Orland, California: “A Town Where it’s Hard to Say ‘Gay'”
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Fran is my favorite waitress at the Kountry Kitchen – always ready with a smile and pleasant conversation. She doesn’t like the big cities, and once told me that she never travels further south than Dunnigan.
Today’s San Francisco Chronicle contains quite a surprise: a long, detailed profile of Orland and the same-sex marriage issue. Some reporter obviously spent quite a lot of time here. I’m not sure what to think of the article, except to say that it isn’t a conventional hit piece – and that’s refreshing.
“But the topic has yet to make its way into everyday conversation in Orland, the largest city in staunchly conservative Glenn County, which in 2000 voted for Proposition 22, the successful state ballot initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman, with the highest total in the state, nearly 83 percent.
The town of about 7,000 people sits just a few blocks off busy Interstate 5 and is a three-hour drive from San Francisco. Politically, though, it is as far away as Middle America.
‘The last time I was in San Francisco was in the 1950s,’ Vonasek said. ‘Too wild for me.’
Whether it is opinions on same-sex marriage or an affinity for big trucks, not much has changed in Orland in the last eight years.
Republicans still outnumber Democrats, 47 percent to 33 percent. It’s still a place where residents brag only half-jokingly about having more bars and churches than anywhere else in the state. Even though it has been hit hard by the real estate foreclosure crisis, Orland remains a bedroom community for people who commute to nearby Chico. And it’s still a place where almond trees appear to outnumber residents.
‘This is an old-fashioned town. The way life used to be,’ said Young, who is retired from the Glenn County road department and laughs about his first job, when he made 15 cents an hour pulling weeds for the local librarian.
‘We are slow-moving,’ added Vonasek, also a retired road worker.
Most residents still don’t like the idea of allowing men to marry men and women to marry women. Some residents say they don’t know any openly gay people, and others have trouble even saying the word ‘gay.’ One man called it being ‘of the homosexual persuasion.'”
And it goes on like this.
Like I said: not a conventional hit piece. And the journalist, Cecelia Vega, is gracious enough to let her subjects speak for themselves. However, the article is written from the perspective of someone who thinks she has just unearthed a strange archaeological relic, a potential museum artifact. Perhaps that is the result of knowing, and writing for, the Chronicle’s predominantly insular liberal readership. If you want to know what most Bay Area dwellers really think of Orland (and you don’t), read the comments (if you have a strong stomach).