Monday, October 22, 2007

burn notice

I'm trying to work out what these wildfires are, trying to explain them in terms recognizable to people who aren't here, who aren't driving to work with the flesh of the sky torn out, the horizon replaced with oily garbage bags and tar. It's not that smooth though, or that black, it's more diseased. The sky looks infected, to the south, to the northwest, and far to the east. All over the Southland the earth is being scorched because it's too dry and too windy and, in parts, because someone struck a match, but it's not just the trees that are shriveling and twisting like paper worms, it's as if the sky were an arm, and someone put their cigarette butt out here and there, all over. Domestic abuse is what it looks like.

I can't stress how stunning and quick the destruction is. In Ventura three major fires will converge before morning into one massive 80,000 acre fire. In all likelihood it will get worse before it gets better.

When it blows out to sea, the plumes are white. But the smoke doesn't rise, the winds spread it over the hills like a butter knife. It's eating the little vegetation we have right up. Topanga Canyon, which I'm very fond of, is going to be a graveyard of black and white skeleton, pretzel tree corpses. Like Halloween, but not scary. More like an ice cream headache.

Apocalypse-wise, eventually, the wildfires will win. This is early in the season for fires, and that it's stretching from Malibu to Mexico is frightening. Already, and quickly, resources are stretched thin. The winds are stronger than fire retardant. They double back on unsuspecting firefighters. They hop freeways like mutant jackrabbits. LA, the OC, San Diego, this whole area, is full of brush, free of water, averse to humidity. It's a firetease. And sometimes, LA gets raped. One of these days, it's not going to get back up, brush off its miniskirt, and go about its business. One of these days, it's going to stay down and we're all going to have to leave or lie down with it.

I've often wondered why people live in places that aren't made for humans, that are clearly natural disaster prone: Lousiana, Venice, Bangladesh, heck, the whole Middle East... And now look at me, I'm living in a place where natural disasters and constant drought are run-of-the-mill, celebrated, and turned into blockbusters. It can't last forever. Buy a 50 million dollar house here at your own peril. Best to build in the mountains. The Telluride guys are far more sensible.

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In summing up, I wish I had some kind of affirmative message to leave you with. I don't. Would you take two negative messages?
-- Woody Allen