November 15, 2006
Surf City and the ghettOC
Hard to believe it's been a year since I moved to California. And yet strangely it seems like it's been so long. Somehow I feel that I've always been here. Year One was spent living and working in Garden Grove ... deep in the bowels of Orange County. And I do mean bowels. Oh, I'm just kidding, Garden Grove ... you know I love the double G. But Garden Grove is certainly not the picture you might have of Orange County from watching poplar television dramas and "reality" series. Contrary to popular media, the OC is NOT just a bunch of rich spoiled kids living it up in extravagant mansions. Oh, they have their neighborhoods, but most of Orange Country is ... well, pretty far from glamorous.
So here's a simple project that will give you a better picture of the real OC. To begin with, find a piece of flat graph paper. Good, now you have a 3-D map of Orange County roads. Sprinkle glitter all over the paper. The shiny spots represent Asian restaurants and Hispanic markets. Next, cover the paper in yellow and blue paint. The resulting "greenness" has nothing to do with plant life, but instead represents the endless mix of residential neighborhoods and small local businesses. Finally, douse the paper in gasoline and light it on fire. The resulting fumes are the smog that drifts down from Los Angeles. Welcome to the real OC.
Perhaps the experiment above failed to highlight one shining feature of Southern California ... the abundant supply of abandoned shopping carts. What says "ghetto" better than the gleam of sunlight reflected off rusty carts ... protruding from bushes, obstructing sidewalks, littering lawns and open spaces, left discarded and overturned in shame and neglect. In case you doubt the urgency of this phenomenon, the city of Garden Grove has set up a special hotline to report abandoned shopping carts. Reports are forwarded on to the city's "contractor for cart retrieval."
Fortunately, Orange County is also well known for its beaches. And with the coast only 12 miles away from home, beach visits were a popular Year One diversion. Huntington Beach, a.k.a. Surf City, was the closest beach destination, and quickly became a favorite spot for biking, surfing, or maybe just taking in the cool breeze and warm sun.