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Monday, October 5, 2015

1948: bad girls fly through windshields

     Just in case I’ve never told it, here’s Ma’s “flying through the windshield” story. She's told it often. Here's what I remember.
     By 1948, Ma was fifteen years old and was apprenticing to be some kind of City Hall worker, a bureaucrat. There are photographs (see) somewhere of Ma with the three or so other “students”—all of them men—and their teacher. It’s impossible to view these photos without thinking: “hey, those are guys and she’s the only girl!” But Ma always seems to depict the setting as professional; no hanky panky occurred. 
     Ma had friends, of course. She was attractive and unattached and so guys would hang around like they do. At one point, she was with one of these guys—he may have been in his early twenties, maybe a cop. He had a car, and Ma bragged that she, too, knew how to drive. (Implausible.) So he let her drive his car. That went pretty well for a few seconds, but then she plowed the dang thing straight into a tree. She went through the windshield and was pretty badly cut. Not sure about the young man. He was OK, I guess.
     The two were conscious and climbed out of the wreck. They set about stemming the flow of blood from Ma’s forehead and then they walked to someone’s place. Eventually, they took the necessary steps to get her to a hospital. The nearest one was miles away by train or car. And so she/they made the trek. 
     She stayed in the hospital for over a month. She says that her injury was pretty severe: her skull was "cracked open" and surgeons had to piece it back together. She has never reported anything about comas or psychological effects. She has always told this story sans "brain" injury. Nothing psychological.
     Obviously, I’ve always known Ma to have a scar atop her forehead, though it is hardly visible (it is faint, and very near the hairline). She has always seemed somewhat ashamed of it. She's certainly not proud of it.
     A peculiarity of Ma—or of people of her generation, or maybe of German women of her generation—is a tendency to place some events into this odd category: “here’s when I was a bad girl and I paid the price for my foolishness.” There’s a certain head-nodding, finger-wagging, and pouting involved in the telling. 
     UPDATE: I spoke with Ma this afternoon and she has filled in some details. The scene of the crash was along the border of some sort of military instillation, by then taken over by the Americans and other allies. There were two boys who were with her, and both were in the car when it crashed. Ma says that she did indeed fly right through the windshield, but the two guys--I believe she said they were in their mid-20s--remained in the car and were essentially uninjured. They immediately jumped out of the car and carried or led her to a nearby water pump by the side of the road, washing the wound on her forehead. Then they literally picked her up and ran to the nearby village. Eventually, they got her to her home (in Soltau?).
     At some point, Ma's mother (i.e., her Aunt Marthe) came upon the scene and accompanied Edith on the train to the hospital, which was perhaps "30 miles away." Marthe was frantic, inconsolable. Possibly, Oma Losa went along, helping Marthe "keep it together."
     I think Ma said that one of the guys with the car worked for some kind of auto shop; the other guy may have had a taxi (and he was known to give English soldiers useful direction in finding, um, companionship).
     The car was likely a pre-war model held together with spit. There were no parts available at the time. People patched things up as best they could. Ma says that she heard that the car was in pretty bad shape after the wreck, but that she heard that it was made to operate again.
     Evidently, Edith and the others were compelled to fabricated a "story" about how this whole thing came down to keep everyone involved out of trouble. Ma was coached by her mother before she was interviewed by "the detective." In the end, everything worked out. Whew.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Said she: "It's too late now"

