Christy Marx GoFundMe Page!

3719066_1542655955337478_r.jpegIf you’ve not heard – and you missed this and this – Christy Marx (Conquests of Longbow, Conquest of Camelot, Jem and the Holograms) was impacted by the California fires – she has lost everything.

A funding page has been set up to help:

Please consider sharing the GoFundMe link. Even if you, yourself can’t donate – just sharing the link may lead to someone who can, and give us the chance to help someone who gave us memories of Conquest of Camelot, Conquest of Longbow, Jem and the Holograms just to name a few. So. Please. Consider sharing.

It’d mean the world to us.

Much Love,
Larry. Laffer Laffer.
(and Tawmis too)

Christy Marx and the California fires, update.

Tues. Nov. 13: We drove downtown to the main Chico post office that is supposed to have our mail. There was a line stretching around the corner and down the block. We decided to try another day.

Randy got his starter cup of coffee at Starbucks, but I still couldn’t get the laptop to connect to the net. It would make the initial connection, but the login popup would never appear, and without that I couldn’t do anything. A young woman from Starbucks came over to try and she couldn’t get it to work either. Randy paid some bills while I futzed around with the laptop.

The hotel we’re in now is a funky old place. It may date back to the 1950s or 60s, judging by the overall look of the place and the tilework in the shower stall. Very old and run-down, but clean and reasonably well maintained. It doesn’t even have a breakfast room. But hey, the wifi works, so it will do. Interestingly, as with so many hotels over the past few years, it’s run by an Indian-American. They’ve moved heavily into the hotel business.

We located a local place with good ratings called From the Hearth on the Main St. part of Red Bluff. It had had a clean, minimalist interior, but still inviting. The type of neo-Bohemian place where you order the food up front, get your own drink, then sit in a booth or table, and bus your own dishes afterwards. There was a large sign at the counter that they were offering free food to evacuees, so they fed us for nothing. The food came on a steel tray, no plate. I had a pulled pork sandwich that was excellent, and Randy’s food was equally good.

I was finally able to buy and set up a VPN service, so we can do our internet business securely. I did some FB, but it was too late to get sucked into checking email.

We were too agitated by worrying about our house to go to sleep right away. We read for a while. Eventually around 1 am we tried to sleep. My mind kept churning. I didn’t sleep much that night.

It’s so many little things that jump into my head, and have been doing so over the past week as I think of objects large and small that we’ve lost. The biggest personal loss for me is the paper and records of my career: the original scripts and files in my filing cabinets, Jem memorabilia including the custom Lindsey Pierce doll recently made for me, the only remaining copies of my Sierra videogames, all of the comics I’ve written and comics from my childhood, the original art (Peter’s and others), the books I’ve written, boxes and boxes of photos and slides. Luckily, I digitized a large number of childhood photos, but that’s not the same as holding an old photo in one’s hand or turning it over to see my mother’s handwritten notes.

And then there were the objects of sentimental importance.
My brass-strung Celtic harp.

The utterly unique Viking bed that Peter made, carved and decorated by hand. The curio cabinet he made and carved with decorations, and all the knickknacks collected over the years that were displayed on it.

My mother’s beautiful, carved antique dresser. My other jewelry. The hippie dresses I made in 1970. A special box of incense I kept from the 60s. The antique rocking chair my mother hand-painted.

The fossilized snail shell I found while hiking in the San Gabriel mountains. The agates that Randy and I collected on Agate Beach, and the beautiful little piece of jade I found there.

The books that Harlan Ellison personally signed to me, and he’s gone, too.

The lovely, antique legal bookcases I bought in L.A. in the early 1970s, filled with scores of old books.

I find myself wondering, did the Green Man survive at the base of the oak tree? What about the Danville bricks on the porch? My mother and I pried them from the streets of Danville when they were paving over the old brick roads. They had the name “Danville” stamped into them from a time when there was once a huge brick factory outside town. I loved the fact that the “N” had been stamped in backwards.

