December 24, 2017

Silent night: 12 weeks after the Wine Country fire

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jane Stillwater @ 12:39 am

I recently got a chance to spend a night at The Bergson, an upscale bed-and-breakfast in Calistoga, CA. I jumped at the chance.

And while I was up there, my childhood friend Ron offered to take me on a tour of the ruins of the Wine Country fire. I jumped at that chance too. All those hundreds of sad, broken and incinerated ruins of homes that we saw made me just want to cry.

Here we are, just hours before Christmas, all snug in our beds — and all those other families that lost their homes in that catastrophe, over 1,500 of them, have no room at the inn.

“At midnight on October 6, 2017, a small fire started in the mountains above Calistoga,” my friend Ron told me. “By 4:00 am, the fire was already burning down homes 30 miles away….” Who would have thought that a fire could travel that fast.

“There were 80-mile-per-hour winds that night.” Who could have predicted stuff like that?

And now, over two months later, these firestorm victims will soon be facing their first post-nightmare Christmas. “Some of these victims are still sleeping on the couches of relatives. Some have moved out of the area to places where rents are cheaper. Some live in RVs and shower at YMCAs. Before the fire, there was a 5% housing vacancy rate in this area. Now 5% of the housing stock here has been totally destroyed.”

Seeing all those acres and acres and acres of ruins — ruins of multi-million-dollar mansions and ruins of paycheck-to-paycheck trailer parks — brought tears to my eyes.

If your home was destroyed in that horrible fire, please know this: Although the American news cycle may have forgotten about you and moved on to the next front-page story, many of us Americans have not forgotten you. And to all of you who are homeless? We wish you a merry Christmas. And also a good night. And a roof over your heads on Christmas morning as well.

PS: Paying our taxes to the federal government is exactly like buying life insurance — and auto insurance and fire insurance and insurance against theft.

And yet when a disaster strikes and it actually comes time to collect on our insurance policies (like after the Wine Country fire or the Walker fire or Katrina or Hugo or Maria), at a time when we most desperately need it? That’s when we suddenly discover that our tax money has all been embezzled — brazenly stolen by corporate con-men, sleazy “war” contractors, ponzi-scheme banksters and all those white-collar criminals in the White House, congress and the supreme court that Wall Street and War Street lobbyists have forced down our throats.

Sucks to be us.

PPS: I myself be spending Christmas in my old home town, trying to exorcise the ghosts of Senator McCarthy that haunted 1950s Millbrae, and also an unhappy childhood spent living in a small house with two parents who refused to speak to each other. But at least I had a roof over my head.


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