Counting the Ways

February 2012

This month’s “Reasons We Love Orange County” cover package was going to be a no-brainer. It’d practically write itself—or so we thought.

Quickly, though, we understood that our main challenge was not where to start penning our valentine, but where to stop. There are so many reasons to celebrate this place that most of them are painfully obvious. Tropical temperatures all year long? Easy access to beaches and mountains? Proximity to (and comfy distance from) the vibrant allure of L.A. Well, duh.

Of course we included some of those, but we kept digging. Orange County has 8,130 restaurants? That appetizing diversity is enough reason for us, even without considering the amazing goat stew and ocean-view dining rooms we found in the process. There’s nearly as much open space here as in Zion National Park? Really?

After spirited discussion, we even embraced local realities that, at first glance, may seem like reasons to loathe rather than love. Spurred by one senior editor’s rallying cry—“Let’s own our crazy!”—we hailed the original thinking behind “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” which brought the guilty pleasure of wretched excess to the masses. We embraced Botox as our county’s contribution to a wrinkle-free America, as well as the notion that the surf-skate look we invented inspires children as far away as the sub-Sahara to dress like San Clemente surf rats. Not only did we laud the county’s increasingly vigorous two-party system, but we also hailed some of the loose-lipped legislators we occasionally send to Washington.

You’ll find another reason to love Orange County, where we tell the story of Thanhha Lai, who was hired by the The Register in 1988 to help cover the county’s burgeoning Vietnamese community. While her work as a journalist here was short-lived, the woman whose family fled to the U.S. after the fall of South Vietnam recently won a National Book Award for her first novel. We’re never prouder of this place than when we hear stories like hers.

Martin J. Smith

Illustration by John Ueland

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