We never lack for a good argument here in the Inland Empire.
We even argue about what the Inland Empire is, exactly.
Some say it is only the tightly clustered valley region where most of our cities and most of our population can be found.
Some say the Inland Empire also includes the mountains - but not the deserts. Others say it includes the valleys and mountains and deserts, too.
I'm a big-picture person myself. I say the Inland Empire is the great heartland of Southern California that lies inland from the coastal metropolises of L.A. and Orange counties. I say the Inland Empire includes all of San Bernardino County, all of Riverside County, and even a few Los Angeles County communities, such as Claremont and Pomona, that lie on our side of the hills that separate us from the L.A. Basin.
I say the Inland Empire is a vast region that includes more than 150 cities and towns, portions of four mountain ranges, and the mighty deserts that stretch north and east beyond those mountains.
My argument is that it makes more sense to include than to exclude, especially since the term "Inland Empire" is an arbitrary one, anyway.
The Inland Empire is what we say it is, and what's the point of limiting ourselves? Why count out Palm Springs, for example, just because it's halfway to Arizona? It's still in Riverside County, and I say we count it, we claim it as our own, before Arizona gets any ideas.
The term "Inland Empire" was coined, according to local legend, in 1920 when The Sun newspaper in San Bernardino redesigned its local news section and pondered what to call it. One editor, whose name is forgotten, suggested "Inland Empire." The name caught on.
Then, as now, The Sun considered itself the newspaper for all of San Bernardino County, so it makes sense to assume that the term "Inland Empire" originally was intended to be inclusive of the entire county.
And since Riverside certainly is part of the Inland Empire, too, it makes sense to apply the same logic and agree that all of Riverside County should be included as well.
Yes, we must draw the lines somewhere. We exclude San Diego County, to the south, because it's the province of San Diego, a coastal capital, which means it is a province apart.
We exclude Inyo and Kern counties, to the north and northwest, because they skew into other, distant demarcations of California with which we have no geographic affiliation.
But San Bernardino County and Riverside County, with their queen cities of San Bernardino and Riverside, with all their other cities and towns, with all their valleys and mountains and deserts, comprise the logical and perfect definition of what the Inland Empire is.
In my opinion.
It's this definition that I have used in compiling a book, "Inland Empire," new from Arcadia Publishing, which offers a pictorial and historical grand tour of the entire region.
The book has three sections. "The Valleys" offers a look at our principal population centers and shows how a once-bucolic land of vineyards and orchards has evolved to become one of the nation's fastest growing urban areas.
In "The Mountains," we explore the famous resort and wilderness areas to be found in the four mountain ranges that stretch into the Inland Empire: The San Gabriels, the San Bernardinos, the San Jacintos and the Santa Rosas.
In "The Deserts," we trek through some of the world's best-known desert resorts, found right here, including Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.
"Inland Empire" (Arcadia Publishing, $19.99) is available at select local bookstores and gift shops, from online booksellers, and from the publisher at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.
I'm doing two book signings this weekend, on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at Citrus Plaza in Redlands, and on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble at the Galleria at Tyler in Riverside.
Come see me, and we'll discuss this whole "Inland Empire" matter at greater length. We can even argue, if you'd like.