Another dangerous fire, as always whipped by shifting, gusty winds, has closed all the roads into the foothills west of Boulder.
I got a few photos from south Boulder this afternoon, this one from the trail around the CU property off Table Mesa. Although the TV stations have been following the story all day, we really don’t know much. It’s burning up there west of Lee Hill Road and east of Four Mile Canyon Road, which is where it apparently started about 10 a.m. this morning. There are hundreds of homes up there, and reports are now saying that dozens of structures have burned. Thankfully there are, so far, no casualties or injuries. But firefighters have no control at this point.
I first saw the cloud about 11:45 a.m. I had been having coffee with a friend, and there was no sign of anything at 11:30. Fifteen minutes later, the huge cloud looked almost apocalyptic to the west and north.
The winds have calmed, and it’s cooling off now, and I’ve been listening to the police radio on a website. Evacuations are taking place on Lee Hill and Olde Stage Road, although many people on both of those roads refusing to leave. The Olde Stage Fire wasn’t that long ago.
It’s dark now, and the slurry bombers have stopped running. We drove out to the reservoir on Cherryvale Road just a few minutes ago. The western hills looked a scene from Mordor in the Ring Trilogy. Several fires could be see from near the mouth of Boulder Canyon all the way north to Lee Hill Road, and flames occasionally flared. The photos of burning houses are already filling the news websites. The smell of smoke permeates the air.
September 6, 2010 5 Comments
Sad news this weekend: Willy DeVille, founder of Mink DeVille, the soul band that made its name at CBGB’s during the punk era, died Thursday in New York City of pancreatic cancer. Depending on the obit or music encyclopedia you reference, he was 55 or 58 years old.
I was already aware of Mink and into the band’s debut album Cabretta when I caught Mink DeVille on May 20, 1978, at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City, Mo. DeVille was first up on a triple bill that included Rockpile and Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Tickets were five bucks, and Billie and I were front and center for the show, easily one of the best bills I have ever seen. Dressed in a tailored suit with his gold-capped tooth, DeVille was charismatic and confident, strutting like Bernardo in West Side Story. His drawling Spanish-inflections were mesmerizing, and the band seemed perfectly in sync. This was before they banned cameras in concerts, and Billie got some good shots; one of DeVille throwing his suit coat over his shoulder caught the pure magic of the performance.
Cabretta, produced by Jack Nitzsche, is still an amazing record. When I first heard it, I was convinced that the tunes were all old soul songs I had missed somewhere along the way. One, “Little Girl,” really was (written by Barry Greenwich and Phil Spector), but to my utter amazement, incredible songs like “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,” “Can’t Do Without It” and “Venus of Avenue D” were written by a very young DeVille. The equally remarkable Return to Magenta followed, and the possibilities seemed endless.
In the fall of 1983, walking down the Pearl Street pedestrian mall, we spotted DeVille sitting in an outdoor patio. I had just gotten a job writing for Audience, a local entertainment publication, and somehow I found that Boulderite Michael Barnett had signed Deville to a management deal, and his first act as manager was to pluck him off the streets of NYC (“directly from the streets of Ninth Avenue,” DeVille said) and flew him to his Martin Acres home in Boulder, to cure him of heroin addiction. (Barnett at the time was also representing ex-Rhythm Ace Russell Smith, a very funny guy who was fronting a local band then called Dawn Patrol, and Alaska’s Hobo Jim, a folksinger who sounded like an up-north Woody Guthrie and could bore a hole in a wooden stage with his stomping cowboy boots.)
I talked with DeVille in January of 1984, an interview I have never forgotten. He drove up to the appointed meeting place, La Francaise, a local bakery then located in the Baseline Shopping Center, in a two-toned 1957 Chevrolet. During the interview he was pleasant and accommodating, smiling that gold-toothed smile.
He would lower his sunglasses periodically and ask, “My eyes are clear, aren’t they?” He was honest about his addiction, mincing no words while trying to explain how it felt to be straight for the first time in four years. “I tried to do it, but you have to have somebody’s help,” he said, and that he tried the black box, electronic acupuncture, endorphin stimulation and even quinidine, and nothing worked until he just cold-turkeyed out here. But he said he didn’t want to turn into a People magazine “look how I cleaned up” story and asked that I write that he was here only “for health reasons.” He said he was taking dance lessons from an instructor in town.
When he was young, he said, he wanted to look like John Hammond Jr., the blues singer known for his black hair and black leather jacket, and sing like John Lee Hooker, and somehow he managed to do both. When asked if he got along with the other bands during the punk era, he said, “I came in the door looking like George Chakiris and I was trying to be James Brown onstage. What do you think? They were playing sloppy and getting a lot of press, and I added the competitive element.” I gave him an 8×10 of Billie’s photo of him looking like the star of West Side Story when we finished the interview.
I bought a few more albums, but it wasn’t until 2004, when an incredible new DeVille song titled “Muddy Waters Rose Out of the Mississippi Mud” was added to the playlist of KCUV, the short-lived Denver Americana station where I was working, that I caught up with his music again. Crow Jane Alley, the album it came from, was an indication that DeVille’s talent was still intact.
Songwriter Doc Pomus was one of DeVille’s inspirations, his songs huge influences on those early DeVille tunes, and they later collaborated. In the liner notes for the album Return to Magenta, Pomus, summed DeVille up best:
“Mink DeVille knows the truth of a city street and the courage in a ghetto love song. And the harsh reality in his voice and phrasing is yesterday, today, and tomorrow — timeless in the same way that loneliness, no money, and troubles find each other and never quit for a minute. But the fighters always have a shot at turning a corner, and if you holler loud enough, sometimes somebody hears you.
“And truth and love always separate the greats from the neverwasses and the neverwillbes.”
August 9, 2009 2 Comments
Started watching the firestorms spreading across southern California Monday. The Los Angeles Times, as it did with the fires in Griffith park and on Catalina Island earlier this year, is reporting the breaking story via a blog that updates with new entries as reporters file dispatches from around the area.
Nobody wants to see people lose possessions or their lives in a fire. That said, look at the thousands of acres of Southern California burning on Google Earth, and ask yourself why in the world are people building homes in these places? When are we going to stop building subdivisions in potential firestorm zones?
Not soon, given what is being reported by the Times. According to some residents, quality of life in the forest is well worth the danger.
Any second thoughts about living in a fire zone?
“Not a one. There is no place like it.’’
A friend, Richard Sanders, explained.
“You are there in rural hills and a few minutes in urban here, if you want it,’’ he said.
Apparently, that’s not an unusual opinion amongst Californians. This gentleman obviously believes that people should be able to build and live anywhere, even in the middle of forests that often host Santa Ana winds and frequent firestorms. Further, he feels that our government, no matter the cost, should then drop everything and protect them from fires, even if it takes the military.
“G.D. Durrant is a gruff-talking senior professor of painting and drawing at Palomar College. He has an issue: Why can’t all the military manpower at Camp Pendleton, Twenty-Nine Palms and elsewhere in the region be mobilized to save property and lives? There are military personnel and equipment all around. “I just wish they could utilize it,” he says. “All these firefighters here are working so hard, and their accomplishment is so minimal.”
But earlier today, on the front page, was this quote, the only one that makes any sense whatsoever.
“I’m just wondering why so many homes are built in areas so prone to wildfires. It seems like every year firefighters are risking their lives to save homes that are constantly in the path of wildfires. Why not leave the space open and build where there is no fire danger to begin with?” – Kathryn
I couldn’t have put it more diplomatically, or eloquently.
October 24, 2007 No Comments