Blog: The Year in Review

Burt Ross

The publisher of this esteemed publication has requested that those of us who contribute to The Malibu Times might want to write some kind of year in review. Being a most obedient and dutiful person, I hereby offer the following:

I am breaking the year 2018 into two very uneven timeframes—BTF and ATF. BTF stands for “Before The Fire” and, you guessed it, ATF stands for “After The Fire.” To be perfectly honest, the 10 months plus which constitute BTF are a bit of a blur. Actually, they are not a bit of a blur, but rather a complete blur.

I think there might have been a Super Bowl, and I am guessing one team won, which means another team probably lost. I am sure there was an Academy Awards show, but I never remember any of them anyway. I presume it ran too long and that winners thanked their parents, lovers, and agents.

I seem to vaguely remember there were elections with far too many propositions for me to consider. On a national level, commentators argued over how big the blue wave was, but most agreed it was at least big enough to surf.

And, of course, Trump tweeted.

Then came the fires, and while visiting sick relatives on the East Coast, I watched the city I have come to love burn right there on a television. The first reports came in that my house had survived, but soon the photos spoke a sad truth. My bride and I boarded a plane to return home, but there would be no home.

After every trip away we always looked forward to sleeping in our own bed, but not this time.

When we were allowed back in Malibu, we drove up the PCH and what had only a week or so earlier been a bright vibrant place had the look of a ghost town. Schools, banks, the post office and almost everything else was closed, but it was not Sunday and there was no holiday being celebrated. There were almost no cars on the road and, until we reached Pepperdine, there were virtually no signs of devastation except for the ubiquitous utility trucks.

Then, it all changed. The hills looked like a wasteland. When I drove down the hill, I thought I recognized Malibu Seafood. It looked relatively intact but as if somebody had transplanted it onto a foreign planet.

We drove through one street where on both sides only tall chimneys stood as cruel, ghastly, ghostly reminders of former homes where people raised their families.

Finally, we pulled into our driveway. It was surreal. Everything in front of what had been our home was the same as we had left it. The three car garage, the rose beds, the fountain, the gate, all stood as an elegant welcome to what was our beautiful home, now a heap of debris. The love letters, the family heirlooms, the wedding album were all indistinguishable from the rest of the pile.

Our friends were scattered. The holidays came and passed. We were going to host Thanksgiving, but many of our guests also lost their homes. Holiday cheer was without the cheer, Christmas without the merry, and the new year more new than happy.

The second time we visited what had been our home, a friend walked toward an adolescent gingko tree which looked deader than dead. All its leaves were burnt. My friend pointed out excitedly, “There’s some new growth on that branch. This tree is going to make it, but it will probably take a while.”

I guess that is as good a metaphor as any. We are going to make it, but it will probably take a while. For many of us, it will be especially difficult to have a happy 2019, but at least may it be a year of strong recovery.