Friday, July 18, 2014

"I Will Never Be From Here (Though I Like It Quite A Bit)"

I look out the window and I see an overhanging blanket of gray.  The funereal overcast is everywhere.  Wall-to-wall.  Except the walls are the sky. 

Right now, it is twenty minutes to nine in the morning.  If you were from Toronto or places other than Southern California, you would take one look at that sky and immediately cancel all your outdoor plans for the entire day.

If we were in camp, and we were confronted by this dull and depressing skyscape, we’d be requisitioning a record player from the office along with some Weavers and Belafonte LP’s, and setting up the Monopoly board.  Sure as shootin’, those “sky signals” portended a thunderous downpour, mandating a “Plan B” strategy of “indoor activities.”  (And no “Swim Instruction” – Yay!)

From the looks of things out my window, the prediction would be that the sun may come up tomorrow – as that relentlessly chirpy little Annie song assures – but with that sky, it was not coming up today. 

That prediction would be incorrect.

They call it “June Gloom”, though it extends well into July.  “June Gloom” offers the entertaining tableau of out-of-staters racing excitedly to our beaches, laden with sunscreen and decorative towels, arriving just after breakfast to “beat the crowd”, and wondering why the parking lot is almost entirely empty.  With the exception of other out-of-staters like themselves. 

There is a reason for the sparse parking, a reason the “locals” readily understand.

On most L.A. summer days, though not all of them, the sun will eventually emerge through the cloud cover.  But if you stake out your plum spot on the beach around nine A.M., the wait for that Breakout Moment will be approximately seven hours.  Which is a long time to go, “Where’s the sun?”  Or “We came from Nebraska for this?”

The weird thing is that very often, this pleasure-sucking canopy of darkness extends only a few blocks from the ocean.  Four blocks East of where I live is a major Santa Monica thoroughfare called Lincoln Boulevard.  I can’t tell you how many times we have driven in that direction – only four blocks to the East! – to discover the weather there to be perfect.  You could easily get a tan over there.  But you’d have spread out your beach towel on a slab of concrete in front of Albertson’s Supermarket.

What is that aphorism:  “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me every summer for the past forty-plus years that I’ve been living here, shame on me?”  Or something like that?

When it comes to predicting Southern coastal weather patterns going by the sky, my Canadian background has been an historical impediment, or, quoting Ed Grimley, “It’s simply a joke, I must say.”  The first time I became aware of this predictive fallibility was in the summer of 1966. 

“1966?   I was born in '97!  This blog writer is ancient! 

I was twenty-one years old.

“Twenty-one in 1966?   Oh, my…”

“Stop it.”


I was attending an eight-week Berthold Brecht Summer Theater Workshop at UCLA, which is not on the beach but it is on the West Side of Los Angeles, a ten-minute (by freeway) drive from the Pacific, so the beach weather systems still prevails.  (Although the cloud “burn-off”, I would soon learn, arrives earlier.) 

I was living in a dorm that was a brisk twenty-minute walk from the Theater Department.  This meant, due to our tightly packed schedule, that when you left your dorm room in the morning, you had no time between classes to go back.  If you thought you might need something, that was your only chance to bring it along.

I woke up one morning early in my stay, looked out the window to check the sky for the weather – “June Gloom.”  Except that my Toronto-honed impulses did not perceive it that way.  My Toronto-honed impulses saw it as, (quoting a song from The Fantasticks):

“Soon It’s Going To Rain.”

Having arrived at this judgment based on a lifetime of Southern Ontario “sky scanning”, I responded accordingly.  I dressed in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater and a full-length raincoat.  Wishing I had an umbrella, but I didn’t. 

And I went off to class.

By lunchtime, with the sun was blazing overhead, I was now carrying my raincoat and my sweater, my long sleeves had been rolled up, and I now wished I had worn shorts.  Though I was happy about not bringing an umbrella. 

The prolonged laughter of my West Coast classmates only increased following my lame-ass explanation:

“Where I come from, that morning sky said “Rain.”
I have lived here for over forty years.  And despite that extended period of relocation, one glimpse at that ominous morning murkiness still has me responding,

“I better stay inside, because that rain is going to come down any minute!”

Fooling myself for the…well, way, way, way more than twice.

I guess, though I am unquestionably from here now, my reactive conditioning is still entirely not.

And most likely, it would appear, it never will be.

Writer’s Note:  I was planning to write something else today, but the prospect of doing so felt like more than I could handle, and I was frankly anxious about successfully pulling it off.  

You see that?  Even when you’re not writing for money, you are still confronted with pressure and stress.  The difference is that that, unlike when I was working, the pressure and stress are entirely self-determined. 

Now I get to decide what I want to challenge myself with, or in this case, what I decide to hold off on for at least another day.  I am not “wimping out.”  I am simply monitoring my personal situation.

I know recent “converts” tend to oversell their newfound “enlightenment”, but this “retirement thing” provides some definite liberating advantages. 

Not to rub it in, working people who make money and actually do things, but this arrangement is pretty good too.  I have never been a positive person, but I am beginning to feel positive about entirely opting out. 

I have a feeling that actual positive people will see that a misplaced application of the “Positive Outlook.” 

They could be right.

On the other hand,

They could be jealous.  


Wendy M. Grossman said...

Reminds me of a friend interviewing for a job in Florida, who turned on the evening news and saw a weather forecaster warn people that, with the temp dropping (below 60, I think), it was unwise to go out in a bathing suit.

My own weather forecasting skills were honed in upstate New York. They work great in England.


Gigi Gee said...

Your blog, your choice! You choose what to write and what not to write. And when retired, you can easily put off till tomorrow, or forever, since there's only one deadline now. Enjoy your moments and make them count - like you need that lecture!