Summer Guide

Its very hot right now. Heres why

Yates himself lived an utterly miserable life. That's clear from Blake Bailey's wrenching 2003 biography, A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates, which, along with reissues of Yates' books (with new introductions by Richard Ford and Richard Russo), is fueling renewed interest in his work. A three-pack-a-day smoker since his high school years, a man who could easily put down a quart of whiskey or guzzle three six-packs in a steady day's drinking, traumatized by his combat experiences in World War II, Yates was clinically manic-depressive, and the medications he took, when combined with his alcohol addiction, led to countless psychotic breakdowns and lengthy stays in psychiatric hospitals.

To compound his misery, Yates was a straight, Flaubertian realist and wrote in the teeth of a literary culture so absorbed by John Barth's metafiction or Thomas Pynchon's dazzling postmodern dislocations that, by comparison, Yates' traditionalism seemed irrelevant and old-hat. All this clearly took a toll on Yates—some of his later writing is painfully inferior to Revolutionary Road—but it's miraculous that he was as productive as he was: seven novels, as well as two collections of stories, one, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, an absolute classic.

Revolutionary Road is one for the ages. It's about the Wheelers, Frank and April, two smart, promising New Yorkers who get swept up in the grand arc of American postwar accommodationism: man gets woman pregnant, they marry, man takes boring corporate job, man and wife buy house in the suburbs, woman stays home with the children, everybody's mysteriously miserable. What makes Yates' take on this suburbs unique—aside from his stunning craft (whole other essay needed here)—is that Frank and April realize they've compromised, feel superior to their own lives and, out of a finally acknowledged desperation, vow to change everything. They decide to quit the job, sell the house and move to Paris. "Freedom"—to which concept no one gives more lip service than suburbanites—beckons. But freedom, real freedom—where you live without the safety net of social acceptance, where one is forced to stand face-to-face against your own hopes for yourself—turns out to be so terrifying for them that it turns humiliating and finally tragic. Kurt Vonnegut called the novel "The Great Gatsby of my time," and I can see why: it has the American dream, its seductive hope, its "meretricious beauty," its mournful consequences nailed. (Cornel Bonca) SHAKESPEARE'D Theater Shakespeare Orange County will perform two plays this summer—and neither is A Midsummer Night's Dream! Much Ado About Nothing plays July 15 through 31 and Macbeth plays August 5 through 21. Village Green Amphitheatre, 12740 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 744-7016; www1.chapman.edu/comm/td/soc/index2.html. CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK Hiking Stretching from Coronal del Mar to Laguna Beach, this beach is a favorite of runners and others looking to enjoy the beautiful coastline and cooling ocean breezes. During low tides, spectacular pools are revealed, home to a plethora of interesting ocean denizens, including crabs, starfish and sea urchins. Nearby, once-pristine hills have been defiled by multimillion-dollar homes that now blanket the slopes; however, once on the beach and sheltered by steep bluffs, you are immune to this blight. 8471 Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-7647. MUSIC LIBRARY Outdoor Music The San Juan Capistrano Regional Public Library offers outdoor concerts in the courtyard once a month May through October. Two shows (7 and 9 p.m.), intimate seating, eclectic world music—African drummers to Irish folk to Spanish flamenco—and an appreciative audience makes for a worldly night out. 31495 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 248-7469; www.musicatthelibrary.com. SURFER BOYS U.S. Open The U.S. Open of Surfing, the biggest surf contest in North America, takes place July 24 to Aug. 1 in Huntington Beach. Top professionals from around the world come to compete and check out the culture of Southern California . . . checking, still checking. . . . Anyway, there's a good chance surfers like current world champion Andy Irons and everyone's favorite boy next door Kelly Slater will be on the beach. It's guys like this who attract Orange County's finest females. Girls in teeny-tiny bikinis sporting just-bought boobs and bleached-blond hair, and all they want is a hot surfer boy. You surf . . . right? www.usopenofsurfing.com. DIRT, TREES, HILLS, STUFF Most