Sierra Nevada beers, let alone Anchor Steam or even vaguely obscure stuff. (Although I did, in desperation, buy a twelve pack of horrendously overpriced Fat Tire Ale.)

I can only pray that there's some fabulous hidden gem down here in Pomona where I can get some nice beer for cheap...

[Umm, two posts about beer? I actually drink very little -- I'm a total lightweight -- but when I drink, I want something good...]

Monday, July 9, 2007

Walkin' Around and Enjoying Downtown

With Meg out of town, I was sort of at loose ends this weekend. Fortunately, our buddy Rod decided to drop by and hang out Saturday night.

Rod was kind of curious about real estate in Lincoln Park, so we strolled down Jefferson and Lincoln avenues, admiring the park that gives the place its name, and checking out the 'For Sale' signs. Meg and I had looked at most of the places for sale, but I was still surprised that I could keep up a running commentary about price cuts and the condition of garages, kitchens, and bedrooms.

I was reminded, seeing all this through Rod's eyes, of how nice a neighborhood this is. Who knows what we'll discover after we've been here a few months or a few years instead of a few weeks, but I'm enjoying it all for now.

Afterwards, we headed downtown lookin' for some Saturday night food. I love Pomona's downtown -- it's got the cool old Fox Theater and just feels a bit more urban and vertical than some of the other local towns. I can only presume that the rent is still reasonable in downtown -- there were three record stores, a number of galleries, and all sorts of other places that I would presume (in my profound ignorance) couldn't make it if they were paying a mint.

[On the other hand, I guess I can't imagine how some of the boutiques in Claremont's village area make it, and still manage to pay high rents. So who knows?]

We wound up at the 2nd Street Bistro, almost by default. Pomona's downtown can be kind of quiet at night, in the absence of shows at the Glass House.

2nd Street Bistro is a pleasant place, with a good atmosphere and reasonable service. The food is a mixture of French and Italian offerings; it's good, without being remarkable.

Rod and I both tried out the Cavatappi Gratinee. The roasted tomato sauce was rich and pretty delicious, although the cheese melted on top was a bit ropier than I'd hoped, and the overall affect didn't quite live up to my expectations based on the description on the menu.

Rod had one of the three wines available by the glass (white, red, or rose), and I had a Moretti beer, which was about the most interesting one available. All of LA seems to suffer from a lack of imagination about beers -- most restaurants have a few mediocre yellow beers available, with some token dark beer (often Newcastle) thrown in for good measure. The current rage for Belgian beers seems to be providing a few more options, but I have to admit that I'm not wild about those malty brews.

Despite my grumpy ranting about beers, I enjoyed the meal. 2nd Street Bistro is actually pretty solid, and I'd put it up against the similarly priced options in the area any day. It's not as fancy as Tutti Mangia or Cafe Allegro, nor is the food as interesting, but it isn't intended to be, and it's certainly cheaper.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

gone fishin'

K is gonna hafta represent for the next ten days -- I'm off in North Cackalacka for a week, and then visiting my mother. It's kinda hard to explore Pomona from the part of the world where it's 92 degrees (and 92% humidity) at 8:50pm.

As he dropped me off at the airport, K asked, "Is there anything else you want me to do while you're gone?" but I forgot to say "Yeah -- blog!"

That's a snail darter, in case you're wondering.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Library Days

In our nearly 20 years together, M. and I have always lived within walking distance of a library. I suppose this was always a bit of a coincidence -- perhaps libraries are often sited near the kind of semi-urban density that we appreciate. Or maybe we're just a couple of big honkin' geeks.

Alas, we're now only within walking distance if, like me, you like to go out and walk a few miles for fun -- the library is a mile and half or so away. I guess maybe I'll have to start bicycling down there; it'd be a shame to fire up the car for such a short trip.

In any case, after less than a week living here, we hied ourselves down to the library and got ourselves cards. Of course, after years of living up the road, we already had LA County library cards, but Pomona maintains its own library, separate from the county.

As far as I can tell, this is a good thing. The various county library branches nearby are all pretty small, and the Pomona library is pretty large, as befits a city of something like 150,000 people. There are something like 300,000 volumes, what looks like a reasonable reference section, and even a little computer room with 20 or 30 machines downstairs.

We actually had a chance to try out the computers, as our DSL took forever to get installed. We spent a pleasant half-hour checking the web, surrounded by a packed room of teenagers. The connection was quick and the computers reasonably up to date. I've certainly paid for worse connections in Internet cafes.

