America is getting downright crispy. There was a time when “forest fires” savaged large tracts of BLM and Forest Service wilderness and we learned about it in the morning paper or on the nightly news. Back then, when a fire topped the ridges north of Los Angeles, homes in Malibu and Topanga Canyon were on high alert and volunteer fire departments were mobilized to hose down rooftops to keep the embers from torching the neighborhood. But in 2018, the Camp Fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, destroyed 19,000 homes and killed 85 people. Since then, out of control fires are a regular occurrence, and residential communities across the country are threatened by fire as never before.
It feels like the Biblical end of days. Even the Pacific Northwest is under a heat advisory. I’m sitting in a darkened living room. Blinds closed. Lights off. Doors open in the hope that a cross-breeze will redirect a whisper of wind. Our east facing front courtyard is leafy with tall camellias, lilacs, bamboo and yew. It gets an hour of overhead sun at midday then it’s shaded for the rest of the day. M hoses it down and the wet pavement helps cool things off.
It’s almost embarrassing to complain of temperatures in the 90s when triple digits have become the norm across the country. We live in a part of the country where air-conditioning is the exception rather than the rule, but climate change is real and after last summer’s hot spell M decided to have A/C installed in our bedroom. As fate would have it, supply chain issues moved the date from Feb. to September and we decided to cancel. On Monday, the A/C in our car stopped working. I remind myself that it’s the end of days, so A/C is the least of our worries.
In the meantime, we sleep under a sheet with the covers thrown off and the doors and windows open. During the day we drink Italian soda with lots of ice and read quietly as if even conversation could raise the temp.
The last three years have conditioned us for these end of days. First came the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Then the plague of Covid-19. Then the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter. Then the 2020 election, the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol, and the attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Then came the Russian invasion of Ukraine followed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And now it’s Monkeypox. Only Cormac McCarthy could turn that sequence into a good story.
Does it matter that the Seattle Mariners have never been to the World Series but have won 22 of their last 25 games, or that Tom Cruise kicked an unnamed foreign adversary’s ass in Top Gun: Maverick? Maybe it does. They are signs of hope and that the good guys might have a future. Does it matter that the House’s Select Committee is moving up the food chain, interviewing Cabinet members and marshalling information about the former guy’s attempt to retain power? I think it does.
I don’t care if Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are still arguing over who did what to whom? I never did. Nor do I care that Tucker Carlson has a testosterone problem. You probably need to work that out in the shower, Tucker, not on primetime TV.
In the meantime, until the heat index reverses course, we’ll stay in our darkened living room drinking Italian soda, reading a depressing novel called Desperate Characters, and binging on Yellowstone, The Old Man, Hotel Portofino, and never-fail Seinfeld episodes. Who knows, maybe another surprise installment of “the hearings” will rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of January 6. If not, there’s always Zoloft.