A Thousand Words

It's very difficult to focus on the good these days, and I'm struggling to hold both truth and positivity in balance. I don't want to live in denial about how bad things are, and I especially don't want to lie. On the other hand, wailing in a corner tearing my hair out won't help anyone, and will make for a life not worth living. As Garrison Keillor once said, "He had to get a hold of himself, so as not to go crazy. Because there was too much time to be crazy in!"

There's definitely too much time to be crazy in.

So, in these times, I think the right thing to do is to keep a weather (heh) eye on the real, but not allow current events to trap you in their Medusa gaze. Because our current reality can freeze you in place, staring at that which makes you despair, unable to tear your eyes away. If you're not careful, you'll turn to stone. I've been mostly petrified for the last nine years.

So I thought we could do something a little different today. I've got some pictures that epitomize what I'd like the world to be. I thought I'd put one (or some) up and talk about what they mean to me, and then you all could, if you want, share pictures that represent what *you* would like to see in the world.

So here's one of my favorite pictures:

johnleehooker.jpg

It's from the set of the movie The Blues Brothers. I have loved that movie since I was an adolescent. I didn't realize then that the project was Aykroyd's way of re-popularizing classic blues, because I didn't realize blues had become unfashionable. (Sort of like, much later, I didn't realize J.K. Rowling was re-popularizing reading books. I didn't see how either reading or breathing could be unfashionable.) In fact, blues had, at the time, become so unfashionable that Aykroyd and John Landis (the director) were able to afford a star-studded cast, filled with actual blues legends, that they probably could not have assembled in one place if those legends hadn't fallen on hard times.

I also appreciated that the movie pointed a sharp and critical finger at the right-wing swing of our culture. The backstory was that Jake and Elwood Blues had grown up in a Catholic orphanage. At the beginning of the movie, they find out the orphanage is going to be closed down unless the impoverished institution can pay its tax bill. Neither the Catholic Church nor the government nor anybody else has any interest in keeping an orphanage going, preferring to make money off selling the real estate. So the two blues musicians (and criminals) take it upon themselves to raise the tax money and keep the orphanage doors open.

But here's the place where the fiction of the movie and real life intersect:

John Landis filmed this on Maxwell St in Chicago. There has always been something about the place and the people in that scene that compels me. Everything is so real, and the place so clearly bears the mark of the people who live there. It expresses them, not some rich white landlord or government, and not some corporate bastard. I don't romanticize the poverty shown here; it would be great if some of those buildings were not burned-out wrecks. Neither do I deny the rich history of intimidation and graft that existed in the Maxwell St Market. But the people Landis caught on film clearly have a neighborhood, and a community, that belongs to them.

In the shadow of the Loop's skyscrapers, there once was an open-air bazaar with sights, sounds and smells that seemed magically transported across time and space from some Old World village. The Maxwell Street market — its principal thoroughfare was just south of Roosevelt Road on either side of Halsted Street — was the ancestor of today's suburban flea markets. Yet they lack its essential ingredient: the pulsating energy created by near chaos that a Tribune reporter felt on Maxwell Street in 1947.

"Hawkers, spielers, pitchmen, and hucksters shout their wares while radios boom and customers haggle in a dozen languages. Merchandise drapes from awnings, spills over sidewalk stands and creaking pushcarts, litters the pavement and walks wherever the hawkers elect to take their stand. There is the sharp odor of garlic, sizzling redhots, spoiling fruit, aging cheese, and the strong suspect smell of pickled fish," the Trib's Lloyd Wendt wrote. "Everything blends like the dazzling excitement of a merry-go-round."

maxwell1941.jpg

The background music to life in the neighborhood was initially provided by mournful clarinets and screeching violins playing klezmer, the dance music Jewish immigrants brought with them. When Maxwell Street became an African-American neighborhood, the resident sound was mournful harmonicas and twanging guitars playing the blues that black musicians brought up from the Deep South. A common theme of both songbooks was love and loss.

maxwellstblack.jpg

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-maxwell-street-flashback-per-0831...

