Okay, but seriously, why does his tie match his face?!
I’m sort of ashamed to admit it, but some small part of me envies people who live on the Gulf Coast right now. I don’t envy the heat, or the humidity, or the obesity, or the crime, or the environmental catastrophes, or the bonkers adherence to the more conveniently hateful parts of the Old Testament, and honestly I’m not even crazy about the accents. But damn it, those lucky bastards are getting rain!
I know – Hurricane Isaac has done a lot of damage in the Caribbean and there’s an outside chance it could really mess up New Orleans. It’s a powerful, awesome destructive force of Courtney Love proportions, and much like Courtney Love it isn’t the sort of thing that somebody should want to be close to. I know that rationally, but then I see Shepard Smith on TV getting drenched by waves and driving sideways rain and I start to swoon just a little bit.
I’m experienced with inclement weather the same way a white 13 year old who’s seen 8 Mile a few times is experienced with the thug life. Growing up on the West Coast has sheltered me from all the worst that nature has to offer – sure, back in Oregon I had my fair share of rainy marching band practices and from time to time we had to contend with wet dog smell, but a few ruined sneakers aside we generally got by. One time in high school our storm drain clogged and flooded our driveway. That was our Katrina.
Weather in Oregon was atmospheric at best and inconvenient at worst – never something that could kill you. Really, when I look at other regions of the United States, I don’t get why people live anywhere but the West Coast: In the Midwest you’ve got black spinning air vortexes of death, in the Northeast you’ve got blizzards, and in the Gulf Coast you have severe proximity to Florida, not to mention terrible hurricanes.
Most Americans look at their severe weather as a fact of life; I look at it as a not-so-subtle hint that maybe nature doesn’t want you living there. That said, I usually look at most adversity as a covert hint to give up and do something easier, so my opinion probably doesn’t carry a lot of weight here.
Living in Los Angeles, though, has me so starved weather-wise that I’m desperate for any sort of change, in spite of all the times I got soaked in a spontaneous downpour on my way to class in college and swore that when I moved to LA I’d never miss cold and rain again.
It hasn’t rained here since April. The air I’m breathing is equal parts dust, smog, and spray-on bronzer. The Mystery Wagon is now less a station wagon and more a rolling hunk of dusty grime with questionable gas mileage. I could wash it, sure, but thanks to my Oregon upbringing I have it hardwired into me that your car gets clean when nature damn well wants it to, and that car washes are an affront to nature invented by Californians.
So when I see images of people in New Orleans scurrying indoors as storm clouds gather, I start to miss driving through puddles on my way home from school, scampering inside the house, and eating pot roast while rain hammers against the windows and the wind smashes our neighbors’ wind chimes against the side of her house. Hurricane Isaac has already killed 24 people, making this perhaps my most insensitive nostalgia yet.
There’s something about crappy weather that brings people together like nothing else can. The murderous weather that the rest of the country experiences brings people together in real, tangible ways as they rebuild homes and house refugees; what I’m more familiar with is the way people act when it’s simply kind of nasty outside.
Shitty weather keeps you indoors and more or less forces you closer to the people you’re with – in college, my roommates and I used several severe rainstorms as excuses to get drunk and watch Death Race. (Admittedly, we used a lot of things as excuses to get drunk and watch Death Race.) It’s also a great excuse for laziness – when you spend all day in bed with your laptop when it’s raining, people say you look cozy; when you spend all day in bed with your laptop and it’s nice outside, people say you’re ‘showing signs of depression.’
And before I moved here I never realized how much shitty weather does to improve smalltalk. Let me tell you, when I run into a coworker in the break room at work, I’ve got nothing to say short of asking about their weekend plans – and if you do that too much you turn into the creepy nosy guy (or so I’ve been told). Without weather, the next best thing to make small talk over in LA is traffic, and since I ride my bike to work now I’m up shit creek there, too.
I bet right now a lot of people in the Gulf probably envy LA’s absence of weather as much as I inexplicably envy their presence of weather – but in both cases it’s probably a grass is greener thing. People who grew up with annual hurricanes presumably have some of the same nostalgia for sandbags and boarded up windows that I have for wet dog smell and fashioning crude rain hats out of copies of the Oregon Daily Emerald.
For as exotic as it looks on the news, though, I doubt I’d last very long in New Orleans right about now. I lose my enthusiasm for rain pretty quickly once my feet get wet, and all the shrimp in the world won’t make Shep Smith’s fake tan any less terrifying.
Truman Capps is going to delete this update with extreme prejudice if the levees break.