THE PLACE TO DRINK BEER IF YOU'RE REALLY THIRSTY
The Yard House, which has locations in Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine and Rancho Mirage, has the world's largest selection of draft beer—not including Ed McMahon, that is. Hi-oooooh! They've got everything from Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale to Young's Oatmeal Stout. You could literally spend all day emptying your stein and still have half the alphabet left to go. 1875 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0090.
THE BEER PLACE WITH DIY BREW
You know how sometimes when you're in the middle of a beer you find yourself saying, "I could make a better beer than this, especially if the place I was making a better beer than this also had top-quality baked breads like Jewish challah and sourdough and rosemary. But, hey, who am I kidding? Such a place does not exist and never will. The people are right when they point at me clucking their tongues, saying, 'Look, there goes the fool who dreams of beer and fresh baked bread, how his mother and father weep! It is better he stab himself in the throat'"? Well, sure, but as for that beer and bread thing, there's Brewbakers. Brewmaster Dennis Midden started one of these places where people can custom make their own beer and, because his father was a baker, married it with fresh baked goods. So you not only can make your own beer and drink beer while doing it, you can have a nice big freshly baked pretzel and talk about brewing beer. Just like they say, fresh beer is better, and what's more you can slap your own label on your concoction and take it home or give it as gifts or sell it illegally out of the back of your Rambler. What do I care? What's more, you can talk about beer with other beer lovers as you brew and people who love beer can go on about that stuff for hours until you want to stab yourself in the throat. Skoal! 7242 Heil Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 596-5506.
THINGS WE'VE HEARD IN BARS, NEAR BARS, OR ON THE BEACH
"Over summer vacation, we went to parties every other night, and when we didn't go to a party we went out somewhere. My mom gave me money as long as I took the baby with me. So whenever I needed money I just went, "Milo, come with me."
-Teen girl to a classmate lying one towel over
WHERE TO DRINK BEER IF YOU'RE GERMAN
Huntington Beach's Old World is home to Rathskeller, a delightful Bavarian pub and restaurant that's been around since 1978. It's the closest thing to the Wolf's Lair this side of Dusseldorf. There's great German food to help wash down your lager, and on weekends, owner Lony Hauff plays traditional Bavarian music on his organ vile son-in-law Axel tends ze bar und talks about his favorite topic: soccer-ball. Remember: if you've had too much Hefeweizen, just ask Axel to heil you a cab. 7561 Center Ave. #48, Huntington Beach, (714) 894-6612.
MORE THINGS WE'VE HEARD IN BARS, NEAR BARS, OR ON THE BEACH
"We just got back and now we're planning to go to Nepal."
"Yeah, we're going to be hanging out on the Himalayas."
"Himalayas? That's Tibet."
"Tibet. Nepal. It's all mountains."
—Two women, Laguna Beach
A REASON TO TOAST MR. & MRS. WORM
Is Newport Beach the most patriotic city in the county? We like to think so. Come spend your Flag Day—Saturday, June 14—in Newport, where you'll be helping Dennis Rodman celebrate his wedding to longtime companion Michelle Moyer. The bash will be held on the beach in front of Rodman's Seashore Drive home. Rodman, a tireless booster of the Newport Beach lifestyle, told the LA Times, "Everybody's invited! We will have a ceremony and a concert, too!" His last beach party two years ago was a rousing soire, with rock bands, a helicopter, the public and police all getting into the swing of things. This time it'll be a full moon, so the party can just go on, and on, and on. Isn't it high time that the city fathers recognized Rodman's efforts to shine the spotlight on his chosen hometown and named him Newport's official greeter?
Photo by Jim Washburn
SOMETHING TO PONDER ON BEER
Enigmatic. Looming. Totemic. Stumpy. No one word can describe the Pole of Mystery, nor can one beer unlock its secrets. Three is the number, at least, of the tankards of golden mead needed to see the wordless truth the pole holds. How many times have you driven right by it without seeing? It stands on Orange Street in Costa Mesa, just south of 17th, a few poles down on the right in all its creosote wonder. You see a pole like any other, yet when you look up, you see that another length of pole depends from it, hovering like a weightless trifle, yet dense with portent. Is it the ghost limb of a long-vanished pole? A sign that Jim Morrison is resurrected? Some whacked sort of Viking shit? Reason won't help you. Beer will help you. Listen to the beer. (You probably shouldn't bring your own—this is Costa Mesa, buddy, not Newport—but it is conveniently at the neighboring Chester Drawers Inn, with salted peanuts.)
