The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Dateline 5:30 AM in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Mother Nature is crying a river – an atmospheric river.


Cry Me A River. The song is a classic. The original version sung by Julie London, that is.

“Now you say you’re lonely
You cry the long night through
Well, you can cry me a river
Cry me a river
I cried a river over you”

You have to be a geezer, or on the cusp of geezerdom, to remember your parents listening to Julie’s soulful, dusky rendition of the torch song written by Arthur Hamilton in 1953. Or maybe you’re an aficionado of the torch song genre; Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Rosemary Clooney, Bessie Smith.

You can listen to Cry Me A River anywhere; your car, your home, the backyard cookout.

But do you want to get the full effect? It’s near closing time in the wood paneled hotel tavern. It’s dim lighting; a few weak lamps, and candles in red globular candle holders, flames flickering wearily as if they wish to be done with their night’s labor. You’re seated on a stool, upholstered in red leatherette. The place is empty, but for the couple at the corner table, and they’re just staggering out of their seats. They’re headed upstairs to do the dirty boogie. He’s a traveling salesman, cheatin’ on his wife. Her? She spends her evenings in that dank bar, huntin’ traveling salesmen. Now it’s just you and the bartender. He’s at the other end of the bar, polishing the mahogany surface before closing out the till. There’s a squint in his left eye from the curly-Q of smoke drifting up from the butt of an unfiltered Camel dangling from his mouth. He glances at you impatiently from time to time. You’re boozy, swaying your head to the melody while you stare down into the bottomless well of your third gin martini. Your collar is loose, tie all a kilter. Your fedora is pushed back on your head. Haven’t shaved in a couple days. You want a cigarette, but you smoked your last an hour ago. The song ends, the joint goes as quiet as a church on Monday morning. You drain your glass and your head bobs down, chin resting on your chest. The bartender looks over. In his Bronx accent that’s sharp as a straight razor, he shouts, “Hey Mac, I’m gettin’ ready to close up.”
You look outside through a veil of cigarette smoke and the tavern’s thick glass window at the dank rain soaked streets. Street lights reflecting off the puddles. The streets are as desolate as your heart. A Yellow Cab splashes through a puddle and disappears into the dark of the city.
“C’mon Frank, my baby just left me. One more. For the road. For her.”
“Alright, but that’s the last. I’ll tell you what, Mac. Since you’re havin’ hard luck, I’ll make it a double. On me. But finish it up quick – ya hear”

That’s how you listen to Cry Me A River.

It’s our fourth AR (for you acronym fans) of the season. Fourth? I’ve lost count. Between the rivers, we get the run of the mill rainstorms. What do we call those? Atmospheric sprinklers? Between precipitation we get an afternoon of sun. On a good week it’s two or three days. Take this week. Yes, take it – please. It’s going to pour for most of the day and then clear out by tonight. The rain hits again on Friday night and lasts at least through the weekend.

We had the last gully washer on Thursday/Friday of last week. It started in the afternoon as just a rivulet. By early evening, while Cora and I were watching basketball, the rain was intensifying. It was turning into an atmospheric creek as we watched the Golden State Warriors vomit all over themselves, giving up a 48 point river to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first quarter (yes, I said 48 in a QUARTER). As sheets of water pelted the patio door, the Memphis Grizzlies were pelting the Warriors with trash talk. I wasn’t crying any rivers for the Warriors. When you play olé defense and the other guys laugh at you, you’re getting what you deserve.

Late in the night, as Cora and I were finishing the last episode of The Dropout, the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her pet fraud Theranos, the wind howled and the rain was a drumbeat on the roof. No crying for Elizabeth. The weirdo needs to do some serious jail time.

Bedtime and no let up. I was awakened at 2-ish in the morning by a tempest that was slamming the roof and the windows. Lexi was looking about in a panic, wondering if the walls were going to cave in. A moment later, it stopped. It was as if a valve had been shut off. Ever had a tantrum that was so fierce (like when your team surrenders 48 in a quarter), so exhausting, that you just blow yourself out and then collapse in a spent heap? That was 2-ish in the morning.

I woke up to the pool overflowing – again. It’s not a big deal. Not as big as the deals that are going on all over the Bay Area and California. We’ve been lucky, very lucky. After a February storm we had one leak. An outdoor light didn’t have proper gasketing and leaked water between the outside and inside walls. After too much water accumulated on the slab, it leaked onto and under our family room floor. We replaced the light and the leak stopped.

The floor? Our realtor’s handyman came by with an assistant to fix it. It was Moe and Curly (Larry? He was having a martini in a dimly lit bar I guess). What Moe called a four hour job stretched into two days and in the end, our floor is more fucked up now than before they started. I don’t know what we’ll do about the floor. I guess when we sell the house we’ll offer a credit for a new floor. I fired our realtor. He protested and I reminded him that his handyman was the face of his business and right at that moment his face was uglier than an old mule’s ass (I was more diplomatic).

Like I said, we’ve been lucky. Don’t cry a river for us.

