LABEDZ, DR. GORDON head of the Surfrider Foundation in the Seal Beach area and the nicest vegetarian you've ever met.
For further study of great vegetarians, see: Vangie Oberschlacke; Mahatma Gandhi; Bambi LAGUNA BEACHYou know you've reached paradise when the most contentious debate in town is whether one man's palm tree blocks a fraction of another man's view of the vast Pacific. Such is the case in Laguna Beach, a small, mountainous seaside resort located three miles south of Corona del Mar on Pacific Coast Highway. There are residents who are pro-view. There are residents who are pro-tree. But this is California, after all, and so there are also residents who don't give a damn about views or trees as long as surfing conditions are adequate. Not to make light of the tree dilemma. More than a few residents have awakened to find their beloved trees victimized by deadly middle-of-the-night saboteurs. Only delicate police negotiations have prevented subsequent fistfights between neighboring millionaires. LAGUNA BEACH ART POLITICS Not only has the been-there-forever Pageant of the Masters tried to extort a better deal from the City Council by threatening to move to Mission Viejo or something (who do they think they are, Georgia Frontiere?), and not only has the Laguna Art Museum had its own public hissy fits following an aborted merger with Newport's Orange County Museum of Art, but try the Laguna Art Walk any first Thursday of the month: watch the whispers and the sour faces as the loving community of artists gets together for its monthly cat fight. Central place to watch people try to hide from one another: Peter Blake Gallery. Critics and OCMA preparators hang out here. There's plenty of backbiting, followed by air kisses as sincere as Bill Clinton in a cathouse. Then cross PCH to the Royal Hawaiian and get drunk. LAGUNA HILLS Ahhh, Laguna Hills: where sapphire-blue waves gently massage miles of rocky coastline. Wait—that's Laguna Beach. Laguna Hills: where tens of thousands of wizened retirees relax during their golden years . . . that's actually Laguna Woods. Hmmm . . . Laguna Hills: home of one of the most exciting and dynamic racetracks in . . . no, that's Laguna Seca . . . Of course! Laguna Hills: the gutless appeaser that sold out Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. Wait, that was Neville Chamberlain. Anyway, Laguna Hills is a place where people live. A kind of pretty place, especially its neighborhoods, that has the tony distinction of having crosswalk buttons set high so ultra-rich Nellie Gail Ranch residents can reach them on horseback. It's a place that enjoys having a good name, some good food, and the most nightmarish stretch of road since that parkway festooned with Spartacus and his pals. Still . . . Discussion questions: 1. If a tree falls in Laguna Hills, does it make a sound? 2. Who was better, Chamberlain or Russell? 3. So, Tommy, do you like gladiator movies? LAGUNA NIGUEL Much has changed during the past 20 years in Laguna Niguel. In 1981, new residents were so new that Angie's Pizza treated them to a celebratory bottle of champagne. A Carl's Jr. played country music and had a place to tie up horses out back. Occasionally, a horseback rider would even order at the drive-through window. Now Angie's is long gone (perhaps due to all the free champagne). The fast-food restaurant still stands, but it now blares Top 40 and SUVs pull up to its drive-through. Most telling is that an upscale Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar recently opened just blocks away. Shopping centers such as Plaza de la Paz (where Scott's is located), the Marketplace at Laguna Niguel and Ocean Ranch offer a mix of eateries and shops in addition to the vast expanse (more than one-third of the area) of open space beckoning to be biked and hiked. The city, incorporated in 1989, is unabashedly residential. The heart of Laguna Niguel beats, clear of clogged arteries, in its cul-de-sacs and soccer fields. LAGUNA WOODS Myth: Laguna Woods consists solely of the Leisure World retirement community formerly contained in Laguna Hills. Fact: while Leisure World makes up the huge majority of Laguna Woods proper—and Leisure World residents make up 100 percent of the city's population—there are in fact shopping districts outside Leisure World's gated and barbwire fences containing all manner of necessary essentials to a full 21st-century existence: Starbucks, Home Depotand Subway. We're really blowing your mind, aren't we? . . . Whattaya mean, that's not your mind? LA HABRA La Habra has been evolving into the discount capital of OC. A Wal-Mart will open soon on Beach Boulevard, joining the Target and the 24-hour Super Kmart to form the Holy Trinity of massive discount shopping (or Holy Quartet, if you count the Pic-N-Save—now, Big! Lots!