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Can you keep a secret? Ties to SoCal run deep

Say it loud. Say it proud. I am a card-carrying member of the dreaded California transplant infestation. Oh joy. I can hear the collective gasps of dismay and disgust from the "Natives" as I type.

Allow me to plead my case. My first foray into the Rogue Valley came soon after my sister, Judy, landed here back in the early 1970s. (Uh oh. Now I've outed her, too. Hold on while I make a quick call.)

Sis is not happy. In fact, she threatens to publicly disavow our relationship.

"I'm telling everyone, I don't know you," Sis says.

Sis has survived by adopting a "don't tell and hopefully they won't ask" policy to keep her lack of a Beaver State birth record on the down low.

Who can blame her? Non-natives endure public bashing on a regular basis. Especially if we happen to hail from the most-hated Golden State.

For the record, Sis should not be held responsible for anything I say or do which may be offensive to the revered Oregon native — one of whom she married four decades ago. He can vouch for his beloved wife's character upon request.

Personally, I understand native pride. And the fear that out-of-state interlopers will bring strange new ways. Shake up the status quo.

Our family sank their roots five-generations deep in Pasadena — and we all lived on the same block. Imagine the bragging rights that come with that pedigree.

Each winter we held our collective noses and endured the crushing waves of shivering East Coasters. The rented cars and monster RVs of Winter People clogged city streets even as they filled city coffers. The civic organizations loved the hordes of pale and pasty folks who made a quick trip to the corner market into a day-long expedition. They spent big bucks at our hotels and restaurants.

In anxious anticipation of seeing their Big Ten teams march in the Rose Parade and play in the Rose Bowl, they asked annoying questions like "Are those palm trees real?" Or "Do you know any movie stars?"

Some of them, lured by invariably sunny January skies, actually made a permanent move. At least they thought so at the time. Many of those hopeful innocents fled back to their sub-zero cities at a minor trembler's first jiggle. Earthquakes: California's way of culling the hen-hearted.

I shouldn't laugh. Visiting Oregon's coastlines, I quailed in terror at the sight of my first tsunami warning sign. "What do they mean seek higher ground? We're on a two-lane highway flanked by ocean and cliffs!"

Sis and I agree there is a lot to be said for growing up tanned and barefoot in a large, loving extended family. But neither of us were ever in love with Pasadena's geography.

"I never, ever felt like I fit in Pasadena," Sis says. "And the moment I saw the Rogue Valley, I felt like I was home."

Sis isn't pandering for approval. It's been her mantra for nearly four decades — often stated in hopes of persuading yours truly to relocate.

By 1999 I ended up the last one standing in our old neighborhood. No fan of cities myself, I'd frequently dreamed about living someplace cool and green and shady. Hopefully with a lot of water nearby, and room for my pony to run.

I'll confess to being an ink-stained wretch. But I have committed no felonies. I found my cottage on the banks of the Rogue River. My critters and I have survived droughts, floods, snow and mid-summer hail the size of golf balls during our decade of continuous residency.

Sis has 37 years under her belt, and she has been a stellar citizen. You'd think Sis would have made honorary "Orygun" native status by now. Yet we both continue to face the slings and arrows of the California haters. So I'm posing the question: Can't a sistah get a break?

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.