Friday, December 26, 2008
We spent Christmas Day driving from San Francisco to Palm Springs down Interstate 5 in the San Joaquin Valley, dodging storms that were whisking by to the southeast.
The trip was going splendidly until we stopped for gas at Grapevine, which is at the base of the mountain pass from the Bakersfield area to Los Angeles. The scene that greeted us at the half-dozen gas stations which made up the offramp was surreal because there was no power, which meant that the pumps couldn't dispense any fuel.
People were driving around aimlessly, looking scared and lost, and what made for a truly eerie experience was that all the employees at the various mini-marts attached to the gas stations had locked their doors and put up handwritten signs saying "Closed. No Power." They refused to come out and help anybody with information or even open up their bathrooms as they stared warily at the hordes from behind their plate glass windows.
We drove a couple of miles further south, praying we didn't run out of gas, but the story was the same at the next offramp except this time there was even a Ramada Limited hotel which had locked its doors and put up a "Closed. No Power" sign on its lobby door. It started feeling like that bad recent Mark Wahlberg movie, "The Happening," where killer winds make people commit suicide.
My partner called AAA for an emergency gas infusion, and I stood near the freeway offramp dispensing as much information as I could collect from various travelers. Thankfully, the AAA guy showed up thirty minutes later and we felt rather guilty as other stranded people crowded around his truck, looking like a scene from "Night of The Living Dead." As my friend Markus Crouse once said, after teaching high school in Hollywood for half a dozen years, "L.A. is just one bad day away from the apocalypse."