Intel, or the Lack Thereof

Now THIS is a special morning.  I could have slept in, I have no responsibilities until my propane delivery at 9:30, but I set my alarm for good ‘ol 4:55 anyway just because it’s my perfect blogging time.  Waking up and realizing I could just quietly make coffee and get to it, rather than turning on a terrifyingly loud generator and a bank of floodlights, signaling to every zombie in the area to come get their shower, was especially peaceful and satisfying.  

We broke camp almost all the way down, all the hard stuff for sure, last night, and I sat on the trailer step and smoked a cigar, after Gene went to bed in the tractor, just appreciating the night.  This is my fourth fire season and I’ve generally stayed out this late, into October, but it’s never been this warm of a climate, this late in the year.  California.  Gene is sensitive to the afternoon heat and really struggles, plus he’s 65 and frankly never asked for this shit, but I’m cold-averse and — wow, they couldn’t pry me off of this fire with both hands, if I wasn’t moving to Hawaii in 3 weeks.  It’s free money you don’t have to freeze bones for.  

Interestingly, the management team — isn’t.  Well, I’m sure they’re fine in some aspects, but our mobile shower unit seems to have fallen through the cracks of their awareness entirely.  Five days ago the Logs guy is standing there with his radio when I got out of the shower — I realize that sounds strange in itself but that’s fire camp for you — and says, “You’re heading up to Drop Point 70 on Wednesday, have you been there?”

It just so happened I’d gone joyriding to DP70 with some handwash gals the week before and had actually gotten carsick on the constant hairpin turns and circuitous meandering along a terrifying cliff drop at a very steep grade, so I said, “Yeah — that’s not a good road for this equipment.”

He said, “Well, it’s that or get demobed.”

I said, “I’ll probably get demobed then.”

He said, “The lowboys made it, you should be fine.”

I said, “Were the lowboys 78 feet long, end to end?”

He said, “They were pretty long.”  

I said, “Maybe there’s a different access road than the one I was on.”

He said, “I don’t know, I haven’t been up there.  You’ll have to scout it out.”

I said, “Alright, I’ll take the chase truck and scout it out.”

So I do that, with Handwash Julie, and confirm my initial impression that it’s no good.  I could probably pull it off but if I couldn’t, I’d be stuck in a big way, and there aren’t even any trees to break a vehicle’s fall off that cliff.  

So I get back to camp and call him and say, “I don’t think it’s good, but if you do send me up there I’m going to need a law enforcement escort.  I’ll need every inch of both lanes and both shoulders, and if I meet anyone, they’ll have to back up for miles because there’s nowhere to turn around, even for a car.”

He says, “Actually stand by, after I saw your equipment this morning I realized it’s not a good road.  So you’ll offer your last showers Tuesday night and then break camp Wednesday morning, but I’m not sure what we’re doing with you yet.  Everyone has to be out of this high school campus by Wednesday close of business.”

So I said “Okay” and that was literally the last I’ve heard.  His trainee did mention, several days after when she was one of the early am shower zombies, that they might just demobe us and then see if they can get us back once things are more settled, and I said our equipment’s already off-contract for the season, as of 9/30, so there ain’t no getting us back.  

So fire camp ops are a little wild and wooly, as a rule, but this is a new level of wtf — I’ve never been all packed up to go, before, and still not known where I’m going.  Gene and I both have short timer syndrome — he’s got an elk hunt he needs to get towards home for anyway, and I have a boyfriend making an entire intercontinental move happen all by himself, plus putting our house on the market because he’s the only one there to do it.  So, in the face of all that confusion, I went ahead and scheduled my propane delivery because, if it’s going to be this disorganized, I might as well handle my business in the vacuum of information.  

So here I am!  Having a nice, quiet, no generator, no light bank, no customer morning.  I was out there making my instant coffee in the dark and some Marines pulled up desperate for a shower — I can’t imagine caring about a shower at this time of day — and I said no can do; I mean the entire thing is closed up, no water, irrevocably done.  They said they’d been told we were still doing showers this am.  I said sorry, you got told wrong, but privately I was like, my lord — the intel could really be that bad.  

