SAIGON BISTROAn interior seemingly boxed up and mailed from fin-de-siècle Paris. We order a very sweet, creamy cappuccino and ca phé phin (both $2), which slowly drips from a metal filter into an iced glass, producing a strong, bitter coffee nicely balanced by condensed milk. The distinctly cosmopolitan appearance of the restaurant carries over into the song selections (we hear English-, Spanish- and Vietnamese-language tunes) and menu (escargot, flan and Vietnamese offerings). 15470 Magnolia St., Westminster, (714) 895-2120.

SALMON TACOS Taco Mesa's salmon tacos are nothing more than pink grilled salmon, papaya butter and papaya relish wrapped in a flour tortilla. What more do you need? 647 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0629.SALT CREEK With a sloping green hill, wide beach and looming cliffs, this picturesque stretch of sand beneath the Laguna Niguel Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point is popular for its wonderful scenery. But this is also the best beach for heterosexual males ages 18 to 22, based on the impressive assortment of young women who flock here to tan on a regular basis. Forget summer, when family crowds often camouflage the more exotic attractions. Wait for fall, as flexible college hours provide for a regular rotation of bathing beauties, making 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, a guy's best time to work it.
Thirty-six holes untouched by time.
12611 Beach Blvd., Stanton, (714) 895-4550.
Photo by James Bunoan.
SAN CLEMENTE Founded in the 1920s by a gent named Ole Hanson, who had aspired to the Republican presidential nomination. Tough-talking Ole had gained renown as the mayor of Seattle, where he broke up the nation's first general strike in 1919, which he denounced as a "treasonable Bolshevik uprising." Hanson failed to garner the nomination, so he moved south, bought a white suit, and sold the rubes oceanview properties in San Clemente, claiming that said ocean views would never be blocked while planting hundreds of soon-to-be-enormous eucalyptus trees and Mexican fan palms. On the much brighter side, he laid out a community based on the concept of a little Spanish village by the sea, with meandering roadways and charming cottages. He also gave the city a wonderful golf course, a beach club, a community center, a fishing pier and a city center park. Hanson went bankrupt in the Great Depression and was in the process of building his new fortune as an ice-rink magnate when he died in the early 1940s. San Clemente stayed a sleepy little burg for a long, long time, but in the past 15 years, the development of several large ranch properties (yes, ranches with cows and horses and guys who yell "yee-haw" on occasion) has doubled the population and changed the city's demographic mightily. A large faction in the nouveau population sports an "I'm here now so let's not let anyone else in" mentality, and San Clemente does in fact bear the scars of development problems from the land rush in the 1960s and is having to grapple with scads of environmental concerns: toll roads, bluff-top development, beach erosion and endangered-species protection. On the major plus side, San Clemente's historic downtown benefited from a successful renovation in the mid-1980s that has just recently come to full fruition, and preservation of the small-town character seems to be the one thing the markedly divided populace can agree on. And the town is graced with more than its share of gorgeous parks, and although the beaches are shrinking and arguably less than pristine, they draw scads of tourists and locals and feature some of the best surfing spots in the world. SAN CLEMENTE PIER Built by San Clemente founder Ole Hanson in 1929 out of wood, the pier has changed a lot in recent years, mostly because it has been destroyed so many times. But it's still made out of old-school wood. Be sure to see it while it's still standing. 611 Victoria, San Clemente. SAN CLEMENTE SKATEPARKSkateparks have popped up all over Orange County, but this is arguably the best one for getting a ticket for riding without a helmet. Drop into the bowl without safety gear and wait a few seconds. The boys in blue—bored stiff and looking for trouble—will appear as if from a parallel universe to give your ass a ticket. It's like your mom with a badge and gay mustache. Helmets on, dudes! 241 Avenida La Pata, San Clemente, (949) 361-8264. SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO Before there was Disneyland, there was Mission San Juan Capistrano. Before there was Mickey Mouse, there were the swallows. Before there was a Junipero Serra, there were happy Indians. Small, tucked away and sometimes forgotten, there is arguably no other city in Orange County that is as historically significant as San Juan Capistrano. It, its mission and its migratory residents have played a pivotal role in selling Southern California to the rest of the nation. Even today, with layers of cheesy shops hawking everything from religious statues to candy, wind chimes, wind chimes and more wind chimes, you still get a sense of that power. There is something about the place—the train that stops in town several times a day, the pace that seems to take its cue from the