Omega Comet E.T.A. in Hours

Pack light for the end of the world.

The comet was due to strike Earth within 24 hours, and no one knew where. It made little difference: the phrase from the emergency broadcast kept resounding in my ears as I rummaged through the artifacts of my life B.C. — before the comet — and that phrase was "...whatever you can carry to sites to be announced." "Whatever you can carry"? In a car? A truck? On foot? I silently said good-bye to my baseball cards and bottle caps, my trophies and love letters, and hefted the box scrawled with marker pen: "The stuff dreams are made of." I went out leaving the door unlocked...

Virginia Loh, Columnist, "Single in San Diego" for Asia: The Journal of Culture and Commerce

I was on this horrible date once and had to flee when the guy started talking about stalking his ex-girlfriend. In all seriousness, I did have to evacuate twice when some hurricanes hit the Outer Banks in North Carolina. So I would take my laptop because it contains all my writings, my work -- especially my dissertation -- and pictures. (I would have scanned all my photo albums and scrapbooks into my computer.) Second, I would take my cell phone so that I could call people and stay in communication. Third, I would take a book, most likely the Bible because it is long and has many stories, and given the circumstances, it probably would be a good time to start reading it. My next book is about the Cedar fire. I think it is important to remember the mortality of our lives and to fully appreciate each moment. It's unfortunate that it takes catastrophes and devastations to evoke kindness and humanity. We should be practicing acts of kindness every second of the day.

Skot Norton, Technology manager, KPBS

If I were going to be an evacuee, the first thing I would take would be a towel, of course -- from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, always take a towel. And the second two things -- I've given considerable thought to this, because every time you see pictures of evacuees after disasters, they're always sitting about on the floor of a gymnasium somewhere looking terribly bored and uncomfortable. So I would take a cooler of beer -- a large cooler, because you're going to want to make friends -- and a lawn chair. The Red Cross will take care of all your other needs. They're going to feed you, clothe you, and give you a cot to lie on and vouchers for money. But sitting on the floor for three or four days is tough. I don't need to bring anything of sentimental value because everything else is stored online.

Funnily enough, I have had to move out of a residence. When I was a teenager, a brush fire came in my neighborhood and we had to evacuate. My mother and my siblings loaded the dogs, the cat, and the goat into the car. My dad and I stayed there to protect the property. I was 13. The goat was carried off -- and part of my job was to care for the goat, so it took the stress off of me that I didn't have to care for the goat.

Michael Boyce, Store manager, On Comic Ground

My three things: the first thing, and this is ridiculous, but I would take my PowerBook, my Apple PowerBook, of course, because it has my entire life -- well, almost -- on it at this point. It's my baby's bottle. My second thing would be the diamond ring that my dad gave my mom when they got married and that she then gave to me. She said to give it to the man that I fall in love with -- which will never happen -- but, still, I'll keep that ring forever because it was really cool of her to do a thing like that considering how gays are perceived, especially by family members. My third thing, which will explain why she gave me the diamond ring, is that she gave me Wonder Woman when I was at a very early age and which changed everything. So my copy of Wonder Woman #228, where Diana Prince meets Diana Prince of Earth 2 for the first time, and you have two Wonder Womans on the cover, and it's amazing! My mom gave that to me, and that started the whole Wonder Woman-gay love-PowerBook thing. When I was younger, I lived like a gypsy, on the pretense that I was too cool to work. So I would travel with just a backpack, and I would leave stashes of comic books all over the country. I have stashes of comic books in every major city, still to this day.

Jack Innis, Author, San Diego Legends

I would take my truck, because I would need it to get out of Dodge -- pardon the pun. And I would take my hard drive off of my computer because it contains my life's work as an author. And, finally, I would take my guitar that was hand built by my son, because I promised him that I would give it back to him when I died. In other words, I'm willing it back to him. During the Harmony Grove fire, the flames were coming within a few miles of Bay Park, where I live, and we didn't know if we would have to evacuate or not. So we ran around and grabbed everything important -- the computer hard drive, the truck, the guitar -- and what we started doing right then and there was using the digital camera to take pictures of everything we owned. In case our house was wiped out, we would have something to show the insurance companies.

