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You, Me, Joan Didion and the Devil Wind

December 2nd, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


As all this blowing continues to tear shingles off roofs,
branches off trees, and trees off their earthy moorings altogether, people have been irresistibly drawn to quoting Raymond Chandler’s and Joan Didion’s famous musings on our devil winds.

With Chandler it’s the opening to his story, Red Wind:

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Ana’s that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

With Didion, most just reference a short snippet of her writing on the subject, specifically the passage that begins, “…Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse…”

But for your reading pleasure (while you and your house are, I hope, staying safe) here’s the whole of the over-the-top and glorious Santa Ana riff that opens Didion’s essay, “Los Angeles Notebook,” from her 1968 book Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

(By the way, if you live in LA, I am of the opinion that you really should have that book somewhere in your house, just in case it’s needed, sort of like an extra flashlight of the spirit. Really.)

Anyway, here’s Joan.

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night. I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air. To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.

I recall being told, when I first moved to Los Angeles and was living on an isolated beach, that the Indians would throw themselves into the sea when the bad wind blew. I could see why. The Pacific turned ominously glossy during a Santa Ana period, and one woke in the night troubled not only by the peacocks screaming in the olive trees but by the eerie absence of surf. The heat was surreal. The sky had a yellow cast, the kind of light sometimes called “earthquake weather.” My only neighbor would not come out of her house for days, and there were no lights at night, and her husband roamed the place with a machete. One day he would tell me that he had heard a trespasser, the next a rattlesnake.

“On nights like that,” Raymond Chandler once wrote about the Santa Ana, “every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.” That was the kind of wind it was.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Life in general, Weather, writers and writing | 6 Comments »

8.8 in Chile and the Tsunami Threat: Where to Get Info

February 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Since CNN is—again—reduced for a good part of its coverage to basically putting up a huge computer screen and showing you—the viewer—what websites it likes best for online coverage of the earthquake off of Conception and the Tsunami it has generated, I recommend you skip CNN and the networks and go straight to the source.

Mashable is doing a particularly good job in aggregating all the social media coverage plus other good web-based sources and tools, such as Google’s newly-launched people finder function.

So check here to monitor the disaster that we hope is not about to get worse.

Sending prayers to Chile—-and still to Haiti. And we are glad that Hawaii appears to have dodged the bullet.

NOTE: I took out the Livestream from Chile as I found it plays all the time, whether you ask it to or not. Sorry about that.

Posted in media, Weather | 7 Comments »

Earthquake

May 17th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Early news: 8:39 p.m.: 5.0 centered close to Inglewood and Lennox:

News at USGS.

Didn’t feel too much in Topanga, but was on the phone with a friend in Long Beach
who had the furniture and glassware rattling and swaying impressively. Cut off the phone.

The wires say Cal Tech says 4.7

Okay, the news will tell you the rest.

Posted in Natural Disasters, Weather | 6 Comments »