TAKING THE IOWANS TO HEISLER PARK
Taking folks from out of town to the beach can sometimes be as disappointing as taking them to Hollywood where they expect to see stars on every corner and are instead greeted with palpable doses of fear, misery and urine. Same thing happens when you take someone down to, say, Huntington and they see this one long unremarkable stretch of sand, rather unremarkable waves crashing against rather unremarkable yokels such as themselves. If you want the Ooooh Aaaaah, take them to Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. Walk that rocky coastline with it's blue waves crashing themselves into spectacular white spray. Walk them up to the gazebo above the park and point to points north and south. Your Iowa cousins are used to long, flat stretches, show them the undulations and curvatures and other features having to do with varying topography. Then walk them down to Las Brisas restaurant bordering Heisler, buy them a margarita and let them look some more. This will have to last a long time. Sure, you may have seen it innumerable times, but the ocean has amazing powers. Don't Bogart it.
YET MORE THINGS WE'VE HEARD IN BARS, NEAR BARS, OR ON THE BEACH
"Fuck that! So they can call me back in a week and tell me I have AIDS?!"
—A girl to another girl outside the beer booth at Costa Mesa Speedway
THE PLACE TO PLAY HOOPS
The courts are on the beach right next to Newport Beach Elementary School. Play here only if you don't mind getting distracted by the beautiful bikini girls who tend to sun themselves just yards from the blacktop. Also watch out for spectacular sunsets blazing over the water in the early evening hours.
STILL MORE THINGS WE'VE HEARD IN BARS, NEAR BARS, OR ON THE BEACH
"Dad, can we leave now?"
—Little kid to his shirtless dad, who'd just ordered another pitcher at HB bar.
COOL (LITERALLY AND POP-CULTURALLY) SUMMER SHIRT
God bless Hawaiian shirts, but floral prints and surfing chicks can only get a dude so far with the ladies. A guayabera, meanwhile, transforms even the slimiest beach bum into a regal Latin gentleman. Originally from Cuba and the Mexican tropical state of Veracruz, guayaberas are single-color cotton shirts featuring four pockets, an open collar and two intricately embroidered lines going down the front that look like high-class racing stripes. The standard summer shirt of Latino males from Castro to cabana boys keeps its wearer cool, costs cheap ($15 at your local swap meet), and comes in colors ranging from blinding white to mint. Best of all: a tank top is required as an undershirt. Time to work out your pecs, wimpy gents!
WINE, CHEESE.AND CULTCHA, YA SLOB
We like Carl St. Clair and his superb Pacific Symphony Orchestra, but it's kinda intimidating entering the Orange County Performing Arts Center where they perform, what with its Argyros-rich audience and suit-and-tie dress code (it's not mandatory, but come on—when was the last time you saw someone basking in Beethoven wearing Chuck Taylors?). St. Clair knows this, so he proletariatizes his orchestra every summer and takes it to the outdoor wonder of Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre with the Pacific Symphony's Summer Festival. Now in its 15th year, the PSO spends its summer evenings at the 18,000-seat former Irvine Meadows, where the polis can enjoy the orchestra in a relaxed atmosphere free of classical music snobbery. St. Clair made sure to stock this summer's festival with lumpen favorites like Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and Ravel's Bolero. Phone (714) 755-5788 or visit the PSO website at www.pacificsymphony.org.
LOWER-INCOME KIDS ON THE BEACH
Orange County's beaches are open year-round, but summer is when the beaches get crowded with children. An obvious observation, to be sure. But examine who the majority of these kiddies are: low-income youth participating in summer programs that can afford only one day of the year to take their wards to the surf. Many of these boys and girls know only their immediate block as the world, and seeing the reactions on their faces when they touch the cool ocean water for the first time—usually the first time in their life—is a reminder not only to count one's blessings but also to bless those less fortunate than you.
EVEN MORE THINGS WE'VE HEARD IN BARS, NEAR BARS, OR ON THE BEACH
"You got two choices: you get in the car or you get the back of my hand. Make up your mind right fucking now."
