Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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All day I've been feeling so dried out. I drink and drink and drink -- Gerolsteiner, natürlich -- but I never seem to hydrate.

My humidity measurer -- the word escapes me -- gets me worried when it drops below 25%. But the really bad days are those when it's too low to read anything and just says "L%" instead of a number.

June is like that here in Tucson and early July, before the Monsoon hits. And late September and early October are right behind. Problem is, early October has extended into late October this year.

It's like reliving those horrid days of Indian Summer in the San Francisco Bay Area, the only time when it's consistently unpleasant, with poor air quality, too much heat, and the ambient unease people there learn to call "earthquake weather."

I didn't post anything on the 17th, so I'll make up for it during the next week or so, as I gear up for my anniversary of meeting Kim.

Let's start with the distinct memory I have of hearing someone note that we were having "earthquake weather" some ninety minutes before the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake. Since I was still relatively new to the Bay Area then, I wasn't familiar with the term and spent some time pondering its implications.

Then we had the earthquake. I was on the 6th floor of Eshelman Hall, the student union building, on the UC Berkeley campus, waking towards the west-end office used by assorted lefty causes still holding on to the remnants of the mid-80s Anti-Apartheid movement.

I'd experienced a very small earthquake my freshperson year that had an epicenter more or less under my 67th Street and Mabel apartment in Berkeley and a much larger 5-something quake in the spring of 1989, this time from south of San Jose, while sitting with Tom Price, David Grumio, and Annalee in her apartment, all of us suffering the effects of extended smoking.

So I had an idea what an earthquake was and recognized the Loma Prieta one for what it was almost instantaneously.

And then the building turned on its side and drove my left shoulder into the unreinforced drywall of the hallway's interior wall.

Back and forth Eshelman went, like being on a ship in a storm, as I would write in a poem for Thom Gunn's 143 class the following spring.

I had the clear thought that I was glad to be on the 6th floor, since there was only one floor above me.

Then it stopped, and I headed for the stairs.

When I came out on Lower Sproul, dozens of people were staring across the plaza at the giant plate glass windows of Zellerbach Hall. They looked like they'd just seen something beautiful.

Someone spoke to me: "They were going in and out, like sails in the wind."

That nautical theme again.

Once I had my bearings, I went into the Bear's Lair, with the idea of watching the World Series game between the A's and Giants. It hadn't yet dawned on me that the quake would result in an interruption.

Interestingly, the big TVs were still on, tuned to the pre-game show on channel 7, ABC. Announcer Al Michaels was talking over helicopter footage. First they showed the collapsed segment of the Bay Bridge. Then they showed the Cypress Structure, 880 in West Oakland, but no one in the booth recognized it. People in the bar did, though.

After an indeterminate time in the Bear's Lair -- ten minutes? -- I wandered out and started to walk down Bancroft. I ran into Leanne on the stairs, then Annalee and David at the southwest corner of Eshelman and finally, only a minute or two later, Josh Gold, who drove up in Camille's old Volkswagen.

We all piled in somehow and drove over to David and Jeremy's place down the block from the Starry Plough and La Peña.

Soon, there were some twenty people in the apartment, taking turns using the phone.

When it was my turn, I called my parents to tell them I was alright. They said they figured as much and advised that I hang up, so someone who needed to get through more than I could do so.

The TV came on and the German anarchists, Autonomen, who had been staying on the floor of the lefty household I was part of on 57th Street in Oakland, two blocks below Market, were entranced by the footage of the Cypress Structure. Andreas, the boldest and least agreeable, said, "Let's go get their wallets!," referring to the crushed drivers on the freeway, and led the Germans out the door.

Eventually, Leanne and I left and headed back to her place.

We emptied her supply of stimulants and stayed up all night, "working" in the afterglow of the cataclysm.

And I wrote my first and only long poem, after reading the Book of Daniel, in which I mused on San Francisco Giants star Will Clark's "clutch" hitting.

Well, it's time to stop listening to the newly deceased Mr. Smith's somber pop and go read some cyberpunk.

Oh, and I almost forgot the coming-full-circle almost punchline: I kept thinking today that it was "earthquake weather."
Tags: autobiography, history

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