I have never owned an umbrella. This probably seems strange as I was born in a country renowned for being rained on, but the U.K.’s relative dampness doesn’t describe what the rain in the old country is actually like. Shielded from the full force of the Atlantic by Ireland, the Britain of my memory is much more soggy than stormy. Now, whilst in recent years the Southern flood plains of England have taken on a lot of water giving a lot of posh people a short sharp lesson in the realities of climate change, this was the result of rain just falling and falling and falling and falling, British rain is, rather fittingly, non confrontational in an attempt to cause as little fuss as possible whilst it completely overruns you.
This did not prepare me for the experience of an American thunderstorm in all it’s furious glory. I live on Broad Street, which runs the length of Philadelphia north to south giving my apartment a great view of the center of town. for those of you unfamiliar with Philadelphia the city has very few skyscrapers. concentrated around center city, due to a law repealed only in the 1980s banning any building taller than the statue of William Penn atop our baroque city hall. I assume this is why storm clouds tend to collect around the skyscrapers as though any gods in the vicinity have a distinct hatred of humanity reaching higher than brick will Take us. The ominous grey clouds build over the course of around an hour and a half: a relative instant in the world of atmospheric functions, whist providing Just enough time for you to register, perhaps even appreciate the hulking power that is currently holding hundreds on thousands of water above you. whilst the clouds form, the straight streets created by the grid system forever associated with American cities draw gusts through the residential wind corridors feeding the grey behemoth hanging over the city.
The trees lining Broad Street bend toward the thick, graying section of the sky as it crawls forward with a steady inevitability, growing as the air cracks with shots of thunder and premature dashes of lighting above the clouds reminding me of the more terrifying scenes from Fantasia, growing in it’s ferocity as the first few droplets of rain begin to brush my face just before I notice water flung from the sky hitting the steaming pavement.
Within a minute the promise of rain is thrown at the ground changing the world from a charged dried environment to a sodden whirlwind pouring all the punishment available to the heavens onto the now steaming concrete. From the vantage point of my apartment I get to watch sheets rain scrape their way up Broad Street as the trees are shook by the sudden violent gusts of wind, causing the lampposts to rock just enough to catch the eye and unnerve you. The initial excitement gives way to a steady rattle of droplets on glass punctuated by a constant screech flowing through my air conditioner and just as soon as the drama of the Storm burst it’s gone. In it’s wake, is left a less Impressive but no less welcome rainfall; ricocheting off surfaces with ever diminishing power.
It’s not that rainfall is an alien event to me, neither are storms. but before coming to America I’d never had the sensation that the fury of nature was coming to destroy me and everything I hold dear. Coming from a country with around 20 degrees of temperature varient, the Idea of weather that is armed and dangerous is yet another aspect of life in America that makes the whole country Seem ever so slightly unreal. My mind is constantly rebelling against the fact that a country can experience minus 11°C and yet not be populated (at least a little bit) by fauns and messiah lions. I love American Summer storms because they remind me that whilst yes the United States is poorly run by developed world standards, and yes a depressingly high amount of this country’s residence ane somewhat to the right of Mussolini in a lot of respects; it’s a fucking exiting place to live.