Thursday, November 1, 2007


I hope you all had a chilling All Hallow's Eve! It was a fun day for me and certainly is a favorite holiday. I love the tangible magic in the air and the wonder and delight of all the children. Celebrating the eve as a liminal night when the dead return is such a thrilling, life-affirming ritual that it really is a shame we only make an allowance for it once a year.

The pictures are of our jack o' lanterns. The first (from left to right) is my sister's rendition of Lord Voldemort, the middle is my carving of some smug guy, and the last is my brother's redneck vampire. I think his is the best. The next picture is of the caramel apples my mom made. They were delicious though she constantly lamented that "they look like a moron made them!" Next is a terrible picture of my sister and I. She was a poor sod who got run over and I was uh... well... I'm not quite sure. I did the make-up for a Vampire but then I couldn't get the teeth to stick and the gown I was looking for seems to have disappeared. So I threw on the Renaissance outfit that my neighbor made for me 2 years back in her bribe to get me to go to the Renaissance Faire with her. So I guess I was some sort of dead Renaissance Faire reveler. Or something. I don't know. I was really off my game this year. I usually have a costume in far advance for this wonderful holiday. I'll have to tell the funny story about last Halloween in my next post. This one is dedicated to the spooky events of October 30th:

I always find it hard to pay attention in my second night class on Tuesday evenings. It runs from 7-9:45 and I have an hour commute so it's kind of a big deal. And we don't always get a lot done in that class - most of the work is done at home. Last class our professor encouraged us all to bring our laptops so I brought mine. My sister was stuck at home, on the other side of the mountain range, with my mom's book club. I couldn't let her bear that alone so I covertly signed onto messenger and started instant messaging her while my professor gave an example of what a paper presentation at a conference is like.

Alex was hiding in her room as the book club ate our Halloween cookies. I told her to steal some for me but she couldn't - the women wouldn't leave the cookies! Every once in a while she snuck down the hallway and took covert photographs of the goings ons and sent them to me along with her spy report. It was all fun and games and much more interesting than the paper my professor was presenting. He was going off about Tor House - the house made of rocks that the poet Robinson Jeffers had built by hand along the coast in Carmel. I honestly was half-paying attention but there's only so much you can take. But my professor's discussion of Jeffers' expression of the sublime in his poetry was suddenly enhanced as a deep rumbling snapped the air.

I had been 6 years old for almost 2 weeks when what is known as the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 struck. People in other parts of the country don't seem to realize that it was actually centered in the Santa Cruz Mountains (which rose during the quake). I was playing hide and go seek with my older brother and had just crawled behind a footrest leaning against the wall to hide when I felt the 7.0 quake. My mom turned into a bear and yanked the footrest off of me and had me run outside while she grabbed my baby brother. The windows flopped to and fro in their frames like a bubble being blown on a wand. I still can't watch Titanic without hearing the groans of the sinking ship and breaking dishes and thinking of the sounds of that earthquake. I sat outside with my older brother watching and listening to our house falling apart. I'd never been in such a large quake before (and haven't since) and, dinosaur nut that I was, assumed the worst. "This isn't an earthquake - it's a giant volcano coming up out of the ground and it's gonna blow up and we're all gonna die like the dinosaurs!" 2 years my senior, my brother comforted me with a panicked, "I know!" Luckily, it wasn't a giant volcano and we only lost almost all of our glassware and our chimney. The aftershocks were terrifying and we didn't know when they'd stop. People died. Buildings burned. The water and electricity didn't work. We couldn't go back into our house for a while. But my loved ones all made it through okay. Needless to say, I was a traumatized toot and made my dad stay in my room with me until I fell asleep for months afterwards. Well-into my teenaged years I would get an adrenaline rush whenever I heard a rumbling sound that sounded like an earthquake. I like to think I developed a sixth sense (for once in sixth grade I randomly stood up in fear in the middle of watching a video and just as a kid started to yell at me to sit back down, an earthquake struck) but more honestly, I was just scared.

Even now when I'm an old lady I often look out the window when a loud plane flies by when I'm in class (the planes are a lot lower and louder in the city). I admit that after September 11th I'm more afraid of the planes crashing into buildings, but still. I've had to learn to filter out the scary sounds. So I was kicking myself when the scary sound actually was an earthquake on Tuesday.

