Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Little Earthquake (Mel Gibson, the Giants, Striking Out)

"I haven't figured out whether the graphic on the right is an old Richter Scale Readout or an EEG for the guy on the left"

Last night we were watching television when the house started shaking. The television stayed on, a good sign, and the creaking and shifting went on for about twenty seconds. My wife’s first instinct was to make us turn everything off. My first instinct was to channel surf to see how big and where the earthquake was. Our sixteen year old daughter’s reaction was “Wow, that was really cool.”

I figured the opportunity might not come along again soon, so I did take a second to go up to my wife and kiss her passionately so I could ask, "Dear, did the earth move for you too?"

My daughter gave me the worst look for saying it, but it was worth it.

It turned out that it was a relatively small earthquake, a 4.4 on the Richter Scale, and in the end, it was my friend Hagrid (he always seems to know these things) who said via phone“Mmmm….let me look it up on the U.S. Geological Survey website .” (it's always a shock for web addicts like myself that there are actual websites with serious information on them)

In about thirty seconds plus the twenty more seconds it took to translate Greenwich Mean Time back into American time (according to USGS the quake happened on August 3 not August 2, talk about a predictive model :}), we figured out that this was the quake that hit our living room and why he didn’t feel it at all some seventy miles due south of our living room. Apparently, some people in San Jose did feel some tremors, but we are talking about Hagrid here who's big enough that the earth moves anyway sometimes when he comes down for a rebound or from blocking at the net. After he read off a bunch of GPS coordinates, I managed to figure out the the epicenter of this quake was between ten and twenty miles from my house. A 4.0 is the equivalent of a thousand tons of explosives going off (think about Iraq there for a moment). Since the Richter is exponential not linear, a 4.4 is actually a lot bigger than a 4.0, but it’s still a relative baby as far as the news is concerned which explains why they didn’t interrupt the Friends reruns even with an info bar at the bottom of the screen to tell the world about it.

My first thought was that God didn’t like everyone making fun of Mel Gibson and was letting us know, but it occurred to me that if God really cared that much about Mel Gibson then he/she wouldn’t have let him hit aliens in Halloween costumes with baseball bats in M. Night Shyamalan movies. How does one go from Gallipoli and Year of Living Dangerously to channeling Father Coughlin so easily? A .12 blood alcohol level doesn’t really explain it. I did find out though that Mel Gibson is one of the hostages to be named later being demanded by Hezbollah. I was sort of squinting funny at one of the pre-beard Mel Gibson photos and it did occur to me that Mel could be made up pretty easily to play George W. Bush, maybe in the fourth installment of Mad Max which is after all a series about what the world will be like if you give W. everything he wants.

In the meantime, my wife was going “This might be a major disaster and you’re calling magical creatures on the phone and riffing on Mel Gibson?”

She was right, Hagrid and I should have been communicating by owl, but all the birds and dogs in our neighborhood were making a huge post-earthquake noise party. I know that there’s been a lot of talk about using animals as earthquake predictors. I have to say that in our neighborhood the technology was just a little bit off with the timing. In any case, Hagrid is a “Giant” and it struck me that the last time I felt an earthquake this big was in 1989 when the Giants were about to host their first World Series Game since Bobby Richardson’s outstretched glove in 1962. In 1989, the Giants not only got swept by the A’s, it was one of the worst routs in series history and the earthquake gave the only Bay Bridge Series in the two teams 40 years of co-existence in Northern California an unintended symbol in the cracking of the Bay Bridge.

It just happened that this little earthquake came in the midst of a Giants 9 game losing streak, though they did beat the Nationals yesterday afternoon. It’s clear to me though, if you really want to prevent earthquakes in Northern California, they need to give Brian Sabean a 200 million dollar payroll and some ability to recognize talent in baseball players who are younger than 34 or at least who weren’t playing in the majors during the 1989 season.

While I never want to be in a truly bad earthquake, I as a native Californian have come to love them in their way. They’re a regular reminder that nothing is permanent or completely predictable. Even hanging out with your family laughing at Friends reruns needs to be savored.


At 8/03/2006 11:20:00 AM, Blogger inkyhack said...

I was in Sacramento on the second floor of a large building when the Loma Prieta quake hit. I remember feeling dizzy for a few seconds and wondering if I was getting sick. I then learned of the quake about 30 minutes later.
Didn't feel your quake. Too far away.

At 8/03/2006 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

It is interesting, I do remember the physical sensations that happened with the various quakes I've "felt" during my life in California. One time in about 1979, I was walking down the street in Oakland and momentarily found myself moved from the inside of the sidewalk to the outside part of the sidewalk.
I knew what it was, but my mind/body still registered it as "This is really weird".

At 8/04/2006 10:50:00 AM, Blogger benny06 said...

Wow--glad you are alright!

At 8/05/2006 03:18:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Benny, thanks.

Unless you're right on top of it a 4.4 is not that big a deal....It's less dangerous than being in a car with Mel Gibson.

At 8/06/2006 01:41:00 PM, Blogger Hagrid said...

Speaking of earthquakes and Mel Gibson, I think redemption for Master Braveheart will come only when he leads (in blueface and on horseback) a couple of outnumbered Israeli divisions into battle against Hezbollah (Iran). Nothing less.

At 8/06/2006 07:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This quake passed me by, alas; I was on a treadmill at the gym and had to be told about it. The Loma Prieta would've been hard to miss in San Francisco. I dived under my desk and turned off all the equipment and, yes, it felt very disconnected and weird afterwards. But my favorite quake reaction was in 1979, also in SF. I'd just finished reading a story or poem to a writers' group when it hit, so I was already in an altered state. There never was any feedback on that piece other than, oh wow. We immediately ended the session and headed off down the street for a drink.

At 8/06/2006 10:32:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Would you be willing to lend Mel a Hippogriff? It would be exciting to see him in ChutzpahHeart2.

This is synchronicity at its most serendipitous. I just spent the day shopping for a used treadmill with my daughter, we bought one at almost the moment you posted here about being on a treadmill during the earthquake.


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