Land’s End: Living Epically

How to be a rebel, O.C.-style


A guy I know used to take his Lamborghini out by night on the toll roads just to see if he could beat the sensors on the FasTrak lane. Sometimes he’d disguise his plates. Sometimes he’d floor it into the triple digits. Sometimes he’d veer into the carpool lane where supposedly there weren’t any cameras.

He claims he eventually succeeded, and though I’m not sure I believe him, my inner Thelma & Louise always smiles when he tells the story. Deploying a $250,000 car just to snag a free shortcut to Irvine—it’s just so epically O.C.

I thought of him the other day as one of our kids told us about another O.C.-style act of rebellion at a party she’d attended on college break. No one was supposed to smoke in the party house, so people fired up e-cigarettes and electronic hookahs. We knew these kids. The last time we’d checked, none had the least interest in tobacco. When had they turned into the cast of “Mad Men”?

Our daughter laughed out loud at our epic squareness. Had we not heard? Vaping is big now. And Orange County has one of the biggest vaping scenes in the state.

No one will ever accuse this place of not having a freak flag. Some burgs settle for ordinary, low-key displays of vice—here a brawl, there a sexploit. Not O.C.-No-You-Didn’t.

Here we don’t just have the occasional love child; we have Octomom . We don’t just have the occasional cat lady; we have that schoolteacher with 400 pythons in Santa Ana. We don’t just have kids who cheat on their math test; we have fugitive test consultants giving mass tutorials on hacking the faculty computers at Corona del Mar High School. And then, because CDM is the offensively entitled gift that keeps on giving: prom draft!

When we go rogue here, we give it 110 percent.

As someone with her own well-worn freak flag, I find this to be generally awesome. In a place this socially controlled and riddled with overachievers, the rebellion needs to be extreme. Oh, I know I should disapprove. (Speeding! Smoking! Cheating! Four hundred pythons!) And I do disapprove. (South County anti-vaxxers: Knock it off and get your kids to the doctor. Your right to breathe free ends with my right not to worry about measles epidemics.)

But disapproval is a lot less fun compared to, say, sneaking onto a golf course at Pelican Hill and romping around in the dark with night-vision goggles just for the anarchy of it, like another guy I know about. The Orange County heart cries for order, but the order here is so much more orderly than in other places. Even The Man needs to stick it to The Man occasionally.

Anyway, it’s summer, the season of long days and warm nights. Soon the June gloom will be gone and the rogues and the rebels will come out to play. And to them, I say: Go big this year. Do it O.C. style. Make it epic. If someone doesn’t disapprove of you once in a while, you’re not doing enough living. Let me know where you’ll be, and my inner Thelma & Louise will take the toll road to meet you. In a fast convertible. In the carpool lane. Alone.

Illustration by Brett Affrunti
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue.

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  • Forrest Six

    Reference the August 2014 Lands End – The Fun Problem

    Hi Shawn.
    I thought your and Bob’s cloudy beach day activity was going to a French language movie at Edwards University Town Center theater. The last time we met face to face was in the ticket line there several years ago. Elinor and I were headed to a different movie but that brief encounter comes back into my aging memory once a month when I read your cleaver Lands End articles. We received a complimentary subscription to Orange Coast from Standard Pacific Homes when we bought into one of their large developments in San Clemente and now the subscription has followed me to my new home in Carlsbad, on the other side of the Camp Pendleton buffer zone between the seeming different cultures of Orange County and San Diego County. My reading of Lands End every month always triggers memories of the 17 years we lived next door to the Magnusons in Friendly Woods and a mile or two down the road from your and Bob’s home in Whittier. Good memories never die but it helps to get a little mental jog once a month.

    Elinor passed away in March 2011 with complications from Alzheimer’s and I continued living alone in the San Clemente house for two years. Although that house was in an over 55 retirement community I realized one morning that the community was getting younger as more and more of the homes were turning over to the second generation of retirees while I was getting older and physically less able to participate in a lot of the community’s activities. After unsuccessful searches for a Sr. Living facility in Orange County I decided to venture across the buffer zone and found Carlsbad By The Sea, a resort like retirement facility right on the ocean within Carlsbad Village offering independent living with meal service 3 times a day, varying degrees of assisted living as needed and lots of activities for us old geezers. Instead of being the oldest guy on the block, here I’m closer to the middle. If you and Bob have a little spare time on one of your day trips to Legoland, drop by for a visit and I can give you a quick tour.
    Forrest Six
    760 435 2441