The sound of children playing. Detecting the sound of my little boy's voice in the midst of two dozen screaming and squealing kids. Watching through the back window at the Walther School as the kids assembled on the back steps for their end-of-day ritual, always hoping that Pablo wouldn't see me. He never did. He was always excited to see me, or Jo Ann or Polly when we picked him up. He always ran up to me and jumped in my arms or lap, ready to read a few books. We'd usually end up with a couple of Pablo's friends snuggling up with us to read an Elsa Beskow book, or some other fine volume about farts or very bad, no good days. The other day I wondered to myself if I could go to the Walther School one day and sit on the couch and read to the kids. Then I thought that would be too hard, too weird, too much. My heart was in the right place thinking that. But it's too soon.
Thinking a lot about the fires burning in the mountains that my friends and I love so much. On any given day, I can look out the windows on the east face of our house and see the mountains. Our whole field of vision around here is mountains. Nothing but mountains. For the past few days, the field has been filled with thick white smoke. We're in the jet stream exhaust path for these fires. It's our lot in life here in Silverlake. We get the heat, the smog and the smoke.
Every place the news talks about is a well-worn path for us: Big Tujunga Canyon, Mt Wilson Observatory, Clear Creek, Highway 39, Glendora, Acton, La Canada. To many people in LA—even lifelong Angelenos—these locales are just names heard on the TV news. Faraway places where a police chase might happen, a train may have crashed, or a bear may have been sighted in broad daylight. These places are just names. Always somewhere else. Always somebody else's problem.
I'm familiar with both sides of this concept. On one side: we have been living the dream life of somebody else's problem for the past 15 months. Dream life, in this use, means we could wake from our dream at any moment and find it never really happened that we fell into the most feared, rarest column in life. On the other side: a friend and I always joke about all the strange cities in the LA area, places you hear about on the radio where car dealerships exist, or mattress superstores are perpetually going out of business and having the most outrageous sales, but you have no idea where the city actually is. Cerritos is the one that always got us. Sorry if you live in Cerritos. I know where it is now, but back in the day, it was the funniest thing—Cerritos.
The fires and the mountains and all that is and will never be. These things are on my mind today as I wait for the friendly Western Exterminator bugman to show up.