As a journalist I often walk into a situation that is like a localized version of the end of the world.
a levee break,
an earth quake,
The geographic areas may be limited, but inside those police lines it is the end of the world.
At a local auto store I buy a yellow flashing light that sticks to the roof of my rental car then head towards the smoke. A policeman stops me and with a quick flash of a totally unverifiable laminated pass I am through the lines. A tourist of Armageddon.
Its not always about death, though death does find its way into many of these stories. Sometimes its just about the beauty of this temporary apocalypse, where no one can be bothered with rules anymore. Inside these places we drive the wrong way on the highways. We walk through people's homes in water up to our waists. We cover dead bodies with tarps. We share our food with others because none can be bought. We lend a hand when we can. And we run when the fire starts jumping the road and swallowing cars that are not moving fast enough.
At a church that is in the path of the fire I am distracted by the beauty of palmtrees turned fluorescent green by mercury vapor lamps.
Is this is what it will look like if I am around for the apocalypse?
The fire is very close and burns my face with airborne embers. Behind the church it takes 100 meters of hillside brush in 10 seconds. Men on the roof try to spray the roof down with a garden hose but the water evaporates before it can soak in. The firemen are screaming that everyone has to run now.
I want to stay.
Its terrible to say this, but I love it here in this parking lot.