of us take the Santa Ana Mountains for granted. Not as lofty as the nearby San Gabriel, San Bernardino or San Jacinto mountains, few realize the variety this mountain oasis has to offer: sweeping chaparral-covered slopes, bubbling streams, riparian woodland, potreros carpeted with colorful wildflowers, massive rock formations, and, higher up, stands of Douglas fir and Coulter pine. While navigating its trails, you can almost forget strip malls are just a few miles distant. Stand atop one of its peaks, however, and it's clear these mountains truly are an island in a sea of development. With housing tracts gnawing at its edges like Pac-Men and numerous proposals for more ambitious development—from reservoirs in Morrell Canyon to plans for a road over or under the mountain's spine—it might be prudent to get out there before the trails are converted to asphalt and the chaparral to manicured, water-hungry lawns. When you do, get an early start. The summer sun can really heat things up, and by late morning on calm, hot days, the flies can become a major nuisance. There are numerous trails in the Santa Ana Mountains, providing possibilities for hiking, trail running or mountain biking. Here are a couple of options: Harding Truck Trail. From the trailhead, a 9.3-mile climb leads to the intersection with the Main Divide. You can turn around here or climb another 4.5 miles to Santiago Peak. A killer descent is a well-earned reward for the uphill grunt. Park at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary on Modjeska Canyon Rd., two miles from the intersection with Santiago Canyon Rd. Santiago Peak via Holy Jim Trail. It's 16.1 miles roundtrip, with 4,000 feet elevation gain. Follow Holy Jim Canyon Road half a mile to the trailhead, and then four and a half miles to Main Divide Truck Trail (3S04). Go left; another three miles, and you'll reach the summit. Park at the intersection of Trabuco Creek and Holy Jim Canyon rds. in Trabuco Canyon (4.7 miles from the intersection with Live Oak Canyon). Trabuco Creek Rd. is a rough dirt road. West Horsethief and Trabuco Trail Loop. A 10.5-mile loop with 2,500 feet elevation gain, the single-track trail begins at the end of Trabuco Creek Road. Go left at 1.7 miles on West Horsethief Trail, right at 4.5 miles on Main Divide Truck Trail and right at 5.8 miles on Trabuco Trail, which leads back to the trailhead. Parking area is one mile past the intersection of Trabuco Creek and Holy Jim Canyon rds. (see above). San Juan Trail. The trail begins in Hot Springs Canyon and stretches for 11.9 miles before dumping into Blue Jay Campground, near the summit of Ortega Highway. Park near the trailhead on Hot Springs Canyon Rd., one-half mile from the intersection with Ortega Hwy. (near the San Juan Fire Station). Bear Canyon Trail to Sitton Peak. Take the Bear Canyon Trail south from the Ortega Oaks Store. After one mile, go right at the intersection with Morgan Trail. At Four Corners, take the trail furthest to the right, then climb to the saddle below Sitton Peak. From there, ascend the east slope to the peak. Park in the San Juan Loop Trail parking area, across Ortega Hwy. from the Ortega Oaks Store (0.7 miles north of Upper San Juan Campground). Note: bicycles are not allowed in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness (essentially, trails east of Ortega Hwy.). You'll have to hike or run this route. GONDOLA'D Romance in Newport Harbor For the hopeless romantics—that is to say, for the hopeless—several companies offer gondola rides through the canals of Newport Harbor. It's a wonderful way to spend a warm summer evening with someone you love, someone you'd like to get to love, or someone you'd just like to make very uncomfortable, say, your youth minister. I've cruised the canals in Venice, and they are dark and dirty, so you'll have to throw your trash overboard if you really want to feel like you are in Italy. . . . But don't! Did I mention you get a free salami? Awwww, yeaaaah! Gondola Co. of Newport Beach, www.gondolas.com; Romantic Gondola Cruises, www.gondola.com. SURFER GIRLS Museum Field Trip This summer's exhibit at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum is titled "Women Who Surf" and features artifacts and memorabilia spanning the history of women's surfing—from premissionary Hawaii to Layne Beachley's record-setting six world titles. The exhibit's dedicated to the late Rell Sunn, who in surfing circles is something of a saint, known not only for her skills on a board but also her activism and generous spirit. The "Queen of Makaha," who died in 1998 from breast cancer, is a Hawaiian icon and was instrumental in establishing