By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
A DAY AT THE RACES
An afternoon at the horse track used to mean dressing up in your finest and betting big money while smoking sweet cigars, drinking rich bourbon and discussing the weather with other classy citizens. Things are a little less refined these days. Recently, we spotted a man at the track with holes in the bottoms of his shoes and drool seeping from a gap in his brown-gummed smile—but he sure was having a hell of a good time! You could be rubbing elbows with this kind of high-roller yourself this summer—you and your new pot-bellied friend clinking plastic beer-filled cups, as the horse with your dollar riding on it breaks the finish line. It's the stuff summer love is made of. (AP) Los Alamitos Race Course, 4961 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (714) 820-2800; www.losalamitos.com.
FREE A/C? WHEE!
Who says nothing in life is free? Air conditioning is basically a Freon-filled box of heaven, and it can be yours gratis. If you steal it. Well, not technically "steal it," as in "pry it from your neighbor's window" (although there are a bunch of foreclosed empty houses around these days). But say you were to walk around inside a giant Wal-Mart all day long, no doubt perusing the plentiful selection of fashionable track suits, but never purchase anything. That would be like getting some sweet a/c free of charge. Sure, you may have to hang around with the toothless yokels who shop there (everyone knows the classy people shop at Target), but that cool, glorious air is possibly worth catching lice for. (AP) Wal-Mart locations are everywhere.
TWENTY-SIX MILES ACROSS THE DEEP BLUE SEA . . .
Everyone yearns to spend their summer days lounging on the sands of a tropical island. Even poor people. But just because you can't afford a lavish vacation doesn't mean you can't get yourself stuck on a desolate plot of land. For the small price of about $60 (by boat) to $100 (by helicopter) per person, you could head to beautiful Catalina Island, located just 26 miles from of Long Beach. There's scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, camping, golf-cart driving and frolicking in the ocean to be had. Whatever your pleasure, don't discount this local gem that's mere minutes away. (AP) Boats and helicopters leave from Dana Point, Newport Beach, Long Beach and San Pedro daily; visit www.catalinachamber.com for more information.
THE RIVERS WILD
Forget for a moment the inherent ickyness of immersing yourself in water in which countless dubiously hygenic others have splashed about. Focus instead on the simple pleasure of barreling down a slippery dark tube at the fastest speeds nature will allow before finally plunging into the welcoming, cushioning bosom of a splashdown pool. You emerge invigorated, perhaps a little disoriented, but nonetheless ready to do it all over again. Armchair Freudians can have a field day analyzing the parallels between this and the birth process, but the metaphor need not be stretched to quite that extent. Put simply, inside the flume, you are Man Alone, facing an uncertain future, yet confident in the ultimate benevolence of the universe to deliver you safely to the end of your journey. Profound philosophy, a refreshing cool down and a corn dog: How many other summer joys can offer all three? (TC) Wild Rivers, 8770 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine; www.wildrivers.com. Knott's Soak City, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 220-5200; www.knotts.com/soakcity/oc.
BEAUTIFUL IRVINE, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
There is no finer a pleasure than a cold drink after a long day at the office. While the less attractive—or just plain unlucky—are confined to the greasy walls of dingy dive bars, Orange County's beautiful people (of which there are many, thanks to plastic surgery) can lounge poolside at the swanky iLum Ultra Lounge. Strip off that confining office apparel and slip into a teeny bikini or Speedo for a quick dip in the pool, or just lie around the private cabanas and look hot. All you need is a perfect body and an impeccable wax job. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. (ED) iLum Ultra Lounge at the Atrium Hotel, 18700 MacArthur Blvd., Irvine, (949) 833-2770; www.ilumultralounge.com. Open Mon.-Fri., 5:30-8 p.m.
THE MANGO LADIES
Cheaper than ice cream, tastier than a bag of ice, more rewarding than a day at the beach are the mango ladies (and a couple of men) around downtown Santa Ana. For $2, they'll hand you a mango preparado—a whole mango sliced into pieces, moistened with lime juice, then dusted with chili powder (the Tapatio comes free, but you have to ask for it). Experience summer in a plastic box—heat, coolness, the custardy flesh of mango mitigated by its toppings. Eat these treasures while you can—if the Santa Ana City Council has its way, those mango vendors are out come fall. (GA) Virtually anywhere in the area of First Street, Broadway, 17th Street and French Street, Santa Ana.
