Kage Baker had a “thing” about tracking the weather. She was mildly obsessive about it.
Part of it was because she did so much outdoors performance; and so much travelling on California’s always-decaying roads. Part of it was because she was terribly sensitive to temperatures. Part of it was an occasional longing to be somewhere else. But part of it was just that the tools for prognostication were many and varied and constantly improving, and she was fascinated by them.
She kept a barometer on the wall by her desk, and loved comparing the weather she could literally see breeding out on the Pacific – all of two blocks away – with what the barometer said was happening. She kept two thermometers for the same reason. For a long time, she had one of those weird ceramic poodles that turns from pink to blue depending on the likelihood of rain. But in the coastal fog zone of Pismo Beach, the dog was usually a faint sickly lavender from the fog and so was not a lot of use.
Her favourite was the Weatherbug station I installed on her computer. It had 3 kinds of maps to display weather changes, plus maps for lightning, heat and winds – all attractively colour coded, which was a code Kage read easily. She liked the Doppler maps best, though; she loved the way the weather fronts could be seen charging in from the Pacific or striding down the coast like an army. She liked having a personality assigned to the weather.
She was also amused by the various little icons, showing the breath of the winds or the frequency of lightning strikes. And when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees and the read-out started flashing crimson, she was always delighted. She said if she had to be that hot, a show was the least she deserved.
Weatherbug also has a rather hilarious WARNING noise, when Severe Weather alerts come in. It sounds like a cricket on speed, with a side of helium. Kage called it the Cricket O’Doom, and just loved it when its falsetto cry trumpeted shrilly from her desktop.
She’d love today. We’ve had the Cricket O’Doom announce heat warnings; and while the temperature is dropping a little now, there was a flash of crimson at 101 around noon. The Doppler shows drizzle, rain, heavy rain and torrential rain doing a country dance all over the map of Los Angeles County – changing partners, swinging through a hay, double down the middle to your left … your other left!
Everything possible is happening somewhere in Southern California today. There’s lightning from the Sierras to the Rockies. And coming straight off the Pacific is an air-borne river of storms heading right over downtown Los Angeles. We’ve got a 50% chance of more rain today!
Of course, Kage always said that doesn’t actually means it will, yes, rain. It just means that half of whatever falls will hit you. She always took percentages of expected rain very personally, too.
It’s warm and grey and muggy. I am fortified with iced tea and cold water in the fridge. There is ice cream, and cottage cheese, and watermelon, and other hot weather comestibles. I have no errands to run outside the house, wherein it is dim and cool and beautifully scented by the magical scent of hot, wet concrete …
I am going to go off and read awhile as the day simmers down to a perfect melange of twilight. Then I’ll write some more. But for now, Dear Readers, I advise everyone to take refuge in their favourite tropical Other World and wait it out. Have a mai tai with Long John Silver or Ginger Ted, wait for the rain on the roof with cat-eyed Sadie Thompson.
Or imagine yourself as guests of the Casa Mombasa – the tropical rest home for old re-enactors Kage always wanted to build. She and I would drift through the place, along the wide roofed verandas and under the wooden palm leaves of the overhead fans, dressed in linen Gibson Girl gowns 30 years too young for us; at twilight or when the storm darkened the skies, Kage would stand on the long porch with an oil lamp in her hand, breathing in the violet scent of sperm whale oil and guiding late guests to our doors … while I made the rounds of the Remittance Men and Decayed Gentlemen, Soiled Doves and Grass Widows in the high-backed wicker chairs and the dark bar, with foaming glasses of beer or crystalline pitchers of gin and tonic.
Now, that is where I wish I was today. Barefoot under my petticoats, with wilting orchids in my greying hair. Ah, the Casa Mombasa …