Tuesday, July 29, 2008

strange days

This morning, I survived my first earthquake. It was almost over before I realized what it was....I guess I'm just not hardwired to think "earthquake!" when I hear strange grinding noises or feel a shimmy around me.

I was at the museum for a meeting, and we were in the galleries (at MOCA, these are at least partially underground). The rushing, gravelly sound made me think of the beginning of a hot & bothered summertime thunderstorm back home, when the rain starts hard and sudden out of a black sky. Or maybe the flushing of a giant toilet in a second-storey bathroom in an older house, water whooshing through the pipes. But outside the glass doors of the museum lobby, I could see the streetlights and buildings swaying, and the folks around me knew what to do. We stood in a gallery doorway until security had us move to the official gathering spot in the basement.

Turns out a relatively-new art museum is a pretty good place to be during a quake. It's built like a bunker, reinforced to hold up the artworks as well as to withstand the elements. And I learned that many of the newer high-rise buildings in downtown LA are built on a rolling mechanism, so they ride on the earth like huge boats. M, who works in one of these high-rises down the street, said it felt like being in a Chicago skyscraper on a windy winter day. So no biggie. An hour later, we were all back to work or out to lunch.

But the air vibrated with....strangeness. Downtown workers were out, on the street, talking on the phone, eating take-out, smoking, drinking coffee, and talking on the phone. They were taking it easy, like a Friday afternoon, but in a vigorous, amped-up way. It reminded me of snow days during high school, when we all scrambled to get home before the storm began. A free-for-all, an excuse to be frenzied or giddy, to step outside your normal behavior and do something a little bit uncharacteristic. I noticed this on my drive home as well. Folks walking in the middle of the street, folks who look like their faces don't normally feel the noon-time sun; the coconut juice man's upside down sign; cars running red lights, making left-hand turns into on-coming traffic. We are shaken awake, made a bit bold and crazy.

I was happy to get home and shut the door.

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