The house next door to us caught on fire. On May 10, 1985 I wrote, “Mom woke me, calling out something about a fire and how she was going to look out one window rather than another. So, as I stay in dreamstate after I wake up, I got hung up on windows and didn’t understand the fire part. But Mom kept shouting and she kept shouting ‘Fire!’ so I jumped up and threw on a pair of pants. Looked through the kitchen window, smoke pouring out [of the roof next door], followed by flames – so very close, just at the end of our roof it seemed.” We later measured the distance between the fence that separated our patio from the neighbor’s house. Three feet. And by patio I don’t mean a big open space; the supports for the patio roof touched the property line fence in a couple places.
“Mom went running out. Policeman came to the door, said, ‘Anybody else in there?’ I said, ‘No. I’ll be out in a second.’
“I ran into the bathroom, started combing my hair, realized how totally ridiculous that was, so I rushed into the bedroom and shoved a pair of socks and shoes over my toes and dashed into the yard putting on my coat. Don’t know where Peanuts [the cat] is. Undoubtedly scared and hiding out. The fire trucks were arriving. Fire wasn’t spreading beyond the house. … [A] couple apple trees [next to the burning house] were crumpled from the heat & the fence was blackened & charred.
“The fire had stayed in the back room add-on mostly. Just heat [& smoke damaging] the front rooms.
“Windows breaking. I was shivering & shaking out there. Mom & I went [across the street] to Hopkins’ – they and Blakeys were watching from [the] yard. Got a glass of water and sat inside staring across the street as the firefolks killed the last of the fire. Nothing of ours was touched.”
The neighbors who lived in the burned house were bad eggs. I remember the man had tried to convince Mom to allow him to repair cars in a corner of our yard (the corner had once been a graveled parking place) and I thought Mom was crazy for even considering it. He didn’t seem like a bad guy in the I-like-to-do-evil sense, rather he liked to drink and didn’t seem to able to get his act together. Things had progressed to the point Mom, according to my diary, had been one of a group of neighbors who were hoping to get the city to condemn the house.
The house was eventually gutted and redone.
Meanwhile, back in reading land, I “read all the unread Love & Rockets and EPIC.”
Love & Rockets was a comic series that showcased the work of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (and occasionally third brother Mario), Southern Cal chicano boys. Ever alert for a gay thread I was happy to find Jaime’s characters Maggie & Hopey more than just friends. Unfortunately their friendship moved to the platonic and their interests toward boys, though there were usually a few characters in Gilbert’s or Jaime’s stories that were pleasingly queer. Jaime’s stories are mostly set in a version of a SoCal barrio. Gilbert’s stories are set in a fictional Mexican/Central American town called Palomar.
An English rock band snagged the name Love & Rockets because they thought it sounded cool. The Hernandez brothers were miffed. The musicians hadn’t asked for permission. And the Hernandez brothers didn’t think much of their music. I own both L&R comics and L&R records.
EPIC was an anthology comics magazine published by Marvel, the publisher responsible for Spider-Man and The Avengers and so on. It was supposed to be for mature readers so allowed a bit more cleavage and blood and fewer superheroes.