     A lot’s happened, I guess.
     WEDNESDAY. During the pivotal meeting with the neurologist ten days ago (a Wednesday), it became clear that Ma suffers from dementia—not that there was much doubt about that for Annie and me. The neurologist, Dr. Carolyn S. Neff, I’m told, referred to the then-recent CAT scan, which, she said, showed clear evidence of damage, probably scar tissue, likely from Ma’s head injury of 1948, when she flew through the windshield of a car, cracking her right upper forehead (she spent over a month in the hospital). Based on that information and information provided during this meeting (Annie was present to provide more or less coherent sentences), Neff became convinced that Ma is indeed suffering from dementia and that, likely, there are frontal lobe issues—possible “seizures”—that are contributing to her behavioral problems, namely, confusion, self-identity problems, changes of mood, curious shaking, imagined strangers, etc. According to Annie, Neff suggested that the especially bad five-day periodabout a week or two previouslywas a “fugue” state.
     My dictionary provides this definition of the psychological term “fugue”:
...a state or period of loss of awareness of one's identity, often coupled with flight from one's usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy.
     Neff told the three, and especially Annie—evidently, Ma and Pa were visibly “out of it” for much of the meeting—that it is possible that there are two issues here, including the lobe issue caused by the old injury plus more ordinary causes of dementia (a more typical presentation of Alzeimers?).
     Ma received a prescription for seizures. The trio was told to wait and see if symptoms changed.
     (According to Annie, Neff directed her remarks to her and suggested that Pa had substantial dementia issues as well. Evidently, he was displaying his familiar stupefaction behavior: staring blankly, evidently unaware, etc.) 
     (Neff seemed to suppose that Annie was at a crossroads and that she would need to abandon any notion of becoming the "caregiver." It was time to bring in the professionals for these two, insisted Neff. Later, when Annie reported all of this to me, I was a little concerned that, for Neff, Annie had become the point person re the Ma/Pa care issue. Annie does OK, but she doesn't always separate fact from theory. Like her parents, she tends to embrace a theory and then enforce it in their perceptions and thoughts.)
     SATURDAY. The subsequent Saturday morning, Pa called me and seemed to be overwhelmed by Ma’s aggressive and accusatory behavior toward him. Evidently, she was complaining about being left in the dark about “things.” I hurried overwith Teddy the therapy cat.
     I saw that Ma was confused and angry. Her agitation, if you could call it that, seemed to be about Ron, whom she spoke of sometimes as if he were a child (when he was a little kid, we used to call him “Roonikin,” and that was the term she was using) and sometimes as if he were the adult he is today. Ma seemed particularly confused when Pa or I suggested that these Ronnies are one and the same person. Speaking with her about Ron produced hopeless and repeating circles of conversation, and so we dropped the subject.
     Nevertheless, it seemed to me that Ma had calmed down quite a bit. After a few minutes, she was no longer angry. Remembering what Annie had told me about Neff’s directions from three days earlier, I drove down to Annie's place and apprised her of the situation. “We’ve got to take her to the emergency room,” she declared, as per Neff’s directions (according to Annie). So that’s what we did.
     Pa resisted, but not much.
     At the hospital (Kaiser, on Alton), Ma continued to be pretty reasonable, not angry, but she remained confused about Ron when the issue was raised. Her sense of the past was somewhat scrambled or blank. Still, she was calm and pleasant and untroubled. We tried to keep her that way. 
     You know how it is at the hospital, especially the emergency facilities. It was your standard “hurry up and wait” scenario. Nothing happened quickly. Our visit lasted five hours, which comprised a consultation with the "on call" doctor, a visit from a neurologist, and an MRI. Sheesh.
     Right away, an attempt was made to contact Dr. Neff, but Kaiser could only locate Neff’s “partner” (?), who, we were told, was on her way.
     After a couple of hours, the "partner" arrived. She, like Neff, is in her late forties. I recall that this doctor's name was something like Haugh. So, just now, I did some looking and it appears that this partner is none other than Parissa Jannati Hagh, MD—who, curiously, seems also to go by the name Parissa J. Jananati-Haigh. (Neff and Hagh/Haigh, who are affiliated with Kaiser, share an office in Irvine with five other neurologists.)
     Hagh ordered an MRI. But, before that, she put Ma through some “tests,” with which Ma seemed to do fairly well (she did have trouble remembering one of three words: "Cadillac, ball, dog"). Aside from confusion about Ron, she seemed almost perfectly normal.
     Hagh also spoke with Annie and me in the hallway. Annie commenced referring to Ma’s earlier “fugue” state, but Hagh seemed surprised or troubled by that. Evidently, Hagh was disinclined to suppose that Ma would have experienced a "fugue." Annie also referred to Ma's earlier "profound agitation." I said: It was certainly not profound. Perhaps not even agitation. 
     Accuracy is important, is it not?
     It became clear that Hagh disagreed somewhat with Neff’s preliminary guess as to Ma’s issues. I think her take was that Ma was not suffering from "seizures" at all but that she was suffering from a more ordinary kind of dementia and that, quite possibly, she has suffered a series of minor strokes. (She asked the expected questions about episodes resulting in numb arms and such, but we could recall no such occasions.) 
