The Commuter Life: Ready, Set, Go!

Tessie, my sister’s new toy, er, commuter car.

My sister recently texted me a photo of her newest acquisition, a shiny black Tesla. “This is Tessie. Pretty no?” she asked by way of introduction. “She’s sitting in the garage sipping electricity.”

The thing costs almost as much as I earn in an entire year. But then again, the garage in which Tessie imbibes electrons is part of my sister’s million dollar plus home on a mountain overlooking San Francisco Bay. Tessie is now her commuter car.

Someone needs to tell Sis that she is doing things backwards. Thousands of Bay Area employees cannot afford to live there and endure hellish daily commutes from the exurbs just to keep their jobs. Sis, who has always been a bit of a firebrand, has decided to buck the trend. While she has been unable to escape the fate of the supercommuter who spends hours behind the wheel, she at least gets to do it in reverse, and on a nontraditional work schedule, to boot. She commutes from her fancy home in the East Bay against traffic to two jobs in the Central Valley. She mitigates the distance by working both weekend days and by staying over with my parents two nights per week.

I feel sorry for my parents.

Mom and Dad are well in their eighties, but that doesn’t stop Sis from upending their routine on a weekly basis. My sister leaves her junk all over the place at my parents’ house, then disappears for a week. If my parents try to clean up, when Sis returns she throws a fit about not being able to find anything. Oh, and she brings my parents food and expects them to cook it for her.

Granted, I would not enjoy living the type of commuter lifestyle that my sister has fallen into. And so, the vagaries of fate being such as they are, the commuter lifestyle went out and found me instead. It’s about to bite me on the nose.

At the improbable age of 60, my wife and I have just purchased our first home. On the salary of a public servant, we cannot begin to afford the hyperinflated prices of houses near my workplace in Sacramento. We ended up buying a newly-constructed home in a bland subdivision in an exurb requiring a commute that nearly rivals my sister’s.

I’ll have a better idea of how this odyssey will play out when I embark on this new challenge next week. What I do know at this point is that I must leave our new home no later than 5 a.m. for the 45-minute drive downtown if I am to be assured of a parking space. Coming home, however, will be far worse. The outbound commuter traffic on Interstate 5 during the afternoon rush is reminiscent of the parking lot known as the Long Island Expressway. Not that I would even attempt it. I panic at the very thought of merging into freeway traffic from the downtown streets at rush hour. I am not prepared to take my life in my hands. So I figured out an alternate route through surface streets that is likely to take me at least an hour and a half. I know, I should count my blessings when thousands sit in their cars for four to six hours each day. It’s just that it will take me some time to get used to the commuter life.

My chief concerns are the cost of filling up my gas tank every day ($4/gallon out here), the fact that my already aging vehicle will surely give up the ghost on Highway 99 one fine morning, and that I already struggle to fight off sleep on a relatively short 30-minute commute. My plan is to pull into a fast food parking lot about halfway home and take a nap in my car before hitting the freeway. This, of course, will extend my commute to encompass even more of my day.

I am fortunate that my very generous wife has agreed to drive me in and home two days per week. On those days, I can put my seat back and saw logs while in transport. As for the other three days, I’ve made contingency plans for those inevitable times when there are simply no parking spaces to be found anywhere near my place of employment. I will simply drive another half hour to a suburban shopping center and will wait there for Uber to pick me up and transport me downtown. After work, I’ll have to pay for another Uber to take me back to my car. On the bright side, my drive home will be shorter on such days.

All in all, I anticipate that the commuter life will turn out to be an expensive time suck that I’ll never really get used to. And then there’s the whole fossil fuels/carbon footprint/destruction of the planet thing. Perhaps it’s time to follow my sister’s lead and buy a Tesla. Not that I can begin to afford one now that, in my old age, I have finally become a real adult with mortgage payments.

Clearly, there is only one solution to the problem of getting back and forth to work. Beam me up, Scotty!

