Monday, August 31, 2009
I took one dog out to a hill to chase the ball, because the dogs have been cooped up. But they’re good dogs, so they don’t chew up the house, they just chase each other from room to room.
And I saw this to the west.
East, west, nothing’s best. I’m not going to guess where this is – but certainly north west of Altadena. Some huge craft flew over my house and I couldn’t see what it was. That means smoke is settling down around us for the night.
Update from Greg Sweet on pack station at Chantry Flats: "Well, the mule, the donkeys and the goats from the pack station are at Santa Anita Racetrack. Fred, the mule, trailers easily, and some of the old-timer donkeys aren't much problem either. But there are some new BLM's (that's horse speak for Bureau of Land Management rescues) and they were a bit of trouble. Also trouble was trying to turn around the tractor-trailer horse-hauling rigs in the little pack station lot (very expensive by the way). As far as anyone can tell, no fire has entered Big Santa Anita Canyon, but being tucked under the east side of Mt Wilson, it was wise to get the animals out now." (GS)
On an editorial note, if we have to name fires and other natural disasters, "Station Fire" is bloody lame. Maybe that's why media coverage has been so lousy. This is SoCal. Don't skimp on the publicist.
Station Fire: 105,000 acres burned. Biggest LA County fire in 100 years.
Backfires have been lit between Mt Lowe and Mt Wilson in an effort to save the structures and telecommunication devices on Mt Wilson. That this probably means Mt Lowe has already burned is devastating, as it has been home away from home to many hikers such as myself.
Backfires have been lit near Freeman Av in La Crescenta.
Portions of Sunland are now under mand evac, and additional areas in La Canada.
And it appears that they opened some evac areas in Altadena, only to close them again. Don't quote me on that. I was driving on Loma Alta and it seemed most/many areas remained restricted.
(Picture of Alt Stables Trainer Marcy McLemore & assorted helpers)
Horses are back at Altadena Stables after their brief intermission at Equestrian Center. Eques Center will now be taking in a new set of evacuees from areas under threat. I heard Flintridge Stable horses were taken to Santa Anita Racetrack for safe keeping. Witnessing the transport of literally tons of livestock is awe inspiring. Wisely, my main assignment was to make a coffee run.
And just because everything has to be an adventure these days, the (6? 8?) horsetrailer blew a tire on the last trip home. So, you know, I meant to take some impressive photos of the homecoming, but stuff happens.
All my neighbors are saying the same thing, "My house leaks." Not water; air. We wake every morning to the stench of smoke and ash. Of course, outside it's a hundred times worse, until about mid-day.
The Station Fire has now burned 85,000 acres, and is 5% contained. Mt Wilson is still in imminent danger. Most if not all evac's remain in place.
In about an hour I'm driving to Burbank to see if I can find my horse.
Just heard from Greg Sweet with unfortunate news. "Adams' Pack Station at Chantry Flat just got the mandatory evacuation notice - 7:30am. Going to help out (the barn kitties come to me). Also one mule, 12 donkeys, 6 goats, and 5 laying hens."
Again, this link is excellent. Firefighter. Tells you where the fire stands. I hestitate to interpret, but it looks like it is well behind Santa Anita Canyon. Let's hope the evac stays precautionary. Also, last I heard, fire might reach Mt. Wilson by tonight.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
When the fire moves on, there's a great feeling of relief, I can't lie about that. But how good can you feel if all it has done is pack its bags and move closer to someone else. Heroic, heroic efforts have been made by firefighters, but I don't think the end is in sight. Things seemed quiet on the western front tonight (I've been so wrong so recently about that), but flames were leaping to the east.
A good site to visit is here
Go to Jimson Weed on blog roll, startling photo.
Two things to look for in comments: Greg Sweet update on Chantry Flats. Bill Smith's photos of our hills (look under anon comment 31).
I was about to complain about smoke smell and headache, but scratch that. Sadly, sadly, sadly ... I just heard that two fire fighters died near Acton.
Chris Brooks joined me to take some pictures. We jumped out of the car when we saw this group -- neighbors who are determined to make the best of things. They were charming. I'm the disreputable one in red.
It doesn't look as good as I'd hoped. Took some shots from Fair Oaks/Alta Loma, and fire is merrily bubbling away, but on the north side of Sunset Ridge. Met a hiker friend of mine who lives at the junction, and he said it looked far better than yesterday and was no longer worried. I dunno, guess I worry more than most.
Fire has obviously run along the eastern ridge, and is now parallel to streets east of Lake
From Mt Wilson webcam, this hour: http://firefighterblog.blogspot.com/
Here are some thoughts [edited] from neighbor Greg Sweet. Read the comments for his update on pack station.
