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Archive for November, 2009

–For Sandy Lydon

You want a sunrise? asks the poet,
I’ll give you a sunrise. Eggplant cirrus clouds,
pinky smoky blue and gray,
pink, moss pink, pink nether flower
sunrise, sunrise
yellow white silicon chip
foghorn, windchime, no-color haze.

Sunrise sunrise
O City of Mystical Arts and Live Soup,
Antique bathhouse, casino
Riva Fish House,

A bus-load of German tourists
applauding (applaudieren!)
the sunrise.
Clam chowder, O scrubbed blue light
melon balls and watermelon shooters,
arcade, pink neon, roller coaster heart-shaped mirror.

KA-BOOM! House begins to dance,
land moves in waves three and four feet high,
weight machines swaying, mirrors rattling,
a sidewalk of broken glass,
a street filled with jewels.
Loma Prieta, The Earthquake of the Dark Hill,
place, this place, always coming back from a disaster.
Natural beauty and unnatural events,
jazz, blues, canoes, tattoos,
I bow and give thanks to the muse,
Santa Cruz, O Santa Cruz!

Robert Sward

With thanks to Santa Cruz Weekly, where “Ode to Santa Cruz” first appeared.

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Presented below is an epilogue for the Loma Prieta “Earthquake Collage” written by Robert Sward, a poet and novelist, from his work with students and faculty and staff at Cabrillo College. At the end, Mr. Sward provides information on his sources, a biography, and information on where this collage previously appeared. (Move back to Day 7, or on to the beginning of the collage.)

Famous facts about the earthquake
•    Length of time shaking was felt: 15 to 40 seconds
•    Length of time shaking reverberated in the Santa Cruz Mountains: Up to 6 minutes
•    Number of aftershocks over 3.0 magnitude: 90
•    Largest aftershock: 5.2 magnitude, 37 minutes after main quake
•    Number of calls to 911 in the first 24 hours after the quake: 1,400
•    Normal daily 911 volume: 260 calls
•    People killed in the quake in Santa Cruz County: 6
•    Chimneys dropped: approximately 5,000
•    Estimate of damage to businesses countywide: $84.9 million
•    Parking meter income lost in downtown Santa Cruz in first month after quake: $125,000
•    Estimate of golf course fees lost by the city in the first month: $200,000
•    Number of Pacific Garden Mall businesses operating in Phoenix Pavilion tents: 33
•    Percentage of roads which required repair: 60-80 percent
•    Days Highway 17 was closed to regular traffic: 33
•    Highway 17’s normal, average daily vehicle volume: 56,000
•    Highway 17’s vehicle volume the week of Nov. 13, while restrictions were imposed: 11,000
•    Dogs and cats reported missing after the quake: Nearly 1,000
•    Pets still missing a month later: 47 dogs, 158 cats
•    Epicenter’s coordinates: latitude 37 degrees and 2 minutes north, and longitude 121 degrees and 53 minutes west
•    Today’s odds against a major earthquake in the Bay Area: 10,950 to 1

***

***

Bay Area’s Biggest Quakes
Location is approximate epicenter
Year   Location         Magnitude
1836   Oakland              6.8
1838   San Francisco  7.0
1858   San Jose             6.1
1864   Gilroy                   5.9
1865   San Jose              6.3
1868   Oakland              6.8
1898   Sonoma              6.2
1906   San Francisco  8.3
1911   San Jose             6.6
1979   San Jose              5.9
1984   Morgan Hill       6.2
1989   Santa Cruz          7.1
Source: California Department of Conservation, Division of Mines and Geology

Glossary
fault: a crack where a geological layer of one age or type adjoins another
p-wave: essentially a sound wave, it travels fast, doesn’t pack much energy, and is like a warning shot preceding the “shear wave,” the Main Event
shear wave: follows the p-wave and, shaking the ground both horizontally and vertically, does most of the damage
seismos: from the Greek ‘seismos,’ ‘shock’ and ‘thwaesho,’ ’fear’
San Andreas Fault: “the geological spine of California,” the San Andreas Fault extends from Cape Mendocino on the northern California coast to the Salton Sea in southeastern California, near the Mexican border

Sources:

