Tag Archives: rain

Pondering the Pineapple Express

The “Pineapple Express” isn’t just a stoner movie that’ll have you hitting the Cheetos, it’s a weather phenomenon that instills dread in the hearts of West Coasters.

It’s days of unseasonal warm weather coupled with dreary heavy clouds, battering rains, and sometimes winds. It’s not like monsoons in the tropics, it’s just medium-to-heavy rain that seems endless, for days. With the humidity between 90-100%, it feels like you’re walking around in a wet paperbag for three to six days straight.

There’s some localized weather phenomena that affects where I am, Victoria, BC, where “the shadow of Mount Rainier” is said to save us from about 50% of the rain that falls in Vancouver. We might be just across the strait, less than 100km from Vancouver, BC, but they’re a rainforest, and downtown Victoria ain’t. Half the rain, baby.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria's Clover Point.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria’s Clover Point.

But you wouldn’t know it on days like these. Not because of all the rain, but because all the clouds sock us in and that moisture’s still THERE, it’s just holding out to put out for Vancouver. I guess Victoria doesn’t drive a flash enough car to woo the likes of this rain.

Still, like a school boy on a hot date, those clouds are fit to explode, and I feel the pressure as it slowly rolls overtop this island, starting its dump further up the coast as it lays into Vancouver.

It pounds behind my eyes and the back of my head. I can even feel the little shifts. Clouds clear in a patch above me momentarily, and so will my head. Rain resumes, so does the foggy brain. It’s baffling.

They call these “low-pressure fronts.” It’s evident even in the people. We trudge and grumble. There’s a “rainy-day hunch,” too. We don’t even know we’re doing it — it just happens when walking down the street in heavy rain. It’s a forward slouch with a hunching of the shoulders, and it effectively ensures more like a 60-40 rain-split, where your back gets most of the wetting action.

‘Cept those days where you’re walking into a headwind and then you’re just screwed, bro. Done. Those are the days you get rain-soaked straight up to mid-thigh. God help you if you’re not wearing water-resistant clothing, or better yet, Goretex. I’m not the only former Vancouverite who’s had 2-3 layers of clothes all get soaked under a “rainproof” jacket on the very bad, no good, wrong rain day.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

We grumble and whine and moan, but this rain becomes a part of us. Day after day it grows prohibitive and inconvenient, not to mention mind-numbing and depressing, but the odd heavy rain becomes something we almost cannot live without.

I loved to the Yukon in 1994 and spent the year living in Whitehorse. When you think “Yukon,” you think endless snow, so naturally it must get quite a bit of moisture, right? But you’d be wrong. It’s incredibly dry. It snows in October, then pretty much just stays dry and sunny and cold until April, when it rains a couple times and the snow finally melts.

I’d moved there in October, after Vancouver’d had a three-month dry spell. By the time I saw and smelled rain again, it was the following April and I hadn’t seen rain in 10 months. I cried, I was so happy to see it.

So today as the rain pounds and batters the streets, and I sit with all my windows open while enjoying the unseasonal warmth, I’m loathing the dreariness despite enjoying its idle, and dreaming of when I will live in a place with more sun than rain in winter, and wondering if I might miss these Pineapple Expresses one day.

After all, there’s a catharsis that comes with rain. Like if it rains any harder it’ll even wash away my sins. It’s soul-soothing and permissive. My inner-Catholic is a big fan of rain and all its symbolic cleanliness.

I feel I’ll be betraying all my lineage by escaping this climate. From the Barra Islands Camerons in the Outer Hebrides to my Viking MacNeills, Irish Monks, and my Breton line, they’re all foul-weathered people. They overcame the challenges of the land, sea, and skies, and thrived in it.

I have the luxury of failing them all and wimping out. City-folk. Pah!

As a result, I’ll be letting the rain dictate my weekend. Food, cleaning, writing, sloth, Netflix, drinking, reclusion. All fine and glorious things. All behind the rain-streaked windows, wearing comfy jammies and sporting bedhead.

No shame, man. No shame.

