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Should I stay or should I go?

That’s what went through my head after I gained consciousness.

Felice was shaking me, I’d been up so late, I’d ultimately taken a Zyrtec tablet for the itching. Why was she waking me up so early?

Betsy called. She gets up early. There was a fire.

That makes sense, Betsy lives in the North Valley near the hills.

But as I listened to Felice I heard there was a fire near us.

But on the other side of Mulholland.

Yet our next door neighbor was hosing his roof off.

And a policeman had knocked on the door and said evacuation was now optional but if it became mandatory he would probably not be able to come back.


My mother thinks she’s inviolate. Nothing bad will happen. Maybe that’s why I’m on the outlook for pitfalls 24/7. When asked about the Cuban Missile Crisis she said not to worry, if they dropped bombs we’d all die.

So my inclination was to stay.

I know, I know, stupid.

It was just too much effort to get out of bed with my sores, and I wanted more sleep.

But then I thought about it being too late to go, and I got up.

What do you take?

Most of my valuables are at my house in Santa Monica, then again, do I have any valuables? Get old enough and you don’t, all possessions become meaningless. What’s even weirder is you can no longer remember certain things. Which is maybe why people leave with their photo albums. But I don’t have any of those, my father was so busy taking pictures of our youth that I haven’t. Even in this modern camera phone world I’m not a big snapper.

Well, I should take my pills. You never know how long you’ll be gone.

And my computer. Sure, I’ve got a desktop at home, but why put all that money at risk.

And a few clothes.

But what route should I take?

The map apps were confusing. Google said to go down Roscomare, but wasn’t that where the fire was?

Apple said to take a convoluted route to the 405, but wasn’t that partially closed?

By time I put everything in the car I decided to check again. Both map apps said the south 405 was open. I made my getaway.

Then again, was I being stupid? I was driving towards the fire. But if I wanted to go further east delays were greater, better to jet down or risk getting caught in the hills if the fire spread?

And traffic was light for this hour, but when I got to Mulholland it was inundated with cops. And firetrucks. The barbecue foodtruck that’s there every day was not.

Cops were directing traffic. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go the way I wanted.

That’s what people don’t understand, Los Angeles.

It’s a giant suburb with a row of mountains separating it. The wealthier you are the more you gravitate to these mountains, where roads are narrow yet views can be spectacular. It’s a self-defining separation between rich and poor. If you’re financially-challenged in Los Angeles, you’re likely not at risk from natural disasters. Oh, that’s not fully true, but the fires start in the mountains, and once you get east of the 405, there’s little spare space.

And how can this happen in a city anyway? You can imagine an apartment fire in New York, but not a whole block going up in flames, multiple blocks, what’s gonna burn?

So I finally get on the 405, which is slowed down by firetrucks. And the northbound lanes are completely closed, which is weird, because they’re oftentimes gridlocked.

And then I see it. The hillside’s smoldering. Looks like they’ve got it under control.

But no, when I get down the hill, near the 76 station in Bel Air, I see flames. That house on the ridge… It seems to be on fire, or close to it.

So it can happen.

But then I’m in Santa Monica and it’s like it didn’t happen at all.

P.S. You used to rely on radio, TV and the newspaper. But in the age of the internet their faults have been illustrated, they’re just not up-to-date. AM news has gone by the wayside, replaced by sports and Latin programming in Los Angeles. And TV can only do a broad overview with pictures. I saw a reporter by the Skirball, what the hell does he know? As for the vaunted L.A. “Times,” the fire is not at the top of the app and it’s cut so many reporters that it is hobbled. Either you double-down and go for it in the internet era or you’re toast. Which leaves you with Twitter. I’d be checking it, but right now I’m out of danger. As for the house..?

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