My Living Room (03/06/2000) - Don't believe what the calendar says. February is the longest month. At least, it is here in Los Angeles each and every year when a constant drizzle transforms our sunny City of Angels into a gray damp hell on earth.
We're never prepared to deal with it. The eleven months of uninterrupted sunshine beginning in March convinces us it will never rain again. When it does, we freak out and when it rains every day for a month like it did this February, we freak out every day for a month. This is perfectly rational behavior. Ask anyone who lives here.
It's a week into March. It hasn't stopped raining yet and, believe me, I am totally freaking out. One or two more days and somebody's getting sued. I'm not sure who but someone has to pay for this. We can start with the guy who said it never rains in Southern California and take it from there. Settlement discussions can begin with the caveat that no matter what terms we agree to he has to kiss my fat wet ass.
The worst part is every time I mention any of this to someone from back east, I get the same response.
"Listen to you. A little rain and you're whining for weeks." my brother typed as we chatted online the other day. "If you moved back here, you'd never survive."
Now that I live here I realize just how life threatening a little water can be. The other day, I was forced to leave my apartment during a treacherous storm. My favorite restaurant had stopped delivering due to the rain. At the time I did not know exactly how bad the storm was, but I later learned on the news that almost a sixteenth of an inch of rain had fallen. I was not surprised. It was ugly out there.
Our city planners, who understood the importance looking good would play in this town's development, installed curbs that are much higher than the curbs in cities where ugly people live. Engineers will give you some mumbo jumbo about drainage but clearly the thinking was higher curbs equaled less splashing. And it's true. The water just crashes into the concrete mountains.
In theory, it's wonderful. In practice, an unforeseen problem arises. Our sidewalks are now so much higher than the street that a sixteenth of an inch of rain on the sidewalk can soak a fellows trousers right up to his shin faster than he can walk from the restaurant to his car. You may think I hyperbolize but I've got the water-stained khakis to prove it.
The notion that our difficulty in dealing with a little precipitation somehow makes us wimps is, of course, nonsensical. We survive plenty out here. Some new version of the ten plagues strikes each and every year in Los Angeles. You name it and we've endured it. Earthquakes. Fires. Traffic.
My brother lives in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut. He works about five miles from the middle of nowhere in Connecticut. Not surprisingly, it takes him about five minutes to drive to work. When my wife was working seven miles away in Santa Monica, it upset him that it took us slightly more than seven minutes to get there. As if twenty-five minutes and seven miles wasn't a sweet commute. He should have tried driving there in the rain.
Forget surface streets. He can't cope with the freeways at all. Last time he visited, I knew I was in for trouble as soon as I told him we'd be taking the 405.
"The 405?", he asked incredulously. "Don't you just mean 405?"
Maybe in Connecticut, you can get away with 405. Here in California, we need that definite article. When you spend half your life on a two mile stretch of road, it becomes more than just a number to you. Didn't Frank Sinatra sing a song called The 10 is My Lady?
Two minutes on the 405 with my brother and we found out who the real wimp was. I now know how my father must have felt when we drove to Florida. We hadn't even made it from Wilshire to Santa Monica Blvd. before my brother started complaining.
"Roll down the window. I'm dying."
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"Roll up the window. I can't breathe."
"I think that man just pointed a gun at me."
I thought the whining would never end. I had to bail out. It was surface streets during off-hours for the rest of the trip. I love my brother but I breathed a sigh of relief when I dropped him off at the airport. The poor guy doesn't have what it takes to survive the freeways of Los Angeles -- patience, steady nerves and an oversized bladder.
At least he got out alive. Not everyone's that lucky. This town can throw some curves of biblical proportion at newcomers. I knew a guy who moved here and turned into a pillar of salt. It was his own fault. I warned him not to stare at the Angelyne billboards.Dave
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