Archive | July 25, 2016

It’s going to be a rough week.

July 30th is always a hard day for me, thank heavens it’s not a weekday this year because I tend to turn into a sieve while also turning into my own version of a pensieve, so many memories. July 30th is the 11th anniversary of my little brother’s death.

Today the pensieve is serving up music which is always hard since music was a bond our whole family has. I remember lying on the floor with him, playing 78s from mom and dad’s collection of records. Everything from the Mikado and Victor Herbert to Bozo and the Birds and Danny Kaye telling fairy tales and Hans Christian Anderson’s stories and a lot of Scottish folk songs and Harry Lauder.

He was a year and half younger than me, so I had a shadow whether I wanted one or not. We were in choir together, and in bell choir and in school choir but he took a left turn and took up the trumpet after torturing us for a semester on the violin, it was not his instrument. He joined band and orchestra and I stayed firmly in choir but played my guitar and recorders at home, you can hide in choir.
Mom and dad took us to concerts and musicals from the time we were little. Some of my earliest memories are sleeping in dad’s lap at the Hollywood Bowl under a starry sky and watching deer creep down the hillsides. I think our first musical was Brigadoon but it may have been Peter and the wolf too.

When we got to college we took voice class together and I was always more terrified for him than me even when we had to do recitals. He went on to do musicals and I was stage security and prompter. I did take piano but had to drop out because every time I had to play in front of the class I spent the hour before vomiting from stage fright. When Cam took piano the professor recognized him by his hands. He told Cam I had the best piano hands he’d ever seen. Wish he’d told me that but I just couldn’t do it.

I have a rather eclectic music collection and I put my Kindle on shuffle today, I shouldn’t have. It started to play Broadway musicals and the switch got flipped. I remember him singing in Fiddler as one of the sons, I remember him in the chorus of Hello Dolly but most of all I remember him in Babes in Toyland.

He played Barnaby and had a grand time twisting his moustache and trying to scare small children. That was the show I did security because some idiot had designed the stage door to open onto the main hall and not into the dressing rooms. Cam had to navigate the hall to get to his dressing room and the first time he got kicked all the way down the hall by small children with hard shoes since you used to get dressed up to go to the show and tennies are not dress shoes. His shins were black and blue. Cam was the bad guy in the black cape lined in bright red and with his top had and moustache he was easy to see especially since he was 6’4”. After that night I was his protection and since I was really good at the death stare, no kid dared kick him. Pretty funny 5’8” me staring down 5 year olds and sending them running. Cam was a big teddy bear, I am not! And I’d already been camp counseling for 5 years so I was good at the death stare. He hated scaring the kids in real life,on stage it was funny, I thought it was funny, period. I wish I had a picture of him in full makeup. I’m sure there probably is one back at school but I would have no idea how to get something from the mid 1970’s from them.

He ended up getting his BM in Music, in Opera, the one kind of music besides rap I’m not that fond of and one in computer science after his brain cancer went into remission the first time.

So this is going to be a hard week and Saturday was Mary’s birthday so the fun just keeps coming. Sigh…

We live in Fire country

For those not familiar with Southern California, there are two seasons: hot and on fire and cool and on fire. We really do have 4 seasons but they can come at any time and are mostly identified at least by me, for the quality of the light. And even then there can be difference in geography, the light on the west side near the beaches is different from the light in the San Fernando or San Gabriel Valleys and that is different from the light up on the mountains like the Angeles Forest that is burning now.

The problem with the mountains burning is that LA is built on mountains. They thread in and out and while some refer to them as hills they really aren’t. I laughed when I was in Scotland and they said how high Ben Nevis is. It’s only 4,414 ft. The camp I worked in in the Angeles National Forest was at 1 mile and Mt Baldy is 10, 064 ft. This is a listing of the peaks in and around LA: http://www.laalmanac.com/geography/ge05.htm

Mt Verdugo, for instance, is the hill behind the house I grew up in at 3126 ft. So we know fire and we know mountains. The house we moved to in Glendale had almost burned the year before we moved in due to a huge fire that burned around a good share of LA from the beach to Glendale where we moved to in 1964. When we moved in there were foot holes in the roof because the neighbors were on our roof trying to protect our house because the owners weren’t home so a garage roof burned down the street, the scorch marks on the inside of the garage were a fascination for us kids growing up.

