Oh…That’s Not A Good Sound


Last evening, I sat curled up in the corner of my comfy couch, sleeping feline nearby, laptop lid up, idly surfing about, catching up on the news of the day. The Good Man did something similar in the next room. Giants baseball on the radio, the sounds of Duane Kuiper calling the game.

From out of nowhere, the lights flickered, and then went out. The instant it went dark, a loud whining sound could be heard outside. The unmistakable sound of a power transformer under extreme strain. It went on for a long time. Stopped, then started again.

And I slipped back into memory. It was the early 1990’s. My folks were living in Carlsbad and I was home for a few weeks between summer school and the start of the regular school year at NMSU.

It was a beautiful, clear summer day. I decided to take a long walk and get some exercise in before my folks came home from work. I left the house about 3:30 in the afternoon and walked down long country roads. My folks were living on the outskirts of Carlsbad at that time (if you’re from there, it was out on Cherry Lane near the CARC farm).

The first half of the walk was great. It was a gorgeous New Mexico day. On my return trip, things started to get ominous. In August in the southeastern part of the state, storms come in fast and furious. Emphasis on furious. Carlsbad is at the tail end of tornado alley, but being at the tail end doesn’t mean the tornados are any less frequent.

As I walked a little faster, the sky turned deep black, and then green. The clouds started to boil. This was bad. Very, very bad.

The rain came quickly and the temperature dropped twenty degrees. The powerful winds whipped raindrops into my bare legs and arms. Then the hail started. Small icy bits at first, then growing larger.

My whole body shuddered when I heard the sirens I’d come to both fear and hate. Tornado sirens. That meant a tornado had been spotted and all we could do was wait.

I was still about a mile from home, on foot, and in the center of the storm.

I picked up the pace a lot more. I ran off and on, but as I’m not a runner, I had to slow down so I could catch my breath.

Already drenched, I groaned when the rain picked up intensity. Thunder shook the ground, the trees, the terrified girl by the side of the road.

Lightning cracked out of the sky and hit a power pole across the street and ahead a bit.

That’s when I heard that sound. A power transformer under strain.

The power transformer exploded, sending flames and sparks into the sky.

I dove headfirst into a now very soaked alfalfa field, remembering my early training on “get low when lightning is around,” and lay as flat as possible, hugging mother earth while lightning struck all around.

Soon the heart of the storm moved on and I could hear the thunder a couple miles away, counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” between lightning strikes and thunderclaps.

When it seemed I was safe, I leapt up and ran for my folk’s home as fast as I could. I got home safely. I called my mom (a no-no in the storm, but I needed my mommy!) and since we had no tornado shelter, she recommended that I stay to the center of the house and if a tornado was coming to get into the bathtub and hunker down.

“Get ready to leave the house!” The Good Man commanded sharply, snapping me from my reverie. I was back in Northern California and that transformer sound had stopped.

I jumped to action, running to get the cat carrier out of the closet and once The Feline was secure (she loves the cat carrier and walks right in with no complaint) I ran room to room and unplugged every device that was attached to a socket. The Good Man was on the phone with PG&E advising them of the situation.

We dashed outside to see what was going on and the neighbors were all outside too, talking over what they saw and heard. Soon the sirens of a fire engine came racing toward us and the firemen let us know a powerline was down two streets over but no explanation as to why the powerline came down on a quiet evening. PG&E were on their way and we should go back inside.

We lit candles and got out flashlights and settled back into the couch. Safe. On that summer day back when in Carlsbad, I was also safe. Tornados did touch down, but several miles away.

This past April when an earthquake came along and the house and ground shook, The Good Man, a longtime veteran of the Bay Area, commanded “Get in a doorway!” and I did.

I’m grateful to have a partner who is the epitome of grace under fire, and I’m grateful for my Mom’s wise support from two decades ago, too. Mostly, I’m just grateful when there is someone strong and wise to guide me through a crisis.

That makes me feel safe.

Image from Ring Electric’s blog.

