Several years ago, Zach and I went out for Thai food together for the first time. As the resident picky eater in the relationship, I looked over the menu and found the one—count 'em, one—dish that looked like something I might be willing to eat.
Zach, on the other hand, surveyed the offerings and had to narrow the choices down using some advanced algorithm that took into account current mood, relative unusualness of dish, and probability of returning to the same restaurant (because if he is torn between one of the specials and a regular-menu item, he will always go for the special unless
we are unlikely ever to be back—if, for example, we are on vacation or are visiting friends in a city from which they will almost certainly move before we return).
I can state with great confidence that my all-or-nothing dish was built around that universal salvation of picky eaters: chicken.
I have no idea what else it featured.
When our food came, I took a bite and immediately grimaced. Something tasted off, as if the chicken had started to go rancid.
I took another bite just to be sure. Yep, it definitey tasted funny.
So I did what anyone would do when dining out with her life partner. I asked Zach to taste it, just so I could be really sure.
He thought it was fine.
I gave it one more shot, then gave up. I probably subsisted on the rice served with my meal and then compensated by having a bowl of ice cream at home.
Fast-forward about six months. We're going out for dinner out with friends, and someone suggests Thai food. Everyone concurs, and off we go.
We sit down, we look at menus, and I find some kind of inoffensive chicken dish to order. Zach almost certainly has Thai beef salad, which is evolving into a favorite dish. He also almost certainly has Thai iced tea. I, of course, drink water.
The exact same thing.
I taste the food.
I'm sure it's gone bad.
I ask Zach to taste it.
He's sure it's fine.
I eat rice.
Fast-forward another six months.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Finally, the insight hits. I don't like Thai food.
Or at least I don't like some ingredient that's pervasive in Thai cooking. (I'm now pretty sure it's fish sauce. The good news is that there is a Thai restaurant back home in Brooklyn where I have found a chicken dish that I really like, and we eat there, or order in from there, all the time.)
So what does this have to do with L.A.?
Well, I'll tell you.
I have been out to L.A., on average, at least once every two to three years since I got out of college. On most of those trips, I have stayed with friends. And every time I come, I am startled by how cold the houses out here get at night. It's like the learning curve has been greased with oil—or fish sauce—and I can't seem to climb it.
On this particular trip, it's not just the houses that are cold. It's the mornings and evenings, too. It seems I arrived just in time for a cold snap. And our plans changed, so we are staying in a relatively cooler part of town than we'd originally expected.
But even so.
We have been sleeping with a space heater in our room for the past three nights.
Even Zach, aka the human heat lamp, has felt the chill.
Last night, we were scheduled to attend the taping of a new sitcom, "The Class," at a Warner Bros. soundstage. The information we received included a warning that the studio is kept cold and a reminder to dress appropriately.
Zach doesn't even have a long-sleeved shirt with him this week, and my thickest garment is a springy/summery raincoat.
What did we do?
En route to the taping, we made an emergency pit stop at Old Navy, home of cheap "performance fleece."
Good thing, too. Because at one point, I had my pullover on with my arms out of the sleeves, huddled underneath, with Zach's pullover over my head and around my neck as some sort of makeshift muffler. And I was still cold.
Then, of course, a hot flash came along and warmed me right up.
I should know better, of course, after living in the Bay Area for three and a half years. There, you can spot the tourists a mile away: they come to San Francisco in July, pack nothing but shorts and sandals and T-shirts, and are reduced to shivering, blue-lipped nomads as soon as the fog rolls in, as it does every day.
I actually had my own brand of Bay Area stupidity. Before we lived there full-time in the late nineties, Zach and I spent a summer there when I was in law school. Every morning, I'd look outside, see the gray skies, and grab an umbrella as I headed off to work.
Eventually I discovered that that's just what the skies looked like out there. (San Francisco weather reports usually start with, "This will all burn off by noon. . . .") In fact, there was a drought that summer, and it only rained once.
But I still carried that umbrella every day for weeks.