Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
A few years ago, an entrepreneur in Seattle marketed a board game for people who hate Californians. I have heard that there are more than a few bumper stickers for anti-California types also. It seems that quite a few other states dislike Californians as well. The question is, "What is a Californian?" and "Why are we disliked?"
I am what we here in the "Sunshine State" refer to as a native, which means to be born and raised in California. Having lived in many areas inside of my great state and having visited even more places, I am familiar with California. There are vast differences in lifestyle and geography in California. You might even say there are several distinct cultures here.
The two major cities in California are well known worldwide: San Francisco and Los Angles. Both cities are known for their fast-paced life styles and unnaturally high percentage of "weirdoes." Although it is true that both of these things exist, California is much more than just stereotypes. Often, residents of these two areas tend to believe the stereotypes also. Every time I frequent one of these areas a local will inevitably ask me, "Where do you live?"
"Angels Camp area," I say. I try to explain, "That is in Calaveras County," a statement which usually brings blank stares. I try the jumping frog contest out on them; they usually think I am insane at this point.
"Jumping Frog Contest?" they ask.
I attempt to explain, "Jumping Frogs, Mark Twain, you know Samuel Clemens."
Always the same answer, "That is in California?" A large percentage of the "city" residents in California don't really know where the gold rush took place; they just know that it did.
The "gold country area" is where I have lived most of my life. If people who hate Californians would visit this area, I believe we could put all the myths to rest. Nested in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, the gold country produces a different type of Californian than the stereotypical one. Most people here are farmers and ranchers. Grape vineyards stretch for miles as do large cow and chicken ranches. Farther up in the mountains, a huge timber industry exists. So, the kind of local residents a visitor is likely to see ranges from immigrant farm workers to wild-west type ranchers: Men wearing big hats and leather boots, looking more like residents of Texas than residents of California. Lumberjack timber workers, frequent the Sierra Mountains. Wearing flannel shirts and work boots just like the legendary Paul Bunyan of old folklore. In the winter months the hunting seasons begin. It is not at all unusual to see old pickup trucks with a few rifles on a wooden rack attached to the back window. The towns do not even sound Californian, Angels Camp, Mokelumne Hill, Jackson (Jackson sounds like a piece of Wyoming removed), even Buckhorn. People here hardly fit the stereotypical beach surfer or Hollywood weirdo. Life is not so fast-paced, and more than a lot of people hate the big cities just as much as non-Californians do.
Surely, if people from the other forty-nine states would just visit the San Joaquin Valley or the Sierra foothills, maybe even the Humboldt area in the extreme north of our state, they would find that there is no great departure in lifestyle from what they are used to. Residents of Seattle would hardly find Fort Bragg offensive. Those from Texas would probably feel at home in Barstow or perhaps Needles. Montana residents might enjoy a trip to Mt. Shasta and the surrounding area. All of those from the Midwest may find the San Joaquin Valley and Delta area somewhat familiar, being equally rich in agriculture.
As diverse as California is, it is amazing that we are stereotyped in such a narrow way. Stereotyped or not, myth or reality, maybe just a few things are true. The sunset just looks better here, the girls are prettier, the smog is thicker, the traffic more condensed, and the fast lane is faster than anywhere else. I love California; I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.