The Stupid 365 Project, Day 80: Let It Come Down

December 21st, 2010

Los Angeles, the radio stations tell us, is being “pounded” by a series of “major” rain storms.

What that means is that it rains, usually rather softly, for several days.  People carry umbrellas or grab the excuse to wear dramatic, broad-brimmed hats.  (Los Angeles closets are full of dramatic, broad-brimmed hats.)  People rear-end each other on the road.  The gutters run fast.  In the hills below last year’s burn areas, people park their cars facing out and put their photo albums and children in the back seat so they won’t forget them in case a quick escape becomes necessary.

The Los Angeles River, that sadly tamed concrete trickle memorialized by my friend Eric Stone in an absolutely wonderful trio of forthcoming novellas, tentatively titled LA River, actually has water in it, sometimes dramatically sweeping toward a giant drain some idiot teenage boy who thought it would be cool to swim across it.

But when all is said and done, it’s pretty polite rain.  If rain were classical music, Los Angeles rain would be, I don’t know, John Dowland, whose 17th-century lute compositions are perfect miniatures, melancholy scrimshaws of sound.

If you want Wagner or Beethoven, you have to go to the tropics.

There’s a passage in the second Poke book that I like: Poke hasn’t gone ten yards before the drain in heaven opens, tons of water falling, the drops so fat and heavy that their splashes reach his knees.  A whiplash of light precedes by scant seconds a sound like the sky cracking in half.  The rain increases in volume, slapping his shoulders sharply enough to sting . . .  It is literally impossible to see across the street.

As a native of California . . . Rafferty is thrilled by Thailand’s enormous weather.  Its sheer magnitude seems a kind of wealth, spending itself extravagantly day after day: thunderous rains, blinding heat, clouds as greasy and dark as oil shale.

But my fondest memory of Thai rains comes from the villages of twenty years ago, when indoor plumbing was a faint rumor.  When the rains came, all the women and girls in the village would swathe themselves in long wraps of bright-colored cloth that covered them from armpits to mid-calf and run out into the rain, laughing, with bottles of shampoo in their hands.  They’d gather in circles and create towering foam sculptures on each other’s heads and then duck under the sheets of water sliding off the slanting rooftops to rinse.

For the rest of the day, with a humidity of about 99 percent, their hair would be blackly wet, combed straight back, and shining.

12 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 80: Let It Come Down”

  1. EverettK Says:

    Ah, rain. Besides hating the crowds and smog and horrible traffic, rain is one of the things I’d miss if I were sent to prison in L.A.

    I always love the first good rainfall at the end of summer, which brings such a fresh smell and washes the world clean (here in western Oregon). And then, when the sun breaks through again, about four months later, the world is rejuvenated and bursts to green-leafed abundance once more… it’s enough to break my heart with joy!

    We live in “the country” (a mile out of town) on 2.5 acres, and I remember 10-15 years ago when the skies literally opened up with a deluge like you describe above. It was, rarely, a WARM rain, a warm day, and it just THUNDERED down. I went out on our front porch to watch it. Down across our front yard, across the slough that runs across our property, up across a barn yard, a teenage neighbor girl came out the back of their house and began dancing in the rain, arms raised to meet the streams of water coming down.

    It was one of those “perfect moments,” where all thoughts fade away, and you just see and hear and feel and smell and are “one with everything” around you, not judging or fearing, not worrying, not in a hurry, just BEING.

  2. Laren Bright Says:

    I had to explain to our visitors from Germany that this is liquid sunshine.

  3. Eric Stone Says:

    Thanks for the plug, Tim. Actually, LA River is just one of three, thematically-linked novellas set in L.A. in different time periods. Don’t know when it will be out. Don’t even know when it’s going to be done yet. But the river is magnificently swollen at this very moment, so that gives me an odd sort of hope. Thanks again.

  4. Beth Says:

    There is an Irish song called “Forty Shades of Green”. Flying over Ireland, approaching Shannon Airport, the land looks like a patchwork quilt and it does look like there are forty shades of green.

    I spent a summer there, in Dublin mostly, and there was rain everyday. It didn’t rain all day, just some part of it. No one took the rain seriously. If a picnic was planned there was no point in canceling. No matter what date was chosen there was going to be rain.

    After a week or so, it wasn’t even noticed. But it isn’t the rain of Thailand or California where the hills slide to the ground. It is a soft rain, almost like a mist. No need to spend money on moisturizers when heaven provides it in abundance.

    It is perfect rain for walking. No rain drops that fall with such force that there are splashes. It isn’t the kind of rain that can rinse soap from hair but it is the kind of rain that makes hair with a slight curl turn into a cap of tight curls that fight with a comb.

    Ireland really does have forty shades of green, brilliant to soft and spread all around.

    Conan O’Brien claims that the Irish were bred to live in a bog. Two generations removed from the Old Country, I still like to walk in the rain.

  5. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I like your blog today because it serves as a reminder of what weather can really be like. We have had our true tragedies-Katrina, oils spills crippling snow storms-but somehow I (and others) tend to fuss about lesser problems. Your mention of tsunamis sent me to google to get a truer picture of where Bangkok was, and here you are today reminding me of just what makes Poke’s story so alive and compelling. I believe that we, as a group, have become entitled to comfort and ease of life, forgetting the pure joy and immediacy of dealing with those things that do remind us of what’s in charge. And how to relish them. (Thank you to Everett too).

