I often have a few deep moments of culture shock (or call it culture/climate surprise) when I return to Los Angeles from Washington, DC, where I grew up. Sometimes, it happens coming and going. But tonight was extra.
My daughter and I left the heated, wet air of Washington/Maryland/Virginia in early evening. It was cooler than it had been all week, but soupy nonetheless. Hot in the sun and no less hot in the shade, the shade that in the mid-Atlantic, in summer, is always softened by moisture. You could say the shadows are soggy in summer. Or you could say they are free of edges, especially with the constant August thundershowers. Until you've been to the desert, you don't know the meaning of shade.
We returned to Long Beach Airport, landing at 8:16 p.m., and stepped down to the tarmac. The air was crisp and snappy, like a piece of fresh xerox paper. And it was almost cool. My husband met us. We got in the car. The 710 ramp was blocked -- a detour proposed. So we ended up approaching L.A. on the Harbor Freeway. Which gave us a head-on view of 17 miles of fire high in the sky. Like a broken necklace. On fire: the defining edge of our geography.
I was glad my daughter was asleep.
The "culture shock" came in realizing how calmly we drove toward the fire, on our way home to go to sleep not so many miles below.