Ignoring the insanity of the past week (more later) - and the impending Anschluss by the Grave Dancer - the quality of the writing at the LA Times by the up coming writers (and the best of the veteran reporters) and the increasing quantity of the local coverage continues to impress.
Today's example is the Column One piece by 2004 Pulizer prize co-winner Hector Becerra on... weathermen; a wonderfully crafted essay of the type the New Yorker used to publish back when the New Yorker was still the New Yorker.
Below is the opening:
Perhaps the best weatherman in town
By Hector Becerra
Times Staff Writer
March 29, 2007
THE celebrity TV weatherman was pretty much invented in Los Angeles. They have names like Dallas Raines and Johnny Mountain, and before them, the avuncular man in the bow tie known to millions simply as Dr. George.
Steve Martin mocked this culture in his movie "L.A. Story," in which he plays a weatherman who tapes his forecasts in advance because, well, L.A. has no weather.
But although the TV news provides the overnight lows and five-day forecasts, the job of understanding the weather and making the long-term predictions falls to the meteorologists and climatologists who toil behind the scenes.
Many work for the federal government and universities. They are generally a conservative bunch, quick with the caveat and the nuance — knowing their forecasts can have huge and costly implications, including how farmers plant their crops and how government agencies calibrate water supplies.
Then there is Bill Patzert...
Another great piece of his is about the passing of his sister... and many other things:
A vigil for the living
By Hector Becerra
Times Staff Writer
January 16, 2007
I PARKED my car on the salt-and-pepper asphalt and crossed the grassy expanse, weaving around headstones.
Clutching flowers and lyrics from a U2 song, I looked for the grave of my sister, Michelle Melissa Becerra.
She was a 22-year-old art history major at UCLA, just months from graduation. She was 10 years younger than I, the baby among my five brothers and sisters.
Michelle and I rarely interacted and I never really understood why. And yet the last time I saw her, Michelle asked whether we were going to take that summer trip to our parents' hometown in central Mexico. I told her to just let me know when. I was looking forward to the trip because I was sure we would bond.
Days later, she lay dead just blocks from home, killed when a car flipped onto the sidewalk where she was walking.
After her burial, I was filled with grief, and regret that I had never had a heart-to-heart talk with my little sister. Certain words should have come from my mouth, even if they made Michelle blush or fidget.
And now she was gone. It was as if she had just disappeared. And so, as lame as it felt to act so belatedly, I had to "talk" to Michelle, even if I had to do so over her drab headstone.
After about 15 minutes of searching, I found the black marker.
And there they were. The two old men.
They were no more than 10 feet away, sitting in lawn chairs and chatting about who knows what. They looked as perfectly at ease as I suddenly felt self-conscious.
With the men in the corner of my eye, words failed me. I didn't want to cry in front of them. I had never found the right words for Michelle when she was alive, and now she was dead, and these men weren't making it any easier. I wanted to tell Michelle that I loved her, but the words would not come out.
I stood quietly by her grave for a few minutes before leaving.
I came back a few months later with more flowers and yet another page of U2 lyrics. And sure enough, the pair were there, this time joined by a few other older men.
I tensed with annoyance, resentful that I didn't have any privacy.
My older brother Javier described a similar scene. Every time he visited the Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello, he said, it seemed they were talking about "mundane stuff," how their cars don't work, what they saw on TV, good lunch spots.
The scene repeated itself over a year and a half until one morning, about two months ago, I showed up just after the grass had been trimmed and watered. There was a soup of mud spread all over my sister's headstone. I bent down and began to wipe it away with my hand.
One of the men, mustached and wearing sunglasses, quietly walked over and handed me a rag. He retreated to his chair as I cleaned Michelle's headstone.
For the first time, I made out parts of their conversation. The man talked about how when he was young, all the kids used to chase after the water truck to take a bath.
Almost against my will, I smiled....