October 27, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Ash Monday

After the surrealism of yesterday, I awoke expecting just about anything. Had I ventured outside to see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse descending through the smoke and landing in my parking lot, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash. But the city has thus far escaped War, Famine and Pestilence (though Death has arrived on its pale horse for an unlucky few). As I stepped out into the dawn on my way to work, ash rained down like a smouldering snow. My doorstep, my car, my apartment complex were all covered in a thin, gray blanket. "Southern California snow," as a coworker quipped.

When I arrived at work out on the coast, the ash had collected even more thickly. Black and gray drifts of the stuff piled up in every corner and against every vertical surface. When we suited up and went out to jump in the animal tanks, we found as much ash covering the bottoms of the pools as the sidewalks around them. I groaned through my regulator when I reached the bottom and saw how much work we'd have ahead of us in the days to come. At least the dolphins seemed completely oblivious to the cinders mucking up their home. On the second day of park closure, the animals were positively starved for interaction, and repeatedly butted my feet before I even got in the water. Completely at ease underwater with animals under normal circumstances, even I grew a bit concerned when these playful beasts didn't take no for an answer when I refused to play with them.

Back above water, the sun barely bled through heavy clouds of smoke. The pallor obscured the light so much that I could glimpse a large sunspot on the face of the blood-red sun with my naked eye. I'd never seen anything like it. The only other time I'd ever experienced such an odd and unnatural quality of sunlight was during the total solar eclipse of 1991, when the sun over San Diego was three-quarters obscured. Now, as then, the world took on an apocalyptic feeling. As I drove home from work, I watched the hills around me for signs of flames and the skies above for descending horsemen.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

Send a Comment

October Columns:

10/31: Halloween's History
10/30: Good GDP, Still No Jobs
10/29: Disaster
10/27: Ash Monday
10/26: En Fuego
10/25: Diving in the Desert
10/24: Dead Car Canyon
10/23: Reflections
10/21: Le Métro
10/20: Pain
10/17: Jury Duty
10/15: Labor Pains
10/14: The Business of Losing
10/13: Owls and Jobs
10/12: Hooked
10/11: The "S" in SUV
10/9: Flee the City
10/8: Sore Losers
10/5: Turkeys
10/4: It's Not the Economy, Stupid
10/2: Focus
10/1: Twenty Years
Previous months in The Archive

Like what you've read?
Find more good reading on

In Association with Amazon.com

(and support future Daily Stricks!)