Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Living in the Desert, Lesson #3: The Sun

How very observant of Candy to notice that, in the desert, the sun is turned up loud.

This commentary is not about the heat. I'll save that for later. This is about how the sun never goes away in Phoenix.

My old college roommate, Belle, and I delighted in one another for many reasons. One of those is that we are two people who adore gray skies. It may have been the first time either of us found another netherbeing who deems it a happy sight to open the morning curtains to a dismal, threatening sky. It was dang-near shameful to be us. When we admitted our craving for cloudy days, we spoke in low tones, as though confessing to being secretly in love with a lesser-known Osmond.

In our 4th floor dorm room, we shared an array of secrets and rituals. For instance, one thing that Belle cannot stand is when someone bites cloth. With their teeth. Yeah, I know. When she first told me, I thought what you're thinking: "How often do people bite cloth?" In our dorm, not often at all. Until I mercilessly spread the word. Then we all openly gnawed on our big fat bath towels while passing Belle en route to the shower.

Another ritual: On Thursday nights as we were falling asleep, Belle and I would talk about creepy things across the darkness between our cheap dorm-crap twin beds. Frequently we retold a story that had scared the spleens out of both of us years before: "The Monkey's Paw." A horror story from 1902 about the paw of a dead monkey that brings its owner any wish they ask for, but with hideous repercussions. The monkey's paw eventually comes knocking at the door, a furry little severed grim reaper. Like a lucky rabbit's foot dipped in hell-gravy. Why did we need to relive this fear on Thursday nights? Probably because the weather forecast had predicted sunshine for Friday.

Belle would understand how sick I am of the sunny days of Phoenix. One after another after another. It's as though the sunshine is holding me hostage. It desperately wants me to fawn over it and tell it how glorious and wonderful it is. Which I cannot do. Because sunshine annoys me.

Sunshine is also devious. Sometimes in the morning I look out the back window to a delicious metal-colored overcast sky. A work of art. I sing and prance my way to the kitchen to hurry and celebrate with a poptart-y breakfast. By the time I turn on the coffee, the sunshine has sneaked around to the front of the house to taunt me. "Oh!" it beams. "You thought I'd left? No. I'm here. And I'll be here all day today. And tomorrow. To infinity." I look at it in grim silence. And then it chews up my brown sugar cinnamon toaster pastry and spits it out in little blobs of sparkly sunlight, scattering everywhere like poisonous toads.

Why do I love gray weather? Because it feels calm, peaceful, low key, unpressured. All those things that I am not. When I see cloudy skies as soon as I wake up, I actually can't help smiling. Because then there is no sunshine-induced urgency banging at the door.

When I was little and it was sunny and hot, my mom would say "Get out there and enjoy that sunshine!" All I wanted to do was stay inside with my friend, the TV. Outside, there were no friends. We lived in an area so rural it would've taken me an hour to ride my bike to a friend's house. In the sun. At which time my friend would've wanted to play a game like "Who Can Stay Out in the Sun Longest." And if we did go inside for a tiny little break from the glare, we'd have no doubt had a glass of Sunny-D. If it had been invented back then.

So I mostly stayed home and was sucked onto the front of the TV like a squid onto the mask of a deep sea diver. Until my mother would once again order me outside to "soak up some of that good sunshine." Which was just like telling me to go slam myself head-on into a briar thicket or find a fistful of earthworms to put down my shirt.

At least back then, in the midwest, you could count on a cloudy day coming along regularly. A good old violent storm hit us every couple of weeks in the summer. The kind that had us running to the basement holding blankets over our heads, bumping into one another like alarmed bedouins. Hmmm. Which may have been my sign that one day I would dwell in the desert.


  • At 4:06 PM, Blogger Jerry said…

    I look at it in grim silence. And then it chews up my brown sugar cinnamon toaster pastry and spits it out in little blobs of sparkly sunlight, scattering everywhere like poisonous toads.

    So I mostly stayed home and was sucked onto the front of the TV like a squid onto the mask of a deep sea diver.

    The kind that had us running to the basement holding blankets over our heads, bumping into one another like alarmed bedouins. Hmmm. Which may have been my sign that one day I would dwell in the desert.

    Very nice imagery. I particularly like, "in little blobs of sparkly sunlight, scattering everywhere like poisonous toads." Beautiful.

