No matter how much we insist Orange County is a great place, an entire portion of California continues to disagree. That portion consists of anywhere that's not Orange County. But perhaps no place better represents the antithesis of the popular view of Orange County than the Bay Area. Where Orange County is often perceived as materialistic, conservative and uncultured, the Bay Area is considered the jewel of the West Coast. But as anyone who has actually lived up there will tell you, the Bay Area has its share of soulless judgmental nuevo-riche pricks too. Not that I'm bitter.
Trent Lapinski, a Bay Area transplant who moved to Huntington Beach when he was 14, can attest to the imperfection of the land he left behind. A 20-year-old student at Orange Coast College, Lapinski first came to my attention when I stumbled across one of his blogs—an anti-MySpace screed that criticized the popular social-networking site for its crass commercialism and manipulation of its demographic.
Lapinski spent the first 14 years of his life in Marin County and the last six in Orange County, which might explain the seeming dichotomy of his ingrained distaste for corporate culture and his simultaneous visceral appreciation of the new Bella Terra shopping center in Huntington Beach. But where in this county can a Bay Area ex-pat turn when he's feeling homesick? Here are Trent Lapinski's Top 10 Bay Area parts of Orange County:
The Marine Layer. If you squint your eyes just so, San Clemente looks just like Oakland. You really have to squint.
Huntington Central Park.Kind of like Golden Gate Park . . . minus . . . you know . . . the bridge. Also, it's a little harder to buy pot here—but only a little. Huntington even has a library tucked away in the trees, where you can stock up on all the Ginsberg and Kesey you can handle. All in all, the space stands up to anything those shiftless hippies up north can dish out. 18000 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-5486; www.ci.huntington-beach.ca.us/CityDepartments/Comm_Services/Facilities/Huntington_Central_Park/.
Laguna Beach. Its unique shops and twisty, tree-lined streets remind Trent of the charming Marin community of Sausalito—but with an actual beach, which logically makes it just a bit better. In other words, no reason whatsoever why Pepperidge Farm doesn't have any cookies named after cities in Orange County.
Apple Computer Stores.It's a well-known fact that the Bay Area has more Apple computers per capita than anywhere else in the world—at least, it seems like a fact. It shouldbe. But we in the OC also gladly pay a premium for style, and the county's several outlets are chock-full of all the burnished titanium widgety plug-and-play doohickies. Let the rest of the world keep their economical PCs . . . although, if enough customers mention Trent's name, maybe they'll toss him a free Nano. 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, (714) 424-6331; www.apple.com/retail/southcoastplaza/week/20060917.html.
The Techroom. Everybody in the Bay Area knows Apples never crash, which means everybody in OC knows it too. But if something, you know, happens during a security update and wipes your hard drive clean? Trent says the Techroom is staffed with knowledgeable geeks who can recover your information for far less than Apple's recommended data recovery company (which, by absolutely no coincidence, is located in northern California). 1835 Newport Blvd., Ste. A-106, Costa Mesa, (949) 764-9474; www.techroom.com.
Robeks. Feeling a little toxic after swimming around San Onofre? Trent says a detox smoothie will soon have you pissing green like the vegans who work at the Berkeley Bowl. 7101 W. Yorktown Ave., Ste. 105, Huntington Beach, (714) 536-6313; www.robeks.com.
Maru.An authentic, laid-back sushi experience without having to fight your way through those pesky NoCal transients . . . though you really should consider the economic structure that put them there in the first place. It wouldn't be a real Bay Area dining experience without a side order of liberal guilt. 1500 Adams Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 438-1115; marusushi.net/.
Caf Ruba. The best way to quench your thirst for a latte and conversation with someone who knows who Mario Savio was—or at least it was before they introduced the hookah bar, which has apparently attracted a younger element that has driven away some of the old-guard beardos. 1749 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-4026; www.caferuba.com.
Argumentation and Persuasion Class. Isn't debate tiresome? Isn't independent thought a burden? Why hasn't anyone told those Bay Area types that it's far better to nod along in agreement with those wealthier than you? Perhaps once they know you're on their side, you might get past the velvet rope at Sutra. But maybe you want to brush up on your rhetoric for when your cousin (who insists her name is now "Human") comes down from UCSC on spring break and demands to know why you're supporting the military-industrial complex by driving an Escalade. Trent has found that Orange Coast College professor Georgie Monahancan help you brush up on the fundamentals that will allow you to crush that shoeless wonder with your oratorical skills. 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-0202; www.orangecoastcollege.edu; the course is technically called "Speech Communication 130—Argumentation and Persuasion."
Irvine Spectrum.Great window shopping, says Trent, especially if you're ogling ass—even Bay Area types do, although under the auspices of the aesthetic appreciation of the human form. Of course, you can dispense with that pretense here in OC, where we can step up and admit that we loves da booty cuz it makes us horny. Surgically enhanced? Well, that's our own unique contribution to California culture. The Spectrum, whose name somehow seems to hint at the variety of derrire-atomical wonders on parade, is a notorious hottie spot. Just make sure you respect them in the morning. It's what Gavin Newsom would want. I-5 at Alton Parkway or I-405 at Irvine Center Drive, Irvine, (949) 753-5180; www.shopirvinespectrumcenter.com.
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