Mid-Morning Moody Skies

The rain is oppressive this morning. It’s hardly June-like, this.

I live in a rainforest, I have to remind myself. Man can slap a bunch of concrete together but he can’t fool the planet. City-schmity, buddy. Rainforest-central, that’s Vancouver. The trees are just hiding amidst the concrete.

I watched a little of a doc on Ansel Adams this morning. That man made nature photography like some people pray.

Photo by me, last June. Maybe this *is* "June" weather.

Between last fall’s pneumonia and this spring’s back problems, I haven’t been out in real nature in months. In the coming weeks, I’ll be working up to riding the trails of UBC and getting out to the North Shore for hikes.

Ken Kesey once wrote to the effect that if you can’t find god in your backyard in Kansas, you’re not gonna find him in Egypt’s pyramids, either, or anywhere else. He meant the world’s a beautiful place and full of mystery wherever we are, but if we choose not to see what’s there in front of us, going lookin’ for it elsewhere ain’t gonna make it anymore tangible for us, even if we’re lucky enough to find it.

It’s easy to have a mindblowing experience when you’re away from home. Finding it in close quarters takes a different kind of awareness. I suspect we all fall into the routine of seeing the street we need to turn down yet again, before we go to X building for Y duties, and not that there’s a strangely random rhubarb plant growing roadside in the middle of a high-end shopping district full of concrete, or an eagle soaring over the downtown core when on our work lunchbreak.

Both those things have happened to me, lately. In Vancouver’s Yaletown, in front of Earl’s, there’s been a rhubarb plant sprouting, I think. Eagles are often around Vancouver.

We see what we want to see. And on another grey day like this, most of us just see the wet cuffs of our jeans, the moody skies, and the crowded bus shelters. Too bad. There’s a lot more out there. Try to see one interesting thing a day. Keeps me alive and plugged in.

Well, perhaps if I bring my umbrella, the rain will stop. So goes the Vancouver legend. Chuckle, chuckle. Right.

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As of today, Vancouver’s Canucks are ahead 1 game to none in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. You’re goin’ down, Boston. This is the year. Vancouver’s bringing it home. (Rainbow power, baby. Just like the start of game 7 against Chicago, a rainbow appeared in the last period of the game yesterday. Victory goal with 19 seconds to go. Beauty. Rainbow power!)

When Winter Looms, Wet Coast-Style

Rain’s slamming Vancouver sideways, as heavy winds batter windows and fill me with dread about the day’s errands to be run.

Days like this, the so-called simple life of living without a car feels like punishment.

Photo by me, November in Vancouver, 2009.

It’s true Wet Coast glory on a stormy morn like this.

You cannot run, you cannot hide.

Living on the Pacific coast becomes a chore this time of year. It cuts into me. The endless oppressive grey is the bitterest tonic to swallow for the seasonally-affected, like myself.

Endless rain’s like inertial dampeners for the soul. Slows the pulse to a dull echoing thud.

Today’s sky is deep grey, lacking of any definition. Just a mass of smooth charcoal oppression stretching between horizons.

It’s part of who we are, here, though.

There’s something about the rain that, when you’ve been in Vancouver or on this coast long enough, becomes a part of what you exude emotionally and how you absorb the world around you.

All the Sufi mystics will tell you the height of joy we feel for life can only be measured by how much we have suffered.

If the same is true meteorologically, my Vancouver brethren know a sunny day’s glory better than any one, any where.

I’ve long thought the climate in Vancouver to be almost a psychological aspect of who this city is. We’re bipolar. Full of life and passionate in sun, bitchy and isolate in rain.

It’s not like we’re the most populated region in North America, but look at the prolific serial killers we’ve had between Seattle and Vancouver — the Pig Farmer Willie Pickton, Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer, and child-killer Clifford Olsen.

The darkness affects some people a lot. It can fuck with the sturdiest of minds when it’s going on three-plus months of 65% darkness, oft-filled with cloudy skies the other 35%.

The rain, the wet, the isolation, the wind, the chill.

It’s a gruelling place to be come the doldrums of winter.