Juan Manzo, Education associate, La Jolla Playhouse

I'm 27 years old, and I would take my iPod, all of my books... Can I take all of my books or just one book? They would fit in a box or in my car. I wouldn't take all of them, but I would take most of my books and my pictures, my photo albums, because the photos represent really important memories and places that I've been, and I think it's really tragic to lose the only copies of those moments forever. I'm not sure I could gather all of this stuff very quickly. The pictures are probably the most important things to me, though. I have a lot of fiction books, like, Middlesex is a great book. And we have some really great leatherbound Shakespeare books that are awesome. Literature and books have been a big part of my life. I know you could buy them elsewhere, but I just don't want to let that go. Plus you would have something to read, and you could have your own library for others.

Isaac Olaleye, Children's book author, Bitter Bananas, Bikes for Rent, and The Distant Talking Drum

I've never been in a situation where I had to flee, but I've always thought, "What if there was a fire? What would I like to take out of my house?" First, it would be my manuscripts and pictures very quickly. Since I'm a writer, I would take my book manuscripts. They are very precious to me, and they are not replaceable. It would be too much work to try and do them all over again. They are on paper, in different files for different subjects. I handwrite everything first and then have someone else type them. And then old pictures -- you cannot replace those. I moved here from Nigeria. I was in my late 20s when I came here, and I only brought a small amount of things with me. I didn't have much. Where I came from, they used to say, You don't have to keep up with the Joneses because the Joneses have nothing much to keep up with. There's a limit to what you can take, so I took a few clothes and my books. So the last thing I'd take is my cell phone so I can get in contact with people in case they are wondering if I am dead or alive.

Tera Black, Chief operating, officer, San Diego Gulls

I would take my first daughter's ashes. We lost her when I was eight months pregnant. Those ashes represent the most life-changing experience that I've ever been through. But the silver lining through all that is the wonderful two-and-a-half-year-old daughter we now have who never would have come to be. I would also bring something my grandfather gave me. He gave me more than 30 reels of old film footage from when my father was young. My father's going to be 60 this year. I haven't looked at them yet, so I would want to take them. Family movies are neat. It's nice to be able to look back on your past, and I would want my daughter to have that opportunity. And I would bring all my photos. I know it's kind of a cliché, but when I see a wedding photo or when I was in college, you look back on yourself and that moment in time. And if I couldn't take all my albums, then I'd just take the photos of my baby.

Jonathon Shockey, Captain/defenseman, San Diego Gulls

I'd have to have a variety of clothes. I know it sounds silly, but I couldn't wear the same thing every day. Does that count as one thing? Could it be a wardrobe of clothes? It keeps me entertained, and you have to have style points. I'd also have to have stuff to read. So I'd take the Bible. It's all about the straight and narrow. And the last one would be one of my motorcycles -- a custom chopper. My favorite one would be the blue custom Harley.

Martin St. Amour, Coach, San Diego Gulls

I would take an unlimited supply of Silver Oak Cabernet 2001. The '99 is good, but I prefer the 2001. The Napa Valley vineyard, not the Alexander Valley. I just enjoy that bottle of wine. I had it two years ago at a wine tasting. I like the smoothness and the buttery cherry taste. I enjoy wine in general and that bottle in particular. A bottle of wine -- even if it's the same year -- each tastes a little bit different. Then I would have to bring some music. Can I bring a lot of music? Okay, if I had to limit it to one, it would be U2 Joshua Tree -- that's probably my favorite album of all time. Every song is different. It's a group I've admired since I was young, and I've seen them five times in concert. I also like Bono as a human being. He does good things for people. I also like their music because a lot of their songs mean something and you can understand what he's saying. Number three for me would be some kind of vehicle that I could transport myself in. I have a motorcycle, a brand-new Hummer, and a 1956 Willy. So if I had to take just one, I'd take the Willy -- a Ford Overland, the first four-by-four. It's a California beach car. It barely has a radio, no air conditioning, but I love to drive it.

Gabriela Anaya Valdepeña, Poet and artist

I would take all my family pictures, my collector's-edition copy of Flowers of Evil, and my red velvet cloak. To be more specific, I would take my daughter's baby pictures and the family photos that I haven't scanned. I don't know why I didn't mention my poetry first. It's very important to me, but I have books out and my poetry's on the Net, and I could always write more poems. Someone once asked Picasso, you have a lot of artwork in your studio. If there was a fire, which piece would you take first, and he said he'd take the cat. I feel that way. I can write more poems, but I can't replace the pictures or that cape. I could have said I'd take my computer, but I'm a poet and that doesn't sound very romantic. It's more dramatic to take a book and cloak.

