By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
MOST JARRING BEACH-BUM/ BIRD-SANCTUARY/BOMB-FARM JUXTAPOSITION Life and death and laid-back Southern California beach culture collide along Anaheim Bay, the bridged inlet between Sunset Beach and Seal Beach. You're heading north on PCH, coming out of the scuffed affluence of the Sunset Beach Colony, where most of the rich residents keep the myth of their funkiness alive by keeping their money—and their multimillion-dollar homes—off the main drag. But the hang-loose hodgepodge of surf shops, diners, bars and tattoo parlors collects like a lump in the throat as you blast past the corporate headquarters of Simple Green and onto the bridge. The startling vista includes a teeming, natural saltwater marsh on the right, a stark expanse of man-made earthen berms up ahead, and often a huge, gray Navy warship docked just off the highway to the left. The ship is being reloaded—via railroad tracks that run from the dock to the berms—with the latest and most explosive military technology. This is the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station and Bird Sanctuary—and, all things considered, about the likeliest place in OC for the world to end.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH CARS HIT DRUNKS ON BIKES AND VICE VERSA Get your lawn chair and plant yourself at the corner of 18th and Balboa Boulevard in Newport Beach. The show runs all day every weekend and continues through the end of the summer. The high points are early Saturday morning and late Sunday afternoon.
BEST VISCERAL EXPERIENCE There's no retail outlet for the Sea-Doo-to-Catalina personal-endurance run. So you'll need to procure a few things: a Sea-Doo (Jet Skis not recommended), cell phone and GPS. Wet suit is optional but highly recommended. Departure time: 6 a.m. at the latest. Leave from Seal Beach or Long Beach Harbor. When the water is glassy, it's a smooth ride and there is plenty of time to contemplate the huge, hungry creatures cruising along beneath you. The catch is coming back, when swells run between 3 and 7 feet. Returning to the mainland at full throttle will most likely unseat you, and it's work getting back on, trust me. A 46-mile round trip, it is the workout of a lifetime.
BEST SUMMER STAIRMASTER Someone once told me there are only 400 or so stairs down to South Laguna's Thousand Steps Beach, a lovely, enclosed public beach just north of ritzy, private Three Arch Bay. I think that certain someone is a rat-faced liar. Going down these steps is strenuous—by the halfway point, your knees are smarting from the steep incline. Up is worse. Even the healthiest-appearing runners are glistening with sweat by the end of jogging up. Here's my method for the stair-climbing expedition: (1) One-quarter up: rest, smoke. (2) Halfway: rest, ham sandwich, bottle of water. (3) Three-quarters: smoke. (4) Reach the top and crow like you've climbed Everest.
BEST PLACE THAT YOU WOULDN'T NORMALLY EXPECT TO HEAR VIRULENT ANTI-DISNEY TALK ON A WARM SUMMER'S EVE The seats are cheap in Edison Field's center-field Family Section, but emotions run high. I've sat there twice, and each time the fans, mostly accompanying kids, have expressed little but rage—from the singing of the national anthem through the seventh-inning stretch and out into the parking lot after the game. They were pissed that the Angels traded Jim Edmonds, and they let it be known by mocking Daren Erstad each time he caught a ball ("Edmonds would have caught that barehanded!"). They were pissed about the Angel pitching staff ("I can throw harder than that guy!"). But the real fits started when a home-run ball hit near us was retrieved by a stadium employee who would not—in keeping with convention—throw the ball into the crowd. Instead, the lard-ass in polyester fingered a fan who had gone over the railing to retrieve the ball and had the guy thrown out. I thought the place would explode. "Is this what Disney calls 'customer service'?" one fan screamed to a backing chorus of "Disney sucks!" Unfortunately for Disney, it can't blame beer for riling up the fans. Beer isn't sold in the Family Section. Edison Field, 2000 E. Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, (714) 674-2000 or (714) 663-9000.
BEST PLACE TO PARK ON THE BALBOA PENINSULA At the risk of further alienating myself from my neighbors and mail carriers, I recommend parking—discreetly—on Alvarado, Montero, Anade and Island streets on busy summer weekends. They're located on the bay side of Balboa Boulevard a few blocks west of the Balboa Pier. And please, please, don't tell anyone I sent you.
BEST DOG BEACH Who would've guessed: Dog Beach. At the corner of Seapoint Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach.
BEST SUMMER COOLING DEVICE THAT'S NOT BASED ON CHLOROFLUOROCARBONS (CFCs) The blended mint mocha ($3.25) at the Gypsy Den is a chocolatey-sweet vasodilator blended up with frozen something-or-other (ice, maybe) and, of course, some sort of essence of mint, mentha picata, which not only accounts for the drink's powerful cooling effect but also (research shows) repels rats (and that may be why the Gypsy Den is such a habitable place) and also, in some forms, functions as a carminative —that is, something that causes one to expel flatus, though why one would want to achieve this, er, end is unclear, except as a natural side effect, an unavoidable outcome, of relaxation, yet another attribute of mint, particularly on a balmy afternoon on the patio outside. 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 549-7012. Also in Santa Ana, at the corner of Broadway and Second Street, (714) 835-8840.