While driving through Chico, we passed a lamp store where I took an antique Art Deco lamp to be repaired. It was lovely old thing that I bought in L.A. in the 1970s, too. Gone to slag.
The mental inventory is a quiet constant in the back of the mind, if not churning in the forebrain.

Yes, things can be replaced. Some things can. Some can’t.
I find myself perfectly balanced between being devastated about losing everything that defined my career and feeling a bizarre sense of freedom from no longer having tons of Stuff anchoring me to any particular place. As Ted Sturgeon had Spock say (slightly paraphrasing), “It may not be logical, but it’s true.”

Wed. Nov. 14: We went back to the post office. This time we stood in line. They had agents moving up and down the line with change of address cards and to answer questions. As we got closer, a woman handed out large sticky notes and had us write our name and address on it. When we got up the steps to the doorway, another woman took the sticky note and directed us to the end of a long line snaking around the lobby of the post office past banks of antique post boxes. Beneath us was a very old tile floor with a pattern in it. An agent would bellow out someone’s name or address as their mail was found. We inched closer. The whole process took an hour only to be told they had no mail for us. “That’s not right,” I said, “we ALWAYS have mail.” “We’re still sorting it,” he said.

We had many phone calls back and forth with various claims adjusters. One is specifically looking for long-term housing for us. They talked about a six month lease. The six cats complicates things, of course. We discussed the various places that would be okay with us. Pretty much anything within reasonable driving distance of Chico.They were also trying to contact our current hotel in order to take over paying the cost, but they couldn’t get through for some reason.

I finally accessed my webmail and found over 3,000 messages waiting for me. I spent a couple of hours wading through and deleting email. I’d say two-thirds of the emails were fucking Facebook notifications. I have hopefully got them turned off now. In the middle of that my mouse died. I was smug because I carry extra batteries in the laptop case, but when I pulled them out I found they were AAA for a different mouse. My current mouse wanted AA. So I had to run down the street to Raley’s to buy batteries in order to finish slogging through the email.

Thurs. Nov. 15: Cereal and banana in the room for breakfast. I need to buy a toaster and blender so I can go back to my normal breakfast.

One of our errands was to a locksmith. Randy grabbed the fireproof lockbox that contains vital papers, flash drive back-ups, and a reserve of emergency cash. But in the general scramble, neither one of us remembered to grab a key. They kindly made new keys for us for free as we chatted with them about the fire.

Our neighbor with the cats across from us (back in the old neighborhood) called to check in. She had done research into how toxic and dangerous it is to sift through the ruins of a burned house and was giving us a lot of practical information about it – wear steel-toed boots, a respirator, gloves, etc. She read up on what sort of things tend to survive a fire: ceramics, papers inside metal filing cabinets, metal tools, that sort of thing. She recommended getting a storage space now while they might be available in case we salvage anything.

Shortly after that, we got a call from the home contents adjuster. By coincidence, she also began talking about salvaging, but she said they use mitigation teams. These are professionals who know how to go into burned ruins and salvage items. We’d sure as hell rather have someone else do it.

Meanwhile, the other adjuster had no luck at all getting our hotel manager to allow our insurance company to cover the cost of the hotel. The guy simply would not cooperate at all. The adjuster is going to try and get us into another hotel. I wish him luck.

We went to Big 5 (sporting goods chain) where we managed to find a pair of lightweight, but warm fleecy jackets on sale for a great price, some socks for both of us, and a shirt for Randy. Because we’re evacuees, they have us an additional discount when we checked out.

The drive between Chico and Red Bluff is tedious. We’re pretty damned tired of it already. We tried out another restaurant, a big typical American diner called Shari’s Café and Pies. We liked the feel of the place. They served a butternut squash soup that was excellent. The rest of the food was good and you can’t eat at a place with a name like that without having pie. We shared a piece of very good apple pie.

