The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

“Beg to report sir, the good ship California is taking on water and is listing to port.”


“It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring …”

It’s been raining and pouring but this old man hasn’t been snoring. He’s a light sleeper, even lighter when anything that isn’t tied down is blowing around the backyard and up and down the block, while sheets of water are slapping the pool cover.
It takes a dark and quiet night for this old man to snore, while the trite old, “dark and stormy night,” has me staring sleeplessly up at the ceiling, hoping it won’t leak.
My phobias don’t include snakes or great white sharks. My phobia is over the need to contact the State Farm adjuster because Mother Nature decided to pee in the living room.
Any man, woman or child, young or old who’s been able to snore through California’s atmospheric rivers and bomb cyclones of the past two weeks has got to have been on intravenous melatonin.
I have to wonder how the people just to our east, over on Carson Street are faring. Years ago three homes on that street were condemned when part of the hill looming above, oozed into yards, kitchens and family rooms. The hill still looms. If this old man was living in one of the still standing houses he’d be spending the night downing shots of bourbon while staring out the back window.

Wading room only at the city park

The rain arrived on December 27th, when we were still bloated from Christmas dinner. It seems like ages ago. Hell, the last time we weren’t bracing for showers, we still had a Christmas tree in the house. Beyond breaks and one entire, partly sunny day, the rain has hung out like the meddlesome in-law who refuses to leave.
After years of drought the initial storms were a hopeful sign. Sure we thought, we can weather a few days of wet weather if it means an end to water rationing in summer. Days turned to more days and more days turned to weeks. Gushing gutters gave way to flooded streets, sinkholes, downed trees, power outages, lost livelihoods and lives lost. In the Santa Cruz Mountains just south of us, a small community is getting supplied via zip line after having been cutoff by flood waters.
Days inside, looking out and it didn’t take long for the rain fed blahs to pool up.


Dog owners are familiar with a rainy day ritual called the door game. Fido stands at the back door asking to be let out; human dutifully opens the door; dog, craning forward, sticks out a tentative nose, looks up at the human, glances back outside at the rain and finally turns around thinking “fuck that.”
Five minutes later, doggy is back at the door. It’s a day-long dance.
At some point, realizing the choices are go outside, pee in the house, or burst, Lexi will go out, do nature’s bidding hustle back in the house, give a shake and stand patiently while I dry her feet.


One afternoon during a particularly soggy day, I noticed a small puddle behind the family room couch. Lexi must have snuck back there and peed, I thought.
Turned out that I’d slandered the poor dog.
A small leak at the corner of the patio door.
An inspection of the patio door turned into a general inspection of the grounds. An overflow from the pool at the deep end wasn’t a concern but the small pond that had formed behind the shallow end was troubling.The pool of rainwater was feeding a small creek of muddy water that was flowing into the pool. Nothing for it but put on my boots, grab a bucket and start bailing. Once I’d drained the pond I headed out for sandbags.


A Facebook post by the City of Hercules announced that sandbags would be available at the local community center. Replies to the post had less to do with sandbags and more to do with public appeals for solutions to individual problems.
“Thank you, and not sure if anyone is aware but there is a pothole as you enter the freeway toward Oakland that bust (sic) my whole tire yesterday”
“Please check the eucalyptus trees behind my house, near the community pool. There’s cluster of eucalyptus trees that we already complained before (sic) and they only cut down one. Thank you, my address is … “
My favorite reply, and the one I sorely wanted to reply to read, “What do we do with the sand after the storm is over?”
I know what I’m going to do with my sand. It’s going to be a base for a small stone retaining wall I’ll have to build come spring.
It was do it yourself sandbags at the community center. A pile of sand, a yellow bin full of empty, bright, white bags and – no shovel. The city had left one there but apparently someone in need of a shovel of his own decided that it would be more convenient and economical for him to steal the city’s rather than go to Home Depot and buy one. People suck.
I went back home, reported the theft to the city, and returned with my own shovel.
There’s now a line of sandbags, a 300 pound band aid, behind the pool, and another in front of the patio door. If I ever want to stage a World War I reenactment I guess I’m all set.
During a letup, Lexi prowled around the sandbags, approaching them cautiously because a dog can never be sure that a sandbag won’t lunge, unprovoked. Once she was sure that the bags didn’t pose a threat she gave them a few sniffs of approval.


