To the Asshole Who Couldn’t Be Bothered to Douse a Campfire

You deserve to be tied to one of the Ponderosa pines in the path of your fire.

My stepmother forwarded me some photos taken of the Schultz Fire.  It’s horrific.

This is the area where the fire reportedly started.  It used to look like this before some fucktard decided he or she didn’t need to extinguish a campfire in dry country:

This is what it will look like now:

Nature's Devastation/Aftermath of a Forest Fire

Wayne Ranney has a lot more shots of the fire at Earthly Musings, including a sequence that shows just how incredibly fast these fires blow up in Arizona.  The motherfucker who caused this apparently didn’t stop to think about that, even though summer after summer, some other motherfucker’s managed to demonstrate the principles of super-dry pine trees + sparks + strong hot summer winds = armageddon.  And for those who believe good Mother Nature will heal all wounds, consider how fucking long it takes to heal on steep slopes in dry country.  Here’s Mt. Elden, which suffered a horrific fire in 1977 that nearly took out Flagstaff:

Its scars are still clearly visible today:

Over thirty years, and you’d think it happened yesterday:

That was another campfire started by a dumbshit, in this case a runaway girl.  Not that age is an excuse anymore.  When I was in elementary school, they showed us the burn site, showed us a film of the fire, and explained just how fucking important it is to stamp out every little spark.  They even told us to crush our smokes, just in case any of us had started smoking at the tender age of 5.  But hey, maybe it’s different now.  Maybe the AZ Cons decided we don’t need no stinking librul fire-safety education, and little kiddies aren’t taught how to avoid burning the forest down anymore.  Maybe the fucktard who left a campfire burning in a tinder-dry wilderness never learned not to play with matches, or never to turn their back on a fire until it’s cold and dead.  Maybe the dumbshit didn’t have a fucking television and lived locked in a dark, windowless room where they couldn’t see the forest burn year after year because of other stupid fucktards.  Maybe there’s some kind of excuse.

Or maybe there’s just someone who needs to learn that when you play with fire, it’s not just the forest that gets burned.  I hope the little shit ends up in prison.

Subterranean Homesick Blues

I stopped by Stranger Fruit tonight and got slammed between the eyes with terminal homesickness:

Astronomy Picture of the Day – A Protected Night Sky Over Flagstaff

I lived there most of my life. These peaks were framed in my back door at home. My mother and I used to lay on lawn chairs, snuggled down in sleeping bags, on those glorious clear nights, watching stars fall. My neighbor was an astronomer with a 10″ telescope in his back yard. In 1986, we neighborhood kids used to troop over to his place to go gawk at Halley’s Comet. My love of science was born there. Those peaks were the center of my universe for over 20 years.

They still are.

The photograph below, Turbulent Skies Over the San Francisco Peaks, was taken by a cherished friend of mine, Michael Smith-Sardior. It’s sitting right above me as I type.


Times like this, I’m reminded I’m a stranger in a strange land. Seattle and I, we love each other, but we don’t have history. I ooo and aaah at the beauty up here. Love having the ocean so close, love the Cascades and Rainier and all that, but it’s not my roots. It’s not the seat of my soul. Flagstaff is. I spent the best years of my life there. Most of the best friends I’ve ever had, that’s where they hail from. I found my place and my purpose right there in the shadow of those peaks, under those spectacular skies, where the universe seems to go on forever. That’s powerful stuff.

You don’t have to be holy to feel that sort of awe and wonder. Just human. And I’m damned grateful that folks like Dan & Cindi Duriscoe and Michael Smith-Sardior have captured the immensity of it.

Almost makes me feel I’m home.

Roots

Just so we’re clear: I’m one of those pathetic Americans who speaks a few words of español, a smattering more français, and for seasoning can add a greeting or two in Japanese, German, Russian, and sundry other languages. But I’m sadly unilingual.

So why all the Spanish? Why not just celebrate my native tongue, unadulterated by others?

Well, there’s reasons. For one, English isn’t English so much as a hodge-podge of assorted borrowed, begged, pilfered, filched, and impounded words from a great many languages. I’ve never tried this experiment, but I’d be very interested to see what would happen if you reduced the dictionary to pure English-origin words. We’d have, what, about a handful left? So I’m just carrying on the grand English tradition of appropriating whatever catches my fancy at the time.

Then there’s the fact I grew up in the Southwest. Rather hard to avoid appending a word or two of Spanish down there. “¿Cómo estás?” becomes just as habitual as “how’re you?” Your horizons expand beyond “enchilada” and “taco” by default.

So it’s funny that I used to hate Spanish. Or maybe not. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that. I took French in high school instead. Je parle un petit pous français, très mal, and now I wish I’d taken Spanish, because I’ve fallen in love with it. And now that I’m without it, I suffer.

I love the Northwest, I truly do, but a part of me will always miss the Desert Southwest. I miss the border culture, where Mexican and American intermingle so much that it becomes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. There’s a latino community up here, true, but it’s not yet so pervasive. If I try to tell the joke about why the Chevy Nova didn’t sell in Mexico, I have to explain it. I can’t just say, “Because it’s a no va!” and get a gale of laughter. No, I have to murder the punchline by adding, after the blank pause, “no va is Spanish for ‘doesn’t go'”.

I miss Cinco de Mayo and Mexican flags and restaurants where all you hear is rapid-fire Spanish.

I miss being so close to Puerto Peñasco, where Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers throw Circus Mexicus twice a year.

And these are the reasons this blog will have such a heaping helping of Spanish words and phrases. Just in case you were wondering. Look, I provided you with a link to Babelfish if it gets too much. And hey, maybe this would be a good time to think about your roots, too. What’s in your history that you celebrate?

Just a thought.