Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Pornadoes at 15.

It would be my educated guess that visual cues are generally assumed to be the preferred tripwire for the re-establishment of errant memory. One looks at old photos, frayed synapses wriggle to renewed life, and it all comes back.

As I sit in my office trying to work amid storm windows rattling and wind gusts carrying small critters past my second-story field of view, it occurs to me that as surely as barometric changes prompt my aging knee to ache, weather conditions also prompt their fair share of memories -- along with smell, of course, although noses aren’t the point of today’s reflection.


I no longer remember that long-anticipated April weekend “just like it was yesterday.” I cannot tell you who all attended the party, or which day it was held, Friday or Saturday. What I can tell you with certainty is that it felt very much like today feels.

Given the outcome, had any of us even bothered to take the weather into consideration?

After all, only three years earlier, the Louisville area had been wrecked by tornadoes. None actually touched down in Floyd County, and maybe that’s why we were so youthfully oblivious. Three years might as well have been thirty.

We were freshmen in high school, and the day in question was slated to be a memorable, historic occasion: The gang’s first (of what proved to be many) swill-soaked camping forays, out in the fields of the Floyds Knobs farm where one of one of my closest friends lived.

Caution was the watchword, and I directed my mother to drop me off at the foot of the gravel driveway that crossed the creek, and then snaked up the bluff. I walked to the staging area between the house and barn. For April, it seemed warm at first, but showed definite signs of cooling as the clouds slowly rolled in.

The campsite was being established, far enough away behind a copse of trees to shield our activities from prying eyes. It seemed like miles at the time, and probably totaled about a hundred yards. After arranging coolers of weenies and stacking wood for the fire, we hiked into the woods and back down the bluff, away from the driveway, where three cases of Falls City longnecks had been artfully hidden in the chilly waters of the creek by a friendly senior football player eager to spare a rising generation the miseries of sobriety.


The perimeter secured amid darkening skies, I was rewarded with my first genuine bout of inebriation. This rite of passage was facilitated by two beers, maybe three, and was made tolerable by the icy flavorlessness of the liquid. It numbed my teeth, bolstered my confidence, and provided an escape from my persistent terrors of shyness, even if there were no girls present.

As we drank, we remained oblivious to the elements, paying little heed to the rising winds and droplets of cold rain heralding the storm’s arrival. However, a short distance away, my pal’s folks were paying very close attention, and with dusk and bad weather closing in, we saw the headlights from their pickup truck coming down the dirt path.

Drunken paranoia flared until we realized that they didn’t care one jot about our drinking. Rather, tornadoes had been spotted, and we needed to move the party, beer, burnt weenies and all to the barn I case it got any worse.

Relieved, everyone piled into the pickup and collapsed onto the metal bed, on their backs, staring up at the weird and swirling eternity. I swore aloud through stinging raindrops that I could see tornadoes fornicating – except it wasn’t the exact word I used, but you get the picture. Maybe you had to be there.

In the end, frantically coupling tornadoes didn’t disturb our consumption of the few remaining drops of beer, although the cold temperatures brought by the incoming front made the sharing of too few blankets interesting. It was the era of Top Forty radio hits, and someone turned on the tunes, which repeated dismally, again and again, the same songs over and over, with it being too cold for anyone to get up and turn the damn thing off.

The next morning I was cold, dirty, hung way over for the first time ever, and I had “Chevy Van” as an ear worm. I was offered fried eggs for breakfast and came close to vomiting. Careful to keep heretical thoughts to myself, I questioned whether the campout had been sufficiently fun to justify a return engagement.

The day after that, I was hooked for life.

Now it is 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23, 2011. The sun is gone, there’s a tornado watch, and I need a drink. The Falls City we have today is better than what we lugged up that hill 35 years ago, but there’s none in the house, just some leftover Smoked Abzug in a growler.

Might as well drink it before the power goes down, which reminds me ...

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