Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nothing But Brown Skies

You may have heard we have a couple of wildfires here in California. There might have been something on the news about it. Mel Gibson and James Cameron and many other famous people were forced to evacuate their expensive Malibu homes... yes, they are technically homeless now. There are a dozen wildfires burning all over SoCal - and the day before the Malibu fire started we had a “red flag warning” - high fire danger. What that means is that it’s hot, it’s dry, and it’s windy. The Malibu fire was caused by downed power lines...

We’ve had freakin’ gale force winds down here!

A couple of days ago I was sitting in Starbucks, watching the *metal* outdoor furniture blow away. Chairs, tables... blowing toward the parking lot. People were diving out of the way. Some security guards grabbed some of the stuff before any cars were damaged. People were having trouble walking. Hats and toupees were flying!

So, I come home after a hard day of splitting infinitives and...

My block is dark. In fact, several blocks are dark.

It’s strange to see part of a city with no lights at all. No street lights, no stop lights, no lights in windows, no store lights.... nothing but darkness. You think Los Angeles drivers have no idea what they’re doing in daylight? Wait until the traffic lights go out.

This also sucks, because I had been working on battery in Starbucks and my ;aptop is now dead... and the plan was to finish this article for Script at home. Well, that’s not going to happen. I also planned on doing some work on my Expo classes, and that isn’t going to happen either. The good news is, I spot a power company truck down the street doing something. My guess is the wind blew down a power pole, and they were working on it. That means it would probably be fixed by morning. How many cars would smash into each other while the traffic lights were dark?

I make it into the parking lot without getting hit and use what little moonlight there is to find my way to my front door... where my body blocks the key hole and I have to get the key in by touch. I open the door - and it is absolutely black within. Great! A chance to break a leg.

I have a big heavy duty flashlight under my bed - earthquake preparedness. During the big Northridge quake, I was living in Van Nuys (close to Northridge) and my building was quaked. It happened in the middle of the night, and knocked out the power. I found clothes and shoes by feeling around, and walked out of my 2nd story apartment, picking the stairway I never use... which was good, because the stairway I usually use was *gone*. I could have been killed... so now I keep a flashlight nearby.

Well, the problem was getting to the flashlight using only the light from my open front door. The further I get from the door, the more absolute the darkness. By the time I get to my bed, it’s pitch black. I feel around under the bed, hand coating with dust bunnies, and find the flashlight. Click it on, and everything is okay.

There’s this cool little film written and directed by David Koepp, who wrote the first SPIDER-MAN and almsot every other big Hollywood blockbuster, that takes place in Sacramento, CA during a power outage. All power, all TV, all radio, everything... dead. Food rotting in freezers. People go to the store for supplies... and the cash registers don’t work (they’re all electric, now). So people begin looting stores. Nice people, good people, honest people... looting. Hey, they would pay if they could, but the need this stuff *now*, no time to wait until the power returns... if it ever returns.

When darkness falls, people grab guns to protect their property from looters. And it doesn’t take long for flare ups, arguments, fights to break out. Eventually people get shot. After the world descends into chaos.... the lights come back on.

So I’m hoping the power guys get this thing fixed pretty soon.

For now, I have no TV and I don’t want to kill the flashlight battery by leaving it on. Problem is, it isn’t late enough to go to sleep... That’s when I remember that I own a portable DVD player - a Christmas gift from my parents last year. I had ran down the battery the last time I used it... but *the night before* I had plugged it in to recharge the battery. Hey! I had a DVD player! I also have hundreds of DVDs, including DOUBLE INDEMNITY double disk, brand new still in the shrink wrap. Okay, I would turn off the flashlight, turn on the DVD player, crawl into bed and watch a great Billy Wilder movie. I wish I could sip hot cocoa, too... but that would require power. So I had some grape juice.

I watched the film on the 7 inch screen, getting sleepy...

When the film ended, I was ready to fall asleep... but the power came on. I had flipped the light switch just inside the front door, so I got out of bed to turn it off...

And realized that I had left my front door open.

Could have been worse. I could have woke up the next morning and walked in to discover the open front door in my underpants with my neighbors walking down the hallway.

The fires are far away, but the smoke is right here. Everything is hazy, and they're warning us to stay indoors and try not to breathe any of this crap. The sunsets are orange, and even the moon is orange. Kind of pretty... but hard on the lungs.

I hope all of you who live in areas affected by the fires are safe, and your homes are okay. And I hope Mel Gibson and James Cameron aren’t wandering the streets with shopping carts full of their stuff.

- Bill


Anonymous said...

Best Reportage I've seen from California fire country!
Both general and individual.

Richard McNally said...

Glad to know you escaped the flames. Your discovery of your open door reminded me of a line from a Raymond Chandler novel: "You do that one more time and you're gonna wake up in an alley with cats looking at you."

Today's Script Secret was informative as always. You might want to think about institutionalizing this service. You could be an accredited online extension of a film school. The Tips are highly learner-friendly in their one-a-day availability. There's no possibility of being swamped by information overload and not keeping up with the instructor.

But maybe it's better karma if they remain just as their are-- friendly.


wcmartell said...

Every once in a while I consider making the tips a subscription deal. One free every week and the other 4 for subscribers only... and charge something like $10 a year. Though part of the reason for that would be that I make money, another part is that it would assign the tips a value. Some people think anything free can't be as good as something they pay a lot of money for.

An example of this is my 2 day class - something like a third the price of McKee's... and he fills huge rooms. I get a much smaller turn out. That may be because McKee is more famous than me, but I always wonder how he go to be more famous. I think when you charge $600 for a class, people think it's gotta be good.

But the problem with going subscription? I'd have to write at least one new tip every week, or I'd feel guilty as hell for taking anybody's money. And one tip a week for 52 weeks? That's a friggin' fuil length book worth of writing! I can't imagine finding the time to do that... I'd rather finish my new spec, then write another one.

- Bill

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