Saturday, July 27, 2013

gardencityguardian: A TRIP BACK TO THE 60'S

gardencityguardian: A TRIP BACK TO THE 60'S: This post has nothing to do with public safety, fire prevention, or stories of recent and past tragedies.  Instead, its about an era long g...

A TRIP BACK TO THE 60'S


This post has nothing to do with public safety, fire prevention, or stories of recent and past tragedies.  Instead, its about an era long gone by, a brief moment for me and many others that was a special time in America.  Its about Sky King, TV dinners, The Doobie Brothers, and muscle cars.  No conversations here about racial tensions, economic meltdowns, or terrorist attacks, only memories of drive-in movies, black light posters, eight track tapes and the first man on the moon.

I found a site that I think anyone will enjoy no matter if you are a "Baby Boomer" or not.  There is a writer named Jeff Owenby who has built one of the coolest sites dedicated to the 60's I have ever seen.  Jeff's site, www.jeffs60s.com will take you back to a time when America was still the shining beacon on a hill for rest of the world to be guided by, not hated and despised by some, but admired by many.  Check it out man, its groovy!

Here is just one example of Jeff's stories called "Saturdays in the Garage".  Enjoy!

I recall those special autumn Saturdays when rain soaked streets and chilly breezes drove us kids indoors.  Amid autumn's spread of multi-colored leaves, frigid cold crept down my shirt collar like bony skeleton fingers.  In the air, distant wood smoke from neighboring fireplaces scented the day with an autumn musk.  Those chillier months when we played  indoor games and spent blissful moments parked in front of the old black and white TV are portraits of better times.

One of my favorite memories was that of sitting around the kitchen table on a frosty morning with my dad and some friends who came over to help him with the car.  This isn't a particular event, but rather a sketch from a larger painting of an era gone by.  It was always something automobile-wise; Most of the time they'd be out there tuning up the Chev, dropping the tranny on the Ford, or putting a new drive line in the Merc.  Guys with grease stained hands from their previous day's work sat at a table slurping coffee and smoking cigarettes.  Mom made toast and eggs and more coffee, while the men talked about everything under the sun.  These men were amazing to me, they knew so much.  And as I watched them cut eggs with the fork and smear toast in the broken yolk, I felt like I was in the presence of some sort of greatness that would eventually rub off on me.

I scrutinized their every move with reverence and wonder as they spoke volumes of importance.  Their topics of cars, tools, country music and politics were far off my young radar, but nonetheless fascinating.  They'd flick their Zippo lighters then snap them shut again while drawing smoke from their Raleighs or Marlboros.  At the table there was laughing and jokes about the inferiority of automobiles that were not their own.

As mom made more breakfast for them, I'd hear the old metal toaster clicking away has the elements got hotter and hotter.  The smells of toasted bread and fresh coffee from the percolator embodied the very essence of that small daylight kitchen.  Often I imagined myself a grown-up part of this special unit of men that seemed so important and adventuresome.  If it could've been so, I too would have been at liberty to share in the dialogues and possess the splendid gift of actually knowing what I was talking about.

My brother Kenny was usually involved when it came to working on cars.  He was the oldest, and by this time had married and moved out.  His stories were so epic and utterly inconceivable that his words became a story teller's yarn spinning out vast patterns of fabrication.  Still, we all wanted to believe them even though as much adventure never usually fell upon the shoulders of one person so many times.  Still, I was fascinated, clinging to every word.  With my chin cupped in my hands, my eyes never fell from these heroes that sat at our kitchen table.  After the story telling wound down, they made the sacred pilgrimage to the garage where cold tools and dusty shop lamps awaited.

I see them now with such clarity; heavy work booted feet perched one leg atop of the other; guys sitting back in the kitchen chairs expelling all they had to share before going to work.  The same clothes they wore to work they wore on the weekend; these garments were more of a uniform than anything else.  Outside the window, a cheerful morning sun glistened off wet grass trapped in a silvery web of November frost.  Sun beams from the kitchen window threw rectangular stripes across the yellow Formica table.

Once the door closed I could still hear them talking.  There was the occasional cussing when a wrench slipped, or jokes that I was not supposed to hear.  My dad, who had a rather robust voice and laugh, was heard over the top of his friends on many occasions.  I remember fondly heading out to the garage to check out whatever action there was.  It's amazing, recalling how important and altogether intriguing their dialogues were.  Often my only view of them was of various sets of legs sticking out from under a car parked on wheel ramps.

There were times when I'd be asked to hold the light for them, or to hand them a wrench or two.  I'd grown up taking for granted  that automobiles were always fixed, or tuned up by dads, brothers, and friends.  The idea of taking a car to a shop was not even an option in our household.  Sometimes I can still hear the loud clanging echo of a jack handle hitting concrete, or that "darh-harh-harh-harh., Vroom-Vroom!" of a successful automobile tune-up.  I always felt a joyous resound as the men were laughing over their victory.

The smells of burnt gas and oil permeated the misty cold of the garage.  The chill always remained but was tamed by the fellowship and laughter of friends who pitched in to get the job done.  Armed with ratchets and wrenches, these men met yet another automotive challenge.  The oil stains on concrete may still remain, but they are now the most precious memories of those beautiful days gone by.



Saturday, July 13, 2013

PLAYING WITH FIRE, PART 2


WHY THE LONG DELAY BETWEEN PART 1 AND 2?


