Giving People What They Love

People love the beach. They do! I don't know why. It's covered with dirty, gross sand that grinds into your skin all the way home until you're coated with a layer of grimy filth. And in the summer, the parking lot's all hot on your feet. You have to walk like a bad marionette in those huge, jerky hops trying to get from painted white line to painted white line without hitting any blacktop in between. I guess my mom could have let us wear shoes once in a while. Damn hippie.

Some people love the beach so much that they'll actually take romantic walks on it, which means afterward, they have to put their dirty feet back into their fancy shoes and feel the grime squish between their toes, but they don't say anything because it would make them look high-maintenance and unspontaneous, and those are secrets that must be guarded until at least Date Three. Other people actually go in the water, which is just asking for meningitis or a yeast infection. Stupid beach.

People love lists. They do! So here's your damn list of the county's beach towns, as ranked by me on the basis of which ones are least fucking annoying. People love rankings. Stupid people.

1. Sunset Beach. There are only 1,200 people in Sunset Beach, and all of them are trying to get a table at Tsunami. Ha! But seriously, folks! The reason we love Sunset Beach is that the small strip of PCH between Huntington Beach and Seal Beach has more than 700 bars, or at least it seems like it after you've stopped at the sixth one on your bar crawl and the singer of the cover band is giving someone a birthday lap dance that at first is funny but soon turns into an honest to God grindathon, up under his shirt, with muff in his face and all, and he's totally humiliated, and his wife is sitting there with his two little kids because they were having a big birthday party there, and it's going on and on for what seems like eternity, and wifey is so furious she doesn't even know where to begin. Sunset Beach is cool. You can rent kayaks, too! Also, there are many sushi restaurants that aren't the slightest bit great, but that never seems to stop the large parties of Black Flys kids and porn stars from eating there raucously. You just know there's never once been a Black Flys/porn-star dinner at any one of those establishments that didn't include a clever and humorous reference to tuna. Want to step back in time? Mother's Tavern, a haven for Neil Young-lovin' bikers, feels like '70s Topanga Canyon; the steel-drum reggae at Taco Surf feels like Santa Barbara in the '80s; and the dour people with their backs to you at Turc's make the neato little all-wood bar feel like 1930s Poland.

2. Laguna Beach. How about that nice museum, huh, folks? And three—count 'em!—Wyland galleries. The canyon is beautiful at any time of year and is home to neat artists like Andy Wing, Brigette Burnsand Jorg Dubin. The Brotherhood used to hang out there selling LSD. Timothy Leary got arrested there. In fact, if it had more bars, I would have put it first. Now, though, it's mostly overpriced boutiques of gauzy, flowy white outfits for matrons. Good gay clubs here. Highly recommended.

3. San Clemente You'd think the people would be prettier here; I'm always surprised they're not more golden-god-like, you know? But on the pier, down across the train tracks, with empty swing sets to your right and the sun setting right the hell in front of you, a margarita in your sweaty hand—well, it's all right. Good luck getting a chair, though. Also, there are lots of Marines here, if you like that kind of thing, and, let's face it, I do.

4. Corona del Mar. Sure, it's even more entitled than Newport Beach, and the people at places like Brio and Snob are beyond the pale (I'm sure you'll be as interested to find out as I was that “beyond the pale” was a Yiddish term for someone who left the safe seclusion of the ghetto). But it's a pleasant little drive on the way to Laguna, and my son went on a field trip to the tide pools, which were lovely. The Quiet Woman can be fun on a date, and it has bitchen steaks. There's awfully nice landscaping, too, but I think the best part about it is that it's over quickly, and then on the way to Laguna, you get to laugh at the million-dollar homes on the inland side of PCH that might as well be condos. They swarm up within a foot of the property lines, abutting the identical graceless monstrosity right next door. Oh, how happy they make me! They do!

5. Dana Point. Dana Point has creepy dive bars (they're good 'cuz you can see George Fryer there) and creepy bars of total conformity (I'm pretty sure they all have Irish names), with, like, bad metal bands that someone's skater friend drums for, so you all totally have to go. On the upside, you can have a wordless makeout session with a cute stranger at the Harbor House Caf(open 24 hours!), and Phil Shane used to play at the grayhair Harpoon Henry's before he went and got his Vegas dream gig. Also, the beach festivals really are cool. Once, the lead guitarist for The Church totally sneered, “I've never seen so many shirtless people in my life,” like he was fully appalled. Dude, you were playing at the beach! In the summer! And you are from Australia! Get over it.

6. Seal Beach. Seal Beach is a toxic, scary mess. The people don't care how many tons of spent plutonium rods have been buried under the school yard by the U.S. Navy. Rents are out of control. But there's a nice bakery on Main Street.

7. Huntington Beach. A friend describes the HB guy's uniform as a “kit”: backward ball cap; sleeve job; earrings and other metal accessories; wifebeater T; and pit bull. Stripper girlfriends may be worn as “arnaments” (“arm” plus “ornament”).

8. Newport Beach. It was a tough call which is more loathsome, the tattooed meatheads with Rottweilers and stripper girlfriends of HB or Newport's Balboa Bay Club, with its 20-foot stretch of private sand so its members won't have to see the unwashed masses who attend the public shore. In the end, Newport is totally lacking in any redeeming social value, just like the legal definition of obscenity. At least Huntington has . . . um . . . Hmmm. Oh! I know! It has those cool little apartments over the liquor store right at PCH and Main, where surfers live for like $12 per month. You think Seal Beach has $12 rents? Not bloody likely.

I'm done now. Go away.

Send your beach cities lists to Co**********@ho*****.com">Co**********@ho*****.com.

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