Smokey, ach-ach, in our area. Last night our sky was very patriotic, blue moon, red haze and white clouds. Feel sorry for firefighters battling the flames right in the thick of things, if you will. Smoke at this range is unpleasant, imagine how lung irritating it must be on the front lines? Back a few years ago while in the other house, we survived an entire summer of smoke and haze. Waking up to a red glow hovering beyond the closed blinds every morning started the day with an “end of the world” kind of feeling. Besides being depressing, it aggravated the heck out of my asthma. In desperation, we packed Miss Boo’s kibble and furry toys, and Miss Boo, and headed northeast to Idaho to catch a breath of fresh air.
I spoke to my daughter-in-law yesterday and she said there were bits of ash dropping on her furniture in her living room. A tad too close for comfort for me. I cannot, nor do I want to, imagine what it must be like to watch your home literally disappear in a plume of flames, years of accumulated treasures and memories gone. During the worst of it I had a “fire kit” in the garage filled with irreplaceable pictures and important personal papers as well as bottled water, a flashlight and blankets. Need to look into doing that again. It is easy to be lulled into the “it will never happen to me” state of mind. Truth is, it is happening to someone somewhere who believed the very same way.
My mother will lament, “why do you insist on living in a jungle where fires are so prevalent?” This from a woman who lives in San Jose, California perched directly atop the San Andreas, Hayward and Calaveras faults.
It’s hard to determine which I enjoy least, earthquakes, tornadoes, fires or blizzards. I’ve lived in areas where one or more were a hazard of residency there. Earthquakes are particularly unsettling, both literally and figuratively. Shifting ground beneath your feet can be absolutely terrifying. Making California my home more often than not, I’ve lived through many a good shaker, one in the early 80′s while at work. Work at the time was assistant property manager for a property development company specializing in strip malls. Our office was located on the fifth floor of a modern building largely composed of glass and steel. Alone in the office when I felt the first jolt, I stood in the door jamb and swayed back and forth like a sail luffing in the wind. People from the adjacent office ran screaming by. Caught up in the drama of the moment I went screaming after them. Bolting out of the building (totally the WRONG thing to do BTW if you wish to keep your appendages firmly attached to your body), I saw my immediate supervisor, a woman in her late fifties, exit the ladies room door with her panty hose cinched around her knees. In retrospect, she looked rather like Chilly Willy in an auburn wig.
During the Loma Prieta or World Series Earthquake in 1989 in Northern California, I was living out-of-state in Hurricane, West Virginia. Signing the lease for a house there, I found myself hoping the name wasn’t any indication of what I could expect weather wise down the road. The Loma Prieta quake registered a magnitude 6.9, claiming 63 people. Immediately following the incident the airwaves came alive with the news. I began what would turn into hours of unsuccessful attempts to reach my mother and daughter by phone, both living uncomfortably close to the epicenter.
Precisely when the quake hit, Rick, my other half, was sitting on the upper deck of Candlestick Park. Cold beer in one hand, Polish dog in the other, he was anxiously awaiting the onset the world series game scheduled to play between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. At first, he attributed the movement under his behind to excited fans pounding their feet on the cement tiers. Seconds later a chant of “Earthquake” quickly spread through the crowd. Chaos erupted, and people began yelling and migrating towards the exits. Players warming up on the field dispersed like ants on a hot grill and Rick, beer now distributed over seats 61UR and 62UR made his way down the side steps. It took hours, he recalls, to empty the parking lot. Moving the swell of traffic out of the stadium gates, as you might imagine, was like trying to shove a hamster through a flex straw. Definitely a slow process.
Thankfully, my family was unhurt. Heather, my daughter, said household items were literally suspended in midair then dashed to the floor as if propelled by a ghostly presence. Kitchen cupboard doors opened and closed emptying their contents in the sink and on the floor, and walking during the earthquake itself nearly impossible.
There’s no way to escape nature and the natural attrition of things. You could move to Australia, but ten of the most poisonous creatures in the world make their home there. You might be the special of the day for a saltwater crocodile or find yourself sharing sheets with a red backed spider. You could purchase a home in Verkhoyansk, the coldest city in the world. Might I suggest an additional purchase of some heavy-duty thermals, a wing hat, and some sock warmers. From September to March Verkhoyansk averages fewer than 5 hours of sunlight each day. Some months its 1500 or so inhabitants see little to no sunlight. Winter temperatures range somewhere between -60 and -40 degrees F. The low, recorded in the late 19th century, was -90. Better make it several pairs of thermals and two grizzly bears to lie on top of you.
Haiti with its penchant for creating an ideal setting for the “perfect storm” might be another destination to rethink, or our neighbor to the south, Acapulco, Mexico, with its staggering murder statistics. Rio, a place I’ve always yearned to see during Carnivale has unfortunately become too dangerous for tourists to explore.
As always there is a difference between being prepared and hovering in the wings waiting for the end to come. Like dying, if you sit around worrying about what could happen to you, you often miss what is happening to you.
This was excellent. We both inspected the pattern on the bottom of our bowls. Spicy, stringy and delish.
Crockpot Spicy Taco Soup
4 skin on chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 16 oz. cans chili beans, undrained
1 16 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 12 oz. can beer
1 pkg. taco seasoning (I used Lawry’s hot)
1 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes w/jalapenos
1 cup chicken broth
Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Place chicken thighs in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and continue cooking uncovered for about 25 mins. or until chicken is cooked through. Remove skin and shred with a fork.
Spray bottom of 6 qt. crockpot. Place all ingredients except rice and garnish in bottom and mix well. Pour beer slowly to prevent excess foaming. Add chicken to pot and combine.
Cook on low for 8-9 hours. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve over hot rice. Top with garnish of your choice.