national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]

















Doug Gamble- Contributor

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]

Living in a high risk paradise
[Doug Gamble] 1/19/05

Californians have always lived in an uneasy alliance with the earth beneath our feet.

Unlike victims of tornadoes in the heartland or hurricanes in Florida, where homes are ripped by swirling or buffeting winds, Californians suffer most when the earth moves. We’ve seen it happen in earthquakes that have riven the landscape, and we saw it in the mudslide that visited death, destruction and heartbreak on the tiny community of La Conchita.

Traveling to and from Southern California on Highway 101, I have driven past La Conchita many times but, until the mudslide, never knew its name. But it always caught my eye, this strange collection of trailers and small, single story and mobile homes, many bougainvillea-bedecked, stuck out in the middle of nowhere with spectacular hills as a backdrop and the Pacific lapping at the front doorstep. “Who lives there? What kind of people are they?” I often thought as I went by.

Now I know, along with most Californians who had never heard of the community before. It is populated by an eclectic collection of hippies, surfers, artists, musicians and others marching to their own drummer who all shared one thing in common. All were willing to risk property, even their lives, for the pleasure of living in what they considered a patch of California paradise. Why?

Paradise is a powerful lure. I was seduced by it myself when, as a newcomer to the state looking for a place to rent, I was shown a house perched on a precipice high atop Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. Hawks flew up and down in graceful swoops and, in the distance, the buildings of West L.A. gleamed in the sunlight, the ocean further out on the horizon. “Some people are afraid to live up here because of earthquakes or wild fires,” the landlord admitted. I could see what he meant.

But I rented the house anyway because of the unique locale and the beautiful view. I reckoned that earthquake and fire damage were hypothetical, but the scenery was real. It’s a rationale many Californians share and one that had been adopted by the 260 residents of La Conchita, who typify certain hardy souls in this state -- call them extreme Californians -- who defy Mother Nature to live in a dangerous but special spot.

When people back east see TV images of Californians fleeing disaster in the hills or parts of beach houses being washed out to sea, they shake their heads and wonder why anyone would live there. If such residents had a collective answer, it might be along these lines: “If I were a resident of Anytown, USA I may have no choice but to live on an ordinary street. But this is California. If I have the means to choose between the hills or the beach or some other spectacular location, why should I settle for ordinary?”

A case can be made that Floridians who defy hurricanes have a similar attitude. But they don’t face the multitude of threats that Californians do, including earthquakes, mudslides, wild fires and flooding. The most adventurous among us stick it out, rebuilding in the same location if necessary, but refusing to knuckle under to the elements and flee to a street in a suburban neighborhood.

Once, on a cross-country flight, I found myself sitting beside Dr. Robert Ballard, the Massachusetts-based oceanographer whose expeditionary team found the remains of the Titanic. “You’re crazy to live in California,” he told me. “The whole state is a ticking time bomb.” He explained what he meant was that nowhere in California is safe to live.

True, it may be a state with risks like nowhere else, but it’s also one with unmatched beauty and lifestyle. And for many, the latter outweighs the former. Many La Conchita survivors have indicated they will remain in their hamlet, with one saying he can’t conceive of living anywhere else.

Most Americans would probably agree with Dr. Ballard’s “crazy” assessment. Maybe you have to be a Californian to understand. CRO

California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly column for the Orange County Register and

Copyright 2004 Doug Gamble




Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005