This, on the other hand, is what Maxwell St looks like today, after gentrification, a word whose etymology reveals its noxiousness:

maxwellstgentrified.jpg

Defenders of this kind of urban planning note the complete lack of poverty, dirt and mess. There certainly isn't any poverty. There aren't any poor people either. And it's not because they suddenly became rich.

In the 1990s his business fell off as nearby stores closed, victims of urban renewal. The nearby University of Illinois at Chicago was determined to border a more upscale neighborhood, and got it: Condos and trendy restaurants have erased Maxwell Street's heritage. "Don't they have a history department over at the university?" asked bluesman Jimmie Lee Robinson, who went on a hunger strike in 2000 to protest demolition work on Maxwell Street.

But to no avail, and old-timers were left to feel like the collateral damage of Progress. Paul Federman, who ran a clothing store founded by his father, was at a loss for what to do after its doors closed, as he explained to a Trib reporter.

"In a shopping mall all they know is one price," Federman said. "If I go out there, I become a clerk."

My picture, then, shows two white guys, artists and performers, who appreciated and respected the talent and work of black people; they used their fame to break through the insulation of white America and portray these musicians--and the people who were their first and best audiences--with true respect, and in so doing, they brought blues back from the shadowy unfashionable hinterland into which it was being driven back in the 1970s. It's too bad that they could not do the same for the actual community of Maxwell St. Their depiction of it was honest and respectful in the best sense, without either condescension or idealization, and it's unfortunate that the best they could do was make a record of the place that would, within fifteen years, become erased and replaced with a paean to profit that reflects the souls, sensibilities, transactions and customs of no one.

In most places, I would be called reactionary and racist for saying so, but I want more Maxwell St Markets in the world. And let me be clear, I don't need Maxwell St to be impoverished or quaint. It would be fine with me if those buildings I see in Landis' film were fixed up and if the people who lived there got better pay. What I like about the Maxwell St Market is that it was a locality: a place where physical geography intersects with the lives of those who live there, where the place reflects the feelings, desires, experiences, transactions, and customs of those who live there, as well as those who lived there before. After the gentrifiers come through, a place that once expressed the lives and history of a community expresses nothing but the fact that someone, somewhere, wanted to make a profit, and several other people wanted to pat themselves on the back for being able to afford high land prices.

What would you like to see more of in the world?
Show me your pictures.

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animal and people rescues and taking care of each other. One of the small towns in Western Oregon has taken the idea started by a local restaurant of putting together meals first for responders, but widening to those who need meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinners. Local farmers are bringing in produce, eggs, meat; restaurants are providing chefs and cooks; the local school has a commercial kitchen obviously not in use because of COVID.

Found it:

Also many have asked for maps showing up-to-date fire locations: This one uses NOAA, NASA, ESRI mapping from heat detection satellites. My nephew and his son live right in Oregon City in the path of the NW corner of the big complex. My sister and brother in law live in Wilsonville, still in stage 1.

I see overnight that Estacāda (esta-cay-duh)has been evacuated. The westward shift of weather has slowed the spread; brought up humidity and brought down temps, but the fire is so big it keeps spreading. Sunday into Monday the marine push should be even stronger, with a bit of rain and later in the week more rain. Here is that map:

https://gis.co.linn.or.us/portal/apps/View/index.html?appid=46e1d572cc41...

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Moser99

As Fred Rogers once said, look for the helpers.

look_for_the_helpers_mr_rogers_quote_0.jpg

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Granma's picture

@Moser99 Today, they have begun giving us good information and in the 2 p.m. press conference by county officials, they indicated we will be getting more information. Oregon City's evacuation zone level has been lowered to level 1, so friends and family in this area are pretty safe and can come home if they left. They are updating web sites and giving us specifics like where they have built some dozer fire break lines etc.
They have lowered evacuation levels for several other communities also. It all sounds the most encouraging of anything we've heard since this mess started.

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You went there in at least pairs, to buy illegal weapons from street vendors or "hot" merchandise in stores. Prostitutes were available too, for those not choosy or reckless. (I'm choosy and not reckless).
I'm talking 19650's and 1960's. The college was an island and students were warned not to leave the campus. Maybe it changed later. Maybe.

