Shocking Day

The consequences of the Almeda Fire (yeah, not ‘Alameda’), as it’s been declared, are rippling out. It’s named after the little street where the grass fire was first reported. The air is surprisingly clear, declared green by AQI, with a rating of 46, but a smoky odor teases you like a strong memory.

My little town, Ashland, Oregon, was where it started. We suffered some losses of homes. The area to the northwest suffered much more.

A trailer park is gone. Fast food restaurants and homes are gone. A winery.

Continuing into Talent…much of the northern side burned. The Camelot Theater is gone.

On into Phoenix…

Most news services are declaring that the small town of Phoenix, population of forty-five hundred, is gone. The primary road into town is blocked off, so confirmation is yet to come, but Youtube videos taken during the night attest that Phoenix suffered. Information is spotty, as the news services cope with elections, COVID-19, wildfires across the western US, and the snow in Colorado. We’re hampered locally as reporters had to evacuate their homes and the fire burned through a cable affecting at least one service provider. Some early reports said it was a local ISP called jeffnet, but others say it was Spectrum. Maybe it was both.

Those who bundle everything — television, phone, Internet — to one provider suddenly found they weren’t receiving the local emergency alerts, a new consideration offered for you the next time that you’re debating you options.

The fire continued into south Medford, about fifteen miles up the Interstate. That section of city was evacuated, along with the

Damage reports continue seeping in. So many fires are burning that the area lacks the resources to combat them. While towns and cities this part of Jackson County are fighting this fire, a larger fire is consuming another part of the county to our northeast. The county to the west is battling its own blazes, as are towns further north in Oregon. Little help is available.

The wind has abated. This is good news. Cooler temperatures are prevailing, the low nineties, but it’s going to increase again tomorrow and continue to get hotter the rest of the week.

Thursday: A Few Things

  1. Still walking. Sounds like I’m bragging, right? I’m talking about exercising. My progress goes up and down. My 28-day average is just 7.51 miles (sixteen thousand plus steps), with my best being last Thursday, ten and quarter miles. I try to get in more, but stuff. I’m in a heavily hilled area. Examining results with where I walk is interesting. My flights will increase to fifty to sixty a day, and my activity level will increase, but my miles decline. That’s because the steep hills really slow me down. Coming down is less of a physical exertion, but requires a lot from my legs to keep from just pitching forward. Great views, though, and getting the exercise outside is worth it.
  2. COVID-19. We have people who shunned masking, attending rallies (see Herman Cain and Tulsa), church, and parties, who are now testing positive and being hospitalized. Some, like Cain, had underlying conditions. Cain is seventy-four, and I guess he’s okay with getting sick, possibly going through what others have endured, and dying, but what about spreading it to others, and putting them through it? Yeah, nobody say this coming.
  3. COVID-19 Redux. Other crazy reports have one, teenagers trying to deliberately contract COVID-19. Let’s play a game and see who can get infected. (Alabama Teens Are Throwing Coronavirus Parties with Cash Rewards for the First to Get Infected.) Oh, the young… Proves that life can be stranger than fiction. Beyond that, some people who are testing positive are refusing to help with tracing. (Party Guests Wouldnt Talk After 9 Tested Positive.) Hit with subpeonas and facing fines of $2000 a day for not helping, they caved. Florida setting new records for their state with ten thousand cases in one day, a one hundred sixty-eight percent rise. Of course, commentators are blaming the protests or riots, and Gov. DeSantis has vowed that Florida wills stay open. Paul Krugman has an interesting threads based on Opentable reservations for Texas, Florida, and Georgia. After reservations rose with re-opening, reservations began declining as positive cases surged. Here in Oregon, cases are rising. Gov. Brown has declared masks mandatory inside businesses, but several sheriffs have declared her policy unconstitutional and have refused to enforce it. I always thought it was up to the courts to decide constitutionally, not the sheriffs, but they know better. Even Oregon State Police aren’t even masking as they enter businessesTo quote one officer who wasn’t wearing a mask, “Fuck Kate Brown.” That’s protecting and serving for ya. Shows why trust and support for police keeps declining; they’re deciding what laws they’ll obey and enforce, and mocking what they don’t like.
  4. I’m not good at celebrating. My sixty-fourth birthday is this week. As with every year, my wife asked me what I want to do to celebrate. I don’t have an answer. Parties don’t generally entice me. Socializing in general doesn’t entice me. She knows these things about me. I feel pressured to ‘do something’ to celebrate to mollify her.
  5. Still painting walls. We have high ceilings in the dining-living-kitchen combo. Three hard to reach corners where the walls and ceiling met. I’ve bought an extender that telescopes out to twelve feet. I have an edger, brush, and roller that can be attached. Control, though, is challenging, and a bit comical, and a strain on the neck, squinting up there at the wall from twelve feet away. Refreshing the paint on them is also an interesting process.

Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Vote By Mail

A vote-by-mail storm has been waxing and waning. I’m a proponent of voting by mail, myself. I served twenty years plus in the military. Stationed all over the world, I voted by mail throughout my career, no problem.

Retired, I settled in California for a decade. As a citizen of that state, I voted in person. Compared to how it was done by mail in the military, it was a pain in the ass.

In 2005, I moved to Oregon. All of Oregon’s voting is done through mail-in ballots. Here’s (roughly) how it goes.

  1. When you get your driver licence, you’re registered to vote.
  2. A few weeks before an election, you get a voter’s guide summarizing measures, proposals and candidates.
  3. Closer to the election date, you receive your ballot. You fill it in at home following the instructions provided, seal it in the envelope, sign the envelope, and return it by midnight on election day. There are specific dates circled around this. We usually have the ballot in hand for ten days, plenty of time to review things and make decisions.
  4. Vote by mail is only part of the equation. Towns have drop boxes for ballots established. Our town’s drop box is by the library’s returned books drop boxes in the downtown area. Drive through or walk up, and put it into the box. Done. The boxes are only opened for the two week period before the election.

That’s the essence. It’s beautifully simple. I recommend it for everyone and anyone.

That is all.

Mask Up

Sharing a story. Yeah, anecdotal, about a bus driver, a coughing passenger, and a COVID-19 death. The bus driver is the death in this tale. He was fifty years old.

Wear masks, people. Wear masks. They can save you. I was out yesterday, had to make a supply run. While I was masked and gloved and practiced social distancing. We’d ordered online, and the purchases were delivered to the car’s trunk. While sitting there, I watched the scene. First, I was dismayed by how many were out, looking as if it’s business as usual. Social distancing? What’s that? Counted twenty-seven people as I sat there, awaiting my delivery. Counted five with masks. One with gloves and masks.

When a twentyish employee brought the order out, she wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves. Her arms were bare. I cringed with speculation about her condition.

Oregon — my state (yes, I bought it a number of years ago, so it’s my state — still have the warranty) has over eight hundred cases. Jackson County, where my experience took place, has almost thirty.

First case in Oregon was announced Feb. 29. My wife and I took measures after the possibility of the first case emerged in our area, March 14. Since then, more evidence of the value of masks has emerged as data has rolled in, showing how poorly people are responding to social distancing. My county got a C. I could see why when I was on my supply run yesterday.

Lot of folks were out. Not as heavy as a normal day, no. But less people would’ve been out if Oregon U. were playing a football game.

Yes, I know, some are essential. Thank you to all of them. To the rest, think about why you’re out. Sometimes, we have a need. But if you’re out, take precautions, for your sake, my sake, all of our sake.

The groceries are in the car’s trunk (boot, if you need a translation). There’s nothing perishable. They’ll stay in the trunk for three days. After that, I’ll fetch and clean them, and clean the car. We bought them for the long term, deciding to stock up now rather than waiting for when there are more cases in our area.

Changed clothes in the garage when I returned home, too. Yeah, given all the vectors possible for transmitting something to us (my wife and me), we’ll probably contract it, if we haven’t already. We’re trying to buy time for the world to come up with the resources and vaccines to combat this thing. We’re also trying to keep from spreading the thing.

Hope you’re all doing well at there. Take care. Wear masks. That is all.

The Greeting Card Dream

I’ve been dreaming, but most of it’s been the standard surviving storms, climbing mountains, and flying stuff. This dream last night was odd, so I thought it worth thinking more about, which translates to writing about it.

I was creating a greeting card. Nothing special about that. It’s something that I’ve done off and on on computers for decades. In this one, though, I was creating a greeting card with the outline of Oregon on the cover. It was a cut-out showing a photo of me with my wife.