Sunday, Police Action Sunday


Yesterday I drove to the small downtown section of a small town to meet with a group of photographers. It was our scheduled monthly get together.

I pulled into a parking spot and as I put ‘er in park, I noticed a police car parked right behind me.

As I opened my door to exit the vehicle, I noticed a uniformed police officer approaching me.

Me: “Hello, officer.”

PO: (stoic) “Hello.”

Me: “What can I do for you?”

PO: “You can’t make that left turn you just made.”

ME: *puzzled look* Then I consider being a cutup and saying, “Oh, but I can! I just did! Wanna see me do it again?” But I rein in my inner smart alec.

PO: (looking at my puzzled look) “You made a turn across the lane to get into this parking spot. You can’t do that.”

Me: “Really? Oh shit.” (<- yes, I actually said oh shit to a cop. Not the brightest bulb that Albuquerque Public Schools has ever turned out.) PO: "Yes, really. It's painted there on the pavement (he points) and there's a sign on most of the light poles down the street. (he points again)" Me: (now sheepish because I really hadn't noticed) "Oh. Ok. Do you need to see my license?" PO: "No, that's ok. I'm just warning you. Don't do it again." Me: (quavering) "Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Have a good evening." PO: (walking back to his car) "You too, ma'am." Me: (inside voice) shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit Once I got done quaking in my rain boots, I realized...that police officer did me a solid favor. See, my last encounter with the black and whites was less than 18 months ago. Why does that matter? In California, every eighteen months you can take an online driver's ed class which masks a point on your license. You only get one every 18 months. So if I got a ticket I was plum outta luck in terms of my insurance. I was a little down and dour that day while headed to my meeting, but the rare kindness of the police officer brought a little decency to my gray and rainy day. Plus, I recalled one of the few bits of advice I carry with me from driver's ed classes. A police officer came to speak to us. He said, "Always be courteous to a police officer. ALWAYS. It might make the difference between getting a ticket and getting off with a warning." Thank YOU, McGinnis School of Driving.

Photo by Nick Cowie and used royalty free from stock.xchng.

Asked and Answered


It’s a hot summer afternoon and the late day sun is baking the concrete and the asphalt and the children in the backyard.

Even the grass is hot under bare feet as the mercury climbs over one hundred degrees and the town swelters.

From somewhere over the Sandias, a mass of clouds, not there ten minutes ago, begins to move and swirl and pick up momentum.

Blackening like a fresh bruise, the clouds grow darker and more imposing right in front of your eyes.

Before moisture is wrung loose, the clouds must announce their presence with all the showmanship of a meteorological Liberace.

Gaudy lightening forks across the sky, splitting into tongues, lapping out for opposite minded currents.

One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Four….

An Earth shattering crack shakes the house on its frame and the thunder sounds like the hand of God is ripping the sky asunder.

The cloud’s fireworks rage on, putting on a dry show while pent up demand for the rain grows stronger.

We’re all waiting in anticipation for what Mother Nature has to offer. In the desert, her moisture offerings don’t always make it all the way to the ground before evaporating.

The maddening effect of 7% humidity.

The wailing wind rushes through the streets lifting corners of shingles and twirling tree tops like green haired Troll dolls and rattling every window.

Howling in its intensity, the wind takes patio tables and trash cans and everything not nailed down and turns it on end. Over end. Over end.

Dogs stop howling and begin whimpering, begging to come in.

Children who were brave enough to face the lightening and thunder now race inside as pea sized hailstones on the force of the wind are pile driven into sun burnt skin.

“Ow!” they shout and race for cover.

After the showy display of hard frozen pebbles, the storm is ready to give up its cargo.

Rain, big heavy drops begin falling. No, not lightly first and then harder. Nuance won’t do.

The skies open up and the angels pour buckets out of the clouds and oh holy sh*t is the rain pouring down.

For ten minutes the world is coming apart and you hope the roof holds the walls hold the windows hold and “oh please don’t let that be a tornado.”