—on Harbor Boulevard). There's a 96-cent store in town, which is just a block away from a 97-cent store, which isn't too far away from a shop where you can pick up a discount casket. But La Habra isn't just about bargains—it's also about warm glazed doughnuts. The Krispy Kreme chain opened its first California shop in La Habra two years ago. Lines of allegedly sane people hungry for their fried-sugar fix wrapped several times around the building, and the national media showed up to file stories about the Krispy Kreme phenomenon. Still, as sleepy as La Habra may seem, it can still surprise. The La Habra Boxing Club has become a respected training camp for blossoming pugilists (Julio Gonzalez trained here for his July bout with Roy Jones Jr.). Artist Mark Kostabi, who did the covers for Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusionalbums and once got punched out by Morton Downey Jr., went to La Habra High School. And La Habra has not one, but two Starbucks—proof that the town has evolved into a fully cultured community. LAKE FOREST If Lake Forest feels sprawling and lacking in any central downtown area, that's because it is and does. Incorporated in 1991, the city called Lake Forest—once known as El Toro—now includes the annexed Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills. It's composed of a number of small residential areas built around two lakes, connected by main thoroughfares, and decorated with a hearty smattering of characterless strip malls. But still, there are areas of Lake Forest—parks, bridges, walkways—that are beautiful and worth finding. LA PALMA Built in the heart of Moo Valley on the site of dairies that once stretched clear to Santa Fe Springs, La Palma today is another of the county's numerous bedroom communities. While virtually all of La Palma's residents live in tract homes built in the 1970s, a few of the old dairy ranches remain. The city incorporated in 1955 as Dairyland, reflecting the stranglehold on local government area cows enjoyed. But within a decade, the tide had turned against the heifers. In 1965, residents revolted against the dairies and approved a new city name with a bit more cosmopolitan flavor: La Palma, which is Spanish for the Palma. The town's international flair is no joke—La Palma is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the county, with Asians accounting for nearly half its population. Whites weigh in at 36 percent, Latinos at 10 percent and African-Americans at 4.5 percent. LASORDA, TOM That's right, the longtime Dodgers manager who achieved his place in the team's display case not so much because of his oh-so-marginal skills as a player, scout, manager and general manager, but through sheer force of bluster and his stunning absence of shame. His ongoing evangelical purpose has always been to spread the message of his own significance. That's not as easy as it used to be. Lasorda's days and nights are mostly spent shuffling around his Fullerton home in a bathrobe or shuttling along the rubber-chicken banquet circuit, recycling the same old jokes and stories into his after-dinner speaking gigs. LEE'S SANDWICHESBased out of San Jose, Lee's Sandwiches specializes in bánh mì, the Vietnamese sandwich that is an appetizing post-colonial amalgamation. The original Bolsa location was so popular that a second, 24-hour location recently opened in Garden Grove. Though the always-endless lines seem imposing, Lee's service is so outstanding that you'll quickly be savoring the most outlandish deal ($1.50 for a huge, nine-inch, delicious sandwich) in the world. 9261 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 901-5788; also 13991 Brookhurst, Garden Grove, (714) 636-2288 LIBRERÍA MARTÍNEZ One of the best Latino bookstores en los Estados Unidos, Librería Martínez also functions as a stage for owner Rueben Martínez. The gregarious-to-a-fault bookkeeper/barber/cultural ambassador prowls his bookstore (and his neighboring children's store) for people clueless as to what to read. Sr. Martínez (please, call him Rueben) engages them in conversation like a long-lost uncle. Part of it is a master salesman at work, but the other part is an earnest man obsessive about instilling in everyone who gravitates toward his downtown intellectual inn a passion for knowledge. His success shows in the roster of authors and notables who've come to sign books and speak. Who else in Orange County could bring Univisión evening anchor Jorge Ramos, Chicana icon Sandra Cisneros, lefty Tom Hayden, Mexican intellectual Carlos Fuentes and namesake New Journalism scion Rubén Martínez and crack the same jokes without missing a beat? 1200 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 479-0600. LINGUINI IMPERIALAt the original Peppino's Italian family restaurant, jumbo shrimp and baby clams are diced and sautéed in a red or white cream sauce (Get the white! Get the white!) and then ladled over swirls of linguine. This simple but astonishing