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Mary Rains - yes, Mary Rains - is a writer living in the Minnesota heartland. She recently sent us this postcard about her trip to the west coast, where she expected sun...


By Mary Rains, 5/25/2001

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My theory goes like this: say you need to get on a particular bus and as you go to the depot, you think, "I want a window seat, alone, near the front." But when you get there, and you see the long line to get on, you begin to lower your expectations, and soon you're saying, "God, please, I'll stand, in the back, just get me on that bus."

My trip to L.A. and Vegas early last March proves this theory. I was at that late winter breaking point we Minnesotans go through where our skin can't see and our eyes can't breathe, and we need to believe there really is a big, hot sun somewhere above us.

That's why I was so happy to be heading to the sunny west coast. But when the plane landed in Los Angeles it was gushing rain. I rented a car, drove through a heavy downpour and five lanes of traffic where no one uses their blinker and everyone is either going fifteen miles over the speed limit or stopped completely. I hunkered in the slow right lane, trying to relax...at least I see green, I said to myself. But heading out of LA, to Vegas, on the small highways, I slowed down further because every few miles I'd go pontooning through small lakes of standing water. Coming into the high desert at dusk, it turned to snow, covering the cactus. I comforted myself by thinking that at least it wasn't 15 below zero.

By the time I got to Vegas I was a wreck. I started running a bath, turned on the TV, zoned out...and then I heard the sickening sound of too much water. The bathroom was a pond. The carpet was soaked. I frantically called maintenance and they sent a guy, forty minutes later, who arrived at the door with a plunger.

It rained in Vegas. On my way back to L.A., it was still raining. And this isn't Minnesota rain. This is a damn car wash rain, a water fall rain, Noah's Ark rain. And no one seems to change the way they drive at all. On my last day, at the hotel in Venice Beach, I looked out the window and saw... sun! Woo-hoo! I was out that door in sixty seconds. After all, I was right there, at the western edge of our country and darn it I was going to see that ocean. But by the time I got to the boardwalk, it began to rain again.

I didn't let it stop me. I marched right through it, head up, right down to the pier. My feet were soaked, my hair was dripping but doggone it I walked to the very end of that pier and stood there, looking out at all that beautiful swirling blue. And there, with water beneath me, water above me and having to go to the bathroom real bad, I was like the last contestant in the limbo dance. I had lowered the bar on my expectations as low as they could go.

Yes, my vacation had turned into Waterworld. But, I told myself... at least I wasn't wearing a down jacket and heavy boots. I knew I wouldn't be able to brag about anything regarding this vacation. I could only go back to Minnesota and say, "I saw the ocean."

But at that moment, it was good enough.

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