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.