Monday, September 7, 2009

Just Another Manic Monday

My head is becoming light as the last bit of alcohol drains from my system on this lazy Monday morning. My eyes are red and sunken in and my blood itches worse than 1000 mosquito bites.
There is nothing quite like a good drinking binge to put things in perspective.
Can't do much else right now buy lay back and write.
Every time I shut my eyes, my mind fades back to just a week ago, when I stood baking under a scorching sun at some bizarre recreation area in Lake View Terrace. Just me, about two dozen journalists and hundreds of sweaty firefighters napping in the shade. Yes, I was there.
It was the "staging area" for the big firefight, and it looked like some watered-down version of a Saigon Army camp.
Helicopters circled wildly over us as the Press tried desperately to get some kind of legitimate update on the Station Fire, which was tearing through Los Angeles at a very fast rate. No one could give an accurate estimate on the damage, but officials were saying anywhere from 43 to 100 homes were gutted from the flames, and people were rioting in the streets.
As firefighters returned from the battle, it was easy to pick out those who had been fighting for days from those who had just arrived on scene.
The ones that had been in it for the long haul were usually soaked in ash, their faces cracked and dry from the heat and their eyes were bloodshot from smoke exposure.
Unlike war, nobody wins in a firefight. No matter what the outcome, the damage is already done. And you can bet that the fire will return.
This is what a captain from one of the local stations told me as I trudged through the campground looking for interviews. His face was caked in grease and his sunglasses were warped from the heat, but he was smiling and puffing on a smokeless cigarette.
"Whats it been like out here?" I asked.
His face turned sour.
"What do you think, I've been sitting in a small tent with other men and we all stink from sweating in the field all day."
"Don't they let you shower," I asked.
Suddenly he was all smiles again.
"Shower?" he asked. "You want to see how we shower?"
He grabbed a hose from the side of the engine and blasted me into the ground, laughing like a lunatic.
It was terrible.
But better than the firefight itself. I had been there too. Standing on La Canada Boulevard with an orange juice in my hand, watching people breathe in the falling ash as they stared at the flames ravishing the brush just steps from their homes.
We were all exhausted on those days, and it didnt help that legions of helicopters were spinning just overhead, spilling drops of chemical flame-retardant on us as they past. That was a hot day. And I am tired of writing for now.

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