Riley Kern


The arm of Laguna Woods' Gate 12 swings up as the sun rises over Moulton Parkway. Luxury cars and golf carts file one at a time through the gate, waiting for the tee-time lottery draw at the retirement community's 27-hole golf course. Times are drawn promptly at 6:30 a.m. every day for play one week later. These times are harder to get at Laguna Woods than a reservation at Playground, and your monthly maintenance fees of more than $500 do not guarantee you jack squat. When the lucky ones get a time, they show up, check their golf clubs out of private storage at the pro shop, and head out for six hours of golf, punctuated by snacks and drinks from the clubhouse.

Living in Laguna Woods means never having to leave Laguna Woods. Journeys into the scary exterior—namely Oakbrook Village and the Laguna Hills Mall—are accomplished via bus service run by the citywide Golden Rain Foundation (yes, seriously) and paid for by the excruciatingly high association fees. Fun fact: Laguna Woods is one of two cities in Orange County where everyone is a resident of two homeowners' associations. (The other is Rancho Santa Margarita. Classy company you got there!)

So what happens if you don't get the tee time you want? Well, Laguna Woods operates like a cruise ship, with more activities and clubs than Carter has pills; up at Clubhouse Two, there may be a meeting of the Enough Is Enough Club, which advocates "sound government" throughout Laguna Woods. Or maybe you prefer beading, duplicate bridge or the computer club. (There was recently internecine warfare and a well-publicized schism, and now the Computer Club has separated into PC and Mac camps. One can only hope inter-platform violence can be avoided.) If you live in the Towers, a set of high-rise condominiums in the western part of the city, your (much-higher) monthly maintenance includes dinner. If not, dinner service at the restaurants on El Toro Road starts as early as any senior citizen could possibly want.

Of course, the sun doesn't go down until late in the summer, so fill up those four hours between your 4:30 dinner and bedtime by heading to one of the clubhouses for a meeting of the Karaoke In Chinese Club—you haven't lived until you've seen someone go to town on F.I.R.'s "Wo Men De Ai" (Our Love)—or possibly an information session put on by the Alkaline Water Club. If you're not a Laguna Woods resident or the invited guest of one, well, there are three other Lagunas for you to hang out in. Now get off our lawn.


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