Our chance to fall apart in the spotlight

Thrown in for variety among all the unrealistic reality showsand infotainment news programs on NBC last week was a miniseriescalled “10.5.” It staged a hypothetical look at what would happenif the multiple fault lines running up and down the West Coastconspired to deliver a massive 10.5-magnitude earthquake that woulddevastate life as we know it on the West Side. It treated viewersto an “Independence Day”-stylerandom-people-coming-together-through-adversity plot wrapped aroundfootage of decent-looking (for network TV) CGI effects of theSeattle Space Needle and Golden Gate Bridge crumbling and the SoCalcoastline imploding into the ocean.

One thing really bothered me about the show, though. And itwasn’t the “plot,” or the fact that a 10.5 earthquake has neverbeen recorded anywhere on earth. No, what pissed me off here wasthat there was no mention of what happened to Portland! If LosAngeles came loose from its moorings and was swept out to sea, ifSeattle was turned into a scrap heap of rubble, needles and brokenStarbucks signs, you can bet we’d feel something here in the PDX!But we got no mention whatsoever. True, we don’t have any majormonuments that can fall apart photogenically during an”earthquake.” What would they show, the Portlandia statueplummeting into a crowd of postwar antiwar protesters? But still,you’d think such a large, scenic, culturally significant area ofthe West Coast would merit some kind of mention.

This is so typical. Portland, and Oregon in general, tends to bethe underappreciated middle child between Seattle and the Calimegalopolis. Over the years, I’ve heard everyone from Dan Rather toJay Leno referring to the state as OR-y-gawn. Come on, people, youshould know better. It’s OR-y-gun. Think police shootings if youneed a handy mnemonic device.

And P-town gets a little too excited over any showbiz scraps wecan get. When some crappy big-budget studio flick like “The Hunted”ends up being filmed here, people tend to lose their minds. Asighting of Benicio del Toro in Mary’s strip club on Burnside is asbig a deal as running into Osama bin Laden at Forever 21 in theLloyd Center. It’s major news. I still remember with amusement whenMadonna came here to film her timeless classic “Body of Evidence”(tragically snubbed for an Oscar) back in the early ’90s. TheOregonian was seemingly incapable of talking about anything else.Mayor Bud Clark presented her with the key to the city. It’s alwayslike that. Can’t we at least get a few decent throwaway shots ofdowntown crumbling during a fictional earthquake?

Speaking of which, another memory I have of the early ninetiesis the ’93 “Spring Break Quake.” When it hit in the middle of thenight, I assumed that it was just strong winds making the houseshake and went back to bed. Only later did I find out that therehad been an earthquake. But that puny 5.6-er still managed to causegaboogles of dollars worth of damage to Metro-area buildings andbusinesses. You can imagine how much havoc a major earthquake wouldwreak, something like the monster quake I’ve been hearingpredictions about ever since I can remember, the Big One that’ssupposed to hit the area within the next fifty years.

Of course, it’s pointless to live in fear of an earthquakehitting Portland, or a tsunami swamping the coast, or whatever. Ifyou’re worried about it, you could move to the deep Midwest, farfrom any fault lines, and wind up in the middle of a tornado, or aflood, or find yourself getting brained by golf ball-sizedhailstones. Nowhere you go is going to be safe from acts of God, asinsurance agencies like to call them.

I’m not afraid of the real thing. But if that’s what we’ve gotcoming, I want Portland to get equal and balanced coverage incheesy TV disaster movies. The next time I flip on NBC and see somefar-fetched earthquake show, I want to see CGI footage of Big Pinkcollapsing into the Salvation Army shelter on Second and Burnside.I want to see the MAX train flying off a bridge – they could evenrecycle footage from “The Hunted” for that one. Dammit, it’s abouttime we got our turn in the national spotlight and our chance toget exploited like everybody else!