Sunday, November 16, 2008


For those of you unaware, southern California is on fire. I was speaking to a friend in Chicago last night who mentioned that he was seeing snow flurries--not quite snow, but enough speckles in the air to know that snow is on the way. It's like that, but it's not snow, it's ash. I live in Santa Monica, a good 40 miles from the nearest fire, yet, standing outside of my apartment, I can see ash falling from the sky like snowflakes. I can smell the burning in the air. The sky is gray, there's an orange hue tinting the daylight, and scent is toxic. Lives have been lost, over 20,000 acres have burned, and hundreds of homes are gone. As of right now, we're at about 30% containment of the three fires raging through southern California's Santa Barbara, Sylmar, and Orange County areas. The heat and the strong, dry winds causing a near perfect storm for large fires. It's happened many times before, and seems to be a seasonal reality here in California. It happens so often that, unfortunately, I've become desensitized to the damage being done. Local news stations air horrific moving pictures and close-ups of individual homes burning. I can't help but try to image what it would be like to see my home burning to the ground. Or my parents house burning to the ground. The place where I grew up, the place where my parents spent their lives paying for, not to mention all of the possessions inside the home. My heart goes out to these people. The few people left who can actually afford their homes, displaced, helpless, watching their American dream reduced to dust. It's heartbreaking, particularly in the context of the current economy. And still I don't think this is affecting me the way it should be. I don't know anyone who's had their house burn down. I don't have any buddies from high school or college that are out there fighting the fires. All I feel is a slight guilt that I'm carrying on pretty much as usual, and all I can think about are the little inconveniences these fires cause me: need to wash car, keep windows shut, pick up some Visine, check to see if the freeways are closed, and on and on, blah blah blah, etc. Not enough empathy, but what could I do, really, that could help? Not much, I think.

[This is the dialogue going on in my head, and it seems a little pointless.]

The devastation unfolding makes it easy for me to not give a shit about Bond making over $70MM, Brock Lesnar beating Randy Couture, and all the other news (GM/WaMu/Obama/etc.). I'm trying to keep my mind off the fires, but it's hard when every breath seems to include ash and smoke. My throat hurts, my eyes are itching, and it's scary looking outside. I'm praying (I'm Catholic) that people are safe, and that seems to be the best course of action.

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