Evacuate Now? What Would You Take?

Disaster piles on disaster. Pandemic, riots, hurricanes, fires. Stay home, we have been told for the last six months. Wear your mask. Avoid crowds. Except for quick runs to the grocery store and the doctor’s office, we have been “sheltering in place.” We miss our friends and family, we miss going out, we ache to travel, but we’re okay

Last week our shelter was threatened. Wildfires, fueled by lightning, low humidity, and temperatures over 100 degrees, raged all over the West, right where COVID has been having a field day. California, Oregon and Washington get fires every year, but not right here on the coast. Until this year.

We woke up on Tuesday, Sept. 8 to orange sky, hot wind, and the taste of ash on our tongues. The sun was bright red, and it was dark in the middle of the day. The light reminded us of the 2017 solar eclipse, except it didn’t go back to normal. A freak hot windstorm caused fires not only inland but up and down the coast, the worst just north of Lincoln City, 25 miles up the road from here. The winds had knocked down trees and power lines, adding to the trouble. Our cell phones didn’t work, we had no Internet access, and the TV offered nothing but “snow.” Here in South Beach, we had electricity, but the lights were flickering.

As the day went on, the fire up north spread into Lincoln City, population 7,000. Everyone from SW 12th Street north was ordered to evacuate. That includes thousands of homes, the outlet stores, Lakeview Senior Living, and the hospital.

The evacuees were bused to Newport, four miles north of me, because we were still okay.

But we were nervous. On a Facebook video interview, an older man sheltering at the rec center told a frightening story. His dog woke him in the wee hours. He opened the door and saw flames 20 feet away. His car wouldn’t start. He and the dog fled on foot through the forest in the dark, stumbling over logs and debris, somehow finding their way to Highway 18, where they were picked up by firefighters and taken to a shelter. “I have nothing,” he said. “I don’t even have my wallet or my phone. But I’m alive.”

Dear God. A friend whose home a little south was not in danger, packed her bags just in case. Other friends had already been told to leave, not knowing what will be left of their homes when they return. I didn’t pack, but I started making a list.

I looked around my house. What would I take? I love everything in this house. So many memories, so much work. While sheltering here, I have been fixing it up. Just last week, I painted the shed out back. I was about to paint my deck. I planned to renovate the laundry room.

I can gather medicines, toiletries, clothes, my guitar, laptop, and a few binders of music and writing. That’s no different from packing for a trip. I can pack the dog’s things in the car. She’d be overjoyed to be going for a ride. But what about my pictures, Fred’s shot glass collection, my antique glass, the Bibles and prayer books passed down over 100 years, the writing stored on my desktop computer, the binders and notebooks, a lifetime of work? What about my clothes, shoes, hats—so many hats? Could I leave my houseplants, some of them with me for more than 40 years? My piano? Dear God. There’s a history in every item.

I know. It’s just stuff. I have insurance. I can replace things—the things that are just things. But the things that are not just things cannot be replaced. When you’re alone like me, sometimes I feel like all I have is this house and what’s in it. My house is safe this time, but my heart breaks for all of those people who have lost everything to the fires. We can try to put a positive spin on it. At least they’re alive. They can rebuild. It’s a fresh start. But it will never be the same.

On Thursday, the weather turned cooler and wetter, making it easier to control the flames around Lincoln City. The air here is still smoky, but it’s less orange now, mixed with ordinary fog. In other parts of Oregon, the fires continue to grow. Small towns have been wiped out. Thousands of people can’t go home. What did they take with them? What will they miss the most? What will they wish they had taken? Will they ever feel okay again?

And what about COVID-19? Suddenly people have been forced out of their houses, people who have diligently avoided seeing even their own children. Now they’ve been thrown together in shelters with people who may have been quarantining, who may have been ill. Will cases of COVID spike in the next few weeks?

Black soot clings to the spider webs on the side of my house. White ash covers my deck and hot tub. The neighbors and I make jokes about Armageddon, but we are not laughing. Our properties are surrounded by trees and brush. We know how easily everything can burn and that we are not immune.

Friends from far away message me on Facebook. They have been watching the news. Are you all right? I’m okay, I tell them. Sick of the smoke, but I’m okay.

But not as okay as when I thought trouble couldn’t reach me.

Please pray for everyone dealing with the fires. Pray for a hard Oregon rain to put the fires out and wash away the smoke. Let the rain reach all the way into California and everywhere else that’s burning. Help wherever you can.

I welcome your thoughts and fire stories in the comments.

It’s Antique Week! Treasure-hunting in Lincoln City

 As Saturday approached with nothing on the schedule, I thought I would either clean my house or catch up on paperwork in my office. As it turned out, I did neither. I woke up from a dream in which one of my antique plates got broken and said, “I want to go antiquing.” And I did.

It’s Antique Week in Lincoln City, Oregon. Once a year, the dealers put on sales, evaluate people’s keepsakes, hold special presentations such as this year’s “A.Lincoln” show, and scatter even more glass floats on the beach than are usually hidden there.

Lincoln City is always a good place for treasure hunting. In addition to an advertised 80 antique dealers, it boasts fabulous used book stores, plus the Tanger Outlets, Chinook Winds Casino and seven miles of beautiful beaches. Off I went with five dollars cash in my wallet. But I had a checkbook and a debit card. Let the shopping begin.

First stop was Robert’s Book Shop in the Nelscott section of town. Books floor to ceiling, wall to wall, piled on the floor, piled in the aisles, books everywhere. Smart shoppers come with lists, but I just wander from science to sheet music to fiction to poetry to essays, immersed in old-school publishing. No e-books here.