Trying to figure out what should go inside, I realized I didn’t know the card’s expected recipient. Closing it to think, I looked at the card’s front and saw that I’d printed, “Wish you were here.” I realized the photo was of us when we were younger.

That made me laugh. Someone was calling me (off dream, if you will). I said, “Just a minute. I’m not done.”

Then, looking at the card, I thought, that could be the basis for a clever line of cards.

End dream.

I woke up smiling.

The Smoke

It’s a new habit. Reaching the corner where my street meets Siskiyou, I look left.

Although there’s a soft, steady down slope, it’s a straight shot into downtown Ashland. I know that two miles away is the Ashland Springs Hotel’s yellow building. I can’t see it today. I can see the first traffic light, at Walker. That’s just under a mile away. With today’s smoke, the prevailing visibility is about a mile away, as it has been for the last three days.

Fires ring our valley, sending smoke into it. Most of the fires started on July 15 when lightning strikes lit the dry brush and trees.

Although it’s the third year that I’ve been forced to do this, I’m not used to wearing a mask to walk around. We used to do it in the military as part of our war games, during simulated attacks. They were never fun. Neither is this.

Thoughts about the fire’s causes are inevitable, as are hopes and worries for the other people driven from their homes by the fires, and fears for the animals, and concern for the land. Thoughts about the firefighters out there fighting the fires on our behalf arise, along with thoughts of thanks.

Containment is the word of the month, followed closely by conflagration. When will the fires be contained? The closest, the Hendrix Fire, isn’t that large, just one thousand plus acres. Nine miles away, it’s thirty percent contained, but it’s not the fire delivering most of this smoke. That’s an accumulation from all the fires to the north and west.

What’s striking is how the smoke changes Ashland’s character. Outdoor events are canceled, curtailed, or moved indoor, if possible. There are fewer hikers and walkers, because part of the Pacific Coast Trail is also closed. Cyclists, usually so common, are rarely seen. With the diminished visibility, we can’t see the mountains. Ashland could be a plain town, or one on the seashore.

You’d never know it, with this smoke.

 

Be Careful Out There

If you like to walk, as I do, around your town, be careful. 

Caution and awareness are seared in my head. A friend in another town was walking his dog one morning several years ago. A vehicle killed him and his dog. The driver was never identified.

People get distracted, even drivers. Some don’t like stopping for people in crosswalks. I know it, because they’ve told me. They don’t care about the law, safety, or anything else. Some are too busy with other things. I’ve seen people eating as they drive, talking on their phones, or putting on make-up. Some looked at me as they passed and gave me a nod or a wave. So they see me, but kept going.

Crossing in front of the Jackson County Library in Ashland where Main Street becomes Siskiyou Avenue is the most hazardous in my experience. There’s a traffic light – the final one downtown as you’re going south – about fifty feet in front of it. Leaving downtown frees drivers from the multiple crosswalks, traffic lights, and twenty miles-per-hour speed limit. Now freed, they gun their engines and race up into the twenty-five MPH zone. They don’t to stop again, not when they’ve already had to stop so many times, especially for someone crossing the street in a crosswalk. Better to just miss the person and keep going, right?

Yes, it happens. It’s not fiction or exaggeration.

Perhaps the most disturbing incident this week was the Ashland Police Department‘s car that didn’t stop for me. It was about one in the afternoon. Traffic was light, and it was a beautiful summer day. I was in the southern crosswalk, crossing Main Street at First street. An APD vehicle was approaching. The blue and white SUV was several car lengths away from the northern crosswalk in the center of three lanes. He didn’t stop; he didn’t look my way. I could clearly see him, a white guy with a goatee, with a heavy, burly build, and a receding hairline and sunglasses – but he couldn’t see me (I guess).

When he didn’t yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk, neither did two other vehicles, both following him, but in two different lanes. Why should they? The APD car didn’t stop, so it must not be the law, or enforced, they probably assumed. Both of the drivers saw me, giving me a look as they passed, with one driver, a young woman in her twenties waving at me.

The APD car didn’t have his emergency lights on. He, and the others, stopped at the traffic light up the street at Second and Main.

So be careful. Lot of people are distracted. It happens. Many just don’t care or don’t want to stop for pedestrians. And many just don’t see you.

Or so they pretend.

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