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The Hills of Los Angeles Are Burning August 28, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Home Front.
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For the most recent information on the Station Fire, click on Los Angeles County Fire Department.

I woke up at 6 a.m. when orange light filtered through the blinds.  It’s fire season in Southern California.  Four big fires are raging at the moment, several nearby.  With the intense heat and all that dry brush, the fires came early this year.  During the school year, we keep the students indoors when there’s a fire as many have asthma.

My heart goes out to all of those who’ve had to evacuate their homes.  We have friends who lived in Topanga Canyon for many years, and it seemed like packing up the car with the kids, pets, and photos was an annual event.  But it’s never easy.

It’s been over 100 degrees for three days now and I can’t imagine what it’s like for those fire fighters who are wearing all that heavy gear and fighting Mother Nature with a hose and a pick ax.  I have to say that after living in NYC for 11 years, I have the utmost respect (bordering on awe) for firefighters.

When I first moved to California in the 70s, I remember standing on the roof of our garage and watching the hills in the distance burn.  We were having a big party and ash fell on the guests like snow.  I remember saying, “This is like the last days of Pompeii.”  Two days ago, I woke up and walked out into the dining room. My house smelled like a campfire.  Fire.  It goes with living in Southern California.  But it’s never easy.

Lyrics for Los Angeles is Burning by Bad Religion

Somewhere high in the desert near a curtain of blue
A sane man skirts under the wind
But down here in the city of limelights
The fans of Santa Ana are withering
And you can’t deny the living is easy
If you never look behind the scenery
It’s Showtime for dry climes
And bedlam is dreaming of rain

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the MURDER wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is burning

This is not a test
of the emergency broadcast system
When Malibu fires and radio towers
Conspire to dance again
And I cannot believe the Media Mecca
They’re only trying to peddle reality
Catch it on Prime Time
Story at nine
The whole world is going insane

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the MURDER wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is Burning

A placard reads “the end of days”
Jacaranda boughs are bending in the haze
More a question than a curse
How could hell be any worse?
The flames are stunning
The cameras running
So take warning!

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the MURDER wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is burning

California Christmas December 14, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Travel.
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I couldn’t imagine a Christmas without snow. So for the first two years I lived in California, I dutifully flew home to spend the holidays with my family in Nebraska. This was a spiritual pilgrimage as well, as I did learn there really is such a thing as Purgatory – it’s being stranded indefinitely at the Denver Airport waiting for the weather “to clear.”

My husband, Richard, is from Idaho so even after we got married we alternated flying back and forth between these two exotic snow-covered destinations at Christmas. But at some point, traveling with two small children over the holidays got to be too much. It was time to establish our own holiday traditions – but a Christmas without snow?

Can you say Feliz Navidad? While everyone was talking North Pole, I found my answer to a Christmas without snow South of the Border. When we lived in New York, one year we flew to Mexico the day after Christmas. We stayed in Zihuantanejo, a small fishing village on the Pacific Coast.  This is what I remember. As we rode in a taxi with no seat belts to our hotel, a huge pig sauntered across the road. I turned to my husband and said, “This isn’t a developing country – this is the Third World!) When we arrived at our hotel shortly after 8 a.m., the manager, Pepe, had two icy Coronas in our hands before our luggage hit the ground.

Not only was Mexico warm and sunny, but it was (dare I say it?) so Christmasy! There were Christmas trees at all the hotels and restaurants decorated with tin and straw ornaments and elaborate nativity scenes nestled in piles of Spanish moss. It was gorgeous, colorful, and the atmosphere was festive. Think about it. Margaritas are green and hot sauce is red. My sons got to break open a red and white star pinata and the kids were excited to get a piece of candy and an orange!

When we moved back to California it was a done deal. Adapt or perish. Tradition is tradition, but we chose to embrace new traditions. Last week we put up the tree. It’s a real one as I love that fresh pine smell (not the pine scent you spray around the house). Our tree is festooned with Mexican tin ornaments and colorful woven spirals and straw angels. (Which also makes it earthquake friendly!) There’s only one ornament on the tree that’s breakable. It’s a clay angel bell we bought the first year we were married at the gift shop outside Mijares, a local Mexican restaurant that’s still in business. The angel dangles from the top branch of the tree as a reminder of just how fragile life can be.

The stockings are hung from the chimney. And yes, when the temperature dips to 45 degrees in Los Angeles, it really feels like it’s freezing. (Who forgot to add insulation to the houses here?) Our pig, Maisie, loves to lay in front of the fireplace so I guess we really have gone Third World.

So if you drop by our house on Christmas Eve, prepare to enjoy tamales and Mexican hot chocolate.  With Global Warming, I just wanted to give everyone a heads up as to what could be in store. In the meantime, Feliz Navidad!

Obama Cholo October 26, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Art, Politics.
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My friend Angela had this poster on her front door, and it was love at first sight (a primera vista). She told me her hairstylist, David Cordova, had made it which led to an after school jaunt through the winding hills above Eagle Rock to meet him. He had an Obama event that night, and his supply was running dangerously low, but I bought four posters at $5 a pop ($10 at the event!) and was ecstatic.

David said he came up with the idea for the poster because many Latinos are still hesitant to vote for an African American (the brown vs. black issue that I’ve encountered in my own classroom over the years – though less so lately). But according to a front page story in the Los Angeles Times today, a growing number of Latino voters argue that anyone who has faced discrimination would be good for all minorities. Besides, for most voters, it’s no longer a white, black, or brown issue, or even a red or blue one. It all comes down to green – it’s the economy.

David said he took some of the color out of Obama’s skin, added the Mexican day laborer bandana, and the classic cholo shirt. Que milagro! Barack gone barrio. This way Latinos can see that Obama is not so very different from themselves.

I have to admit that in the poster, Obama looks surprisingly like the Mexican cook who works back in the kitchen at the local sushi bar. So in that sense, Obama Cholo (as David refers to him) IS every man – at least in Los Angeles.

Welcome to Armageddon July 7, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Travel.
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If I were working for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, I’d have a hard time putting a positive spin on what’s happening in California. It would be like putting lipstick on a pig.

This is supposed to be “sunny” California, not “it feels like I’m living on the sun” California. But that’s what it feels like in my house where we’re boycotting the AC to save mucho dinero. My friends from England arrive Tuesday night, and I reluctantly took a peek at the Los Angeles Times today to check out the weather forecast for the upcoming week. Now, I know that predicting the weather is somewhere between watching the clouds float by and consulting a Magic 8-Ball, but it doesn’t look good. Temperatures are to hover near 100 degrees all week. Farenheit. I make this distinction because my friends from the UK are used to temperatures Celcius style, so they have to do a little math.

My friend Lesley called me today via SKYPE and said they planned to make the scenic drive up the coast to Big Sur and stay in San Francisco their second week here. I conveniently failed to mention that there’s currently a wildfire raging in Big Sur. I wanted to put Arnold on notice, so he can put a lid on it. As far as I’m concerned, he can take money directly from the schools and dump it on the fire. At least then, I’d know where the school funds are going.

Lesley also mentioned the one place her daughter, Lucy, wants to visit is Universal Studios. I’m allergic to all things theme park, but because I’m such a gracious host, I am available to drop them off and pick them up. Now my son, Ian, has informed me that three major attractions burned at Universal Studios last month. The fire evidently started on the “Backdraft” attraction and spread. Who would have thunk it?

What’s next – locusts? I’m not laughing.