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Previews of Coming Distractions: The World’s Moved On and Paradise Is Gone

The Editor

The “month that will not end!” has ended but my chronic cold has not. Like a lot of colds, it seems to move around inside me from day to day. Yesterday, bronchial tubes. Today, nostrils. Tomorrow, toes. Who knows? At any rate, enough!, begone my complaining at such mild complaints!

(Oh my Lord! It’s five in the morning and I’m so out of it I haven’t even made coffee. Just a moment please… There, that’s a bit better.)

Sick or not my editor will not let my seething cranium be and I find myself remembering odd bits of Paradise from my boyhood and my dotage. I’m also still bumping into people who, a month removed from the burning, struggle with their changed situation much more than I am. I still hear the stories as we all try to reassemble, not the lives we had in Paradise, but the lives we have now in this and other small cities in the north state.

My readers and many other kind souls have returned me to life and I, with my small gift, would like to return the favor.

Paradise, as it was, is not dead it is gone. There will be another town named Paradise but it will never again be Paradise because, as noted right above, Paradise is gone. But I had a boyhood once in Paradise and, if memory serve, I can recall my own days in the gone world and some of them should be told. So memory shall serve. Here, because I have no place else to put them.

For now, I’ve decided to let others concern themselves with the heat death of liberty and/or the saving of the Republic. I’ve put my shoulder to that wheel long enough. And I am heartily sick of our political sickness.

Instead, for a bit, I’ll be writing about the life and the death of this one small town. Somebody’s got to and it might as well be me.  After all, I had a boyhood once in Paradise.

Here’s my list of working titles so it can stop being scribbled on the outside of all these envelopes.

    1. The Rage of This Road: “Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me!”
    2. Logistical Saviors: How the Salvation Army Invades a Catastrophe
    3. Riebes and the RVs: Companies That Step Up and Step In and Find Enduring Customer Loyalty in the Ashes
    4. The Craptacular Costco and Other Companies That, Frankly My Dear Scaret, Just Don’t Give a Damn
    5. The Woman Who Drove Her Schoolbus Through the Tunnel of Fire
    6. Grandpa’s Lake and the Rattlesnake
    7. The Laughing Man and His 300 Keys to the Ashes
    8. My Three Homes In Paradise
    9. Just a Half Case of Damp Dynamite, What Could Go Wrong?
    10. The Apple “Gleaners”
    11. Saturdays at Stratton’s Feed Store
    12. Seen Behind the First Snowflakes of Paradise
    13. “X”: Sekrit Klubhouse No Gurlz Aloud
    14. The Brother Room, the Walnut Tree, and the Manzanita Maze
    15. The Uncle Who Came from Korea to Paradise
    16. Of Rowboats and Bullfrogs
    17. The Haunting House
    18. Ghost Towns of the Canyon
    19. Poor Butterfly and the Paradise Drive-In in the Pines
    20. The Boulders of the Wildwood and the Cozy Diner
    21. Hit ‘Em and You Get ‘Em: Running the Fifth Grade Casino
    22. Olive the Rescue Cat or “Into the Carrier Again, Boss?”
    23. “Little Van Says”
    24. Camp Doon Slop
    25. Mr. Roberts, Stories for Men, and The Most Dangerous Game
    26. The Back Road to Paradise
{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Phil in Englewood December 6, 2018, 8:07 AM

    Beauty cat! Looking forward to the stories of Paradise. I’ve never been burned or flooded out, but my childhood places have been overrun and are gone forever. I’ve never gone back to my childhood home (actually burned for practice by the fire department to clear the way for the next home/palace) so that my last memory is of the way it was, and so it will always be.

  • leelu December 6, 2018, 8:18 AM

    Like the cat who ate the cheese, then sat at the mouse hole; I await all of them with baited breath.

  • Julie December 6, 2018, 8:27 AM

    I look forward to each and every one of these. Hope you feel better soon!

  • theduchessofkitty December 6, 2018, 8:33 AM

    Gerard, my package to you is leaving in your direction soon.

