Never underestimate a corny idea's potential to take off.
A little over a year ago, I set up a Twitter account called @LosAngelesRain (the pithier @LARain was taken). I figured that during all the talk of our nefarious drought, L.A.'s Twitter community could take comfort in talking with the object of our collective desire: rain.
The idea caught on, leading to a nomination for a national award. (More on that later.)
I'm not good at Twitter — my real person account has a fraction of the followers @LosAngelesRain does. But the idea somehow took off. I even got a reply from Jonathan Gold, the L.A. Times food critic:
Marc Brown, the ABC7 anchor loved the idea:
Mayor Garcetti donned a mustache:
"The Office" actor B.J. Novak followed me for a little while. B.J. Novak! And then he unfollowed me. Oh, well.
Then, just under a year after I started tweeting, another notification popped up: LosAngelesRain was nominated for a Shorty Award—which, I learned, are basically the Oscars of social media. I and 6 other Twitter accounts got the nod in the Weird category.
The ceremony was Monday, April 20. I got on a plane to New York: the land of lakes and rivers a plenty... and countless New York writers who've waxed poetic about how we Angelenos are handling our drought: we eat too many almonds, we have too many lawns, there's so little water we shouldn't even live here.
The New York Times recently ran a feature with a photo of a home in Rancho Mirage - a beautiful lawn surrounded by arid desert. Is that how New York sees us? An unsustainable island in the middle of nowhere?
I went to Washington Square Park for answers:
"I just read an article in the Times about Coachella," said Sarah Abramson, who was relaxing at the park with her family. "You couldn't see that there was a drought in Coachella."
"You guys haven't gotten water in like four years, I think, right?" asked Sophie Silverman, who was picnicking on the lawn—yes, a lawn—at the park.
"I mean I read that experts were giving it like a year before it's basically, I don't know, Mad Max?" Brooklyn's Joey Yamine asked me. "Maybe that's hyperbolic," he added.
"Listen, there is a long history of East Coast media writing stories that kind of make fun of California," said Adam Nagourney — the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for the New York Times. He co-wrote the article with that photo of the desert lawn, but he says obviously there's a lot more nuance to our drought.
"I could see where people might sort of sense that people back on the east coast are looking down their nose at how we use water here. I think the main drought shaming, that I've seen — which is quite legitimate -- is neighbor to neighbor, community to community.
If anything, my Twitter account - @LosAngelesRain - which does, occasionally call out Angelenos for running sprinklers or washing their cars before a storm, is just as complicit in this self-righteous drought shaming.
That could be bad, or maybe that'll improve my chances to win an award?
Finally, the big night came. Rachel Dratch hosted. A Jonas brother showed up. Bill Nye pointed at me and gave me a thumbs up. When it came time for my category, though, I lost. Saved You a Click got the nod.
As cliche as it sounds, it was an honor to be nominated. Even though I’d never heard of the Shorty Awards. Our drought isn’t letting up any time soon: we’re going to need to talk about it, and I take comfort knowing the rest of social media is paying attention to us, even if it’s a little gray cloud named Los Angeles Rain.