I had a plan for today’s piece, but Megastorm! ™ washed it away.
Northern California–all of the American west, really–has been in drought’s crusty grip for several years. The consequences of this are numerous, the most severe of which is an unnatural preoccupation with weather talk. The local news treats any hint of atmospheric moisture like both manna from heaven and the seventh sign of the apocalypse. Dusty Sacramentans wander about the streets, arms outstretched and eyes to the sky like parched extras in a Cecil B. DeMille epic, beseeching God to usher forth his liquid bounty.
Or to stop, as the unwelcome rain is too cold, too warm, too late, too soon, too little, too much, too fast, at the wrong altitude, bad for the crops, bad for the holiday commute, contributing to the black mold epidemic, hampering mosquito control efforts, or lacking the express written consent of Major League Baseball. But we beg thee, oh Lord, to aim thy mighty hose at our parched lips and let her rip.
Our unhealthy relationship with precipitation leads to much hyperbole, as I guess pretty much everything does. Media outlets labeled this weekend’s rain Megastorm!™–a ferocious beast guaranteed to steal our women and rape our livestock. Floods, pestilence, a Love Boat reboot: The consequences of Megastorm!™ would be the worst ever! Run! Hide! Stock up on sandbags! Stay indoors, where you can be frightened repeatedly by Deke Schmelnick’s Accu-Weather Four updates!
I’m not immune. My house backs up to a river, and ten miles upriver rests Folsom Lake, the reservoir where the majority of Sacramento’s water is stored. A major flood means everything I own ends up in the Pacific Ocean. That’s a scary proposition, and all the Megastorm!™ chatter gets me to thinking about the stupidity of buying a house on a river. Save me, Deke! Mount the pontoons on the News 4 Accu-Weather van and get me the heck out of here!
As for the reservoir: Sacramentans are nearly as obsessed with Folsom’s water level as they are with precipitation. We worry that Folsom is too high for this time of year or whether the lake is too low for water skiing, or both. For the last couple of years, the lake has been so low that the foundations of houses destroyed to make way for the artificial lake were once again exposed to the elements. These muddy cement pilings were treated like rare World Heritage Sites rather than towns consider too inconsequential to exist, proving that the difference between “you don’t matter” and “we honor your memory” is a few decades, so hang in there, Screech–your time will come.
Folsom Lake provides not only our drinking water and a location for our boat-oriented recreation, but it’s also the key to Sacramento’s flood control. That giant bathtub ten miles upstream from my house is designed to collect Megastorm!™ amounts of water rather than let it rush madly and naturally downstream toward the Bay Area, where it would wait an hour for a ride on a cable car and feast on overpriced clam chowder served in a stale bread bowl.
Between the dam’s water control capabilities and the giant levee separating my house (and all homes between Folsom and Sacramento) from the river, I don’t actually have much to fear from Megastorm!™, Deke Schmelnick and the other fear mongers be damned. The real danger lies on the banks of the many creeks in the area that at best are protected by poorly maintained private levees. The folks in those areas have every reason to fear the Megastorm!™
So my house and my stuff will be okay, but the safety of my home is just one of my concerns. A weekend Megastorm!™ might disrupt my Saturday ritual, which is both necessary for my sanity and represents the time I allot for drafting these Monday pieces. I am very strict with my writing calendar; well, I’m strict with my schedule anyway. Routine comforts me, so the idea of Megastorm!™ rendering my Saturday impossible had me pretty edgy.
Would I be able to write a Why It Matters piece if I couldn’t sit in my booth at Waffles Corner, the curiously named diner that doesn’t seem to mind how long I sit and scribble?
Would I miss something good if I didn’t drop by my local record stores? Would this be the week somebody sold them a PiL Metal Box or a Bowie Diamond Dogs with its original, uncensored sleeve? I might miss the chance to pick up one of my grails in the wild, which is the only way to purchase a grail. There’s no thrill in purchasing a long sought record from an online retailer.
What if I made it to Waffles Corner but I didn’t get my Monday piece drafted prior to the wait staff losing patience with my loitering, but Megastorm!™ now prevented me from visiting Valerie at Spudnuts, where I can sit and write for another hour for the price of a chocolate doughnut and a bottle of water? Damn you, Megastorm!™ You threaten to ruin everything.
So last night when I should’ve been sleeping I was watching Doppler radar track Megastorm’s!™ progress in 15 minute intervals. Oh, she was a mighty beast–Fleetwood Mac’s (or Judas Priest’s) Green Manalishi stomping toward Sacramento, growing ever bigger and more colorful as it progressed. My Saturday was clearly going to be rained out by such an awesome and unprecedented weather event.
And then I zoomed out and Doppler radar showed me weather action across the United States. The entire eastern seaboard was lit up like a Leroy Neiman painting while our Megastorm!™ looked about as menacing as a fart caught on a thermal imaging camera. I fell asleep then, content that my Saturday ritual was safe from harm. Years ago Chuck D warned me not to believe the hype, but I’d fallen for it again.
It’s now 10:47 a.m. on Megastorm!™ Saturday. My local paper’s website screams “Flood warnings, frantic sandbag prep as ‘atmospheric river’ barrels toward California.” Deke Schmelnick and the fear mongers (a great name for a band) would be so proud. The truth of the matter, though, is that Megastorm’s!™ worst damage so far is that my newspaper is too soaked to read and the window of Waffles Corner is a little wet.
On the other hand, maybe it’s not hyperbole. Maybe I just lucked out and caught a little Saturday time before the real action begins. Maybe this is just the calm before the Megastorm!™
Or maybe not. I think I’ll let my luck ride for another couple hours and go see what my record store buddies have tucked away in their “new arrival” bins. I might even stop for that doughnut, even though I don’t need the extra writing time. It may not be any better for me than weather hysteria, but it sure would taste better.