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!

22 comments

  • When I was in college and law school, I knew a couple of people from California.
    The majority of them loved “Cali” and would do what they could to convince you to abandon the Midwest and move to the land of constant sunshine and balmy days. They always painted an attractive picture of the state. So much so, that I when I was applying to law schools, I applied to a school in Sacremento.
    I could have gotten into the California lifestyle from all that I had heard about it from my friends.
    Out of everyone I knew from Cali, only one didn’t like it. She wasn’t like the typical Californian. She was more of a hard-driving and goal oriented person that you would find in other parts of the country. Her family must have been the same way, because they ended up moving to Nevada “to get away from California.”

  • Hi Chris!
    Thanks for sharing your insight into this matter.
    Yes, Californians do love to advertise their sunny lifestyle. Most of the people I know in Nebraska who moved away went West to California and not East like me.
    The glorious southern California weather is an incredible pull to those raised in snow and there doesn’t seem to be as much pressure to perform unachievable perfection out there as there is on the East Coast.

  • A friend of mine from Topeka, KS, moved to California for a few years and couldn’t stop talking about how great San Diego is. I’ll grant it, that SD is a terrific place, but all places have issues. I always thought that my friend had a little bit of an inferiority complex as someone from the midwest living on the coast.

  • California is both geographically diverse and diversely peopled. It is difficult to summarize the entire state by looking at one group of people. You can find everything from redneck hillbillies and surfers to ball-busting movie executives and academians. I was born in and currently live in Northern California, though I have traveled through the US and internationally and have thus come to appreciate aspects of life outside of california. The image most people have of Californians is of a peculiar minority living in Southern California. I have never seen an organge tree/grove in my life. Yes there are a fair number of hippy-dippy folk in the state, but they are hardly the majority or representative of the state as a whole. At its roots California is a agricultural state, once you venture into the interior away from SF or LA one can see that this is still largely the case. Life in the central valley is much slower than in the urban center, though much the same can be said rural areas across the country. Chris mentioned law school in Sacramento and based on DB’s resume he has taught at UC Davis. Both are well seeped in agriculture.
    A disproportionate number of the hippy-dippy Califnornians, seem to move to other places, giving an inadequate reprenstation of the state people’s.
    In fairness, there are many Californian’s who have never left the state and have a decidely Californiacentric view. However, the associations with orange groves and laziness are siimply not true :)!

  • emaw_kc —
    Ha! Exactly!
    I have so many friends from Nebraska who now live in California and pretend to have lived the good life there forever! The Midwest does offer terrible extremes of hot and cold weather and I imagine it must feel pretty good to feel comfortably warm all year long!

  • Dear Jonathan —
    Ah-ha! I have smoked you out of your warm and orangey California nest! :lol:
    Yes, I spent time in Sacramento and Davis:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/11/16/sacramento-reloaded/
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/11/18/fining-sacramento-kings-bad-taste/
    It will be interesting to see how it goes for you at MIT if you decide to move to the cold-shoulder East Coast from your warm weather womb for your PhD program. Yes, yes, interesting indeedy doody! :mrgreen:

  • I have CA friends. They are fun. Sometimes not serious. NY friends are meaner.

  • Hi tajuki —
    Hey, now!
    We’re riffing off the California people today, not the New Yawkers! We hit the East Coast every day here. It’s the Left Coast’s turn today! :cool:

  • I was born in Cali and it hurts to admit a lot of what you say is true. Blonde hair always helps. Blue eyes are optional.

  • Thanks for the winking support, Anne! I do appreciate it! :wink:

  • I know you do and the next time you’re in Cali, find me.

  • Done and done.
    Thank you, dear friend!

  • David-
    What is this orange grove fixation :)? Yes, the combination of colder weather and dispostion of people in the NorthEast may send me running away!! I have experienced both, so I know what I’m getting into. I have applied to 4 schools in the East and 3 in the West, so the numerical odds are in favor of a move eastward. I recently read a report that the skin of people in Boston synthesize no Vitamin-D during the winter months. My mental well being will have to adjust to the reduced Vitamin D, and I might have to take some orange supplements….heck why not a once a week bath in water enriched with citrus oils :)?

  • I think a citrus oil bath is just what you’ll need in a move Eastward.
    Here’s what to expect:
    You will always be cold.
    You will complain about always being cold.
    You will not like cold rain.
    You will miss the sun.
    When the sun finally comes out you will point it out to people who do not care.
    You will earn ugly stares when you eat pizza in class.
    You be kidded for being a natural blonde.
    You will be kidded for always being cold.
    You will be chided for always smelling of oranges.
    You will be scorned forever the first time you start a sentence with, “In California, we…” :mrgreen:

  • Californians can point out the reappearance of the sun in the Midwest, if they want, and people will probably join them. The clouds that have dominated my area all throughout November, December, and early January have blown away and the sun is shining again!
    I saw people standing outside during breaks looking and pointing at the sun like it was something new and unfamiliar.
    This is making me want to move to California where it’s always sunny. “It never rains in Southern California,” sang the group Tony! Toni! Tone!.

  • Hey Chris!
    The weather has been glorious here, too, all week long. You haven’t needed a coat for the past three days and we don’t need any Californians to point out the obvious to us! :mrgreen:
    I thought in 1972 Albert Hammond released the ovaric version of “It Never Rains in Southern California”?

  • Correct on most accounts, however Im not blonde. I still dont understand the whole orange odor business, but I will take your word for it ;). The pizza eating will sadly have to concede as true, though I think this is because we dont have the thin crust that you enjoy on a routine basis, its difficult to fold over west coast pizza, sometimes it embarasingly requires a knife and fork :(!

  • Blonde is a state-of-mind, Jonathan, not a hair color!
    Smelling like oranges has nothing to do with odor.
    Pizza is a universal and truth in all forms! On that note we know you will translate well.

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