One Year, Two Summers: Real Life in Southern California: Weather
the summer of 1970, Washington, D.C., turned ugly. Ugly not because
of the war in Vietnam,
or political scandal, or urban riots. Ugly because it was hot—101
degrees perspiration-gathering-on-the-tip-of-your-nose and in-the-small-of-your-back
hot. The heat wilted trees on Eye Street. Wiggling upward, it visually
bent the brownstones. It withered gardens. In cars on Connecticut
Avenue, sweat pooled on vinyl car seats as drivers expletive-deleted
third-degree burns delivered by heated steering wheels.
at the White House, the air conditioning was set at a cool 67
and in the study, President Richard Nixon hunched over to
warm his hands above the toasty, glowing embers of the fireplace.
Outside, the heat waged a war of attrition against all forms of
plant life and the elderly, but for all the president knew, he
was in a
winter wonderland. The forces of nature were not only being ignored
but also defied.
Nixon — Orange
County's native son — was
is surely a mixed blessing that I share a Tustin office with Dr.
Alan. He has the back office — no windows or doors — and
I have the front where I can open my door to the real world.
weather is warm, Alan sets the inside temperature to 64 degrees.
When it is cool, he sets it to 78. Weather permitting, I open
and the outside world vents in. Here's the rub: We are connected
to the same thermostat. This means that on a warm summer day
breezy outside, I could share this climatic heaven. But I don't.
On these days, Alan's space heats up, the thermostat is triggered,
my office becomes a Dairy Queen walk-in freezer.
tried to deal directly with Alan by arranging a tempered settlement.
Alan is an uncompromising butt. Next, I shut the louvers
on my vents, but the mechanism won't close completely, so
it produced a modulated whistling sound not unlike a Ural Mountain
Next, I tried blocking the vent, but the air pressure shifted
sucked my well-intended piece of cardboard into the duct lines.
The ensuing racket caused office-wide panic and hysteria.
the landlord, there is only one alternative, an air-duct vasectomy.
But if my vents are permanently snipped, I won't have any
heat when it's cold outside.
lives in Mission Viejo. When it's raining, it is not unusual to
see his computer-activated
lawn sprinklers in overdrive.
When it's dry and 100 degrees, his back yard looks like
rainforest. Alan's idea of seasonal change comes from New
England, where Alan
comes from himself. In the holiday season, he talks of painting
on the windows, buying a flocked Christmas tree and night-skiing
on artificial snow. Like I said, a butt.
it's summer, and still — no matter how hard Alan struggles
against nature — spring, summer, fall and winter
will not adjust to his weather scenario.
truth is California has five subtle but distinct weather seasons.
say four. However heretical this might
sound to calendar
traditionalists and Four Season Theory Advocates, we
have five seasons: two springs, two summers and a season of
and end where
you like, they are as follows:
Spring: late November through mid-January. Following the Indian
Summer light rains.
Can you remember a Rose
Season: mid-January through March. When our piers and beaches
are swallowed by the ocean.
Spring: April through June. Late-night-and-early-morning-low-clouds,
followed by warm afternoons and evenings.
June through August. Too hot to handle. Beach-Blanket Bingo Hellco-starring
and the Night
Stalker. Lock and
Summer: September and October. Blistering winds and cataclysmic
fires broken by lessening
season-ending light rains.
Alan decorates his home and office with the trappings of a four-season
Take a look, my
poor, dumb friend. Orange County is not
a tropical paradise or
a Cape Cod oceanfront or even a desert.
We live in a unique Mediterranean land sandwiched
last year, Alan took me out to dinner to thank me for minding
his house while
the wife vacationed
mentioned to him that I disconnected the
computerized lawn sprinklers that week,
giving his rainforest some tough love.
If he had been informed of my garden therapy,Alan
been picking up
the tab at
Five Crowns in Corona del Mar that sultry
down PCH — 72
degrees — windows open (passing
a promenade of skateboarders, joggers
in their swimsuits and shorts), parked
across the street and walked through
the Indian summer evening to my destination.
When I opened the door to the Five Crowns,
conditioning hit me like an Arctic blast
across the province of Quebec. Inside,
waitresses were head-to-toe in layers
of Olde English
There was a Newport Center businessman
in a three-piece suit. An Ivana Trump
in fur. A pair of rosy-cheeked children
sweaters. Near the bar was Alan. I took
a moment to observe my friend in his
habitat, sipping a drink, eyeing the
and playing with his cocktail napkin.
Adjusting his alma-mater tie, he turned
over to a roaring fireplace where he
stooped to warm his hands.
it be that Alan, this restaurant crowd and
the man who brought us Watergate
to get in touch with our weather.
— Nathan Callahan,
June 8, 2000