California Born and Oranges Bred

[Editorial Note: Blogging is a textual medium and you cannot easily read facial expression, vocal tone or body language and that can mean a lot of fun and frolicking intent can be lost. We want to make it clear how much we love all California people — especially those who move to that great state — and we mostly like those who were born into her soil and not transplanted. With that disclaimer out of the way, let the flaying begin!]

California born folks have to put up with a lot of kidding from the rest of the world that may try to label their “California style” of living flakey or “not there” as Gertrude Stein wrote in 1937 when she visited her hometown of Oakland and wrote in Everybody’s Autobiography:

What was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.

Is there a there there in California now?

I have been exposed to lots of native Californians and nearly every one of them loves to talk about California at every opportunity and at every inopportune time! They talk about the water and the weather and the orange groves of their childhood that are no longer there and they rightfully brag about their home state’s daring educational initiatives.

When the “California Style” of teaching reaches the East Coat and Midwestern classroom, however, madness ensues! I was stuck in one graduate course taught by a self-identifying native Californian and we spent 57 minutes of the first class deciding who would bring what to eat on which days. It was complete insanity!

There were calendars involved and menu planning and peer-to-peer berating for those who were not interested in paying to feed an entire group. I thought we were paying tuition to learn, not to have dinner. I would rather leave 57 minutes early than waste 57 minutes talking about mandatory pop and chips and pizza responsibilities.

Californians are oftentimes stereotypically depicted in movies, television and in real life as laid-back and kooky. One of my retired non-California friends — who has taught and continues to teach graduate courses all over the Ivy League — told me there is a definite conflict between native Californians and “The East Coast Work Ethic.”

Every year there were “six to eight native Californians who left or were asked to leave the program” because they could not cut the frenetic, work-until-the-job-is-done, hurry-up pace.

There’s nothing wrong with being laid-back and sunny — except when those around you
are driven and dark!

Another hard-driving native New York friend of mine told me a story about a world lecture circuit he was on a few years ago to help spread Arts Education across the planet.

When he landed at each foreign destination like Iran, the USSR, Latvia, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, etc., my friend was terrified because he had no money in the current currency of the day, he had no transportation and he had no way to easily convey his needs in a spoken language.

At every stop there was always a greeting party to meet my friend at the airport gate and they provided him money, maps, a permanent translator and a dedicated chauffeur.

When my friend landed in Sweden no one was there to meet him at the gate. For 30 minutes he wandered around the terminal looking for a greeting party and he began to get a little panicked. He went to the airline counter and asked if he might be allowed to use the phone to call the United States Embassy to see if he could find out the status of his escort party. While my friend was dialing the phone, a lanky and droning gentleman smelling of oranges sauntered over and asked if he was there for the lecture.

When my friend identified himself, the slow-talking gentleman shook hands and said he was there to take my friend around the city. When my friend asked where the fellow had been for the last 30 minutes and that he’d been searching for someone to meet him and that at all the other international stops he’d been met at the gate by a party with a sign bearing his name along with other local welcome tokens, the indolent gentleman replied in a wafting voice, “I was sitting over there reading the newspaper.”

Without missing a beat my friend asked, “Were you born in California?”

A slowgoing reply followed, “Why, yes I was. However did you know?

Well… I’ll tell you native Californians how we know…

We Know Because — we can mark you a mile away with your lazy gait and syrupy manner.

We Know Because — you don’t fit in with expectation or our experience with the rest of the world!

We Know Because — you start every other sentence with, “In California,”

We Know Because — we are not interested in stories about surfing waves or sidling along or childhood orange grove memories.

We Know Because — we want action!

We Know Because — we crave deadlines!

We Know Because — we want The East Coast Work Ethic!

We Know Because — because we are used to a there being there and when there is no there there we collectively shudder as you press your missing there here!