It’s been far too long since I last saw Sam Shaber play, and when her monthly giglist/chitchat emails erupt into the mailspool - this one’s called “SamMAY ShMAYber!,” exuberance in original - I always marvel that I haven’t seen her since Way Back Then. WBT is a big time in my life right now, since Right Now is far too small to fit everyone who’s trying to squeeze into the room.
Sam’s been on a never-ending tour for the past few years, more or less, singing her wares from the end of the world to your town. This month the e-missive comes from Los Angeles:
The tour continues on - writing to you here from L.A. where I swear it rains every time I come to town and today is no exception. This is similar to the knack I have for visiting famous sites when they have scaffolding around them, like the Louvre, the White House, Buckingham Palace, even the Eiffel Tower. (That looks like scaffolding with scaffolding…)
It’s not common knowledge, but the chief domestic product of continental Europe is in fact scaffolding. When people say “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” what they mean is that they were going to build Rome in a day, but the scaffold guys had another project going over in Greece and that ran over, and then it was raining, and then there was a party at the emperor’s place and no one wanted to take on anything heavy for a couple of millennia after that. And one thing led to another, and for want of enough scaffolding, bingo, Western civilization. That’s how it happened, in case you were wondering.
About the rain thing. You know that “never rains in Southern California” bit? You bought that, right? Like Sam Shaber, though, every time I go to L.A. it rains. We were out visiting Clay a few years ago and all along the beachfront the lovely locals were sporting knee-length winter coats, huddled under ponchos and slickers. The manager at the Manhattan Beach Brewing Company was scrambling up and down an A-frame ladder fixing voluptuous leaks. Houses were shooting off coastal cliffs like skee balls aiming for the Skill Shot hole.
That’s been pretty much the formula every time I fly out there - a few days of glorious gentle sun, countered by deluge and nervous Angeloonies who look around furtively and mutter about how “this never happens usually.” Don’t believe them.
I’ve also been to Seattle a couple of times in the past few years - Seattle, City of Rain. Once in summer, and once in the heart of the rainy season. And whatever the season it has always been lovely, sunny, balmy. L.A. = mostly rainy; Seattle = mostly sunny. Here’s my thinking.
I’m thinking a bunch of disgruntled L.A. people moved north to Seattle and found paradise. Golden sun and nuzzling breezes. Seafood that leaps out of the bay right up onto your dockfront table. Hop plants thick with sap so ready it’s almost beer by itself. Forgiving soft beds of yielding green grass, sturdy trees to bear up the vast clear sky. Bay and inlet, sluicing stream and lilting brook.
I’m thinking they realized that if everyone found out about this place, all of California and most of the East Coast would immediately move out there and mess everything up. So they started writing warning letters to all their friends: “Whew, sure is cold and rainy here, can’t think what possessed me to move to a place where it rains all the time and never stops raining, nope, just rain rain rain, that’s all it ever does, hold on, need to move the car before it slides down the hill, they do that you know what with ALL THE RAIN OUT HERE. How’s life in New York?” That kind of thing.
They tell us it’s nice out in L.A., hoping we’ll steer clear of Seattle. We figure it just happens to be raining while we’re visiting. Every time. Next time you’re out in Los Angeles, watch when people talk about the weather. Watch their eyes. They get this odd look and shuffle some, and they squint. “Funny,” they say. “It really never rains out here. Just when you come to visit.”
On the other hand, the last time I was in Las Vegas it rained there too. So maybe it is just me.