Advertisements

Sanctuary

I’ve been reading lately that President Trump has been considering transporting Central American immigrants from our southern border to so-called sanctuary cities and dropping them off there.  “They should be very happy,” Trump allegedly said, referring to those of us who believe that we should welcome those who seek refuge in our country.

Here in California, we appear to be at ground zero for this proposal.  Not only do we have plenty of asylum-seekers showing up at the San Ysidro-Tijuana border crossing, but former Governor Jerry Brown declared California to be a “sanctuary state.”  Furthermore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, my own home in Sacramento County, and ten other counties have declared themselves to be sanctuaries.  I am quite pleased with this.

My understanding of a sanctuary state, county or city is one that refuses to summarily turn over undocumented immigrants to the feds for deportation.  This humane treatment of immigrants who are already here is vastly different than opening the door to those who have not yet entered the United States.  I believe that our president is an intelligent man who understands the difference between the two, yet chooses to pretend otherwise for the purpose of creating maximum drama while seeking to emphasize his prejudice toward Latin American immigration.

Still, I say bring it on, Mr. President.

Those who belittle the fact that we care about our fellow man say that sanctuary cities should not expect any assistance from the federal government as we help our newest neighbors to establish a new life in our communities.  Fine.  All we ask is that you grant asylum to our brethren from the south so that they can lawfully obtain employment in the United States.  We’ll take it from there.

Some have suggested that our fellow Californians Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom should take in several immigrants to their gated mansions.  Ignoring the implicit sarcasm in such remarks, I actually think it’s a fine idea.  Let our leaders lead by example.  But if our elected officials choose to pass up this opportunity to show their mettle, no worries.  The rest of us will step up and set the example for them.

It’s no secret that we have plenty of jobs in California that are going unfilled.  It is difficult not to notice the “help wanted” signs in nearly every retail establishment.  There are so many physically taxing jobs, dirty jobs, low-paid jobs that American citizens don’t want to do.  Those who have walked more than a thousand miles to reach our borders, those who have spent their life savings to be transported here, those who have risked their health and their lives to make it to the United States, these are the immigrants seeking entry whose valiant efforts should be rewarded by a welcome with open arms and an opportunity to fill our vacancies and to become productive, tax-paying Americans.  As for those immigrants who become unable to work due to age or disability, we have state income maintenance benefits available to provide them with the basics of shelter and food.

Turning away those born elsewhere who are desperate to join us is un-American. How can our president say “turn around, America is full?”  We are not full!  To many throughout the world, the Statue of Liberty is a welcoming symbol of the United States.  The famous Emma Lazarus poem at its base says it all:  Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

So once again I say, bring it on, Mr. President.  You claim to be a Christian, so surely you can understand our welcoming position.  You know, that stuff about loving your neighbor as yourself?

The Easter and Passover season has arrived, reminding us that we, too, were once strangers in a strange land, relying on the kindness and humanity of others.  Remember, faith without works is dead.  This is our chance to step up and show what we’re made of.  So let us swing open wide the doors of our churches, our synagogues, and our homes.

We’ve got you covered, Mr. President.  And you can count on us to do you proud.

 

 

The Mom and Dad Roller Coaster Thrill Ride

I generally speak with my octogenarian mother on the phone about once per week, and the call reminds me a bit of an amusement park thrill ride.  When we drive down to the Central Valley to visit, it’s not much better.  I never know when I am going to be turned upside down or have the bottom drop out, allowing gravity to take me into free fall.

Perhaps I am being too dramatic, but the fact remains that every call leaves me with new concerns that trouble my mind and inhabit my dreams.

You may wonder why I rarely speak with my father on the phone, and it’s because he is a Silent Sam.  By his own admission, he hates talking on the phone.  I think he’d be perfect for text conversations, but my parents refuse to do that.  So I tell him what’s going on at work, but it’s a decidedly one-sided conversation.  I can’t generally get him to talk about himself.  If I start out with what I consider an open-ended question, such as “How are you doing?,” my poetry-loving father is likely to provide me with his standard comeback, “bloody but unbowed.”  I try to give him an easy out, as I know that he is grateful to make his escape at the earliest possible opportunity.

