pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out

11 October 2017

Silver bullet


Probably the Santa Clara Valley
From the Coast Starlight
13 August 2017

I spent part of Monday night arguing with the fire hotline, part of it walking the neighborhood, a lot of it looking at the sky for ash, for embers, for the telltale glow of impending doom.

We dodged a bullet. We know it.

The fire came within a couple of miles of the house. That the wind shifted, stayed down and the cool and fog came saved us.

Late Monday, we were suddenly subsumed into the mandatory evacuation area. It made no sense and none of us left. To be fair, it wasn't like the fire department was banging on the door telling us to go. There were no phone calls or texts. I had to make a judgment call: wake the family and go somewhere (where?), or let sleeping family lie and wait until something changed. We've seen situations where things went really, really wrong really, really fast. But I had a clear exit route on a main road, so I waited and dozed in the family room, near the door where I'd be able to hear heavy equipment or pounding. I had a car packed with the evacuation stuff, all the car keys out, lined up and ready. The cats were contained and could be stuffed into bags. We even had an evac plan for the fish.

At 5 am, the spouse appeared and I staggered off to get an hour's sleep.

The fog rolled in sometime in the early hours, and everything was cool and soaking wet. In this case, the ultimate blessing. It burned off by about 9 am and I was out into the chaos to buy cat food. Because of course I would run out of cat food when I least wanted to leave the house.

The neighbor called. "Do you think it's safe to unpack my car?"

"I just drove up the street," I told her. "No plumes of smoke, just some puffs up by the toll road."

I dragged our evac kit back inside, fielding texts and calls from people who'd just heard we were supposed to not be at our house. Eventually, a redrawn map showed an all clear.

We dodged a bullet. And the more I look  at what happened in the north, the devastation in Santa Rosa and Napa and Sonoma, the more frighteningly the point is driven home.

It could have been us.

***************

And on a good note, a high note, a happy note, looks like I get to head to Europe in the new year.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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09 October 2017

But wait! It got worse

 
Canyon Fire II
Orange County, California
9 October 2017
 
About an hour after I posted last, the local emergency alert blared on my cell phone, scaring the hell out of me.
 
It announced that we were under mandatory evacuation.
 
Now "we" are part of unincorporated Orange County, and "our" boundaries are sort of nebulous. So I didn't immediately panic. At least not completely.
 
But I did text the daughter and tell her to come home. Our main concern was that they'd closed off so many freeways and roads that even though she wasn't that far away, she might find it difficult to get back here. And we didn't want to have to go hunting for her in case the worst happened.
 
As it turned out, right about the time that I texted her, the college cancelled classes because so many kids were in evacuations zones.
 
The day started out bad. First thing in the morning, the son called me from the road. He and his father had hit a bolt in the road, and the tire was rapidly losing pressure. They made it back to the house, and I handed over my car keys, and started to strategize how to get a new tire on the spouse's car. I called the service to come put the spare on, and puzzled over the haziness in what earlier had been a clear sky.
 
The guy came and put the donut on, I discovered that we had a warranty on the old tire, and they announced a brush fire near where the Canyon Fire burned two weeks ago.
 
I rolled my eyes heavenward and proceeded.
 
Then it got ugly.
 
I've been here before, once when I was 7 months pregnant with the son. A few years ago when a swath of Irvine went up in flames. But today, I watched the flames march along the front of the toll road, marking progress by my neighbors' chimney.
 
I packed the go bags with their important papers, backup drives, insurance policies. When the daughter arrived, I calmly instructed her to pack a change of clothing and toiletries for herself and her brother, locate her passport and bank stuff and be prepared to leave. I had the cats' bags at the ready. The spouse and son had already started the long difficult trek northeast, along with half the rest of Orange County. The spouse and I had predetermined a meeting place if the daughter and I had to leave (boy, I couldn't wait to drive on that donut). Once I had stuff ready here, I started to check in with the older neighbors who live near me to make sure that they were ready to go if need be.
 
I never have the television on, but today it blared in the background, and I would stop periodically to check the progress of the fire. When I saw a local recreation area go up in flames, my heart leapt into my throat.
 
California has an unfortunate weather phenomenon this time of year: Santa Ana winds. They are dry and hot, and tend to blow furiously. I've seen 120 mph winds, though 40-60 is closer to the norm (with gusts to 80!). It was windy today in the upper canyons, but we were fortunate to have only a heavy breeze. Still, as evening approached, the breeze started to pick up force, and it was carrying the flames right toward us.
 
Wind-driven fire very helpfully delivers embers and ashes to areas distant from the actual flames. I watched today as the fire hopscotched through upper canyon areas, setting neighborhoods a mile away from the action on fire.
 
But around 7, everything quieted. It got cool and damp. The smoke moved back toward the mountains.
 
Because things change fast, I am on high alert tonight. I let the family go to bed, but I'm still up. I'll nap but I'm ready to move if need be.
 
Hopefully, all will stay calm.
 
