Jaci Stephen: There are worst places to die – I could have been in the feminine hygiene aisle

Way Out West

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Earthquake Preparedness Month posters are up again. But this time round, after a year in LA, I was able to explain all to my visiting friends.

After my first earthquake last May, I heeded the advice of the hardware store that first put my kit together. I sleep with money and a torch next to my bed, and there's loads of bottled water in the apartment; and I know to run to a door frame or under my dining table when disaster strikes. My friends were impressed.

Or would have been, had we not been 14 floors up in Soho House's new members-only club when Mexico's 7.2 earthquake struck on Sunday afternoon.

The West Hollywood venue is spectacular, as all Nick Jones's ventures are. When I recently returned to the UK, I stayed at the London Club's new hotel in Dean Street, where the pillows are so spectacular, you need crampons and a compass to make it into bed. If I picked anyone up en route, I have no idea, as I would never have found them.

Soho House LA is a mixture of modernity and old Hollywood, and has quickly become everyone's favourite place. I have been a member of the London Club since day one, and I adore the new place even more. So, with 360 degree views over the city, and the best roast dinner I have had in years, I was quite content when the light fittings started to shake. Shortly followed by the room. It was only when I saw the fish clinging with their gills for dear life in the restaurant's lake, that I really started to panic.

The whole scene appeared to pause in freeze-frame. I hadn't ordered flying fish for dessert, but one looked suspiciously close to landing on my plate. These were the people I was going to die with. I thought that the man on the next table, who had brought his brand new Apple iPad to lunch, would never get to use it (although it would be the first thing I would steal when the walls started to crumble). Gone. We would never again see what have to be the nicest and best-turned-out staff in the world – the beautiful Ally, who welcomed us, along with our faultless waiter, Phil. Gone. The cocktail glasses, apparently modelled on Marie Antoinette's breasts, would be mere shards among the rubble. Gone. OH YE GODS! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE TOGETHER!

The eerie silence lasted for about a minute, but felt like 10. Then, when the shaking stopped, and we realised that the earth had moved but not caved in, a strange thing happened. People started to chat to complete strangers, almost deliriously, relieved we were all OK.

Or, I wondered, maybe we were not, and we had gone to the afterlife. I wouldn't have minded, to be honest. With its open roof, imported olive trees that canopy the restaurant, and great food, if Soho House was Sixth Sense II, I wasn't going to be complaining.

There were worst places to die. Rite-Aid, for a start. I wouldn't have wanted to be found among the hundreds of products in the Feminine Hygiene aisle that have so fascinated me since I came here.

Or I could have been in Sports Club LA, where they would have found me like an inflated lobster. Or in City Century's AMC cinema complex, with the Buffalo Burger down my front.

Yes, there were definitely worse places to die than Soho House.

We quickly learned that the earthquake had registered as 6.9; then it was up to 7.2. Our new best friends thought that for dramatic purpose, we would tell everyone back in Britain that it was 11.3.

We also learned that our building was on wheels, which apparently made it earthquake-proof. This worried me even more, as I had visions of us freewaying down the Hollywood Hills, careering into unsuspecting Big Mac diners, who had not been so fortunate as to have enjoyed the dining experience that we had just had.

The event has made me reassess my plans for Earthquake Preparedness Month. If you're five miles from home, what use is a torch sitting in your bedside cabinet?

Now, I am going to carry my EPM kit around with me, and it will consist of just two things: my Soho House membership card and a corkscrew.

Because, at the first hint of another rumble on the news, I'm going to be out of my place quicker than Marie Antoinette's breasts in her boudoir, and over to Soho House. And when the fish start to fly, I just want to be drunk as a skunk before they find me among the rubble with a goldfish up my nose.



To read Jaci Stephen's blog, LA Not So Confidential, in full, go to LAnotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

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