It's a Dry Rain

Life in the great Northwet

After living in Phoenix for more than 30 years, I wanted some rain.

I figured I was owed some rain.

So when my husband was accepted into the graduate program at the University of Oregon in Eugene, I almost ran there. I made him accept the school's offer, our new home sight unseen. All I could picture was green instead of Phoenix brown. Green, green, green. I fantasized about summers — beautiful, magical summers when I could actually go outside for 30 seconds without tasting my own sweat, looking at a freckle on my exposed arm and wondering aloud, "Hmmm, does that look more like a basal or squamous cell carcinoma?" or having an earring brand and subsequently scar my neck should a gentle, though unlikely, desert breeze suddenly kick up. Summers like the ones you see on television, in which little children can play soccer in daylight without losing consciousness, or during which somewhere in the Valley, not one single person ever returns from a short, spry little lunchtime hike leashed to a giant popsicle stick swinging beneath a helicopter by a tether and filmed by a Channel 3 camera crew because the lunchtime hiker was short a bottle of Aquafina.

Matt Mignanelli
Matt Mignanelli

On our first scouting mission, our flight was about to land at the Eugene airport when I saw that my vision was true. Green, green, green. As we drove through the small town, I saw vibrant lawn after lush lawn after emerald lawn and I mistook it as pride of ownership until my husband reminded me that water in Oregon was something you couldn't opt out of; here, it came from the sky and not a hose. Outside the room at the inn, a tree with a 10-foot circumference shaded nearly the entire building, and I was so mesmerized I called people in Phoenix and told them of the miracle I had seen. Shade. I love shade. And the shade in Eugene had no end.

"Look over there," I said to my husband as we checked out downtown and I pointed to a parking lot that was almost overrun by Douglas firs, oaks, and maple trees. "Those are spots worth shooting someone over in Phoenix!" To someone who didn't know how to open an umbrella until she was 33 (and I only learned because I was caught in a nor'easter in NYC), I became obsessed with a new, loving climate, rushed home and started buying rain gear. After all, a hobby is only as good as its accessories and the same can be said for locales. With rain boots, waterproof jacket, gloves and a Liza Minnelli assemblage of hats, I moved to Oregon.

And when I got there, I noticed that people looked at me funny, particularly the guy who installed the air conditioner in our new house (upon rolling out of Phoenix, I vowed never to be hot again, and I meant it), the hippie who fixed the sprinkler system, the man who refinished the wood floors, and the girl who colors my hair.

"Really?" they said, looking at me with skepticism, as if I was trying to pass myself off as a Hilton sister. "You moved here from Arizona? Why would you move here from Arizona? Everyone is moving from here to Arizona."

Every single one of them had had a brother, sister, father or close friend pack up and head to the land from which I just ran away. I returned their look of skepticism.

"Why? Because it's hot in Arizona," I'd reply. "And I am ready for a cool summer!"

"Well, in Arizona, it's a dry heat," they'd explain to me. "And it rains a lot here."

"It's not a dry heat when your thighs produce more liquid than a cow or a Slurpee machine, and that's just when you're sitting down," I'd retort. "I love it here. No one perspires, and it's all green."

"But in Arizona, you can golf almost every day because the sun is shining," they'd respond. "And it's green here because it's always raining."

"Sure, you can golf every day if you drag a saline drip behind you and have your golf cart air-conditioned like the Pope," I scoffed. "But it's so beautiful and shady here. Everything grows!"

"You can't golf in mud," they'd protest. "Everything turns to goop after the second day of rain, and then it goes on for six more months! It never ends!"

"Let me tell you about never ending," I cautioned. "114, 115, 116, 118, then it's 122 degrees, and that lasts for half the year! Has the Eugene airport ever shut down because the runway melted?"

"Wanna be on a plane that's landing on runway covered in a sheet of ice?" they'd counter. "You don't know what the rain can do! People have to have special light lamps to keep them from spiraling into a bottomless pit of depression and despair!"

"People have run out of burning houses unharmed only to get third-degree burns on their feet once they hit the sidewalks because they were barefoot," I volleyed.

"Houses sink here," they told me firmly and quietly.

"People . . . combust there," I whispered.

"Yeah?" they'd conclude. "Just don't go outside without a jacket or they might not find you for 5,000 years, frozen in a block of ice."

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