Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan
Clock Tower, Paso Robles: Before Earthquake

Before Earthquake

About seven years ago we were parked in an RV at Pismo Beach when a 6.6 earthquake struck the area, centered very close to San Simeon, about 60 miles north of us. The RV shook and we got outside and watched the trees swaying back and forth. There was a crack in the road 100 yards away from us with a gap of about 6 inches, and all the stock in the little liquor store down the street was on the floor, broken and stinking. To the north at Paso Robles a building collapsed and killed two women. We were about 5 feet above the high tide level so we jumped in the car with our laptops and headed for higher ground, worried about a tsunami. Didn’t happen.

Two days ago we went to visit the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, where you can ride on old LA streetcars and antique trains. After that we decided to try our luck at the Pechanga Indian casino in Temecula, which is about halfway between LA and San Diego on the inland route. (We lost $60 at video poker, which is about our limit.) We pulled out of the parking structure and were waiting at a red light when the car began to rock gently. No big thing. We thought it might be the wind at first, as it was a windy day. We drove on, and a few miles down the road we were stopped again and a homeless guy came down the line holding out a Starbucks cup and a sign (ANYTHING HELPS GOD BLESS). “Did you feel that quake?” he asked. I’m pretty sure that if we’d been moving in the car when it hit, we wouldn’t have felt a thing.

You know, it’s hard to find much radio news these days, at least where we were. There used to be 24/7 news stations on AM. We couldn’t find anything until we got to K-EARTH 101 oldies (well, ‘60s are oldies now, aren’t we?) The DJ came on between “Wild Thing” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and said there had been a very large earthquake, 6.9, centered near Mexicali. That was about 100 miles southeast of Temecula. And that was about all we learned until we got home, 200 miles from the quake. Later, they revised it up to 7.2, which is very large.

They said people felt it in LA, and yesterday at the Grand Central Market downtown the man who sold us hot dogs said the light fixtures swayed. He also said he wished he was back in Boston. I’ve observed that some people have a real horror of earthquakes. Many of them don’t even like to visit California for that reason. (Did you know that the biggest quake non-Indians have ever experienced in North America was in … Missouri? It’s a fact.)

When we got home there wasn’t even the slightest evidence of a shake, such as books leaning over on shelves or drawers slightly open. I resolved once more to tie the big flat-screen TV to the wall, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m one of those who isn’t much bothered by earthquakes. Maybe I’ll revise my opinion if a big one hits near me, but so far, I hardly think about them. I’ve been in two hurricanes and I’d much rather be in a quake. It’s over in less than a minute and there’s no traffic jams trying to get out.

April 8, 2010
Hollywood, CA