lazy clang of the mission bells—that transports you, like finding yourself encased in the amber of a Bing Crosby tune. Which is why people still come to this place—always on March 19 (St. Joseph's Day), but throughout the rest of the year as well. There are the tangible reasons: wonderful places to eat and drink, great places to listen to great music, and lots of cheesy shops that sell wind chimes. But there's that something else, that something people have felt about this place for hundreds of years, that something the Indians felt and that something—to their dread—Father Serra felt also. It's there. And no matter how you feel about San Juan Capistrano, you can't deny its power. Or the absolutely ripping Bloody Marys at the Ramos House Café. SANTA ANA Drive the entire length of Broadway in Santa Ana, and you'll see homes every bit as beautiful and well-kept as those in the snootier Floral Park neighborhoods. But next door to some of those bitchen Broadway homes are what appear to be crack dens. You'll see the refreshingly funky Cal Fed Bank building at the corner of Broadway and Fifth Street, and then, a few doors down on the other side of the street, a church in an ugly storefront with cardboard covering the windows. As a result, the city has launched a spirited redevelopment campaign. A sign that these changes may be for the good can be found not only in the city-sponsored Artists Village but also in the non-city-sponsored artists' villages popping up organically around it. By the way, if Orange County is a melting pot, Santa Ana is the fire. Non-Anglo ethnic groups constituted nearly 80 percent of the population in the 1990 census—a census criticized for undercounting minorities. Santa Anans have gone on to play a significant role in changing the face of central Orange County politics. Whitey may have mapped out Santa Ana in the beginning, but people of color have charge of its ultimate fate. SANTIAGO PEAKAt 5,700 feet, this is the highest point in the county. It's perched precariously atop a rough path along which even a few experienced climbers have become lost and, for a moment, faced the possibility that they might vanish into thin air. Dense sycamores give way to sage and barren-looking scrub oak. Beware not of witches but of the far nastier poison oak. Once at the top—which bristles with futuristic-looking antennae—look east and thank God you don't live in Riverside County. Just park at the Holy Jim Falls Fire Station and walk to the trailhead. SEAL BEACH As you might expect from a town that's home to not only a Leisure World but also a Christian Science Reading Room and a rare-plants nursery just a couple of blocks from its pier, the pace of Seal Beach is decidedly more measured than most beach towns. Which is how the locals like it. Last year, they picketed a proposed Starbucks on the city's compact Main Street business district, successfully killing the project. Wedged between the San Gabriel River, the Pacific Ocean and the Naval Weapons Station, the town remains one of Orange County's most unusual, with a funky Cape Cod-like shopping district where ice cream parlors, seashell emporiums and kite shops share space with topnotch restaurants and lots of Irish pubs, which, according to the guy who answered the phone at one of them, are distinguished from regular bars by "calling ourselves Irish and hanging Irish-looking stuff on the walls." Charming, well-kept, accessible—once you know where it is—Seal Beach is easily walked or biked and never seems to get too crowded or to change much. SEAL BEACH NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE This is where the wildlife lives in Seal Beach—heron, egrets, peregrine falcons and those scary red-tailed hawks that attack pickup trucks. The Navy, which runs the place, gives tours at 9 a.m. on the last Saturday of every month. Shows begin Oct 26, 2003. 800 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, (562) 598-1024. SEAL BEACH NAVAL WEAPONS DEPOT The only place in OC you'll ever see an aircraft carrier—albeit a little bitty baby one—up close. SECONDSPIN.COM Not just a website, but also a great used-CD store. As pathetic as it sounds, we know that you haven't gotten around to replacing your record collection. But isn't it time you did? After a few cracks at SecondSpin.com's constantly rotating stock of used CDs, you'll be out the door with CD copies of your precious music quicker than you can say Off the Wall. 1781 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8870. SEGERSTROM, HENRY THOMAS Managing partner of the company that turned his Swedish family's bean fields into South Coast Plaza, other shopping centers, residential tracts and hoity-toity arts institutions. Intensely private, Hank would be a total bore were it not for the scandals involving crazy family members. SENTIMENTAL (NEW CAR SMELL) The card shop at Metro Carwash in Orange has a selection that ranks as one of the best anywhere (it's amazing how getting one's car sanitized focuses the mind on sentimentality). Now, if you're seeking adult cards, this ain't the place. And if you join the car-wash club (buy two washes, get two free), you also get discounts on the killer cards. 