Tag Archives: walking in the rain

Pasadena: City of Roses, Rain, Rapture

19 Feb

When you live in Pasadena, a mere cumulus can seem filled with theological import: All praise to the fluffy white vapor forms, to the infinite blessings of a blue-sky eternity mercifully broken. And rain of course can never be merely rain. Rain — that throwaway word that Easterners and Seattle coffeeniks and Kansan storm-yawners understand as one of the most basic components of everyday existence — rain, in this sense, does not exist for Southern Californians. We here in the City of Roses next to the City of Angels understand that rain — even one drop of the precious material, even the mere cloudy hint of it — must always be greeted as an event, as the lead story on the news, as perhaps even — no, as certainly even — the first wet proofs of a coming rapture. Yes, it’s true, we go about our lives, on the surface at least — we take our children to school; we shop; we fornicate — but it is raining. That knowledge lies deep within us at every moment. We are existing in a time of rain. The day of the rain is upon us.

Part of this feeling, of course, springs (pours! bursts forth!) from our area’s objectively biblical events. Our wildfires (not just forest fires for us, thank you very much) have now become an almost annual event. Our mudslides follow in the Springly wake of the fires. And not one seismologist we ever let blab to us via television or newspaper or blogsite has ever been able to resist the one warning that unites every Southern Californian, regardless of chosen faith or ethnicity or station in life: the “big one,” they tell us, is coming. These math-juiced prophets cry out to us from their number-crunched wilderness: we have built it — our houses on hillsides, our cities of poverty and movie stars, our megalopolis of freeways —we have built it all and it, they assure us, is surely coming for us. The Big One shall not be denied.

Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I would sometimes take a kitchen chair out to the front porch to watch a summer thunderstorm. The way the rain sheeted over the black pavement of our neighborhood road; the rips of lightening through the sky; the way we children were taught to count between the lightning and the subsequent thunderclap — the less time between sight and sound, the closer the storm; the glass of lemonade or mug of hot chocolate in my hand as the storm wind blew against my scrawny body. What a pleasure to witness such violence in such a safe space. What a sense of coziness that dichotomy worked to create.

And then inside the house, on several particular days, though I haven’t a clue exactly which ones anymore, I watched Bogart movies and perhaps even Chinatown, and Los Angeles solidified itself in my mind as a city of rain and gloom. Romantic rain and gloom, of course. Did the city seem romantically gloomy because it was raining, or was the rain simply an expression of the city’s beautifully poisoned soul? Whatever the answer, what a shock it was to me when I arrived in the City of Angels with my cardboard suitcase full of dreams and my just-so fedora and my spit-shined wingtips only to discover that, in reality, it never fucking rains here. Which is equally untrue of course, but that’s the living feeling of the area, and it’s the main reason we Pasadenians greet every spit of precipitation as something of a major event. (In celebration of these rain-events, we particularly like to drive erratically in the hopes that our local freeways can be lathered into an ultimate celebratory frenzy of rubbernecking and rage.)

I chose a rather more modest and less aggravating celebration this evening: a simple walk in the rain. I put on my warm but light Patagonia jacket and I grabbed my umbrella, the smallish one that was bought for me last month at the Santa Ana zoo. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly a child’s umbrella, though I also wouldn’t make many extravagant claims for its status as an adult’s umbrella. When extended, a colorful array of small animals protected at least the greater parts of my person from the evening’s rain event. As I walked, I thought of myself as the boy sitting on that kitchen chair on that front porch in western Pennsylvania. What a long time ago, it seemed, and what a joy too — to be out in the rain in my rainless city, in my weatherless world.

  • Ramble date: February 18th, 2011
  • Number of miles rambled: about 4.5
  • Places visited during ramble: Norton Simon museum; the Heffernan–Longennecker compound