Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Le Spectre de l'Orange

If you are from Mid-America, you can always feel at home in Orange County since it's just like Mid-America except more so. It's got even more crazy right-wingers, evangelicals and sprawl than you'll find in suburban Kansas City or Cincinatti.

Today, I started off early by making a talk at 7 a.m. at the high-toned Pacific Club in Huntington Beach, down the street from John Wayne International Airport and where the Duke himself was reportedly a member. After a day of many meetings, I had a quick respite in Laguna Beach (documented earlier) before I settled in to the weirdest La Quinta on the planet in Irvine "Old Town". Someone got the bright idea of putting the motel in an old...grain elevator! Now haven't you always wanted to spend the night in a grain elevator? Besides having some rough hewn concrete walls, it's a generic motel room with a great view and audio of the Metrolink whizzing by. I try to pretend I'm in an old New York flat next to the El.

This evening I decided to venture over to the Irvine Spectrum, an Italian themed outdoor shopping court with many of the familiar big city shops but with an Orange County twist.

Some things are just like they are in an urban area, such as H&M. Their "eurosizing" conversion chart is the same as it is in SF or NYC:

XXXL = Medium
L = XS
M = Suitable for an embryo to wear

I stepped into Urban Outfitters and was dazed. It was brightly lit with cheerful music and all the clothes -- even the sale items -- were perfectly ironed, in perfect order and easy to reach. The clerks greeted me with smiles.

Clerks in Southern California and the South greet you with the same five words, but the cadence is decidedly different:

The South "How may I help you?"
Orange County: "How may I help you?"

I strolled down the Umbria lane of the Irvine Spectrum and decided to have dinner at Maki Maki where I had Makeral Yaki, but my Ecuadorean server had trouble understanding my Japanese. First they offered to seat on the outdoor terrace which sounded great since it was a gorgeous night in the low 60s to high 50s. I stepped on the terrace, and they had outdoor heaters going, and it must have been 98! I quickly objected, since knew my sushi would be broiled the second it arrived. Outdoor heaters are annoying enough in San Francisco but truly ridiculous in Southern California.

I strolled further through the Spectrum, noticing the line outside the Cheesesteak Factory just like in Overland Park or Union Square and all the faux European ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds with a hint of a patina of age, but that patina well scrubbed enough to avoid look actually old.

It was a bit of a shock to notice no stores or restaurants had signs in their windows such as "No Outside Food" or "Restrooms for Customers" only.

Strolling further past the Beauty Planet I noticed Torrid (or was it Torrid!) Plus Size fashions. I'm curious if the torrid refers to the customers or the fashion.

These thoughts filled my head as I drove away, recognizing as I exited the parking lot to get on the 405 that the Irvine Spectrum is at the intersection of Fortune and Enterprise. If time allows tomorrow, I may go to the Alpine Village and know I have really made the most of my free time in between appointments.

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