Early explorers up the coast called it a special dreary kind of hell when the rains began.

I’ve lived in the Yukon, and even with less daylight and Arctic-like temperatures, it was a far cheerier winter — sunlight came nearly daily, and the snow blasted light everywhere.

Days like today in Vancouver, I feel like I’m living in an Edgar Allen Poe tale, with bleakness around every corner.

Fortunately, I’m literary, so that kind of works for me.

Until I step outside.

I sometimes wonder how much where we are is who we are. Much of this town makes me ponder who that makes us. Takes a strange breed to suffer through most of nine months of being a battered duck just to enjoy a brief summer.

Yet, I stay. Like so many others.

It’s hard not to love this part of the world, despite the bleak and endless grey that finds us so easily.

I might’ve found the Yukon a cheerier place in the winter, but my heart dropped through the floor when I saw a sunny day picture of Vancouver’s summer in passing on television that spring, and weeks later my soul felt a blanketed peace when I got caught in the first rain I’d felt in 11 months, since arriving in the Yukon.

I may bemoan the cold, wind, rain, and endless oppressive air, but this is who I am, too.

A Vancouver chime-rattling windstorm, the endless drizzle or pelting rain, and the mottled variations of grey will always, always evoke home and comfort to me. It’s visions of blankets and warm beverages, soft crackling lights, heaters groaning in the night.

It’s Canada, Vancouver-style.

And as much as I hate the idea of leaving and plodding through this for the better part of my day, I’m already enjoying the idea of getting back home again.

Because that’s winter, Vancouver-style.

And that’s why we have warm beverages, fluffy slippers, and breathable waterproof raingear.

Whatever it takes, Wet Coast-style.

Bittersweet Winter Mornings & Their Longings

A little after waking, a furiously beautiful sunrise lit my little part of the world up. Red, red, red, as far as the eye could see. Fire on the horizon, exploding across the cottony clouds that spread west over the Pacific.

Some shivers, some cold toes, but it was worth heading out to stand on my balcony and marvel over nature, if even too briefly.

I’m reaching my winter tether’s end. My sanity is tattered, my resolve weakening.

I want Spring. Continue reading

On Sun, Rain, Sex, and Serial Killers

Tthe following lofty tome struck me as I was unable to get back to sleep with sunlight spilling through my cotton blinds. It rambles a bit, but indulge me. When I started this, the sky was filled with azure blue, birds singing, soaring, and the gorgeous sunlight I’ve been longing for. It’s an hour later, now, and merely a band of sunny light remains, splitting the now-gloomy onslaught of non-descript grey and charcoal clouds spreading out towards the east.

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It’s a sunny morning, a rare thing here on Canada’s West Coast in this, the doldrums of winter. A news report out of Seattle yesterday commented that it was the 22nd consecutive day with rain, and though the morning has gotten off to a beautiful start, I expect that here in Vancouver, the pattern of wetness will continue by day’s end, if the weathermen have their shit right.

Weather’s something we don’t often look far into. Rain is rain, sun is sun, and you’re lucky when it’s the latter, right?

But there’s so much more to it. It shapes us, who we are, how we act. If one was to look at population densities, for example, here on Canada’s West Coast, we’re not nearly as populated as Eastern Canada. BC has a fraction of Ontario’s population. What, then, explains our absolutely disproportionate number of serial killers?

Vancouver’s one of the most beautiful places in the world in the summer, and in the winter, one of the dreariest. This past month hasn’t been an exception. The depression that spreads through this city is insane at this time of year, and makes one think of all the strangeness that unfolds at times.

This morning, I’ve been lying there, having been conscious of the sun’s upping for the last 45 minutes, thinking. Thinking at first about public sex, and how spring evokes for me that want to get outdoors and be active, but also the passion that comes with warm, fragrant spring nights and dewy grass with flowers on the cusp of blossoming. Despite those thoughts, I found myself remembering one Vancouver winter night years ago when a lover and I threw down my trenchcoat and had mad sex atop it on the muddy river banks of the Fraser, under a soaring giant oak tree, as torrential rains fell without relent. Yes, indeed, a true west coast girl.

