I know. People who come from areas where it rains a lot will say that light green isn't rain, it's more like a persistent drizzle. But the last decade has been so persistently dry that every drop seems amazing. It rained more in Torrance when I was a boy. I've believed that all my adult life. It rained and rained when I was young. Things flooded, roads were closed. Department stores almost always had displays of bright yellow slickers or rain outfits and when it rained kids walked to school like an army of fishermen. I remember lying on the floor of a 1940s Dodge watching the cables and pulleys under the dashboard zip back and forth with a clack-thud, clack-thud pushing the windshield wipers back and forth. I remember jumping from the car to the sidewalk fearful of being swept away in a gushing torrent.
It doesn't rain like that anymore. Or so I believed. The dry spell has had something to do with El Niño and the Pacific High. I smile because of George Carlin's line, or a version of it, from the hippy dippy weatherman routine, The Pacific High was in Encino this afternoon. The change in currents and the ocean temperature interferer with the rain by changing the Pacific High, or something like that, so it doesn't rain like it used to. The evidence seems rather obvious. For one thing, they don't sell rain gear like they used to. For another, Torrance used to be half under water after a good rain. Now it's covered with schools and houses.
I shared these thoughts two or three weeks ago with someone while it was also drizzling and as I got to the part about great torrents of water, something snapped into focus. The weather's the same, it's we who are different. They don't sell rain gear like they used to because no one buys it. No one buys it because no one walks in the rain anymore. How unthinkable to send a child to school on foot in the rain, unless you live directly across the street, and even then. We had a 1950 Studebaker, later a 1955 Buick Special. My father drove the car to work and dropped my mother off on the way. When the car wasn't available, we walked. When it rained, we put on rain gear and walked, just as I did this morning to the store and back. We didn't have three cars, a truck and a motor home parked out back. We had one family car, two working adults, myself, and the twins. So, we had rain gear. Not because it rained that much, or because it rained much more than it does today, but because our lives never got rained out. We walked to school, to the market, to our friends, and sometimes downtown and back, whether it rained or not. Of course, if it was raging outside, we stayed home.
As for the flooding, the source of such lasting memories, Torrance and the greater Los Angeles area engineered it out of existence. It happened gradually. No headlines, no falderal, it happened in the background, the sort of civic activity we take completely for granted, like the control of infectious diseases through the gradual advancement of sanitation. Today it rains and the water disappears. But, it still rains. Today we have the choice of waiting for the clouds to pass in order to play outside or loading the kids in the SUV for an afternoon at the mall. If the kids are gone, we can watch the rain on television, or follow its progress on the Web. Whatever we do, we are not likely to get wet. The rain's the same. It continues to rain with or without us. But the world it rains upon has forever changed.