    Anyone who can write that line can get their novel on the New York Times bestseller list.

  • At 4:11 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    You know, I'd settle for just being able to make enough money writing to pay my bills and buy a monthly plane ticket.

    Perhaps I could also then give up my street walking. The change belt I have to wear is beginning to chafe.

    Thanks for the boost, Jerry. Good timing. I'm reading a freshman comp. textbook. Zzzzzz.

  • At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Huzzah! A fellow sun-scorner! I get really tired of slathering on sunscreen so powerful that it shoots rays back at the sun. And wearing a burka in the dead of summer really blows. But at least I can blind my enemies with just the briefest flash of thigh. Juicy, white, and lethal.

  • At 10:11 AM, Blogger Gail said…

    I lived in Phoenix for a few months that seemed like years. The constant sunshine really got to me. I found it highly depressing and longed for the thunderstorms of the Southeast. I always related to Gordon Lightfoot's song "Rainy Day People" and nothing ticks me off more than to wake up to a nice rainy day and then have the sun burst through. What a mood buster!

    And the monkey's paw has even more dire implications. When I was about six, my sister and I watched the movie. I was horrified, but when I finally fell asleep my mom threw a rabbit's foot on the bed and yelled "Monkey's Paw!" Bad memory. Great blog. Love your descriptions! And biting on cloth--aaargh.

  • At 11:10 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    The Sun Scorners. I like it, Jackie. It's like a bad sequel to The Thorn Birds.

    YOU hate the sun for different reasons. You have perfect, white, flawless Great Gatsy skin. You MUST protect it. I, on the other hand, grilled myself like a hog on a spit years ago and that epidermus has sailed. But still, any reason for joining the club is a good one. And thank you for mailing me your dues. If we get enough, we can put a big tinted dome over the entire country.

  • At 11:12 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Gail, I forgot that song existed. The rolodex in my head always lands on "Edmund Fitzgerald" or "Sundown" when I flip to Gordon Lightfoot.

    I cannot believe that you and I also have the Monkey's Paw connection. That story has apparently ruined the lives of many. But your trauma even included props.

  • At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Eight years in the desert. Can I join your club?

    I remember waking up to that bright, unrelenting sunshine and mumbling, "Damn sun again." I often found myself fighting back tears, feeling as though I would go insane from one more day of it. Even my children would cry and say that they hated the sun.

    And those days that would start out overcast and then brighten up....nothing pissed me off more.

    Nobody ever seemed to understand, until now. This is nice.

  • At 3:22 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Ahhh! Another member of the Sun Scorners.
    I didn't know you hated the sun when you lived here. I thought it was mainly the sickening heat.

    But yes, Futuresis, I feel your pain. And now you are in my beloved midwest, home of the life-threatening storms. How I miss it.

  • At 10:43 PM, Blogger E. said…

    When I lived in LA, I used to get downright elated every time it rained or the sky turned cloudy. I actually didn't mind the sunshine and 70s most of the time, but the sameness of it all got to me after awhile, and I craved a change.

    I definitely have an ambivalent relationship with the sun, though, as a pasty white chick who can't survive ten minutes of mid-day sun without sunscreen and a hat.

  • At 9:53 AM, Blogger Jerry said…

    I lived in El Paso for a few months and had the same experience as the rest of you. The merciless sun...ceaselessly shinning and mocking you with its happy, bright and cheery constancy. It's hard to cultivate and nurture a righteous depressive episode when the sun keeps busting through the blinds and straining against the curtains to get in.

    I was glad to get back to Atlanta and see some overcast days and experience morose and sulky Saturdays. When its cold and gloomy, I have the perfect excuse to watch stupid movies on TV or read Wuthering Heights. Oh yeah, and start drinking early on those rainy, cold days when the wind howls and the fireplace is singing red and yellow.

    I will be glad to see the winter this year. But, it's too damn cold in Indiana; spent winters in Fort Wayne--Jesus what a depressing place.

  • At 11:42 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    E., You do pasty white very well. You have gorgeous skin.

    Yes. It's the sameness. If it rained and was gray every day, I'd go nuts from that too. Which is why Seattle would not be a good antidote.


    "It's hard to cultivate and nurture a righteous depressive episode when the sun keeps busting through the blinds and straining against the curtains to get in."

