***This post is written in the style of Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck, a very funny book indeed. If only I were as talented a writer as Steinbeck, then this post would be truly humorous. And I would be famous.***
On October 21st, Alice and Big Corbin Zean smelled smoke as they left church. This was not the smoke from the hundreds of votive candles lit for the Virgin Mother. They were sure of this because there were no candles lit for the Virgin or any other saint in their church. They are not catholic. The smoke they smelled was carried on the wind along with little flakes of ash that would be the closest thing to snow San Diego would see that holiday season. Alice was reminded of home.
"It smells like a neighbor is burning their trash. I miss southwest Virginia. Can we have soup for dinner?"
Alice and Big Corbin Zean did not have soup for dinner that night, and the smoky air would soon bring other things to mind besides country living. The man on the radio told of a devastating wild fire sweeping across southern California, blown by the hot Santa Anna winds, at speeds up to 80 mph. The winter before, these same winds brought warm air from the desert and 80 degree December days to the temperate San Diego coast making the beach a plausible destination while the rest of the country froze. This time, the Santa Anna winds were bringing a little too much warmth.
Alice and Big Corbin Zean both went in to work the next morning, only to return home a few hours later due to air quality concerns. They stayed inside their apartment and breathed each other's exhalation for the rest of the day and all the following Tuesday. Big Corbin Zean had borrowed a projector from a friend for a lesson on Sunday and had cleverly 'forgotten' to return it.
"My friend surely would not want me to be outside in these dangerous times. And I have heard of smoke damaging televisions and computers. The smoke outside might damage the electronics inside the projector. It is for his own good that I keep this projector safe in my own house until the smoke has cleared."
And so Alice, Big Corbin Zean, and their cat, Señor Papel, Bishop of Artesia, watched movies on their bedroom wall while they anxiously awaited an evacuation call the man on the radio said might come at any moment. At one point, their apartment lay just two miles outside of the evacuation zone. And so Alice began preparations.
On deciding what was most important and worthy of saving from the potential fires, Alice learned that staying alive was her number one priority. Food storage, clothes, and emergency 72 hour kits were the first items piled in the middle of the living room floor. She also realized that those documents passed down from her ancestors and her own remembrances that would be important to her and her posterity came in a close second. Photo albums, home movies, journals, birth and marriage certificates were added to the pile. Big Corbin Zean and Señor Papel, Bishop of Artesia mostly sat on the couch and ate corn dogs.
As it turned out, Alice and Big Corbin Zean were not evacuated. But Alice learned an important lesson. She learned that the most precious things in life are your connections to those who have gone before and to those who are yet to come. And also staying alive long enough to give those who are yet to come a chance to do so.
Alice returned to work on Wednesday but Big Corbin Zean stayed home all week because his university campus was closed. And he had a cold.
The next week, Alice and Big Corbin Zean were invited to a pumpkin carving party and Big Corbin Zean carved the scariest thing he could think of. He carved a picture of a house burning down. Even though he cheated and looked at pictures of houses on the interwebs, the party goers voted Big Corbin Zean's pumpkin the best of the evening and awarded him a suitable prize. Big Corbin Zean gave his suitable prize to his sweetheart, Alice, and thought to himself how she would be the first thing he packed if he ever had to flee from the path of a raging wild fire.
Other Halloween pictures including a Mary Poppins, a tennis ball super-glued to Corbin's head, and pumpkin carving action shots.