Irvine and neighboring Newport Beach remind me of what Santa Barbara would be like in a Republican parallel universe. We’re not so different from the 949, after all. We’re both beautiful beach locations with beautiful weather, beautiful people, beautiful views of beautiful mountain ranges and beautiful gobs of money.

Irvine, however, is located inside a bubble – possibly orange colored, I’m not certain. Santa Barbara is a bubble too, but Irvine is a Bubble with a capital B. Everything’s expertly designed and the city won’t ever let you forget it. The rows of trees were obviously planted. There are endless gated community “villages” with the lawns all cut to the same length and the houses painted the same colors. Even the skies seem suspiciously blue and sunny. You almost expect to see William H. Macy walking into one of the houses asking, “Hey, pumpkin! What’s that smell? Is that your meat loaf?”

The quality of life, naturally, is astounding. Do you like shopping? There are few places I’ve been that are more accommodating to the aspiring mallrat than south Orange County. Everywhere you go there’s another shopping mall, squeaky clean and perfectly maintained. Don’t like the malls in Irvine? Have you tried the malls in Newport? Or Huntington Beach? Or Lake Forest? Or perhaps South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa? I kept count: I visited a total of four malls in two days, each within five miles of another.

I asked one of my friends why he chose UCI over UCSB, and he said it was because you don’t have to drive 40 miles to find a Target. Indeed, if you can’t find anything in the Bubble, you’re as useless as a 55-mph speed limit.

I feel safe in Irvine, too. It is considered the fourth safest city in the United States. Nearby Newport, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo are all in the top 25. You drive around on the streets after 10 p.m. and nobody else is on the road because they’re all in bed. Kinda weird, but refreshing. And lots of businesses eat this up. There are so many tech companies in West Irvine that I immediately dubbed the area “Silicon Valley of the South.”

But then you have to ask yourself why this city is so safe. None of Irvine seems real to you. Have you possibly walked onto the set of some Body Snatchers”-type movie by mistake? Or into some artist’s statement about the banality of suburban existence? A gigantic, sterilized biosphere scientifically engineered to produce as few annoyances as possible?

I ask my friends what they do for fun on weekend nights in a biosphere. Much bowing of heads and shuffling of feet and mumblings of, “Well… um… there are a lot of great malls.” What, you mean you don’t go to L.A.? “It takes 45 minutes.” You don’t wreak havoc in West Irvine? “The cops hate kids and minorities.” You don’t hit the beach? “Ehh… sometimes.” Good grief.

Telltale sign you’re at UCI: instead of something like Manzanita Village, your dorm complex goes by the name Middle Earth, and the dorms within are named The Shire, Evenstar, Rivendell etc. It’s ok. They’re the ones who understood what they were getting into when they applied to a college in Irvine. I pity my friend from Atlanta that applied because she was a fan of The OC.” But, to be fair, I’ve heard rumors that Anteater drinking parties are completely insane.

I leave Irvine not missing it very much. In fact, I have a hard time remembering what it looked like. None of it was real.

Daily Nexus columnist C.K. Hickey will do anything for William H. Macy, even kidnap someone for money.