Friday, March 18, 2011

In fear and in love of my beautiful city

“Civilization is hideously fragile and there's not much between us and the horrors underneath, just about a coat of varnish.” ~Carrie P. Snow

Like everybody else, I've been riveted to the TV, watching footage of what's happening in Japan. Earthquake, tsunami, volcano, nuclear emergency, it seems that the very universe is bent on bringing Japan down. Yet the Japanese people remain calm, stoic, they seem to take this all with a courage and a determination that is greatly humbling. Even Diane Sawyer with her dramatic arm waving could not drum up a panic among those poor people. That woman makes my teeth itch...

Here in the US it's a whole different matter. Yesterday some nut called KGO on the afternoon show to proudly announce that she was not panicking or anything, but she had packed up some seaweed (????) and was running north to be with her loved ones to wait for the apocalypse. People after people were calling to explain how they were loading up on Iodine, salt (???) and other "emergency supplies".

Closer to me, a few people admitted thinking seriously about leaving San Francisco. This did give me some pause. San Francisco IS a time bomb, we all know it. We have the San Andreas fault running right under us (South SF that is) or close by. Hayward is really not that far, and numerous smaller faults are running all around us, and despite all the rumors, myths and guesses, nobody knows when the "big one" is going to happen.

I've been thinking about that, wondering if really it was worth the risk. There IS a risk, the die hard San Franciscan will laugh and say out loud that there is nothing to worry about, yet they will gladly talk about how horrible and scary the Loma Prieta earthquake was in 1989. That Shake was 900 times smaller than the earthquake that hit Japan last week.

I went to work Friday looking around downtown and imagining what it would like to have the high rise sway, shake, and fall all around me. As I walked in the downtown center, on the first floor of one such high rise, I was fearfully aware of the tons and tons of building over my head. I buried my mind into my meeting, trying very hard to forget about it and I did. After work though, it came back to me. Why stick around? What is it about San Francisco that makes it worth the risk? I got my answer last weekend.

Saturday I had the day entirely off. My husband and I headed out to Crissy Fields and to Fort Point. I had never visited the place, and we decided it was time to go. The place is so much fun to visit. I'm a fan of history and love old buildings that have a story to tell. Not only that, but the view from the top is just fabulous! It was an absolutely perfect San Francisco day: sunny, crisp but not cold. We enjoyed our visit greatly and then had lunch just outside the Warm Hut Cafe. After eating we hit the beach with Grace (our dog who had to wait outside Fort Point, no dog allowed). We left Crissy field and decided to drop Grace at home and walk around on Clement street, hitting all our favorite spots (mainly Green Apple honestly, BOOKS!).

Sunday we got out again, and went to the Farmers Market at Fort Mason. As we explored the little but fun market, we realized there was a Cafe/Bookstore hidden behind it. Who can resist such a thing?? We went in, had a delicious coffee, talked it up with the lady at the counter, and came back with old books that we were all proud to find.

After the horrors of the Japanese disaster, and the fear it brought to me, this weekend was the perfect San Francisco weekend. It reminded me why we decided to move back to the city, and why we love it so much. Yes there are risk in the Bay Area, as there are risk in Tornado Alley, as there are risk on the Gulf Coast with the hurricanes, or in Canada with the snow/sleet storms. No place in the world is completely disaster proof. Even if there was such a place, what about fire? Traffic accident?

I love San Francisco, it's a beautiful city, with greatly interesting people, where there is always something going on, something to do, something to see. I no longer feel like an alien here, when I think of home, I think of San Francisco. It's MY city, and I am not leaving it as long as I can afford to stay. Yes there is a possibility that an earthquake and/or a tsunami will destroy this city that I love so much, but I choose to think that it will not happen in my lifetime. Since I do not have children to worry about, I'm willing to gamble on it.

I will prepare as I can for a possible disaster, but I will not let fear keep me from enjoying my living here. When that happens, it will be time to move, and I'm not there now.

People of Japan, you are in our thoughts, in our heart. Be strong, you will rise from this. Hopefully we will all learn from this to be better prepared when our turn come.

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