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Zan Thompson

In This Family, Birthdays Are the Icing on the Quake

October 11, 1987|ZAN THOMPSON

If you're reading this, you survived early October's shake 'n' bake, for which I rejoice. There is much speculation among the seismologists about when The Big One will be, for which last week was just a run-through. I wish they'd ask me.

The men in my family are causing the earthquakes, at least the 1971 shake and a week ago Thursday's. The 1971 quake happened a couple of minutes before 6 a.m. on Feb. 9, my son Timothy's birthday. The recent one was Oct. 1, my husband Doug's birthday. Do you begin to see a pattern here? Obviously, The Big One will be on a May 18 because that is my father, John Michael Patrick Joseph Joyce's, birthday.

At the first big jolt Oct. 1, I thought, "Well, of course, it's Doug's birthday."

Wonderfully for all of us, there was not a huge loss of life. Of course if your chimney is still in the middle of your living room, you might not be so casual. I am deeply grateful that nothing happened at our house except the pictures were all crooked. And we are about two miles from Caltech, where the smart folks were watching the needles of their machines jump off the page.

My immediate concern when the shaking started was the cliff behind and to the side of the house. Between aftershocks, I ran out into the driveway and looked up, and there it stood, just being a cliff. Previous shakes have knocked off all the topsoil.

Peaches and Mrs. Goldfarb behaved very well. Mrs. Goldfarb, who is really a Southern cat and not familiar with such carryings on, retired to the guest room where she spent the day. Peaches ran around in circles barking her head off. Her obvious reaction was, "I can't see who's doing this, but when I do I'll take him apart." Her high-pitched shriek did nothing for anyone's composure.

A friend of mine, Gloria, has two dogs. One is a beautiful silver-and-black German shepherd whose papers and bloodline go back to Rin Tin Tin. His name is Simon Dixie.

His house-mate is a woolly, street-smart dog which turned up at Gloria's one day, bruised and battered, with scabs from old injuries and blood from new ones. Her stomach was distended from starvation. "I had her patched up and when I went to work that morning," Gloria said, "I was sure she would be dead when I got home."

No such thing. She was chipper and full of love and Gloria immediately named her Coco Chanel to build up her morale. She adores luxuries, and never sits on the floor when a pillow is available.

I asked Gloria the afternoon of the earthquake how her dogs had fared. "Oh, Coco is fine. She muttered a few rough street remarks and jumped up on the bed. But I'm afraid it has set Simon's therapy back at least six months."

Gloria and her co-vivant can't even have a good, rattling, air-clearing squabble because one of them will remember and say, "Oh, don't raise your voice. We'll upset Simon."

Simon whimpers and runs into the shower, where he curls himself into the fetal position and Gloria has to go and explain to him that all is well.

He goes to the dog therapist for 1 1/2-hour sessions every week. He is beautifully mannered, but the world is too much for Simon. I often know exactly how he feels.

My favorite remark on earthquake day was made by my classy friend Donna, a third-generation born-and-bred Californian. She was on the freeway when the quake hit and thought she had a flat tire, which is what most people think who are driving when the earth trembles. Then the disc jockey on the car radio said, "Hey, we just had a pretty good earthquake."

Donna said she thought, "Oh, thank God it's an earthquake. I can handle an earthquake but I can't handle a flat tire on the freeway."

Patsy had a rude awakening on Sunday morning at 4. She was sleeping downstairs on the couch to avoid heat collapse when the fault once more displayed its crotchety disposition. It rolled her off the couch and she broke her clavicle. Dr. Dick Diehl patched her up. Among other things, he takes care of the USC football team, which would seem to qualify him for Patsy, who weighs 95 pounds when she's carrying her power purse.

Last year, I made a start at getting together an earthquake readiness kit. First, I realized we had only an electric can-opener so I bought a manual one. Then I had the bottled water man put an extra bottle outside. In a few months, it was a pale greenish color and full of little squigglies. We couldn't lift it anyway. But I am going to try again. I just looked in the pantry and we had a can of pate and a can of pina-colada mix and seven kinds of mustard, from herb to honey.

Don't forget May 18, when my father gets his turn. We'll all sleep in the park. You bring the rum and I'll bring the pina-colada mix. Or I may just go in the shower with Simon.

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