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Where to Climb, Hear Birds and Pick Flowers--Inside

January 20, 1994|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

If it looks like an industrial zone, that's because it is an industrial zone. But beyond the faceless exteriors, a single long block of Logan Avenue in Costa Mesa reveals delights both heavenly and earthly. Enterprises devoted to climbing and birds serve those with their heads in the clouds. Shops specializing in flowers (both real and acrylic) and antiques cater to those with their feet more firmly on the ground.

2 to 2:45: What skateboards were to the '70s, and snowboards to the '80s, rock climbing is to the '90s, and Rockreation rides the wave of the spinoff activity known as sport climbing, which focuses on steep, well-protected routes. The climbing gym occupies one of the block's few two-story buildings, and the reason is obvious.

Though the room devoted to climbing is 6,000 square feet, climbing surface is 10,500, almost a 2-1 ratio of climbing surface to floor space. While there's a "bouldering cave" for unprotected traversing, the shortest routes for roped climbing are almost 30 feet high, and in many cases climbs continue right up onto the ceiling for a stretch of 45 feet. Brightly colored artificial hand and foot holds look as if hundreds of different flavored bubble gums have been splattered against the walls.

Take some time to watch these guys, many of whom could teach Spiderman a thing or two. When you have more time, come back for the two-hour "Fight Gravity I" class: At the end of it, you could be right up there with them.

2:45 to 3: V.I.P. Aviaries not only offers Very Important Parrots, but all manner of "parrot-phenalia"--cages, books and toys--for those with feather fever. Every bird needs Birdy Buddy, for instance: "Cuddly cozy company for your bird makes every nap a slumber party!"

Because Russ and Madonna La Pell believe that most people don't understand the commitment involved with owning a parrot, they don't cater to first-time buyers. Domestic hand-fed babies include Congo African grays, "the best talkers, with no natural scream to offend neighbors," at $995 each, magnificent blue and gold macaws at $1,495 and rare scarlet macaws at $2,495.

Because parrots sitting on eggs are easily disturbed, the public is generally not allowed access to the aviaries, but the roar can be deafening even with the aviary doors closed. Babies are kept at the La Pells' home; prices include bonding sessions for prospective owners. 3 to 4: A hand-painted sign out on the street near Jack & Gloria's Antiques boasts "funky to formal" merchandise, including imported English oak. Four huge adjoining suites house things big and small, from England and the East Coast. Prices include refinishing, but items can be purchased for less as is.

Offered recently were a 1906 stove bearing the Sears Roebuck imprint; "potty chairs" from the 1890s (you lift up the seat, the pot goes beneath); and pine iceboxes from the 1860s. Morris chairs, the first recliners, are a specialty. "My partner owns 19," Gloria Reichstein said. "I own nine. We don't use sofas." Nearly 60 were for sale. There were too many imposing armoires, hall stands and sideboards to count.

4 to 4:30: Another sign several doors down reads, simply, "Flowers." Yet on Valentine's Day and at Easter, the police have been known to come regulate traffic here. Suffice it to say that prices at Flower Warehouse are good and the selection intriguing.

For a really different arrangement try ornamental chili peppers at $6.50 a bunch. Pass up birds of paradise for sassy parakeets, at $1.50 a stem, or marvelously melancholy amaranthus, also known as love-lies-bleeding, at $7.50 a bunch. The deal that keeps 'em coming, however, is short-stem red roses, $7 for a bunch of 25, with a maximum of four bunches per person.

4:30 to 5: Roses are $12 per stem, on the other hand, at Wyatt's Acrylic Gifts and Workshop, and an arrangement of birds of paradise runs $225. But then, these flowers are made of different stuff: "Everything is cut, by hand, from a flat sheet of plastic, then formed with heat, by hand," artisan James Wyatt explained. Wyatt also offers orchids, anthurium, ginger, tulips, tiger lilies and Calla lilies, and said he's "experimenting with a pansy."

Wyatt invites the public to come watch him at work, and especially encourages children. "Children don't often see people working with their hands anymore, and it's a big loss," he said. Wyatt has been on Logan for 10 years, in his present endeavor for five. "I had an earlier line of acrylic sculpture. Where does an idea come from? All of a sudden I was making flowers."

1. Rockreation 1300 Logan Ave. (714) 556-7625 Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

2. V.I.P. Aviaries 1366 Logan Ave., Suite A (714) 540-0220 Open daily except Thursday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday until 5 p.m.

3. Jack & Gloria's Antiques 1304 Logan Ave., Suite D, E, F and G (714) 751-3809 Open daily except Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

4. Flower Warehouse 1308 Logan Ave. (714) 545-0310 Open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday to 6 p.m., Saturday to 2 p.m.

5. Wyatt's Acrylic Gifts and Workshop 1310 Logan Ave., Suite J (714) 751-8527 Open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

Parking: There is free parking behind Rockreation and street parking along Logan Avenue.

Buses: OCTA bus 43 (Fullerton to Newport Beach) stops at Harbor and Baker; buses 45 (Orange to Costa Mesa) and 57 (Santa Ana to Newport Beach) stop at Fairview and Baker.

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