"At times like these it is hard to remember, but what so many of us love about Altadena is the wildland interface and the rich history of The San Gabriels. So, for those that are interested, I will speculate to say that Newcomb's Ranch is in big trouble. Keep in mind that this is not journalism, just me taking an educated guess. The Mount Wilson Observatory site mentions that one of the observers was "going to join his wife's family who lives in the interior of the San Gabriels, but an evacuation has been ordered for their area as well." I know that one of the ladies that works at Newcomb's is married to one of the observers, she told me so herself. It seems logical the evacuated area in question is Newcomb's Ranch, as well as nearby Chilao recreation area...
There is a little cafe on the Angeles Forest Highway whose name I can't remember that is the most likely to have been lost already.
With the emphasis on structure protection there is hope. I will do my best to find out the status of these various facilities that have long been enjoyed by our community, and update when I know anything." (Greg Sweet)
One last word before I pick up my Snickers bar award for panicked reportage (thanks Mid Town G), media coverage was so dreadful, or non-existent, that many, many people turned to the blogs to supplement their info. Yesterday I had more than 800 hits, 50% were from new visitors. Altadenablog.com visitors were in the thousands perhaps. As Tim said, Whiskey Tango Fred (ok, I forget what the F is).
Also, thanks for the moral support from those of you I know, whether I know you in person or virtually, which almost feels like the same thing. You've been great.
For some astounding pictures and videos, please visit the following folks on my blogroll:
Pasadena Adjacent, Pasadena Daily Photo, Glimpses of South Pasadena, West Coast Grrlie Blather
Saturday, August 29, 2009
From 7:30 update: All the horses at Altadena Stables have been moved to the Equestrian Center in Burbank. I was just at Alt Stables, and streets are blocked, but it doesn't look bad. Still, who knows? Marcy and company loaded up more than 30 horses, and were just now moving hay and shavings for probably the next couple of days. How they could move 30 horses in two hours is testimony to great horsemanship, dedication, and just all-around exceptional management.
Alta Loma has been (blocked? evacuated?) from Lincoln to Lake. And yet a band is playing at Farnsworth Park. Most of the fire seems to be heading down a trail to the west of Glenrose, but still up the hill. I'll go up there shortly.
This via Altadena Women's Network:
---- Begin forwarded message from Gino Sund, chair of Altadena Town Council -----
Update on fire: latest flyover with visual and infrared analysis by County Fire indicates that the fire is moving away from Altadena but still in direction of Mt. Wilson. No structures burned and danger to residences seems to lessening.
They are doing an all-out assault right now. I'm close to the flight path and the planes have been charging up and down the hills for about the past hour. I know it's burning bad on the back side of our San Gabriels, but it seems the fire-fighters have, for now, beaten the fire back from the eastern march so I can no longer see it directly up the hill from my house. I'd say it is now directly up from Fair Oaks, and you can see the flames.
Perhaps we'll learn what the plan was later, but I'm guessing it was to charge with full force, rather than one plane or two at a time?
As I understand it firefighters are putting in a fire break just north of Loma Alta, which is the street where I run every day. A family I know from our co-op is looking for a place to stash chickens, one horse, and three dogs in the event they must evacuate. If you're in the area and think you can help, email me and I will forward to them. (ALL ANIMALS HAVE FOUND A PLACE.)
The fire keeps growing and pushing east. Helicopter and plane-wise, I don't see much activity from the good guys. Perhaps there's another strategy?
(I finally hear some fixed wing overhead. Fire has now pushed east far enough to be parallel to my street, though still in the hills. For those who asked, at this point my horse is further away from the fire than I am.)
CO brought up a good point. What is our wonderful county rep, M Antonovich, doing to keep us informed? Big fat nothing from what I can find. Altho his website does have a picture of him on horseback. To show he's one of us, I guess.
Friday, August 28, 2009
(Photo ID from Greg Sweet: "The hill surrounded by smoke in the photographs taken from the Community Garden is called 'Little Round Top'. That is the sight of Owen Brown's Grave."
For evacuation information, I think Altadenablog.com (link on blogroll) is the most up-to-date.
From Greg Sweet: "I receive an email this morning from Forest Volunteer Richard Nyerges. He and a dedicated crew have maintained the trail and campground in Bear Canyon for many years. He sounds uncharacteristically negative; probably feeling defeated. He invites us to pass this along.