     Based on her diagnosis, Hagh prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. 
     Later, an hour or so after we returned home, Hagh called and reported that the MRI had turned out as she expected. She said, I believe, that there was evidence of some small strokes. At any rate, we were to commence giving Ma the anti-psychotic drugs, which are often given to Alzeimers patients. The "seizure" drugs, she said (I think) would not help.
     (A few days ago, Annie and Ma had one of their usual tense exchanges, and Annie told Ma that she was suffering from "psychosis." Naturally, Ma regarded that as absurd and Annie as obnoxious. I explained the technical nature of the term and that, indeed, some of her symptoms were in the "psychosis" category. She seemd to take that well.)
     I should mention that the last thing Hagh said to us as she left us in the hospital room was, "I think your mom will be OK." She was attempting to be reassuring. Not sure quite what she was trying to say though. "Could be worse" maybe.
     Predictably, Ma and Pa are a bit untethered and creative in their grasp of the doctors’ reports/guesses thus far. Ma, for one, keeps referring to her old injuryshe points to her foreheadas the simple cause of her illness, which she takes to be temporary, something to be overcome through medicine or surgery. Pa seems to go along with this (not sure). They seem incapable of taking in the divergence and complexity of medical opinion so far. They need simplicity, I guess.
     At least as far as I can tell, the two neurologists presently disagree about Ma and her troubles. One seems interested in that old scar tissue; the other, not so much. (Perhaps it is difficult reading the dark spots on the scan.) On the other hand, they now have more data, including an MRI. Next up—on the 13th—will be an EEG, which might give us a better picture of what actually goes on in Ma’s brain (CAT scans and MRIs, of course, are “snapshots”; the EEG will provide info during extended consciousness; "real time" info).
     In recent days, I'm told, it has been decided that the anti-seizure medicines just aren’t working; we’re waiting to see what the anti-psychotic drugs do. It's too early to tell.
     Because I work, I don’t see Ma but once a day between Monday and Thursday. Annie, who does not work, reports that Ma often starts the day pretty strong but sinks into being difficult and even agitated later in the day. (I don't notice this pattern. I typically catch up with Ma late in the afternoon, and I don't see agitation.) 
     Yesterday, Ma seemed to do well. Or so reports Pa.
     THIS MORNING, Pa seemed to have a good report of Ma’s state, though, he said, she insisted on sleeping all morning, waking for lunch at about 12:30.
     It is difficult watching these two interact with each other. Pa has his own issues. His hearing is poor and he makes no effort to adust by listening carefully. He is in the habit of uttering “huh?” with everything that anyone says or any noise they make, inspiring endless annoyance and strain. He is more likely to be confused than to understand others’ remarks, many of which are not even directed at him though he invariably takes them to be. Ma regularly rolls her eyes. Their confusion routines would be hilariousmuch like Burns and Allen's old schtickif they weren’t, in fact, a likely portent to a sad and dismal decline.
     At lunch today, Ma seemed pretty normal, though she expressed confusion and frustration over Ray's relationship to Ron and Susan and the kids. Somehow, she had the notion that Ray's genetic information (sperm?) is, or must be, involved in the production of Susan and Ron's children—and yet Ray never met Susan. It's a paradox, in her mind. I gently suggested that Ray made no kind of contribution to producing the four grandkids. "Susan and Ron," I said, "managed to produce those four kids all by themselves." That, I said, is normal.
Young Teddy
     Ma complained that nobody had explained the situation to her. I said, "well, you were there, as we all were, when these events unfolded. Really, you weren't left out of anything and everything is OK." She was unconvinced but ceased carping.
     After lunch, Annie came by to work on "the meds" (this seems to take about an hour or two out of each day; not sure why). I helped her as Teddy patiently (and sometimes impatiently) waited for his usual brushing and tickling session with Annie. Pa went off to supervise Luis, who was clearing away branches from oak trees.
     Ma decided to go back to bed.
     After an hour or so, it was finally time for Annie to play with Teddy—in the living room, which is customary (for Teddy, customs must be followed!). But it soon became clear that we were keeping Ma awake (such noise has never bothered her in the past). We quieted down. Nevertheless, she soon grumpily stalked out of the bedroom and commenced busying herself with cleaning sinks. 
     I asked her if everything was OK, and she said that she couldn’t sleep “because of all the noise.” I said that we would leave her now. Said she: “It’s too late now.”
     It's very unlike her to say something like that. It's the angry Edith.
     Annie and I decided to take the boy and leave, and so we did.
     Ron will be coming by tomorrow morning. Annie worries that he will get Ma upset, what with his quasi-psychiatric probings and efforts at reordering Ma's mind. "The doctor said that she's not supposed to get upset in any way," said Annie.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Big Trouble in Little Trabuco: a widening of the eyes

