Economically, California may be going to seed right now like that yellowed head of broccoli at the back of my refrigerator, but you can’t beat the weather. Since moving back to California from New York in the late summer of 2019, I have marveled at the near perfect weather here. And by near perfect I mean monotonous.
This winter, temperatures have hovered around 60-70 degrees during the day and the mid-40s to 50s at night. Day after day after day. Add to that low humidity and no precipitation. Actually, I should correct that. They predicted a 30 percent chance of rain this week, and, sure enough, it sprinkled enough to clean my windshield. For that little bit of disruption to the monotony, I am grateful.
People who are used to this weather, either because they moved here years ago or are lucky enough to have been born here, often don’t appreciate what they have. You certainly won’t find me throwing rocks at the glass house of ingratitude, but I would like to point out some differences between Californians and the rest of the country.
To begin with the obvious, people back East, in the Midwest, and the North have to deal with snow and the effects of snow on day-to-day living. It might seem strange that you need different shoes to walk in snow or that scarves not only make sense but are vital for survival. But snow can turn a little thing like grocery shopping or getting a haircut into a monumental project. It wrecks havoc on schedules and time management. Meetings get cancelled, trains get delayed, and work piles up, looming over you like a schoolyard bully. Mothballs and rock salt are realities of life.
These are quality of life issues, which means it’s easier to live in some places than others. For instance, most Californians think nothing of getting into their car and driving to the mall in cutoffs and sandals. Well, cutoffs, sandals, and face masks. But it’s not that easy for other Americans, which reminds me of the morning my college English professor methodically took off his winter attire at the beginning of class only to put it all back on again when he discovered that no one had done the reading. Then he left. The ritual was as elaborate as a Japanese tea ceremony but made sense in the middle of winter in Pennsylvania (see Hissy Fit 101).
What happens to the psyche and moral character of people for whom weather is a pleasantry, a cosmic companion on the road of life instead of an unpredictable force to be endured and, where possible, tamed? Certain behaviors develop. Men drink Chardonnay and wear yoga pants. Women pump iron. Children write code. They talk of harmony and interconnectedness. Dental offices use words like “gentle” and “caring” in their advertising. This isn’t Jacob wrestling the angel but the Age of Aquarius.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though you can find birds of paradise flowering all over and the Ohlone people called where I live the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” problems still exist. Take earthquakes, for instance. We had one just last night. If you’ve never experienced an earthquake, imagine sitting in a large washing machine on the spin cycle. This would be comical if it weren’t deadly. I still remember the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 that twisted houses off their foundations. Even Oz had flying monkeys.
Every place likes to consider itself unique. New Yorkers think they’re nothing like the rest of the country and may be surprised to learn that the rest of the country agrees. Even in Minot, North Dakota, where I attended a wedding one summer, the residents thought of themselves as different from their neighbors. So I came up with a marketing slogan for the town to encourage tourism: “Why not Minot?” Pretty clever that, considering it rhymes in North Dakotan.
The dream of California that inspired generations of people from gold miners and would-be Hollywood stars to young families, inventors, religious extremists, and rogues has disappeared. It has been replaced by the reality of economic mismanagement and public policies that further political ends, resulting in the flight of people and businesses elsewhere. It’s a reality few of us ever expected to see, especially those who remember the promise of the Valley of Heart’s Delight.
Still, it’s going to be 72 today and already there’s traffic to the beach. You just can’t beat the weather.
Image credits: feature by Ivaylo Klissarov; stairs by Jordi Vich Navarro; bridge by Mark Neal. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”