S-s-s-something From The Emailings - October 17, 2009


My A-B-C-D oriented mind FRIGGIN HATES the insanely unpredictable and seemingly unplanned way all of your various internet rants, personas, and projects are intermingled with no sense of order.

Half the time I am clicking on something on your Blog and I am like "Where the fuck am I now?" I need a stupidly simply front end menu or something. It's like your Blog is one big inside joke or like I showed up at the point at the party where everyone is already erupting in laughter and I am looking around sheepishly confused not knowing whether or not I should laugh as I wasn't around to hear the original joke.


Dear Philzy,

Good point, Philzy. A beautiful brown snow. Right! OK, here's what I remember: Loma Prieta. October 17, 1989. 5:07 p.m. Twenty years ago today.

October was the beginning of my third year of actually living in Santa Cruz. I had been going "over the hill" since early 1986 (girlfriend) but had settled-in as a local by this point. Where I was was like, literally, five miles from the epicenter of this thing.

One of my first year graduate seminars began at 4:30; a Tuesday and Thursday deal. You know the scene: you show up, say some oddly formal and weirdly academic mumbo-jumbo while your cohort of six of the “best and the brightest” nod in agreement. Drop a “vis-à-vis” and a “context of the situation” into the mumbo-jumbo and you’re golden for a 6:45 dinner.

It was hot, even for October. Still. Quiet. Dry. It’s actually called “Earthquake Weather” in California even though there is no correlation between weather and earthquakes that I know of. In our tiny discussion group, I was leading a talk on group behavior. I was up in the front of the class making shit up about how individuals impact groups and how groups shape individuals when we all heard this groan. It came from the south, I recall that I stopped talking and we all looked to my left as the crescendo of the groan became a vibration. Then a rumble. Then a shake. Then a fucking roller coaster!

We just stood there. For a while. But when the covers to the florescent lights at Stevenson College began falling around us people started crawling under the conference table--group behavior, right? Except for me. I just stood there. Our professor, Tom Pettigrew, and my housemate Michael literally jostled for the safety of the door frame; pulling each other out of the way for their personal safety. It was like the Two Stooges. There was screaming.

Except for me. I just stood there.

It wasn’t panic that froze me during the violent shaking, glass breaking, shit falling all around us, and people screaming. I was actually amused by the sight of my peers cowering under a table and Michael fighting a geriatric for the door. Besides I was cool then...still fearless…until it began to feel as if the shaking was never going to stop. I remember thinking; maybe this is the fabled Big One where California falls into the ocean. Finally.

So about 40 seconds into it—time that and you’ll understand—even I headed for the table. Of course when it finally stopped I resumed my place in the front of the room and asked, flippantly, “any questions?” You know, as if nothing had happened.

One of my fellow geniuses was a young mom. I can appreciate her panic now that I have a young child. But 20 years ago, I just thought she was chickenshit. But now that would be me tearing out of there to go find my kids. The rest of us were uncertain what to do. We just kind of stood there looking at each other. It was our fearless professor from Virgina who declared, “let’s get the hell outta here!” And we left.

As we walked out of the building there were still people huddled under tables. Faculty offices were littered with books that fell from shelves. There was glass and debris to walk over. Planters and water coolers to hurtle. Outside, there was broken glass from the Stevenson dining hall. But most beautiful was about an inch of redwood duff; the school is in the forest. It was like a beautiful brown snow.

Sure there are a million things I remember from Loma Prieta--both obvious to nuance (just ask sometime)--but I'll always first remember that beautiful brown snow.

Thanks for the reminder, Philzy!

From your pal,