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DANA PARSONS / ORANGE COUNTY

Chalk one up for nonconformists

August 29, 2008|DANA PARSONS

Between nude sunbathers and homeowners who decide what color to paint their houses, the world is full of rebels and renegades.

Don't these people know that when you go to a beach, you cover yourself up? And that when you paint your house, beige is a reassuring look?

Some people don't get it. They think they're living in a country where you can pretty much do what you want as long as it doesn't break a law or infringe on someone else's rights.

Boy, are they wrong. Luckily, we always have some hall monitors to straighten them out. You remember them from fifth grade, don't you?

First stop, La Palma, where some residents on tucked-away Andrew Drive are irked by a big gold house with red trim. The colors are vivid, but if I'm any judge at all, it doesn't even come close to "eyesore" territory.

But instead of telling people to mind their own business, the City Council had a town hall meeting this week to gauge the public's feeling about houses with bright colors.

Dead cats on the front lawn? OK, I get it. Booming stereo at 2 a.m.? I get it.

But complaining about someone who paints a house gold and red? Sorry, you've lost me.

I asked La Palma Mayor Henry Charoen if he's going to let the public drive this train.

"I wouldn't put it like that," he said. "We thought it would be good to get feedback and know what people are thinking before we do deliberate and talk among ourselves -- if we do talk about it among ourselves."

The city also will field other public responses from e-mails, letters, phone calls or whatever else they can think of. Down the road, the council may let the matter drop or consider an ordinance that would spell out some house-color guidelines.

Sighing as we go, let's now head down the coast past San Clemente to San Onofre State Beach, where the summer discussion has been whether to make life tougher for nudists on a secluded stretch at the extreme southern end of the state park. It's a stretch of "clothing-optional" sand where the nudists aren't in the midst of anyone except other people who also eschew swim garb.

Like the La Palma homeowner, these sunbathers want to decide for themselves how to show off their possessions.

Nude sunbathing at the beach has been permitted for years, with sun worshipers cited only if someone specifically complains to state parks officials. Parks officials wanted the authority to cite nudists on their own, but an Orange County judge said that stepped-up enforcement would require a public hearing.

Chalk one up for the tanned-all-over set. And in a much larger sense, for people who don't conform.

"The government has just gotten so intrusive in our lives," said Huntington Beach attorney Allen Baylis, "that I think people are starting to get tired of it."

Baylis, who catches his rays in the nude but argues his court cases fully clothed, heads the Friends of San Onofre Beach, a naturist group. I asked if he's just trying to make waves to upset people.

"It's about our recreational choice, how we want to spend our beach time," he said. "It's a rights issue, it really is. People who are offended by the human body choose to be offended. Some of us choose not to be offended. The rights of those who choose to be offended shouldn't carry any greater weight than those of us who choose not to."

That's how I feel about people who complain about red-and-gold houses on their block. Unless, of course, there's a stereo or dead cats issue.

"Why is it any of her neighbors' business what color she paints her house?" Baylis asked after I described the La Palma flap. "If they don't like it, it's only because they've chosen to be bothered by it. They can choose not to be bothered and just say, 'Oh, well.' "

With that in mind, I'd hoped to catch the homeowner Thursday to ask how she feels about nude sunbathing. I couldn't track her down, but as long as I had Baylis on the line. . . .

"What color is your house?" I asked the nudie rebel.

"Gray," he replied.

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Dana Parsons' column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at latimes.com/parsons.

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