Hades, Indeed

Photo by Tenaya HillsPeering down Chapman Avenue from where we stood at the entrance to the Orange International Street Fair—cozily sandwiched between the port-a-potties and a pair of Police Explorers armed with Maglites—it felt as though we'd stumbled across a portal leading straight into our very own smoke-filled, sweat-drenched, stink-butted Hades.

“Hey!” a woman in front of us yelled, clawing at/falling on her girlfriend with the strength of 11 beers. “I just learned to dance Greek!” Then, unsure of whether her friend had caught her drift the first time, she repeated herself, this time rolling her eyes as though to mimic the trajectory of her brain as it sloshed inside her head. Fighting the urge to turn around and head back five blocks to where we'd parked our air-conditioned car, we gulped one last breath of fresh air and dove into the world-traveled—for today, at least—masses.

Soon after, we encountered a friendly looking man standing a few doors down from the Ex-Mormons for Jesus Center who was passing out free bottles of water with equally complimentary mini Bibles. “Don't worry,” he told us in a tone that suggested we were by no means the first that day to look a little suspicious of his two-for-none deal. We bought it. An ice-cold Arrowhead bottle firmly in hand, we noticed a trash can positioned two feet in front of the man and wondered how many people had simply tossed their Good Books in front of him. Hades, indeed.

Heading past Greek street on our way to England, we overheard a distraught young lad talking on his cell phone. “Dude, I'm telling you: you're not on Irish street. You're in Germany!” he cried, pointing his beer in a direction only those on his side of the cell phone could see. We sympathized, but not too much: there would be plenty of beers to guzzle en route from Hefeweizen to Guinness.

Nearing the Orange Circle—knickknacks and, you know, $30 flattened Jack Daniel's bottles were available for sale in the inner circle; Kerry and Bush and pet-food booths were stationed on the outer—it appeared we'd picked the wrong direction to travel. Wincing as other people's sweaty arms brushed against ours, we pushed past the American music stage—a typically pudgy rock N roll band was rocking in vaguely Skynyrd-ish disarray—and the ingenious couple who had decided to carry their baby's stroller—baby still attached—above their heads. But instead of quickly landing in Yorkshire, we were whipped toward the inner circle, with no way out save to keep slowly traveling—and sweating and brushing and wincing—toward the outer. Only the baby could tell you what it really looked like, but to us, the Orange Circle had become a bacchanalian nightmare.

Upon finally reaching England—and feeling less than tantalized by its fish and chips; even worse was Ireland's corned beef “Irish Taco”—we decided to seek refuge in Los Vacitos, a roomy caf/bar that's soon to be reborn as the District Lounge. As the rest of the bar danced to a set by the Busstop Hurricanes, we quietly sipped our beer and relished having finally regained some semblance of personal space. Compared with the Street Fair, Los Vacitos—which the owner of 2J's Cocktail Lounge in Fullerton recently purchased—was, well, heavenly. Or it was to us, at least. For others, like two men who later joined us at the bar, it was nothing short of purgatory: “Spot me for a beer?” asked one of the other. “I can't,” his friend replied. “I don't have any money left. I spent $300 today.”

Keep watch as Los Vacitos transforms into the District Lounge, 223 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 771-0170.

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