Perspective on a Rainy Day
How many rainy days have been spent at cafes, bars, sub shops, and such? How much time has been spent drinking countless coffees, nursing beers, and trying to decide between a Maxwell Street Polish and a gyro platter? How was time used on those rainy days? Was that time used to read, write, edit photographs, make plans, or reconnect with old friends (liking posts doesn’t count). Rainy days are a good time to bunker down and get shit done. Rainy days are also a good time to relax and let it all wait for a little while.
Sub Shop in the Rain
Rainy days provide choices. Go to the local the coffee shop, get hyped up on caffeine, and knock out that stack of work that has been casting a shadow over the desk? Go to the corner bar, order a pint, and read a few chapters of that Graham Greene novel? Maybe a rainy day is best spent at a sub shop with an old friend arguing why feta cheese is the best cheese of all cheeses? However the rainy day is spent it’s important to remember one thing: if you enjoy how you spend your time the time is not wasted.
Rainy Day Cafe
Weather and Biology as Natural Phenomenon
Why does rain make an already romantic scene better (fanboys need only think about the kiss scene from the 2002 Spider-Man to know what I’m talking about)? Maybe that’s a bit too big of a topic for the space I have here, but rain and romantic moments do often go together in literature. One of the best examples of this combination can be found in Kate Chopin’s short story “The Storm.” Chopin doesn’t merely use a rain storm as setting or backdrop in her story. Chopin demonstrates how passion, sex, and rain storms can be viewed as natural phenomenon.
A rain storm is one of the central events of Chopin’s story. This storm comes on quick taking the principle characters by surprise. Alcee Laballiere barely escapes the storm by seeking shelter at Calixta’s house. Calixta is so engrossed with sewing she does not notice the approaching storm. Both characters decide to wait out the storm after they shutter the windows and doors. Alcee and Calixta are both married, he to Clarisse she to Bobinot, but they have a shared history from their younger days in Assumption Parrish (I could write a few paragraphs on the possible symbolism there). It is during this storm that their passions from those younger days lead to a sexual encounter. With the passing of the storm and their afternoon of passionate sex it appears as if all is right in the world. It is this natural equilibrium at the end of the story that establishes the connection between biology (sex) and weather (rain).
Chopin is subtle when connecting biology (sex) and weather (rain) as natural phenomenon, but there are a couple of examples to support this. The first is Chopin’s omission of moralizing. Chopin’s imagery of both storm and sexual moment are vivid but moral judgements concerning the events are missing. These events are neither good or bad in Chopin’s view. They are simply presented as natural phenomenon that occur. The second example can be found at the end of the story. Alcee leaves Calixta after the storm and writes a loving letter to his wife, Clarisse. Calixta, Bobinot, and their son Bibi spend the evening sharing a family dinner. After these events are established Chopin ends the story with the line, “So the storm passed and everyone was happy.” The storm has passed without causing any permanent damage. Likewise, Alcee and Calixta’s passionate encounter has also passed without apparently causing any permanent damage. Chopin is implying that human passion and sex (biology) and rain storms (weather) can be viewed in a similar way, as natural phenomenon.
Rain can dress up a romantic scene, but Kate Chopin demonstrates that rain can be used as much more than setting. If moralizing is removed from the ideas of passion and sex then they can be viewed as biological forces that drive humans in much the same way rain storms can be viewed as a natural phenomenon of weather.
“The Storm” by Kate Chopin
“The unwelcome November rain had perversely stolen the day’s last hour and pawned it with that ancient fence, the night.
-F. Scott Fitzgerlad-
This Side of Paradise
Knowing What to Blame and Why?
Water is life; water is livelihood. Spend some time on a farm and you will begin to truly appreciate this idea. My days of working on a farm are long past, but there are a few lessons that I still carry with me from that time. One of those lessons is the importance of rain.
