Best Of :: People & Places
Sure, Floral Park, with its tree-shaded streets, abundant lawns and 600 vintage homes built in the 1920s through '50s, hogs up all the press. But another Santa Ana neighborhood that deserves equal billing is French Park, which was designated a local historic district in 1984 and put on the National Register of Historic Places 15 years after that. Within the 20-square-block residential district northeast of downtown Santa Ana is an architectural historian's dream, with a mix of homes built during the late 1890s and into the 1920s in the Craftsman, Victorian, English Tudor, Colonial Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. Some of Orange County's most prominent citizens called French Park—which was known as Flatiron Park until someone decided to name it after landowner C.E. French—home. Fourplex apartment buildings started being constructed on the few remaining French Park lots around 1910, and in the 1940s, the neighborhoods were inundated with military men who served at Orange County's then-four large military bases. Several of the larger houses were divided into apartments to handle the influx of young men and young families. Unfortunately, this also saw the rise of absentee landlords and the tearing down of great Victorians (including C.E. French's house) for large parking lots, apartment complexes and condominiums. The Dr. Howe-Waffle House was moved out of French Park to Civic Center Drive and Sycamore Street, where it was restored. But other major chunks of French Park fell into disrepair until a restoration-and-preservation movement sprung up in the late l970s. The Historic French Park Association is still humming to this day, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Halos' front office gets scads of credit for its player development and acquisition strategies, and with some exceptions ([cough] Gary Matthews Jr. [cough]), such credit is deserved. But at the first-base position in 2009, they just plain got lucky. Yeah, give them their due for signing Morales in the first place after his much-ballyhooed defection from the Island of Dr. Castreau, but come on: If they really thought Morales was ready to bust out this year, would they have offered Mark Teixeira a $160 flippin' million contract? No, they would not have. But the Angels' plan B—a guy who hadn't played more than 57 games or hit more than five home runs in the bigs—has indeed busted out, smashing more than 30 homers, driving in more than 100 runs, with a slugging percentage lately in the .560s. In fact, he's having a season roughly equivalent offensively to Teixeira. (To be fair, Tex is more patient, drawing more walks; and while Morales' defense has improved this year, he's not making anyone forget Teixeira's two Gold Gloves.) But here's the thing: Tex is earning $20 million from the Yankees this year. Morales' salary? A mere $600,000. ¡Ño! ¡Que barato! And Morales has not only filled Tex's shoes at first, but he has also helped keep thump in a lineup that remained potent, even with Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter hurt for chunks of the year. With the Angels' starting pitching and middle relief in constant chaos, the team has needed that thump to achieve yet another AL West title. So, the only problem we see? Dude needs a nickname. For your consideration: The Cuban Missile. You're welcome.
Maybe it's the beach's relative seclusion, and maybe it's the fact that a cave sounds like a really sweet place to get wasted. Whatever the reason, this small patch of rocks, sand and cavern seems to attract the crowd for whom getting sun-baked goes along with getting sloshed and, well, baked. Keep in mind that if you partake, you tempt the wrath of lifeguards, police and the unforgiving ocean. Our advice: Enjoy the spectacle, but stick to being a designated diver.
According to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Orange County has some of the cleanest beaches in the country, and none is cleaner than those in Newport Beach, all of which received five-star rankings. Hygiene counts, and it helps to explain why this year's winning stretch of sand is neither in Huntington Beach, the self-declared "Surf City," or Laguna Beach, which certainly would win the award if a dramatic, cliffy coastline was the only measure of worthiness. Located on the west side of Balboa Boulevard between 61st Street and Island Avenue and encompassing the Newport Beach Pier, this beach offers plenty of metered parking; endless sand, complete with showers, picnic tables and fire pits; and unbeatable waves. The beach closes at 10 p.m., but you can walk or fish on the nearby pier until midnight. If sack lunches aren't your style, there's a ton of nearby stores, bars and food joints, including the legendary Blue Beet and 21 Oceanfront, a swanky, elegant restaurant with ocean views.
Carrie Prejean's tits have nothing on Frida Marin's or the dozen or so other OC beauties who strut their stuff every year for the coveted title of Miss Hermosa y Protegida (Miss Beautiful and Protected). The backstage drama and prep time at the Center OC's Miss Hermosa pageant is enough to put even the sassiest Miss USA contestant in her place. The boys who would be girls competing in Miss Hermosa spend hours building eye-popping curves into their angular bodies before hitting the catwalk. They guard their secrets (such as how to hide it under a bathing suit). No materials are off-limits: Styrofoam, silicone, cotton, netting—they're all in there, and all make for a surprisingly busty and remarkably feminine set of contestants. The transformed girls trot out their new bodies in heels and bathing suits (yes, it's well-hidden), evening gowns and dizzying, elaborate homemade costumes for the recycled-materials competition. As if the great faux-tits-and-ass at this show weren't enough, all contestants also spend part of the night giving impassioned speeches about various sexual-health issues—from domestic violence to hate crimes to STDs. If only Miss USA were this smart a pageant.
Everyone generally agrees that the students in Capistrano Unified School District are good kids; it's the parents and politicians who shoot spitballs. The South County school district has spent half of this decade immersed in "adult-centered" turmoil, stirred up by the alleged misdeeds of superintendent James Fleming (who should be heading to trial any day now) and only made more frothy last year by the election of a board of trustees proclaiming "reform." Personality conflicts, misused funds, statewide budget panic and lingering suspicions that the district's new regime consists of evangelical anti-public-school saboteurs—all these things make the Capistrano Dispatch's Beyond the Blackboard blog reading material that calls for popcorn. Dispatch editor Jonathan Volzke serves up a near-daily dose of gossipy tidbits, connect-the-dots ruminations, unearthed public documents and live updates from the district's marathon board meetings. Extra credit goes to anyone who can identify the trustees, PTA moms and teachers of the year who bicker anonymously in the comments and turn each blog item into a sandbox for grown-ups acting like bullies.