    However, I have to make it a day late: the 4141 train is passing near my house today on its way to College Station, bringing GHWB’s body for burial at A&M. All of us here in SE TX want to see it pass by our streets.

  • David December 6, 2018, 8:36 AM

    Not to appear blasphemous but: Paradise Lost II

  • ghostsniper December 6, 2018, 8:45 AM

    Pairadise

    A black cat leaves no hair on a black sweater.
    (where that lint roller is?)

  • RDB December 6, 2018, 8:57 AM

    GVL – I look forward to your stories. I agree, there are enough people out there trying to save the Republic. With your words and thoughts, maybe you can save the sanity of some of your readers.

  • PA Cat December 6, 2018, 9:04 AM

    Apropos of #22, I expect Miss Olive is already making her edits as follows: “Olive the Rescuer Cat; or ‘Once More into the Carrier! I Am the Boss!’”

  • PA Cat December 6, 2018, 9:14 AM

    Apropos of #22, I expect Miss Olive is already making her edits: “Olive the Rescuer Cat; or ‘Once More Into the Carrier! I Am the Boss!'”

    She has obviously rescued at least part of your spirit; may she continue to brighten your life as you retrieve your memories of “the gone world” to share with us.

  • Sam L. December 6, 2018, 9:17 AM

    Be strong, be manly, and, especially, be sarcastic. Spit in the eye of Life. Punch it on the nose.

  • Pip McGuigin December 6, 2018, 11:15 AM

    I have read all of your posts since the inferno. After each one I rock back in my chair, stare at the wall and contemplate what you are going through…and shake my head sideways and stare again. May God bless you and grant you as much recovery as you continue .

  • Kerry December 6, 2018, 11:27 AM

    I’m partial to numbers 7 and 9, especially 9!

  • JiminAlaska December 6, 2018, 11:46 AM

    I’ve for a while now, been trying to figure out a way to suggest, even thought you are an old fart Gerard (thought not as old a fart as me) you start planing on rebuilding the Paradise house better but not necessarily bigger. Myself, looking back fifty years on rebuilding my place, with the help of friends, no contractors and paycheck to paycheck, after our flood in ’67, has put, and kept, things in perspective.

    However your list delights me, rebuilding or not, those stories & sharing them is gonna be more valuable and satisfying to us, and I think, to you.

    Already some of your working titles have me champing at the bit in anticipation.

    Title number 2 for example; Since our ’67 flood I’ve strong feeling about the Sally & their disaster responses and send them a little money whenever I hear about a hurricane in Florida or the Carolinas or a friend whom I’ve never met burn out in California.

    Number 9; I’m waiting with baited breath to see if by damp dynamite you mean sticks previously frozen or stored cold enough they sweated out puddles of nitroglycerine, been there, done that. -grin-

    OK, number 11: All of us that did any growing up in or around the country remember a Stratton’s Feed Store and all those really really old guys (shucky darn, some of them must ta been 50 or even 60!) & the tales they’d tell!

  • Vanderleun December 6, 2018, 12:16 PM

    You got that right, PA Cat

  • KCBill December 6, 2018, 2:04 PM

    Sir, even your working titles form a coherent story, such that I look forward to them, just I’ve looked forward to your previous musings. Thank you for cherishing even these days, as they too will pass swiftly… You’ve been in my heart, my prayers, and my wallet too! Seriously, thank you for the small part we’ve all been allowed to play in *your* life.

  • BJM December 6, 2018, 2:14 PM

    Well, #9 has certainly piqued my interest.
    I too am fed up with the political argle-bargle and am in dire need of stories such as you may tell.

  • Linda Leinen December 6, 2018, 4:37 PM

    I can’t get over my shock that this has happened to you. Having had to cope with tropical storm Allison, and hurricanes Rita, Ike, and Harvey, so much of what I’ve read here about — well, about it all — is gut-wrenching. I followed the Paradise fire closely, never imagining that you were there. That’ll teach me not to pay attention, and to let my blog-reading habits lapse.

    I want to do something to help with the rebuilding, but I need to think about it a bit. I’m glad you survived, that you’ve got a new home base, and that you’ve been so well cared for. It will get better.

