Thursday, July 30, 2015

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

My friend Cheryl had a couple of pretty anxious days earlier this week when her husband and eldest teenage son were gone, battling the fires raging across the dry plains of Millville, not far from their home. Every time her loved ones go out on a fire call she is understandably nerve-wracked, fearing the worst, hoping for the best, scared for her mate and progeny when they volunteer to go out and fight the flames every time something flares up near Millville.

I've never known what that feels like, but my own 19 year old stepson has now decided that this is his calling as well, and pretty soon he'll be going into the Shasta College Fire Technology program, maybe even studying along with Cheryl's sons as they train in the program.

As a resident of Northern California during the fire season, I know we need all the trained firefighters we can get right now. And I'm thankful for their bravery, and thankful that we have a great training institution.  But as mothers, we already worry about our kids playing with fire. Now to have them working and fighting with fire scares the crap out of us. I worry about them suffering from heat exhaustion, burns, lack of sleep and dehydration.

So much to worry about.

And so much to be thankful for. Our firefighters have been going nonstop for 2 days now, working on no less than 9 fires that have broken out in Shasta County. Three homes have burned so far, but hundreds have been saved. The China Fire could have easily burned down as many homes as the Clover Fire did a few years ago, so I'm kind of feeling like we dodged a bullet this week.

I also feel like I should point out that it's not lost on me how vigilant and responsive our region's fire fighting agencies have already been this summer. I can't even count on all my fingers the little fires that have started - every one of them by reckless or malicious human beings, many of them in illegal encampments - that could've taken out entire neighborhoods, our beautiful Caldwell Park and even a train trestle, but didn't. But it easily could've gone that way if our fire fighters weren't at the absolute top of their game and ready to roll.

While I'm handing out good guy points, a tip of the hat goes to each watchful citizen who understands the potential threat of every little wisp of smoke, and doesn't waste any time calling it in. Because of people like you, the job of protecting our community has been made somewhat easier.

So while Cheryl's entire family, my stepson, and all the other brave young men & women of Northern California are out there putting their lives on the line to pounce on fires before they burn down entire neighborhoods, I'd like to remind everyone - during the hottest friggin' week of the year - to stay safe, and not do any of those things that people shouldn't do when the temperatures are in the triple digits and the humidity is in the single digits.

  • DONT play with matches or toss your cigarette butts. That's how a motel on North Market a few years ago lost 7 guest rooms.
  • DONT set off fireworks. A medical office burned on the 4th of July two years ago in Redding as a result of this.
  • DONT play with matches. Kids playing with matches caused a fire that burned down a 6-plex and almost took down Enterprise High School with it a few years ago.
  • DONT mow your lawn unless you know there's no rocks in the grass….and don't do it without having a water source nearby. Remember the Bear Fire?
  • DONT tow a trailer or a boat with a chain that's dragging & might set off sparks. That's believed to be the cause of the big Yosemite Fire not long ago.
  • DONT drive your car or motorcycle through the dry brush, and if you have a catalytic converter and your car is running rough, get it checked out immediately. A faulty catalytic converter started a fire on Benton Airpark Drive a few years ago that almost burned down the SHASCOM dispatch center.

But DO click on the play arrow below & take a listen to today's Smoke Gets In Your Eyes Playlist on Spotify. By the way, this playlist - the entire thing - was put together through suggestions from loyal Mistress of the Mix readers & commenters. There have been a couple of columns in the past dedicated to the fires that dominate our Northstate summers, and I've received so many great song suggestions that didn't make it into my original playlist, that this one is yours and yours only (although I did switch up the performers a bit, just to keep things interesting.) If you've got a song suggestion that you don't see here, please leave it in the comments, because one thing I'm sure of as long as I'm living in Shasta County, and as long as I'm the Mistress of the Mix, there will be more fires. So stay in the game, keep your eyes open, and keep your cell phones handy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Running Late

People warned me this would happen. "Now that she's getting ready to go off to university, prepare yourself," they said. "She might get a little lippy with you. It's just her way of starting to spread her wings before she leaves the nest."

 My daughter? Never.

 And then this morning, I was sitting at the kitchen counter, doing what I do every morning. Sipping coffee and Facebooking. I said, "Hey Sophia, what should I write about for this week's column? Give me some ideas." She looks at me, eyebrows raised, and said in an exasperated tone, "Really, mom? Why do you always wait until the last minute?"