     In class, this morning, I watched a video with students. Found myself tapping my foot like a kid.
     Do 60-year-old men nervously tap their feet?
     Once, on Facebook, I mentioned the power of music to enthrall (me anyway) and someone I know (a friend who was actually an acquaintance) responded that mine was obviously the perspective of someone who has never had children. I asked her if she was accusing me of cluelessness (i.e., insubstantial personhood), and, essentially, she said yes.
     “Oh my,” I said.

     In a world with too many people, I decided not to make matters worse.
     And this is what I get.
     And music’s power over me is evidence of my insubstance.

     Speaking of people who confuse a perverse determination to procreate with wisdom and substance, Ma and Pa Kettle have entered a new phase in their careers, what with Marjorie Main now imagining 2nd husbands and unwanted phantom sleepmates. The new hallucinatory aspect seemed to happen all at once about two weeks ago. Suddenly, conversation with Ma included references to nonexistent people and occasional talk of killing them.
     “Don’t do that,” I said. “If you really want to kill someone, tell me, and I’ll do it,” I said.
     Oddly, my chief reaction to Ma’s new aspect was a widening of the eyes, but nothing else of note. Funny how the world can change but everything seems exactly the same. Except those widened eyes.
     As near as I can tell, Pa is reeling from all this, and he has not a clue what to do. It does not seem to occur to him that one might discover the source of this trouble by visiting doctors. I try to monitor their visits to doctors, but it is nearly impossible (owing to the usual eccentricities of thought and speech).
     Tomorrow, they'll visit a specialist who will report results of a CAT-scan taken weeks ago. Pa discourages my accompanying them; it will reveal nothing, he assures me. He seems to assume that the visit is a waste of time.
     Can’t imagine why he is so sure. His prejudices are getting the best of him, as they often  do. Dr. Pa has diagnosed the problem: stress. His prescription: no unpleasantness.
     The truth is, we just don’t know whence the hallucinations. We should endeavor to find out. "Stress" ain't gonna cut it.

     In a sense, the hallucinations weren’t sudden. For years, Ma has has regularly seen things that aren't there—out the window, in the hills, across the patio, etc. Women in cars, dogs on cliffs, monsters in the air. If you called her on any of this, she’d back down pretty quickly.
     No longer. Now, she says: “No vixen sitting in the truck? OK, if you say so.”

Diagnosis: stress
     The family—i.e., Pa, Annie, Ron and me—need to get together and get on the same page about this. But it is already clear that that won’t happen, not any time soon. Pa seems clueless with a vengeance--and he imagines himself a martyr, I think. Ron is his usual self. Having been essentially absent from the scene for years, he arrived—at my prompting—and commenced issuing advice and rebuking our “impatience.” Annie nearly smacked him.
     But we love him.

     Years ago, we all thought Pa was the one in mental decline. But, in truth, he is the strong one of the pair, and I fear that he is as strong as he is only and exactly because he feels that he must be, for Ma. He sometimes says that he is dying and then issues a lugubrious sigh. How does one approach someone like that?
     If Ma declines rapidly, Pa will soon follow.

     It looks bleak.

     But, in Ma’s case, we don’t know what we’re dealing with yet. Maybe soon. Gotta get info, get organized.

     Hard times now. Worse times acomin’.

