My Story, Yours Too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Paradise Lost, Beginning to Say "Goodbye"


How can we start to say "goodbye"
It's too godawful to believe
One merciless inferno
ceded far too much to grieve

When can we start to say "goodbye"
Each day's haze, too thick to clear
Death threats invade the nightly sleep
We're paralyzed by fear

Where do we start to say "goodbye"
Sans your crisp, brisk pine air 
One more slice of Black Bear pie
A final ounce of your down-home care




To whom do we start to say "goodbye"
Endearing senior pairings 
married fifty years or more
like the ones that owned and nurtured my favorite antique store (Treasures of Paradise)
Or the banjo picking cow folk, 
the flag-flailing Trumpeteers
The man who saved his neighbors' homes, asking only for some beers

To the men resembling Santa
if Santa dropped one hundred pounds
The teens labeled "disabled"
who beat me in every Skip-Bo round
But if we start with children 
How can we best explain
Their rooms and schools, all burnt to ash
Not one swing-set remains
FACTS ABOUT THE CAMP FIRE:
It lasted from 11/8 to 11/25/18.
It incinerated an area the size of Chicago.
153,335 acres burned
13,972 single-family homes
18,793 structures  
85 identified deaths
296+ unaccounted for; may likely never be identified
52,000 people displaced 
over 90% of Paradise is no longer
                                                        
Honey Run Covered Bridge - before and after 11/8/18. Built in 1886 on the original road that connected Chico and Paradise, it was the last bridge of its kinds in the US. Plans are underway to recreate it, as a memorial to those who perished.

first photo: me in front of Coco Amatrice, 2011

This one "goodbye"
spans miles beyond
the passing of a friend


                          How can we start to say "goodbye"
                             when "goodbye" has no end?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Gratitude and Thanksgiving Erotica

My Dear Silly Hearts,
   Step by step, we're slowly treading a fractured path between survivor's guilt and gratitude. No cluster of  braincells can wrap itself around the enormity of 11/8/18. It's much easier to keep doing and moving, to participate in relatively mundane routine. Thus, I'm hopeful that you're okay with my continuance of abnormal normalcy. (In this case, I mean poetic erotica.)
  There are more than enough (likely too many) photos of the devastation.
  But this is a sweet niche -- my blog, you, and my geographic surroundings.
  In time, I'll bring you heartening, hopeful glimpses of life after the Camp Fires. Chico has accommodated Paradise, literally and figuratively. It's a beautiful thing.
   Some of you have reached out personally to find out how you can help. My favorite local charity, and the one to which Packers superstar Aaron Rodgers donated $1 million, is North Valley Community Foundation.
   An angelic couple in Sacramento started Paradise Fire Adopt A Family- a phenomenal effort that garnered over 10,000 likes and views in the first seven days. They're making connections throughout the world for fire survivors. "It's not about money. It's about loving your neighbor," -Eric and Heather Lofholm. You can find them on Facebook under that name, or on the internet at this site.
  Yet the fire survivors aren't requesting money. When I spent time with them this past weekend, I asked folks one by one, "Do you need anything?" Most said "no thank you." Imagine that! A few playfully told me that I could get them a new home. The rest made simple requests: Pepsi, a Rockstar, beer. (For the first time in my life, I bought beer. I was thrilled to do so.)
  
   Fires are extinguished, but gratitude is eternal.
   We welcomed today's rain.

   Have a safe and grateful Thanksgiving.
Naughtiness is okay (or better than okay) too.
Love you.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Paradise Lost

My Dear Friends,
   I can hardly find one syllable, much less the words to inform you about the staggering devastation in my part of the world.
   I am fine, lucky to be safe. Chico has remained intact. Yet the Chico and Paradise connection is uniquely, lovingly enmeshed. Two very different cities (different demographics, politics, size, climate, lifestyle), somehow we and our Paradise neighbors have grown closer than close. Only ten miles apart, scores of people live/d in one city, commute/d to the other for work. Birth families are/were split between the two. My friends from Paradise have spent oodles of time in Chico, and vice versa.

   A handful of you might recall that seven years ago, I moved to Chico for a job in Paradise.


February, 2011 Sign reads "May you find Paradise to be all its name implies."

