I’m not sure if any of my readers outside of California and western Arizona have been following the news, but the west coast was recently battered by heavy, persistent rainfall. The last time I can remember it raining this hard for this long was back around 2004. I was living in Fullerton, CA at the time in a tiny 425-sq. ft. studio apartment. As crummy as that place was, it had its charms – like being right next to the covered carports. These carports – like most, I imagine – had tinny metal roofs so that when it rained you were lulled to sleep by a rapid staccato of continuously falling thumbtacks. When it rained heavily it sounded like the roar of the ocean on a windy day. On those nights I’d jump out of bed, run to my balcony and yell as loud as I could. The rumbling rain would rush my voice away. Being confronted by something that immense and insurmountable was thrilling.
In those days, I never had to go far for anything so the rain never spoiled my travels. At most, I’d think that all of these standing pools of water that refused to drain might be a problem for someone else somewhere else, but never for me since it only took me 10 minutes to get to work and I wasn’t constantly commuting to Los Angeles. The recent storm and my current obligations have made me realize just how hellacious rain can be for drivers. By the second day, hydroplaning became part of driving – something you compensated for, like inclines and turns. It was also interesting to see all of the people driving with razor-thin brake pads and bald-as-racing-slicks tires who would normally press their luck on a clear day now crawling along at 40 mph. Surprisingly, the freeways were pretty clear during the storm and I can’t be sure if people were carpooling out of necessity or if the economy had just claimed more victims.
Whenever it rains I’m always drawn back into moments from my childhood, as if the sensation of rainfall slowly fills up the cracks and crevices of my mind, allowing these forgotten memories to bubble up. Usually, my thoughts drift back to Ray Bradbury’s short story All Summer in a Day. The story follows a group of young school children living on the planet Venus, which has a very thick atmosphere that causes consistent, heavy rainfall. The sun only comes out every seven years and only for a few hours. I read this story as a child (though I can’t remember at what age), but the descriptions really stuck with me. I loved how Bradbury described the vegetation growing only to be crushed again. I think about that passage every time I look at a tree getting pelted by rain.
If not Ray Bradbury, then I’m thinking about the video game DOOM. At the time it was the most immersive game I’d ever played. With the first-person perspective I was no longer playing a character; I was the character. So aside from blasting away demons all afternoon, what I also loved about that game were the outdoor environments. For a first-person shooter the game developers create the illusion of a complete world beyond the geographical limits of the game. This design necessitates the creation of the sky, which is a convention known as the skybox. In the days of DOOM the level square footage wasn’t very large and the developers couldn’t render non-geometric shapes in 3-D, which meant that horizons needed to be part of the skybox. I remember blasting through some bad guys and clearing out a courtyard only to be mesmerized by the hills drawn into the horizon. They were lush and green with vegetation, like in a rainforest. A light mist had settled in the deeper valleys and I imagined that if the developers could have programmed rain into the game (rain effects weren’t possible yet) they would have. I’d spend a good five minutes just staring at the skybox every time that theme came up in subsequent levels.
If not DOOM, then I’m reminded of the show Moonlighting. I was a child when that show was on and it always aired after my bedtime so I only got to watch it when my older brother had it on the TV in the room we shared. It starred Bruce Willis when he was still on the small screen shilling Seagram’s Wine Coolers. He starred opposite Cybill Shepherd and I think they were private detectives of some kind. I don’t exactly remember; I only watched the show because I found it amusing that the guy who played Booger (Curtis Armstrong) on Revenge of the Nerds was on it. I did understand, however, that Bruce Willis’ character was in love with Cybill Shepherd’s character, but for whatever reason didn’t know how to express it except in a prickly, combative way. Anyhow, the reason I think of this show whenever it rains is because in one of the later seasons, Willis’ character breaks down and decides to go to Shepherd’s character’s home in the middle of the night during a torrential downpour to presumably confess his love and devotion. If I recall correctly – mind you, this was over 20 years ago – Cybill Shepherd’s character doesn’t answer the door – another guy does. I’m not sure if she’s dating the guy or he’s just a friend or he’s her brother, but Willis’ character is heartbroken just the same. I could have this episode all wrong, but that’s how I remember it and that’s what I think about whenever it rains.
So there you have it – three reasons why I love the rain. It inspires on me on a literary level, an entertainment level and a romantically depressing level. Come back in August and I’ll explain why I can sit in front of the fireplace, watching logs burn for hours on end.