I really need to see this film again. I think I watched it on... (*gasp*) broadcast television. At the time, I remember expecting it to be kind of an exploitive, button-pushing narrative of the archetypal Angry White Male, and feeling like it was that, but a little bit more as well. (My wife hates it, she was my girlfriend when it came on TV, and she didn't want to watch it.)
Bisbee, your account of the Northridge Quake is exactly how I experienced it. I lived in West LA, the neighborhood known as Sawtelle or Japan town, in a studio apartment in an architectural style known as 'dingbat' -- boxy stucco apartments surrounding a central courtyard. Ours had a pool. My friends in LA considered it a bit of a dump, but coming from the upper west side of Manhattan, I thought I'd died and landed in heaven. A pool! My own parking space!
And soon, guns, too. I remember the day my car alarm went off-- it had a pager, and never falsed, incredibly. I grabbed my piece and ran out of my apartment screaming-- and was shocked to find a half a dozen neighbors right behind me, ready to back me! The thief bolted, leaving the passenger door open-- smart move, we were all shouting, and probably sounded like a horde of zombies. Of course, it was stupid-- it's not worth shooting someone over a vehicle, I barely could shoot the gun I had! But I felt a lot safer than I had in New York, where I'd been attacked several times a year in the '80s, and only had my wits and a cheap gravity knife that I never dared pull.
Anyway, when the quake hit, I only had time to think about getting to my feet-- soon, the ground was shaking so hard that standing was out of the question. I lost almost every glass, plate-- anything that could break did except, weirdly, the windows.
And I discovered the neighborhood I lived in for the first time. Latino families lived down the street, and they started camping in their front yards, fearful of aftershocks. The patriarchs or older sons kept watch on the perimeter, often in a folding chair near the sidewalk-- and looked at my with suspicion the first time I walked by, but not after that. We would stop and exchange pleasantries, crack a joke or two. I went to the only local bar for the first time-- a karaoke joint a few blocks away, where I would run to slam a couple of beers before curfew. And I started talking to the guys in the fish market who sold me Sashimi, and stared daggers at me when I asked them to cut it for barbecue. I flirted hopelessly with an older Armenian woman who lived nearby.
But yes-- it was just a heartbeat in time that passed quickly.