—Guy to his girlfriend, outside a Newport Beach bar
BEST PLACE TO PARK IF YOU GO TO NEWPORT
TAKING THE IOWANS TO ASIAN GARDEN MALL
It's not an American mall! It's not merely Asian! It's Little Saigon in a box behind three statues of Chinese patriarchs. Peruse the fine imported goods, let your brain become unhinged in the Viet pop, drink in the now wildly popular tea with tapioca—that's a beverage with balls—at the refreshment stand. Sixty minutes in the Asian Garden Mall is like a day in Ho Chi Minh City without the moped wrecks, frenetic police-state snoops, and beggars.
AND YET STILL EVEN MORE THINGS WE'VE HEARD IN BARS, NEAR BARS, OR ON THE BEACH
"Oh, I got so wasted on Friday night."
"Yeah, me too."
"I was just ready to kick somebody's ass."
"So whose ass did you kick?"
"Oh, I kicked Rosa's, you know she's so little."
"Isn't a bummer when you're all dressed up and you look so nice and your hair looks nice and we're wearing dresses and they come looking for you, and then you go at it?"
"Yeah, remember when we used to go to the Daily Planet in Downey? I used to get my ass kicked there all the time."
—Two girls in a dive bar
FILM FESTIVAL THAT HANGS TEN
Op—the Irvine-based maker of tees and oversized shorts, sponsor of world-class surfer Tom Curran and answer to the trivia question "What is the more familiar way to refer to Ocean Pacific Apparel Co.?"—is teaming up with Projekter: Action Sports Cinema to present surf movies the last Thursday of each summer month at the Lido in Newport Beach. The Op Summer Surf Series kicks off Thursday, May 29, with a screening of the original 35mm print of John Milius' '60s surf epic Big Wednesday. Other films and dates are: Hal Jepsen's Super Session, June 26; Scott Dittrich's Fluid Drive, July 31; and the premiere of Jason Baffa's Singlefin: Yellow, Aug. 28. Showtimes are at 9 p.m. Regency Lido Theater, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 722-2219.
TAKING THE IOWANS TO BALBOA ISLAND
Swear to God, I actually just did this after dining with family in town from Iowa: we drove over the bridge to Balboa Island and—not finding a space on the main drag, as usual—parked on a side street. We window-shopped along the touristy boulevard, laughing at the corny slogans on T-shirts, checked out the prices of pricy Bal Isle digs posted on real-estate offices, and stopped for the requisite frozen banana. We walked that off by heading to the bayfront to take in a snort of sea air and ogle the yachts, gulls and tourists actually going into the stinky water. Then it was back to the car to take the ferry across to the Fun Zone. The Iowans were amazed—especially since it was one of the few things around here that cost barely any money.
You get the feeling that if Walt Disney had to do it all over again and re-create the Midwest America your cousins inhabit, he would have created Adventure City. This 2-acre Stanton gem is small and navigable with a carousel in the middle, little roller coasters and whirly rides. The staff is far less regimented and far more—oh, what's the word?—human than you find at big ass theme parks. There's only one entrance and exit, so kids are safe to wander on their own, and the park's diminutive layout means they can never wander far. There are puppet shows, face painting and an area where kids can just go and play with trains. That's right, play. They can dress up like firefighters and cops and ride around a track in cop cars and fire engines. And there's a miniature train that circles the whole place. It's gloriously cornball, wonderfully goofy and brilliantly hokey. Walt would understand.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE
UCI can claim deconstruction giant Jacques Derrida; Nobel Prize winner F. Sherwood Rowland (chemistry); Francisco Ayala (evolutionary biology); Mark Poster (critical theory); and Harry Eckstein (political science); William Pereira landscaped the campus (which served as setting for one of the many Planet of the Apes sequels); buildings by Eric Owen Moss, Charles Moore, Frank O. Gehry and James Stirling; advantages of going to school in Asia with none of the nasty Communist Party politics (nearly 60 percent of students identify themselves as "Asian/Pacific islander"); tied with University of Wisconsin Madison for No. 36 in U.S. News & World Report annual ranking; No. 9 among public universities; Irvine is safer than Singapore and has fewer canings; fine central park landscaped by a former chancellor, who turned out to be a kind of obsessive collector of rare trees.
