Last week’s two earthquakes were, to say the least, a bit “shocking.” (Sorry about that.) It had been 20 years since we had quakes of these magnitudes, enough time perhaps, for the “hopeful” part of our brains to temporarily forget the frequently predicted “big one.”  But we were reminded last Thursday by a 6.4 shaker near Ridgecrest, 150 miles north of Los Angeles.

I happened to be on the phone with my friend, Phyllis, when suddenly my apartment started to shake, as did hers. Phyllis’s immediate reaction was, “This is not good!” Then, the next day, there was another quake that was even more unnerving because we’d come to expect aftershocks would gradually decrease in strength and frequency.

The quake on Friday  was a  7.1 magnitude, after which I immediately called Phyllis who was adamant, “This is definitely not good!!” Thankfully, damage from both temblors, while considerable, was not devastating and, amazingly, there was no loss of life. But it took our minds back to the Northridge quake of 25 years ago.

It seems almost every resident of Southern California has an intense memory of the Northridge earthquake. Mine is quite vivid, and hopefully, somewhat amusing, at least in retrospect.

On January 17, 1994 at 4:30 a.m. I was awakened by a sore throat. At least that’s what I thought had awakened me. I went to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet to look for lozenges, when all hell broke loose. The earthquake was so violent I had to grab the chin-up bar in the hallway between the two bedrooms in order to keep upright. As I did, I called out for my then roommate, Bruno, whom I knew slept with earplugs.

“Bruno, wake up, this could be the big one!” I repeated my warning  as our high rise  shook, swayed and groaned.  Yes, the eeriest part was the sound of the steel frame groaning as the structure went back and forth. It felt like minutes until finally, it was over. The groaning continued as did the vertical blinds, which kept swaying for at 10 minutes.

Suddenly I heard a key open my front door. I foolishly thought maybe security was already checking on the tenants. It wasn’t security, it was Bruno! The quake apparently had awakened him and he bolted out outside to seek safety and was now returning.

First, a word about Bruno. At the tennis courts next to the Shores, he ran a tennis teaching program to kids who seemed to love him. One day he asked if I would consider a roommate for 6 months. A middle-easterner who went to college at UC Berkeley, Bruno was 5’6” and weighed maybe 110 pounds on a “heavy day.”

Bruno was a vegetarian non-smoker, which was good for a potential roommate. However, he was opinionated about everything, which could be annoying, and was the worst guitar player I’d ever heard, which was worse than annoying. That said, he was rarely home and, when he was, he stayed in his room, where we agreed he would never play his guitar.

With the quake over, as Bruno headed back to his room, it was obvious he hadn’t given any thought to my well being. “Bruno, did you call out my name before you left?”  “No,” he said bluntly, “in an emergency, Jack, it’s every man for himself.” At first I was stunned and then furious at his selfishness.

“Why didn’t you lie and say you called out my name, Bruno?”  “I have more integrity than to lie.”  That did it. “Well, Bruno, I have more integrity than to let you still live here.”

To Bruno’s credit,  he took it well.   “How much time do I have?” he asked calmly. “Thirty days,”  I replied.  “Very good,” he said and went into his room. (Where, thankfully, he didn’t play his guitar for the remainder of the 30 days.)

As for the recent earthquakes, there’s a tiny bit of good news. It comes from Caltech’s Dr. Lucy Jones, perhaps the country’s most foremost seismologist.  She points out that the first temblor, the 6.4 magnitude, has been classified as a “foreshock,” and the next, 7.1, was the actual earthquake.  This means the resulting aftershocks are likely to be much smaller. The bad news is, we can expect them for 3 years. Yikes!

As for Bruno, he and I remained cordial for years until he stopped giving tennis lessons and moved away. Eventually I got another roommate. However, in the brief “roommate interview” I conducted, I insisted on one thing. 

I explained, that, if there was ever a huge earthquake that would cause him to suddenly evacuate the apartment, as a warning before exiting, he would be expected to call our my name. (Or, at least lie and said he did.)

Jack is at:, and

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