On Monday I drove to meet a new friend at a coffee shop. I took the above photo at a stoplight and was as bemused by it as you are. Assault rifle-toting Maserati drivers aside, I was cranky and annoyed about two things. The first was that it was raining, and I no longer possess a rain jacket. Or an umbrella. I had both of those things before The Fire, and now they are on the endless list of things I need to re-acquire. I also predict that it may be months before I get around to purchasing them. As a former long-time Los Angeles dweller, I resist the idea of needing rain gear. The old song about how “It never rains in California” is relatively true. It doesn’t rain there for years. Yes, it might mist or spit like an angry camel occasionally, but nothing substantial. It saves up and then has a nice month-long deluge every 7 years. When these happen, we look out our windows, mystified and marveling at the apocalyptic downpour. We perhaps take an exciting urban adventure walk to go gape at the swollen concrete-encased LA River gushing madly to the sea carrying stray tree limbs and abandoned shopping carts with it. It can be 100% relied upon that a few people who don’t think things through will decide they want to treat these as advanced water park slides, and hop in to the raging waters using boats or sometimes just pool noodles. Then the rest of us get to enjoy exciting reality television as swift water rescue teams rush to haul the idiots out. For the rest of that rare wet month, we Angelinos drink hot chocolate or specially blended teas and stay inside hoping the hillside behind us doesn’t slide down on the house. In other words, who needs rain gear? Irrationally, I continued this scofflaw behavior in the quite often wet Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. I believe it’s technically a rain forest, it rains a lot. I, however, was forever being surprised that it was raining. For the first five years or so I would go out on the front porch and marvel at the beauty and that amazing smell every time it rained. I did however eventually purchase a great little travel raincoat and was gifted a bright orange umbrella by my company, and those are the ones that got burnt up.
The second annoyance on this rainy Monday was I knew I was late. I’m normally a very on-time person. For the past ten years, I’ve been living in a lovely small town in Tennessee called Johnson City. With a population of 56.000, it never took very long to get from here to there. At any time of day, I could say the sentence “I’ll be right over,” and not make a liar out of myself. Now I live in the 7 million strong Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I’m sure the Chamber of Commerce spent a boatload on developing that as a catchy slogan. I believe Fort Worth is still its own city and perhaps has no desire to be part of a Metroplex, but there you go, once the slogan has been established, it’s only a matter of time before you’re absorbed. The Metroplex ploy seems to have worked – I’ve never seen so many giant cranes and new apartments and new buildings and repairing of roads in my life. Dallas is busting at the seams, and is growing its own rings like a tree. So far there are three circular “beltways” surrounding the core of downtown Dallas. Some of them charge you to drive on them, they take pictures and send you convenient bills at the rate of a $1.70 per mile or more. I haven’t quite figured out the Tollway thing, and am still taking surface streets, and thus I am nearly always late. In Johnson City, my husband and I would laugh if we made the comment that we had to go “clear across town” for something because it never took more than ten minutes. Nowadays It takes me a full five minutes just to walk down to my parking spot, navigate out of my gate-coded parking garage and get out to the first cross street.
So, as I drove to meet my new friend on Monday — frustrated, late, and marveling that there really are Maserati driving AK-47 users out there — I realized that as rarely as I used them, I miss my raincoat and umbrella. They had a story behind them, a tiny piece of my history is forever gone. I know it sounds trite. I am my own little post-fire tree, growing rings around the burn, learning as I go, trying not to be late.