Monday, March 13, 2006

Like Water to a Flame

It's often my intention to avoid talking about the mundane deroulement of a day, but in this case I think at least the final hours merit coverage.

Last night I was in the heights eating one of those crispy, delicious ham n' swiss subs at Dion's when I got a call from my dad informing me that the apartment next door (which my parents own) was on fire. The party plans I had were dropped right there and I rushed home to find 7 fire trucks, 2 ambulances, 2 Fire Dept SUVs, a PNM truck, and my bewildered father strewn all over the Coal and Girard intersection. By the time I arrived all flames had been doused and the danger had subsided. As far as I could tel,l the firemen inside were using these last moments to hack up a little more wall, chainsaw another little section of the floor just for the pure absurdity of it all. You know, take out a little of that "I'm so overflowing with existential
ressentiment that sliding down the fire pole has lost all meaning."

Asking around I quickly discovered that the middle apartment had ignited, but fortunately no one was hurt. No one human at least; a cat didn't make it in spite of the firemen's best efforts to revive it. One literally attempted interspecies mouth to mouth, which is about as admirable a feat as any I can think of. Apparently, very soon after the blaze had begun neighbors noticed the smoky smell and alerted the fire department. One of the colorful characters from across the alley woke my friend Mario, I would guess from a dream somehow centered around amassing global political power, and he rushed over with a fire extinguisher. Glory was not to be his that night, as the fire had by then spread from the floor furnace and engulfed the entire front closet, making it a wee bit too powerful for a hand extinguisher.

I inspected the apartment today, and the damage seems minimal considering how bad it could have been. While everything in the closet was lost, most everything in the rest of the house seems at worst smoke damaged. The whole building is without power, and it was pointed out to me that this means if any of the remaining tenants need to shit at night, it's either going to be in the dark or by candlelight.

Minor in the spectrum of disasters, even this humble tragedy provokes quite a bit of reflection. I'm not about to enter into any sort of introspective soliloquy brimming with the usual cliches about the impermanence of life, liberty, and property, and the fact that every wonderful facet of our gemlike existence should be marveled at every waking moment.

You know why?

Because I don't believe that at all. I've got natural impulses telling me those things, but I also have access to this amazing device known as reason and a whole boatload of inductive proof which leads to just the opposite notion - that importance cannot be ascribed to everything at every time without
completely undermining what it is to be important. Feel free to use disasters as the catalyst for profound self-analysis, it's only natural after all; but it's just as natural several weeks later when these reactions have become slowly anesthetized by more immediate and visceral needs, wants, and habits. Like the Six Dollar Jalapeno Burger at Carl's Jr.

There is only one lesson to be learned:
Do not, as I am prone to do, fall prey to the guilt that you are underappreciating your life.

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