Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 18, 2018

Today’s Los Angeles Weather, by Bob Brumfield

Readers: I’m on assignment. I’ve let Bob Brumfield talk me into letting him be guest columnist. I simply advised him to stay away from weather reports, and the rest is up to him. I’ll be interested to see what he’s written once I get back. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, I’ve provided a brief bio and asked Brum to run it at the bottom. Here, then, for the first time since he left the Cincinnati Enquirer in about 1981, is Bob Brumfield.

Brumfield caricature Enquirer

Today’s Weather

With a high pressure system of warm, moist Pacific air covering most of North America, the Los Angeles forecast for Wednesday, July 18, 2018 calls for a high of 85F, overnight low of 70F, chance of precipitation somewhere well below the likelihood of an earthquake in Rancho Cucamonga, if there really is such a place. Let’s look at the map for further details.

LA weather map weathercom 640

High and low pressure fronts are marked by red and blue lines, respectively. Green shading represents cloud cover and density, precipitation is in orange and wind vectors above 5 mph are marked by purple arrows showing direction of airflow.

That is an actual radar image captured tonight, not a fake. As you can see, there are no fronts, clouds, precipitation or wind, anywhere. Like a brain-dead patient, Los Angeles has a temperature, but no other vital signs. Tomorrow might be a degree or two warmer, or maybe not. Not only that, those forecast numbers for this date in 2018 are exactly the same as they were for 2017, 2016, 2015, back unto the beginning of recorded history.

Weather here is a joke without a punchline. Los Angeles had to invent smog just to have something happening in the atmosphere. There’s a mob of out-of-work actors outside every TV and radio station in L.A., hoping to land the weather forecaster gig, because once you’ve memorized five or six variations on “hot today, cooler tonight and it will never rain again in your lifetime,” there’s nothing else to do but work on your facial expressions and try delivering the lines in various voices.

A good reporter checks in at the desk in the morning to see what’s in line for the day and doesn’t accept the answer, “Nothing’s happening.” If some retired-in-place editor gives you that line of guff, you hit the street and go find some news. I figured this weather beat was something like that and went looking for weather in L.A. This isn’t exactly my first day in journalism.

My first stop was the beach. There’s an ocean out there, and a big southerly current of water rushing down from the Bering Sea flows right along the California coast. An ocean full of cold water absolutely has to generate weather when it hits a big 85-degree air mass, right?

Let me tell you, that Japanese Current is less effective than the majority party in Congress. Now I know why Californians dress the same for the beach as they do if they’re working behind the counter at Bank of America or serving hamburgers at In-N-Out. No change, ever: utter stasis. Stasis isn’t news, unless you have the obits, and thank goodness I never pulled that assignment. I worked with enough stiffs on the city desk.

I headed north. There’s a range of mountains about ten miles north of downtown L.A. Big air mass rises 10,000 feet, full of water vapor? That should be a weather gold mine.

Let me tell you, I reached a park up where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Route 2 at about 8,000 feet. There was some sort of National Forest ribbon-cutting in progress. They had a stage and some bands. When I got there, three Sasquatch down from Northern California were on the podium with Mike Love and Jackson Browne, singing the State Song, “Good Vibrations.” There were TV cameras, and I saw the Mayor, City Council, Chiefs of Police and Fire in the crowd, along with a bunch of state representatives trying not to look like they were running for re-election. No weather though. It might’ve been two degrees cooler up there, maybe three. No clouds. No wind. So not only is there no weather in L.A., apparently there’s not much of a government, either, since everybody can take off in the middle of the day.

Digging for any angle, I found one of the event organizers, Rainbeau Merlin Tristero (I made her show me her driver’s license before I bought that). I asked Ms. Tristero about the preparation that goes into staging a big event full of dignitaries. What about contingency plans in case of wind or rain? Some of the roads in the mountains are subject to washouts. Did she have alternate routes mapped out? What if lightning struck a power line: Were there emergency generators standing by?

After maybe forty-five seconds, Ms. Tristero got the dumbfounded look off her face and replied.

“Um. Really? No, I never thought of things like that ever happening. Maybe you’re thinking of Oregon? I think they have weather. You might check with the Sasquatch trio when they finish their set. They’ve been up there.”

Of course, this is just some whimsy — respectfully intended. Bob Brumfield was a journalist who began his career at the Louisville Courier-Journal, then held a variety of editorial and reportorial roles at radio and televisions stations. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1964, he became a regular columnist from 1966 until his death. He came to my teen-aged attention near the beginning of that stint, when he was writing the weather column, which he famously spun out into free-form extrapolations of imagination. His “voice” was an early influence in teaching me that not every writer sounds like other writers — even in a newspaper. Eventually Bob’s column (sans weather) ran four times a week. In 1980 his self-published collection of pieces, “Brumfield!” appeared, but is now out of print. You may find copies from online sellers. Mr. Brumfield died in 1981. Fondly remembered.

© Brad Nixon 2018. Enquirer artist Owen Findsen drew the caricature of Bob that headed his columns. Thanks to James Black, who worked with Bob at The Enquirer for that information.


Responses

  1. As a certifiable weather geek, I loved this. I laughed, too, since one of my early reactions to life in the SF Bay Area was, “Don’t you people ever have any weather?” Lucky for me that I eventually learned about the fog. Apparently things are even less eventful in your area — at least until the Santa Ana winds show up.

    Our NWS office has some guys writing forecast discussions that make them worth reading, especially when there aren’t any threats around, the night’s getting long, and they decide to play author. But when I think of Southern California weather, I inevitably come around to thinking of Tennessee Williams. In a book of short stories titled Hard Candy, there’s a piece called “The Mattress By the Tomato Patch.” Inside that story, there are a couple of paragraphs that are just wonderful. I didn’t want to clog up your comment section, so I made a link for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I gave Bob the newcomer’s (esp. “Midwesterner’s”) view of this place as having “no weather.” We do, of course, like everywhere, with all sorts of gradations. It does take time to perceive and appreciate them. I’ll go read Mr. Williams now. Thank you.

      Like

  2. Brad I’m sorry I missed this when it came out. You nailed Bob and kept him alive throughout the piece. If you discover any other long lost manuscripts please share those as well. On your vacation perhaps. I sent a n email that I have a photo of Bob at Orchids, Palm Court on his last assignment. He died two months later. He certainly looks fine as a five star restaurant requires, but in appearance also grinning like a Cheshire cat. If you send me an email address to send it to I shall do it promptly. Best Wishes, Jim Black

    Like

    • Jim. Thank you: brad@underawesternksy.com

      Like

      • Brad, is your email address correct as written? It seems my laptop and Kindle keep getting it returned as an invalid address when I try to send you Brumfields picture.

        Like

      • James, perhaps I mis-typed brad@underawesternsky.com. Your version has the k and s reversed. Thank you.

        Like


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