My Subterranean Autumn

From a 2001 paper by George R. Priest, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Newport, Oregon:
Cascadia subduction zone tsunamis could conceivably cause the loss of tens of thousands of lives on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Paleoseismic and other data support Cascadia earthquakes with moment magnitudes of >9, rupture lengths of >1000 km and recurrence of 400-600 years; the last event was 301 years ago, so the conditional probability of another occurring in the next 100 years is high.

Ben Marcus in the LA Weekly:
—Similar to the megathrust fault in Sumatra that caused so much destruction throughout South Asia and East Africa, the Cascadia fault is a subduction zone where two massive tectonic plates meet in slow collision. From Cape Mendocino in northern California to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the Juan de Fuca plate is sliding under the North America plate and building up tremendous pressure.

This is the last day of 2004.

In September, I visited the Pacific Northwest to enrich my life and down cheap beer with various people I met online. I never finished reporting on my trip up north, so here goes.

Pretend it's September.

"Seattle, WA: University District"

I tag along with Mike to a housewarming party held by some of his friends from university. One of the housemates is sickeningly charming. He cooks, he cleans, he drinks wine, he listens to classical music. Worst of all, he gives me an extremely firm handshake.

God, I hate confident men.

"Seattle, WA: University District"

Chris didn't know the difference between a llama and a camel.

His housemate Chris Cheshire talks a lot. When's he's old enough, he should run for Congress just so he can filibuster. Seriously, this guy will talk at length about anything, accurate or not. Shoe repair, animal husbandry, Christopher Columbus…

Chris' other housemate Robert brags about how he once had sex with his girlfriend in a department store dressing room. He likes to eat uncooked hot dogs wrapped in tortillas with mustard and listen to Joy Division.

The housemates banished a television from the living room in order to "promote human interaction." That, and make room for a large hookah.

"Newcastle, WA"

Chris' brother Tim shares an apartment with Tony, who spends weekdays at his other apartment at school in Tacoma.

Tony's parents fled to Panama when the FBI set out to indict his father on charges of tax evasion and fraud. Apparently, Tony's father didn't pay taxes for many years and ran a pyramid scheme involving a guide on how to avoid paying taxes.

Tony pays for everything in cash. He accesses funds though a lone teller card issued by a foreign bank. The apartment in Newcastle is in Tim's name and houses many of Tony's family's belongings, including their big screen television.

While watching Entourage on HBO on Demand, Tim received a phone call from Tony's parents. They wanted him to fly their birds down to Panama. Tim eagerly agreed to embark on the all-expense-paid overnight trip to Central America with generous payment for "labor" upon delivery of the birds.

"Seattle, WA: University District"

Chris insisted that I smoke a cigarette with him.

I politely declined.

Chris Cheshire then explained to everyone on the porch that "more people smoke in Washington than in California because a study found that workers pools contain the highest concentration of smokers."


"Vancouver, BC: Downtown"

Vancouver is a lovely city. It is, according to Mike, the only place he's even seen a person actually smoke crack.

I saw a Mexican restaurant called "El Furniture Warehouse."

I saw Todd Bertuzzi jerseys on sale in a store on Robson Street. Needless to say, they were flying off the rack.

Dollar stores in Canada are a bargain for Americans if the exchange rate is low…and you like crap.

"Burnaby, BC"

At a Salvation Army store, I bought a shirt that says "Justice Institute of British Columbia."

I feel so awesome when I wear it.

—Why, yes, I am a member of the Justice Institute.

You know what's not so awesome?

"The Simon Fraser University Clan."

The Clan.

What kind of moniker is that?

I wonder if TSN sportscasters refer to SFU teams as the "Clan."

—Highlights of the Clan rally before the big game against UBC Tuesday.

Also: Who picked a Scottish Terrier to be the SFU mascot?


"Vancouver, BC: Chinatown"

At lunch, I realize that the text I brought to pass time during my side-trip to Canada is America: The Book.

"Vancouver, BC: Downtown"

Over the consumption of alcohol, Robbie remarks that if he could, he would never leave "Kits," short for "Kitsilano," an area southwest of downtown Vancouver.

Every time he says "Kits," I hear "tits" and immediately think of my boss' annoying catchphrase "that's tits!"

I decide to check out this provincial Eden known as Kitsilano.

"Vancouver, BC: Kitsilano"

To my dismay, Kitsilano is suburbia with more skate/snow shops.

I saw a bunch of stores with amusing names:
"Generic Computer"
"No Name Optical"
"The Limb Salesman"
"Cummings Cleaners"
and my favorite, "Chinese and Canadian Restaurant"

What, exactly, does Canadian food taste like?

Robbie is officially the only person I've ever met who prefers life in the suburbs.

Of course, Canadian suburbs are probably different from American suburbs. For one, as Michael Moore pointed out, nobody in Canada locks their doors.

"Vancouver, BC: Granville Island"

Mike's girlfriend Tiffany suggested that I visit the Granville Island Public Market.

After visiting it, I recommend everyone visit as well.

I bought a few gluten-free, wheat-free, yeast-free "cheesebread" loafs from a "cheesebread" vendor. They were delicious.

Outside the Market, I encountered a crowd gathered around a gawky teenager wearing an over-the-ear microphone like a pop star. He spoke with a lisp like Daffy Duck.

When I joined the circle, he was about to juggle flaming torches.

—Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to see some tricks!

The torches wouldn't light.

Two minutes later…

—Hold on, folks. The tricks will begin shortly. Let me just cue the music.

He couldn't locate his desired music on his iPod.

Two minutes later…

—Bear with me, folks. Let me just re-light these torches and then you'll see some tricks!

I felt embarrassed for him.

Finally, the music started and he performed a gay choreographed dance routine before segueing into torch juggling.

I re-entered the Market.

In the food court, one tenant put a little white board on its counter with a trivia question written on it. Next to the question was a picture of Quagmire from Family Guy.

I saw a boy (eight years old, maybe?) wearing a WWE hat and a t-shirt merchandising the HBO prison soap Oz. This must be the rampant Canadian liberalism that Democrats speak of, I thought.

I stopped by the teenage circus performer again as he was about to step onto a wooden plank resting on a ball six feet above the ground.

Two volunteers held the plank steady.

—Do not move or let go. If you move or let go, I could die!

I re-entered the Market and came across a female panhandler dressed like a spinster who lives with lots of cats. She had a sock puppet on her right hand dressed exactly like her. The spinster sat silently and still. At her feet was a briefcase with a sign that said "Make Moise Come Alive."

A young girl approached with her parents, tossed a loonie in the open briefcase and Moise "came alive."

The ensuing display of puppetry was absolutely pathetic. The spinster opened and closed her right palm repeatedly while moving her right arm back and forth in random directions.

That's all she did!

If I were the girl's parents, I'd be pissed. The man who pretended to be a robot near the coffee stand at least earned his donations.

I stopped by the teenage circus performer once more.

—Uh…this was not supposed to happen, folks!

There he stood, balancing himself atop a wooden plank atop a ball six feet above the ground with his pants around his ankles.

—What are you doing? Don't take pictures! Please!

"United States/Canada Border"

Two old ladies walked out of Customs and one of them exclaimed, "I thought they'd have a restaurant in there!"