I do interrupt my work tonight to watch President Obama’s disappointing speech. He is very funny and his humor timing and wry delivery rather impeccable, but the rhetoric didn’t touch me and I found myself able to fill out postcards at the same time, sitting on a bare wooden rocking chair that is in the room where the TV is. I wrap things up in the house and return to the TV room at midnight just to catch a few minutes of news, sitting on that wooden chair, when suddenly the whole house jolts up and down three times in a row, nearly dumping me on the floor.
Instantly, I have an old testament image of the giant hand of god (looking kinda like the Jolly Green Giant from ads of old) reaching down to encompass from the top the roof and sides of this house, picking it up, like a Monopoly house, and banging it down three times in a row. I am flabbergasted, discombobulated, and start to run up and down the long halls turning on lights and trying to make sense. I am comforted to hear dogs barking, because they weren’t before, so at least I know I’m not the only nutter on the block.
It must take me 30 seconds before I realize: Earthquake! Is it? I turn on the radio in the kitchen but its BBC news. My computer is already shut down and at its advanced age takes a quarter of an hour to boot, so I try to look it up on Tracy’s computer but it says that there is no internet connection. I remember that I bought my first smart phone a few days before coming here and I turn that on. I google “los angeles earthquake” and from the multitudinous results realize that I have to get more specific with the date. My fresh results show that there have been several small earthquakes here since I’ve been here, unremarked by me, and then finally I find a one-paragraph ABC local news story noting an earthquake at 3.5 on the Richter scale just minutes ago – no damage, no injuries.
I drink some tea, I pace, and then I try to go to bed, but the adrenaline of my fight or flight reaction is not going to easily dissipate. I take up the manuscript of my friend Schweid’s novel and am still reading with continuing high heartbeat at 3:00am when the ceiling fan, which I have set on low, suddenly switches into such a high whirling speed that I fumble for the remote and shut it off, lest it break free and take off around the room. I am bothered too by the intermittent passing of a vehicle – either a helicopter cruising along the street or a street-cleaning piece of heavy equipment or perhaps a tank invasion.
I snooze a couple of hours and then give up at 7:30am. Meanwhile, Tracy, in response to a text I send her during the night, emails me earthquake instructions, flashlight locations and the sense that, like blizzards in Vermont, this really is just a part of the California life.