Laguna Woods

Photo by Keith MayMyth: Laguna Woods consists solely of the Leisure World retirement community formerly contained in Laguna Hills.

Fact: While Leisure World makes up the huge majority of Laguna Woods proper—and Leisure World residents make up 100 percent of the city's population—there are in fact shopping districts outside Leisure World's gated and barbwire fences containing all manner of necessary essentials to a full 21st-century existence: Starbucks, Home Depotand Subway. I'm really blowing your mind, aren't I? . . . Whattaya mean, that's not your mind? All three are located at the shopping mall at 24338 El Toro Rd.

Myth: There's no place to sleep in Laguna Woods besides Leisure World.

Fact: The recently opened Ayres Hotel offers not only offers a place for rest but also with those European touches and without those European odors. The 135 elegant guest suites feature fireplaces, fresh bouquets, refrigerators, microwaves and—ta-da!—250-thread-count sheets. Constructed after an Italian villa, the hotel has a courtyard surrounded by olive trees and an herb garden. Abondanza! 24341 El Toro Rd., (949) 588-0131.

Myth: Laguna Woods is where people go to retire.

Fact: Despite snide comments by whippersnappers who call the place “Seizure World,” Leisure World is perhaps Orange County's most active community, especially when it comes to civic matters. There are 6 clubhouses that offer residents everything from swimming to golf as well as every manner of club (see below). But what Laguna Woods residents love to do most is argue and vote. Nearly every citizen participates in city government, with the clubhouses easily converted to the meetinghouses our forefathers saw as the backbone of democracy. In fact, Laguna Woods has reached a level of group decision-making of near-Soviet proportions, with elections regularly recording close to 100 percent participation. Both local and national issues are debated by residents with the kind of passion that can only be attained through 60 years of telling kids to stay off your lawn.

Myth: Laguna Woods is home to the worst drivers in the world.

Fact: The world is a big place. Really. Tremendously huge. To say that Laguna Woods residents are its worst drivers is terribly unfair because No. 1 . . . well, I can't think of a No. 1, but No. 2, there are probably, like, forest tribes somewhere that have never seen a car, and if they have, they probably drive around in one of those bamboo jobs you pedal, you know, like the kind on Gilligan's Island, and it's really hard to be a good driver when you're wondering whether you remembered to switch on the coconut-husk headlights.

Myth: Laguna Woods is where people go to die.

Fact: Die? Who the hell would want to die when the government is giving you more money than you can spend? Residents with a lot of that money to spend spend a lot of it on staying healthy. They do that at Mother's Market, where vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements dominate the store—A through E, from Black Cohosh to Bladderwrack, Devils Claw to Dong Quai. Yes, whether it's a Gummy Rub you're wanting or some Up Your Gas you're needing (for reasons in which we have no interest whatsoever), you'll find it at Mother's. 24165 Paseo de Valencia, (949) 768-6667.

Myth: In Laguna Woods, the size of a person's car is in direct inverse proportion to their personal height.

Fact: As most research is still in the anecdotal phase, it would be unwise to make any broad generalizations. Suffice it to say, though, that any time you see a burgundy Cadillac, it will appear that Pinocchio's kid brother is behind the wheel.

Myth: Laguna Woods is predominately conservative.

Fact: Research suggests that Laguna Woods, like a majority of the country, voted for Al Gore in the last election. Besides that, Laguna Woods is also home to a writers' club that discusses books, argues books, and meets with writers and poets. There's also a rumored, pro-union, quite-possibly anarchist club that meets weekly. Either way, Laguna Woods is alive with discussion, argument, dissension and ideas.

Myth: There are no woods in Laguna Woods.

Fact: Running through Laguna Woods is a beautiful section of the highly toxic Aliso Creek enshrouded by trees. Of course, it stays pristine because, well, only members can get to it. Still, two welcome, if unwanted, guests have made their presence known: the amazingly rare hepatic tanager and a hermit warbler, two birds guaranteed to delight bird watchers everywhere—you know, if they could get in.

Myth: The only way you can get into Leisure World is with an invitation.

Fact: Noted for its exclusivity, Leisure World does allow organized tours to penetrate its perimeter on prearranged excursions. The tour lasts two hours and gives visitors a great opportunity to envision their own life of leisure, whether it's watching artisans create craft goods, checking out the gardening center or lawn bowling greens, or playing a free round of golf. To schedule a tour, call (800) 711-9273.

Myth: That old dude in the burgundy Caddy sees you crossing the street.

Fact: Jump!

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