Beach Boulevard Breakdown

A history of OC's infamous thoroughfare

Stanton Park, across from a brickyard, is a strip of grass a few dozen yards wide, running alongside the narrow, rocky Stanton storm channel. Except for the Hispanic family resting on wooden benches near the gun-metal gray merry-go-round, the park was empty. Sociologist William Whyte said a city was only as good as its comfortable places to sit. On Beach Boulevard, Stanton Park is it.

Exactly 11 years before I passed the Jack in the Box at Beach and Ellis in Huntington Beach, a 31-year-old man left the restaurant after telling patrons he'd left a bomb in the men's room. Police found him a block away, sitting quietly on a short wall, his hand concealed in a black shaving bag. He told police to stay away or he'd trigger the bomb. After a half-hour of negotiations, the police tired and ordered their K-9 German shepherd Baron to attack. Police found nothing in the bag or the restroom.

A few moments beyond Jack in the Box, a mute man handed me a slip of paper that read, "Ye Must Be Saved." I asked him what it was for, but he just kept walking. A half-hour later, a man with a dead stare passed me carrying a considerable length of pipe. I didn't try talking to him.

Except for a strip of white light blazing over the western horizon, the sky was completely overcast as I walked past the Huntington Beach wetlands and oil refineries. The air smelled of salt and oil. The sidewalk disappeared again, so I walked in the street. Then it reappeared in front of digital parking meters-25 cents for eight minutes, according to the angry girl I passed.

At exactly 6:50 p.m.-a woman at Beach and Pacific Coast Highway asked me for the time-I completed my walk, crossed the street, and walked onto the beach. There was a small party on the sand in front of Zack's Too, where a bicycle cop was musing about his partner's whereabouts. The guitar music was quick and cheerful. I sat down in the sand-between them and a sign warning all of us to get off the beach by 10 p.m.

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