ADDICTED TO CARDIO
On Costa Mesa's West Side, there sits a half-developed/half-unspoiled park in which old white guys fly model aircraft and BMXers seek dirt paths and hills. This unassuming spot also happens to be a fantastic place to run. Situated near a deep ravine, Fairview Park offers a spectacular view (on a clear day) of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and Huntington Beach's suburban splendor to the west. Running here, you can (if you filter out the planes' mechanical whine) get in touch with your inner early hominid, whose best means of transport were his legs. Just mind Fairview's rattlesnake habitat. (DS) Fairview Park, along Placentia Avenue between Adams Avenue and Victoria Street, Costa Mesa.
Pleasures don't get much simpler than free water in the heat of summer, and the walk-through fountain at Lemon Park in Fullerton delivers it in the best way. Oh, sure, you've seen walk-through spouts at nouveau gimmick malls before, but those don't compare to this champ, which features multiple levels of sprinklers and gets you so drenched that bathing suits are required before entering. The low mesh fence around the perimeter makes the thing look like a UFC octagon, and in the dog days of August, you'll gladly submit to it. (LYT) Lemon Park, 701 S. Lemon St., Fullerton, (714) 738-6575. The water runs June 16-Sept. 1, noon-5 p.m.
School's out, which means you can go to any university or research library in Orange County; not bother with annoying, overcaffeinated undergrads; lounge in air-conditioned bliss; and access the types of treasures Google can only dream of—archives, microfilms and specialty databases. UC Irvine's Langson Library is the biggest, while Cal State Fullerton's Pollack Library has one of the largest collections of interviews with Orange County pioneers in the county (don't bother with Chapman's Leatherby Library; while the prettiest, its holdings are just a step above Stanton's). But the county's best research library is in the Sherman in Corona del Mar. Focusing on the West, the small, quiet library also has an extensive Orange County collection and helpful, non-snooty docents. Better yet, once you've nerded yourself out, stroll around the Sherman's legendary gardens. (GA) Sherman Library and Gardens, 2647 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 673-2261; www.slgardens.org.
FLIPPING THE BIRD!
Black-capped, fork-tailed Forster's terns zipping right past your face as you cross the footbridge across Inner Bolsa Bay. Stolid surf scoters disappearing under the wind-swept blue-green water, then popping up 20 feet away. Long-winged black skimmers streaking across the surface of the tidal basin, dipping their red, outsize lower bills into the water as they fly.
Has the novelty worn off for you, yet? Yeah, us neither. The Bolsa Chica Wetlands (part of them, anyway) are back, with the second anniversary of their rebirth coming in August. The marshes aren't quite as chock-full of feathered friends in the summertime as they are in the winter, when all those illegal-alien migratory birds swoop down from the north. (When, oh, when will we get that really, really high border fence between Washington State and British Columbia? Those damn birds are already citizens of the North American Union! Bird flu! Leprosy! Save us, Lou Dobbs, save us!) But there's still plenty of avian eye candy for anyone up for a breezy stroll, run, or bike ride along the wetland's dirt paths. It is breeding season, after all. (Wocka-chicka wocka-chicka . . .) Keep your eyes peeled for those scoters paddling around, stilts and phalaropes poking their long bills into the wet sand, and plenty of terns (including the endangered least tern) dive-bombing their fishy prey.
You'll have to wait until next summer for the new pedestrian footbridge at Warner between the interpretive center and the Mesa Trail (ground should be broken this fall), so be careful when hopping that darn guardrail. And don't be intimidated by all the hardcore bird photogs with zoom lenses as long as your arm. At Bolsa Chica, you don't even need a point-and-shoot to look a Western grebe right in its bright-red eye. (TBK) Bolsa Chica Conservancy, 3842 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 846-1114; www.bolsachica.org.
Next time you're not in the mood to rent another movie, or if you're trying to dazzle your date, do something wild—spend the evening with some sharks. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach will stay open until 10 p.m. every Sunday this summer in celebration of their 10th anniversary. The best part is, if you get there after 5 p.m., you can hang with the sharks and turtles for half the price of regular admission. Tiny sharks in shallow lagoon pools will be made available for petting, and the more massive ones (with a lot more teeth) will watch you from the big tanks in the outdoor Shark Lagoon area. (DJA) Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (562) 590-3100; www.aquariumofpacific.org. Summer Sundays, June 22-Aug. 31, except Aug. 18.
BE THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!
