Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #19 (The “Don’t Rain on My Parade” Version)


If you’ve followed my blog any length of time, you’re probably aware that I am not a fan of turbulent weather conditions that might result in some skank of a tornado interrupting my quest for a peaceful life. Actually, I suppose that’s not fair to say, because I tend to babble, a lot, and therefore it’s quite possible that I did not make my admittedly neurotic lilapsophobia (it’s a real condition, even if Microsoft Word is truculently acting like it’s not and indicating a spelling error) crystal clear. So, let’s go on record with this: If there’s a possibility of a tornado anywhere near me, I completely lose my mind.

This is something that did not bother me in my younger decades. I grew up in Oklahoma, part of what is known as “Tornado Alley”, which also covers Kansas and northern Texas. While I appreciate the camaraderie of including the states to the north and south of Oklahoma, the baseline fact is that Oklahoma “experiences the highest number of strong tornadoes per unit area.” (Go ahead and Google it. I’ll wait.) Still, even though we were at Ground Zero in my formative years, my fear was not out of control. Yes, if Mr. Weatherman on any of the three channels we received broke into regular programming and said “get your ass in a tornado shelter”, we got our asses there in an expedient manner, no hesitation. Nothing says “family bonding” like hunkering down in a concrete bunker whilst Dorothy and Toto whiz about above us.

For most of the evening up until this point, here in Dallas we’ve had the joy of experiencing another round of severe and potentially deadly weather. Needless to say, my anxiety meds were given a strength-test and I was not the most pleasant person to be around. (The cats have contacted their local union representative and filed a complaint about harsh working conditions.) The high point came when a tornado touched down in Grand Prairie. For those of you familiar with the area, Grand Prairie is just down the road a piece from South Dallas. If a tornado is on the ground there, you are wetting yourself over here.

So, since the adrenaline is still pumping despite things being “all clear” for the night, I thought it best to do some self-therapy and take a closer look at why I get so manic when the skies darken. Here we go…

ONE. The long-distance forecasting.

Back in the day, the weatherman was considered a genius if he could accurately predict what was going to happen in two days. Now, with all the fancy prediction software and the “computer models” they are always yammering about, they are able to warn of a potential Day of Windy Death three weeks from now. This gives me far too much time to dwell on the Something Wicked This Way Blows, and my anxiety ratchets incrementally with each click of the calendar days. I understand that advance warnings help save lives. Got it. But sometimes I wish we were back at that two-day, might-or-might-not happen model so I wouldn’t have time to fully channel Sylvia Plath.

TWO. The stupid numbers game.

Another recent invention is for the weather people to do some fancy figuring as each storm system approaches, configure potential zones of impact, and then christen said zones with a number from 1 to 5. (“1” means “you probably shouldn’t go to that outdoor concert”, and “5” means “you were thinking about buying a new house anyway, right?”.) I am not a fan of this concept. I don’t want to know that I have platinum status in the flight path of potential destruction. This just makes me more crazy. Why don’t we just have one zone and say “everybody in this chunk of real estate needs to pay attention” and call it good? Why make my sphincter tighten even further, especially when I can go to bed the night before Panic Day as a Level 1 and wake up to find that I’m now Level 3 and the winds have already started to increase? Geez.

THREE. The sirens.

If you’ve ever been in a situation where the tornado sirens wail unceasingly for an hour or more, you know exactly what I mean when I say it does something to your soul, even if you don’t have anxiety issues. And if you do? You are vibrating so intensely that you are levitating in a manner that makes Linda Blair look like an amateur. (“Demi, why you do dis to me?”)

FOUR. They don’t have basements in Texas.

What the hell is wrong with these people? Tornadoes drop from the sky on a regular basis, which means that a basement is a really fine thing to have. Basements help you live to see another day where you can watch the Dallas Cowboys play or proudly open-carry your firearm of choice. Yeah, I’ve heard all that mess about the ground being really hard and it’s not cost effective and blah yadda blah. Here’s the deal: we have put a man on the moon. Surely you can figure out how to build a basement in Texas instead of spending all your time trying to defund Planned Parenthood.

