Considering that when I left on vacation 2 1/2 weeks ago a foul odor had been lingering under the wood flooring on my patio for several days, imagine my surprise to return and discover that Orange County is the "new capital of cool."
Well, I knew it wasn't Des Moines.
Trend-spotters at USA Today apparently came up with the designation, and this once-proud newspaper shamelessly repeated it. It may well be true, but I fear that our new status smacks of the flavor-of-the-month reporting that occasionally lands "Hollywood's hottest heartthrob" on the cover of Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair in April, Popular Mechanics in May.
My landlady believes the source of the patio problem was possum feces, which, according to her research, "really stinks." The good news is that the odor dissipated during my absence, with the only residual hint of it being about a dozen extremely lethargic flies that departed en masse when I opened the door near them.
I'm not an authority on the subject, but I normally wouldn't link possum feces to emergent hipness.
Yet the Fox TV network is premiering a drama Aug. 5 called "The O.C."
And if it's on Fox, it's like getting the Seal of Hipness. Let's tell it like it is: A network that can deliver both "The Simpsons" and "24" knows what's hip.
So, how will Fox portray Orange County? I've always thought the name itself made us sound like Dullsville, which is probably why Fox is going with the initials.
The network blurb for the show says it'll be set in an "idyllic paradise -- a wealthy harbor-front community where everything and everyone appears to be perfect."
Did you pick up on that? Appears perfect?
Sounds like "The Stepford Wives Go Sailing," but I have a feeling "The O.C." will wind up looking more like "Beverly Hills 90210," a fabled Fox entry of yesteryear that immortalized teenage angst in ways that "My Three Sons" never dreamed of.
I'll wager that Fox will not come up with any new wellsprings of teen angst; those sources were tapped out long ago. Boy-meets-girl-on-Balboa eventually goes the same way as boy-meets-girl-in Topeka.
To put it crassly, when it comes to the new show, what's in it for us?
Do we really want to be discovered? Just as a person can find the trappings of fame to be burdensome, so might a county. I don't know about you, but I had no problem living in the shadow of Los Angeles.
Suddenly becoming hip isn't going to give O.C. a new identity. Rather, it'll give us an identity just like all other culturally hip places -- namely, we'll be seen as a bunch of shallow, amoral hypocrites.
That describes me to a fare-thee-well, but it's not something I want to watch on national TV.
Do you think episodes of "The O.C." will show us going to the Brea Mall or laughing it up at swap meets or reveling in snagging the 10% discount at Sizzler?
"Beneath the surface is a world of shifting loyalties and identities, of kids living secret lives, hidden from their parents, and of parents living secret lives, hidden from their children."
That's how Fox sees "The O.C." If that's hip, Des Moines is just as hip as Orange County.
Why can't we be uniquely cool? Carve out our own niche?
How about -- and I'm just thinking out loud here -- an episode where an aging hipster with emotional problems, suspecting nothing, opens his patio door one evening and is practically knocked over by a vile stench of unknown origin?
That'd be kinda hip, wouldn't it?
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.