Tuesday, July 27, 2010

XTC -- "1000 Umbrellas" (1986)

One thousand umbrellas
Upturned couldn't catch
All the rain that drained out 
Of my head when you said
We were over and over 
I cried 'til I floated 
Downstream to a town 
They call Misery
Oh oh Misery

I know that many of you are interested in knowing how the "2 or 3 Lines" team survived the storms that brought Montgomery County, Maryland, to its knees this past Sunday afternoon.

In case you haven't heard, our area was spanked with torrential rain and winds gusting up to 90 miles per hour at about 4 pm on Sunday. The storm moved fast – it took less than an hour for the skies to blacken, the rain and winds to move in and then move out, and the skies to turn sunny again. But that was more than enough to rip our fragile infrastructure a new one.

Over 300,000 people in MoCo lost electricity as a result of the storm. About half that many were still without power 48 hours later. Amazingly, the stoplights on a number of major commuting routes are still inoperable.

But the good news is that "2 or 3 Lines" offices lost power for only a few minutes – although we were without cable TV and internet service for several hours this morning, which was extremely trying.

One very important question remains: how did this affect my regular Sunday bike ride?

Unfortunately, other important tasks and duties prevented me from starting my ride until about 3 pm, so I found myself squarely in harm's way at 3:45 or so, when I looked up and noticed the sky was very, very, VERY dark. (Another person who lives in my house and has the same last name as I do suggested that I should have left much earlier, that we had gotten e-mails from the county government hours earlier warning us that the storms were rapidly approaching, that it was my own fault I didn't start and finish my ride earlier, yada yada yada.)

I was pickin' 'em up and layin' 'em down on my 24-speed Gary Fisher "Utopia" and less than a mile from my home, sweet home, when a sideways gust of wind almost blew me right off my ride. Then the skies opened up and I was drenched within the 10 seconds or so it took me to find shelter – in this case, the nearest front porch big enough for my bike and I to hide under. (The owner of the house eventually came to the door and invited me in, but I demurred – given that I was very wet and fairly smelly as well.)

Here's some very disturbing video from that front porch:

One of our neighbors lost this tree, which fell in such a way as to completely block our street:

This neighborhood mom will be getting a new minivan:

By 5 pm, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. I went back to finish my ride, but the paved hiker-biker trail to Lake Needwood was covered with tree limbs and assorted storm-tossed debris.

I was not optimistic about the condition of that trail when I left for my ride this morning. But lo and behold, someone had gone to "Chain Saws 'R' Us" and cleared the trail of the big stuff. There were a lot of leaves and small branches and pebbles on the trail, but that kind of stuff isn't enough to stop a hardcore biker like myself.

Imagine my surprise when, as I was returning home, I came upon a diligent county worker driving a tractor equipped with a really big-ass leafblower along the trail, so that there was nary a stick, leaf or cigarette butt left on it the rest of the way.
Needwood trail immaculate thanks to big-ass mechanized leafblower

Once he was done with the leafblower, I assume he went back and power-washed any remaining dirt off the trail until it was as clean as my kitchen floor – maybe even as clean as my mother's kitchen floor.

Sorry about all you folks who are still without air conditioning, TV, etc., but it doesn't really help to complain. Just be happy that I had a wonderful bike ride along an immaculately cleaned trail to a beautiful little lake this morning – it will do you good to think about someone other than yourself for a change.

Don't worry, I didn't forget our song – "1000 Umbrellas," by XTC.  

By the way, I considered but ultimately rejected these songs for this post:

1.  "Stormy" by the Classics IV (not a bad choice, but not very exciting);

2.  "Purple Rain" by Prince (I saw no hint of anything purple during our storm);

3.  "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor (no hint of fire either);

4.  "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Croft ("breeze" isn't really the right word for 90-mph wind gusts);

5.  "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" by B.J. Thomas (the raindrops weren't exactly falling, and they didn't keep falling very long);

6.  "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles (yes, it did, but that wasn't the main event);

7.  "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions (captures the feel of the event, but sort of a poopy song);

8.  "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan (and covered by every girl in college who owned a guitar -- no thank you);

9.  "Texas Flood" by Stevie Ray Vaughan (geography is way off);

10.  "Texas Tornado" by Doug Sahm (ditto);

11.  "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC (shouldn't it be "lightning-struck"?);

12.  "Riders on the Storm" by the Doors (close, but there was only one rider – and I've already blogged about a Doors song);

13.  "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (I've already blogged about a CCR song, too).

"1000 Umbrellas" is from a very interesting and very quirky album, "Skylarking," the title of which was inspired by the Shelley poem, "To a Skylark."  My favorite song on the CD is "Season Cycle" -- the singer (a limey) pronounces "umbilical" with the accent on the third syllable ("um-bil-LIE-cal"):

Darling, don't you ever stop to wonder

About the clouds, about the hail and thunder
About the baby and its umbilical
Who's pushing the pedal on the season cycle?

Here's "1000 Umbrellas":

And here's "Season Cycle":

Here's a link to use to buy "1000 Umbrellas" on iTunes:

And here's a link to Amazon.com:

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