The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place Explosions in the Sky’s 2003 album The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place is one of my favorites, and the instrumental masterpiece is my go-to soundtrack for writing this column. I’m listening to it now, and I’m fighting back tears.
Good instrumental music gets its hooks in you without words—and the bold, evocative work has lost none of its emotional power from my repeated listens. So, as I sit here alone trying to process the destruction of the Camp Fire, the start of “First Breath After a Coma”—the opening song on an album written in response to 9/11—with its floating guitar melodies and kick-drum heartbeat, has me welling up.
I visited Paradise with CN&R Editor Melissa Daugherty two days after the fire. I feel a little embarrassed, like I’ve seen something that I shouldn’t have. I wasn’t invited to any of these homes, and there I was bearing witness to thousands of personal worlds reduced to piles of ash.
What do we say to our brothers and sisters in Paradise, Magalia, Butte Valley and Concow who lost their homes and/or their loved ones in this fire? All I can offer is, “What can I do to help?” and maybe, “I love you.” I do love you, Brian Corbit, my friend, co-worker, and inspirational badass—both you and your incredible wife, Keitha. I love you and all my other CN&R co-workers still waiting to get confirmation on their worst fears. We are here with open hearts and willing spirits to do the work and provide the support to help you recover.
I love you, too, Conrad Nystrom, my dear lifelong friend and Viking Skate Country bandmate—the one who introduced me to most of the important things in my life—my wife, Connie, the city of Chico, playing rock music, and nearly every important band that’s made an indelible mark on me—including Explosions in the Sky. It broke my heart to reach the top of your steep driveway and find the home of you and your father, Clay, gone. I know that with the help of friends—as well as many doses of ear-splitting, soul-healing noise jams at the practice shed (Clay’s welcome to join!)—you guys will be all right.
Watching the community here in Butte County rise up and get to work, donating time, space, money and supplies, I’m hopeful for the thousands of surviving Camp Fire refugees. I know things will get worse before they get better—the collective grief of thousands of people returning after evacuations are lifted is still to come—and we all have to stay committed to helping over the very long haul of a difficult recovery.
A couple bright spots on the arts front are that longtime Ridge performance spaces the Paradise Performing Arts Center and Theatre on the Ridge survived the fire. Art and community events will have great value moving forward—as distractions, as a way to bring people together, and as catharsis.
Perhaps none of the few events happening this week has as promising a chance at achieving the latter as the rescheduled performances of High Noon on Wall Street. Marc Edson, executive director of Chico Theater Company, is opening his theater for three performances of the play that had its run at Theatre on the Ridge interrupted by the fire. And despite the fact that many members of the cast, crew and TOTR’s board lost their homes, the show is going on at CTC as a benefit for relief efforts. Three shows: Friday-Saturday, Nov. 16-17, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door (any previously purchased tickets will be honored for any performance).
Get out and laugh and cry and hold on to as many people as you can. Or, if you want to tempt a good cathartic cry, stay home, carve out 45 minutes, put The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place on the stereo, and just let go.
Love you, Butte County.