Yesterday, of course, my apartment building caught fire. When I posted a photo of the fire, there was no way for me to know how the situation would turn out.
The good news: nobody was killed or seriously injured. Most of the roof to the east of my apartment was burned away, but thanks to the firefighters — may God bless them! — the fire didn’t spread much farther than that.
My apartment was untouched by the fire, but the building’s structure was damaged so it’s boarded up. Nobody can move back in until the building inspector declares that it’s safe.
It’s funny what you grab when you learn that the building is on fire. I grabbed my laptop, my iPad, my Chinese class notebook, a framed photo of my father and me, and a framed photo of my philosophical mentor, Prof. Blanshard. Just on instinct, those were the things that I most wanted to save in case my apartment got burned up.
Standing out in the parking lot, I got to know my neighbors a little better. Next door lives an ex-Navy IT guy. Upstairs is a nice Chinese woman, but I didn’t get to practice my Chinese with her because she’s from Hong Kong and speaks the Cantonese dialect. I’m studying Mandarin. The two dialects are written the same way but pronounced differently.
After the fire stopped, the firefighters let us go back into our apartments to get things that we’d need while we were staying elsewhere. That’s when I got my second-tier items: shirts, clean laundry, two framed degrees, a framed drawing by a lady I like, and a framed set of medals that I got in high school (yes, I know it sounds silly). I also got a toothbrush, floss, comb, bar of soap, and a towel. It’s a scary universe, and a man’s got to know where his towel is. Anyway, I wasn’t yet sure where I was going to spend the night, so a towel and soap weren’t totally crazy.
I wish I’d thought to take a second pair of pants, because it wasn’t until later that I realized how smelly and sooty my clothes had become. I can go to a laundromat without wearing a dress shirt, but not without wearing pants.
I decided to drive five miles north to my office parking lot and decide where to go from there. After I’d parked, I my cell phone revealed a 4.5-star hotel about a half-mile away. And that’s where I am now. It’s not ruinously expensive and my renter’s insurance covers it. My hotel room window has a view of sorts — mostly office buildings, apartments, and some retail stores that died from the lockdown (though their death certificates will say it was from Covid-19). On the bright side, I can get to my office in five minutes.
I drove back to the apartment complex today to take the photo shown at the top of this blog post. The area still smelled smoky. As long as I was there, I took the opportunity to do my daily “power walk” — I could call it just a “walk,” but “power walk” sounds much more impressive. From my apartment to the Jewish Community Center and back is just over two miles. It’s not a hard workout, but if you go fast enough, you at least work up a sweat.
The JCC’s fitness center is open again after shutting down for the CoronaDoom, but I enjoy the walk outdoors. Today there were other people out walking, dressed better than me because they were going to the Orthodox synagogue down the same street. I respect the daylights out of the Orthodox because their way takes incredible dedication and seriousness of mind. But I once went to one of their services and I had almost no idea of what was going on. What matters is that they’re good people and it works for them.
Omgosh I’m so glad you and your neighbors are okay. I have been there, done that well knowing the stink of old wet soot when the firefighters are done. Hope you get back home soon!
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Oh goodness, isn’t renter’s insurance wonderful? I have harped at my children to be sure to get it. I hope they have listened.
A friend suffered a house fire a number of years ago. I was waiting to read about the soot smell in everything. Hopefully your insurance company will get it all cleaned.
Fortunately, the fire never reached my apartment, so the only smoky clothes were what I was wearing. The hotel has a washing machine, so I wrapped a towel around my waist and washed the pants along with everything else. I wasn’t dressed to go out, but at least I was “decent.” 🙂
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