How Orange County Got Its Name

There’s this story I made up once a long time ago. It’s about how Orange County, in Southern California, got its name.

I was on a date at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, which is up on the side of a hill, before a Jackson Browne concert. Jackson Browne, as you know, is pretty cute, which makes a Jackson Browne concert a great date. Doctor my eyes and stuff.

Anyway, we were waiting for the show to start, and as the sun set you could look out across Irvine and see the street lights coming on, that orange glow you get from sodium vapor street lamps.

I explained to my date the way Orange County got its name: from the orange street lamps, which were invented by Marlin Irvine (I think I called him Marlin), who became fabulously well-to-do because of his invention of orange street lamps. He later used the money to develop Irvine.

My date was skeptical. “No,” I said. “This is a true story.”

Of course this story is not true. Orange County was really named for the fruit, which they grew there in vast, fragrant citrus orchards. I know they were fragrant because I grew up amid citrus orchards in Southern California, before the widespread use of sodium vapor lamps.

Jackson Browne was terrific, and we had a good time, but I don’t think we went on any more dates. I think maybe she didn’t like my story, and could tell I was full of crap. I’ve never been very good at making stuff up.

The Irvine Meadows Amphitheater is now the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, which is a dumb name.

Years later, I saw Jackson Browne again. I was covering a protest at the federal building in downtown L.A. against U.S. involvement in El Salvador. If I remember correctly, Jackson Browne was arrested that day. To be honest, I haven’t seen him since. I hope he’s OK.

One Comment

  1. John, I love these all-too-rare moments, part memory, part whimsy. They’re like great green chile on an otherwise not-bad burger. peace, mjh

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