  • Redinabluestate December 6, 2018, 5:03 PM

    Can’t wait.

    You hold in your arms Kate, reincarnated and apparently transported from east to west. The yellow eyes tell me.
    I thought he was female. He wasn’t and didn’t resent his inappropriate name.
    He is a fine, fine cat and enjoys being carried.

  • Lance de Boyle December 6, 2018, 5:05 PM

    Your cold is what we in the infectious diseases trade call a Hillary. No matter how many times you push it down the stairs or kick it in the face, it keeps coming back.

    Stay well.

  • dan December 6, 2018, 5:36 PM

    GERARD: remember well strattons mkt. back when as a kid if you started acting up some OLD PHART in line behind you would give you a smack in the head & tell you to smarten up, & mom would just smile. learned lessons in old fashioned times, funny how they tend to stay with a guy, always check your 6 before mouthing off. better yet shut up. not the time now but was wondering about your fathers ashes. will tell you about our mothers final resting lookout, kinda sounds familiar. BEST OF LUCK DAN

  • AesopFan December 6, 2018, 6:55 PM

    “For now, I’ve decided to let others concern themselves with the heat death of liberty and/or the saving of the Republic. I’ve put my shoulder to that wheel long enough. And I am heartily sick of our political sickness.

    Instead, for a bit, I’ll be writing about the life and the death of this one small town. Somebody’s got to and it might as well be me. After all, I had a boyhood once in Paradise.”

    There are plenty of people writing about the world and the turning of the wheel (more than I can read, and I stay up too late reading them as it is!), but only you can write the book “I Had a Boyhood Once in Paradise.”

    Go to, and make it so.
    We will be here reading.

  • Eddie Coyle December 7, 2018, 4:48 AM

    I hope #25 is in reference to the play/film Mr. Roberts. I can remember watching as a 10 yo the letter reading scene at the end and having to quickly leave the room ‘to get a drink’. My eyes were tearing up and I didn’t want to be seen crying over a movie.

  • Marica December 7, 2018, 6:49 AM

    The titles list reminded me of a James Whitcomb Riley poem, “The Good, Old Fashioned People.”
    https://www.best-poems.net/poem/the-good-old-fashioned-people-by-james-whitcomb-riley.html

  • Suburbanbanshee December 7, 2018, 8:21 AM

    Doooo eeeet! I want to hear some good stuff about the real California.

    Also, it is high time you start self-pubbing some collections of your posts as books and/or ebooks.

  • jwm December 7, 2018, 9:02 AM

    Vanderleun:
    The Collected Essays, Stories and Poems

    is another volume I’d love to have on my shelf….and I’m trying to type with Buddy the Cat sitting on the keyboard.0000000000000000000000000000000000.

    he likes the “o” key…

    JWM

  • Vanderleun December 7, 2018, 9:57 AM

    As a matter of pure fact, Olive the Cat is trying to sit on mine. I just brush her black fur butt out of the way and keyboard on!

  • ghostsniper December 7, 2018, 2:20 PM

    When we found our throw-away-cat, Isabella Rosellini (I call her Bell-Boo), in the yard she was quarantined to my detached office for a week waiting for an appt at the vet to be checked out from stem to stern before she was introduced to our other cats in the house. Just her and me and she bonded with me. My keyboard sits back about 6″ from the edge of the desk, just enough room for a scruffy cat to stretch out in. She was instantly possessive. Keyboarding is prohibited when she goes there. But I have a 9 button mouse so I can still get a lot of stuff done. Bell-Boo watched my mouse hand move around and that wasn’t part of her agenda and stretched her arms out locking my arm in place. I could still move my hand slightly so I could still get some stuff done. Until that too got on Bell-Boo’s nerve, so she put one of her hands on top of mine. I kept on and she lived with it.

    Stretched out in front of my keyboard every night I had no idea the surprise hidden within that scruffy, skinny, running-loose-for-how-long-in-the-wild cat. At her appt she was checked out, got the shots, etc., and thats when we found out she was a gurl. Had no idea on gender to that point. The vet said she wasn’t pregnant and scheduled her spay appt 3 weeks away. Up to then we just called Bell-Boo “Kitty” cause we didn’t know if she was a boy or gurl.

