Back sometime between when the 80s ended and the 90s began, it snowed in Los Angeles. I know because I was there, and yes, it actually happened. It was the first time I had ever encountered the stuff, being as our family wasn’t rich enough to take trips to winter wonderlands other than Disneyland at Christmas. White powder dusted our lawn in awkward thin patches and turned our brick patio deeper shades of burgundy as it melted away.
My mom called me outside. I walked through the heavy aluminum sliding glass doors wearing a knee-length, sleeveless nightgown and a pair of boots, unprepared for the cold air and the snow that my mom thrust down my back when I rounded the corner. She hid a clump in a Danish blue tea towel and laughed hysterically as I howled in shock and fury. My brief stint with winter wilderness came quickly to pass as I stormed back in the house. I considered myself lucky to have been born in a weatherless bubble of a place, where mothers didn’t have the opportunities to pull stunts like this on a regular basis.
Back to present day. I am currently sitting inside a shop eating carrot cake frozen yogurt under a pink neon sign. My skin is turning the color of Disney interpretations of angry Native Americans and my dessert looks like pink lemonade. The machines purr and rattle and hum and the two girls behind the counter are talking about some TV show. It’s only 6:30 and it’s dark outside. I must prepare myself for eminent seasonal depression, even though there aren’t really any seasons in LA to speak of.
I am reminded of when I worked at Robek’s Juice in high school: the sun would set over the hills of Calabasas, the juice drinkers sent into their cookie cutter houses for dinnertime, and my coworker and I would be left to talk about sisters and heroine overdoses while scrubbing the drain grids in the sink and blasting orange rinds out of the industrial juicing machine. Winters were the most quiet; juice and smoothies seemed more appropriate daylight indulgences. This is why I was happy to never work at the Starbucks next door: they were always busy, with their godforsaken delicious offerings that were good at any time of the day – day or night, hot or cold. Robek’s was a one trick pony by comparison.
Between the hours of 6 PM and closing time, we stood, staring outside and aimlessly wiping down countertops with blueberry stained rags. If we were lucky we would know someone who worked at the Corner Bakery next door and do some old-fashioned bartering for goods: two smoothies for two sandwiches and maybe a piece of cinnamon crumb cake. Deals with the Starbucks kids were fewer and farther between; I assume that they had better and more stringent management than us or CB. The decreased ability for “creative borrowing” was another reason why working at Starbucks sucked.
Sometimes friends would come in to keep us company, sitting on the barstools up front and yelling things at us over the glass partitions that protected customers from potential blender debacles. These were things that had to be cleaned often, as children found them just the right item to smudge their grubby little hands and faces all over – most often right after we had just cleaned them. But mostly we just talked and cleaned and ate stolen food, watching the sky turn squid inked and the lampposts brighten over a scene that was frighteningly unsimilar to whatever Dickens landscape it was trying to invoke. Eventually, I’d take off my red apron, shut off the lights, lock the doors, and drive the 1.1 mile commute back to my mom’s house.
My youthful memories of weather are so slight and insignificant: a ten degree dip in temperature, Santa Ana winds in October, the invasive darkness of fall. Los Angeles is devoid of any change; we exist in perpetual summer. How rarely we are sparked to life by rain or snow or wind – the inconvenience of nature. Cheeks are ruddy from acid peels and people here drive 4×4 SUVs for nothing owing to function. It’s the artifice of life. Weather gives sequence and order to time, to your existence. It infers change even when you feel static. So here we live, drunk on comfort and flip-flops, isolated in our cars and from the rest of the world, while I try to find significance in a rare windy day, with my power out and my neighbor’s tree uprooted and laying in their driveway.