5:04 P.M., The Great Quake of 1989, Greg Beebe, et. al. (Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1989)

Earthshaking, Cabrillo College English classes, R. Sward (editor), December, 1989

Interviews, October, 1989–San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, San Jose Mercury News, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Time Magazine

Robert Sward is a Guggenheim Award winner who, with his life partner, Gloria K. Alford, is a long-time Santa Cruz County resident. He has taught at Cornell University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, UC Santa Cruz, and Cabrillo College, where he led classes in writing memoirs and life history. His “Earthquake Collage” evolved from work with Cabrillo College students, faculty and staff following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Sward’s writing has appeared in numerous anthologies and been featured on National Public Radio’s Writers’ Almanac. His two most recent books, Collected Poems and God is in the Cracks, are now in their second printing.

Note: “Earthquake Collage” appeared earlier this year in both “Pathways to the Past, History Journal Number 6,” Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, with thanks to Joan Gilbert Martin, editor, and Santa Cruz Weekly, Oct. 14 – 21, 2009.

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This is the second part of the “Earthquake Wedding” story. Read the first part here, covering October 16 through 18.

Thursday, October 19th

We reached the Los Gatos reception hall by phone.  It is definitely out because of severe water damage to the floor.  We begin calling other places and the Campbell Community Center has a large room available. We promise to be there early afternoon,  CASH IN HAND, because we are talking about tomorrow night!  Bob calls Megan about where the kids will stay Friday night after the wedding.  We all agree that coming to Santa Cruz is not going to be easy.  Megan takes care of it, making new arrangements.  The Babbling Brook in Santa Cruz is open but kindly agrees to hold the reservations for a later date.  Bad news about the refrigerator.  The power is on but the vertical jolts jammed the compressor.  It is stuck on defrost!  We returned our neighbors’ food, threw most of ours out and added the refrigerator to the long list of things to be repaired or replaced.

About noon, Bob and I and Annie, the matron of honor, go to Los Gatos (via Hecker Pass) to reserve the place for the reception.  It is wonderful!  Even the walls and carpet are the wedding colors!  Now we go to meet the grandparents who have arrived from Texas.  We show up at their motel, towels in hand pleading for hot shower.  We confirm new arrangements with Greenlees Bakery and all the friends who are helping with the food and decorations.  Besides Greenlees, who initiated calls and checked with us, I should mention by name the Flower Ladies of Scotts Valley who went way beyond the necessary in delivering the flowers, beautiful and in time for photographs.  I think they had to drive north to Half Moon Bay and come over Highway 84 or 92.

The Texas grandparents, bride and groom, parents and matron of honor go out to dinner to relax and get acquainted.  The conversation is evenly divided between wedding and earthquake.  Annie is staying with Juli so Bob and I drive home, Highway 9, I think.

Friday, October 20th

The grandparents make a decision to return to Texas on Sunday.  They will come back later for an extended visit.  Too many aftershocks.  The hotel in Aptos is delighted to have the room released for displaced people.

Each of us from the Santa Cruz side of the hill drive separately on Highway 9 with our list of errands, (dog to kennel, pick up balloons, pick up arch, pick up ice cream, pick up, etc. etc.).  Only George Bush (41) slowed us down.  He was flying by helicopter from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz and the highway through Scotts Valley was closed for awhile.  Wish I’d had a helicopter and crew.  It would have been a big help.

So many friends helped with food – a delicious desert buffet – and decorations – lace and balloons and twinkly lights.  We were prepared with flashlights in case of power failure but the wedding came off beautifully – a lovely “Cinderella” type of affair.  Afterward there was good food, good music, good friends and good feelings.  The women were right to go ahead in spite of the earthquake.  Even now friends thank us for having that happy time to relax and rejoice between repairs and rebuilding.

Saturday, October 21st

We each came home via our “favorite” path – highway 152 or 129.  We were a few days behind our neighbors in earthquake emotions but we were ready to catch up, pick up and help out.  As I walked in the door carrying the cake top in a tin box along with a lot of other stuff, somehow things became unbalanced and the cake tin landed upside down on the floor.  Everything else in the house was still upside down so it seemed a fitting end for the “Earthquake Wedding” of 1989.

