80. Constant complaint

We who are of this place are continually approached by provincials who complain that Los Angeles isn't like ________ (insert the name of someplace with blizzards). Departing L.A. Chief of Police Bratton is the latest exile who says he is returning east, in part, because the climate here is "too constant."

That indictment is one of the oldest on record. Richard Henry Dana, working aboard a merchant ship from Boston, arrived in southern California in 1834 and stayed nearly a year tanning hides. He hated the climate and condemned the Californios because of it. The memoir of his voyage "? Two Years Before the Mast "? became an American bestseller in 1840.

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Dana's distain for southern California entrenched the view that indolent, sun-addled Angeleños were spoiled by the climate, which contained none of the moral rigor found in Boston's foul weather. Bostonians (Chief Bratton is another one) have been telling this climatological fable for 170 years.

A century before Dana, Bostonians suffered the contempt of their British cousins, who bitterly complained that the highly variable weather of New England was a brutal parody of the gentle rains, breezy summers, and generally mild winters they were used to in the English Midlands. Boston's answer was to redefine terrible weather as Providence, which provided Puritan backsliders with a daily reminder that they were sinners in the hands of an angry God. England had constancy in its climate; New England had weather that revealed divine attention.

Chief Bratton can button up his overcoat in the sure and certain knowledge that lousy weather brings him closer either to God or pneumonia.

And in my indolence, I'll feel "? as an electric current "? the change from season to season in Los Angeles in the subtle shifts in the quality of light, the ebb of on-shore and off-shore winds, the cyclical replacement of birdsongs, and the scents (still there!) of the chaparral fading or blooming.

The image on this page of the Huntington Gardens was made by Flickr user P M M. It was used under a Creative Commons license.

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