   Last Thursday, November 8, within one day, an unbelievably monstrous fire tore through and ravaged Paradise - which had been home to over 27,000 people -- many, sick, elderly, and impoverished.
                                                       November 8, 2018 photo by Skip Culton


   An entire town lost its homes, schools, businesses, precious heirlooms, farms, horses, beloved pets, musical instruments and studios, . . . so much that cannot or won't ever be replaced. Remnants of bone are still being found; numbers of the dead may reach into the hundreds.
   I'm relieved to say that my friends and clients are alive and safely housed - though they lost everything but the clothes they wore to escape. 
   As of now, the fires are only 40% contained. It seems Chico is out of harm's way, as vicious winds push the fires into Paradise's other surrounding cities. Air quality is off-the-charts hazardous, here and throughout much of northern California.
   There aren't words for this type of devastation. Well, I can articulate that I'm extremely grateful.  I am housed, safe, and loved by many. I also feel guilty. I'm fine. I haven't done enough.
  And there's too much to do. The needs of our new neighbors (survivors) are endless.
  Our love and determination to help carry them through is also infinite.
  It's going to be a very, very long recovery process.
   In the midst of it all, heroism and love. I hear story after story - a man who drove his Toyota Tundra to and from Paradise to save people. He got out of it just before it melted. He didn't care; he was thrilled to have saved lives. Upon learning about this, Toyota promised him a new truck.
   A man risked his life (as did countless unsung heroes) to keep his and his neighbors' home intact. When asked how they could repay him, he said he'd be happy with a case of beer! (I hope it's high end stuff. Is there "high end" beer?)
   Local churches, the fairgrounds, and the Chico Airport are housing evacuees.  Businesses are serving free food. People are opening up their homes to whole families, asking nothing in return.
   A soft heartedness pervades.
   As I sat in an In N Out for the luxury of chocolate milkshake therapy, a woman at the table next to me asked if I'd been affected by the fires. I told her that I was fine, but I evacuated for a few days -- to be safe. She then offered to buy me food. (So sweet. She doesn't know me, and that I consider a chocolate milkshake to be a nutritious meal. Thus, I was deeply touched.)
   One of my clients gave me flowers recently, saying she's thankful for me.

   Some of you have checked in on me, and that means the world.
   Humankindness endures.
   It survives the worst of tragedies.
   It won't be destroyed.
   It will outlive this unrelenting nightmare too.

This article by a survivor and Chico Professor, Sarah Pape, is incredibly well written. I don't know how she wrote it, despite her own pain and shattered heart. She's amazing.

  Please don't worry about me. I'll be fine.
  Stay safe, my dears.
  Take care of yourselves.
  I love you.

Monday, November 5, 2018

One Rainbow Tribe! Showtime

Dear Sillies,
   A few months ago, I decided to bring my book to the stage. I thus bribed various friends, pleaded with a local cafe to host the show, designed the set, purchased a stuffed porcupine and other props, sifted through the script many times...Showtime arrived on October 27.
   We had a large audience, one that laughed and enjoyed the show. It was amazing to see the story take on such a lively, endearing, strange, and silly life. There was semi-nudity, the striking of small balls, the toss of an orange blob (bag of Cheeto Puffs) through the air, and more. (I'm sorry I can't post the whole thing; it's too big.)
   Regrettably, I have yet to pay Poor Cubie -- the porcupine on the Trumpeter's head. He did a very good job, as you can see, and stayed in place, thanks to three shoe laces and a red plastic head band.  
   Note that I didn't instruct the Trumpeter to destroy the set before joining the rainbow tribe. It was an accidental but timely gesture on his part.
   I'm hoping you're able to view this. Please let me know, if not. It's very short (one min or so). It's the grand finale - my ultimate message. Note my Bernie socks.
   Take care of yourselves.
   Keep a smile.
   Keep a stash of chocolate.
   Know that you are loved.
                                            
Click box in bottom right corner, after pressing Play, to view full screen.
Cast: Narrator Corey Finnegan; Clan Fans Steve Ferchaud (Illustrator) and Dallas Darnell; Teen Melissa Dye; Classmates Andan and Judi Casamajor; Clown Vic Estrada; Rushing Bride Knat Annie Fischer, Knit Robyn Engel (Author); Trumpeter King Allan Nixon; prickly hairpiece, Poor Cubie the Porcupine. Filmed by Michelle.