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We are so screwed.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

I'm not. What's the point of wiping poverty, dirt, and crime out of a place if you wipe life and whole communities of people with it? And it's not like anybody eradicated the poverty, dirt, and crime. It just got shoved somewhere else. And will be again.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Dawn's Meta's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal Portland greenhouses on Mt. Tabor. He was responsible for planning and planting street trees throughout Portland streets, parks, schools and public spaces like the Oregon (formerly Portland)Zoo.

One of the first projects which at the time we were very proud of was The Urban Renewal Project of near in neighborhoods just West of downtown. We know now that area was home to Jewish and Italian immigrants, who lived in a quiet, well ordered area. New bridge ramps and connectors to major highways and downtown were built. There may have been objections but I don't remember as I was subteen age.

Ironically my dad was full Sicilian, Catholic, son of NYC immigrants and quite dark, with thick wavy hair. With his high forehead and pipe he looked like Gershwin. He experienced racism throughout his worklife in Portland. Luckily, he managed to be so good at taking care of and creating new plant life, trees and flowers that he succeeded in his vocation. And ardently planted any throwaways in our own yard, his avocation.

The NW part of Portland was home to Jewish households of both the Reform and Conservative synagogues during my growing up years. I don't know where the Italians went and whether there was an identifiable geographic location for them after they were carved up and displaced. We grew up in a mostly white, protestant neighborhood, but attended a Franciscan parish school not far from us. A very costly venture for my parents with three of us to pay for.

We had super markets we could walk to but no outdoor public fresh produce that I remember.

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A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Allegedly Greek, but more possibly fairly modern quote.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Dawn's Meta

and, IMO, nothing necessarily wrong with urban renewal. But the 60s and 70s had some not-so-good ideas about what urban renewal was. All those downtown neighborhoods kinda blown apart by highways and beltways and overpasses. And then there's the question of how the people who are fixing the place up are gonna get their money back. Usually it's by hiking the rents.

More than anything, I think the people who live in the neighborhood need to have the biggest say in how their neighborhoods are renewed.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Dawn's Meta's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal on the first urban renewal sweep in Portland. There were large displacements of Black neighborhoods in close in SE Portland, replaced by the Coliseum and other"upgrades".

The area that we are familiar with is the South Auditorium Urban renewal district. I can't find the film about this but there are several reports and reviews written about the changes.

If only your wish of inclusion were true. But it doesn't seem to work out that way. In addition the replacement infrastructure and public buildings raise the cost of new housing.
South Auditorium Urban renewal

Aerial photos

In 1958, Portland voters approved an urban renewal plan that would result in the razing of the South Portland neighborhood and nearly all of its Jewish institutions by the early 1970s. As the community mourned this loss, a new institutional cluster emerged in southwest Portland, anchored by a new Jewish Community Center and conservative congregation Neveh Shalom, the result of a merger between Neveh Zedek and Ahavai Sholom.

Portland Jewish history

There are more including pdf documents about the decisions to raze South Portland.

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A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Allegedly Greek, but more possibly fairly modern quote.

Consider helping by donating using the button in the upper left hand corner. Thank you.

phillybluesfan's picture

We lived in eastern Pennsylvania for 15 years, half way between the Delaware state line and the Philadelphia airport. Our township was bordered on one side by Swarthmore and Media. The other side butted up against Eddystone and Chester.

We knew folks who had never taken the light rail into central Philadelphia, would not sit foot past the "Welcome to Chester" sign, and could not be persuaded to visit north Philly. But we frequently enjoyed live music at a jazz club in Chester, and I attended many Alternative Seminary classes in north Philly.

I was always struck by how alive the front stoops in the shade of the Frankfort elevated train were compared to the sterile mega mansion neighborhoods along the affluent Main Line. The Simple Way is a prime example.

Was not prepared to actually risk moving to those areas where I might honestly be more at risk of being a victim of gun violence. Yet Chester and north Philly did not scare me when I had reason to spend time there.

