7: Peculiar Achievement in All Things Egghead

Photo by Jack GouldANNOUNCER: Once again, OC Weekly editor Will SWAIM!

[Huge fanfare. The audience rises. The music swells. A sharp light glances off shiny brass in the orchestra pit.]

SWAIM: Now is the time in the show devoted to honoring the cultured and braniac-ed.

[Loud sounds of rustling from the crowd as many audience members bolt for the doors.]

SWAIM [jiggling the keys to the locked hall doors and wagging his finger]: Uh-uh-uh. Now, why don't we all just sit down, relax and get culturized. C'mon, there we go. C'mon, it's not going to hurt. . . .

MAN IN AUDIENCE: Culture kill my brother!

SWAIM: Yes, yes, but those days are behind us! It's time to forgive and forget! Besides, the person who claps the loudest during this segment of the show will receive a special scratch-and-sniff Joey Lawrence poster!

[Ooohs and aaahs.]

SWAIM: Look, I'll prove you have nothing to fear by giving a shout out to some of the cultured places named by our readers and staff as being this year's best. . . . Places like, well, like the UC Irvine Library! The university boasts the largest library in Orange County, with two facilities on campus and one at the medical center. As Eastern European as it looks, the fortress-like Science Library houses one of the largest science, technology and medicine reference collections in the nation. I don't know what any of that means, but I think it will come in handy if you ever bruise your schmegecky. The main library has been recently refurbished and retrofitted. There are plenty of comfy seats in which to read in a peaceful setting, even if your student days are happily behind you, which reminds me, I'd like to give a big shout out to all the staff and faculty back at Al Goldstein Famous Editors School. How's it hanging guys?!

[Applause.]

SWAIM: Now, let's say you want to go someplace, have a nice drink and take a book.

[Laughter.]

SWAIM: No. seriously, I've heard of people who do this. The kids call it "reading." Well, if you wanted to do some of this "reading," you might think about doing it at a great coffeehouse/ bookstore called The Library in Long Beach.

[Mutterings from the audience.]

SWAIM: Now, yes, it's called the Library, but it's not actually a library. Well, except that there are books there and a lot of people go there to read, but it's not a library.

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: He's trying to hypnotize us!

SWAIM: No, no, no. Well, yes, yes, but not right now. Look, the Library has been around for eight years. A guy named Gary Paterno filled a couple of storefronts with antique couches and frayed carpets, lined the walls with volumes of good cheap books—from a buck to $5.95 —of every genre and began to brew pots of java. The Library feels like an authentic parlor—funky but somehow always fresh, too. It has become a genuine meeting place, not only for the regulars in the neighborhood but also as a rendezvous point for outsiders. From dawn till nearly midnight, the Library serves small meals, pastries and ice cream in addition to a full caffeinated menu. . . . Doncha see? You can go there, have a nice meal, a good talk, and never read word one!

[Thunderous applause.]

SWAIM: Awright! Now we're getting somewhere. So, let's say you want to go somewhere, another coffeehouse to hear some poetry.

[Giggles from the audience.]

SWAIM: No, I mean it. Say you were in the mood to go somewhere and sit and listen to someone pouring out their soul in verse.

[Laughter builds.]

SWAIM: No, seriously, there are people who do this.

[Hilarious gales of laughter.]

SWAIM [above the din]: The best place to do this on a regular basis is at Penguins Hooked on Macaronics.

[Laughter stops at once.]

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: He istrying to hypnotize us!

SWAIM: Penguins Hooked on Macaronics takes place at the Gypsy Den Central and is the largest, most upbeat, friendliest poetry reading in the county. Poet Jaimes Palacio's wacky hosting style and affability attracts some of the highest quality open readers and most talented featured readers from Southern California and beyond. Besides, you can heckle the hell out of him and get away with it.

[Ooohs and aaahs.]

SWAIM: And how many times have you found yourself just hot for a magazine . . .

[Audience cheers in recognition.]

SWAIM: . . . to read?

[Crowd is suddenly, preternaturally silent.]

SWAIM: You know, sidewalk newsstands are a part of sidewalk culture. This being Orange County, there aren't many sidewalk newsstands to speak of. Each of the major chain bookstores have fabulous newsstands, including papers from all over the world and obscure magazines on horse-breeding, transmission-fixing and British fiction. But each of the three sidewalk stands we honor this evening is remarkable for its ability to transport us to another place: The Eastern Newsstand—near Sears in South Coast Plaza—is laudable for its expansiveness. Bring coffee and something to eat; the browsing could take wonderful hours. West Coast Newsstands across from UC Irvine has an actual exposed-to-the-elements magazine rack, and these odd advantages: it's adjacent to a Diedrich Coffee and within a 25-second walk of Alakazam Comics, the outstanding children's bookstore Whale of a Tale, and Ray's Pizza—perhaps the best New York City-style pizza in South County—and Z-Pizza, the Californiest. For the real urban feel, we like the Laguna Newsstand on Forest Avenue. Just off PCH, next door to the Best Bar for Drinking & Shouting, the newsstand is like a piece of NYC —except, of course, for the beach a few feet away.

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