We’re All History

It’s been a chaotic and depressing couple of weeks, so I hope you’ll excuse my absence.

One of the worst parts has been personal; the decline of TG’s “West Coast Dad” John.

John headed a university music department, and met TG through her ex-, one of his students. They became fast friends (as happens to pretty much everyone who meets her), and as she and I began to get serious, she insisted that we all meet for lunch.

We drove to Pasadena to pick him up the first time, and oddly enough, I began to feel anxiety – one I thought I’d outgrown, not unlike a teenager’s on meeting his date’s parents for the first time. We drove into the hills over the Arroyo, and pulled down a steep driveway to a beautiful Modern house.
I walked to the door, rang the bell, and a tall elderly man, proceeding slowly with his walker, greeted me. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I looked around and tossed something out – I complimented his home.

“What a beautiful house! Whoever built it must have been a huge fan of Richard Neutra!” I said.

“Actually, it is a Neutra house,” he replied, smiling broadly.

Embarrassed, I put my foot deeper into my mouth. “Who did he build it for?”

“Me,” was the reply, with an even bigger smile.

And off we were on a tour of the house and the story of how – in 1957 – a struggling music teacher and his wife paid far more than they could afford to have a home built, and what it was like to argue with Neutra over a living room big enough to hold a grand piano.

Being with John was like being in the presence of a piece of living history – he’d been born in Southern California when it was bean fields and cattle ranches, studied with Nadia Boulanger, lived in Los Angeles when the University of California was a teacher’s college on Vermont Ave., and lived to see man on the moon and music on MP3’s. He replied, when I told him that, that we all were, most of us just hadn’t lived long enough to become aware of it.

His body was quite frail, but mentally he’d cataloged his experiences and could pull them out, recount them, put them in context, and spin endlessly fascinating yarns about them. I’d become a fan of California and Los Angeles history, and he and I spent hours talking about it – me from my books, and him from the same books – he’d read them all and knew some of the authors, like Carey McWilliams – leavened with his own direct experience of the place and times.

His sight failed a few years ago, and he sold the house – after deed-restricting it to preserve it – and moved into one of the better “continuum of care” retirement communities. TG and I took him out to lunch or dinner periodically, and he was an honored guest at our wedding.

And then we got the news a month ago that his hearing was failing, and now the news that he has congestive heart failure.

TG visited him last week, and it’s almost impossible to communicate with him except with hand squeezes. he’s still there but living in his mind, shut from the world, and so it seems that he’s decided to go and join his late wife.

He’s a stronger link in the chain from past to future than most of us are, and when that link breaks and is gone, I’ll be poorer for missing him – but not nearly as poor as if we’d never met.

Bug Out Kit Redux

I posted this back in 2003, and it seems particularly relevant today. So I’m reposting it, unchanged. I’ll think about some additions for folks in flood-prone areas, but one thing immediately comes to mind – a small, paddleable boat.

Many of the folks I know have an abiding belief in survival; some of them become survivalists and center their lives around it, which has always struck me as kinda weird. But I find that I can often learn useful things from them, even if we may disagree about how central those useful things ought to be in one’s life. Put those useful things into a bag and have it at hand in case you need to ‘head for the hills’, and you have a “Bug Out Kit”.

There’s an interesting discussion to have about apocalyptic fantasies, and our bizarre attachment to them. I mentioned some of the issues over in a post on Armed Liberal. It’s time for a longer discussion on it.

But today, let’s be practical and discuss what such a kit might consist of.

First, you’ve got to discuss purpose.

The hardier among us assume that they will be taking to the field as a guerilla army defending against the invading Red forces, or the newly oppressive U.S. government under President H. Clinton. They envision living on venison jerky and fresh-caught fish and carrying enough weapons to put together a light infantry platoon.

On the other extreme, some folks would just like to be able to get home in the event their car breaks down on the other side of town.

I’m somewhere in between. I live in Southern California, where we live on borrowed time … the earthquakes, riots, floods, or fires compete for the ‘Disaster of the Decade’ pageant, which we hold in Pasadena every Leap Year Day.

For me, it’s not a “Bug Out Kit”, it’s a “Get Home Kit”. It’s not unreasonable to assume that my SO or I may have to cover fifty miles to get home, and that having gotten home, we may be without water, power, or gas for several days to a week until the grown-ups can get their act together and take care of us.

And to this I’ll add the new layer of risk posed by a meaningful terrorist attack.

So the kits break into two parts: What we try and have with us, and what we have at home.

What we have with us is primarily designed to get us home. Because I have children, unless I can be convinced that my entire neighborhood is a giant smoking crater, or communicate with someone who has my children and is getting them somewhere safe, I’m heading home. End of subject.

This is a small, cheap day pack that we can leave in the car or at the office.

It contains:

Light hiking boots (hell, we own them, and why leave them in the closet where they just take up space?)
Socks (I’m likely to be wearing dress socks, and TG is likely to be wearing hose)
Pants and a sweatshirt
A poncho
Five or six Power Bars
Five or six GU Gel packs (food you squeeze)
Two bottles of water, and some water purification tablets
Two bandanas
A Leatherman multi-tool
A decent knife (Spyderco Delicia)
50’ of 4mm perlon cord
A locking carabiner
More first-aid stuff (pretty much what I carry in my motorcycle suit):
– 2 battle dressings
– 2 – 4 x 4 gauze pads
– 1 CPR shield
– 2 pairs nitrile gloves
– vial with core prescriptions
– bottle of aspirin
– Imodium
A spare pair of prescription glasses for each of us (what else do you do with old glasses?)
Two black heavy-duty trash bags
4 – 6” zip ties
Scorpion Streamlight
2 spare lithium batteries

…and a partridge in a pear tree.

Basically, with this kit, I could ‘comfortably’ cover 20 – 30 miles in a day on foot in pretty much any weather condition I’m likely to face here in SoCal, bivvy for the night, and have enough stuff to do it again another day.

We already owned everything in the kits, except the backpacks, leatherman, knife, carabiner, flashlight, and perlon cord. Total investment, maybe $150 each if you buy a good multi-tool.

At home, we have:

Water (5 extra 5 ga Sparkletts distilled water bottles; we use and rotate them when we change the water in the fish tank)
Food (a 20 ga ‘tupperware’ container full of canned and dried food, plus camping cooking gear, the car camping propane stove and a couple of propane cylinders)
First Aid (the big kit described here)
Tools (a Sears roller cabinet full)
A wonderbar (pry bar) in the bedroom closet, in case we have to pry open jammed doors
A shutoff wrench that fits the city water valve
A crescent wrench swedged onto a wire loop at the gas meter

If I were to add antiterrorism to the kit, I’d consider adding:

Potassium iodide (antiradiation)
Some high-end respirators (not gas masks, but the ones with fine carbon filters)
Four or five sheets of Visqueen (disposable painter’s tarp)
Five or ten rolls of duct tape
Some starter packs of a broad-spectrum antibiotic
A couple of Tyvek (disposable) overalls

I’m thinking about it…

JK Note: Don’t miss his Super First Aid Kit, either.

Things in New Orleans are getting worse. You can help.

Helping out is a good thing to do.

Here’s the Katrina Help Wiki.

Here’s Instapundit’s roundup.

And here’s NZ Bear’s list of charities and blogs trying to help out.

The living haven’t all been rescued yet and the dead are uncollected.

We’re reminded that on some level, we live on nature’s sufferance and our own ingenuity.

I’ll suggest that you read John McPhee’s “The Control of Nature.”

I wrote about this a while ago, and soon I’ll talk more about the issue of infrastructure.