by Cathy Arden on May 30, 2016



Out here in the Wild West — that is, southern California — we have live televised car chases. I believe every car chase is put before our eyes. We are a developing car chase nation. These car chases are frequent and so they frequently interrupt regularly scheduled programming. It is presumably mandatory that the get away cars and the cars pursuing them stay in our sights until the bitter end, no matter what that bitter end may be. We are free to assume the role of either the police, or the pursued, or the townspeople who must be warned or are seeking distraction on a lazy day or a busy one.  And there is constant narrative to go with the images, or rather the same image – a police car, or a number of police cars, chasing a fleeing car. We see it mostly from above. Those ubiquitous helicopters flying slowly over, or hovering when they must. I can’t help but always think of the images of Marshal Mat Dillon and John Wayne – holsters, guns drawn, dust from the dirt road, a squeaky saloon gate still swaying after the big guy, the hero, bolts out of the saloon to confront the enemy. California hasn’t lost its western ways and slant on the world. There is something about a car chase that brings our modern way of life into perspective. I am not exempt from the fascination. It’s hard to turn away.  I’ve risked being late for an appointment because I was compelled to see how it all ended. Will the police do a PIT maneuver (a tactic that forces the fleeing car to abruptly turn sideways)?  Will the police keep failing in their PIT attempts? Will the driver on the run pull over, bolt from the car and disappear behind small houses or inside of one? Who will win, the good guy or the bad guy? And who are we routing for? I’ve seen car chases played out in so many ways. Do I remember any one in particular? Nope. I just have this keen sense, after moving to the West from the East six years ago, that I am in a new land.  Although this land is still foreign to me, it has become strangely familiar.  I seem to be playing every role — witness, observer, and participant.  Sometimes the hero. Sometimes the one on the run.

And then there are the storms. Any rain that comes our way is considered a storm. The meteorologists warn us about the storms.  And just like the car chases, these warnings interrupt our regularly scheduled programming.   It is never just raining. And, in the hopes that I don’t offend my neighbors, friends and townspeople living here in the Wild West, I’m still puzzled by the storm warnings. The sky may grow a bit overcast, dark even, but the rain will usually last for….a few minutes? And wait, was that actually rain? Or is it just spitting, as my friends in London would observe.  I did experience something you might call a storm out here in Los Angeles though. It was my first winter here. It rained for 14 days and 14 nights, non-stop. Really. The number was 14. I was in a show that took me two hours driving time a day to get to and one evening on my way there I realized I was risking my life in my Prius. The rising water was unavoidable — the freeway, the local streets — and it was rising above the wheels of my car.   And yet I kept going.  I’d like to think I have absorbed something of a pioneer spirit, reckless thought it may be.  I kept thinking — the show must go on!

And let’s talk about earthquakes. The event you would think would get the most attention in the Wild West. But it doesn’t. Everyone out here is nonchalant about earthquakes. If one occurs, you don’t see it on the news, or at least not interrupting anything.  I was terrified of earthquakes when I first moved to LA.  I kept expecting them. What would I do if I felt a jolt? Jump out of bed and place myself under a doorway? Scoot under a table? It was all I thought about and talked about. I asked my friends what it meant to be earthquake ready. No one seemed to care or be alarmed. They’d instruct me but didn’t give credence to my fear at all. “Oh,” they’d say. “You’ll get used to it. They happen all the time.” All the time? And so the first one I experienced frightened me as I knew it would. I tried to remember what I was supposed to do, and then the shaking stopped. I was in bed. The bed shook momentarily. It took me a long time to go back to sleep. Will there be an aftershock? Was that jolt just a precursor to something much more severe?

Cut to the last earthquake jolt I experienced. I was sitting on a stool at my kitchen counter eating dinner and watching the evening news. The shaking began. I don’t think I was even aware of it at first. And when I realized what was happening, I thought, “Perhaps I should get off this stool so I’m not thrown off,” which I did actually do. And when the shaking stopped, I got back on my stool and continued eating my dinner.  No programming was interrupted. The townspeople didn’t emerge from their homes to observe and discuss the spectacle. The Wild West was quiet and uneventful. Except, of course, for the car chase that suddenly interrupted the evening news.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Iris May 30, 2016 at 2:31 PM

Well put. I remember my first earthquake. It’s when you realize: “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Here it’s “hurricane preparedness.” What fun.


Cathy Arden May 30, 2016 at 4:31 PM

Iris, I seem to have become less terrified of earthquakes, but I’m still aghast at the televised car chases!


Steve Howard May 31, 2016 at 6:01 PM

triangle of life 2 earthquake.avi


Cathy Arden May 31, 2016 at 6:17 PM

Thanks, Steve.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: