I was wrong, you were right. I am dry. It felt like such a historic occasion that I wrote the date down in my book of memories: Jan. 17, 2009.

On that day, I stood on the sands of Cannon Beach, gazing in awe at a perfectly blue and cloudless sky ... enjoying a slight, cool breeze rather than a flesh-freezing arctic blast ... and watching hundreds of families, strollers, lovers, picnickers, waders, kite fliers, ball throwers, sea gull feeders and sandcastle architects express the kind of joy you'd expect from wrongly-accused criminals just released from prison.

For the moment, however, forget all that.

This is the memory I want to preserve:

After living on Oregon's North Coast for nine weeks, Jan. 17, 2009, was (pardon me if I start sobbing like a baby here) the first day I was simultaneously outside, warm and dry.

Frankly, I'd been wondering if that combination was even possible for about, oh, 8 1/2 weeks. Give or take a half-week.

Make no mistake. I'm a fairly bright fellow. I know this is Oregon and, more to the point, the Oregon Coast. I know that, during the most perfect of winters, it rains enough to prune the fingers of Michelangelo's statue of David.

Although I grew up on the California Coast, I spent much of my early youth at my grandfather's house in Portland. I vividly recall the Halloween that I went trick-or-treating in a downpour that made Niagara Falls look like a leaky faucet. I'd hit the streets as a heavily made-up circus clown, but when I returned (I have the snapshots to prove it), I looked much less like Emmett Kelly than Heath Ledger in The Joker: The Early, Really Creepy Years.

So, I've known for quite some time how wet Oregon can be. Over those weeks preceding (sigh) Jan. 17, 2009, however, that knowledge did not help one fraction of an iota as I tried to recall what the sun looked like while clad in perpetually damp, semifrozen undergarments.

The experience was, as you might imagine, quite a shock to the system of someone who'd spent most of the past 30 years in the Arizona desert, where a major part of one's daily routine is to pray for rain. There, you can't touch your car's steering wheel because it's too hot. Here, there were days when I couldn't touch my car's steering wheel because it was too cold. There, you race from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car to keep from getting heat stroke. Here, you race from your heated house to your heated car to keep from drowning.

Personally, I have found that, when you need to get somewhere quickly during an Oregon winter - such as, oh, to the other side of the street - the sidestroke is your best bet.

"Really, no kidding, this is an unusually cold and wet winter we're having," I was told, repeatedly, by countless kind, concerned, waterproof natives.

"Just wait!" they would add with a seemingly genuine grin.

It wasn't long after I first heard "Just wait!" that I woke up to find several inches of snow in my front yard, an inch of ice on my windshield, and roads slicker than the Alaskan Coast in the wake of the Exxon Valdez.

That, by the way, was the same morning I slipped on a frozen sidewalk, sprained an ankle, and proceeded to hobble around like Walter Brennan's gimpier great-grandpa for about three weeks.

I swear to you, it's not that I ever thought my new, perpetually grinning neighbors were actually lying to me. However, I did consider the possibility that they had been driven insane by nonstop rain. And I would have bet you $500 that the evil torture specialist who invented waterboarding brainstormed the idea after spending an "unusually wet winter" on Oregon's North Coast.

But then, along came (thank you, thank you) Jan. 17, 2009.

In the wake of such a glorious day, I must grovel for your forgiveness and offer a sincere apology for my incessant whining, complaining and rude, exaggerated eye rolling whenever you told me to "Just wait!"

You were telling me the God's-honest truth. This is the most beautiful place on earth.

And you were right about something else, too.

My underwear did eventually dry out.

Well, my socks are still a little damp. But what the heck. Ever since (swoon) Jan. 17, 2009, I've been filled with hope.

- M.B.

Michael Burkett is editor of the North Coast Citizen and Cannon Beach Citizen, sister papers of The Daily Astorian.


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