But even then, if anyone does reach old age, his heart weakens, his head shakes, his vigor wanes, his breath reeks, his face is wrinkled and his back bent, his eyes grow dim and his joints weak, his nose runs, his hair falls out, his hand trembles and he makes silly gestures, his teeth decay, and his ears get stopped with wax. He will believe anything and question nothing. He is stingy and greedy, gloomy, querulous, quick to speak, slow to listen, though by no means slow to anger. He praises the good old days and hates the present, curses modern times, lauds the past, sighs and frets, falls into a stupor, and gets sick. Hear what the poet says: Many discomforts surround an old man. But then the old cannot glory over the young any more than the young can scorn the old. For we are what they once were; and some day we will be what they are now.—Pope Innocent III, On the Misery of the Human Condition
In Citizens Band (CB) radio parlance, Los Angeles is called Shaky Town because of our earthquakes. It’s even in the C. W. McCall song “Convoy” that marked the apogee of the whole CB craze in the 1970s. (I suppose that’s marginally better than the truckers’ parlance for San Francisco: Gay Bay.)
We have been shaking often, but in a small way, ever since the quake swarm began a couple of weeks ago. The actual shaking was not great where we live, because we are some 25 miles from the epicenter, but there is always that sickening few seconds when you wonder whether the intensity is going to ramp up into something more devastating, like the 1971 Sylmar or 1994 Northridge catastrophes. But all that’s happened to me so far is that three or four books have fallen off their overcrowded shelves.
The activity has been along the La Puente Fault, which runs from downtown south and then east. I believe it’s the same fault that was in play for the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake, which I had the good fortune to miss because I was camping in New Mexico at the time. But because it touches downtown, the emergency officials are concerned it may knock down a skyscraper or two—maybe even City Hall.
There have been so many hundreds of aftershocks that I am beginning to think we dodged the bullet this time. When there are so many aftershocks, it’s unlikely any of them can be viewed as fore-shocks, or even five-shocks—or worse.