Well it looks like the Station Fire may very well burn into Bear canyon. This evening I could see fire on top of Brown Mountain and Bear is on the other side. With the FS working and protecting homes, and with the remote area that Bear canyon is located, I would best guess that they will draw a line around Bear and let a large area burn. Lets hope that the fire acts like a fire should and if it does burn Bear, its only here and there. No matter what though, come the winter rains all the sediment will flow down hill and fill all the pools. If that happens it will be at best 10 - 15 years before the pools clear out. We can hope a large heavy rain in 5 years might wash them out. This is of course only if the canyon burns but right now there is fire heading into the canyon.
In early October, Maybe the 10th, I will put together those who wish to join me on a recon trip into Bear Canyon to access the damage if any. Let hope for minimal burn down deep on the canyon floor.
If anyone would like to join me, we will be carrying in tools to do any repairs that might be and can be done. Let me know if you can join in and I'll put together a list. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you know of anyone who might be interested in joining in, please forward this along. Thanks
If we find the culprit who started the fire, hold me back. I can't say here what I'd do to them.
If you do venture in the hills, be safe.
(I'll be joining. -- Karin)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
As a little kid, I liked to carve. And as a clumsy little kid, I always sliced into a finger or two. Afraid my mother would take away my carving tools, I never told anyone about the cuts, and would just go wash out the blood and guts under the garden hose. And then it would get all very fascinating to peel apart the flaps of skin and look deep inside.
Invariably, I would start carving with intention, then end up with something unintentional. Like a house might become a mountain, a tree a car, a horse a nun.
The nun is the sole survivor of my carving period, completed when I was about eight or nine. As you can see, I wasn’t picky about the piece of wood I used, any shape, any scrap would do. No time to waste when the muse is upon you. I remember very well when the nun-ness of the piece revealed itself to me, and obedient to my craft, I changed course. The mane became a wimple, the eye became a cross, and so forth.
As we weren’t Catholic, we weren’t really anything, religiously speaking, this nun had to be very insistent to make herself heard. Maybe the Sound of Music was big that year.
And how she survived all this time I haven’t a clue. I found her at the bottom of a box of old stuff while looking for something else entirely.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The nice thing about racking my brain is that it takes almost no time at all. I can start racking anywhere, anytime, day or night, and never be late for the bus or dinner or anything. I can rack while I fill up the Matrix and still have 5 gallons left to go. I can rack while I floss, but then have nothing to do while I brush. I can rack my brain while launching a two-mile walk around The Huntington, and require a new diversion for the remaining mile and three quarters.
I ate oranges from the orchard. Don’t tell anyone. They were the sweetest oranges I’ve ever, ever eaten. The juice ran down my forearms and onto my shirt and splashed on my camera, so perhaps that’s why the photos are a touch off.
And this brief tour around the forbidden Huntington is just an excuse and an inelegant transition to some clips from Jonathan Miller’s Alice in Wonderland. I racked my brain to come up with another living Renaissance man or woman aside from Miller, but after a minute or two could come up with no one. Miller is a physician, scientist, writer, comedian, director of opera and plays, explorer (ok, maybe not that), astronaut (not that one either).
If you don’t like the first clip, it won’t get any better for you. But if you do like it, as I do, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” Tell me what you think.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
“Nobody remembers Shakespeare’s children.”
As I’m not a parent, I like to wax eloquent on the subject of raising successful children. I don’t know many nuclear families, or many dues paying mothers and fathers, or many children between the ages 4-12, so I think my qualifications speak for themselves.
Here’s my main theory: The road to a child’s success is paved in parental mediocrity. You, the parent, not only set the bar, you are the bar. Make it a friendly bar; a bar that is a little overweight or works in lower management or drives a Toyota. You can sketch, sculpt, sing, and screw around, just don’t do it often or too well. Moderate your alcohol intake, feign delight in straight A’s, and stay out of the running for a Nobel Prize.
Not what you hoped for for yourself, I know, but your kids will be plotting their vaults at a very young age.
Set your bar too high, and they’ll just walk under it, all the way to 10 years of junior college. Set it too low, and you can forget about ever laying claim to his or her bedroom as a home gym.
I knew the son of the man who invented, well, let’s say, a very, very important pill. And though the son of this man inherited great wealth and smarts, he had an air of quiet desparation. Kids are born with a drive to best their parents, but how can you trump a father who has played a world-winning hand.
So the son moved to the arts, not because (and I’m guessing here) the arts were in his mind and soul, but because it seemed a territory to which his father did not lay claim.
Funny how we may choose a path by virtue of its opposing direction.
Anyway, back to my advice. Lead by good example, such as eating your fruits and vegetables. Just don’t lay all the food on the table. Let the kids stay a little hungry.
*Another take entirely on Faulkner quote by fellow blogger here .
Thursday, August 20, 2009
My highest respect is reserved for craftsmen. They think, therefore they do.