There were about three dozen firefighters eating there as well, from all over the place: Fresno, Los Banos, Merced, and even Montana. We saw them in a big group outside as we came in and thanked them for their help. Inside, another couple applauded them as they were leaving the restaurant, setting off a general round of applause. I don’t think the guys knew how to deal with it.

Two things I meant to comment on and forgot. The air quality was appalling in Chico today. About the worst it’s been. It’s one reason we don’t mind being up in Red Bluff. It isn’t totally clear up here, but it’s better.

We were told by one adjuster that we probably won’t be allowed to go back to check on our house until Dec. 1. CalFire is projecting 100% containment of the fire by 11/30.

We stood in a long line at CVS Pharmacy to pick up a prescription. As happens everywhere these days, the rest of the people were also evacuees. We shared stories and sympathy.

We were running short of gas money, but we have a stash of emergency cash in the lockbox. It’s cash from the game consulting job I did in Switzerland years ago. They’d given it to me for expenses and we simply put it in the lockbox for some future use. The future is here. I took a crisp, perfect hundred dollar bill from the stash and we stopped off in Chase Bank to break it into twenties. Chase had a table out offering snacks and bottled water and told us to help ourselves. We brought a large container of water back with us to replace the hotel water we’ve been drinking.

It was time to cancel the Comcast account as the gods only know when we’ll have a TV or need an internet router again. But there was a 90 minute wait at the Xfinity office in the Chico Mall. “But you can do it by phone,” the young woman said. So we did, and it was smooth and easy. They’re obviously had to do a lot of this in the past week. The early termination fee was instantly waived and we even get a four dollar refund. LOL!

I was hoping to find a turtleneck for this cold weather. When we inquired of a young woman at Penney’s, she commented with careless disdain that she hadn’t bought a turtleneck since she was 14, but we might find them at Kohl’s. Off to Kohl’s we went. Most of what they had was tacky and unappealing. I’ll stick with ordering one online from one of my usual sources like L.L. Bean, Landsend, or Eddie Bauer. But on the way out of the store, I spotted a nice camp shirt. It reminded me that I’ve lost my collection of camp shirts acquired over decades, many of them unique finds at thrift shops. This one was on sale for a good price, so I got it. It won’t be warm enough to wear it for six months, but at least I have one as the start of a new collection.

We found some good shoes for Randy at another store. He’s been needing a new pair of shoes. As we browsed stores, I was reminded of another collection we’ve lost, also acquired over decades – my fridge magnets. They represented many different phases of my life, places we’ve been, and there were irreplaceable Babylon 5 magnets.

We decided to go back to Shari’s Café in Red Bluff for dinner. The place was again packed with firefighters, about a hundred of them. It turns out the restaurant is feeding them for free. No wonder they show up in hordes. It took us an hour to get fed, but we didn’t mind. Those guys are our heroes. We heard they’re being deployed for another week.

Randy’s reading the latest statistics on the fire. 71 dead, over 1000 missing. The most deadly fire in American history in the past century. “We’re living in history,” I said, “we’re a part of history. History sucks.”

Among evacuees, the common questions at first were where were you (what part of town) and did you lose your house. In the past couple of days, the question has shifted to “Are you planning to rebuild?” I would say more people have expressed a “no” or have a serious reluctance to go back.

Randy and I have been discussing this a lot. It will depend on what our insurance allows and other factors, but right now we’re leaning toward looking at new places to live. If we were in our thirties, it might be different. At our ages, we’ll never see Paradise looking the way it did. It will take too long to recover. We won’t have the big trees or the community. We won’t have the range of services or infrastructure. We were told that the Paradise post office survived with minor damage and they plan to reopen in 30-40 days, but I find myself wondering who they’ll deliver mail to. There’s a lot to think about.

November 16 – I didn’t mention the most important thing we learned today, mainly because it’s so depressing. Lori, my neighbor, called again. She knew someone in the fire department who was able to drive down our street. He confirmed that everything is gone. Only one house, several houses down from us, survived by some quirk. So now we know. Our house is definitely gone. The last shred of hope has been shredded.

