The rains came, and Ozzy’s bad rep goes away

By Jayson Jacoby June 15, 2012 08:39 am

The June rains barged into Baker County more or less on schedule, though with a bit more verve than is typical.

We were doused with the full month’s worth — almost an inch and a third — in the first five days.

The climate in our valley follows a discordant rhythm — utterly unpredictable but reliably so — that pleases my inner ear.

(Although my outer ear doesn’t think much of sub-zero mornings when I leave my stocking cap in its cozy spot in the closet.)

The sheer variety of the local weather also satisfies my affinity for nature’s flamboyant displays.

The August blizzard in the Wallowas, the 20-below dawn when the sun, that cauldron of unimaginable heat, seems as cold as a stone, the suffocating stillness of a July afternoon before a thunderstorm breaks through the ramparts of the protective hills — we are treated to each of these outliers, and many more besides.

To belabor the rhythm analogy, my eclectic taste in weather mirrors my musical preferences.

I get equal joy from listening to Neil Peart bombard a drum kit that has as many parts as an IKEA living room set, as I do from a jazz number in which the percussionist barely caresses the snare with a single brush.

My affection for our weather often is refreshed, as it were, when I visit a place where conditions are as predictable, and stale, as a stump speech delivered to a bored audience of small town Chamber of Commerce types.

My family spent a few days on the Oregon Coast last month, and the temperature never dipped below 49 nor rose above 55.

Baker Valley frequently adds or sheds six degrees in about as many minutes.

Many times I’ve watched the LCD numbers on one of my digital thermometers change so rapidly that I wondered, for an instant, whether I had glanced at the clock by mistake.

On two days just this month, the temperature at the Baker City Airport plummeted by 18 degrees in six hours, and by 21 degrees in five hours.

Not for nothing do the meteorologists call these phenomena “cold fronts.”

The early June downpours that accompanied these cold fronts don’t happen every year. But their arrival is common enough that up in Union County they’re sometimes branded, in the same grudging tone we reserve for describing relatives with unpleasant habits,  as the “Stock Show Storm.”

This refers to the tendency of the torrents to coincide with the renowned Eastern Oregon Livestock Show in Union — a matter of  bad timing rather like one of those aforementioned relatives who steers into your driveway just when the burgers on the grill are browning and the beer is getting frosty in the cooler.

I’ll concede that a chilly rain can pretty much ruin your day if you’re sitting in the grandstands watching horses and cattle.

But annoying though they can be, I’d not readily swap our June squalls for the gentler qualities of more temperate places.

It’s these damp, cool interludes that, in my view, ensure our sometimes torrid summers are of tolerable length.

Serious heat sometimes slinks in as early as April, though more frequently in May.

I begin to fear for my lawn’s roots, and to wonder whether I ought to lug the air conditioners from the shed and have done with the annual ritual of smashing at least two fingers wrestling into place these window units which weigh, individually, as much as a bear.

(Only with even more sharp bits.)

In most such cases, though, before I’ve bothered to actually do anything (I’m loathe to fool with such vital physical laws as inertia), an autumnal caesura revives our desiccating soils and briefly cools our brows before the true heat of summer arrives along about Independence Day.

Scorching temperatures can linger well into September, by which time I pine for the refreshing breath of one of those cold fronts on my sweat-laced neck.

Most years I am thusly rewarded before my minor irritation with summer flames into outright anger.

Or, failing that, I can always schedule a backpacking trip in the Wallowas.

Where my boots fall, an early snow is sure to follow.

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Ozzy Osbourne’s last vestige of evil has been banished.

And the exorcist, as it were, was not a priest.

It was Honda.

The Japanese automaker has at last transformed Ozzy, whose bat-munching theatrics once (dis)embodied the satanic scourge that heavy metal music was alleged to be, into a suburban dad who doesn’t mess with any metal heavier than a lawnmower blade.

I recognize that Ozzy’s erstwhile TV show partially neutered his reputation as, if not the Antichrist, then someone who gets a lot of “how’s it going?” nods whenever he’s in Hades.

But at least on TV he still cussed a lot. And you could imagine that, under the right circumstances, Ozzy might be capable of doing something reasonably nasty.

No more.

Honda’s TV ad for its Pilot sport-utility vehicle makes Ozzy, who doesn’t even appear in the spot, seem as dangerous as Pat Boone.

(Although Ozzy is vastly less dangerous, musically speaking, than Pat’s daughter Debby.)

In the commercial, a family is riding in a Pilot through what appears to be a Southwest landscape.

One kid hums the first bar of “Crazy Train,” the anthemic cut from Ozzy’s landmark (and Z-laden) 1980 record, “Blizzard of Ozz.”

Then the rest of this wholesome-looking crew, who could easily move right onto one of those cat food or coffee commercials that makes you tear up, chimes in.

This, then, is how an era ends.

Not with Ozzy flaming out in proper rock star fashion — no plane crash or heroin overdose for the former Black Sabbath frontman.

No, the death knell of his once-formidable image comes by way of peddling an SUV that, like most of its brethren, will never confront terrain more challenging that a gravel driveway.

I know Karen Carpenter is dead and all, but the Honda ad people couldn’t spring for the royalties to use “On Top of the World”?

This experience could have been even more emasculating for Ozzy, though.

Honda could have co-opted his song to push a model more milquetoast than the Pilot.

The Odyssey.

It’s a minivan.

Imagine that cunning sliding door opening to let loose, along with kids clad in shin guards, Ozzy’s sinister wail.

Crazy, indeed.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.