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Laurie Niles

Smoke gets in my brain

September 2, 2009 at 4:02 AM

Well everyone, I've been having a hard time blogging lately because I'm completely addled from smoke inhalation.

You may have heard of the tremendous wildfires in the Los Angeles area. In the case of the Station Fire, the "area" would be the one where I live, Pasadena and the nearby foothill communities. Thankfully, I don't live on the hillside, so my home isn't threated by fire, but the mountains I can see from my front steps have been belching smoke for nearly a week, many of my friends have been evacuated, and many more live in the area where the fire is doing its worst. Fortunately, many of those friends have returned home, and the big TV and radio towers I see from my home, as well as the historic Mount Wilson Observatory, all look like they might be spared.

But the smoke! Here's a sample of how this thing was churning a few days ago:

Much smoke seems to have settled over us at the moment, as well as a thin layer of ash over everything. Including, I think, our brains. I suspect the oxygen deprivation is making us all clumsy and stupid. For example, when I was getting a parking pass stamped yesterday at a coffee house, the barista stamped my card, then handed me the stamper and placed my card on her register. "Um..." I said. "Yes?" she said politely. "The pass?" She smiled politely. "You need this, right?" I said, holding up the stamper. She didn't get it until I physically switched the two. Everyone is driving erratically, it's just bad.

Today, on the way to my son's piano lesson, I saw this, ahem, very impressive plane circling right above us. In fact, we dragged my son's teacher, out into the street so she could see the action: the smoke billowing from the mountaintop, the giant super-scooper plane circling, a half-dozen other helicopters making passes at the mountain.

All day, the sun's light shone a weak yellow, filtered through a veil of acrid smoke. Tonight an orange moon hangs in the sky, and along the mountaintop -- are those lights, or fire? Hard to tell.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 4:50 AM


I was afraid it was in your area.  You are almost certainly right about the oxygen deprivation.  Might be worth ordering some kind of oxygen supplement and or locating an establishment that allows time in an oxygen capsule.  Don`t know if you have themin California. It`s just ther eis one by my house.  No connextion with prunes I hope.

Best of luck,


From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 5:39 AM

We are inside with the air on, but it still smells like smoke. Hmm, I wonder if they have oxygen capsules here...The fire is supposed to burn until Sept. 15, so masks might be a good investment.

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 5:57 AM

Yikes.  Thanks for the pictures and all the links.  Any idea where the water is coming from?

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 5:55 AM

I've been wondering whether you and your family were in the path of the fire.  I'm glad you're not, but I'm sorry the smoke is so heavy that it's affecting you badly.  Asthmatics and other people with vulnerable respiratory tracts could be in more serious trouble.  Buying and wearing face masks is a good idea.  If you have a filter on the air intake in your home, be sure to check it and change it frequently.  That's my advice, and I'm an asthmatic.  The psychological effects sound bad.  We just don't expect to see so much devastation so nearby.  It sounds scary, so please take good care of yourself and your family.

From Royce Faina
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 9:59 AM

My Thoughts & Prayers to all having to endure.  We are getting the smoke from the fires in  California also.  Amazing that it has traveled this far.  I'll be getting a new filter for my room air purifyer soon, it helps.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 10:06 AM

 My deepest sympathies. My father (before his passing) lived in Taylor Arizona which is just a few miles north of Show Low. A few years ago Show Low was severely threatened and there was terrible smoke in Taylor. I visited a year after the big fires and there was a small fire that was being fought. The smoke was awful and I was weeks overcoming the effects. 

The people of Show Low and Taylor  thank the Sierra Club for their fires. Apparently some of your neighbors feel likewise.


From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 1:55 PM

It seems like there is no good news coming out of CA these days.  Hang in there!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 6:16 PM

My son lives in the South Roberston area of LA, and even he reports problems from the fires.  He was not sure he was going to be able to play tennis a couple of days ago because of the air quality.

Good luck!  If it takes out your house and Twin Palms Restaurant, Pasadena will no longer be worth anything (lol).

Posted on September 2, 2009 at 6:59 PM

"Smoke Gets in my Brain"...did Jerome Kern also write that tune???

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 9:05 PM

Thanks, everyone! They seem to be getting a better handle on it; yet the smoke persists. A student even canceled today because his family was fleeing the smoke!

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 4, 2009 at 6:25 PM

 Wow, that video looks like a volcano erupting!  I just emailed my Caltech advisor to see if he's okay (he lives up in the hills).  Take care of yourselves.  I hope you're soon back to the regular gray shade of Pasadena air.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 5, 2009 at 5:41 AM

I saw blue sky today, and the moon is actually its normal color! Still a big plume over the mountains, but things seem to be improving.

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on September 8, 2009 at 9:20 PM

I'm glad to hear things are improving.  Up here in the SF Bay area we get all the fire news, and being in a high fire danger area myself, I can imagine the disruption to your state of mind.

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