There are a few distinct memories I have from the time spent my grandparents’ cattle farm regarding rain. I remember watching my grandfather checking the water gauge every morning after breakfast, even when it didn’t rain. I learned that even a good morning dew could be a welcomed reprieve of sorts. I overheard conversations between my grandfather and other farmers about there not being enough rain and there being too many bills. I sat at the dinner table and listened to my grandparents talk about having water trucked in order to keep the cattle properly watered. There were times when my grandfather and I would walk alongside dried creek beds and I would hear him cursing under his breath. Rain was an essential element necessary to the success of his farm, and rain was one of the few things he could not control.
I knew at a young age that rain was important to success on the farm, but it wasn’t until years later that I truly understood the weight of not being in control of something that is crucial to success. In my younger years I would often lay the blame for missed opportunities and failures on forces beyond my control. It was easier to blame fate, luck, or God for failing than admitting I didn’t plan enough or work hard enough to achieve my goals, and I wasn’t alone. I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations but I’ve seen and heard many people over the years (past and present) do the same. It’s all too easy to blame our misfortunes on a lack of rain (I mean rain in a figurative sense here). But there came a time in my life when I got to thinking about my grandparents and their farm. There were years when there wasn’t enough rain, and my grandfather’s quite cursing may have included some comments about fate, luck, or God. But he never gave up. He may not have been able to control rain, but he and my grandmother continued to work and manage a successful cattle farm until they decided to retire. That’s when I realized that I was in control of much more than I thought I was, and if something really is beyond my control then I need to find a way to persevere.
I don’t worry about rain the way my grandparents did, but those memories of dry creek beds and grandpa checking the rain gauge taught me something I carried beyond the farm. It’s important to recognize what we can and can’t control in life and to be careful about misplacing blame.
Let’s Talk About Joe Cocker and Metaphors
One of my favorite scenes from Saturday Night Live is John Belushi’s impression of Joe Cocker. My Pops had a bunch of Joe Cocker albums, but I didn’t start listening to them until I saw Cocker and Belushi sing “Feelin’ Alright” on SNL (check it out on the YouTube if you want to see a couple great artists at work). I Can Stand a Little Rain is my favorite Joe Cocker album and the song of the same name is makes for an interesting study of metaphor.
“I Can Stand a Little Rain” isn’t unique in its use of metaphor; more songs incorporate metaphor than don’t. What I find interesting about this song is the turn half way through. Rain serves as a metaphor for the many hardships life forces upon us, but there is a shift in the third verse of the song. It is here that the song moves away from the pains of life and toward the possibility of a happy ending. Joe Cocker’s sorrowful voice takes us from pain to hope in four verses that span of three and half minutes.
The first verse establishes the metaphor. We get Cocker’s sorrowful repetition of, “I can stand a little rain,” three times followed by a line about pain. The imagery of water coming up through the floorboards, the rising water, portrays impending doom. The verse ends with a desire for some rest from all this rain, which serves as a metaphor for pain and hardship. The second verse continues the metaphor. It is a testament to how much pain we can stand and for how long we can stand it. This verse reinforces the idea that this is all just part of life. It is here, at this low point, that the song takes a turn.
The third verse moves away from a focus on the rain as a metaphor for the pains and hardships of life and toward a desire for love. At first listen it sounds as if it is a plea for love, anything to get away from the pain. But as the verse progresses we realize that the singer is willing to take any “test” that life may present regarding love. This willingness to take any “test” is carried into the fourth, and final, verse of the song. The singer has weathered the rain and the hardships of life and knows that any test of love will be easy in comparison. This is shown not only in the lyrics but also in the change in Cocker’s voice and chorus. We see that the singer will “make it” in the end.
When I first saw Joe Cocker perform with John Belushi all those years ago I knew these were two artists I would follow. Joe Cocker’s voice and his passion make any song he sings uniquely his. “I Can Stand a Little Rain” is more than an example of Joe Cocker at his best. It is a song that shows us that if we dig deep down we can endure the pains and hardships of life, and in so doing we are better prepared when the rain breaks and the sun comes out.
I Can Stand a Little Rain (1974) by Joe Cocker. Produced by Jim Price.