An afterthought (after the move) by Armand A. Gagnon
Dedicated to my father Clyde Eugene Gagnon, who made it "out West" in February, 1951.
"Go West, young man", as was echoed by Horace Greeley in his New York Tribune of 1845, has been a maxim that has characterized much of the migratory, God-inspired, Manifest Destinationed and Indian-reservationed expansion of the United States since its inception in 1776. From the expedition of Meriweather Lewis and William Clark (along with the keen assistance and guidance of interpreter Sacagawea and Toby) forging unknown westward waters in 1805, to the gold-driven John C. Frémont, to the two-faced, double-crossing General Wilkinson, to the mountain-climbing Captain Zebulon Pike, and to the adventurous Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, we hail such courage in all who headed westward in search of riches and fortune, to name only a few. And to the fur trading John Jacob Astor, to the mission-founding Padre Junípero Serra, to the seamen Vasco Núñez de Balboa and to Francisco Coronado (who were the first known Europeans to see the Pacific Ocean) or to the ill-fated covered wagoned Donner party of the Sierra Nevada back in 1846, we take our hats off as well to commemorate such an impetuous, epic-making, westward expansive explosion.
Yet in more recent times, the west coast (and California in particular) has been filling up with fast-talking New Yorkers, snow-birded Midwesterners, opportunity-hungry Hispanics and Orientals, and people of every conceivable race, religion, and color of skin. But the population became too big for its britches (California now numbers as many inhabitants as its northern neighbor, maple-leafed Canada), the Welcome mat a bit trodden, the gold of the Golden State a bit tarnished. What with the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake, the Bel-Air blaze of 1960, the Hollywood Hills afire in 1961, the Verdugo Hills mudslides of 1962, the Watts' Riots in 1965, the 1971 San Fernando Valley shaker, the sweltering, interminable drought of 1976-77, the Loma Prieta seismic bombshell of 1989, the 1992 Landers quake, the Rodney King riotous outbreak in 1992, the 1994 Northridge jolt, the Malibu Hills fires in 1995, and even more mudslides and rampant fires ablaze during autumnal Santa Ana winds while arsonists set afire a now Paradise Lost in smoking chaparral, etcetera, etc. Now the tarnish is come all too soon, within only a few brief generations.
So, come the 1980s, it became "Go North, (not so) young man", to the timberlands of the Great Pacific Northwest! Even Hollywood and the motion picture industry have followed suit by moving their studios to Roslyn, Washington with the perennially popular television series Northern Exposure during the early 1990s. Then up to Vancouver, British Columbia went a Hollywood production crew to film The X-Files and Clint Eastwood's "American" Western classic Unforgiven (1992) was filmed in Alberta, Canada. So in like fashion, in August of 1997 it became hit-the-Oregon-Trail-time for me since I had been "downsized" (not my waistline, mind you) one too many times and Affirmative Actioned right into the unemployment lines. "Oh, you'll be back (to California, that is) with all of that rainfall up there", I would often hear before my departure. Oh yeah? Fat chance!
And upon arriving up here in Western Oregon, I found this territory to be the "Land of Rainbows and Rip Van Winkles". The rainbows as seen in this part of the country could rival those in Hawaii. Those puffy, ever-changing cloud formations in the kaleidoscopic, roaming skies here display sleeping bearded old men of the 18th Century, maybe as Washington Irving had once envisioned them to be from his equally northern latitude and perspective in Upstate New York. And the blueness of the sky flirts coyly with the torrid sunshine. Yet the sunlight in Oregon, somehow, is more intense than it is in the Meditérranean climate of "down South", as surprising as that may seem.
As one travels northward from 34 degrees North Latitude (at Los Angeles, California) to 44 degrees N.L (at Eugene, Oregon), we approach the summer solstice with more direct, unfiltered sun's rays in terms of their angle in relation to the Earth's curvature toward the poles. As the Earth swings around the Sun and the Northern and Southern hemispheres trade places in receiving solar rays more directly, the Earth's axis leans toward the Sun, thus absorbing more solar energy and heat during summertide. Alaskans have said that the sunlight up there is far brighter still, more blinding than down here in the "Lower 48", as one approaches nearer the Arctic Circle during the Northern hemisphere’s summertime journey.
But another geographic factor or climatic dynamic must be injected into the equation: the Southland's smog cover, all too apparent as one descends into Los Angeles International Airport. The pollution layer of Southern California not only produces a heat dome rather similar to that of Mexico City and Tokyo, it also refracts or bends the sunlight before the rays reach one's pores, thus hitting the surface of the Earth in oblique fashion. Furthermore, some of the sun's energy is deflected back into space due to the contamination "lid" cover. Hence, California heat is very oven-like where in 105-degree weather, one feels little or no difference in temperature while in the shade or sunlight. In Oregon or Washington, however, there is an immense difference in temperature reading between shade and sunlight, as much as 10 to 15 degrees, depending on the season, on the time of day, or on any possible wind chill factor. This astronomical phenomenon is due mainly to a lack of refraction and dispersion of sun particles. In Western Oregon, one absorbs coloring, much like one does in California's High Sierras, not so much a sunburn as one gets along the beach coastline. So, a summer's day in the Sacramento heat feels very different than how that same summer's day would feel in the Eugene heat. For Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, parts of the Yukon and Alaska all boast a very rich and penetrating sunshine (when the sun's out, that is), almost a "naked" sun. Consequently, the sun feels much hotter here and is more directly penetrating on one's skin. Southern Oregon may brag of more "sun breaks" (a term not heard of in Southern California, along with "freezing rain", "partly sunny", "ice fog", and "liquid sunshine") or veranillos than its neighbors to the North.
But what about humidity? Isn't it supposed to be more humid up here in the Pacific Northwest with all of these trees, rivers, and lakes? Well, if one were to glance at a map of the continental United States, he or she might be able to see that an onslaught of stickiness brought on by the Gulf Stream and the Gulf of México splatters the eastern two-thirds of the Union with humidity, real humidity that is. So from Louisiana into Texas, from the Caribbean Sea and into the Carolinas, from Alabama to Florida and up into the Eastern seaboard, one must endure those hot, humid, sticky and often stinky summers. So, all of the inhabitants of the states lying east of the Great Continental Divide (those luscious Rocky Mountains) experience perpetually more precipitation. For, those of us who live west of those Rockies know all too well that the air here really isn't humid, by comparison. Nor do we have to suffer those intolerable tollgates, toll roads, tollbooths, toll bridges (San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, one-way, being the exception), potholes, nor musty basements. For in Oregon, Washington, and throughout the greater Pacific Northwest, one can enjoy the snow, however irregularly it might fall, and not become crippled, disabled, nor immobilized by such snowy conditions, as most Northeasterners will attest. And as for the rainfall? The air one breathes up here can't become much cleaner after the rain falls, nor does one have to shovel much snow. And as they say up here: "When it's green, it's clean."
Professional meteorologists can seldom spot a tornado west of the Rockies, either, though freak occurrences sometimes challenge their statistics and probability tables. The fact is that the Pacific Ocean simply doesn't contain all of that authentic, sticky humidity that the Gulf Stream sweeps northeastward from off of that muggy Caribbean Sea. So indeed, we neo-Westerners are blessed to be living and working here, at least in my opinion. For as they say up here in Western Oregon: "If you don't like the weather, just wait 20 minutes." I add, regarding Southern California: "If you don't like the weather, just wait a decade" (El Niño years excluded).
And finally, as I am often asked: "What do you miss most about Southern California?" I quickly reply with....
(1) El Pollo Loco (a Mexican fresh, fast-food chain)
(2) Low prices on alcohol (not that I drink all too very much)
(3) Beer and wine bars in the local fitness clubs
(4) Motorists who park on the right side of the road
(5) Outdoor hot tubs and swimming pools
(6) Body surfing in the warm Pacific Ocean
(7) Clear nighttime skies for stargazing and eclipse chasing
(8) A richer, multi-attitudinal climate of tolerance
And, "What do you like most about the Pacific Northwest?" I am also interrogated:
(1) The multitudinous drive-thru coffee espresso bars
(2) The noticeable change in the four seasons
(3) Garage sales that bloom when the sun comes out
(4) No open highway road rage
(5) The clean green sheen that is seen
And, that's all folks!
California is an Italy awaiting its history."
Henry James, 1908
"The West is the
Jim Morrison (1943-1971) of The Doors
like vodka, can do queer things to a man."
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), from the Russian writer's short story Gooseberries, 1898
say that money can't buy happiness, but it can buy off unhappiness."
from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, 1960
"Money is better than poverty, if
only for financial reasons."
from contemporary comedian and jazz musician, Woody Allen
is a state of mind, not necessarily a stage in Life."
Armand A. Gagnon (1950- )
"We must be true to our dreams."
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
"A life without festivity is a
long road without an inn."
Demócritus (ca. 460 B.C. - ca. 370 B.C.)
for more on the State of California, visit: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/cbhtml/cbintro.html
Please continue to Lingüistic Sources of Hallowe'en.