Memoir of a California Earthquake Rider

Being born and raised in the San Fernando Valley I’ve lived through more earthquakes than I have pairs of shoes in my closet.  Sure, it can be exhausting having to duck under my office desk, or dash beneath the nearest doorway at the first sign of a tremor. 

Actually, I don’t do that.

As a seasoned California Earthquake Rider, I usually stay wherever I am, e.g. on the couch with my coffee, and wait and see if the shaking is going to get strong enough to warrant me interrupting what I am doing to move.

My mother taught me that.

But I do have a great memory of the time all six members of my family tried to fit under the same doorway during some random four or five-point-something magnitude earthquake during my childhood.  Fun times.

If you are wondering which earthquake that was, I couldn’t tell.  I don’t usually remember the names if they’re below a 6.0.  It would be like trying to recall the name of every restaurant I’ve ever eaten at.

I do remember the 5.9 Whittier Narrows Quake in 1987.  As my friend Lisa and I walked across our high school parking lot, we heard a loud CRACK! and then the earth jolted with such force I nearly tumbled right out of my Vans slip-on tennis shoes. 

The rest of the day at school went on pretty much like normal. 

Except for the girl who freaked out in my history class and had to be taken to the nurse’s office because we had an aftershock.   

You might think I’d have some mental or emotional scarring associated with earthquakes like that poor girl in my sophomore history class surely did, having been through so many.  Well, yeah, maybe a little from the memory of my father in his underwear and bare feet sweeping up broken dishes off of our kitchen floor by flashlight moments after the 1994 Northridge Quake hit.

Like most native Californians, I’ve taken every earthquake I’ve lived through in stride.  After all, I was initiated into that shake, rattle, and roll world at the tender age of one month with the 6.6 magnitude Sylmar Quake in 1971. 

I slept through it. 

And my mother even managed to get me to my one month doctor check-up appointment later that same day. 

I’ve quite embraced California earthquake culture by living in a community planted right on top of the San Andreas Fault for the past ten years.

Sound crazy to live at Party Central for the much anticipated and feared California“Big One?”  There are a lot of us in California living in faulty neighborhoods.

And it’s been quiet.

So far.

This century. 

So, as I sit at my kitchen counter on a peaceful, uneventful Tuesday on the most infamous earthquake fault known to man, and watch news pouring in from the East Coast about the 5.9 Virginia Quake,  I just want to tell those who have been affected that what I’ve learned about earthquakes is that some jolt, others shake, everything rattles, but my favorite ones roll. 

They really do. 

Like you are standing in a boat tied to a dock.  They’re my favorite because they’re kind of fun if they don’t get too strong and they build up slowly, giving you a few seconds to collect your thoughts and decide whether to stay where you are or duck under the coffee table if things get a little wild. 

But seriously, East Coasters, this earthquake might be Virginia’s fault, but it’s not yours.  It looks like you’re all rolling with it quite well, and thankfully, I have yet to hear of any serious damage or injuries. 

Yes, there is a bit of an art to Earthquake Riding.  That comes with practice, Grasshopper. But as long as you have some emergency food and water and each other, you’ll live to shake, rattle and roll another day.   



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