Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unseasonably Hot

This post is going to be a little different.  It’s gonna be half rant, half reminiscence. And it’s also the “origin story” of one of the oldest running gags amongst my oldest circle of friends.

I was thinking about this particular catch-phrase of mine because we it was excessively hot in L.A. recently.  It was really, really hot.  But you know what it wasn’t?  It wasn’t unseasonably hot.

It was, after all, late July/early August.  You know, the middle of summer.  When you’d expect it to be hot. 

And it was the middle of summer the first time I ever visited Las Vegas, lo those many years ago.  How many years?  Well, let’s just say the year was 19xx and leave it at that.  It was a time before the internet existed, before there were cell phones, before I ever played poker in anything but a home game for mere pennies (and then, rarely). It was a time when little economy cars had really crappy air conditioners that weren’t built for Vegas summer heat.

None the less, I had two weeks vacation coming to me, and I wanted to see Vegas for the first time.  I also wanted to see San Francisco for the first time.  The question was….could I do both in one two week period? 

I wanted to take my car, but it seems Las Vegas and San Francisco are in two different directions from Los Angeles.  How inconvenient.  We had no idea that Google would eventually be invented so we bought a giant road atlas of the US from a book store (you remember them from before, right?) and figured out how to make it work.

There’s no very direct route between Vegas and San Francisco, so we hit upon the idea of going to San Francisco by way of Lake Tahoe/Reno first.  We’d make a giant circle.  L.A. to Vegas to Reno/Tahoe to San Francisco, and back to L.A.  We could do that in two weeks.  Actually less because the final destination was actually San Diego for the San Diego Comic Con, which we used to go to before it was cool to do so. Now, all the cool kids go there, and every hit movie is previewed there.  Back in the days when this took place, only nerds and geeks went there.  Guilty as charged.

The “we” in this case were myself and my two pals, Norm and Danny.  At least that’s what I calling them now.  You’ve seen Norm comment on my posts here from time to time. 

One of the purposes of this trip was to break in my new car, a Toyota Corolla, which had precious few miles on it (I always got a ride to work).  Now both Norm and Danny had been to both LV & SF before, unlike me.  And Norm really loved Vegas and didn’t care much for San Francisco.  And Danny really loved San Francisco and didn’t care much for Vegas (which is kind of ironic, because he now lives there).  And the way it worked out, Norm was going to drive with us to Vegas and then fly back to L.A. while Danny and I headed north from Vegas to Tahoe and then to the City by the Bay.

I should mention that this particular vacation was quite memorable as it turned out.  It got me hooked on Vegas, for one thing.  And I actually wrote up a full trip report, many, many pages, that was circulated among a certain audience (but again, remember, this was before the interwebs) and proved to be quite popular.  In fact, I’ve flirted with the idea of reprinting that report—as I wrote it back decades ago—right here.  The problem is, I’m not sure I can find a copy of it.  And since it was on paper—did I mention that no one had personal computers or even word processors in those days?—I’d have to transcribe it word for word if I could even find it.  So it seems like a long shot.  It would probably be about a 10-part post if I ever did it.

Toyota Corollas were a lot smaller in those days then they are now and fitting three adults who all consumed way too much junk food was no mean feat.  And the A/C didn’t even come close to reaching the back seat, where poor Danny had drawn the short straw. 

And so we got to Vegas in late July and it was hot.  Ridiculously, obscenely hot.  I’d been in L.A. heat waves before, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this.  I’m sure the temperature reached at least 135 degrees every day we were there.  That’s probably only a mild exaggeration.

In those days covered parking was very rare, when we would go into a casino (and we visited most of them) the car would be out in the hot sun.  Entering the car after it had been there for a few hours was no fun.  We’d burn our hands on the door handles.  Getting in the car was like entering an inferno.  And my car was never moving consistently enough for the A/C to do much good (it didn’t run when I was stopped at a light).  We’d open the windows but that did little good.

At one point, pressed in the back seat, which was probably like 150 degrees, and getting no air, poor Danny yelled out, “Oh dear lord, press a watermelon into my shorts.”  That definitely became a catch phrase with us for years.  But not that one this post is about.

