Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Tragic week...

I don't write much about it, as I should, but the side job I've had ever since I moved to L.A. has been at a florist in Westwood. I grew up in the flower business, as my mom was an awesome designer, working at a number of shops, and out of our home, before opening her own shop in Old Lyme when I was in highschool. When I hit L.A., I went into the first flower shop I saw and applied... and they took me in. They're great people - turnover in the past ten years has been light. Even people who quit years ago will return to help out for a few hours or a few days around Valentines and Mothers Day, just because the shop vibe is so good. As cliched as the term gets, the place and the staff are tight, and very much my L.A. family.

Zameer, who I wrote about below, is another employee, who delivered flowers before his semester in India. Sadly, a few days after we were relieved to hear he was alive, on one of the safe coastal towns, we learned that another employee's father died of a heart attack while en route to Thailand. He was going on a missionary trip, planned before the tsunami, made all the more urgent after.

Then earlier today I learned that a man who'd helped to occasional construction work in the shop, Charlie Womack, was killed in the La Conchita landslide, in a house that he'd purchased from the flower shop's owners only a few years ago.

Earlier today I received an email from Rodleen, the girl who worked with me on the X Games. She wrote that a couple dear friends of hers were killed in the same landslide - and one of them, indeed, was Charlie Womack.

As agnostic as I am, the combination of tragedy and coincidence gives me the feeling that these disasters are somehow intended, and these events not as tragic, or coincidental, as they seem to be...

From the L.A. Times...

Charlie Womack

Living in Charlie Womack's house on the back side of La Conchita was like living in the '60s.

"It was a modern commune. It was the closest thing I'd ever seen to the ideal in movies like 'Easy Rider.' But it was real, it worked, it was natural," longtime friend Steve Samojeden said.

Womack's home was always open to his extended network of friends, who dubbed themselves "The La Conchita Llamas." He welcomed those in need, even turning over the house's master bedroom to friend Jimmie Wallet and his wife and three young children when they were in financial difficulty and needed a place to stay.

Wallet survived the mudslide, but his wife, Michelle, 36, and daughters Hanna, 10, Raven, 6, and Paloma, 2, were among the missing.

Womack was staying in a 40-foot tepee that he had erected in front of his Santa Barbara Street home when the cliff above the street gave way. Friends said he had been hiking earlier in the day and was probably sleeping when debris engulfed him.

Charles Womack, 51, was identified by the Ventura County coroner's office Tuesday. Authorities said he died of blunt-force chest and neck injuries.

A construction worker, Womack was well aware of La Conchita's landslide danger, friends said.

One set of houseguests were two women who had been displaced by the neighborhood's 1995 landslide. They repaid his kindness by making large, family-style meals for those staying at Womack's house.

Others there were members of Womack's contracting crew and those playing in his band, "7th Day."

He enjoyed setting up large Gidget-style beach parties that featured a stage, deejays and bonfires, friends said.

Womack grew up surfing in Oxnard and was determined to raise his four children near the beach. The three youngest, 15-year-old Tessa and sons Isiah and Orion, both in their 20s, lived with him. They were unharmed. An adult daughter, Cory, lives in Ventura.

"Within his lifestyle and means, La Conchita was what he could do," Samojeden said. "He definitely was someone who lived every day like he could die tomorrow."