 My daughter, my precious little angel, is getting ready to fly away. It's so cute. And totally annoying.

Not that she doesn't have a point. For the last umpteen years, as long as she's been alive, basically, I've been the kind of person who pushes deadlines.

For 13 years, I dropped my daughter off for school with less than 5 minutes to spare every time. And sometimes I had to call the office and explain her my tardiness.  If I have somewhere 15 minutes away at 7pm, I leave the house at 6:45. I never show up early to anything, just ask my husband. He will totally back up my daughter on this one. If you asked him what he likes least about me it would be that I never show up early, and sometimes I'm late.

I'm the 14 year old who showed up to the premiere of the first Indiana Jones movie just as he was moving the monkey idol off of its stand in the cave, so I watched Harrison Ford run from the giant rolling boulder while standing in the middle of the aisle, much to the irritation of pretty much everyone else behind me.

I'm the student who totally should've been appointed as Editor-In-Chief of my high school newspaper, and wasn't. When I asked my journalism teacher why I ended up Editorial Editor instead, Mr. Wells said, "You're good, but you never make your deadlines!" Couldn't argue there.

I'm the gal who missed the only northbound flight out of town to Seattle to attend a wedding and sat crying on the sidewalk in front of the airport because I didn't realize just how early I had to show up to get through security.

I'm the gal who once (and only once) showed up 15 minutes after I was supposed to be onstage to introduce a performance at the Cascade Theatre. And if you're wondering, yeah, the show will go on without me. You should've seen the look on Todd Tracy's face when I walked in the door. "Are you here to introduce the show?" he said. Of course I was! "No you're not," said Todd.

So Wednesday evening as I was leaving work to go home, change and return to introduce Lyle Lovett & his Large Band, I waved goodbye to the crew at the Cascade and said, "See you at 7:30!" and just before the door closed someone said, "7:15!!!!!"

So there you have it. It's been well established. There are plenty of witnesses ready and willing to testify that I'm almost never early, usually there at the last possible moment, and often-times a moment too late.

But not today, friends. I got this puppy finished long before my deadline...whatever my deadline is, I'm not even sure. Seems like usually I'm until almost midnight, long past the time that Doni has gone to bed, and my column usually ends up in the inbox of her son Joe, who's just waking up to his Friday in the Czech Republic. Not this time, Joe. Not this time.

All hope is not lost for me though. I hope. I figure I'm just setting myself up to someday live up to my favorite quote of all time, no matter who you think said it first: motorcycle racer Bill McKenna (who's version involves skidding to the finish line leaking oil), Seattle octogenarian Mavis Leyrer (who's version adds a glass of bubbly in hand and yelling "Holy Shit!"), or gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's weirdly tame version:

Enjoy today's Running Late playlist, which is not, coincidentally, late at all. Just click on the Spotify play arrow in the box below, or scroll through the list to check out the songs.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fireworks & Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding. Raspberries. Whipped Cream. Tradition.

Since the dawn of time, my parents have celebrated the 4th of July with chocolate pudding and fresh raspberries topped with whipped cream. I don't know how Jello pudding became a family tradition, only that for the past umpteen years, that's how we roll at the Ing Ranch.

My parents have had a spectacularly positioned home for viewing the fireworks display in Ashland, high up on the hill overlooking the university football stadium where pyrotechnicians are hard at work creating a light show for the city. But after 35 years, the trees on the downhill side of their house have crept up higher and higher, so that you really have to stand in just the right place on my parent's deck to get a partial view of the festivities.

Back in the 90's, my parents even went to ridiculously great extremes to secure the opportunity to thin out some trees that were endangering their view of the valley below. Extremes that I won't even go into here, not because they were illegal or anything, just forehead slapping extreme in that my-parents-are-crazier-than-your-parents kind of way. These days, they would probably have to resort to something illegal to get their view back, like introducing some kind of invasive tree-eating beetle or Sudden Oak Death, because the whole hillside has simply grown up.

What I'm getting at is that there's not a whole lot to see from my parent's deck any longer, but every year when I make a pilgrimage back to the cultural Mecca of Ashland for the holiday, the fridge is completely packed with an entire flat of raspberries, a huge mixing bowl of chocolate pudding, and about 6 cans of whipped cream. Once upon a time, there were so many people on the deck for the 4th of July that I worried about the integrity of the cantilevering. Nowadays, as my parents have been blessed with longevity and have reached Octogenarian status, fewer and fewer friends show up each year.

