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April 18, 2006 [ More archived home pages here ]

Richter Scale Blues

Today's song is Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding, released in 1968.

One hundred years ago today, April 18, 1906, San Francisco, California experienced a major earthquake ranging between 7.7 and 8.25 on the Richter Scale.

History records of the time indicate the terrible destruction of life and property the residents experienced. I have only felt slight earthquakes here in San Diego and they are disconcerting enough. Experts in the field tell us it's only a matter of time before The Big One hits in California. In recent days, a number of TV shows have discussed the 1906 earthquake and the ramifications of future earthquakes in the region.

The first time I saw San Francisco was in January 1971 when I was stationed at Treasure Island during my U.S. Naval Reserve military service. It remains the most beautiful city I've ever seen. I've been there several times in the years since my first visit alone and with my family. It is an interesting city, the people are busy as in any large metropolitan area and their attitudes are mostly liberal for the most part.

In the early 1980's I stayed in one of the old hotels that experienced the 1906 earthquake. It was an opportunity to confront the anxiety of wondering if another earthquake would happen while I was there. Nothing happened as it turned out.

I wonder if the anxiety of any San Franciscans are increased as the hundred year anniversary arrives? That is not an unexpected concern considering the number of newspaper articles and TV shows devoted to the original quake and predictions about damage from the next one.

In 1968, Otis Redding's song was a hit on the radio across the country. That song remains one of my favorites for a variety of reasons. Part of the message to me is that a person can experience a lot of disappointment in life and seek the travels of the road to ease their disillusionment. For some, the West Coast is as far as they get and then they stop there for an extended time while they sort it all out. San Francisco is the ultimate destination for many who feel that way. I've watched enough people living on the street there to know it happens.

For others, San Francisco is only a temporary respite for them and they return to the more productive aspects of life once they see the light. Therefore, I think of San Francisco as a city in constant transition. Its long history of rebuilding and redefining itself is a testament to the American spirit. Some people come to stay and contribute to the city's evolution and some come briefly, only long enough to leave their heart there.

Sit by San Francisco Bay someday and think about the choices you've made in your life. Listen to Otis' song and consider his perspective. You won't be alone and whatever you decide to do from that point forward in your life, a part of you will always feel at home there. It's part of the magic of San Francisco, nothing in this world can shake that feeling from the human spirit.


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