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Understanding California

I didn’t understand California until I understood it’s about the weather.

Californian cities are a monument to nature, a celebration of the benign. Midwest cities are fortresses built to battle the deadly and indifferent.

To a Midwesterner, Los Angeles seems impossibly haphazard in its construction. There is a subconsciously negative reaction to this. You think about what a building would be like when there’s a downpour. You think about how cold it would be inside when it’s snowing. You aren’t aware of these building blocks of judgement until you find yourself saying “LA’s a wasteland.”

But in California nature is a force to be embraced, not battled.

Your relationship with weather becomes very different when you know it’s going to be nice out. In the midwest, weather has so many contingencies. It might be nice in the morning, but the afternoon will be too hot. You worry about leaving the windows open overnight because there’s a chance of showers. The weather forecast says there won’t be rain but it’s inexplicably pouring in the afternoon. There are innumerable combinations of the pleasant and unpleasant. Whenever it’s nice out, you wonder how much longer it’ll last. Whenever it’s bad out, you wonder how much worse it’ll get.

In California, outdoor activities aren’t a challenge to nature’s supremacy. They’re a celebration instead of a temporary conquest. You skateboard to celebrate the hills and slopes, surf to feel the waves, bike and run to feel the progress of the land beneath you. If you do go skiing or snowboarding the snow is temporary and benign — a fanciful change of pace that you can sample with a short car drive.

Weather surrounds us — it is the obviously unavoidable. And when you no longer have to deal with weather being your nemesis, things look very different. And that different can be hard to understand until you figure out that it’s about the weather.