P.S.: found it:


     I think I'm in love with Chan Marshall. —Well, not her. I don't know her. What I imagine her to be. Love that. Passionately.
     She seems so delicate. Love her singing, but she seems always a silly millimeter away from a nervous breakdown.
     I can totally relate.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Annie x eleven

Annie, c. 1958, Canada
Annie, c. 1960 (Orange?)
Annie, c. 1958 (Canada)
Annie, c. 1958 (Canada)
Annie, 1972
Annie, 1973
Annie, 1973
Annie, 1973
Annie, 1974
Annie, 1974
Annie, 1976

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Our Huntington Beach Outing

     I hatched the plan to take everybody out to lunch—in Huntington Beach, on or near the pier. So, on Wednesday, that's what we did.
     A change of pace. Ocean air. Grooviness.

     We all remembered Huntington Beach and environs of long ago—circa early 60s. We remember all those oil derricks and the pervasive smell of oil. And we recalled getting those tarballs on our feet. Those phenomena are all gone now, as were all those tin cans of "Tin Can Beach," north of the pier, all those years ago.
     Is it just me, or do others see how aggressive looking the faces on toys have become?
     "Yeah, Charley's stole the handle, and the train it just keeps going, no it won't slow down."

     Yes, Ruby's. They need to crank up their AC.
     Annie took this pic.

     Pa somehow gravitated to a bench, near the end of the pier, with a plaque of some guy named "Bauer" on it.

     As you can see, I persist in being much too large for this world. Wearing black helps a little.

     The weather was beautiful, natch. There was some wind and some surf. Pretty nice day.

     Mr. Seagull

     The usual goofy kids, soap balloon making machine, etc.

Roy, Ma, & Annie in Santa Monica: 55 years ago

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Miscellaneous 70s and 80s photos

Manny took this during a trip (with Edith and Ron) up north, early 80s?

Attila in the grass on the hill behind our place in Trabuco Canyon, c. 1975
Looking south(?) from Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mountain), c. 1974, during a day trip including Ron, Ray, Roy and Ildy & Attila in Roy's old '66 Beetle
Annie dancin' in the surf, Point Reyes (during a trip Ron/Ray/Roy took up to Annie's), c. 1975
Again, from atop Santiago Peak
Hermann & Marianne (with Ray? and Roy in the background), hanging around the old trailer, c. early 80s
Ildy action shot, c. late 70s
Kathie looking over Newport Hills area, c. 1984 
The magnificent Ildico, c. 1976
Upper Owens Valley (eastern Sierras), c. 1980s
Plano Trabuco (present day Rancho Santa Margarita), taken during a drive with Ron/Ray/Roy and Ildico/Attila, c. 1974
Roy & Kathie, Lewistown, c. 1982

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Mr. Fire: loomage
     I recently returned from a brief trip to Mammoth. I took the trip with Kathie, and we had a chance to talk, which was crucial, I think, to our sense of the trip’s success. We talked about lots of things, including unimportant things and important things. Imagine that! People can be together for hours—or days or years!—without talking. Kathie and I detect such deficits as one might detect a lack of sleep or vitamin C. A lengthy tête-à-tête is usually prescribed.
     I turned 60 on the day the trip started (Tuesday, the 14th). Sheesh. Whadya gonna do? To ward off the bad juju, I had burned five super-duper music CDs—A through E—just for the trip. Kathie liked B the best, especially the music of one Sharon van Etten, the sort of folk singer that Kathie generally gravitates to but that I managed to find and like whilst surfing YouTube. (See music list below.)
$Westin Monache Resort Mammoth$
We stayed at first-rate hotels, except in Bishop, that hayseed haven, which offers at least one decent place with its own babbling brook ensconced in concrete. ("No fishing" signs are posted everywhere.) The place was practically next door to the famous Schatz bakery of Bauer lore.
Kathie’s beloved "blue" Subaru Forester was perfect for the trip. She’s proud of that thing and, sure enough, it performed like a trooper!
It’s odd, but I felt ill during this trip and during each of our previous trips of the last few years. Breathing issues, energy/fainting issues. Pretty serious and alarming, really, though I don't worry anymore. Don’t know what that’s all about. (After a trip a couple of years ago, I consulted three doctors trying to nail down the issue, but we never got anywhere.)
Still, we had fun. I tend to settle into a chirpy Existentialism and Smilishness during these adventures. (See previous posts, pics.)
* * *
Simon the chocolate Lab
The morning of the day we were to return (a Friday), Annie texted us about some fiasco down in Irvine. Ron and Susan and their gang had left for their own Sierra trek (a short backpacking trip), and they had left their old dog, Simon, a chocolate Lab, at some doggie day care (and night care, I guess). (You'll recall that Simon was Susan’s mother’s beloved dog. Nancy passed maybe a year and a half ago, and so it happened that Simon became the beloved Bauer family dog [and Nancy totem], living well past his expiration date.) But the guy who ran the doggie place got a look at Simon and declared that he was not well enough to stay at his fine establishment. Don’t know how Annie got clued into that, but she somehow did and ended up picking up (“rescuing”) Simon, who, according to Annie, was on death’s door (he was dehydrated, weak, and terribly anxious). She ended up on the floor with him, hugging and reassuring him. By the time I got to Trabuco Canyon, late Friday night, I found Annie at her place, harried, pissed, and overwhelmed by her efforts to care for Simon, which, evidently, she was doing sans help from Ma or Pa. (She explained that, but never mind.) I hung around and got ‘em settled into a situation for the night: she moved into her outside tent/room, which was wired for light/C-PAP, and which she could share with Simon, who seemed to have no control over his bowels and who continued to be somewhat agitated, albeit goofy and friendly.

