Best Of :: People & Places
Marijuana may still be just as illegal under federal law as are heroin and hunting bald eagles, but you wouldn't know that if you happened to drop by the Anaheim Convention Center on Aug. 28. There, several dozen exhibitors hawked everything from hemp T-shirts and Proto Pipes to decidedly less-retro demonstrations of the latest hydroponic growing equipment, some of which looked like a cross between a Jacuzzi and a tanning chamber. Dreadlocked white guys in tie-dye and cute "booth babes" dressed in nurses' uniforms marked with the ubiquitous green cross of the medical-marijuana movement passed out cannabis collective sign-up forms and coupons for doctors' referrals and discounts on "medicine." A speaker's forum allowed cannabis-club directors to trade opinions on Proposition 19, the upcoming voter's referendum that would allow all adults in California to possess up to an ounce of weed for recreational purposes, and lawyers gave out free legal advice and offered analyses of the latest court decisions. Not a trace of the green stuff could be smelled anywhere, yet an aura of stoned optimism hung heavy over the crowd. Then again, the sheer fact that such a gathering can actually take place in Orange County in this day and age speaks volumes about just how possible it may be that someday soon, ganja will take its rightful place as California's No. 1—and totally legit—cash crop.
Founded in 1986, the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen serves meals to more than 300 people, seven days a week. The Costa Mesa-based nonprofit's mission is to feed a daily nutritious meal to the homeless, the unemployed, the working poor, the mentally challenged, the physically challenged, senior citizens and, most important of all, children. 'Cause it's all about the children. They were among those Someone Cares founder Merle Hatleberg noticed were coming to the door for food when she ran an Orange County seniors' program. Those needy folks did not qualify for meals under that program, so Hatleberg would slip them some food when no one was looking. She went on to pool her meager funds to buy a large pot for the first soup she served to the needy on June 15, 1986. Much has changed since then: 30 people were served that first pot of soup, and Someone Cares moved from local churches to a community center in Costa Mesa to, finally, a former Chinese restaurant owned by the parents of the founders of the Wahoo's Fish Taco chain. And there's now a staff, plus more than 150 active volunteers. Unfortunately, the need has grown as well.
If you're one of those people who thinks every month should have its own Oktoberfest, then fret not because there is room for your beer-swilling self over at the Phoenix Club, home to the largest outdoor festhalle in the country. Every May 1, the club opens its doors to the public for a daylong celebration of all things Germanic: sauerkraut, sausage, polka music, maypole dancing—sorry, fellas, not that kind of pole dancing, but rather the medieval-era one involving a tall pole, lots of ribbons and walking in circles—and beer. Lots of beer, and it goes for about half of the ridiculously overpriced Oktoberfest brews they sell at Huntington Beach's Old World Village. Long tables provide plenty of room underneath propeller-size fans hanging from the ceiling of the tent, while a never-ending parade of dancers in folk costumes struts its stuff in front of the white-haired polka band onstage. There's even a lady who stands in the middle of the floor with an unnaturally happy smile and cracks a whip just inches from your face. Achtung, baby!
How could a public radio station be better than KPCC? Okay, we know what you're going to say: by not playing public-radio programming. But that's wrong; KPPC's lineup is consistently fascinating and varied enough that it's worth tuning into at most times of the day. The personalities are who make it, from the nebbishy-but-bold Larry Mantle to the affably anti-jargon Kai Ryssdahl (whose nationally syndicated Marketplace is recorded in the same building as KPCC). But forget everyone else: The rock of the station is afternoon-news anchor Alex Cohen, who manages to be adorable yet authoritative while occasionally poking fun at the national programming or dropping references to her own passion for roller derby. Even KPCC's pledge drives are sometimes entertaining—not that we'd miss those if they were gone.
If you ever listen to classical music on the radio, chances are you've heard the host who sounds how a classical-music host would sound if he were a character on The Simpsons. Get beyond the funny voice, and you quickly realize that KUSC's Jim Svejda is probably the most knowledgeable (and opinionated) radio host in the country when it comes to classical music. His Sunday-evening show The Record Shelf has been around for decades and never fails to break new ground on old music, exposing listeners to both obscure works by well-known artists (okay, Gustav Mahler's Resurrection Symphony isn't that obscure, but you won't find it on most classical stations) and underappreciated gems by also-rans, such as Bohuslav Martinu's Piano Quartet No. 1, which opens Svejda's show. He rules the airwaves weeknights from 7 to 10 p.m., artfully letting the tinkling piano of his theme music fade away before he mellifluously transitions into the night's programming. If Charles Bukowski were alive, he'd purposefully delay his day's work of drinking and writing to take full advantage of Svejda's show.
In Marty Smith's capable hands, Orange Coast magazine continues to improve over the days when the publication was largely content-free. Smith loves a good story and has been sharing them with his readers. Sure, there are all the "best" lists (like, uh, this one), but nowadays, those are leavened with interesting profiles and local crime mysteries. The story of James W. Whitehouse, the husband of Susan Atkins, the convicted murderer from Charles Manson's gang, was one for the history books.