Tsunami Warning Ot Ten.

I was pulled grudgingly from my sleep about 130 a.m. this morning by the pestering ring of my cell phone. In the states, I had frequent calls in the middle of the night – so often, in fact, that I just never answered them. Here, though, my phone rarely rings at all, let alone in the middle of the night. So, tempted as I was to “ignore,” I went ahead and picked up. I was disoriented enough that I didnt right away recognize my dad’s voice.
“In a few hours, you’re going to be hit by a Tsunami,” he said.
“No, no no, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“There was an earthquake, and it’s bad,” he insisted.
“The one in Japan? I know, that one has passed.”
“No, there was an earthquake in Chile and you’re going to get hit by a Tsunami. I just didn’t want you to be out riding your bike or something.”
“Dad, you must be mistaken. Chile is in South America.”
“Yes, I know, but the entire Pacific Ocean is on watch.”
“HOLD on…”
Exasperated, I stumbled out to my computer and turned on CNN. Sure enough, all hell was breaking loose in South America. And, just as dad said, a widespread Tsunami warning had been issued.
“Oh, no” I finally responded.
“No, it’s okay, you can go back to bed,” Dad says. “I just didnt want you out riding your bike without checking the news first.”
“OH SURE, DAD. I’ll totally just GO BACK TO BED.”
“You have time, don’t worry.”
So, I had to recheck the data. Sure enough, he was right.
What he meant by “in a few hours” was  “11 hours from now.” In my world, “in a few hours you’ll be hit by a Tsunami” means RUNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! But luckily, I had plenty of time to pack, eat, and go back to sleep.
For the second time in six months I set about packing a bag and contemplating the seriousness of the word “evacuation.” I don’t know if you’ve ever had the word “evacuation” thrown at you in the middle of the night, but for this Northwest girl, it’s a pretty big deal. You see, in the PNW, we don’t have catastrophes. Or the ones we do have are pretty expected like flooding or ice storms. I certainly have never been told to “pack a bag and get to high ground” before this particular journey, that’s for sure.
The strangest thoughts were going my mind. First, I grabbed all my notebooks of writing. Looking around my apartment, I know that I can live without or replace nearly everything – but the writing…the writing can’t be left behind. Next to land in the suitcase was Mr. Peabody, my teddy bear. Now, I know what you’re thinking – a teddy bear?? But, honestly, I’ve had this bear since I was nine years old. He goes with me everywhere – acting as a pillow and a little piece of home. After the irreplaceables, I decided to get some necessities. The question was, though, what do you need in the event of a Tsunami? Having never lived through a major catastrophe, I was thinking either this island would be destroyed or it wouldn’t be hit at all. So, I grabbed the same things I would grab if I were leaving in a hurry for a weekend trip – a few clothes, a pair of shoes, my toothbrush, my cell phone and charger, and my passport.
After my bags were packed and set by the door, I watched the news for a few minutes and decided to go back to bed after all. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any trouble getting back to sleep, but I awoke with that panic that you only get when you have forgotten something important – like a wedding or a death or christmas. Then I remembered – “oh yeah, tsunami.” So, I turned on the computer again only to be reassured that I did, in fact, have several hours before impending doom. I made coffee and waited as riveted as the rest of the world to the fate of Hawai’i. As a major event didn’t come to pass, I began to toggle between panic and calm. I was thinking “either it’s REALLY good or REALLY bad that Hawai’i didn’t get hit. With little else to do I began to rethink my packing. Maybe a carry-on suitcase and a back pack was over kill…maybe just a backpack and my writing. Can I do without Mr. Peabody? Do I really need sneakers too? I condensed my evac pack down to a shoulder bag and a back pack, and then I went back to my post at the computer. As I sat glued to the live feed of CNN and the chats boxes opening up from worried friends and family, I began to think “what if we really DO get hit by this thing…. maybe I should secure more of my belongings…”
Now, I live on the third floor of a concrete building. In all likelihood a major tsunami wouldn’t bring the building down. If anything, it would probably just flood. So, with all of the pictures of flood victims pouring through my mind, I thought “maybe I should just put all my clothes in my suitcases. That way, if the building does get damaged, at least all my clothes will be in one spot.” So, I scampered around my apartment grabbing clothes and putting them in my suitcases. I even decided Mr. Peabody could hang back. Then I realized if I was saving my clothes, maybe I should save my paperwork too. I grabbed the most random books possible and my file folder of bills, etc, and put them in plastic bags and shoved them into the suitcases too. It wasn’t easy lobbing those heavy things on top of my closet…but I managed. With nothing left worth saving, I returned to my couch to sit and wait.
Looking around at my apartment, I realized how little I have that really matters. The items of most concern to me are photos, writings, and of course, Mr. Peabody. I also realized what a helpless feeling this is. Sitting and waiting for impending doom is a pretty ridiculous activity. I mean, I’m on an island in the middle of nowhere without a car or a plan. What exactly am I supposed to do? So, I waited and waited waited. Perhaps I should have been a little more excited by the email from my principal saying “evac cancelled,” but truth be told, I panicked even more. “How is that even possible??” I thought. With nothing more to do, I just kept waiting – waiting for NOAA, the new foundation of my sanity, to tell me not to worry, that everything is going to be okay. Finally, NOAA came through for me.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the people of Samoa or Chile or Haiti. This little drama occurred almost entirely in my head. I really don’t know what I would do if my world ever came crashing down around me. I guess as long as I have my writing and Mr. Peabody and a family that loves me, I’ll always be okay.

