Random Blather

Feverish Ravings of a Middle-Aged Mind

Douglas Moran

Douglas Moran
Austin, Texas,
June 25
Low-level Technical Weenie
TechnoGypsy, family dude, technical writer, frisbee golfer, movie buff, political junkie, gadget fiend, computer nerd.


MARCH 15, 2011 11:14PM

To Japan From a Santa Cruzan, With Feeling

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Pacific Garden Mall, Santa Cruz, CA, shortly after 10/17/89

(Note: this post originally appeared--in slightly different form--as a response to the wonderful post by Ume Blossom.)

Let's get this out of the way right up top:  I really don't know beans about Japan.

I would like to.  I want to visit.  I want to know more about it from first-hand experience.  I've been fascinated by Japan since I was just a kid, watching "Shogun" with my mouth hanging open, desperately trying to absorb enough Japanese to understand what Tishiro Mfune was saying. I learned Go; read The Book of Five Rings (as well as lots of cheesy fiction set in Japan, like "Rain Fall" or "The 47th Samurai"); I tried to like anime (but failed other than "Cowboy Bebop"); I learned to love sushi.

But I have no more "feeling" for it than any other western gaijin who's never been there. How could I?

But watching, reading, hearing about this devastation, I can relate. I lived in Santa Cruz, CA, for 12 years--it's essentially my home town. I was there for a devastating flood in the the winter of 1982; I was there for the Loma Prieta quake of 1989, when my 45 minute commute suddenly became a 2.5 hour slog up to Half Moon Bay and over a completely different road. My possessions were smashed; my house damaged; my downtown demolished, crushing people I knew under the weight of its unquakeproofed bricks and mortar. And it has never really recovered.

So I look at these photos, photos of beach towns that, aside from styles of cars and house, aside from Kanji on the signs, could be any one of hundreds of American beach towns, including my beloved Santa Cruz, and I can imagine, oh so easily, it being me.  Like millions, I watched the images recorded by some brave/crazy/stupid person as the waters filled up and essentially erased their town, and the details screamed "beach town".  The boats floating through the streets; the rusty steel handrails on the sidewalk leading up to high ground; the open flatness--short houses, flat ground--that you get in so many beach towns as you approach the water.  Iffelt like it could have been me.

Because it was. In 1989, it was my favorite stores getting destroyed, my friends' houses collapsing, the entire tenor of my town changing in a few short seconds.  In 1995, it was my parents fleeing to our home in Austin ahead of the hurrican that wiped out entire stands of pine trees and sent three of those trees crashing through the roof of their house.

It wasn't me in Japan; but in my heart, I felt it as if it was. 

I know nothing of Miyagi Prefecture except that Yoko Kanno comes from there. But I know beach towns. I know natural disasters. I have lived them. I have seen what Rita did to my parents' house in Lake Charles, LA; I have seen what hurricanes have done to my cousin Billy's Cape Cod town of Yarmouthport; I was in Austin when a hurricane once again tried erase the town of Galvestone from the face of the Earth; and I have seen my beloved home town shaken by the hand of God.

I don't know you, Japan, but I feel for you. And wish you nothing but the best.

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Beautiful, Doug.

As another survivor of Loma Prieta, I too send heart-felt sympathy West across the sea.

I can only be thankful that Santa Cruz did not also have to contend with the additional disasters of the Tsunami, and the nuclear power plant going critical. Any one of which would be a blow. But this triple-threat all at once.....Aaiiee. Where to even start, for them?

True that, although we did have something exploding on Moss Landing every couple of years or so.