November 17 – Newsflash: Al, a long-time friend of Randy’s, has done an amazing job of connecting with someone else who lived on our street. That person had someone drive to our house and take a photo. So as of tonight, we have a first-hand photo of what is left.

Christy Marx posts about the California Fires.

From Christy Marx’s post on Facebook (photos also by Christy Marx) – :

On Thursday, Nov. 8th, I was up by 8:30 and was giving the cats their first breakfast. I immediately noticed how oddly dark it was outside. There were no weather reports of a storm, except for high winds. The whole area was under a Red Flag Warning because of high winds and extreme dryness. PG&E had already sent us a warning that there might be power outages because of the high fire risk conditions.
I stepped onto the back deck. Strange-looking clouds blew through the tops of the trees and wind tossed the treetops around. It looked so odd that I took a video of it. The color of the clouds began to worry me. Randy said, “Do a quick check of the Cal-Fire Butte County Twitter feed.” That’s when I saw that there was a fire to the east in Pulga near highway 70, but it was moving rapidly west toward Paradise. We began to worry.
Shortly after that, we received an evacuation order. When we first moved up here, we signed up with Cal-Fire for emergency notifications, and here it was. We were lucky. Unlike people right in Paradise, we had some time. Randy moved swiftly to bring the cat carriers into the house. I called Tuxita, our only outdoor cat, and got her back inside.
While Randy grabbed vital papers, I got dressed, threw a few clothes and medicines into a bag, did a quick back-up of my latest work from the computer, grabbed my larger back-up drive, my old laptop, and gathered a few other things like bottles of water. Randy had gathered up cat food, cat bowls, their medicines, his medicines, and a couple of emergency kits we had stashed in readiness.
I called two of our neighbors to make sure they knew about the evacuation order and were getting underway. They did and were taking the necessary steps. Randy had immediately gone next door to another neighbor who knew nothing about the fire or evacuation, so that was the only warning they got. They quickly left.
We began hastily putting cats into the carriers and taking them out to the Subaru Impreza. We put the back seats down. Thanks to the hatchback configuration, we were just barely able to fit all six carriers inside. Every other tiny space was crammed with our stuff. Randy put additional stuff into his 1978 Porsche 911SC Targa. We said good-bye to the house, possibly for the last time and began to caravan out of our neighborhood. It was about 10 am.
Then the nightmare began. A total of 52,000 people ended up having to evacuate from Paradise and the surrounding area. There are only three main roads in and out of Paradise to the south or east, and they were all on fire. There was only one road we could take –Skyway…along with hundreds of other people. We all had to head north, up and away from Paradise and into wilderness. It was total gridlock. It took hours to get out of our immediate neighborhood and onto Skyway. We were extremely fortunate there was no active fire around us. We would have been trapped.
For the next six hours, we crept along. Unfortunately, Randy only had a quarter tank of gas. He was about to do some work on the engine and had been getting the tank low in preparation for that. There were two gas stations on the way north, but they couldn’t pump any gas because there was no power. Other people were running out of gas and having to abandon their cars on the side of the road. Eventually, Randy had to find the safest spot he could to leave the Porsche.  We transferred as much of his stuff as we could from his car into the Subie. We were more crammed than ever. As a special bonus, we had six terribly confused and unhappy cats airing their grievances. Not quite a cacophony, but not peaceful either.
We crept on to Butte Creek Meadows where we took a connecting road west to highway 32, which goes down another ridge into Chico. We could see our ridge to the east highlighted by flames and sending out a vast black cloud of smoke.
Late in the day, we finally reached Chico. We’d had nothing to eat because we didn’t have time for breakfast and didn’t think of grabbing food in the rush. I hadn’t peed in about eight hours. It’s a good thing I have a bladder of steel. We went straight to a favorite restaurant in Chico, the Cozy Diner. We ate, relieved ourselves, and did urgent research on our phones to figure out where to take the cats. At first, the only small animal emergency shelter was in Oroville, another hour’s drive to the southeast. We dreaded that because the poor cats had been in their carriers about eight hours already.
