Tuesday, April 7, 2009

42: It Never Rains in Southern California


And yet every time it rains, there is a bit of disbelief, in addition to moisture, in the air.

It rained today in Southern California, and even though it was not a surprise to me, as I'd heard this forecast predicted on the radio not once but twice, it still took me by surprise. Grey clouds rolled in sometime in the late afternoon, as the predictions had promised. And yet even as they hung low, gaining stratus status after pushing out some serious cirrus of the midday's blue skies, I still thought, "Nah, that will pass right through."

The smell was the first news to reach me. I was with friends in a covered outdoor area. Ok, it was a hot tub. Not much could distress us in the comfort of warm bubbling waters. Discussion of the clouds' impending doom came, hung over the moisture in the air, then passed through. A new discussion had already started when the unmistakable scent of rain overpowered the chlorine and found its way to register with my mind.
Then exclamations of "Rain!" and "It's raining!" and "Uh oh" followed like a symphony performing a theme and variations.

Even the idea takes longer to register since I moved here, so rare are the experiences of a smell that is so unmistakable. When it does rain enough long enough to smell like rain, it's an experience like what I imagine smelling the perfume of a dead relative or the cologne of a lost lover must be like. It's an immediate emotional trigger to a scent that should not exist in a current frame of reference - time, place, people, surroundings - but does. It's also some sort of nostalgic trigger for me.
Thoughts like, "Ahhhhhh, now reality has found me, now this has the substance of life," seem to roll through my mind. And I did not move to L.A. from Seattle, or the Amazon basin, or some place that saw enough rain that I should be actively concerned with its majority absence from L.A.
But perhaps it is so basic a weather element that its return to my experience, however limited, seems monumental and emotional.

I think rain may also mark on some sort of internal record I forget I'm keeping of just how long I've been in Los Angeles.

And if I have any doubt about my time here, I just have to look down to catch the grimace on my face when I consider the prospect of walking in that rain.

It really only takes about six months here before one turns into a total weather pussy.

Really. I'm not apologizing for that one, because really - it is true.
When I find myself feeling annoyed at gray skies or a bit of haze, or even scattered raindrops that are here and gone in an hour, I have to reprimand myself for my ridiculous expectations of constant pleasure and perfection - Los Angeles weather. Los Angeles everything. A great way to do this is by communicating with any of my friends or relatives who reside on the east coast. Reports of snow in April and subfreezing temperatures knock the sense right back into me. My dad told me a stranger in the elevator at work said, "I went to bed in Pittsburgh and woke up in Fargo." I think may dad may work in the same building as Neil Simon, but the anecdote's impact is enough. I can be fine with rain. I could probably just carry an umbrella.

And umbrellas in L.A. are also used with hilarious frequency. I don't think I've ever seen people with as much rain gear as I've seen since moving to L.A. And I don't mean the Eddie Bauer/Columbia/Northface/U.S. Postal Service all-weather rain/snow/sleet parkas, I mean fashionable rain slickers and cute galoshes that come with matching umbrellas. People running around looking like the Morton's Salt girl or Mary Tyler Moore - having a ball and a lark in the rain.
Even the weather is an opportunity to accessorize here. Don't be a fool.

But the amount of precipitation that makes people run as though they are fleeing hellfire raining down upon them (which, now that I think of it, the L.A. air may be chemically similar to), and not a few raindrops is absurd. First drop on the sidewalk - umbrellas are popping up like human Whack-a-Mole.
Thwump! Better get the umbrella up, wouldn't want to get hit on the twenty foot walk back to the office.

Cold weather elicits the same overly cautious attitude. The number of dogs I've seen wearing dog coats while taking a long walk on the beach with their owners on a windy day - absurd. I feel bad for the dogs, actually. They must be demoralized. And, based on the fact that they're already completely covered in fur, hot. I'm not talking about tiny teacup poodles in outfits either. I'm talking about people putting their golden retriever in a fleece to go catch the sunset. I'm sure it's all done out of love though.
And because the dog coat matches the owners' fleeces.

Today the rain was not just drops, however, it was a full on, fully saturating misty mass precipitation event. You could not not get wet. Umbrella or not. And I was not.

As I felt my ire rise as my pant cuffs began to drag through drips and my hair became plastered to my cheeks, and I could not find my car keys when in sight of my car, I had to reprimand myself for being such a wimp, telling myself that I was not made of sugar. I was not harmed by getting wet, and should just quit my bitchin', even if only to the insides of my own head.

Somehow that idea dislodged a short story from the insides of my head, one I incorrectly attributed to Ray Bradbury. "Rain, Rain Go Away" is an Isaac Asimov story, originally published in 1959 in which a family is terrified of the rain and getting wet. It turns out that they are indeed made of sugar.

My search down the Asimov rabbit hole was absolutely amazing and again makes me think the fishcrockpot may be a portal to ultimate knowledge of some sort, but the coincidence to which I am specifically referring must be saved for another day. A day with revelations kind of akin to the circle of Electric Blue life revealed in day three's entry.

But other spectacular finds on these interwebs:
Some sources, though it is apparently an old English saying, attribute the same "When it rains it pours" slogan used on Morton's salt to Isaac Asimov himself! There's a roundabout for ya. I also learned that Asimov had a PhD in Biochemistry and taught Biochemistry at Columbia, but made more money writing. And he loved puns! And was hired to consult on Star Trek. Incredible!

The whirling stew of the weather from the salty sea takes me to the sweet send off - When it rains it pours!

p.s. and a note to those I've offended - I do love L.A. I may love the Randy Newman song of the same name more, but that is only natural as I am human (We love it!!!). I mean the above only as a critique of the seriousness with which some residents consider minor inconveniences in climate, not as an indictment of the entire place. And yes, your galoshes are cute.

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