14 October 2008

Smoke Gets in Your Area Code

The joke is that California does have four seasons, but they are: Earthquake, Fire, Riot and Mudslide.

It's Fire season, people.

When the Santa Ana winds kick in, all bets are off. I think we'd be better off just staying in. That's my preference. Heat, rain, snow, bitter cold; I can take all of those happily, with a hair flip and smile. Wind annoys me. It's rude, difficult and unforgiving. There's no hairstyle that can survive the Santa Ana's (though, I have to say, the Brazilian Blowout does a good job of it...because all it can be right now, a week after doing it, is be pin-straight). Let's not even get into the whole static situation. It's so not the best part. Lotion. Hairspray. No matter the trick or remedy, it only gets you so far.

Because the winds are multi-directional, crap easily bypasses your sunglasses and attacks your contacts, which remain dry no matter how much you blink. Then there is all the other shizzle being blown about, going right up your sinuses, which become irritated making your eyes red, cutting the ribbon on the sneeze-fest. All in all, it makes for quite a look.

Driving in to Malibu on Monday was an adventure. The winds were so strong, I felt like I was in a scene from Twister. Because the Santa Ana's were blowing over the mountains, I wasn't sure what would fly out at me next. I got used to the branches, of all sizes, being hurled at me. I was keeping an eye out for a Smart Car, though. And the trucks. We were all having a tough time driving a straight line. Amazingly, what the winds did blow over was all the smoke from the Lake View Terrace/Porter Ranch fires. That area is a good forty-five miles east of Malibu, and countless zip and area codes away. Mother Nature is a powerful broad.

When Malibu smells like campfire, people grow uncomfortable. Me included. As the smoke cast the glow of sunset in the sky (and it was barely eleven ayem at the time), we started checking the news sites regularly to be sure there weren't any fires in our neck of the woods. After all, Nick Nolte's caught ablaze last week, and for no good reason. Anything was possible. Fires don't necessarily come in threes here; more like they come in dozens.

Fortunately, we were in the clear, so to speak. We had a hard time breathing from the thick-ash air, but looked good under the amber glow of the smoky sunlight filter. The winds remained relentless. Something I would enjoy at home, on the sofa, watching an old movie. Not so much at work. I did my best to tune it all out, send my good vibes to our tireless firefighters, pray for those whose homes are at risk or were consumed.

Eight-point-five hours later, I left the office. The winds were gone. The air was still. The skies were calm. The glow was actually coming from the sunset, though the smoke was still in the air. And the ash was in my car. Tilted moonroof. Amazing how much junk can float through that little crack. Fugme.

As I drove home on PCH, I admired the full moon's glow on the water below, so much more serene than it was that morning. The scent of campfire still in the air. Usually a comforting aroma instead marking another of nature's tragedies. Wildfire. Heartbreaking and scary, reminding us that no matter how powerful or in control we think we may be, Mother Nature can quickly prove us wrong. All of us.

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