entrée almost gets lost in Peppino's tabloid-sized, seven-page laminated menu, but once you find it, you won't forget it. Or Peppino's, which is the restaurant chain that the Olive Garden would be if the Olive Garden really were family-owned and served Italian food. 23600 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest, (949) 951-2611. LIQUID DEN After the gentrification of the former Club Mesa and the revamped roots-or-nothing Doll Hut, it appeared that good ol' dive-bar punk was extinct in OC. Thankfully, Lob and Huntington Beach's Liquid Den have filled the void. They even have good beers on tap. 5061 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 377-7964. LITTLE SAIGONTry this experiment: tune your car radio to FM 106.3, the Voice of Little Saigon. Slowly drive Bolsa Avenue between Brookhurst and Magnolia. Sixty percent of Westminster residents are white, but the sights, smells and sounds will convince you that you are in a distant Asian locale. Visitors should not be surprised to see the yellow-and-red-striped flag of old South Vietnam flying defiantly at shops. The war ended more than a quarter century ago, but many older local Vietnamese still feel that defeat deeply and express their anger periodically at the slightest hint that someone in the community isn't sufficiently anti-communist. Much to the frustration of the older generation, younger Vietnamese—particularly those born in the U.S.—cringe at the mention of the war, tend to support Democrats when they vote, and prefer English as their daily language. They are not interested in Ho Chi Minh, Henry Kissinger or Dien Bien Phu. They are frequently interested in hip-hop, Hondas and high tech. Corporate America hasn't overlooked this point: Little Saigon is sprinkled with huge roadside billboards targeting local Vietnamese-American yuppies. LOB Hey, Lob was here before we showed up; he'll be here long after we're gone, declaiming about Hawkwind to a new generation of skate rats and still tugging on that goatee. His noise-core garage-jazz improv band Instagon is a rite of passage in OC music; if you haven't done at least one night's duty smearing your own off-the-cuff counterpoint over Lob's rumbling bass lines, you're doing something wrong. And if you've never even crossed paths with the guy—at his old-school spoken-word events, behind the counter back in the day at Vinyl Solution, keeping an eye on the opening band at the Liquid Den, or maybe just making sure the barstools stay warm in Long Beach—well, fuck, are you sure you really live in Orange County? LOCAL BANDS NOT AS BORING AS THE PLACES THEY'RE NAMED AFTER 5 South, Fairview, El Centro, Long Beach Shortbus, Rage Against Mission Viejo, Tustin-tones. LOCAL BANDS WHOSE NAMES ARE OBVIOUSLY ANSWERS TO THE QUESTION "SO WHO'S PLAYING TONIGHT?" No One Special, Never Heard of It, My Favorite Band, Bunch of Junior College Kids Who Just Got Into NOFX, Something Corporate. LOPEZ, NATIVO Head of immigrant-rights group Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, which has assisted countless immigrants over the years. For this reason, he is one of the most hated Latino activists in the United States. LOS ALAMITOS You know Los Alamitos for its racetracks and fine schools. You know it as the town proud to be wedged between the 405, 22 and 605 freeways, proud to be so easy to leave. In short, you know the Los Alamitos that the people who run Los Alamitos want you to think you know. The Los Alamitos of marching bands and powerful high school football and cheerleading squads, the Los Alamitos that was named for the acres of cottonwoods that used to cover the land. But most of the cottonwoods are gone now. And along Katella, there are small shops that hawk such aggressively virile products as "meat pies" and "Pittsburgh broasted chicken," just blocks from a small Catholic church fighting for its life. A sweet town? Well, Los Alamitos Township did once have a thriving sugar industry, but it was destroyed by nematodes. The town rose again thanks to a Dr. Ross, who, in 1921, converted the town's sugar refinery into a plant that processed horses into dog food; the town was saved. (Ross, on the other hand, was ruined by the Great Depression and died a pauper, and his mill was torn down.) It was during these halcyon days that hotels were built and an average of two people were shot and stabbed every weekend. Those truly were the days. LOS ALAMITOS RACETRACK Sure, it's not always what you would call spick-and-span, and, yeah, there always seems to come a point in the evening when someone throws up in a trash can. But, hey, it's a racetrack, not a, you know, enchanted pixie-land-type place. Los Alamitos is horse racing at its egalitarian best. First, they race at night, so you can work a full day to earn the money that you will lose. Second, the races are short. At Los Al, they race quarter horses—the