by Bill Monson

It's Saturday and it's raining in California. This is the second year in a row it's rained on Veterans Day weekend. Last year, I was out in a driving rain directing traffic for the arriving buses of the Pismo Beach Band Review. I wore a golfer's rain suit and rain cap; but I lacked a cowl or umbrella. You need two hands to direct traffic well, so I could not keep water from running down my neck under my collar into my clothes underneath. Some of my fellow volunteers were soaked to the bone, and many of the 30-plus marching bands fared just as badly. A few bands had plastic rainware for their uniforms, but most came from districts which couldn't afford them. There was no problem with their sheet music getting wet because each band memorized one march, and that's what they played--over and over--as they slogged through town in the rain, trying to make the music sound fresh as they could when they marched past the judges, dripping water, the drumsticks splashing on the drums, the sousaphones tilted down to keep out the rain. How the judges can rate one band over another in such conditions baffles me--but I think there ought to be a special category for sheer, dogged determination.

Is there anything more heart-rending than a young pompon girl high-stepping along--water running down her bare legs into her boots, her once carefully-coifed hair now a cascading catastrophe around her face, and her pompons spraying water in all directions? I salute the spirit of such young people, who spend hours practicing only to march in a typhoon.

(This year, at least, the rain held off until the last band finished--but most of the kids who stayed to find out the awards got wet anyway!)

Which brings up some mixed emotions about rain this year. Californians usually greet November and the arrival of our traditional rainy season with joy. A lot of the state is arid, and we desperately need the rains of late fall and winter. After the disastrous fires of October in Southern California, however, and spot fires here and elsewhere throughout the state, we watch approaching systems with concern. Too little rain and the ground stays parched and the landscape tinder. Too much and we face another kind of disaster.

That's why we're glad to see a gentle,

soaking rain like we're getting today. If it continues tomorrow to about a total of about two inches worth, our fire season will be over for the year. What we don't want is the kind of heavy tropical rainstorm we call "the Pineapple Connection." It's a weather pattern which pulls warm rain from out near Hawaii and sends it pounding into the south half of the state for two or three days. That's when the hills start to slide

and usually placid, trickling streams become raging torrents. That's the second of

California's triple threats--fires, floods and earthquakes--and our state economy has already been battered badly enough.

It appears this storm won't hook up with "the Pineapple," so fire-ravaged Southern California won't have horrendous hillslides to compound the devastation. With luck,

the Forest Service helicopters will get down a layer of wild rye grass which will germinate quickly enough to hold the soil later in the season when the real gully-washers arrive. Then, when the weekly lows start marching down from the Gulf of Alaska, the Sierra will build a good snowpack and our hills will be green and lush for Christmas. So a lot of us will be watching the Weather Channel and keeping our fingers crossed.

Right now, I'm sitting nice and warm at the dress rehearsal of the San Luis Opisbo Symphony, listening to Schubert. My feet are dry, I'm drowsy from a large lunch of cashew chicken at the Golden Gong, and

outside the Performing Arts Center in SLO, it's raining, gently raining.