This column will appear several weeks after the particular Friday morning on which I am working on my laptop in the sunlight, and it is nice to think that this genuinely spring-like weather might continue through February. An unusual sentiment coming from me if you’ve read some recent entries here in which I reveled in the cold and damp earlier this winter. There is time yet for a record-breaking flood season or even a snowfall in San Diego (it has happened), but in the meantime I am uncharacteristically fine with this pleasant spate of benevolence, a prime reason why many of us came here. Not me, but that’s for another time, and I have touched on it before (that whole extradition-from-Bolivia thing and the mistaken ID — the passport photo mix-up with that Turkish war criminal — all that stuff).
And here I notice, not for the first time, that I have begun a piece with a kind of weather report. I’ve wondered why it is I tend to do this and have come to the conclusion that it is akin to ancient Greek poets invoking various gods and muses. The same impulse that probably moved Bulwer-Lytton when he opened that story with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” That sentence is now infamous and the inspiration for an annual award for the worst opening sentence in English prose. The contest is followed every year by the anthology A Dark and Stormy Night with a numeral after it and includes all the runners-up for that year.
While God has, to all evidence, shed His grace on San Diego in terms of weather, He didn’t dole out that much of any other kind. We get an unlikely amount of great days and usually a handful of those that consistently take commercial settlers along Mission Valley by complete surprise — like Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football.
Another aspect of my relationship with weather these days is age and nostalgia. Like Proust’s tea biscuits (the taste buds), weather of any kind seems to be a powerful link to memory, either nostalgic or uncomfortable. At least I have found this to be so with the onset of my geezerhood.
Probably it is to overstretch a metaphor, but I have given thought to geezerhood as beginning pretty much in one’s late 50s, but certainly by 60 years of age. By extension, I’ve considered age 60 to be that Friday in the great week of life. Saturday and Sunday would, of course, be the decades of the 70s and 80s, with death being pretty much Monday morning. This final metaphor should be recognizable to anyone who has “come to” on a Monday a.m. in the wake of a weeklong bender. The comparison holds up a little further: you’re sick, shot out, miserable, and completely dumbfounded. “What the hell did I do last night? Last Thursday? And what happened to Wednesday?” One difference in death being — no snooze alarm.
Since I have just recently arrived at that still fairly blank sheet on that page on the Great Calendar of Life (Friday, or 60), I think to myself, Thank God, and realize how little mystery there is surrounding the phenomenon of gratitude for an arbitrary 24-hour period contrived by man (in our case, a guy, a pope named Greg) and the tradition of temporarily suspending strenuous and undesirable activity — that is, work — without immediate mortal consequences like starvation. Very few other man-made events come to mind that so routinely inspire thanking God. There is Thanksgiving, of course, and those things that fall into the category of firemen saving children from burning buildings, etc., but any phrase surrounding the words “Thank God” will more often have to do with the natural world.
This idea may not hold up at all in the end, but I was thinking about how odd it is, really, that we would thank the deity that we have arrived at that sunrise (or midnight) that we once long ago decided was to be called “Friday” on this scroll thing that Bob (or Greg) invented. It was this same principle 11 years ago that enabled me to maintain my composure as Y2K approached.
Another note on memory: It has been widely noted that taste and odor are memory triggers; music and colors play into it. Another one for me is associating, say, spring with rock and roll. It might be more common to partner rock with summertime, vacation, the Beach Boys, yada-yada, but I’ve found myself in late winter lifting my nose to the heavens, smiling, and saying — or at least thinking — “Ah, rock and roll weather, for sure.”