Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Does it Make Me a Snob?

I just got an email that said, "Surprise her this Holiday." If I know I'd prefer a blue-boxed this to this, does it make me a snob? And as much as I think it's really pretty damned good, it's still hard for me to rave over a Kirkland bottle of champagne.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear Colin

Two weeks ago at Montana del Oro where he and his Pa took a quick camping trip. Now he's back home in NY (where it doesn't look like this).

Friday, October 26, 2007


I think my self-imposed house arrest will be over tomorrow. I have gone out, but I haven't spent much time in the heavy, smoke-saturated air. A little breeze stirred this afternoon and I caught glimpses of the real deal...and it was blue. Heaven.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Color of Topanga

All the hues are just slightly off, but in a really pretty way.

Pretty and smoky.

Smoke-heavy skies have resulted in this beautiful color, much like my sautillo tiled kitchen floor, only toxic. This is the sky, not my floor.

The Way it Looked

This past Monday was mainly spent in front of the television and my computer and running around the house grabbing stuff that didn't matter. Small plug here for my new fiber optic internet/TV/phone service, Verizon FIOS. It never went down. Not once. Most of my neighbors have Charter and I had only switched over two weeks ago. While my computer (I swear I'm going back to the fruity computer) still has a crappy connection and spontaneously shuts down when it has a fever, Roger's laptop works famously and has a super strong connection from anywhere in the house.

When I heard that the fire had moved to Saddle Peak and Piuma, I decided to see if it was visible from the house . I'd decided that if I could see smoke, not just drifting smoke but the billowing kind, I'd leave. This is what I saw as I stood outside my bedroom. And it's why I decided to leave. This is the only time I was happy that Roger was 3,000 miles away. When I decided to leave, I left. I didn't have to try and talk him into it. Every time he talks to certain of our neighbors (hint...they're the ones who have lived here forflippin'ever) he comes home with tales of them with wet towels wrapped around their heads beating embers off the roof or driving over horse trails with burning trees dropping in front of them because they were denied entrance to the canyon on the roads. One woman (who prefaces every sentence she utters about the fires with a simple 'of course') has permanent lung damage from the '93 fires and can't talk louder than a rasp. But she still says stuff like, "Of course you have to be committed to staying and keep your clothes damp so they don't ignite from the heat." I just look at her like, "Of course." And you can bet that of course they didn't leave on Monday when they saw the wimpy Canyon Fire over the ridge.

Click on the pix to enlarge.

The plane in this picture was lining up to make a drop.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Leaving Home

After figuring out that I couldn't fit half of the rubbish I'd determined I should take into the car, I left it in bags and piles in the house so if the fire department had to break in, they would be puzzled. Was a robbery going on? Had the people just moved in? I mean the art was off the walls and just stacked in odd piles around the living room. All of the photos and art from the two 15' long shelves in the hall had been removed and bagged. Don't ask me why, just don't, okay? I have no flippin' idea why I did that but I did. My suitcase was in the car, filled with mostly unsuitable clothes. Don't ask me where I put my jewelry, because guess what...I forgot all about it and it would have comfortably fit anywhere in the car...anywhere.

Fortunately my daughter advised me as to how to dress when I evacuated the Canyon. She suggested that I wear serious hiking shoes (I guess so that if I had to run over embers, I could do so comfortably). She also advised that I wear all cotton, long pants, long-sleeved shirt and to take wet towels in the car. Just in case. As we were chatting, I sheepishly took off my flipflops and looked down at my bare legs. Yeah, I was wearing shorts.

I was lucky that our gardener was here on Monday as he helped me enormously with blanket wrapping and moving the larger pieces of art down to my car and also to rearrange the file cabinet drawers so we could fit a bit more in. And then Jaime left and my car was facing down the driveway and I needed to do just one more thing before I left. I needed to start the roof sprinkler system and to do that I had to flip a couple of switches at the pool and start the hose so the pool wouldn't empty. The pump would move the water from the pool to the roof and the sprinkler would ensure that the roof would be rainy damp, thus thwarting any possible flying embers that landed up there. It seemed to be working just fine, but as I was talking to Roger on the phone I heard this ominous thunking above my head and then silence. The sprinkler stopped working. Roger suggested that maybe I could climb up there and have a look and I disabused him of any such idea since what was I gonna do. I would say it's not working. He would ask why. I would say I have no effing idea. Shut up. And then we'd start yelling at one another. I told him I needed to go and we could chat later. Don't ask me what I was thinking inside my head, but my thoughts weren't pretty.

