Wednesday, March 16, 2011

weather zelig

I was in an earthquake once. I had recently moved to Germany and rented an apartment near the train station in Mainz. My bedroom window looked out on a labyrinthical courtyard of buildings, including a brothel, a laundry shack, and lots of garbage cans. In the middle of the night I woke up shaking. I half woke up, anyway, and my sleepmind tried to grasp what was happening. I realized it wasn't me but the bed shaking, or actually the room. I said to myself, 'finally it has happened: the devil has come to claim me.' And I went back to bed. I was always scared shitless of the devil, even when I stopped believing. In the morning, I'd forgotten all about it. When I got to work, our secretary asked if I had felt the earthquake, and I was at once surprised and completely relieved.

I also experienced a tornado when I lived in Kansas. I lived in a house across from the fire department. One day I was deeply engrossed in an exercise video when the sirens went off. I noticed them, but they were quickly absorbed by my subconscious. Minutes later the German professor from the college where I worked was banging at my door. He had a crush on me and often showed up at my door asking to massage my feet, but this time he hustled me into his car and down into his tornado cellar. Weather-wise it was an interesting experience - everything went dark and very quiet. Our town was spared but some terrible trailer bashing went on not too far away.

From the human disaster almanac, I was also in China when the Tiananmen massacre went down. I lived in a city on the coast east of Beijing. We'd seen some protests, and some of our students had traveled to Beijing to be part of larger demonstrations. In China at that time, the one way to get real news was from other people. There was no internet, censored or not censored. The tv was state run and so were the newspapers. The only true news -and even that was questionable- came from people who were there. My mother in NJ knew more than I did about what was happening in Beijing, and she wasn't taking it calmly. All we had was Li Peng, the premier at the time, on tv repeating the same speech over and over.

After recounting all this I suddenly feel, at least on an amateur level, like an unimportant, curiously nondescript short Jewish man with glasses who manages to show up in surprising circumstances without any particular motive. I blend in, and am defined only by what has happened to me. I do hope it is a career I've now abandoned, and I will be spared eyewitnessing Middle East uprisings and nuclear disaster.

(The poster is from Witold Sadowski, a Polish graphic artist.)


Kathleen said...

I will be sharing this with my friend who is addicted to hummus and afraid of tornadoes. Not to torture her, but to help her through tornado season.

Kim said...

I'm the hummus addict, only afraid of tornadoes if I am driving near them. (Don't want to have to get out of the car into a ditch...PLEASE!). I've lived through a tornado, near an erupting volcano, experienced an overthrow of a south american government, and been in several earthquakes. Zelig is one of my favorite Woody films.

SarahJane said...

Hi Kim,
You have also reportedly survived a serious addiction to a fatty food! Congratulations! smile.
But seriously, do you share your recipe on your blog? I used to love hummus but haven't had it in years.

Related Posts with Thumbnails