At the last minute, we discovered that a new shelter was being opened at the Chico Municipal Airport. We drove there and arrived just as the first trucks full of cages and equipment began to unload. Our six cats were the first to be admitted. We did the paperwork and got them settled into six large wire crates. We put Saffy and Opal in one, Ozzy and Tuxita in the next one, Zoe and Jetta into the third one. They had their carriers inside the crates to hide and sleep in. They had food (our own bag that we’d brought), water, and litter boxes. We got them settled in the best we could.
There were massive firefighting tanker planes parked nearby. They hadn’t been able to use them much because of the heavy smoke, though we did see them in the air by Sunday.
Then we had to figure out where we were going to spend the night. As it happened, one of the men organizing the animal shelter was Farshad Azad, a grandmaster martial artist with a martial arts school in Chico. He cancelled his classes and made his dojo available as an extra shelter. He was a kind man with a huge heart, an Iranian emigrant. How American can you get?
We checked out the other shelters, but they had quickly filled up. They were in enormous churches, so basically it was hundreds of cots in large spaces. I can’t think of anything more hellish as a place to sleep or try to function.
We found Azad’s dojo. They had some sandwiches, fruit and water. We claimed a thick mat to sleep on. There were pillows and blankets that had been donated. It was a good-sized, pleasant dojo. There was a young couple with two dogs, and maybe five other people. We didn’t get much sleep. The mat was way too short for Randy (who is 6’3”). He added a couple of handheld punching bags, which are rectangular, to the end of the mat and that helped a little.
Did you know that everybody snores? We had snoring people all around us. There were lights on. There were trains coming through nearby every other hour. We aren’t good sleepers at the best of times.
Friday, Nov. 9: At dawn, we gave up on sleep and roused ourselves. We packed everything back into the car. Around 9 we had breakfast at the Morning Thunder Café, a popular breakfast spot. Outside, it was nearly dark as night. The gloom of Mordor has covered the sky from horizon to horizon. Ash fell. Air quality was hazardous. It was apocalyptic.
We checked on the cats, then bought some essentials that Randy hadn’t had time to pack. Everywhere we went over the past couple of days we encountered other evacuees – in stores, restaurants, anywhere – and shared stories. Many of the people knew their homes were gone because the devastation in Paradise was so quick and complete.
We spent all day receiving and answering texts from our wonderful family and friends who were checking up on us. Lots and lots of texting. We even got a text from Verizon to say that due to the emergency, they were giving customers unlimited data for the next few days.
Smartphones are an absolute godsend in such a time. We were getting info about the fire and researching for info. I went to Orbitz and managed to grab one of the only two hotel rooms left in Chico. With the future uncertain, I booked it through to the 13th. It was a cheap little hotel, but literally every other room in the entire city of Chico was booked. That’s what happens with 52,000 refugees arrive at once. We checked in, surrounded by yet more evacuees, and found it was good enough, with one exception – the supposed wifi connection didn’t work in the room. I urgently wanted to get on-line and put an update on Facebook, but wasn’t able to.
Sat. Nov. 10: We went out trying to buy air-filter masks to deal with the ash and smoke, but they’d sold out everywhere we went.  We did finally manage to get some face masks. Not the best kind, but we used them whenever we had to walk outside.
At Starbuck’s, they gave Randy free coffee because of being an evacuee. That happened frequently at stores and restaurants – big discounts and a lot of sympathy. People have been wonderfully supportive.
We visited the cats, handled some financial steps at the bank, tried to get a prescription at CVS (but hit a roadblock), and grabbed a few handy items at a Dollar Store.