Flowers of Evil was written by Charles Baudelaire, and I am the bride of Baudelaire -- saucy, irreverent, and dangerous. He was a mid-19th-century French poet, considered a romantic poet by some. It's a leatherbound book that my friend found at a garage sale. It's inscribed in gold, has gold pages, and it has a little wine-colored velvet bookmark. Beautiful. She found it for $3 right before my birthday, and she sent it to me. The red velvet cloak is textured velvet and has a faux fur collar. It's really dramatic, and it's warm. It was in the window of a specialty store in La Jolla, where the clothes are kind of matronly. It looked like something they wouldn't normally carry, and I went wild. But the price tag was over $450, and I thought no way I can have that. I kept thinking about it, and one day it wasn't in the window and I asked and they said it really didn't fit our store so they were going to send it back. So I called my fiancé and begged and groveled, and he got it for me.

I grew up in Mexico City, and I remember we had little temblors and they were scary because the chandeliers would shake in our house. I also grew up partly in Texas, and we had tornado warnings -- I was right in Tornado Alley -- and that was terrifying. But the warnings wouldn't give you enough time to get things. And few months ago they had a warning, a tidal wave -- tsunami -- warning for La Jolla, and I remember thinking, gosh, I should move to higher ground, and I started thinking what should I take.

Mike Toma, Owner/installer Super Low Price Auto Glass

For me, I'd take my pet canary, my love, and save my family. But if they're all safe, then I'd take my shop. By that I mean try to take all the glass [car windshields], because I've been years doing this business and I love it; this is my life. Without this I can do nothing. I'd be on the street without this. I'd also take the photos I have of back home and of me when I was young with all my brothers and my family. They're black-and-white, old pictures. I'd like to keep them and my movies too. I'd save them for my children so that in the future they can see how I was when I was young.

I was in Turkey when earthquakes happened two times, but nothing happened to me. A lot of other people were affected, but I could not help because I am not a person with power. I didn't think of saving anything then. I just came out and crossed myself like this, and that's it. I'd also like to save my old videocassettes, home videos. They show us wearing old-style clothes, the kind of clothes we wear back home. Our style, you know, Chaldean. It's very nice, and I'm not going to have these clothes anymore, because we moved to this country. I traveled a lot from Iraq and came here pretty much empty-handed from Greece.

Tanya Hagan, Performance artist and vocalist

I would take my thermos, because I could survive on just hot water alone. If I can stay warm, I'm good. I would also take my laptop and my digital camera so I could record everything that was going on. I have my life pretty much on my computer now -- all my performances, all the archiving of my work. The computer would also allow me to edit any footage I shot. A digital camera for me has become my new journal. I used to have a journal that I wrote in religiously. Now it's a visual journal. I can't imagine going out into the world and not being able to capture what I see and edit it. I would take a digital camera to document what was going on, because that would probably be the only way that personally I could cope with the catastrophe and be able to create some context for it.

When I was little my mother was mentally ill and we were often homeless, so in those instances the things that I took were a jacket and my sister. We didn't have a whole lot, and things were very transient, so I'd take something warm, a blanket, and a pillow and go.

More recently, I thought I'd have to evacuate during the Cedar fire, and, yes, I grabbed those three things. I wanted to take other things with me, and I did because I wasn't limited to three things. Unfortunately, I don't have my costume shop in a magic box that folds down into some tiny thing or I would take that too. So I just have to insure that and write it off. My husband Allan and I were living in El Cajon. I remember going to work that day and the skies were all black and we didn't know what was going on. And we went to work and when we got home we were driving into this ring of fire to get to our house. We were newly married. At that point my costume shop was in the house and it wasn't insured. I panicked and called friends and said get your trucks over here and get the costumes out. So we had everyone on red alert. The fire was right over the hill, but it went past us.

Billy Martinez, Cartoonist, art instructor, publisher, and owner-proprietor of Neko Press Studios

I would bring all the photos of my family, the memorabilia. I would bring my art supplies and art that are on disk so I could continue working and taking care of my family wherever we would be. And I would take all my Beatles, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney albums. That way I could listen to the music. I wouldn't take my computer, just all the CDs with my work and Photoshop program, because I could probably find a computer somewhere else. So that way all the artwork I have stored on disk I could continue to work on and I could continue to produce. My original artwork is on paper, but that would be too much to bring. But everything's been scanned onto CDs now, so taking the disks would be the logical thing to do rather than taking originals, which could get destroyed more easily.