I went down and shut the pool hose off and then went for a little wander around my neighborhood. I saw one person, we chatted and talked about how freaky it all was but that was it. Everyone else was gone. I didnt' want to leave, but I didn't like seeing big billows of smoke pushing over the top of the nearest ridges. Piuma and Saddle Peak were burning and that was close. Then I went to change. I guess that the reason I didn't hear the police on their bullhorn telling everyone to evacuate was because I was watching fire coverage on the TV and had a fan running. I was taking my time and didn't leave for another hour. No traffic. None. Not another car. It was great.

Topanga had turned into a huge gated community; a gated community that includes people who live year-round in tents, but still, unpretentiously (very unpretentiously) exclusive! Police were stationed at every road into the Canyon and only residents were allowed on the roads. I, um, liked it...the gated part. I felt really comfortable knowing that Topanga was off-limits to everyone except residents. It made me feel safer and I must confess to liking getting waved through after a dozen cars in front of me were turned away. Who knew I was like this? I didn't.

to be cont.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Three Long Days

The television was on in the background most of the day on Sunday and between the TV and the internet we felt safe enough. While the fire wasn't that far away, the winds were in Topanga's favor and our Canyon felt fairly unthreatened. We haven't lived here that long, but most of our friends in the area have, and their memories of the '93 Malibu/Topanga Fire remain strong. I have no such memory but I have read that official report of the fire a number of times and I had no doubts that were I faced with a decision, I would leave well before the final evacuation order was issued.

Roger and I packed up our cars on Sunday night: mine with five drawers from file cabinets that contained all our important documents, billings, insurances, passports, credit card, house and banking info and current job project files; and the boot of his car was filled with all photo albums, loose pictures and negatives. The reason we packed all this clobber on Sunday was because Roger was headed to Washington, DC on business Monday morning and in the unlikely event of being evacuated, I could just throw my clothes in the car and some of the artwork and leave.

The fires continued to burn hotter and faster and erratically in Malibu on Monday morning and when I returned to the Canyon that afternoon, I was greeted with around 50 police cars on Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Pacific Coast Hwy. Topanga had been closed to non-residents since Sunday, but this was different. The young policeman checked my I.D. before letting me enter, but after determining that I lived in 'Old Canyon' advised me to get home fast as a mandatory evacuation was ready to be issued. I drove home quickly, my right leg twitching nervously on the gas pedal.

I packed a suitcase and started wrapping certain pieces of art Roger and I determined should be saved. And then I started throwing all sorts of crap in bags. I found myself unable to decide what should and shouldn't be saved so just loaded the car with as much as it could handle.

to be cont...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Malibu...It's Not All Sunblock and Photo Ops Outside of Nobu

Jane, Matt and Lottie and Sophie had a sleepover at our place last night and long after the wee ones were sound asleep and Matt had gone to bed, my daughter and I wandered outside to gaze at the stars. My nose twitched and I looked at Jane. "Smells like someone had a fire tonight," she said hopefully. "Hmmmm, let's hope," I mused, my heart sinking, but I felt a definite tightening in my belly. I live in a Canyon that is normally bone dry this time of year, but we are now in a historically dry historic that in over 100 years of recording annual rainfalls, there has never been such a dry period. We've had a little under six inches of rain in the last 18 months.

At 11:45 PM, Buzz called us. We both confirmed what we knew. We smelled smoke and had both just seen a firetruck heading down his street. Vowing to keep in touch with any news, we all settled down for a restless night. At six this morning, Betsy called. She could see the flames on Piuma from her home. It was burning hard and fast towards the ocean. The wind was in our favor for now, but Santa Ana's are blowing and blowing hard with some gusts expected to be close to 100 mph. And now I've heard that some homes on Malibu Crest are gone. We have friends who live on Malibu Crest and who have been evacuated. Keep them in your thoughts.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dear Max

Letter #1

Hi Max,

Still no connection. I got in touch with Charter and to answer your question, no, there haven't been any problems or disconnects in my area, and I obviously have no idea wherein the problem lies since I hired you to fix it. All I know is that I have no internet connection. What do you suggest? Feel free to leave a phone message at I won't be home tomorrow, but will be picking up messages. I will be around on Wednesday. Let me know if this is something that you feel you cannot fix. I am sorely tempted to just call Verizon and get them to set me up with a new service, drop Charter and return this new Netgear router, etc. I feel a bit defeated by these issues and after paying you $175 and still not having an internet connection, very frustrated. Don't forget, we always had an internet connection in Roger's office by hardwiring his computer to the Charter modem. If I undock his laptop, take it into the kitchen, there is a strong connection to the internet. But I still cannot get online and neither can my son with his Macbook. Anyway, let me know what you think the next step should be.

Thank you,


And if either of my two remaining readers has any clue, don't hesitate to get in touch.