When I’m on the phone with my mother and she has to attend to something else in the house mid-conversation, she will set down the receiver of their kitchen wall phone, summarily state “here, talk to your father” and yell for him.  Often as not, he doesn’t hear her.

At the age of 85, my father is going deaf.  It drives my mother crazy that he can’t hear her when she calls for him, whether it’s some little thing that she wants him to do or whether she has been locked out of the house in the pitch black night out there on the lonely rangeland.  Despite my mother’s dunning, Dad refuses to get fitted for a hearing aid.  I believe it’s his right to decide what he wants to do with his body, but my mother feels that it’s extremely unfair to her.  She feels as if she lives alone, she tells me.  She points out that they can’t even watch television together, as he has to sit in front of the TV in the office and blast the volume in order to hear it, while my mother watches the big screen TV in the family room at a more normal volume.  Not that they watch many of the same shows anyway.  I don’t think Mom would care too much for my father’s opera broadcasts and gory murder shows.  And I don’t think Dad would care too much for my mother’s westerns and travelogues.  That’s beside the point, my mother would say.

My parents, who have been married for more than 66 years, have for decades honed marital arguing to the level of a fine art.  Their long experience has made them true experts at this pastime.  When we were kids, their hoopin’ and hollerin’ scared the crap out of my sisters and myself.  I’m glad I don’t have to hear it anymore, but anytime we visit, there it is.

About two weeks ago, my wife and I stopped by my parents’ house for a one-night visit on our way down to southern California (one of my regular work-related trips).  While we weren’t there long, our visit was just long enough for us to serve as an audience.  Mom started yelling about how she is tired of feeling like she lives alone and that Dad is going to get a hearing aid or she is going to kick his butt out and see if he can find someone else.  I called her bluff by telling her that she’s full of baloney.  She can blow like a gale, but I am 100% certain that my mother would never try anything of the kind.  Her late deafened husband isn’t going anywhere.  And I’m sure Dad knows it.

Two weeks earlier, my parents were here visiting.  Imagine my surprise when Dad stepped out of the car with a large bandage on his head.  The story was that he had incurred his injury by performing a bit of amateur plumbing.  Apparently, my sister, who has been staying over with my folks a couple nights a week while she does work in the Central Valley, had managed to pull the shower faucet out of the wall.  Standing in the tub with his tools to repair it, my father soon finished the job, stepped out of the wrong side of the tub, and proceeded to gash his head on the protruding knickknack shelf.  Well, you know how a head wound bleeds, so it’s no surprise that the bathroom looked like a murder scene.  My stubborn father refused to go to the emergency room and was quite content to have Mom patch him up.

Then I heard about some of the phone calls my parents have been receiving.  I recently read in the newspaper how there are miscreants and malefactors out there who prey on senior citizens by pretending to be family members in need of money.  I read about one couple who was bilked out of a quarter of a million dollars via such a scam.  My parents, however, are a bit more savvy than that.  They are AARP members and have read all the warnings printed in that organization’s magazine.

I guess it had to happen:  It was Dad’s turn to get “the call.”  The young man on the other end of the line began by whining a plaintive “Grandpa??  I’ve been arrested!  I’m in jail!”

“Who is this?!” my father replied gruffly.

“Your grandson,” came back the still whiny reply.

“Which grandson?  I have three.”

“Your youngest grandson,” intoned whiny-butt.

“Kevin?? Is that you??” came back my father’s reply.

“Yes, Grandpa, it’s me, Kevin!”

“I don’t have a grandson named Kevin!” my father thundered, slamming down the phone.

Good for him, I thought.  Score:  Dad 1, Scammers 0!

Then it happened again.

