Kage Baker loved wind storms when we were kids. Momma’s house was on top of a ridge in the Hollywood Hills, above the Cahuenga Pass; Kage’s room was a tiny little chamber at the top of a cupola on top of the house. She had a view over the entire San Fernando Valley from up there, and whatever happened to be rolling in from it.
Wind storms turned the tree tops below her windows into a tossing ocean. And when the wind got really wild, it howled around the eaves and Kage could look out and see transformers blowing up all over the Valley. It was quite a sight.
The years we lived in Marin, we were in an oak wood – winds would pour, roaring, through the tops of the oaks, and we would get just faint down drafts at the bottom – like being in the sea, and feeling a tempest sporting in the waves far above us. Except on Summer afternoons on the Faire site itself: then the hot winds blew in over the hay fields that were our parking lots. carrying a golden scrim of dust three stories high before them. A simoom of gilded dust, hot as Hell – Kage called it the devil wind.
In Pismo … we’d get gales in winter. You could watch the rain come across the sea as solid as a silver bead curtain; it would hit the front picture window and make it ring like a gong. We kept a tarp folded up by the front door in case it ever blew in … though it never did. In the spring, the winds came from the canyons and scoured the beach into alien cursive script. And at any speed at all, it howled in our eaves and boomed around the house. Kage loved the tumult.
Today in Los Angeles, we are in the midst of what is being called a Century Wind Event. The winds began last night, blowing steadily at 30 or 40 miles per hour, and gusting up to 60 and 70. All night long, I listened as branches fell into the yard, and scraped on the roof like giant claws. The Corgi went mad. The cats took possession of my bed, and pretended nothing was happening as long as I kept the covers pulled over all of us. The power was flickering on and off all night – every time it did, my charging cell phone howled in despair. I finally had to unplug the damned thing because it wailed every time the power went on or off, like a lost soul; when I gave up on it, it was doing it every 15 minutes or so …
The power finally died completely around noon today. We got out the candles and the camping lanterns, and made plans for not being able to cook.
Trees are down all over the city; freeways ramps are closed, trucks are blowing over, broken power lines are sparking fires in every empty lot. The DWP has been broadcasting advice over radios – if you have one that works – on how NOT to kill yourself. People are explicitly warned not to bring in tiki torches or barbecues, not to put candles in curtained windows, not to try and use their electronic auto starters on stoves and dryers that won’t run anyway … are people really that stupid? Tiki torches?
Going to get the nephew Michael from CalState LA tonight was amazing. Half the streets I took to get to the campus had closed on the way back, as yet more trees fell over and yet more cars ran gaily into them … we ended up diverted into the black streets around Chavez Ravine (no street lights working!) and worked our way North and East by dead reckoning until we found Silver Lake Reservoir. Then we could find our way home again. Only took us an hour for a 15 minute drive. Which was lots better than the parking lots that were the 5, the 10, and 101 freeways.
There was still no power when we got home, but the living room was warm and golden with candle and lamp light. We had sandwiches for dinner and sat around and talked; set up a light by everyone’s chair and made sure we all had something to read. My family has done Faires for 30 years – we don’t need electricity to have a nice evening. And just as we got all smug and comfy – the power came back on.
I must admit, it was a relief to be able to turn on the bathroom light. And of course, I could finally get back on the computer and post a blog! So here I am, Dear Readers, happily surviving the worst windstorm in my memory, while Los Angeles continues to burn in the dark all around us.
No matter what happens in Los Angeles, Kage once observed, something catches fire … she;d rather have enjoyed this one, as long as we weren’t what was burning. She’d have cursed the lack of her computer, but a pad and a pen would have contented her before long. And we could have brain stormed by candlelight – reams of her stories were conceived that way, while whatever wind haunted wherever we were howled round the windows.
Me, I’ll sleep better tonight having made this entry. And remembering, as I tuck the cats away in the feather bed with me, all those nights of listening to Kage tell stories in the dark.