Best Of :: People & Places
Mike Conley cut his teeth on the OC punk scene of the late '70s and early '80s as a member of M.I.A., a band whose lasting legacy is probably the song "Boredom Is the Reason" (available on iTunes!). Conley witnessed a lot of crazy shit back in the day, as did anyone who hung out at iconic Costa Mesa punk mecca the Cuckoo's Nest.
"I once saw four young lads kick a hole right through the side of the building to avoid paying the cover. My friend and I had to join in—after all, TSOL was going on, and we only had 2 bucks between us. It was the punk thing to do."
The 30-year Costa Mesa resident has grown up a bit since then, having surrendered himself to the once-unthinkable (for a punk, anyway): suburban domesticity, responsible parenting and proud entrepreneurship—he owns Costa Mesa nightlife hotspot the Avalon Bar (820 W. 19th St., 949-515-4650).
His seven favorite things about living in Orange County?
1. The Japanese Motors:"Since I love all things good and rock & roll, let's start with Alex Knost and his band, the Japanese Motors. They're really amazing and play very cool stuff, kind of like early Richard Hell meets Wire, with a hint of the Rolling Stones. Definitely worth checking out, and they have a new record that should be out any minute." www.myspace.com/thejapanesemotors.
2. RVCA Clothing: "If I'm not out thrift-store shopping and making my own cool threads, my favorite clothing company (next to Paul Frank Industries) would have to be RVCA. I really think they're on top of it. Pat Tenore and his crew have a great artist network as well. Perseverance does pay off, and these guys are proof." www.rvcaclothing.com.
3. Hell On Wheels: "My friends and I love to ride old Triumph motorcycles. There's nothing better than doing wheelies down PCH on a Sunday afternoon past those bicycle-racing guys in those tight-pant things they wear. So if you're burnt on the whole Harley tassel thing or the 'weird bicycle guy' look and searching for a little something more, give Meatball of Hell On Wheels a call. He can always help you find a classic Triumph or BSA motorcycle or fix the one you have." (714) 563-2418; www.hellonwheelsmc.com.
4. eVocal: "If you're looking for a really cool retail boutique, you have to check out the eVocal store. They bring art, modern furniture, clothing, accessories and some really great events to westside Costa Mesa. A very unique vibe, and the folks are friendly as well." 814 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-4548; www.myspace.com/evocal.
5. Rooster Cafe: "My favorite breakfast spot is Jack Flynn's Rooster Cafe, next to my favorite bar, the Tin Lizzie. Jack and family have done a great job here with a very simple menu and great service. Fridays and Saturdays, they're open till 3 a.m. Try my favorite item on the menu: Lucky's Morning Wood Special." 750 Saint Clair St., Costa Mesa, (714) 754-1944.
6. Habana: "There are no shortages of great restaurants in Orange County, but my favorite resides in Costa Mesa's Lab anti-mall. Habana is a great place to meet for an awesome meal. The staff is excellent, and the manager, Jerry Aschoff, is always on hand to greet you and guide you through their eclectic wine selections. I'd classify the cuisine as Latin with a Caribbean/Cuban flare, and it's straight-up amazing. The vibe is warm and comfortable, with great music and classic movies projected on the walls." 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-0176; www.restauranthabana.com.
7. Detroit Bar: "I've seen so many great shows at this spot! The Blues Explosion, Modest Mouse, Stereolab, the Hold Steady . . . the last one was the Growlers. The place was packed on a Monday night, and the band rocked. Do yourself a favor and check out what's happening on the west side of Costa Mesa." 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com.
Anh Do has no qualms about referring to her late father, Yen Do, in the present tense. "My father values people over profit," she says. " And he values the community over the individual. I have those sentiments. I think that's what he teaches me all the time."
Despite his death last year, theirs is an ongoing conversation that began in 1978, when Yen Do enlisted Anh and his other children to help bundle stacks of his nascent newspaper, Nguoi Viet Daily News, in the family's garage. Yen Do had been a reporter in Vietnam before coming to the U.S. with his wife and four children as part of the first wave of refugees after the Vietnam War. The family moved from one refugee camp to another before being adopted by a family in Santa Rosa, who helped them get on their feet.
