Aug. 28, 2011

This past Tuesday, shortly before 2 p.m., I was busy answering some e-mails at my desk at work when I felt something rumbling beneath me. I peered over the low wall of my shared cubicle, and I could tell that my coworkers were visibly startled and had noticed it, too. Within minutes, we learned that we’d been jostled by the effects of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in Virginia!

This was my first experience with an earthquake, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do, especially since I work on the 15th floor of a Center City skyscraper. Before long, we received updates over the PA system, including this gem: “There was no need to evacuate. If you did evacuate the building, it is safe to return using the elevators.” (Assuming you did decide to get out, how could you possibly hear that announcement now?)

At around 3 p.m., about an hour after the tremors, we were instructed to evacuate after all, “out of an abundance of caution.” After arriving in Suburban Station, I decided to let one jam-packed train go, then boarded the next one home.

*     *     *     *     *

An East Coast earthquake was surreal enough, but a few short days later, the greater Philadelphia area was gripped by the threat of another natural disaster: Hurricane Irene. The timing was unfortunate — our weekend plans for a big group dinner with my family and some family friends were abruptly cancelled. And before the storm’s forecasted arrival on Saturday evening, Joan and I made the obligatory trip to Wegmans late Friday night for some provisions. And some things never change; just like the pre-snowfall scene at a supermarket, the bread aisle was completely empty:

Empty bread shelves at Wegmans

A steady rainfall on Saturday afternoon began to intensify as darkness fell that night, and Joan and I were genuinely frightened by a tornado warning that had been issued for our area at around 10:30 p.m. (Since we live on the second floor, relocating to the safety of a basement isn’t an option for us.) But by the following morning, we found that we’d only briefly lost power overnight, and the trees surrounding our house were still standing upright. Late Sunday afternoon even brought the return of bright sunshine, and we were deeply thankful for the relatively small impact of Irene’s wrath.

[ No. 609 ]

Aug. 21, 2011

"The Missing Piece"

On a rainy Sunday evening, Joan and I drove into North Philadelphia and met up with her mom to watch a screening of a documentary called, The Missing Piece.

The movie’s subtitle, “The Truth About the Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa,” refers to Vincenzo Peruggia, who took the famous painting from the Louvre in 1911 and concealed it in his Paris apartment for over two years — an incredible tale that I’d never known about!

We viewed the screening in the comfortable Reel Theater inside the Howard Gittis Student Center at Temple University. The documentary, written and directed by Joe Medeiros, was simply fascinating; his thorough research was impressive, and his storytelling style was full of humor and Monty Python–style animation. Best of all, we learned that the screening had been scheduled on the 100th anniversary of Peruggia’s daring theft, which took place on Aug. 21, 1911!

Kudos to Joe and his superb movie. I sincerely hope more people have the chance to see his meticulous labor of love.

[ No. 608 ]