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Everything Bad, Something Good: A Visit to The Camp in Orange County

The Camp

Years ago, when my brother took it upon himself to move to the godforsaken place (if you believe in God), I sent him the chapter “Let’s Dump On Orange County” from Michael Moore’s Downsize This!:

A friend of mine says everything bad in the country always seems to come from California. And he doesn’t mean the earthquakes, fires, floods, and riots. His list is long and impressive: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, all the major defense contractors, Disneyland, the John Birch Society, Congressman Bob Dornan, the anti-immigrant movement, Prop. 13, the anti-tax initiative, the Mighty Ducks, Charles Manson. I told him that, other than Manson, everything he mentioned actually has one connecting thread: Orange County, California, a massive sprawl of land and people between Los Angeles and San Diego. Nixon was born there, Reagan got 75 percent of the vote there, and a big statue of the Duke, who lived and died there, greets you upon landing at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport.

To be fair(ish), I don’t have a crush on Michael Moore the way I used to, and there was that show, but after spending yesterday in the O.C. I felt it necessary to report that not everything that comes from there is bad, and I’m not even talking about my nephew. My brother, in an up till now never-before-seen gesture of kindness suggested we meet for lunch at The Camp, which was not a room full of macaroni art supplies and archery kits for out-of-school kids, but rather a nicely designed complex of buildings where yuppies, hippies and ex-band geeks like my 90 year-old 35 year-old brother can spend their hard earned monies. My mind was blown.

We ate delicious amazing yums at Native Foods where my only complaint is that a not generous slice of the cheesecake cost over $5. Did you catch the “we” in that sentence?! My brother voluntarily ate vegan food (the Philly Peppersteak sandwich) and enjoyed it. If you have a brother that 16 years later still shoves every bite of his steak in your face as an offer to you before he eats it, you’ll understand 1) what a coup this was and b) how deliciously amazingly yummy this food must be. And I don’t wanna see a bunch of whiney vegan commentary about how he’s an asshole and how we’re morally superior for not eating li’l things and how I’m doing him a favor blah blah blah. F) he is an asshole, I’ve known this for 30 years, welcome to my world e) That’s not the way the world actually works and V) nobody likes whiners or assholes and most people don’t really like vegans.

Moving on, I shuddered as my brother told me about the 150-foot pine tree that he’d just seen spray painted green at The Mall because it wasn’t Christmas enough, walked out of Native Foods and found another place to buy some fashionable faux footwear! Humanitaire. Real footwear. Fake leathers. For those of you who read my last post and are concerned for my bottom line, you’ll be surprised to note that I did not buy a single thing as J) I was tapped out from that 5+ dollar piece of cheesecake, and Q) my 3 year old nephew kept it real by asking me, “Why do you need shoes Auntie Andeerah? But whyyyy?” repeatedly.

Honorable mentions also go to the Squash Festival going on outside and to Tanya, the Vegan Chef with serious skills who C) gave us bites of squash on a stick that tasted like candy and R) thought I was my brother’s baby momma.

I still resent the fact that I have to drive 45 miles to visit the only heir to my vegan shoe collection, but if the recent fires, oil spills and strikes aren’t a sign of the Calipocalypse… something Good exists in Orange County?! You might want to early withdraw your 401K, spend it on cake and start saying your goodbyes.


  1. Comment by


    on #

    Great writing – thank you!!

  2. Comment by


    on #

    i went to a party hosted by paul frank there on my 13th birthday party that conor oberst was at and got free vegan soft tacos.the carrot cake is much better than the cheesecake though,and the cheesecake is still good.

  3. Comment by


    on #

    Native Foods key lime parfait, delish!!! I’m a big fan of Tanya from NF. My mom lives in Palm Springs, where she opened her first restaurant, and she is often there coming by tables to see how everyone is doing. My mom takes a lot of her cooking classes and can now make a mean seitan roast thanks to Tanya.

  4. Comment by


    on #

    I lived in the OC for 3 years, so spend many an afternoon at the Camp (specifically, at Native Foods). Good times. Also, bad times. Medium times over all. I love the Michael Moore quote.