Taking the New Normal for a Spin

Burned Out Four

Valley Fire 2015

Lake County, California

We flew south from Seattle to Burbank arriving over the Thomas Fire where the blaze had just crossed from Ventura into Santa Barbara County. Last summer’s dry season never came to an end. Instead this fall the Southland of California was treated to twenty degree above normal temperatures, low humidity and then the voluble Santa Ana winds.

Last nights flight down the coast was crystal clear, picture perfect. While cool in Seattle less average was the clear sky. Less than common still was the monolithic singular cloudless atmosphere witnessed the entire length of the west coast. As we approached Burbank after sunset we descended over the top of Los Padres National Forest. Looking down off the starboard side of the plane we could see flames approaching Carpentaria and further north near Montecito. The fire had in just twenty-four hours consumed another one-hundred-thousand acres with the most inhabited of those yet to be consumed acres in sight. Both densely populated communities are thickly canopied and in any other moment would be regarded as blessed with a handsome landscape. Not visible were the five thousand firefighters who had cut fire breaks. Standing along the break they braced to snuff out blowing embers that might escape from the national forest and ignite a blaze within the city limits of the two communities. Thousands had been order evacuated. The Department of Homeland Security had no answer to this terror threat.

There have always been wildfires, but there had always been a time of year associated with the fires. In decades before the present California had grown to near forty million citizens. In past times the wildfires happened out there in the wildlands far from the California car crazed maddened clogging crowds. An unintentional a price had come due for our obsessive horizontal sprawling real estate development. And as we all know Mother Nature bats last in the game called life. In this instance wildfire had come to speak about the risks homeowners take when locating their domicile adjacent to a tender dry fuel loaded landscape that with one accidental spark and aided by an ill-timed windstorm can ignite an inferno of unstoppable proportions.

My much loved daughter in Seattle and her partner have put off any thought of having children. Even at just twenty-five they’ve recognized and noted that the climate has changed, they know that the world is in trouble and the trouble that most concerns them is the trouble people make for the people who take climate change as a real and present threat. Stalemates are quaint even useful on a chessboard and existentially suicidal when played on the surface of the earth.

Puerto Rico is in super hurricane ruins, barely able to function, its electrical grid destroyed. Houston pounded by rains and floods- turned into a lake and now is mecca for slightly water damaged furniture. California not to be outdone has put on a wildfire show unlike any other. How we react, what we do, the planning and precautions we might take will tell us all we need to know about how smart, how intelligent, how adaptive and resilient our species is. Stalemate and gridlock might be a useful tactic in our nations capital but it won’t work here. If ever the world needed enlightened leadership now is that moment. If you are an optimist it is never too late, for the pessimists it already is, either way Mother Nature doesn’t care. Facts speak for themselves.

great tree

Piece of Reality Prior to Wildfire

 

Do Not Enter

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Blueberries on my mind

My lifestyle caught up with my hairstyle. Black Monday’s deep dive has nothing on my temporal skyline. While I haven’t physically resorted to the comb-over there is a forensic team searching the empty corridors of my courage for suspicious activity.

My bandwagon finally collided with my chow-wagon. With my hair going full on canary in the coal mine and my fondness for renewables being what they are I thought I’d head on down to the corner plasma testing center for further guidance.

That of course led me to the door I didn’t want to walk through. The door you don’t want to walk through is the same door, located in the same place like right in front of your freakin’ face, carried with you the entirety of your life on earth. It may be locked, unrecognized, invisible, squeaky-hinged, or have a sign posted warning you to Do Not Enter. Trust me eventually you’re going to have to open the door.

I found an exercise bike waiting. Long walks were there. Extra time on the cushion meditating was there. There were old pictures of how I used to look hanging on the walls. New dietary guidelines. Admonishments especially slanted to the mind altering penchants and predilections of a certain person whose door this is. The self destruct Google Maps app especially designed to not know the directions to every single saloon within drinking distance was there. There was an enhanced Vegan Diet from Carnivorous Hell, smoothies made by retired showgirls, and a fine Pop-up Wheat Grass Beverage Cart all arranged to catch what’s left of my eyes.

Having spent two months on the other side I can tell you for a fact that Sinatra was absolutely spot on when he said.  “I feel sorry for people that don’t drink, because when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they are going to feel all day-” And that’s true, besides who wants to call the greatest dead saloon singer of all time a liar?  No, I’m here to figure out how to put some numbers up on the big board that won’t frighten a cardiologist or get my life insurance canceled. I’m living proof that at some point no matter how you cut the deck or keep a lock on that door eventually you’ll find out that what life is really all about is located somewhere between having less hair and eating more leafy greens.

There are no secrets to life just unopened doors.

