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
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
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
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.