Some Dry Remarks About Stormy Weather
On Sacramento’s downpour, Michelangelo and Michael Keaton
By Ed Goldman
This past week, when rainfall records were broken in a drenching 24-hour period in Sacramento, my OSSO (oh-so-significant other) and I nevertheless drove to an impressionist-paintings show at the Crocker Art Museum, mopped up her basement, went out for pizza, then walked her away-at-college children’s dog. (The children are away at college, not the dog.)
If this seems like the start of a memoir that could be titled “My Uneventful Life,” then I haven’t given it its due. The fact that it was storming near-Biblically during all of this is whereby hangs the tale.
Wringin’ in the Rain
Driving through the streets of California’s Capital was like a mashup of two of Charlton Heston’s greatest movie scenes: the parting of the Red Sea in “The Ten Commandments” and the chariot race in “Ben-Hur.”
If you want to throw in the title of the 1965 film “The Agony and the Ecstasy” I will not say thee nay.
But we can also use a pivotal theme from the movie itself. When Rex Harrison (as Pope Julius II ) continually demands of Heston (as Michelangelo), “When will you make an end of it?”, he’s referring to Chuck’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling—but may as well have been issuing a plea to Sacramento’s weathercasters.
We have a plethora of those in town. My two faves are CBS-TV’s Dave Bender and Kristine Hanson. Bender, the full-time weather guy at the station, is the absolute picture of unflappability and easygoing wit—while Hanson, a former full-time weathercaster at the region’s NBC affiliate and now a welcome fill-in prognosticator, brings a good-natured seriousness to delivering climate news. Both are certified meteorologists, whose calm clarity inspires the opposite of alarm in viewers—caution, when required, but never panic.
The same can’t always be said about some of their colleagues at other stations. I sometimes wonder if, while they’re talking about dreadful conditions outside, they’re actually very fearful of the ride home awaiting them after they sign off, and would like us to share in their angst.
I used to be more nervous about driving in (what should be a misnomer) a “driving rain.” As I got older, two things helped cure me of that: getting my blood pressure under control and actor Michael Keaton.
No, this hasn’t become a forum for name dropping. I’ve never met Keaton, who memorably played the title role in “Beetlejuice” and remains my favorite portrayer of Batman. But one night some years ago, as a terrible storm raged outside, he appeared on a late-night talk show being taped across the country where people were also enduring a spectacular squall.
He was asked by the host what he made of the downpour and Keaton arched his back, closed his eyes with pleasure, thrust out his arms as if to embrace something, and declared, “I LOVE weather!”
I can’t say what it was about his joy that made me do it, but a few moments later I found myself at midnight opening my back door, heading into the monsoon and taking a deep, cleansing and moistening breath. In that heartbeat I recalled the famous shot of Gene Kelly looking up and beaming ear-to-ear as a colossal amount of water streamed onto his face.
The film, of course, was “Singin’ in the Rain.” And I’ve never been afraid of it since.