Another family tradition that goes back to the days before there was a Starbucks in downtown Ashland is putting on a big floppy hat, and drive down the hill, parking as close as one can get to the aforementioned Starbucks (which is about a half mile), and congregating either on the deck of the coffee shop or on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop in blistering heat for 3 hours to watch the 4th of July Parade. The only years I have not participated in this compulsory event since 1981 are the years I spent in Alaska, and the year I was (ever so thankfully) living on a Greek island. I was ever so thankful that year not because the Greeks don't celebrate the 4th of July, but because that was the year that my former boyfriend through most of my college years decided to get married on the 4th of July. On a float in the parade. Can you imagine anything more uncomfortable than getting hitched while standing on the flatbed of a semi going about 2 miles an hour in 100 degree heat in front of 20-thousand strangers? I can. Imagine if you were that guy's ex-fiancee, standing on the sidewalk in a floppy hat watching it happen. So I'm glad I didn't have to see that. But I heard about it, oh I heard about it. All the way from Greece.

Moving on...

My husband - the newest member of this family - is kind of known in my family for pulling the pin & tossing a conversational hand grenade into the room. He has made the bold suggestion that we throw tradition to the wind this year, and change things up a little bit. He has offered up the idea of the whole family trekking up to Diamond Lake, where it's ten degrees cooler, where we can rent a paddle boat, swim and fish in the lake, then sit on the deck at the Diamond Lake Resort, eat prime rib and watch their fireworks display while listening to a live band, and sleep in our 28 foot travel trailer in relative comfort.

He had me at 'ten degrees cooler.'

Diamond Lake. Ten Degrees Cooler.
My dad, who would rather have his toenails pried off by an Air Force Master Sergeant with a pair of pliers than attend another 4th of July parade in 110 degree heat, is all for it. My sister and her husband really like to create new family traditions, so the idea of doing something - anything - different than the way we've been doing it for 35 years is tantalizing. And their 7 year old daughter Lena loves a parade as much as any 7 year old, but I kind of think she might like swimming in the lake, bicycling on dirt roads and playing in the grass with my puppy and being right underneath the fireworks a little bit more than frying her bottom on the concrete curb of East Main Street and reapplying sunscreen every half hour while watching some other kids ride their bikes in a parade. I bet if I tell her there's face painting up at Diamond Lake that I can seal this deal.

The only person left that I really need to convince...the only person who really truly matters, is my mom. But I have 3 pieces of ammunition in my arsenal that I might be able to use to sway her:

#1 Pudding can travel

#2 My trailer has air conditioning

#3 And a memory foam mattress.

I'll let you know how it goes. It's quite possible that the fireworks this year will be going off inside my mom & dad's house.

In the meantime, I've got the music to bring to this party. Feel free to stream today's 4th of July playlist at your party as well, no matter where you are. And a big thanks to my summer intern, Jackson Whitmore, who helped me immensely in moving this playlist over from where it used to live to it's new digs at Spotify. All you need to do is click the play arrow on the box below and enjoy!

  1. Katy Perry - Firework
  2. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - This Land Is Your Land
  3. Straight No Chaser - America The Beautiful
  4. James Brown - Living In America
  5. Neil Diamond - America
  6. Bruce Springsteen - Born In The USA
  7. Lenny Kravitz - American Woman
  8. John Mellencamp - R.O.C.K. In The USA
  9. Chuck Berry - Back In The USA
  10. Grand Funk Railroad - We're An American Band
  11. Neil Young - Rockin' In The Free World
  12. Don McLean - American Pie
  13. Elton John - Philadelphia Freedom
  14. The Beatles - Revolution
  15. Miley Cyrus - Party in the USA
  16. Shooter Jennings - 4th Of July
  17. Toby Keith - Courtesy Of The Red White & Blue
  18. Randy Travis - America Will Always Stand
  19. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - An American Dream
  20. Steve Miller Band - Living In The USA
  21. Martin Sexton - Free World
  22. Keb' Mo' - America The Beautiful
  23. Glenn Miller - American Patrol
  24. The Impressions - This Is My Country
  25. Johnny Cash - Ragged Old Flag
  26. Jimi Hendrix - Star Spangled Banner
  27. Lee Greenwood - God Bless the USA
  28. Kate Smith - God Bless America
  29. James Taylor - On The 4th of July
  30. The Presidents Own United States Marine Band - Stars & Stripes Forever