September 29, 2010

an earthquake

It was a little past dawn. I had been sleeping poorly and was disturbed by thoughts I would rather not share with my sensitive readers. I had been fighting to drift back into sleep, but gave up the attack and decided that I should be using this unexpected morning to accomplish unexpected things. As I lay on the floor, wrapped comfortably in my blanket, to decide which of my unexpected goals I would set about accomplishing first, the floor started to shift one way then the other, and my whole body rocked with it. The sensation was mild, but it carried a deep and quiet power. It lasted a few seconds, no longer.

Though I had suspected the importance of these few seconds, I was too wrapped in blankets and unexpected thoughts to confirm my suspicions. It was only many hours (and many unexpected accomplishments) later that I typed "earthquakes" into google and discovered that I had indeed survived the first earthquake of my life.

I am happy that fate decided I ought to be conscious for this moment. I had been psychologically preparing myself for this moment for many years, you see, and it would have been most unfortunate if I had decided to sleep through it. It is certainly possible that I might have slept on through the event and afterward live out my life unaware of my first earthquake, but fate would not allow it. I do not know by what system fate operates, but I would imagine that in exchange for this important moment I have sacrificed consciousness of many other important moments in my life. It is a startling and curious endeavor to invent all those historic personal events that I have slept or shall be sleeping through.

But I will save what life I have slept through for another post.

Now, as I have burdened myself with the task of publishing everything I write, I ought to continue on with earthquakes. It would be a pleasure to tell you everything worth knowing about earthquakes; I do not, however, know anything about them, and that is perhaps everything worth knowing.

As a general rule, the less a man knows about a subject, the more unreasonable he becomes when discussing it. I hold myself to be an exception to this rule, and have to say that I only become unreasonable about a subject once I have learned it through, front to back and back to front. But when the topic is something as mysterious to me as love, music, or earthquakes, I am the most reasonable fellow alive. It is not so much a challenge to be reasonable about earthquakes, however, as to be reasonable through them. And this is why I spent time preparing myself for my first earthquake.

I was determined not to panic. As you have read above, I remained as calm as possible, calmer indeed than you should expect from people even when the earth is quite still. Yes, you say to me, but you hardly had anything to panic about. True. But had buildings crumbled, had firestorms raged, had people exploded in the streets, I would have kept the same composure, I assure you. (I shall wander into a digression at this point, since the reader can do nothing about it--

Although I am quite relieved that my first earthquake was not the disaster scenario to truly try my composure, I have to admit my disappointment with the literary possibilities of the experience I did have. Had there indeed been firestorms and corpses, this post would be filled with terror and excitement and pathos. Imagine it! My dry style would excellently capture the violent and thrilling details. It would be a chronicle for history, an awe-inspiring account of the 2nd Great Kanto Earthquake. It would win admiration, adulation, awards. It would be treasured. The world would rush to read it. The number of visitors to my blog would double from 2 to 4. Glory I should have!

But my first earthquake was a modest one, and it deserves this modest post.

And this is probably as it should be. There is unreasonable disaster literature enough, and I am not the one to contribute to it.

While on the subject of literature, I will take this opportunity to excerpt a passage from Roughing It about that author’s first earthquake. His first earthquake makes for more interesting literature than mine, and I am happy to assume that you readers would rather read Mark Twain than me:
The “curiosities” of the earthquake were simply endless. Gentlemen and ladies who were sick, or were taking siesta, or had dissipated till a late hour and were making up lost sleep, thronged into the public streets in all sorts of queer apparel, and some without any at all. One woman who had been washing a naked child, ran down the street holding it by the ankles as if it were a dressed turkey. Prominent citizens who were supposed to keep the Sabbath strictly, rushed out of saloons in their shirt-sleeves, with billiard-cues in their hands. Dozens of men with necks swathed in napkins rushed from barber shops, lathered to the eyes or with one cheek clean-shaved and the other still bearing a hairy stubble. Horses broke from their stable, and a frightened dog rushed up a short attic ladder and out onto a roof, and when his scare over had not the nerve to go down again the same way he had gone up. A prominent editor flew down-stairs, in the principal hotel, with nothing on but one brief undergarment-–met a chambermaid, and exclaimed:
“Oh, what
shall I do! Where shall I go!”
She responded with naive serenity:
“If you have no choice, you might try a clothing store!”