Randy came across a notice of a Cal-Fire community meeting, so we decided to go to that. Around 6:20, we went to the hotel to drop off some things. I tripped on the edge of the sidewalk and took a full header flat-out onto the concrete. My right forearm took the full brunt of my fall. The pain was so excruciating, I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t do anything but force myself to breathe. Randy kept trying to get me to talk to him, but I could barely get a word out.
Two men rushed over to help. They had both been security guards with emergency training. They helped me sit up, checked out my eyes (luckily, I didn’t hit my head), checked my fingers and grip, and concluded my arm wasn’t broken. I found it hard to believe it could hurt that much without being broken. They helped me stand up. I managed to get up the stairs, we dropped off the stuff, and Randy drove me to the ER.
The ER was awesome. They got me in immediately. I had a long gash on my forearm, so they cleaned that up. They had a mobile x-ray unit that they brought right into the room to x-ray my arm. Miraculously, I had no break and no fracture. The doc came back and gave me a few stitches. We had humorous chats with one of the orderlies whose in-laws had just lost their home. Keeping a sense of humor helps a lot in dealing with such losses. What we heard many times was “We’re alive. We may have lost things, but we got out alive.”
We were out of there in a little over two hours. I continued to have a lot of pain, but it was slowly diminishing. They gave me a sling, which I used to ice my arm as recommended (put a bag of ice into the bottom of the sling and rested my arm on it). Obviously, we never made it to the meeting.
Sun. Nov.11: I went downstairs to the lobby to toast some muffins. While I stood there waiting, I heard a couple of people ranting Fox news propaganda: “It’s an invasion! An invasion! They have MS-13 in with those people! And that Jim Acosta, did you see what he did at the press conference…” Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I said, “You’re watching too much Fox News.” They preferred to ignore me rather than engage, but as the woman walked away she retorted, “Maybe you shouldn’t watch so much CNN.”
To our surprise, we received a phone call from one of our insurance companies. We didn’t expect that on a Sunday Morning. “Oh, yes,” the woman said, “we’ve been here since Thursday.” They called to check in on us and see what they could do for us. This isn’t our homeowner’s insurance. This was additional insurance we got for our possessions, and especially for our two home offices. We did a special rider for our computer equipment and peripherals. She said they had teams of claims adjusters flying in today and tomorrow to start processing claims. She started a claim for us, even though we still have no idea what the status of our house is. We greatly appreciated hearing from them.
Still lots of pain in my arm and my shoulder is all sorts of messed up. There are certain movements I can’t do with my shoulder at all, like pulling shut or pushing open a car door.
As we left the hotel, we encountered the two men that helped me. They had been wondering about me and were glad to see that I was doing pretty well.
We tried to extend our stay at the hotel, but it’s fully booked. We’ll have to leave Tues. morning. The nearest place I could book for us is up in Red Bluff, a 50 minute drive to the north. It’s going to be a huge pain in the ass. We’ll have to drive down to Chico once a day to take care of the cats.
It’s tough being in limbo, not knowing whether we have a home or not, not knowing when we’ll find out or how long we’ll be homeless. We learned that much depends on the Red Cross and FEMA working in conjunction to assess the area, and they can’t do that as long as it remains an active fire area. There’s no telling how long this will take.
Mon. Nov. 12: We stopped at the Subaru dealer and had them check the air filters. The filter on the engine was fine, but there’s a filter for the car interior that was absolutely horrifying – ash, grit, pine needles, detritus of unknown origin. They didn’t charge us to change it and the filter was only $25.00. We’re literally breathing easier now.
We picked up a few more essentials at CVS, and got a book for Randy at Barnes & Noble. Then we spent quality time at a laundromat. I can’t remember the last time I had to use a laundromat. We encountered three firefighters doing their laundry and chatted with them, but they had no more info about our neighborhood than we do. Tremendously nice guys and we thank them for their help, of course.
We’re burning through a terrifying amount of our savings. I’ve kept receipts for everything we’ve had to buy or spend money on in the hope that one of our insurance policies, or the Red Cross, or FEMA, or somebody will reimburse us.