It’s all a matter of perspective.
There’s nothing like a natural disaster to give you a fresh perspective, at least when it comes to the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years.
As I write this, it seems most of Southern California is on fire. Hellacious Santa Ana winds and vegetation desiccated from years of drought are feeding hungry flames from Santa Paula to Brentwood. In my corner of the foothills, the Creek Fire has burned some 14,000 acres, forced the evacuation of 150,000 people (my daughter included), and damaged or destroyed more than 30 homes. Bad as that sounds, it’s a fraction of the destruction left by the Thomas Fire in the Santa Paula/ventura area. The Creek Fire evacuation perimeter reached about two miles from my home before retreating, at least for the time being.
I am not a last-stand-heroics kind of guy. When the LAFD says get out, I get out. Did it in the middle of the night during the Station Fire; today, bags are packed and photo albums are by the front door, since the winds, and the fire, have abated but not gone away entirely.
Anyone who has gone through the process—whether it’s because of fire, hurricane, flood, tornado, or some nasty combination—knows how agonizing it is to make those takeor-leave-behind decisions. You don’t want to think about it, but this could be the last time you see this stuff. Yet space in your car(s) is limited, so what goes has to be truly irreplaceable. I’m lucky, with the advantage of some time to plan. Tornado victims, or those wakened in the night with fire already in their neighborhood, aren’t afforded that luxury.
I’ll let you in on a little magazine biz insider info: Those of us who do this kind of work, especially if it involves an historic perspective, tend to be a little hoarder-y. “It’s research material,” we tell ourselves of the old magazines and books that are shelved—but also stacked and piled—around our offices, spare bedrooms, and garages. Many of us also keep a personal archive of magazine stories we’ve written. I’ve been at this for more than 30 years, and that “archive” of old magazines with my stories is a space hog, for sure.
And, in my cold analysis of possible evacuation, not truly irreplaceable.
In fact, when it really came down to it, I realized there’s a lot of material in my workspace that’s valuable, that makes my job easier to do, but there’s not much that couldn’t be replaced somehow. I don’t have a lot of original factory literature, photo collections from old-time hot rodders or racers, or even vintage (as in way before my time) magazines. I know writers who do, and I don’t envy them having to make these kinds of decisions. I do have a fairly complete collection of HOT ROD magazines, loaned to me by the publishing company when I wrote HOT ROD, All the Covers. Those binders full of magazines were at the top of my packing list.
It’s true that all those back issues exist online with membership in the Hot Rod Club (club.hotrod.com), and it’s also true that I access those old magazines digitally more often than I get out the binders. I hate adding wear and tear to already
yellowed and tattered pages; and, to be honest, it can be faster to click through screens than flip through issues.
But I am a magazine guy and always will be, even though the digital world continues to encroach on what is now considered an old-time information delivery system. I may hate the wear on the pages, but I do love getting those issues out and leafing through them, as my predecessors (and heroes) did decades ago. The weight of the issue in your hands, the feel of the paper, even the smell of those old pages, now those are things that are truly irreplaceable.
So maybe some of that personal archive should evacuate after all.
> Scappoose, Oregon (near Portland), was the site of “Absolutely the finest drag event any of us have ever attended,” wrote Eric Rickman of the Drag Safari’s stop there in June 1955. “Competition was at its hottest, especially when the two top...