20 June 2011

Day Dreams of L.A.

Say what you will about Los Angeles, you've got to admit it is the American capital of good weather. People come here from around the globe to bask in our temperate Mediterranean zone and unrivaled 3,000 hours of annual sunshine. In the immortal words of Joe Walsh, however, "I can't complain but sometimes I still do". Though I try not to whine much, somehow I manage to find something to bitch about most days regarding our supposedly perfect climate.
Usually it's the heat. With no AC in our house, and insulation apparently furnished by the Kleenex family of products, temperatures in the 90's and above can be out and out intolerable. Del Scorchos, I call those days. That kind of weather wasn't a problem when I worked in a hermetically-sealed office building, but try keeping a dynamo of a toddler entertained when it hurts to leave the shade, when your own house feels like a pressure cooker, when the rays of the sun ignite the carbon monoxide particles in the air until your lungs cry "Uncle".

Mostly,  I hate the straight up monotony of L.A. weather. Mae West may have quipped that "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful",  but rumor has it that she was a man, so she's unreliable. Too much of a good thing can be downright miserable, even when it's perfect weather. Sometimes you want the weather to reflect your inner state, and when things are falling apart or you're struggling to make sense of a difficult situation or you're suffering a loss or (God help us) grieving a death, blue skies and brilliant sunshine feel like a slap in the face (notice its always raining in cinematic funerals?) A person needs to brood in the fog, cocoon into a thick wooly sweater and hide in bed and listen to the rain spit on the roof when the world gets too vicious. Bikinis and convertibles do not mix well with internal despair.

We've been stewing in June Gloom since Gray May, and in all this cool weather, I've almost -- almost!! -- complained about the lack of heat. Today, however, finally offers that perfection for which L.A. is reknown; soft blue sky, sunshine, and a strong westward breeze to whisk away the smog, cooling things to a fresh and delectable 75 degrees.  Days like this, when the homes studding the Hollywood Hills peep out from behind a fine gauze of not-quite-cloud; when the sky hasn't baked into hard sapphire but looks slightly opaque, like milkglass, like the secrets of the universe are just one layer behind it, ripe for the picking; when you want to roll down your windows to feel the alternatingly warm, then sharp cool air; when the jasmine, softening in the sun, wafts its intoxicating headiness and compels you to close your eyes to better absorb the scent; days like these, the promise of dreams fulfilled seems tangible.

Days like these I can see L.A. -- the capital of good weather and dreams come true --in all of its various manifestations over the years.

In West Hollywood, I can almost picture the 70's around every corner. I can imagine the long- haired, muslin-swathed slyph-wives of Father Yod outside The Source The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, and The Source Family on Sunset Blvd. when following your bliss was, seemingly, a national pass time and anyone with a guitar and the right hairstyle could become the Next Big Thing.

I can almost make out the sound of the Red Car taking the aeronautic machine workers back home to Long Beach (bypassing the future 8th circle of Hell that would become the 405 freeway) when a single earner made enough for the whole family to live comfortably in a little bungalow with a white picket fence and lemon, orange and grapefruit trees just outside the back door.

On soft days in Marina del Rey, when the rigging clanging against the masts of the moored boats clink a lullabye, I can imagine an earlier, quieter and easier L.A., when living on your sailboat between journeys was financially feasible. Down the road in Venice I can see theturn of the century women in their starched high necked blouses over corsets and men in bowler hats and suits, after the arduous journey from "town",  on a beach vacation in their tiny rented seaside shacks. 

Days like these, one building in particular morphs backward through time -- a certain CVS in West Hollywood.  My mom used to work in an office building on Sunset Blvd near La Cienega when I little (but that's another story). On days I was sick, she'd take me in to work with her and we'd pass this cavernous building at the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega. It was a roller disco called Flippers

The place fascinated me; everything about it screamed "fun!" (And I couldn't imagine the half of it, apparently). I wanted in! Eventually I did get to go, but it had been turned into a megalith Esprit clothing store. Today it's a drugstore where I once, along with my co-worker Jane, was sent on a cigarette run for my former boss. Jane chased around at a distance behind me and whispered to the other patrons, "Look! Reese Witherspoon is buying a carton of Marlboro Reds and browsing the condoms!"  (Tu me manque beaucoup, Jane).

What this soft, forgiving weather reminds me of most is the immense feeling of possibility that lies, invisible, just beneath the city. Stay here long enough and you forget about it, you get mired in the day-to-day grind and traffic and pollution and everything starts to feel too difficult. But then days like today susurrate that magic is still within your grasp; something exquisite is about to happen.

Few Angelenos are native, like myself. The rest came here with a vision of their future and who they wanted to be. It is usually a dream on a pretty big scale, a vision of artistic fulfillment, or fame and fortune. When they show up, it is a future that might just be within their reach, if they work hard enough, knock on enough doors, or maybe run into just the right person.

Few achieve their goals right away. Some give up and go back home, some get caught up in the quotidian obligations of Just Getting By. Some get sidetracked and instead of acting, find themselves working in casting offices, instead of directing, pulling lattes.

Days like today are the days to drag the dream deferred out of the back reaches of your imagination and try again.