Junior year, Anaheim High School, mid-1990s, Mr. Cross' class. The Virginia native is teaching us about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s, and our mostly Latino class gapes at a picture of Klansmen parading through a downtown. It's disgusting, it's vile—and it's Anaheim, I finally learn years later in college, when I'm researching a paper on white supremacism and find the same photo, with a caption, "Anaheim: 1924."
This is history in Anaheim, Orange County's first incorporated city—and it's bulldozed or swept under the carpet with frightening regularity. The rows of historical hotels that dotted Anaheim's downtown were wiped clean in the 1970s to make way for a Von's and a Sav-On. The city's gorgeous orange groves, which brought my great-grandfather to Anaheim a century ago, are reduced to one, across the street from the Anaheim Police Department and fenced off with barbed wire. The distinctive Googie architecture that ringed Disneyland is mostly gone, replaced by uniform city-mandated marquees tinted a weird vomity pink.
Yet Anaheimers (yes, that's what we call ourselves) are fiercely proud of our city, mostly because we each belong to long-standing, vibrant immigrant communities—fitting pride for a city founded by Germans during the 1860s in the hopes of establishing a socialist grape colony. My mother comes from El Cargadero, a mountain hamlet in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas that over the past century has hemorrhaged more than 1,000 residents to Anaheim. "Your great-grandfather came to Anaheim around 1906," says my mom, who dropped out of ninth grade at now-leveled Fremont Middle School in 1969 to pick strawberry fields on the corner of what's now Sunkist Street and La Palma Avenue. "And even then, there were already people from El Cargadero in Anaheim."
Mami was born in El Cargadero but came to Anaheim in 1965 when she was 12, in the middle of the city's last major housing boom—but before the development of Anaheim Hills. She still remembers rows of homes interspersed amongst orange groves and produce fields, but of course she doesn't miss the days of picking from them after school. "It was hard," she says. "The white students would make fun of us, not just because we were poor but because we barely spoke Spanish." But it didn't make her want to leave. "This," she says, "is the only home I know." As it is for people from around the globe: the county's largest concentrations of Romanians, Africans, Thais, Laotians, Arabs, Filipinos and Samoans live in Anaheim. And we are proud: of there and of here—still living in largely self-segregated communities but united by our communal Mass: nightly Disneyland fireworks and the Anaheim Angels. Our Angels.
Best Toy District Enough toys to hit your budget like a miniature rocket-propelled grenade "fired" by a miniature G.I. Joe. Kelly's Toy Stop features a small but choice stash of Ultraman monsters from the '60s Japanese TV show. Phat Collectibles has your G.I. Joes; also your Hot Wheels, Beanie Babies (yaargh) and "hockey" action figures. Bray's Toy Mine has everything else—Marx toy tanks with bright red wheels; vintage windup racing cars for $15; and for the tippler with everything, a $1,000 flying saucer advertisement for Burgermeister beer that's as tall as a boy. Kelly's Toy Stop, 3024 W. Ball Rd., Unit K, Anaheim, (714) 828-4577; Phat Collectibles, 3011 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 484-9080; Bray's Toy Mine, 3017 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 995-1602.
Best Mural St. Catherine Military Academy. Painted in 1959, the gold-leaf Byzantine mural outside its chapel depicts an all-star cast of scholars from all faiths—the Jewish Maimonides, the Muslim Averroes, Socrates and Plato, Hammurabi, even a stray pharaoh—opposite Old Testament prophets, as Adam and Eve stand to the side in agony. Now that'sCatholic. 215 N. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 772-1363; www.stcatherinesmilitary.com.