Downed trees damaging homes and cars, and downed power lines leaving people without power for days. Further south, in Soquel, near Santa Cruz, a section of road collapsed into a sink hole, cutting off a neighborhood from, well, the world. Super saturated hills are giving way. People who’ve never dealt with mud are shoveling muck out of basements and kitchens. Businesses are shut down due to water damage and power outages.

A levee broke in the small farming community of Pajaro. I’ve been through Pajaro. It’s a pleasant little community. Like many of California’s ag communities there’s a large Hispanic population. Drive through the area and you pass the bounty that is Central California; strawberries, apples, fresh flowers, cauliflower, broccoli and artichokes. You can stop at little vegetable stands and load up on fresh from the farm produce, or stop at a place that offers the area’s specialty – deep fried artichokes. So fucking good.

Now Pajaro is underwater. People have been forced out of their homes. A news report showed a woman walking to nearby Watsonville to stay with a friend. All that she had with her was her backpack and the cat she was carrying in her arms. And she was smiling.

Up in the Sierras the snowpack is at record levels. When Highway 80 isn’t closed, it’s treacherous and deadly. 80 is the main route to many of the ski resorts which are reporting too much snow. Over the hump on Highway 80 you get to Reno. Cora and I go to Reno two or three times a year. Not this year. I don’t do snow.

In a previous post, I wrote about my drive along the Mississippi River in Iowa. I’d stopped at a high water marker that measures a record flood that occurred back in 1965, when the river crested at 33 feet. It was caused when a record snowpack melted suddenly due to heavy rains. My memory flashed back to that story when I heard rain in the forecast for the Sierras. If it doesn’t hit this week, the rain will surely come later, during the spring. We can only hope that it won’t be a repeat of Iowa in 1965.

I imagine that some of the right wing faithful down in the Bible Belt are proclaiming that the Gomorrah that is California is facing its judgment day; the wrath of a benevolent god. Rational thinkers will counter that this is the work of climate change and global warming. Mother Nature, just about down to her last nerve, had enough of humans pissing all over her wonderful creation. “Piss on me will you? Well I’ll show you some major league pissing.”

Ah, but the national nut brigade is having none of that. “Hey Martha, them liberals is tryin’ to say that global warming is causing this strange weather. How can it be global WARMING, that’s causing all that record SNOW. That whole climate change bullshit is nothing but a hoax dreamed up by the woke mob and the Chinese Communist Party.”

Cora and I are tired of the rain. The dog is bored. We’d like to clean up the yard. The weeds are loving life and it’s going to be a major weeding project when (if?) things dry out. But don’t cry a river for Cora and Lexi and I. We’ve been lucky.

“Hey Frank, how bout another martini? Make it dry, like the weather ain’t. Make it a double, Frank.”

6 thoughts on “Cry Me An Atmospheric River

  1. Deb says:

    California has really been hit hard Paul, I’m glad you aren’t necessarily in the worst of it. Living in Washington we hear and experience those AR all the time so it’s easy to grow complacent and forget about the deluge they can bring to places unprepared. In other notes- I always remember Julie London from the 1970’s TV series Emergency. She played a no- nonsense nurse at the LA hospital, although I was more taken up with the firefighter/paramedics on the show. I seriously considered that route as an occupation until I saw them doing high level aerial rescues. Two steps up on a ladder is too high for me!

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Deb,
      Oh, so these AR’s belong to you folks in Washington? Can you please take them back. We appreciate the temporary loan. Now that our drought is gone we don’t need them anymore.
      I never knew Julie London was on TV. I just remember my parents listening to her back in the 1950’s (I’m that old). Once my tastes got more eclectic I listened to more of her songs.
      My daughter’s ex is a fire fighter. It was his dream job when he was a kid and he managed to follow his dream. He’s has some interesting stories.
      Ladders? I’m the same.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      1. Deb says:

        I’d help if I could but those AR’s seem to want to dip down your way and I have no pull with Mother Nature!

  2. Toonsarah says:

    I’ve seen some coverage of the wet weather in California on our news, and a friend in the south of the state shared photos of snow on the mountains there, in places she’d never before seen it. But your words bring the scale of it to life in a way no news coverage can. I’m glad you’ve been lucky, and I feel for those who haven’t. As for ‘Cry me a river’, have you ever heard the Mari Wilson version?

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      As I write this, it is calm and clear and in the process of drying out. Last night our basketball standard tipped over. Thankfully nobody was under it. Some large limbs snapped off a tree and are partially in the swimming pool. I’ll pull those out today or tomorrow. Nothing major. I wanted to trim the branches anyway.
      I like the Mari Wilson version. Like Julie London it’s very simple. She has the backing of a piano and sax and Julie is backed by guitar and upright bass. And then there’s Joe Cocker’s version – which I actually like.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      1. Toonsarah says:

        Glad to hear things are calming down. We once saw Mari Wilson on stage in London, which is perhaps why I favour her version – live, it was incredible!

Would love to hear from you

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