Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rik George writes

Anything is Possible in California

I bought a tangerine to eat beside
the California ocean. Rain and wind had washed
the people away. The ebbing tide grasped at
the shore; its wrinkled fingers found no
purchase on the sand. The surf was cream on
the coffee beach. I used my toe to write my
name and town. Seaweed erasers came; their
bobbing pods rubbed all the letters out.
I sat to peel and eat the tangerine.
Wavelets tickled my toes and made me laugh.
Above me I heard a wheeling gull complain
to God. I threw the peeling at a cliff
of cloud, and kindled the west with scarlet fire.
Tomorow morning I’ll gild the dawn with a pear.

 Orange County Anchor Man -- Scott Moore


  1. California is a state in the US (called Alta California after Mexico gained its independence from Spain) and two states (Baja California and Baja California Sur) in Mexico. In the late 15th century Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo published a popular novela de caballería, "Las Sergas de Esplandián" (The Adventures of Esplandián), a sequel to his trilogy of chivalric romances about Amadís de Gaula, which he claimed to have been found in a buried chest in Constantinopolis and transported to Spain by a Hungarian merchant. Miguel de Cervantes listed the novel as the first of many popular, harmful books to be burned by characters in his novel "Don Quixote." According to "Las Serges," "at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks." He went on, in a different translation, "Their weapons were golden and so were the harnesses of the wild beasts that they were accustomed to taming so that they could be ridden, because there was no other metal in the island than gold." The land was ruled by pagan queen Calafia, the female form of "califa," the Spanish term for the Muslim khalifa (steward or leader). "Desirous of achieving great things," she led her female army and 500 griffins trained to kill all men iand joined the Muslim siege of Constantinopolis, but the griffins were unable to distinguish between Muslims and Christians and were withdrawn. Then she fought in single combat against king Amadís while her ally Radario fought his son Esplandián, but they are both defeated. As a captive she converted to Christianity and married Esplandián's cousin Talanque, while her sister Liota married Talanque's companion Maneli, and the couples returned to California with their husbands to establish a new Christian dynasty. It is possible that the country's name was inspired by the 11th-century epic poem "La Chanson de Roland" which mentioned in passing a Muslim-dominated land called Califerne. This was probably a reference to Kal-Iferne (the Beni Hammad Fort ruins in Algeria), a fortified Berber fortress which may have been a corruption of the Persian Kar-i-farn, the mythological "mountain of Paradise" where griffins lived. In 1924 Spanish novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez revived interest in "La reina Calafia," and Maynard Dixon and Frank Von Sloun painted a mural of her in the Room of the Dons for the opening of the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco in 1926; since then she has become an artistic symbol for "the spirit of California" in sculpture, paintings, stories, and films, and her kingdom as an untamed, bountiful land prior to the European take-over. In 2001 Disney California Adventure Park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, opened, featuring a "talking bust" of Whoopi Goldberg as Califia.

  2. Before Hernán Cortés left Cuba in 1518 en route to his conquest of Mexico, governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar ordered him to investigate reports of lands occupied by "the Amazons," and Cortés himself referred to "Las Sergas" in 1524. Juan de Grijalva was told of Amazons during his 1518 expedition through the Tabasco region of Mexico. In 1530 Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán conquered an area he called "la Conquista del Espíritu Santo de la Mayor España" ("The Conquest of the Holy Spirit of Greater Spain"), but queen regent Juana la Loca, the mother of Carlos I, officially named it "el Reino de Nueva Galicia;" he reported that he would "go in search of the Amazons, as I am told they are ten days away; some assert they inhabit the sea, others affirm they are located on an arm of the sea, and also contend they are rich and feared by the mainland inhabitants as if they were goddesses." Other reports from the same expedition described the women from Ciguatán (a corruption of the Nahuatl word "cihuatlán," place of women) and claimed that "in ancient times they kept the custom of having no husbands ... but they rceived neighboring men, from time to time, for intercourse, and women who bore sons buried them alive." Cortés sent his kinsman Diego de Becerra and Fortún Ximénez westward in 1533, but Ximénez mutinied against de Becerra and killed him before proceeding to La Paz, Baja California Sur. Finding large pearls, he believed the land was a large island, but was killed by natives when he went ashore for water. The few remaining sailors returned home and reported to Cortés. The conquistador had expected to be the permanent ruling crown official in Nueva España, but Carlos I and the Real y Supremo Consejo de Indias (the Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies, the most important administrative organ of the Spanish empire) regarded him as too independent, so they sent Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco as viceroy in 1535, though Cortés, as marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, continued to pursue his own aims from his palace in Cuernavaca. In 1535, Cortés led an expedition back to the land discovered by Ximénez and founded Santa Cruz; in 1539 he sent Francisco de Ulloa on a further expedition that determined that Baja California was actually a peninsula, though the earlier cartographic misconception persisted on many European maps well into the 18th century. De Ulloa may have been stabbed to death in 1540, although other accounts maintain that his ship was lost without a trace during the return voyage, perhaps swept inland by a tsunami. In 1540 Mendoza sent Hernando de Alarcón in conjuncton with Francisco Vasquéz de Coronado's overland expedition; he reported the area was inhospitable and mocked it in relation to the paradise portrayed in "Las Sergas." In a 1542 journal kept by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, "California" was used casually, indicated it was already the established name, and by 1770, the entire North Pacific coast controlled by Spain was officially known as California.


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