I was sitting in my magic floating office pod when there was a very explosive and intense jolt – I felt a big shock / compression wave burst through the house (and me). Everything shook and rattled. It was powerful and incredibly jarring. Then, for a very short duration – maybe three seconds – there was major shaking; the house and its components made noises that I do not wish to hear again. I made it out of the pod and up against one of the core beams of the house within that time, and waited a few seconds. I looked out one of the small windows and the trees and telephone poles were visibly swaying. There were several more seconds of diminishing wavey motion, underscored by the oddest, deepest, almost-soundless roaring I’ve ever heard. Like the world’s biggest subwoofer turned way up, but without any actual music.
I stayed where I was for a bit, then checked around the house. Pictures on the walls are moved, a few things fell over, but there’s no visible damage.
To find out that the quake was a puny 3.4 was also jarring. A 3.4 felt like that? I must be a serious rookie. Virgin in the ways of earth-quaking. Really new and gone all wimpy-Maine-kid on these nerves-of-steel Californians. But then I found out it was centered about 800 meters from my house.
So I grabbed the camera and zipped down to the epicenter – the end of Venice Boulevard where it meets Pacific Avenue – to see if there was anything up. Everything looked normal; no sign of damage or anything. I walked the canal area for a bit; chatted with some people at Canal Club [literally at the epicenter]. Fuck yeah we felt it, the staff said, that was crazy. I talked with a girl who lives at Venice and Canal Street, and she said it was the biggest one she’d felt in her life, and she thought someone crashed into her house. Everyone was buzzing about it down there. This helped me feel a bit less wimpy.
Then I checked the Richter Scale article at Wikipedia and found that the approximate “energy yield” of a 3.5 is 747 gigajoules, or about the same shock wave as detonating 178 tons of TNT. Put another way, that’s a quarter the yield of a small atomic bomb.
The pod is also where Deanna was sitting when we had the rolly-quake last summer. She found that to be a unique experience. So, I’ve redubbed it The Quake Pod, and don’t plan on going back in there tonight.
Before I get into this story I want to set the psychographic stage, because I’ve been through this enough now to know what kind of conversations these controversies stir up.
My 2007 incident in San Antonio [see An Accidental Interview With Lieutenant Phil Dreyer] – which was much scarier and more flagrant than the one I’m writing about today – made me realize how out-of-fashion standing up for your rights has become, and also how much it opens you up to criticism for being a troublemaker (and more).
People like Thomas Hawk and Carlos Miller have famously faced this as well. The assumption (often verbalized) is that we’re belligerent, in-your-face assholes who go to places sticking our cameras (and our laminated, marked-up copies of the First Amendment) in people’s faces, looking and hoping for a fight. Sorry, but that’s just not true. I absolutely hate these confrontations and just want to make my pictures and be left alone. For instance, I had a terribly embarrassing and awkward police / photography incident at LAX a few months back and decided not to write about it because of the rather sensational issues it would raise. So trust me, I am not in this for the fight.
In Venice today, it was a record 90 degrees, windy and bone-dry. When I woke up, I could see huge walls of smoke rising just north of the Santa Monica Mountains, then billowing west and south out of the San Fernando Valley from the Sylmar Fire, presently raging 20 miles north of here.
As the afternoon wore on, it really began to feel like the outer edge of a fire zone. Ash and smoke passed over the eastern portion of the Santa Monica mountains and rolled down into the western section of the Los Angeles basin, casting a reddish-grey, eerie smoky darkness over this area for much of the late afternoon and into the evening.
The sun burned an angry alien red all afternoon until suddenly letting go behind the wall of smoke now hanging over Santa Monica Bay to the west.
I’m certainly safe where i am for now. From a personal standpoint, I’m more worried about new fires than I am the Sylmar Fire. Compounding this worry is that in the last 24 hours, I’ve seen two separate cretins throw lit cigarettes out of their car windows. Who the fuck are you people??
During the recent earthquake here in Los Angeles, I found myself mildly spooked. Not because of the quake itself, nono – after all, I had, since I moved to LA, wished for exactly this kind of quake. “I want a quake,” I told friends, “just strong enough for me to experience one [I’d never felt one before], but mild enough so no one gets hurt.” The quake of a couple of weeks ago was exactly what I’d ordered.
I felt my first quake today – about five minutes ago – and think I just felt something again. More like rolling waves than the “jolt” just described on MSNBC. Everything looks OK here in Venice. On-the-fly updates here.
Today was one of those days that reminds me why I love living – and as a bonus, doing it here. The sun was shining and it was well above 80. The birds were singing away and frantically going about their springtime business. I have some (sparrows, I think) nesting on the north side of the house. I hear so many different birdsongs day and night that I’ve started checking eNature.com to try to identify them.
Look, assholes – stop throwing your cigarettes out your fucking car window. I saw some cretin do this today in Santa Monica and wish I’d had been able to yell at him without causing an accident. This is the world’s most obnoxious habit under any conditions – but you can’t even use your ashtray now? Do the species a favor and die, please.
Spoke a little too soon. I was getting ready for bed when I heard a strange noise – sounded sort of like the dryer was on or something. I looked outside and saw a large conflagration a couple blocks away. I could see towers of flame well above the houses between us. I grabbed my camera (wrong lens for the occasion, but I was in a hurry) and jumped on my bike to get a closer look. I found a patch of brush, palm trees, and a garage or small home totally involved. Power lines and a transformer fuzzed and sparked and fell to the ground. The fire was high and hot and it moved quickly. I shot these pictures. I was worried the fire would spread quickly because the palm trees – some probably fifty feet high – were fully engulfed and spraying embers all over the area. A man jumped from the flames. A couple concerned residents were out with their garden hoses, doing what they could. The fire department was on scene within a few minutes and brought it under control very quickly. Thanks, dudes.