Tuesday, April 05, 2005

'They' Say It's Going to be a Bad Fire Season

All of the beauty that the greater-than-average rainfall brought to Southern California comes with a price. Even in nature, nothing is free, as I've heard over and over. So while I take picture after picture of the incredible wildflower bloom and while I revel in the bright greens that cover the normally dusty-dry Santa Monica Mountains, I am giving some thought to making my home as safe as possible, as the upcoming fire season will no doubt be a bad one. The physical practicalities of keeping the house and its perimeter as safe as possible, I will mostly leave to my husband. He has very strong ideas about this. I'm just going to take pictures of everything in the house and put that in a safe deposit box (for insurance purposes). Some friends tell me that they keep all their photographs in a firebox or big plastic storage containers in the back of their car. I'm trying to figure out what makes the most sense. If I could find all the negatives and put them in the not-as-yet rented safe deposit box then I could just stop thinking about losing precious photos in the next big canyon fire. The Malibu Fire of '93 came to within about 500 yds. of this house, so I'm not just being dramatic.

Our introduction to fire-readiness came a few weeks after we moved to Topanga in 2002. We were invited to a neighborhood T-CEP meeting. Topanga Canyon Emergency Preparedness. Sounded ominous, but we were keen to hear it all. We walked over to our neighbor's home... this entailed a 10 minute walk, almost all of it uphill. By the time we got there, I was dripping. It was a typical hot, dry summer's evening and Kathleen, the hostess, offered me a glass of echinacea juice. Interesting, I thought, and not so tasty. We stood around in the little patio area in front of their home. Her partner, William, was striding around, jovial and chatty and looking like an aging porn movie actor. He was all swept-back, dyed black hair and black beard and tightly held in belly and too-tight shorts and he just exuded oiliness...just a bit too smarmy for me. He moved the group of neighbors towards the apron around his swimming pool. It was hard to talk to anyone because the flippin' roar of the fake waterfall over the fake cliff was so completely noisy and distracting, not to mention the weirdness of the host. But then I caught movement peripherally, down the small bank beside the pool. It was a naked guy. Very Topanga(ie) I thought, no doubt an extra in one of William's 'films.'

Then William began herding us down a hill and towards a huge tent. The tent was a massive, green parachute draped over a huge frame, at least that's what it looked like to me. We had to walk about 50 feet down this path cut through the arundo. Before he led us down, though, William made a big show of grabbing a hose and watering the path. The path was covered with carpet remnants. He was watering carpet remnants. It was one of the weirdest things I'd ever seen. That's because I hadn't yet been inside the tent. The tent looked big from the outside, but from the inside it felt even bigger. About 20' high in its center, it had a diameter of about 30'. It was huge...and it was carpeted, as well. Ledges had been dug into the hillside on one side of the interior, and it was kind of like a two-tiered mini stadium. We filed in, about 25 of us, sitting on the ledges. I felt uncomfortable, almost like I needed some barrier between me and the stained carpeting. Ewww...stained carpeting...in a tent...owned by a porn movie guy. It was more than I wanted to digest and certainly made it hard to focus on the purpose of the meeting. W's partner, Kathleen, drifted in...trailing some whispy long scarf behind her billowy, see-throughie gypsy skirt. She is in good shape, but most definitely too old to play the ingenue.

More tomorrow...I'm tired.


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