And then as quickly as it started, it’s done. The boiling clouds move on, intent on playing out their performance in another town another state another day.

The skies turn blue and the sun picks up where it left off, blazing down on the world below. Quickly, the wet ground starts to warm up.

Ozone lingers in the air and the drying rain gives off a smell of wet, hot concrete and moist earth.

The odor is fresh, clean, pure, natural.

Once frightened children begin to creep outside to play in the last hours of the daylight savings time white hot summer sun that soon enough gives over to pinks and oranges. Stars begin to peek through the sky….

And all of this is meant to answer the one simple question:

“For me, the smell of childhood is…”

Image found over at kirstenkoza.com. Visit her site, she’s got some amazing storm photographs.

Apologies to defenders of good grammar. After spending all day writing under someone else’s rules and word count restrictions, a rule breaking stream of consciousness felt *really* good.

And Then I Get Out Of The Wayback Machine


I got a little down this past weekend. It might have been coming off one of the busiest weeks in recent memory. Twelve hour work days can bring a girl down.

It could have been the emails flying around about the upcoming memorial for my friend. It hurts my heart.

Perhaps it was simply about the dark gray skies and soaking rain that laid down like a cold, wet blanket over the Bay Area.

Yeah. It was all of that. But there’s one more.

Back in February, when I was visiting my Fair New Mexico, my best good friend told me some really good news.

“Friend, there’s a Lake Valley coming up! Joe Delk got the permits!”

Well, this made me grin so hard, the sides of my mouth met around the back of my head.

Ah Lake Valley. Now there’s a memory.

The town of Lake Valley, once a booming silver mine, is now a ghost town. Out there in the middle of gosh darn nowhere (a little to the left of I-25, a little to the right of Silver City), there are a few buildings still standing.

One of them is an old schoolhouse. For a lot of years, cowboys, ranchers, locals and college kids got together at that Lake Valley schoolhouse for a good old-fashioned country dance.

When I say a lot of years, I mean my best friend’s grandma remembers coming out to Lake Valley to dance, and she and I do too.

People came from miles around to tailgate, share beer and stories, and dance on the uneven wood boards of that rickety old schoolhouse.

The last Lake Valley dance happened back in the late eighties. The BLM has taken over the land and buildings and it’s been mighty hard to get in there ever since.

But to hear that Joe Delk, leader of local band The Delks, had somehow persuaded the BLM to go along? Well hell, I bought my ticket PDQ. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

March 19th was when it was set to go down.

About a week before I started packing my bags, I got the news. Sadly, it was not to be. Evidently the BLM wanted a whole lot of restrictions that just wouldn’t work. So Joe cancelled the dance.

When I heard the news, I felt low.

And so…on this past rainy Saturday, I looked out my window and I texted my best friend. “This would have been Lake Valley weekend.”

“Yeah,” she replied. Then she sighed.

And I sighed.

But it was not to be.

I guess Lake Valley gets to live on only in our memories.

Maybe I should write a story about it one day. It’s a intriguing bit of New Mexico history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Ah well. Monday rolled around and the rain came down and work was waiting and I stepped out of the wayback machine and back into my life.

But somewhere in my dreams, I scoot across the uneven floors, careful not to trip on a nail, while the band plays “Put Your Little Foot”…..and we dance.

That’s the schoolhouse. Now imagine it at night. Very dark out there…

Photo from Jimmy Emerson‘s Flickr photostream.

Wednesday’s Got The Blues


The rain has returned in earnest here in the Bay Area. At this moment, there are swirling black clouds and wind driving rain into my office windows.

It’s sort of tough to take, though not unexpected, after the wonderfully sunny weekend we enjoyed (see flower photos a few posts down).

While on a conference call yesterday during which both my team and I roundly chastised a supplier, while on mute for a bit, I had occasion to vent my feelings about the return of winter to my empty marker board.

Herewith, my latest doodle.

Click to see larger size. In case it’s tough to read, the umbrella says “Spring”