387 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 532-2155. SERRA, FATHER JUNIPERO As the founder of the state's mission system—including, in 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano—Serra is a California icon: the devoutly humble Franciscan who brought Christianity to the simple, Stone Age Native Americans, the putative saint who made modern California possible. There was a very real part of Serra that was the humble friar; on most of his thousands of miles of journeying across Mexico and California, he walked. Yet he was also intensely ambitious and astutely political in guarding the missions he founded from any competing influence. Serra had won from the government in Mexico City a proclamation that "the government, control and education of baptized Native Americans should belong exclusively to the missionaries." Apologists proclaim this a "Bill of Rights" for the Native Americans. In reality, it was the legal framework for a system of colonization and ruthless exploitation. All Native Americans in the area surrounding a mission were urged to come to it and be converted to Christianity. Once converted, they were bound to the mission. If a Native American misbehaved, he was whipped. If he ran away, he was hunted down and brought back and whipped. All surrounding land was held in trust by the mission. After 10 years, when the natives were at last "civilized," the land would in theory be returned to them, but that was a rare outcome. The Native Americans labored exclusively for the mission, grew its food and tended its livestock. It's estimated that the Native American population of California declined during the mission period from 300,000 to 100,000 or even 30,000. This was the system that Serra created. He died in 1784. On Sept. 25, 1988, after extensive research had confirmed the miraculous cure of a nun afflicted with lupus, he was formally beatified by Pope John Paul II. SHADE TREE STRINGED INSTRUMENTSFor more than 25 years, owners Greg and Margie Mirken (the Weekly's original folk correspondent) have dealt in quality banjos, mandolins, violins, ukuleles, dulcimers, lever harps, acoustic basses and acoustic guitars. They also do repairs and vintage restorations, earning the distinction of being Orange County's authorized warranty repair station for C.F. Martin. CDs, instrument rentals, acoustic electronics, music instruction books, and music lessons and consultations can also be found here, as can concerts and master classes by internationally recognized folk musicians. 28062-D Forbes Rd., Laguna Niguel, (949) 364-5270. SHAG (ALSO: AGLE, JOSH)OC's hot artist-of-the-moment, famed for his cartoon-like depictions of cocktail parties, lounges and all things tiki. Mega enough to have obsessive Japanese fans flying in from Tokyo just to have him sign stuff whenever he makes a personal appearance. On opening night at a just-ended 15-year retrospective in Brea, the gallery was so packed some of Shag's pricey paintings were in danger of getting fondue dip squashed against them. SHEEP 1. And then there are the sheep, about 20 full-size replicas posing as artistic statements, cluttering the street corners, patios and windows of downtown Fullerton. It's got something to do with something called Bastanchury Days, a festival saluting old-time Fullerton. Somehow, somebody decided that sheep represent Fullerton—like fish represent New Orleans and cows represent Chicago and Yorkshire terriers represent Newport Beach. Maybe it seemed like a good idea after the fourth martini, but these things are hideous. The sooner they're sent to the fiberglass slaughterhouse, the better. 2. Republican voters. SHELDON, THE REVEREND LOU Pseudo-religious type who spends scads of regular folks' money railing against homosexual sex, sex with poop, monkey sex and sex with the dead. Mostly, he likes talking about sex and mostly about sex men have with other men. Mostly. The well-coifed, some say closeted head of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) pores over mounds of gay and deviant sexual material in his TVC headquarters in Washington, D.C., allowing him to go on and on about gay proms and fisting seminars. While pussies like Jerry Falwell were backing away from hateful comments about the Sept. 11 attacks being caused by an angry God displeased that the U.S. had accepted the gay lifestyle, Sheldon, who espoused the same sentiments, has called any talk of peace "muddled thinking" that "will only encourage more terrorism . . . There is, says Solomon, ' . . . a time to kill and a time to heal.' For America, it is a time to kill." Boo-ya! What's more, Lou is passing on his hate genes to his attack-lapdog spawn Andrea Sheldon Lafferty, who is spewing at an increasingly impressive rate, including a recent effort in which she told a conservative action group that doctors were using fetal tissue for such mad science as putting "human livers in monkeys to make monkey-humans." Ah, the nut never falls far from the nut. SHORE HOUSE CAFÉ Encyclopedic menu on which just about everything is good and served in Flintstone-like portions. Since the demise of Garden Grove's sainted Belisles, this is the best place for big food in the county. 941 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Seal Beach, (562) 430-0116.
