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Los Angeles: Slow Dancing In A Burning Room (or Life In The Apocalypse)

If you don’t watch the news, you might not have heard about the apocalyptic fires happening along the west coast of the United States.

Even if you do watch the news, your exposure to that information might vary.

Thankfully, Los Angeles itself is not on fire. For once. The closest fire to Los Angeles is the Bobcat Fire, which is located above Azusa, a little over 30 miles from me. I’m lucky not to be in any imminent danger, and probably won’t ever be due to living in a very developed area — there’s nothing to burn here but apartment buildings. Even living in California, one of the concessions that we make to live in this paradise is that once a year, there are just months where the state is on fire. It happens, has always happened, and will always happen. In fact, it will probably get worse as the climate gets more and more dry and every summer gets hotter and hotter.

Although, despite the thoughts of the current resident of the White House, they are not caused by trees exploding because they’ve gotten too dry.

In terms of stressful situations, a wildfire isn’t one that I’m unused to at this point. In fact, it seems par for the course for how this year has turned out.

It may be a broken record at this point, but did anyone really think that 2020 would be like this?

Even living in Los Angeles, life has changed almost completely. The streets have changed as more and more restaurants spill out onto them, and the city considers closing streets to allow for more foot traffic and outdoor activities. Whole neighborhoods look different as everyone has started to adjust.

It feels like the world is ending because it kind of is.

The world as we knew it is ending, and all we can do is slow dance. (I know it's a breakup song, humor me.)

I moved to Los Angeles because at the time, I didn’t, couldn’t, find the life in Houston. As much as I love it now, I needed the experiences that LA offered me — the people, the culture, the life. There are so many things to do here, right at your fingertips, that you would’ve had to hunt for in Houston (and that I maybe took for granted by living in the suburbs and not close to the city).

Those things that made me love the city, though, have changed - maybe even irreparably. Not just because of fire, but pandemic changing the way we go about our lives. We enjoyed concerts so often, going to restaurants and enjoying the design and ambiance of places. I still haven’t been to the Getty or the Broad, and I miss wandering the stacks of The Last Bookstore (I hope it survives).

We went to a drive-in concert a couple months ago and while it was one of my favorite artists, playing my favorite album front to back, it wasn’t the same. I was flooded with memories of listening to that same album being played, but squished between bodies and singing along as loudly as I could with everyone else in the room.

That definitely won’t happen again anytime soon.

And sure, there are concessions made and compromises. We do what we can to support the places we love, to do something fun and have some semblance of the life we lived before. We put on our masks and use our hand sanitizer and change our clothes before getting back in the car after sitting at the bar for a little bit, but outdoors.

Even that is difficult right now, even with masks, as the smoke from the fires along the west coast coats the air above LA. Last week the smoke was so thick, it blocked the sun and caused the temperatures to drop — following a historic weekend where the heat reached nearly 120 degrees in the parts of the Valley that I live in. It was the hottest it had ever been in Death Valley, the hottest August in the history of the state recording temperatures. Then all of a sudden the smoke was thick enough to make it drop to the low 80’s, the sun a glowing copper orb in the sky, powerless.

We go on as best we can, slow dancing, as the world burns around us, because there is nothing else we can do.

(There is, but our actions take time to create results - we are civilians after all).

We can plan for the world ahead, buy holiday decorations, nest in our homes and make them better. Learn new skills. Practice self care - journal, skin care, sleeping more, eating better, drinking more water. Reading, relaxing, being kinder on ourselves.

Slow dances that continue through our worlds, hoping that the burning will subside, or turn into something better.

The concerts will come back, the museum exhibits will still be there. Hopefully the bars will still be there, and we’ll be able to sit in their air conditioning rather than under umbrellas. You can always rebuild something that has burnt down, clean away the ashes and create something better, something stronger.

Hopefully the fires here, have ignited something else in the country. If fires can happen here, they can happen anywhere. If protests can happen here, they can happen anywhere.

Change can be a fire and sometimes things need to burn down to start again.

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