It looks the same, the sky, the ground, the trees, ok not really the trees, but it looks the same from inside the glass. But then I was outside. And it was different. It was cold.
Now the problem is that it really wasn’t cold. It was forty-eight degrees. Forty eight degrees in the Midwest in the Spring means that you wear shorts, irrationally but in celebration of the end of the sh*t that is Winter. And yes I capitalize the seasons because they are significant.
I have become a California wuss. I pulled my hands into my sleeves when I should be throwing a football around. The orange beauty of the Fall leaves meant nothing because I hurried my gait and couldn’t appreciate them. My blood has thinned, as I was warned. Or maybe my skin is thinner, I am certainly no longer thick-skinned. All I know is that it’s embarrassing to my former self who is snarling at me from some other time-space where the wind chill is twenty degrees below zero and it really is cold.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t think about it. I knew on the flight from Los Angeles to Chicago the temperature would drop. I was prepared with a sweater for the car ride. But that’s it. I didn’t go outside. I went from the airport to the car to the house. Until the next day. When I wanted to go for a run. That’s when it hit.
The pretty day from inside the glass was so deceptive that I almost wanted to don shorts and a t-shirt. That’s what I usually wear. That’s what I wore two days ago when I was a spoiled brat Southern Californian. That’s what I’ll wear when I go back.
Here’s my fear. That I won’t toughen up in two weeks. That I’ll go back and take it for granted that it’s eighty degrees and sunny in November. That I’ll complain when it drops to sixty and I need a sweatshirt at night. That I’m actually going to turn into one of them that thinks there are seasons in Los Angeles. That I’ll believe that the occasional sprinkling is actually rain. And that when it does truly drop to the forties in the middle of the night I’ll believe that it’s Winter. It’s not. It’s winter.
Nope, won’t let it happen. I can handle this, I spent over forty years living through it. It’s only dropping to thirty-five tonight, where’d I put those electric socks?
It must really be tough to be a kid today, especially one that lives in the Midwest. I thought understanding the three branches of government was difficult, but imagine being taught about the dangers of global warming when it was 17 degrees below zero when you woke up?
How a young mind must be confused being told that the polar ice caps are melting when your boogers are frozen. How you hear that the sea levels are rising and you won’t be in a swimming pool for a long time. How hard it must be to fathom that the oxygen level is depleting when you can see your breath for a mile and a half!
I picture my grandmother if I was a teenager now. And I mean the kind of a teenager who learns just enough to be very passionate, mostly obnoxious, about a subject like global warming, and how she’d have a field day when it was so cold like it is right now. “HA!” she’d say about how I told her that her hair spray that kept that beehive Bride of Frankenstein-shaped hairdo nested on top of her head was the culprit of global warming. “HA!” she would say that I accused her of contributing to the damaging gases floating into our ozone because her Galaxie 500 car muffler was held together by duct tape. “HA!” she would say even though I hadn’t said anything more but she was always drinking Dewar’s and drunks aren’t really paying attention to the conversation as much as needing to make a point.
No the older generation would have had a field day with this kind of day mumbling Al Gore should have never won an Oscar, science is stupid and how they walked ten miles in the snow to school. And the poor, confused kid would just say “I want to walk to school Grandpa but the schools are closed.”
It is a strange day in southern California when you wake up and the temperature reads 46 degrees. I’m not complaining, I spent 40-plus years in the Midwest and I still visit there regularly and prefer the softness of the air mattress over the possibility of being banished to the back porch to “suck it up and be a man you California wuss!”
Because we are wusses. People who are native Californians will try to tell you there are seasons here, but the sun does strange things to your head so I think it’s just the long term effects. I have never seen a more fearful expression on a human being’s face than when a young woman asked me what winter is like, she was considering going to Northwestern University, and I said “do you have any idea what a wind chill of twenty five degrees below zero feels like.”
The horror crept into her face the way a smile creeps onto the face of a Scrooge. She had to let it seep in, she had to calculate the fact that she probably has to wear a heavy coat when it hits 50 here so how many layers were required to insulate her body from that temperature. Now that I think of it, maybe her face looked that way because she was trapped in a math loop carrying the decimal.
But you see “business casual” in Los Angeles means shorts and a t-shirt. So it is just strange not to don that in the morning. Yes, yes, I know you’re going to react with “come on!” I’m just saying that I love a life lived in shorts. Easier footwear selection, easier to wash, you never even consider ironing shorts, and one pair of khakis goes with everything. And it’s just what I’m used to.
Really that’s all. It’s just what you’re used to. And we want it perfect. When it’s cold, people want it warm, when it’s hot people want it cooler. The fact is, we’re all wusses.
But…I wrote a blog on Tuesday about how my inner Christmas jukebox only plays two songs and this morning I’m humming “White Christmas.” And it’s probably all due to the cold.
There are two great truths I believe: everyone should be nicer, and it should not be cold in Southern California.
“It’s always 72 and sunny in LA.” That’s a line from Steve Martin’s “L.A. Story” and in the three years I’ve lived here I’ve found it to be true. So when I found myself today wearing a long sleeve shirt under a sweatshirt and a knit cap on the top of my head, I was sure that the Mayans had just missed it by a few weeks. Now I’m sure that your reaction will be somewhere between “Aww, poor baby” and “F@#K YOU” depending on where you might live. But I was cold!
When I frist moved here it was October and people were wearing fleeces in eighty degree weather. I couldn’t understand it. For the first six months I never wore long pants. The only reason I did switch from shorts is that I got a job as a US Census Crew Director so I had to look official. Shorts and a T-shirt is business casual here, but I had to look a little more respectful. But it was only cargo pants and I still had a short sleeve shirt on, no jacket.
Everyone told me my blood would thin. That is the statement that has been made since I moved here. That I would start to feel the subtler differences. But my Chicago skin has been forged over forty years and so it has not changed. I have not shed the skin for a Southern California wimpy version. Today I was cold because it was cold.
It was 55 degrees.