By Fred Owens
I was going to write something about Mike Bloomberg declaring himself to be a candidate for President. I mean, he's okay with me and I have plenty to say about that whole situation, but who wants to hear it? I hear the Frog Hospital masses shouting in unison, "Fred, stop it! Write that story next week."
So, family news instead. My niece Laura Mauve gave birth to a baby girl two days ago. The baby's name in Charli -- spelled that way. The child was born in Monaco and she already knows several words in French.
Now, for some last minute excitement -- Eugene, my esteemed son, will depart from his Los Angeles library job at 5:45 p.m. tomorrow, catching an Uber to LAX where his plane takes off at 9:55 p.m for the Red Eye flight to Boston, where his girl friend Rachel awaits him. It all looks good to me but I wish he could leave work a little early because Wednesday evening is a hard time to catch a plane. Even the Uber to the airport can take much longer than expected. And don't even think about getting through security. It could take forever. That is my official worry. I am concerned about other relatives and other journeys, but this leap to Boston is the key to it all.
Fire, Smoke and Ash
I took an old t-shirt and wiped the ashes off the windshield of my car. The ash is coming down everywhere, lightly. The air is yellowish. The breeze is not strong. The temperature is dropping and the rain is coming pretty soon. This all bodes well to prevent or slow the spread of a 5,000-acre fire that flared up last night at sunset. It's about five miles from our house right now.
Santa Barbara folks remember the Painted Cave Fire in 1990. It raced down the mountain, leapt across the freeway and burned hundreds of homes. But that was in July. And the temperature was 100 degrees that day, and the winds burst to 70 mph. Conditions on this fire today are far less severe. We have lighter winds, colder temperatures and rising humidity -- Rain is expected this evening.
It has not rained in six months. That is normal around here. Usually there is no rain from April until October. The native plants are built for this annual dry spell. But the rains are coming late this year, so you can call that climate change or just call it bad weather. And what matters most today is how hard and quick the rain comes. If it comes in easy and drizzles and drips this will subdue the flames. This is the good rain. But if it comes in hard and furious, dumping water on burned hillsides, then we could get another mudslide. That is the bad rain.
So that's how it stands. Now, for evacuation. There is an area near the flames where evacuation is mandatory. They don't literally force you to leave your home when it's mandatory, but they make it clear to stubborn residents that rescue is not an option and you are on your own. The next level of evacuation is the warning. This means pack up your car and make a plan to leave, but hang tight.
Where we live is beyond the warning zone, but close enough to go through the drill mentally. I told Laurie what I would put in my car if I had 15 minutes to leave. Obvious stuff -- prescription medicine, passport, cash, car title, birth certificate, a shoe box of photos, two photo albums, one high school year book, a laptop, an iPad, lots of socks and clean t-shirts and a warm coat. This is leaving out all the stuff I already carry in my car because of my gardening business, like a tool box, crow bar, ax, wire, duct tape, two rain coats, a spare set of clothes, jumper cables, shovel, pruning saw, tarp -- jeez I got every thing but a tarp -- finally a Pendleton wool stadium blanket and a car pillow good for naps, and two hand towels, and a couple of paperback books. And then Laurie can stuff her car with what she wants and our Meet-Up spot is the Starbucks on the Mesa, which is two miles from here going away from the fire.
Bringing two car loads of stuff is fine, but what really matters, is an inventive make-do spirit. And cash. Cash is good if the power is down, and you can't go back to your neighborhood, but there is a motel room available, and they will give you a good deal on fire days, but they will be a lot happier if you give them two hundred-dollar bills. Which is why it's good to have the tarp -- because you might not have the cash -- you can still improvise a shelter.
Oh, well, it would be good to bring some water, I have five 2.5 gallon containers of water stashed by the shed in the back of the house. Putting extra water in the car is a good idea. Then all you really need is a can of coffee, a small pot, some matches and some dry wood and a cup. Then you have a hot cup of coffee. Or, if your gas tank is full you can just drive to Phoenix and get out of here altogether. A lot of people do that because of the bad air quality.
Clif bars are good for snacks. I usually carry two or three in my car, but I ate 'em. Just remember, no matter how well you prepare you will forget something and you will need to improvise. Or you can just sit in your car, roll down the window and start crying -- sometimes people respond to that with acts of generosity.
All this fire news gets on national TV and the tourists will stop coming to Santa Barbara, which is bad because we like the tourists to come. They are good people and they spend money. But if the tourist business drops off because of all this fire hype, then it will be easier to find a parking place at the beach, so there is a good side to this too.
I am thankful for what we have today. I am thankful for what we don't have.
Happy Thanksgiving to everybody in Frog Hospital country.
Let's Keep Hoppin'