Earlier in the fire they had 300 Marines encamped an eighth of a mile away, trying to all funnel through a much smaller shower unit with only 8 stalls (ours has 16), and no one ever told them we were right over here.  That went on for weeks, while we had hardly any business.  But I was supplying that shower with water, via my Beverly Hillbillies potable janky workaround they forced me into, and it was like a full time job.  Telling each other important things is not this team’s strong suit.  

I realize this is probably quite a boring blog, talking shop, but hey — at least I finally stopped attempting political commentary.  Remember how, yesterday, I said one of my favorite existential hot takes is ‘the purpose of suffering is to realize suffering is unnecessary’?  Well, I think the purpose of political blogs is to realize that political blogs are unnecessary.  

One of my original goals with the blog was to create a venue for the actual narrative nonfiction essay format, which I especially enjoy.  And in terms of life experience to draw from, my ammo stockpile is oof size large.  So many stories and thoughts it would be so fun to tell, and expand.  And maybe that’s still in my future, but these last six months have been so exactly like a multi-car pile up on the freeway that I just can’t stop rubbernecking.  No one’s gonna continue telling their passengers the story about the finicky copy machine at work while driving past that.  

And it’s crazy, it’s like the pace of life itself — not the outer logistics of it per se, but the inner, emotional, social action/reaction beats per minute, where you experience things and come to various conclusions about how to socially and rhetorically position yourself in the world — seems to have accelerated to, like, breakneck speed.  This whole year is like a song that starts off slow and gets faster.  Dixieland Delight, but less delightful, more manic.  One arm on the wheel…!  It’s like going from old-fashioned dating to Tinder, but with everyone, about everything.  Things that used to take two years — okay, you’re part of my life, or you’re not part of my life, and for these reasons — then condensed to two months, then two weeks, then two hours, now two minutes.  

I actually like it, now that I’m used to it.  Like with handwash Julie, we’ve become really good friends and I expect that to continue, and it was all based on this initial, mutual speed assessment — are you, or are you not, drinking the fucking clown juice?  You used to have to explore all kinds of topics to find out how fucked up someone was.  Getting to know new people was like wandering around in the dark in an unfamiliar house and bumping into furniture you wouldn’t expect to be right there.  Now, though, you just turn the faucet on and, if hot water comes out of the hot tap and cold water comes out of the cold tap, you’re like, alright.  The plumbing works.  You’re in.

Gene was another — when he first got here, he said he was from Snowflake Arizona, and I was like…is he Mormon?  Is he not?  Could go either way.  I have worked and recreated with many Mormons, over the years, and they’re great, but the Mormon religion requires a suspension of disbelief in conversation.  I just know not to talk about it.  And to be fair, my woo woo ass is probably just as off-putting to the average person as any tablets in a hat or whatever but I am a staunch proponent of every single person’s individual relationship to source, NOT as a function of their gender, NOT as a function of their place in a church hierarchy, NOT needing to perform any type of pecking-order-mandated self flagellation in pursuit of that grace.  That rubs me the wrong way.  I don’t think Mormonism is a great place for women, as just a casual observation.  Could be wrong, who knows.  And maybe, even with their hierarchy and temple and holy underwear and all that, maybe the average Mormon is inspired to a closer relationship to source than their liberal, science-worshipping generational counterparts.  Anyway, at some point Gene said, “You know, Snowflake is a very Mormon town,” and that’s when I knew he wasn’t.  Mormons never describe their strongholds as “Mormon towns”.

Well, in the course of writing that paragraph, the base camp manager stopped by, expressed surprise we weren’t open, and had no information for me about what’s happening.  I was like, “Okay, perfect.”  Good thing I’m not an anxious type.  

Gene climbed out of the tractor after that guy drove away and said, “What’s the verdict?”

“He has no idea.”

This is Gene’s first fire but even he is surprised at this level of limbo.  Because it’s surprising.  

I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care.  It’s a two day drive back to Colorado or a half hour drive to the new camp, and I just don’t care.  

My dad arrived in Hawaii yesterday afternoon!  Nick woke up at 3am to take him to Sky Harbor Airport, and my brother picked him up in Kona, many time zones later/earlier/whatever.  My dad says the air is just like Oklahoma, where he grew up, and is calling it “Hawai-homa.”  Nick was clearly feeling lonely last night on the phone, and I was an imperfect phone companion, trying to talk, and back the truck up to the hitch, and wrench on bolts at the same time.  My brother sent a picture of our dad, placidly asleep on the lounge chair on the big lanai, his glasses and cell phone on his chest, still in his traveling overalls.  You could tell from the light it was Hawaii sunset time.  One Pralle at a time, we’re getting this move done.  

Nick figured out that each cubic foot in the U-Haul shipping container is worth about $8, and gently convinced my dad to triage out several cubic feet of $1 resin, glitter, and plastic beads from the craft store, in favor of items we can’t replace as cheaply.  He is packing all of my dad’s completed resin art, which is significant.  A lot of it contains orgonite, and filters out EMF’s from the room, very good to have next to the bed.  It’s been really fun to watch my dad able to surrender his identity of bringing home the bacon, in favor of his true artistic self.  He retired as a high school math teacher, and a very good one, on the Navajo reservation, but had put in 13 *years* in the oil field when we were younger, to make ends meet.  I did the oil field too, for a season, and I literally can’t imagine sticking it out for 13 years, in Wyoming no less.  That’s some hardcore blue collar hero shit right there.  I mean, my dad has busted his ass for us, to keep the lights on and food on the table, and there is nothing that makes me happier than to see him now, fussing with his resin art and his beautiful piano compositions.  I even have a plan to get those recorded minus the normal bottlenecks.

Knowing that, moving forward, we will have him right there and whatever he needs as the years go by, we can make it happen, is just everything.  So many elderly-trending folks are separated from their children by distance and circumstance, and it’s just awful.  I want my family right in front of me, where I can see them.

I talked with Nick’s mom on the phone yesterday, for the first time since her mom died earlier this summer.  She’s really struggling to process the absolute rage anyone would feel, having her very disoriented, dementia-afflicted mother isolated from contact with all the people she loves and who love her, for months, because COVID, without the ability to understand why no one was visiting her, feeling completely abandoned — and then *dying* that way.  Like — I guess no one loves me and I’m just here dying.  And then it’s over, and there’s no closure, no justification why everyone everywhere gets to riot in the streets and Pelosi gets to have her Brazilian blowout, and Nick’s mom’s MOTHER had to just lay there and die feeling totally abandoned.  I mean, I’m pretty philosophically resilient, and able to take even life and death stuff with a trusting grain of salt in most senses, but I’m fucking raging about it.  That is so awful, it’s just so so awful.  I want everyone to sue, and sue, and sue about what’s been happening.  In a world where there’s a fucking Constitution, none of this can hold up in court.  I mean, we’re already seeing that.  Let’s redistribute the wealth after all, by absolutely beggaring every leader, every entity, that did this to us, that did that to Nick’s grandma and his mother.  

Well, now the FACL came by, was also surprised we weren’t open despite telling us not to be open, and for that reason if nothing else said we’re demobed.  I was like, that is just fine.  Money-wise, I’d rather relocate to the other camp, but I’d bet $100 they’d move us, have us set up, and THEN demobe us, which would really chap my ass.  So, this is great.  Two days of driving — oh wait in changed again.  One day of driving somewhere else, then flying to Idaho, then driving another unit back.  Sorry, this blog sucks, too many moving parts.  Okay, now turns out I have to take the whole unit back apart and winterize it.  Agh!  I guess writing time is done once again whether I’m ready or not.  Namaste y’all!                                     

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