I get a lot of skepticism about my roadrunner sightings (I blame Warner Bros.) so I'm glad to have this photo. He's tall and pointy, sharp beak, sharp feet, spikey feathers on his head. He just sort of materializes out of nowhere, makes this crackling sound, like a live wire.
The first time I saw him, I was skeptical. We had roadrunners where I lived in New Mexico so I knew what they looked like, but here in Malibu? Then he came around again, dashed across the road with a little snake in his mouth and I was sure. I googled and learned roadrunners eat rattlesnakes and lizards, fruit and eggs and bugs. The male offers the female a stick during their courtship dance. They take turns incubating the eggs in their twiggy nest. They mate for life.
Last week, I was cutting sunflowers in my garden when I heard that unmistakable sound. Roadrunner. And there he was, hunting lizards on the woodpile. I froze. He gave me a look. We stared for a bit and then he turned, vanished into the canyon.
The smoke and ash from the Day fire in Ventura have been drifting down on us for a week now. A light coating of feathery stuff on the car in the morning, the scent of smoke on every breeze. It's part of autumn here, the winds and wildfires. Homes and hopes and habitats go up in flames. We see the world through a prism of spent carbon, the western sky turned an impossible gold.
About a hundred anti-LNG protestors gathered at Bluffs Park today, not a bad turnout for an impromptu mid-week gathering. (Terminate the Terminal, that's their slogan.)
Some Malibu City Council members spoke, people bought nice t-shirts, the occasional dog walker and soccer player stopped by for a peek at the action. A few local news stations shot footage.
Although Arnold was due at Pepperdine this afternoon, the usual spot on the lawn used as a helipad remained empty. Check out the photo, where you can see white tents set up so the wide Pacific becomes a prop for the signing of California's landmark anti-greenhouse legislation.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's in town today to sign some anti-global warming legislation and he's got local activists rallying. They're going to stake out Bluffs Park at noon, right in front of the planned signing site on Pepperdine's vast, water-guzzling lawn, to protest the Cabrillo LNG terminal. That's the pollution-spewing liquefied natural gas platform an Aussie mining company's trying to install thisclose to the Channel Islands Marine Reserve.
The Sacramento Bee puts it in context:
Even by Arnold Schwarzenegger's standards for highly orchestrated public appearances, today's ceremonies for signing California's landmark anti-global warming legislation will be elaborate and carefully choreographed for maximum media exposure.
The governor's production designers chose Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay, for one bill-signing ceremony in the morning, and Pepperdine University, overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Malibu, for another in the afternoon, thereby providing scenic marine backdrops for television news crews in the state's two largest media markets.
But rally leaders don't think the Governator's handlers chose the Pepperdine backdrop for purely aesthetic reasons. According to an e-mail sent today:
"We believe that the Governor DELIBERATELY picked Malibu to sign AB 32 to try to stifle opposition to the BHP Billtion LNG Terminal."
So. Noon today at Bluffs Park in Malibu. Posters, flags and banners. Think Pierce Brosnan will show?
One of my favorite hikes here in Malibu has been infested with story poles, wooden standards bearing orange flags of doom. Sounds a tad hysterical, I know, but hear me out.
Story poles, in case you haven't seen them, are wooden forms topped with stretchy orange netting. They show the shape and height of a proposed building. What they don't show, can't show, are the concentric circles of disruption to come: an oak woodland scraped flat for a driveway, a brushy quail habitat turned into a lawn, a dirt trail paved into a road. The trail in this photo, in fact. It'll be gone in a year.
The outlines of eight McMansions popped up on this hillside over the summer. Apparently four more are working their way through plan-check in Malibu City Hall. It's not just how ugly it'll be, having another swath of back country paved over. It's the mortal wound the ecosystem will suffer. This is a place where you see bobcats and deer every week. There are coveys of quail in the sage and red-tailed hawks in the sky. Great horned owls hunt these hills, as do coyotes and even roadrunners. And now they're in real peril.
Each time you take away a chunk of open space, native animals vanish. Well, not vanish. Without enough room, they can't feed or breed or just plain live so they starve, or get hit by a car, or eat rodents who ate rat poison and then they bleed to death from even the slightest scratch or bruise. They get pushed out of the range that has sustained them for centuries and, if they can, move deeper into the mountains. Until the story poles find them again.
Still, it's the American way, building a new house. It's the American dream. Hell, housing starts, they're the economic engine by which we measure our prosperity. I'm a part of it. My own trailer, all sixteen hundred square feet of it, sits on a once-wild bluff planed smooth by tractors back in 1973. I would take it back if I could. Live in a little house in the city somewhere if it would mean my piece of Malibu could be wild again. But I can't so instead I post a photo and write this sentimental elegy and hope someone else understands.
