EARTH 328-0 Tectonics and Structural Geology

McPhee (1980)

“I once dreamed about a great fire that broke out at night at Nasser Aftab's House of Carpets. In Aftab's showroom under the queen-post trusses were layer upon layer and pile after pile of shags and broadlooms, hooks and throws, para-Persians and polyesters. The intense and shriveling heat consumed or melted most of what was there. The roof gave way. It was a night of cyclonic winds, stabs of unseasonal lightning. Flaming debris fell on the carpets. Layers of ash descended, alighted, swirled in the wind, and drifted. Molten polyester hardened on the cellar stairs. Almost simultaneously there occurred a major accident in the ice-cream factory next door. As yet no people had arrived. Dead of night. Distant city. And before long the west wall of the House of Carpets fell in under the pressure and weight of a broad, braided ooze of six admixing flavors, which slowly entered Nasser Aftab's showroom and folded and double-folded and covered what was left of his carpets, moving them, as well, some distance across the room. Snow began to fall. It turned to sleet, and soon to freezing rain. In heavy winds under clearing skies, the temperature fell to six below zero. Celsius. Representatives of two warring insurance companies showed up just in front of the fire engines. The insurance companies needed to know precisely what had happened, and in what order, and to what extent it was Aftab's fault. If not a hundred percent, then to what extent was it the ice-cream factory's fault? And how much fault must be – regrettably – assigned to God? The problem was obviously too tough for the Chicken Valley Police Department, or, for that matter, for any ordinary detective. It was a problem, naturally, for a field geologist. One shuffled in eventually. Scratched-up boots. A puzzled look. He picked up bits of wall and ceiling, looked under the carpets, tasted the ice cream. He felt the risers of the cellar stairs. Looking up, he told Hartford everything it wanted to know. For him this was so simple it was a five-minute job.”
      — John McPhee, The New Yorker, 1980
            (later included in Basin and Range, 1981, pp. 82-83)

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