With the kids, I think of bringing clothes for them. But if it really got down to it, with kids and all, I'd probably be able to bring more than three things. We talked about this yesterday, and at that point I'd probably have a rifle or a gun or a bat, because there's no telling what would be going on, like The Road Warrior. When the Cedar fire hit, I was more concerned with practical things, like making sure we had enough water and that the car had a full tank of gas and we had clothing. We didn't actually have to evacuate, but we were concerned about it. You could see the fire off of Mount Helix.

When I was young in Oklahoma, I remember there was a tornado, and we ended up going outside into a gully, a ditch area that was very deep, and we just sat there. You had no time to take anything, because it was only a mile away. I was 13 or 14. I was living with a family because my parents were split up, so all I had were clothes and albums. I thought those were replaceable, so all I really thought about then was that my friends and the family there were safe.

Michelle Traughber, Tattoo artist

That's a tough question, but you know, honestly, there isn't anything I would take. If my family and pets are safe, that's all that really matters. It's funny, because right now there's something very dear to me -- an autographed instrument -- that I'm actually selling, and I've had to come to terms with selling it. It's been a lesson to me in letting go.

The thing is, I've just been really broke the last couple years, so I've learned how to do with less and less to the point that if I were to somehow lose everything, it really wouldn't hurt me that much. I would almost be laughing at the universe, because it would just be like one more thing. I guess I have been preparing to lose things for a long time. I need to buy a new pair of pants, for example, and I can't even do that right now.

Before I would have said family photos and things like that, but really, having things just weighs you down. And it attaches you to places that might not be the healthiest place for you to be in. You get to appreciate the moment more when you're not so worried about things. When you're busy worrying about the tear in the couch or the broken vase or whatever, it's like you don't get to relax, you don't get to see what's happening in the moment around you. I was really upset to be in a financial position where I had to sell this instrument, but if I sell it to the right person, it's going to end up benefiting them a lot, and that kind of means more to me than owning the item for myself. I've been reflecting on the nature of attachment a lot the last week, so this question is almost like a test from the universe, and me actually saying this out loud is the best way for me to let go.

Brandon Cesmat, Author, Driven into the Shade

I would probably take the same things I took when we were evacuated in eight minutes during the Paradise Valley fire. Those things would be my laptop computer with my past, present, and future manuscripts on it, my guitars, and my books. I was only able to get one box of my books in the back of my truck on the day of the fire. They were the things that would have burned the fastest, so I was glad to have them.

The oddest thing about that day that I remember, though, was when I was trying to take my clothes off the pole in the closet. What I didn't realize was that a suit bag actually had the hook turned the wrong way, so when I tried to pull the armload of clothes off the pole, it wouldn't come. Then I looked and realized that I was trying to grab all the clothes that I don't usually wear, so I just left them and went and got the dirty-clothes basket that had all the clothes I really liked. My books, the ones I wrote, were the first ones I took, and then my complete collection of Louise Erdrich. As for the guitars, there are three of them -- two basses and an acoustic. One bass I've had a long time, and one is new. But again, you hold something in your hand for so many hours, and there's a conversation that happens between the player and the music. It's two-directional. You pick up a new instrument, and it's always interesting because it feels different.

Axel Gamboa, Health-care worker

First, I would take my camera-cell phone. Then an iPod with a 5000-song collection. And finally, a bottle of water. Water has become my favorite drink, and maybe I could share it with others, because people might be panicked and not have taken water. The iPod I'd take because I love music and I can't live without it. When I moved here from the Philippines, I brought a lot of things with me. My luggage was filled with books and clothes and things. But my camera-cell phone and my iPod were in there too, so they have always been important to me.

Dr. Fuyun Hsu, Retired United Nations diplomat celebrating his 100th birthday this year

I would take my memoirs that I have been working on for many years. My memoirs tell me where I've been, where I've gone, what I've done. My memoirs are my life. I would also take a bottle of red wine, because I have discovered the particular taste of Bordeaux wines. I have discovered the virtue of the Bordeaux a long time ago. I try to drink a little bit of Bordeaux wine every day. And of course I would share it with others. I would also like to take a hotel. Yes, a hotel. I'd like that. I remember the consulate recommended the Hotel Seville in New York. I would want to stay at the Hotel Seville, a hotel with all the old-fashioned things in it.

