Summer is lovely in a house by the ocean. So lovely that our Laguna Beach neighbors are building a getaway in Kauai.
Everyone is pestering them for an invitation—except the friends up the beach with the second home in Fiji. And the neighbors with the house on the sand near Puerto Vallarta. And the friends by Main Beach with the Costa Rican timeshare. And the friends with the ocean view who just bought a hunk of Hollister Ranch coast near Santa Barbara.
Oh, and the friends whose house is a five-minute walk from the water, but who nonetheless are shopping for a Rosarita Beach condo now that the Baja cartels appear to have stopped shooting at one another for a while.
Want to know how you can tell when the good times are back in coastal Orange County? People with beach houses go shopping for a beach house on another beach.
Other local indicators may be more widely watched—the unemployment rate, Chapman University’s Economic Forecast, the Louboutin count at Gulfstream. But to me, nothing says, “O.C. is back,” like that additional ocean view for those times when one needs to, you know, view an additional ocean.
It’s a great local quirk, one that lacks a real equivalent in other Southern California destinations. Rarely do you hear Palm Springs retirees yearning for an extra place in the desert, or ski bums in Mammoth comparing that snow with the snow at their other condo in Big Bear, or Echo Park hipsters going on about their Hollywood crash pad.
Here, though, the fallback beach house stands as a milestone unquestioned. Maybe it’s that perfect blue of the Pacific. Or maybe it’s about not wanting too much change, but still wanting to get away.
Or maybe it’s as simple as the conversation I overheard recently between off-duty executives at Starbucks. They were chatting about their living situations—one had homes in Newport Beach and Cabo, the other in Laguna Beach and Hawaii.
“Too much of a good thing is never enough,” one chortled.
“Dude, no matter where I wake up, I’m in paradise,” the other replied.
No matter where I stand in this coffee line, I thought, I’m gagging. On the other hand, maybe these guys have guest rooms.
Post-caffeine, however, I saw the exchange as a kind of comeback anthem, a fight song for a place where success is measured in hours of leisure. After all, where else do so many early retirees roam so visibly from golf course to golf course? And where else do so many of their grandchildren have extreme-sports endorsements? Some communities value ancestry or scholarship or fame or political contacts. Our gold standard and status symbol? Time.
So our heroes perform feats of recreation. We’re known for our Olympic athletes and superior theme parks. We brag about our vacations the way Angelenos brag about their inability to leave work, even for a day.
Have fun and keep score—it could be the Orange County motto, and yes, there are probably more dignified reputations. But it’s in the spirit of life’s shortness that we double down, when we can, on all that is pleasurable and lovely.
And it does have its upside. Because what could be lovelier, in this summer of renewed expectations, than a house by the ocean?
Two houses, dude. Where are you from, anyway? L.A.?
Illustration by Brett Affrunti
This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue.