An Occasional Series: The Coasts, Objectively Evaluated

I turn 28 next month, and at that point, my breakdown will look like this: 7 years in the Bay Area bookending 15 in Seattle; 3 in D.C.; 3 in Boston; and an odd 2 months in New York City thrown in there before I decided I would want to one day take my kids outdoors or to a beach now and again, and that the trash-strewn (occasionally syringe-strewn, to keep you on your toes) aspirationally “natural” attractions of Central Park and Coney Island simply wouldn’t cut it.   Rather than mark my offical passage into my unambiguously Late Twenties by writing an obligatory 10,000-word thinkpiece on What It All Means, I’ve decided to reflect seriously on my experiences in order to provide a definitive answer to the age-old debate that East Coast kids argue strenuously and at which West Coast kids kind of laugh, amble away, and go doze off by the pool for a few hours: which of the Coasts is better?

Let’s start with the basics.  For purposes of this evaluation, the West Coast runs from San Diego to Vancouver, BC, inclusive; the East Coast from Virginia Beach to Portland, Maine.  The West Coast extends inland as far as necessary to ensure that Lake Tahoe is in; the East Coast, as far as necessary to ensure that West Virginia is out.   I also realize that this evaluation ignores large swaths of the country, but rest assured that I will cover the South, the  Southwest, and the Midwest in future posts titled, respectively, “This BBQ Sure Is Good But Why Does My Napkin Have the Confederate Flag Printed On It”; “I Love My Dad But Can Coach Taylor Be My Second Dad”; and “Corn.”  Finally, since everyone loves to talk about it, so you knew it would come up quickly, and since it’s perhaps the most clearly uncontested category on here, we’ll start with:

The Weather

Even though we can probably get it out of the way in short order, it’s important to go into it if for no other reason than to understand really how one-sided this one is.  Unless your steam room (I don’t know, I assume you have a steam room) doubled as your childhood bedroom, if you’re a West Coast kid you simply have no life experiences that adequately prepare you for things like blizzards, derechos, and the polar vortex.  Fun fact: even growing up in Seattle, which is perhaps best known for the brisk, omnipresent grey on display in the acclaimed “Twilight” documentary series, I never owned a winter coat or a scarf before my first Real Winter, which I spent in Washington, D.C.  I knew a scarf was a thing that you were supposed to have, but I had no idea how to actually wear one, and I at first wrapped it around my head like a burn victim before some nice people taught me what to do.  Also, that winter happened to be D.C’s infamous Snowpocalypse, followed closely by Snowmaggeddon, followed even more closely by Snowverkill, and at the time I had no idea that that pattern was not necessarily representative.  I briefly thought that for the rest of my life there, I was doomed to an existence in which four months of every year would merit their own ominous, disaster movie-based portmanteau.  I humbly suggest that not even the cleverest of hilariously dressed snowmen or the most well-attended DuPont Circle snowball fights can make this OK.

Not to be outdone, the summertime introduced its own wrinkles to my schedule and my dress  shirts.   My roommate Dave used to wake up 20 minutes early from May through September so that he could build the all-important “Stop Sweating Time” into his daily routine.  Every morning he would return from a workout and stand limply over the A/C vent, arms out at 45-degree angles, trying desperately nd fruitlessly to stop the flow of perspiration before the all-important transition to the stifling office attire that he knew he’d have to wear the rest of the day.  He also solemnly declared the occasional Don’t Go Outside Day on weekends, which are exactly what they sound like; he’d head out to run some errands or get groceries, only to reeappear in the apartment five minutes later, gasping for cold air and exhorting me to stay in and to not try to be a hero.  Anytime you’re dealing with a place in which people freely append “Death March” to the most mundane things, like trips to the drug store, you really just have to question the premises that led you to accept these conditions in the first place.

If you don’t believe me, believe prominently historians and/or, which argue that the soul-crushing heat may have played a significant role in, of all things, how the Constitutional Convention unfolded.

The summer of 1787, Philadelphia was experiencing both a literal and a figurative heat wave, and the rising temperatures outside caused tempers to flare inside the Convention. Unproductive anger and debate created conflict that ironically only eased as the heat broke.

Yikes!  We’re all a little chagrined now about how we placed the fate of our nation in the hands of a tiny group of wealthy white men, but also, this particular tiny group of wealthy white men was also wearing giant, heavy colonial clothes and powdered wigs in 100 degree weather!  And we expected them to negotiate a delicate compromise that addressed all stakeholders’ interests in a way that convinced thirteen different colonies (several of which, you know, hated each other) to sign on?  And we didn’t foresee any potential shortcomings with this plan?

As the weather became more comfortable, the delegates began to set aside their differences and consider compromises.

Sure.  But by that point, the whole slavery thing had already made it in there, and the country was inexorably hurtling down the path toward the Civil War.  If this had only happened 3000 miles to the west, the founding fathers would have stopped slavery in its tracks, founded the capital on Monterey Bay, and retired after a week to found their respective vineyards in Napa.  For more information from reputable academic sources, let’s see what SagePub  has to say.

The summer of 1787, especially after a heat wave struck on June 11, was no exception. The city sweltered for almost the entire time of the Constitutional Convention. The delegates found that although closed windows made the heat even more stifling, open windows were invitations to Philadelphia’s infamous black flies during the day and its mosquitoes at night.

Hahaha.  So basically the Founding Fathers just wrote the whole Constitution in a pit of nightmare fuel.  And we wonder how they could possibly fail to foresee problems like “probably not much will get done when we make it so that the loser of the presidential election immediately gets to turn around and be Vice President.”

Look, I get that there are counterpoints here.  Many adorable East Coast adherents (bless them, they don’t know better) sincerely profess their profound appreciation for the “four seasons.”  Colorful leaves and cherry blossoms are great, but I just don’t think that a combined six weeks of pleasantness in which you insist on eating outdoors because you know what’s coming can make up for the balance of the year characterized by the overwhelming, desperate desire to go inside at all times.  Season People are bad weather denials and unabashed Kool-Aid drinkers, and you shouldn’t buy in.

Now, look at all that time we spent on the East Coast.  Opposing counsel needs three sentences max, your honor.

  1. It’s always going to be nice at best, and mildly unpleasant but entirely tolerable at worst.
  2. You might want to keep a light jacket with you, but if you forget it, it’s not likely going to be a big deal.
  3. When in doubt, head for San Diego, where it is 79 and sunny with a light breeze and zero humidity right now and irrespective of when you actually read this.

That’s it!  That’s all you need to know.  Ditch your portmanteaus, your Stop Sweating Time, and your hastily drafted governance documents, people.  It just doesn’t have to be this way.


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