But then I began thinking how my mood of late has struggled to stay up, as it always does in the dreary darkness of this season, and how connected our psychologies are to light, warmth, and weather. And I thought of how sex is one of the few activities one can really enjoy at this time of year, if they’re not into snowboarding or the like.

And I thought of those who haven’t the option of just acquiring a lover the good old-fashioned way, those who need to purchase sex. And how the continued need to do so must evoke some sort of anger or bitterness in the purchaser. To tell the truth, prostitution has been on my mind a lot thanks to a fascinating novel I’m reading about a 43”-high dwarf living in Ireland’s County Cork, a beautiful book with titillating language and brilliant observations, that will probably fuel at least a couple postings on this lowly rag of debauchery.

But I thought most about that absolute bastard, Robert Pickton, Vancouver’s notorious Pig Farm Serial Killer who’s presently facing charges, with a ban on the press, for the murders of 27 women since the ‘80s, though some suggest the fucker’s responsible for the deaths of up to 60 local prostitutes – all disadvantaged women from Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, forced by life’s circumstances to work in the sex trade.

Pickton apparently lured these disenfranchised sex-trade workers to his home out in Surrey with the promise of drugs and cash, then brutally killed them after what are said to be lurid parties on his isolated pig farm, and fed them to his pigs. The recovery operation for DNA evidence on his sprawling farm and its troughs was one of the largest archaeological digs in Canadian history.

If you look at this part of the world, the beauty, the nature, the geography, it speaks mostly to being God’s country. Some years, the weather’s reprehensible, though, and you wonder what it does to people with less stability than someone like myself. I recall the year I spent living in the Yukon, where though the days were short in the winter, the sun would emerge daily and fill the air with the brightest, cleanest, most mesmerizing light I have ever seen. There, I’d met a lady who’d lived in Vancouver all her life and she said to me, “I just couldn’t fucking handle the winters anymore. The year I moved here, it was 45 days straight of rain. I felt like crying every morning by the end of all that, and nothing I could do would change my mood. I’ve never been so hopeless, so desolate…” She moved there, and had never felt that way again. I noticed that I had no depression that winter, a first for me in my life, and the only time I’ve escaped winter sadness since.

It’s no coincidence that off the British Columbian coast is one of the top 10 sailing destinations in the world in the summer… but the region was clearly discovered in the winter, since its name speaks volumes: Desolation Sound.

Pickton’s not the only legendary killer from this region, and not the only one to prey on sex trade workers. There’s the Green River Killer who worked not only in Washington, but occasionally here in Vancouver. A classmate of mine in elementary school, his sister was killed by the GRK. Robert Clifford Olson, another Vancouver man, killed 11 boys that they found, but he wanted authorities to believe there might’ve been dozens more, though he refused to cooperate on his alleged conquests.

The murders are disproportionate to the populations, and to the violence found here on the whole. We don’t get a lot of gun violence or random killings, with an average of 30 murders per year, with most of those being gang- and drug-related, but when it comes to serial killers, we’ve written the book. And nothing, for the life of me, can explain it away, except for the dark, dreary, depressing weather we get from October through to April.

So… though I should be sleeping a little longer, the notion of missing what may well be the only sunny morning for another week or two, and the first in more than three weeks, well, that’s just unforgiveable. My coffee’s brewing, and all my blinds are up, to soak in the little natural light I’ll see in the days to come.

I’ve touched slightly on the local sex trade in this posting, and it’s more just setting the scene for what will be a bit of a focus at some point in the next couple weeks. We prefer to think of the sex trade as escorts with standards and high-price call-girls, but here in Vancouver, with dozens of lowbrow prostitutes disappearing off our streets, dying horrific deaths, being fed to ravenous pigs, or other debauched means of disposal, I assure you… we’ve seen it all in a more dreary light. And my little wheels have certainly been turning. It’s another reason I felt I wanted to write on promiscuity last week, since all these things combine in a strange circle of life.