Halloween from the Eye of the Storm

Thomas Schueneman

Halloween night under clear skies and still winds. Waiting for the next shoe to drop.

The sun sinks toward the blue Pacific on a perfect Halloween evening in San Francisco; warm temperatures, calm winds, blue skies.

Except everything isn’t perfect. I sit in my San Francisco flat squarely in the eye of the storm.

The freaky winds of last weekend, with its attendant massive power outages seemingly everywhere in the Bay Area except San Francisco proper, have eased. But it feels like everyone is waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Meanwhile, as of this writing, the Kincaid fire has burned more than 60,000 acres, containment has jumped to 60 percent (from 15 percent yesterday), and most Northern California evacuation orders have been lifted. As people return to their homes up north, in Southern California fierce Santa Ana winds torch new fires, threatening homes of the rich and famous nestled in their hillside estates in Simi Valley.

Even if you can afford to live here, there’s no guarantee you won’t be suddenly displaced.

That’s what California feels like right now. Displaced.

In an Atlantic article entitled California is Becoming Unlivable writer Annie Lowrey connects the ‘intractable triad’ of challenges that now plague the state: affordable housing, homelessness, and wildfire. Lowrey argues that one leads to another in a vicious circle of cause and effect.

Forced from central Bay Area, people move to more affordable, exurban housing on the fringes of the Wildlife Urban Interface (WUI). Conversely, wealthier families seek the serenity of the forest. In either case, human development encroaches further into wildlife habitat.

Meanwhile, back in densely-packed San Francisco, if you have to ask how much it costs to live here, you can’t afford it. Whatever a landlord or seller is asking, at 20 percent more - in cash. Everyone else is a sucker.

Suckers need to live in the outskirts.

Fighting the affordable house battle for nearly five years, two of which with ongoing construction, makes me long for the green, green grass of the suburbs. Until I go to the suburbs. If not here or there, then where?


And then, for the third year running, a pall of smoke from the north wafts over the bay, marking the return of the Inferno and the chaos it brings. Hello climate change. Your name is wildfire and drought.

This is the California Lowrey describes, teetering on the brink of unlivability, even for LeBron James.

All hope is not lost. It is still a perfect Halloween evening, the low sun now igniting the western sky into a pumpkin orange glow.

I sit in the calm. In the eye of the storm