Friday, July 15, 2011

Historicizing Carmageddon

photo credit
I am on the wrong coast this weekend, and missing the event of the year in LA:  the temporary closing of part of the 405 freeway, appropriately called 'Carmageddon.'  For locals, who would never take this freeway anyway, the closure is expected to jam our favorite surface streets, wreaking havoc citywide.  Or not.  Who knows?

"We prayed this day would never come," Stephen Colbert commented.  "Someone might have to walk someplace!"

To place the event in a historical context, the LA Times has posted this before and after photo from construction of the freeway in 1962.  What's wrong with the photo?  In the "after" image, the freeway is not jammed with traffic.

What was it like before the freeway?  For a Californian, this concept is hard to imagine. But Father Juan Crespi said in 1769:
We saw a very pleasant and spacious valley. We descended to it and stopped close to the watering place, which is a very large pool. Near it we found a large village of heathen, very friendly and docile; they offered us their seeds in baskets and other things made of rushes.
If LA without the 405 seems an alien concept, then you won't be surprised to hear that the Sepulveda Pass -- the area of this weekend's closure -- is "also an area noted for UFO sightings and mysterious helicopters, " according to the HermosaBeachPatch.
Actress Shirley MacLaine tells a story that she heard from comedian Lucille Ball about Ronald and Nancy Reagan arriving several hours late to a party and explaining they had an encounter with aliens along the Sepulveda Pass.
The story goes:
“Ronald Regan told Lucy that he and Nancy were driving on Mulholland Drive when a UFO landed near their vehicle. Although this story has been told before, a number of new details were added. For example, Shirley MacLaine says Lucille Ball told her that Reagan claimed a ladder appeared and an alien climbed out of the craft. The alien told him to quit his acting work and go into politics.”
And the rest, of course, is history.

Full coverage of the festivities is here.  More historic photos are here.  And more 405 trivia is here.