 

 

 

Going Your Own Way

ship 3

San Francisco Bay

The Catalans vote to separate from the federal center of power in Madrid, the British vote to exit the European Union are unmistakable indications that national governance is failing to protect its citizens from the barbarians of business and finance.

City of London types leveraged influence upon British Parliament tilting policy away from the rest of the nation’s in favor of banking’s international financial interests. Madrid during the run up to the financial crisis of a decade ago had gone on a real estate spree. The culprits in government, royalty and European banking had their fingerprints all over the collapse in housing prices.

Lobbyists fanned out decades ago with the aim to capture the regulatory apparatus located at the nation-states nerve center’s: London, Madrid and Washington DC among the many. Supervision and regulation of the transnational corporations was relaxed. Labor relationships were smothered while entrepreneurial individuality was encouraged. Profits went to the top while flat wages were sent to the working stiffs lower down on the pay scale.

Agents who had gone to the worlds leaders to purchase their agenda had sold their policies in the false assumption that these changes would be cost free.

Capitalism and democracy have proven to be a fragile alliance in the hyper-intense internet of information era. What is rotten is not forgotten so much as buried in a fire hose of more information tumbling forth virtually toward exhausted consumers of the human condition.

With central governments besieged voters are keenly aware that the collapse of the climate changing ecosystem is racing full speed ahead and there is nobody home to steer the ship of state.

Responding to the well oiled stalemates voters are deciding they would prefer power be exercised on the basis of regional interests. Californian’s do not much care for other regions views on abortion, immigration, or climate change. Renewable energy, electrification of the transportation system and clean air all seem more probably solved by the state government in Sacramento.

It is no wonder that consensus is breaking down. While regional differences grow shrill shouts go out for separating from centralized political power. Head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, and the petroleum centric state of Oklahoma he has long represented is not a suitable policy interface for anything other than the multinational corporations he devotedly serves. The business friendly fringe responds by ignoring a world with problems they have no answers for. In the minds of an ever increasing percentage of voters if this is the case there is no reason to remain.

 

 

Left Coast Lifter

October 27, 2011 Building a Bridge for All the People

Here at work is the Left Coast Lifter. Left Coast a right wing epithet coined to characterize the voting habits of California, Oregon and Washington. We are reliably Liberal. Yesterday was a classic Indian summer day on the San Francisco Bay. This gigantic crane is preparing to hoist into position the last piece of the new Oakland-San Francisco  Bay Bridge. It is a two million pound piece of steel fabricated in Shanghai, China. Ironically the largest public works project in California history turns out to be not quite what it seems. Yes, it will be the largest finished public works project, but it is the largest public works project ever fabricated in another country. I am not sure how that decision was made, but it doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate that if we had fabricated within the United States we might well have employed more people and had more revenue flowing into the community where this fabrication was taking place, paying workers and the factory, and then the workers and the factory would have revenue to pay taxes with and as they say a virtuous cycle might have been enjoyed by the cities, counties and states that all of this activity might have taken place. This is what we our supposed to be electing and appointing leadership to do. In downtown Oakland last night there was a candlelight vigil for Scott Olsen the Iraqi War veteran injured earlier this week when Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan ordered the Occupy Oakland protestors removed from the park they had been encamped in. Here is life, this rich, complex, diverse, multi-faceted stew of all of us mixed up all together and trying to build something that will work better for all of us. I have a suggestion. First, if you are a Mayor forget about removing protestors from your parks. Embrace our right to free speech, to peaceful assembly. Second, if you want to empty the parks of the protestor’s maybe get the big things right, like policy, for example building bridges. Maybe, the cheapest possible price for a bridge part built in China isn’t really the bargain it seems. Perhaps making those bridge parts here might have put food on the table and kept roofs over the heads of our own citizens. Yeah, I’m all for the Left Coast Lifter, I just want it to be lifting the right thing, like the people in this country who need a hand up.

BANKRUPT HEART                                   THE SECOND NOVEL

Ry walked a footpath out to the edge of the bay, a
jetty jutted first south then turned hard to the west forming a breakwater for
the marina. Ry hiked on the trail above the rip-rap. Out on the point where the
jetty turned a woman stood alone in front of an easel. Ry took in the brisk
cool air of morning from behind the watercolorist. She faced the cracking sun
rising from behind the hills in the East
Bay. Next to her was a
portable folding table, sponge, tubes of paint, vase of water, and an
assortment of brushes. She was in no hurry. She stood motionless watching the
horizon. Then, as if coming out of a trance she turned and smiled at Ry. She
had a kindness in her eyes. She was silent, focused. She turned her attention
back to her watercolor.

            “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you
out on the jetty before.”

            “I’ve never been here before.”

            “I know the old Cambodian fisherman,
I call him Bok Choy. He calls me his little pain in the ass.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith