Weird Weather

Cathy Cole's photo used through Creative Commons license

One of the things I love about LA is the way bad weather is regarded as such a bizarre, unforeseen anomaly. (Insert lyrics to “Camelot.”) It’s chilly by LA standards in Chatsworth today (66) and grey. I walked outside to second-hand smoke with my boss this morning, and she looked up at the dreary sky and said “What weird weather,” this being a fairly common response to 66 and overcast here in the Valley. When I first moved to LA years ago, after an extended stint in the upper midwest, it used to crack me up when people would say that. Cloudy sky? “What weird weather.” Drizzle? “What weird weather.” June gloom in September? You got it: “What weird weather.” I used to think of these exclamations as symptomatic of Angelinos’ hot house flower-ish inability to withstand anything but a narrow, precipitation-free  temperature band. This dismayed surprise, like the hats and scarves that get put out on the shelves when the temperature drops below 70, made me smile the vague smile of superiority that anyone who has lived ten Midwestern winters can’t help but feel when an Angelino complains that it’s cold.

Well, it took about two and half years for my blood to thin sufficiently that I am now compelled to bust out my wool beanie and flannel sheets when it’s in the 50s. And not only has my standard for what constitutes “cold” changed radically, but I now understand that weather-induced bewilderment totally differently. I no longer see it as a sign of weakness, but more like a synecdoche for a pervasive culture of optimism–like “How strange that it should not be a nice day!” And what’s so wrong with believing it’s going to be beautiful? Raised on the east coast, I was brought up to be suspect of too much optimism. I come from a family of sardonic, leftist Jews who regarded unadulterated  cheer as some sort of borderline retardation. But LA has changed me. I’ve lived here long enough that I find myself surprised on a day like today when the sun doesn’t come out. Weird.

7 Replies to “Weird Weather”

  1. That’s pretty much the weather in a nutshell! (from someone who endured 22 Midwest winters before leaving for the sunny skies of LA) And I did step out today for lunch and comment regarding the “yucky” weather, although most folks around the country would love to live in our version of yucky.

  2. I have to say I fit that model quite well too, been here way too many years to not marvel at a day where the sun doesn’t shine. Even in June.
    +

  3. A neighbor who’s lived in LA for probably 30 years still relates to where he came from…yesterday evening he smelled the air (with all the various plant scents) and noted the temperature and said: “This reminds me of Michigan”. which is his highest praise.
    I heard the crickets last night and it reminded me of a place I lived 30 years ago…
    when I get up in the morning I look at the Mt Wilson towercam to see what the day’s weather will be and whatever it is, it’s still LA.
    If any of you remember George Winston, when he was performing he’d talk about driving around LA and how he’d have to go to one street where the Japanese maples turned colors to get the sense of autumn (album of same name)…
    I think those who move here from somewhere else always have the first sense memories of where we’ve been (or came from) and everything that goes on in LA becomes an almost unchanging backdrop….we expect it to be a certain way. I also think that so many people don’t have gardens or live near parks so they don’t live with the small seasons we do have here.
    It’s easier to say ‘weird weather’ than realize change is always a part of it, even if we don’t remember all the small changes that have gone on.
    Sort of like ‘earthquake weather’ (no validity)…but when you live in a wooded area, you can walk outside, smell the air and think: Mushrooms!, and yes, they’ll be popping up soon…even though what you smell isn’t the mushrooms themselves.
    We tune out our responses to the weather (in cities) so any sort of change seems a rude interruption of what we think is our normal weather. And we all suffer at one time or another from short term memory loss. Weather isn’t usually important enough to remember, so we’re always suprised.
    Or maybe it’s the end of the world. Who knows?

  4. What a lovely post.

    I’ve lived in southern Arizona and Alaska, so even after more than 30 years here, I confess I still find a certain amusement in Angelino complaints about how hot or cold it is.

    But I’ve also come to sympathize with those complaints – and even to commiserate instead of laughing.

    Ninety-two degrees IS hot. The fact that I’ve lived where the temperature sometimes doesn’t drop that low for weeks on end doesn’t change that.

    But I won’t countenance complaints about how “LA doesn’t have any seasons.” Yeah, there’s always something blooming – but purple Jacaranda Season is not pink Silk Floss Tree Season. :-)

    (And really, anyone who can’t tell the difference between a brush-covered LA hillside in March and the same hillside in August is just not paying attention, and should probably go somewhere where it snows.)

  5. Right on! As a Paris transplant to L.A., you’d think I’d be used to the “charm” of gray, gloomy weather, but it really affects me here. I’d heard about the blood thining theory, and somehow think that it’s not an urban legend after all.

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