    EXACTLY. And you've made the sun sound like a fat chick in a corset. Which is spot-on.

  • At 5:28 PM, Blogger Ana Martin said…

    Wow. There are people who don't like the sun. I'm going to have to go think about this.

  • At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It boggles the mind, doesn't it, Ana? I've lived in the Southwest for the last 20+ years, and can't imagine wanting to live anywhere else.

  • At 7:04 PM, Blogger Jerry said…


    It's about frequency and duration. Everyone likes the sun, but some of us like more variability in the weather than others.

    Then again, its what you adjust to, the conditions necessity requires; if you have no choice, you accept the weather you have.

    People who live in International Falls, Minnesota stay there because they have family and the weather creates a context for close bonds.

    Most of us can live wherever we need to live for job, family or love.

  • At 10:31 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jerry...It's a cloudy thing. They wouldn't get it. :)

    Scott loves the sun. He cuts the grass when it's 115. I hide from it. When he comes inside he is red and breathless and a seizure waiting to happen.

  • At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Actually, in my take on the Swedes with their saunas and snow piles, I jump in the pool immediately upon finishing. Glorious, just glorius.

    I also enjoy getting through every winter without having to take my life into my own (and whoever else is on the road's) hands every time I have to drive on an icy road. Not having to deal with tornadoes and earthquakes is nice, too.

  • At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're absolutely right that it is about frequency and duration. I got very tired of weeks on end of drizzly grey day in Germany. After getting to Arizona, I was happy about the sun every day for about the first two weeks. Over winter, I didn't mind it too much, but it was hard to get into the holiday spirit....a Santa hat on a saguaro just doesn't do it for me. While I got tired of no change in the weather, I really grew to hate the sun by July. I HATE the heat. I love flannel sheets, sweaters, and curling up in a blanket to read. I realized that the blasted sun was to blame for the heat. The heat was to blame for my lack of snuggly things. The last thing a person wants to do when it is 100+ is snuggle up with ANYTHING. And a nice bowl of hot potato soup on a 90 degree November day just doesn't cut it.

    In defense of Arizona and the sun: It felt heavenly to jump into Scott's pool (now Candy's pool too!) even when the water was a frosty 80 degrees (after years of swimming in Lake Michigan, I never thought I'd correlate 80 degree water temps with being too cold) and then jump back out and lay in the sun and feel the water evaporate off my skin....then jump back in....repeat. That feels great! I'll probably end up with skin cancer, but that felt so darn good....I still can't bring myself to jump into pools here in the Midwest. WAY too cold!!! I've been spoiled in that respect.

    I have to admit, I love these Midwestern storms. I love thunderstorms with actual rain. Don't particularly enjoy having to head down to the basement for the tornado warnings....but in the particular area where I grew up in the Midwest, we never had a tornado warning in the entire 20 years I lived there. So I could freely enjoy storms. I can't enjoy them quite the same now, but I'm still glad to be here....even though we haven't had a real snowstorm and it would be a rare thing to have one here. Snowstorms are the best!

  • At 11:43 AM, Blogger EB said…

    What I'm most shocked about is that people would not enjoy having a handful of earthworms in their shirt. That gets me giggling every time.

  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Scott, I always did find you very swede. xoxoxo would not have liked the pool yesterday. We even mentioned it. It was 92. Somewhere between room temperature and Campbell's soup.

    EB, kwit yer gigglin. Yer a fancy perfesser now. Sober up.

  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    p.s. to Futuresis...
    I love that jump in/dry off/jump back in thing.

  • At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mmmmm! Mmmmm! Good!....diving into a big pool of Chicken and Stars....I'll bring the saltines!

    Now I am missing you guys. A lot.

  • At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Speaking of the jump in/dry off/jump back in thing....perhaps that's all Lizzie needs? Stick her back in the pool and see whether she comes back to life.

  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger Jerry said…

    The thing is, many of us like walking in the rain or snow. There is a reason that so much creativity comes from Middle European countries and not from the Kalahari.

    Beethoven would not have faired well in Phoenix, nor Wagner. The cold and bleak days forces one inside--both the house and our brain.

    I love a rainy night.

