Friday, September 1, 2017


(Katharine Lotze)

What a day. We awoke yesterday and started running errands until the day was no more. All that was left was an old VW Bug that we dropped off at a friend's place, thinking that he would sell it for us. What we believed to be a 1972 Bug turned out to be a '76, the year that California demands emissions devices to be added. This car would never pass, never function with the required safety impediments. Thankfully, my buddy who works in the car business let us leave the car with him. He would try to sell it to somebody that moved classic cars out of the state. 

I suspect that we might need to one day soon make a return trip to deal with the car. 

Where are the gypsies when you need them? What did Cromwell say about the Irish militia? ... useless in times of war, dangerous in times of peace. That's how I feel about the gypsies right about now, either useless or dangerous. Okay, that makes no sense, but I am under no obligation to make sense right now. I've been through a lot. I wish the gypsies would come take the car and sell it to the lone remaining circus. Or, maybe trade it for an elephant. I could become the Hannibal of Sonoma. 

Around 4pm or so, we put ourselves on the 405 North, heading towards the 5, then up the state towards home after a stop at the airport to retrieve my car. We could see rain in the distance. There was a bolt of lightning that surprised both of us, separating for a moment the halves of the heavens. 

Perhaps for that reason I pulled off the highway shortly after to get gas when we didn't quite yet need it, before we entered the rains and had committed to crossing the mountains north of Bakersfield. Once we were off the interstate I did a map search to see how long it would take us to get home, now that we had mostly escaped the unending gridlock that is LA. It showed no on-ramp to get back onto the 5 and instead had us driving somewhat parallel with the interstate but on a  little two-lane country road that was guaranteed to slow us down. 

Oh well, I thought, life is an adventure, try and enjoy its brevity. 

Rachel had been doing all of the navigating. Her phone functioning in an almost strategic military capacity to get us around, across, and then out of the hellishness that is LA traffic. This unplanned gas stop had not been pre-approved by the navigational team. I explained the predicament to her. After she consulted the official navigation device in her hands for a minute or two she amicably conceded that I had indeed made a tactical mistake. 

We had not driven very far, armed now with a full tank of gas and two competing coffees, when we noticed the rising feathers of increased black smoke. That's when Rachel relayed something that she overheard in the Starbucks - they were going to close the interstate, there was a fire. As we kept north we started seeing helicopters, planes, and a couple of those amphibious ones with pontoons under the wings that are designed to fight forest fires. 

Sure enough, the cars were backed up for many miles before we saw the fires burning some distance up and down both sides of the highway. This is part of what Dante must have felt when looking at the world, or at its people, a ring of hell that contained suspended passengers. There were a number of emergency vehicles blocking the highway, people running around, dousing the flames at a distance. The planes were dropping in low, releasing the nearby Castaic Lake water onto the flames. We saw two successive drops at just above eye level, such was the elevation difference between us and the highway below. The rush of air seemed to turn the sudden bursts of water to mist where it then fell and seemed to disappear. It was something worthy of television.

Had the purpose of the trip not been so ill-stared then we might have considered ourselves lucky to witness it. Except that it was a fire, the only luck to be had was avoiding it. I don't know, maybe if a bird had shit on us then I'd feel differently. I'm told that is nature's way of smiling down. 

The highway was empty afterwards. We had the thing entirely to ourselves for almost an hour. 

Well, there is also music to the story, though I can not tell it. I was just informed that it is expected to rise to 107 degrees today in Sonoma. I must go now for my bike ride, otherwise there might be problems for me later in the day. Heat seems to be a mixture of fate and circumstance. Also, this post doesn't amount to very much more than an aging man discussing traffic recently encountered, a thing that I promised myself I would not do. I have not been perfect at keeping promises to myself. For those paying attention I also just slipped in a reference to the weather at the beginning of the paragraph. 

That completes my AARP requirements for today's post. 

My buddy just wrote that he should be able to sell the car. So, there is that - some good news out of all of this.

I miss the old LA, where you could just take the tires off of the thing and set it on fire by the side of the highway and walk away. Those were simpler times.