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The Isle of California

The Mural “Isle of California” (1972) When It Was Newly Painted

Near the West Los Angeles Post Office is the Village Recording Studio at 1616 Butler Avenue. On its back wall is a mural entitled “Isle of California” showing what remains when most of California has fallen into the ocean. It was painted in 1972 by the L.A. Fine Arts Squad consisting of Victor Henderson, Terry Schoonhoven, and Jim Frazin.

Of course, Southern California will not just fall into the ocean after “the Big One.” What is west of the San Andreas Fault will be displaced northwards, separating itself horizontally from the area east of the fault.

I saw today a fascinating quote from J. B. Priestley in Carey McWilliams’s Southern California Country: An Island on the Land:

There is something disturbing about this corner of America, a sinister suggestion of transience. There is a quality, hostile to men in the very earth and air here. As if we were not meant to make our homes in this oddly enervating sunshine…. California will be a silent desert again. It is all as impermanent and brittle as a roll of film.

Oddly, that’s what I felt shortly after I moved here. The feeling was reinforced by the Sylmar Earthquake of 1971 and the Northridge Earthquake of 1994.

The Same Mural Today: Badly Faded With Earthquake Reinforcing Bolts

Well, Southern California is still here. And I’m still here. The place still feels a bit unreal to me, but I have fallen in love with it. So if the whole place should happen to fall in the ocean after all, I’m a goner.

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