Bonfires along the golden beaches of this fair county provide an idyllic backdrop for rediscovering the romance and charm of summer. Play your favorite music on a portable boombox as the sun yawns at the horizon. Sip something sweet from a paper cup while far-off laughter serenades you. Do these things, yes, but also, please don't forget to not be an idiot. Huntington Beach Marine Safety Chief Kyle Lindo says there's an assortment of stupid things people do during a bonfire. Don't leave broken glass and straightened coat hangers about for innocent bare feet to step on. Arrive early, or all the fire pits will be gone. Keep the fires reasonable (no, burning 30 pallets stacked atop one another is not reasonable). Don't pile sand on your fire to put it out; it's safer to let it burn—sand only makes it harder to clean the pit. Don't have fires on top of the sand—it stays hot for hours and could burn the skin right off a foot. And absolutely no bongo drums . . . well, all right, bongo drums. (DO) Fire pits available at Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Dana Point, San Clemente and several other OC beaches; visit www.ocparks.com.
Pinkberry—or "Crackberry," if the dessert franchise has managed to sink its icy sweet teeth into your flesh—was once only found in Los Angeles, but has now managed to melt over into OC. Inspiring a cultural phenomenon, the addictive frosty mush turned out to be . . . well, no one really knows what it is. Pinkberry's not technically frozen yogurt, and it's definitely not ice cream. As for the brand's claim to be "all natural"? Turns out they lied. But really, when the summer heat reaches triple digits and turns your mind into the consistency of hot mayonnaise, who gives a flying crap about minor details like that? Especially when you can have Cap'n Crunch sprinkled on top? (ED) Eight locations in Orange County; visit www.pinkberry.com for addresses.
If there's one image that has signified Orange County over the decades—especially for tourists—it's Heisler Park, the palm-tree-loaded, oceanfront public park in Laguna Beach. Yes, it contains relatively small beaches—coves, really—but that's not the only reason the place is a gem. You can also enjoy a picnic, toss a Frisbee, lawn bowl, play shuffleboard or dive. Though not massive, it's the one spot where Hollywood fiction about breathtaking coastal California meets reality. Take out-of-town visitors here, and you'll hear them sigh in pleasure if for nothing other than the sweeping ocean views. Get there early enough, and metered parking won't be too much trouble. (RSM) Heisler Park, 505 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach.
Your neighborhood corporate supermarket of choice has a serious problem. And not just that the grocers don't look you in the eye, or say hello, or even care that you've been standing at the seafood counter for five minutes waiting for a pound of halibut. These big-box markets lack an assortment of produce—and rarely stray from the usual suspects of cauliflower and apples. Sure, they're starting to sell some "exotics"—what the hell is bok choy?—but it's usually marked up and really not all that fresh. But in recent years, there's been a welcome revival of farmers' markets—places where local farmers gather to sell their freshly picked veggies, fruit, eggs, meats, flowers and more. Cities from Brea to San Clemente have these—click up www.orangecounty.net/html/shop-produce.htmlfor a nicely detailed list—but we think the best of these is in Irvine on Saturday mornings. Bring a couple of canvas totes and pick up everything from baked goods to pluots to freshly shucked white corn to Asian greens to ramps. Trust us on the ramps. (VC) The Irvine Center Farmer's Market, on the corner of Bridge and Campus (across from UC Irvine). Every Sat., 8 a.m.-noon (rain or shine).
SK8RBOIZ N GRRLZ
Call them skate rats, and call the cops on them for doing nothing but breaking their own bones in an empty parking lot, but skaters work a hell of a lot harder at honing their craft than most kids who are only hellbent on mastering Guitar Hero. These are some of the most unshakably determined people out there, and mastering the sport requires genuine perseverance and passion. If you're looking for instruction, or someone who is, Etnies Skatepark in Lake Forest actually offers lessons and summer camps (and free concerts, film screenings and more) in addition to free skate sessions. Places such as the Vans Skatepark at the Block charge up to $15 per session—but there also are plenty of parks around like the Volcom Skate Park and the Etnies Skatepark that are absolutely free, thanks to some marvelous sponsors and plenty of fund-raising. Just remember, police do drop by often to hand out citations to those not wearing helmets. So either wear one, or learn to outrun the cops—another learned virtue of the skateboard. (VC) Volcom Skate Park, 900 Arlington, Costa Mesa, (714) 754-5326; www.volcom.com/skatepark. Etnies Skatepark, 20028 Lake Forest Dr., Lake Forest, (949) 916-5870; www.etniesskaterparkoflakeforest.com.
