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WORLD PEACE IN GORGEOUS GARDENS

Founded by Daisaku Ikeda, Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo is a member of Soka Gakkai International, an American Buddhist association that promotes world peace and individual happiness. Instead of the usual institutional concrete jungle, you'll find environmental harmony that is wholly conducive to Buddhist values. Situated in the Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park, just two miles from the beach, it possesses soaring views of the surrounding canyons. At the north end, you can sit on the lush green grass and relax while pretending to study. Peace exam anxiety melts away as you stare at the glistening white limestone and granite while listening to the idyllic trickling sounds of the lake's fountains. If you're into structural design, the domed Founder's Hall and Athenaeum are a far cry from the shoebox structures on many SoCal campuses. Large hallways, arches and massive columns whisk you toward a bronze statue of Gandhi. And then there's Soka's magnificent art gallery and hallways adorned with paintings and photos of natural scenes such as cherry blossoms in Hong Kong. Much closer to home, the student center has eight small square lily ponds. Peace. Out.

MAKE IT A QUADRUPLE

Ah, La Cave: the only bar in OC where the bartenders cheerfully pour each drink as if it were a double—without being asked. The bar where you could swear your grandpa is standing behind you, saying, "Go ahead, it'll put hair on your chest." Best of all is the warm glow of dim orange lighting, which flatters your face even while you stretch your collar out and yell, "Dude! Look! I don't think that hair was there before! That one, right there next to that mole! I swear! Dude!" 1695 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7944. 

U-PASS, U-PLAY

Gas prices are too expensive? Walking to school too much exercise? Cheap, lazy bastard? If you go to Cal State Fullerton, they'll take care of you by providing plenty of alternative transportation. One of the best is their OCTA U-Pass Program, which lets you ride OCTA's local routes at no charge, provided you have a valid student ID. With OCTA, you can also ride free to the Anaheim Canyon rail station and the Transportation Center (rail station) to CSUF. Or you could take the Metro (MTA) on routes 275, 362, 460 and 490 and have those connect with other OCTA lines. In addition to OCTA, the school has a 25 percent off deal with Metrolink for eligible students and 15 percent off with Amtrak. If buses aren't your thing, check out the student carpool services, where students post their carpool needs. For more information, go to www.parking.fullerton.edu.

MAYBE YOU SHOULD JUST STAY IN ON THE WEEKENDS INSTEAD OF GOING TO . . .

Downtown Brea. After an overpriced movie and Fatburger, wade through a rip current of junior-high kids, double-fist a frozen-yogurt and a Frappuccino, then go shopping for paintball gear.

The Block at Orange. Ride the mechanical bull and then window shop for pocket bikes.

The Irvine Spectrum. Park your car on the 405 and walk the rest of the way rather than idle in traffic for another hour. Get shot in the head by a fountain, wipe off the ice cream somebody dropped from the Ferris wheel, stare at girls walking arm-in-arm with guys who rode the mechanical bull and window-shopped for pocket bikes at the Block last weekend, then find somewhere else to go because all 580 seats of the theater are sold out.

GO TO HOLLYWOOD

Take the 91 West (use the carpool lane!) to the 110 North (more carpool-lane action!) to the 101 North. Better leave now.

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT

Yeah, yeah, Cal State Fullerton's baseball team is awesome, just won their fourth College World Series title. But how about a little love for Orange Coast College's men's crew team? The school's varsity rowers beat UC Davis and won the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships in May. What makes that so impressive is OCC, whose team is composed of freshmen and sophomores, regularly beats four-year universities. The 2005 season looks promising.

THE ONLY REASON TO LEAVE YOUR BED ON SUNDAYS

Too bad it's only open one day a month. Every fourth Sunday or so, the mammoth Greater Orange County Record Swap takes over a huge conference room at the Sequoia Athletic Club, attracting dealers and reps from record stores all over SoCal—and sometimes from as far away as Europe and Japan. This is where to find cheap CDs; really cheap box sets; posters; collectors' items; old back issues of Rolling Stone; an autographed copy of Madonna's Playboy cover; Wall of Voodoo promotional matchbooks; reel-to-reel tapes of old KMET shows; crusty, cracked eight-tracks; Vince Neil's aged, faded driver's license; imports; bootl- . . . um, "collectibles"; and assorted other pieces of strangeness—we once saw a ticket stub from a Tiffany concert going for a buck at this show. What's scarier is that somebody actually bought it. 7530 Orangethorpe Ave., Buena Park, (626) 963-9717. Usually the fourth Sunday of every month, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. (Dark in August.)

SWITCH MAJORS TO INTERIOR DESIGN

The Art Institute of California's Orange County campus provides furnished apartments for every enrolled student, so you get to have the independence of an apartment while still living close to the campus. There is a residence-life coordinator and a resident assistant in each housing facility to help you out and keep things together. A fitness center, pools and spas are some highlights of living here, but as you might expect at an art institute, the plum is that the school actually encourages students to make their apartments their own: How about a neoclassical approach with a bit of decoupage? Well!? HOW ABOUT IT?!

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