Saturday, November 15, 2008

Singing Mountain

The living room. I didn’t realistically think I’d be leaving it behind forever when I stepped out this morning, but the hundred — if not hundreds — of houses that the Tea Fire turned black and small and far less homey gave me some pause nonetheless. I packed a bag. I’m not embarrassed to say it. I’d much rather look stupid unloading them from the trunk of my car than to stand sooty and sad and wish I still had my computer, my camera, and a certain cloth and fabric approximation of a sheep that has a certain emotional significance for me.

Doesn’t the name “Tea Fire” sell short a natural disaster that has so profoundly altered the lives of the people who met it most closely? “Zaca Fire” — Santa Barbara’s guest who overstayed his welcome last summer. Now there’s a name befitting a natural disaster. Familiar to local ears, but Spanish-sounding and exotic-sounding enough to inspire a certain amount of respect. This one, not so much. A tea fire heats up a teapot. Take it to the extreme and a tea fire could take out a room at a bed-and-breakfast where doilies and Earl Grey live. A tea fire can’t grab the attention of an entire of city recently jaded by wildfires. A tea fire can’t spook Oprah and turn Rob Lowe into an action hero.

This has been a long, strange day, with more extreme emotions that I’m accustomed to experiencing in such a short period. The Tea Fire seems to be waning as I write this — and that is a very good thing — and yet the weirdness won’t stop. Driving home from The Day That Wouldn’t End, I scanned for any radio station that didn’t broadcast news. I got Delilah. You know Delilah. She’s the staple of late-night easy listening who takes requests from people who apparently have tepid feelings for each other. I’m not sure if this was a one-night special or if it’s Delilah’s game plan from here to the end of the year, but she played nothing but Christmas hits tonight. Believe me: There’s nothing quite like hearing the lyrics “It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you” when you’re cruising downtown Santa Barbara in a Mustang, with the windows rolled down to fight off the unseasonably hot pre-Thanksgiving temperatures. Falling ash makes for a decent enough approximation of snow, it turns out.

Bonus weird: Watched Suspria in its entirety on Turner Movie Classics, recalled my fear of covens, and then found out Sylmar got the fire that Santa Barbara didn’t. Shit. I hate to invoke a cliche, but it truly does seem that if it is not one thing then it must be another.

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