funny cars of the equine set. Quarter horses are built for terrific short bursts of speed—none of this running around, taking valuable time away from your Coors Light or causing you to look up from your trash can for long periods of time. You find out if you won or lost in, like, 20 seconds. This is a racetrack for the people, not one of them fancy, waistcoat-wearin' racetracks like Santa Anita. Los Alamitos has a real country feel to it: lots of cowboy hats, boots and wide-screen-sized silver belt buckles holding back tsunami-strength bellies—but enough about the ladies. Thank you! Thank you very much! But seriously, this is a great place to spend some time on a warm summer evening, drinking a beverage, betting some money and watching some horses. 4961 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (714) 995-1234. LOWBROWHeavily populated art scene characterized by paintings of hot rods and cha-chas grandes. Originated by folks such as Big Daddy Roth and Robt. Williams, the scene is carried on by local heroes Shag and the Pizz. Openings often feature members of catty burlesque troop the Velvet Hammer shooting daggers at anyone who doesn't lick their asses. LOWER TRESTLES 1.San Clemente shoreline that's the ultimate surf beach in the county. 2.San Clemente shoreline that's the ultimate bareknuckle-boxing ring. Sit atop a comfortable seaside boulder, light up a cigarette, and watch two grown surfers go at it like cavemen as they scuffle over waves, blacken one another's eyes, break limbs and even spill blood. Free entertainment! LUCHA LIBRE 1.Screw the WWE. The true ring battles can be found every Sunday at Anaheim's Indoor Marketplace, where the men, boys and dwarves of World Power Wrestling put on the best lucha libre shows in the Southland. Los luchadores don't mince actions or words despite the three-generation families in attendance: 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 with grandmas looking on in approval. The $15 you pay to get in will be a sociopolitical lesson, a circus, and an opportunity to yell at Mexicans or whites and get away with it. 2.To be a Latino activist in Anaheim is to fight those opposed to Latinos and Latinos themselves. This is the city where Harald Martin terrorizes Latinos by day as a police officer and by night as a member of the Anaheim Union High School District board of trustees. Martin's first crusade, in 1996, was to bring an INS officer inside Anaheim's city jail to deport illegal immigrants, many of whom are arrested on minor charges. In 1999, he used his position as president of the school board to sue Mexico for millions of dollars because Anaheim schools were supposedly swarming with the children of illegal immigrants—an unconstitutional measure that never went anywhere. But Latino activists' worst enemy might be themselves. There has been a growing schism between longtime Latino activist group Los Amigos and a new generation of activists—ever since Los Amigos recruited Corona del Mar resident Don Garcia to run for an Anaheim City School District board seat. Leaders of Los Amigos, in turn, have spent much of their free time trying to sully Anaheim activist Duane Roberts' reputation for doggedly pursuing Garcia's fraudulent residency status over the past year. LUKE'S CHICAGO PIZZA After being swayed by his parents' raves about Orange County's great weather, Luke Roberts moved out from Chicago and opened this joint, mostly geared for takeout. Having worked in a pizza parlor while studying finance, the 25-year-old Roberts knows how to make damn good pizza pie. Cooked in a pan, the deep-dish concoction features layers of cheese, toppings and a spicy diced-tomato sauce. It makes for a hearty departure from California Pizza Kitchen, and you'll have lots of leftovers. 23411 Laguna Hills Dr., Ste. M, Aliso Viejo, (949) 362-4060.LY, PRACH Cambodian hip-hopper from Long Beach who drops eloquent rhymes about the horrors of growing up during the time of the genocide-bent Khmer Rouge. Sample lyrics: "These assholes laugh like jackals dressed in black/Strip me naked, tie my hand behind my back/Told me to choose one, the gun or the axe/They say I was guilty of rebelling against the revolution/Told me I got three seconds, then they're gonna start shootin'/On the count of one, I pray for my soul/On the count of two, for my family and my people/On the count of three, I was dressed in red/I took two shots to the head and [was] left for dead." LYON, WILLIAM Retired Air Force general and prolific home builder who has been involved in so many scandals over the years we'd have to be the size of the South County phone book to list them all. His home on a Coto de Caza hillside sticks out like a sore Tara from Gone With the Wind. The big-time Republican contributor so closely aligns himself with Ronald Reagan that he's probably wiping soup off the Gipper's chin as you read this.