The Fog of Yore: Learning to Love Real L.A. Weather

Written the other day...

I woke up this morning to gray -- that solid spring overcast we call May gray or June gloom that each year exposes the persistent myth about Southern California's blue-sky beaches and perpetual sunshine. You know, the sort of weather that bewilders the tourists who come here from January on thinking it's the tropics, only to find that flip-flops and tank shirts don't work after dark or in the morning, before noon or so. That doesn't stop them from walking determinedly around in said flip-flops and other manner of summer dress while the mercury barely registers 70; I suppose they think that if they act like they're in the tropics -- or in a full-on desert -- L.A. might respond in kind. Our city may be laid-back, but it isn't charitable like that. It is what it is. There's lots of room for invention, and reinvention, but that doesn't include the weather.    
 
I'm a native, but like the tourists, I used to resent the overcast. From the time I was a kid, it was a stain on my summer-vacation expectations of sunniness that the annual reality of May gray/June gloom altered not in the slightest. The way I saw it, that gloom was unnatural, an interloper that stood between me and my belovedly mythical SoCal that for forty-odd years was always just within reach, and then spring happened.  I used to feel flat-out betrayed by the wall of clouds that dampened, sometimes literally, many a graduation and outdoor wedding over the years, events that were recorded in photos in which women in flimsy dresses and sandals hugged themselves to keep warm. Such a let down. I took it all terribly personally, and lived for the days when the sun got strong enough to crack the morning fog by 8 or so, or better yet, to keep the evilness of fog at bay altogether. On those days, I felt like the enemy had been conquered, at least for the season, and I could go about my business of being an entitled native with real confidence and optimism. Those were the best days of the year.

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What a difference a drought and the pressing threat of climate change makes. The endless days of sun and dryness through every season over the last couple of years -- maybe it's been longer, I've lost track -- have meant that I now appreciate the gray like I never have before. These days, I welcome it, which is what happened the other morning. I anxiously search the skies for it like I once searched the skies for evidence of sun behind the wall of clouds that often stayed a wall the whole day. But times have changed. The nonstop sunniness we've had in L.A. since Christmas, it seems, feels not just monotonous, but almost apocalyptic; day after day, the sun mercilessly exposes us and our illusions, refuses us any cover. We are rendered naked, helpless, unable to enjoy the drama of any shift in season, however small.

Yes, I have a new outlook. That wall of clouds that I once deplored is in fact a plot twist, a pause in the narrative of the Southland that makes us dynamic and complex and, God forbid, real. The fact is that fog came with the place, and has always been part of the story. It's just has never been part of the PR that from the beginning has often more meaningful to Californians than the truth on the ground. And in the sky.

The grayness didn't last, as you know. The clouds thinned and dissipated about 9, the sun took its place, and the rest of the day was totally pleasant. Uneventful. Later in the day, the clouds returned, creeping in from the ocean before spreading east and locking us in, again, for the night. That's what I call a happy ending. 

About the Author

Journalist and op-ed columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan's first-person accounts of politics and identity in L.A., with an eye toward the city's African American community, appear weekly on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.
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