  6. fairyhedgehog Says:

    Gorgeous imagery!

  7. Sylvia Says:

    I loved that line when I read it. It’s pouring with rain here on the Costa del Sol today, complete with lightning. Usually we too only get California-style rain (20 days of rain a year) but I think we’re getting the tail end of the snowstorms affecting northern Europe.

    I think I like polite weather.

  8. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Well, hi — see, everybody really does talk about the weather, as little as we can do about it. And it’s probably a good thing we can’t or the Republicans would be yelling about Obamaweather and a sunny day would suddenly cost 1.2 trillion dollars.

    Everett, one of the nice things about living in Oregon, if you’re a rain fan, is that you get so much of it. But it is beautiful, and I share your enchantment. One of the most perfect moments of my life also had to do with a real, bona fide downpour, so I know pretty much exactly what you’re talking about.

    Laren, did they buy it? You should have told them to catch some and put it into a little cardboard box to dry out so they could open it at night and read by it.

    So, Eric what IS the name of the three novellas put together? I really, really loved the one I read. I’d tell people here about it, but I could see the basic idea getting stolen (no joke) for a film in about eight seconds. Just on the basis of a seven-word pitch.

    Hi, Beth. I sort of envy you the experience of Ireland even though I’ve never actually wanted to go. As much time as I spent in England (and, on business, Scotland) when I had vacation time I went instead to Amsterdam of Paris or Italy, my favorite of all European countries. But, God, you make Ireland sound so magical I’m envious. Beautifully put, and I know exactly what you mean about the hair, since mine is that kind of curly.

    Thanks for the sweet words, Lil and FHH and Sylvia. There aren’t that many passages I can single out, but I do like this one. And, Lil, go to Thailand — preferably in February or March – and Sylvia, I hope those snows are over. I was once stranded in Frankfurt for five days. trying to get to London, and they had people tripled up in every hotel in town. I really feel for those people.

  9. murphy Says:

    Tim, Just now tuning in to the 365 blog. I like what happened today. Nice conversations.

    When I lived in the midwest I used to take a canoe out on the back waters of the Mississippi on misty, foggy days.
    Usually had the water to myself. Great place to dream.

    In El Paso where I taught for a while you could smell the rain coming in across the desert. When the rain came kids jumped out of their seats in the classroom and ran to the windows and doors to watch, smell, hoping to get out soon and stomp around in the puddles.

    Here in mountains of AZ we pray for rain and snow to keep the forest from burning up in the summer.

  10. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Bless you, Tim, I fear my traveling days are over (poor health, etc, and boring). That is why I count on you and others like you to take me to places I will never see, and dream of pictures that make my life magic. You are right; when I feel too hemmed in, I drive down the coast or up to San Francisco or over to the valley. I am indeed fortunate that California is so beautiful, and there are such nice people in the world –who can write!

  11. Suzanna Says:

    Last spring we spent ten days on the North Shore of Kauai and it rained almost constantly, until the day before we went home. Until that gorgeous day it had rained for 23 days straight, according to the locals. When the rain just kept coming down and it was obviously not going to let up I was disappointed but over time I recognized there were some things that made up for the lack of sun and blue skies.

    Of course it would have been lovely if there were more sunny days. We would have had more time to relax on the beach in the heat of the sun reading our frivolous paperbacks instead of camped out inside the house, and warmer days would have meant we would have taken more dips in the ocean. But then less rain would have meant fewer waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides outside our window, and there would have been fewer rainbows splashed across the sky to prompt us to dash around looking for the best view. And since the beach was not as attractive a place to be with rain pounding down around I probably never would have succeeded to get our entire group, which included two teens in the midst of receiving their college acceptance notices, to take classes with me at the local yoga studio. More rain also meant there were fewer people in the little town where we shopped for food, or where we routinely huddled for drinks chatting freely until the rain subsided. It may not have been the ideal beach vacation but our time in Kauai during the rainy season gave me a new appreciation for rainy skies.

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Murphy, and glad to see you back for more. I envy you the canoe and the backwaters of the Mississippi. I’ve never lived in an environment even remotely like that. And I love the image of the kids jumping up and going to the windows in El Paso, where I remember the smell of wet dust in the first moments of rain being a little bit of perfection. I’m not at all certain I believe in anything that’s recognizable as God, but details like that — that smell at that moment — just speak to, at the very least, a sort of universal Arbiter of Excellent Taste. (Or birds, for that matter — “I know, let’s have things that fly through the air and make music.”)

    Lil, sorry you’re not traveling at this stage of your life but happy to offer you a sort of proxy ticket from time to time. And while “boring” in your note probably modifies “poor health,” it’ll never describe you.

    Hi, Sooooooozi — Sounds like the rain was a blessing, and then it was also tropical (or, at least, subtropical) rain, which is a whole different experience. Back to evidence for God, which I’m not actually seeking: how come the water cycle, which distributes the one thing absolutely necessary for life, is so conspicuously beautiful? Rain, fog, clouds, rainbows, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, snowflakes, the fresh fall of snow, icicles — oh, well, you get it. Beautiful in virtually every respect.

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