Best-Kept Secret Disneyland. Though the exact date of its opening is a mystery, Disneyland has remained an exciting diversion for many locals who value the amusement area, or "theme park," as a good place to enjoy an inexpensive and hassle-free afternoon. The brainchild of Walter Disney, a graphic artist from the Midwest whose whereabouts are unknown, Disneyland features several attractions that children enjoy for their fast thrills, creative design and varying mortality rates. Being such a local favorite, there have been times that Disneyland has become crowded—rumor is that on rare occasions, people have been asked to stand in a "line" to ride an attraction. To avoid such unpleasantness, those in the know say the best time to visit the park is on weekends, especially during winter, spring and summer breaks, when most local residents make their pilgrimage to international amusement icon Six Flags Magic Mountain. 1313 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 781-4565.
Best Baseball Park Boysen Park. Angels Stadium gets all the write-ups, but this baseball diamond is the true beaut, with its ivy-covered outfield fence and home-plate view of the Googie-style rocket slide where generations of Anaheim kiddies have bruised their butts. 951 State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 254-5191.
Best Latin Club JC Fandango. In 20 years, affable owner Javier Castellanos has built this into the finest Latin nightclub in the United States, with the legendary (the late Celia Cruz) and the unknown (El Otro Yo) of every musical genre enespañol. 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 758-1057.
Best Spot to Pick Up a Day Laborer Home Depot. Latino men and their eldest sons begin loitering out front before sunrise, knowing the many gabachos with the American flags flapping from their Chevys will pay well for a day's work. Better yet—no cop harassment here! 800 N. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 533-9930.
Best Place for a DJ to Save Your Life Beats, Vinyl & Life. The best one-stop hip-hop specialty shop in Anaheim (and probably OC), with a staff of actual/professional DJs and producers too—you may remember DJ JFX from appearances at Detroit and Blue Café as he swipes your ATM card and sends you home with a stack of 12"s. 517 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 774-7780; www.bvandl.com.
Best Meat Market Boogie. Our sole Boogie experience: a woman no older than 18 dancing on a table. She wore ass shorts with stickers of ruby lips on the bottom of her cheeks and a mesh T-shirt with nothing underneath. She invited us to turn the switch on the vibrator inside her hoo-hah. We went to Fritz's instead. 1721 S. Manchester Ave., Anaheim, (714) 956-1410.
Best Guilty PleasureAw, we knock Disneyland—hideously overpriced, not to mention full of people who are hideously overweight, what's not to knock?—but the truth is we love it. It's sweet, the folks who work there are peaches to the last man even while being bum rushed by nine-year-old urban savages, we have a secret thing for Tinkerbell (even the girls), and every time we go we can write the (hideous) admission off our taxes. Here you have your Walter Disney and his most famous creation (although that slut Snow White comes close behind), the one and the only Mickey Mouse. We've taken a lot of liberties with Mickey over the years; if we haven't portrayed him as Homeless Junkie Mickey, it's only because we didn't think of it or we were afraid Courtney Love would sue.
Best Company Mascot The Original Pancake House. Forget Mickey. This massive mascot looming over Lincoln Avenue—a grinning, two-dimensional cook in poofy hat flipping flapjacks—is a city icon as reassuring to Anaheimers as the Big A. And so are the pancakes—wheels of flour soaked with any number of syrups and gobs of butter. Chase them with coffee, and it's a good morning. 1418 E. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 535-9815; www.originalpancakehouse.com.
Best Unincorporated Area The Garza Island, for now. Unsure why, but this tiny blip of county land is being eyed for incorporation by Anaheim. Why they'd want this weentsy 495-acre crumb—boxed in by a sewer drain on the left, a ditch on the right, a fire hydrant to the south and my dad's Firebird to the north—remains unclear. You'd think they had better things to worry about—like why people moon their trains, and where Gwen Stefani's dress is. The yellow area on your Thomas Guide between Broadway, Katella Avenue, Gilbert Avenue and Brookhurst Street.