Dr. Jose Albert Jaramillo, Host of the radio show The Ancient Mexico, 1030 AM XESDD

First of all, I think that it's very important to have a plan with your family, to put together a plan in case something happens, to have everyone meet together at a particular point. So for me, what I do is I have in my home water, and I always try to keep the car with the gas tank full. And it's very important to have food and a little bit of cash available, because we can see now with people in Florida that there is no electricity, no ATM cards to use.

We also have in our house a plastic box with all our personal documents, like our passports, birth certificates, and insurance, and, of course, you're going to take those things in case you need them later on. But in terms of other material things, I don't think it's going to be necessary. What we need to do is just to be prepared, encourage people to be a spiritual outlet.

It's very important to prepare ourselves spiritually and to control our emotions. It's very important for us to understand the ancient prophecies and to understand what's going on around the world. We are expecting by 2008, according to the Mayan prophecy, that the state of California will be hit by a big earthquake. To be a little more specific, it will probably be eight of oh-eight at eight o'clock in the morning. And I encourage the people to prepare themselves in a spiritual way to help others, to focus on the practical aspects of surviving and not focusing on material things.

I have a Mayan background, and from that I made a rebirth of my ancient culture. I came to Mayan prophecies to understand what is happening in the world. We are living in an era where the god of water is dominating the skies, because the energy of Cauac, rainstorm, is coming now. That's why we have now the record of 23 hurricanes. Cauac is giving us the opportunity to harmonize with our planet. There are now a lot of people that follow the Mayan calendar, and we are making, like, a big prayer around the world in order to stop some of the catastrophes that take place.

I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. I lived 28 years of my life in Mexico. My sister was living here in San Diego, so just when I finish my master's, I decide to go there. I just make a phone call, and my sister says, "Yeah, sure, you can come over and stay with us." Mexican families are always like that -- they always open their doors to everybody, and I live with her and then I start making my own way of life.

Rich Pavel, Surfer, surfboard designer, and proprietor of the Green Room

Like anyone, there's the tools of your trade you'd want to take. Many of mine are irreplaceable. In particular, there's a power planer; the brand is Skil, and the model is a Skil 100. It's been out of circulation for decades, but it's a fabulous tool, and I just happen to be very used to it. So the first item would be a box of tools. There are also things that I would be bringing with me that are incredibly valuable, and those would be the experiences I have being the kind of person that I am and having been exposed to the experiences I've had. But in terms of material possessions, that's tough. I might try to grab something like a passport or a document that's very difficult to replace. I have had to evacuate before at the Hanalei in Kauai. It was a personal thing, not a natural disaster, and I did take my surfboard at that time. I don't know that I would bring a board now. I guess the last thing I'd take if I had to leave the city would be cash, to be practical.

Luis Gonzales, Roller hockey player and coach at Skate San Diego

I would take a computer, for memories. Everything's stored on my computer -- pictures, music, and a lot of information. Even if the Internet were down, I would still have a lot of information on my computer. It also has games. A laptop would be more portable. Second, I would take a pen, something to write with. Writing with a pen is different than writing on a computer. My favorite pastime is doodling. So I would take a ballpoint pen, not a pencil. When you get ideas, you need to write them down. I write in a black notebook. So I guess I should change my answer to say that I'd bring my black notebook with a pen; they go together. And the last item would be a hockey stick, my regular stick, just to have it to play around and do stick handling. I'd rather have my hockey stick than my skates.

Michael Byrne, El Cajon Skateboarder

I'd take my car, my guitar, and a bottle of Jack Daniel's. I wouldn't take my skateboard. My car is an '86 Corolla. If I had my choice, I'd steal my mom's IROC Camaro. I put a CD player in my car last month, and I have my CDs and the amps in the back. My guitar is a Les Paul Jr. I play a lot of guitar with my buddy Josh and my buddy Michael, and we were called Falling Freedom, but we want to change the name, so we're kind of nameless right now. I've been playing guitar four years. My guitar has sentimental value. I've had it four years, and it has wear marks, and I've dropped it a couple times by accident. As for Jack Daniel's, it's my favorite drink, and if a comet or something were coming, I'm going to get trashed. I drink it straight out of the bottle. I like the taste of it. I like the burn. I've had to move a few times in my life. I'm a military child, so I had to pick up and just leave. Back then, I was mainly concerned about taking my bike, a Diamondback. We had to move real quick, like in six hours, man, so I stripped that thing down and grabbed a few clothes, my bike, my skate, and I was out. Nothing else was that important to me. I wouldn't bring my skateboard, because I get a new one every couple months, so I could always get one.

