Hell on earth

The peloton prepares for a training ride from Santa Rosa to Hopland back in 2006. The mayor-to-be is at left, and the retiree-to-be is in the middle. The unemployable at right you already know.

You never like to see your friends on the hot seat, and my old bro’ Chris Coursey is on a very warm squativoo indeed.

Chris is mayor of Santa Rosa, Calif., which abruptly went from a pretty close approximation of heaven on earth to something else entirely on Monday.

You can survey the damage courtesy of The Press Democrat, where Chris spent a couple decades as a reporter and columnist. He and I go way back, to the Seventies — roommates at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, we later worked for what then was called the Gazette Telegraph in Bibleburg before I left for Tucson and Chris split for Santa Rosa.

Chris spoke about the fire to his old paper, and to NPR, too; you can listen to that report here.

Another of our old Gazette pals, Merrill Oliver, recently retired from The New York Times and bought a place in (wait for it) Santa Rosa. He’s in transit — last I heard he was in Denver, which is too cold to burn at the moment — but clearly, this is not going to be the joyous change of venue he had been anticipating. I’m told Merrill’s new home was not among those destroyed, but it seems like early days yet, so keep your fingers crossed on his behalf.

We have other friends in the area — Gazette and Press Democrat alum Mike Geniella and his wife T, up Hopland way; Lo Esparza and Scot Nicol in Santa Rosa; Patrick Brady of Red Kite Prayer; and many, many more. Here’s hoping everyone comes out of this OK. Stuff you can always replace, but friends are always in short supply.

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10 Responses to “Hell on earth”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Leaving your home, and seeing nothing but smoke in the rear view mirror, is a very hard thing to do. It is especially hard if you live in an area where you thought wildfire could never get to. Like in town with fire hydrants. Hope they all do well in Santa Rosa, but some have already lost all.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I spent a fair amount of time couch-surfing in Santa Rosa in late 1980 and early 1981. I always think of it as a cool, damp place, with more in common with the Pacific Northwest than the drier central part of the state.

      Clearly that’s changed, if it was ever true outside my mind (I eventually left Santa Rosa for a job in Oregon). I know this past summer was a hot one.

      I’ve done a little bicycling and quite a bit of driving around the area, and man, you can see how a serious fire — or a bunch of fires all at once — could really go to town. It’s like the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires rolled into one.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        We think of it like an earthquake. Once in a lifetime is enough. When we evacuated, twice, from the Monument fire, we had everything important packed into the back of a Honda Element. Only took one bike, a touring bike, on a hitch rack. Off to Tombstone we went for one night. Then we came back home, but left the Element packed. Two days later we were off to Benson for two nights. Duffy had only been with us for month. He was probably thinking, this ain’t the “pets for the elderly” program I signed up for at the shelter.
        We hope Chris, Merrill, Patrick, and your other friends find their homes and belongings intact.

  2. mooremediaone Says:

    Living in fire-prone Los Angeles foothills, and just barely escaping the La Tuna Fire (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Tuna_Fire) last month, I understand what your buddy Chris and his constituents are going through.

    Life gets serious really quick when the flames are just down the street from your home.

    Good luck to him and everyone up in wine country! Save the homes, the people but don’t forget the grapes!
    -doug moore

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      We’ve only ever seen them from a safe distance, happily. I did have to scout a backdoor route off our Crusty County hillside when the fires were raging around there, and we hosted some refugees from the Waldo Canyon blaze, but that’s been the worst of it. We never had to take it on the Jesse Owens, leaving all our proud-ofs behind, wondering if they’d still be there when we returned.

      Mother Nature bats last, as my friend Hal is prone to note.

  3. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Wow! There’s a blast from the past – Merrill Oliver rode in Italy with us back in 2000. Small, small world. Regarding the fires in NorCal, while I hope none of these folks’ homes burn down, my perspective on this kind of stuff has gradually changed (probably as we’ve moved bikes to Italy over the years?) to the point when we head to Italy each year I don’t much worry about our shack being blown away by a tornado. If we got a message like that I’d just ask our friends to put a blue tarp over the wreckage and the insurance company to send us a check. Stuff is just stuff and most of us have too much of it anyway…as I’m finding out while we’re trying to sell off a bunch of it via ebay.

  4. Carl Duellman Says:

    not to be flippant about the situation but i wonder if the smoke will affect the taste of the local wine?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Carl, Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, told The New York Times that surviving grapes may suffer smoke taint, “a smoky flavor that makes them unusable for fine wine.”

      But she added: “For the most part, the vintage is in, and we should still have a viable wine community as we move forward. We all grumbled that the Labor Day heat was going to define the 2017 vintage, but it expedited the harvest, which we now look at as such a blessing.”

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        Some of our friends in Italy said they were going to harvest their grapes in AUGUST this season. The “Chinese hoax” is screwing up the weather all over the world it seems?

  5. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Jast read on a on line cycling rag, can’t remember the name of it, that Levi’s house burned to the ground. It showed a picture of him looking at the ruins.

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