Friday, March 11, 2011

Losing My Plaster Cast Ass in the ’89 ‘Quake

Mary hid behind her hair. Even on the phone you felt like she was hiding behind something. She answered questions with yes and no answers; didn’t ask questions and instead of laughing at my multiple attempts at jokes, she just said “hilarious.” Talking to her in person was painful; talking to her on the phone was excruciating, so my conversations were always very short:

“Where you going tonight? Who’s gonna be there?” That was the extent of it.

I eventually lost contact with her for the very reasons I mentioned: she just didn’t sparkle. A few years later I heard she was bartending in the Mission and now went by Crazy Mary. Her new moniker befuddled me.

At 5:07 on October 17, 1989 the ground began to shake, gently at first. I was on the phone to Mary going through our yes and no routine. I asked if she felt that – her apartment was 2 blocks from mine – and she said yes. I immediately yelled that I had to go while lunging for my stereo that was falling from my closet. I caught it and quickly put it on my bed. I ran under my doorway and yelled down the hall to my three roommates who were crowded under two doorframes. “Do you feel it?” It was a stupid question. The walls were violently shaking and the noise was deafening. We were on the third floor of an old Victorian. I kept repeating in my head, “Don’t collapse, don’t collapse, don’t collapse.”

Eventually the shaking subsided and the noise quit. What felt like an hour was only 30 seconds. The ground settled like Jell-O in a bowl and then stopped. Silence. We ran to each other, meeting in the middle of the hallway.

“Did you feel that? Jesus, that was big!!”

We didn’t know what to say or what to do. The phones and electricity were both out. Having been through a few earthquakes, I didn’t know if this was the big one, or just another large earthquake.

We ran back to our bedrooms to assess the damage.

Hanging on a strip of wall between my closet and door was a plaster cast of woman’s ass. Life size, it ran from the lower back to the upper thigh and extended about 6-8 inches from the wall, forming a half moon. The artist – marked John ’76 on the undercarriage – adhered cut-off jean short to the butt cheeks, ala Daisy Duke. A glossy paint of blue and flesh color adorned the sculpture. It was a marvel to behold and was my most prized possession. I purchased it for $3.99 at Thrift Town, Hayward. It had to be a high school art project.

Like the boys from Motley Crue touching posters of naked woman backstage stage in the Home, Sweet, Home video, I considered the ass a good luck charm, lightly placing my hand on it before going out on a Friday and Saturday night. It was a source of conversation and I incessantly talked about it. You know my ass…

I didn’t want to look. I knew the ass hadn’t survived. It was fragile to begin with – maybe a quarter inch thick - and was chipping at the edges.

My room was a wreck. Anything that wasn’t bolted down lay scattered on the floor. My other prized possession - a ceramic lamp of a big breasted stewardess with the words “Come Fly Me” on the bass - was intact, sustaining a large ship to the body that could be repaired.

At my feet, the ass lay in ruins. Shattered like a windshield, the jeans precariously holding the mosaic of plaster together, I picked it up and threw it away. I couldn’t look at it. It was done, over. This is how I deal with adversity - I walk away.

The next morning the sun shined, an abbreviated version of the paper came out and all seemed normal. The fires from the night before were smoldering. A few friends stopped by and we all went to Alamo Square to hang out. The park was speckled with tents from the night before. Many people were afraid of aftershocks, so they opted to camp rather than going back to their apartments. The park, which was mainly utilized by tourists and dog owners, was as crowded as it had ever been. We all seemed to be there for no reason other than to be with each other.

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