County Life

People, places, politicos, lawmen, muckrakers, card sharps, & other assorted scalawags & neer-do-wells, plus tall tales & ghost stories.

Click here for Anh Do's 7 Favorite Things.

Best Landmark
The Orange Grove at Santa Ana and Helena streets, Anaheim
Have you noticed those concrete slabs with bas-relief oranges that decorate Highway 22? Don't you think it's hilarious the county still propagates its bucolic orange-crate myth, even though the county's citrus industry has been reduced to nothing? Isn't it hilarious that the nothing is really just a fenced-off orange grove on the corner of Santa Ana and Helena streets in Anaheim? Is the fact that this grove—the place where the county's 1936 Citrus War started—was twice the size just a couple of years ago and is now slated for demolition just so appropriate for who we are, where we're going and how we just don't care? What was it that Smokey Robinson said about clowns again?

Best Building
Taco Bell Discovery Science Center
2500 N. Main St., Santa Ana
(714) 542-2823
Admit it: The first time you drove past that giant, angled black cube beside Insterstate 5, you thought the actual kids' museum it belongs to was inside. Later, maybe you caught the light shining through it, realized it was hollow, and wondered what the point was. Did the designer of the Discovery Center just really, really like Pink Floyd and somehow figured kids could learn about the actual dark side of the moon? Turns out it's actually a massive solar-panel array that powers the museum—if you pay admission, you can find out all the groovy details and, yes, even get inside it. If solar power is indeed the future, could it be that one day we'll all have trippy black cubes attached to our homes? We can but hope.

Illustration by Kyle T. Webster.
Illustration by Kyle T. Webster.

Best Evidence of a Town In Need of a Proofreader
Golden West, or Goldenwest?
Come on, people. Even Google Maps chokes on this. Pick one and stick with it. Our copy desk will back you up 100 percent.

Best Use of Stucco
The Irvine Co.
You really shouldn't be a stranger to that 140-year-old real-estate development giant. Based in Newport Beach and owned by squillionaire Donald Bren, the Irvine Co. is responsible for implanting all those suburban master-planned communities you and the rest Orange County are so very fond of. Looking out the window of your basic Irvine Co.-owned apartment in the city that bears the name, you will behold rows upon rows of these planned communities. A truly depressing sight: the nearly identical, neatly trimmed trees, identical neatly trimmed lawns, identical streets of identical houses and identical apartments, all in varying shades of beige stucco.

While the place looks nice (if you dig uniformity), the bland suburban stucco thing just isn't for everyone. But, it must also be said: The Irvine Co. is ultimately partially responsible for UC Irvine, having donated 1,000 acres (and sold 500 acres) to the school in 1959. And in the years to come, the company and Bren himself have also donated oodles of cash to UC Irvine. As the name of one of UCI's most popular Facebook groups goes, "I Hate the Irvine Company but Don't Tell Them or Else They'll Stop Giving UCI Money."

Best Example of Gentrification
Floral Park, Santa Ana
Santa Ana stands as one of Orange County's least upscale cities—and is, as a result, its most soulful. While the lack of general affluence has resulted in some run-down neighborhoods, "Orange County" has reared its wealthy head even here. Located off Broadway, just off Interstate 5, Floral Park is a neighborhood of wide, peaceful streets, huge lawns and beautiful architecture . . . and nary a tagger in sight. Built between the 1920s and the 1950s, the neighborhood features tasteful farmhouses, Tudor- and ranch-style homes, and well-kept lawns. The homes are painted tastefully, and the air is filled with the sounds of lawn mowers and children's laughter. This is Santa Ana? Sure, the price of a home in this neighborhood far exceeds the kind of money most SanTanans will ever see, but even Orange County's grittiest town has to have its glamour.

Best Local Legend
The Poker Game That Named OC
It's not nearly as creepy as it sounds. Promise. You've passed it dozens of times on the way to the beach—a faded, sky-blue sign in curlicue script, amongst commercial buildings, fast-food joints and plazas, announcing a . . . pet cemetery?

Rest assured: It's nothing like Stephen King's pet cemetery ( . . . or, er, Sematary) of 1989. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite: rows and rows of tiny graves belonging to some of the most loved creatures in all the county—our pets. Sure, it sounds kind of strange, but really, it makes plenty of sense. Over time, our pets—our dogs, cats, rats, and even some raccoons and monkeys—come to be part of our families. And why not give a family member a proper goodbye? Granted, visiting the cemetery's office (which houses a dim visitation room, some tombstones and a display of teeny pet coffins) is a tad unnerving, but a walk through the actual cemetery, littered with artificial flowers, American flags, banners and even pets' favorite toys, can actually be kind of soothing. Exploring the cemetery's paved pathways, you can read the last messages dedicated owners had for their animals on their headstones. It can be sweet (the cap-wearing, rose-adorned monument for World War II canine hero Sarge), funny (a pet rat that lived to be 7 years old named Willyum Yummers), amazing (parakeet Katie Teeter was born in 1883), or just plain heart-wrenching (on a headstone for "Our Big Goofy," K.K. the cat: "The day you reached out your paw to us through your cage door at the shelter was the luckiest day of our lives. So long, for now").

Next Page »