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Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@phillybluesfan

and Penn was a rich island with a little ring of restaurants and stores around it, immediately followed by dirt, poverty, and crime. Powelton Village, where I lived, was on the way back up after having been totally decimated in previous decades. It had that hush that such places have after they've completely fallen apart.

North Philly was touted as the truly dangerous part of Philly, but if I'd had a car I would have gone there, because I missed Cuban and Puerto Rican food terribly, and there wasn't any within a couple miles of where I was. That's when I started eating Middle Eastern food, because at least it had some flavor elements in common with the foods of my childhood: garlic, olives, garbanzo beans. Man, was I homesick! If I'd had a car I would have gone seeking food--but I wasn't about to get on those streetcar things. I have a lifelong tendency to motion sickness--don't know why--and one trip on one of those swaying cable cars was enough. The Blue Line and Red Line were fine. The Green Line and Yellow Line made me turn green.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@phillybluesfan

I was always struck by how alive the front stoops in the shade of the Frankfort elevated train were compared to the sterile mega mansion neighborhoods along the affluent Main Line.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Lookout's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

It is one of the reasons new houses rarely have porches these days...just an entry stoop.

Caught a fun Sci Fi this week...new to me anyway. (your mileage may vary).
"Raised by Wolves" episode 1

All the best!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout

Hard to live down here without air conditioning, though I did it in my youth. But it certainly does cut people off from each other.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@phillybluesfan

There was some cool shit Philly had to show me, after I stopped being a traumatized small-college-town girl from the South living in a big industrial NE city that had gone bankrupt. But it wasn't so much music. Lots and lots of good cheap theater and dance. Lots of little museums, some of them quite eccentric. Your friends were missing out never coming into Philly, despite everything that was bad about it.

I did make it down to South Philly a couple of times, to go to the Italian market. Rented a car every time, because of the whole nausea problem (also, if I was going to do a big shopping, I preferred not to lug it all home on the train).

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

ggersh's picture

is one huge racist city. In the picture below you have the Robert Taylor Homes(Projects) which if yo look closely were separated from the White folks by the Dan Ryan Xpressway shown on the left hand side of the picture. The Xpressway being put there was a feature not a bug, sadly separate and unequal still lives on in Chicago and ameriKKKa.

Even today the tRumps thank their slave Mayor Lighfoot for protecting tRump tower during the protests. Lightfoot is nothing but a tool for the neolibs no different than Rahm who showed her colors by backing the police over the people time after time.

Has this country ever been one country? The Civil(Slave) War has never been concluded, the
South and their ilk have never stopped fighting it.

Thanks for this great essay

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Buy a Bible don't read it and you'll be a Catholic
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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@ggersh

And yes, of course Chicago is racist. Hard to think of a city that isn't. Oddly enough, Atlanta comes to mind, but the good reports of Atlanta may be overblown.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

Ack, I overslept.

All of y'all on the West Coast, you're in my heart.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

enhydra lutris's picture

US, and the world, have always had such places, though I have a gut feeling that they were always somehow different in the US. They range from tiny enclaves to whole streets and neighborhoods and generally have a history and an ethnic persuasion that is sometimes, but not always, the successor to one or more previous ones. "White folk" tend to scare their children and peers with horror stories and legends about them. Sometimes the gentrification only goes half way, and they retain some of the open air markets, street foods, street musicians, crowds and noise, but conform to certain basic health and safety codes, and, thereby, often become tourist attractions, yet, in the back of the mind, still both other and scary. We are such bizarre creatures, perhaps because ur lizard bran, the medulla oblongata, is not protected by our brain case.

Ennyhoo, you mentioned a musical "evolution" involving Klezmer, little appredicated in mass culture to blues, so here's some (Gypsy) Klezmer:

Chicago, of course, evolved it's own distinctive blues style, allegedly evolving from Muddy's band, but, I'll go later:

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@enhydra lutris

Sometimes the gentrification only goes half way, and they retain some of the open air markets, street foods, street musicians, crowds and noise, but conform to certain basic health and safety codes, and, thereby, often become tourist attractions,

This is how New Orleans felt to me (at least where I was). I could clearly see the contrived, and semi-contrived tourist aspects of it (as a girl who grew up on the Florida coast, it's hard to slip tourism by me). But I could also tell that not all of it was fake. I felt some of the same thing I did in Austin, TX in 2005--some of the people playing music in the street would have been there even if we tourists hadn't been.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@enhydra lutris
Is this the same guy?

