Larry and I live in the Glendale/Pasadena area, just a few miles east of Los Angeles. On a clear day we can see the foothills to north, and the Angeles Crest Mountains stretching off to the east. Last week we could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Made you understand why people moved here. Long ago. Before the other people got here.
But today the world is on fire. When the sun came up this morning, it rose through a thick band of smoke and bloated into a blood red balloon. There was smoke on every horizon. By the end of the day, there was no more blue sky. Just smoke.
Nearly a million people have been evacuated statewide. San Diego is the hardest hit: one in three households. It’s hard to get your mind around a number like that. I heard about a single dad who barely got out of his apartment with his twin daughters. They couldn’t find the dog or cat before they left. Later they heard their apartment building had burned to the ground.
The fires are raging north of LA as well. Simi Valley, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Agua Dulce. These are all communities north of LA. We used to drive through them on the way to visit my uncle in the High Desert. It was like driving through Hell. Dry rock, cacti, the occasional ranch. Hermits in shacks with rusted cars on blocks; who took comfort in knowing no one else would ever move there. Today that wasteland is sardine-packed with housing tracts and shopping centers and squares of grass to distract you form the fact you’re in Hell.
I shot a TV Western out in Stevenson Ranch in 1991. When it was ranchland. This past April I stopped there for groceries and gas. No ranch. Just one high-end housing development after another, zitted with Designer Shoe Warehouse and Ross and Linens 'N' Things and Toys R Us and Marshalls and Target and a Coach outlet where you can buy a leather key fob for $65.
And now it is all on fire. I feel for those people who pitched their overpriced tents in the middle of Hades, rolled out some grass and called it home. I hope they have homes to come home to.
It’s really a horrible thing. I feel very bad. But … people are already complaining. Officials, even. Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky is blaming the environmentalists for protecting the indigenous desert plant life that is now on fire. A fire chief is pissed off that there isn’t more coordination between government agencies. And with the landed gentry of San Diego piling up at Qualcomm stadium, it’s only hours before they get antsy. And hungry. And very very angry.
It’s Katrina, for rich people.
Southern California is a desert. You know, like the cover of “The Joshua Tree.” That's why we stole our water from Northern California. At first to grow oranges, then to water our lawns or the shrubs on the meridians in the shopping malls.
The Cassandras have been warning us that we are not prepared for a large-scale disaster. And they are right. There could be better coordination and more resources. But oops, the National Guard is in Iraq.
I’m having a hard time staying empathetic when we' offended that fire has destroyed homes in ... fire danger areas. "How dare mother nature do what it does." Or when we're shocked our nation's resources can't swoop in and make it go away. Our country is a mess. Please, pray for me and my bad attitude. No, don't. Pray for the people who are in imminent danger. They need help.