Atlantis in Garden Grove looks like something the Cat in the Hat might hack up—and we mean that in a good way. Atlantis is the very best kids' park in Orange County and probably in all of Southern California. Sea serpent and whale slides, shark climbing toys, sea-horse swings, Viking ships and giant-clamshell picnic areas. Your relatives will appreciate that Atlantis is also ultrasafe, with only one entrance and exit, so kids can't go wandering off, which means they can actually play. Remember play? That's when kids went off on their own to come up with their own games, meet their own friends and do their own thing without you hovering around to make everything just right? In fact, the best thing about Atlantis is the many shrubs, bushes and grassy knolls that, over the years, have been converted into forts, paths and hiding places. What's more, adults are not allowed in unless accompanied by a kid so you can rest easy and let your kids be kids. Yeah, it costs a buck to get in, but, c'mon, a buck.
This is a must-see. Who would want to miss the final resting place of the most infamous disgraced dead ex-president in U.S. history? There's not much to the Yorba Linda digs, really—just a couple big black tombstones for Richard Milhous Nixon and his wife Pat. There's a bench nearby to sit and contemplate—what, I have no idea. Oh wait, be sure to get a Pepsi out of the machine right behind the grave—they're really cold.
Can't miss it if you go at night—the lights on this Costa Mesa monstrosity make it brighter than John Wayne Airport. I guess Jan and Paul Crouch at the Trinity Broadcast Network wanted their world headquarters so bright God could see it from heaven, which I hear is pretty high up there. Inside you'll find lots of flowers, a virtual reality theater, a massive golden staircase—just like the one Jesus had!—and a kick-ass gift shop that makes the one at the Nixon Library look like a Fotomat.
TOP OF THE WORLD
Go to the high grounds in Laguna Beach to partake in some gorgeous quiet time. Once you've parked the car, start walking up the paved trail toward the hilltop. In no time at all, you'll be at a small bench that overlooks Laguna Beach and the Pacific Ocean on one side and the deep crevasses of Aliso and Woods Canyons. Oh, and on your way back to the car be sure to check out the small crater just a few steps off the trail to your left—it's all that's left of a World War II Marine Corps Corsair that plunged into the ridge after taking off from El Toro.
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One of the worst things we do to visiting kids is take them around to places and have them look at things. "Look at that tree!" "Look at that wino." "Look at that wino pissing on the tree." Look, what every kid wants to do is play. And when it comes to dirty, messy, filthy play, the Adventure Playground, located in Irvine and Huntington Beach, is the park our kids would design if they weren't busy being tested every week by the state. In these litigious days when park officials are nervous about every splinter, Adventure Playgrounds are remarkably rustic and free-ranging. In HB, there's a slide that ends in a mud pool, a rope bridge, and a wooden city always in the process of being built. Kids can add to the city with the hammers, nails and saw provided, and if they get tired of that, they can always act out their dark, deep-seated feelings of resentment toward their siblings—kidding! In Irvine, there's more mud, an obstacle course, a few holes of miniature golf, skate ramps and classes (for a small fee) offered in mechanical gadgetry, pioneer cooking, and basic and advanced carpentry. Oh, shut up! Kids love this junk.
THIS GUY'S ARGUMENT AGAINST THE BEACH
Costa Mesa is a scant six miles from the sand, but Costa Mesan Mitch Townsend won't be making the drive. Why bother? "If you aren't close to the water, you may as well be in Kentucky," said Townsend, who played in The Killingtons and Red Five. He only went down to the sand once in a great while "when school was in session and the nine-kid-families from Utah were gone." Who really needs the distraction and sun exposure when there are places like Diedrich's on 17th Street, where, Townsend says, he swilled gallons of coffee when he wasn't at Goat Hill Records on Harbor Boulevard, digging through records several times a week. What about the beach urchins? "It is tough," he says, "to cope down there in the dead of summer when you're surrounded by club chicks who think everyone on the beach wants to hear their killer Good Charlotte CD, with 500 dudes wearing sideways baseball caps, who just had their first beer. You may as well be at a fucking tractor-pull in Modesto."