a certain irony

There’s a whiff of the apocalyptic about Los Angeles, city of angels that isn’t really a city; loosely flung collection of neighborhoods and suburbs linked by freeways, sprawling along the edge of the desert, the edge of the ocean, the edge of the country; steeped in stolen water, built on faultlines, founded in fantasy. Every year some of it burns.

It’s burning now in the northwest, the Calabasas, Chatsworth areas, threatening Simi Valley to the north and Thousand Oaks to the west. Dinora, who lives in that area, made her southern commute to our house this morning after a sleepless night spent listening to helicopters overhead. She made frequent visits outside to check for approaching flames. She said the air was hot and smoky and you had to look out for snakes and coyotes fleeing the hillsides. By the time she left tonight, we could smell smoke from our driveway — in this different set of hills on the west side of Los Angeles — and by the time I came downstairs from putting the twins to bed the smell had seeped into the house.

I’m breathing it now, at my desk. I stepped into the backyard to throw the ball for the dogs and the air reeks of campfire. Smoke and earth and pine. An overpowering stench, almost a physical, tangible thing…and yet it brings back memories from when I went hiking and camping as a kid, those days when I sometimes did such things, and which I will always associate with my outdoors-loving father. Memories of family vacations at a cottage by a Canadian lake.

As I sit at the computer, as I get up to go watch The Apprentice, and greet E. when he gets back from his dinner in Santa Monica.

Elsewhere, hillsides are burning.


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