Friday, June 24, 2016

If It's Thursday, It's LA

The view from my son's loft in the downtown Los Angeles Art District.
That's where I am. I'm in downtown Los Angeles, the City of Angels here in sunny southern California. I'm visiting with my son, Pete. He lives in the newly (continually being) gentrified Art District, formerly an area of old factories, mills and warehouses. He has a very nice loft in one of the re purposed old buildings.

It's an interesting area. Apparently it is already or is rapidly becoming the most expensive real estate section in LA. Besides the residential renovations of these buildings there is a thriving and growing art, media production, entertainment and retail utilization of these old buildings. This goes along with a trend in many urban parts of the U.S. for people to be moving into these old, re purposed sections of major cities to be closer to work, entertainment and other facets of life.

Living The Dream

For many, moving into this area is part of their dream. It's a very youthful environment. Lots of young millennials are locating here. I haven't gone out of my way to examine the demographics of the area, but, I haven't noted many people in my age bracket - “dinosaur.” I guess I've seen some younger middle-aged people, like those in their late 30's and 40's, but not so much in the upper middle-age region (middle-age now includes many we used to consider “old-age” when I was a kid.

My son, in his latter 30's, thrives on this environment. I can understand why. There is a lot more to do in a place like this than there was where he grew up in the “bustling” rural town of Winchester, Virginia in the bucolic Shenandoah Valley of northwestern Virginia. Places like this are incubators for creativity and there is a lot more opportunity for work and business networking and connections. I remember when I was in my late 20's and 30's, I was based in or near Washington, DC. There were most certainly greater opportunities for someone in my profession, the recording industry, than in a place like Winchester, Virginia, where I settled in 1984.

The noise pollution level around here is quite jarring for someone like me. I enjoy the quiet and peace of nature. Birds chirping, tree frogs croaking, maybe even an occasional coyote howl are music to my ears. Here there is construction, cars, trucks, horns blowing, groups of people speaking loudly to be heard over the almost constant din. There is some nut case who was going nuts on his car horn yesterday. It sounded like Morse Code (and I read Morse Code), but I couldn't make anything out. It went on for extended periods. Then it would stop, only to start again a little later. There are truck back-up warning beepers fairly regularly. And yesterday, the building management was testing the fire/emergency alarm system in my son's building. For well over an hour, every minute or so an agonizingly loud, screeching sound would go off. Believe me, I can understand why people would want to get out of the building if that thing went off.

But, this is life in the “big” city. I grew up in the suburban sprawl of the Big Apple. As I like to tell people, I grew up in the “shadow of the Empire State Building.” I was actually about ten miles from Manhattan Island, but it was still basically wall to wall people, traffic, gridlock/congestion, noise, etc. I left there in 1967 upon graduation from college, never to return. Of course, I moved to another larger city, Syracuse, New York to attend graduate school. I left there to join the Air Force during the Vietnam era and ended up in another big city, San Antonio, Texas. The Air Force moved me to Washington, DC, yet another big city with wall to wall people, traffic and gridlock/congestion.

I finally broke the chain of events when I moved to the beautiful Chesapeake Bay area in and around Annapolis, Maryland. Ten years later I moved to the Winchester, Virginia area where I stayed for the next 26 years. Knowing my own past, I'm surprised I stayed there that long. But, I always lived out in the rural parts of the county, so I had space, peace, quiet and nature. And, of course, now, I change my setting anytime I choose to by simply turning the ignition switch on “My McVansion.”

I suspect, at some currently unknown time in the future, Pete may tire of the hustle, bustle and noise of his current environment. He is a nomad, like father like son, and enjoys the country and nature. He enjoys hiking and camping. He's planning another trip to Europe in about a week and a half and he is keen on renting a car in Germany and driving around much of Europe to see the country outside the major cities (that he's already seen many of). He's even mentioned buying a tent and camping his way around the various countries he'll travel through. 

So, one day, only he'll know when that time will be, he may move out of the noise, traffic, gridlock/congestion and high cost of living downtown of LA and maybe any other larger city. He's already lived in Washington, DC, Boston and Seattle. Perhaps he'll find himself either in a more quiet suburban area or, perhaps, in a quiet bucolic area closer to nature and small town life. His life will unfold on his terms, just as mine has.

Living In The Cold

Extreme heat and extreme cold are not my favorites. Okay, so maybe that's what the majority of people think. So far this year, I've experienced, yet, another winter blizzard while I was still in West Virginia. I have experienced more blizzard weather conditions than I really want to remember. Growing up in northern New Jersey, we would have some winter weather each year. Of course, some winters were harder than others and we had the occasional blizzard condition.

