All posts by Laura Saari
And watch out. Willa Porter may just pass you.
Willa Porter climbs out of a silver Mustang convertible in the Dana Point Harbor parking lot and greets me with a smile. Long blond hair, bangs, all-white sweats, flirty eyelash extensions. She takes a business call in the parking lot from one of her five sons, something involving the paving company she owns. So this […]Read more
Since when do Orange County’s fieldworkers wear designer shades and shoes?
I’ve been writing about Orange County’s rituals since 2008, and in all that time I’ve resisted using one particular phrase. But this time I can’t help it. As I stand on a hill looking down on a vineyard in Upper Newport Bay, it comes out as a defeated whimper: “Only in Orange County.” Spread out […]Read more
As UC Irvine students have discovered, ‘world record holder’ on the resume is always a nice conversation-starter
Maybe it’s because UC Irvine has that strange-looking anteater for a mascot, or because its backyard is the cool, calm city of Irvine. Yet over-the-top school spirit (as in, say, USC Trojan style) has rarely been the hallmark of the county’s UC campus.Read more
Players gather in O.C.’s foothills twice a month to crank out 19th century standards. Who cares if no one’s listening?
Flatlanders like me sometimes forget that mountains are part of this county, even though every day they flank us on the east and often lure me up their trails.
Then one hot Friday afternoon, I stumble exhausted out the Black Star Canyon trailhead and hear the sound of fiddling. And I remember there aren’t just mountains here; there are mountain people, too. I’m inclined to expect magic.Read more
Can you think of another O.C. tradition that brings together so many disparate people?
The ritual of gathering friends and family around a fire is probably as old as fire itself, and here along the coast, we saw how deep the roots of that tradition go when that fire was about to be taken away.Read more
The peculiar Orange County impulse to say ‘I do’ at Disneyland
I’m no Mouse hater. We’ve made lifelong memories at Disneyland and bought annual passes before the prices got outtasight for a family of five.
But holding a wedding amid the crowds, noise, carnival smells, bloated characters, and wailing kids at the Happiest Place on Earth? I mean, really, bridezillas, we’re talking an amusement park here.Read more
A single pair of birds nested at the mission last year—not enough to restore the county’s most iconic ritual, but maybe it’s a start
There was no predicting the return of the swallows to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. But there they were—a pair, doing what amounted to a flyover, and on Swallows Day no less. It was a pleasant enough coincidence that the installation of Pope Francis took place last year the morning of March 19—the feast of St. Joseph—also known as Swallows Day, when the birds traditionally returned to their legendary Orange County home. But no one expected what happened just after the bells started tolling to celebrate the new pope.Read more
If you’re gonna go big and bright at Christmas, do it for the right reasons
The next mayor of Laguna Hills traces his interest in politics to a burned-out wall socket.
Hang with me here, because somewhere between that outlet and the highest office in the city is a holiday ritual—one that’s only 5 years old, but already is important to tens of thousands of people.Read more
Still want to cut your own Christmas tree in Orange County? Show up before Thanksgiving—and take a number.
It was our parents’ tradition, and we’ve continued it with our three kids: cutting our own Christmas tree. So, la-di-da, last year we arrived in mid-December at the Peltzer family lot in Silverado Canyon, congratulating ourselves for getting out so early. More than a week before Christmas! We felt like real winners.Read more
The serenading of the Ox Can an influx of young, non-German late-night partiers rescue a peculiar Orange County Oktoberfest rite?
Anaheim’s Phoenix Club was founded in 1960 to preserve German culture, and for half a century its members have celebrated the autumn harvest by roasting an ox on a spit and basting it with good German beer, all night long. This takes place on each of the busiest Saturday nights of Oktoberfest. People start lining up Sunday morning to savor the succulent roast, and there’s seldom anything left by mid-afternoon.Read more