It was very nearly a precise replay of a few weeks ago: a storm arriving in the predawn hours, rain lashing furiously on the windows, lightning flashing like a strobe light and thunder drowning out all other sound, followed by the gurgling sound of water springing up through the floorboards and turning my entire apartment into a wading pool.
The only differences: this time I knew the storm was coming, so sleep, even before it arrived, was out of the question, and because of that, I had most things up off the floor and - theoretically - out of reach of any possible floods. The other difference: this time the water was almost twice as deep as last time, and reached places I'd never thought of as being in danger.
It was discouraging, let me tell you. It had only been in the last couple days that everything was completely dried out from the first flood, and I was still in the middle of putting stuff away again. If I'd been more diligent in doing so, lots more things would have been soaked this time. The futon sofa, untouched by the previous inundation, soaked up water like a giant sponge, so much so that it took two of us to carry it outside to dry in the sun. Shoes were floating everywhere, along with the rugs, trash cans, storage bins; oh, it was a real laugh riot.
I took it all in surprisingly good spirits, though, laughing and joking with the neighbors, many of whom had experienced similar or worse disasters. But not the old guy two doors down, who usually whiles away his days on the porch dispensing friendly greetings to everyone who passes by; today he couldn't stop pointing out that his was one of the only completely dry basements on the block.
"Come and look, there's-a no water, come and look," he demanded, which a few of the neighbors found exasperating, dealing as they were with anywhere from six inches to six feet in their own homes. By the end of day I felt more a part of the neighborhood than ever before, being unable to walk more than a handful of feet down the block without someone stopping me to ask if the water had gone down yet or to say, "So, you're moving down the corner house, huh? Bet you'll be glad to get out of the basement!" How the hell does everyone on the block know when and where I'm moving when a few weeks ago I would have told you they probably didn't even know I existed?
I don't know, but I kind of like it. I've never been that big of a neighborhood person before, but I guess I'm becoming one. When I was a kid, I lived in a neighborhood kind of like this, where everybody knew everybody's business, and it used to drive me crazy. Maybe it will again some day, but right now it's cool to feel a part of things.
P.S. Today it's been raining again, not hard enough to flood, but enough so that all the stuff that was drying out isn't drying out anymore. And the temperature has dropped into the 50s, and I've had to wear a jacket for the first time in months. Not cool. Well, not unless you like winter and/or San Francisco, because that's what it feels like.