I thought I knew what winter was all about until I moved to Syracuse, New York. Winter showed me a completely new dimension while I lived up there. I experienced the coldest actual temperature I ever recall at -32F. It was probably -50 or more if the windchill factor was calculated. All I know is it was COLD. And I also experienced the most snow I've ever been in. At that time, Syracuse had an average annual snow accumulation of 12 feet. I recall going to classes at the University where it was like walking through a rat maze where the snow was well over my head on either side of me.

I experienced more snow conditions when I lived in the DC area, but especially when I lived in the Annapolis, Maryland area. I thought the south didn't get snow (the south was anywhere south of the southern border of New Jersey to me during my youth). Surprise! Surprise! Most winters in that area were moderate. A little snow and some colder days, but in general, it was better than northern New Jersey and certainly central New York. But, every once in a while we would get clobbered and realize about three feet of snow. That didn't include the drifting. And one year it got so cold the entire Chesapeake Bay froze solid. They had to bring in huge ice breaker ships to help save the tankers and freighters at anchor from having their hulls crushed. They even had to airlift food and necessities to the islands in the bay that were only accessible by water. That was quite a cold winter.

Then I moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Now, here I thought I really was in the south. Winters would be mild and snow would be an anomaly. I was wrong, again. Again, many of the winters in the Winchester area were moderate to mild. But, about every three to four years Mother Nature would unleash her fury on the Valley. Typically, we never saw any real accumulation during the bad years until after the beginning of January. But, those bad years were . . . well, really bad.

Typically we'd have a couple or three 8” to 10” accumulations. But, the really big dumps came in February, March, and I think we may have had one as late as early April one year. In mid February of 2003 I had surgery. The doctor released me from the hospital as early as he could because a huge snow storm was due the night I left. Sure enough, I left on a Friday evening and by Sunday afternoon, there was 30” of snow on my back patio and it took four more days for my, nearly quarter mile, driveway to be cleared thanks to a neighbor's bulldozer.

One year we had a major ice storm and the temperatures went below zero for several days. And, in 2009 and 2010 there were three major blizzard events, termed Snowmageddon. It was the first such blizzard event since 1928 in the Shenandoah Valley before January 1st. It dropped between 25” and 30” on the Valley. Then around February 5th, 2010 another monster snowstorm struck and dropped about another 30” of snow and only a couple days after that storm ended, yet another storm struck the area and dropped another 30” to 36” on top of the accumulation from the last storm only a few days earlier. As I recall the news reporting, the total official accumulation was 65.5” of snow. The record of all time for the area was 66” of snow. So, the record was missed by only a half inch. Combining the three major snowstorms that season was considered to be a 400 year event.

Needless to say, so much for my thinking the south didn't get cold or snow.

Living In The Heat

Of course, heat is the exact opposite. Add drought to the heat and you have another kind of extreme. Yes! We had warm summers in Jersey. Yes, Syracuse was hot during the summer, too. Add to both of those locations the humidity that accompanied the sometimes 90 degree weather and it could be pretty darn oppressive.

Then there was San Antonio, Texas. I arrived there in mid August. It was HOT, HOT, HOT! And, there was a certain amount of humidity in the equation there, too. I was glad when the fall finally arrived, though that brought uniquely different conditions. But there was NO SNOW while I was there. Washington, DC could get very warm, in the 90's, and it was quite humid. But, Annapolis took the cake in my book. It could easily get in the 90's during the summer and being right next to the Chesapeake Bay brought very high levels of humidity. We usually turned the air conditioning on as early as mid to late April and often didn't turn it off until late October. As you drove west away from Annapolis, you could feel the humidity decreasing and getting a bit more comfortable.

The move to the Shenandoah Valley was very interesting. It was approximately 110 to 120 miles due west of Annapolis the way the crow flies, yet, we seldom turned the air conditioning on before the middle to the end of June and it was usually turned off by the middle to the end of September. There was humidity there, but it was seldom as oppressive as further east. Summers were usually quite nice, with a few 90 degree days, just to keep us honest.

But, the most extreme heat I've experienced (and yes, I've been to Florida), was in New Orleans, Phoenix and just a couple days ago, Joshua Tree National Park (near Yucca Valley, California) and Palm Springs, California.