Live Music: Does the music make the show or does the show make the music?

When I was in high school I lived in a small, boring town. My classmates found entertainment in after school clubs and sports, parties, even bible studies. None of these activities held any interest for me whatsoever, so I found myself spending a lot of time staring at my ceiling, listening to music, or watching John Hughes movies. I think it must have been my sophomore year when I discovered The Backstage at the Capital Theatre in Olympia, Washington. The details escape me, but I imagine that my friend Joe and I were aimlessly wandering the streets and found ourselves drawn down the graffiti covered alley way by the raw, distorted riffs of local bands.

This was in the 90’s, right before Olympia’s popularity blew up with Kill Rock Stars and K Records leading the charge. As a teenager I was drawn into the gritty nightlife of the local music scene – but more importantly I became enamored with live music. I found myself thrashing in punk rock mosh pits, swaying to acoustic folk sets, and mesmerised by larger than life hippie rock. What I discovered was that the genre of music didn’t matter to me, it was the passion with which the artist performed. As I grew up and became employed, I found myself going to any and every concert I could. I have been lucky enough to have seen amazing bands that faded away, bands on small stages that soon would be playing stadiums, and even legends. Of all these shows, I have found that my opinion on a live show has very little to do with the released albums, or even my predilection for the band at all. Actually, I have found that some of my favorite acts to see are bands whose recordings I would never actually listen to even after seeing live.

I first realized that there was a disparity between albums and performances when I saw Blink 182 live. To this day, I do not own any of their music. I can’t even remember the last time I listened to one of their songs, and I really can’t even stand Tom Delonge’s voice, but their live performances are among my favorites. Musically, they are true to their recordings, which I can’t say of many of the bands I have seen; but more importantly, they are highly entertaining because they are so comic.

Gogol Bordello is another example of a band whose show I will never miss, but whose music I have yet to own. I had never even heard of Gogol – a friend of mine offered me a ticket if I would drive him to the show; never one to turn down a free show, I went and subsequently had my mind blown. Here is a band whose albums are unrefined at best, and whose videos look like sheer, chaotic nonsense. To see them live, however, is a musically exquisite experience. The pandemonium of Gogol’s performances is a harsh contrast to the precision of their intricately arranged instrumentation. Violinists and accordian players dance around scantily clad women playing large bass drums. One of my favorite Gogol moves is when frontman Eugene Hutz plays percussion on water buckets that are suspended in air by the feet of his dancers. The frenetic energy of the band is overwhelming, but through the stunts and the choreography comes flawlessly played music – their shows are political, passionate, and nothing short of awe inspiring.

Conversely, I have seen Eric Clapton play live. His recordings are amazing and yet his performance was one of the worst I have ever seen. For a legendary guitarist, I expected, oh, I don’t know….a performance. I don’t know if he was sick or depressed or what his problem was, but he sat down on a stool in the center of the stage at the Tacoma dome and didn’t move until the set was over. In all seriousness I’m not even sure if his fingers moved. For all I know he was lip synching, and I had REALLY good seats. Even the crowd was lame. They sat in their chairs smoking pot and barely moving. I remember the opening band was a saxophonist named Curtis Stigers – he was a one hit wonder at the time. I was so dissappointed at the end of this show that a one hit wonder had upstaged a legend of guitar.

Since I have been attending concerts I have held the belief that the performance should be something special. If I want to listen to a band’s music being perfectly played, I will buy the album. When I go to a show I want creativity and passion as well as good artistry. I don’t want to see an artist play through a routine cadre of hits. I want to hear new songs and old songs sprinkled with stories the way I do at Leo Kottke and Bruce Cockburn shows; I want insanity, humor and antics like Gogol Bordello, Sum 41 and Blink 182 offer; I want to be moved to dance the way I am at Neil Diamond or Sky Cries Mary; I want to be rocked the way I am rocked at Incubus or Tool. When I go to a show, I am not impressed unless the performance is magic.