Of all the times I’ve pictured an arsonist trying to blow up the building I live in, when it actually happened in the early hours of Monday morning, it went way differently than I’d thought it would. Likely because until this week, I don’t think I’d ever even considered it. And my nickname is “Hypochondriac-Overthinker-Master Worrier-What’s The Worst That Can Possibly Happen And Let Me Top It In My Imagination” . Which, I realize, is a longish nickname.
Most people in Los Angeles were really on edge this past week. Especially the folks who live in West Hollywood and Hollywood, the areas that seemed to be the focus for the arsonist. That’s where I live. My building has carports. Actually there’s an entire alleyway with a very long row of apartment building carports. Arsonist Asshole (the most PG of nicknames I am willing to give him) was pretty focused on carports. In LA, living in an apartment building with any kind of covered parking space is a total score. Usually. Except for roughly 53 times out of all other times.
I had been sleeping for 45 minutes to an hour when I was suddenly awoken at about 1:15am Monday morning. It was one of those jarring wake ups where you just sit right up in bed. It’s easier for me to imitate the sound that I heard, but I’m going to try to describe it. The noise sounded like a mixture of when a horse does that air blowing simultaneous snort thing combined with a continuous shuffling scraping type of sound. But the initial sound was a pop. Not the big cliffhanger TV episode explosion sound (the only kind of explosion sound I’ve been hip to before Monday). It was more of a pop that stayed open. Obviously, my future is in becoming a professional fire noises describer.
So, in the next 2-3 seconds, I remember thinking, “No way. That sound is not ‘that’ sound. You know you’re just being paranoid. But, what the hell is that sound? What are you gonna do, Jill, pull on your Uggs and run out back? You don’t have the right TV robe, the kind that people throw on to run outside in the middle of the night.” But, and like I said, it was just a matter of seconds that these thoughts were running through my head when I heard a guy scream, “FIRE!!!!” I jumped up, pulled on the Uggs, grabbed my iPhone and my laptop (I was the only dork with my laptop outside, but in my defense, both my phone and my laptop were in my bed) and ran outside. By this time, I was hearing a bunch of different people shouting, “FIRE!!!” But realized that no one from my apartment building seemed to be coming down. So I ran upstairs and banged on everyone’s door yelling, “FIRE!!!” It felt very The Jerk. Except different. Because there really was a fire. And no Navin R. Johnson. And no dog that should be named either ‘Lifesaver’ or ‘Shithead’, depending on who you talked to.
When I got downstairs, I walked toward our carport area to see where exactly the fire was. It wasn’t my car. Of our 8 carport parking spaces that are opposite of each other, The Asshole Arsonist had chosen 1 of the 2 carports that are physically connected to our apartment building. To do the most damage and, I guess, in hopes of the fire spreading to the apartment building. My bedroom is on the other side of the carport he chose. It’s literally a shared wall. The head of my bed is up against that wall. My pillows. Where I was sleeping. The other side of that wall was on fire. The explosion that woke me was right behind my head.
The fire department and police response was unbelievable. So fast. After they’d been there for about a half hour, half of them ran to their trucks to move on to the other fires that were happening in quick succession. It was a really frightening thing to watch these amazingly brave and talented firefighters be as on the ball as they were and to simultaneously see the frustration and the sort of ‘WTF?!’ in their faces as they had to race off to not just another but multiple fires. And this was day 4 for them. But thankfully, LAFD and all of the departments and task forces who worked together on this, kick some serious ass. Some serious Asshole Arsonist ass.
As it turns out, my apartment smoked up quite a bit. Due to the shared wall. A super hot fireman was lovely enough to come into my apartment with me to see what he might be able to do to help. I might be gay, but I’m not dead. I think it’s everyone’s duty to invite a fireman into their bedroom if they have the opportunity. While he opened certain windows and placed some fans, I apologized for my bedroom being messy and he goes, “Please! (and glanced down at himself) Look at me!” The guy looked like a calendar. I told him he was in his hot fireman work outfit. Which might have been the first time someone’s referred to the yellow gear as an outfit. And then we made love for hours. We didn’t. Or, did we? We didn’t. But it was fun to have a hot fireman in my bedroom at 2:30am. Even if it was for fire reasons.
At the end of the day, and I mean that literally as I was up for 24 hours straight after the Asshole Arsonist set that car on fire at my building … I really wanted to write a little something about it. Reason being, I feel so very grateful. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I’m in the best mood I can remember being in. I cannot keep thinking about what a close call that was for me and for everyone in this building. And for everyone in every building that had a fire this past week. I just keep staring at my bedroom wall with wave after wave of shock and awe and gratitude washing over me. It’s literally overwhelming. I’ve cried a few times when I had no idea I was about to cry. I mean, on the other side of where I was sleeping, basically right at my head, a car exploded. By someone’s choice.
(Photo by: Jill Kushner)