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I arranged with Ellie to swing by her place after Opera Workshop so that we could attempt once more to burn the CD for Saturday.

My rehearsal ran a little late, so I tried to make up time on the road. I felt kind of bad about going to her place so late. As I approached the intersection in front of her house, I heard sirens, but I couldn't see where they were coming from. So I entered the intersection. And as I did so I looked left again ... and saw a firetruck bearing down on me. So I sped up quickly to get out of its way and pulled into Ellie's front driveway.

As I parked, I noticed the fire truck turning down the road that runs alongside and behind Ellie's house. Hmmm..., I thought, maybe one of her neigbors had a heart attack or something. After all, I couldn't see any smoke or other signs of fire anywhere.

As I walked up her driveway, I saw her husband standing out by the garage with another man. I greeted him and asked, "Is Ellie back there or in the house?" I couldn't make out the answer. I found it odd that he'd be standing outside at night, since he suffers from Alzheimer's, so I decided that Ellie was probably back there with him.

As I walked towards the back of the house, I noticed a reddish glow on his face. That's when things started to click. Then I looked in the garage window and saw the flames dancing up the walls. And then I noticed that the other man -- no, men -- were firemen.

Had I arrived 30 seconds later, I wouldn't have been able to park in Ellie's driveway. Now I was blocked in by numerous emergency vehicles.

Both Ellie and Peter got out of the house safely. Three of the cats stayed inside but hid under the upstairs bed; the other cat was outside. The fire was contained to the garage, fortunately. Besides extensive damage to the garage itself, very little of value was lost. The antique dresser did get burned but looks salvageable. The filing cabinets filled with music were untouched. The antique sled did not get damaged. Most of what was consumed by fire was stuff that could have been trashed. Additionally, all the tools were ruined, and exploded cans and melted plastic containers (quite Dali-esque) were strewn everywhere.

I'm glad I showed up when I did. I mean, yes, it fucked up my schedule big time. But Peter is nigh well unmanageable, and Ellie would have had a hard time coping with the fire, the firemen, the EMTs, the police, the vulturous window boarders who descended on her house trying to secure her as a client, etc., all while trying to look out for Pete as well.

Apparently, Pete caused the fire, though he has no idea that he did. He must have gone out for a smoke in the garage. But Ellie didn't give him any cigarettes, so he must have picked up an old butt (or who knows what else he might have mistaken for a cigarette) and lit it and then dropped it on the stack of old newspapers in the garage. As of last night, Pete quit smoking cold turkey, but I don't think he quite understands that.

When everyone else had finally left the house, I offered to leave my tape with her and give her my FedEx account number so that she could send the CD to Maryland. I figured it was best to leave Pete and her alone. She insisted we do the recording right there and then, though: "No, Derek, you need this. It'll only take 2½ minutes."

Her estimate would have been dead on if everything had worked the way it was supposed to. Obviously, it didn't. We discovered we could not record from tape to CD. Even though every device went through the same receiver, the CD recorder could record every feed from the receiver but the tape feed. This machine was obviously made before CD recorders became ubiquitous, because it recognize the need to record from another device to tape but not from tape to another device. I finally convinced Ellie to allow me to rewire the connections into her receiver. We managed to fool the receiver into thinking the tape was a CD and got the recording burned. The show will go on.

I didn't leave Ellie's house until midnight. When I got home I was tired and hungry and cranky. I had wanted to finish watching Charade (starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn), but I didn't have the energy. I put a small load of laundry in the wash and had a little bit of cheese for supper. I zipped through a West Wing episode and a South Park episode on the Tivo and then threw my clothes in the drier and went to bed.

Since I had to leave all my packing for this morning, I was an hour and a half late for work. After work I will catch a flight to BWI. After today I won't be checking e-mail until late Sunday or early Monday; if anyone needs to contact me for whatever reason, call my cell phone (which I won't have during the Civil or Hindu ceremonies but will otherwise be on my person).

Have a great weekend everyone, and don't set your houses on fire!


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2004 10:56 am (UTC)
Oh gawd, that was awful!
Apr. 22nd, 2004 03:13 pm (UTC)
What a horrible thing to walk into. I'm glad everybody was OK and that the damage was (apparently) relatively minor.

And yes, you want to be fully awake to watch Charade.
Apr. 25th, 2004 09:10 pm (UTC)
Everything takes longer than it should because there are unexpected complications to even the simplest act.

The mind is not a simple thing. Even when it is working perfectly we can still be fooled. Try having a conversation with somebody with intermediate term memory loss, someone who can remember clearly the events of their childhood but not what happened just twenty minutes ago. Or with somebody who clearly forgets who you are half-way through the conversation even though you've known them for fifty years.

Help such people when you can but don't pity them. Be frightened, for tomorrow that could be you.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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