Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I love natural disaster movies. I know this may sound weird. It’s not that I enjoy watching people die, I enjoy watching them try to escape death. There’s something about witnessing a force that is so beyond our control that makes it a much more satisfactory ‘feel-good’ flick for me than a Julie Roberts movie. I mean, which is more likely to put your troubles into perspective? A city being infiltrated by a thick flow of scorching lava; or a hooker with a heart of gold? A galactic meteor hurling towards Earth in the next 4 days, or a famous Hollywood actress falling in love with a common British chap? While I do enjoy my share of cheesy movies, there’s nothing that can quite match the excitement I get from watching the imminent danger of the world (or even a small town) coming to an end and defeating it. Although my mother has always said, “If you were ever in a real tornado, I think the last word you would use to describe it is ‘exciting’”.
My mom did us a disservice in a way by making us feel safe during harsh weather conditions. With so many of us having band practice and dance lessons and play dates, sometimes it seemed that bad weather was one of the few times we were all home. I remember one specific tornado. My sister and I shared a room and there was a period of time we were messier than our brothers who roomed downstairs. My mom was convinced that she had really messed up raising us “two pigs” and one night she just let us have it. Our things were thrown into the middle of the room and after a lecture (a nice way of saying she yelled and thrashed about our room for 20 minutes as we stood there shaking) she ended with the famous, “And you’re not coming out of here until this place is spotless!” and proceeded to slam the bedroom door. A moment like this could not have been timed better if you tried because the minute that door shut behind her, a tornado siren went off. Bridget and I just stared at each other, too terrified to move. Not necessarily because of the tornado, but because we had just been specifically told not to come out of our room by Mephistopheles. Well mom must have taken a brief second to compose herself because not more than 2 seconds later that door flew open like the gates of heaven and she said in her nicest June Cleaver voice, “On second thought, why don’t you ladies go down to the basement?”
Forces beyond our control are not only capable of changing our planet and wiping us all out, but they also have the magical ability of changing Bridget and I from pigs into ladies and transforming my mom from Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters in search of the Keymaster to Mrs. Doubtfire, appreciating every moment and using every ounce of imagination to bring smiles to her kid’s faces. My family had so much fun in that basement, we were almost sad when it was time to come out. To this day, every time I start to see the sky turn a little green or read the scrolling text weather warnings running along the bottom of my television screen, I am oddly warm and fuzzy inside. I have felt one earthquake since being in California but, unfortunately, the last place you want to go during one of those is the basement and you're lucky if you can even find one. You also don't see those coming so you don't really get the satisfaction of intense build up followed by a the success of making it through the battle. Maybe this is why I find it silly when I hear people say “Chicago’s my favorite city in the world but I’d never move there because of the weather”. I think the weather has a way of bringing people together, and not just families. Strangers on the street who help move each others cars or the teenager who helps his elderly neighbor shovel her driveway. Because it's us against it, not each other.
Whenever I would stress out about an upcoming test or performance, my mother wouldn’t tell me not to worry. Instead she would say that if I’m going to worry, I might as well chose to worry about the things which I have control over. I can control whether or not I study or whether or not I practice, but I can’t control what questions are asked or what the audience had for lunch that day that might put them in a bad mood. This is why when I feel stressed or have a bit of the blues, nothing makes me snap out of it quicker than grilled cheese and tomato soup, followed by a medley of "Twister", "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Deep Impact" (Deep Impact over Armageddon only because of the special effects but I do agree the love story is bogus and Steve Buscemi should be in it). And while it's not really natural, "Titanic" is always a colossal way to end the night and really lift your spirits.
There’s something to be said about things that are so much bigger than us. Whether you’re religious or not, watching an extreme weather condition is a reminder that we could all - that this could all - be gone at any time and we should appreciate the moments we have. Natural disasters can be and have been absolutely devastating so my intent is not to be insensitive, but rather to point out the wonder. Hearing about this Chicago blizzard right now makes me want nothing more than to be in the basement with my family playing board games and trying to keep warm while hearing my dad complain about shoveling and smelling my mom making something yummy. Instead, I got the damn sun in my eyes, sand stuck in every crevice of my body, my margarita's melting, and I haven't seen a waitor for 20 minutes.
What's that I was saying about perspective?