Monday, October 22, 2007

Just Another Day in Paradise

Impressions - October 21, 2007, Sunday


Sunday morning woke up to windows rattling. Bad sign. Probably another red flag fire day.

Windy through the morning. Very windy. Santa Anas. Up to 80 mph I later hear.

After noon I take a nap and wake up in near darkness. Red darkness with a pervasive smell of smoke. It’s around 2.30 pm and when I go outside everything looks like these pictures. Building super says there’s a fire somewhere in the county. Fires.

Take these photos. These have not been altered color-wise; this is the way it looked. The snow-like specks in the pictures are flecks of blowing ash being illuminated by the flash that goes off automatically because it’s so dark. But the sky is flaming crimson like the Van Allen belt has caught fire again. Where are Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden when we need them?

Inside again I try to find an AM news station. There is of course nothing in the Sunday papers because the fires started overnight. I find that the biggest blaze is around Malibu. It has (as of this writing, Sunday evening) destroyed several buildings and part of the famous Malibu castle. Pacific Coast Highway is closed.

There are other fires around Ventura County and my section of Ventura seems to be under the path of the various converging streams of smoke and falling ash.

Listeners are warned to stay inside with the windows closed.

I drive downtown anyway. It’s smoky, but without the volcanically lit skies of Montalvo, a section of Ventura which is south of town off the 101 freeway. I stop at the pier; the ocean and sky are leaden, but not red. Crossing the freeway overpass ash ripples across the concrete like gray snow. The sea is ashen and eerie and the high surf has a slight tinge of yellow. A fresh breeze blows in from the Pacific.

On the way home I stop at a major pumpkin patch near the Montalvo exit. A few people are there selecting pumpkins against a vast ashen sky. The guys who man the patch are wearing surgical (breathing) masks. It’s like picking out a pumpkin at the beginning of a contemporary horror movie. I buy a beautiful white squash with green stripes. It looks like a small pumpkin. I have never seen so many different types of squash and pumpkins and they are artistically and profusely displayed over what seems like several acres. The men decide to close the pumpkin patch.

When I get home Montalvo is no longer under hellish skies. Now it’s just smoke. It looks like just before a thunderstorm back east, but of course no storms will come, at least no rainstorms. I take advantage of the dim light and watch DVDs: a wonderful “Knowing the Score” documentary on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. It seems appropriate because Montalvo looked like the opening of FANTASIA’s Rite of Spring sequence just a few hours ago. Then CAT PEOPLE (the original), all cool black-and-white shadows in which I would like to get lost. (And do for the length of the fim).

When I try to tune in the AM station again it has drifted away. Hate TV and I am not connected to any cable service here, so I don’t know what’s happening with the fires but the air is less smoky and there is the pale iodine-colored disc like a ghost sun in the now-pearly pink skies.

But as I get ready for bed the wind is howling and the windows are rattling again and somewhere down the street it sounds like wind chimes are being shredded.

See below for more photos.

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