When she isn't busy running SolArt, Santa Ana's only art gallery/performance space/coffeehouse/all-ages venue, owner Sali Heraldez stillremains perched behind the counter in her apron, thinking up fund-raisers, shows and community events to help keep her dream alive. It's been more than two years since she poured her savings into the small spot on the corner of Buffalo and Main Street, and SolArt is packed most nights with local kids and do-gooders. But that doesn't mean Heraldez has stopped relying on the kindness of patrons—that's donations to you, buddy—to help cover rent and operating costs. So, basically? "I don't get out of here," she laughs. "And when I do, I tend to shop in Santa Ana for everything." Here's how Heraldez unwinds in what little free time she has:
Son Jarocho Classes. El Centro Cultural de Mexico offers guitar lessons to people of all ages on how to play Son Jarocho, a style of music from Veracruz, Mexico. "It's played on these little guitars called jarana," Heraldez says. "Classes are open to everyone, even if you've never played guitar. But all you need to know are a few chords—just stand behind someone great, hit a few chords and you're good." 310 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 953-9305; www.el-centro.org. Tuesdays, 7 p.m. Free. All ages.
Art & Music Classes at the Orange County Children's Therapeutic Art Center. "These classes for disabled children are offered every Wednesday," says Heraldez, who volunteers there. Painting, drawing, arts and crafts, choir and voice lessons are among the activities. 2215 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 547-5468; www.occtac.org.
Cheating Death by Walking Down Broadway. The busy Santa Ana street is an urban obstacle course: "It makes you feel good to be alive."
Hunting at Martinez Bookstore. "They have the best selection of Spanish poetry. In most bookstores, you find Mexican poets, but Martinez features a lot of hard-to-find Latin American and female poets." 1110 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 954-1151; www.latinobooks.com.
Breakfast at Taco Adobe. The restaurant is one of SolArt's neighbors. "It's a little luxury we have." 1319 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 543-2411.
Dinner at Kappo Suzumaru.Tucked inside a strip mall, Kappo Suzumaru is Heraldez's prime place for sushi—sort of. "I like to keep it safe when I eat, so I mainly stick with edamame. But I also really like their California rolls—it's like fireworks in your mouth! Boom! Boom!" 17292 McFadden Ave., Tustin, (714) 665-1300.
"Mexican Chinese" Food at Al Palace. Don't call it fusion: the food at Al Palace isn't Chinese food gone Mexican, but rather, as Heraldez notes, "Chinese food that tastes like it's from Mexicali, a city in Mexico that was settled by the Chinese." Which, it turns out, means it all comes down to the ingredients: "They're fresher, and the cooks use a lot more soy sauce than other Chinese restaurants." 270 Bristol St., Ste. 110, Costa Mesa, (714) 549-0653.
Santa Ana Farmer's Market. Heraldez does her grocery shopping on Wednesdays, and she only has to walk a few blocks. "I go to the sprouts lady and also to a fruit stand where they sell three varieties of peaches—you have to have a napkin under your chin, because one kind will drip out both sides of your mouth when you eat it, another will drop out on just one side and the third will drop out the other." Then it's over to the flower stand, the dried fruit stand ("Great for when you're sitting in traffic!") and then on to the corn on the cob. "I'd never had corn on the cob before I came to the Farmer's Market. I highly recommend it." Corner of Third & Bush St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-9392; www.grainproject.org. Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m.
Diabetes Prevention and Self-Management Classes. Heraldez is not diabetic, but she is concerned with spreading the word about the importance of healthy nutritional lifestyles, especially since her day job—the one that helps keep SolArt alive—is in psychiatric services for the County of Orange, where she meets a lot of underprivileged children. "These classes help train you to pass on information that many people don't know, like how diabetes can lead to blindness." Latino Health Access, 1701 N. Main St., Ste. 200, Santa Ana, (714) 542-7792; www.latinohealthaccess.org. Thursdays, call for time.
Window-Shopping at the Harveys Showroom. "I can't actually afford one," says Heraldez of the label's seatbelt bags. "But I like to look at how they cut the seat belts. The space is a designer's heaven. I'll keep going until I can afford one—they'll last you forever, the kind of bag you can take with you to the next life." 2215 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 435-1585; www.seatbeltbags.com.
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