Reverend Peter Moore-Kochlacs, Pastor, Chapel of the Valley United Methodist Church

Certainly I'd want to take my faith with me, because it would be a very scary time. I've been assured that my family's safe, so I don't have to worry about them. But to represent my faith and my security in my faith, my crutch, and my hope, I would take a Bible. I would probably take the new Revised Standard Bible that I have all marked up, and it has a whole bunch of tags in it representing different scriptures that are important to me. I think the second thing I would take would be pictures of my family. I've been very much into genealogy, and I have a sense of the history of my extended family and where that places me in terms of my identity. Of course, my identity first is in Christ as a Christian, but second it comes from an immigrant family from Europe. I feel a sense of roots that root me here on the planet and now here in Southern California. The third item hasn't come to mind yet. I'm going to need a car, and I certainly want an address book of friends to make sure I get to someplace safe where my family might be or where I could get my family to gather.

We tried to evacuate once. We were a half-mile from the epicenter of the Northridge earthquake, living in a parsonage in Reseda. The chimney broke, there was structural damage to the church, and we had a lot of damage to the house, where everything collapsed in. Transportation was unavailable, the gas and electricity were off, and so we ironically couldn't go anywhere. We had to stay there. We helped the neighbors, and the neighbors helped us. We cooked leftovers together; things in the freezer had to be eaten. We got as much water as we could, because there were some breakages in the water system.

Phil Beaumont, Principal, the Museum School, and member of the local band Maquiladora

I guess if it were my personal items, it would be a Canon camera, because I love to take pictures of people and places and to document things. I'd have to take some of my clothes that I have, especially my old boots that I've had for many years that have traveled to many countries with me and done many things with me. If I was going to go to another place safely, I suppose I should take a computer; that would be smart. But we're not thinking smartly, are we? So I think I'd take my photo albums. Not family photos but rather documents of my life until now.

I've never had to evacuate from town, but I remember the subways back in London when I was living there. You'd have bomb threats, and you would be told that you would need to exit immediately. But it was remarkably silly at the time. It was prior to 9/11, and it was about IRA threats that were happening so often that people didn't react like, "Oh God, get me out of here," but instead it was like, "Oh man, now I'll miss my train."

Richie Simmons, Bartender, The Waterfront

I'd take a knife, cash, and my family photos. A knife you can use for all sorts of things -- protection and making wooden spoons and bowls and whatnot. The photos are something that's irreplaceable, pictures of your mom when you're a kid, your dad when you're a kid. Pictures of growing up, me and my family, but nothing new. Photos from when I was 18 and under. I'm 29 now. F--k the furniture and all that. Wait, maybe I should take a sleeping bag instead of the pictures. No, I could use the knife to steal a sleeping bag, I guess. But definitely cash for emergencies. Either that or gold. The knife I have is a hunting knife I've had for 20 years. I moved here 8 years ago from Ohio; that's where I used to hunt. I'm used to roughing it. I can rough it.

LaRita Williams, After-school coordinator, Lemon Grove School District

I would take my iPod, because I can't live without music; my laptop because I can't live without the Internet; and my journals because they outline my life, where I've been and where my family's been. I've been keeping my journals since I was in a sixth-grade poetry class that got us going writing poetry in journals. My journal has my entire life. All the people who've been in my life are all outlined in my journals. I write mostly poetry entries. I think creatively, so it all just comes out in poetic verse. My iPod probably has a little over 4000 songs. I love music. Music is therapy for me. The beats, the rhythms, the messages. It's mostly R&B with some old school, but it's pure, it's easy to listen to, it relaxes me and it keeps me sane. As for the laptop, everything is on it -- pictures of my family, my résumé. Also, I'm a student at SDSU, so a lot of things that I have been writing for my classes are on it. I've mostly taken African-American classes and women's studies classes. Most of those pieces I have been writing for those classes have changed my life by doing the research around those topics. So being able to write scholarly papers and putting real thought into that type of work, it's just not something I want to lose.

