Mostly about that time, starting about a month ago, when my apartment building caught on fire… and everything that happened next.
VII. November 7, 2011
The first thing I remember is the dripping.
Then, the scent of… of… The only way I can describe it is the smell of a double-boiler I put in the microwave as a seven-year-old; you know, to boil water. Some grownup stick-in-the mud said you can’t put metal in the microwave, so I did; and watched the lightning dance across the dull gray curves as that burning-smell accumulated… and… and… I figured I should stop the microwave.
Anyway, that’s what it smelled like.
“There’s a man on the fire escape!”
Groggy at first, I snapped to almost total alertness as the flashlight caught us from the fire escape. The comforter was wet.
“The building is on fire!”
What happened next was at once impressive, brief, and anticlimactic.
Impressive, as my quick-witted wife managed to disengage both of our iPhones, stow a laptop, dress all four of us and have us out the door in — I spit you not — one minute. Literally one minute and we were out of the apartment. Cell phones, sure; who knows if we are ever walking back into our apartment? I still can’t believe she had the presence of mind to grab the Mac Air and its electric cord, though. I did a good job with that one.
Anticlimactic in part because it was so brief. By the time we got to the increasingly-crowded foyer, the firemen were already proclaiming it safe to go back to our beds (it was about four or five in the morning).
There had been some kind of a fire on the sixth floor — to this day, about a month later — I still don’t know what happened, exactly. The sixth floor apartment was wholly consumed by fire.
In order to quell that fire, the firemen ended up flooding the apartment directly beneath it on the fifth floor. Mine is directly beneath that one, on the fourth floor. To be honest, we didn’t lose a lot, but it turns out that in order to save the building, the firemen didn’t just flood the fifth floor apartment, but they seeped tons and tons of water into ours, too (and maybe even the one under mine, on the third, but that one was being renovated anyway).
We ran industrial strength dehumidifiers for a week or two, but the damage had been done. There was just too much water in the walls and floor (it turns out the floor was warped like a rainbow, and we just didn’t notice on account of the rugs). We couldn’t close wooden doors any more, as they no longer matched their doorframes.
blah Blah BLAH
… And that’s how I ended up homeless.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures, partly because I didn’t know what was going to happen at the time. Here is the one I did take, on account of it was hilarious:
Katherine painted the paintings; she is good at everything.
Water seeping in from the apartment above created a massive bubble behind the paint. Clark was actually terrified of the ever-growing paint-pregnancy. We weren’t really sure what to do, because at the rate it was happening, it probably would have torn / burst / been a huge mess. I elected to poke a hole in the paint and catch it with a bucket. What remains looks like the remnants of massive weight loss.
We were basically vacated from our apartment soon after; we only thought we were going to be out for maybe six weeks so we didn’t pack very much.
It turns out the damage to our condo was massive, and that we will be out for three or four months, at least, while they tear it all down to put it back together. There are good and bad things to this. Good because I actually love where we are staying, my kids love it, and Katherine (who set it up) loves it. I think there is a strange irony to the fact I haven’t eaten beef in weeks [deliberately changing my diet incrementally] and I now live around the corner from the original Plataforma.
Bad because we don’t have anything. Like I said, we packed for circa six weeks, so we don’t have a lot of basic stuff. I don’t have very many sets of clothes, or socks; my kids have next to no toys. We don’t have our DVDs… None of that.
It was a little jarring to be living in a glorified hotel over Thanksgiving, but now we are going to be living here through Christmas and my anniversary. I am going to Honolulu ironically a week after PT Hawaii in February (we have planned this trip since literally Heezy’s first PT Hawaii) for my anniversary. I know this sounds like first world problems, but none of our things are accessible and Katherine is stressing about stuff like sifting through the kids’ bathing suits and her string of cute little bikinis she bought for the trip amidst the chaos and storage units.
Katherine went back to our apartment last week to see what was going on. It’s basically… Well… Look at the pictures:
This used to be the room where the greatest [Legacy] deck (Legacy or otherwise, actually) was brewed by Billy Moreno.
This used to be my bedroom. On the up-side the apartment looks really spacious.
The bathroom is kind of a heartbreaker; Katherine had just had it re-tiled a week or so before the fire.
And that’s basically it.
How to Grow Taller:
What happens to us isn’t even that interesting.
Oh my gosh! Your apartment burned down! You’re homeless! Homeless for the holidays!
Well… Kinda, and not really. My apartment didn’t actually burn down, it flooded (but thank goodness we have fire insurance). As far as homeless goes, I’m living pretty well for a homeless cat to be honest.
