Kage Baker liked wind storms.
We got doozies when we lived in Pismo Beach. That fabled town is a ribbon on the edge of the continent – a mile wide and 7 miles long, unless they’ve annexed some more empty canyons recently. The Pacific breathes heavily on it, and there are hills behind it that channel all the inland winds right out to meet the ocean. Consequently, the place is prone to gales and micro-bursts.
Micro-bursts are modern explanations for sudden descending whirlwinds, apparently. They come rushing up like an invisible train and hammer everything in their path. I think they used to be identified as marauding angels. In Pismo, they move kayaks, power poles, garden furniture, birds and small animals between houses in unexpected and amusing ways. Simooms rise on the beach and leave enormous dunes piled against the pier and herds of surprised tourists.
Kage adored this. We lived for many years in a tiny cottage made of shipwreck scraps – really, there were timbers from scorched houses in the foundation; no two windows matched, there was not a level floor or plumb wall in the place, and the kitchen door had come from a fishing boat’s cabin. When the winds rose and gusted, the entire cottage shook. The living room ceiling – which was plastered plywood hung maybe 4 inches from the roof beams – flexed like a tarp.
And the wind howled. We had eaves – teeny tiny ones – and the wind sang and orated in them like the voice of God. When we moved up the hill and up a story to our last apartment, we got better construction: but the wind still howled around the building. We faced the sea, looking west through the middle air, and the winds hit our living room wall and went singing in all directions. It was great.
We had grown up in the Hollywood Hills, literally in the Cahuenga Pass, in a house perched on a knife-edge hilltop. The yard sloped precipitously fore and aft, it was 50-odd steps to the street below, and the house itself boasted a tower on the front. That cupola was Kage’s domain … and when the winds would come roaring in from the San Fernando Valley, her tower was the rock on which they broke. In winter the icy north winds made the entire Valley glitter like a bed of embers; in the summer, when the Santa Ana wind blew madness and fever through the Basin, the exhalations of the desert filled her bedroom.
Even when we left home, we stayed in the Hills. We lived in a neighborhood more or less behind the Hollywood Bowl, halfway up streets that ascended like staircases from Highland Avenue. (Some of them were staircases, totally inaccessible except by foot, roundly cursed be generations of firemen and delivery guys.) They were reefs in the ocean of the seasonal winds, which hit the hillcrests and then splashed down the narrow streets like invisible tides, bearing off trees and roof tiles.
Kage considered the whole process a show.
Right now, the Los Angeles Basin is under a wind advisory. We are told to expect gusts up to 65 miles an hour “below the canyons” (that is a meteorological code phrase for “anywhere that isn’t an actual hillside”). The weather app on my desktop keeps giving off its warning chirp, which sounds like the Cricket of Doom. But no wind is evident where I live, though I am indisputably below several famous canyons.
It was foggy yestreday. Today the air is clearing, the eastern mountains are visible again, downtown has surfaced from its tide pool of haze. Somewhere there must be wind, and it’s pulling the haze away like a plunger just out of sight. Currents must be moving in the upper air, skimming the lower layers of murk away off to San Bernardino … but nothing is blowing here.
It’s weird and disappointing. I like me a good wind storm myself, and the panic-mongering weathermen have been predicting one for days now. So far, though, nothing is stirring the air here near Griffith Park but the memories of past winds. We deliberately dressed the tree in the front yard in white and green lights, to imitate the new leaves we hope for soon – I want to see those garlands dancing!
Better go scratch the foremast, I guess. Kage always said that would work.