Hopefully, we'll be able to check out some actual books soon; the way things are going, they might all be about home repair and lawn maintainance. :-(

[Started last weekend, posted today...]

the refuge of scoundrels

A couple of days ago, Claremont Insider reminded us of last year's FlagGate, but little did I know that I would wake up yesterday morning (4 July) to find a flag planted in my own yard, with a realtor's ad stapled to the blue-and-white-stars section.

This pisses me off for several reasons. First of all, what a nerve! Secondly, what a nerve! (Sorry, can't help myself.)

Thirdly, stapling an ad to a flag seems like the ultimate in disrespect for national symbols -- doesn't anybody read the Flag Code anymore? (Full disclosure: Everything I know about the Flag Code I learned from Encyclopedia Brown.)

But most of all, this pisses me off because it's MY yard, dammit. When random people -- in this case, Barbara Armendariz, whom I will henceforth badmouth whenever the opportunity arises -- dump stuff in my yard without my permission, I call it littering. Especially when the litter consists of an insulted flag.

It sparked a meditation on the difference between advertising and spam, but I'll spare you that. I will say, however, that I know we're in the right neighborhood: By the end of the day, only one house on the block still had its flag, and I'm not sure that person was in town.


We spent July Fourth in the most patriotic way possible, spending money. Specifically at Lowe's (we hadn't yet seen GoP's suggestion of the San Dimas Ace hardware), along with several dozen other childless couples. We got a rake, hedgeclippers, and the requisite small metal objects. Plus we fawned over random orbital sanders and 20-foot ladders.

We had a Central American lunch to counteract the effects of such heinous spendo-Americanism, at the pupuseria on Holt & Garey that we've had our eye on.

It's called Guasalmex, and the menu is a triptych of delight: Left side, Guatemala; center, El Salvador; Right, Mexico. Where else can you get three different national styles of enchilada, I ask you?

I had a couple of pupusas and a glass of jamaica, and K had the (Guatemalteco) pastelito de carne and horchata. The pupusas were good, and the big bowl of curtido was excellent, although the jamaica was too sweet -- next time I'll test their tamarindo. K's pastelito was good too.

We'll definitely head back there soon -- there were lots of good-sounding things on the menu. And the next time we have to feed a bunch of people, they have a special: 20 pupusas and a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi for $19.99. If only we'd known about that during the move!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

mystery trees

K says he's going to blog about the Pomona Public Library (and I believe he has a rant stored up for the providers that refuse to set up our net connection for TWO. WHOLE. WEEKS), but in the meantime, perhaps someone can help me identify the non-fruit trees in our yard.

First, there's this one, hanging over the alley:

Then there's the shade tree that hangs over the patio:

Finally, there is the shrub on the side of the house that looks like something out of The Cat in the Hat:

That one looks like something I need to get a handle on, since a runner of it is growing out of the porch steps, too (but not for long).

And then I need to get the Washingtonia palm dug up before it cracks the foundation. A friend suggested seeing if a landscaper wants to haul it away for use elsewhere, and I'll probably look into that.

Monday, July 2, 2007

P as in "plum," L as in "plum," U as in "plum"...

When we bought Debtor's Prison, I told a friend that the yard had a plum tree. "Ah," she clucked, "start learning how to prop up branches."

Well, too late.

It is now exactly seven days since we moved in, the plum tree is in full plummage, and already a branch -- a fairly hefty one -- has broken off under the fearsome weight of its fruit. On the upside, there's a start to our compost pile!

Every weekend from now until the end of time, I think, will be dominated by some minor project or another. K's project for the weekend was going to OSH, getting a pruning saw and pruning paint, and repairing the damage.

As I have grumbled about on my personal blog, every day seems to demand a trip to OSH. Which means that every day involves an encounter with stunning imbecility. I prefer to patronize OSH over Lowe's or Home Despot, but I swear they must have a corporate policy of hiring only the thickest bricks -- luuded-out cashiers who have to search for the TOTAL button on the register, recalcitrant teenagers who insist that OSH doesn't carry wood glue, old men who don't know what crown molding is.

Before I break down completely and start going to Lowe's, are there any independent and/or Ace hardware stores near Pomona that anyone can recommend? I long for the Parker Brothers Hardware Store of my hometown, where they still remember me if I stop by with my mother, even though I left East Tennessee in 1979.

Oh yeah: And if anyone has any suggestions on what to do with hundreds of plums, don't hold back. (Jam and tarts we've got covered. And I'm thinking about experimenting with Japanese umeshu, which is ordinarily made with greengages.)