Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fire Fire Go Away

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake. I hadn't been in LA that long and suddenly, I'm in my bed, at 4:30whatever in the morning, the ground starts shaking and I'm positive we're at war. I'm from New York! I was never in an earthquake before. I was never in a war zone either but I had no freakin idea what was happening. And no one told me how loud it would be. Finally I realized Okay, this is an earthquake. It was a co-worker who told me when I experience my first earthquake to tell myself This is going to end. That helped me get through it. A few seconds during an earthquake is a very long time, and every second you feel somewhat calm is something to be grateful for.

Back then I was a typical New Yorker. The reason my co-worker gave me that advice? I was a cocky jerk who said something dumb like, "I want to experience an earthquake to see what it's like." Well, by the time that earthquake stopped and I had ridden out some gnarly aftershocks, I was like Karen Hill in "Goodfellas" when she said I've seen enough helicopters for one day, thank you. I had had enough. Trust me. I know it's unlikely but if I never have to go through a big earthquake again, it'll be fine with me.

It made me consider moving back. Which was confusing for me because even though I hadn't become the overnight success I was supposed to be by that point, I actually had come to kind of like LA. I loved my roommate Adam who had an amazing car and liked to drive all over the place showing me stuff: The Sunset Strip, The Brady House, El Matador, Poquito Mas... As a result of those Saturday excursions, LA was revealing itself to me as a beautiful, strange and exotic place. But home beckoned after that quake. I missed places that delivered at all hours, all night bars, the seasons. Yeah, it was nice here most of the time but I craved the crispness of when football weather began or the first snow.

But the truth was I hated being cold. Sure the first snow was always so magical and beautiful but then suddenly it would be January and there'd be slush and it would be freezing inside your clothes and just watch "Inside Llewyn Davis" when his pants are wet while he's sitting at the diner if you want to know what I mean. I know in that moment he's in Chicago, right? Doesn't matter. I had had that experience in New York and Boston plenty of times. The way I saw it, the way I knew it, cold was cold and even though I came out here for a career move, an added benefit was no longer having to sit on my hands on the subway to keep them warm.

In the end I didn't move back. The earthquake shook me, sure. And I wasn't the overnight success I had hoped I'd become. But truth was I liked it here. There were possibilities here. And it was beautiful. It was, in ways, amazing. The terrain? There was nothing like it back home. The colors at sundown blew my mind. And in one moment you could be at the beach, another, in the mountains. It was different, majestic, hopeful and exciting. I liked those qualities so I stayed.

But with great beauty comes a real trade off. That's what I've been thinking of today. There are people risking their lives trying to get this thing under control. Homes have been lost. At least 1700 acres have already burned in the Colby Fire. And they're now saying wild animals might start running out of the foothills. It's scary. It's sad. And now LA is my home! You feel different when something's happening on your homefront. Back east is no longer a consideration for me. I don't think I'm that cocky jerk I once was. This is the real deal, these are my neighbors and I feel so badly for all those people, animals, what's being lost. I pray for all of everyone who has to deal up close with any of this and all I know is...

This is going to end.

*Photo by Cyndi Wyatt

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