the Women's Professional Surfing Association and founding the women's pro surfing tour. She once explained that thing surfers call the aloha spirit thusly: "You give and you give and you give . . . and you give from here"—she meant her heart—"until you have nothing else to give." Aloha, Rell. 411 Olive Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 960-3483. MORO CANYON Mountain Bike An extension of Crystal Cove State Park, this canyon slices inland from the coast and abuts the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park on its eastern end. Although the new homes now crowd what the Irvine Co. claims is "California's most envied hills," the park's integrity is secure. Trails named Mach One, Elevator, Toads and I Think I Can invite users to challenge their challenging aspects. 20101 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-9352. CELEBRATE SURF, SUN AND FAMILY FUN Ocean Festival The San Clemente Ocean Festival runs July 17 and 18 on and around the San Clemente pier. This two-day event features stuff to look at (an ocean art show, sand sculpture competition, longboard and tandem surf competitions), stuff to eat (lifeguard pancake breakfast) and stuff to do (bodyboarding and bodysurfing clinics). So go do it all, and, word to the wise, don't be disappointed when you find out the festival's promised show of "woodies" is not exactly what you had in mind. Embarrassing. www.oceanfestival.org. GETTING INKY WIT IT Tattoos The Rock of Ages Tattoo Festival, held Aug. 15 to 17 in Orange, features tattoo artists from New York to Texas to Japan. There is also a hot-rod car show, vintage motorcycle show and live concerts throughout the three-day show. The crowd will be colorful, to say the least. www.rockofagestattoofestival.com. IRIE/IRISH Queen Mary Music The Queen Mary Park in Long Beach will hosts two great music festivals this summer. Get irie on July 11 at the Seventh Annual Caribbean Seabreeze Festival, featuring Buju Banton, Glen Washington, Pupa Curly and more. Then get your Irish (or is it Scottish) jig on at the Celtic Music Festival by the sea on Aug. 14. Artists include Wolfstone, Gaelic Storm, the Wicked Tinkers and more. Caribbean Seabreeze Festival, www.seabreezefest.com; Celtic Music Festival, www.longbeachcelticfestical.com. POKER Poker Every July or August, I host a poker tournament in my back yard. I'm a Texas Hold 'Em-playing (also Fiery Cross, Fiery Cock, Crazy Pineapple, Night Baseball), T-shirt-wearing member of the United Poker Players of Long Beach, unrepentantly "bankrupt and drunk since 1999." It's an informal group: tattooed punks, a nurse, construction workers, an artist, a lone paralegal. Turnout at games varies, but there are more rules than in Emily Post. Poker etiquette is a good thing 'cause you don't want someone calling a hand they don't have or betting out of turn. Did I say betting? We play for peanuts—Circus Peanuts, actually: those orangey, marshmallow candies you find at the market. You can't really join the UPPLB; you have to know somebody to get in, which isn't difficult if you visit Fern's Bar or the Red Room, both in Long Beach. www.upplb.com. TIKI Buying Stuff House of Tiki bridges the gap between people like veteran tiki carver Bosco of Whittier, who makes giant tiki gods from things such as dead palm trees, and the local Hallmark store, which will sell you everything Shag—greeting cards, stickers—until you just wanna roll over and die. With an excellent supply of all things exotica, from prints and paper ephemera to hand-carved idols to mugs, swizzle sticks and barware, House of Tiki will let you get your Polynesian on. 1860 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-8454. DRAG Horse Racing Since 1951, people have come from miles around to watch—and bet on—the equine equivalent of drag racing: quarter horse racing at Los Alamitos Race Course. In feel and temperament, it is much closer to the Old West than such tony tracks as Santa Anita that try for that Old English feel. Los Al is filled with regular folk who watch their mortgage payment trail the pack while downing the track brew, which packs a wallop. Sure, it's not always what you would call spic-and-span, and yeah, there always seems to come a point in the evening when someone throws up in a trash can. But hey, it's a racetrack; you're betting hard-earned money on an animal that poops while walking. At Los Al, races are decided in, like, 20 seconds. Quarter horses are built for terrific short bursts of speed—none of this running around. 4961 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (714) 995-1234.
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