Bob Becker is the first violist for the Pacific Symphony. I'm not sure what that means, or what special privileges go along with that title—perhaps he gets a discount on spats . . . Suck on that, second violist scum!—but I do know that he's a helluva nice guy. I've talked with Bob before, once for a story about the opening of the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Hall, and found him to be not only a good guy but—and this tells you something about my relationship with high art—also surprisingly normal. We talked about football and hardware and what a pain in the ass kids can be. (I can't remember if we really talked about the latter but, c'mon, they can be such pains in the ass.) Anyway, I thought the first violist for a symphony that was quickly gaining national and international acclaim, who is also a normal nice guy, would be a good person to ask about his favorite OC things. And Becker loves this county. . . .
Born in the south, Becker studied at the Juilliard School and played in a classical group before he moved to Orange County and joined the Pacific, both of which he took a lot of guff for. "All they have out there are bean fields," they'd say, and the Pacific was held in such low regard that when Segerstrom Hall originally opened, the Los Angeles Philharmonic was asked to do the debut performance. Now, the Pacific is riding high with accolades and high marks for both its new home and having just completed a very successful European tour. He also loves football, especially the Denver Broncos. "You know how Raider children learn to count? 0-1, 0-2, 0-3 . . . !" He's become a total OC guy, even if he was reluctant at first. "Truth is, I looked down my nose at people here. I was teaching at UCI and I'd ask the kids what they were doing after class and they'd say, 'Going to the beach.' I'd say, 'You're going where?' See, in New York, you practiced at home, then you went to school and practiced, and then you went home again and practiced. I come here and everybody is outdoors and doing things and I thought they were crazy. Now, I love it. I like to call friends back in New York while they're shoveling snow and say, 'Hey, how you doing? I'm just getting off the golf course.' They really like that." See? Nice guy.
Segerstrom Hall."This would be one of my favorite places even if I weren't with the Pacific Symphony. Especially being a transplant and hearing from so many people, 'Why are you going out there? All it is is bean fields.' Well, look at what those bean fields produced! This will be a place that, long after we're gone, people will still be going to and enjoying. I'm just glad I could be there on opening night. I know this will make people back in New York crazy, but I imagine it was like being at the opening of Carnegie Hall. The place is special." 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2787.
Renata's Caffe Italiano. "I teach at Chapman and it's by the campus, and I get over there any time I can. If I knew I was going to die I would just go eat chicken piccata at Renata. No doubt." 227 E. Chapman Ave., Ste. F, Orange, (714) 771-4740.
First Presbyterian Church of Santa Ana."This is my church and it's very active in the community, especially in downtown Santa Ana. It works with the homeless and the poor. It could have moved out of downtown but instead it chose to stay; it very much has a sense of location." 600 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-7253; www.fpcsa.org.
TGI Fridays (in Orange). "I like to go here for Sunday brunch with my family. They have 12 TVs and I can watch football and they can eat. I don't like sports bars because I really wouldn't feel comfortable bringing my family to one. This is kind of a perfect midway point." 1 The City Blvd. W., Orange, (714) 978-3308.
Rutabegorz."Great salads. Great soups. Oh, yeah, it's great." 264 N. Glassell, Orange (714) 633-3260; www.rutabegorz.com.
Tustin Ranch Golf Club."I love the layout. I love sitting in the restaurant and watching the water spray and I love watching the golfers finish up. It's gorgeous. Oh, yeah, and they still have caddies there. It's a great way to play golf, especially when it comes to reading the green. I'd be setting up a putt and the caddy would say, 'It's one ball outside,' and I'd say, 'Whattaya crazy? It's three feet to the left.' He'd just look at me and say, 'One ball outside,' and of course he'd be right. I also love Tijeras Creek in Mission Viejo. Lots of nice holes." 12442 Tustin Ranch Rd., Tustin, (714) 730-1611; www.tustinranchgolf.com.
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Wine Club. "It's great for pricing options; they have all kinds of wines there. It's not as fancy as Hi Times, and I love Hi Times, but I think this is the best tasting experience. The people are very real, and they have a whole lineup of bottles out and everything is on the honor system. There's a line on each glass that you're supposed to pour to, but again, it's the honor system. Another nice thing is that while some places charge, like, $5 a taste, at the Wine Club they only charge 10 percent of the bottle price. So, if you're tasting a $20 bottle of wine, the taste costs only $2. It's very economical: a great way to browse." 2110 E. McFadden Ave., Ste. E, Santa Ana, (800) 966-5432; www.thewineclub.com.
Napa Rose Grill."Chef Andy Sutton lives nearby, and every now and then a group of us will go to his restaurant for a meal. The place is just fantastic: the food, the presentation, the wine—everything." 1600 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 956-6755.
Hiking Santiago Oaks. "It's in Carbon Canyon and you can be far away from civilization in, like, 13 seconds, and instead of worrying about traffic you can worry about snakes and mountain lions. Yeah, I take precautions. I watch my back; I let my daughter go in front and I'm in back. The fact is we are in their home when we're out there and you have to take precautions. I love it, though. I love the emphasis we place on health out here. I quit smoking when I moved here—I was a three and a half pack a day smoker and then I just quit. November 4, 1978—4:30 p.m. But don't ask me to be specific." 2145 N. Windes Dr., Orange, (714) 973-6620; www.ocparks.com/santiagooaks.
Bob Marriott Outdoor Sportsman."I go here for fly fishing stuff every chance that I get. I fly fish in Trabuco Creek and at lakes around the area. I do a thing every year: I take the viola students at Chapman fly fishing in Colorado. This year I taught 35 violists to fly cast. They caught trout. It's hard to explain. For me, fly fishing is a very zen experience because you have to understand nature and order, and what bug to use. It gives you a perspective about your place in the overall sense of things. It gets you outside your frantic life and into a different frame of mind. Learning the art of the cast is like raking a rock garden." 2700 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-1827; www.bobmarriotts.net.