We had a pretty good sized earthquake here last night. After living in California for ten years, this is only the third one I've actually been aware of as it happened, although many have occurred as I obliviously went about my business. If the quake happens at night I invariably sleep through it, and if it's during the day and I don't see any buildings toppling, I just mistake it for my usual disequilibrium. Nonetheless, although I'm no connoisseur, I think I'm qualified to offer a couple observations.
First off, for anyone back East who thinks California is scary because of our tectonic tendencies, earthquakes ain't shit compared to hurricanes or blizzards or ice storms. While temblors are dramatic for a couple of seconds, you don't usually lose power for days on end or skid off the road or have roofs blow off and trees fall on your car.
But I can't deny that quakes are pretty exciting for that fleeting moment. The first one I felt was when we were up in the Bay Area. We lived in a three hundred square foot cottage on a yuppie commune we had founded (more on that another day), and my wife and I were lying in bed reading, under the awning formed by the system of shelves I had built right above our heads to hold a couple hundred pounds of clothing. But the stability of the shelves was not my first concern. "Earthquake" had not occurred to me as an explanation for why our little house had just heaved upward and come crashing back down accompanied by a sound like thunder.
No, I was pretty sure a winged monster had pounced on our roof and shaken the house to its foundation. We had just seen the movie "X-Men," and I had mutants on my mind. My first impulse (after emitting a grunt-y caveman scream) was to use my body to shelter my wife from falling debris and gargoyle claws. Neither of which materialized. Later, I would be very impressed with myself for being so chivalrous.
By the time we figured out it was an earthquake, it was over. It had been a four-point-something, and the epicenter was about a mile from our house, in the old county graveyard where I used to walk the dog and read inscriptions on the headstones, several of which included the affix "C.S.A." When I learned the details about the quake, I pictured partially decomposed Confederate soldiers-turned-prospectors-turned-vintners shambling around the neighborhood, angry at having been awakened from their slumber by the earthquake.
The quake last night had a different feel than the big one we had up north. Last night's was a much smoother affair that made the house roll from side to side like a canoe in the wake of a distant ship. Again, it took a while to figure out what was happening, and by the time my wife and I said the word "earthquake," it was all but over. There was no time to discuss whether it was better to get under a door frame, like they used to tell you (and which, being a carpenter, I always thought made no sense whatsoever); or arrange some furniture to make a sloped overhead shelter or some such impractical nonsense they recommend now; or to run out into the street like every fiber in your being tells you to do.
In any case, it was good to see that our house held together. Half of the house was built in 1910, using single-wall construction and a post-and-pier foundation. In layman's terms, it's a shack. Both my wife and I have had ominous dreams about the shack--in her dream it broke in half, and in mine it tipped over on its side. The other half of the house was built by me over the past year, per local building codes, with all kinds of California-specific seismic design considerations. My wife and I were in the old part, and it swayed and flexed with the undulating earth. I wish I could have been both places at once, to gauge the differences in the way the two part of the house reacted. I imagine that the new section just shifted and grunted a bit as the old shack section nimbly absorbed the waves like a Shinto temple. But I'm glad the kids are sleeping in the part that's built to code.
A while ago, I posted some random videos that included me playing guitar while trying to keep my kids from having tantrums or falling off of the bed. A number of readers asked me to post more guitar videos. That number was one.
So I put together what I humbly consider one of the best renditions of Villa Lobos's "Prelude #1" ever recorded on a 100 dollar out-of-tune guitar in a shower with babies beating on plastic tubs.
This is for you, Steamy (whose classy blog I link here only out of deference since anyone with any taste follows it already. [Mom--don't click on that link]):*
*That's not an emoticon--just a lot of punctuation.