A couple of days ago I woke up to pouring rain. Rain! In L.A! We actually do get it a few times a year. It’s like going through a car wash. You know, one of those mechanized conveyor belt contraptions, sort of like a mini amusement park ride in the middle of the city. Kozlet and I love those things! The one we go to has these massive, hairy looking, pink and blue rollers that rush at you from every angle. Some just bash repeatedly into the car, while others whirl around madly like insane dervishes that are trying to tickle you; meanwhile all kinds of noises and flashing lights and cascades of colored soap give the whole experience a carnival madhouse flavor. We call it “Attack of the Giant Muppets.” I let Kozlet sit up front and we wave our arms and yell the whole time. Anyway, my point is, it’s fun, but doesn’t actually get the car that clean, and you know that pretty soon it’ll be be all grimy and have bird poop on it again. That’s L.A. in the rain.
The main problem is that it rains here about as frequently as I wash my car, which is to say, hardly ever, and the city simply isn’t designed to handle large amounts of water. If it rains steadily for more than a day, the roads turn into rushing rivers. I’ll never forget one night when I was still in college. It was my birthday, and two friends from art school were taking me out, although I had to drive since I was the only one with a car. Our destination was a creepy coffee house that used to be in the Knickerbocker Hotel. Considered one of the most haunted buildings in Hollywood, lots of famous people died or went insane there, and Houdini‘s wife used to hold a séance on the roof every year on his birthday after his death. The guy who ran the cafe, who had been a child star back in the day and never quite got over it, was a total jerk, but the place was still really cool. The room had this kind of gothic art deco thing going on, with half the space devoted to racks of vintage clothing and jewelry for sale. They served great coffee drinks and had a pool table set up in a little anteroom that was decked out like an old-fashioned movie theater. As long as the owner was asleep on the couch, which was most of the time, it was a really fun place to hang out.
That night it was pouring not only cats and dogs but frogs and guinea pigs, I mean it was really coming down. We were creeping slowly along a secret route of steep little side streets in my decrepit old car, the Frankenstang. The tattered wipers hardly made a difference in the downpour, and we all heard it before we saw it: a great roaring WHOOSH from behind and then we were engulfed in water halfway up the sides of the car, which lifted up off the road and began to float downstream, in the direction we were already going. All three of us were laughing our heads off at the absurdity of the situation, especially when we realized we were not alone. A line of similarly incapacitated cars was floating majestically ahead, like a parade of giant bath toys. Another vehicle gently bumped into us from behind, causing us to drift helplessly into the bumper of the car in front of us. Slowly, the train of cars drifted down the narrow street until at last we approached an intersection, where the flood waters gurgled away. The Frankenstang lowered back down to the pavement with a slight bump, and we continued on our journey as if nothing had happened.
The worst part about the rain is that people here don’t know how to drive when it’s wet. The first few minutes are the worst, when the water hits all the oil and other crud on the street, making it extra slippery before it gets washed away. Then you’ve got all these type A personalities speeding around while shouting into their cell phones. They’re not about to slow down for a little thing like rain. It’s no wonder that you hear more sirens and see more accidents on rainy days. What I don’t understand is, if so many people in L.A. are transplants from places that actually have weather, shouldn’t they know more about driving in the rain? Or is there something about the combination of sunshine and gasoline that makes people forgetful?
I didn’t feel like going out driving in the downpour, but I needed a haircut, and Kozlet was looking forward to the outing. I realized when we got outside that we really needed some boots. I realized that the last time it rained, but by the time we got to the store all the boots had sold out, since everyone else in town had also just realized they needed some boots. Then, of course, it had stopped raining and I forgot about boots. Now as we neared our destination I noticed that the gushing water at every intersection was higher than the curb. There was no place to park in front of the apartment and the only spot I could find was a block away. At first we had fun jumping over puddles, but the puddles started turning into lakes, then streams, until finally we were trapped, with no way to go but through the rushing river. Kozlet and I decided to make a break for it, and with hearty yells we forded the temporary tributary. At the end of the street, we saw the source, a spectacular waterfall crashing down a flight of steps outside an apartment building. The Niagara Falls of Hollywood! Try going over that in a barrel! By the time we got to my friend’s place, we were soaked, but giggling. I accepted some dry socks and warmed up with a cup of hot cider, then my friend cut my hair while our boys played, as the rain continued to pour outside.
When it was time to go, the rain had eased up slightly, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant to put on our wet shoes and trudge through the damp back to my car. Kozlet was complaining, and I was telling him to hang on, we’d be home soon, and there would be dry clothes, a heater, and a hot drink. That’s when I caught sight of the bedraggled hump of a human being, huddled under a ragged blanket, trying to keep dry in the doorway of an old building. Suddenly I wasn’t just looking forward to a cup of hot tea, but filled with gratitude for my comfortable life and my loving Mr. Koz, who works hard so that Kozlet and I have a place to live and food to eat, and I have the freedom to create art and dance and do things that make me happy. I don’t ever want to take these things for granted because who knows, one day it could all change.
This year I am grateful for so many things. My aforementioned family, who make me so happy that I want to dance; my apartment, which is just big enough to dance in; my cat, for being so fuzzy; my friends, teachers, and mentors, who have believed in me even when I haven’t; and you, for taking the time to read these words. Happy Thanksgiving!