THE TOURIST IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT
One free thing that's always fun to do, any time of the year: talk shit. About anyone, really. But now that you're older, it's probably best that you don't do this about anybody you actually know. And there's no one better out there to idly pass blind judgment on than chunky tourists from Iowa in NASCAR T-shirts and acne-riddled prepubescent couples on their first dates who were dropped off by their moms. And there's no place in OC better to pass this judgment than Downtown Disney—our pick for the best people-watching spot in the summer. There's a pretty large movie theater and a handful of mediocre restaurants (though if you must indulge, we recommend Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, but strictly for their Café du Monde décor and beignets) and tourist-trap shops, but it's the actual tourists who are worth braving the Mouse for. Ever see a morbidly obese grown man in Crocs and a Mickey varsity jacket try to balance a monster-sized Jamba Juice and a Häagen-Dazs double-scoop cone over his beer belly? We have. And so will you. (VC) Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort, near Katella Avenue and Disneyland Drive, Anaheim; disneyland.disney.go.com.
WANNA GET HIGH?
Human beings are amazing creatures. Throughout our existence, we've developed cures for diseases that had wiped out previous civilizations and built contraptions capable of carrying men to the moon. And also, tiny, remote-controlled airplanes. Surprisingly, those planes are quite popular in Orange County. Enthusiasts have even banded together to form a club called the Harbor Soaring Society. Meetings include dinner, a reading of the monthly club newsletter, and a whole lot of talk about remote-controlled planes and helicopters. Then it's off to gather at various parks (Costa Mesa's Fairview Park, as previously noted, is a favorite spot), where they fly unmanned aircraft while shootin' the shit on the latest in remote-controlled news. (AP) For more information, go to www.1hss.org.
There's almost nothing harder than thinking about nothing. But that's perhaps the key to relaxation and optimal mental health. Humans have been meditating for millennia; while it hasn't made them immortal, it has conferred upon them an inner peace that has helped many of them to get laid with some frequency. Where to meditate, though? Try the summit of the nearest mountain. (If this proves impossible, a remote corner in your living space or back yard will do.) But the really hard part is expunging all thoughts of imminent economic collapse, work deadlines, lusts, etc. Especially etc. You may need expert help to attain this exalted state. Costa Mesa's Visions & Dreams Bookstore (associated with San Diego's Vajrarupini Buddhist Center) offers individual meditation classes for $10. It could be your om away from home. (DS) Visions & Dreams Bookstore, 2482 Newport Blvd., Ste. 100, Costa Mesa, (949) 650-6929; www.meditationinorangecounty.org.
Summer isn't just for you to enjoy—it's also for your dog. And summer is the best season for treating your pooch to a few hours of off-leash fun at one of OC's many dog parks. Simple pleasures don't get much simpler than letting your dog run around till he exhausts himself while you relax on a bench under a shady tree, chatting up that fellow dog-lover who thinks your bundle of furry love is just soooo adorable. Until he tries to hump some purebred, anyway, which is always a good laugh. Dog parks are located in Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Orange, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente and Seal Beach, but everyone always talks about the greatness of the Huntington Beach Dog Beach. And it is great—surf, sand, sun and drenched tails all wagging with ecstatic joy? Woof! (RK) The Huntington Beach Dog Beach, between Seapoint Street and 21st Street, Huntington Beach, (714) 841-8644; www.dogbeach.org.
JUST ANOTHER FLYER VICTORY
We love us some Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball. But when certain irritants become too insurmountable to ignore—$8 parking; $3 hot dogs; way, way overpriced booze; the general ugliness of Yankees and BoSox fans; ADHD-addled idiots who insist that knocking a stupid beach ball around is somehow more entertaining than soaking up the artistry of the Summer Game—we head up the 57 to Fullerton and partake of OC's other pro baseball team, the Orange County Flyers, who began their fourth season June 10. The Flyers are part of the independent Golden Baseball League, mostly made up of young players and journeymen trying to hook up with a big-league affiliate, so you may not see any future Vlady Guerreros, but screw that—all baseball is good baseball, especially when the most expensive ticket is $12 (and a simple fiver will get you past the turnstile). You want celebs? The Flyers' manager is none other than Hall of Fame catcher (and Sunny Hills High grad) Gary Carter. And hey, how can you not love a team whose best player the past two seasons was named Peanut Williams? (RK) All Orange County Flyers home games take place at Goodwin Field on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton. For a complete schedule and more info, click up www.orangecountyflyers.com.
