Like many Americans with a taste for eschatology, I read Kathryn Schulz’s article on the Very Big One with interest. Schulz wrote the story of the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake like a mystery thriller, which, in a way, it is, even if nobody ever really believed in Seattle’s geological stability. Naturally, seismologists, public health officials, and cooler heads who dislike mass panic were quick with temperate responses to the piece: there’s no meaningful way in which it can be said that a region is overdue for a cataclysm, and the Pacific Northwest is not as unprepared as Schulz implies that it is, and protected as it is by the Puget Sound, Seattle is unlikely to be inundated anyway. But as we’ve learned over and over, in modern America, rational argument is no match for fear porn. Seattle now has a bullseye on its back. I know the next time I get off the plane at Sea-Tac, I won’t be hearing those tempered voices. I’ll be thinking: “when the earthquake comes, everything west of 1-5 will be toast.”
That’s an awful lot of toast with your breakfast. But Americans have developed quite an appetite for toast, what with our endless zombie shows and post-apocalyptic dramas and Mad Max scenarios and fantasies about total societal collapse. Bring it all down, I keep hearing people say. Hollywood keeps serving us celluloid representations of NYC demolished: by falling rocks and thuggers and great waves and whatnot. In the New York metro, we’ve already lived through a real cataclysm and its aftermath, and while I won’t hazard a guess about how much out-of-state spectators enjoyed the show, I do know that it permanently altered the tone of the drums along the Hudson. I also recall the psychosexual effects of 9/11: with sudden horrible death staring us in the face, people all over the city became susceptible to (and acted on) crazed urges they hadn’t felt before. This is where, I feel, both the Book of Revelation and those awful last-days books by Tim LaHaye really depart from probability. After the rapture and the tribulations, there really ought to be wild orgies, shouldn’t there?
For “Take Me To The Waterfall”, I imagined the effect of the threat of the subduction zone quake on a guy who’d otherwise been repressed about his physical desires. The threat of disaster pops his lid open, basically. The waterfall in the song is Snoqualmie, which is spectacular and thunderous, and not a little terrifying, and only a short drive east of Seattle. I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for the mercilessness of nature; Mother Nature, human nature, you call it yourself. If you do go chasing waterfalls (I do), I strongly recommend making the trip.
Apocalyptic-themed rock music usually means Jackson Browne to me, but apocalypse plus sexual compulsion will always equal Peter Gabriel. Even as a young singer, PG always sounded like a veteran of a thousand psychic wars; I um, do not. But we tried to bathe this song in a little red rain, if you know what I mean, and I made like Larry Fast on the Moog.I had the great pleasure of interviewing Larry Fast, who is a Jersey guy, a few years ago.That article was pulled away from me in a last minute editorial switcheroo and run before I had a chance to polish it or frame it.Of the million and one writing assignments I’ve taken on over the last two decades, that may be the one I’d most like to have back.I have pilfered so many ideas from that guy.It seemed like the least I could do was write up a good piece on him.Your man dropped the ball.Sorry.