Best Dose of Irony Xalos Bar. The former Nazi-loving Shack is now proudly named after Jalostitlán, Jalisco, a Mexican town that has exported hundreds to Anaheim over the past decades. Some of them come here every weekend, and so do other Mexicans—Jalostitlán women are renowned across Mexico for being the hottest this side of Mount Etna—and the Nazis do not. 1160 N. Kraemer Ave., Anaheim, (714) 632-0390; www.xalosbar.com.
Best Mexican Wrestling Anaheim Indoor Swapmeet. Los luchadores mince neither actions nor words in these Sunday-afternoon lucha librematches. Families roll three generations deep, little kids throw sodas into the ring, white fighters call the overwhelmingly Latino audience beaners, and wrestlers get on all fours with offers of gay sex to scare away other wrestlers. 1440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 999-0888.
Best Belly Dancing and Belly Dancing Accessories Saut Wa Soora. Here is where you go for the city's most extensive selection of Middle Eastern music CDs and cassettes, DVDs, videos, belly dancing videos, and belly dancing accessories. 2565 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 220-0553.
Best Hessians Pro-Rock. Housed in the same dilapidated shopping mall as JC Fandango, Pro-Rock has the largest collection of metal records (in English and Spanish) outside KNAC's archive. 1064 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 774-3443.
Best Pie, Chicken Pot La Palma Chicken Pie Shop. Orange County's original hole-in-the-wall, this is where hipsters go to eat flaky, wonderful, gravy-laden chicken pot pies like their grandparents eat. And for atmosphere, its famous neon chicken is shining again. 928 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 533-2021.
Best Thai Corner The corner of Euclid Avenue and La Palma Avenue is Thai Town, where OC Thais get their hair done, buy produce at three grocery stores, wait for dental checkups—and eat at the county's three best Thai restaurants. Win Thai Cuisine (1151 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, 714-778-0940) boasts 116 entrées—from pad Thai to a green mussel soup pungent with the ocean. Siam Hot Chili Paste (1739 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 714-956-8444) serves fiery northeast Thailand salads and the flashiest karaoke shows outside the Thai Elvis. E-Sarn Restaurant (1719 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 714-999-0563) beats all with an untranslated menu, waiters who speak little English, and a pig tripe soup that makes offal taste like filet mignon.
Photo by Tenaya Hills
Best Architecture Craftsman, Spanish Revival, Queen Anne Cottage, Prairie School, Aeroplane Bungalow—the Anaheim Colony Historical District includes many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Highlights include the Mother Colony House (one of the county's first private homes), the century-old First Presbyterian Church and 125-year-old St. Michael's Episcopal Church. Anaheim Mother Colony House, 414 N. West St., Anaheim, (714) 765-1850; Anaheim First Presbyterian Church, 310 W. Broadway, Anaheim, (714) 535-2176; www.anaheimfirstpres.org; St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 311 W. South St., Anaheim, (714) 535-4654.
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Best Restaurant District Little Arabia is Southern California's premier place to feast on Middle Eastern cuisine. Our favorites: the mint-spiked falafels at Kareem's (1208 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, 714-778-6829); the 17 different kinds of Lebanese pizzas at Al Sanabel Bakery (816 S. Brookhurst Blvd., Anaheim, 714-635-4353); Ara's Pastry's wonderful maamoul pistachio and date cookies (2227 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, 714-776-5554); and the garlic-sauced Lebanese sub at Victory Bakery (951 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, 714-776-4493).
Best Forgotten Cemetery Holy Cross Cemetery, which gets no boneyard love. The county's first Catholic cemetery—many of its tombstones pre-1950, when tombstones were still vertically inclined—is now open only by appointment. If you don't have one, it's scrunched in between apartment buildings behind a whitewashed wall and a chainlink fence you can only look through. 619 S. Euclid Ave., Anaheim, (714) 532-6551.
Best Place to Knock 'Em Down Linbrook Bowl. This swanky old behemoth of a bowling alley caters to the most dedicated keglers in Orange County, so when you strut in and grab your balls, you best mean business. 201 S. Brookhurst Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 774-2253.