Posted by: martinworster | May 25, 2013

151. Newport Beach 80s Worm Hole

I live right on the border of Newport Beach (NPB) – the river at the back of our house is the dividing line between the City of Huntington Beach (HB) and NPB. In fact as I drive south on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH – a lot of acronyms I know), and cross the Santa Ana river I feel like I have been sucked through a portal and spat out in the 1980s. I used to joke to friends here that on nights out in NPB I thought that every bar was hosting an 80s night. Then I realized it was just because the place is 25 years out of time.

What is it that makes this place 80s to me? It’s the overall affluence, an abundance of Porche 911s, big houses, big hair, a WASPish (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) vibe, exclusive restaurants, fake breasts, valet parking, a division of the sexes that views men as Gordon Gekko money makers and woman as ‘hot’ eye candy, an adornment like a Rolex or a Manolo handbag. A walk on the beach reveals exclusive beach front properties with sun decks looking over the legions of Baywatch style youth and lookalike extras from the latest Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue.  Drive down onto the peninsula and the big houses back onto inlets and waterways to park up the large yacht.

Driving further down PCH you see the Ferrari, Porche and Masserati car dealerships. When I say dealerships – I mean humungous ones with hundreds of cars lined up all dazzling in the sun, like some glossy 80s commercial. I was reading Riviera Magazine (the type of free glossy you only get in rich areas with lots of adverts and photos of socialites attending gala events) and it had pictures from a Ferrari party:

“Nearly 200 Ferrari of Newport Beach customers drove their 458s, FFs, Californias and even GTOs to the exclusive invitation-only event, to celebrate their Ferrari purchase in 2012”

Wow, that’s a lot of $250,000 cars purchased in quite a small place. What recession? Photos showed smug owners with white teeth holding up champagne flutes. Cheers! What a self-congratulatory circle jerk. Maybe I’m jealous. Maybe I secretly want to be rich enough to own a Ferrari. I don’t think I do. I don’t know why I found it so distasteful after reading the article, after all we leave in a free market capitalist world and the top 1% lead an aspirational life that only the rest of us can dream of fulfilling. That is the engine of capitalism – this high end lifestyle that is held out as the promised land of fulfillment and happiness.

As coastal NPB is on a peninsula leading eventually to Balboa Island there is a sense that the place is a bit cut off, trapped in it’s 80s bubble. One road in and one road out. Here everything is perfect – manicured, blue skies, freshly painted white picket fences, blue Ocean, yellow sand, fit and healthy people. I often cycle down the boardwalk and it’s the California stereotype – girls rollerblading in bikinis, muscular surfers, joggers with prams, more attractive girls in skimpy bikinis, skateboarders, OAPs on roller-skates, more birds in bikinis. Another movie set. I admit. I quite like some of this. Except it does seem like an unreality, a Disneyland of sex and eternal youth unconnected to the real world.

I drive back home along PCH and it feels like I’m in a 80s Brat Pack movie. Particularly when the radio plays something like Corey Hart’s ‘Sunglasses At Night’ or similar. Anything minimal 80s with synths, four note basslines and sparse production and direct lyrics will do. Rubber burning on asphalt, alloy rims glistening in the sun, a surfer crossing the street, a Porche in the rear view mirror, Sushi bars flash past, an 80s video that never was, a sense that the last 25 years never happened. Then I cross back over the river and I re-emerge into the now, slightly wiser now I’m out of the vortex.

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