Doing Nothing Between Fire and Flood

Kage Baker harboured a guilty excitement about fire season in California. It’s not good when the hills catch and walls of fire sweep down the golden oat and oak covered hills; and she had the native Angeleno’s inborn fear of the sight of smoke rising anywhere on the rim of the wide Los Angeles Basin.

But fire is undeniably exciting – waves of flame like a burning sea are beautiful, as are the night-time hills glowing like they’re lit from within with faerie riots. The very smell of the native plant life – oak and mesquite and manzanita and cottonwood and sycamore, and all the scented soft weeds that wait for the fires just so they can seed – it can smell like incense and fireworks, and it always made Kage’s eyes light up in mingled panic and excitement.

Technically, fire season started August 1st, I think. That’s when the Super Soaker planes we’ve borrowed from Canada got here; though I am at a loss to explain why snowy Canada has Super Soaker planes and flammable California doesn’t … regardless, we’re already on our 5th or 6th major fire here in Southern California, and Goddess Pele herself only knows how many in the state as a whole. Big Sur has been burning for days now, and in those narrow vertical canyons, a fire can literally burn for months – the last time, it started on Father’s Day and they got the last holdout blaze out in the following December.

Santa Clarita, Sylmar, bits of the Grapevine, countless dry fields and empty lots and freeway verges and pallet yards and candle factories and jerky manufacturies have flared and burned. The 10 and 15 between San Bernardino and Vegas keep getting closed as the hills burn and bridges melt. And right now, a new fire near Arrowhead, off the inappropriately-named Pearblossom Highway, is burning out of control – more than 1,000 acres so far. No cities in danger, but those thorny canyons out there are inhabited by lots of hardy pioneer types who treasure their edge-of-the-desert privacy. Except, of course, when it burns.

In the meantime, the plumbing infrastructure of Los Angeles continues to burst at random. We lose a large main on average once a week – some street gets flooded out for a couple of days, until the DWP can find the OFF switch, and we get some weird water damage in the midst of our urban drought. In 2014 a parking structure on the UCLA campus got converted to a swimming pool. Last week the very Hollywood Hills streets where Kage and I used to Trick-or-Treat became a rushing stream for 3 days: I watched in amazement on the news as houses whose driveways I once ran up and down were being sand-bagged.

And half a block down from my family’s house, right now, a hitherto- unsuspected pipe is gushing water into the closest intersection. Fire trucks and DWP truck are gathered, pondering the problem; a small earth-mover just went down the street, off to dig up the offending main. That means that soon we will have a crater lake, I think. Luckily, the street slants downhill away from us, so the flood is running away to the south and east of us; bad luck for the next few blocks down, though. Maybe they can re-route it into the LA River; it’s only 4 blocks away.

It is blocking the main entrance of the local grammar school, but school doesn’t open for a few weeks. Even the DWP should be able to get it fixed by then. It’s almost a shame, though, because (having been a kid in these streets) I know the local children would have enjoyed it. Feral water is always more fun than a pool or a hose.

Oh, and the Olympics are on and off all over the television; and political gaffes and scandals keep erupting as well. The Rams are revving up in the Coliseum here, after decades of absence, sparking all sorts of hysteria; the Dodgers are busy at their their annual suicide, provoking still more hysteria a few miles away in Chavez  Ravine. When that ends tonight, they’ll shoot off fireworks – and we may get another brush fire!

The point here, Dear Readers, is that I haven’t gotten a single bit of writing done today. Nor am I likely to. But at least I’ve kept my hand in, explaining why here. I must admit, it’s been a lot more fun to watch the local fires and floods than sit down and work on a story – so I’ve spent my Sunday as a slug, eating Bomb Pops and watching the news. Maybe you’re having a similar Sunday.

Fires and floods in California – never a dull moment. Even Kage stopped now and then to watch days like these.

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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2 Responses to Doing Nothing Between Fire and Flood

  1. mizkizzle says:

    Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab needs to make a scent called Raging Brush Fire Threatening the Benedict Canyon Home of Some Actress You Dimly Remember From the Nineteen-Seventies Who is Now a Recluse With a Lot of Cats.


    • Kate says:

      Patchoulie, dry-rotted timber, cat boxes and hair … with notes of sage, spurge laurel and mesquite. We lived downwind of an an old cottage in Pismo Beach that burned down one night; it was tragically inhabited by an old gentleman and his equally ancient dog … our first hint that something was wrong was the smell of bad barbecue and burning hair. Not an experience I would recommend or care to repeat.


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