As I write these words, half of Orange County is covered in smoke. Several brush fires have merged and become a gigantic inferno, taking hundreds of homes and displacing thousands of people. If the 40 mph wind and low humidity continues, there's a good chance my house may end up in flames. Talk about a shitty day.
So there we are, in my studio, packing important documents. In truth, they are already packed and ready to go. We knew this day might come. I guess this is it.
The Jetta TDI in my driveway has more than enough room for the mega-important stuff-house deed, loan documents, family albums, etc. There's still a lot of room left. So what else do we bring? In less than 60 minutes your home may be destroyed-what do you take with you?
I walk around in circles, just looking at all the stuff life collects. And then I go out to the back yard and pee on the slope, figuring every drop of moisture counts. The boys saw me and, of course, they watered the lawn as well. Standing on the edge of destruction is a liberating experience; it erases inhibitions.
I open the top drawer of my desk and hold a small box filled with my kid's baby teeth and the letters they wrote to the tooth fairy. One of the letters is a request for a Dodge Viper ACR rather than money (Cole lost two teeth at the same time). I don't know why but I've got to take this.
There's also a "promise" note from Carly written like a legal document. It explains the chores she will do if I pick her up in a Lamborghini Murcilago. This has to go. A box of Pinewood Derby cars, each one carefully mounted on a display stand with a placard describing imaginary powerplants and suspensions. Although we rarely won, our cars were the best looking with shapes like Jag D-Types, Allards and Porsche RSK Spyders. I have to save these. A big box of Hotwheels and Matchbox cars as well. We still play with these and if we end up in an evacuation center the boys and I will have something to do.
I throw the remaining bag of feeder guppies to my lionfish. He's eaten so many he looks like he might explode. Too bad he may be boiling in a few minutes. I've also let Steve, our rat snake, have an extra frozen mouse. I take him out of his cage and try to force him into a gopher hole out back. He won't unwrap himself from my hand. I end up stuffing him in the Jetta's glovebox.
There are two gigantic totes filled with photographic transparencies. Images of Martin Schneider's "Range Panzer," the 911-powered Syncro Vanagon, mingle with Andial's 962-powered 911, Dave Anderson's Safari Golf, IPD's Volvo sportwagons, 1552's Jetta coupe, Sean Elliot's E30 M3, rear-engined SAABs, Rallye Golfs, turbocharged Gallardos, Mercedes E500s, slope-nosed Porsches, supercharged Z3s, Alfa GTVs, D-Type Jags... essentially, the last 35 years of this magazine.
Why is this stuff at my house? Because over the last 10 years, multiple moves at work have left us without film archive space. It was either take them home or watch them go into a dumpster.
OK, now I'm nervous. The thought of losing this is really scary. It's my life's work. And it's cool.
There's no way these crates will fit in the car. No way. But there's another option; I can bury them in the freshly dug retaining wall trench out back. I grab all the wife's aluminum foil and wrap it around the boxes and use red duct tape to secure it. From the helicopters overhead I probably look like Santa's evil brother, burying Christmas presents or maybe Santa himself.
A few feet of topsoil over the lids and it looks like a fresh grave. I only hope it's deep enough to withstand the heat.
The air is still smoky but the wind has laid down. Although we were told to be ready to evacuate, it's been several hours and no such order has come. By 7 p.m., it appears fire crews have gotten a much-needed break. They've managed to contain the fire.