There’s just something about a storm that brings out the spark of life in me. When the wind picks up, and the clouds race in to mass just above me, and the tiny drops of rain come flying in on a slant, followed by a rolling thrum of thunder and cascading shower of lightning bolts illuminating the darkened, purple night about me, I cannot help but feel so amazingly alive, like an abrasion of consciousness wrapped around my mortal frame of flesh and bone. I’ve always loved a good storm. They’re not so terribly impressive, here in the Bay Area, at least not anymore. I remember a few years ago when we could count on a couple of baby monsoons or so, but since then, the weather has been painfully uncomfortable for an Emerald City boy like myself. What rain we do get is primarily for show, and on the off-chance that it’s anything substantial, it just floods the streets and drains back out into the Bay. I have to say that I miss the weather on the Island where I used to live, and that growing up on a little rock in the Puget Sound raised the bar on miserable squalls.
I remember a ferry ride during a particularly brutal tempest, out on the Seattle-Bainbridge run. The boat was rocking side to side, just out of rhythm with blasts of lightning and kettle drums. And of course, this was shortly after Titanic had splashed into the cinemas, and the local papers had been making note of our ferry service’s similar deficiency in life-saving apparatus. I myself enjoyed the ride, and almost fell asleep. This was before the nanny-state surveillance which followed in the wake of 9/11, when the worst thing that would happen to you was winding up back where you started. And then there were the summer storms, when the drops dripping downward had been gently warmed by the rising waves of heat, and fell upon you like a silken shower to wash all of your worries down the dipping hills to drain into the rocky beach. It seemed that every August, I would find a way to re-enact that scene from Shawshank, albeit without the obligatory crawl through five football fields of shit smelling foulness I also could not imagine. The best that I can get in California is the occasional wafting fragrance of all those crawls that I managed to avoid.
I’ve been reading for years about how California is running out of water, and seen myself that we’ve managed to completely fail to make up years of falling reservoirs due to obnoxiously clement weather all year round. I’ve joked around with some of my friends still living in the Great Northwest about the possibility that I might return, but the Evergreen State itself isn’t in the best of shape. It terrifies me to think about a world in which my son and grandchildren will have to go to war over something as basic as H20. Once-prime real estate will be deserted as no one can live without access to water. Well, almost deserted. I can easily imagine gangs in stillsuits roaming the ostentatious paradise we once called San Diego. The Magic Kingdom will begin to crumble, and the animatronic army will secretly start its fortifications of the theme park empire of the West Coast. They will have some success, but by the time that they are able to communicate with Orlando, that capitalistically sacred land will have sunk beneath the sea. And we will observe a moment of silence for America’s wang.
What would be so hard about ensuring a world which future generations might enjoy? I know that it seems un-American to suggest something other than the Almighty Dollar has any intrinsic value, but I am now a father, and I’d like my offspring to have a chance at some sort of life that they actually might enjoy. I know that luxury is not a basic right of life, as any of the animals who died so that I might have something upon which to nibble could attest, but I believe that they possess the chance to find unhappiness as cogs within a giant, uncaring machine, as long as it allows them to buy all the newest, coolest gadgets. All joking aside, every time we go back up north, I make sure to walk around with David William, down the beaches, and up the wooded hills, through the forests and the fields. He’s been a city boy for his entire life, and I like to see him take in nature, cherish it, and fall in love with the sheer beauty of it all. He’s seen the urban jungle, and the clouds of smog between us and the view, so I know that when he gets the chance to breathe in air that doesn’t taste of car exhaust and the bitterness of broken dreams, he can appreciate just how wonderfully special those moments truly are.
The storm has finally come now, with gusting bursts of wind and rain drizzling down without conviction, rather like an afterthought. It rained last night as well, moistening the asphalt in the wee hours before the dawn, but once the sun had risen, all traces of the rains had fled, as the clouds flew toward the corners of the heavens, to reveal a pale blue elegy of sky. Sitting by the window, as I type these very words, I can hear the dripping on the roofs and cars throughout the neighborhood, like a hundred sinks with leaky faucets displayed just feet from where I’m sitting. Maybe I’m just getting all sentimental because I’m not used to being conscious at 2:30 in the morning, or maybe it’s because I simply miss the beauty of the land where I grew up. I came down here because of palm trees, and because I missed my best friend terribly. Of course, he’s back living in Seattle, and I’m stuck here with the palm trees and the loneliness.
All the years that I’ve been here in California, I haven’t really made the time to make new friends to replenish all the people whom I’ve lost. I know a couple of people who’ve been kind of close throughout the years, but like all family, I only see them once or twice a year. I could count Nerdenn Events, but he’s now my son-in-law, and my roommate, to boot. I don’t have anyone like Fed and Bad Leon, and they are both hundreds of miles away. The problem is that I was always working, and only had time to hang out with people on my way home from work, but once I got promoted, and ran the whole damn show, I’d found I’d lost the time I had allotted to get to know the revolving door of tolerable acquaintances. There are a couple of folks whom I still chat with, who know me well enough that I hope I never piss them off, but I don’t know that I would feel too comfortable calling them in the dead of night to whinge on regarding my recurring bouts of melancholy.
When I moved down here, I was young and full of hope. It’s been a dozen years now, and let’s just say that things haven’t quite turned out like I had been expecting. Restaurants were never my idea for a lifelong career choice, and I’d figured that by now I would have become a world-famous author. I have a wife and son, a daughter and a grandson, and a son-in-law who isn’t all that bad; for someone who always wanted a family of his own, that’s like hitting a home run. But with the lot of us squeezed into a two-bedroom apartment, bouncing off one another and always getting in the way, that sense of closeness feels, at times, like a pillow gently laid upon the mouth of a quadruple amputee. And despite being so smothered by attention that I feel sure that I’ve expired, there is a creeping sense of isolation which has overtaken me and made me miss my friends. It could just be that I’d like to have a conversation in my native tongue that didn’t involve children’s shows or bedtime. Or maybe it’s just that I am completely exhausted, and I tend toward thoughts of sorrow when I’m up so late and all alone. I’d say that I’ll feel better in the morning, but I have a sinking feeling that my son will want to wake me up and make me play with him.
And speaking of my one and only, I know that I am hard on him, and that I spend column yards on pointing out his foibles. But I love him so much that there are times that I am certain he has trampled through my heart. What a mind, that kid of mine does have, and the irritating qualities so prominently on display are due, in no small part, to a combination of genetics and my training him in rhetoric and the joy of The Debate. His confrontational attitude is a constant source of muscle spasms (mostly centered in my neck), but I would rather teach him how to think rather than just forcing him to parrot what I think. Years ago, I told him that if he could lay out a case before me, using logic and what reason he could muster, I would hear him out, and if he did his job right, there was a chance that I would change my mind. I also warned him that there would be times when he would perform magnificently and yet still fall just short of swaying me. But do you know, in the almost eight years that he’s been alive, he’s managed to argue me into overturning two of my prior edicts. That may not seem like all that much, but when I consider that we still use rubber sheets when he sleeps with us in bed, I’m even more impressed. Yessir, that child of mine is something else.
I think that I have rambled long enough. Thank you for indulging me as I shifted between weather and disappointment, nostalgia and parental pride. I’ll be back again this evening with another report from Spring Break ’15.