Best Of :: People & Places
Is it weird to give the same award to two separate parks? Yes, but no weirder than giving two separate parks the same name. Bonita Canyon Sports Park comprises both a larger area—which offers the baseball fields its name implies, along with an impeccably manicured (Newport Beach! Hello!), verdant stretch of lawn that screams to be picnicked upon and a playground full of safe, modern equipment mostly designed for older kids (ages 5 to 12)—and a smaller one, over where Ford Road dead-ends, with more impeccably manicured, green grass and playthings for the toddler/preschooler set. Confusing as hell, we know. Bear with us. Now, little Arroyo Park, fewer than two miles to the north, also has impeccably manicured fields (a soccer pitch and a baseball diamond), along with more slides and climbing structures for the kids and picnic tables shaded under an elegant pergola. Soooo . . . why do they both win? Because they're connected—by a mostly dirt trail that leads steeply down the hill across Ford Road from the little-kids playground, under the Bonita Canyon Drive viaduct and through Bonita Canyon itself. The ridges on either side are lined with multi-unit dwellings, but the trail itself is a serene slice of chaparral, all skinks, scrub jays, ground squirrels and black phoebes—who scatter when the locals descend with their dogs. Our recommendation: Park up on Ford; go down the hill; saunter over to Arroyo (seriously, this is more of a walk than a hike, great for families with kids); and spread out your wine, cheese, caviar and vanilla Joe-Joe's on one of the pergola tables. On your way back up the hill, turn left through the tree branches, scramble down a steep incline, and you'll find yourself on the banks of a tiny creek trickling out of a pond in a hidden grotto, complete with waterfall, where feral koi swim and crayfish scuttle, a wild gem of a suburban oasis, anything but impeccably manicured.
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.