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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TORNADO ALLEY OF THE MIND

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Forecast of rain all day, sunny and warm until evening. The mountains shook and the boulders rolled. The potato wagon in the sky dumped its load and potatoes rumbled all the way to the horizon. Big rain all at once. Big wind. BAM!!! Lightning with only a second between flash and thunder. Then hail clinking on the windows, bouncing off the roof, heavy rain with balls of ice mixed in, crunchy rain. The ground suddenly white. The new leaves battered and thrashed. Some of the green things will be set back a week or 2, but the flora indigenous to these mountains are not damaged much by varieties of natural disasters. They're hardy. Gardens might have been hurt, but I don't know of many gardens set out yet. They're laid out, but we're not yet done with frosts. I don't recall this much hail before. We've had hail every 10 or so years, and now 2 in a week of each other.



Tornadoes aren't afraid of the mountains either. Trailers aren't safe anywhere when tornadoes are lurking about. I don't know what the attraction is, but I just figure God doesn't like trailers. Tornadoes are called Acts of God by insurance corporations, so it's God doing it. He doesn't like trailers. I've seen it all my life. A lot of other places get it too, but it's time and again a minor tornado hits trailers. Next day's news, pictures of trailer walls flat on the ground. Kansas and Oklahoma used to be tornado alley, but now tornado activity is in the flat cornfield regions over to the the Mississippi and the other side in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, now Arkansas.



North Carolina is known for a tremendous amount of tornado activity, as a rule. In Wichita Kansas, sophomore in high school, we had a tornado alert and went to the basement. After awhile of hearing nothing, I opened to trap door on the outside of the house to see what I could see. The sky was an eerie green. It wasn't an optical illusion either. It was like seeing the sky through a green filter. It was obvious green. Unforgettably strange to look at. The tornado never got there. It terrorized another part of town nearby.



That was 1957, the time of SciFi movies, the really cheesy 50s SciFi movies. This Island Earth, The Day of the Triffids, They Came From Outer Space. There was a long string of them. I saw several in theaters, the only way you could see them. In the same time as those films came High School Confidential, Jerry Lee Lewis, also Bill Haley & the Comets, their movie, Don't Knock the Rock. It was so, so cool to see Bill Haley & Comets in the big screen jamming like they did. And later in my Jr year in high school, it was all the more cool when I saw Bill Haley & Comets LIVE in the Alan Freed Rock & Roll Show that travelled around from city to city. Little Richard appeared in Jane Mansfield's movie, The Girl Can't Help It, doing it so right on the grand piano when Little Richard was at his peak. That was 50s teen movies in b&w. I checked out High School Confidential from netflix maybe a year ago. It was a whole lot worse than I remembered. Jerry Lee wasn't in it at all, except when the credits rolled he was on a float in a high school pep parade lip-syncing High School Confidential.



Evidently I associate tornadoes with early rock & roll because it was in the time of early rock & roll that I was living in Tornado Alley, Kansas. I had the good fortune never to see one. Like when I came to the mountains, my most fervent prayer was that I never see a rattlesnake. 35 years later, I never have seen one. Prayer works. A preacher told me when I was a kid in Kansas that God doesn't answer those kinds of prayers. Rather than believe him, I suspected his validity as a preacher if he didn't know that about God. This was after I'd told him of a time recently I'd been playing catch and lost my baseball. Couldn't find it. I asked God to help me find it, I couldn't have been more than 10, and right after the prayer I went straight to it. He told me God wasn't answering my prayer. I didn't pay attention to anything he said after that. He died to me as somebody who might know something about God.



Fundamentalism in Kansas. Hard core church. Unfinished cinderblock square building built by the preacher, his project for doing it the way we could afford it. About a dozen people went. Max maybe 20. Slam-bang honky tonk piano, no music at all, just percussion chords, bang-bang-bang, Victory in Jesus my Savior forever.... It was church over-kill at our house. Every Sunday and 5 nights a week. Rock & roll was what I had that was my own. Parents hated it, preacher hated it, everybody at church hated it, all adults at school hated it, all adults hated it, generally. Adults hated rock & roll in that time far worse than they hated rap. It was called Communist and was said to infect the youth. My parents made certain I understood rock & roll will never last. Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller will last. That was 55 years ago.



These are my associations with tornadoes, place and time they concerned me. Cheesy movies, plus, mustn't forget Cecil B DeMille's casts of millions, cinemascope, big budget Bible movies, 3-D movies such as The Charge At Feather River, Indians riding horses over me and shooting arrows at me sitting on the front row gaping at Indians through 3-D. Even had 3-D comic books. My mother allowed me to find my way by city bus to theaters to see a movie. A theater was about a mile from the house, easy walking distance, and one was about a mile from my grandparents' house where stayed summers in high school. Movies came to be my own private world early in childhood. In a movie theater nobody was bothering me. I was by myself having my own good time seeing movies like 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea, starring James Mason. My favorite actress of the time, Claudette Colbert. She was so lovely. She probably looked like mommy.



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