On this day of rest, when few of you will bother to check out Navel Gazing, what better day to devote a blog post to the Stanton of South County, Aliso Viejo? I wasn't too kind to the collection of gated communities and beautiful, empty sidewalks in my Orange County: A Personal History, and I still maintain the only things going for it are the Soka University bistro and Siamese Express. But last month, one Bradford Evans decided to do something shocking: he defended Aliso Viejo in a letter I'm reprinting below:
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Upon picking up a copy of your new book on Orange County, I was appalled to see Aliso Viejo referred to as "the worst city in Orange County by far." As a resident of the city-in-question for
the past fourteen years, I feel you've overlooked a certain distinctive charm that can be found in Aliso Viejo's dreadfulness. Aliso Viejo isn't just mediocre; it's mediocre with character. If I can't persuade you to strip Aliso Viejo of the title "worst city in Orange County by far", I hope to convince you to at least remove the phrase "by far" from that title.
In your book, you neglect to mention Aliso Viejo's claim to fame. In 2004, the city received national media attention when the City Council fell victim to an Internet hoax. Legislation was introduced to ban Styrofoam cups at city events after a staff member stumbled upon a website warning readers that Styrofoam contains a "dangerous chemical" known as "dihydrogen monoxide." Anyone who has taken a basic chemistry course (or knows how to use Google) could tell you that this website was devised as a prank and "dihydrogen monoxide" is also known as water. However, the city staff was able to realize their mistake before voting
on the issue, but Aliso Viejo still managed to briefly become the laughingstock of the nation.
Every year, this same City Council holds an outlandish event known as Aliso Viejo's Founders Day Festival to honor the city's "founding fathers" (their term, not mine). These founding fathers consist of the five urban professionals who helped the territory achieve cityhood eight years ago. The event takes place at Aliso Viejo Ranch, a dilapidated, former cattle ranch that, for whatever reason, has not yet been turned into a shopping center or a collection of track homes like the rest of the city. Naturally, Founders Day has an old west theme. Residents can pan for gold, ride horses or watch a gun show. Aliso Viejo has been a city for seven years.
Aliso Viejo is also the unofficial UFO sighting capital of Southern Orange County. The city earned this distinction when two doofy middle-aged men began flying glowing, four-foot wide, remote-controlled flying saucers over the city's Town Center. Since then, confused residents have made dozens of panicked calls to the police. One resident, after being scared by these shimmering toys, even posted a poorly-filmed, Blair Witch-style Youtube video in which he describes one of the UFOs as being "the size of a car." In a completely-unrelated note, Daniel Baldwin, the fourth-most-famous Baldwin Brother, was arrested in 2006 for stealing the car of a friend in Aliso Viejo. I don't consider a city to be truly great until one of the Baldwins has committed a crime there. Lastly, Aliso Viejo also came to national attention when Charles Salter, principal of the city's high school, banned school dances in an apparent move to recreate the plot of Footloose 20 years after the fact.
It's impressive for a new city like Aliso Viejo to have accomplished so much in only seven years. Aliso Viejo is awful in a truly amusing way, and the same cannot be said about lackluster neighboring city Laguna Niguel. I'm not just saying this because of the fierce ongoing rivalry between Aliso Viejo and Laguna Niguel (Our Taco Bell is nicer). If anything, the distinction "worst city in Orange County" should be bestowed upon Laguna Niguel, a city just as deplorable as Aliso Viejo, but twice as boring.
Wow, I'm nearly convinced! Especially since Laguna Niguel is the worst dining town in Orange County by far; a French douche runs its most famous restaurant, if said restaurant is even around. And if Aliso Viejo is horrid enough to have an apologist, who amongst you will defend Laguna Niguel?