A certain foreign consul’s lady was the acknowledged leader of fashion, and every time she appeared in anything new or extraordinary, the ladies in the vicinity made a raid on their husbands’ purses and arrayed themselves similarly. One man, who had suffered considerably and growled accordingly, was standing at the window when the shocks came, and the next instant the consul’s wife, just out of the bath, fled by with no other apology for clothing than--a bath towel! The sufferer rose superior to the terrors of the earthquake, and said to his wife:
that is something like! Get out your towel, my dear!”

The plastering that fell from ceilings in San Francisco that day would have covered several acres of ground. For some days afterward, groups of eying and pointing men stood about many a building, looking at long zigzag cracks that extended from the eaves to the ground. Four feet of the tops of three chimneys on one house were broken square off and turned around in such a way as to completely stop the draught. A crack a hundred feet long gaped open six inches wide in the middle of one street and then shut together again with such force as to ridge up the meeting earth like a slender grave. A lady, sitting in her rocking and quaking parlor, saw the wall part at the ceiling, open and shut twice, like a mouth, and then drop the end of a brick on the floor like a tooth. She was a woman easily disgusted with foolishness, and she arose and went out of there. One lady who was coming down-stairs was astonished to see a bronze Hercules lean forward on its pedestal as if to strike her with its club. They both reached the bottom of the flight at the same time--the woman insensible from the fright. Her child, born some little time afterward, was club-footed. However--on second thought--if the reader sees any coincidence in this, he must do it at his own risk.

The first shock brought down two or three huge organ-pipes in one of the churches. The minister, with uplifted hands, was just closing the services. He glanced up, hesitated, and said:
“However, we will omit the benediction!”--and the next instant there was a vacancy in the atmosphere where he had stood.

After the first shock, an Oakland minister said:
“Keep your seats! There is no better place to die than this”--
and added after the third:
“But outside is good enough!” He then skipped out the back door.
My own first earthquake does not have one hundredth of the literary possibilities. So much for that digression.)

I have nothing more to write concerning my first earthquake, but I would be pleased to answer whatever questions you may have about my experience. I may not be an expert on earthquakes, but I am more of an expert now than I was a week ago. I have even written a blog post on the subject (and you have just read it)--an expert indeed.


Zain (let us drop the Gaston Monescu) said...

How have Japan and 23 been getting along with you, Ian?

Ian said...

Zain! Hi hi ^_^
I have not heard from you for awhile, tho I have been wondering how you have been. I should have remedied this with an email, but as you see, I have other things on my mind. Did you take your summer trip through the west? How is life today?

As for me, Japan is treating me like a foreigner, as she treats all foreigners, and I enjoy it too much to head back just yet (tho I may not have a choice in this matter).

As for 23, it would be better if I knew what came afterward, but I am still directionless and uncertain. A loser, by most modern definitions. My lack of success abroad has just dealt another blow to my already low self-esteem, but we shall see what life as in store for me soon.

Update me as much as you can about you! Do not be afraid to take up room in this comments section since nobody else visits the place anyway.

Zain said...

It's okay, I have been checking my e-mail somewhat infrequently lately and I don't know if I would have ever gotten around to reading it. Not to mention that I too could have checked up with you sometime, but thankfully you have a blog which I still visit whenever I find myself using the computer and for which I am very grateful for.

Instead of the west I decided to head to New York City, twice. The first time was in April, when I spent the whole month there. I was planning, then, to take a trip throughout the west in August, but around late July, I found myself in the most rotten mood and decided to go back to New York City; I just happened to miss it rather dearly. There are times I regret not going to the west, but I enjoy the various museums and culture mash New York City has to offer, the architecture is always exciting, though I admit I could somehow get along without the $5 cupcakes.

