It’s pouring rain outside and the city has gone to hell in a hand basket. Fender benders abound. Traffic is stopped for miles. Rocks slide down hillsides, leaving little piles of mud everywhere. Water comes up over the curbs and it looks like Florida during the last hurricane. It takes hours to travel what usually takes minutes and when you tell someone you have to go out, they express sympathy.

“Are you sure you want to come meet us before the concert?” I ask my friends who have been sitting in their car for almost two hours from Santa Monica when they call to tell me that they are “almost there.”

It looks like Haiti or the Honduras from all the broken pieces of palm trees blowing in the street. But it’s not. It’s the Hollywood Hills. And although the weather forecasters have been predicting this first storm all week, it still comes as a shock to everyone that we’re in this downpour for four straight days.

And no matter how much work you’ve done on your roof the previous winter, or how hot it’s been over the past few months (sealing all those little places that the water likes to find), the leaking roof is inevitable.

But this time, I’m really the unlucky one. I’m living through the cursed remodeling project and, having made a million changes over the past few weeks (and driven the contractor nearly insane), we still don’t even have a roof over our heads. Just plastic. Blue, flapping plastic. Noisy, torn tarps flapping in the wind. Filling up like a giant balloon where each of the skylights will be placed.  We’re just a few days short of having them installed.

And then it happens: the quiet, slow drip. I’m listening for it – and dreading it. PLOP, PLOP, SPLAT, SPLAT…. Ugh.

It’s almost funny. We’re looking up at what looks like the bottom of a swimming pool except it’s our ceiling in the kitchen. And there’s water running in the master bath tub where the toilet will go. It’s Noah’s Ark. Even the dog doesn’t want to go out.

Our phone starts ringing off the hook. “Are your dry?” they ask. “How’s it floating?” another person jokes. 

Day after day, it doesn’t stop raining. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. By Wednesday, even the inspector has pity on us. “People are living here?” he incredulously asks our general contractor.

Today, the sun shines. It feels like a fall day in New York. The air is so clear you can see for miles. Los Angeles is really beautiful after a hard rain. It smells so clean.

I call around to say that we’ve survived the first storm of the season and, thanks to the crew who worked through the storm, our windows and doors are almost all installed. The response is almost unanimous. “We had leaking too,” they reply. Call after call, it’s the same story. The style or the roof type doesn’t make a difference. The common denominator is the leaky roof.

Why do L.A. houses leak? Is it the slight, but unperceived movement of the earth below that shifts our roof tiles just slightly north by one degree? A conspiracy greater than that of who killed Kennedy? Decades of shoddy workmanship?

I lived in New York for the first 20 years of my life and never had a leaky roof even once. Even the sub-standard off campus housing in Pennsylvania was water tight on the coldest, wettest and windiest of days. 

So whether you live in the multi-million dollar manse on the hill or that little guest bungalow, they all share a common theme these past few days: the pail, pot or towel to catch that water drip. What do I expect? In a town where the sun shines 300 days a year and the skies are blue almost all the time, how else can a roofer make a living?

Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at juliebrosterman@hotmail.com.

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