I'm on a brief disaster retreat from the Ranch. We had a fire burning up Little Tujunga Canyon and yesterday morning I was awoken to the sound of a bullhorn blurping and an official Man recommending residents evacuate. The sound gusted into my window, ghostly, and abruptly disappeared, replaced by ghostly wind gusts. I got up to pee and collect my thoughts. I made mental note of locations of things I thought I would want to take with me. I wasn't particularly worried--just vaguely and sentimentally entertained by the thought of quickly gathering what I'd quickly decided were the most important things in my life. Just surreal. It was like I'd never woken up. It was that sort of frame of reference, there, as I was taking that pee. It was chilly.
I mostly put my notebooks and videotapes in my bag. A pair of pants. I negotiated transport for two computer towers and some harddrives. Another pile of notebooks, some mail and some cash. Last second I go back for a small box of sentimental items. I look up at the bookshelf in the bathroom and I consider grabbing my high school yearbook. It makes me feel really corny, but I kind of force myself to savor the moment. I'm pretty sure I'll be back soon. But it's like discovering a gross face you can make in the mirror and then making yourself do it over and over again. Or watching a good Saved by the Bell episode. You kind of feel gross and good at the same time in the pit of your torso. The blend, ooh, like a gigantic frappie-chino pumpkin-spice peach-colored blendered-baby in a moist, plastic cup. Nothing like an evacuation brings out the contemporary references in a guy like me. Nothing.
Anyway, we have some guests and I'm just kind of putting around, ho-humming and whatnot, keeping the whole thing pretty low-key so nobody gets panicky... I'm fairly optimistic about our chances of return, after all... And I notice the bottle of wine from the night before and so I figure out a way to store the rest of that that really hardly takes up any extra room at all and so I do that. And now I'm feelin' good. Reeeeeal good. Tedd's gonna drive. It's seven-AM in the morning and the sun is just cresting the valley and light is spilling into the cabin. I put on some wool socks my mom sent me. I'm snug in my shoes and I'm eating some firm, cold tofu like candy and then we're out the door, driving up and out of the mountains the back way because the regular way is closed off. And god, it is so beautiful and fresh outside, and so brightly keen, and so exciting and dangerous and free-feeling. We're escaping danger mountain in a worn-out old Saturn that doesn't always run... NPR threatens the edges of consciousness through the mountain static, at low volume beneath our stimulating conversations. Probably about tits and axes and other mountain stuff. Crass--just really crass, repetitive stuff at varying levels of volume.
No, just kidding. I'm sure it was solid gold, most of it. There's debris like sticks and rocks all over, no doubt from the insistent Santa Anna Winds. Those gusts we felt the night before, when we went down into the dry riverbed to soak up some moonbeams--they had surely dislodged much of what we saw. They were also the culprit behind the spread of the wildfires, like a giant spirit-bellows angry at the pace of development in the hills. We would come around a hairpin turn and a gust of wind would rattle the smashed-up front-right corner of the poor little Saturn we drove, chugging and choking to make it back down into the thicker valley air.
And then, around another bend, and then there's the tall downtown buildings in the smoggy distance, and we're descending through watered lawns and a stoplight admits us and then another one and we come to a sleepy stop.