What is interesting is what happens next.
I look back and think about what it means to be without the vast majority of my material possessions. I had the foresight to bring my trade binder (admired even by Jon Medina) and most of my physical Standard deck with its in-print dual lands and Snapcaster Mages… Though now that I think about it, I think my Druidic Satchels are in the big trunk with everything else.
It’s a little bit annoying to have no comic books (or books) whatsoever.
I don’t have my shaving mirror, or my superhero t-shirts (Katherine refused to pack any), or my Wii.
But as far as I can tell, very little of any of that matters.
I think about what my apartment represents, and how my outlook might have been different if things really were much worse in terms of material destruction. The things I am separated from represent thousands upon thousands of dollars “worth” of… stuff. Most of what I have worked towards for most of my adult life was in that apartment; things.
And you know what?
I have my iPad, my wife, and my kids… and I don’t really miss much else.
There is this great scene in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. The main character [to that point] had been a kind of ultra-violent (but super cool) zen assassin. However after being captured and grievously wounded, he decided to reinvent himself into a different kind of ultra-cool heroic terrorist (think going from Deadpool to Elijah Snow over night).
To show how starkly — and ultimately how easily — anyone could transform himself, that character blew up the Stately Wayne Manor-like mansion of his billionaire bankroller, with the latter watching.
Is it really so easy to let go of an accumulation of stuff that physically represented your time, for quite some time?
Turns out it is.
Like I said, what’s really interesting is what comes next.
How to Grow Darker:
I was halfway through editing the original version of this blog post, which was about how I dealt with a layoff in 2007 when I read a Tweet by my man / longtime Top 8 Magic listener / frequent commenter on this blog Voltaire Abaya:
Part Six was my favorite segment and I realized I really was going to disappoint with the Part Seven I had planned.
While I could tie in my experience four years ago with stuff like Occupy Wall Street or go a different way with pulling yourself up from a massive disappointment (I would not likely have earned what level of professional notoriety I have if not for that layoff, or at least not as quickly and luckily). But in no way was I going to be able to equal 02 02 02’s emotional catfight of tragedy and adoration with “I got laid off. / Best thing that ever happened to me.” [which was the entirety of the pre-“How to Get Taller” section].
So I went with this, instead.
Raise your hand if you noticed the date, noticed the destruction, mixed it in your imagination with the holidays, and felt a little bit of empathy for YT.
Just kidding! I appreciate it, and every drop of well wishing you felt up until this sub-section’s big reveal 🙂
How to Grow More Handsome:
Don’t be too old when you die.
Carrie Fisher has this section early in her one-woman show where she talks about how people comment about how hot she was thirty years ago, and that she didn’t realize she was making a pact with half the population of the galaxy when she donned that metal bikini back in 1983.
All the positive reinforcement I have gotten with new Facebook friend requests spurred on by this mini-series to the big props from Pat Chapin, Jon Finkel, and the dozens of other people who have sent Tweets, and Likes, and personal recommendations to the blog this week are much appreciated (though, you’d think as much as everyone proclaims to love “Tall, Dark and Handsome” it might have competed with the voluminous likes of that one wrestling post I did a few weeks ago).
I know how lucky I am and cherish every pixel and byte.
Part of me thought to myself “I could probably keep doing this forever…”
But you know what?
At some point it would probably suck.
So I’m ending it here, for now at least. Sure, we’ll probably get an echo of “Tall, Dark and Handsome” someday in the future, maybe the next time my condo burns down or I learn something, but for now I just want to look back at this as a week I updated my blog seven consecutive times and reminded my readers why they liked me in the first place.
Katherine has actually been getting after me all week.
“Work on your book!”
Lauren Lee has been great, shipping edited chapters back for audio transformation. We are working really hard to get it to you by Christmas (crossing my fingers on this one), and I am skipping the Invitational to get those precious hours into the microphone.
So, of course, because this is how these things go, I lost my voice immediately after recording Part Three of “Tall, Dark and Handsome”. I’ll get you yet, Murphy!
What’s the new book like? It’s more-or-less a combination of recent Star City articles like Picture This and Cards, “Facts,” Mentors, Multipliers, And Using Every Part Of The Buffalo mingled with “Tall, Dark and Handsome” in thirty-odd twenty-minute chunks… all in audio format. With homework assignments.
It’s exactly that cool 🙂
And because this is a blog post about my life, today, in pictures… I’ll leave you with just one more:
Some people have complimented me that “Tall, Dark and Handsome” is the best thing I’ve written in ten years. The Official Misers Guide (or, lovingly, OMG) respectfully disagrees.