In 2009, we remembered the earthquake as we celebrated the 20th Wedding Anniversary of Juli and Eric.

By Kathleen Vallerga (click here to go to part 1)

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In October of 1989 my husband Robert and I lived with a dog and a cat on the eastern edge of the Forest of Nisene Marks about three miles from the town of Aptos, California and about one and a half miles from the epicenter of the October 17th earthquake.  Our son, Paul, lived in Cupertino.  One daughter, Anne, and our son-in-law, Todd, lived in Capitola and our other daughter, Juli, lived in Los Gatos and was engaged to be married to Eric in Los Gatos on October 20, 1989.  This is an account of events from October 16th to 20th, 1989 [part two’s available here, covering the 19th and the wedding itself on the 20th].

Monday, October 16th

I talked to Juli (the bride to be).  It’s only four days to the wedding and she’s in bed with the flu – sick and dizzy.  She has to work Tuesday to train a replacement so I hope it’s only a 24 hour virus.  I’m feeling that last week before a wedding stress.

Tuesday, October 17th

5:00 PM.  The world series pregame show is on TV while I start to get ready for an evening meeting after a day of last minute wedding details.

5:04 PM.  In 15 seconds our house moved 4 feet north and 18 inches vertically in several sharp jerks.  As I crouched in the bathroom doorway and held the dog, I was thrown sideways several times.  I don’t remember seeing much except the dog in my lap but I was conscious of a lot of noise and furniture falling over and objects crashing and breaking.  The glass shower doors fell beside me but did not break.  Like everyone’s, our house looked like it had gone through a giant blender.  I got up, put out a fire in the wood-burning stove (it had moved a foot to the right), turned on a battery radio and went outside to check on the neighbors.  Dust and debris were suspended in the air.  There was a strong smell of propane and very soon our volunteer firemen were walking the road looking for the source of the leak.  It proved to be a tank that had broken loose and rolled down the hill.

Bob got home from work in San Jose about 6:20, one of the last cars to get onto Hecker Pass Road before it was closed.  At 6:30 the phone rang (a surprise that it was working) and it was our son in Cupertino – all OK.  We called our daughter in Los Gatos and talked to her answering machine.  That meant she had power!  Later we got through to relatives in Texas.  We videoed (using a generator) the damage and then settled in for a fitful night, trying to sleep – too many thoughts going through my head.  Like many, I had a radio plugged into my ear to keep in touch with the world.

Wednesday, October 18th

I talked to Juli.  The earthquake had knocked the flu symptoms to low priority.  She had a difficult night – but had power and friends stayed over.  We made THE major decision – the wedding is on. Most men involved (not the groom) thought that at least the reception should be postponed but all the women felt it best to continue as planned as far as possible.  Everyone would certainly understand if any detail was less than perfect.  The bakery (Greenlees of San Jose) and the flower supplier (the Flower Ladies in Scotts Valley), were operational, very cooperative and supportive.  At home, we make paths through the broken glass, picked up the food off the floor and got ready to leave for the wedding rehearsal.

The power came on about the time we left (around 3:30 PM) but we still had no hot water because of broken pipes to the hot water heater.  Since our refrigerator is now working, we invite the neighbors to put food in out freezer.  A fire is raging in Nisene Marks but it is not headed our way.  The news of the fire so near us upset our son and daughter and they tried to call again but couldn’t get through.  The fire was one thing more than my brain could handle so I didn’t worry about it.  Our neighbor is a volunteer fireman and as we left, we said, “If the wind changes and the fire gets close, please get the dog and the wedding dress.”  As we drove to pick up Annie and Todd, helicopters carrying water from the ocean to the fire were flying over our heads.

The four of us drove sadly through Watsonville – heartbreaking – We had to go south to highway 129 and San Juan road to Highway 101 – back north on 101 to San Jose and Los Gatos to the rehearsal.  Two hours driving instead of the usual 45 minutes over Highway 17!  There was a strong smell of vinegar in Watsonville and even now certain smells remind me of the quake – the vinegar from Watsonville, propane from our road, kerosene and whiskey from our neighbor’s broken containers.