    Bell-Boo was bathed in the kitchen sink (no she didn’t like it) and brushed out to her long hair luster and incorporated into the fold with the other cats and all was fine. Then late one night 3 days before Bell-Boos spay appt my wife heard a commotion and went and checked it out. Bell-Boo was curled up on the floor making strange noises and writhing back and forth. Thinking Bell-Boo was violently ill my wife scooped her up and took her in the master bath and shut the door. She threw some towels on the tile floor and put Bell-Boo in the middle and she continued to flop around. My wife texted me and I came in. We both were knelt down trying to comfort her and wondered what we could do. Out here in ruralville there is no emergency vet service. Suddenly Bell-Boo let out a guttural moan and the next thing we knew there was 2 cats on the towel, one of them very small. Bell-Boo set to work doing what mom cats do. My wife and I sat there mesmerized as neither of us had ever witnessed this before. A couple minutes later and number 2 baby cat emerged and Bell-Boo got even busier. This was spellbinding. Then number 3. And then number 4. We were amazed that this scruffy little skinny cat was able to have 4 babies in her and no one could tell. Yes, she was THAT skinny.

    About 15 mins passes by and Bell-Boo has all her babies cleaned up and there is chaos as they squirm about meeewing with their eyes shut, arms and legs flailing in the air, and Bell-Boo constantly attending to one and then the other. The clock on the bathroom wall ticked past midnight and about 8 mins after Bell-Boo made another strange noise. My wife and I looked at each other. Then, whoomp, there it is! Another baby cat, this one half the size of the others. The runt of the litter. Bell-Boo got at it all over again. 5 brand new babies, from our almost brand new throw away cat.

    Eventually, after about 4 months, 4 of the baby cats found new homes and it was wrenching cause we wanted to keep all of them. But at that point we had 10 cats total and that’s just way too many for 2 working people to take care of. We kept Bell-Boo of course, and her last baby, the runt, and we named her Sparkle. Sparkle is now about 4-1/2 years old and the vet estimated at the time that Bell-Boo was less than a year old, so about 5-1/2 now. Our other cats are short haired and Bell-Boo and Sparkle are long haired. When Bell-Boo and Sparkle walk away from you it looks like they are wearing pantaloons – short bell bottoms.

  • lendie December 7, 2018, 11:36 PM

    #XX – What street were you on?

    Our Sweetie Pie passed away this past Spring at 15ish. This is the longest time
    we have been catless. We’ve now started the process with 2 different shelters
    to adopt a new kitty.

    Maine Coon Adoptions was the first shelter we approached. OMG. The process has been
    crazy as though we are adopting a human child. We had to fill out an application, we had a phone screening, they talked to our landlord, they talked to the Vets we use. All kinds of questions such as “what would you do if your cat were ill” – take her to the vet, silly. “What will you do when you first bring the cat home?” Keep her in a separate room for a couple of days.

    If we must get rid of that cat, the contract says we absolutely must return the cat to Maine Coon adoptions. Do they have any clue that my husband, an engineer, takes these words so literally that when a different cat died, he brought it back to Nine Lives Foundation from whence he had been adopted?! When I questioned him before he did this he said “But they said we could bring him back anytime!”

    I love the portrait of The Editor, Miss Olive has a rather regal, imperial look. It’s been so sad seeing the kitties rescued from the fire with their singed whiskers and bandages paws. I read yesterday that some badly burned rescuees have had their paws wrapped in tilapia skins which apparently speed healing time and pain relief.

    We hope our new kitty will appear soon.

  • lendie December 7, 2018, 11:38 PM

    Btw, have you posted your escape from the Fire experience anywhere, Gerard?
    If you haven’t, I hope you will when you are ready, able and willing. Not before.

  • theduchessofkitty December 8, 2018, 12:04 AM

    Ghost,

    We adopted a small kitty from the street, a gray tabby with tortie markings and a half-tail which curled at its end. We named her Curly.

