Recently, a number of people have checked on me to see if I’ve been hit by a tornado. If you don’t count my recent bout with the flu, the answer is no.
Nevertheless, friends and family back home in California – a state plagued by wildfires, mudslides and earthquakes – are concerned about my safety and I appreciate that.
So what follows is a complete update of my status regarding certain cataclysmic weather events and I’ll start by stretching the definition of weather to include earthquakes and go back to the late 70s.
(Hey, this is my blog and we’re playing by my rules.)
The El Centro earthquake of 1979
At the time of this event I was sleeping in my bed in an apartment house in San Diego, California. Suddenly my bed was jumping up and down and I wanted to ask the person next to me if the earth had moved for her, too.
Unfortunately I was alone, so a great one liner under stress never got used until I later put it in a cartoon for the San Diego Union. But little did I know during the next 24 hours I’d get another opportunity to make a smartass remark during an earthquake.
Quakes can come in series and I believe it was the next day when the biggest one hit and at that time I was in the San Diego Union building, several floors up.
Since my art desk doesn’t normally do the Hully-Gully on its own (and yes, that’s an actual thing that can be seen on YouTube, but shouldn’t) your first thought is it’s you and you’re having some kind of stroke that will wind up with you drooling your days away in some assisted-living facility, so when you figure out there’s a chance everyone is going to die, it’s a bit of a relief.
“Whew! We’re all fucked…so glad it’s not just me!”
Apparently, I’m not the kind of guy who will throw himself on a hand grenade to save my companions, but if I’ve got the right angle, might shove you on one to save my ass so just keep that in mind if we go to war with Iraq and wind up sharing a foxhole.
Speaking of which…
One of my Union coworkers was an editorial writer named Bob Caldwell who had come to San Diego from Cleveland and constantly talked about what a shithole Cleveland was when compared to San Diego.
The quake went on long enough that I got up from my desk and went and stood in a doorway which probably wouldn’t really do much good if a six-story building decided to collapse around my ears, but made me feel like I was doing something constructive.
From the imagined safety of my doorway I stared at Bob, sitting in his glass office, frozen at his typewriter, eyes so wide it looked like he was testing contact lenses with the wrong prescription.
So while we stared at each other waiting for the building to tumble down, I said: “Bet you wish you were in Cleveland now” and we both started laughing.
So clearly I’m a guy you want along in case of an emergency, not because I’ll pull a Bruce Willis and save everybody, but because the odds are at least 50-50 that I’ll say something funny and we’ll both die laughing unless I can use your body as some kind of shield and then it will just be you going into the afterlife with a smile on your lips.
A plague of locust
As I write this I realize I’m not sure the plural of locust is locust, but if I use the only other word that comes to mind – loki – I sound like I’m taking about that dickweed Thor is related to, although he’s kinda funny in the Avenger movies. And if I use locusts, it sounds like a I have a speech impediment, so let’s all decide locust is OK and move on.
In reality I didn’t go through a plague of locust (I wouldn’t want you to think I ever exaggerate), but was waiting for one the day I drove from Denver to Kansas City for the first time.
In 1981 I decided to accept a job at the Kansas City Star mainly because the San Diego Union fired me which turns out to be a great motivational device and over three days, drove halfway across the United States to get to my new home.
On the last leg – Denver to KC – I started in a snow storm then went through torrential rain, high winds and hail and if I recall correctly somewhere around Bumfuck, Kansas –which isn’t exactly a city, but certainly exists – I believe I saw a funnel cloud off in the distance, but was too stupid to do anything but keep driving.
After years of living in the Midwest I now know the smart thing to do would have been to pull over, find a depression to lie in and kiss my ass goodbye.
Although if I had that kind of flexibility, I probably would have stopped dating in 1978…come to think of it, I probably would have stopped leaving my apartment. And if you get that joke, you’re a bit of a pervert and all I can say is welcome to the club.
But I seem to have strayed off course.
So anyway…I’ve come to realize that day driving between Denver and KC was the Reader’s Digest version of the weather I would experience while living here in the Heartland, although when it gets really humid feels more like America’s Armpit.
This might not seem like life-threatening weather unless you’ve experienced it and are a fan of being able to breath without feeling like you’ve got a cotton sock wedged in your mouth.
If it’s not windy it seems wrong to be able to feel air, but it gets so goddamn humid here you feel like you could take a dull carving knife and cut out blocks of air to be stacked together and used to build the world’s most uncomfortable log cabin.
The event that jumps to mind is the day it was over 100 degrees, humid as a sauna and my men’s senior baseball team had a doubleheader.
The second game went 15 innings and we won both games, but my body broke down and I wound up with plantar fasciitis in both feet which sounds like something to do with the Nazi party, but is actually the feeling that you’re stepping on a tack every morning when you get out of bed.
You may have heard of Achilles Heel, but I had Achilles Heels and it didn’t go away for several years, but we won the damn games so being a dude and automatically a bit of a moron, I figure it was worth it and at the end of the year limped around carrying our championship trophy which I wound up giving away to a teammate because it was just sitting in my basement getting moldy.
“Sic transit gloria mundi” which is Latin for, “Eventually, who gives a shit?”
I’m running out of room, but have time for one more weather-related story and couldn’t end without discussing the weather event I hate more than anything but a healthy diet and exercise.
I have no evidence that God exists even though everybody who has some kind of close call and doesn’t get killed seems to think God was watching out for them, which means God didn’t give a rat’s ass about all the people who have a close call and don’t make it.
So no opinion about a Heavenly Father.
But I’m damn sure Satan exists because who else could think up some nasty bullshit like freezing rain?
Just in case you haven’t experienced this weatherly apocalypse, here’s what I’m talking about: moisture comes down as rain and then freezes when it hits the ground, your car or trees with limbs hanging over power lines which usually ends up in a fallen branch, a downed line, a power outage and you eating all the ice cream out of your now dead-as-a-doornail freezer because if you’re all going to die of hypothermia anyway you might as well finish that last carton of Chunky Monkey and not save it for whoever discovers your frozen corpse.
Shorter version: everything is coated with a layer of ice and winds up slick as a televangelist.
But this whole writing gig started because I was trapped inside after a freezing rain and couldn’t walk down the 11 steps separating my front door from the sidewalk to retrieve my newspaper without risking my life or at least a hip replacement.
Staring at my copy of the Kansas City Star laying on my sidewalk – so close and yet so far – I felt like Al Capone on Alcatraz looking out his cell window at the lights of San Francisco and the fact that I just made a comparison between reading a newspaper and a city where you can commit the Seven Deadly Sins without leaving your hotel room if it happens to be located in the Tenderloin, indicates I need to get out more.
For better or worse, bad weather actually jump started my post-Star writing career and gave me one more thing to blather on about.
So bottom line; I appreciate your concern, but I’m OK.
Unless Loki shows up.