Best Of :: People & Places
Twenty million dollars can do a lot for a place. And it has done wonders for Lake Arrowhead. After being devastated by fires in 2003, the mountain community was in need of a reinvention; out of the ashes has sprung a beautiful mountain setting complete with boutique shops, outdoor recreation and spectacular views that set the scene for relaxation. Located 5,000 feet above sea level in the San Bernardino Mountains, this mountain masterpiece has been known to most Orange County residents as "that place I had summer camp in fifth grade." There's more to it, folks.
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.
Those associated with this nationwide movement are secular saints, and not just because they share cramped living quarters in a giant Victorian located in a sketchy Santa Ana neighborhood with anyone who needs a roof over their head. Whether advocating for the county's homeless, organizing prayers and food drives, or all the other mandates that Christ demanded of his disciples, the small group (headed by Dwight and Leia Smith) are a breath of fresh air and one of the few truly holy parts of the Diocese of Orange. They're on solid footing now after a long battle with city bureaucrats but are always looking for assistance—and you don't have to be a Papist to help or volunteer.
Okay, so Nadya Suleman only became an OC resident after she—or, rather, her uterus—became famous, but she did graduate from Cal State Fullerton, and more important, she embodies everything that makes OC so uniquely self-centered and craven. Through her bold dedication to plastic surgery, unmatched accumulation of embryos and resource-draining production of future citizens, Octomom is a gloriously vapid example of the greedy, self-centered lifestyle that has made Orange County synonymous with everything wrong with America.
After you've been laid off, you're cash-strapped, so it's great that Working Wardrobes is there to take your old work clothes in exchange for a tax write-off. The clothes then get donated to women, men and youths in need of their first suits for job interviews. Many of the recipients are domestic-abuse victims or have suffered some other kind of trauma. In a recession, when jobs are harder to get than ever, Working Wardrobes' cycle of good essentially does double-duty.
Bowling is the definition of a recreational sport. It consists entirely of hanging out with friends, sitting around in sweet clown shoes, often drinking, and occasionally throwing a ball and sitting back down. It's perfect. But with times being financially tight, it is key to find a good deal for such a timeless pastime. The AMF Forest Lanes offers "quarter mania" every Tuesday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The cover charge is only $7, with 50-cent shoe rentals and 75-cent games all night. Yes, the other part of bowling: Behold, cheap food and drinks, including $1.50 nachos, 75-cent pizza slices and $2 draft beer. It fills up fast every week with the high-school and twentysomething crowds, so be sure to get there early and claim a lane.
Orange County loves its pets; the tiny-sweater shops and artisanal treat bakeries prove it. But no one said you have to have pets to love them. Bored? Out of work? Alone? We recommend a trip to your nearest dog park, dog beach or pet shop to play with and ogle the unleashed doggies (with their owners' permission, of course). It's a perfect recession diversion: You can't afford your own waggy-tailed, Frisbee-fetching friend, but a dog park gives you the chance to interact with one for a few hours—and not even have to clean up its not-so-adorable mess.
Sand, pier, surf, waves, breeze . . . Yeah, yeah, coastal OC is pretty great. But any inlander can list some downsides: It's pricey, packed and, often, pretentious. Not so much in San Clemente, though. Laid-back and relatively uncrowded, the town in some ways feels more Baja California than Southern California. There's an art scene, a surf scene and a dining scene, but San Clemente is best-suited for anyone who's post-scene. Another perk: If all that beachy prettiness gets tiresome, there's plenty of freeway access. It's not hard to get away from San Clemente, though it is hard to understand why you'd want to.