We early on learned which things to grab if we had to evacuate, Photographs and papers and meds first since those are the hardest to replace. And we learned how to get the garden hose up to the balconies on our house so we could spray the shake roof if we had to do it. All the other rooves in the neighborhood were Spanish tile but no, my parent bough a big Tudor house, the only one in the area. It was the most expensive house in the neighborhood, $36,000 at the time and since dad was an underpaid teacher, I think my grandparents may have helped them buy it even though they sold our tract home in the Valley to move where dad taught 6th grade.

I don’t know how many times I came home from something as a kid and saw flames on the mountain behind our house but it was a lot.
You are always aware of the consequences of a cigarette thrown from the car, which by the way, is illegal but idiots do it anyway. When you work at a camp, you get a bit paranoid about whether the campfire is all the way out. Lightning storms also can put you on high alert.

When I worked up at a camp near Idylwild, a fisherman with no brains lit a campfire to grill his catch, under a tree. It was two of the counselors from camps day off and saw the guy do it on the other side of the lake and there was nothing they could do to stop him. That fire raged for a week and burned through several camps and ranches. It almost got our camp but the wind changed direction and the fire burned through the Girl Scout camp instead. We spent that afternoon in the pool waiting. They couldn’t get busses up to us and the only safe place was the pool so we had orders to sir on the edge of the pool and if the fire came to get under water fast and hold our breath. The rangers had told us because we had a huge grassy meadow that the camp might burn in as little as 30 seconds. I remember hauling fire hose and laying it out and we could see pine trees going up like giant match sticks and it was terrifying.

I remember being pissed off because all the guitar players were told we had to leave them behind if they could get the busses up just because it kept our minds off what could happen to us and the kids.

So those of us who are natives can be a bit paranoid. Last Wednesday I was walking out to take the bus home and smelled smoke. Some idiot had thrown their cigarette into our bark mulch and there was a fire burning about a foot across. This made the old Girl Scout in me rise up and get creative. No hose near by, so I used my cane to spread the mulch onto the nearby gravel. I was not impressed with the coworker that drove out the gate yelling she was going to call security. I kept at it and the next woman jumped out of her car with a couple of water bottles and helped me get the big pieces out. She said she couldn’t figure out what I was doing until she saw the flames and that was when I had it pretty well spread out but we got it out and I didn’t even miss my bus. I found out a day later from security that they had been afraid something like that would happen because under the mulch is some sort of weed cloth that is flammable and if that caught our 2+ acres would go up like a match if it got going under the mulch. That is what happens in a forest when the duff catches fire underneath the trees and spreads underground. My Girl Scour Good Deed for the day in 98 degree weather too.

So now we deal with a huge fire that is only 10% contained. Containment means they have a line around the fire. It’s burned 33,000 acres. http://abc7.com/ for news if you are interested. It’s been in the high 90’s and low 100s for temps for the last week of so here in the SF Valley. This really doesn’t help when fighting fires. Saturday the smoke was blown low which led to the apocalyptic photos I posted early and everything is covered in ash. I went to the ATM and had to wipe the screen off to even read it.

For those who use Celsius 90 degrees Fahrenheit = 32.22 Celsius = bloody hot. 100 Degrees is 37.7 Celsius. 33, 000 acres is 51,562 square miles which is bigger than a lot of cities.

So we are about 10 miles as the crow flies from where the fire is burning and hoping it doesn’t destroy everything and every being on the mountains

A lot of love and energy is being directed at the brave firefighters who are out there on the line.