Friday, February 24, 2017

It's the 75th Anniversary of ... What Was That Again?

On the night of February 24-25th, 1942, an incident took place over the skies of Los Angeles which has come to be called The Battle of Los Angeles or The Great Los Angeles Air Raid.  Sometime after midnight something overhead triggered an abundance of searchlights scanning the skies plus anti-aircraft artillery firing away and air raid sirens sounding across the city. It was thought to be the Japanese who, not quite so incidentally, had shelled the Santa Barbara coast (Goleta, actually) from a surfaced submarine just the night before.  And so people supposed they were now swarming over L.A.  But there were no bombs, no damage.  But it did stir up the city and remained a puzzle for years ... in fact, it's still a puzzle.  Who was it up there and what were they doing?  Since that time, the ufologists have entered the picture, turning what were searchlights beaming up into the sky into mother-ship lights projecting down onto the city.

So, why do I speak of it?  Well, as it happened, I was a witness to it.  Yes, a little tot at the time.  It was possibly my earliest memory.  But I well remember my mother waking my brother and me from our sound sleep and telling us we had to get up and see what was happening.  Keeping the lights off, we went to the living room window and looked out over our city of Los Angeles.  There indeed were searchlights getting a beam onto very-high-overhead aircraft. Airplanes.  Not a space ship, not barrage balloons, but airplanes.  There were several, as I recall, flying in formation ... well-lit by the searchlights but also too high, it seemed, to be shot down.  It all quieted down soon enough as the planes flew on and disappeared. "Next day," as my mother liked to tell it, "there were many houses up and down the block with For Sale signs." But ever after, when we still lived there and high beamed searchlights played back and forth some evenings, I would ask my parents if it was an attack ... or the premiere of some movie over there on Hollywood Boulevard.

In my father's air raid warden outfit

You can check all this out online.  (Don't pay any attention to the doctored photo that looks like a space ship.)  Apparently, L.A.'s Fort MacArthur Museum hosts an event every February commemorating this little piece of history.  (Incidentally, the Japanese say it wasn't their planes.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

"I'll Get To It As Soon As I Can Get Off My Hill ..."

You can just make out the almost-buried picnic table.

.. as someone told me over the phone recently.  By that she meant whenever the snow stopped, the town plow cleared her road, the salt truck sprayed salt to prevent icing, her plow guy cleared out her driveway, and she cleaned the snow off her car--then she could get down her hill and put a packet in the mail to me. Such is life around here this time of year.  I live on a hill too and, yes, it takes a bit of doing sometimes to get out.

We've now had several storms with little let-up.  During one, as the snow kept falling, I watched the drama of a car that thought it could make it up this way but got stuck.  (I recognized it so knew there was an infant inside on its way up to its baby-sitter's.)  Blessings on cell phones. The driver called her husband at work who, after a half hour, managed to dig them out. And two days before that (in a different storm), the postman got stuck in the same place, left his vehicle, and walked up the hill to deliver the mail.

It's as if the weather channel just says, "Before we even tick off this current storm, here's the next ... and the one after that."

There was a point (only last week) when I decided being snowbound could be delightful.  Just staying in with cups of hot tea and silence as the snow gently persisted.   No traffic.  Food in the fridge.  A couple of good library books: James Knowlson's Damned to Fame, the Life of Samuel Beckett ... and Bill Buford's Heat, An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany. 

But now, after yesterday's storm that must have dropped another foot of snow--something like 18 inches was predicted--I'm definitely ready for spring ... when it begins making its fragile way up and down the hills.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917, born London, died France) wrote this:


     Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
     The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
     And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
     What we below could not see.  Winter pass.

(I love this poem.  And fortunately it's in the public domain so I can share it with you.)