Shake, Rattle, and Roll
Pass the Paranoia


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October 16, 1999

My word...I had no idea it had been so long since my last update. Did you miss me?

Well, the earth moved for me last night. Me and half of Southern California, apparently. At around 3:00 a.m. Just as I'd finally drifted off to slumberland. (As you can see, still having trouble falling asleep.)

Man, I hate earthquakes.

I moved to California when I was 16. Just in time for my senior year of high school. It was 1976. There had been a big quake in 74 and people were still talking about it. Much like how people still talk about the Northridge quake these days.

My best friend, Jayne told me how her pool turned into a miniature tsunami. There were 6 foot waves from it slamming into her patio.

I couldn't imagine it.

Then, in 1977 I moved to New Mexico to go to college. When my friends found out I was from L.A. all they wanted to know is if I'd ever been in an earthquake. No. I hadn't. Big drop in cachet. They all thought it would be cool. I hadn't done it. Clearly, I wasn't that cool.

I probably lived in LA for 10 years before I ever felt an earthquake. We'd have little ones, periodically, but I'd either be in the car (you can't feel them when you're on the freeway, unless this happens to the road in front of you), or just, for whatever reason, completely missed them.

Finally I felt a few small ones. About 3 point temblors. No biggie. House shakes for a few seconds and then it's all over.

Wow! Is this what all the fuss is all about? No. Big. Deal.

I was living in Spain in 89 when the big quake hit the Bay Area. That's when I learned the Spanish word for earthquake--teremoto (I hope spelling does not count), literally, earth moving. It looked terrible. What was worse was trying to understand the news. My Spanish was terrible, but in Cadaques, where I lived, the primary language was Catalan--might as well have been Sanskrit--not a clue about what was going on. But I saw the pictures. It was terrible.

I'm sure I'd seen other pictures of big quakes before but this is when the whole thing really started sinking in.

Fast forward a few years to July 1993. I buy a house. My insurance agent is over and we're talking about coverage. Do you want earthquake insurance? It's only $81.00. This is for super deluxe coverage. Code improvements, all structures covered, including the pool, blah, blah, blah. Sure. For $81.00 I'm a sport.

Wake up at 4:00 on the morning of January 17. My house is moving around me. Chuck is standing in the doorway of the bedroom yelling at me to join in. I can't even get out of bed. I'm paralyzed with fear and the bed is shaking so violently, a la The Exorcist. I can't move. I hear things crashing around the house. Car alarms going off. Sirens. Dogs barking. Crashing noises. I was scared. Very scared.

The house and ground stopped moving. I put clothes on. I grab my purse, a carton of cigarettes, my cellular phone, and go out front. Everyone on my street it outside. No one appears to be hurt. Make a few phone calls. Most of my family seems to be OK. #1 felt a little shake and went back to sleep. #2 was out in front of her apartment having post-quake cocktails with her neighbors. I can't reach my dad. No answer. I start freaking out.

Chuck had the good sense to corral our pets. We had three then--two cats, Boris and Natasha, and Bill, our dog. He put Bill and Boris in his car. Natasha was nowhere to be found.

Day breaks and we all go back into our homes to start surveying the damage. Chuck went off to check on my dad. He had woken up briefly, saw all was OK and had gone back to sleep. He had turned the ringers off on his phone the night before (as always) so he was oblivious to my frantic phone calls. He was fine.

Back at my house: oy. The entire contents of the bookshelves in the den were strewn across the room. In case you're wondering: in a 6.7 earthquake, compact discs can be considered deadly projectiles.

The entire contents of my kitchen cabinets and refrigerator were on the floor.

Every bottle, jar, and container in the bathroom had fallen, broken, and commingled with what had once been next to it.

My backyard was drenched. The pool was down about 1 1/2 feet. In one of the subsequent aftershocks I saw what Jayne had been talking about all those years ago. Hang ten.

All that, and one of my cats was missing. Natasha. It would be three, tearful days before she returned. It turned out she'd been under the house from the minute the earth started moving.

I called my insurance agent. I called FEMA. The cleanup started.

While cleaning up the mess that was formerly known as my den I found a roach at the back of one of the shelves. (Not the many-legged variety, the THC variety.) It seemed as good a time as any to start smoking pot again. I went out to my back patio, sat down, lit up. I figured it was just the thing to soothe my shattered nerves.


Can you say paranoia? I started freaking out. Chuck was at a friends place helping him. His place had been red-tagged (unsafe), and he had about 30 minutes to get all his earthly possessions out of there. I was home alone. We were having aftershocks like every 15 minutes. Big ones. At least 4 point aftershocks. I was afraid to be outside. I was afraid to be inside. My dad had called to check on me. I was losing it. I called #1 to tell her I was too high to function. She saw some humor in it. At that point I swore off smoking pot for the rest of my life.

We finally got the house cleaned up.

We got a little money from FEMA.

We got almost a new house from Allstate. New chimney. New roof. Whole house painted--inside and out. New carpet. New hardwood floors. New fixture for the dining room. New tile in the kitchen. Plus a substantial settlement for the lost personal property.

As a result of the 94 Northridge earthquake, the insurance industry says it lost billions of dollars. In my humble opinion I think they were just pissed off for finally having to ante up after years and years of collecting premiums. No one was writing policies anymore.

The State took over. Now to get earthquake insurance you go through a state program. The full premium amount is payable in advance. If I wanted coverage for this house it was going to cost in the neighborhood of $1000. And, virtually nothing was going to be covered under this state-controlled policy. So, I opted out.

When the house started moving this morning I started freaking. No bang and shaking. This morning's quake was more like being on a ship at sea. Gentle rolling feelings. But it lasted a long time. It felt like forever.

Zoe's bedroom is across the house from our bedroom. There is a bookshelf about 3 feet from her bed. I had visions of the CD's in the den and could only see my baby being crushed by a copy of Charlotte's Web.

This is something Chuck and I have talked about. How far her bedroom is from ours.

While either of us would run through a burning house to get to her it's not something you ever think will happen to you. It was happening.

Zoe slept through it.

I was naked. In the doorway of my bedroom. Sanford and Son was on the TV. I could hear the pots rattling in the kitchen. Dogs were barking. Alarms were ringing. My husband and daughter were on the other side of the house. The house was moving. I was afraid. Very afraid. Northridge is too fresh in my mind. And now I have no insurance coverage.

I turned on the radio to get some news. My hands were shaking so much I kept inadvertently turning the radio off. I was cold and shivering. The bozo's on the radio had no more information than I did. "Yes, I felt it in West Hollywood, Jim. A glass fell off the counter." "It woke me up." "Yes, it has to be Northridge again."

I lay awake worrying and paranoid. I finally turned the TV and the radio off. I was waiting. What was going to happen next?

Nothing is seems.

So, there was a 7.0 earthquake centered in Joshua Tree early this morning. My house moved but seems to have come out fine. My family is fine.

I'm going to go and check on my battery supply right now.

Until next time. . .