Irvine

You can plan cities, but you cant plan people

SCARE THE HELL OUT OF LOCALS

Urban America.Huntington Beach designer Samiah puts together women's coats and men's shirts with faux furs and heavy velour in loud animal prints—leopard, zebra, tiger. Men's shirts have that bowling alley feel—pointy collars, boxy fit. Urban America's Nikki can custom-order Samiah's designs to fit men as big as XXXL. $99-$140; women's jackets, $129. 4237 Campus Dr., Ste. B-164, (949) 725-9607.

CITY OF KIDS

The Pleasure Company.Irvine's previous mayor set up a "romance committee" to pump more testosterone into the city, but Irvine hardly needs it: Have you seen all the kids in this town? There's something in the air: legs. Which may be why Irvine can get along with a red-light district that comprises just one shop—this one dealing in skimpy clothes, immense dildos and powerful vibrators. 17955 Sky Park Circle, (949) 261-8615.

CITY OF GODS

Alton Parkway between Culver and Jeffrey. In Irvine, the obsession with master planning put several of the city's houses of worship in one small area. And what churches: look what the postmodernists have done to Irvine Presbyterian! Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome is home to the Unitarians—who else!? But the temple to beat all temples—the Vatican of Irvine, its Duomo—is quite clearly the magnificent Greek Orthodox St. Paul's. When it first appeared, the massive church ticked off nearby homeowners who appreciated neither its bone-white color scheme nor its kick-ass dome. Within months, they were all dead of boils; the church remains.

BEST PLACES TO SEE THE PAST

The Irvine Museum. Joan Irvine Smith is the great-granddaughter of James Irvine I, the man who built the Irvine Ranch—a spread that runs from the Pacific Ocean pretty much to the Santa Anas in central OC. And this is her museum. Her collection specializes in Impressionist work, especially the plein-air work of Southern California artists, which makes her museum a monument to the ranch before it fell under the suzerainty of Don "Bulldozer" Bren in the 1970s. 18881 Von Karman Ave., Ste. 12, (949) 476-2565.Irvine Valley College Antique Market.Not the kind of neat crap you'll find cheap at a swap meet—and not technically antique, either. I came this close to blowing my life savings on a bent-cane chair with a Hawaiian print that screamed mai tais. Please investigate the vestigial orange grove next to the campus; this may be your last chance. 5500 Irvine Center Dr.; first Saturday of each month.

ESCAPES FROM IRVINE

The Sinks. One day soon, the Irvine Co. promises, this Grand Canyon of Orange County will be open to the public. For the moment, it's open only to company executives and to guided tours by the Nature Conservancy. Tour information: (714) 832-7478.Culver Plaza.In a recent survey of OC cities—Where are you most likely to run into someone who isn't white?—Irvine ranked No. 1 among South County cities. The city's "diversity" is pretty monolithically Asian, but within that very broad classification, the variation is remarkable: Chinese (from Taiwan and the People's Republic of China), Koreans and Vietnamese abound. Culver Plaza is the city's Chinatown—Chinese banks and stores and Sam Woo's restaurant. The best attraction: 99 Ranch Market. The market's live shellfish, fresh-dressed fish and animal heads offer a brief escape from Irvine. 15333 Culver Dr., (949) 651-8899.San Diego Creek. Once, at the height of a storm, two young men ignored maritime regulations and set themselves a-sailing on the raging San Diego Creek. Their tiny, rubber craft wheeled like the compass of the SS Minnow, snagged momentarily on branches, ricocheted off the trestles of overpasses and tumbled over once near the corner of University and Campus—the young men, their craft and their caps sailing separately for the moment. Regaining their boat, the men steered out of Irvine and into Newport's Upper Bay, where the water broke and fanned out into a placid mirror beneath the slate sky. They were free. In the summer, the creek is nearly dry, but we have seen men catch fish there.
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