The purpose of this series is laid out precisely in Part One. You may ask if there really should have been 52 days pass between Parts One and Two. No, not really. But it may be that I really really really didn't want to write about the Inland Empire, in which I toiled for seven months in 1991.
Some people called it Phillips Ranch. Some people called it Chino Hills. They called it by these names because they didn't want to say the name of the city they were actually in: Pomona. No, Pomona's legacy as birthplace to Tom Waits and Jessica Alba was somehow not enough to shroud the shame of living in a city of low sad houses and corner grocery stores where you could pay all your utility bills. But no back then Phillips Ranch was just a neighborhood (not sure what it is now) and Chino Hills was across the street. From April 1991 to November 1991, I was a Pomonan.
What was I doing there? After Brea, I returned to Minneapolis for a not-so-triumphant eight-month stint working odd jobs and watching Twin Peaks. With my Cal. State Fullerton Master's degree safely in its cheap default frame, I assumed Minnesota job offers (ful-time jobs, with benefits) would come flying my way. But no there was that mini-recession and I was broke. Just as Minnesota was starting to thaw out and spring was around the corner, I got a phone call from my parents (or maybe it was just one of them). My parents were living in Singapore then. Two years earlier, they had purchased a Pomona condo as an investment property. Their long-time tenant was moving out. They knewI was unhappy driving that high-concept delivery van around the western side of the Twin Cities (long story). Come back to California. Live in the condo. Pay rent when you get a job.
Little did they know I wouldn't get a job until November and the job was so far away from Pomona that I had to immediately move. But for seven months I got to live in a tacky two-story two-bedroom condo with awful red carpeting and inconsistent blinds. I do remember thoroughly enjoying the late-night jacuzzi dips (the sprawling condo complex had four pools and four jacuzzis which always seemed to be empty.) Much of my time was spent driving to Los Angeles to spend time with my new girlfriend. I spent a lot of time on that 60 freeway in '91. I was on it recently. It hasn't changed one bit. You could tell a lot about the world (traffic, weather, economic climate, how the Dodgers were doing) based on the time it took for you to get from the Montebello Town Center to the Puente Hills Mall (or vice versa).
But what about the I.E., on whose western edge I lived for little more than half a year? Are those stories true - bleak landscapes dotted with failed ideas and tired people just getting by... smoggy torpor punctuated only by the night...warehouses and storage facilities and pizza places where the Little League teams always comandeered the good tables on Saturdays? Yes, the stories are trie. It's difficult to define a massive region whose best city is Claremont (nice town but David Foster Wallace killed himself there and Leonard Cohen sequestered himself in the hills above the town, squandering half of the 90s) and whose worst city is Victorville (the town where sadness went to die, only to be reborn and multiplied). I won't try to define it. I'll just say this: please please don't make live there again.
(Note: My family's family compound (i.e., the Fahmpound) is in La Verne, a city that borders both Pomona and Claremont. Some would call it part of the Inland Empire (by the way - EMPIRE? Talk about overselling yourself); its residents prefer to think of themselves as the eastern edge of the San Gabriel Valley. I don't know, it's all arbitrary. But I think I'll leave La Verne out of both regions. It can be its own place, the city where my family went to retire, leaving its more interesting debris to slog its way around America.