By the time I came out with my literary finds, I was hungry. I hit Vivian’s Restaurant and Bill’s Barbecue, one restaurant with two names. This place, located across from the outlets, has had several different owners and personalities. I think it was Italian when we first moved here. Now it’s barbecue, plus wraps, burgers, breakfasts, vegetarian fare, senior meals and more. Hearty, friendly and reasonably priced, they’re open for breakfast and lunch daily and dinner Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Sated with my burger, fat fries and about a gallon of iced tea, I hit the stores. The weather was gray, with a persistent drizzle which had tourists bundling up, but hey, what’s a little refreshing moisture between stores? The photo above is from Granny’s Attic, always a good place to start. There’s a parking lot behind it on NE 15th Street. Tons of treasures here, including a corner full of non-antique guitars, keyboards, ukuleles, drums and other musical instruments that drew me like metal to a magnet.

Granny’s led to a smaller shop full of surprises. I could barely get in the door for all the merchandise crowded in there. Someone literally had to move for me to step in. There was no heat, so it was freezing. The owner, a curly haired woman about my age jammed into a corner where she barely had room to move, has been ill and unable to organize her wares. She’s going out of business. But first, for the bold shopper, bargains were to be had. I don’t have pierced ears. Surrounded by racks and racks of earrings for pierced ears, I asked if she had any for ears without holes in them. Oh, did she. She handed me several bags and a plastic box full of earrings and invited me to sort through them. I found a corner of a 1960s coffee table and and started looking. Score! I came away with five pairs of earrings for $16.00. I’d tell you more about the shop, but it’s probably closed by now. Check it out between Granny’s and the Old Oregon Tavern.

Next stop: the warm, bright Rocking Horse Mall. Downstairs is loaded with glassware, doll house paraphernalia and model trains. But the blue-painted stairs is where I scored again. I found a bowl for $6 to match the set of blue Currier and Ives dishes I’ve been collecting. And then three CDs, $5 each, including one that goes with the piano music I’ve been working on.

By then I had purchased books, sheet music, a dish, three CDs and five pairs of earrings. I didn’t need to go on to the other shops, including the massive antique mall at the north end of town. Last year, I wrote about Antique Week for a local newspaper. It felt so good to visit the stores just for fun this time, with no obligatory stops for interviews and photo ops.

On my way south, I decided to stop at the beach in Taft. Despite the weather, I had to hunt for a parking spot, ending up near Mo’s, the famous clam chowder eatery. The tide was out, with people scattered on the beach looking for clams, agates and glass floats. Across the water, sea lions dotted the Salishan spit. It was a feast for the eyes and the camera.

I saw a guy taking off his coat, ready to walk the beach in his tee shirt. Crazy. It was cold and wet, but beautiful. A perfect day to run away.

Antique Week continues through Feb. 18. For a list of activities and a map of participating stores, visit the website at http://www.oregoncoast.org/antiqueweek.

The Writing Life II: Authors Fair

Sixty authors, boodles of books, guest speakers at the Bijou Theater. Come to the Northwest Authors Fair in Lincoln City. Well, I had to go to that. Yes, I remembered that I sold only one book when I attended that same event two years ago. The year before that, I did slightly better and I got great information for a column, but I fried in the sun. This time I had a new book, Shoes Full of Sand. Folks would see that it’s local and lovely and buy it for their beach bags. After all, the fair is sponsored by Bob’s Beach Books, which sells “beach reads.” Shoes Full of Sand, perfect.

Um, right.

Lincoln City on a summer Saturday is one big traffic jam. Highway 101 is the city’s two-lane main street with no left-turn lanes or lights and limited parking. It took me an hour, and I was on time, but it was only by the grace of God that I entered the parking lot behind the store just as a family vacated a spot. Mine!

Dragging my wheeled cart of books to the plaza next to the store, I walked right into a snarl of confused writers, tables so close you couldn’t walk between them, and wind so heavy people screamed every time the canopies rocked. Most of the tables were already full. I found a space on the end between the canopies so I could get sunburned and windblown at the same time. Put anything on the table and it blew off. My books were just heavy enough, but the gales threatened to tear off the covers. Despite the blue sky, it was freezing in the wind-tunnel where I sat between two fantasy writers with my utterly factual Stories Grandma Never Told, Shoes Full of Sand, and Freelancing for Newspapers. Apparently it was warm everywhere else.

We zipped up our jackets and hunkered down, waiting for crowds that never really arrived. The city was full of people, but most didn’t get out of their cars. Some authors didn’t sell anything. Most of us sold a few books to other authors and to the bookstore. Occasionally we stumbled up the back stairs of the bookstore for trips to the bathroom–unisex, full of new books waiting to go on the shelves–and the kitchen, where one could get coffee and cut-up vegetables. We looked at our watches a lot.

Occasionally someone would come, pick up a book, read the back cover, admire the front cover, ask if we were the author. We held our breaths, thinking “come on, buy it,” trying to be as cheerful and encouraging as possible without being pushy.  Usually they walked away. But sometimes . . . it’s called partial reinforcement; it’s why people gamble, and why we show up at book fairs.

One new twist this year was a reception at a gorgeous house in a gated community in the waterfront community called Roads End. We enjoyed stuffed mushrooms, mini-quiches, giant shrimp, and Willamette Valley wines. After our afternoon in the wind, most of us authors felt like poor relations, but it was nice. If nothing else, it got us authors together. Thanks to Bob and his crew for all their hard work.

Go buy a book at Bob’s, 17th and 101, Lincoln City, Oregon. On my restroom trips, I could barely resist buying everything I saw on the shelves while waiting in line. So many authors, so many good books!