Segarini – The House Was Rockin’ and My Mom Was Rollin’
This week has been a difficult one. An anniversary of a tragic event in California, the insanity of millions of people blindly following a completely failed human being and giving nary a thought to his worthlessness, and a continuing nostalgia-driven blockade of great new music and artists by those who actually believe nothing of worth has been created since the end of the ’70s.
Add to that the pessimistic assumption that all the bad news on Social Media sites is true, the further destruction of the English language from spelling to grammar, and the success of Empire and Modern Family in a world that also offers Luke Cage, The Ranch, The Get Down, and Atlanta, and maybe you can see why I am having trouble keeping my usual sense of humour, Gene Rodenberry optimism, and jolly demeanour.
…but enough about me and my growing desire to let loose the hounds and pull up a folding chair on my balcony with a high powered rifle, a well stocked bar, and a case of ammo. Let’s get on to today’s column, shall we?
27 years ago, on October 17th, 1989, I was in California with my (at the time) wife and our daughter, caring for my mother, who had recently been at death’s door, and who now spent most of her time in a 24 hr. Care Facility, but was usually home for weekends and whenever else she wanted to be.
She wanted to be home for the World Series…which, for the first time ever, was being played between 2 teams who were both from the Bay Area; the Oakland As, and the San Francisco Giants.
Game 3 was just getting underway at Candlestick Park. It was 5:04, Tuesday, October 17th, 1989.
The Loma Prieta Earthquake: Shakin’ All Over
If you are not familiar with the incredible destructive power of an earthquake, or the details surrounding the Loma Prieta shaker, or you’re just a Data Freak…please read this entry from Wikipedia, and watch the videos if you like, before continuing….
The videos give the actuality of an earthquake weight, and the potential destruction and violent brutality, clarity. These aren’t special effects.
…and this was nowhere as powerful as what it could have been.
For a less detailed and a glossed over look back, just watch this less disturbing KTVU (Oakland, California) remembrance.
The Calm Before the Storm
I was sitting in the breakfast nook of my mother’s house at 4 East Monterey Avenue in Stockton, California, waiting for Game Three of the ‘Battle of the Bay’ World Series to start.
Cheryl and Amy were out in the family Chevrolet EuroSport picking up dinner from Webb’s, Del Taco, and Jack in the Box, and my mother and her companion ‘Little Joe’ Blanco, were in the living room in front of the big 27 in. Zenith waiting for the game too, with me opting for the little 19 inch set in the breakfast nook, sitting at the kitchen table smoking Camel Lights, drinking Jack and Jolt, and occasionally looking out the window at the corner of Monterey Avenue and Center Street. It was a beautiful autumn day in Stockton….
…and it was 5:04 pm.
Location, Location, Location….
What happened, happened in seconds, but felt like forever. Reading the account of what happened here is going to take much longer than the actual event. …and no matter how detailed my description, an earthquake must literally be experienced before you can fully appreciate just how insignificant and helpless they make you feel.
Stockton is 83 miles due-east of San Francisco, and another hour or so northeast of the Santa Cruz Mountains where the epicentre of this dance was located. Even at that distance, the effects were eerily up-close and personal.
I remember a statistic one of my more evil teachers unspooled in front of his wide-eyed class one afternoon in Junior High. To whit; If there were ever an 8+ quake on the San Andreas just west of San Francisco, and it, in turn, triggered the Hayward Fault (which runs directly under the San Francisco Bay between The City and Oakland/Berkeley), chances were good that San Francisco would sink beneath the Pacific, a modern day Atlantis.
In so doing, the resulting rush of Pacific Ocean into (and over) SF, would travel east, continue over the East Bay, Past the small farm towns of the Livermore Valley, and climb over the smallish Altamont Mountain Range and reach Stockton in a little more than 20 minutes…which would be just enough time to race up Highways 12, 88, and 40 into the Sierra Nevada foothills, hopefully high enough to escape a wave of water containing flotsam, jetsam, and who-knows how much debris from its destructive, all consuming trip eastward.
Kept me awake for years after hearing that. Curse you, vivid imagination…and you too, Mr Ortiz. What a dick.
The House Was Rockin’ and My Mom Was Rollin’….
This all happened in 15 to 30 seconds…all of it.
The television went from a sports caster yammering about the historic aspects of this World Series, to a loud, fuzzy electronic wail accompanied by a lot of snow and visual chop. Would the next voice I heard begin, “PEOPLE OF EARTH…”? All of a sudden, I found myself with a queasy stomach. I felt nauseous. I was only on my 2nd drink, hadn’t smoked an entire carton of Camels, had yet to have dinner, (so food poisoning was out), and I didn’t have a cold, flu bug, or anything else.
Then I looked up.
The faux Tiffany overhead lamp looked weird.
It was weird.
Somehow, the big, hanging, stained glass shade was laying across the ceiling to the left of where it usually hung.
Noticing the lamp, I simultaneously heard an odd gurgling, a sound not unlike the sound of the bubbles rising to the surface when you’re farting in the bathtub.
The water cooler sitting on the floor next to me that dispensed both hot and cold water, looked as weird as the lampshade above my head.
All the water in the clear plastic water bottle on top of the cooler was pressed up against the left side of the bottle.