FIVE. Even though I don’t want to hear it, I want to hear it.

We have satellite TV. (We’ve tried the cable and internet TV routes, but in the end, those methods would fritz out more often than the satellite, so an ugly dish on the house it is.) If storms are swirling, my ass is glued to the TV, carefully analyzing every word uttered by weathermen as they interrupt “Two Broke Girls” and announce the lottery winners of who should be running to jump in the bathtub and pull a mattress over them. Of course, when the weather is truly jacked, with the wind and intense rain redefining the local topography, that satellite signal can sometimes go AWOL.

I plunge into darkness when this happens, literally and figuratively. I would probably be better off emotionally if I didn’t subject myself to the constant stream of potentially-alarming updates, but I’m OCD with this. I have to know. I’m the addict who wanders down the street where the crack houses are even though I know I shouldn’t and nobody looks pretty when their obsessions take control. If you cut off my supply, I twerk in an unimpressive manner.

Case in point, and I’ve written about this before, so excuse the retread: A few years ago, during yet another frenzied night when we had endured endless warnings and sirens and reports that entire neighborhoods were now open for redevelopment, the satellite signal went out. I stayed right there on the couch in front of the TV, unable to move, just staring at the mostly-black screen with a simple pop-up from DirecTV advising that coitus interruptus was now in session, please standby. After about 30 minutes, the signal buzzed to life, with a weatherman warning that “the center of the tornado is right over the intersection of Kiest Boulevard and Westmoreland Road.” Then the signal died again, back to black.

That intersection is five blocks from my house. I peed a little bit. Twenty minutes later, the rain stopped and the wind decided it had other places to be. I eventually crawled into bed, making all the promises one makes when the bullet has been dodged.

We woke up the next morning to learn that a tornado had indeed passed over without ever touching the ground. Still, there was enough turbulence that several homes in our neighborhood had sustained damage. Every house on our block had entire trees or at least major limbs lying in their yards. Except ours. We had one comparatively-minor branch plunked precisely in the center of our front lawn, despite the fact that we actually have the tallest trees on the block. I almost felt a little embarrassed when we dragged the plunking to the curb, whilst all of our neighbors were dragging much more.

I’m not a fan of storms, let it be known far and wide. I embrace a good rain, and even the gentle rumblings of ineffectual thunder. Just don’t let the wind swirl.



23 replies »