I don’t. Do, I mean. I just think and think some more.
Here’s my salute to the farrier. Weak name for such a macho profession. Sometimes English fails its subjects.
Meet Matt Carava, the artist of the hoof. He likes horses and horses like him, well, my mare certainly does. That’s important, because it involves nails, files, red hot iron, and lots of time measuring and fitting. Though shoe material has more variety and the modern farrier uses an oven rather than stoking his own fire, the basic process of horse shoeing hasn’t changed over the centuries. Hot-shoeing means shaping the iron (or whatever material) to perfectly meet the hoof, with adjustments to improve leg weaknesses and irregularities.
What makes a farrier great? The ability to keep a horse on all four pins long after nature would have pulled her down. And, gaining the trust of the horse. With Matt at work, Vandy half closed her eyes and gave an occasional relaxed and deep sigh through her nostrils. It sounded like this: “bdbdbdbdbdbd.”
And Matt's a stand-up guy.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
And then you get all sports-writey on me with “All right, I’ll conclude now with what I hope is just the beginning of a relationship with you…” Macho Ken. When we get to know each other better, I’ll let you know the vast reaches of poetry that stretch between Emma and Frank Deford.
Then you retreat once more into “I’m not about to risk my reputation, not with you and not with anyone else.” That’s because you’re honorable, and what we have is special.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Phoebe pretends Albert is a pain in the ass until he gets hurt. And then she doesn't leave his side.
Thanks to doggy morphine, Albert is flying high. Phoebe, on the other hand, is exhausted. We can all look forward to a lovely vet bill tomorrow.
Just as I suspected: $159 is an expensive run around the yard but gets you some pretty nice duds.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Known as “The Corners,” the intersection of Fair Oaks and Colorado boulevard formed the hub of this community, and produced a series of firsts: First school, library, market, telephone, power company.
In another first, The Corner’s own Fair Oaks was the first major artery through the three Denas. Traffic, such as it was, flowed southward to South Pasadena and northward to Altadena, in each direction for quite different reasons.
The northern flow was intended to service the quick and the dead.
Most of the quick were very quick indeed, and demonstrated this by making, or amassing or at least hanging on to, a fast buck. These millionaires were quick to build mansions, and quick to lay tracks along Fair Oaks, bringing the railroad cars up the hill and into their own backyards.
The dead can still be found (slow as they are) in the Mountain View cemetery, some taking a century-long breather. If you walk around the cemetery, you’ll notice among the dead, some of the erstwhile quick. But it appears to be a democratic kind of place, with many ethnic groups represented, and monuments ranging from mausoleums to a single stone.
Altadena burns, a lot and often. In fact most of the early history is written in flames. Half the fantastic mansions of the last century never celebrated their own centennial. And a quarter never made it to sterling silver. Maybe that’s why many of the wealthy pulled up stakes, both their own and the railroad’s. Of course, the depression didn’t help.
But given time, Altadena has been known to renew itself, rising from chaparral, or ashes, or poverty.
Our most recent real estate boom never reached the southern part of Fair Oaks, so neither did the bust. How can you bust what is already broken? Just bust it more?
But now I digress. You thought I was going to show you another smashed gas station or blighted alley. No, today, we dedicate to the quick. And why not? Speed may take you far and fast, but it will never take you past the finish line.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
First there was Hillario and his crew. They used to be good, but last winter they just seemed to lose interest in me and mine. I’d find beer cans in the shrubs and piles of leaves tucked behind trees.
Then I hired a sweet stoner named D. D is a cautionary tale about what happens to Bill and Ted when the excellent adventure continues into middle age.
Every time D came over, he was missing some vital piece of equipment; the mower broke, or the hedger had a screw loose, etc. , so the front yard would look half done, at best. D liked to do the fine work anyway, the garden embroidery, if you will. I would find him picking individual petals off a bird of paradise (“Makes them last longer”), or sitting in a corner, trimming each blade of grass.
It became quite apparent that all the heavy lifting was left to my shoulders. So I said, “D, the backyard is full of weeds. Do you think you can get to that instead.” And he would look at me with a puzzled expression, as if I were a troublesome neighbor asking him to rewire her house.
Or I would say, “D, the ivy on the back fence is getting out of hand. Think we can pull some of it out?” And again with the look. But he might nod to me, as one does to quiet the maniacal rantings of a crazy person.
And then, regardless of what state the yard was in, D would take off within an hour. Much less than an hour if I wasn’t around.
I have these problems with hired-on help because I just don’t generate enough respect. We don’t have an upstairs/downstairs type of relationship; more like downstairs/downstairs. I mean, Hillario was constantly hugging me, for god’s sake, and I don’t think that is common practice with most gardeners. Maybe it was all that beer.
