Everyone wants a piece of Malibu, including me. My buying power has proven modest, an aging mobile home on a bluff above the beach. We rent the land. The house sits on metal tripods that shimmy in the slightest earthquake, let the occasional opossum rest in the cool darkness. Their smell moves through the air vents, a pungent musk that can't be anything but wild animal.
When the sun goes down, coyotes light up the canyon with yips and howls, a bloodthirsty aria that alters your dreams. The cats in the house wake up then, drift to an open window to watch and listen long into the night. At dawn, a membrane of mist hangs above the water. Often there's a pod of dolphins gliding by, gray fins piercing gray water backed by gray sky. If you're out in a kayak, they'll sneak up behind you, just a ripple or a splash, maybe a tail, a white flash of belly, to let you know they're there. Get close enough and you smell their fishy breath, feel the salty whoosh of their exhale.
I've wanted to live here ever since I can remember. Even so, when my very proper French mother learned we bought a trailer on the beach, she was shocked into silence. No matter that it once belonged to Otis Chandler, or that it looks like a house and sits on a roomy lot. My home is registered with the DMV. It's attached to a chassis. It has a serial number. Paint it, tile it, call it what you will, it's a trailer. (A 1973 doublewide Meteor, to be precise.)
And then my parents came to Paradise Cove to see for themselves. On the drive through this rustic, tree-filled park to my - yep - trailer, which sits a few hundred yards from the western edge of the continent, they started to understand. By the time they stood on the bluff with its shimmering view of the Santa Monica Bay, they were converts. I heard my mother on the phone that night. "It's 1,400 square feet," she told my brother. "Yes, a kitchen and two bathrooms." On a drive to Santa Monica later that week she pointed to a cottage on the sand, easily worth many millions. "Much narrower than your house," she said in disdain. "And such traffic."
That was 12 years ago. A lot has changed in Paradise Cove since then and some of it is my fault. Not in the general we-are-the-world kind of way but in a very specific cause-and-effect kind of way. I wrote a home remodeling story about Paradise Cove and I ruined my neighborhood. Just the thought of it makes me woozy. One little story in the LA Times and suddenly we're on Good Morning America and NPR and in the New York Times and the real estate agents' phones are ringing off the hook and...
But that's another story for another day. Tomorrow, actually, as this is the first post to one of LA Observed's satellite blogs. Here in Malibu. Photos and thoughts and news about this little city, history, interviews and essays and sometimes, maybe, even something useful. Like, did you know there's no swimming at Surfrider Beach? It's surfing or sunbathing and that's all.
Until tomorrow, anyway.