Friday, July 5, 2019

The Earthquake | Lefsetz Letter

I was sitting on the toilet.

Now you’ve got to know, it’s unlike any feeling you’ve ever had. Like I said back in ’94, you depend on the earth to be there. And when it’s not…

It used to happen all the time back in the seventies and eighties. Minor shakes. 2’s or 3’s. If it went on for a while, you went under a doorjamb. But now they say to do something different. I’ve forgotten what, there’s so much to keep up on.

And I don’t have an earthquake kit either. I guess in the Amazon age we believe we can get everything in a day.

But back in ’94 that wasn’t the case.

So I’m catching up on my phone. Isn’t that what you do first thing in the morning? I know, I know, it was closer to eleven than seven, but I slept in, I was up late reading “Fleishman Is In Trouble,” one of this summer’s hot books. I could write about it, but it’s not that great. Interesting, but not a home run. Ultimately, it’s about role reversal, where the wife is the go-getter, in this case an entertainment agent, and the husband takes care of the abode and the children. But he still works. He’s a liver doctor. But he only makes $258,000 a year, so he’s considered a loser in the modern world. Remember when your parents wanted you to be a doctor or lawyer? Those days are gone, you can’t make the big money, better to go into business. Then again, MBA programs are folding left and right. It seems that when it comes to business, you’re better off doing it for yourself. Business school teaches you how to be a manager, if you want to be an entrepreneur… But it is interesting that a quarter of a million bucks is now chump change. In Manhattan anyway. And the keeping up with the Joneses! It’s endless, there are always people with more money than you. And what bonds you is your fabulousness. But you know you’re not really that fabulous. Meanwhile, you leave your spouse for something better and…you find out it’s not better.

But I’m addicted to books. After finishing the Lori Gottlieb screed, I took a couple of days off, but I found myself lost, there was no center. Music used to be the center. It was driven by radio, MTV and print. You could comprehend the scene, it was clear what was worthy of attention… But today? I read all this hype about Julia Michaels, in “Entertainment Weekly” she looked like a god (goddess?) So I went on Spotify to listen to her new solo album, “Inner Monologue Part 2,” and I thought the opening track was close, not quite there, but interesting. And then… I checked the stream counts. At this point, only one of the eight cuts has been streamed on Spotify over a million times. In other words, despite all the hype, it’s a stiff. Proving that mainstream press just doesn’t matter when it comes down to big time stuff, the radio Top 40, the Spotify Top 50. And if I listened to the whole album and wrote about it…almost nobody would have heard it. Is it worth investing the time? You hear about an act, play a few tunes, understand why there’s attention, but unless a cut breaks through, you move on. Indie acts and the fans thereof hate this. But the truth is we’re looking for pointers, we want to be members of a club.

And a book is a club of its own. And it demands attention. You can’t graze it, you can’t give it five minutes to see what it’s about, you’ve got to delve in and go all the way. Although I do read some reviews, at least the last paragraph thereof, I don’t want to know what happened, isn’t that why you read a book to begin with? And I do look at the star rating on Amazon. And I do download the sample chapter and read it before I’m in. But if I make a decision, if I buy the book, I go down the rabbit hole. The experience is singular, definable. Hell, in today’s era, story is king. Which is one of the reasons TV is dominant and music is a second-class citizen. We’re looking for context, we’re looking to make sense of this world, we’re already overwhelmed with input, which is why you can dance to the tunes, go to the festival and shoot selfies as the band (DJ?) plays in the background, but you’re not gonna sit in front of the stereo looking at the album cover while the music plays. Actually, I’m thinking live business is gonna plateau and fall. The truth is, you go to be amongst the crowd, have an experience, the music is just the background live. Or, you’re going to hear someone perform their current hit. Or else you go to hear the classics, but they never even put out new music, they know it will come and go in a day, despite all the traditional hype.

So I’m catching up on my phone. Takes the better part of an hour. I’ve got to cruise the NYT, WaPo, NYMag, WSJ, LAT, and with my WSJ subscription I just got a free subscription to the “London Times,” which is otherwise behind a paywall, and not a soft one. And then there are the ski sites and Twitter and hitsdailydouble. I don’t bother with “Billboard,” too many bad writers filling up space. Actually, most of what’s written is close to unreadable, or boring. At least the ethos of the newspaper is straightforward reporting, but… Oh yes, I also read the “New Yorker” app, the one with the daily comment and…

I feel the toilet start to shake.

Now, toilets shake on a regular basis, not all are rooted to the ground so well. And oftentimes the seat is loose. But after a beat, it’s clear, we’re having an…


That’s what I yelled out to Felice.

And I know what you do when it’s strong, you run out of your house, immediately, like I did in ’94, sans clothes in fact.

But that was at four thirty in the morning. Funny how most earthquakes never happen during business hours. Although I do remember waiting for a light on Pico one afternoon and my car started jumping around.

And this was the middle of the day, but it is a holiday.

And then… I’m monitoring the situation. And it does not stop shaking. It’s all you can think about, it’s like the end of the world. Who your parents are, where you went to school, how much money you have, they’re all irrelevant.

But it did not stop shaking. It was a real-life thrill ride.

And now I’m wondering if it’s ever gonna stop. Usually, it’s just brief jolts.

And I’m sitting there thinking about the science…giant plates are thrusting against each other. It’s not like it’s only my neighborhood, these are vast, catastrophic events.

And then after thirty seconds, enough time to wonder if it was ever gonna stop…it did.

Oh, what does it feel like?

First you feel some shaking. And with this one we went back and forward and back and forward and…we humans want to be in control, in this case I was not.

Now in the old days, when the ground stabilized, you’d turn on the TV. Assuming it worked.

Or the radio. Usually the TV first, because you could dial in to the local news network immediately.

And after a few beats, if the TV didn’t have a story, and it never did, the radio might say something.

And then in the internet era, you went to the LAT site.

But now I’ve realized, none of those outlets is truly prepared, there’s no one in the building ready to push a button. No, you’ve got to find a reporter, you’ve got to gather the facts…BUT I JUST EXPERIENCED THE FACTS!

So the only place you can go, for instant news, for an instant reaction is…

Twitter. That’s right, the site the oldsters abhor, but the digerati love. Instagram is a sideshow, Twitter is the high wire.

And people were already on it. Only a minute later. There was a link, which showed the epicenter, and it said it was a 6.6!

That’s really high. The numbers don’t go up arithmetically, but logarithmically. To make it simple, a 6 is ten times greater than a 5.

Now since it’s been downgraded to a 6.4. But they’re predicting tons of aftershocks, that’s what did me in back in ’94, the aftershocks.

But nothing fell off the shelves here.

But closer to the epicenter…

And not too long later, the news was all over the net.

This too was different from ’94. Back then, in the days of landlines, I called my mother all shaken up and she had no idea what was happening. But today, she called me.

Everything’s fine.

For now.


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