Seasons in the Sun

In an altogether gimmicky and boring piece about director Tim Burton (a Halloween-themed piece on “frightening spots” in LA) in today’s Calendar, I came across the following passage that encapsulated for me so much of what is wrong with the LA Times:

So most of the stuff Burton loved in Los Angeles is gone, he says. (Not the first time we’ve heard that one.) Traffic has gotten a lot worse. (Check.) The lack of seasons seems kind of eerie. (Ditto.)

santa-in-california.jpgThe “lack of seasons.” Oh, please. How long has the writer of this tripe lived in Southern California? Of course we have seasons. Southern California has more seasons than most places I’ve been. Each month has a particular quality to it. We don’t just have four seasons — there are at least eight. And that’s assuming you stay in one part of Southern California all the time. If you travel from the desert to the sea, going through the mountains and the valleys, you’ve got four distinct weather-regions, each one of them with huge seasonal variations.

The oceans bring fog to the coast in Spring and Summer, fog that sometimes rolls deep into the interior. The deserts bring Santa Ana winds that clear every particle of dust and moisture from the air. Rain and, at higher elevations, snow can be heavy at times, or just a light mist. Tropical storms bring warm breezes. Arctic storms bring fierce blasts of cold air. Some summer days are languid, humid, the sky painted with boiling clouds. Others are hot, dry, the sun penetrating and hazardous. I was sitting on the beach one evening last July. The wind was blowing onshore in a bizarre rhythm: Ten minutes of warm air, ten minutes of chilled air, like the thermostat was broken.

You live here long enough, you can tell what month it is just by looking at the sky. From where I’m writing right now, there is no doubt it’s October — even though October is probably the most unpredictable month of the year. Today is a hot, dry October day — as the horrific fires near Palm Springs attest. But some of the biggest storms I’ve ever seen came through in October. Yesterday, it looked like it was about to rain.

The LA Times apparently thinks we’re all from somewhere back east. Or that we take our weather cues from drugstore calendars or advertising that depicts the four dictionary-defined seasons: snowy winter, budding spring, hot summer, colorful autumn. These are not the seasons most people in the world experience. They are the seasons of Northern Europe and the Northern half of North America. The cradles of early civilization were all, like Southern California, closer to the equator, and that’s still where most of the world’s people live.

Look at this map:

world-latitudes.jpg

Los Angeles’ position on the globe is roughly the same latitude as Beijing and Tokyo, just a little south of Teheran, a little north of Casablanca, a little north of Islamabad, the northernmost city in India. Sleigh-bells do not ring and the maple leaves don’t take on a golden glow, for most of the world’s population, Angelenos among them.

To be sure, humans have taken advantage of the receding glaciers to colonize regions closer to the poles, at least for now; but to assert that the weather patterns of, say, Denmark are the norm and what we experience here in LA is anomalous, even creepy, is a kind of bizarre Northeastern U.S.-centrism that the Southwest’s biggest newspaper should be able to avoid. We really aren’t all involuntary refugees from our old stomping grounds in New York or Boston; not anymore.

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