I remember being in the Northridge quake when we lived in South Central Los Angeles. It had to be four o'clock in the morning, and I remember thinking, I have to take my blanket with me, because wherever we were going at that time it was going to be cold. Also, my blanket represents comfort and all the things around comfort, and I just wanted it to be wherever I was going. I just wanted to feel safe and secure, and I wanted to take my blanket with me.

Anya Marina, Singer/songwriter and evening jock on FM 94/9, KBZT

Honestly -- because it's not funny to make light of natural disasters and such -- I would take my sister's salon-quality hair dryer, because she'd probably forget it and I've always wanted it. Then once the comet or earthquake had passed and she realized I had remembered to grab it, I would be, like, "Yo, this is my hair dryer now. You left it. Finders keepers, bitch." I would also grab my new boots from Nordstrom because they are so hot right now, and -- because it's important to think of posterity and future generations -- I would grab all the pictures I have framed of myself all over the house.

Thankfully, I wasn't affected by the Cedar fire. The only time I've ever had to flee quickly was the one time I was being followed by a bunch of paparazzi while I was shopping with my stylist on Robertson, and then I crashed head-on into a...oh, sorry. That wasn't me. That was Lindsay Lohan. Sometimes I get confused because our lives are, like, so totally the same.

Judith Coker, Lawyer/real estate broker

First, I would want to take the best gift I have ever received in my whole life, and that was from a very close friend who went back to his home country. But before he left, the weekend before he left, he tried to think of the most special present he could give me, and he painted my portrait as a surprise. It was beautiful, and it looks just like me. It's a framed oil portrait of me, and it was so touching. My second item would be my family records, which would include historical family photos that date back to the 1860s, one of which is a photograph of my great-great-great-great-great- something-like-that grandmother in her wedding dress. I have a good selection of about 100 photographs. One of my great-aunts was a genealogist. She sent me copies of photos, and she had this amazing stuff with all the photos and lineage written down. There's also a videotaped interview I did with my family and close friends two Christmases ago. I interviewed each one of them and asked the same questions and recorded their responses. My third item would be my A Course in Miracles book, and that's a spiritual thought system that boils down to the idea that there's basically only love in the world, and that's the only thing that's real. Everything else is an illusion. And even though that's something that I could ultimately replace, I think it would be something that I would need to get through the next couple of days or weeks, because it's part of my strength and it would help me to remember what's really real.

I never had to evacuate before, but when I was ten years old I remember we were sailing down to Mexico, and we were shipwrecked in our sailboat. We had to take things on this little dinghy, and my dad swam. My two sisters and I were in the dingy, and he swam to shore. We were in Baja, and it was completely desolate. We had to walk quite a ways before we found a shack. We tried to take a few things, but ultimately we were not allowed to because there wasn't room and it just wasn't possible. I lost my Barbie doll, and I lost this beautiful yellow nightgown my mother had brought me back from a special trip she had gone on to Florida.

Tracy Davis, Barista, Peet's Coffee and Tea

I would take a photo album of my family, a book, and coffee, because I can't function without coffee. The photos would be pictures from before I can even remember. My father died a while ago, and I can't remember anything except for the pictures. So it's just normal family pictures from the past rather than recent stuff. As for the book, it would have to be one that I could read over and over again, so that would probably have to be On the Road by Jack Kerouac, which might be appropriate if I had to evacuate. I read it a long time ago, and I haven't read it in a while because I don't have time to read for fun. I liked the way it gave me insight into the culture of the beatniks back in the '50s, because I wasn't even alive back then. And the coffee, I can't get out of bed unless I know there's coffee waiting for me somewhere. So if I had to go somewhere, I'd have to have my Peet's coffee, of course, because it's the best. If it counts as one, I'd take the coffeemaker with the coffee.

I was living in Santee when the fires came, so we had to evacuate just as a precaution. But nothing happened to my home, so I was able to come back. I just grabbed what I thought I would need, and I think I took a few photos. I just took practical things because I didn't think the fires were really going to hit my house.

Donna Sly, Co-owner and chef, Creative Catering/Tastefully Relaxed

I would take financial documents, all that financial stuff that we would need so you could survive elsewhere -- checkbooks, credit cards -- stuff that makes it easier to live after something like that happens. We'd probably take our custom-made dining table. The custom table we'd take is a five-foot round custom dining room table that was custom engraved with all kinds of what they call icons -- they are pictures of things that are important to us. We have champagne glasses and a chef for me, crayons and drama masks and tae kwon do fists, and the children's little stuffed animals that were super important to them when we had the table made. It's very colorful. The company that made it, the artists were I think in Iowa.