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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What a fast-moving brush fire looks like

 
Orange County, California
9 October 2017
 
This is about 7 miles away, which is little comfort because I can see it spreading from here. It's jumped from 25 acres 2 hours ago to 1,000 now. Been here, done this, hate it, hate it, hate it.
 
At least my dead lawn is gone and now I just have a dirt lot.
 
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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05 October 2017

We must surely be learning



Target
Arizona desert
11 August 2009

(Spoiler alert: we aren't)

TL;DR

I am well trained in the use of guns. I qualify for a CCW.

I don't have a CCW because I don't own a gun.

I am damn certain that no one needs an assault weapon.

It is past time to get very serious about real, common sense gun control. The NRA is to the Second Amendment what the ACLU is to the First.

FULL OF SHIT.

(That needs to be an SAT question.)

***************

What the fuck, Tom Petty?

The spouse has always said that "I Won't Back Down" is my anthem (see above). The daughter said the first Tom Petty song she remembers is "Runnin' Down a Dream" because it's on my workout playlist and she heard it constantly.

What the literal fuck, Tom Petty?

I hate the term "soundtrack of my life," even when it's true. Tom Petty was part of the soundtrack of my high school and college years. He was never not on the radio or MTV and what I remember even more than Kim Basinger playing a corpse in "Last Dance With Mary Jane" was his mischievous and wicked little smirk in that catalog of music videos: facial expression as perfect social commentary. Who needs a fourth wall?

I saw him perform at the RRHoF induction in 2013 with Randy Newman, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty. The late Chris Cornell was also there that night. And we all love L.A. because it offers opportunities like that.

The best version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is the one that Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison, Prince, and Jeff Lynne performed at the 2004 RRHoF induction. If you want to weep, watch Petty and Prince play off each other as Prince delivers a searing solo at the end of the song. Watch it even you don't want to weep. It's beautiful.

I look at you all...

You know they have a hell of a band.

**************

So that was Monday. I want to be more eloquent than "Monday really sucked!" but Monday really sucked. Fifty plus people enjoying a concert had their lives stolen. Tom Petty's dignity was stolen by the media rushing to report his death early and often.

UGH.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.
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02 October 2017

A post without words



Near Godafoss, Iceland
25 July 2008

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.
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26 September 2017

Man walks dog


Orange County, California
26 September 2017

The daughter needed to shoot a project, and she wanted to do night photography, so I went along as spotter and did my own thing while she set up and took her stuff.

****************

Yes, the fire is close, but not that close. It did startle me considerably when I pulled out of the neighborhood yesterday and saw the plume because it looked like it was right over the nearest hills. I could do without the rain of ash. Again.

****************

Steven Wilson's latest album is on heavy rotation. Since she was too young to see Porcupine Tree with me, daughter demanded that I get tickets to see him solo, so that's on tap for next year, along with Black Violin.

Now, if I can just get tickets to Yayoi Kusama...

****************

The real benefit of sending the daughter to a film school nearby is screenings. Last week, I sort of snuck into an MFA lecture and this week was able to watch a really affecting Korean drama, The Bacchus Lady. The lecturer for the latter is very generous in inviting visitors to watch the films and the director spoke briefly, too. I love Korean and Japanese horror movies (stop rolling your eyes. Bad horror is just bad, but good horror is a real art form), and I studied a great deal of Asian literature in college, so getting to see some of these dramas has been wonderful.

(The daughter and I discuss that I took a surprising number of film courses in college, that I should probably get my own MFA, or that I should just start producing films. Or writing them. But really, I think I'd rather just sit around and pontificate and let the younger set do the work. Time for middle age to actually pay off.)

***************

My house is in a state of complete chaos. Deferred maintenance is a thing and I've undeferred before the next disaster strikes, and DAMN. Having workers all over the place is messing with my zen badly. Not that I've ever been zen in my life.

But DAMN.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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21 September 2017

Through the ashes of memory


Production still
Orange County, California
31 January 2015

The daughter got home late last night and threw herself down next to me on the sofa where I was reading. It is a family habit to download: the drive, what happened in a meeting or class, emails, whatever.

The daughter: We were watching the weirdest films in Visual Culture.

Me: Really? Who made them?

The daughter: I dunno. Some woman avant garde filmmaker. Her name was...I mean they called her by her nickname which was...

And the daughter told me the nickname.

Me: You mean Ch___ S_____ ?

The daughter: You know who she is?

Me: She was a prof at my college. I had seminars with her.

The daughter: Seriously?

Me: Yeah.

The daughter: You know she was a pretty big deal, right?

Me: Pfft. (which should be interpreted as "I was 18, and 'big deal' was pretty relative.")

I hadn't thought of this person in years, and I found myself trying to chase strands of memory. I could see her, how she looked as she wandered through campus and class. Such an intense person, scary but not unkind. In memory, though, elusive.

Yet so strange to consider that my daughter is studying someone who once taught me.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Heavy editing in Photoshop to give it that dreamlike quality. Or the WTF feeling I was experiencing last night.
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