Once they were on their own, Anh remembers a busy, vibrant home in constant flux. "There were lots and lots of refugees. My parents took in all these people coming over," she says. "We shared everything. We never had our own room or toys. For me, that was normal."
Throughout these years, her father harbored the dream of launching his own newspaper for the many Vietnamese refugees in the country. Anh says her mother worked full-time in the electronics business so that her father could hatch his first edition of the paper, whose name means "Vietnamese people," in 1978. "Her paycheck provided for all of us; the paper didn't provide any money," says Anh of the early years.
But her memories of helping her father bundle stacks of paper and the books and refugee friends that continually filled the Do home have served as her inspiration for the writing and community-relations work she does today. (In addition to writing for Nguoi Viet, she is a guest columnist for The Orange County Register.)
Anh is not editor in chief nor CEO of Nguoi Viet, preferring instead to maintain her close ties to the community as vice president of community relations. "I think I'm the public face of the company in the greater community," she says. People tie her and her father together, she says, and that helps maintain the paper's reputation as a place not only for news, but also for community.
"I see myself as a connector," she says. "I try to stay ahead of what's going on with the Vietnamese community, the greater Asian community and the greater community as a whole. . . . I offer Nguoi Viet as a solution to help [people] meet the people they need to meet and launch the ideas they want to launch."
Here are seven of Anh's favorite things about OC:
1. The soil: "Things grow here. People grow here. I've seen it all my life."
2. "Pacific Coast Highway on a SoCal day. Escaping with our dogs, peeking out of the window for a good whiff."
3. "The dessert case at Zov's Bistro." 17440 17th St., Ste. B, Tustin, (714) 838-8855.
4. Bolsa Avenue: "Mornings, in the embrace of Little Saigon, when your chances of finding a parking space increase so much more."
5. The abundance of grocery stores: "It helps to track down any ingredient on earth."
6. Plentiful restaurants: "Every week I try a new one."
7. "The fact that my parents live here."
If you're going to fall to your knees in front of something representing the highest power, it better be something pretty darn bitchen. The folks at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano must have had this in mind when they commissioned 85 craftsmen in Spain to create the Grand Retablo, the massive golden altarpiece that adorns the mission chapel today. A very grand $2 million was poured into this masterpiece of Brazilian cedar and 24-karat-gold flakes, which stands more than four stories high and is adorned with swallows and saints. It brought tears to the eyes of parishioners when it was unveiled in March, and rightfully so.
Vladimir Guerrero gets the big money, Francisco Rodriguez sports the cool goggles, and Orlando Cabrera deserves all your love after that All-Star Game snub. But the man who embodies why your Anaheim Angels are no longer a pendejada is Reggie Willits. He's homegrown, not brought in as a free agent; a scrapper, not naturally gifted; humble, a sleeper prospect and plays the small ball the way the Los Angeles Dodgers did for years and are starting to do again. His unlikely storyan Oklahoma stopgap for oft-injured outfielder Garrett Anderson who built his home around a batting cagehas already graced the pages of The New York Times and the blathering tubes of ESPN. More important, though, the squirt has continued to hit above .290 through this long, hot summer. Finally, someone at whom fans can chant "Reg-gie, Reg-gie!" who actually deserves it.
Ahh, the batting cages. The underachieving brother of the driving range, the redneck cousin of the racquetball court, the Okie-in-law of the lap pool. When it comes to solitary versions of large-scale sports, it doesn't get much better than the batting cages, does it? And batting cages don't get much better than Boomers. Whether you need a few brush-up swings, or you're working on your comeback, la The Natural, Boomers' cages have everything you'll need. Grab Wonderboy, or one of the battered aluminum sticks they've got behind the counter, and go rope a few: 70-mph stingers, fast pitch, slow pitch, softballeven bumper boats! Ahem, not that that has anything to do with batting cages; they're just fun, okay? Buy 30 pitches for 2 bucks, or have your own personal home-run derby with an hour's worth. Sure, you'll have a monster blister, but that's what all those skeeball tickets are for: the free batting gloves! Do yourself a favor: Get in good with the staff, and when that time comes along in your life that leaves you at your most desperate, you'll be able to get a job working the cages. It's a step up from the ball-shagger on the driving range, and you'll get the respect of a carnybut with more permanence.
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 museumif 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.