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Westside Watch

Post-quake Sidewalk Sale Soothes Rattled Nerves

January 23, 1994

At Santa Monica Homeopathic Co. on 4th Street, not even yellow police tape surrounding the store could keep rattled customers from queuing up curbside for their vitamins and herbs--strong aftershocks notwithstanding.

The Litvak family, which has run the business for 50 years, kept operating despite the tape, which is a warning to enter at one's risk. So it was business as, um, unusual.

"I'm not sleeping," said customer Sandra Tootalian. "I need my calming herbs because my house has been rocking and rolling."

Curbside shoppers took turns sitting in a big wooden chair as their requests for "double and triple" vitamin orders were taken by Litvak family members.

Steve Litvak said people seemed to be stocking up on cosmetics, vitamins and herbs, saying they were worried the building in which the naturopathic pharmacy is housed would tumble in an aftershock or be condemned.

*

QUAKE LABOR: To say the quake was a moving experience for Karen Blechman would be an understatement.

After giving a reporter a sobering account of how the temblor destroyed her Santa Monica apartment building and left her homeless, Blechman recalled a bizarre experience that occurred moments before the ground started shaking.

She said she felt an odd pushing sensation that was at once strange, disconcerting and yet somehow empowering. "It was as if I were re-experiencing my own birth," she said.

Whether Blechman was, in fact, reborn Monday morning is impossible to know, but she insisted that the sensation soothed her enough to help her escape her building.

"It sounds so California," she said apologetically. "I can't believe it. I'm British."

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SOME MOMENTO: The normally vibrant Third Street Promenade bore a decidedly down-in-the-mouth look with few customers and lots of plywood this past week.

Bricks tumbled from several facades along the pedestrian mall and many plate-glass windows shattered.

But people came anyway, although aftershock-talk like "I was driving a little while ago and I felt that one" or "There was one last night that everyone woke up to" was in full swing.

Looky-loos were just as common. One wisecracker taunted a pair of visitors videotaping peeling brickwork.

"Yeah," he shouted, "We went to California and all we got was this earthquake!"

*

TEMBLORS BANNED: When asked how Beverly Hills escaped severe damage in Monday's earthquake, one City Hall wag replied, "We don't allow it."

True, the city has had an aggressive, retrofitting program since September, 1992, when it passed an ordinance requiring that older buildings be brought up to earthquake codes.

But the snide remark may have a grain of truth to it.

This is a city known for passing ordinances regulating or banning everything from leaf blowers to putting advertising fliers on vehicles.

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