how ’bout that rock as the Earth rolls?

What land of natural disaster would you choose?

That's the first question in my mind minutes after waking up upon hearing on the radio of a tornado whose eye was half a mile (0.80 km) wide.

I've lived in earthquake country, tornado country, heavy seasonal rains and potential tsunami country and country of inactive volcanos.

Most of my life, starting in childhood, has been in earthquake country. Temblors roll off my back, no pun intended. I've been through big ones and minor jolts. In Japan, one of the world's most active teutonic regions, the Earth beneath our feet shook near every month. No biggie.

Of the many I've experienced, there's been only one that truly rattled me and that was the famous San Francisco rocker of October 1989 (known officially as the Loma Prieta quake). It brought the collapse of the Bay Bridge, connecting San Francisco and Oakland, during rush hour, along with widespread damage, injuries and deaths.

I'll never forget it. I was living in the Richmond District in an old baby-blue Victorian rental with no heat and oh-so-very drafty. The wind whistled in through the cracks and spaces around the windows and aged wood. And damp, good lord. I came down with a deadly case of bronchitis from which I never fully recovered, one that set my body up for a lifetime of respiratory ailments.

That was my final abode after 10 years in the City. I left that cold damp climate and everything else that was going down in California for greener pastures rice paddies overseas and never looked back.

I was home during that powerful quake, 7.1 on the Richter scale. I remember vividly where I was and what I was doing: at a table in the main room with the books and music writing a letter to, if memory serves, Hiroki in Japan.

The jolts struck hard and with determination and didn't let up. The structure rocked and the walls rattled and the floor shifted hard, like those in the funny houses at the carnival designed to throw you off balance for entertainment, only this was no laughing matter.

The shaking kept tossing me off my balance as I tried to walk so for the first time I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled across the room and down the long hallway on the natty coarse weave of floor covering to position myself in the frame of the front door. And I was afraid, for the first time in an earthquake.

When the wild motion subsided, it was a city without electricity, a city where in those "short" moments that seemed to last an eternity residents had lost their homes and more. I was amongst the fortunate majority; mine remained standing, though of course stuff was strewn everywhere. Of assorted damage, the worst of it was one entire wall, by the table where I'd been writing the letter, turned into a topography map of loosened, cracked and mostly fallen plaster.

Here's something else I'll never forget. As I was writing in my at the time baby-level Japanese and the room started shaking and the stylus on the turntable started skipping, it was this LP that was playing:

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