Thursday, January 08, 2009

One brick at a time

Last month I attended the Black Orchid banquet sponsored by the Nero Wolfe Society. One of the speakers was Jonathan Santlofer, author of the The Death Artist, among other books. He mentioned he'd turned to writing after a career in painting. He'd stopped painting when one day after a major exhibit, five years of his paintings were destroyed in a fire.

When I heard those words I didn't know if I was going to cry or throw up. Both seemed quite possible. I couldn't even speak to Mr. Santlofer after the event cause the only thing I could think about was that fire, even though it was clear he had come to terms with the loss, and rebuilt a new and satisfying creative life.

Fire is my worst fear. I know exactly what I'd take if we had 25 seconds to leave the building. Close friends of mine have had that experience in NYC: FDNY pounds on the door and says "get out NOW." You get over it but you never forget. We don't exactly have traditional fire drills, but we talk about what we'd take, where it's located, how we'd get out if the stairwell is blocked. We don't obsess, it's not some sort of well thought out plan, but we think about it more than just casually.

I know fire is a fear shared by many of my neighbors. I laugh about the smoke detector going off a lot, but when it does, and doesn't stop, my neighbors are in the hallway, making sure things are under control.

Close friends have spent a lot of money to scan all their original music compositions onto disk. A fire would have destroyed an entire career if the music had burned.

Thus it was with a heavy heart I learned our friend Travis Erwin has experienced a terrible fire, one that consumed his entire house. The people are safe, but the house is gone.

Susan Adrian's blog lists ways to help.

Please join me in doing so if you feel so inclined.


JES said...

When I first heard of this over at Moonrat's blog, I thought Oh jeez, every holiday season seems to hit some family with a devastating fire...

Like, just one more headline, right?

Then I clicked over to Travis's own blog, which tells the story firsthand. I thought back to the fire that hit Toni Morrison some years back, taking all those manuscripts with it. I looked around at the piles of (granted, non-Nobel-caliber) manuscripts surrounding my monitor, all over my desk, poking out of the file-cabinet drawers.

And then I thought a little bit differently about Travis's situation. He seems philosophic about the little work which he lost completely, and that(strangely) makes the loss sharper and more real to me.

I'm so in.

BJ said...

I'm afraid I couldn't afford a whole brick at this time, but I did what I could with today's exchange rate. At the least, it should buy a couple HotWheels or books.

Fire is my worst fear, too. So much so, I wouldn't buy a house with a fireplace. And the thought of all the loss a fire can cause...

When I have the money, I have to buy a photocopier or a scanner. I handwrite all my drafts, and sometimes it takes awhile to get them retyped into electronic format.

There have been so many fires here in Saskatchewan lately. Before Christmas, one fire took the lives of 6-year-old twins. Another lost a little girl. Thank God Travis's family is safe.

Stories like this one, though, give me hope:

Education and preparedness are key. I learned this when working with a Disaster Recovery team, writing manuals. Not that I'm all that prepared, but I'm pretty sure the first thing I'd grab at home would be the dog.

AC said...

I can't imagine what his family must be going through. It is good, though, to see how supportive the blog community is.

Fire scares me, too. When my younger sister and I were little, we were staying at my grandparents' house the night it burned down. My grandfather was out of town, and my aunt who lives with them has cerebral palsy. My grandmother got all of us out ok but the house was completely lost. Growing up after that I used to obsess about what would happen if our house burned down and what I would take with me if I could. Now as long as my family (and the cats) are safe, I think that's all that would matter to me.

Susan Adrian said...

Thanks, Janet!! Travis is good people. Thank goodness his family is all safe, but the donations will help a lot!

FIONA said...

This is why I love the writing community.

I'll put a link on my blog, and get my sons to help me pick out something to send.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Janet said...

A lady I know who lost her home to fire TWICE says she most misses the photo albums. Everything else can be replaced. Of course, she wasn't a writer.

I keep a backup at my in-law's place, where I visit once a week. I swap it out every week, so the most I can lose is a week's work. Or would be, if I kept on top of it.

The Unbreakable Child said...

Fire. I've been in three. I'm terrified and have smoke detectors everywhere. I'm going to hop over to the blog and see if I can help. Thanks for the share.

ryan field said...

Thanks for posting about this.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I bought a brick when I first found out. I wish I could do more.

I once did a horse portrait for an old riding teacher, and he hung the painting in his living room. After he moved the painting to another part of the house, its original location burned down.

He was once a member of Her Majesty's Guard, and a huge print of the troupe was in an upstairs hallway, badly damaged. The insurance people did a fabulous job, tracking down the original artist who made an exact copy for him.

I would hate to lose my hundreds of photos and negatives, plus my own paintings.

At least I keep my manuscripts safely saved on a web server.

Amber Lynn Argyle said...

That's why I save my pictures online, and why I email myself copies of my MS.
The first thing I'd grab is my kids. After that, pictures and home movies. The rest can be replaced.

Sarah Jensen said...

My sick daughter is lying on the floor and I read her the story. She wants to send her story books that are in good condition.
My families house burnt down years ago, and even though we lost everything, no one was hurt. The wonderful community where my parents live helped out tremendously. I'm the second of 13 kids, so it was big news. Siblings had to stay with friends for a while. Someone put up two trailers on the property so that my family could stay there, "together" in the two trailers.
People pulled together to help my family. I'd love to help Travis's.

Travis Erwin said...

Thank you Janet. We are putting our lives back together and the pieces are much easier to mesh thanks to the support we've received from so many both locally and around the globe. It truly has been a comfort.