Monthly Archives: October 2010

I voted today


Unlike a certain California gubernatorial candidate, I am proud to say that I haven’t missed an opportunity to vote since I turned 18, despite having moved multiple times. I even voted absentee from Mexico. Today, I mailed in my ballot here in LA county (I would like to repeat my complaint from last year which is that it is confusing to fill out an absentee ballot here.)
My 18th birthday was just a couple of days before the 2000 presidential election – I cast my first vote ever for Al Gore. Here’s a quick refresher how well that went:

I quickly got schooled in just how much (or how little) my vote counts. The experience prompted my exploration of the electoral college system, which I concluded was set up for two reasons: 1) We aren’t technically capable of a perfect vote count and 2) We don’t trust the masses.
Being a Californian, you could make a solid argument that my vote for a Democrat in the presidential contest doesn’t really count for much anyway, considering that California reliably goes for the Dem. I’ve heard other young people use this excuse. First of all, it doesn’t apply to state and local issues, where your vote certainly makes a difference. Secondly, I vote for more reasons than the pure outcome:
1) Civic duty: I really do feel that it is my duty as a citizen to stay informed and to exercise my right to vote. We’re in an era without a draft, rations, victory gardens or other civic sacrifices – I think I can take the time to vote!
2) Guilt: Given what women went through to get the right to vote, not to mention what people around the world continue to suffer to fight for this right, I would be ashamed not to vote.
3) The right to complain: In my eyes, if you didn’t cast a vote, you lost your right to complain about the outcome of the election. People don’t elect themselves and your vote counts for more than you running your mouth about how you’re boycotting the elections.
4) It’s fun! I love watching the debates, I’m always amused by the crazy mailers that show up in the mail and I like discussing the merits of the various propositions with my friends and family. When I was in school in Oregon, I was still registered to vote absentee. In 2003, I got my ballot to vote for the post-recall governor, which included 200 candidates, among them a sumo wrestler, an adult entertainer, not to mention our current Governator.

This pretty much cemented my out-of-state friends’ conclusion that Californians are completely whacky.
And we are! Today, I got to vote on whether to legalize marijuana. So, my fellow citizens and fellow Californians, I urge you to vote on Nov. 2. You might even enjoy it.

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Filed under California history, Los Angeles, politics, Sacramento

California Country

I’m not sure when I started liking country music. It was a little too hokey to match my teenage angst which was better accompanied by Nirvana and Sublime. However, I grew up in ag country, so the stuff was in the ether, strains squeezing out of huge trucks in the school parking lot, blasting from the main stage at the county fair and accompanying the line dancing at the only place for 18-year-olds to go dance in the Sonoma area – Kodiak Jack’s in Petaluma (“Home of Kodiak, the Mechanical Bull”) which had an all-ages night on Thursdays.
At some point, I decided that I liked the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain, adding some bluegrass and alt-county through college – Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Neko Case, the Be Good Tanyas. And I got quite hooked on Johnny Cash (and Johnny Cash Radio on Pandora). Since “country music” ranges from Willie Nelson to Tammy Wynette to Carrie Underwood to Garth Brooks, it is both a guilty pleasure and a deep vein of American history with songs that stand the ages.

Here’s a playlist of some of the fun stuff.

The other day, I was listening to the local country station (I am still unclear how the LA market can support two pop country stations since I have yet to meet a country music listener here) and they played this song:

It caught my ear because it referenced California and I realized that the Golden State doesn’t figure very high in the content of country music. Which got me thinking.
Are any country music stars from California?

This being the Age of Google, I was pretty easily able to dig up some California country songs, including this one:

Full disclosure: I found it because I was listening to her other hit, “Redneck Woman,” to see if I could line dance to it.

Here are the full lyrics for those of you with dial-up:

California Girls – Gretchen Wilson

Well I ain’t never had a problem with California
There’s a lot of good women, from Sacramento to Corona
But them Hollywood types, after a while wear on ya
Strutin’ around in their size zeros,
Skinny little girls no meat on their bones
Never even heard of George Jones

CHORUS
Ain’t you glad we ain’t all California girls
Ain’t you glad there’s still a few of us left, who know how to rock your world
Ain’t afraid to eat fried chicken and dirty dance to Merle
Ain’t you glad we ain’t all California girls

There ain’t nothing wrong with plastic surgery
Well, Dolly Parton never looked so good to me
Everybody oughta be exactly who they want to be
But that Paris Hilton gets under my skin
With her big fake smile and her painted on tan
Never had a chance at a real man

Ouch. Good thing Katy Perry and the Beach Boys already prepared a musical retort on behalf of us California girls.

However, I still didn’t feel I’d really found a genuine connection between country music and California. The few songs out there usually reference California as somewhere people are running away to. I did notice an inordinate number of references to one California locale however – Bakersfield. This allowed me to finally connect the dots:

Dust Bowl forced Okies to migrate to California’s Central Valley => Many settled in Bakersfield => Some of them made country music, including: Merle Haggard who is a NATIVE of California and saw Johnny Cash play when he was an inmate => He was later covered by the Grateful Dead => Gretchen Wilson references Merle in her song denigrating California girls

Ta da! I’ll admit, California’s not exactly the birthplace of country, but the love is there. So quit being too cool for school, Cali kids, and embrace your country roots.

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Filed under California history, I heart Cali, Los Angeles