1. Subject of Disney's groundbreaking,
full-length animated
masterpiece about a virgin
beauty living with seven
small men with names
such as Sneezy, Grumpy,
Horny and Venereal
Diseasey. 2. Frightening
when considered up close.
Photo by Jack Gould.
SHUTTLECOCK 1. What your cock catches to get across town. 2. Go to the Orange County Badminton Center in Orange, the largest badminton facility in the Western Hemisphere, where they say it all the time. But that doesn't mean they don't have standards. There's a sign just inside the door that warns: "Please no food or shuttlecocks from outside." 1432 N. Main St., Orange, (714) 639-6222. SIMPLY HAWAIIANHawaiian and custom T-shirts, jackets, tank tops, Aloha shirts, caps, etc. But just because they specialize in clothing honoring the islands where you go to kick back, don't think the staff won't kick butt to do quick turnarounds on sports-team orders. 16540 Harbor Blvd., Ste. F, Fountain Valley, (714) 775-9503. SINDBAD RANCH MARKETThere's many little markets in Little Gaza catering to Anaheim's large Middle Eastern community. So what makes Sinbad Ranch Market so great? Could it be its large selection of halal meats? Or its insanely cheap prices (three huge packs of created-that-day pita bread for less than a buck)? Maybe it's their large selection of Arabic-print newspapers and magazines? Actually, the best part about Sinbad's Ranch is that it's in the middle of one of Anaheim's most vibrant neighborhoods, which allows you to enjoy the rest of it by walking around. 521 S. Brookhurst, Anaheim, (714) 533-3671. SKA What the cool Christian kids used to listen to. SMOKING 1. Disgusting, life-threatening habit employed by selfish people who tend to have foul mouths. 2. Fuck you. Smoking is perfectly fine and despite fascist state law banning cigarette smoking in bars and restaurants, you can still smoke at Lucky John's. 3.We're not telling you any of the other places. SOFTBALL (CHARITY) The Michael Koepsell Memorial Softball Tournament is held to honor the memory of a Vista EMT who, before his death in an accident, developed scholarship programs for youth training to become firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Every September at Richard Steed Memorial Park in San Clemente, teams battle for honors in a hotly contested double elimination tournament. Swing the wood for charity and support a great cause. The atmosphere is competitive, supportive and fun. In 2001, $5,000 was raised for the sept. 11 Firefighter's Relief Fund. Contact Ken at (949) 497-7646. SOKA UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA Just opened for students this fall, the four-year school is the first private liberal-arts college to be built in California in 25 years. Founded by the mainstream Japanese organization Soka Gakkai, SUA is open to students of all beliefs and is based on advancing peace through education. Built on a hillside, the campus looks more like a fortress. Kind of makes you wonder which tower houses the academic disciplinary dungeon. 1 University Dr., Aliso Viejo, (949) 480-4000; www.soka.edu. SOPHIA'S Some of the best Greek cuisine in North Orange County. The food is simple and perfect for long lunches in the pretty dining room or the small garden patio. We love their chicken-and-lemon soup. They serve a whole range of roasted meats, including lamb and fresh seafood. Finish your meal with the pistachio baklava. You might want to split it; the honey-drenched filo dough tends to be very rich. 1390 N. Kraemer Blvd., Placentia, (714) 528-2021. SORRONDEGUY, MARTÍN An era ended when Chicago hardcore group Los Crudos called it quits in 1998. The Latino punk band had continued the revolution started by groups like the Plugz, the Zeros and the Bags in the early 1980s by singing about the Conquest, anti-immigration morons and other issues affecting Latinos. Lucky for us, Crudos singer Sorrondeguy relocated to Santa Ana, where he now shares a beautiful half-house with his boyfriend and runs Lengua Armada Records. He hasn't involved himself too much in the local punk scene, instead touring with his new band, Limpwrist, which might just be the world's first straight-edge queer band. But that's fine by us. SOTO, STEVEThe nicest guy in OC punk rock. Except maybe for the guys at Vinyl Solution who don't make us pay sales tax. SOUTH COAST CINEMA Regency Cinemas' movie house generally shows the same stuff you'll find at your neighborhood Edwards/Regal Cinemas, but managers have been known to get independent in their programming. It's regarded as the best place to premiere surf videos. Hoot, jump, drink and smoke as you watch the hot action unfold on the big screen. It's the way movies were meant to be watched. 