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Slow News Week

By Frank Gruber

I predict that when meteorologists have collected and analyzed all the data, the spring of 2001 will prove to have been, in Santa Monica, the coldest, darkest, and most miserable on record. It has been gray, not just west of Lincoln Boulevard, but all the way up and into the college streets.

Which raises the question, when are we going to do something about the marine layer?

Spring in Santa Monica: Foggy mornings that linger into bone-chilling overcast afternoons. Parents huddled together in parkas and fleeces, on cold metal bleachers, watching 5:00 o'clock little league games. "Al fresco" dining under gas heaters. Lending sweaters to underdressed visitors from Pasadena.

There is no question in my mind that the marine layer problem is getting worse, not better, although I can't tell if the situation has deteriorated ever since SMRR took control in the early '80's or only since Costa-Hawkins.

Consider this: if we had sunshine in March, April, May and June -- even if summer started here on Memorial Day, as in the rest of the country, instead of July 4th -- surely hotels and the rest of our tourist-based economy could make enough money to pay their workers a living wage.

Of course, if we had good weather in the spring, all those extra tourists would add to the unhappiness of everyone here who resents or is inconvenienced by tourists. But then again, some people already have such a heavy load of unhappiness that they might not notice.

Is the City doing anything about the marine layer? Not so far as I can tell. This lack of attention might have been understandable 25 years ago, when smog was so bad that it often obscured the marine layer, but now that our skies are otherwise much clearer, shouldn't City Council at least direct staff to study the issue?

Perhaps we can have a moratorium on new overcast days, or at least require clearing between eleven and four. Environmental impact reports could evaluate to what extent development adds to the moisture level. Or, what if development reduces relative humidity in the city to a level that attracts more moisture from the ocean? We can hire a consultant to find out.

The clouds, of course, do not originate in Santa Monica, but drift in every "late night and early morning." It's not clear what we can do. The problem begs a regional solution. Perhaps we can make a deal with the Inland Empire to trade moisture for desert air.

Some people will say that Santa Monica cannot do anything about the weather, or shouldn't try. That attitude hasn't stopped us in the past. At least we can talk about it.

A few months ago I reported on the start of my son Henry's little league season at Los Amigos Park. The season is now ending. Sorry to report, but this year has been a "character builder." We have lost every game.

Hey -- it's "a young team." The front office considers this a "rebuilding" year. No way that we'd even think of trading away our future to win a few more games this year.

The kids don't seem to mind. They all still come to play. I once read in a manual for AYSO soccer coaches that kids in the nine to eleven age range take winning and losing seriously, but that the pain of a loss is nothing that can't be cured by a piece of pizza.

Funny -- I'm 48 and that usually works for me, too.

Of course, I know something about losing seasons. I am a Philadelphia Phillies fan.

I like to say to my friends who are Dodger fans, or Yankee fans, that growing up a Phillie fan taught me humility. But at what a price.

There are teams in the majors who have been less successful than the Phillies, in the sense that since 1915 the Phillies have won one World Series and appeared in four, while other fabled losing machines like the Cubs and the Red Sox have not won a World Series in generations.

The difference is that these other continuing disappointments were often contenders. When the Phillies are bad, they are truly terrible -- the quintessential "cellar-dwellers." It's a different kind of heartbreak, perhaps worse, to root for a team like the Cubs that will break your heart in August or September, but a Phillie fan starts every season knowing that life can be dreadful from the first pitch opening day, to the last one on fan appreciation day.

To every rule, of course, there is an exception, and in the case of the Phillies, the exception -- their stunning and never-repeated-before-or-since collapse in 1964 -- proves the rule. That year the Phillies didn't just fade in the manner of, say, the Cubs in a typical August, but blew a 6-1/2 game lead with twelve games to go.

If you follow baseball (and you probably do if you are still reading this column), you know that the Phils, who finished dead last the past couple years, are now in first place, and not by a little: 7-1/2 games as of Thursday afternoon. The way I look at it, that's enough of a lead to keep them in first for at least a week.

Henry's season, by the way, has two games to go. Just enough to turn a season around. The last game will be late afternoon Monday, after school. Let's hope there will be a little sun.

The views expressed in this column are those of Frank Gruber
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Lookout.
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