Every morning, the news reminds me that we could be in much worse shape.
All around the Bay Area, people are swabbing mud out of their homes and businesses. In Capitola, a middle section of the town’s municipal pier was washed away, isolating the businesses located at the far end. Those shops are just a few hundred feet from the mainland, but due to a fragment of missing pier they might just as well be an ocean away.
You don’t have to go far to hear the growl of chainsaws as arborists cut down wobbly trees and dismantle toppled ones.
Need repairs? Fall in line. It’s at least a six week wait — and growing.
These are flush times for roofers, fencing companies, and general contractors.
CALTRANS can’t keep up with the potholes.
Boom times for tire companies, mechanics and body shops. Bad times for fools who speed in and out traffic, too fast to avoid the pothole that blows a tire, smashes a rim and maybe even fucks up the suspension. Don’t drive like you’re Dale Earnhardt if you can’t afford the repair.
Insurance adjusters must be burning the midnight oil writing up claim denials.


Was it Tuesday or Wednesday when Cora was aching to take a walk during a short break between storms? Hard to say. The rain induced torpor makes it easy to lose track of the days.
“Doppler radar on my phone says you’ve got about a two hour window,” I said.
Fifteen minutes later she was back – dripping wet. “What kind of bullshit radar did you use?”
I glanced out the window. It was pouring rain outside. I have to admit, it was just a little bit funny.


When I’m not opening the door for a disappointed dog there’s plenty of time to read, or watch television.
Binge watching.
We powered through a mediocre action/revenge Chris Pratt series called The Terminal List.
Our own watch list is anything but terminal.
Jack Ryan

Episodes of a food/travel show called Somebody Feed Phil, starring Phil Rosenthal, who travels the world seeing sights and eating food we of the bourgeoisie can’t afford. Phil’s a happy, likeable guy unlike the spoiled rich brats of White Lotus, who are so unlikable that we arranged for an early check out.

We took a run at Stanley Tucci, a snobby twit who CNN apparently, and ineptly, dredged up to fill in the gap left when Bourdain passed. Tucci is Searching for Italy and he’s doing it in an overbearing, haughty manner. To compound his crime of arrogance, Stanley occasionally takes an abortive stab at speaking Italian, injecting a random sentence or two, wrapped indelicately in a crappy American soaked dialect. I suppose he’s trying to establish his Italian cred. Yeah, we took a run at Stanley. As they say in the running races, we DNF-ed (Did Not Finish).

Giant trees were doing a devil’s dance and the rain was incessant on the 11th when Cora suggested that we watch the Godfather. That classic is best watched while eating spaghetti and meatballs in red sauce, washed down with a cheap Chianti poured from one of those kitschy straw covered bottles. We had none of those so we settled on popcorn. I’d forgotten what a long ass movie it is and after some of the best lines, (“Leave the gun, take the cannoli”) had been exhausted I was getting impatient for the old don to keel over.

I’ve watched (American) football to the point of over saturation.

For one week I watched the Republicans piss all over themselves trying to elect a House speaker. To call it a shit show is to not give it its proper due. It was two trains, one hauling blazing dumpsters and the other pulling rail cars loaded with burning tires, colliding on a track running through a dog shit covered nuclear wasteland.

On the 9th I lost my shit over the news that Biden apparently can’t take care of top secret documents either. That sure let some air out of the indignation over Trump’s own cache of purloined papers.

What is it with these guys? Do they need to be supervised while they clean their desks and pack up their family pictures, diecast model cars, sports hero bobbleheads and other personal shit into a Banker’s Box? You know, like the rest of us when we get laid off or fired.

Hell, if they want souvenirs there’s a perfectly good White House gift shop a short walk from the West Wing. Give the outgoing president a chance to stock up on trinkets engraved with images of the White House so that he’ll leave the paperwork where it belongs. That assumes that the outgoing guy isn’t an asshole who refuses to go out with dignity.


