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Get More Bang for Your Summer Bucks

July 08, 1993|T. Jefferson Parker | T. Jefferson Parker is a novelist and writer who lives in Orange County. His column appears in OC Live! the first three Thursdays of every month.

Given that we Southern Californians continue to suntan in the midst of severe economic recession, I've found a few bargains that might soothe your spirit as well as your pocketbook this summer.

1) "Women of the Inner Sea" by Thomas Keneally (Doubleday, $21). This is a novel written by the accomplished Australian man of letters who, last I heard, was in Australia writing a constitution for that fine nation. Other times, he is here in Orange County as the director of UCI's Writing Program. When he finds time to write books this good puzzles me.

This isn't the kind of book that grabs you by the throat and won't let go. Keneally is too confident for that kind of pandering. Rather, like some hypnotic spell, it begins rather quietly. But by the time you've gotten 100 pages into this novel, few things in your life will seem important enough to keep you from it.

Basically, it's about a kind and lovely women who tries to escape her gangsterish husband (a thug named Burnside) by disappearing into Australia's outback. Dazzling passage follows dazzling passage, but Keneally is not just a talented literary wizard: He understands the cumulative emotional heft that a good novel develops. The book is beautiful, sad, triumphant. For less than $25, it's almost a steal.

2) Parking places at 15th Street in Newport Beach (25 cents per hour). No other place in the county offers more fun for the money than 15th Street. As noted, you get an hour's parking for a quarter, rather than the 15 minutes you would get in, say, Laguna Beach.

For that quarter, you get some of the best bodysurfing waves in Southern California, long sidewalks for biking, blading, etc., a beach large enough to be almost crowd-proof, a cafe that serves great food and a wonderful cross-section of visitors who make for interesting study. Enjoy sliding those quarters into the machine, and get there early.

3) Staples, 5,000-count box ($1.19). These don't have anything specific to do with summer, but that doesn't diminish their value one bit. First of all, the box is heavy, suggesting integrity within. Second, the box is designed to slide open and present the staples to you.

This done, you will witness pristine columns of perfectly machined, perfectly tooled, perfectly organized staples. They shine. They work. They are held together by some light invisible glue, allowing you to snap off just exactly the right amount for your hungry stapler. How long does it take someone to glue all these things together so symmetrically? Anything you can get 5,000 of for less than $1.25 is a profound bargain.

3) Rocks ($0.00). Any rock will do. Just pick it up and take it home. If you're an imaginative type, make it represent something--a mountain, an island, Jung's concept of synchronicity, which led you to that precise rock at that precise moment. Or, just put it somewhere and enjoy its rockness.

4) "Summer of Fear" by T. Jefferson Parker (St. Martin's Press, $19.95). Easily one of the finest American novels ever to be published this July. Tee-hee.

5) Mousetraps (set of two, $2.29). It's no accident that no one has invented a better mousetrap than the old spring-loaded assassins that do the job neatly, cleanly and with audible finality. Even if you don't have mice, get a pair of these engineering marvels and simply play with them. You'll be amazed at how much lethal velocity the bar can achieve, driven by that little coiled spring.

You'll be surprised how easily the cocking hook can slide from the trigger plate, how easy it is to catch your fingertip in it, or at least send peanut butter splattering all over the drain board. If you do have mice, don't use poison because the mice will die slow, agonizing deaths, then stink; and don't use the live-catch traps because letting mice go on your neighbor's lot isn't neighborly.

6) Ankle leashes for swim fins ($7.95 per pair). If you own and use swim fins, the benefits of securing them to your ankles with these gadgets are obvious. If you don't, consider other applications. You can attach them to shoes that may be too big. You can fasten doggie treats or catnip mice to the ends and scuttle around the house, delighting your pet. You can fix them on your upper arms and secure pens, wallets, sunglasses or the daily paper, all of which will dangle precariously at your waist and provide a real ice-breaker at parties.

7) Attend religious ceremony ($0-?). Where else besides Main Beach in Laguna can you see people actually get up in public and try to explain their relationship to God? There's music that often is quite beautiful, prayers that often are quite meaningful, and you always leave feeling better than when you got there. Often, coffee is provided.

The only downside to the religious ceremonies I've attended is the spirit-shattering moment when you're supposed to turn around and introduce yourself to everybody around you.

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