The Paul Haggis film Crash is one of those tricky entertainments that might be art and might be important as long as enough people get on board. Like the work of David Lynch, if the wind blows strong enough in one direction for a sustained period, you get momentum and a kind of general sign-off that something meaningful is happening. In a few weeks the Academy Awards will weigh in and regardless of how you come down on the merit of those, Crash may take on some additional weight.All of which I put forward before telling you that I liked Crash a great deal and enjoyed watching it, but… I’m not sold on Haggis’ assertion that all of Los Angeles is a roiling stewpot of racial and class tensions just waiting for inciting incidents. Where was the anger when Robert Blake got off? Okay, maybe that’s not the best example…I don’t think we’re constantly in danger of crashing into each other and having the situation boil over into something larger and more ugly. Just two weeks ago a friend of mine was in a fender bender and nothing happened, even though the driver was one of those bald guys with a ponytail. Talk about your inciting incident!Different from crashing, I am advancing a theory that we might call “transfer.” I believe that, if you live in Los Angeles long enough, you learn how to take the frustrations of life here and transfer your anger to something else. When it happens, the people around you may be startled; you yourself may be startled. It might be a signal to take the job in Omaha, or it might mean that you need to take a hard look at your personal level of tolerance if you want to keep living out here. Last Friday, the 17th, there was something special going on with the afternoon and evening traffic in Los Angeles. There was rain. Traffic was slowing to read freeway signs urging citizens to call in on a car suspected in a shooting. It was also the Friday of a three-day holiday weekend. And it was also just Friday in L.A. A female friend of mine told me that after enduring hours of this “especially horrible” afternoon traffic, she entered a grocery store where there was more traffic, albeit shoppers and carts. She kept bumping into a woman who seemed to think my friend was banging into shopping carts on purpose. The woman acknowledged each ding with a scowl. After three of these gruesome stares, my female friend erupted, shouting, “I’m sorry!” in a manner that didn’t evoke sincerity.In telling me the story, my friend freely admitted she had transferred her frustration with the car traffic onto the grocery store situation. But she wasn’t sad or sorry; she didn’t feel she’d done anything wrong. The scowling woman wasn’t, somehow, playing along or understanding a reality of life in Los Angeles and so the shout/release/transfer was, well, logical. Perhaps in another similar situation the brandishing of a weapon would feel logical, and after that, it’s deployment. But I think I’m talking about less dramatic “transfers.” Like the time some yuppie monkey barked an obscenity at me on the beach bike path. He was out on a Sunday with his 20-speed bike and a gang of idiots all dressed in European bike racing outfits. Apparently I didn’t understand that he had the right of way… globally.What’s emerging is a sense that, whereas Los Angeles is frustrating, certain behaviors have a basis in reason and are justifiable. And citizens are free to transfer that frustration at any time because of some pre-ordained understanding. Something similar to the “I must make a phone call!” rule that demands we allow people to drive with one hand and disengage mentally from operating a motor vehicle at high speeds. We’re bending, we’re accommodating, we are transferring. And then at some point, we will crash.This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz1) Private detective Anthony Pellicano may have a) used illegal wiretaps. b) subverted law enforcement. c) acted just like the President. d) all of the above.2) Cheney shooting victim Harry Whittington said a) he’s switching to golf. b) “Accidents do and will happen.” c) “It wasn’t Dick, it was Kerry on a swift boat.”3) New Orleans is hoping Mardi Gras will a) bring in money and raise spirits. b) renew coeds’ commitment to flashing. c) feature more clowns than FEMA.Answer Key1) (d) “Yeah, I’m fighting terrorism, too…”2) (b) “Plus I was dressed like a quail…”3) (a) “New drink: the Mike Brown. It’s weak…”
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