L’art pour l’art in Paradise Lost


He’s got his priorities straight. (Screenshot from news footage)

Paradise has been destroyed – the city leveled to smoke and ashes, with 25 killed so far. We’ve been breathing the smoke in Palo Alto all weekend. “Three fires began Thursday — the largest in Northern California, where a Sierra Nevada town of 27,000 was destroyed by a fast moving-fire that quickly grew into the state’s most destructive on record. In Southern California, two fires were burning in the drought-stricken canyons and hills north and west of downtown Los Angeles,” according to the Associated Press today.

During my decade living in the Sierra foothills, I fled three wildfires before walls of flame. The first, which came within blocks of my home, was the year’s most destructive wildfire. I remember returning, several days later, not knowing if I’d have a home or merely cinders. The third and smallest started on my front lawn, when an old car backfired sparks onto the dry grass as it passed. Within a few hours, scores of helicopters were circling overhead, dropping chemical retardants and water.  (I made a post about those wildfire years here.)

I recall the process of sorting through what to take with our family (which then included two or three cats and a dog). My laptop first, of course. But after that … a Dali, a Chagall, and a few other original works of art. Family heirlooms. Clothes, of course, clothes. But I was living to live in my skivvies to save the my art and my labor and my history.

So I fully understand John Mescall, a cellist for the Paradise Symphony Orchestra. As the town was burning, he tried to flee by car. But his car wouldn’t start. So he grabbed his bike and pedaled to safety with his cello on his back. He’s headed for Chico.

He tells the story on Chico’s KCRA in the clip below. (You can read his story here.)


Comments are closed.