Sunday, November 11, 2007

San Diego burning bright

Almost a month since my last post. After the grant fracas, I visited some old American friends in Munich and then Salzburg. We hit the legendary HofBrauHaus in Munich, which was great fun, though we noted that most people there seemed to have the exact same accent we did. In the Englisch Gardens, we had a beer and crispy blob of deep fried pig fat (schweinhaxe) at an outdoor pavilion. I gotta relay an exchange that Sam and I overheard from someone ordering at the beer counter.

(jackass speaking English): Can I get a glass of water?
(answer in heavily accented English): The river is over there!

On Sunday the 21st I flew from Bremen to San Diego. My last flight was from Denver to San Diego. I was trying to sleep and kept getting interrupted with stupid annoucements about the Red Sox game or our location or other uninformative trivialities. Good evening from the captian and your Boston - based flight crew this evening. We have now leveled out at 31,000 feet. We have a clear flight to San Diego, so I'll turn off the seat belt sign, and you're welcome to move about the cabin.

(you turned it off five minutes ago, and there are three people waiting in front of the midgalley lavatory.)

Weather there is about 68 degrees this evening, no chance of rain.

(duh. Lemme sleep!)

We hope you enjoy the view of the Rocky Mountains below us. We're expecting an on - time arrival in San Diego this evening. And the Sox just scored!

(OK, I want a fucking volume control on announcements from the captain.)

And on either side of the plane, you can see a lot of things, or could if it weren't dark. And now we're starting our initial descent. The Sox just got a double! One of them scratched his nads! And now you can see some the fires on the left.

(hmmpf? snort? pah. must have misheard. back to sleep.)

It's 3-2, Sox, middle of the fifth! Off to the left you can see Mexico.

(Of course you can, shut up!)

We might have a slight delay because of the fires, but we should arrive on time. And the Sox ...

I heard none of this, since I bothered to open an eye after the first clause. That was the first I learned of the fires. I was in SD until Nov 7, when I had to give a talk for the Society for Neuroscience conference. There was never any real threat to my family or home, but it was still intense for the first week. My mom and I drove up Interstate 15 on the 28th and it was an unholy tangle of writhing black skeletons. Smoke hung in the valleys, puffy choking wraiths spawned from the gaping gash of my homeland. Each hill was respite, and then you had to plunge through mustard gas again. The air was bad enough that we had to turn around and go home, grateful we had one.

I edited out a lot of further commentary about the fires, although I enjoyed writing some of it. Poetic whining is still whining. One funny note. One of the local blogs had an entry titled "Eatin' Good at the Q." Qualcomm Stadium was used as an evacuation center. All the news channels said it was very well stocked, with a slew of volunteers and donated goodies. Somebody - I would guess an SDSU undergrad (and not an evacuee) - worked out that he could get free meals there. He described free BBQ ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, mexican food, bottled water and soda, etc. Day after day. Now of course this is total bullshit in a time of crisis, and initially made my blood boil like the sap must have on millions of ancient pines. But then I had to laugh. As dad once said, the word "sophomoric" is in the dictionary for a reason.

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