It was a very shitty situation. I kept telling Annie that, “tomorrow, it will be a whole new day and we’ll deal with it then.” I told her I was not going to abandon her with this fubar from hell.
Next morning, I went to Ma and Pa’s and connected with the Boy (my cat Teddy—I actually missed him a great deal) and discussed the Simon situation with them. Owing to my rhetorical approach—well, that comes natural—they became concerned (why hadn’t they done that yesterday?) and agreed that Simon should be moved up into their garage right away. One good reason for that: it was plainly going to rain, and Annie’s tent would not stand up to that.
Afterward, I went down to Annie’s place and I informed her of the new situation. Pretty soon, we moved Simon up to Ma and Pa’s garage and provided a nice setup for the old guy: a mat, some blankets, food, etc. Annie and I took turns watching over Simon, who is stone deaf and probably blind too and who exhibited obvious “abandonment” behavior (he kept looking for someone: no doubt Ron and Susan and the kids).  
I suggested to Annie that she go back to her place and catch some Zzzzs with her cat TigerAnn, who was maximally put out by all this canine folderal. She did.
The storm came in and it started raining pretty good, but I kept the garage door open and tried to get Simon used to the situation, with people comin’ and goin’ all day. He did seem to grow accustomed to that, and his health and attitude improved. He seemed happier, increasingly calm, and, for whatever reason, he did not shit all over the place. We kept taking him for brief walks to give him opportunities, but he never took ‘em.
     The rain gave way to a significant thunderstorm. At one point, I poked my head out into the garage and found Simon sound asleep on the big mat. Just then, I heard the crack of thunder, which sounded very loud and close. Simon didn’t flinch or wake. Later, I told Ma, “He’s either sleeping or dead, so he’s OK.” And I meant that.
By the evening, Ma and Pa finally joined in this babysitting, and we eventually all sat around with the old dog (we’re all animal lovers), conversing as we do—i.e., as though we were in an absurdist play.
Already by mid-afternoon, we had learned that Ron and Susan and gang had evacuated the mountains because of anticipated flooding and then discovered Annie’s alarming text messages about the Simon fubar. Their plan was to head straight south and pick up Simon that night, i.e., asap. They ran into some road problems—the I-15, at Cajon Pass, was still screwed up owing to the fire of the day earlier—and so they didn’t get to Trabuco Canyon until about 11:00 p.m. By then, old Simon was doing pretty well, though I warned Susan that he was overdue for #2 (he hadn’t done that for over 24 hours, but he had been eating quite a lot). Sure enough, as they led him out to the car, he started distributing turds at random. Ron's crew seemed to take that all in stride. (Not everyone shares my utter horror of dog shit, evidently. That baffles me.)
* * *
Schat's bakery, Bishop
Kathie and I experienced our own fiasco on Friday, driving down the 395 and approaching the I-15 south. Maybe a hundred miles north of the 395/15 junction, we could see a huge fire to the south—where, of course, we were headed. Neither of us are habitual radio listeners, and so we drove ever closer to the fire without any information about its nature or meaning. As we drew very close to the 395/15 junction in some dumpy town called Hesperia, it was clear that the fire was more or less at the Cajon Pass and that it could spell problems for our plan to take the 15. About a mile short of the junction, I noted an unusually strong stream of traffic moving in the opposite direction. I speculated that cars were seeking an alternative route.
“Uh-oh,” said Kathie.
Sure enough, that was the situation. The road to the 15 was blocked, and so we drove right over to one of those gas station/food mart places and asked around among people who seemed to be in a daze. I learned that the fire had messed up the 15 and so nobody was going south on that road anytime soon, though one couple told me that a cop had yelled to somebody that the road would open “in about an hour and a half.” That seemed unlikely. Meanwhile, the fire loomed hugely behind us, filling that part of the sky. (The weather was quite good and visibility was perfect.)
We headed in the opposite direction on the 395 (i.e., north), hoping to find an alternative route to the south. Kathie, our navigator, suggested that we take Phelan Rd. to the west, and so we did that, as did many others. Ultimately, Phelan would take us to the 138, which goes southeast straight into the 15—hopefully, “below” the fire area. (That ultimately proved to be a good plan and probably the only viable plan.)
As we crawled along Phelan among the Joshua Trees, with the fire looming just a few miles to our left, we began to experience the kind of foolishness that erupts at such times. Intermittently, we saw drivers roaring past everyone or darting into or across our queue. WTF? Very dangerous, irresponsible. "These people deserve to die," we said.
We turned on the radio and learned at long last about the fire, which was clearly viewed by the media as something extraordinary, mostly because it had crossed over the southbound 15, causing many drivers to stop, abandon their cars, and run like hell away from the flames. Dozens of cars were burned up and thousands of cars were stuck in place as the fire roared. What a spectacle! What a mess!
Kathie & Roy @ Mammoth
On the radio, we started hearing stories about people running amok, looting stores—that sort of thing. We realized that some of the news stories about such craziness concerned a location very near where we were driving (perhaps a few miles to our left). We weren’t afraid, but we knew that it would be good to make headway out of the area as soon as possible. And so we stayed on Phelan and eventually made our way to the 138. Radio stories seemed to suggest that, behind us, Phelan, too, had been closed, so we felt lucky making any headway at all.
Eventually, we got to the 15, and we headed south. Whew!
     I said nothing at the time, but I was vaguely aware that we had dealt with this situation—hours of uncertain and dicey travel in unfamiliar semi-civilized territory—with nothing but good humor and rationality. Even with that goddam fire looming over us, we were having fun.

