Kage Baker loved the 4th of July. When we lived in Northern California, especially in Pismo Beach, she never missed finding some prime vantage point for a view of the local fireworks.
The best years were the ones when all our friends and family would come to Pismo and camp out in our backyard and living room and library and the nearest motels, and the whole unruly lot would go down to the beach to watch together. We had towels and beach chairs; we brought hidden flasks and doctored Slurpies and lots of fireworks. Fireworks are illegal in Pismo, but they are legally sold in every little town surrounding it. The PBPD took the sensible view that – as long as the fireworks were set off in pits in the sand and no one was actually on fire – they could ignore the whole thing. And they did. Ah, those were good times …
Now I am back in Los Angeles, where fireworks have been illegal since I was in grade school. Nonetheless, they are set off freaking everywhere, for 2 or 3 days on both sides of the actual holidays. They go on from dawn to dusk. Many wheelie bins are given Viking funerals at the hands of M-80s and cherry bombs; illegal mortars from China, smuggled into San Pedro, thunder from most backyards and driveways. It sounds like D-Day and smells like a blacksmith’s.
I no longer indulge. This is because I now live on the edge of inflammable Griffith Park instead of the fireproof beach, have emotionally labile pets, and am currently participating in my beloved brother-in-law’s end of life care. The explosions have been going on for two nights now – waking poor Ray up multiple times all night – and are already starting up again. The cats are in border-line hysteria. Harry demands to be put to bed almost as soon as it is dark, and doesn’t dare make a peep until the din stops about 2 AM …
There is a wide and often excessively vocal divide between the illegal fireworks devotees and those of us with vulnerable housemates. Those of us who desire quiet lose by default, because the LAPD also ignores the violators: with considerable less reason, too. I suspect they realize that stopping illegal fireworks in suburbia is basically impossible. But between this wretched and lawless excess, and the equally wretched and lawless excess of moronic President Trump, I am almost sick of fireworks. I resent this quite a bit. A pox on all their brainless houses!
To ease my nervous system into something within at least shouting range of normalcy, I wrote ma
Well. We just had a quite respectable earthquake here, stronger than yestreday’s. If this was also centered on Ridgecrest, then based on the strength and duration- I would say it was probably at least a 7. It was a slow, prolonged roller. Now ALL the animals are hysterical. Other than that,though, we are fine here at Chez Famille.
Ah! Local news says it was, yes, centered in the same place – and is tentatively a 7.1. Ta da! We California natives take an obscure pride in being able to tell a Richter reading through the soles of our feet.
Please hold the folks in the Ridgecrest area in your prayers, though, Dear Readers. This one was definitely worse than the last one, and those poor folks are already shoveling their roofs off their floors …
Here’s some Misses Take and Treat for your amusement. But now I’m gonna shut down my laptop and keep my files safe!
My windows looked out into the garden, right along one of the winding paths that ran through it. I watched the light change for a while, sipping that good water. I could see a few figures through the trees; they all seemed to be ostentatiously ignoring the orchard and my cottage. I was very grateful for that. Once I was accepted and settled in, I knew, the convent sorority would be coming around with the amiable frequency of the bees.
After a bit, I took my backpack and climbed up the narrow stairs at the side of the main room. The loft above was dim and quiet, but a skylight let in a view of the sky centered over the low bed. There was a small chest with ample room for the scarce contents of my knapsack. There was a pitcher and glass for water by the bed. And there were lots of pillows, all with embroidered pillow cases that reminded me of the ones my mother used to make when I was little: not really a surprise, really, as she had grown up in a place like this, too.
When my gear was disposed and I’d tested the bed, I took my Kindle and its solar charger (hey, you can’t live entirely without technology. I can’t, anyway.) and went downstairs. I spread the flexible solar cell on the front window sill, and curled up in the armchair to read and wait for lunch.
Petek was startled at my Kindle when she came to escort me to lunch, but not (as I had halfway feared) disapproving. Ghouls’ interest in technology varied, but was mostly centered around things that let their communities interact with the world at a safe distance. They were intensely into literacy, as well; it turned out that what fascinated Petek about my Ebook was not the Kindle itself, but the tiny, foldable solar cell I was using to power it.
“I’m an addicted reader,” I explained sheepishly. “Condiment labels, instruction manuals – if it’s a printed word, I’ll read it. And that solar cell has made it possible to use my Kindle just about anywhere.”
“We have several of them,” Petek said, gently examining my charger. “This is a marvelous thing – I’ve seen these online, but we’ve never really been able to justify the expense.”
“It’s best for traveling,” I said. “The only wifi it uses is to access my Kindle account, and that’s anonymized. So I can get all the books I want, Amazon stores them in the cloud, and I stay invisible.”
Petek nodded – that was standard procedure in ghoul convents. These ladies would have been early adapters of online shopping. I wonder sometimes how many cryptids are contributing to the success and spread of Amazon Prime. Sometimes I wonder if Bezos is one of them …
As we walked over to the refectory, Petek told me that they had a Kindle network set up in the convent, and invited me to join. That sounded great – there is no doubt you belong to a given household when you’re sharing your books with them. I had pondered mightily on how to get a chance to enter the convent network, and here Petek was inviting me in.
And as long as I was very, very careful – which I would have to be insane to not be – it would give me a backdoor into their system. Ghouls are not, usually, especially tech-savvy; usually, one sister would be their IT person, at about the same level as any household or small business – she would be someone who could find a lost file, undo an accidental deletion, and remember to check and see if the computer was plugged in or not. My expertise was … considerably less domestic.
Besides: I really am an utter reading-junkie. Access to more books was always good.
A stream of ghouls wound into the refectory. A wonderful aroma wound out of it, enticingly warm and fresh on the rising breeze: hot vegetables, fresh bread, herbs and oil. I reminded me sharply of some trendy bistro in Cambria or The sisters coming in for lunch all looked like rather tweedy English gardeners, slender ladies in sensible clothes – flannel and corduroy, skirted and booted; all with interestingly braided hair. Clearly, a deliberate coif was a signature style here. I felt distinctly inelegant with my own hair loose down my back.
“I should have pulled my hair back,” I murmured to Petek. She laughed gently.
“Don’t feel bad. You’re new yet,” she said. “See our little sisters? It’s a wonder we don’t have to harvest whole fields out of their hair every day.”
She pointed out a small table right against the windows, where a harassed-looking young woman was slotting a crowd of small girls, more or less forcibly, into their chairs. Her charges looked like they ranged from about age12 to age 3, and most were wearing flower circlets – the worse for wear, but very pretty in their universally pale hair. Only one child stood out – her hair was dark red, and she clung to the side of another little girl about her size.
Obviously, this was Bree; the little ghoul girl would be her companion, assigned to become her close-sister before either of the kids was old enough to wonder why.
My mother had never spoke of her close-sister. I still missed mine, sometimes.
Petek seated us at one of the smaller tables, as well. There was room for another couple of lunchers, but throughout our meal various women just stopped a couple at a time – to greet Petek, and shyly welcome me to their convent. Their eyes lit with just as much curiosity as any community of women anywhere: but ghouls are almost prim in their observance of manners and tradition. I knew my vitals would make the rounds of the convent grapevine before anyone worked up the courage to to come ask details of me.