Syracuse was inundated with 4.2 inches of rain last Sunday, the most ever for an August 22 and from the 2nd to 4th highest rainfall in a single day (depending on who you listen to). There was a small river in my basement, though things did drain effectively without much problem other than some damp rugs that are now getting a little fragrant. They tore up the main road on Monday, effectively stranding me on my little island. It’s always tempting to look for meaning in such things. That’s what people do, I think — we search for meaning in ways that would puzzle the majority of the animal kingdom.

It’s difficult to accept nonsense.

A few months back, I figured something out that had been bugging me for a while. One of my favorite songs of all time is “Preachin’ Blues,” the Robert Johnson and Son House versions as well as the cover by The Gun Club. As transcribed in the Columbia Robert Johnson  box set (a marvel of insensitive compilation)  the lyrics are something like this:

The blu-u-u-u-ues
     is a low down shakin’ chill
     spoken: Yes, preach ’em now.
Mmmmm mmmmm
     is a low down shakin’ chill
You ain’t never had ’em, I
     hope you never will
Well the blues
     is a low down achin’ heart disease
     spoken: Do it now.
          You goin’ do it?
          Tell me all about it.
Let the blues
     is a low down achin’ heart disease
Like consumption
     killing me by degrees
I can study rain
     oh, oh, drive, oh, oh, drive my blues
I been studyin’ the rain and
     I’m ‘on’ drive my blues away
Goin’ to the ‘stil’ry
     stay out there all day
Notes: 1 The underlined are phonetically correct, although meaningless.

That footnote has bugged me for years. Just what do you mean meaningless? I guess I could grant them the “let.” However, if blues is a disease then it is an agent rather than an object. Perhaps grammatically sound to “let the blues,” though in this context it doesn’t make a great deal of sense. But I must strenuously protest that “studying the rain” is nonsense.

As I started to say, I was studying the rain a few months ago (not the latest deluge) when it occurred to me that rain suggests that relationships, though often tenuous, are generally followed by new relationships. The drops falling from the sky are individual, but they always seem to coalesce and flow together until they reach the earth (or the sea) for their final dissipation. A single drop can evaporate, I suppose, but rain, like people, tends to seek out a more stable group project— streams, lakes, rivers, etc.. Of course, rain can also be distilled into firewater, though if you’re not careful that stuff can make you blind.