January 12th is by far the best day of this very young year. A pink and blue sunrise brings the promise of a dry day – all day.

It’s a short reprieve, a chance to get outside without first dressing up like the salty old fisherman on the frozen fish stick box. The 12th is a day for getting out of solitary for a little time in the exercise yard.

Lexi and I take a short walk along the recreation path that follows the San Pablo Bay shoreline.

Out on the shoreline, about arm’s length away from the Southern Pacific tracks, two fishermen hunched over, trying to get comfortable on the big rocks. The companionship might be enjoyable but I have to wonder if they’ll catch anything out of waters that are roiled and murky from the storms. What’s that old saying? “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.” Better too, than getting up every five minutes to open the door for a bored dog.

Further along I hear the remote, animated sound of a sports talk radio show. I follow the voices across a small green field to where a man is mending a latticework fence. I imagine there’s a lot of that going on during the brief break. It’s a busy day at Home Depot; nails, tarps, patching materials, rolls of chicken wire. Shovels for those who can’t find a city owned shovel to steal.

Near Pinole the rec path continues onto a bridge that passes over a deep gulch and the SP tracks. Across the gap, at the very edge of a bluff, sits a stand of eucalyptus trees, some with exposed roots that extend down the crumbling wall. How long before they tumble into the pit and onto the tracks below? And why hasn’t Southern Pacific ordered the trees cut down?

Further along the bluff is a row of houses with backyard fences that are poised to fall to the tracks far below. Some fence slats and a few chunks of backyard gardens have already washed away and are lodged into the walls of the bluff.

I imagine that when the homeowners bought those houses they were really buying the striking view of San Pablo Bay and Mount Tam’s distant peak. Over the years they must have loved sitting in their backyards watching wispy pastel clouds at sunset. I wonder how many of those homeowners surveyed the precipice before signing the papers.

I can’t imagine how those homeowners feel now. The clouds have lost their allure. Now a bank of clouds portends the day when they might get up one morning to find that their patio furniture and a piece of their real estate is sitting next to the tracks below. They must feel trapped. Who would buy those houses?

It’s a pleasant walk. The rain, as tiresome as it’s become, has greened up the rolling terrain. The water sounds on this day are pleasing ones. A creek riffling through a woody notch and bay water lapping on the shore. Birds have come out from wherever it is that birds take shelter when the storms rage. It could be the beginning of spring but in mid-January spring is a mirage.

The break is short lived. Nature was just taking a short break, resting up for another main event.


The 13th brought a 15 hour long bomb cyclone/atmospheric river. Cora suggested that we watch Godfather II.
“Oh, hell no,” I said, remembering the interminable part one.


I’ve put together an informal list of things that I don’t want to hear until the first day of spring.
I don’t want to hear a single cutesy song that celebrates rain. It’s a long list that includes:
Singing in the Rain
I Love A Rainy Night
Rain Is a Good Thing
I Think I Like When It Rains’

I don’t want to hear an aged hippie (They’re no longer “aging.” They were in their teens and twenties in the 1960’s – they’re old now) from Marin, wearing a peasant dress and a priggish smile, condescendingly admonishing the Bay Area that “we need the rain.”

I don’t want to hear a Trumper trumpeting that global warming is a hoax conjured up by Bill Gates, George Soros and the Chinese Communist Party.


As of this writing, the weather forecasters are in agreement that the worst is done for the foreseeable future. We lucked out. A leaky patio door and a retaining wall need some patching but beyond that, all we suffered were boredom and a couple hours of Stanley Tucci.

17 thoughts on “Dispatches From the Tempest

  1. Toonsarah says:

    The weather in California has featured regularly on our news broadcasts so I was aware how bad it has been, but it’s interesting to get a first-hand account. I’m glad it hasn’t impacted you too badly, beyond boredom. I have to say we quite enjoyed the Stanley Tucci, but we so fond of Italy we were always bound to I guess 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      I woke up this morning to a completely clear sky. Isn’t it amazing how the weather can affect one’s mood?

      Our different takes on Stanley makes for an interesting comparison. I don’t like Searching For Italy for the very reason that I love Italy. For me Stanley is an episode long photo bomb.

