"At nine in the morning, I knew all was not well," recalls Detroit transplant Lonnie Goldberg of the 2003 wildfires. He lived in Tierrasanta at the time.
"The air was acrid. It looked like we were right next to a nuclear power plant.... I went out to the deck and saw 50-foot flames 500 yards away. I grabbed the dog and a duffel bag.... Based on the watches we recovered after the fire, we could tell the place went two hours after we left. When I came back, the place was like a sunken ship. There was two feet of debris."
Goldberg's insurance company paid him for the loss of personal items, but they couldn't replace his record collection.
"I'm 39. I've been collecting since I was 15." Goldberg says half of his 300 disc collection (which was mostly vinyl) "melted like candle wax"; the rest were unplayable due to heat, smoke, and water damage. His collection included Led Zeppelin, Doors, and White Stripes concerts, and "the Rolling Stones at the Sports Arena in 1969."
Since the loss, Goldberg has replaced every recording he lost in the fire and resumed collecting bootlegged concerts. This time, though, they're digital files on his computer. He downloads the concerts -- free of charge -- from websites such as dimeadozen.org and thetradersden.org.
"[The websites have] saved me thousands of dollars," says Goldberg. Though such sites are free, "They will boot your ass if you take more than you give.... I don't like that word 'bootleg' because it implies people are profiteering from music recorded at live shows, But these websites specifically say to not sell these [downloads] for profit."
Goldberg says he has taped about 12 concerts, including the Rolling Stones at Petco Park last November. He has never been caught.
"You have to make certain sacrifices. You can't drink because you can't break to go to the restroom. You can't clap, and you have to stay away from people who yell, away from college guys."
Goldberg uses two dime-sized microphones he clips onto a black shirt; the recording device he smuggles in his pants.