You Can See My Hose Right Here, Valiantly Trying To Do Something…”

I last blogged about fires in my hometown of San Diego four years ago. Seems half the area is aflame once again tonight. I’ve got cousins who are under evacuation orders; everyone’s safe and sound.

Digression: As far back as I can remember, there’s been this dude (yep, a proper dude like you only get down south) named Larry Himmel on San Diego’s CBS affiliate, channel 8. He’s always been the guy who does feel-good pieces about the city, its people, its institutions, et cetera. If you’re the news director and you need ninety seconds on the diner out in Crest where some of the regulars have been regulars since the fifties, Larry’s your man. You need a heartwarming broadcast-closer about kids picking pumpkins up at Bates Nut Farm, you put Larry on it. Larry’s stuff has never been “news” or even “important,” but he’s very, very good at what he does: His reports have always been well-written, down-to-earth, and not the sort of saccharine drivel this material would become in the hands of some hack with an agenda. With a Larry Himmel report, you know you’re going to get an honest slice of life, a breath of fresh air, and he delivers every time.

Reminiscence: Back in the eighties, during the height of Ronald Reagan’s America, Larry wrote, starred in, and produced a hilarious local variety show called San Diego at Large. As Larry admits, the show, which aired five nights a week at 7:30pm back then, could never be shown on broadcast television today. SD@L was edgy (especially for San Diego!); much of its content was grossly politically incorrect by today’s standards; and, though I don’t remember it, Google Books reveals the show also included the sort of ugly stereotyping of Asians that has persisted in America decades after similar caricatures of other races became socially unacceptable. (C.f. the Abercrombie t-shirts from five years ago). But for the most part, Larry’s show was pure, balls-out, pedal-floored lunacy, night after night after night. At least half of it must have sailed right over my pre-teen head. (Larry’s character Biff in the “North Mission Beach” sketches—must have been a stoner, right?) When SD@L went off the air in 1988, I remember the local press making a big deal about it: With nobody looking, the show had become the only locally produced-and-aired nightly variety show left in the country, literally the last of its kind. And then it was gone. As happens with things.

Today: The house Larry Himmel lived in for twenty-five years burned to the ground. He reported live from the scene while the house was still aflame, already an obvious, complete loss.