“Hello!” Dad answered the ringing phone, annoyed that someone in Asia was probably trying to sell him goods and services that he didn’t need.

“Grandpa??  I’m in the hospital!” came the plaintive reply.

Dad slammed down the receiver, fuming.

He had no idea that it was my sister, who had just come out of surgery.

Hahaha! Serves her right for habitually calling her father “Grandpa!”

 

 

Yeah, That Word, the One with the Dashes in the Middle

I don’t usually think about swear words very much.  When I was growing up, we usually called it cursing or “dirty words,” although back when I was a chat host on AOL, we referred to such language as “profanity and vulgarity” or just a “violation of the Terms of Service.”  I had an old aunt who referred to such talk as “blue.”  But my favorite description of all time is the one used by Lillian Gilbreth in Cheaper by the Dozen.  She referred to strong language as “Eskimo.”  I don’t think you can say that today, lest it cast unwarranted aspersions upon the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

Back in my Orthodox Jewish elementary school, swearing was an expellable offense.  Word was that one of our fourth grade cohorts may have disappeared from our class for just such a reason.  I don’t recall ever being tempted to let loose with an unbecoming epithet in my childhood or teenage days.  Such language was all too familiar to me because, well, Dad, and the Bronx, and um, need I say more?  And if my parents started one of their epic screaming arguments, well, that’s all she wrote, my friend.  May as well stuff cotton in your ears and call it a night.

It seems crazy to me now, but in my early working days, I had not one, but two jobs in which the boss and another employee would regularly go at it in a darned good imitation of my folks.  This was before I understood what the word “harassment” really meant.

Thanks to working for a government agency where we keep it clean, and thanks to the FCC and its infamous seven-second delay, I pretty much keep the seamier side of the English language out of my life.  When I venture onto Netflix or pay to see an R-rated movie, well, it’s not like I don’t know what I’m getting myself into.

Then came President Donald Trump.  Apparently, the man is a legendary pottymouth from Queens.  The rumors of his colorful language that swirled about his candidacy have only proliferated since his election.  I’m concerned that this is a bad influence on children and, well, the rest of us, too.  However, I’m not at all certain of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Does the president’s choice of words give the public permission to follow suit?  Or has such language already entered the mainstream to the extent that we should expect to hear it and read it everywhere, including in the White House?

I have always loved words.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for dictionaries.  I am fascinated by etymology.  I enjoy word games, crossword puzzles and, especially, Scrabble.  In that respect, I owe a debt to our filthy-mouthed politicians and our squeamish media outlets.  For much to my delight, I now find word puzzles appearing in the news almost daily, and not in the works of Will Shortz either.

Take the title of an article that was posted by sfgate.com, one of the Bay Area’s favorite news sources, on the fourth of this month.  The headline reads “Trump reportedly said ‘f—k’ several times during a meeting with Nancy Pelosi, and later apologized.”

I was excited.  How could I rest until I had solved this word puzzle?  The possibilities seem endless.  Based on my disillusionment with our president’s performance, however, I think the offending word was likely “fink” (think Michael Cohen), or perhaps “funk” (think of the president’s popularity numbers).  It has occurred to me that the words “folk” and “fork” would also fit, although I doubt that Trump’s intellect rises to that level of erudition.

The problem, of course, is that we have no rules for playing this game.  For example, does the pair of dashes published online indicate that exactly two letters must be inserted to solve this puzzle?  Or could the dashes be a mere indication that some unknown number of letters are missing and must be supplied by the solver?  In the latter case, which would permit the insertion of three or more letters, the number of possibilities expand to something approaching the infinite.  Among the likely candidates are “flask” (the president clearly needs one in his hip pocket these days), “flack” (think Sarah Huckabee Sanders), “flak” (self-explanatory) and, my favorite, “firetruck” (we’ll have to talk to Melania about that one).  Even the word “frisk” has been suggested to me, but we may have to wait to see whether the House pursues impeachment proceedings for that one.

