by Lauri Fraser
It was 5:30 am in West Los Angeles and the Sun was just starting to make an appearance in our living room on Richland Avenue.
It was Autumn and Johnny had made a fire as he often did on cold Autumn mornings. As he did so, I couldn’t help think that the fire would sure be a lot less messy if we actually had a fireplace.
While we sat comfortably in our warm home, blazing fires were destroying homes and lives in Malibu and Topanga Canyon at that very same moment.
There we sat. Me in front of the fire with my t-shirt over my knees and Johnny my Irish General contractor husband, drinking coffee.
I broke my gazed stare at the fire and looked around at all of the candles that adorned our living room. Little fires that represented occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, romantic dinners, even power outage emergencies. But none had threatened our home or our lives.
“Johnny. I feel so helpless. Right now people are dying and homes are going up in flames and we’re sitting here warm and safe totally removed from the whole ordeal and I hate the fact that I can’t do anything about it.” Johnny sighed and put down the book he was reading, How To Deal With Hypersensitive Women, and turned to me,
“Well you know Lauri, back in New York, when someone was in trouble or we were having a tough time we made sauce.” “You made what?!” “You know. Spaghetti sauce. To share with the neighbors or our friends or whomever was having the trouble. “Yea How would that calm them? Ya put Prozac in the sauce? “ “No Just sauce.” When Billy O’Briens Mom got breast cancer, we made sauce. When my uncle lost his job right when my cousin Joseph got sick, we made sauce. When The Ripleys across the street had to file bankruptcy and Mr. Ripley almost jumped out his office window at the Chrysler building….we made sauce. “ “ When George Bush got elected, Did we make Sauce? Okay okay. So?” “So we make sauce for the firemen..” “Yes. Okay. Yes. That sounds good! When?” “You just stop at Smart N. Final on your way home from work and pick up about ten of those big aluminum trays and I’ll be here when you get home.”
Well I stopped and pick up the trays and as I turn onto the street of Richland Avenue I could smell the garlic and tomato sauce long before I hit the driveway. I walk in and Johnnys standing over four huge pots on the stove and as he takes off the towel from his shoulders, he smiles at me with his face perspiring to a lovely shade of pink and says Lauri…..I give you…………SAUCE! Now get busy with the manicotti and the shells. We should get there before dark if we can.
I was driving a Red topless Jeep Wrangler at the time. We loaded up the goods and set off to make our way up the coast to Topanga. I told Johnny “They’ll never let us through. The entire Pacific Coast Highway is off limits to everyone but residents and anyone who doesn’t have official business there. “That’s us. Besides we won’t have a problem. We got SAUCE. And what’s more official business than sauce.?” I know not to argue with that kind of Irish logic.
Our first obstacle was a cop car at the California Incline and PCH. We see his hand goes up motioning us to turn around and get the hell out of there. Johnny waves back to him and waves for him to come over to the jeep . When he gets close enough Johnny yells”We got Sauce Officer.” “ You got What?!” ‘We go sauce” and he lifts the tin foil up revealing baked ziti and a waft of garlic tomatoes and just plain heaven. And apparently having sauce is like having a Backstage Pass to a Rolling Stone concert. The cop waves us through. The next check point has another cop and a yellow fire truck manning a fire hydrant and he waves for us to stop as well and Johnny waves him to come over as he yells even louder than the first guy “We got Sauce./ “What?” “I said we Got Sauce!!” We get closer and Johnny reaches around to the back and uncovers the aluminum and the wafted scent goes up the cops nose as he waves us through the next checkpoint. The third guy we honk at first and someone had already radioed him and we hear him yelling into the radio “They got Sauce! Yea…. I know but I’m letting them through!”and he waves for us to keep going . By this time we are up to Topanga and PCH and I say to Johnny “ Our red jeep may look like a mini – firetruck but they’ll never let us get up the hill.” Well we turn the corner and as we drive up to the main place where the fireman are regrouping we see a Burger King truck and five fireman sitting on the side of the wall drinking Gatorade, faces filled with black soot looking like there are just about to pass out and The captain comes over to the jeep and Johnny says “Hi ya Captain. We brought your men here, some sauce.” “Sauce?! You’re kidding.” (both of them clearly New Yorkers) Yea…. We made some Baked Ziti and Manicoti for the guys. We just wanted to do something..” The Captain yells,”Hey. Somebody come over here and help with this stuff. Then two men came over and unloaded the trays. The firemen looked grateful and hungry and we saw the weary faces on the wall look over as the Captain said. “Thanks Now you’ve gotta get down off the hill . Be careful driving“
As we drove away I felt my whole body get hot and I burst into tears. It felt so good to be able to do something. Johnny just looked at me and said. “ Ya see Laur….When You at your wits end and ya just don’t know what to do….Just make Sauce. That night we had sauce by candlelight.