Monday, October 31, 2005

Greenspring, Gloomburst, Desertus, and Festivus

With a good friend of mine moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles (a move I have made three times myself), I thought it would be nice to occasionally present “tips” to help this friend make the necessary adjustments. Sure, he’s probably heard Seger’s Hollywood Nights, an effective if not thorough primer on such a Midwest-to-West transition. But does he understand the little things, the minutiae that make day-to-day life here in the beautiful Southland a qualified joy with minimal struggle? Does he? Perhaps. Either way Mike, here’s your first tip:

Those motorcycles are really allowed to drive between the lanes on the freeway. Better you know this now.

And for your next piece of advice…. just like much of the country, we have four seasons here. They’re just not the same seasons as everywhere else. In order to forestall annoying comments from transplants like “This isn’t winter. I’ll show you winter,” and “These aren’t fall colors. I’ll show you fall colors,” I’ve taken the time to rename and re-calendar the seasons:

Greenspring, Gloomburst, Desertus, and Festivus: The Four Seasons of Southern California

GREENSPRING. The cycle begins on January 16 (Laurel’s birthday), with Greenspring, the traditional “rainy season.” Tumultuous day-long rains clean the spotty L.A. air, making way for gloriously clean and clear post-rain skies, the vistas of which make it impossible to ever think about leaving this place even if the populace has forgotten that sometimes turn signals have a real function. But the true reward of this season is the natural beauty (trees and plants and such) that the rain makes manifest. Ending on April 15 (Tax Day), Greenspring is my personal favorite – messy and unpredictable, like the career of Frank Whaley, but in the end, more than satisfactory.

GLOOMBURST. Beginning on April 16, Gloomburst is marked by periods of gray cloudy rainless skies (Gloom) and fiercely bright sunshine (Burst). Most common is the gloomy morning making way to the bursty early afternoon, with late afternoon and early evening being a crapshoot. If Greenspring has been particularly rainy and the vegetation especially lush, Gloomburst can be the most physically beautiful season of them all, with the sudden changes from cloudy to sunny taking on a cinematic if overly signifying quality (imagine Mystic River if Clint Eastwood had someone to restrain him and he didn't surround himself with toadies and yes men that keep him from being a genius on the level of say, a Spike Lee). Gloomburst ends on Bastille Day, July 14.

DESERTUS. The driest hottest season, Desertus starts on July 15. This is when you go to the ocean. This is when you stay away from the hot places like Encino and La Verne. Long days, short nights, difficult air, but oh the ocean! Nothing feels better in mid-August than a drive west from wherever you may be living to the cooler air of the Pacific, then maybe north to Zuma Beach, and then maybe you make a U-turn by the Starbucks up by Trancas Canyon and then you parallel park on PCH (watch out for the randomly placed No Parking signs!), and then you grab your sandy boogie boards from the messy Desertus detritus of your trunk and, after attaching your key to your swimsuit with one those cool stretchy key bands, you run into the greatest body of water in the world braving the waves and three hours later you’re tired and all you want are some fish tacos from Wahoo’s so when you’re driving home you call ahead and Wahoo’s always has your food fresh and ready when you get there but don’t forget to ask for the extra salsa. That’s Desertus, although towards the end of September the ocean gets too cold and the fires start and it’s sort of awful for a few weeks but don’t worry – Festivus is coming! Desertus ends on October 19, a day of no significance to anyone.

FESTIVUS. First, let me thank Frank Costanza. Festivus. The dark season. The holiday season. Beginning on October 20 and ending on January 15, Festivus is the shortest of the four seasons but spans Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. With the clock changes of late October, the darkness hits and evening rush hour turns from a slow ballad to a bluesy dirge but at least the sun comes up earlier and maybe you can start getting to work earlier. Festivus is when you dig out your light jacket and umbrella. But be prepared for volatile weather – one day the rain hits hard and you think Greenspring is early but that’s just a tease because the aridity of Desertus comes flailing back the next day like a Chazz Palminteri character you just can’t kill off. But eventually, after Halloween, Desertus is climactically quiet and methodically darker and cooler and then suddenly it’s Thanksgiving and you forgot to buy the Tofurkey and then it’s Christmas and though it’s never a white Christmas at sea level, the snowcapped mountains where Leonard Cohen once lived beckon whiter than an Irish bar in Santa Monica and after that it’s a slow crawl to the more frequent rain of Desertus and the cycle is complete.

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