Oh, but it gets worse.  And I mean much worse.  As if the media’s Trumpian word puzzles weren’t enough to leave us scratching our collective heads, Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call recently reported that newly-elected member of the House of Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) publicly suggested that Trump won’t serve as president much longer, as Congress plans to “impeach the m———–.”

Now this is enough to give a cruciverbalist apoplexy.  Starts with M?  I mean, shoot and tarnation, that’s not much of a clue!

At first, I thought perhaps the word was “macroeconomist.”  Nah, can’t be.  Obviously, it’s something that’s not very nice.  After all, opinion writer Molly Roberts pointed out in The Washiington Post that the mystery word means “somewhat more unpleasant than ‘unpleasant’ can convey.”  Hmm.  Perhaps the word is “meconium,” that is, if Tlaib’s intention was to equate the president with baby poop.  Clearly there are too many dashes there to indicate “moron.”  “Mephistopheles” is a nice long “M” word.  Could she be referring to the Prez as a devil?  I thought for a moment that the word might be “Malvolio,” which means “ill will,” but I really can’t see Trump as having much familiarity with the Bard.  Perhaps Tlaib is a smart cookie whose intent was to use an epithet that is far beyond Trump’s vocabulary.

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that Tlaib called the Donald a “miscreant.”  Admittedly, this isn’t a very nice way to refer to the leader of the free world.

Oh, fiddlesticks!  I guess its better than being referred to as a “mugwump” or a “milquetoast.”

 

SiriusXM? Yes! Well, Maybe . . .

I’ve been having an on-again, off-again love affair with SiriusXM satellite radio for more than a decade.  I first discovered XM when several of its channels appeared under the AOL Radio menu back before XM’s 2008 merger with Sirius.  I was enchanted that there was a way for me to listen to all ‘70s music or all ‘80s music (the good stuff, as far as I was concerned) for free.

Alas, nothing good lasts, and this was no exception.  This was a trial, or an enticement, or whatever you choose to call it.  XM soon dropped off the menu, and then AOL itself slowly disappeared not long after, once piece at a time, like the Cheshire cat.  About the time that only the smile remained, we purchased a new car that came with a trial subscription to Sirius.  I had seen its dog logo around, which, with a wrinkled brow, I associated with Howard Stern.

Nevertheless, we soon figured out how to tune the radio buttons to SiriusXM and I was delighted to find the same stations I had enjoyed on AOL, plus more.  Country?  Oldies?  Classic rock?  Whatever I was in the mood for seemed to be available.  I pulled a bucket seat up to the smorgasbord.

When the free trial ended, however, we did not subscribe.  As fun as this was, we weren’t about to actually pay for it.  After all, by this time we had iPods loaded with our favorite music that we could plug right into the dashboard anytime we headed out on the road.

Later, SiriusXM started sending us promotion after promotion in the mail.  Most of these we threw in the trash, as they became nearly as ubiquitous as the AOL diskettes of a previous era.  I suppose it pays to never give up, however.  One day, SiriusXM called to offer us some free months of service.  Free?  We’ll take that, thank you.  At that time, we lived out in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where we able to pull in few radio stations.  The timing was perfect, as we began to tire of the same music over and over from our iPods.

At one point, while my parents were visiting us, the service went out for some reason.  I explained to my father that I just had to call a toll-free number and have them send a signal to the satellite.  He seemed amazed.  Back in the day, he told me, when you had to fix a car radio it was terribly hard work because you had to dismantle most of the dashboard to get at it.

After enjoying a few months of free service, we called to request an extension because I was out of work again and, sure enough, they gave us two more months free.  Eventually, we ran out of luck.  At one point, we nearly paid for service, but canceled immediately when we couldn’t seem to get access on all our devices.

However, it soon became apparent that we were spending a bit too much on iTunes in an effort to refresh the music on our phones.  Every time I heard a song that struck my fancy, I’d add it to my wish list, which became quite lengthy.  When SiriusXM sent us an offer with a reasonable rate for an entire year, we jumped at the chance.

