Edge of the storm (from JLO)

OK, I have to admit that this is one of my favorite posts from that blog. Reading it immediately takes me back to Texas and that stormy day:

I took a back road home last night (long story, which I’ll skip). I thought it would be quicker, but rush hour in Tomball, Texas, proved me wrong. In Houston, they build the freeways from the outside in: the frontage roads go in first, separated by a wide expanse of dirt and weeds. This means that people heading home to their gated communities get crammed into two lanes. It was slow, but I passed the time with Neil Young’s “Silver and Gold,” which is just soothing enough for highway gridlock. Traffic started moving just as I heard possibly the worst lyric ever written: “I’m looking for a job. I don’t know what I’m doing. My software’s not compatible with you.” I wondered what motivated him to write that and then put it on the last song of the CD, but then I picked up Elvis Costello and headed for the woods, the unfinished freeway turning into a rural two lane cutting through the pines.

As the first song started, I noticed that the sky, blue above and to the west, was a kind of mean-looking rust color to the east, the color of a double macchiato, maybe. It looked just like I remember Southern California brush fires, the sky heavy with smoke even browner and denser than usual LA smog. Only there were no falling ashes, just flashes of lightning as it approached.

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searching for light in the darkness of insanity

I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

I stopped at the only traffic light in Pinehurst, Texas, and saw ahead of me branches and pine needles and pinecones being hurled across the road by the wind, the trees (spindly things at least 50 feet tall) bent and jerked. Then it started: rain so heavy and thick I couldn’t see the road. Traffic, such as it was, crept along from there, the signs of businesses along the side of the road being whipped violently, and a Texas flag ripping to shreds on a pole jutting from a porch.

I stopped in Magnolia, hoping to wait out the storm in a Burger King. I ordered a diet Coke and sat down, and then the power went out. The 3 employees and I watched the storm in the dark, the thunder louder than anything I can ever remember. After 20 minutes or so, the power came back on, and then a few minutes later the storm eased a little.

Back in the car, I sang along with the CD: “She’s filing her nails as they’re dragging the lake.” I passed a roadside bar (“The horniest place in Texas” it said—I don’t even want to know) and then the rain started again, just as heavy, just as violent. I noticed I was starting to hydroplane, even though I was only doing 40. Still I sang: “Alison, I know this world is killing you. Oh, Alison, my aim is true.” At Todd Mission, the rain stopped again, and I could see that I was skirting the storm, hitting rain as I moved in and out of its jagged edge. One more onslaught of heavy rain, and I was in Plantersville, where I headed west on highway 105.

At almost the exact moment the pine trees gave way to pin oaks, the rain stopped in an instant. The roads were dry, the skies clear, and rolling hills lined with white fences held Angus and Longhorn cattle. Elvis sang “I wanna be loved,” and so did I. The phone rang, and my wife said she had been worried, as she hadn’t been able to reach me. I drove north and crossed the Navasota river, brown and stagnant, a greenish summer film on its untroubled surface. When I got home, the air was hot and sticky, and the car was completely dry. Only the pine needles jammed into almost every crevice hinted that anything had happened.


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