I was in New Orleans at 100F degrees and 100% humidity. That was just plain NASTY. I can't explain my feeling other than it was like walking out of the air conditioned hotel into an steaming hot, wet dish rag. It really put a damper on being in New Orleans with all there is to see and do there. Then a year later I was in the pool at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. The temperature was 115 degrees and the pool felt like I was sitting in a warm tub of water. Of course, the humidity in that region, being in the desert, was very low. That did make some difference. But, I'll tell you, with 115 degree heat and the sun burning down on your head and body – HOT is HOT!.

But, my ultimate heat experience happened just four days ago. I stayed overnight in the Walmart parking lot in Yucca Valley, California. I had stayed at that same parking lot a little more than a year ago. I did some work on a client project on Sunday morning, before preparing to venture into Joshua Tree
National Park. It was comfortable sleeping during the night, but by about 11AM, it was pretty darn hot. I got to Joshua Tree and drove through. I only got out of the van a couple times. Thank goodness the air conditioning system in the van is large enough to cool an average sized house. It really worked for me that day. My previous personal extreme heat record of 115 degrees was shattered as it hit 120 degrees in Joshua Tree.

I went from there to Palm Springs to fuel My McVansion, at the most cost effective gas station in the area. I stepped out of the van. No humidity to speak of, of course, but it was literally like being in an oven, especially with all the asphalt and concrete around. Again, 120 degrees – IN THE SHADE. I drove over to visit my former wife at her place in Cathedral City, California, next to Palm Springs. Her outdoor thermometer, in the shaded, covered patio next to her swimming pool registered 118.

Folks! I have experienced, yet another blizzard and the hottest temperature I've every been in during my lifetime . . . during the same year, within a five month period. I think I've had enough, at least for one year.

It's STILL Thursday AND I'm STILL In LA

Another view from Pete's window, Wall murals are all over
this part of downtown, he just happens to live across the street
from this one. It's a little disturbing, But, art and beauty are in
the eye of the beholder. Glad I don't have to see this everyday.
Yes! It is. But, tomorrow is Friday and I'm heading down to Hawthorne, California, a suburb or LA in the South Bay area. There I will make a surprise drop-in visit to see Wilson and his band of merry and very technical engine technicians who rebuilt the “heart” (my engine) last year when I blew it on the way to visit my son. Once again, I want to thank them for a great job. Then I'll head a few blocks down the street where I have an appointment with Marco at Song's Alignment to have the front end of the van aligned to preserve the semi-new and new tires on the van.

Then . . . I leave this area, at least for a while, as I head slightly northwest to Clovis, California, a suburb of Fresno. That is in the San Joaquin Valley. It can get very hot out there, too. However, I'll have access to an air conditioned house and that will help make the time I spend there comfortable. We'll be in celebration with my “family” (former in-laws) with the family reunion and 90th birthday celebration for my former mother-in-law and long time good friend and business colleague.

So, merrily I'll roll along, looking forward to meeting up with more old friends and meeting many new ones. But, you can be assured I'm going to be looking for some higher country where the temperatures will be a lot cooler than down here.

Live free and be happy. EH 


Lois said...

Ahhh... memories. I grew up just outside of LA and spent many a day and night in that city. I love Los Angeles, but then again, I'm fond of most big cities. Don't get me wrong: I love my outdoors and my soul resides in the mountains while my heart lives at the beach but the energy and aliveness of a big city is unparalleled, in my opinion. I miss not being able to find the freshest produce and the odd ethnic ingredient for my cooking at a moment's notice and I love watching life go by on a big city sidewalk. But I mostly miss being mobile - I'm not sure I'll ever be able to stop in one place again :D

Great post, Ed! Thanks!

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Excellent thoughts, Lois. As I said, growing up in the shadow of the Empire State Building, I have a pretty good idea of the culture of the "big city" and surrounding metro area. And you are so right about all a city offers. I enjoy VISITING large cities and enjoying the culture, arts, entertainment and even some of the specialized shopping that can only be realized in a big city. But, I reject the noise, traffic, crime, lack of courtesy, inconveniences, laws, rules, high cost of living, etc. typically apparent or necessary in just about every big city I've been in. So, I'll enjoy my visits, knowing I can leave and return to communing with small town, laid back life where everyone appreciates everyone else (even the village idiot) and with nature in all its simplicity and grandeur. By the way, I have fond memories of my youth and growing up in the 18 million person NYC metro area. I just don't ever want to live there again. Similar perspective from opposite coasts, eh?