Yes, of course we went fishing yesterday–the highest and best use of my husband’s Presidents’ Day holiday. The sky was variable, but the rain left us alone. We were working on some tasks at home until mid-afternoon; we didn’t think the fish would miss us.
At one point around 3:00 in the peaceful afternoon, I turned around to look at the opposite side of the river. I saw a broad plume of very dark-grey smoke, higher than anything else on the land. It looked to me to be at least 40 feet high, but I have no idea how high it actually was. “My God, there’s a fire!” I said with amplified volume. I somehow was no less terrified of the fire some miles away across water than I’d have been had we been closer. My husband turned quickly from the near shore and our fishfinder. We were speculating whether it was a group of subsidized housing units or a storage unit. I was trying to think within a referential context of Clarkston, Washington in 2017. But my mind wasn’t there.
My mind was in Isla Vista, California, in 1970. I was coming home from a Latin final at UCSB, handing my driver’s license over to a Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputy. He asked where I was headed. I assured him I was going straight home. He assured me I’d better follow that plan. I was glad I lived in Goleta, and no longer in I.V.
I no longer remember whether this was before or after fellow USBC student Kevin Moran was shot and killed by a riot control trooper whose shotgun had a defective safety. Kevin had been working diligently with some other altruistic volunteers, putting out fires set by rioters.
The fire my husband and I saw across the river yesterday was the result of a man trying to repair his truck in a rented shop. He had other vehicles and several containers of volatile fuel in his work area, and evidently too few precautionary safety provisions.
But I saw, and continue to see, another fire entirely–one that likely seared my memory forever, deliberately set by stupid looters and self-styled idealists annoyed with the Isla Vista branch of the Bank of America, who decided to shove a burning dumpster through the bank’s door, 47 years ago.
I suppose it’s a PTSD thing; if it is, I sincerely hope you do not understand.