6 fascinating facts about California: Glass Beach and gay marriage edition

1. San Francisco and Oakland are the nation’s capitals of same-sex marriage. According to figures released in 2016, San Francisco had the highest rate of men marrying men, at 3.2 percent of marriages, and Oakland had the highest rate of women marrying women, at 2.1 percent of marriages.

N.Y. Times

Cast members performed the musical “Come From Away” at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2015.

Jim Carmody/La Jolla Playhouse

2. San Diego is one of the country’s premiere theater towns. Thanks to the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe, the city has sent more than 50 shows to Broadway over the past 30 years. The Playhouse has lately been on a tear, sending four shows to Broadway in just the last year, including the Tony Award-winning musical “Come From Away.”

Producers and stage insiders across the country are well aware that San Diego’s theater scene is crackling, the S.D. Union-Tribune critic James Hebert wrote recently. “The frustration is, so many people in San Diego itself don’t necessarily seem to know it.”

S.D. Union Tribune, San Diego Tourism Authority

Glass Beach on the Mendocino Coast twinkles with a kaleidoscope of colors.

John ‘K’/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

3. Three beaches along the Mendocino coast are blanketed in multicolored gems. But the tiny treasures are actually the remains of garbage. In the early 1900s, the beaches were used as dump sites for the old logging and fishing town of Fort Bragg.

Later, after cleanup efforts to restore the coastline, countless pebbles in a rainbow of colors were left behind, the polished remnants of discarded glass and pottery that had been smoothed by decades of pounding surf. Now known collectively as Glass Beach, the area is a destination for tourists.


A portrait believed to be that of Juana Maria, circa 1853.

Southwest Museum of the American Indian

4. A Native American woman lived alone for 18 years on one of California’s Channel Islands. Her tribe, known as the Nicoleños, had lived on the 3-by-9-mile San Nicolas Island for thousands of years. But attacks devastated their population, leading missionaries to evacuate the 20 or so remaining members in 1835. For reasons no one fully knows, the woman was left behind.

In 1853, Santa Barbara fur trappers spotted her busily stripping blubber from a piece of seal skin. “Instead of showing any alarm she smiled and bowed,” one of the trappers later recalled. She was brought, without dissent, to the Santa Barbara Mission, where local Indians tried in vain to communicate with her. She died seven weeks later of dysentery. On her deathbed, she was baptized as Juana Maria. Her story inspired the novel “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” which became required reading in many California schools.

National Park Service, Weird History

Eureka’s Carson Mansion is one of the country’s most celebrated Victorian homes.

NH567/CC BY-NC 2.0

5. San Francisco, with its “Painted Ladies,” is commonly celebrated for its Victorian architecture. But up the coast, tiny Eureka claims to have more Victorians per capita than any other place in California. An architectural historian once described the city nestled on Humboldt Bay as a West Coast version of Williamsburg, Va.

Researchers in Eureka have counted at least 1,600 historically significant homes, no small number in a city of 27,000 people. The crown jewel is Carson Mansion. Built for a lumber baron in the 1880s, it’s regarded as one of the country’s grandest Victorian homes.

Sacramento Bee, Atlas Obscura

Bilingual students in the Bay Area in the 1990s. A voter initiative in 1986 made English California’s official language.

John Todd/A.P.

6. In California, you cannot put the name José on your child’s birth certificate. Here’s why: In 1986, state voters made English California’s official language. The law was interpreted by officials as banning diacritical marks — which include tildes, umlauts, and cedillas — on certificates of birth, marriage, and death.

So José or Renée or Günter? Not allowed in the country’s most diverse state. A bill that would have reversed the ban was vetoed last fall by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said that modifying existing systems would be difficult and costly.

L.A. Times

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