Winter Thunder

Kage Baker loved the San Francisco Bay. She loved crossing the bridges and looking down over the Golden Gate, the expanse of the Bay and the Pacific beyond it, the white caps and white sails and white birds that stitched across it.

Unless it was raining. Or the wind was up. Or, worst case scenario, a Pacific gale was coming in off the ocean and we were crossing the Bay Bridge. The last time we did that, it was in a VW van that swayed back and forth like a clipper ship. Kage managed a Perfect Act of Contrition for every mile of the Bridge between the Ferry Building and Oakland. She made me swear never to do that again.

Well, the storm is up tonight, as well, and it was either brave the Bridge in the rain or sleep in the Cow Palace. We left after dark, having completed most of our deco in the Green Man Inn; we left a gorgeous Parlour behind us, a Christmas fantasy. We thought the booming noises through the walls were trucks, or power tools … But when we left the shelter of  our private London, we found it was raining like hell.

In the real world, it was a special effects festival. Lightning was flashing in the sky continuously, lighting up San Francisco like a blue-white sun: winter thunder, an old English saying goes, is the world’s wonder – and when it is  illuminating the Bay Bridge in strobed waves, it’s a wonder indeed.

We made it back to Vallejo, my good friend Neassa and I, with no worse effects that getting wet. But 6,000 people or so are without power in the Tenderloin (which sounds romantic but is really, really not) and there’s an urban flood warning here in the Bay Area. And when you consider that most of the place is only a few feet above the sea that pretty much surrounds it, urban flooding can seem a bit more than inconvenient.

I’m grateful to be safe in a friendly house in Vallejo, listening to the thunder boom and the rain pour down and the water rise gently over the curb … we have microwave pizza and Hostess Cup Cakes, and all is right with the world.

Kage would have hated the ride over the roiling bay, but she’d have loved this part. She’d have a glass of Coke and rum and she’d toast every peal of thunder. She’d be telling us stories of pirates rising up from the bottom of San Francisco Bay, storming the rocky edges of Treasure Island to find their way to the darkened – but still enticing – Tenderloin. Booty and beauty and rum, by the powers!

World’s wonder indeed.

Tomorrow: the road back to LA, and a perfect Christmas Parlour

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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3 Responses to Winter Thunder

  1. Buffalo says:

    For fifteen years, in the 70’s and 80’s, I drove busses for AC Transit, and I favored the transbay lines, driving them whenever I could. When you are driving what is, in effect, a small building, laid on its side, things get very interesting, crossing the Bay Bridge in a winter storm. It wasn’t just the rain, making visibility difficult and spooking everyone, it was the wind that was the main problem. I’ll never forget the time, Eastbound, just coming out of the Treasure Island tunnel, when the wind caught the bus and PUSHED it, bodily, one lane to the right. Understand, I didn’t turn the steering wheel, the tires just hydroplaned on the slick pavement, and over I went. Thank goodness there was no one in the lane to my right, at the time.
    So, here’s a tip, from an old pro: when the wind is high, stay away from anything rolling that is shaped like a large brick. Give trucks and busses lots and lots of room, front, back and side. I can guarantee you, the driver is only partially in control of the vehicle. This includes VW busses. I drove one of those, too, for several years, and I remember.


    • Anne Baker says:

      My daughter Annie, one of Kage’s many nieces, attends law school in San Francisco. When I spoke to her last night she commented on the thunder and lighting that appeared to be striking right into the heart of the City. Quite a show; we just do not get them like that in Los Angeles. Thinking also of my sister and Dickens Faire. When Dickens was over it would be practically (if not actually) Christmas Eve, and she and Kathleen would rush down 101. Kage to be with me and Kathleen peeling off to Kim’s. It always made our Christmas warmer as Kate regaled us with descriptions of the last night at Faire and played CD’s of Victorian Christmas music. We would stay up and go to midnight mass. Kate had magic, no doubt about it, but we always knew that. Christmas day we would go out to the cemetary (yes, again) with flowers for Mom, Dad, Grandma Kate and Betty Jean, and sometimes make a stop by Auntie’s. We would have polite disagreements about what Mom actually put in the turkey stuffing as I was maiking dinner.
      Why am I going on about Christmas when we haven’t cleared Thanksgiving? Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Kathleen!!


  2. Genevieve Baker says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I’ve been following your post for some time now. Facinating.


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