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NYT travels to Laguna, Newport beaches

October 19, 2012

New York Times writer Jeff Gordinier spent some time in Orange County this summer -- a place he says he spent a lot of time in during the late '70s to early '90s.

In his latest travel piece, Gordinier returns to and explores Laguna Beach with fresh eyes, revisiting landmarks like Main Beach, Sound Spectrum record store and Las Brisas restaurant. 

"Part of the dramatic impact of Laguna is the way that it delivers what feels like a signal flare from Brian Wilson’s subconscious as soon as you hit town. In one moment you could be in Arizona, surrounded by rocky cliffs and dry scrub. The next moment you’re in a village (it’s hard to dodge the word “charming” in describing it) and then, a few blocks later, there is the gleam coming off the water at Main Beach. The road stops right at the ocean," he wrote. 

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Later, Gordinier headed up the coast to Newport Beach to see how the Balboa Fun Zone, the Wedge and the Crab Cooker have held up against his memories.

"Although as a kid I had too much cowardice (or common sense) to ride the Wedge, exposure to the surf culture of Newport Beach represented a different form of youthful liberation. Days amounted to nothing more than walking down to the sand with a towel, riding waves, cruising on bikes on the paved “boardwalk” along the beach, and hanging around the snack stand at 15th Street," he wrote.

"In that sense, driving out through the Balboa Peninsula to revisit the Wedge didn’t have much to do with confronting a changed town: It all seemed pretty much the same. I was the one who had changed, and the idea of an endless summer of bodysurfing, biking and roaming around felt as distant as another galaxy."

Check out the full piece for more of his observations about what he thinks has changed, and, more importantly, what has remained the same.

--Kelly Parker

Twitter: @KellyParkerTCN

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