Letter to an old buddy who innocently inquires,
What’s the weather like in spring, out your way?
Spring? What spring? A’way out here they gotta name for wind and rain and fire, but they don’t have a name for the seasons, leastwise not your typical Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. What we got here is three conditions—
Our Soggy season starts about November and runs through April or May. It ain’t so bad. Rain keeps the dust down. You get to squint at the sun every few weeks. Not much flooding in good years. Most of the major highways stay open year round, exceptin’ in low spots.
After the monsoons, we don’t get much rain for the rest of the year—maybe just enough to moisten your tooth-brush, if you hold it under a drain spout. During a typical dry spell, temperatures in Marin County range from 40 to 100 degrees, depending on whether the wind is blowing from the Valley (hot) or Ocean (freezyerbunzoff). When the wind is off the Ocean, which is about 90 percent of the time, we get a lot of cold, grey, windy, foggy days. In the Bay Area, this condition lasts pretty much from the end of the Soggy season to the beginning of the Soggy season.
Every month or so we get a break in the weather—a peculiar condition called “Sunny,” or “Other.” People get all excited when this happens. Natives run outdoors, naked as jaybirds, soakin’ up rays. Recent immigrants to the Bay Area drive out to the Marin headlands and take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge bathed in sunlight to send home to the folks. Some local employers allow new employees three or four “photo op” days off a year for that very purpose.
During the Foggy season you can set your watch by the fog—in by 4 p.m., out by 11 a.m. The TV and newspaper weather people, who draw their paychecks from the California Tourist Advisory Board, call it “patchy morning fog.” Not only is it not patchy, or confined to the morning, it ain’t even fog—not the kind you Eastern bottom-land dwellers remember. This is sea fog—or what us old-time aviators used to call “low crud.” In the afternoon, when it comes whistling in over the headlands, temperatures can drop 40 degrees in minutes. Mark Twain said it—but even so, it’s true: “The coldest winter weather I have ever endured was on a summer afternoon in San Francisco.” Of course, Mark neglected to mention he was swimming off Alcatraz at the time, but whatever.
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