Thursday, August 25, 2011
Mother Nature's Beatdown
First an earthquake, followed this weekend by a hurricane? For heaven's sake!
To be honest, I enjoyed Tuesday's earthquake. After Loma Prieta in 1989, I swore I could live a long and happy life without ever experiencing another quake. That was so scary. But Tuesday, in the midst of the shaking, standing in the Sufi acupuncturist's office, I was smiling while everyone else looked a bit stricken. It was fun for me. I loved all the interaction among strangers that took place during the 24 hours after the quake.
What I forgot is that I live in the District of Unreinforced Masonry. I saw lots of external damage on houses here on the Hill yesterday, read about the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral. Yikes.
In San Francisco, every new building can rock and roll with the quakes. Davies Symphony Hall, where I worked, was built on rollers. The building literally rolled back and forth during earthquakes. Though structurally better for the whole building, the people who were still in the Hall when the quake struck said they were knocked off their feet.
At the center of the Transamerica Pyramid there's a pendulum thingie, some sort of super serious wire that's attached to the top of the building, with a heavy weight at ground level. When there's a quake, the pyramid is meant to sway back and forth; the pendulum keeps it from swinging too far. Can you imagine working on one of the top floors during a quake? Whoa.
One of my theories about why the cultural norm in San Francisco (and most of northern California) is a bit wacky comes from the fact that the land never holds still there. I'm curious to see whether Tuesday's earthquake will inspire a little more looseness among we tight lipped Washingtonians. It did for awhile.
Hurricanes are a different matter entirely. DC is a city full not only of unreinforced masonry, but lots and lots of trees. Big storms are frightening - the trees whip around, branches crack, trees crash into roofs, on top of cars. I baked a cake yesterday, and stocked up on groceries. Also bought some vodka. If there's going to be a hurricane, there will be martinis.
Life in Washington DC this week is crazy. Wish us well! Shalom.