    A month after we adopted her, she was in heat – and escaped the house when we least expected it. We heard feline moans from outside as we watched TV. Then the hubby exclaimed, “Oh I’m sure glad it ain’t our cat… Wait a minute… Where is our cat?” We ran outside and searched for her frantically, until O found her under a tom…. the only feral tom in the neighborhood… a black kitty who scared just about everyone. We scared the tom away and rescue our Curly girl. Two weeks later, we brought her to the vet for her spaying. Oops! Too late: she was found pregnant. You should have seen her belly. She looked like she had swallowed a bowling ball. A whole one.

    Ten weeks after that incident, she meowed and gave me a slight nibble, letting us know that it was time. We watched as she pushed the first one out. That first kitten confirmed to us her momma’s curly tail was no accident. Then came the second one, then the third one, then the fourth one sbdvthe fifth one. She was hungry and exhausted, so we let her rest with her babies. The hubby went to bed and I went to the supermarket for some wet cat food. She needed it.

    When I returned home shortly after, I placed some wet food into a cat bowl for her and checked on mama and her babies. “Something was odd,” I said. Then I began counting her litter. One, two, three four, five… six… what?!? I told the hubby the only way I could. Five open fingers plus one more. He could not believe it. He rose from bed and ran towards the spare room to see them with his own eyes. Once he confirmed, he said, “Great! More mouths to feed…” Before that night we had nine cats.

    For ten or eleven weeks, we had fifteen felines, including the most rambunctious motley crew I’ve ever seen of kittens. The leader of the pack was a grey kitty boy. He would climb jean-covered legs and full curtains. He feared nothing. The others followed him. They were all adopted into good homes, including the grey boy. Curly girl missed them terribly… and she let us know, for a long time.

    Curly is still with us, fifteen years later. She has become a special friend of my younger daughter, who pets her while she sits on her child’s lap. She sits on all of our laps nowadays and purrs very loudly, happy to know she is one of the only two left in that feline crew of fifteen.

  • ghostsniper December 8, 2018, 3:51 AM

    @Duchess, That’s a great story! Glad it all worked out. Cat’s iz good peoples if you give em a chance.

    After Bell-Boo had her babies, and I noted the wide variety of fur colors and lengths among the kittens I did some research and found some disturbing stuff, but supposedly all natural. The female cat, when in heat, sort of loses it’s mind. It will have intercourse with ANY and ALL takers. 2, 3, 4 or more “encounters” in a row. A gangbang if you will. Thus, all sorts of developments happen in the impregnation phase. Bell-Boo is so mild in nature it is hard to think of her as being such a brazen hussy. But she’s fixed and secure now and that will never occur again. We have 5 cats now, from Sparkle our youngest at 4.5 to Cameo, our last Florida cat, at 16 years old. Our 3rd bedroom is the cat’s room, and after we moved here 12 years ago I built a 28′ long screened in porch across the back of the house for the cats to lounge on in decent weather. We treat em pretty good and they reward us in return.

  • Grumpy_98 December 8, 2018, 10:29 AM

    I’m seeing a published collection of these posts in your future, Gerard. For that matter, you could already have several such collections based on the last 17 years of effort. I really appreciate your blog and worry when I see a bit of time pass without an explanation.

    I lived in Pollock Pines in 2014 when the King Fire burned more than 97,000 acres of El Dorado County. Luckily that fire burned generally to the north of town and a bit to the east and west. Otherwise, it could have been a precursor of Paradise.

    The foothills of the Sierras are the finest place that I have ever lived and has some of the best people I have ever met. Unfortunately, those little towns fall within the grasp of Sacramento (and as a result, LA and the Bay Area). I had to move out after I retired but if the pipe-dream of Jefferson ever materialized I would crawl over miles of ground glass to get back.

  • DeAnn December 11, 2018, 8:13 PM

    Olive could be Meeko, a very fine cat.
    I like your list a lot. Have been thinking your time and talents are wasted on fretting over politics, that cesspool.

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