May 28, 1997
Summer is quickly coming upon us here in San Francisco. That means we have heat, humidity, rain and fog - sometimes all in the same day!
I've heard people from the East Coast and the Mid West complain that Californians are a bunch of wimps because we don't know what "real weather" is all about. As a native of this fine state, I take exception to that.
We have all sorts of seasons. The difference is that our climate has no relationship to the calendar. It is a product on a higher level of evolution that revolves around commute times.
I grew up in Long Beach, California. It is the typical Southern Californian beach city with about eleven months of spring and a month each of fall and summer. Spring is the season for driving around all night with the top down. If you don't own a convertible in L.A., that's all right. There are many places where you can have any car made into a convertible simply by leaving it parked for a day and a half on the street. Of course after the body mutilation, you will have to buy tires and a steering wheel to replace the ones taken in trade for having the top of the car chopped off with a chainsaw.
I learned how to drive in L.A. on the largest freeway system in the world in the mildest climate known to mankind. It was paradise. There are only two rules of the road in L.A. driving: A) The speed limit is a suggestion. The freeways are the only place where natural selection is still working. One choice bone-headed move and you launch over one of those freeway dividers, there is no second chance. There are fewer accidents on the L.A. freeways but most of them are fatal.
B) It will take you a minimum of 45 minutes to get anywhere at anytime in L.A. If you need to go 2 miles, the street will be so crowded that it will take 45 minutes. If you need to get across two or three cities, just go at 2AM and drive 120 miles an hour, it will still take 45 minutes.
When I moved to San Francisco I realized I was not well-equipped to drive here. There are no traffic laws and red lights are not a mere suggestion -- they are a challenge. The one and only car accident I have ever been in happened here. A woman crashed into my car going about 45 miles an hour after running through a cross walk with a crossing guard and kids walking through it. Her explanation was that she didn't expect anyone to be there.
Driving in the rain in San Francisco is tantamount to mooning the All Mighty Creator and then sticking around to see what it feels like to have lightning shot up your butt. The freeways naturally have a light layer of oil and grime that when mixed with raindrops, it becomes slick as baby snot. In order to compensate for the road conditions, drivers speed up because they know there will be delays on the road making them late because they will eventually hit a stretch of freeway with an accident caused by some nut going too fast because he was late because he got caught behind an accident...
I'm sitting here, writing this while looking out the window at the fog tumbling by. We don't have nice romantic fog like most beach cities. When I was a kid I remember walking to Hughes Junior High in the fog. It had a nice, clean smell and it just barely brushed the top of the trees with its gray whispering ribbons of moisture. All the houses looked old and stately and faraway. The sounds of the streets were muffled and the light from the street lamps looked like tiny UFO's landing along my route to school. It was a time to make up stories and fantasize about Jennifer M. finally hanging upside-down from the monkey bars without any panties. The possibilities were endless.
In San Francisco, the fog charges in at all times of the day and night and lays around like a fat, smelly uncle in his faded gray sweat suit. The cables that crisscross the city drip with filthy condensation and the trees let loose a heavy spay of mucous when the wind starts blowing. The wetness gets into your bones like nothing else you've ever felt. God help you if you have a bad joint or any sort of weather-aggravated injuries. I'm pretty sure some of the people that jump off the Golden Gate Bridge do it to just get the hell away from the big drops that are hitting them on the head from the bridge cables. It's enough to drive anyone over the edge.
It's true that the fog doesn't make trees come down or buildings collapse. It doesn't even flood a single basement but I'll tell you what it does do. It robs us of the sun. We can't tell if it's eleven in the morning or six at night. We have no sense of direction - this is the one place in the continental United States where the sun rising in the East is really just a theory.
Let me warn you now: if your hair has the least bit of frizz in it, stay away. Have you ever noticed the hair in the documentaries of the Summer of Love here in The City? The hair is all huge, frizzy and taking on a life of its own. This was not a fashion statement, this was the fog.
From day to day I have no plans for my hair. I've tried several brands of mousse, gel, hairspray and glaze. It doesn't matter if I spend an hour and use a pint of crap in my hair. Once I leave the house, all bets are off. Sometimes I look good with nice even waves cascading from the crown of my head to the tips of my hair. That it to say the left looks like this - the right looks like Bozo the friggin' clown. I consider it my own little fashion statement
Copyright 1997 by Laura Jiménez.