I must say that my addiction can be a bit embarrassing.  Why does it seem that every time my boss drops by my cubicle to talk to me, I have the ear buds in and I’m bopping away to the beat?

It looks like I’m in deep.  First, SiriusXM brought back its all Billy Joel show on Channel 30 (yep, the same one that used to be on Channel 18 before they once again shuffled the numbers like a satellite deck of cards), a favorite that I’ve discussed in this space before.  It brings me back to 1970s Saturdays hanging out in my parents’ rec room, burning up my Dad’s old turntable.  Memories: Explaining references in “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” to my younger sisters.  Memories:  Flipping my father’s car radio on and finding “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” while Dad ran into a convenience store on a freezing cold night to buy me a half-gallon of milk before dropping me off at the college dorm.  Memories:  Referencing the lyrics to “Allentown” in a college term paper and scanning the liner notes to The Nylon Curtain album in an effort to properly footnote the source.  Thank you, SiriusXM, for reminding me of so many places I’ve been in what now seems like another life.

Oh, well (hanging head here), it gets even worse.  I was flipping through the SiriusXM channels when I ran across an all-1940s show.  Now, I don’t claim to be old enough to know this music firsthand, but it reminds me of the big band numbers introduced to me by my father while I was growing up.  Later, after college, I worked the night shift and listened to the sounds of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s on Radio WNEW-AM (eleven three-oh in New Yooooork!) into the wee hours.  I was thrilled when a familiar Glenn Miller Orchestra tune came on, but most of what I was hearing was new to me.  And here it is again on Sirius XM Channel 73!  Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Benny Goodman, even Sinatra.  I have a tendency to get stuck here for several days before I sheepishly creep my way back to BJ the DJ.

We won’t talk about my foray into Sirius XM’s Christmas music stations during the holidays.  (Anyone else here remember “Daddy, Please Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas?”)

But, alas, I am a truly fickle music fan, and it never takes more than a week or two before I start longing for the crazy, eclectic collection of tunes on my phone.  I begin to crave Melissa Etheridge, Lee Brice, The Manhattan Transfer, Bob Seeger, George Strait, Pink Floyd and The Boss, one right after another… with maybe a little Joe Jackson, Katy Perry, John Lennon, Little Big Town and The Waitresses thrown in for good measure.

In the end, the category list and all those numbered channels on SiriusXM can never substitute for my own carefully curated playlist culled from the past sixty or so years of popular music.  And, let’s face it, my SiriusXM subscription won’t last forever.  Who knows whether I’ll be willing to pay to renew?

Um, what’s that you say?  Three free months?

Well, now you’re talkin’.

 

The Notebook

Notebook

My wife and I visited my parents shortly before Thanksgiving.  “I don’t want to make you sad,” was how my mother opened a conversation at breakfast one morning.  I knew what was coming.

My father just turned 85 and my mother will be doing likewise about three months from now.  Dad is nonchalant about getting older; his philosophy has always been that “it’s better than the alternative.”  My mother, on the other hand, seems a bit obsessed about her funeral arrangements.

Mom has a notebook detailing her last wishes, and on this occasion, she wished to inform me that she has updated it.  And also that she’s made a second copy in case something happens to the first.  It’s starting to feel a little creepy.

Now, I know that many will find my mother’s initiative admirable.  I would tend to agree if her instructions had something to do with, say, disposition of her assets (she says she doesn’t have a will) or even what type of casket to use or what music to play at her funeral.

No such luck.

My mother doesn’t care about any of that stuff.  She says that no one but immediate family would attend her funeral anyway, so there’s no sense in spending money for a lot of worthless nonsense.

Mom’s funeral notebooks are primarily devoted to the minutia of how to have her body transported from California to her family burial plot in New York City.  I’m talking about which airline to use, which funeral home to call on this end, which funeral home to call in New York, how to contact the cemetery to have them open a gravesite.

