A Fire Update

Just a general update on things for friends and family. My neighborhood and family are safe. Ashland, where the Almeda fire began, is safe. The wind has abated but red flag alerts remain.

Gas stations and stores are busy with exhausted, worried out of towners. The Almeda fire started as a grass fire by a BMX park in Ashland but then spread west and north. The initiating source remains under investigation. Pushed by 40MPH plus gusts, the burned through Talent, then lit up and destroyed Phoenix. South Medford was next. The last word that we had, last night, was that the fire was contained. We’re looking for better info.

Meanwhile, spot fires had been going on, threatening other areas of Medford, Central Point, and Eagle Point, to our north and west. Those seem to have been extinguished. Interstate 5 is open in both directions.

Note: a rumor is going around in certain political circles that Black Lives Matter went along Interstate 5 starting fires. They offer no evidence. Police are working to dispel the stories circulating on social media. To me, these rumors increase the evidence of who this people are; at a time when everyone needs help and should come together, they use lies to plant seeds of distrust. There’s the wildfire that needs to be put out.

We’re under a request to limit water due to the water used to fight fires. We remain at Level 1, ready to go. There are other fires burning in Jackson County. Temperatures have dropped today. Locally, we’re expecting highs in the mid-eighties. But the temperatures will then return to the nineties and perhaps over one hundred. While the immediate worst threat has subsided, staying alert and ready is required.

Our air is smoky. I jump to the conclusion that it’s probably from smoldering areas of our fires. The smoke might be from California to the south, or other fires in Oregon up north.

I’m relieved that we survived here, but the losses suffered by others can’t be overstated. The impact on Talent and Phoenix, our neighboring towns, is like what happened to Paradise, California, and we all remember that. Buildings, homes, and possessions are gone. Our resources through government and charity are stretched. Assessments are still being conducted, and the fire monitored for hotspots. Only when the authorities are assured everything is out will the people be allowed to return to their places, make private assessments, and begin rebuilding.


With our AQI drifting between unhealthy and hazardous in southern Oregon because of smoke from wildfires, masks are the new norm. The N95 is the most popular and the lowest level of protection that should be used if you’re outdoors.

Ashland Fire Department-chart (2)
Purple is very unhealthy and red is unhealthy. Green is good. Nice to see the air quality is improving today. We’ve not been in the yellow since 4 A.M. on July 28th.

While the masks help us stay healthy, I’ve encountered drawbacks, like it’s harder to exchange greetings and smiles as you encounter others. You can’t sip a beverage or eat anything with the mask on, and the mask makes my nostrils itch. With temperatures rising and smoky sunshine, sweat sheathes my face. The combination of breathing through a tight mask and being hot and sweating also recalls my twenty years in the military and the times when we wore our NBC gear. Ah, good times!

But, besides staying healthier, I’ve found wearing the mask protects my beard and mustache from the sun. Without the sun’s influence, my beard and mustache grows in darker and stays darker.

The darker beard and mustache don’t make me look younger, however. There’s a few other things that need to be overcome to rejuvenate my appearance. The mask, though, hiding my nose, mouth, chin, and most of my cheeks, does help with that.

Stay healthy, everyone.

The Take

Our utility bill arrived the other day. Coming from the city, this bill includes electricity, water, sewage, and a few other things.

Although there’s a total, of course – this is what I’ll pay – it’s categorized and subtotaled. The top part is about electricity. That part pleased me; it showed that thanks to the time of year and our solar panels, the city was paying us three dollars for our electricity. We owed nothing. That was sweet.

Next down was the water. We’d used less water than last year, but it came out to $45 due the city for water. The rest of the $89 bill due was for sewage, drains, street use, and street lights. That’s sobering, because there’s nothing I can do about any of that, except move to somewhere else.

Overall, I was pleased. To put this take in complete context, we have an eighteen hundred square foot single level stand-alone residence built in 2005. It’s located in Ashland, in southern Oregon. Two humans and four cats live there. All humans are over fifty. Our solar panels are rated at two thousand watts, but due to a number of circumstances, they usually won’t generate that much. I was impressed to see them putting out over two thousand when I checked on them the other day, and reflected on the perfect angle of the sun, ambient temperature, and humidity that coincided to create that miracle.

We depend on natural gas for heating, cooking, and the clothes dryer. That bill is $51 per month. That’s our comfort bill; they usually refund us a few dollars each year.

I post all of this because finding comparisons with others help put it all in context. When I complained to a friend about my water bill late last summer, they revealed that their bill that month was three times as much. Their house is larger by a thousand square feet, but it also has two occupants (and a smaller yard). They did have company stay with them that month.

Overall, my gas, water, and electric bills are not not bad. Hell, on reflection, I spend more on coffee in a month than I do on water or electricity. Food, though…

Well, that’s another post.

The Ambivalence

Once again, I’m on the ambivalence train. This weather, like spring, is lovely. Light showers are falling. It was fifty-four degrees outside at midnight. Since then, it’s dropped to fifty, unseasonable weather, but pleasant.

It’s a helluva lot better than Europe and eastern North America are enduring, with cyclone bombs, flooding, and terribly cold temperatures. Comparing our situation with theirs, I believe I’m much happier and better off.

But looking forward to the summer, worry swells. If it’s this dry and warm now, the models predict we’re going to be hot and dry.