*Subsequent days brought record-breaking rain to Southern California. Sheesh. It's been feelin' like Florida around here ever since. A tropical heat-wave.
A pronunciation of "perfect" immortalized by Curly Howard of the Three Stooges. Ask Jan.


"This is the face of Fu Manchu"
1.     Heaven - Talking Heads
2.     Every Time the Sun Comes Up - Sharon Van Etten   
3.     The Moon - Cat Power   
4.     Baby, Baby, Baby - Vibrators    
5.     Bad Lie - Wheels On Fire           
6.     I Don't Know What to do - White Stripes        
7.     The Have Nots - X          
8.     Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs           
9.     Get Together - Youngbloods     
10. Whenever You're Ready [Demo Version] - The Zombies      
11. These Days (LP Version) - Jackson Browne                
12. Fu Manchu - Desmond Dekker             
13. Countdown - Lindsey Buckingham                              
14. Flowers In December - Mazzy Star      
15. Who'll Stop The Rain - John Fogerty & Bob Seger
16. Lived In Bars - Cat Power         
17. Billy - Bob Dylan                         
18. Pulled Up - Talking Heads        
19. High Point Two-Step - Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band
20. Needles And Pins - The Searchers       
21. The Scientist - Johnette Napolitano & Danny Lohner

"I'd like to think I'm the mess
you'd wear with pride"
1.     A Setting Sun - Grand Archives
2.     She's Got You - Cat Power         
3.     I Don't Want to Let You Down - Sharon Van Etten    
4.     I'll Be Your Mirror - Clem Snide           
5.     Pale Blue Eyes - The Kills          
6.     I'm Gonna Try - Shimmering Stars      
7.     Rock Lobster - B-52's     
8.     I Go to the Barn Because I Like the - Band Of Horses
9.     Dark End of the Street - Cat Power     
10. Compliments - Band Of Horses
11. Don't Worry Baby - Beach Boys           
12. Across The Universe - The Beatles       
13. Hey Jude - The Beatles  
14. Feel (Alternate Mix/1972) - Big Star  
15. Wicked Gil - Band Of Horses     
16. Can't Find My Way Home  - Blind Faith 
17. Dreaming - Blondie        
18. Just Like a Woman - Bob Dylan            
19. Solitary Man - Chris Isaak         
20. Telstar - The Tornadoes

"And his cheeks in a chunk
With his cheese in the cash"
1.     Stir It Up - Bob Marley  
2.     Presence Of The Lord - Blind Faith      
3.     Cry Like A Baby - Box Tops       
4.     I'm goin' down - Bruce Springsteen    
5.     Time Pass Slowly - Judy Collins            
6.     Pritouritze Planinata  - The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Choir
7.     Halfway Spoken Heart That Feels Comfort In Everything Until It Dissapears And Then It's Gone - Carissa's Wierd    
8.     Where Is My Love - Cat Power
9.     The Goonies 'r' Good Enough - Cyndi Lauper 