Sigh.

When I try to make sense of this, I remind myself that there is plenty of precedent going back millennia.  After all, the Children of Israel honored Joseph’s wishes to bring his bones up from Egypt to be buried in the Promised Land.  And that involved forty years of wandering in the desert, not making a reservation with United.  But still.  Is this really necessary, parents of mine?  Yes, I know, Mom, you want to be buried next to your mother.  I get it.  Um, I think.  Uh, why exactly do you insist on staying in California if you wish to spend eternity in New York?

I’m glad that my parents no longer have to deal with the winter weather that they so dislike, but really, why would an octogenarian elect to reside nearly 3,000 miles away from his or her final resting place of choice?  To me, it’s simple.  I have resided in California for nearly a quarter of a century, and here I will be buried.  If California is good enough for me to live in, it’s certainly a good enough location for my headstone.  I doubt that I will ever move anywhere else, but if I do, then just bury my carcass there in the local cemetery, please.  Don’t even think of transporting my decomposing corpse on a final plane ride to a location thousands of miles away.  That’s both insane and insulting.

As for my parents, they made New York their home for the first sixty years of their lives.  In my opinion, if they want to spend eternity there, then they had no business moving to California.  I think my uncle got it right.  He lived down the street from us in New York, and at the age of 92, he’s still there.

What’s even crazier is that Mom has mentioned more than once that, were she terminally ill, she would attempt to travel to New York City so that she could breathe her last in close proximity to the cemetery.

There just isn’t a lot I can say when Mom starts in with this kind of talk and her notebooks.  Yes, I assure her, I’ll honor your final wishes.  Yes, I know it’s paid for.  Yes, I’m glad that you have informed my sisters (since they will likely be doing most of the heavy lifting anyway).

Arguably, my father goes to the opposite extreme.  When Dad is asked about his final wishes, he often says something about stuffing his body into a sack and throwing it in the river.

Maybe he’s on to something.

 

When Wildfire Comes to Town

And still the Camp Fire burns in Butte County, California. Four days after walls of flame that seemed to appear out of nowhere roared through the community of Paradise, destroying homes, melting cars and even burning residents alive, the fire remains only 25% contained.

I live near Sacramento, 90 miles south of the inferno, a safe distance from the scenes of tragedy, but close enough to be reminded just by stepping outside. The persistent smoke that has blanketed the area has made the air dangerous to breathe. The local fire department has begun distributing face masks free of charge.

Smoke blankets the area on Saturday. Photo taken on Interstate 80 heading west into Sacramento County.

The sun glowed an eerie iridescent orange as the sky became covered by smoke on Saturday in Placer County, east of Sacramento.

 

Some of the evacuation shelters are now full. Many taking refuge there are elderly, disabled or both. Free food and clothes are being distributed in the Wal-Mart parking lot in nearby Chico, while houses of worship, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and generous volunteers all assist in providing for the immediate needs of the displaced. Everyone is doing his or her part.

It is so encouraging to see a community come together in a time of crisis. And yet I wonder about who will see to the long-term needs of those wandering about like dazed zombies, having narrowly escaped the conflagration with only a car or a pet, or in some cases, with only the clothes on their backs. What of the victims six months down the road? Think about it. Who can afford to buy a new trailer? Who happens to have a down payment on a new home just hanging around waiting to be spent? What happens to the victims when the spinning news cycle moves on and everyone forgets?

And what of the homeless in our area who were lucky enough to be outside the fire zone, who were not burnt out but who have resorted to living on the streets for years as a result of a variety of other unfortunate circumstances? Where is the community outpouring of support for these people?

Homelessness is an equal opportunity scourge and we need to take a no-fault approach just the same as we do with auto liability insurance. The love that I see expressed in so many ways toward the victims of the Camp Fire warms my heart. Now we need to extend it to all those in need. Not just at Christmas and when wildfire comes to town.