The rehearsal at the Kingdom Hall and the following dinner at the groom’s mother’s house go very well.  Those of us from this side of the hill who have had no electricity are glued to the TV set.  We also gas up our cars on the San Jose side.  No power to pump gas at home!

One problem – and a big one.  The reception is supposed to be at a center in downtown Los Gatos.  We cannot reach the center by phone or even by car because of a broken water main and police barricades.  We are sure the center is damaged but we can’t make other arrangements until we confirm the extent of the damage, the unavailability of the center and the refund of our payment which has been made in full.  Where will we go?  Megan (groom’s mother) is wonderful and offers her home – but 200 people?

We return home via Highway 9.  It takes another 2 hours.  There’s no good way to get from here to there or from there to here!  A second problem – How can Juli and Eric possibly get to a bed and breakfast inn in Santa Cruz Friday night after an evening wedding and reception?  Awaiting us in the mess at home are many messages on our answering machine, some concerned, some interesting, some humorous.

Wednesday night is the most difficult.  I get very little sleep.  I have the radio plug in my ear.  There are four strong aftershocks centered near La Selva Beach.  Our house is gently quivering all night like a cherry on the top of a big bowl of jello.  Finally, after the 4th shock, the house settled and held and I dozed off.

By Kathleen Vallerga (click here for part 2)

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Of all the amazing or unexplainable things that happened to me around the 1989  earthquake, the one that stands out most was my adjustment to terror: the feeling that started when I learned that there was no way out of Santa Cruz that night – that highways 9, 17, 152, 129 and 1 were all impassable. The persistent experience was growing with each aftershock and the gradual knowledge that all of California was home ground to the earthquake phenomena. There was no safe ground under my feet, no place that might not shake, rattle and then roll. I fell into a survival place, knowing that I was feeling terror all the time in my body, but not knowing it too much. I kept it locked down as I cleaned up the broken glass and moved into the one room of my home that might not come down if a bigger quake were to erupt. My regular day-to-day experience was that there was no safe place. No place that was really safe, that I could depend on not to terrify me further. And so I stayed put through that persistent feeling, swallowing the fear and learning to breathe around it.

How I knew on Sunday, October 8, to buy earthquake insurance is a mystery I attribute to intuitive wiring. I remember awaking to that realization, and it wouldn’t go away the whole day: it was like my heart and brain and gut were wired together with this information. I had listened to that knowing a few times before. I was rewarded with $90,000 to rebuild my home to the codes that existed when my home was built 8 years before. These were somehow not complied with. The house had no shear wall, no continuous beams and was not bolted to the foundation (where there was foundation). That is probably why as I sat in my beautiful new office (with a particularly paranoid client, who could only get to my office if his wife drove him and waited in the driveway while we met) all the books in the book case to my right flew out hitting me. And why  the bank of windows I was looking at behind my client undulated like a roller coaster, and why all 17 skylights on the roof popped off and lay all which ways on the roof and ground. And why we couldn’t run out the door because it was jammed by the fence. I can still remember using my right shoulder to muscle the door open and the words of my client’s wife who said the house swayed to such a degree she was certain it was going to fall.

As a crow might fly I lived less than a mile from the epicenter of the earthquake. Up, up a road adjacent to the Forest of the Nisene Marks, on a small dirt side road. Starting at 5:30 my evening psychotherapy group started to arrive: seven people who were traveling when it struck and had no apparent traumatic experience yet. Probably they were glad to be coming to therapy to process what was going on. Instead they found me in shock and a house in shatters.

One of the images that stays with me is my bedroom, which was above the office. It was as though someone had dropped furniture piece by piece into a blender and they had flown in whatever direction the centrifuge would deliver them. My dear cat Timmie had been through the quake in that room. The night of October 17 and for a week we slept in the Safeway Parking lot in Aptos with a growing crowd and then few and fewer. The first night I measured the distance in my mind where any one of the tall lights might fall and parked far away from anyone else and the projected fall point of those lights. Then I sat in my car listening to the emergency radio broadcast and watching the red full moon raise in the direction of my house over an octagon bank building and the trees of the forest.

I was now in acute PTSD in an environment of continuing traumatic events. In another mysterious way I came to be able to know the magnitude of the aftershocks after a very short while (except the swirling quakes, the kind that move in a kind of circular motion and make you feel nausea and dizzy – those I could not tag with a number 3.4, 2.6, 1.5, or 2.4).