      I have a relationship with Italy. My mother was a war bride from Italy and most of my maternal family lives in Rome. I don’t have a count on the number of times I’ve visited but I’d say it’s close to ten, though it’s been far too long since the last visit. Back in the 1990’s I had a discussion with my wife about moving the family to Italy.

      I think the series has the potential to be great. All CNN has to do is remove Stanley.

      Just one of those “to each his own,” things.

      Thank you again for reading and commenting.


      1. Toonsarah says:

        Yes, interesting. We too have a relationship with Italy as my husband’s grandmother was Italian and we’ve been a couple of times to visit the town she came from, as well as many other parts of the country. I guess it comes down to what you think of Stanley, not of Italy, and we didn’t find him as irritating as you obviously did! Maybe he’s more in the vein of British presenters???

        1. Paul says:

          Oh absolutely it’s Stanley. I could watch views of Italy all day.

          Apparently he’s got quite a film resume. I’m sure I’ve seen him in films but I can’t recall any of his characters. Selective memory loss?

          He might be more palatable for me if he’d drop the Italian. It comes off as too affected for me.

  2. Jane Fritz says:

    Your “on-the-ground”descriptions of what we’re seeing in the news bring to life for us what it’s like way beyond the most dramatic mudslides. Yikes, Mother Nature’s warnings are getting stronger and stronger. Take care, Paul.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Jane,
      Things have calmed down now but we’re told that even if we don’t get another drop of rain, the slide and downed tree threats will remain for at least another month. Mother Nature is getting more adamant but we seem to be just as adamant at blowing off the warnings.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      1. Jane Fritz says:

        So sad. They aren’t kidding when they say that mankind is a work in progress.

  3. mistermuse says:

    No doubt this is the last thing you want, but it’s a great song and won’t sway Mother Nature one way or the other:


    1. Paul says:

      Hello Mr. M,
      It is a great song for a great movie. That said, in our case, “nothing’s worrying me,” (what, me worry) didn’t quite apply.
      Thank you for reading and commenting, and for the musical interlude.

  4. It never rains in California, but, man, don’t they warn ya……and all that. You know, your lively and amusing text is made even funnier for an Englishman like me who has to keep re-reading the odd passage just to get his head round the unfamiliar American words and phrases – and references come to that. I am reminded of when I read Catcher In The Rye and began wondering if I’d missed some English lessons at school.

    1. Paul says:

      Think of it as learning another language.

      Maybe Google can add a translate application that translates British English to American English. It could include subcategories that like Southern American, New Yawk American, Baastun (Boston) American and valley girl American.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Glad you enjoyed.

  5. Anne Sandler says:

    I loved this post and the humor you put in it Paul. Here in Citrus Heights streets were flooded and trees came down. Our community lost trees and the creek crested over onto the lawn, but after a couple days of respite, all is normal. They are still cleaning up the downed trees. The madding thing is that we are still not out of the drought stage! Or so they say.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Anne,
      Yes, The Sacramento Area was definitely in the news. Good to know that you are back to normal.

      These days it’s hard to figure out what normal is. They, the all knowing and mysterious “they,” say that we’re in for these events every year and “they” says they’re going to get progressively worse.

      We got flood insurance one year even though we don’t officially live in a flood zone. This June I’m going to renew flood insurance just so I have my bases covered.

      Take care and enjoy the good weather.

  6. Beautiful – ” To call it a shit show is to not give it its proper due. It was two trains, one hauling blazing dumpsters and the other pulling rail cars loaded with burning tires, colliding on a track running through a dog shit covered nuclear wasteland.” But can we use it for the GOP overall rather than just the speakership tussle?

    1. Paul says:


  7. eden baylee says:

    Hi Paul,

    Spring’s here now, so were the forecasters right that the worst was done for the foreseeable future? Based on our conversations since March, I don’t think so.

    “I know what I’m going to do with my sand. It’s going to be a base for a small stone retaining wall I’ll have to build come spring.” << I hope you built this! 😀

    1. Paul says:

      Hi Eden,
      I hesitate to say it, but I think the rain might be winding down. There, I jinxed it. Where’s my rain slicker.

Would love to hear from you

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