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Photograph by Sarah Phelan

Ark Angels: Winged parade participants get a little wet at First Night.


Tsunami or Not Tsunami?

With the death toll mounting daily from the Dec. 26 quake and tsunami in Sumatra, and with rains, winds and heavy waves pounding California's earthquake-prone coast, Cruzans can be forgiven for worrying, in a very human way, about whether a similar disaster could happen right here, right now.

The answer appears to be "No," according to a Dec. 28 Senile article in which local geologist GARY GRIGGS claims a "major tsunami is unlikely in Santa Cruz County," and "Yes," according to a Dec. 29 SF Chronic article, whose headline screamed, "It could happen here."

So who's right, anyway? Reached by phone, Griggs says he believes the Chronic's claims are "way off-base." Acknowledging that there are active landslides, slumps and evidence of ensuing small tsunamis ("small" meaning about 1 foot in size) in the nearby Monterey Bay submarine canyon, Griggs notes that the recent quake and tsunami in Indonesia occurred not in a submarine canyon, but in a trench, where one tectonic plate is descending under another. According to Griggs, the closest such plate-grinding conditions exist in the CASCADIA SUBDUCTION ZONE, which lies 50 miles off the West Coast and could trigger a tsunami that would hit British Columbia, Washington, Oregon--and Northern California, but apparently not here.

As Griggs explains, "We know a tsunami will happen off the coast of Seattle and Portland, and I guess that's the background for predictions that one could happen here, but Santa Cruz lies 90 degrees due south and 300-400 miles away from this zone, so any waves will begin a long way away, won't move directly towards us, and our coast is protected by a broad underwater continental shelf, 5-10 miles wide, so waves rushing in lose their energy, meaning a 30-foot tsunami won't hit here."

Noting that seven tsunamis have occurred in the Cascadia Subduction Zone in the last 3,000-5,000 years and occur every 400-600 years at irregular intervals, Griggs says research has shown that the zone did send a tsunami as far as Japan in 1700. And while no one knows exactly what happened here in that particular instance, Griggs says we do know that a 9.2 earthquake in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1964 triggered a tsunami that killed 10 people, injured 24 and destroyed 179 businesses in Crescent City, but didn't hurt any one here, "though some locals did witness a slight tidal surge."

Advantage: Senile.

Rivers of Life

FIRST NIGHT organizers weren't joking when they designated "Rivers of Life" as the event's 2005 theme. As if on cue, inky clouds gathered over Pacific Avenue on New Year's Eve. And when, as is the First Night custom, the GIANT SUN PUPPET turned the corner of Cathcart Avenue at sunset, the gods promptly rained down on the ensuing parade, turning Pacific Avenue and the rest of the downtown streets into a stream of glistening tributaries. All of which 'twas a handy turn of events for the dozen human salmonids, who were "swimming" upstream in the GREAT SALMON SPAWN at the time, but apparently not so ideal for one bird-costumed participant, who broke into a sprint toward the TOWN CLOCK, clutching a wind-torn red umbrella for dear life.

All of this only served to entertain First Night faithful, who lined main street like so many hundreds of UMBRELLA MEN, to witness said parade, which was unofficially preceded by four citizens who carried "Support Our Troops" signs down the happily car-free mall, thus dodging the parade's requirement that participants remain nonpolitical in their content.

After that came the real parade, which included a giant pooping pigeon, fearless stilt walkers and unicyclers, kilt-packing bagpipers, bell-jingling Morris dancers, BEACH FLATS soccer tikes, who bravely dribbled balls and even scored goals mid-deluge, and a group of dancing señoritas, who smiled beautifully, even as raindrops kept falling on their heads. And then there was a host of water-loving critters, including the GREAT MORGANI, who floated by as a regal purple accordion-playing sea horse; a tail-flapping mermaid in a baby carriage; and some impressively twinkly generator-powered fish. The parade was wrapped up, as is the custom, by the GIANT MOON PUPPET, followed by a bunch of whirling townsfolk, to kick off another great First Night, and one of few in 11 years to be truly soggy.

Nüz visited Blue Maquette, KIRBY SCUDDER's indigo-lit miniature model of downtown, which Scudder (miraculously) completed in one month and which continues at the ? GALLERY throughout January. We laughed our heads off at UM ... GEE ... UM's impressive improv show, before saying goodbye to '04 and ringing in '05, at which point Nüz mused from the depths of moisture-soaked socks how "Aridity in the City" would be great non-rain-god-tempting theme for '06 ...

Hungrily, Curiously, Addictively

"We pursue fungi out of hunger, curiosity and addiction." So says the website of the FUNGUS FEDERATION OF SANTA CRUZ, which is holding its annual Fungus Fair, Jan. 8-9, to help us hungrily, curiously and addictively pursue all the fungi that Santa Cruz's winter rains typically bring. And if that isn't enough of a 'shroom boom, consider taking a Jan. 5 class with herbalist and Medicinal Mushrooms author CHRISTOPHER HOBBS.

A former Santa Cruz resident, Hobbs, who is currently studying biological sciences at UC-Davis before embarking on a Ph.D. in ethnopharmacology, will share his experiences and knowledge of the healing properties of fungi. He first got into all this in the mid '80s, when, as he puts it, "no one else was interested."

"I have the hunter-gatherer gene for sure," says Hobbs, whose idea of fun is a mushroom foray into the wild woods, an expedition for which your best preparation is being able to identify friendly from poisonous fungi, a skill Hobbs intends to cover in class.

"Take turkey tails. They grow all over the world on dead trees, are found in town and in the woods, and are very safe and are very available, and their extracts are used in Japan and China as a government-approved anti-cancer drug," says Hobbs, whose class will be held 6-10pm, Wednesday, Jan. 5, at the Vets Hall, 846 Front St., Santa Cruz, while the Fungus Fair goes from 10am to 5pm, Jan. 8-9, at Louden Nelson Center, 301 Front St., SC.

Senate Buzz

Disturbed by huge discrepancies between exit polls and official totals in the swing states? Worried about reports of election recount manipulation? Freaked out about CLINT CURTIS' testimony before the HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE that he was asked to design a computer program that would flip the vote so the selected candidate would get 51 percent of the vote, no matter how many people voted and in such a way that it could not be detected? Here are five things you can do, preferably before Jan. 6, at which point the election will be deemed final: (1) Sign the petition at www.contestthevote.org; (2) call your senators at 202.224.3121 and ask them to object to election fraud; (3) contribute to www.electionprotection.org; (4) check out www.verifiedvoting.org; (5) participate in demonstrations going on in Ohio and Washington (see www.caseohio.org).

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From the January 5-12, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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