Monday, October 22, 2007

California Burning

Horrific day today in Southern California. Much of my hometown San Diego is on fire, including local landmarks like the Wild Animal Park — the smaller animals, including cheetahs and condors, have been evacuated to a fire-resistant shelter on the premises; the larger animals, the elephants and lions and giraffes, are left to their savannah-like habitats, which have large ponds they can escape to if necessary...but still...

Visualize San Diego County, up against the ocean. Picture the city proper, surrounded by a crescent of suburbs and back country. Nearly that entire crescent is on fire or under threat, with fires threatening to burn to the ocean in places.

Solana Beach, Leucadia, Del Mar, being evacuated. I can't picture it.

I grew up in those beach towns, back when that's what they were — unpretentious surfer havens. Cheap Mexican restaurants. I've never been able to fully accept the changes there, the condos, the housing tracts, the influx of money. Seeing these places in recent years makes me feel like a refuge in my own hometown. I'll never go back. I wouldn't be able to afford it. And I no longer want to.

But watching these fires, I feel the pull of where I was born. This was my place. This is where I came from.

Here's San Diego for you: Qualcomm Stadium has been pressed into service as an evacuation center. That's home of the Chargers, former home of the Padres (who moved to much nicer digs downtown).

So many volunteers showed up at Qualcomm with pizza and sandwiches that the authorities are telling everybody to wait until tomorrow to come, because they have too much food, and it will spoil. Meanwhile, some of the concessions at the Stadium have opened up to feed the refugees.

Meaning, fish tacos will be served. Because you can't go to the Q without having a fish taco.

We do pretty well in California with disasters — sure, we had the LA riots in '92, but look how well we handled the Northridge Quake in '93.

The corruption and incompetence of San Diego government in recent years could fill several books, but there still seems to be some basic ability of the government to function and for people to feel that they have some connection to each other. Yeah, there's folks looting the burnt-out shells of houses in Rancho Bernardo; there is righteous anger over the lack of coordination, of fire equipment — why the hell isn't the Navy out there with their infrared-equipped helicopters? No one seems to have a good answer.

But there will be fish tacos.

UPDATE: And massage therapists. Only in California....

No comments: