Thursday, June 13, 2013

Haboobs and Virga Bombs

I’m just a southern Oklahoma country boy, but I thought I got some sophisticatin’ when I went all the way to Texas for some higher book learnin’. Jaunts in the army to Germany  and France and Holland and Belgium and Switzerland and Austria and Italy oughta have added a layer or two, as well. My wife and I went to Spain and Mexico, too, but we were so set in our ways by then, an uptick in sophism might not have taken.

I know, I know. The title indicates I'm going to write about  a couple of exotic weather events out here in the hinterlands of New Mexico. (That's the sophisticated part.) I am, but first let me set up the situation. My wife, bless her, succumbed to pneumonia and renal failure a little over four years ago. After that, I moved to a one bedroom apartment in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque. I like my little apartment. Nothing fancy, but it has the necessary accoutrements. Haven’t had any problems here except my freezer died. That’s important because I don’t cook, so I lived out of it. The appliance  was entitled to a dignified end, I suppose. It was eighteen years old, which in freezer-years made it older than I am.

While Betty was in the hospital, our Montgomery Ward clothes dryer conked out. I looked up the papers to see if there was a warranty (Betty saved everything). I learned we’d purchased it in 1974, but if there was any warranty left, good luck with that because the company is long gone. But I figured we’d gotten our money out of it and replaced it with a brand new shiny one that’s already making strange noises after only four years. Then last month, its companion, a 1974 Montgomery Ward washer gave up the ghost while it was full of bedding. Wringing out sheets by hand is fun. I might take it up as an avocation. Anyone care to join me? We can make up a circle.

Pardon me. I seem to have gotten off the track somewhat. Anyway, the one thing I really like about the apartment is I can open the patio door in the front and the window in the bedroom, so a breeze whips through making the use of my refrigerated air thingamajig unnecessary. (Last year, the only time I used it was when I was dog sitting and had to leave the pup in a closed up apartment). As a matter of fact, I regularly boast to friends, companions, and occasionally strangers about not having to run up my electric bill with “air conditioning.” (And this is New Mexico, remember.)

Don’t get impatient, we’re getting there. In fact, we have arrived. In the past few days, two phenomena with exotic-sounding names have appeared on the weather scene in Albuquerque. And when these things arrived, it made me question the sanity of anyone who denies Mankind (oops, Humankind) is affecting the weather. (Note: The correction is important, because women might as well share the blame, too.)

Last week, a Haboob blew through the area. Sounds both exotic and scary, right? What is it? A dust storm…but an Arabic dust storm. Dare I infer anything from that? I’m not a conspiracy theorist…but just saying.

Then Monday night, we experienced a Virga Bomb. Took out my telephone service, my internet, and my cable, but left my lights on. Have you tried existing without any one of those things lately? How about two? But all three? I was reduced to reading!

Now everyone in the southwest has seen virga…many times. It’s simply precipitation that never reaches the ground. Dry rain, if you will. And windstorms (which here are the same as dust storms to my mind) are common. I’ve been through some hairy windstorms, ones that blew down branches and even trees, shattered the back window of my car, were so bad I had to stop driving and wait them out while suffocating in the front seat of my auto.

Not sure why that last dust storm was given that exotic name, but I sure as hell know why they termed Monday night’s virga as a bomb. The winds were hurricane force…at least they seemed that way to me.

Now, why did I choose to write about Haboobs and Virga Bombs for this week's post? To show what weird creatures we humans are. I recently gave a set of bookends carved from a beautiful Mexican stone to a friend. I gave them away because I wasn’t using them. Well, not as bookends, at any rate. But one served as a doorstop for my bedroom. When the Haboob blew through, filling my already dusty place with more grit, the bedroom door slammed shut with an explosive bang. I propped it open with one foot while casting around for something to prevent it from blowing shut again.

I told you my wife died, but I didn’t tell you I had her cremated. Her ashes sit on my bedroom chest of drawers in a dark gray, gold-trimmed urn. That’s the first thing my eye fell on, so I grabbed it and used it as a doorstop, muttering an apology as I did so. I spent the rest of the evening feeling guilty. I somehow got the idea Betty was glaring down on me in disapproval. She was a natural redhead, so that should give you some idea of the severity of her glare. In fact, when I laid a hand on the urn (a nightly ritual) and said goodnight before turning in, it seemed hot to my touch. Probably my imagination.

Well, when the virga storm hit, the winds it brought made the Haboob look puny. The sprinklers outside my door were on when it struck, and the gusts blew water halfway down the hall of my apartment. In all my time in the southwest, I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Guess what? Bang. The door again. With a sigh, I once more asked Betty for help . As I put the urn on the floor yet another time, I recalled a comment she’d once made when we had a mild dust-up. “Sometimes I think I’m nothing but a doorstop to you.”

But I don't think she meant it literally.


Next week: Wait and see!

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


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