Hence, ambivalence about enjoying this southern Oregon weather. Maybe I should play ignorant and just enjoy the now. Conversely, I can be a hopeful optimist, and think, maybe we’ll have a rainy year, pleasant temperatures, and no wildfires.

A guy can dream.

No Fun Places

My beautiful little sister – you know, the grandmother and great-grandmother – has her birthday today. Happy birthday, little sister! Naturally, I stream all manner of memories from the time around her birth. One bright, shiny moment was after she was brought home. We lived on McNary Boulevard in Wilkinsburg, PA, then. All my young neighborhood friends wanted to come into the house to see the baby. I don’t know what drove them to want to see her, but Mom obliged, you know, as long as we didn’t wake her. Let sleeping babies lie.

For her special day, my little sister – let’s call her Gina – wants to go to a restaurant where they get to spin the wheel. As I understand it, you spin the wheel, and you win gifts, or free food and drinks. Everyone else in the family did it for their birthday. Gina wants to do it, too. I understand; even I would like to spin the wheel. Alas, though, Ashland doesn’t have a place to spin the wheel.

Ashland doesn’t have fun restaurants like that. Dominated by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and numerous art galleries, we’re very serious about food, here. We can blame demographics. Professionals dominate our permanent population. We have the theater scene, a forensics lab, university, and grade, middle, and high schools. They, and the city and the restaurants, create the job market, along with professionals to serve the professionals, like lawyers, architects, hair-stylists, and landscapers.

Most of our professionals are retired, with adult children. Food leans toward conservative, adult offerings, with interesting preparation and presentations. Pizza and pub-grub are offered as alternatives. The food is organic and natural, with meat from grass-fed, antibiotic-free animals. Vegetarian offerings are salads, black-bean burgers, or meals fixed with tofu substitutes. Vegan offerings are weak. The pub-grub is served with a helping of television screens to watch sports. We do have terrific breweries and wineries, and chocolatiers. You can drink and have fun, but that’s a pretty limited spectrum.

We also lack a good deli. The delis are embedded in the chain groceries – Safeway, Albertson’s, and Market of Choice. There’s no stand-alone deli to go in and have a sandwich made your way. Two Subways, one Wendy’s, and one Taco Bell represent our fast-food places. There is a Burger King on the Interstate exit, but that’s outside of town. That’s how serious Ashland is about food.

Even our coffee places are serious. Two Starbucks represent the mass consumer trends, but we tend toward places that roast their beans locally, or buy from someone who roasts their beans locally.

Here’s the┬átricky part. Our retired professionals have grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They come to visit. Likewise, the theater-goers have children, and more people are moving up from California. These Caligonians have friends who visit, with their children. The thing is, children come. When they do, the most fun is the ice-cream shops, or pizzas. There’s no place to spin the wheel.

Yes, you can mark this up to demographics. Personally, I put it down as lack of imagination. One pub-grub place closes, another one opens in its place. Ditto, with the froo-froo eateries.

So you if you want a hormone-free, grass-fed burger, or an excellent omelet, beer, or wine, we’re your place. Just don’t expect to spin the wheel.


The March Yesterday

The southern Oregon’s women march was yesterday, January 21st, 2017.

I participated by being there and walking, trying to be supportive of women and others worried about their rights and freedom. Because, sorry, when I fought for freedom and equality, it included everyone. There were and are no buts, exceptions, exclusions, or doubts. Also, the Trump agenda seems to be releasing a chaos of hatred, bigotry and sexism, things that I endured in my youth, crap that we were moving past. I don’t want to move ‘back’ to anything; I want to keep moving forward as a world, taking everyone with us to a better existence for everyone. Call me idealistic or romantic, but I grew up on science fiction shows and literature in which we did find a better future. So blame popular culture for creating me.

Besides that, I worry about anyone who begins talking about ‘alternate facts’. As a writer, I call that fiction. It’s all right as fiction, but it doesn’t do anyone any good when it’s our government using ‘alternate facts’.

I was expecting about two thousand people at our Ashland march. I was off.

About eight thousand people, according to the Ashland police, participated in the march in Ashland, population about twenty grand. (Now I’m reading that the Ashland police estimated that it was fifteen thousand, and that traffic was backed up onto the Interstate with cars trying to get into town.) People came from other parts of southern Oregon and northern California to participate. I didn’t witness anything hateful, just determination about rights, equality and justice. Although the temperature nudged to just forty-eight F when the clouds parted enough for the sun, and it rained, the march had an exuberant, energetic, positive aura.

Some call it a protest, but I call it an assemblage and an exercising of civic rights, even civic duties. If we do not agree with the politics, practices and policies of our elected officials at any level, we should be determined and brave enough to voice our differences without resorting to violence or being fearful of retributions. Changes rarely begin at our highest echelons of society, government and finance. Those levels usually have the most to lose in a change of the status quo. Change typically begins with grass root movements as people raise their voices and state their concerns and insist on change.

So raise your voice, no matter where you reside on the spectrum, or who you believe to be right and wrong. Let’s debate these questions with the civility they deserve. As one citizen to another, as one human to another, I ask that you not be hateful about this, and that you don’t resort to violence and name-calling. I ask that you use facts, and not any alternatives. The United States and other democracies remain a great experiment. There will be setbacks, detours, and red herrings, but let’s keep moving it forward, and give other generations a chance to continue this great experiment.


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