10. Some Devil - Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
11. The Funeral - Band Of Horses  
12. I Cut Like A Buffalo - The Dead Weather        
13. Midnight Blues - Detroit Cobras           
14. Hands - The Dutchess & The Duke                  
15. Bell Bottom Blues - Eric Clapton           
16. Tell Her No [BBC-Radio] - The Zombies           
17. Million Dollar Bash - Bob Dylan & The Band  
18. Don't Look Back - Fine Young Cannibals         
19. Awaiting on you all - George Harrison             
20. Detroit Breakdown - The Gories           
21. The Luck You Got - High Strung           
22. Living This Life - The Dutchess & The Duke   

"And this place where I now live
will burn to ash and cinder" 
1.     One Day  -  Sharon Van Etten     
2.     Naked, If I Want To - Cat Power           
3.     Gypsy Death & You - The Kills  
4.     Million Dollar Bash - Bob Dylan & The Band  
5.     Who's Been Talkin' - Howlin' Wolf       
6.     Our Town - Iris DeMent
7.     Pressure Drop - Izzy Stradlin & The Ju Ju Hounds    
8.     Flake - Jack Johnson       
9.     Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands - Joan Baez   
10. Little Darlin' - Joan Baez   
11. One of us - Joan Osborne                      
12. We Would Be Building - John Fahey    
13. Small Town (Acoustic Version) - John Mellencamp   
14. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash                  
15. Someday Soon - Judy Collins                
16. Police & Thieves - Junior Murvin
17. Future Starts Slow - The Kills   
18. Goodnight Bad Morning - The Kills                  
19. Alone Again Or - Love    
20. When My Morning Comes Around - Iris DeMent       

"Don't let on, don't say she's broke my heart
I'd go down on my knees but it's no good to pine"
1.     Bathwater - No Doubt   
2.     California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas                     
3.     Halah - Mazzy Star         
4.     Sweet Sensation - The Melodians        
5.     Wordless Chorus - My Morning Jacket
6.     Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter - Nellie McKay         
7.     Gimme Shelter - Patti Smith     
8.     Another Cup of Coffee - White Stripes
9.     If I had a hammer - Peter, Pall, & Mary           
10. Show Me - Pretenders   
11. The One I Love - REM    
12. Hello Mary Lou - Ricky Nelson  
13. Miss You - The Rolling Stones   
14. Until I'm One with You - Ryan Bingham         
15. Angel - Shaggy                
16. If It Makes You Happy - Sheryl Crow  
17. I'm A King Bee (Single Version) - Slim Harpo 
18. Everybody Is A Star - Sly & The Family Stone
19. Beast Of Burden - The Rolling Stones  
20. Sun Shines out of his behind - Smiths 
21. Hey Little Girl - Syndicate of Sound     
22. Jeepster - T-Rex                      
23. Fly Me To The Moon - Frank Sinatra