456 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-1711. SOUTH COAST PLAZA Several years ago, when a reporter at a mainstream OC newspaper referred to this place as a "shopping mall," she got an angry call from South Coast Plaza management informing her that South Coast Plaza is not a "shopping mall" but a "shopping experience," and that the reporter had better refer to it as such from that moment forward—or else! To this day, the Plaza bills itself as a "rival" to Rodeo Drive, claiming that it would be "unconscionable" to rattle off the names of other "opulent" shopping destinations without mentioning "this Orange County mega-center—the No. 1 retail center in the United States." Excuse me, could someone hand me that Tiffany's bag before we . . . BLURRREEEOFFFF! Sorry, too late. But boy, does this Wolfgang Puck lunch look attractive on that shiny floor. Wait a minute—what were we . . . Oh, yes: South Coast Plaza has more than 3 million square feet of enclosed retail space when you count what used to be the failed Crystal Court across Bear Street. Since the addition of an enclosed bridge from the Plaza to the Court a few years back, it's all one big, happy credit-card-over-the-limit maker. Besides being one of the biggest shopping ma- . . . ahem . . . experiences in the world, it's also among the most profitable, racking up nearly a billion in sales each year. How big a deal is this capitalistic wet dreamscape? Japanese tourists plan vacations around South Coast Plaza. Of course, the Japanese also love David Arquette. 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. South Coast Repertory It's hard to argue with a Tony Award for sustained achievement by a regional theater. And it's hard to argue with the fact that South Coast Repertory has done as much for original plays as any theater in the country. And you can't argue with the top-shelf directing, acting and technical talent SCR attracts. You can argue with the impression SCR gives that it too often schedules plays that don't rattle the polite world-views of their well-heeled patrons, or that it, more often than not, favors the safe middle route over riskier, more gritty fare. And did they have to give their new space the same last name as mega-developer George Argyros? But the positives far outweigh the negatives. This is top-of-the-line American theater, people, and it's even affordable (the first Saturday matinee is always a pay-what-you-will performance). We should all be lucky that SCR calls OC home. 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5500. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SURF Orange County's professional basketball team—it's in the American Basketball Association—starts its second season at the Anaheim Convention Center as the only pro basketball team in town, much to the chagrin of the people at the Pond, who've been constantly rebuffed by the National Basketball Association. It's not much—can you name even one Surf player? But mere survival isn't "mere" in OC, which has been the final resting place for so many sports franchises that we'd probably die at our keyboard before we could list them all, and we ain't goin' out like that. All of those teams saw the numbers, a county of significant size—2.8 million—with people who are affluent, active and sports-minded. Add to that the fact that it's bordered by Riverside County and its 1.5 million residents and that the neighboring greater Long Beach area adds close to another million. Then there are the tourists drawn by the theme parks, the beaches and the conventions at, hello, the Anaheim Convention Center. It seems a can't-miss. But they all have. SPAM MUSUBIA bastard sushi mutant at L&L Hawaiian Barbeque that's gotta be the most artfully addictive incarnation of chopped pork shoulder and ham yet. Trust us, haole: hot Spam, seaweed wrap, rice and a dash of sauce might sound like a meal fit only for a shipwreck survivor, but this is really the appetizer of the gods. Bet you can't eat just one—or admit to it. 19692 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 968-1898; also found in Marukai Market, 2975 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 241-8820. SPANGLISH Mission Viejo ought to be Mission Vieja—"mission" being a feminine noun in Spanish—and