Hot Wind Rising

Kage Baker, for all her love of heat, would have been hiding from our weather now. This is the sort of weather where errands were run at dawn and after sunset; we spent the day en deshabille in front of fans on at max, and lived on ice cream and gin and tonics.

Now the hot wind has risen, and keeps rising. It marks a weather change, which is good in that it is at least closer to normals. It’s still hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk – yes, it really is; generations of my family have done it – but the air is alive and dry. It’s almost nice, like talcum powder on the skin. You don’t need gills anymore.

The temperature here in Los Angeles has been flirting with 100 degrees all day. It goes a little up, it goes a little down – I’ve been watching the temperature display on my online weather program turn red and pulsate at regular intervals. That’s what it does to announce triple digit heat … it’s rather entertaining, as long as you know it’s happening outside and not on your auto dashboard. And it helps that the heat is, at least and at last, DRY. The humidity has been around 15% all day, which makes it all slightly easier to bear.

Although, of course, the rising wind brings to life the dragon that always sleep beneath our hills. Los Angeles is on fire in several places. Not large fires, mind you; but the little fires that break out all along the hill crests can sometimes grow. It’s a nervous time, a nervous season, when the heat rises and the humidity plummets and the afternoon winds begin to blow straight from the heart of the sun …

There’s a fire in the Sepulveda Pass, below the Getty Museum and above the ever-congested 405 Freeway. There’s been an underground explosion in Studio City, and appears to be a fire in a utilities vault under the street. There are various structure and car fires hither and yon, as barbecues and stoves and car engines get over-frisky in the hot afternoon, then decide to grow glowing leathern wings and dance on the wind. Our firefighters, though – men and women as determined as St. George – are beating the dragons back. This is an almost normal day, for them.

But the dry wind is rising. We all feel it, we all watch the branches of the trees move and are uneasy – we scan the edges of the sky, to see where smoke might begin to rise. I remember, beginning as a child, watching the red borders of wild fires creep across the faces of the hills in Griffith Park, wondering if the flames could leap the freeway … you always wonder if this time the Great Worm might get away and come to visit your house.

If the fires were distant, Kage liked to go to the movies – a couple of hours in a cool dark theatre was always good. But the urge to keep an eye on the hills makes that an uncomfortable option right now: Kage would want to be at home, too, watching the sky and flipping through banks of web cams. She had an instinct on where to find free, open webcams; she would assemble all her palantiri and watch the flames from all angles available.

We’ll all hope all night that it stays at small brush fires here and there: a spark through a bit of broken glass, a lawn mower blade against a stone, a BMW or old Ford emulating the Phoenix on a verge thick with wild oats and blessed thistle. Little brush fires are all right. If there aren’t too many. If they stay small …

And the wind is rising

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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12 Responses to Hot Wind Rising

  1. You give me chills. And you’re so right. I drove into the Valley from downtown, watching that straight white column of smoke rising over over the Hollywood Hills, like god leading the Israelites, but I was listening to a book and hadn’t a free hand to look for news.It was frightening but distant. Now I know where it was. One of our friends had already reported on Facebook that he was stuck in his building because of an explosion on the street. That will be the one in Studio City. When I got off the freeway, the worst I had to face was the traffic lights flashing red in all directions at Laurel and Burbank, but people were behaving surprisingly well. I even managed a left turn when I needed to, and came home safe. It was hot when I got out of the car—google told me before I left work that it was 105 here–but yeah, dry and almost pleasant in the shade. Just a summer day. And a hot breeze just lifting.


  2. Kate says:

    Well, good – you can probably use the chills today. Thank goodness you made it safe home through the traffic – now it’s ice cream time!


  3. johnbrownson says:

    Your words remind me of the five years I lived in the San Fernando Valley. (Do I have to say “San Fernando? Everybody knows what “The Valley” is.) I grew up in Nebraska, where the humid heat was smothering, sometimes, but few people had air conditioning, so we just called it “Summer”. I didn’t understand real heat until I lived in the Valley, especially when the Santa Anas blew in from the East. I used to hang out a batch of laundry- four lines. By the time I had hung the fourth line, the first line was dry. THAT is dry heat, children. Oddly, I do not miss it a bit. Not even a little.


  4. Kate says:

    Oh my yes, Buffalo – I’ve always been grateful I live/lived in the Hills, and not in the Valley! On the days – and nights – the desert breathes out, we all become glass blowers here … everything illuminated with raging fire and heat.


  5. Elaine says:

    I miss the East Wind. Don’t miss the fires, though.


    • Kate says:

      Well, the fires are the price we pay for the golden hills and the sunlight. At least, tonight, we’re pretty lucky – there are several small fires, but all are being contained. There’s that vault fire in Studio City, plus a warehouse – complete with burning tractor! – over in Sun Valley. Then there’s the brush fire in the Sepulveda Pass, plus one in Chavez Ravine. That last one is about out, which is good because there is also a baseball game up there tonight … I tell you, the excitement just never ends around here.

      City of Dreams! Also Illusions, Delusions, Hallucinations and just plain confusion … ah, that’s my home town! Kathleen


  6. Mark says:

    Saw the Sepulveda fire from picking up dad in Van Nuys… Went from a thin mushroom of black smoke to most of the pass submerged in an umber cloud in about an hour. Radio said it was the opposite side of the 405 from the Getty, burning East towards all those million dollar homes in Beverly Glen… Welcome to L.A., where it’s not the shaking but the fires & mud slides that scare the locals.


  7. Jan Foley says:

    Scary stuff. Fires. Yikes. No no no. I should be thankful I live someplace where it’s still too wet to cut the grass, which is now about 10 inches high, and likely to stay that way till ‘spring.’


    • Kate says:

      Jan – it’s rather normal, for us. You get used to it. Floods and giant storms, now – those give me the willies. I’m used to the fire season because flames can be stopped, distracted or otherwise diverted. Hurricanes can’t.


  8. Kelly says:

    I can remember the long, hot summer nights and turning the pillow over to the cool side every few minutes but I never complain about the heat any more because I hate the winter cold so badly.


    • Kate says:

      Kelly – we’re in a record-breaker heat wave now. It’s not been this hot on these dates for over 100 years in LA: 118 years, to be precise. Last time, I remember reading in the bilingual *Star/Estrella* paper (on microfilm), people were reporting the tar on their roofs melting and running down the walls of houses. Wagons got stuck in streets which were also covered in tar for paving. Los Angeles had discovered the La Brea Tar Pits, you see, but nothing more durable yet.

      And, of course, the burning houses – and streets! – were only increased by the use of the tar. This has always been a weird place.



  9. Kathleen,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your observations about Peter S. Beagle and his works. I’ve only read “Outfit” as a teenager in the sixties, and when I did, immediately switched my dream of riding cross country by bicycle to doing it on a Honda Trail 90. Well, I never did either (so far), but had a lot of adventures on motorcycles, some very similar to his in that book.
    Until recently had no idea of the scope of his work. I was at the NY Comicon and saw his name and picture on the wall. I stopped to ask if the gentleman seated before me was indeed Peter S. Beagle? “I am he”, was the response, and the next few moments will stay with me forever, I met the man whose writing steered my life. Sometimes we’re just in the right place at the right time, and Sunday, there I was!—–Crusader


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