Volume 74, Number 9 | June 30 - July 6, 2004

‘The rain in Spain’ delays the planes

By Andrei Codrescu

I don’t know about in Spain, but the rain in the U.S. has been something else lately: in the Midwest it set whole towns floating down swollen rivers; it kept me long hours in airports, streaming down those huge sad windows, not a plane in sight; in New York it was cold and constant, chasing the premature spring-crazed youth off the chilly streets; in San Francisco it was like powdered glass and cold enough to make the humorist’s quip “the coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco” too true for comfort; in New Orleans it poured, keeping my 747 circling over the airport like a soggy vulture watching its nest turn into a soup bowl.

There were some sunny days in between, slivers of blue hope celebrated fervently, but they vanished way too soon. I can’t remember when it rained like this. I don’t want to be like the Cassandras who’ve run out of one screening of “The Day After Tomorrow” shouting “the sky is falling!” but the sky’s been falling enough to turn even the sunniest disposition into something funereal.

The only rain-lover I’ve run into this far who thought that it didn’t rain enough is Tom Robbins, the novelist, who lives in a pretty town in the rainiest part of Washington State. Tom considers rain essential for his writing — he just doesn’t write when it’s sunny. Mostly, he doesn’t worry. It once rained 99 days in Washington State, twice as long as it took to break Noah, and Tom wrote his best book then, every sentence running steadily down the page.

Tom lives in the Villa de Jungle Girl, a house he designed himself to house his extensive collection of circus banners featuring nubiles about to be devoured by snakes. There are also jungle girls and snakes on rugs and paintings in Tom’s house and it isn’t hard to imagine all of them coming to life when it rains enough. When they come to life they move into Tom’s prose, which is chock full of fancy creatures facing off on cliffs and perilous mental pathways.

There are possibly others like Tom, endless rain fanciers, but for the rest of us the sun is God. I’m writing this at the New Orleans airport waiting for, what else, a rained-out aeroplane.

Codrescu is peddling endlessly his new novel “Wakefield.”



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