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Riding hot air to Santa Catalina

On this day 116 years ago, some Long Beach financial moguls had an idea that you couldn’t possibly wrap your head around.

The town, in 1908, was a large-ish village of around 15,000 people, already dwarfed by Los Angeles with that metropolis’ population of more than 300,000, but it was determined to put its name high in the list of places to visit.

Back then, its chief draw was its beach and the bones of a long-dead whale named Minnie, a finback that was dragged to shore and killed in 1887 and its skeleton put on display for public viewing.

Over the bones’ 21 years as a tourist attraction, pretty much everyone who wanted to see a whale skeleton up close had done so and the moneyed folk in Long Beach looked for a new attraction.

A handful of these men, identified only as “capitalists” came up with an idea and formed a company with a name that was a spoiler for those trying to guess its purpose: The Great Long Beach & Catalina Pneumatic Glass Submarine Hot Air Tube Company.

Basically, the company would lay some 26 miles worth of glass tubing from the foot of American Avenue (Long Beach Boulevard) to a yet-to-be-named location on Catalina. Folks would ride in cylindrical cars that would be powered by compressed hot air and whiz across the channel.

The glass construction of the tubes and cars would allow travelers to view marine growth and “monsters of the deep” along their journey, with searchlights illuminating the murky depths.

I could only find one article about the proposed project, and that was the announcement of the plan. It concluded with the way-beyond-optimistic paragraph:

“The completion of this stupendous triumph of modern engineering will give our city a prestige and greatness too colossal for contemplation.”

Instead, the Long Beach & Catalina Pneumatic Glass Submarine Hot Air Tube joined a long list of ambitious projects that never came to fruition for Long Beach, including Disney Sea, the 1967 World’s Fair, the 600-foot-tall Tower of Toscana, a half-dozen monorail proposals and Urban Commons’ Queen Mary Island.

What I’m watching

There are a couple of series, one, “Sugar,” starring Colin Farrell, that I’ve finished and another, “Outer Range,” featuring Josh Brolin, that is starting its second season.

Both seem to be, on their face, standard and frequently mined genres that go beyond the traditional into the realms of paranormal or science fiction.

Apple TV+’s “Sugar” was a fine series, an update on the noir classics of the 1940s and 1950s, with Farrell playing a rather brooding private eye working on the fringes of Hollywood while looking for the granddaughter of an aging Hollywood film producer.

There are hints, perhaps — I missed the early ones but my wife and a friend both smelled something fishy around Episode 4 or 5, whereas it took me seven episodes to get hit over the head with the fact that (spoiler alert right here) our hero might be from another planet. It’s a fairly strange and not unsatisfactory conclusion when he decides to remain an Earthling as others hop unseen into whatever form of transportation it is that takes them back to wherever they’re from.

“Outer Range,” on Amazon Prime, establishes itself first as a Western, with lots of hats, bull-riding and “Yellowstone”-like inter- and intra-family feuding, but soon a mysterious hole out on a distant pasture of Brolin’s sprawling ranch is discovered. The hole quickly becomes the star of the show with its strange, time-shifting properties, the breadth of which isn’t entirely clear, but presumably will be in Season 2.

I’m not a fan of monkeying around with time or much else in the realm of science fiction. Still, I’m interested enough to keep viewing “Outer Range,” but I’m not always happy with my decision. You could talk me out of it.

International Breakfast Tour continues

My daughter Hannah and I are really getting out there now, following reader Walter Gajewski’s recommendation to try Off Street Cafe in the faraway land of Cerritos.

It was a pretty good call. Hannah had a breakfast croissant with bacon and I went with the when-in-Rome option of ordering the “Off Street,” figuring it must be the cafe’s signature dish.

It wasn’t anything wild, just an outsize traditional breakfast of eggs, two strips of bacon, a couple of excellent sausage links and a brace of flapjacks with maple syrup.

The restaurant, nestled in a business park at 11020 Artesia Blvd., is popular, nearly full at 8 a.m., but the service was rapid and friendly and the food was just fine. I’ll give it a B-plus and would eat there again, especially if I was looking to buy something at the nearby Cerritos Auto Square. You don’t want to go car-shopping on an empty stomach.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.