When I wrote Part 1 of this article back in the beginning of February of this year addressing the closure of our own fire station here in Clayton, it was my intention to follow-up with Part 2 immediately after.  However, because circumstances regarding this issue were changing on a daily basis, and the fact I personally didn't believe that things would ever get to this point, I decided to hold off with posting it. 
 
Much to my surprise and sadness, things have progressed to the point of critical and I'm very concerned of what may lay ahead for all us residents here in Contra Costa County.  


KEEPING THEIR PROMISE

Another Contra Costa County fire station, Station 87 in Pittsburg, closed on Monday, July 8th.  Station 87 is the fifth fire station to close since voters rejected Measure Q in the last November election.  Measure Q, if passed, would have allowed a property tax increase to take effect and avoid station closures, at least for this year. 

Now seven months later, after warning the public of the consequences for failure to pass Measure Q, the district is keeping its promise to close stations if more revenue did not come in.  Well, it hasn't, it isn't, and another fire station, to be determined later, will close by the beginning of next year.

In a statement to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the fire department's chief engineer, Daryl Louder, said " I have serious doubts about our ability to provide fire protection for our community and I have serious concerns about our personnel operating out there." meaning of course, concerns for their safety.

Supervisor Mary Piepho agreed with the fire chief and reiterated his concerns by saying "The service level deficiencies are seriously negatively affecting our communities and the safety of our personnel and it's really a sad set of circumstances." 

HOW BAD IS IT, REALLY?

From the union's perspective, it is about has bad as it can get and about to get much worse.  Back on May 26th of this year, I, along with other members of the San Jose Police and Fire Retiree Association, received an email from The United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, Local 1230.  In his email, Local 1230 President Vince Wells requests the help of other Bay Area firefighters in attempting to prevent further "unsafe staffing reductions to our brothers and sisters in Contra Costa County." 

Below is the email in its entirety:

"The United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, Local 1230 need your help!  We are especially requesting the help of those of you who live within any of our jurisdictions.  The Contra Costa County Firefighters are saying "Enough is enough".  We cannot sustain any further cuts to our daily staffing levels.

The politicians of this county have allowed the newspapers and the County Tax Association to put our communities at risk in search of a new service model that does not exist.

As firefighters it has always been us who fight to assure adequate staffing and coverage for our communities despite the efforts of local politicians to shift funds for their "special interest" and personal projects.

Contra Costa County, the 5th largest County in the State of California, is headed in the direction to be the 58th in the level of public safety it provides for its citizens. 

We feel this disregard to assuring adequate response to emergencies within our jurisdiction, our surrounding jurisdictions, and to the State of California, is a travesty, and is in need of action from all firefighters who live in the community or in our surrounding jurisdictions.

So far our Board of Directors have cut 6 of our 30 engine companies and closed four of our firehouses.  Instead of looking for new revenue sources, the plan is to cut two more this fiscal year.  They plan to close one more fire station in July 2013 and then another in January 2014.  This will leave us with a total of 22 stations staffed with three, to cover a million people and over 600 square miles.  It doesn't stop there because more cuts are promised in FY 14/15.

Please come out and help us with your support.  We want our Board and the community we protect, to know the importance of our services within the community.  Members of our public have failed to show up to help with our fight, so we are counting on our fellow firefighters!"


JULY 2, 2013

On July 2nd, just two days before the busy fourth of July holiday, Local 1230 issued a press release to the public warning of recent incidents where both districts, Contra Costa County Fire and East Contra Costa County Fire, were unable to provide enough resources to respond to all the calls for service.

"Both systems were tested today, and both were dangerously overwhelmed, leaving areas without coverage for long periods of time" according to Mr. Wells.  Wells elaborated further by describing today as "quite embarrassing" after discovering both districts had to rely on smaller surrounding departments to help cover areas that at times were reported to be without coverage for up to six hours. Wells pointed out that Contra Costa County Fire was always the agency in the East Bay to provide assistance to the smaller departments in the area.  However, "now we have become the ones in need" sullenly admits the union president.

The incident that Mr.Wells is referring to, and perhaps some of you recall, was the 80-acre grass fire just off Kirker Pass Road bordering the cities of Concord and Clayton (Behind the SleepTrain Pavillion).  Although some homes in the area were threatened for a brief time, this relatively small incident should not have affected the district's ability to provide coverage for it's customers.  What would have the outcome been were this a wind driven fire of approximately 1,000 acres and threatening homes? Contra Costa residents dodged a bullet this time and were very lucky CalFire was available to assist with engine companies and two helicopters making water drops on the head of the fire.  As we progress farther into the summer months, the likelihood of CalFire's availability shrinks with each passing day, leaving Contra Costa County Firefighters in a very dangerous and frustrating position. 

POINTING FINGERS

As with most issues such as this, there certainly is plenty of blame to go around.  The County Board of Supervisors blames the taxpayers, the union blames the supervisors, and the taxpayers blame the unions.  But who really is to blame for this train wreck?

In Part 3, which I promise will be coming hot off the heals of this article, I will be discussing  that very issue, who is to blame.

And because it would be just like a typical moaner and complainer to gripe about something without a solution, in Part 4,  I will be writing about some solutions out there being talked about by the experts and politicians.


The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District in conjunction with the East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, serve the cities of Antioch, Pittsburg, Martinez, San Pablo, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Clayton, and all unincorporated areas of the county which include El Sobrante, Clyde, Pacheco, North Richmond, Tara Hills, Bay View and Bay Point. 


AS ALWAYS, STAY SAFE OUT THERE AND KEEP YOUR HEAD UP!