Screenplay

Atmospheric River Blues

Drought, wildfire, heatwaves and now nine in a row atmospheric rivers represents California’s new normal weather pattern. Five years ago to the day Montecito and Santa Barbara were hit with a deluge of water and then mudslides after weeks and weeks of wildfire ravaging the hills above their communities. Mudslides, chaos and emergency rescue teams soon followed.

Mojave Desert January 10, 2023

Oprah, Ellen and now Harry have been swept up into the climate crisis gripping the globe. Among the nutty delusional qualities of the mind is wealthier citizens hoping the fossil fuel induced climate changes would somehow bypass their swank digs. Sorry money can’t buy you everything.

Last Friday events pulled us from our place in San Francisco Bay Area to visit friends in Los Angeles. We were planning to make it a fun weekend then get back home on Monday. Instead we turned east to Palm Springs seeking sanctuary from the demon we named— Reality.

Sunday was pretty good here in the desert, Monday not bad, yesterday the remnant’s of an atmospheric river brought rain. We hunkered down here at the hot spring. Fortunate our van was pointed nose first into the 55 mph winds that hit last night. Seatbelts— I don’t got to wear no stinking seatbelts— were considered given the unexpected turbulence.

Sky Valley, California blowing like all hell out here

Behind us is a concrete culvert. Bone dry doesn’t describe it, perhaps the last time water ran down this waterway Truman was still President. Because of the nearby mountains I monitored the potential for uncontrollable runoff. Not much happened, less than a trickle, but in climate change times you can not afford to turn your back where water may come to rage. Evacuation routes are now something to know.

I’d mark my coming of age in the era of climate change to be somewhere around the year 2016. California was ablaze with wildfires, our air was unbreathable. Reckoning the wildfire’s were a once in a century event, not the new business as usual turned out to be poor mental jujitsu. Wildfire’s are as predictable now as atmospheric river’s and who ever heard of those atmospheric demons until now—

All of us have been making little accommodations, adjusting in increments to the heatwaves, downpours and sunburn. You say to yourself— hey, kid, stay ahead of things, its going to be alright, look around, you’re the only one that’s worried about anything, it’s all ok, have another martini, wash your car, pull some weeds, call a friend, make some pasta, drink some wine, get down to the dispensary, buy a hat, see your skin doctor, wear your sunscreen, keep your head low, don’t talk too much about how you feel as your world literally is falling apart, people will shun you, nobody likes a Dana-Downer.

To keep us calm they’ve installed devices here and there

Until about 2016 all of us could take some pleasure in our denial, that it really couldn’t be as awful as the climate scientists have warned. By 2019 traveling across British Columbia the sight of millions of beetle ravaged trees took a toll on my denial. Then, sucking in heaps of wildfire smoke gave me my first climate cough. Viewing reservoirs without an antidepressant is ill-advised.

We still have to live and die, raise our kids, get our groceries, keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and find some semblance of fun and games whether the lights remain on or off.

Here at the Palm Springs Film Festival we got out to see I Like it Here. The documentary chronicles the phenomena surrounding our aging out until we’re gone. Liking it here is about not being ready to go there, not yet, not while the pleasing alternative of being here holds our attention.

Just stop bellyaching

Encoded into our DNA is an ego determined to maintain its grip on staying alive. Ego is a damn efficient quality of mind— it’ll keep you alive when the rest of you can get the rest of you killed. It is the do this not that device on loan from God— we give our ego and the rest of our gifts back at the end. This comes free, there is no extra charge.

Our changing climate adds concern, it only slightly penetrates our ego’s main vigilant keep it real inner monologue and cheery patter. Our inability to grasp the magnitude of what our species has done to our odds of long term survival is to do with the capacity of our mind to stitch together the weather events of the times we live in. Ego sucks figuring the odds— and not to trigger your ego, but folks the odds are not close to even according to what I see out the window dare I have the courage to look.

It isn’t fair, but it is true, that as we’ve evolved the ego proved useful and was improved by evolution and of course glorified by Hollywood. I’d say ego has had a good run— only Frankenstein seems to have had a better box office.

What we don’t have is the capacity to help plan for two centuries from now. You can love your grand children all you want but that’s probably an ego induced sideshow. The reality is the human mind lacks this forward compassion projecting capacity, live now pay later, don’t worry be happy— be happy right now, we’ll try a little harder next week, I promise I won’t fly off so often to Puerto Vallarta to feed my muse and drink tequila.

Today is a walk across historic Palm Springs. We are now lounging about in our mid century modern hotel just off the strip next to the world famous Palm Springs Tennis Club. I married Vince Lombardi’s reincarnated feminine aspect and she’s walked her other half right to the edge.

Wondering about the number of galaxies in our Universe, I’m betting a trillion isn’t close to the total, and boy that has got to be a bitch of a task to be in charge of tallying up the actual number. Like the climate crisis it boggles our comprehension, almost breaks the imagination muscle trying to wrap our heads around the colossal climate crisis of it all. But as the assignment editor cruelly warns— that’s why we pay you the big bucks— I can get you to take a look, it’s your ego that urges you to look away—

The climate crisis is definitely messing with the speech you are planning to give at the lifetime achievement award ceremony, but you look in the mirror while you check the lapels, tug at the cuffs, you keep going over and over how grateful you are, how the world is at an inflection point, that collectively the time has come, that together we must act, and the truth of the matter is our ego’s are bristling at this, try as we might, when the gods unlocked the code to give us the smarts to do certain things like all wishes fulfilled they overlooked mankind’s ability to think long term, over the horizon, to see into our earth’s future and have the capacity to act to avert a crisis, and not just any old ordinary crisis but perhaps the mother of all of them, the biggest crisis we have ever had to face, the crisis where if we don’t act now it will be too late for those who will soon follow us here. Our ability to act or not to act is front and center. So what is it there pilgrim, you want to ride over that mountain pretending like there’s nothing you can do, that there’s nothing all that wrong, or are you ready to lend a hand to a soul yet born who—

Sorry, these atmospheric rivers can really monkey with my inner confidence—

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