[076] Cloudy, No Chance of Snow


Spring may have sprung, but the Northeast is looking down the barrel of another nor’easter this week. So, let’s face it: a couple of days of clouds with zero chance of snow? That makes me happy.

Day 076 #100happydays


If you don’t live in Southern California, you’ll never understand the agony… If you live in a place where “wind chill” is a thing, you should just skip this post because you might find it very upsetting.

A few weeks ago, I lamented the fact that I Bought A Scarf in December – but it had been too warm to wear it.

To give this whinge a little meteorological heft, I refer you to the following charts showing the Actual Temps in Los Angeles for the months of December 2013 and January 2014. I’ll meet you on the other side.


In December, there were 11 days in the 70s; 8 days in the 80s.


In January, there were 16 days in the 70s, 12 days in the 80s, and 1 day it hit 90. Taken together, 48 of the 62 days in Dec/Jan were pink bloomsin the 70s or 80s. Do you know what that means? Well, if you live in the Plant Kingdom, that means… SPRING! The calendar may have said January, but this is what some trees in my neighborhood were doing the other day:

Today is Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow to forecast six more weeks of winter in places that actually have winter. But I’m thinking that maybe good ol’ Phil has sent a little sumpin-sumpin my way, too. This is the fourth day in a row with temps in the 60s. The low 60s, even. Plus – super double bonus! – yesterday it drizzled, and today we even had a rain worthy of the windshield wipers!!

I won’t thank any gods, because they must be exhausted from listening to the prayers of fans of sport (as Mitt would say). (Theological Sidebar: Does God Hate The Broncos Because Colorado Legalized Pot? -Or- Does God Love The Seahawks Because Washington State Legalized Pot?)

Cool weather and a bit of rain is a real tonic for those of us in sun-drenched, drought-stricken, early-bloomin’ Los Angeles. Here’s the forecast for the coming week:


More rain tomorrow! Highs struggling to hit 60 until next weekend! And overnight lows – don’t toy with me! – dipping into the UPPER 30s by Friday!?

I’m glad I have that new scarf to protect me from these arctic blasts. I am even wearing socks right now. Heavy socks. Could this be – are we trapped in a polar vortex?!! I mean, if the Washington Monument can be knocked down (OK, cracked) by an earthquake, then why can’t LA have a polar vortex? It seems only fair.


Wintry weather (à la californien) makes me happy.
Day 027 #100happydays

[016] Snapping Janus

In November 2012, The Weather Channel (note: not the National Weather Service; but that’s another post) decided to begin naming winter storms, after the convention for hurricanes. I suspect this had something to do with the arrival of “Super Storm Sandy” in New York a few weeks earlier. Sandy brought catastrophic damage over a wide area. It was a named storm because it was a tropical system occurring before the official end of “hurricane season” on November 30th. But what about non-tropical storms… that slam into us in January? 

go away ireneI can understand why TWC wants to talk about storms by name. These massive meteorological monsters threaten us; we perceive them as living, breathing entities. They are unpredictable, fascinating, awesome, frightening… real. Naming a storm puts a label on our mental file-folders where all of our individual and shared experiences can be stored. A hurricane or blizzard is not a person, but these storms do get personal – whether they are delaying your flight halfway across the country, or submerging your neighborhood in seawater, or temporarily transforming your familiar gritty cityscape into a white, fluffy meadow. When a potentially deadly storm is bearing down on you, it helps (somehow) to be able to tell it how you really feel (on the plywood you just tacked up over your windows).

And so, New York is now buried in the remnants of Winter Storm Janus. A combination of powdery snow and frigid temps (Polar 20140120_TWC_JANUSVortex 2.0) has transformed Gotham into a thousand small towns. Having lived in NYC at several junctures along my own timeline, I know that you live in your neighborhood, for the most part. You might live uptown and work downtown, but your staples are within a few blocks of your nest. The dry cleaner, Korean market, gym, Chinese take-out and the bagel place on the corner. When Mother Nature slows things down, your neighborhood becomes your whole world, for a little while. And no matter how much kvetching goes on about the tragic inconvenience of it all, the truth is: most New Yorkers secretly (or openly) love the change of pace. If The City That Never Sleeps is forced to take a nap, well, who are we to argue? Janus did it.

That’s also the difference between a hurricane and a snowstorm. Heat is energy, and that is what makes a hurricane such an energetic, dangerous event. Not that a blizzard is without danger.

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa

But our language betrays how we relate to the snow. It blankets us. It brings a hush. It creates a winter wonderland. (Unless you’re homeless or without heat; but that’s another post.)

New York in the snow is a phenomenon most easily appreciated by a New Yorker. Snow slows you down the way nothing else can, and that’s when you see a million details that you miss at the normal speed of life. Horizontal lines emerge in the vertical cityscape: tree branches, power lines, fencing, awnings, rooflines. Everyday objects become cloaked with visibility. You never notice the fire hydrant on your corner, but you know that’s what’s under that 3-foot lump of snow. The sapping of energy from this most energetic of cities is most noticeable at night. Snowfall in the woods seems natural. Hearing your boots crunch in the snow (and no other sound) as you walk down the middle of Lexington Ave… that would be unnerving if you weren’t so full of the wonder of it.

The NYC photos posted here were taken last night by Vivienne Gucwa. Google+ thought I’d be interested in her work, and put it in front of me this morning. So I am enormously grateful to that algorithm – and to Ms Gucwa. Here’s a link to her blog post on Janus, where you can find her galleries on Flickr. I’m somehow resisting the urge to start clicking because I know I’ll never stop, and I have a little work to get done now. I hope you’ll enjoy her work, whether you are a New Yorker, an ex-pat or anyone who appreciates the frozen romance of the American Metropolis.

New York City in the snow – and Vivienne Gucwa’s artistry with a camera – make me happy.
Day 016 #100happydays

Snow on the Sand

One of the prerogatives of life in Southern California is being able to torment friends in northern climes with sunny beach photos in winter. It is especially gratifying for those of us who originally hail from those arctic latitudes. Pictorial nyah-nyah-nyah-NYAH-nyah. Call it Schadenfroid.

I just got a merry email from my friend Maria, who is spending this xmas with her sister’s family in Connecticut. She attached several pics from a wintry walk they took around the beach at Tod’s Point. It’s cold. The pale sun hangs low in the gray sky. There’s snow on the sand.

It’s 72 and sunny here in Los Angeles this Christmas. But if I were going to take a walk on the beach today, I’d choose somewhere warm and cozy… like a cold, snowy beach in Old Greenwich.