Last Tuesday we had a relatively small kitchen fire that resulted in some minor burns, a destroyed kitchen and a lot of smoke damage, but several aspects of the service we got were extraordinary.
The firemen got the call for a Fairmeadow neighborhood filled with Eichlers and scrambled four trucks from multiple firehouses to contain the fire as quickly as possible. They hooked up miles of hoses but didn't drag them through our home, instead cutting a small hole in the roof to prevent the spread of embers.
Even though my wife had a fairly significant burn on her hand, she refused treatment. She might have been in a mild state of shock, so the workers bandaged her hand while encouraging her to get more help later. She understandably wanted to stay near her family and dogs until everything was over.
Later that day the pain from her hand grew worse, so we saw our family doctor. He treated her burns and prescribed pain medication.
That evening at a local restaurant my wife had a violent reaction to the new pain medication and collapsed in the restaurant. Someone called 911, and surprisingly, 10 hours after our fire, two of the same paramedics responded. They arrived no more than four minutes after the call and instantly recognized us, knew what we'd been though that day and rushed my wife to the Stanford Emergency Room.
We went home and rested the next day. My wife and I had several conversations about how to properly thank the teams who had helped us keep our home and responded so quickly in the restaurant. But as the day drifted by in a haze as my wife, children and I contemplated putting our home back together, there was a knock on the door.
Joe Penko and Max Magnus, the same two rescue workers who had come to our aid twice the day before, were standing at the door with flowers for my wife, wishing her a speedy recovery and sympathies for the horrible day before. In the moments as we were trying to think of ways to thank them, they were thinking of ways to express their sympathies.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the entire team of the Palo Alto Fire Department, especially the men and women who responded that day, for their service and compassion.
Starr King Circle
Cooperation can ease complaints
Several of us who were at the City Council meeting July 27 were caught unawares by the last-minute limitation of our speaking opportunity to one minute. You may have noticed the rushed and incoherent quality of some of our speeches.
Two of the speakers on vehicular habitation struck me most powerfully. One woman told of her fears of sleeping in a shelter and other alternatives — and how she could only feel secure when she locked the four doors of her car before she went to sleep.
I was also impressed with the young man who said that after a party when he felt he had indulged too much to safely drive, he curled up in his car and napped until he felt he could drive. Don't we all want to live where such civic- and safety-minded behavior is legal?
In order to respond to members of the community who feel imposed upon by people living in vehicles, the Community Cooperation Team is developing a structure to deal with past and future home-owner complaints. We see no need for additional legislation or police duties. Sometimes less government can be more efficient.
There are many opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit between vehicular dwellers and the rest of the community. Vehicle dwellers can perform yard chores, act as neighborhood watch sentinels and keep on eye on children playing in the street. Instead of instant enmity, there can be an atmosphere of welcome relief between all concerned.
El Camino Real
Let rail dreams not die
In California, the "Land of Dreams," we should not quickly dismiss the vision of connecting the 10 million people in the north with the 20 million in the south with a high-speed rail system.
The vision is a good one for the long-term good of the state. To shelve it because of short-term economic problems would be a big mistake. Let's not leave our children and grandchildren with the same old airport-rental-car-schlep or the mind-numbing, dangerous drive down I5.
My own, probably minority, opinion is that there is plenty of money in our economic system. It's just that the money is in the wrong places.
Let's not let the dream die; perhaps delayed a bit and improved with mid-course corrections, but not die. And let's not forget the bottom line: Fr the sake of our grandchildren we desperately need to decrease our car and airplane emissions, which high-speed rail will do.
Bravo to New Works
I saw TheatreWorks' Sunday premier of "Little Rock," the first of its 2011 New Works Festival productions. Don't miss it.
Lucie Stern Theatre vibrated with audience approval and admiration. The story: Nine black teenagers, known since their 1957 integration of Central High School as the Little Rock 9, braved threats and violence (to which they were not allowed to retaliate) with courage and dignity, simply because they wanted a real education at a time when schools were separate, but certainly not equal.
Playwright Rajendra Ramoon Majaraj's exemplary script, derived from his interviews with all of The Nine, will be fine-tuned in the remaining New Works performances. Writer, producers and actors process audience and their own responses, following each show. Remarkable acting, familiar music performed uncommonly and thrillingly well make usually dry, textbook-history come alive as the players tell their stories. Despite minimal sets, costuming and staging, this New Works premier gave its audience an emotional, empathic, exciting and wonderful night in the theatre.
The New Works Festival will continue until Aug. 21 at the Lucie Stern, with readings of four more plays and musicals. Theatre-in-the-making, and TheatreWorks investment in it, should be a source of immense pride for all of Palo Alto.
A Good Samaritan
This is a letter about a "good citizen." I didn't see her nor get a chance to thank her, so I'm doing it right here and now.
Last Thursday morning, she found my son's wallet that he had accidentally lost the night before ... and saw the license of an 18-year-old who surely would (and did) miss the Jamba juice card, credit and debit cards, and $50 inside, not to mention last year's high school ID, to which he was very attached.
And so she did the following: She looked up our street address on Yahoo maps and drove right over to return the wallet and all its contents fully intact. When she knocked on our door and realized we weren't home, she went over to our neighbor's house and asked if she knew us and would she please return the wallet to our son. We do indeed know those neighbors.
The neighbor promptly emailed me. I called my son at work, he retrieved the wallet, and within the hour "all was well again" in the world. His tears and worries from the night before were replaced by a sense of wonder, gladness and gratitude. She didn't leave her name or phone number to be thanked ... yet she left us with thankfulness.
I know she works for VTA, but that is all. So to her I say: "Thank you, thank you, thank you. You did the right thing; you did it right away; and you did it without a thought of gain for yourself. What a role model to my son and to the rest of my family. I am grateful to you, to my neighbor, to people like you, and to acts such as yours."