The classroom is a rectangle with windows lining one side. We sit at long tables arranged in a rectangle - we're trapped and cramped in a small box. When the quake hit, students were suddenly leaping out of their chairs. I did, as well, with a mind to run to the door, but as soon as I saw my classmates diving under the tables I did the same. But first I slammed my laptop shut with the bizarre, misguided notion that by doing such I was somehow protecting my little sister (with whom I'd been chatting) and a piece of equipment that my parents had spent a lot of money on (I actually have a pretty cheap laptop that I got on sale for about $600 a few years back but my parents surprised me by paying for it since I tend to be a Hermione in school). This is the same kind of thinking that made me always want to grab my lunchbox before we evacuated a building in elementary school during fire drills. My lunchbox? I've never cared that much about food, but I think what I cared about was the fact that my mother had made the food. What can I say? I'm a mommy's / daddy's girl.

I dove under the table and was on my hands and knees, feeling the floor beneath me pulsating like liquid - like waves in the sea. It really is beautiful despite the danger. I was paranoid about the windows right next to me. It was a 5.6 and was centered just a few miles from my university. Thus far there have been no reports of damage. Thank the gods we have good building codes. It lasted a good 30 seconds. My professor kept saying, "I think we're in the safest building on campus..." as we all waited it out. When it got quiet I looked across at him and said, "Well - I'm glad we're not in a rock house." Maybe you had to have been there but it was a funny moment. Though not quite as funny as the flash that suddenly went off while the ground was still shaking. My classmate Anthony (who took the lovely pictures at the MFA BBQ) had whipped out his camera and was photographing us under the tables! What a true journalist. He later asked if he could send one of me and the girl next to me to the school newspaper. Bless her - the girl next to me was from Serbia and this was her first earthquake. She was literally shaking for minutes afterwards. Another woman in the class is from Mississippi and after she announced that that was her first quake (for some reason we all applauded for her) she declared, "You Californians are crazy!" No argument there. But I'll take earthquakes over tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, snowstorms, and all those other scary things any day.

If/when I get the picture of us under the table I'll put it up for your amusement. My poor sister thought I had died in a building collapse because my laptop went insane for a while after the quake ("You survived the earthquake but your laptop did not!" the girl beside me joked) and it took me a bit to get back online to reassure her. Poor Alex. She isn't used to earthquakes. When it hit she thought it was the book club all running around the house. I love the way her mind works.

We ended class early (45 minutes later...) only to discover that we were supposed to have evacuated the building! They really should make that alarm louder. My ride texted me that she was leaving without me and my bus buddy ditched me for someone else (though he often reminds me of a sweet version of McKay so given McKay's reactions to earthquakes I guess that's not surprising...) so I wandered to the bus stop on my own. When I looked away from the flashing lights in the 8 story library (telling everyone to get out) I looked down to the bus stop bench only to notice a photograph of Fidel Castro. Talk about bizarre.

I made it home safe and sound and alive enough to type my tale. I certainly found it amusing and hope you do, too.

Last night I escorted my sister trick-or-treating. The benefit of having a sister 8 years younger than you is that you can really mold them as they're growing up (though I think Alex has even surpassed me with her insanity) and I have a vague excuse for my arrested development. Yes. This year was the first that I haven't gone trick-or-treating (to be fair, last year I was gathering candy for a young friend who'd just been in a car accident and was in the hospital) and gotten candy. I guess that's an upside to people thinking I look young (I in no way agree with this - I think I look my age or older) and hanging out with a younger kid. Though I did make her promise beforehand to give me a box of Nerds if she happened to get two. She did.

1 comment:

Atlantis Jackson said...

How funny is that? Not the earthquake, but everything else :)
So funny that you were protecting your sister by closing your laptop! Priceless!
And she thought the bookclub was running around. My gosh I about died laughing when I read that part and I didn't even finish the sentence before I started laughing. My nephew came into the room and asked if I was alright. I nodded and wiped the tears from my face :) although that's probably something I would have thought too :)
You know, once when I was little, I think I was 9 maybe. My dad said we felt an earthquake... but to me it just felt like my brother jumping off the bed again... only with out the noise.
Tornados are what I have to deal with... several a year. Talk about scary!
Hope you get a picture of you under the table, I'm interested :) hehe