Monday, October 27, 2003


It's strange to be in the midst of the So Cal fires—they're about 30 miles to the east and west of where I live—yet not be directly affected by them.

To get to work, I used to drive over one of the passes the fire fighters are guarding. Some of our corporate offices have been evacuated, either because of fire danger or because the parking lots have been turned into staging areas for fire and helicopter crews. Redundancy systems and contingency plans have kicked in, so business continues in spite of everything.

My favorite LA Times columnist, Mary McNamara, writes in tomorrow's column:
Here in California, we spend much time and money trying to perfect our relationship with nature, to find balance between conservation and development. Being the arrogant creatures we are, we portray ourselves as caretakers of the wilderness, stewards of the land, protecting it from our own imperfect selves.

And so we are astonished when the roles reverse, when we are faced with forces beyond our control. A century after the Industrial Revolution and still there are larger things than other humans with their germs and evil intentions that threaten us. Still there are dragons in the mountains, and when they are truly wakened, it is hard not to believe that the end is near. . . .

How difficult it is for us, citizens of the city of the 21st century with the world wired to our fingertips, to be humbled. How difficult not to see it as a sign of the end of civilization. Through the smoke and the heat, not only the landscape is changed, the entire world looks different, incomprehensible, uncontrollable. . . .

Fire season in Los Angeles. It is a staple of noir, a literary incantation used to call up dangerous nights and brooding days. In most years, there is something sexy about fire season; it is proof that we have chosen a life less safe, that this is a city not quite civilized, where coyotes sit like German Shepherds in million-dollar driveways and the San Andreas fault shivers out there in the desert.

But in days like these, anything edgy and cool is lost in the smoke.

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