29 August 2020
I moved to California for the air. Well, not really. I moved for the sunshine. No, not that either. I moved for the beach. Just kidding. Hate the beach. It’s like sitting in kitty litter in a parking lot.
Thing is, I moved for the media. Moved here for the movies and writing for them. Workwise most of what I do now can be done without seeing the sky. At the moment, I’m not filming on location. Not recording in studios. Since my skin has become so sensitive I have to put on sunscreen just go out the front door, the burning object in the sky is often something I avoid. I don’t need cash. With everything touchless, I’d prefer to hand over a card or type in the numbers. I do need air, though. Haven’t figured out a way to cut back on that. Need air. Can’t get around that.
The last few weeks, however, I’ve had a terrible air dilemma. Open the window and get some air? Or close the window to keep the smoke out? Open the window again because it’s getting too hot? Or wear a mask inside?
The climate crisis means that what we call “fire season” here in California has extended and intensified. We check fire maps like Easterners and Southerners check hurricane maps.
To combat depression or boredom (sometimes indistinguishable) the thing you need to do is go outside. But with California burning, I have to check my favorite air quality app first. Then I check another one because the first one might be wrong. (But it certainly looks handsome on my iPhone and has a nice user experience.) Then, based on the color-coded information, I might decide go for a run with a mask and become anxious because running with a mask makes me short of breath. Have to stop running. Running in fuzzy air you can taste is not so good. Okay, forget running today. Go back inside. Wash the mask. Wash my hands even though I didn’t touch anything.
Okay, let’s adapt. We can do this. We live in the most technologically-driven age in human history. We have the tools. Everything a swipe away. Right now, my best tool is not a swipe, it’s closing a window to keep out the smoke. So I close it. Decisively. With a bang. Couple of minutes in the decisively-sealed environment, however, it’s getting hot. So we adapt. We have the technology. Turn on the air conditioner. It provides relief and also pulls smoke into the apartment. Turn off the air conditioner. Try turning on the fans? Okay. We have three fans. They can stir the air purified by the air purifiers. It should hold us until the air quality drifts back to acceptable levels later in the day.
This is California living. Clean. Simple. Healthy. Good air sometimes. Checking an app to see if it’s safe to go outside. Living in paradise. Using technology to make the air breathable, which uses more energy, which contributes to the climate crisis, which brings on more fires. Cue the Beach Boys.
Okay, I never write about other stuff on 500 Words. It’s just the essay and that’s it. But I’m stuck inside. Had to be productive.
I wrote an essay this week about cooking for others. It’s too long for 500 Words so I posted it at Future of Food, my project about food and the climate crisis. Cooking for Others is about spreading love by cooking. Give it a read.
(c) Lee Schneider 2023. Take care of each other. Subscribe.