Best Place to Do the (Cowboy) Hustle



Borderline Bar and Grill

99 Rolling Oaks Dr.,
Thousand Oaks


The first time I entered Borderline Bar and Grill on a Thursday night, I felt like Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama, only minus the hair and the attitude. A friend who has become a country aficionado since enrolling at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, had brought me to the Thousand Oaks establishment for its regular line dancing night, but I felt like a fraud. My idea of a good time involves reading the New Yorker. Still, I was amazed at how much fun you can have with a playful refusal to let yourself be embarrassed —and found myself returning again and again.

Since Borderline lies within 40 miles of LA, the clientele tends more toward hipster than hick. On a given night you are as likely to catch a posse of two-stepping girls in high heels as a booted cowboy fresh off his tractor (to fans of Kenny Chesney, my apologies). Still, a turn about the floor will quickly reveal the regulars. (Hint: They can usually be spotted next to my friend, making up fancy, show-offy moves for the otherwise basic Electric Slide. If you thought you were safe with the grapevine, think again.) And I love watching the woman in the frilly dress and light-up earrings who glides along with the assurance of a housewife who just won a pie contest at the state fair.

If you are venturing out for the first time, admittedly you are better off female. We ladies can get away with being clueless since we don’t have to lead. But gents aren’t entirely out of luck either. Come early for lessons, bring a girlfriend and leave your ego at home. With any luck, you’ll soon be hustling with the best of ‘em.

— Jenny Lower


Best place to indulge your obsession with shiny lights



Oxnard’s Christmas Tree Lane

F and G Streets from Fifth to First, Oxnard


Neighborhood camaraderie has never looked so good as in December on Oxnard’s Christmas Tree Lane. Set in the Oxnard Historical District, which runs on F and G streets from Fifth to First streets, when the sun goes down a majority of the homeowners transform their neighborhood into a festive playground for the senses. In the spirit of family holiday tradition, they don’t fear an astronomical electrical bill and light up to the delight of onlookers. But there’s no place for the standard simple string of lights here. The decorations feature everything from reindeers on rooftops to an electric train tooting its horn and chugging along a track spanning the front yard. Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang show off their Christmas best at one residence, and snowfall hits a few lawns.

Christmas tunes float through the air and plenty of the decorations take on a life of their own. Word has it even Santa Claus is so impressed by the display that he stops by and roams the neighborhood on some nights, looking for good girls and boys. Many of the people whose homes flash and twinkle set up camp on their porches to watch the passersby point and oooh and ahhhh at their hard work. Some sell hot chocolate to add to the warmth of the season and holiday cheer.

There’s plenty of places to park on the side streets if you’re up for a leisurely stroll (highly recommended to get the full experience), or you can gawk at the displays while driving down the streets.

And it’s free — a bonus during a season of spending.

— Bill Lascher


Best place to feel old beyond your years



Plaza Cinemas in Oxnard

255 W. 5th St


Not long ago, downtown Oxnard was a place few young’uns dared to tread. Hell, there weren’t even many adults who felt comfortable venturing down there. Rumors of drive-bys and drug deals and prostitution kept out all but the Spanish-speaking blue-collar workers who had been patronizing the dimly lit bars along Oxnard Boulevard for decades.

Ever since the city built that movie theater, though, things have changed. Downtown is now teeming with teenagers and tweens, all concentrated around Plaza Cinemas and its surrounding chain stores. Go there on a Friday or Saturday night to grab a Starbucks coffee or a sandwich from Subway and you’ll practically trip over some high-schooler on a BlackBerry coming out of Cold Stone.

For those of us who are a bit older and have lived in the area for a while, this is a little strange. Not being able to find parking in downtown Oxnard? What is this, Downtown Ventura? You start to realize, then, that there is a generation of native Oxnardians who will never know what its like to grow up in a town where there is nothing for a young person to do on weekends other than drive aimlessly through random neighborhoods, trying to figure out ways to get beer and where you’ll drink it if you get it. And you start to feel resentful. You look at these little punks in their rapper clothes and wireless typewriter machines buying tickets to the latest mind-destroying action flick, and suddenly you turn into Mr. Wilson. Hey, pull your damn pants up. Did your parents let you out of the house dressed like that? Stop making out, nobody wants to see that. Get away from my car!

— Matthew Singer


Best make-out spot



Lookout point over Ojai

Highway 150


With the high cost of housing and the increasing trend of young adults moving home for a spell, the make-out spot is, now more than ever, an institution.

And if you happen to be in your twenties (or thirties, or forties) working to reclaim that teenage vehicular rite-of-passage, there are a few key things to keep in mind. The perfect nook for nooky isn’t necessarily secluded — sure, if you’ve grown up in the area and have a passing familiarity with parking garages and desolate roads, you’re probably an old hand at parking and not getting caught. But the hallmark of a good make-out spot is that it has all the trappings of isolation with a healthy opportunity to be found out. By the cops, or by Hookman.

And there must be a good view.

Since the Cross now closes at dusk, might I urge some of my contemporaries to venture up the 150, through Ojai and to the famed lookout point just a few miles past Boccali’s? There you’ll find a dirt pullout large enough to accommodate a few cars at once, as well as a plaque explaining the importance of the view and pointing out important land features. A huge chunk of the valley is visible below, conveniently placed to go unnoticed by amorous night-trippers.

And it’s a fairly main thoroughfare, providing a steady trickle of traffic to witness the van-rockin’. After all, “going parking” is like smoking pot (I hear) — part of the thrill is the lovely side effect of paranoia.

And, for what it’s worth, you can get decent NPR reception up there, too.

— Saundra Sorenson