October 06, 2005

Three Strikes

Joan Didion's evocative list of the three sentences that come to mind when she thinks of California (from her "Where I Was From"):
"Point Conception to the Mexican border. The Range of Light. Beautiful country burn again, / Point Pinos down to the Sur rivers."
(I won't try explaining their origin -- if you're Californian, the first two (at least) are almost genetic). As she says, in a state largely overrun by people and sprawling suburbia, if you actually live here, it's still natural geography -- landscape -- that mostly comes to mind with "California".

These sentences work the same way for me -- California has that sort of hold on some people, and all three have strong meaning and connections in my mind -- but there's another California lurking here, the California that's both more interesting and more troubling, and that Didion aludes to inter-alia. Three sentences from that California:
Freeway drive-by shooting kills two. Four dead in East Palo Alto gang violence. Three strikes and you're out.
Or, a three sentence meditation on the flip side of landscape:
Mud slides in Malibu. Oakland Hills firestorm kills 25. Five dead in Sierra avalanche.
And you could say almost as much (or more?) about California with just three sentences like this:
Interstate 5. The Orange Crush. The Rosedale Highway.
Didion's original three sentences sound like an ellegy for a California that both never was and still is. Three strikes and it's out...

(Part of California).


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