Tag Archives: wet coast

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.

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.