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
What does all this have to do with Brea, you might ask? Nothing. Brea has nothing to do with anything. Flee it, and don't look back.
But for the rest of us, it's part of who we are, this ever-changing, rootless thing. I think that's because our paradise is a fiction, written with aqueducts and distant dams. We're a desert, Jack. Look at our pre-Colombian past. This wasn't a bountiful paradise: the original inhabitants of OC had a ratio of practically no one per acre, and they barely grubbed out an existence on acorns and mackerel.
We're here and well-hydrated only due to the good graces of a lot of piped-in water. The fact that we actually live in an earthquake-prone, inhospitable desert is something I think we each organically feel, deep down, all the time. It makes us antsy. It also makes us create, building layer upon layer of fantasy as if it could stave off reality in times of crisis.
Are we on the brink of times of crisis? I dunno. Right now, I can't think past Halloween and how Knott's Berry Farm could really one-up the competition in the fright-night business by running ads that mention, "Hey, we really kill people at our park!"
I'm old enough to remember when Knott's didn't have a fence around it and it didn't cost anything to get in (the park initially claimed they enclosed it to keep the hippies out. The hippies are gone, guys; you can open up again). I remember when it cost $3.50 to see Led Zeppelin and Tull at the Anaheim Convention Center.
I'm older than rope. As such, when I squint upon the things I love in Orange County still, they tend either to be the enduring bits of nature or things that reflect California's golden era—the craftsman homes of Old Town Orange, Fullerton's old downtown, Laguna's ramshackle hill streets, Silverado Canyon and such. I like new things; I just wish they didn't suck so hard.
Like Timmy the Lonely Satellite, I look for things that make me feel there is a sense of community here, and there's plenty. You won't find a vibrant street cafť life necessarily, but volunteer for a cause or two sometime, and you'll sure find you're not alone. OC is crawling with nice people. You don't even have to squint at them.
There is still much to love in our scruffy old county, as these following pages will attest, along with some places that are fun to revile. Are we nuts to stay here? Eat your way through Anaheim's La Palma Chicken Pie Shop. See Chris Gaffney at the Swallows in Capistrano. Catch some jazz at Steamers in Fullerton. Take a few dozen spins around the traffic circle in Orange. Then you tell us.