Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Flame Style

"Fuck her," said the actor I recognized most recently from his stint on "Lost". He drunkenly shook my drunken hand and left. It was a nice thing to hear. Whether I agreed with the sentiment or not, hearing someone else badmouth some of my pain's source felt good. It was a tough weekend packed full of sympathetic words from both friends and strangers and something about the simplicity of "Fuck her" seemed most helpful. It may have been the (in)famous margaritas (specially infused with comedy) I had imbibed, but not feeling like a victim for a second was nice. You can't fuck a fire, but you can fuck an ex-girlfriend.

Sometime between the evenings of August 29th and August 31st, The Ranch- my home for the past four years- burned down in "The Station Fire" in Los Angeles. Over the same weekend I was informed that my ex-girlfriend (thus far the proverbial love of my life) was moving in with her new boyfriend. It was the most thorough two day life cleansing I have ever had- though it should be pointed out that I've never had a colonic.

One year prior we had been evacuated for a local fire, so when the time came to evacuate for this one, I didn't take it too seriously. Despite evidence suggesting more deliberate and serious packing was necessary (the atmosphere was orange and it was raining so much ash that you could literally hear it hitting the ground), I grabbed my laptop and some hard drives and that's about it. I drove out to Bakersfield that night for a fantasy football draft. I returned a day later with some questionable wide receivers and no access to my street. I had left my cat(s), guitars, clothes, pictures... really everything I have accrued over the last 32 years, in the middle of the largest fire in Los Angeles county's modern history.

On that first week of September, a few of us Ranchers went up to assess the damage. We had heard all kinds of rumors about the condition of our street and went up looking for either something to salvage or some kind of closure. We apparently took a wrong turn and ended up in Hiroshima. The entire street was decimated. The four of us split up and sifted through our respective fallen cabins, which were still smoking and smoldering.

I can't say that I'm intelligent, complex or advanced enough to know exactly what feelings I was feeling, but I can say that the feelings I felt were feelings I've never felt before.

Walking through the ashes of my home was surreal. Almost everything had lost its form. Metal had melted and re-hardened, forming some new and entirely unrecognizable object with all sentimental value boiled out of it. Everything else had turned to white ash. At one point I found the remains of my biggest regret other than the cat(s). I found the pile of notebooks I left behind. It was ten solid years of writing, never backed up onto a computer. You could see the shape of the pages clinging to the metal spiral, but once my fingers touched them, they floated off. I now claim that each screenplay, note and sketch in those pages was the most brilliant thing ever formed by human hands. Go ahead and argue. You really want to punch a refugee in the heart like that?

Feeling my walls and TV and student films fall through my fingers like they never existed made it hard to grasp how, just a week earlier, these things had so much meaning to me. I couldn't connect to what had happened. Then I looked up at everyone else sifting through their ashen memories (which, coincidentally, is the name of my new emo band: Ashen Memories).

Watching my friends stand in the middle of nothingness, looking for anything that still resembled meaning, was what made me realize that this stuff really was gone. Everything I had placed value on and carried with me for so long was absolutely gone. This place that had housed so many parties and served as the location for so many shoots, was now only a memory. We were all standing in the center of a life altering experience.

No matter what happens from here, this is something none of us will ever forget. It's a hard thing and the worst moments- for me, anyway- are when I find myself in the middle of a conversation and I suddenly realize, "Oh shit! The Buffalo Bills hat I got at my grandfather's funeral no longer exists..."* I suppose that will be happening for some years to come. A lot of memories will be forgotten simply because the object that memory lived in was gone. Without those little, physical reminders, my swiss cheesed brain will probably never recall certain moments again. It's depressing for obvious reasons, but it's also a great perspective builder. Much of what we hold onto is fleeting.

I'm not sure how the rest of the Ranchers have been feeling, but I've felt like a ghost the past week. I'm trying to turn this all into a grand life adventure, but I'm having trouble starting. There is also lingering evidence that my mind is still not all there (please read this article to the end for a quote spoken by yours truly on the day I saw my burned possessions [hint: it has to do with how strong I am]: http://www.northcoastjournal.com/blogthing/2009/09/02/orange-and-raining-ash/).

Who knows what will come of the next hour or week or year. I just hope I mine this situation for all the silver linings it may or may not have. Like it or not, I don't own anything anymore. That's the deal. So I say, "Fuck fire," and why not have a tet a tet with the ocean, plow through a bottle of wine (Fuckass! I just realized I lost a case of wine Glen and Anne gave me in the fire. Assblankets!), yell at the moon and couch surf in Malibu? In a way, the world is my delicious, salty oyster right now. Just as I am jealous of you for still owning the things you find precious, I want to win at life so thoroughly over the next few months that you find yourself feeling tiny pangs of envy in regards to my freedom. That, or I want to try and be drunk for 400 days straight. Either way, I win.

* No, they do not sell Bills memorabilia at funerals in Buffalo. **

** Who am I kidding... yes they do.

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