#814: Paul Clifford’s Open

July 10th, 2017

The crash woke us up, early morning mumbles of oof, uh, what, oh just thund- and then back to sleep mid-word.

The crash of thunder kicked off a gray, wet, want-to-sleep-must-work Monday morning. It was a morning made for failures, busted deadlines, plans oh so many plans that just won’t come to pass because you had the audacity to enjoy life for a few short hours over the weekend instead of work work work.

It’s a cheap writer’s trick — both cheap writing and done by cheap writers — to talk about the weather. Never open a book with weather, Elmore Leonard tells us, the first and foremost of his 10 rules for writing. We mock it with Snoopy’s tapping over his doghouse. It was a dark and stormy night.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

I differ, sometimes. Yes, I think in a tale of people, starting with weather is an odd choice. It’s like a story of pirates that kicks off with a description of a softball. Sure, you can get from point A to B, but just start with B, man.

But what of a story like this, that isn’t using precipitation as a grimy mood-setter for some action?

What about a story that’s just of the weather?

Weather’s already the go-to example for small talk, an innocuous diversion we know, by its nature, everyone experienced. All the folks at work might not all watch that show, follow that sport or care about that movie, and talking about politics in Chicago of late quickly degrades into a contest of who is most disgusted by the latest act done by the president of the United States. (It’s me.)

But weather will always be something we share.

We talk of cold winters, brag over tales of outrageous dibs claims and blizzards back when that add a few inches with each retelling. You think this is bad, you should have been here for the (atypical weather pattern) of (year).

We similarly memorialize our summers through exaggeration. The days of old get lovelier and lovelier as the years go by.

I don’t think Chicago’s weather is memorable or special. Each southerner laughing at our August sweat is tempered by a northern Minnesotan saying “Oh ya, when does it snow for real here?” We invented neither “Two seasons: Winter and construction” nor “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”

But the ambient meteorological conditions that set the tempos for our mornings or just wake us up too damn early are, at least, ours. They’re a shared condition among rich and poor.

“For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” doth telleth some old booketh.

And sometimes He pisses rain on a whole damn city, and Elmore Leonard makes me feel bad for writing about it.

Learn more about Elmore’s rules

The original “dark and stormy night”

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