Earthquake Weather

The San Francisco Chronicle, who's shelves are not exactly lined with Pulitzers, was a tad bit off. The final tally was more like 25.
The San Francisco Chronicle, whose shelves are not exactly lined with Pulitzers, was a tad bit off. The final toll was 63.

These warm Fall days always remind me of the Loma Prieta quake. With the World Series in town again those memories are reinforced.

For years San Francisco’s best kept secret was that its summer weather comes in September and October. The tourists have since caught on.  The Wal-Mart whales still show up in July in their tank tops and cut offs. A sight that never ceases to amuse in the 56 degree fog. But October is no longer our own private Idaho.

In 1989 I left work at 5:00 so I’d be home in time for the opening game anthem, probably the most inspiring of all the anthem genres. I walked out of 345 Californis, turned left and saw a cloud coming from the Fireman’s Fund building. I thought it was on fire so I crossed the street. In the middle of California I heard this horrid rumble beneath me. It was mortar dust, not smoke, coming from the brick building. We were having an earthquake.

I ran for cover under the metal canopy of a Wells Fargo ATM and stood with a dozen strangers waiting for it to end. I focused on the street lamp in front of me. It swayed endlessly like an upside down pendulum in a 20 degree arc. Then it stopped. We stood quietly for a few seconds. I took off up the hill.

When I got to the top at Stockton and Pine I turned back to survey the scene. For all the chaos it seemed so still.  There were no horns honking, no sirens. The traffic lights were out but cars were observing four-way stop etiqiuette. The Financial District was playing nice and cooperating, not its usual type A self.

I walked one more block and ran into a woman with a platinum helmet of hair. It was Ann Richards, the Texas State Treasurer. At the time she was best known for her keynote address at The Democratic Convention; a year later she would be elected Governor. It was just she and I alone on the corner of Pine and Powell. We looked at each other then moved on without saying a word.

When I got home my kitchen cabinet doors had swung open and anything on a south wall had fallen. Except for the lack of power, the rest of the apartment was as I left it.

Loma Prieta Ann. The quake rendered us both speechless.
Loma Prieta Ann. The quake rendered us both speechless.

I improvised a meal with my friends Jane and Walter from down the street. My gas stove seemed to be working so we risked another ham and eggs fire and grilled hot dogs. Unsure of the safety of tap water, we drank our stashes of beer.  It would have been a shame to lose those due to a lack of refrigeration. One national catastrophe a day was enough. The brews were supplemented with any other spirits we could find.

The next morning Union Square was a ghost town. There were no cell phones then, landline service was spotty, we pieced together by word of mouth what was going on with our friends. After 24 hours, unless you had heard someone was in trouble you assumed  everyone was okay. There wasn’t much to do but wait and wonder.

Two days later we did hear of a friend whose house was left on a slight 45 degree angle. It had just been condemned. Finally, there was something useful to do. David and I took his pick up and helped him move.

That night at 3 am I was awakened by a blaring television and the lights finally coming back on. It was over. Until the next time.

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The complete saga, From the Beginning

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Ar-magn-ac

A sea of Oriole orange reacts in unison. Not a person of color to be found. Baseball has become a portion of our nation's pasttime
A sea of Oriole orange reacts in unison. Not a person of color to be found. Baseball has become a portion of our nation’s pasttime

The City is abuzz with another World Series and it is fun to be here when that happens. I’ve been a baseball fan since Mazeroski’s home run broke my 10 year old heart. The national past time of my youth, however, probably doesn’t even beat out NASCAR these days. And Norman Rockwell images of little Johnny scrounging together $2 for bleacher seats have been replaced by ballparks filled with corporate expense accounts.

Today Johnny probably couldn’t afford the $82 seats, $50 parking, $19 crab cakes and $14 beers (if there is no pouilly fuisse to compliment the fish). And don’t forget the tiny container of flaccid garlic fries ($7). Those are regular season prices, who knows what they’re gouging fans for in the postseason.

I still enjoy the game though and will hang on every pitch in the Series. But because I cut the cable last spring I can’t watch it on TV (I was tired of paying $180 a month just for Fashion Police.) I will follow it on Yahoo Sports.

Yahoo’s primitive feed tells the story with minimal text and graphics. I like the moments when I hear the neighbors yell then ten seconds later I read what all the commotion was about. On the night they won the pennant I could tell from the noise on the street they’d done it. But it took almost 20 seconds before I read about Ishikawa’s walk off homer.

It’s made me realize that instant information really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It also reminds me of the ’85 season when they lost 100 games and I first became a Giants fan. Laid up with a bum ankle that summer, it was just the radio, the sparse play by play of Hank Greenwald, and my imagination.

Not having a TV or radio means I’ll miss the incessant analysis of Krick and Krup during the Series. It also means I can tune out the treacly human interest garbage that’s endemic in sports broadcasting.

The worst schmaltz offenders are the college announcers, like their pandering on the Penn State child molestation case. They are obsessed with the poor football players who are being penalized, “through no fault of their own,” because of the sanctions on their school. “No fault” other than that they chose a corrupt program that had been under suspicion for years.

They want us to feel bad for this bunch of late teen frat boys having the time of their life boozing and fornicating on campus. Sadly, they are being denied the opportunity to play a game. No mention on how we’re supposed to feel for the group of pubescent boys sexually molested by a member of the coaching staff. They carry a lifetime of emotional scars because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and ABC Sports looked the other way in support of a winning program and higher ratings.

When one of Bob Knight’s players was praising Jesus after a big win, proclaiming it God’s will, the Coach observed, “then God must have wanted the other team to lose.” If we were to adapt Knight’s thinking there is probably another side to the inspirational death interview that is a mainstay of sports programming.

“So your Dad recently died, how has that affected you?”

“Hasn’t really. He was a nasty drunk. Abusive to my Mom and us kids. Shot my dog on Christmas once.”

“Really? What’d he die of?”

The best sports cover ever
The best sports cover ever

“Cirrhosis. It was a slow, agonizing death. We watched him writhe in pain those final months. The screaming and obnoxious demands. Could barely stand to be around the jerk. We were all kind of relieved when it was over.”

“So no parting words from him, nothing inspiring to take away from it?”

“Not really.”

“Wow. Sounds like a pretty selfish guy, thinking only of himself.”


“Looks like your record number of interceptions and poor performance this season can be attributed to your Dad’s cowardly death.”

“Only thing I can think of.”

“Hang in there, maybe someone you’re closer to will kick soon and get you back on track.”

“Hope so.”

Next: Sliding Through My Hands
Previous: Centerfold
The complete saga, From the Beginning