I first became aware of your sublime beauty while anxiously awaiting the end of the world. No, it wasn't last week's apparently miscalculated rapture, but while tipped on a barstool waiting for the winds of the apocalypse to hit in a bar called the Green Parrot in Key West, Florida.
It must have been September and hurricane season was in full spin. On TV an enormous, mean looking eye in the middle of a cottony swirl took a sudden left turn out in the Atlantic and before we knew it, it was too late to evacuate the island. The series of bridges that link the Keys to mainland Florida were closed and every other drink was on the house.
Although the storm of the century was twirling somewhere between us and Cuba, the air outside was unnervingly still. Damp heat dripped off of koozied beer bottles and the black pavement outside the windowless walls literally melted under the midday sun. But inside it wasn't hot...and it wasn't totally because of the margaritas.
Above the bar an open parachute flopped up and down, danced by the beat of the fantastic jukebox and the accompanying spinning blades that spun their cooling mana across the crowd below propping up the bar.
It wasn't that sickly A/C cool that snapped at your heels when you walked past the open doors of the posh shops a few blocks away on Duval street nor that throat closing clamp that clings to the back of your neck as you went from 37º to 19º in the space of the three small steps it took to enter a store. Just a refreshing breeze that was enough to keep the drips off your forehead at bay.
It was while sitting at that bar that I fell in love with ceiling fans.
Many hurricanes and crazy pastors have come and gone since then and in many corners of the world I have saved a shirt or three from immediate washing under their gyrating gaze. From devising improvised paper weights to combat their mischievousness in Yemeni classrooms, to growing accustomed to their constant hum in my living room in Laos, it's a love that has taken on tinges of blind faith while lying prone under suspiciously wobbly blades in an August hotel room near the desert ruins in Palmyra, Syria.
So why aren't they as common a feature on ceilings as legs of jamón are on walls in Spain?
Granted, Spain is not a tropical country. As sunkissed as tourist brochures make it out to be, anyone who's toughed out a winter in a poorly insulated flat in Madrid knows that December through February isn't exactly beach weather. Thankfully though, the chill is comparatively brief and after one of the fastest springs in the world, summer rolls in- and with it comes the heat.
It's not even the end of May and I saw one of the ubiquitous street corner thermometer/clocks reading 37º yesterday. Spanish proverbs about not putting away your winter clothes until the 40th of May aside, this year's going to be a warm one, whether you're a climate change denier or not.
That same afternoon I sat and watched thirty-odd university students sitting in a classroom that is woefully exposed to the southern sun as they wiped the sweat out of their eyes and tried to focus on an exam paper under an unfortunately nude, stationary ceiling.
For what it costs to run the old-style 100W bulbs, paper wilt and smudging could have been greatly reduced, not to mention the litres of cologne and perfume that could have been spared if only a few fans had been spinning above.
In the end, that hurricane never hit the Parrot. Exorbitant bar tabs that in the end would have to be paid suddenly loomed larger that the storm that at the last minute hooked right. Its threat, like those that predict the end of times, ended up bringing rain to Newfoundland and little more. Who knows, maybe its propitious curve right had something to do with those wonderful spinning wheels?