The Definition of Mandatory

LA is on fire.

It started in Ventura County. But, 60 miles away, the hills of La Canada were on fire too. As of yesterday morning at 4:45 am, the hills of Bel-Air were on fire too. The infamous 405 freeway was closed. Fire threatened homes on both sides of the freeway... including the Getty Museum.

My husband is in LA this week. Thankfully he is safe. First thing yesterday morning, he called to tell me that my brother, whose home was in Bel-Air, is under “mandatory" evacuation. But, apparently, he was not evacuating. I immediately hung up the phone and called my brother.

He said, “Helllooo,” in a rather comical and ironic voice. I didn’t bother with any salutations. I simply said, “When you graduated from your prestigious college Magna Cum Laude, did they forget to teach you the definition of MANDATORY?”

He started laughing. (Clearly, the smoke inhalation and ash must have gotten to his brain).

I said, “Are you kidding me? You are in the MANDATORY evacuation zone. What are you waiting for?”

Let me back up here. My brother lives in a magnificent Bel-Air mansion. It looks like a 1920s French Normandy castle. It is filled with antiques from around the world and beautiful artwork. He has lived in this house for over 20 years and it is more of a museum than a cozy cottage. It’s the kind of house an eccentric old film star would live in. He treasures this home, his art and his collectibles.

He, also, has two adorable dogs and two cats. He used to have more cats, possibly four others, but they have since passed away. Although, the house is so big that I frequently accuse him of not knowing how many cats he has. They just might be lost somewhere in the house.  

I was very nervous about him, and his animals, getting to safety. But let me continue with the conversation...

He said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got the car all packed and can go at a moment’s notice.”  

I feel a small sense of relief. I said, “Oh good. The dogs are in the car and the cats are in their carriers?”  

“No." (Apparently, the dogs would be unhappy to sit in the car and he can’t find the carriers for the cats.)

"Okay, then at least you’ve packed a small suitcase with essentials, pet food, important papers and your computer?"


"You only have a two-seat sports car. What exactly is all packed up and ready to go?”

He said, “My silverware and a few other items.”

By this time, I had lost my mind. I kept saying, “MANDATORY. That does not mean at your discretion. Or a mild suggestion. Or something you might want to think about later. Mandatory. I am sure it was your on your SAT exam when you got into college. I’m fairly sure they must have used that word when you were in Law School. Mandatory. It means get the f*ck out."

But he wasn’t budging. He said that he could see the flames and they were “far enough away.” The LA County fire department had only called three times to remind him to leave, but he thought it was a good sign that no one had called in the last 45 minutes.

My dear brother has just gone from “eccentric” to “crazy."

Since he didn’t seem interested in the emergency services warnings… nor was he listening to my fifteen definitions of the word “mandatory," I tried a different tactic. I asked my brother after he dies tragically (and stupidly) in this fire, who would he like to play him in the movie about his life?

He didn’t miss a beat. “Jake Gyllenhaal.”  

My other brother, who had called in to join the last fifteen minutes of this phone call,  said, “Oh please. You’re old enough to be his grandfather.” (By the way, this is not true, but he is old enough to be his father though.  He was not pleased to be reminded of this.)

But after all of this banter, the winds did die down, and imminent danger seems to be averted for the time being. My brother, his animals, his priceless antiques, and his artwork are all safe for now.

And, upon further reflection, he decided that Catherine O’Hara would provide a more humorous portrayal of him.