    Brook Benton

    Hoverin' by my suitcase, tryin' to find a
    Warm place to spend the night
    Heavy rain fallin', seems
    I hear your voice callin' "It's all right."
    A rainy night in Georgia,
    a rainy night in Georgia
    It seems like it's rainin' all over the world
    I feel like it's rainin' all over the world

    Neon signs a-flashin', taxi cabs and buses passin' through the night
    A distant moanin' of a train seems to play a sad refrain to the night
    A rainy night in Georgia,
    such a rainy night in Georgia
    Lord, I believe it's rainin' all over the world
    I feel like it's rainin' all over the world

    How many times I wondered
    It still comes out the same
    No matter how you look at it or think of it
    It's life and you just got to play the game

    I find me a place in a box car,
    so I take my guitar to pass some time
    Late at night when it's hard to rest
    I hold your picture to my chest and I feel fine

    But it's a rainy night in Georgia,
    baby, it's a rainy night in Georgia
    I feel it's rainin' all over the world, kinda lonely now
    And it's rainin' all over the world

    Oh, have you ever been lonely, people?
    And you feel that it was rainin' all over this man's world
    You're talking 'bout rainin', rainin', rainin', rainin',
    rainin', rainin', rainin', rainin', rainin'
    rainin', rainin', rainin'...

  • At 5:29 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Thanks for jazzin' it up around here, Jerry! Love those lyrics. Even though I've only passed through Georgia on the way to Florida, and never saw it rain. I did eat at a Denny's in Macon, though.

    Futuresis...poor Lizzie needs more than that.

  • At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're right. Lizzie does need more. But I see you checked your e-mail. HA

  • At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Jerry. I am a Fort Wayne girl and love our depressing winters. Pretty ironic that Belle would live there, huh?

    This is those memoirs I have been telling you about. I was thrilled to read this of course and I am cringing at all of you biting cloth out there! Ask Candy about rubbing styrofoam!

  • At 1:08 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    UUugghh!! NO rubbing styrophoam!!! NO!! omg. My teeth hurt just thinking about it. If ever I get take-out in styrophoam it must be moved to a real plate before I can eat it. NO eating out of the container. Weeugh. ok

    WOW. So I was going to ask WHY you had never made your way to living in Oregon or Washington when the "extremes" issue was mentioned. RIGHT. THAT's why I was SO happy to escape from TWENTY years of utter misery in Portland. Seven years ago tomorrow... Yep, seven years ago with no boyfriend, no job, no home of my own -- this overwhelming thought planted itself in my head: MUST move to Reno! My friend lived there -- wanted to know SOMEONE where ever I moved to, otherwise Reno seemed like a horrible place to live. What really surprised me was that even though I had visited many times, that day, the day I drove those miles I fell in LOVE with the desert. Who knew?

    NOW I have a life-partner of 6 years -- we're both allergic to marriage, although if we had a wedding it would HAVE to be like yours! My sunnier life is better than the dreary SADD-enduced funk happenin in Portland but there are some hitches. As Scott mentioned, the SNOW and ICE are NEVER fun. NEVER. The cold is a bitch. Yep, and THIS summer we had a record run of EIGHTY-EIGHT days of blazing sun in the upper 90s (I know -- WHY am I considering moving to Arizona, right??) and we were SO happy to get some clouds and a big huge thunder-storm of rain last Friday that it reminded me how much I like living NOT in Portland. That doesn't mean I want to stay HERE but maybe Arizona isn't the place I want to be jumping to either.

    I don't think I would like California politics and not sure what it would be like somewhere else either. I long for the calm, easy days of my childhood where I grew up in the moderate, wonderful weather of Oaxaca, Mexico. Ha, it would definitely NOT be the place for me now, talk about political upheaval. wow. yeah. So any suggestions out there? Just looking for a place w/MOSTLY moderate weather, politics that leave you the **bleep** alone to live your life and a nice, lush metropolitan life. Is that too much to ask for???!! ugh.

    Anyone out there know of this paradise -- you will please let me know, won't you? = ]

  • At 2:01 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Citlali...what a free spirit you are. Trying to decide where to go live. I was always near my family in the midwest, until I moved to be with my new "family" in the desert. And I am not referring to the dead lizards. I mean the guy who always told me "You never have to shovel sunshine!" I beat him for that recently.

    Interesting about your time in Portland. It's almost like the grim weather caused the other grim stuff.

    Keep me posted on where you decide to go next!


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