After a few days of seeing Vegas, I discovered that I enjoyed playing games where I put chips out in front of me and they sometimes took them away.  But sometimes, they put more chips next to mine.  I liked that part.  Anyway, we dropped Norm off at the airport and headed to Tahoe.

We had already figured out that driving the 8-9 hour drive between Vegas and Tahoe (a mostly two-lane highway, not divided) during the heat of the day during July wasn’t really a good thing to try, possibly testing my car’s cooling system and A/C more than it could survive testing.  So we did the trip in two parts, driving up halfway during the evening hours, and taking the second half of the trip the following morning.  This meant stopping over at a motel in a nothing of a town called Tonopah. That was a rather eventful journey, but if I do tell the story, it will have to be another time.  However, I will say this.  In the middle of nowhere, all alone in what would have been total pitch darkness if we turned off the car’s lights, we did pass by an actual, 100% legal, house of prostitution.  You could see the red light from miles before we got there.  It was one of Nevada’s legal brothel’s, and yes, we were so far away from civilization we were in a county where the world’s oldest profession was legal.  We drove past another one the next day in the daylight.

We were looking forward to Tahoe because it would be so much cooler than Vegas.  Of course, Tahoe is known for its great skiing during the winter.  We knew it wasn’t going to be that cold but were expecting much cooler temperatures than in Vegas. 

Now back in those days, Vegas hotel rooms were really cheap—and so were we.  By avoiding a fancy place (Caesars Palace was probably the classiest joint in Vegas at this time) we paid very little for the Vegas room.  We noticed that the rooms at any place with a casino in Tahoe were a hell of a lot more expensive than they were in Vegas.  Less competition, I guess.  There weren’t that many casinos in Tahoe as compared to Vegas.  By the way, we stayed in Tahoe the whole time we were in this area and made a day trip to Reno.

We were young and poor and cheap, so we wanted to do this as cheaply as we could.  The less we paid for the room, the more money we’d have for fun stuff—like gambling. So we decided not to stay at a hotel with a casino.  Instead, we would stay at a motel near the casinos.  This meant staying in South Lake Tahoe, which is actually in California.  So we found a cheap motel a couple of blocks away from the state line and thus the casinos.  We could walk or drive to the casinos when wanted to play. 

By the way, one of the things that amused was that Harrah’s Tahoe, the biggest and nicest casino in the area (at least back then) was built right up to the state line.  And the parking lot for it was in California.  You had to park in California and walk to Nevada.  Once when we parked there and got out of my car, I said to Danny, “Now, we can’t gamble here in the parking lot, we have to wait until we enter the casino for that to be legal.” 

So it turned out that the cheap motel we found didn’t have air-conditioning.  Not central air, not even a damn wall unit.  We could open the windows.  We knew that in advance but we were sure it wouldn’t be a problem because it never gets really hot in Tahoe.  Never. 

Until the very time we were there.  Sure enough, as we got to town, we heard on the radio that a rare heat wave was hitting the Tahoe area. They were expecting record, unheard of high temperatures for exactly the two or three days we would be there.  Of course, it wasn’t anywhere near as hot as Vegas had been, but in Vegas, we would go inside and cool off, either in a casino or in our hotel room.  Well, in Tahoe, we could cool off in a casino but not our motel room.  It was hot in there.

Remember, no internet, so we would listen intently to the radio (or try to find a weather report on the TV) to hear if the weather was going to break or if we would have to suffer the entire time we were there.

And then we heard it.  The guy (or gal) doing the weather on the radio said, “Well, it’s been unseasonably hot in the Tahoe area today.”

Wait, what?  What did he say?  It’s going to be unseasonably hot?  Unseasonably?  No sir, I’m sorry.  This is July.  This is summer.  We are in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is exactly the season for it to be hot.  It may be extremely hot.  It may be record-breakingly hot.  It may be unusually hot.  It may be hotter than anyone living can remember it ever being in this area. It may be unreasonably hot.

But it is not, it is most assuredly not, unseasonably hot. If it’s ever gonna get hot, this is indeed the season for it.

I said all of this to Danny and he no doubt contributed to it as well.  From that moment on, whenever we’d mention how freaking hot it was, we’d joke that it was “unseasonably” hot. And then the other one would say, “No, this is the season for it.” 

