November 10, 2007

Southern California burns...

If started off like any other day.

After having a post-shift drink and blathering about nothing of consequence with my doorman Ilich, I got into my Jeep and drove towards San Elijo Hills. I thought nothing of the night and only smiled inwardly at the thought of eating my turkey sandwich from 7-11 and getting some sleep before tomorrow nights shift.

I got a phone call from my roommate right about the same time I realized there were a few Carlsbad police officers blocking San Elijo Hills Road.


We were told to leave. But how do you pack up your life within minutes? I didn’t even get that chance. I was turned away before I could gather any of my belongings.

That old question about what to pack if your house was on fire came in black comedic waves as I did my best to take a mental inventory of what I had in my Jeep and what I could possibly lose if the fire chose my direction.

So I had to quickly weigh my options. I could drive to my parent’s house, wake up various friends or co-workers, or I could stay at the Howard Johnson on Leucadia. Which I promptly did at $89/night.

Rubbing my eyes and clearing my sore throat after a horrible night of sleep, I peered outside my room to a jaundiced lilting haze that gave a surreal look to the trees as they bowed in the face of the wind’s enthusiasm.

Knowing I would never make it to my parent’s house in El Cajon without sitting in gridlock for three hours, I decided to poke around Encinitas.

The wind and ash made it tough to even be outside, and no one argued with my opinion. Downtown Encinitas looked like the set of a really smoky post apocalyptic horror film, replete with a yellow sun and crying dry winds.

So I went to 1st Street and did what anyone else would do in my situation. My manager Shaun and I called all the bartenders knew to come in and commiserate with us. With most of the businesses in the area closed, our community shelter replete with booze was soon a bustling little activity of commerce for those of us watching the 24 hour pyro pornography on all news stations.

With little or no sleep, I didn’t expect to work that night. I was wrong.

I instead had to serve all the scared, angry, distraught people who were evacuated from their homes or had lost their dwelling to the angry flames that danced through our little hamlet.

I also had to serve the jubilant(like myself) patrons who’s homes had been spared the fire and were lucky to still have a place to lay their heads at night.

The dichotomy between the groups was palpable, even if the booze blurred the line between the two. For them, and me.

This is something none of us will ever forget. No matter what paths our lives follow from this day forward, we all sat at the mercy of nature just when we feel indestructible. Cell phones, computers, satellites, internet and the like have a way of keeping us connected by separating us.

It’s times like these that help to remind us that we’re all in this together. Mother Nature picks and chooses our fates…we just deal with her decisions…

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