Sunday, July 09, 2006

Looking Like California

What does it mean to look like you're from California? I was recently celebrating the ol' 4th of July with Julie's family in Estes Park, Colorado. While there I had to go to the front office of the resort cabins in which we were staying to get a parking pass for our car. At the front desk I was greeted by an attendant who asked me where I was from before she even asked what I was in the office for. With my guard down I casually answered, "California, in Oakland." The attendant replied, "Oh, you look like your from California," then she proceeded to do the job that she's paid to do, getting me my parking permit.
What does it mean to look like your from California? I didn't even have surfer shorts on nor a worn-out Billabong shirt. I didn't even have flip-flops on. The attendant didn't even engage in enough dialog to see if I had an accent (common small talk tactic with strangers).
She was most likely using my Chinese features as a referent to the geographic location of traditional destinations for immigrants. I guess this means that people who look non-white aren't really from the US; different places have different expectations of racial makeup. I mean to say that I knew this already (you know, historically produced expectations and all), but what is new to me is the experience of someone telling me that I look like I'm from California. Originally, I'm from Indiana and most people don't even know what to say. Some have even answered, "Indiana, USA???" I guess that looking like California at least places me in the right nation.
Google image found the following picture with the key words "California look," enjoy.


Blogger tuesdayschild28 said...

I know your pain. I was asked if I was from India.

8:21 PM  
Blogger saudade said...

The great Eric Baus once told me that a woman at a Cali DMV took a look at his Indiana DL and remarked, "Oh, a Southern boy."

3:49 PM  
Blogger Jason Chang said...

Indiana defenitely feels like the South sometimes, but the pick-up trucks are substituted with minivans and there are more jobs.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Well, frankly, I don't think anyone should be confusing the proud ancestor of a those who built the west, drove the railroad stakes, mined the resources that funded our nation becoming what it is today -- I don't think that should be confused with some wanna-be happy-go-lucky no-flip-flop-wearing hoosier. Trust me on this one folks. I've spent time up in ol' Estes Park, CO, and they just don't have a lot of experience with the whole Chinese/Hawai'ian/Minnesotan /Hoosier ethnic class. Let alone the census buruea. I've also spent time in Tibet and China, and when I tell people I'm from Indiana, they often think, "Oh, so you are Indian." So I feel your pain too, Tuesday's Child. These days of course, I do reside physically south of the Mason Dixon, but these days the whole mid-atlantic scene is bleeding down into the south, so I really don't feel the deep connection with the Indiana-Southern thing. In fact, I often get called a "cornpone" which some southerns take as derogatory toward folk from the mid-west.
But basically my point is that the esteemed Mr. Chang is true to the game of the streets of the Wayne, and I've never known him to pose otherwise. Maybe they thought he was Califormula because he is pretty much the rock star of border studies.
Feel free to contact me Tuesday's Child.

9:46 PM  

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