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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