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.