Lake Irvine near Irvine Park in typical Irvine spring and summer weather
Irvine, California, represents both the sunniest prospects of America, and some of its darkest undertones, at the same time.
On the plus side, it is one of the cleanest cities you could ever visit. Blessed with some of the most perfect weather in Southern California, and some of the highest-priced real-estate in Orange County, it enjoys average temperatures from 50 to 78 degrees year-round, and average rainfall of just 13 inches. The community is very upscale, with no evidence of slums, homelessness, or gang activity. It has the lowest crime rates out of all US cities with a population over 100,000, and the seventh-highest median income amongst US cities with a population over 65,000. The place is chock-full of universities and libraries.
It's the living epitome of picket-fenced suburban Nirvana.
So what's not to like about the place? Well, if the above description reminds you of The Stepford Wives
, Blue Velvet
, or perhaps Ira Levin's novel This Perfect Day
, your Spidey sense is on target! Irvine is a ready-made, planned city, built by none other than the Irvine Company. Other corporate-built cities include Washington, D.C., New Delhi in India, Tehran in Iran, Abuja in Nigeria, and Islamabad in Pakistan. As you can tell, these things don't always work out.
Now, consider what claim to fame the area has: Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of John F. Kennedy, was stationed at El Toro Marine Corps station in Irvine. Well, Okay, one bad apple, so what? How about the world headquarters of the Ayn Rand Institute? In fact, Objectivism could be said to be Irvine's unofficial city religion; Leonard Peikoff, noted Objectivist philosopher and heir to Ayn Rand, operates from here as well. Irvine also gave ex-presidential candidate (2008) and Objectivist/ Libertarian/ "Republican" Ron Paul the majority of his support. Stomach clenched yet?
The Irvine Spectrum Center with the El Toro Y in the background, one of the busiest freeway junctions in the world
Irvine is a beautiful city for beautiful people, but you'd better not step out of line. There is not a square foot of real estate not under the control of gated communities and home-owner's associations, who control everything from what color you can paint your roof to what kind of plants you can have in your yard. The median
rent in 2010, for those places that do
rent, is $1660 (the highest rent in the US - even including New York!), and that's before you pay the monthly village association fee; there are no neighborhoods in Irvine, only tightly-controlled villages. This wreaks havoc on the economy, since any working-class citizen can't afford to live there. The problem of staffing retail businesses which can't afford to pay people enough to live there also creates the problem of three-hour commutes to and from the city, causing traffic snarls of Lovecraftian proportions. By actual study (Los Angeles Times
, 2004), Irvine has "the busiest freeway junction in the world." But we'll stop there.
Kelly Clarkson is known to Americans as the winner of the very first season of American Idol
, 2002. You probably can't think of a better way to pick a pop star. The song "Irvine" comes from her 2007 tour performing at the Irvine Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre; she wrote it in the bathroom, waiting to go out and face the crowd. It is written in the depths of depression and despair, and she calls it "the saddest song I've ever written." It is indeed a wail of anguish, guaranteed to wring the tears out of even the flintiest heart.
And it happened in Irvine, California. What gets into people who visit there? It looks like such a happy place on the surface...
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