Desert Pt. 2 The O.C. or La Naranga

I grew up in Orange County, California and entered my teen years at the height of commersh-surfer hysteria. Nobody ever called it the O.C. and nobody ever referred to the state as “Cali.”

It was a time before most in the O.C. felt they had to be a bleached-blonde spoiled trophy wife (at any cost) or the Bettie Page arm candy of a fifth generation rockabilly-boy dustbowl offspring.

Those in the know recognize the transplants, and, yes, California took-off economically because of those transplants, but there were simpler days if your memory stretches back that far.

Art: “Columbus Discovers America” by Peter Saul of Newport beach from this guy’s blog.

Chicanos, Mexican Americans, Latinos, they were the people who seemed to me to have always been there. They blended in over a hundred years with the many native tribes that once lived off the natural riches of the California environment antes de que Los Espaniolas diveed up the place.

Still the “new” serious real estate purchasing Anglos that flooded Southern California after they built Disneyland don’t see this Orange County.

But there is someone who is trying to clarify things. Have you read Gustavo Arrellano’s column, Ask A Mexican? It started out in the Orange County Weekly but it has been syndicated at least to other weekly’s including the Village Voice, straight outta NYC, bra. Here is a link to the AAM web site.

For giggles:

Don’t get me wrong. Once upon a time there were plenty of real blondes in So Cal. They were surfers and I love surfers. I think they are American bodhisattvas. Laird Hamilton kicks so much ass. The Ocean is our mother and I resonate deeply with her wild energy.
But the pop magazine wannabe version of surf culture was super lame. They had boys in New Jersey wearing surfer crosses, long bangs and probably floral baggies.
If you didn’t look hot in a bikini you were useless and not everyone looked wicked in white lipstick. Girls were ironing their hair. The Beach Boys were all over the radio. Yes, Brian Wilson is a musical genius. The Beach Boys had great harmony and beautiful tunes despite their abusive upbringing, but only Dennis surfed.
The cinematic portrayals of surf culture were ridiculous. Only in America (Hollywood) can two raven-haired Italians rise to the top of the filmic surf strata. I blame Disney.

I guess that’s the big dream that the O.C. offers to everyone. No matter how non-Nordic you start out you can come to a place, once the home of raven-haired natives, and be a suicide blonde just like Hugh Hefner’s girls!!!!

The early 60s in Orange County presented all manner of conflicting images, beliefs and prejudice. I’m still working it out.



 It threw me when even my uncle, newly returned to Southern California from the big house, seemed infected by the commercialized beach craze. At least a bit.
He managed to get hold of a sky blue Mustang.

He took me and my friends cruising down to Newport Beach. The Beach Boys blew out of the radio and so did a lot of other much less inspired tunes invented for teens.
We hung out on the sand. Watched other people. My uncle probably enjoyed scoping out the nubile beach bunnies. He was newly free. Kind of a scary thought, really.

His life had been bent. I think my uncle was very young when he decided that running guns to Mexico sounded like a good idea. Oh, sure, he’d started out in the normal semi-benign teenage crime mode by stealing a car but he took this whole original gangsta thing more seriously than most.
He and his brother, my father, had grown up in south central L.A. They engaged in some serious vato loco action way way back in the day. Second generation pachucos, tu sabes?
During the incident that cost him his youth and then some he was shot half a dozen times.

He took a few in the chest. He moldered in a Mexican jail until granny could get down there and bring him home. We’d make occasional visits to San Quentin to see him. I was a pip squeak. I think my grandfather finally said “fuck it. Let him deal with it.” And those “vacations” were over.
The experience made my uncle weird and strong and from what I hear, ruthless.
It could be bullshit but someone told me he knifed a prison guard. Rumor? Maybe. Not something one wants to think too much about. He didn’t ever go back to jail.

That took some craftiness on his part  but he had a decent work ethic and some skills learned while he was being rehabilitated by the state.
In the last years of incarceration he was able to transfer out of the big house and serve his time in a work camp. He was required to spend long hours outdoors in the desert sun in places like the Rainbow Conservation Camp in Fallbrook. Hard sweaty work but he liked it. Beats sitting in a cell.

After the Mustang he bought a motorcyle. Riders were not required to wear helmets then.
My uncle was the son of a red-headed woman. He had blue eyes and very fair skin. He liked the desert for the same reason that a lot of alternative lifestyle devotees do. It felt free and far away from the man.

People in their right minds didn’t want to live in the heat in the middle of nowhere back then. This was before Burning Man and Joshua Tree and Pioneer Town cool. He took a lot of U.V. rays to the head and ended up with skin cancer. It killed him fast.
In his dying time I think he was scared to go. Both he and my dad feared what may be waiting for them on the other side. They’d hurt themselves and other people and maybe there was a hell.
My uncle had practiced meditation while in prison but quit abruptly after once being set upon by entities that seemed to him, demonic.
I’m sure he found a warm welcome by loving beings of light when he finally passed.  My dad probably did, too.


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