When it came time to let D go (actually, it was always that time, but I kept pushing it off), the exchange went something very close to this:
“So D,” me all cheery and sympathetic. “I guess this turned out to be a much bigger job than you bargained for.”
“Oh, it’s ok,” he said. “I like it.”
“Well, but you see D, things don’t look the way I want them to. I rather like things neat and trimmed, and it’s all too wild for me. It really takes more than an hour a week, I’m afraid. And I am paying you quite a bit, relative to other gardeners.”
“Well, I figure that would be the going rate for the service I offer and my professional equipment.”
“Oh yes, I understand your time is valuable…”
So we went around on this for awhile, and I sent him off with a final check and one of my banana plants. I hope he remembers he’s fired. The only way I’ll know for sure is to check the bird of paradise.
Monday, August 10, 2009
One time, traveling by train in France with a friend, we passed a lovely graveyard and, with my very poor French, the only way I could phrase the question was, Who lives in this garden of the dead?
I walked around the garden today to pay my respects.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
That's why I'm sticking with yoga.
Maybe I look like a salmon swimming up the wrong stream. Maybe it feels weird to do slow, slllooooowwwww movements to the counts of one, two, up to twenty, and feel happy that I'm imperceptibly better at standing on one leg this week.
I cheat. We're supposed to be lost in moment, in a pose, and I stick my nose up to look at the other students. I'm not there, not there at all, my arms are wrong. I need to ... then I topple.
And the instructor kind of sings, "Some of us may have trouble with..."
And it's the we is me again.
So I try once more to balance on the one leg, pull the other foot up to rest on my thigh, and draw up the hands to the prayer position and and lower myself, just myself and not the whole class, to the floor.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I’ve named him Rex. I know it’s a guy because he doesn’t have a family with him. He just drags his sleeping bag upstairs every evening after a night on the town with the boys, and takes off for his deconstruction job sometime before dawn.
Now that my boxer is deaf, she doesn’t care who's up there. And Albert never did. My friends don’t want to check it out, and I’m not going up there alone. So, for now, co-existence seems the only answer. Accompanied by visualization.
I see my attic as a scene from Wind in the Willows. The animals in that book lived in attics and basements, but were tidy and friendly and kept their food in tins. They wore suits. They drank wine. They had a way with words, and said things like “facetious.”
Funny thing is, this animal – this bunny, I think – occupies the ceiling above my den, and does not sound like he's planning an expansion. Maybe he finds the “click click” I make well into the night soothing. My neighbors, who have a rat rather than rabbit problem, have resorted to active measures. Some are trying glue traps, exterminators, poison pellets. I’d never use the last, but in any case, it ain’t working. One neighbor complains that not only do the rats eat all the poison, they like it, and they’re telling friends.
So, I don’t know. Sometimes my visualization technique suffers a momentary lapse, and I wonder how a rabbit can climb that high. Floor to chair, sure, but floor to roof? That's a 20 foot hop.
Fortunately, with a little yoga, I regain my concentration and composure. This is Altadena, we’re capable of anything. It’s home of the madcap Zorthian, Professor Thaddeus Lowe, and Richard Feynman. We are not ordinary people.
Surely, this is no ordinary rabbit.
(possible nocturnal sighting)
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Almost the entire collection was aimed at children our age, and included all the classics – Maud Hart Lovelace, PL Travers, EB White, Burnett, Dahl. We’d step inside the sweating cab and be knocked for a loop by the pit smell of old-books. Open the Secret Garden, bend back the spine, and breathe in the musty perfume of other grubby little hands from years before. All those old novels steaming in the hot summer trailer – it smelled like a promise to me.
We’d usually pick up a potboiler as well, maybe the latest Nancy Drew. Sure, Nancy Drew and the blue convertible added up to a piece of crap. We knew that; we had taste. But sometimes, oftentimes, we chose not to exercise it.
And then, we’d take our books home and change into swimsuits and head out to one of the neighbors to spend the hottest part of the afternoon in the pool, perfecting our dives and greening our hair.
Some kids were our friends because of what we shared – a love to giggle, a love of animals, and a developing sense of the world around us.
Then we made some friends because of what they had -- A pool, a horse, a mother who knew how to whip up homemade 50-50 bars. We were opportunists and hedonists, afterall.
My friends and I, we rated each other on the shifting scale of best friend for eternity to best friend until September. The ranking would change daily. Friendship was like the next popsicle -- accessible, sweet, transitory. As kids of the ever mobile executive dads, likely as not, any or all of us would be pushing off within the year.