Buena Park is odd-but-forgivable Spanglish. But there's more at work here than mere linguistic ignorance. There's the whole geo-marketing phenomenon, a phenomenon not limited to Orange County, of course, but arguably reaching its acme (or nadir) here. There is no mission in Mission Viejo, for instance, neither old nor new (the mission is several miles south in San Juan Capistrano), but the rancho-California sensibility sells homes—as does the New England (Marblehead in Dana Point), the naturalistic (consider that developers laid waste to an avian habitat near Laguna Beach and then named the resulting development for ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, 1785-1851), and the agricultural (what was once a grove in Irvine is now a tract called Orange Tree). We could go on. The name game found its most apt explanation in Joel Garreau's brilliant Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991). There Garreau asked former Irvine Co. executive Tom Nielsen, "What does community mean to you?" Nielsen responded, "It doesn't mean anything more than a marketing term." SPANKY'S 1.Top-of-the-line/voluminous adult video and DVD store with ripping selection of naughty entertainment that includes, but is not limited to, naughty wives, naughty repairmen, naughty CEOs, naughty religious leaders and oh-so-naughty Japanese cheerleaders. Saucy. 2. Top-of-the-line/voluminous adult video and DVD store that runs naughty ads showing a man spanking a monkey, a man choking a chicken, a man polishing a rocket, and a man standing with his hands on his hips with his right arm twice the size of his left. We have no idea what this ad is about. We just think it's funny. 213 N. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 554-4495. SPITZER, TODD Current Third District county supervisor and future 71st District assemblyman. Opposed county plans to build an international airport as vigorously and effectively as he did efforts to unseat ethically challenged OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Gotta take the bad with the good. SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS That the best, most popular Saturday-morning cartoon is on kid-mind-melding Nickelodeon is to be expected. That SpongeBob SquarePants, the animated adventures of a, well, sponge, is the creation of a guy from Anaheim who always felt more at home in or at the ocean and who just a few years ago was working at Laguna Beach's Marine Mammal Center is a bit more of a stretch. In a perfect world, Stephen Hillenburg . . . wait a minute. Stephen Hillenburg does live in a perfect world. A world where he has been able to pursue his two great passions—the ocean and cartoons—and get paid (pretty well, these days) to do it. It was just about 10 years ago that Hillenburg began to think his creative powers weren't being properly used creating exhibits and sea shanties for the school groups that came to the Mammal Center. He began making his own animated films, which eventually led to a gig as creative director on Rocko's Modern Life—for our money, the best animated show this side of The Simpsons.That led to a chance to pitch his own show. What he came up with was SpongeBob, which is about a terminally enthusiastic, eminently likeable, well, sponge who lives in a pineapple, works in fast food, pines for a squirrel in an oxygen suit and often breaks into dance—including a noodly moonwalk—accompanied by ukulele music. As you would expect, kids' reactions to such classic storylines were immediate. Inside of a month, SpongeBob SquarePants was the most popular Saturday-morning cartoon and Nickelodeon had already ordered a second season of shows. Hillenburg, a quiet, unassuming guy, seems to take everything—including wild success—in stride. "Yeah, it's been great so far," he says while sitting in his Burbank office rife with tiki gods, ukuleles, pirate paintings, pirate hats, animation cels, plastic leis and the Ashley Book of Knots. A perfect world. SPOOKHe dealt drugs with Nicaraguan exiles Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, whose network provided coke for LA crack kingpin "Freeway" Ricky Ross. He helped funnel the profits to the CIA-backed anti-communist rebels known as the Nicaraguan contras. He helped illegally arm the contras with guns and missiles and pitched "security" work to Salvadoran Defense Minister José Guillermo García (who was recently found liable for the torture of his fellow citizens) and Roberto D'Aubuisson (the ex-Salvadoran