We kind of went through this when the fires happened. During the fires, we did evacuate, and we loaded that table onto the back of the pickup truck. We also took one really cool lamp, a stained-glass lamp. I don't know if that would be a third thing I would take. The neighborhood was evacuated, and we were by Mission Trails park. If the flames had jumped Mission Gorge Road, we would have been in real trouble. It was pretty scary.

But the third thing I think I would take would be some of the jewelry that my grandmother handed down to me. I have a pair of earrings from my great-grandmother, who fled Russia around 1920 because of persecution. She left with everything. And there's my grandmother's wedding ring. They're family things that I'd want to hand down to my children. Wait a minute, what am I thinking? I would swap out the family photos for the jewelry. I'd probably take the photos off the walls and the albums, photos from the past 15 to 20 years. I'd want to save them for the memories and to pass on to my kids. You know, the pictures of us when we were young. We have young children, and Renee would take her stuffed cow that she still sleeps with, and Dylan would probably take his Game Boy.

Jennifer Kruse, Fire captain, Station 12, C-Shift

The only thing I'm thinking about right now is that I was at that fire this morning and we rescued six people near Paradise Hills, a mom and five kids. All I could think about on my way there was what were we going to see when we got there. That's all I keep thinking about. They all survived. They're in the hospital, but they're going to be fine.

So just to be able to face a disaster and get away, that's all that's important. So that's all I think about. I don't have any collections, just family pictures and genealogy charts, stuff like that. I've done a lot of genealogy research, but if it were lost, I could do it again. I have one old picture of my great-great-grandma when she was 12 years old, and I just think it's the sweetest picture ever. I would be sad if I ever lost that, but not devastated. I would just be happy to be out and to be able to get to my loved ones. Anything else can be replaced, or it can be kept in my heart.

We did evacuate during the Cedar fire, but I was already at work, so I didn't get a chance to even think about it. The kids' dad came to evacuate them, and all I asked him to get were pictures and the pets. In my job, I have seen people who want to grab something as we try to evacuate them, but usually it is practical, like I need these insurance papers or pictures of this to prove what I have. A lot of the time we'll be going through places looking for things and there'll be sprinklers going off and we see pictures lying down, and we'll grab stuff like that and bring it out. If people are frantic, it's usually for pets. Most of the time they're just thankful to be out and be safe.

All I can get back to is thinking about that fire this morning and about getting there. There was a mom; the dad was at work. Imagine how frantic he must have been to get there and how fortunate he must have been to find that they were safe. So to face that situation and come out of it alive, I don't see how any material things could enter their minds.

Austin Stewart, Sixteen-year-old, El Cajon skater

I've always lived in El Cajon. On trips I took clothes, music, and a lighter. You always need to have a lighter in case you need to make a fire. So if I had to evacuate, I'd take a lighter, a skateboard, and a girl. I can't take a girl? Okay, the third thing I'd take is a CD player, because I love music. Any kind of music except country. I'd take the lighter to make fires, basically to do everything with -- you can smoke, you can amuse yourself with a lighter, you can burn things. I have a standard Bic lighter, one of those disposable ones. I'd bring a skateboard so I could do some skating. I'd probably take this one I have in my hand right here. I can skate pretty good on it, and I like the way it feels. It's a good ride. It's a Sun Diego. I put everything together on it.

Derek Sinock, Sixteen-year-old El Cajon skater

When I had to move, the things I brought were my guitar, my skateboard, and my iPod. So I had stuff to do and music to listen to. I love my music, and without music I wouldn't have anything to listen to. With my skateboard and iPod, I could roam around town and listen to music. My guitar is an electric Ibanez. It's my first guitar. I've had it since I was 11. I don't think I'd go anywhere without it. I love it too much, and I treat it like it's part of the family. I bring that anywhere I go. I bring it on road trips or if I'm going on a family reunion, so if there were a comet coming I would take it with me for sure so I could play. My skateboard is an Avalanche, and it's for transportation. If I had to go somewhere new and I didn't know where the buses were, I could just skate around and find everything and make new friends that also skate. I also like to do tricks too.

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