I have found my week in Orange County to be really interesting and really enjoyable.
I think there are 3 or 4 strands that have really stood out to me. Religion, personal health vs environmental wreckage, purblic amenity vs public safety and the bizarre and scary absence of unattractive people.
I don’t think I have ever seen so many churches in one place. I understand that the density of churches is higher in other parts of the States, but it has been a real eye-opener for me. I was visiting Corona after spending a morning in the Santa Ana Mountains and was entertaining myself trying to guess the population per church in the city. It seemed to me as I wandered the suburbs that it was at a similar level to pubs per head of population in the old gold mining towns.
I have not seen a mosque or a temple or anything other than a church, but churches I have seen in all flavours of architecture, even if I haven’t gotten close enough to ascertain the flavours of Christianity represented. I have seen no-one wearing anything that would identify them as Islamic or Sikh. The quiet diversity of religious and cultural expression that I am familiar with does not seem to exist here. Though there is quite a lot of new-age-y surfing spiritualism, mostly from older guys who look like they have been surfing their whole lives.
I haven’t managed to collect any photos of super-natural-awesome-wholegrain-canesugar-only food – mostly because I shoved it in my mouth immediately, but I did note that I wasn’t able to buy plain rolled oats or plain full-fat yoghurt in Walmart. Trader Joe’s at minimum for yoghurt and Whole Foods for oats. And they’re still not plain oats, they’re organic, hand-picked, steel-milled WTF oats. Oatmeal in abundance. Oats, not so much.
However, I have got a collection of photos of the way things have industrialised.
Huntington Beach sits above a fault (of course) that has collected oil. I believe that it is mostly played out now, but some infrastructure is clearly still live. There are derricks bobbing right beside the Pacific Coast Highway, just behind a fence, right next to houses and restaurants and hotels. It is pretty confronting. There is prime beachside realestate taken up with condensing towers and the marshlands are littered with old oil machinery that will never be removed. I spoke with one of the volunteers involved with rehabbing the marshland near the Santa Ana River mouth and she had no idea who was responsible for ensuring that the well-casings remained intact or who would be held accountable for fixing and remediating any leaks. I haven’t followed it up any further, but the assumption that “the polluter pays” doesn’t seem to be in place here. The focus on individual health just doesn’t seem to be supported by the approach to public environmental health.
The same difference in emphasis is obvious in the kinds of by-laws that have been passed. All the bars and nighclubs shut by 2am. The beach is closed – as in, you are not permitted to walk on the sand – from 10pm. They actually patrol this. Parkland is also closed at night, from varying times depending on the park, but 10pm is again the latest I have seen. I have been running a kind of joke-contest to see which city in the OC contains the most number of explicitly prohibited activities on a sign. Thus far the winner is Corona, which needed 3 columns to list all the things one is not allowed to do in a park. By contrast, you are under no obligation to put up a balcony around your verandah (which you step out onto via the kitchen window). So you’re perfectly welcome to break a neck, not welcome to make noise that may disturb your neighbours. Hopefully the shrieking you make when you break your bones won’t disturb anyone too much. Another thing of note is that there is no public green space at all. If you want to have your lunch on a lawn, you better be the kind of person that grows and maintains your own lawn, because there aren’t any others.
More tk regarding my various travels though some of the natural-ish areas of the OC, but my final point is that everyone here is creepily beautiful, or if not, they are in exceptionally fine physical shape. I have not seen a fat Californian adult. My current theory is that they are taking people away to the far side of the San Gabriel Mountains and putting them through fat-camp and hair and training make-up before they are allowed near the sea again. Perhaps I should move here and allow myself to be reinvented for Californian public consumption.