Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Happy Quake Day!

Walking home from the BART station tonight, I saw a police helicopter circling over my neighborhood, spotlight fixed on the center of its rotation. It reminded me of a certain type of toy airplane I remember from my aviation-crazed youth, the kind of motor-powered plane that didn't do anything but "fly" in a big circle around your small hand, holding the line attached to the plane. The helicopter was tethered to the earth by the visible beam of its searchlight, fixed on a spot about a block from my house. I could hear it for almost an hour after I got home, spinning that same circle, as I sat in the living room with Barb and Leon.

Tonight after washing dishes and before diving into schoolwork in the library, I sat on the back steps of the PSR lawn, looking out over the bay towards the Golden Gate, as the sun set over Mt. Tamalpais. A guy sitting on the balustrade across the stairs from me took a break from spinning the wheels on his skateboard to tell me, in a thick Eastern European accent, "One hundred years ago it happened, right? The earth split open, crash! Crazy!" Hard to argue with that. Hard to believe it, too, looking out on downtown San Francisco, with the setting sun turning the very air incandescent and a cloudless blue sky overhead. The part of me that thinks I could hit the lottery by persistently playing my birthdate, height, and head circumference (which is also the same part of me that thinks I could make a living by playing online poker) spent the day convinced that, in some kind of perverse reverse meaning-denying-by-wish-fulfilling gesture, we were certain to have a huge earthquake today precisely because 100 years is such an arbitrary measure, such an expression of our insatiable need to assign meaning and order in a world that ...sorry, my google.calendar just interrupted to tell me that the end of Starr King's Semester is in precisely ten minutes. I think I have a little April/May confusion to work out. We try so hard to live inside of meaning-filled systems, where we can relate cause to effect, and all of a sudden your computer can't tell one month from the next. What's to be done?

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