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June 02, 2005

Laguna Hills: Slip Sliding Away

I have been made to feel small, black and insignificant about three times in my life. I know that lots more people have tried, but I've never actually been deflated by their efforts. But the one humiliation that made my stomach sink came from a couple of Volvo driving parents from Laguna Hills back when I was a teenager at camp. Basically, I made friends with one of their twin daughters, the one who had Jonathan Livingston Seagull earrings and Cali blonde hair. I was the winning QB of the big football game on the day before the end of camp complete with 6 inch fro and winning smile. So when it was time to go, homegirl introduced me to her folks after our teary hugs goodbye.

"Yeah hi. Get in the car!" said without more than a second's appraisal made me wonder what the hell kind of people lived in Laguna Hills. I'm sure my 14 year old assessment was correct. Unfortunately, I was a bit too stunned, having made some of my first white friends in life, to undo a week of positivity, to say something appropriately witty. But in my head I was burning and beat. It actually hurt.

But during that same period I learned how sad some of those kids were knowing that their parents thought that they were cool enough to get divorced, change their hair and get a new 'relationship'. It was the 70s after all; I could relate.

Today's news of overpriced houses crumbling to the dirt leaves me unsympathetic, and actually wishing the damage had been more widespread. The other story here is that I've been a transient basically since I left the 'hood in 1982. I've never lived in the same building for more than 3 years since then. I'm a leaser. I have no home equity, and so there is a discernable amount of scorn, envy and contempt I have for people who, for no real reason of intellect or moral capability, have amassed wealth simply by sitting still. I like earthquakes in California, they are the only economic justice in the face of half-million dollar homes with 1100 square feet. I don't really hate the players, I hate the game, and I hate not having mastered it. I hate not having that thing easily as is expected of persons of my station. I wonder if I'll ever get over it.

So I have no pithy words of condolence to those losers in Laguna, but these. Yeah hi, get in the car.

Posted by mbowen at June 2, 2005 08:22 AM

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Laguna Beach from Right on the Left Beach
Via xrlq, I found a link to this uncharitable screed by Michael Bowen. [Read More]

Tracked on June 4, 2005 03:01 PM


You do realize that Laguna Hills and Laguna Beach are not the same city, right?

Posted by: Xrlq at June 2, 2005 03:04 PM

I had that vague notion even as I wrote this uncharitable screed. I figured somebody was going to call me on it - I didn't even bother to find the place on the map.

I remember because my friend (call her Coleen) made a point about that. Laguna Hills was different from Laguna Beach. How would you rate them on the snob scale, relatively speaking? I seem to recall that the racetrack is closer to Laguna Hills.

I have been to Laguna Beach several times, with the cutesy restaurants, 'art' galleries and no-talent beach volleyball. I've also been down to the shore just south of there. I like that place. I assumed that Laguna Hills was above the shore up where Donald Bren is rumored to live.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2005 03:12 PM

Dang. Now that's hate.

Posted by: DarkStar at June 2, 2005 04:46 PM

I'm new to California so I'm still a little confused as to why somone would want to build a home on the side of a cliff. Especially knowing the history of the area.

Posted by: James Manning at June 2, 2005 04:57 PM

Well, James, first you have to spend about an hour on the 405 going 7mph and then you have to spend an hour on a hilltop with an unobstructed view of the sunset. Suddenly the light goes on. It's kinda the same prestige as an apartment in a highrise in NYC. It took me a long time to understand why anybody would want to live in the same building with 1000 other people.

Ed. Yeah, that's evil ain't it? Even my mama called me on this one. But don't forget I'm a writer. The sad fact of the matter is I don't even remember "Colleen's" real name. Sad facts don't always make for good writing.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2005 05:25 PM

Laguna Beach is a trendy beach town full of rich liberals. Laguna Hills is just another random city in southern Orange County. Apart from sharing an area code and the word "Laguna" in their names (along with Laguna Woods and Laguna Niguel), they don't have much in common.

Posted by: Xrlq at June 2, 2005 09:46 PM

"It is, just glancing at the wreckage of these homes (Median price in Laguna Beach is/was $1,400,000) shockingly evident that the selling price of homes on the edges of cliffs or even "safely" back from same just took a giant slump. Deeper than the slump the earth took under these homes..."

Any way you slide it, these Lagunas gots mad money.

As a Canadian, you hear about these Cali quake things from time to time and we tend to think why live in that state at all. Are there some really safe areas in Cali and some defined fault lines (like the "hurricane alleys" in Southern US), or is it all random, could hit anytime, anywhere?

Posted by: memer [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2005 01:05 AM

Ya know Cobb, I was driving to my soon-to-be fathaer-in-law house in Fontana when I noticed the mountains. I've never been that close to the mountains and it was beautiful. I talked with her father and I told him about it and he mentioned how much cheaper the homes were compared to Los Angeles. I thought about walking in my backyard and seeing the mountains - then I came to my senses. I'm from Chicago. I need a city and flat land. What happens when the boulders siting on top of that mountain decides to go for a stroll. There is only one thing separating a giant bolder toiling over my girl's father house and the expressway - sorry, freeway, and that is his house. I would be probably react the same way with Laguna Beach. So beautiful. but I'll pass.

Posted by: James Manning at June 3, 2005 08:12 AM

Fontana used to be a socialist steel town. The mountains out there are nice when you can see them through the smog. But when steel left Fontana, it died and the property values, which were already pretty low, crashed. But now it's part of the Inland Empire and that's the fastest growing part of the country.

Around the time I read City of Quartz by Mike Davis, I was interested to find out the geological state of SoCal. Sure enough I found that most of Orange County and a lot of expensive property there and near Marina Del Rey were built essentially on the geological equivalent of quicksand.

Actually, there's a town called Corona which is very stable, geologically speaking. In fact it ranked highly in the whole country. So IBM built big data centers there. A lot of LA companies shuffle off their backups to Corona. Now, just like every other place in California with a name, new houses are going for 400k in a place that was formerly cow pastures.

The other very geologically stable area? South Central LA. So I've long known that property values in SoCal have nothing to do with geological sense. We're all ready for earthquakes, relatively speaking. Not many pictures on the mantle, not too many ornaments on the Christmas tree. It's deep in our subconsciousness. That's why terrorists don't scare us, especially after the riots.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2005 08:30 AM