Thursday, November 24, 2005


The Seattle Times has a thing in one of the Sunday supplements where you can send in some kind of essay or article or op-ed thing and if they select it you are sort of a guest columnist for the week.

The background for this piece I sent in was that we'd recently moved to Washington from California.

Over the past 2-3 decades there's been a bit of resentment from native Washingtonians about the influx of Californians -- the increase in population made the traffic worse, home prices rose dramatically, and... well, I guess that's about it. But it's a natural instinct to reinforce one's "belongingness" by Them-ing other people when we can, plus everyone needs someone to blame things on, so the anti-CA sentiment still lingers. We encountered a bit of that when we moved here -- mostly gestures from other motorists who saw our plates, etc.

So aaaaanyway, here's the thing the Times printed about our experience; imagine it in two-inch columns on gray newsprint, with my picture at the top...

My name’s Bryan and I’m…a Californian.

I didn’t mean to be. When I was little, I was from Illinois, but my parents decided to move west, and now it’s too late. I’m Californian, and nothing can be done about it.

The problem is, I’m living in Washington.

I didn’t mean to do that either. Really. But my boss sent me here. He said, “Go to Washington for a year, then come home.” So here I am.

You see, I didn’t know being from California was bad. I didn’t realize just where Californians rank in Washington (right after locusts), or how many bad things we were responsible for (low labor costs, overcrowding, high labor costs, the Mt. Saint Helens eruption, tooth decay…)

I thought what was important was to be a good citizen. I have a job; in fact, I brought it with me. I pay taxes; I am polite to senior citizens; I do not drive like an idiot. I keep my yard clean, I obey the law, and I have learned to pronounce Issaquah, Sequim and Puyallup. I now know 16 different drinks that I used to call “coffee”, and five kinds of salmon. I have put my 49ers sweatshirt in storage, and signed on for a year of Seahawks, Sonics, and Mariners. I do my best to help my community and to fit in; I give blood, I contribute to NPR and the Science Center, and I have erected a small shrine to Bill Gates in my living room.

I have tried to assimilate, but nothing seems to erase the stain of my state citizenship. Before I replaced them, my California license plates were a scarlet letter, revealing my sin to the world. “Go home!” the young woman mouthed to my wife through the window of her Explorer. “Go home!” the young men shouted as they sped by on their bikes. “Go home!” said the middle finger of the little old lady at the stoplight.

But recently a wonderful thing has been happening: I have begun to blend in. My wallet was stolen (which made me feel like I was back home already) and I had to get a new driver’s license. Now, with Washington plates on my truck and my new (Washington) ID, my camouflage is practically complete. I go whole weeks without being identified as a Californian.

And now, with my awful secret safely hidden, I have begun to see a whole new side to the people here. They are sociable, helpful, even generous. They are capable and responsible. They care about family and culture and the environment and social issues.

I have even caught myself thinking that this would be a nice place to live. These are good folks, here. I can imagine myself living and working next to them. I even presume to think I’d be a good Washingtonian myself. I might even learn to love the rain.

Yes, sometimes I think living here might be just about perfect – if we could just think of some way to keep all the Californians out…


At Thu Nov 24, 01:45:00 AM PST, Blogger jay are said...

yeah, underwater all you want and continue to think you're superior. continue to mock us for disliking to get wet when it rains and just walk around all day with your body drenched, unprotected by those childish umbrellas. we'll stay high and dry and warm as toast. but if it makes you feel better, we'll pause for a moment and feel inferior. Nah. Can't pull it off. :)

great article, tho, and well-written as usual.

At Thu Nov 24, 09:17:00 AM PST, Blogger heatherfeather said...

i love reading people's writing. it's so articulate and so varyingly different and personal. i would never be able to write like you, like erik, or like haiku-girl, but i like all of you'se guys' writing. and i grew up in california - i never knew it was something that was to be hidden until i starte dliving outside of california. the farther east you go, the more mythical it becomes (unless you're in nyc) and people think, "wow, you could drive to disneyland every day if you wanted?" (i did. i love disneyland. when i live in CA, i always have an annual pass) but in california, there's a lot of the same resentement toward californians (even though when people ask, i've lived in so many places since i graduated from high school i don't know how to answer the question "where are you from?" because i know they don't want me to say, "i don't understand. i live here, i vote here, i pay taxes here, i get pissed at the politicians here.")

aaaaaaand, i've totally lost my train of thought.

happy thanksgiving bryan watch the broncos=

At Thu Nov 24, 09:17:00 AM PST, Blogger heatherfeather said...

i am clearly insane. i wasn't done typing yet.

At Sat Nov 26, 11:40:00 PM PST, Anonymous si said...

well, it seems like credit should have been given for reminding you to post this, if not to me then at least to the person who told me about your letter/column (especially since he now knows about your blog...)

and i also say this s/b added to *your* personal favorites list at a later date, IMO.

At Sun Nov 27, 02:52:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

1) With appropriate fanfare, full recognition and credit is hereby bestowed upon SI, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto, for reminding me to post this, with secondary credit to JD for telling HER about it.

2) Heatherfeather IS clearly insane, but we're not sure how this is news. PS: Broncos Win!

3) I suspect no other state in the union has enjoyed the influx of non-native population that CA has, so it's always seemed silly to me that Washingtonians act like this is something they uniquely suffer and that it was invented by Californians...

At Sun Nov 27, 03:50:00 PM PST, Blogger heatherfeather said...

yeah, loving my insanity is part of loving me.


but i'm still glad the broncos won. yay!

(see how i finished my thought? damn, i'm g

At Sun Nov 27, 04:20:00 PM PST, Anonymous si said...

gee, thanks! do these "rights/privileges" rank right up there w/the rights/privileges of being my "best friend?" see self-aggrandizement post. (have yet to see evidence of this yet...)

also, hf, you *are* definitely, delightfully insane!

At Mon Nov 28, 01:39:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

Bryan, what a great article this is! Congratulations on having it published.
Thank you (and si) for posting it)

This article is a good lesson in prejudices and when someone says they desire diversity it doesn’t mean just race and religion.
It also gives you a feeling on how tribal warfare started.

Also, if you tweak this article it would also work for Oregon and Arizona as well.
Being from California myself I can really relate to the resentment from our neighboring states when we have the nerve to move there.

I am sure many people have spotted those bumper stickers and license plate frames that read “Do Not Californicate Washington” What a nice way to welcome your neighbor.


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