So the romantic date isn't as affordable as it used to be. If you're looking for a creative way to make something out of not so much this summer while avoiding spending money on gas, here's your solution: a "rustic" sunset picnic with a side of flamenco. Begin your Friday or Saturday evening by making your way to ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, just around the corner from the Belmont Shore pier in Long Beach. Stash your car (or walk there), and stop by the shop for a four-pack of mini wine bottles, some snacks and a couple of small paper bags. Head down to the pier around sunset and enjoy. With your slight buzz, meander down the bike and pedestrian path on the beach toward downtown. When you get to First Place, leave the beach, walk up to Ocean Boulevard, then head a few blocks west until you hit Pine Avenue. Make a right, and settle in at Alegria, where you can catch a stunning, free live flamenco show at 7:30 or 9 p.m. Maybe splurge on a small plate of tapas and a sangria, and it'll still come in at way below the cost of the $47.50 flamenco show at Sevilla across the street. (DJA) Alegria Cocina Latina Restaurant, 115 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 436-3388; www.alegriacocinalatina.com. ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, 3950 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 434-7407.
WIND AND WATER
Ever want to get above the dog-eat-dog world? Here's your chance: Take a parasailing trip. With a speed boat as your guide, you'll soar high above the Pacific Ocean—giving you 15 or 20 minutes of a spectacular view of Orange County's coast and Catalina Island. The cost is $75, and the whole voyage takes less than 90 minutes.
But if you're looking for a watersport workout, grab a single- or double-seated kayak (or pedalboat) from Balboa Boat Rentals and cruise the Newport Beach Harbor and Back Bay. A kayak can be leased for $15 per hour for singles, $25 per hour if there are two of you.
Or if you're not in the mood for an exhilarating thrill or exercise and want to impress your family, go for the more relaxing water choice: Rent a 10-seater, 21-foot electric boat and tour the Newport Beach harbor. You'll enjoy seeing the area's waterfront mansions and docked yachts of the area's ultra-wealthy. The Monday-through-Friday rate is $95 per hour, slightly higher during weekends. (RSM) Balboa Boat Rentals (they also book the parasailing trips), 510 E. Edgewater, Balboa, (949) 673-7200; Duffy Electric Boats, 2001 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 645-6812.
Record shopping lately has become an increasingly solitary activity—one might even call it meditative. But enter Sound Trolley's cozy confines (you can browse the entire store in less than 90 minutes), and you'll feel at home here—especially if you're alienated from/repulsed by mainstream society. Amiable, knowledgeable proprietors Joshua and Joseph Madrid stock a small but fascinating selection of classic and indie rock, psychedelia, soul, jazz, folk and prog (more vinyl than CDs), as well as literature, art (by local artists) and vintage clothing. Simply speaking, Sound Trolley's a one-stop shop for the discerning bohemian. (DS) Sound Trolley, 440 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-4846; www.myspace.com/soundtrolley.
ROCK & ROLL EXPLOSION
Venerable all-ages Anaheim club Chain Reaction has a proven record as a tastemaking venue since it opened its doors in 1997, considering all the bands that have played the tiny room on their way to the top: AFI, Fall Out Boy, Thrice, Rilo Kiley, Maroon5, Avenged Sevenfold . . . the list goes on forever. Whole musical genres were significantly goosed here as well—whatever you think of emo or screamo bands, the Chain welcomed those sounds years before you ever read about them in Alternative Press. So we suggest spending a few of your summer evenings by indulging in some shows here—you never know who'll be selling out arenas or headlining the Warped Tour in a couple of years, and you can brag to your friends that you saw them back when they were good. (RK) Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com.
As our indoor movie houses grow increasingly crowded with discourteous audiences talking on cell phones, kicking the backs of chairs and discussing the film in progress with their date, the reasons to see a movie in a traditional theater are dwindling. But a few venues across the county are offering outdoor movie screenings this summer—sometimes on the sides of buildings (as is the case at the Orange County Performing Arts Center's Monday Free for All screenings), sometimes on the beach (Long Beach's Granada Beach offers summer-long family-friendly selections projected on a screen in the sand)—and while the sound and picture may frequently leave something to be desired, at least you know what you're in for. And there's something really amazing about sitting on a lawn chair, feeling the breeze blow through your hair and hearing the ocean crash around you while you watch West Side Story. (TC)Check OCPAC's calendar at www.ocpac.com for screening dates. For Granada Beach, go to www.alfredosbeachclub.com.