That’s odd, I thought. That shouldn’t be happening
Looking back up at the lampshade and then quickly back down at the water cooler confirmed my puzzlement.
“How very strange”, I said to no one, beginning to wonder if this was a fabled acid flashback from my Strawberry Double Dome days come to fuck me up.
Then I looked out the windows that made up the corner of the little breakfast nook and looked out at the corner of Monterey Avenue and Center Street.
Now that IS weird, I thought, my right eyebrow raised in Spockian curiosity, again speaking to no one, I managed a “Fascinating, Captain”, and then thought, Maybe I fell asleep here at the table waiting for this stupid game to start.
What caused the Spock Eyebrow Raise (or “S.E.R.”) was this….
All the stop signs, trees, power poles, and street signs, were laying on their sides.
Not broken. Not knocked over. Not anythinged.
Then, as I watched, my other eyebrow struggling to join its twin in the upraised Spock position while my jaw dropped toward the table in disbelief, all the signs, poles, and trees righted themselves and headed in the other direction.
Later I found out they hadn’t moved…
…the ground had moved.
Holy Crow and Jumping Fishbulbs, Batman!
…and then I heard a scream.
My mother’s companion, a sweet little Portuguese man named Joe, was in the living room with my mom, also waiting for Game three to start. Joe weighed all of 85 pounds, and dressed like ’50s era Jimmy Olsen, replete with brown checkered suit coats, sweater vests, and bow ties. Every now and then mom would invite him over and we’d go pick him up and they would have a sleep over. Joe must have been in his mid to late ’80s, was a sweet man who treated my mom like a Queen, and my Mom, rudderless since my Dad passed away in ’78, adored him. We all did. The two of them always had a good time together, and we counted the sleepovers as successful as long as Joe didn’t wet the bed.
Maybe it’s all old people (hopefully, I will find out soon enough) but Joe and my mom peed themselves a lot. Mostly when they laughed.
And they laughed a lot.
But that wasn’t laughter I heard. That was a scream, and as I bolted out of my chair and ran shakily toward the living room (it was like running on a speeding train going around a curve) the scream turned into a series of Keanu Reeves-like WHOA’s.
It was my Mom.
Little Joe was desperately trying to get off the couch to help her, but 85 pounds of brave, but frightened, Portuguese Companion is no match for an earthquake that could crush a freeway.
I steadied myself against the arch that separated the dining room from the living room and tried to figure out what was wrong. Was my mom in danger? Had something fallen off the walls and hit her? Had she been thrown out of her wheelchair?
I figured it out when she passed in front of me on her way toward the big 27 inch Zenith, the decorative fireplace curtain dragging behind her where it had attached itself to her wheelchair when she had rolled into the fireplace.
I had forgotten to set the brakes on her chair when I had rolled her into the living room to watch the game.
I skidded into the living room during her second round trip between the TV and the fireplace.
She wasn’t “whoaing” anymore.
Now she was laughing.
…and Joe was laughing…
I was laughing.
Thank God for Depends.
Cheryl and Amy returned to the house, none the worse for wear. They thought they had had a flat tire until they saw the big plate glass windows at Webb’s bending and rippling, and threatening to break, which they didn’t.
Things went back to normal, the subject of ongoing conversation until the devastation in the Bay Area was cleaned up, and then repaired. The Loma Prieta Earthquake got its own “I Survived…” T Shirt, and we all bought one, and as Californian’s do…we all had one more story to tell, one more earthquake under our belts, and one more reason to lie awake at night, wondering when the inevitable Big One was going to finally happen.
My mom and Little Joe have been gone for a long time now, and thinking about them for the past 2 days has been like a visit.
When it comes to my mom, I swear she lives and breathes as much as she ever did. I hear her voice, I get her advice, and I can hear her laughter just retelling this story. It’s not the memory of love and devotion you got and felt from a parent that brings them back to you when they are gone. It’s not the sadness that envelopes you when you realize they aren’t there to hug you, or you, them, to tell them you love them, to just see them asleep in their favourite chair (Hi dad), or cooking in the kitchen (Love ya, mom). All of those things stay with you forever, and will hopefully be passed on to your children along with their memories of you.
All of those things come with their passing, and your willingness and desire to keep them alive inside of you.
But truth be told, it’s when you tell the stories, when your eyes sparkle and your face lights up, and you realize the people who are listening to the stories can see them too, can hear them, can love them like you do…those are the moments when they truly, honestly, live.
It’s the stories. The snake down the front of the swimsuit in Yosemite, the time sugar was accidently used instead of flour to thicken the turkey gravy, moving someone at the dinner table to the porch because they asked for ketchup to put on her perfectly prepared prime rib, THOSE are the things that bring them to you so vividly, they might as well be in the next room. And no matter how bad, how embarrassing, how absolutely horribly dumb …the laughter always came.
When something makes me laugh so hard that I pee my pants, I will have arrived.
Hmmm..I may have already arrived, come to think of it.
…and I hope none of you ever have to go through even the tiniest of earthquakes…but if you do, I hope someone is there who can make you laugh.
And don’t forget to set your brakes….
Segarini’s regular columns appear here whenever someone posts an actual fact on Facebook
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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.