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My O.C.: Remembering a Time When O.C. Itself was Adventureland

When I was a boy, Orange County was another galaxy somewhere to the south where Walt Disney recently created a home for his Mouse. You could travel there in the family car, but any notion of ranging that far from my hometown of Lynwood on one’s own was fanciful at best, foolhardy at worst. Venture to the edge of L.A. County and all that was visible beyond were dairy farms and the occasional outcropping of dying citrus. Disneyland might as well have been on Mars. Read more...

My O.C.: My Heart Transplant

What my 17-year-old self believed about life by the beach, and why I’m still here

“Do you think you’ll stay?” I moved to Orange County a year ago to take my dream job as digital media director for Orange Coast, and quickly realized that Southern Californians are obsessed with that question; it’s second only to “How much is your rent?” Read more...

Learning to Act: The Brown Pelican

The lessons of long-ago hesitation

One crisp, cold day in February I got the phone call I’d been dreading, the worst call of my life. It found me, even though I’d moved across the country. Six months earlier my husband and I had closed up our house in Huntington Beach and gone to Pennsylvania to care for my husband’s 88-year-old father. Read more...

My O.C.: ‘California Girl’ Classic

No question, that’s her—beaming beneath those deep wrinkles, extra pounds, and jiggly thighs

Turning 60 has not improved my self-image, so I surprised myself when I signed up for a water aerobics class taught at Huntington Beach Adult School. I’d thought about doing it for years, but always chickened out. I could hack the workout, but what stopped me was the embarrassing 20-yard walk from the dressing area to the pool. Read more...

My Orange County: Should you water a careless neighbor’s trees?

The guy next door always seemed insufferable. But with time and a little water, he grew on me.

When the family next door moved out 15 years ago, they left behind a potted ficus. For weeks, the tree stood by the trash, begging to be watered. I dragged it to our courtyard and flooded it. It came back. Green buds became leaves. Twigs grew into branches. Read more...

My Orange County: Tuesday Night Fugitives

Fact, fiction, and an unexpected dose of scary reality

I have an email from the Queen of Atlantis. At least, that’s what I call her. Her name is Lisa, and she runs our Tuesday night writers group. I call her the Queen because she’s descended from the royal family of Atlantis, so she says, something she’s researched extensively and often talks about. Read more...

My Orange County: Personal Growth

How a displaced food writer learned to live off the land

Three years ago, after 14 years of freelancing food and restaurant reviews in Orange County, I began a slow, internal panic. Anything I pitched an editor was declined or flat-out ignored. The more desperate I became, the wilder the pitches got, and the climate for my craft wasn’t helping. Read more...

My Kardashian Crisis

The downside of sharing a heritage with the planet’s reigning celebutant

“Hmm … interesting name.” I look up from my wallet, waiting to get my debit card back. The Target cashier, a wide-eyed creature with impossibly shiny hair, cocks her head and formulates a thought. “Sooo,” she begins, stretching the word beyond recognition. “What are you?” Read more...

Me, Plus Syllables

A name means something. And changing it can mean trouble.

“What’s the value of a name? Is it just a name, or something more?” It’s a Tuesday morning, first period at Laguna Hills High School. My question—part of my introduction to reading Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”—hangs in the air between myself and my juniors. “This is an essential question of the play,” I say, trying to read their half-asleep faces. Read more...

My First, Best Destiny

The Saturday night date was an easy, safe choice. Until it wasn’t.

It seems so simple. Here I am on Saturday night, dateless even though I’m dating someone. Read more...

Signs of Life

That mound in the middle of the trail can be a peek into one of O.C.’s many unseen worlds. Depends on how you look at it.

A little before midnight, our car slowed to a stop on a deserted and dimly lit street. The friend who was driving had promised us great late-night music to follow the play we’d just seen. Read more...

Jolly Good Vibrations

When the Brits start behaving like Californians, anything can happen

A couple of weeks after my wife and I returned to England, my brother-in-law suggested a surf session, my first since we’d left Orange County. We made a beeline for the Welsh coast near Cardiff on a rare rain-free day, to a small cove with a decent right break. Arriving at noon, I was stunned by the mass of humanity crammed into such a tiny space. The waves (OK, wave) coming Read more...
READ NOW: Serial Killer Seduction

Our "Center of the Universe" story is being read all over the world right now. Click here for the story.


Who Did Randy Kraft Seduce?

Current photos of author Jay Roberts.


A Fact-Checker's Journey to a 1980 Afternoon

Our intrepid intern tracks down the details in Roberts' story.


Why Isn't Randy Kraft Dead?

Our original piece on one of California's deadliest and most depraved serial killers. 


Editor's Letter, October 2013

Our editor considers "Center of the Universe" to be compelling—and incredibly frightening. Click above to find out why.