army intelligence officer who founded that country's infamous paramilitary death squads). Shortly before serving three years in a federal prison for drug trafficking, he survived an assassination attempt by Colombian hit men who were captured at an immigration checkpoint in San Diego. But perhaps the spookiest thing about Ron Lister is that he's rumored to live somewhere in or around . . . Leisure World! STALLINGS, TYLERHa, ha, Los Angeles! Y'all think we're so backward, but you can't swoon enough over our hip and bitchen freelance curator. He's real shy and bespectacled, and he stammers. He reminds us of a squirrel. And he pulls together shows that are truly on the avant-garde without caring a whit whether they're hip or cool or not, which is the hippest and coolest thing of all. Sometimes his shows are about aliens! STANTON California adventure? Forget Anaheim and its new amusement park of spit-shined clichés. Stanton's three square miles of callused suburbia represent what the Golden State is really about. Well, don't forget Anaheim completely because without it there might not be a Stanton at all. The little city named itself in honor of Phil Stanton, a resident of Seal Beach who, in 1911, helped save the flat, dry slab of nowhere—until then known as "Benedict"—from Anaheim's plan to use it as a sewage farm. That's adventure! Stanton's ensuing history has been a series of similarly hardscrabble episodes, wins and losses that make it something—or other—worth celebrating. Or at least driving around in once. The closest thing Stanton has to a Main Street is Beach Boulevard, a.k.a. State Highway 39, a six-lane artery that most drivers use to pass right through town. The city lies amid a grid of thickly trafficked roads that slice its sprawl of fading middle-class housing tracts into portions serviced by a rotating procession of merchants in corner strip malls and big-box chain stores. Stanton's best restaurant may be the new Mimi's Café, unless you're partial to one or another of its excellent roadside taco stands. Its only movie theater is now a store. Its golf course is miniature. But standing out is not what Stanton's about. It exemplifies the everyday California that most residents live in but few tourists see—unless they stare out the car window on their way to Stanton's only tourist attraction, the beguiling Adventure City. Yes, Stanton has an amusement park, too. Take that, Anaheim! STEAMERSA jazzer's dream room, Steamers has been largely responsible for putting the words "Fullerton" and "nightlife" together, something unfathomable just a decade ago. Steamers differs from most jazz clubs in that its main interest is in serving music, as opposed to other rooms that offer up music and dinner—places where the performers are relegated to mere background noise by the time the appetizers arrive. Steamers is cozy and intimate, so much so that when regulars like Joey DeFrancesco, Ron Eschete or Ron Kobayashi are locked in their groove, you can almost envision what it must have been like in those smoky old New York jazz clubs of the 1940s and '50s. Don't get too caught up in the moment, though—like everywhere else, there's no smoking allowed. 138 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-8800. STEELHEAD BREWING CO.An authentic microbrewery in the heart of Irvine. The resident brewmaster creates the potent Steelhead Amber on the premises and features a number of quality international wheats and stouts for your drinking rapture. They also offer a great selection of food. Wood-fired pizza or juicy steak is the perfect complement to a pint of Steelhead Amber. Located in the thriving University Center, the place is always jumping and can accommodate large parties. The outdoor patio has heat lamps to augment the cigar-friendly ambiance, with special cigar nights happening every three months. Live entertainment busts the house Thursday though Saturday, 9 p.m. till closing—no cover charge. Sunday and Monday nights offer a special late-night happy hour, 9 p.m. till closing. 