Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to tell us a little about the California the rest of us don’t really know.
The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.
It’s going to be an interesting time this November when, after 168 years, the proposal of dividing California into 3 states shows up on the ballot. The last time this happened was in 1863 when West Virginia was created.
Years ago I read a book on this very subject. Ecotopia was fiction, written by Ernest Callenbach in 1975. He set the book in the future, 1999. In it, California is divided into Northern California, which includes Oregon and Washington. The people are environmentally oriented. You want a house? You have to work in the forest planting trees to earn the right to lumber to build one. A work week is 20 hours (sweet!). Marijuana is in regular use. Callenbach predicted teleconferencing and print on demand. While this part of California is “green,” Southern California is dismissed as a lost cause.
Into this world comes a skeptical NY Times reporter. The book is a diary and he slowly gets lured to the green side. It’s a good book; Ralph Nader praised it.
As I’ve tried to explain to relatives in North Carolina, California is BIG. It’s like one state running from Maine and stopping at Florida. When they ask if I’ve seen my sister in San Diego or other scarce relatives in the state, I try to convey the distance we are from each other.
And why do I bring this up? Because in the book and in real life, Fresno is smack in the middle of the dividing line. The San Joaquin Valley is 450 miles long, from Redding to Bakersfield, and 60 miles wide. 6,000 miles of flat farmland surrounded by the coastal range on the west, the Sierra Nevadas to the east, the Santa Cruz Mountains on the north and the Grapevine dividing us from LA. There are people in San Francisco and Los Angeles who have no clue we exist.
Turns out in the book both north and south CA want us. We grow food. Lots of food. We’re talking about 230 crops on less than 1% of farmland in the United States. My area supplies 8% of the food you eat. And we do this in what is essentially a desert.
It’s hot. Summertime is long stretches of 100+ degree heat, necessary for drying grapes into raisins. We’re the raisin capitol of the world (remember the Fresno Dancing Raisins?). We are in a constant drought.
This was not always the case. There existed, at one time, Tulare Lake. It was the largest lake west of the Mississippi. The government built dams and reservoirs to block the water. Now it’s a dried lake bed where crops are grown and houses sprout. I saw it fill only once when we had a massive rainy season. My family drove out to see the road disappear into the water, rooftops and telephone poles showing above. They even did a documentary about the phenomenon.
The plan on the ballot is to divide the state into Northern CA, Southern CA, and for whatever reason, the Pacific coastline.
Fresno and half the Valley will go to the south. Not exactly the ideal that Ecotopia presented. But then, I doubt if any of the politicians have read the book because it’s fiction. Right?