Saturday, April 21, 2012

Good Morning, Irene

I am many kinds of nerd, but certainly one of my longest running is as a weather nerd.

For thirteen years, I kept a color chart of cloud formations taped inside my kitchen cabinet in case I needed a quick reference.

Cumulonimbus? Cirrus? Stratocumulus? I wanted to know my clouds.

So when I heard about a public screening and lecture called "Weather Mass Movement," I was determined to attend despite the 11 a.m. Saturday start time.

I have to admit that the allure of a pancake breakfast to accompany the weather didn't hurt, either.

So I was up by 10:25, and walking over to Sponge HQ at the Anderson Gallery by 10:40.

The smell of pancakes cooking lured me up the three flights of stairs where I found other sleepy looking people mainlining Lamplighter coffee.

As a non-coffee drinker, I need to be brought to life in other ways.

I was second in line for pancakes, slathering them with enough butter and real maple syrup to make my 10:25 wake-up call seem like a very good idea.

Sponge's mistress Hope wished us all a happy earth day, saying that it seemed like a good day to reflect on the weather (and accompanying drama) and introducing the SP Weather Station team of Nathalie and Heidi.

They talked about the evolution of their fascination with weather, installing weather stations on rooftops and collecting data.

Because you know, with weather it's all about observation and prediction and a lot of the observation in the weather world comes from non-experts.

Yes, I'm a non-expert.

The two made me grin when they talked about "cooperative observers" (which they are not) who help collect weather data for the experts.

Their purpose in coming to VCU had been to assist students in creating a time lapse video of the movements of Hurricane Irene last August.

Using wool tufts to simulate clouds on a map, the film showed the storm gathering force and eventually traveling up the east coast.

The arduous process required endless effort to shift the formations, photograph it and then do it all over again.

For six hours.

But the resulting stop motion film was beautiful and told the story of the storm that rained down hard on Richmond that day.

I remember well; part of my bedroom ceiling came crashing down that night because of Irene's wetness.

When the presentation ended, Hope was the first to stand up.

"I have a question," she said. "Are there going to be more pancakes?"

Riley, the student with pancake duties, immediately got up to turn on the burners under the pans.

With my head full of weather images and my belly full of buttery pancakes, I left Sponge to do my daily walk.

Almost immediately I heard, "Karen!" and looked up to see my favorite activist on the steps of a building across the street. "Haters gonna hate!" she called smiling, referring to the online trolls judging my latest review.

So true.

By the time I got over to Grace Street, one of my walking regulars spotted me and came charging out of the Village.

"A dress?" he shouted incredulously from across the street.

Yes, a dress. When one goes to a weather event with pancakes, one likes to wear a dress.

It makes it easier to feel the weather as you walk under the stratus clouds.

Just ask any cloud chart-posting weather nerd.


  1. wait what's this good morning bizness?? no way you didn't go out last night.

    you holding back miss karen?!!

  2. Of course I went out.

    I found a kindred soul to take to see "Making History:20th Century African American Art" at VMFA.

    Then we went up to the sunny balcony at Amuse (where I welcomed a pair of gratis VMFA sunglasses)for Cava and an outstanding softshelled crab dish (garam masala-crusted with San Marzano tomatoes, fennel and saffron over cornbread).

    We moved inside for delicate orange crepes with lemon mousse, more Cava and two absinthe drips.

    Final stop: Balliceaux for No Richmond, an evening of WRIR DJs spinning post punk.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

    Happy now?