4175 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 856-2227. STEFANI, GWEN Goddess/queen of OC pop, though ruined credibility in 2000 with her song "Simple Kind of Life," where, after getting big-ass famous following the bling-bling-platinum success of No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom album, she seemed to be whining about her newfound celebritydom, and there's nothing worse than a millionaire who complains about being a millionaire and then goes and marries another millionaire, even though she's got more money than him. STITCHES, THE Sort of like the Sex Pistols of Orange County, except with more Johnny Rottens and less Glen Matlocks; they've become a sun around which an entire solar system of local punk orbits. Also the masters of collectible record pressings. If it ain't a limited-edition import-only glow-in-the-dark signed-numbered-and-silkscreened promo single, it ain't the Stitches. SUBCULTURES Akin to high school cliques, slavish subcultures exist in OC. Pinup girls and greasers flock to the Doll Hut. Hessians inhabit the Shack. Goths lurk mostly in coffeehouses, at poetry readings and at Release the Bats. SUNDARA LAO MARKETPan-Asian megastore 99 Ranch Market is nice. But how about if you want the latest Thai karaoke tape? Or some Burmese action comedy with a heavy dose of romance? Or Hmong-prepared quail eggs? You can find all of this and more at Sundara Lao Market. In the middle of Anaheim's tiny Thai Town, the packed-to-the-roof shop caters primarily to Thais and Laotians, so no chow mein here—only instant pad Thai and more sauces than Heinz. 1151 N. Euclid, Anaheim, (714) 758-8349. SUNSET BEACH The roughly 1.5-mile strip of unincorporated county land bordered by Seal Beach (to the north), Huntington Beach (to the south) and Huntington Harbor (to the east) is one of only three U.S. towns without mail-delivery service. Its beach-loving residents pick up their mail from a P.O. Box at the small, centrally located post office, where the bulletin board is littered with quaint fliers reminding residents of upcoming events such as "Bill Dodson's 90th birthday" and myriad pancake breakfasts. But it's not all Mayberry. Coexisting somewhat peacefully with locals who have been there forever (who are involved in endless local committees; own big, fat, beautiful houses on the water; and don't really mind the proliferation of cops patrolling the area) is a vibrant, young, possibly "seedy" Sunset Beach: tattoo parlors, massage parlors, psychics, dive bars, a 24-hour diner with a line spilling out onto its patio, and a nightclub that consistently books some of the county's best bands. And then there's that weird house that looks like a water tower (1 Anderson). What the hell is it? Local lore has it that the guy who lived there years ago used to host "out of hand" Monday-night football parties during which the neighbors would "look the other way." Titillating! SUPER BOTANA DE MARISCOS PLATTERAn Aztec-calendar-sized plate at Plaza Garibaldi spills over with a refreshing medley of raw and smoked seafood—some you recognize, some you don't—that's tossed with a chopped mixture of crisp lettuce, cool cucumbers, tangy onions and juicy tomatoes. To accompany it, ask for a cup of diabla sauce. (Warning: follow each forkful with a long drink of water!) This dish makes for great munching during the restaurant's theme-park-style floor show of mariachis, rope tricks and tango dancers. 500 N. Brookhurst, Anaheim, (714) 758-9014. SURFING LEASH Bob Nealy, a Newport Harbor High student in the 1960s and a high school history teacher to this day, revolutionized the sport of surfing when he invented the Velcro leash that tethers a surfer's ankle to his board. Before Nealy's leash, surfers expended much energy chasing down their boards after falling. Not faced with that penance, surfers are more willing to try risky acrobatic maneuvers. Nealy's company is called SurfMore, and it's located in San Clemente. SWEET POTATO PIETake the best pumpkin pie you've ever eaten and triple the flavor. The pie at Burrell's Barbecue is sweet and spicy and creamy, and you'll be amazed at the voracity with which the people at your table will scarf it down. Order two slices. 305 N. Hesperian St., Santa Ana, (714) 547-7441.SWEET TAMALESShy simplicity. Traditional presentation. Hearty flavor. If these sweet tamales made at Las Goldrinas with raisins and cinnamon (or coconut and pina) were a movie star, they would be Edward James Olmos. You know: a modest, thoughtful, reliable crowd pleaser with occasional bumps. Try eating two or three of these with a cup of coffee or cocoa while driving to work. I can see it now: the loser in front of you choking on his 69-cent Taco Bell taco, and you savoring a tamale and singing "Cielito Lindo" to yourself. Stand and deliver! 27124 Paseo Espada, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 240-3440.

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