As the weather starts to turn the corner here towards fall in Southern California (hopefully for real this time) I'm reminded of days and locations gone by. See, I'm not from SoCal; far from it. I moved here in late 2001 from Kansas. It was a huge change for me on many different levels. The over-crowding everywhere you looked, the enormous cost of living, the beach, earthquakes, the fake boobs. You name it, it was different. But above all else, the one thing that to this day fascinates me about Southern Californians is their reaction to a change in the weather.
SoCal lives in a bubble; let's just agree on that right now. The range of weather and temperature is so narrow that even the slightest change sends the area into a frenzy. Anywhere but the Inland Empire, if the temperature goes below 70 or above 80, watch out: the chatter and bitching will commence in earnest. They have "storm watches" here that should make anyone reading this outside zip codes 90000-93599 puke. Instead of being on watch for a storm that brings deadly hail, winds, tornadoes or flooding we're on watch for rain. It doesn't matter if it's an expected 1" of rain or 1/16", we're on watch for it and every local TV station will devote 25% of their evening news programming to describing the threat and preparing us for the "Storm of the Century" which is as big a stretch as calling the 2009 St. Louis Rams a Superbowl contender.
Now, I've done a great job of fighting the assimilation into SoCal weather norms though I'm losing that battle. I find myself waking up on cooler mornings (let's say 50ish) and proclaiming "it's cold outside!" However, that statement is one of joy, not dread. I revel in cold(er) weather and welcome fall and winter with open arms. Bring on the rain, the gray skies, the wind; anything but 70-80 and sunny. How the hell are kids supposed to trick-or-treat when it's still 70-degrees at night? Thanksgiving day football in shorts and a tank top? In what way do Christmas lights look normal on a palm tree, except in Corona commercials? It's very odd, believe me.
If you're reading this and you're from SoCal, I'm here to tell you that there are more than just the 2 SoCal seasons of "70-80 and sunny" and "not 70-80 and sunny." Oh and going to Big Bear a couple times a year doesn't count for having ANY experience with winter climates. You need to experience the magic of walking down the street on a fall day with the smell of wood burning fires in the air, blustery wind, monotone gray skies threatening rain, the remaining leaves on the trees which still have their beautiful fall colors; they're the colors you see on the Thanksgiving tablescapes at the mall, in case you're interested. Or, waking up on a winter morning and touching your feet to a hardwood floor that's cold from a drafty door or window, which when opened will reveal a magical winter landscape; snow falling, cars barely discernible from the landscape covered in the evening's accumulation, the sound of snow falling...you get the idea. How about lighting a wood fire in a fireplace not just for the ambiance, but for the warmth it provides. There's any number of experiences that just don't happen here, or don't happen without a lot of assistance from mankind. Disneyland pumps tons of fake snow on Main Street during the holiday season; that doesn't count.
Don't get me wrong: when it's -10 and cars are covered in 2" of ice that will require a jackhammer to break free, I don't miss the cold weather terribly. But ya know what? I do miss it. If I had to wake up tomorrow and turn the car on 20 minutes before I left for work to defrost it, I'd be giddy. If the roads were snowed over and driving was a 50/50 chance of safe travels or fender benders I would gladly stay inside and fire up some hot cocoa and soup and watch local news coverage of a true "Storm of The Century."
I know what everyone is thinking: quit your bitching, you've got it good in SoCal!
Do I? I'll admit, moving here I was stoked on the idyllic Mediterranean climate but that lasted about a month, maybe 2. You think it's great from a distance: 70-80, sunny, no rain, light winds, etc. But when you leave what you're used to--what you've known to be "normal"--you start to miss the way it used to be. It might be subtle things like the way the air smells in fall when you're surrounded by deciduous and coniferous trees or not so subtle things like waking up Christmas morning to neighbors jogging by in shorts under sunny skies and 75-degree temperatures. Whatever it is, it builds up and you start to wonder how good you've really got it and yearn for some sort of change.
Maybe if I was born here, raised here, never ventured outside of here it would be different; I'd recognize the subtle differences between 72 and 68-degrees or appreciate a jog on a warm, sunny Christmas morning...but I doubt it. Part of what makes me "ME" is my willingness to stretch the borders of my world and experience as many places and any number of climates as I possibly can. I guess in that respect my living in Southern California is just part of that journey; experiencing this climate, if for nothing else to appreciate other climates. But I still have a problem with the absence of a cyclical, 4-season weather pattern and refuse to believe that the weather out here should be enough to drive up the prices of homes and make this place so much greater than another place where one can have a wardrobe and truly experience the seasons.
The lesson here is to appreciate your seasons all you non-SoCal readers. If you're from SoCal you owe it to yourself to expand your horizons and your accepted range of temperatures for there is a wonderful world outside the snow-globe of weather isolation that is Southern California and just because it's not 70-80 and sunny, that's OK...in fact, it's probably better.