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12/31/01 Went the Neighborhood
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08/12/01 Out of the Closet
07/28/01 The Bomb

Cigarette Butthead

It was windy that day like the gods were mad, dust devils everywhere. Maybe it was nature's way of picking up our trash and saying, "Would you look at this?" At any rate, my nose was raw and runny.

So instead of jogging the hills, I decided to call on La Branca Canyon to get out of the wind. La Branca is a striking tract of paradise. The cliffs on either side rise 300 feet in places, and the creek burrows through rocks when it has to. It is breath-taking (which rather poses a problem when you're jogging).

Into La Branca and out of the wind, I jogged along the waterside. It was dusk on the streets above and already night in the canyon. There was a certain mystique in being unable to see. It was a poem that complimented the Doors in my headphones: This is the strangest life I've ever known...

Visibility dropped to five feet, and I had to find a way out before I broke my face on something. I found a trail climbing the south side of the gorge and stuck to it as best I could. My jog turned into a hike, such was the incline. I pulled on twigs, slid in horse duker, and at long last surfaced in a community called Lynn Ranch.

I love Lynn Ranch. It's the only place where you can tell the houses apart anymore. People have horses, the horses have trails, and life is, if only for a few blocks, as it should be. I picked up my feet when I hit the pavement, jogging double-time to the beat. Try to run, try to hide, break on through to the other side...

The wind had gained momentum while I was away. It could blow over a street sign if the sign didn't see it coming. Nighttime had fallen.

Jogging along Camino Something or Other, I smelled lighter fluid. Curious thing, lighter fluid on a night like this. Not only was it cold and dark, but we were having a windstorm. I looked around to spot the source, fearing the sight of fire. It was a ghostly fear like one might have of ... ghosts. Maybe it was the drugs I did in college.

There are no street lights in Lynn Ranch because cowboys don't need no stinkin' street lights. Vehicle headlights came at me extra bright as people arrived home from work. I wasn't scared, though. I was in the zone, baby, high on adrenalin and guided by Reverend Jim: This is the end, my only friend, the end...

Then a truck almost hit me, and I said to hell with that. Either the wind blew him across the lane or he was trying to teach me a lesson for wearing black at night.

As the truck passed by, I turned around to give him ... a thumb's up ... when I noticed a little spark in his wake. I jogged backward trying to figure it out. It looked like a lightning bug swirling around on the road. As nice as Lynn Ranch is, it ain't Louisiana, and there are no lightning bugs.

In reply to: saw the light jump into a dust devil and spiral five feet into the air. I had to circle back to see what it was.

As I got near, the whirlwind tuckered out and dropped the light at my feet. It wasn't Tinkerbell. It was a cigarette butt! Can you believe that? It doesn't matter if you can't. That's what it was.

I stood over the butt shaking my head. It rolled back and forth looking for something, anything, to ignite. I stood back because I was already fuming.

How could he do that? Jogging in black at nighttime is dumb, but tossing a cigarette into a 40-mile-an-hour wind in dry brush takes a level of awareness bordering on coma. There's Wipe yourself when you're done in the bathroom, get dressed before leaving the house, and DON'T TORCH THE BLOODY NEIGHBORHOOD.

As I stomped out the fire with my tennies, a familiar song came over my headphones: I kid you not, Light My Fire. I knew you wouldn't believe me even as it happened. Between this and the lighter fluid omen, I concluded that I was possessed with special firefighting powers. I wear a cape now with a large "F" on the back. Most people think it stands for Freak. So it goes.

As a newly ordained superhero, I need to address the aforementioned butthead on behalf of society at large.

Every morning when you wake up, you have the golden opportunity to open your eyes. We'll forgive your driving habits, but please ... think before you flick. That little butt is capable of torching everything in sight, including your own home and all of La Branca Canyon. Consider it a cute little Molotov cocktail.

Oh. I also have a phone number that might help. It belongs to a gentleman who works at a very fair price. He doesn't know much about arson, but he gives a mean vasectomy.


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