EARTHQUAKE!!! Part 2.
This is part two of an ongoing blog. To read it from the beginning please read EARTHQUAKE! Part 1.
“Hello,” I said into the phone, already knowing who was on the other end.
“ARE YOU OKAY? WHY DID YOU HANG UP ON ME?” my mom shouted in a panic.
“Mom,” I started, trying to keep as calm as possible. “ I didn’t hang up on you. I dropped the phone.”
“Why did you drop the phone?” * Sigh* Mothers.
“Mom, I want you to try and stay calm. There was a much bigger earthquake this time and I got jolted away from the phone.” I didn’t want to tell her about my impromptu tour of the house because I didn’t want to freak her out anymore than she already was.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“How is the house?”
I knew this question was coming. It was just a matter of time. Maybe I should have answered the phone by saying, “Stacy? No she moved to Mexico and she took all those half dollars you’ve been saving for years because you thought they would eventually be worth something. And you were right! Each one of those half dollars is worth exactly one half dollar.” But I knew I was going to have to be the one to break the news to her. The news that the home her father had built with his own two hands now had a cracked fireplace, a leaking hot water heater, tons and tons of broken dishes, and what was now a condiment bar on the kitchen floor. After I did a play-by-play of the way things went down I have to say that she actually took the news pretty well.
“I don’t care about any of the dishes. They’re cheap anyway but there are a couple of things I do care about. Can you just tell me…” and I could hear her take a deep breath on the other end, “…is the lamp on the dining room table still intact?”
“Yeah,” I told her. Surprisingly it was. The lamp had a bronze base and had an intricate design that looked like a tree with leaves and flowers wrapping around it. At the top of the lamp it broke off into five separate leaves, which hung over the base and were made of glass. Each leaf had etchings of more leaves and flowers in it. Not really my taste but beautiful nonetheless.
“Actually, it fell off the table onto the floor but stayed intact. It doesn’t have a scratch on it.” I told her.
“Good,” she sighed. “A friend I used to work with who died a couple of years ago gave that to me. It’s very important to me. Now, check the cupboard over the refrigerator. There is a white platter and a white cup. They both have pink and red flowers on them. Those came over to California in a covered wagon and belonged to my mom. Please see if they are okay.” I grabbed a chair from the dining room and dragged it through the mess of mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, and ketchup that was now decorating the floor.
“What’s that noise?” my mom asked.
“The crunching I hear in the background.”
“Oh…just some glass.”
“Oh God. Stacy,” I could hear it in her voice that she was about to start crying.
“Mom it’s just a plate. It’s not that bad,” I told her. I lied. I got the chair to the fridge and climbed on top of it and was shocked to see that the cupboard over the fridge was the only cupboard that hadn’t opened and lost its contents. I slowly opened the cupboard expecting the worst but got the best. The cocktail and highball glasses were still in one piece. There is a god!
“Mom the platter and cup are fine,” I told her. She breathed a sigh of relief. “We need to stop this water though.”
I reminded her of the gushing hot water heater. My roommate Satan had been able to keep the water at bay for a while with towels, but we were running out of towels and the water wasn’t going anywhere.
My mom told us where to turn off the water and the gas to the house. I assured her that Satan and I would do our best to clean up as much of the food as we could. I hung up the phone and Satan and I just stared at one another for a while, trying to figure out how to clean the kitchen with no water. We ended up using the wet towels and just throwing them outside in the trashcan because they were full of glass as well. We were now tired and hungry and covered in condiments. It took us a couple of hours but we got the house pretty well cleaned up.
Then it hit me.
“Satan, we may have a problem,” I said.
“We don’t have much gas. I didn’t fill the car up.”
“We can just get some right?”
“Maybe, maybe not. What if they’ve shut down the pumps because of the quake?”
We were covered in food and had a ½ tank of gas, which left us with two options:
1. Try to make it down off of the mountain and into the little desert town of Apple Valley. If we made it down there, we might get lucky and find an open gas station. If we didn’t make it down all the way, we would be SOL, in the middle of the desert, with no gas. Not really a great ending to an already sucky day.
2. Drive into town and look for a gas station that was open. If we found gas we were set. But we could also waste what little fuel we had by looking for something that may not exist. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have enough gas to make it down the hill.
I explained our two options to Satan and we both decided to take our chance with the desert. Keep in mind that this was in the early 90’s, before cell phones. So if we were going to break down, we were really going to break down. But we both had to get back to school and the thought of spending any more time on that mountain with no water was not an option.
We packed up our stuff into the Firebird. I kissed my baby and promised her that if she got me home I would wash her right. Not just drive her through a gas station car wash but a real live car wash. And off we went. The thing about the road we took is that it’s the shortest road up and down the mountain, so we had that going for us. We had made it to the bottom of the mountain and almost through the desert when my car started to jolt slightly.
“Please, please, please. No, you can make it.” Just then we saw the pearly gas station gates a couple of yards ahead. Even if we broke down now it would only be about a mile’s walk to the nearest gas station. I am pleased to say that the “Red Rocket” managed to roll into a gas station parking lot on fumes. It was like Satan and I had just won the lottery. We both got out and jumped up and down and hugged each other. People just stared at us like we were the last two survivors of the world’s most violent food fight.
We refueled and were on our way back to San Diego when we finally were overwhelmed with the lack of sleep and our own stench.
“My brother lives in Moreno Valley. Let’s stop and take showers,” Satan told me.
“Are you sure he won’t mind?”
“I can’t take it anymore. I’m so tired and so smelly.”
I couldn’t agree more. My eyes were barely open, I smelled like a 3-day old hot dog, and I was done with this day. It was time to crash the brother’s house. Hopefully he would be home. We pulled into her brother’s drive and saw his car parked in the driveway. Satan let out a sigh and I almost cried I was so happy. We both got out of my car, grabbed our bags, and made our way to the front door. We rang the bell and he answered. “What the hell happened to you two?” he asked looking at us.
“Shower…Must shower,” Satan mumbled. “Talk later.”
After I had showered, I lay down in the master bedroom for just a few minutes. Three hours later, I woke up to find that Satan’s sister-in-law had made all of us dinner. It was wonderful. We watched some TV and hung out with Satan’s family for a while before we got back on the road. We made it back to San Diego around 10:00 that night. We both crawled into our beds and watched some TV until we fell asleep where I dreamt of dancing ketchup and mustard jars. Satan was lucky. She was done with the Big Bear quake. I had promised my mom I would go back the next weekend to help her finish cleaning.
The Big Bear quake of 1992 was the largest quake in Big Bear history. It devastated the locals of Bear Valley and destroyed business and homes. When I went back to help my mom that next weekend, I found people living in tents in the Big Bear City Park. Luckily, no one died in the earthquake but I happen to know many people who were severely affected by its aftermath. My heart goes out to all those, like David’s grandmother, who lost memories that cannot be replaced. Big Bear pulled itself back together but was struck by more tragedy when wildfires swept through Southern California in 2003. This time the residents had to evacuate and were only able to take what they could carry with them. My mother had already passed away by this time, and all my memories of her and of my family were trapped in that house. Poptart and I were in Houston for a wedding, and all I could do was stare at the computer and wait for news. Finally the message came through that the fire was 90% under control, and that residents were being allowed back up the mountain. My thanks and eternal gratitude goes out to the best firefighters in the state of California and those who joined them from other states. I have them to thank for the pictures I now have in my possession. I no longer live there but Big Bear will always have a place in my heart, as will the people. No matter what comes their way, they will always rebuild. Together. And that is what makes that community so special.
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