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August 29, 2014

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Always trust a bar with paneling and Mario Andretti’s picture on the wall

NOW

I was coming back from the Big A -- which is what I still call the former Anaheim Stadium, even if the Big A has been relegated to the remoteness of the parking lot where you can barely see it -- when a friend sent a text that said if I was lookin' for adventure, I might consider dropping into this place in San Bernardino called The Mug for lunch or a beer.

Knowing of my affinity for old things with character -- or old characters and their things -- she thought I would like The Mug. "Ask for a white-haired man named Tony. He's the owner," she said.

When we rolled off the Highland Avenue off-ramp, it was about 10:50 a.m.. The Mug wasn't yet open. Big Daddy and I weren't complaining too much, because besides looking really old, The Mug also looks like a place where a couple of naive travelers with out-of-state license plates lookin' for adventure might also get really stabbed with a knife.

Eventually, The Mug opened. Getting Big Daddy to come inside was like trying to get Mikey to eat a bowl of Life cereal.

"I'm not gonna twy it."

Finally, I said, how 'bout if I twy it? I'll go in first and if looks OK, and/or I don't get stabbed, I'll come get you."

I could tell right away I was going to like this place. For starters, it was covered in old paneling. They don't have old paneling at Chili's, and that's another reason why I don't drink there.

The old paneling, in turn, was covered with poster-sized photographs of race car drivers. Not NASCAR drivers. Indy 500 drivers. From the 1970s. The drive-a-race-car-by-the-seat-of-your-pants era. My era.

Mario Andretti. Johnny Rutherford. A.J. Foyt. The Unsers. Rick Mears. Danny Ongais. Peter Revson. Wally Dallenbach. All of them signed. Many of them turning slightly yellow.

We ordered the homemade spaghetti. It arrived with meatballs roughly the size of rear racing slicks.

I asked if the white-haired guy who owns the place was around.

Tony Trozara came out to regale us with stories about Indy 500 drivers whose pictures were hanging on the walls. See that one of Mario behind the bar, he said, nodding to a photo of the legendary Mario Andretti leaving the pits at the State Fairgrounds up in Sacramento in a dirt car. See that young guy in the crew pushing him off?

It was Tony. Black-haired Tony back then.

White-haired Tony told us a story about how the two little dents in Mario's windscreen got there that cannot be reprinted here. Then he asked what we thought of the homemade spaghetti with the meatballs as big as racing slicks.

My friend was right. I did like this place.

THEN

I read today where this really ugly looking fish from the waters off New Zealand, which is used to make the Filet-O-Fish sandwich at McDonald's, is in short supply.

When I told a colleague that today over lunch, he asked if the fish was square.

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