I don't mean Santana; I mean the white guy introducing Santana and John Lee Hooker.

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

enhydra lutris's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
for about 50 bazillion fantastic concerts at several venues? Yep, you almost certainly have. The harmonica in that set is, of course, Paul Butterfield.

be well and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Anja Geitz's picture

How would I like the world to look like? Having lived in NYC, I’m partial to block parties, so I think I’d like to see the world through that filter, where people make music together, dancing, eating and playing.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Anja Geitz

What a great vision. I, too, would like more block parties. A lot more.

I try not to complain b/c so many people have it so much worse than I do, but man! I hate this fucking virus and what it's done to us.

Glad to hear from you and el; I was gonna call you today to check up. Concerned, of course, for all of you out there; you, el, Shahryar and shaharazade, Cassiodorus, magiamma, Granma, eyo, and my brother detroitmechworks. (If I've missed anybody out, please forgive; I don't always know where people are from.)

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"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones." - Fiver

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Anja Geitz's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

Be prepared to hear me lament.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

@Anja Geitz
The big sur one is growing. Ashland winds are picking up.

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Stop Climate Change Silence - Start the Conversation

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Anja Geitz's picture

@magiamma

Big Sur. Not good. Fires are still burning here. An Emergency Ops Team is working on the southern most containment line into Monrovia which is the greater threat. We’ve been lucky with the weather so far. No winds. I pray for rain but so far it’s not in the forecast. Animals and I have been sequestered inside for days now. Raining ash and the sky is an eerie yellow day-glo color. I’m holding my own and haven’t gone crazy yet. How about you?

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

@Anja Geitz
so the air quality has gotten worse. only 141 today. Better than most but still not good enough to go out and work. Walked with n95, just back. It looks like we are going to be okay unless the winds come up again.

Portland is still burning. The winds are up in so OR and no CA. Das ist nicht gut. My high school friend from Portland is with her son and they are okay. It's crazy. So many people have lost homes and livelihoods. Hard to keep a good face on this.

So I count myself as very lucky. Hoping 'your' fire dies down soon. Thanks for asking.

Hoping all on the west coast stay safe.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@magiamma

Not good news for Oregon or California. I've stayed off my twitter feed today because I've reached my capacity for bad news. I'm going through some family issues on top of everything else and I just feel like I'm on overload.

Thank god for my friends and my animals.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

enhydra lutris's picture

@magiamma

noon. We just wear our cloth masks outside currently. It got up over 200 (220?) for a bit the other day, but we just stayed inside until it dropped.

be well and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Granma's picture

@enhydra lutris There is a web site to check air quality at airnow.gov
You can input a zip code or city and state to get local results.

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enhydra lutris's picture

@Anja Geitz

ours does not, they recommend closing all the windows and firing up the furnace in fan only mode which lets the furnace filter do what it can, best if it's HEPA.

be well and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Anja Geitz's picture

@enhydra lutris

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Lily O Lady's picture

moved, briefly, to China they bought special N95 type masks for each of them to protect them from the air pollution. I think these masks may become necessary for West Coast dwellers, to protect them from the smoke of seasonal wildfires. And Covid19.

It truly is a hellscape among the flames. At least that’s how it appears to me from here in the South East. I haven’t heard anyone talking about getting back to normal from this the way they do about Covid19. I think people who want normalcy are delusional. But I guess our delusions are what got us here in the first place.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

enhydra lutris's picture

@Lily O Lady

asthma. SHe has a few masks that are beyond n95 that she finds herself wearing more and more often, and she doesn't travel, up to see us, for instance, without them. About the time the fires die down, all the ag areas start burning ag debris.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --