"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
This sentence flitted across my consciousness recently, apropos of nothing at all, and got me pondering. I think it's supposed to be a joke of some kind, though to me it doesn't really fit the criteria. Taxonomically, I'd classify it among the wistful musings of those homespun Midwestern "humorists" of yesteryear whose "witticisms" appear more the runoff of a diseased and/or senescent mind than actual jokes. The sort of "humor" perpetuated by Garrison Keillor. I do listen to PHC for the music, but dang. Humor's not supposed to hurt, dawg.
To more fully illustrate the feebleness of that "joke," I will now relate an actually funny one from my own personal Top Ten. It's a little crass, so the more sensitive among you may want to decamp to a tamer section of this website or paper.
Okay, a guy walks into a bar. You know why so many jokes begin thusly? Because every day, millions of guys walk into millions of bars all over the world and something funny is bound to happen in some of them. Anyway, so a guy walks into a bar. He sits down, orders a chink, and spins around on his stool to check out the available talent. As it happens, this gent was one of those shallow types who rate women on a numerical (1-10) scale, and when an attractive young lady walked by his perch, he felt it incumbent on himself to assess her appearance and apply a numerical designation, in this case clearly verbalized in hopes of initiating further conversation and perhaps ultimately a sexual dalliance. "Baby, you're an eight," he says to her, leering appreciatively. The very attractive, and apparently quite athletically agile, woman leaps up onto the bar, hikes up her skirt, squats over the fellow and commences pissing on his head. "Okay! Okay!" he says, the golden shower cascading down his arms as he puts up his hands to divert the offending spray. "Ten! Ten!"
In case you're not absolutely convulsed with laughter right now, let me break this down for you. This joke is like one of those two-stage fireworks where just when you think it's over it erupts into a far more resplendent conclusion. There is, of course, the initial pun, "you're an eight" being a homophone of "urinate,” and then the amusing image of a pretty girl vaulting atop a bar and degrading a sexist douchebag. The really funny part, though, is that the guy is so firm in his self-imposed role as arbiter of feminine beauty that he believes her reaction stems from feeling slighted at not being given a higher rating, when actually she was exploiting the homophony to exact revenge for his rude and sexist comment, proving herself quick-witted as well as beautiful and acrobatic. Good one, right? That concludes today's Humor 101 lecture. Tune in next week when we return to the glory days of Johnny Fuckerfaster.
Anyway, weather. People are always talking about it. Hot (or cold) enough for ya? Think it'll clear up? Think it'll rain? S'posed to be nice this weekend! And so on. Is it because we're so unimaginative and dull that the only thing we can think of to initiate a conversation is whatever the hell it's doing outside? I don't think so. After all, I do it too, and people generally congregate near me to gather in bon mots as they tumble like precious carbuncles from my mouth. I think it's because it's the one thing in life at whose mercy we every single one of us are, utterly powerless as it imposes its will, be it with soothing zephyrs or battering typhoons or incendiary bolts of galvanic vengeance lancing down from a roiling sky. Weather is the great leveler, both literally and figuratively; we are all equal 'neath its might and scope, and it will straight-up level the bejesus out of anything you might care to construct.
I see our incessant casual observations about the weather as a form of prayer. What we are actually saying with our banal chitchat regarding the surfeit/lack of precipitation, or sufficiency of heat/cold/water, is,
0, weather gods, we know what you are capable of. Only bless us with mild breezes and balmy days and you may name your sacrifice. Remove the storms to distant area codes, carry off the trailer homes of strangers, flood the valleys far from here, only just make it nice for our softball game this weekend.
Weather can spoil your plans in a variety of ways, from being a mild inconvenience to bringing you to financial ruin to actually killing you, but when it's not giving you skin cancer or carrying your double-wide off to Oz or setting your barn on fire, it can also be benevolent. It nourishes our crops, provides us with wind and solar energy, and, as illustrated in the following example, sometimes it can keep you out of jail.
It began as so many adventures do, outside of the Albion store. I was shooting the shit with a few locals as I wrapped myself around the outside of 40 oz of Mickey's when an interesting-looking vehicle pulled up. It was an early 70s Cadillac Eldorado with a completely flat profile — no top, posts, or glass. Just a sleek wheeled rectangle. The highest point on that whip was the hood ornament. Definitely not street-legal, but operating in the capacity of what the locals term a ridge-runner — a vehicle capable traveling from point-to-point but unburdened with the niceties associated with legal motoring — registration, tags, insurance, doors, what have you. The rear seat had been removed, creating a sizable storage area which was filled with a tangle of wetsuits, masks, fins, snorkels, and net bags, the apparent trappings of an abalone diver. The pilot of the car had a vaguely piratical air, leading one to suspect a casual attitude toward seasonal restrictions and bag limits.
After doing his shopping, the putative poacher came out and addressed the caucus of layabouts to whom I was at that moment telling the very joke I related to you people earlier. I delivered the punchline to great effect and raucous laughter as he waited politely, and then said, "Any-a you clowns wanna make fifty bucks?"
I tipped up my 40, drained it, belched and tossed it into the receptacle. "Let's roll," I said.
"Don't you even want to know what we're doing?" he asked.
"Nope," I said, vaulting over the door and into the passenger seat.
His name was Edwin, he apprised me on the way to BFE Albion, and he was in fact an abalone snatcher, among other things. He grew a little of this and cooked a touch of that, and bought and sold a few other things. We rambled through the Albionian hinterlands for about twenty minutes until we arrived at his spread, a collection of permanent and not-so buildings at the end of a long dirt road, strewn with rusty machinery and derelict vehicles.
"What we're gonna do," Edwin said after we parked and stretched, "is move everything from this 'un here" — a 20x20 metal shed — "into that 'un there" — a larger wooden barn 40 or so yards away. The shed was filled with building materials — boxes of tile, asphalt shingles, buckets of paint and mastic and nails and oddments, framing lumber, plywood sheets, and so forth. Without further discussion, I hove to and begin filling a barrow. After several trips, Edwin said, "Pit stop," and laid some rails out on the trunk lid of the Eldo. Accompanied by a couple short tugs on a large jug of whiskey, it was the perfect accompaniment to a morning's mindless labor. On we toiled throughout the morning, lifting, wheeling, and stacking, now and then augmenting our flagging drive with a dash of the 'ol rit-dit-da-doo and smoothing out the edges with whiskey and weed. By the time we finished I was feeling fine and looking around for something else to do.
"Okay, good work," said Edwin. "Now for the second part of the job. I need you to drive me into town."
"In this thing?" I asked, indicating the abbreviated Caddy. "It's not legal, is it?"
"Not strictly, no, but I got a suspended license with 2 strikes on it, and I gotta get to town in order to pay you. You got a license?"
"Yeah, but I may not have one after today," I said, eyeing the land shark doubtfully. As usual, though, my sense of adventure — a preening, musclebound thug of titanic proportions — held sway over my sense of caution, a puny, underdeveloped weakling with poor eyesight and a whiny voice. I took a prophylactic slug of whiskey to forestall any objections the latter might pipe up with and said, "Alright then. Let's do this."
We hit the road with the whiskey on the seat between us, smoking a fat bomber and listening to "Exile on Main Street" on cassette on the car's stereo. We hadn't gotten too far towards Fort Bragg when it began to sprinkle. "Speed up, we'll outrun the shit," advised Edwin. Sound logic, but when I tromped on it, things seemed to worsen. I flipped on the windshield wipers which, having no glass on which to gain purchase, flopped uselessly back and forth on the hood and dashboard. Still, there was a measure of psychological comfort derived from the fact that they worked.
The rain steadily increased in force and density, and by the time we hit Little River we were smack in the midst of a full-on North Coast toad-strangler. We were soaked to the skin and sloshing around on the seat like a pair of prize grouper on the deck of a sportfisher. Edwin reached back into the cargo bay. "Here, put this on," he said, handing me a mask-and-snorkel combo and donning one of his own. I felt better thus outfitted, if only because it was an acknowledgment that we were now traveling underwater.
I noticed Edwin pouring whiskey into the top of his snorkel and tipped mine in his direction. He filled my tube and I siphoned that shit right down. I began to get into the spirit of the thing, singing along through my snorkel as we sluiced through the deluge. I waved cheerily at the other motorists that we passed, garnering some very curious looks and a few appreciative honks. Edwin reloaded my breathing (drinking) apparatus and just then I heard the warning whoop of a "pull over" signal. I turned around and saw the flashing lights of a CHP vehicle through the sheets of rain.
Shit! This one was going to be a bitch to explain. I pulled over to the shoulder and bit down on the end of my snorkel — I could at least extend to the officer the courtesy of not drinking in his presence. When the poncho-clad CHiP approached the car, I released my grip on the mouthpiece and aspirated a little whiskey, causing me to reflexively cough and shoot a fine spray of booze out my blowhole like a drunken cetacean. The cop stood there for a moment taking it all in — the stripped-down car, the wipers clattering on the dashboard, the two occupants peering at him through diving masks — and, without a word, reached into the car, pulled the keys out of the ignition, and with a clear and decisive motion of his extended thumb, directed us out of the vehicle.
We resignedly stepped out, expecting to be going hands-on-hood, but the officer got back into his car and took off down the highway. We stood there for a moment, watching him disappear into the storm. "Huh," Edwin said, tipping his mask back onto his forehead. "What do you know about that?"
He jimmied the trunk open with a pocketknife and retrieved the duffel full of weed he'd been intending to convert to cash in Fort Bragg. We stuck out our thumbs and before too long got a lift with a couple of hippies in an old Dodge Power Wagon. They drove us into town where Edwin concluded his business and doubled my promised Grant with a full Benjy for my trouble. We parted ways there and I went to seek further adventure in the bustling metropolis.
Way I see it is, the fastidious trooper correctly perceived us a Hazard to Navigation, knew he had to get us off the road, but didn't want a couple of half-drowned water dogs messing up his nice clean patrol vehicle. Saved by the rain! You just never know.
Sometimes what appears to be biblical retribution actually turns out to be deliverance in appreciation for being just an ornament to the universe and a joy to be around. It's all a question of perspective.