Newport Beach

Photo by Tenaya Hills

Best Sea Lion Sanctuary Newport Harbor. Your average male California sea lion weighs in at 1,000 pounds. And so in September they sank Jerry Dunlap's sailboat Razzle Dazzle by sheer fatness, piling aboard to warm themselves in the sun until the Razzle could pile no more. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 prevents killing or harming such animals, much to the chagrin of Newport Harbor's boat and dock owners, whose last best line of defense at press time was a guy hired to go around smacking the dock with a stick to scare the sea lions away. Of course, there's some mammals that just never get the hint: "The problem isn't so much the sea lions," reported one Lido Isle resident, "as much as all the idiots passing in boats who feel obliged to slow down and shout, 'Aarp, aarp, aarp!'"

Best Replication of New Orleans Fun Zone. The entire peninsula is as close to the late, lamented Big Easy as we get in OC. But the Fun Zone is its heart—tourists jacked up on booze and sun, the stink of unbathed flesh, rotting fish, popcorn and cotton candy, the occasional pile of vomit—and a Ferris wheel. You could play spot the smell here and never lose. Life in Orange County doesn't get better. Or stickier. Bonus points: The Adolescents borrowed the name for one of their, er, lesser albums.

Best Place to See the Real Power in OC The Irvine Co. When Irvine Co. officials heard that the Los Angeles Timeswas going to run a humor piece suggesting that Irvine Co. boss Don Bren was the inspiration for The O.C. bad guy Caleb Nichol, they went nuts. But consider: aging but vital developers who father children out of wedlock with far-younger women and who run local politics through the great wealth generated by their real estate firms (one "The Newport Group," the other "The Irvine Co.")? The story never ran. We're just saying. Like Jesus (John 14:6), no man gets into political power without first going through Don Bren. See Bren's headquarters at 550 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 720-2000.

Best Place to Suck on a Hot Mug Alta Coffee. They roast their own beans. You can bring your own mug. The walls are covered in unpretentious art, and there's a sign asking people not to study at tables during peak hours. The menu has great omelets, salads and sandwiches, and many a patron can be heard asking, "What's hominy?" Top this off with live music, charming service and a lush outdoor patio, and the Alta is revealed as the ultimate vanilla soy chai latte hot spot. 506 31st St., Newport Beach, (949) 675-0233.

Best Spirit Guide John Wayne. Nixon beat him to a library, but he beat Nixon to an airport. They don't make Americans like they used to.

Best Destination at Ham & Cheese O'clock Last night, someone outside the bar said it was ham & cheese time. As a somewhat-recognized local down there, I incited stares and shouts when I said, "Whaddaya mean? Where?" A 6'6" Viking turned on me and shouted, "You know damn well what I mean!" and walked off grinning. I do now. Seaside Bakery, 2108 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, (949) 675-2533.

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