Life today is exciting sometimes, frustrating most of the other, but usually I find myself sleeping to muscle through it. I'm living on my own now! Which is a relief. I have a studio in Chicago, with a bed and desk of its own, and books and clothes substituted for the floor. It's pretty great; I could do without the generally surprising amounts of living expenses however.

It's funny that you would consider yourself a loser, though I don't know what the modern definitions are just yet, so you may be on to something. But you are in Japan, which is definitely awesome, any way you look at it. What exactly are you doing there? What's occupying your mind these days? Please update your blog often, you have an admirer in me. And who is your other reader? I want names, only so we can contact each other and plan a Mango Grove Convention.

Ian said...

The other reader is DG, of course. I fully support a Mango Grove Convention. All we need now is a sponsor and a venue.

NYC! I have never been. :( Did you happen to do anything fun? Museums, films, plays -- perhaps it's too much to do.

Is this your first time on your own? I bet if you imagined your studio on the outskirts of Tokyo, you would glimpse something of my life at the moment. ^^ I am currently trying to land a job teaching English, but all I've gotten so far are rejections. This is nothing new, of course. But tho I am getting rejected, I am at least able to expand my horizons.

Anyway, I do plan to keep updating my blog! I've been working on a post for the past week and your showing up may give me the drive to finish it. A day or two more perhaps and I will have it up.

In the meantime, how is work? I envy those with jobs. Also, are you in school this semester?

Zain said...

DG, of course! in this case we can easily hold a Mango Grove Convention. Since he's in Toronto and I'm in Chicago, we can hold our convention in Detroit and have it sponsored by one of those car companies.

New York City is amazing. I think you would enjoy it because there are various pockets through out which look like they haven't changed since the 1910's. For better or for worse. In my case it was for the better. All of the buildings are old and senile with lurid colors neighboring the basic browns and blacks. None of the city makes much of any sense, it's really like 40 or 50 cities in one 30 mile radius, its a mess and I love it. I went to watch plenty of movies, my first two nights I watched Sunrise and -- this is probably why I loved NYC so much -- they had a Renoir retrospective beginning my second week in town, I didn't get a chance to catch too much of it, but I did watch The River, Boudu, and The Rules of the Game. There were others: Rear Window, Imposters, and some documentaries by Henri-Cartier Bresson, among many others which I don't remember at the moment. There's always something interesting playing out there, I'm very jealous of it. I watched one play, some social realist fiasco which was alright, but made for a pippin' experience in some shabby theater. And I went to very few museums, which I regret, I went to the Neue Galerie which was great and some other which I don't remember. But mainly I spent my days walking throughout, I think I covered all of Manhattan, most of Brooklyn, and most of Queens on foot. Also I had my fair share of bagels, which surprisingly wasn't enough.

This is my first time on my own and I've survived for four months and I think I'm finally getting the economics down (hopefully). Although the whole cleaning up after myself part is still something of a challenge. How are you getting along on your own? And in another nation! You seem to be making it rather difficult on your own. I'm sorry to hear of your misfortune in finding a job teaching English, I am sure one is to come up soon, it's always difficult the first time around. On the bright side, if you would enjoy teaching English overseas, and Japan fails, you can always move on to another nation, there are hundreds of them out there.

I am glad that you will be keeping up your blog! One post a week would be perfect for me, considering that I don't have the internet in my apartment and I only check the internet once a week or so -- this depends on how often I make a trip back to my parents, which seems to be getting rather infrequent as of late.

Work is alright, they've been sending my across this nation from time to time. I will go to Minnesota in the spring, and maybe Denver. Although the latter hasn't been confirmed yet. In a year, I would like to transfer over to Europe for good. But as of the present, the only reason I enjoy working where I work is because I work 'til 3 in the afternoon and come home and find myself with enough time to take a nap and read a book or go to the library to pick out a book. And with weekends off I get a good chance to watch whatever is playing around Chicago. I don't know, it all seems pretty run of the mill. Thank goodness for books or else I'd be miserable.

Also, no school.

Have you been enjoying what Tokyo has to offer? I hear it is THE happenin' place in the world.