  1. Oh Brian, now I’m all twitchy and worried for you, too! I hate the wind, we get nothing like yours but even a slight breeze gives me ear pain. A few years ago we had a beautiful tall silver birch tree taken down because we were so worried about the potential damage to our neighbour’s house if it did decide to blow down. All our neighbours protested – except the one who objected to it cutting out the sun from her back garden (she liked to sunbathe topless and was getting an uneven tan!). She was ecstatic. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve had to take down several trees on our property because they were either damaged or were getting too top heavy. I hate doing it, but sometimes you have to be responsible. The most painful experience was removing a tree that was at least 50-feet tall and a really beautiful tree. It just had a lean to it that was getting dangerous. As the crew did their work, they discovered that a large section of the trunk had actually rotted on the inside, and the whole thing could have snapped at any point. Still, it hurt to see it go…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that happened with our magnificent pine tree, we had someone come to to trim it and he realised it was leaning against the garage and was rotten down the middle. We actually shed tears watching it being taken down bit by bit. Our grandsons used to make dens under it and it was our cat’s first hiding place when we moved in. We do try to replant though and now have an additional 2 cherry trees and 2 apple trees which are much more manageable and also productive.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As I said before, I’ve spent most of my life in Phoenix – a place where dangerous storms are pretty much unheard of. But for four years we lived in the middle of Nebraska. One time a huge storm hit and the electricity and phones went out immediately, meaning no alarm sounded. I was in the basement when it hit, but I came up to see what was happening. The sound was deafening and the hackberry tree in front of our house was practically bent over and branches were slamming against our large window. It was terrifying!
    I’m told many people move to Phoenix because of our calm weather – who cares about the heat, at least it’s calm. After experiencing that storm, I can understand it!
    Want me to send some brochures? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I keep trying to convince the partner that we need to move somewhere without tornadoes or at least a much more minimal potential. He generally counters with “there’s always something everywhere you go, like earthquakes in California and hurricanes on the coasts.” I would much rather deal with hurricanes, because you know that thing is coming and you have some degree of control. Needless to say, this is a discussion that neither of us ever wins, especially when he throws out the kicker of “I can’t go anywhere until I retire”. Sigh. Bottom line, I’m still working on him, so yes, please send the brochures. We’ve actually been to Phoenix, back in 2001 when I won an award at Verizon and they had a snazzy convention. We stayed at the Biltmore, which I adore (or at least I did, I’m assuming it’s still the same), and we both really liked the city…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Plunking” ? – never heard that in association with trees, did you just make it up? MMm, can’t say the idea of living in an area that suffers from this is my idea of nice. Move to Tassie, we’re a bit more “normal” here, at least in regards to weather extremes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I do have a tendency to be a bit carefree with my word usage from time to time. Keeps things interesting, yes? Now, if you’re saying that Tasmania doesn’t have any tornadoes, I’m putting it on my “potentials” list. I’m getting out of this place at some point, even if the rest of the family is not on board… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nope, never had any down here in the South – we did have a mini T up in the Northwest last year – ripped up the roof of one of my office buildings – but we are talking about something I suspect that you would just call ” a bit of wind” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember “Tornado Alley” very well! Somehow the tornados always managed to skip over Neodesha and head for flatter grounds. The townspeople swore that it was because we were surrounded by rivers. Loved the sirens!
    Hope the weather in your neck of the woods calms down… and you do too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There really is something to the topography angle. Tornadoes like flat ground. I really think that’s why the tornado that “should” have hit us didn’t, as we live in a hilly part of town and the tornado just couldn’t keep contact with the ground. And I’m calm now, but when Spring/Tornado season kicks in, I will be on edge until mid-June, when the threat diminishes considerably. So expect more frantic and annoyed posts in the coming months… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not looking forward to tornado season either. We just had a F2 tornado last month in the town over from us. (12miles) We live on the lake and the nearest one has come to us was about 5 miles away. Maybe water does have something to do with them not touching down near us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This summer we were treated to a delightful phenomenon that I never heard of until I moved to my present location. We had terrible storms in the summer and one of them created a derecho. A derecho is basically a wall of wind going 75 mph. Think of it as a wind tsunami. The next day, my husband was going to work and he came rushing back in to tell me to look out the back window. The tallest tree in our backyard had crashed into our shed leaving a crater. Good times. We rent so it took our extremely lazy landlords over a month to get someone to come in and clean up the mess. We don’t have chainsaws lying about, I mean, this isn’t Evil Dead here. Stay safe. Stay warm. Cover your ears or you will go mad from the sirens wailing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t heard of a derecho before, but I can assure you that we would not be pen pals. (The spelling is very similar to the Spanish word “derecha”, which means “right”. There ain’t nuthin right about a wall of wind.) Now, as for the fallen trees, that’s one of my biggest issues with the storms around here. We have huge, monolithic trees on our property, any one of which could pancake our house or any of the neighboring dwellings. THAT’S where I lose my sanity. (Kudos for the “Evil Dead” reference, nicely done.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the compliment on the Evil Dead ref. Fun fact: our meth lab neighbors never asked about the tree. It fell into their yard taking out their tree plus a power line. As a result, we were without power for a week with 90 + temps & 1000% humidity. The tree cutters (well, Home Depot guys. the landlords are cheap) ended up just leaving the debris in their yard. They still haven’t cleaned up, almost 6 months later. I need to move….

        Liked by 1 person

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