Probably like everyone else, I slept in my clothes and with my glasses on for a year; even now rarely do I go to San Francisco to stay. I will not stop under overpasses when the traffic stalls, and I break out in a sweat over bridges. Every now and then I sleep in my clothes, I like the way it makes me feel.

by Elene Johas Teener

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Presented below is the seventh and final day of the Loma Prieta “Earthquake Collage” written by Robert Sward, a poet and novelist, from his work with students and faculty and staff at Cabrillo College. (Move back to Day 6, or on to the epilogue for the collage.)

Monday, October 23, Day 7

“ABC already has a TV movie in development about last week’s quake. ‘Instead of waiting for people to contact us,’ said a source at the network, ‘we have assigned a major Hollywood producer to decide how to approach the project, and what stories to tell.”

Quake Night Lead For ABC…

“ABC had excellent ratings for its live quake coverage last Tuesday–the quake, in fact, ranked as the 10th most-watched ‘program…’” –News Item

“The network news anchors, those high priests of doom without whose long-faced ministrations no disaster, war or upheaval is complete, winged in to the Left Coast to do stand-ups in the ruins for a couple of days and flew out again. Dan Rather wore combat fatigues as if reporting from the bush…”

–Jerry Carroll

***

Santa Clara geologist Jim Berland says, “tidal forces on Earth, the timing of geysers and frantic pets are clues to coming earthquakes. He calls it the three GG’s method–for gravity gradients, geyser gaps and gone gatos. Gato is Spanish for cat.”

–News Item

***

BLACKBIRDS FLYING BACKWARDS

Before the shaking begins, cats and dogs run away, and blackbirds fly backwards.–Folkloric tradition

Beware stucco, beware faults; beware high-rise, beware freeway.
Beware Fremont, Oakland, Rodgers Creek, Hayward.
Get out your prayer book and start to pray.

The world is going to end. It may happen today.
Duck, cover and hold. Earthquake, earthquake, say the word.
Beware plaster, beware clay. Pack your bags and move away.

Beware landfills, beware malls. Beware cats that run away.
“Here it comes. Step over the sill, get out on the curb.
Get out your Bible and start to pray.”

’Save us, Andrew, Buddha, St. John the Divine… ’
Beware hot, dry weather and blackbirds
flying backwards. Loma Prieta, San Andreas, El Lay…

A neighbor racing down stairs in her negligee.
Crouch in a stairwell. Don’t be scared. Be prepared.
Stash band-aids and Tylenol. Do it now. Don’t delay.

San Jose is not okay. Pack your bags and move away.
Beware shake, beware shout. Follow the herd.
Beware stucco, beware faults; beware high-rise, beware freeway.
Get out your Bible and start to pray.

***

***

Inhale, exhale – contraction – rest ­
Dipping, bending, buckling, earth giving birth to the earth its crust snapping

Inhale, exhale – contraction – rest ­

Blink and it’s gone – blink and it’s rubble.

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Presented below is the sixth day of the Loma Prieta “Earthquake Collage” written by Robert Sward, a poet and novelist, from his work with students and faculty and staff at Cabrillo College. (Move on to Day 7, or back to Day 4 (there’s no Day 5).)

Sunday, October 22, Day 6

Wake G., and try to get out of bed, but the house is moving too much to go anywhere.

According to today’s San Francisco Examiner, there have been over 2,500 aftershocks or tremors since October 17. At times it feels as if Santa Cruz is in a war zone and we are under bombardment. With police, rescue workers and news people in helicopters flying low over our heads night and day, that feeling gets pretty intense… vibration from the helicopters causing further damage to chimneys, etc., weakened by the 7.1 quake.

My daughter calls from Miami… reassure her that “Yes, we’re okay,” fearing that, in the midst of conversation, another tremor will hit and I’ll have to break off the call–and worry her more.

“Listen, honey,” I say at last, “The world, it turns out, is still under construction.” * “Listen, Earth,” I say, “we had an agreement…” Earth with a crowbar still looting and pulling people out of their cars. Smack!

***

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