In the Mission District.


I make a big deal of being born in Brooklyn. I make a bigger deal about living in New Orleans. But, I spent most of my time in between living in California. I grew up there. I went to high school there. I went to college there. The earliest days of my career started there.

California always tugs at my heartstrings.

Now it’s on fire.

Wildfires are big, fast-moving, dangerous things. Usually, they burn large sections of uninhabited countryside. Maybe a few buildings are involved. Maybe structural loss is numbered in the hundreds. Some people lost their property but not their lives.

Not this time.

One of the fires burned about half of a small city. Santa Rosa. Structural loss is numbered in the thousands. Eleven people have died there. The land around Napa and Sonoma —Β  California’s big wine region — has been either been burnt, or has heavy smoke damage which makes the surviving grapevines unusable. After all, nobody wants to drink smokey Cabernet. It takes about five years for a grape crop to mature to the point where it is ready to pick, let alone age and bottle.

That’s in the north. Above the Bay Area. In the south, a wildfire sprang up in Anaheim Hills. A big fire. One that is very near to large population centers. You have to understand, that a good part of Southern California is wall-to-wall people from Los Angeles to San Diego with a break at the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton. I forget how far east that stretches. I know that people commute from Riverside to Los Angeles in order to work and to be able to afford housing. That’s a long drive even without the parking lots that they call freeways.

Here’s the thing. Wildfires, in most cases, are nature’s way of keeping brush under control. As one firefighter said about the Santa Rosa fires, “nature starts them and nature will extinguish them.”

What’s different?

People. I’m not here to talk about population control. That’s way, way, way above my pay grade. But, I can say without any doubt that fires “seem” more dangerous because we are in their way now.

Same thing with all of the hurricanes and earthquakes. You can say that the many hurricanes we’ve lived through these last few months are due to climate change. Maybe they are. But as I have said in the past, it’s hurricane season. What do you get in hurricane season? Hurricanes.

Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes. They are part of a normal cycle in nature. We are too. But, now we are in the way. The wind blows, we are there. The land burns, we are there. The earth shakes, we are there.

Short of something unthinkable, I’d suggest that we recalibrate our thinking and come up with some plans to redistribute ourselves and to come to grips with the fact that we aren’t the kings and queens of earth. A lot of people way smarter than me talk about this. Good for them. I’m pretty sure that the time for talk is way past. It’s time to do something.

The picture. I made the original in San Francisco’s Mission District. Then I did my usual. Tinkering, tinkering, always tinkering. My first version looked way too eerie. So, I remade it into something more palatable. For me. Heheheheheh.



23 Replies to “California”

  1. Great photograph/artwork; I had no idea you’d lived in the Bay Area.

    As of this morning, witnesses have come forward stating that they saw someone tossing lit fireworks from a car into the dry brush around Santa Rosa … so those fires are being investigated as arson. I have far too many friends who live in both the Northern and Southern ends of the state. One of them is the night auditor at a schmancy Wine Country hotel who had to evacuate her guests before she could get out herself. Some of those friends have now lost everything.

    I have spent a lot of time weeping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My first degree came from SJSU. I am a born and trained photojournalist. I worked in the Bay Area during and after college. I even made pictures for the late Bill Graham and a bunch of local promoters in the south bay.

      At one point, I worked for the OC Register and later the SD Union. There was a huge Anaheim Hills fire when I worked for the Register. And, a couple of big fires while I worked for the Union.

      Mostly, I’ve spent most of my career in the south or in Asia.

      I’m sure you are much closer to fire news than I am, but no nationals have that story yet. Most are updating deaths and property losses.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s pretty much all we’re getting here, too … with some additional stories about winery losses. Some places it’s contained and some places still spreading. One thing that has come out is that the Santa Rosa fires are being investigated as arson because witnesses came forward about seeing a guy toss lighted fireworks into the dry grass around some homes. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That is not being reported anywhere. The NYT says for the firefighters that there is nothing to indict arson, although in 95% of wildfire cases there is some human involvement. The WAPO has this almost stream of consciousness report… nothing about fireworks.


      3. That’s pretty normal in high winds anywhere. Same thing happens here. It happened in the days after Katrina. Lots of fire from sparking power lines and broken gas lines. That said, the same “source” is also blaming residents for not wanting to cut high growth. How about this if he is blaming everybody and everything, there are just too many people living in places where they shouldn’t and didn’t even 30 years ago? That’s the issue. After all, half of Santa Rosa burned because 30 years ago, that half probably didn’t exist. Nature seeks stasis. Nature doesn’t care. Nature always wins.


  2. I’ve never lived anywhere other than California, and I’ve always been aware of wildfire danger, but they do seem more threatening than when I was young. My father worked for a power company and was sometimes gone for weeks at a time restoring electricity after the fires swept through. I’ve had friends who have lost their homes in the past and I’m waiting to hear from one friend in Napa. If you’re from California than you understand Santa Ana winds, and it was those winds yesterday that made the fire conditions so extreme. I think it’s not just where the homes are being built, but also the density of the homes. Sometimes there’s not much more than a couple of feet between dwellings, so whole blocks can go up almost at once. Sad times!

    Liked by 1 person

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