Are You Ready?/We’re All Going to Die

My name is David and I am a disaster addict. I break into shivers at any mention of the word subduction. I live for the moment when the fault line shifts and throws us into the throes of the inevitable natural disaster. I’m no expert but people need to consider an earthquake’s aftermath and contemplate what it will be like to scrounge for food and water and not be able to take a real shower for six months. (1) My own preparation includes a water supply that isn’t up to the two-week standard yet and a few spare cans of kidney beans. I might be on a three or four bean per diem until things return to normal. I have yet to check the expiration date on those weird nutrition bars with the five-year shelf life that I would only consider eating if starvation were imminent. This earthquake preparation event was an opportunity to reinforce what I know and learn something new. A chance to improve my knot tying skills was an added bonus.

When we arrived I realized we were in the safest place possible if an earthquake were to occur. Everyone would spring into action, catch ceiling beams before they gashed my skull, bark out commands and rescue us all. The reality was a power point presentation given by members of the Red Cross. My ears and eyes didn’t totally glaze over. My stupor was staved off by thoughts of other natural disasters like terrorism, hazardous materials spills, winter storms, volcanos, fires, floods, landslides and the vague sounding public health emergency—do I need to stockpile tissues?

The talk was standing room only with an average age that could only be described as old. Young people might have better things to do or they only go to earthquake talks that serve beer. The lecture reinforced the need to plan. I realized I hadn’t even thought about how we’d get out of our new house if it were on fire. It’s much harder if you have to figure it out when the house is actually on fire. The same goes for an earthquake. Who’s going to check on your living quarters and pets? How will anyone get across the river if all the bridges collapse? I did meet a woman once who kept a portable raft in her car for that very reason.  Answers to questions like these are  a necessary part of disaster planning.

From the Red Cross talk, I learned that up to 7 million people could be affected by a quake with 2 million people dealing with food and water shortages. A percentage of these folks will be coming for my water supply. We’ll all get one teeny sip per day. Up to a million people could be in need of shelter. When one considers FEMA’s record we could all be SOL. A two-week water supply seems like a drop in a bucket given the possibility of a longer recovery period. I also have low expectations of the abilities of an overwhelmed police force. I heard rumblings of SW Portland becoming inaccessible to police assistance if the roads end up a crumbled mess.

Jon Grasle from the American Red Cross offered a casual aside. “It’s going to be a ride,” he said of a possible earthquake. He pointed out that over the last 10,000 years there have been 41 earthquakes over 8.5 on the Richter Scale. These averaged a little over every 240 years. The last occurred in January of 1700. When talking averages, he explained that some quakes have happened as much as 800 years apart. It was a relief hearing that it was possible that an earthquake might not occur in most of our lifetimes even though technically we’re overdue.

Red Cross representative Libet Steiff started her talk saying, “If we’re lucky we’ll die of something else before this is ever an issue.” Ah, to die any other way than from an earthquake that’s somehow reassuring. She covered topics worth pondering including pet plans, out-of-town contacts for communication, building survival kits and figuring out a safe place to store them. There’s also water to collect and store, a back supply of medications to stock pile, copies of important documents to make and the sanitation considerations that will have you scrambling for a poo pamphlet or two.

I’m not one to preach to coworkers, friends or strangers but embracing the idea that a debilitating earthquake could happen is important. People need to get their heads around this possible scenario and work up some preparation basics. It’s not necessary to go overboard and build an earthquake-proof bomb shelter but a bit of planning will pay off if things get rocky.

I never got my question answered about how to fend off the marauding band of thirsty psychotic crazies who might come to my house brandishing drinking straws aimed at my water supply. It’s a question for the next preparation event, I suppose. One lecture on a Sunday afternoon was enough. I picked up some reference material in a cavernous room of the Multnomah Arts Center where there were preparation displays, NET (Neighborhood Emergency Teams) groups gathered, people pushing post earthquake supplies and our knot tying instructors. As we left I looked through the window of the classroom where another lecture was in progress. A slide on the screen was titled liquefaction. My wife, Ronna, accused me of drooling at the thought of sitting in on a lecture about this topic. I broke into a cold sweat but managed to drag myself away from the event and into the daylight.

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(1) This is not based on any scientific fact. I was trying to think of the longest amount of time someone could go without a real shower before going legally insane.

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Gnome Alone: Going Solo in Gnome City USA

Is Portland worthy of the title Gnome City USA? I think so. Where do we rank? #1 for sure! There are plenty of Gnomes around but does Portland have more Gnomes than any where else?  I’d say absolutely with certainty but given that I imagine few people really care I’m going to go about the business of presenting to Portland, and the world, a few thoughts about these local gnomes.

Lately it’s been more questions than I can really answer. I’m more driven just to spread the gospel of Portland being a city crawling with . Everyone gnomes it.  This kind of lawn and garden art is everywhere. All bad puns aside it feels like there are at least 2 to 3 per capita, but I’m not sure I can muster the jargon for correct statistical analysis so I’m ready to move on to other concerns involved with gnome ownership. Then again presenting facts while making no effort to back them up means The Portland Orbit is more in line with trying to make it onto President Trump’s list of fake news organizations.

What’s really important is making people aware of how crucial picking the right Gnome is when making the effort to demonstrate your yard decoration skills. This could be is the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life. Deliberate, choose wisely, once you decide there is no going back. In cases of buyer’s remorse it’s important to point out that Gnomes hate being replaced or returned to the store. Their special powers will have them stopping at nothing in the event they are scorned. An indecisive yard decorator risks being beset upon by a plauge of crabgrass, an army of moles or worse. Don’t test their strange powers. Behind these docile statuettes lie a vindictive warrior.

Weathered But Not Beaten

Weatherbeaten Gnomes like this one in SW Portland can still get the job done. In fact they’re more interesting to look at than brand spanking new Gnomes. Besides no one has any clue about the proper way to dispose of a Gnome until they crumble and fall apart for good.

Geographical Showdown

North Montana Avenue in the North Portland neighborhood of Arbor Lodge seems to inspire a contagion of Gnome displays. It’s hard to tell if it was coincidental or competitive. The Gnomes have spare time to pursue fancy hobbies like bug collecting and riding while wiling away the hours performing their display duties.

Super Sized

Instead of three or four gnomes why not an extra-large Gnome that’s about the size of three or four Gnomes. This intimidating sized Gnome can do double duty guarding your garden as well as your front door.

Pick a Side Gnome

Gnome don’t generally pay attention to sports and they’re certainly not dedicated followers of fashion but people can’t resist forcing their Gnomes, like this one spotted in the Kenton neighborhood, to pick a side and show team spirit accordingly. All in a day’s work for any Gnome.

Fishing in North Portland

Again in more of an inspired moment of yard decor it’s nice to consider what you can make a Gnome do. Fishing in a garden is something no one but a Gnome would attempt yet a yard decorator with a sense of humor or a love of fishing can force a Gnome to hold a fish bearing fishing pole and tend to squash plants at the same time.

Home Gnome

Possibly foisted upon us by the proprietor at Kenton Antiques (thanks Mo!), I grew to love the strange Gnome who came to live in our backyard. Even at his final resting place (the side yard), the Gnome seems to weather any weather without losing a smile or getting a bad attitude.