Thursday, October 16, 2008

Out of Satan's Ass

Living in Southern California, there are days in the fall when you wake up and know, even if you missed the meteorologist’s moment in the spotlight as the lead story on the previous night’s 11:00 news, that it’s going to be one of those days.

“Well,” you think: “at least it will be warm,” although it’s absolutely frigid as you leave the comfort of your toasty bed. Your skin is reptilian, your lips are cracked and dry, and your hair is standing on end and charged with electricity. You can’t get enough water into you. Everyone is being an asshole. Someone finally groans and says it out loud: Santa Ana.

The Santa Ana winds have always carried a leaden load of folklore with them on their way down from the mountains. Just as we tend to accept the full moon as the legitimate root cause of unusual behavior and extreme emotions, the Santa Anas can be blamed for your edginess or ennui on a day when the air is thick with gusty heat.

Raymond Chandler once wrote:

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen.” Red Wind, 1938
Aside: Lou Grant once recited that passage to Mary as an example of how to write prose, and Chris Stevens read it to his radio audience on Northern Exposure.

Many Californians describe the heavy, dry stillness that precedes a Santa Ana as “earthquake weather”. Others claim an increase in homicides, although I can only vouch for an increase in my own homicidal intentions.

In the last several years, the Santa Anas have brought a more intense foreboding to this area, still singed both literally and metaphorically by devastating wildfires. It’s not that the winds will necessarily bring bad things, but it sure feels like if bad things are going to happen, these blustery days do create the perfect karmic backdrop.

This week we had a full moon and a Santa Ana. And PMS.

Anyone wanna see my shiny sharp knives?


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Jacquie, this is just so well described and so well written.

"the Santa Anas can be blamed for your edginess or ennui on a day when the air is thick with gusty heat."

Wow. And btw, I miss Chris Stevens.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

I love this, Jacquie! It's so apt and well expressed. I can feel the Santa Ana (both literally and metaphorically) while reading this.

I have to say, though, I love Santa Anas, even though, well maybe because, they feel so crazy, and different and kinetic. I find them distracting though, as if there is something that's just about to happen. Kind-of like living on the edge of a sneeze.


Oh, I miss Chris Stevens too, Ellie.

Unknown said...

Great piece! I'm pretty sure the Santa Anas scare me less than PMS.

Anonymous said...

"it’s absolutely frigid as you leave the comfort of your toasty bed"...California people talking about cold weather always makes me smile...up here in Ottawa

Kat said...

I think I'll take a pass on the shiny knives. Great piece.

steenky bee said...

I've heard of the Santa Ana wind, but my husband blows something much more deadly.

Anonymous said...

Very well described - I am in Florida and the humidity just sticks to me all year long even in winter ... I don't know maybe because I was born and raised in Italy - I love to read about other people's climate challenges...

Kathi D said...

Winds in general make me cranky and edgy, and the Santa Anas multiply that about 100 times over.

I've read that ER visits go way up during the Santa Anas (I don't know if it is from cut throats).