I came to Los Angeles last week for rest and recreation, only to discover that it had become a rain forest.
I didn't realize how bad it was until I went to dinner at a friend's house. I had the right address, but when I arrived there was nothing there. I went to a neighboring house where I found a man bailing out his swimming pool.
"I beg your pardon," I said. "Could you tell me where the Cables live?"
"They used to live above us on the hill. Then about two years ago, their house slid down in the mud, and they lived next door to us. I think it was last Monday, during the storm, that their house slid again, and now they live two streets below us, down there. We were sorry to see them go -- they were really nice neighbors."
I thanked him and slid straight down the hill to the new location of the Cables' house. Cable was clearing out the mud from his car. He apologized for not giving me the new address and explained, "Frankly, I didn't know until this morning whether the house would stay here or continue sliding down a few more blocks."
"Cable," I said, "you and your wife are intelligent people, why do you build your house on the top of a canyon, when you know that during a rainstorm it has a good chance of sliding away?"
"We did it for the view. It really was fantastic on a clear night up there. We could sit in our Jacuzzi and see all of Los Angeles, except of course when there were brush fires.
"Even when our house slid down two years ago, we still had a great sight of the airport. Now I'm not too sure what kind of view we'll have because of the house in front of us, which slid down with ours at the same time."
"But why don't you move to safe ground so that you don't have to worry about rainstorms?"
"We've thought about it. But once you live high in a canyon, it's hard to move to the plains. Besides, this house is built solid and has about three more good mud slides in it."
"Still, it must be kind of hairy to sit in your home during a deluge and wonder where you'll wind up next. Don't you ever have the desire to just settle down in one place?"
"It's hard for people who don't live in California to understand how we people out here think. Sure we have floods, and fire and drought, but that's the price you have to pay for living the good life. When Esther and I saw this house, we knew it was a dream come true. It was located right on the tippy top of the hill way up there. We would wake up in the morning and listen to the birds, and eat breakfast out on the patio and look down on all the smog.
"Then after the first mud slide, we found ourselves living next to people. It was an entirely different experience. But by that time we were ready for a change. Now we've slid again and we're in a whole new neighborhood. You can't do that if you live on solid ground. Once you move into a house below Sunset Boulevard, you're stuck there for the rest of your life.
"When you live on the side of a hill in Los Angeles, you at least know it's not going to last forever."
"Then in spite of what's happened, you don't plan to move out?"
"Are you crazy? You couldn't replace a house like this in L.A. for $500,000."
"What happens if it keeps raining and you slide down the hill again?"
"It's no problem. Esther and I figure if we slide down too far, we'll just pick up and go back to the top of the hill, and start all over again; that is, if the hill is still there after the earthquake."