Portola Pilot

‘The Watchdog’ Column: Saturday Night Stroll Through Spectrum

Maya Sabbaghian, Opinion Editor

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My dad and I went to Irvine Spectrum the other evening to fill our Saturday night, part of our weekly tradition.

We parked near the cinema, taking the familiar red brick path through a stretch of restaurants. Weekend shoppers livened the place, filling every bench, lounging on the grass and weaving in and out of stores.

Down the walkway, I noticed a large group of people entering the Village Art Gallery, one of my favorite nooks in the Spectrum. I found myself traipsing along at the end of the group and into the store.

One of the first pieces I observed was Dale Mathis’ “Beat of my Broken Heart,” a large structure of fused metal in the shape of an open heart exposing intricate clockwork.

Next to me, I overheard a woman explain that Mathis modeled the piece as a representation of his own broken heart. After a divorce with his wife, Mathis had lost contact with his young daughter, leaving him devastated. The artwork is limited edition and on display at Spectrum for only a few more months. As to whether or not Mathis ever saw his daughter again, I cannot say.

After Mathis, we walked through a long strip of clothing stores, namely Hollister, Garage, Hot Topic, that teen girls filed in and out of, the successful ones leaving with at least a bag while others turned into the next store with their friends or parents in tow.

Sitting in the midst of the retail chain is Min So, a Japanese Designer Brand, where one can buy cosmetics, toiletries, plush animals, suitcases and silverware ‐ all for less than 45 dollars.

Inside the mini-market is an interesting sight that closely resembles similar scenes all throughout Irvine: those familiar with some of the ethnic products and characters walked through the store with ease and purpose, while those who had less experience with some of the Japanese goods, such as myself, marvelled at each interesting find like children in a toy store. It seems to me that Min So offers a unique flavor to Spectrum, no matter the ethnic background.

Most weekend nights, Spectrum books entertainers to perform live in an open square further along the serpentine, somewhere next to Old Navy and Honey and Butter Macarons. This evening the performer was 13-year-old singer and songwriter Ava August.

August strummed her ukelele in a cover of “I Don’t Know My Name.” She handled each note with tenderness. Her voice was deep and authentic ‐ admittedly surprising for someone so young. It carried throughout a long stretch of the path and into the surrounding stores. We took a seat on a nearby bench with other shoppers to savor her performance.

As she played, she shut her eyes, swaying to the rhythm. After playing the last chord, she looked up and smiled.  

The audience roared with applause.

After listening to a few more songs, mostly pop covers, we moved further down the walkway. I had hoped to catch a ride on the Giant Wheel before we left.

On the way there, I passed the Ice Skating Rink, which is built every year around November. I have always enjoyed watching winter sports – ice skating, skiing, snowboarding. Though, as I longingly observed the skaters glide gracefully and with poise, I cursed my lack of prowess that would inevitably lead me to a series of cold, hard falls if I dared attempt the same movement.

There was no line for the Ferris Wheel at the time, so we managed to board the gondola quickly. I had remembered reading an informational poster mentioning that each gondola was named after a town in Spain to acknowledge the Spanish-inspired architecture of Spectrum. Our particular gondola was named “Wamba,” located in the northeast of the peninsula and known for its particularly large ossuary, a resting place for skeletons and bones similar to the Catacombs in Paris.

As the wheel turned and “Wamba” rose higher into the sky, the buzz of the crowd of shoppers below faded out, and the only sound I could hear was the faint rush of traffic from the nearby freeway and the hum of a light breeze. Below me, all of Spectrum was in view. I traced the path I traveled that night, with the ice skaters nearby, the performance spot further down and the cinema in the distance.

Even after sixteen years worth of visits, Spectrum still has something new to offer each Saturday night.

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‘The Watchdog’ Column: Saturday Night Stroll Through Spectrum