While exciting things are happening in Egypt, Bahrain, Wisconsin, and other exotic places, it occurred to me that some of my readers might not know each other, so this is just to make some introductions and give you some places to browse.
At the bottom of this entry, I’m trying to compile an easy reference for web resources about Greens and Green-friendlies in Orange County, California. I’m hoping that some readers will add to it with comments. You might also want to tell me to remove you from the list before I advertise it more widely, if you prefer that your material stay low-profile.
For out-of-County people, I’ll say a little about what this county is, and what it is not.
Orange County first gained notoriety in the 1950’s as the home of Disneyland and Nixon. Later, it could claim credit for the Crystal Cathedral, Bob Dornan, Trinity Broadcasting, Wally George, and John Schmitz. Until the last few decades, it was nearly all “white” and suburban, with some large and small agribusiness. Nutty right-wing groups have often flourished here.
The farming, or “ranching”, as it is called in the west, has nearly all vanished now, though the land is supremely suited to agriculture, with a mild climate and abundant ground water. As often happens, the fact that the land is flat and close to a big city has led to urban development trumping any good productive uses like agriculture. Orange County now has a population of around three million, one third that of Los Angeles County, and is the second most densely populated county in the state, after San Francisco.
It is NOT named after the fruit. When OC split off from Los Angeles County back in the 19th century, there were many fruits grown here, with no special preponderance of oranges. The County was named after the city of Orange, which was probably pretty central to the population at the time. There might still be a common perception of the “Orange Circle” in the center of Old Towne Orange as the center of the County, though it’s far from the geographic center and the population has shifted much to the south since then. When a countywide coalition was planning a big antiwar rally, some people seemed obsessed with holding it there as if it had some significance, though the one of us who actually lived in the city of Orange didn’t understand this.
This “Orange Circle” is the intersection of Chapman Ave. and Glassell St. If you type “Orange CA” into Google maps, that’s where it puts you. Andrew Glassell and Alfred Chapman were the founders of the town, and Andrew Glassell came from Orange County, Virginia (named after William of Orange). That is likely to be the reason for the name. There are also Orange counties in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, that I’ve heard of.
I’ve lived here for about 20 years. I never heard any resident use the phrase “the OC” until the tv series of that name. In conversation, it’s abbreviated simply “OC”, or “the County”, the way San Franciscans might say “The City”.
Portrayals of the County in the media often concentrate on the wealthy or faux-wealthy parts of the County in the south. There is a cultural divide between “south county” and “north county”, which is a bit hard to explain, but wealth is a component of it. The south is where the expensive beach property is. More Wal Marts in the north, more plastic surgery in the south.
One notable exception to this pattern is Villa Park, to the north, in the hills above Orange, the wealthiest of 34 cities in the County, our own little Bel Air. Where rich people move to be away from the rest of us, to live amid the brush fires and mudslides, and fight any taxes for emergency services.
Though the County as a whole still votes heavily Republican, there’s an area in the northwest that votes strongly Democratic due to the identity politics of people of Mexican descent. No surprise that Reps have alienated them with the scapegoating of “illegals”. I once saw an unintentionally humorous piece from a health magazine that surveyed U.S. cities and found that Santa Ana (the county seat, and center of this Mexican-descended population) had the statistically healthiest people. No one mentioned that Santa Ana also has a very YOUNG, NOT-SO-WEALTHY population that probably makes little use of medical services, and thus failed to show up in the stats for disease.
A little to the north of Santa Ana is Anaheim, the largest city in the County. It boasts a “Little Arabia” neighborhood, as well as Disneyland.
To the west, in Westminster and Garden Grove, is an area where many Vietnamese settled after Saigon fell. You can still find people there who want to fight the war all over again.
Our one “white liberal” enclave seems to be Laguna Beach, far to the south. Major center of LSD distribution back in the day: http://www.ocweekly.com/2005-07-07/features/lords-of-acid/ I think of it as kind of our own southern Sausalito. Galleries and tourists. A center of plein air painting going way back.
wampeter – the central theme or purpose of a karass. Each karass has two wampeters, one that it is moving away from, and one that it is moving towards.
— a much-quoted saying of Bokononism
(I hope you’ve all read Cat’s Cradle at some time or another.)
So let me give you all a little tour of web resources for keeping up with the County without too much of the right-wing spin that you would get from more “mainstream” sources. This includes a large part of the karass that I’ve been in for a few years. County denizens, you’re welcome to submit comments to expand or correct what I’ve written here. Speculation on the wampeter toward which we’re moving is also welcome.
So here’s my list so far, in no particular order:
John Earl publishes Surf City Voice, centered in Huntington Beach, with local news that you won’t find elsewhere.
Reporting by our local free weekly can be widely variable. It used to be better. A search on their site can often yield interesting stuff from years gone by.
Vern Nelson is a very accomplished musician, and also seems to have taken over publishing the Orange Juice Blog. Variety of contributors, sometimes interesting stuff.
The Liberal OC seems very uh, “mainstream” Dem, but sometimes there’s something informative:
Dwight Smith runs the Catholic Worker house in Santa Ana, and writes about his work there and related matters.
To keep up on antiwar activities in the County:
(The “member organizations” tab can lead you to a few orgs that might be doing something worthwhile.)
Dissent the Blog seems to be centered on the south coastal community colleges, but they might write about anything.
El Centro Cultural de Mexico has been very friendly to local non-profits, letting them use their space. They also give classes and host interesting events from time to time.
No surprise here: Yeah, I’m a Green. Whatcha gonna do about it?
The GPOC is also on Facebook, if you’re into that.
Andrew Tonkovich lives and teaches in the County, edits the Santa Monica Review, and hosts Bibliocracy on KPFK.
Sarah Mosko lives in the County and writes about environmental matters.
Joey Racano is a bluesman and friend of the environment who has left the County, but is far from forgotten. He writes.
The County also has a chapter of Slow Food, which might interest some of you:
The Harvest Club shares surplus food from the many fruit trees & such around here.
The Grain Project operates community gardens in Santa Ana, and more.