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Mathews: The California romance novels that cross the rural-urban border | Opinion
was written by , 2020-06-14 22:12:56
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After L.A. nurse practitioner Mel Monroe is widowed, she takes a job as the only nurse and midwife in Virgin River, an unincorporated village of 600 in the mountain forests of Northern California.
Will she stay? It’s no idyll. While sparks fly with the hunky Marine veteran who owns the town bar, Mel finds that she can’t escape the drugs, violence, economic struggles and health care troubles of L.A. because rural California has all the same problems too.
You won’t find Virgin River on any map. The town is the fictional setting — somewhere in Trinity County (pop. 13,000), one of four California counties that is entirely rural — for Robyn Carr’s bestselling series of 20 romance novels, and for a new Netflix series, “Virgin River,” which I streamed during the COVID-19 lockdown. Despite the show’s predictable plots, I kept watching — because “Virgin River”’s portrait of rural California is so unconventional and timely.
Conventional wisdom in California, America’s most urban state, is that we are divided between two separate universes, rural and urban. During COVID-19, our media has obsessed over the differences in how urban and rural counties handled the pandemic. And our political narratives dwell on the alleged chasm between blue cities and red small towns, thus spreading the self-fulfilling prophecy that the country is too divided to be governed.
These rural-urban divide narratives are false and damaging. Data and experience suggest that California’s city dwellers and rural residents should stop demonizing each other and instead embrace each other as partners in addressing our many common problems.
The Virgin River novels, like the Netflix series, are about California’s union of urban and rural. In the typical plot, a struggling city person moves to Virgin River, seeking a new beginning. Among them are a Sacramento prosecutor nearly killed by a criminal; a twice-divorced LAPD officer shot in the line of duty; a San Francisco sous-chef whose career has collapsed; a burned-out Silicon Valley public relations warrior; and a Native American rancher from the urbanizing Inland Empire.
In Virgin River, these arrivals find attractive local residents hungry for some seriously heterosexual coupling. But they can’t escape the problems of the urban environments they left behind. The plots emphasize domestic violence, post-traumatic stress, health care failings, addiction, and criminality in the marijuana industry. Virgin River is mostly white, but there is growing diversity, like in the real rural California. Carr, a former California resident who lives in Las Vegas, has said that Virgin River could be a community anywhere.
She’s right. In California, the real story is not urban-rural divide but urban-rural convergence, particularly as more Californians move to previously rural places, and bring city-style development with them.
Rural and urban places are often not so different. Poverty rates are similarly high in California’s most populous and least populous places. Pre-COVID, unemployment rates were nearly identical — under 5 percent in both rural and urban California. California jobs, both rural and urban, are heavily skewed to healthcare, retail, tourism, and government. In both rural and urban California, civic leaders worry about decaying infrastructure, housing, healthcare costs, and a lack of skilled workers.
Cities, once seen as centers of crime, have become safer, while urbanizing remote places have fallen in health and safety rankings. And police misconduct, now dominating the news in cities, also plagues California’s small towns, which have seen George Floyd-inspired protests.
The mixing of urban and rural is actually quite Californian. Most people in counties that are considered remote, from Inyo to Humboldt, live in urban clusters. And 32 percent of California’s rural population lives in the far-flung corners of counties that are at least 91 percent urban.
Our winner-take-all politics obscure how mixed our preferences really are. In 2016, Trinity County, which appears ruby red on political maps, saw 49 percent of its voters cast ballots for someone other than Trump. Meanwhile, polling shows that blue L.A. County has a few million Trump supporters.
Virgin River, especially in the Netflix version (which was shot in British Columbia), testifies to the lack of borders between rural and urban. The “old country doctor” with whom L.A. nurse practitioner Mel Monroe tangles was once a medical hotshot from Seattle. Mel’s love interest, the barkeep, grew up in Sacramento and spent his military career in the Middle East.
“Small towns can be nice,” the hunky Jack Sheridan tells Mel. “And they can have their own brand of drama. And danger.”
Virgin River is not so far away from the rest of California after all.
Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.
You might notice that the more informative content does not come from sweeping abstract studies but emotional experiences featuring individuals and small communities. But, ironically frequently it’s the prominent organizations that provide the fresh and helpful accounts. Obviously there is also a role for travel and tourism statistics data or policy assessment. Well written articles about visiting California like Mathews: The California romance novels that cross the rural-urban border | Opinion assist us to delve into the broad potential of sustainable tourism and hospitality.
California is a place in which responsible tourism and hospitality is critical.
Regardless if you are serious about checking out nature, vacationing with the whole family, going for an intimate getaway, pursuing adventure, looking for culinary delights, or fancy heritage, California has unlimited opportunities. What exactly represents a satisfying California holiday is determined by the way you and your travel companions plan to dedicate the limited amount of time you’ve got. To assist you to make a plan for a California experience here are several tips on sights, interesting attractions, and things you can do.
Best parts of California’s renowned and popular sights and attractions.
From the beaches to the mountains, Los Angeles is Southern California’s hub amusement.
Disneyland: The original House of Mouse is a must-do if you are traveling with kids. Technically this is in Orange County, but its all one big city anyway.
Hollywood: Take a stroll along Hollywood Boulevard, see the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalk and the footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Universal Studios: Get a glimpse at how real films are made, go on the rides, and catch live shows at the theme park.
Found in Southern California, Los Angeles is a huge megalopolis and the center of the motion picture and tv industry.
The southernmost city closest to Mexico, San Diego has excellent food, outside activities, and climate. San Diego has great California cuisine, this southernmost of California cities has some truly great restaurants, fantastic beaches, and envious weather and this is the city for a low key visit. Be mindful you might want to move here.
Sea World: This popular aquatic theme park offers rides, animal exhibits, and shows.
San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park: Excellent reputations, suitable for all ages.
Old Town San Diego: Quaint district with shopping, spectacular Mexican food.