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Mpls, MN, United States

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Desert drama

There are a few things about working in Joshua Tree that I doubt I'll ever experience again. One is having for a work location the title of one of my favorite albums of all time. Another is being in an area sometimes given the dubious distinction of "meth capital of the world." And where else would my office provide a view of those strange, spiny, sprawling cactus-trees?

The past few days, we've also had drama that could only happen in the desert.

On Friday, ominous storm clouds began to move in and the scent of rain hung in the air. "I guess we'll lose power," said one of my workmates. Now, I grew up in Auburn, where windstorms (of distinctly sub-tornado-warning strength) would routinely take out our power for hours at a time. Then I moved to the Midwest, where I recall losing power once in five years--when a tree fell on powerlines just outside the house. Even in the most aggressive of storms, our lights would rarely flicker. "Really?" I asked, incredulous. "Well, yeah," he snorted. "When it storms, you lose power..."

And he was right. What we had was hardly a "storm"--more of a sprinkle, really. I happened to be in the restroom when it happened, and was therefore enveloped in total and somewhat claustrophobic blackness when the power went. The generator took several seconds to kick back on, so I spent the rest of my afternoon taking calls from departments who had lost access to various systems, or whose outlets had apparently blown. The people in the department who actually know how to fix things went rushing about doing so. It was all very exciting.

There was more drama Mon- day. A small crowd gath- ered on the side- walk, smoking and trying to catch a glimpse of what was alternately being called a rosy boa or a red racer. I was told that they had been trying to protect the little, white-haired lady in the center of the photo from too much excitement, but that when the snake made its move (provoked as it was by the men poking its bushes), it "charged" directly at her. According to my source, however, she was too "slow" to notice it had charged her, and thus was disaster narrowly averted.

My friend Randy works in the build- ing next to ours, and once when I ate lunch with him outside, he threw pieces of his sandwich to the birds and chipmunks because they "wanted their vegetables." He eschewed the stick-prodding, ducking and weaving practiced by others in the group, and instead dove straight into the bushes, coming up with the thrashing snake. He held it for a while and even let it have a drink/swim in the water dish out back before releasing it on a safer, less populated stretch behind the building.

The third drama of the week actually made national news. We've all been glued to our radios at work since Tuesday, when the blaze, stirred by strong winds, jumped from 400 to 5,000 acres in mere hours. It's now close to 40,000, and Mom and I left work one and two hours early on Wednesday and today, respectively, out of fear that the highway would be closed and we would be stranded in the high desert. The smoke has reportedly made its presence known not only in Las Vegas, but in Ogden, Utah.

Bryant reports being able to see smoke in Loma Linda from the Millard fire, with which the Sawtooth inferno may still merge. This would create one mega-fire which my neighbor Noah accurately described as "epic." Flames from that fire are visible from my parents' front yard. More pictures are for a different post, although ones far more impressive than mine are already available at the Desert Sun.

Some of these adventures, I won't mind living without.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

What at coinkydink, we oddly lost power at work today too. It was very random, an office's light would be on but the computer would be off and the like. I didn't fret though; I just kept on packing orders and eventually, like I knew we would, we got all power back.