I swear we heard people on the radio or on TV refer to it as “unseasonably” hot several times after, causing much amusement for us.  And we carried it with us back home.  Of course, we told Norm and our other friends about this silliness.  And when winter rolled around, and we had her first cold spell, one of us would say to the other, “Yes, it’s extremely cold, it’s setting a record for cold, but it’s not unseasonably cold.  Whenever the weather got extreme one way or the other, one of us would say, “It’s unseasonably cold (or hot)” and then we’d think about what time of year it was and see if it worked.

I mean, it can’t be unseasonably cold in winter and it can’t be unseasonably hot in summer. Of course, in Los Angeles, it often is unseasonably hot (or at least unseasonably warm) in winter.  That’s fine.

Now in spring or fall, where you don’t expect extreme temperatures either way (at least in southern California), it can unseasonable cold.  Or unseasonably hot.

Got it?

Anyway, that was one of the last bits that’s stayed with me all this time from that first visit to the state of Nevada.  To this day, hearing (or reading) a weather report, I’m always on the lookout for someone saying it is “unseasonably” hot (or cold) when that can’t possibly be.  Every now and then, I catch them.  In fact, a year or two later, Norm and I were in Vegas for the Christmas season and they were indeed having record cold temperatures.  I think a couple of nights it dropped into the single digits, temperature-wise (but not below zero).  I think the low temps as well as the high temps for a couple of days were Las Vegas records for cold.  And sure enough, I heard at least one weather report that stated it was unseasonably cold in Las Vegas.

I spoke back to the radio.  “No, it’s winter, it is not unseasonably cold.  If it gets to 150 below, it may shatter all records for cold, but it won’t be unseasonably cold.”  Just too freaking cold.  Which it was.


  1. Hmmm.... my guess is you did in fact stop at one of those "legal brothels" on that road trip. Perhaps you could tell us what "other people" paid for the "legal services" being offered?

    1. Heh heh. Honest, we didn't stop. But it was so long ago, I bet it was relatively inexpensive, by today's standards, at least.

  2. Big swings in weather patterns and cars that are too small, and have poor air-con (or any at all)? Sure you wasn't in 2010's UK ? My car is one of biggest on the road here. Saw one parked up in Toronto last week, and it looked like a Mini in amongst the super duty's etc. But I do have good air, unlike my wife's Mini !

    1. Do you even need A/C in England? What's the hottest it gets? 75 degrees?

    2. Hey. We hit 82 2 weeks ago!, When I first started driving I had aircon240. Open 2 windows and drive at 40mph !

    3. hi,mrben09 tell gemma atkinson to call/text me. i hope she didnt lose my number

  3. Anger. This may come across as if I am taking the piss but, where I live is about 100 yrds from her old school, and her family live within shouting distance of my house. Outside of that i know no celebs except the odd washed up football (not soccer !) player.
    If I see her in the local, i'll get her to give you a call ! More chance of Rob meeting her in LA if I'm honest.

    1. That's awesome, Ben. Anger names a hot British celebrity and you are practically her neighbor.

      I have to figure out where in L.A. I can run into tho. And if I do, I will conveniently forget to mention Anger. Heh heh.

    2. r u cockblocking,rob?? drink gatorade not Haterade.LOL. sweeeet. ben. is her mom HOT too??????????

    3. taking a piss??? TMI but good to know u dont have swollen ankles

    4. I have a confession to make. Last night's reply was sponsored by Fosters Lager and I got my Gemma's confused. The one near me is Arterton not Atkinson. Hence the LA statement, her being in Hollywood an all. Anyway Anger , if I do see Ms Atkinson anywhere in sunny London I'll put a word in for you, by way of my penance.

    5. SWEET. also if u see the chick that played the female cop on the show Dempsey and Makepeace tell her WASSSSSSSSSSSSSSUP

  4. I'd love to see the trip report that you feel you'd have to break down into ten blog posts... :P

    1. Yeah, that would be interesting, wouldn't it?

  5. so did u dress up in a character at comic con????????

  6. Re: Harrah’s Tahoe parking. Sounds like Downstream Casino in Quapaw, OK. The driveway entrance is in MO, parking lot in KS, casino in OK.

    1. Interesting....I dunno why but things like that amuse me.

      Of course at Primm NV you can park at Primm Valley and do casino gambling,then walk across the border to CA and buy your lottery tickets.