Great piece today by Janet Cromley in the LAT about Laird Hamilton and how he's popularizing stand-up surfing. (With fab pix by Anne Cusack.) I posted about Laird last year but Janet explains how he's turning his parlor trick into a bona fide sport. And she's right about the sport taking off - it used to be that if a surfer was standing and paddling, it was Laird. Now it's anyone's guess who's out there. Laird, meanwhile, is out conquering the world.
About four years ago, House recalls, Hamilton brought some boards over and asked House to modify them for paddle surfing.
Armed with better boards, "We started riding little waves. And then we started doing coast runs on Maui, then channel crossings," Hamilton says.
Hamilton has since paddle-surfed the rapids in the Grand Canyon and the English Channel. He has paddled from Catalina to Dana Point and is preparing for a 500-mile event bicycling and paddle surfing the Hawaiian Islands.
This a photo shot from the bluff last week on a high-traffic morning here in the Cove. (No photo available of me kicking myself for procrastinating on this post and getting scooped in my own back yard.)
It's finally here, the annual Lion's Club Flea Market, a sale as predictable and peculiar as Malibu itself. Vendors from throughout the state spread their wares on the Civic Center grounds. Venues range from blankets and bed sheets spread on the ground to elaborate tents stocked with all the comforts of home. You'll find antiques and books and clothes and tools and furniture and toys and jewelry and stationery and photographs and food and even, occasionally, something you actually need.
This is the place I found a 1934 copy of the WPA Guide to California, a beautiful tour guide to a vanished version of our state. My husband, David, takes it with us on every road trip, reading, sometimes wistfully, about what once was. This is also where my tiara comes to visit. It's a lovely thing, that tiara, sparkly cut crystals set in a stately frame, perfect for cruising the Cove in a golf cart. I'd buy it but every year the woman who owns the booth won't let me touch it, let alone try it on. Every year, there it is again, beckoning.
So Sunday starts with the Pancake Breakfast - at $3.50 a deal anywhere - cooked and served by our local Lions. The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Civic Center, just a block from PCH between Webb Way and Cross Creek Road. Entry is free but parking costs a few bucks. It's worth it - great stuff, a fun day, and profits from the whole shebang go to the Lion's Club's charitable projects.
And if you manage to get near that tiara, please tell it hello.
This is it, the last day of summer. Tomorrow's the equinox, that exact angle of the sun - mere degrees - and suddenly it's fall. In my garden, a small patch of order borrowed from a canyon hillside, the artichokes are growing larger and the tomatoes are growing fewer. These sunflowers, torch tithonia, are blooming like mad. And this butterfly - a swallowtail? - besotted by the scent and color, seems equally unaware of time passing. For a moment, anyway.
The deadline to speak out against Cabrillo Port has been extended to Oct. 23. That's the enormous Liquified Natural Gas platform an Australian mining company wants to build just outside the Channel Islands Marine Preserve. Check the EPA web page for more info. You can write or e-mail. Deadline is Oct. 23.
Cabrillo Port consists of a floating storage and re-gasification unit (FSRU) connected to two new parallel subsea pipelines. The FSRU is a ship-shaped, double-sided, doublebottom facility that will be permanently moored at the bow. The equipment on the FSRU will include eight submerged combustion vaporizers (SCVs), four engines for electric power generation (three primary engines and one backup), three spherical LNG storage tanks, one diesel fuel storage tank, an emergency generator engine, and three emergency firewater pump engines.
Even the EPA boilerplate sounds toxic.
It's Malibu versus the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a fight that's been festering for years. Ever since Barbra Streisand donated her 22-acre estate at the end of Ramirez Canyon to the Conservancy a decade or so ago, it's been nothing but trouble. The place is huge - five houses, lawns and gardens, a swimming pool, terraced orchards, miles of rock walls and stream beds and pathways. And though the SMMC offers pricey tours, leases the grounds for parties, uses the homes as office space and let some of the lush gardens die off to save on the water bill, it's a money pit. (Full disclosure - my husband, David Kipen, and I were married there, the first wedding held on the property.)
The Conservancy has tried to expand its Ramirez Canyon retail activities and the Malibu City Council has repeatedly said no. Now a SMMC plan to enhance three Malibu park properties - Ramirez, Corral Canyon and Escondido - has brought things to a head. The Conservancy wants the Coastal Commission to rule on the plan. The Malibu City Council says the SMMC is making an illegal end-run around city regulations. Homeowners living near the parks say it's all a thinly-veiled land-grab and want the Conservancy to back off. Everybody's threatening to sue somebody.
Lots of he-said-she-said details in this story in this week's Malibu Times.
Diedrich's Coffee in Malibu is closing. Sold to Starbucks last week. Adios to fresh-roasted java, local pastries, employees like Rita and Henry and Alma, who know the names of all their regular customers and add a touch of class to the place. So long to the best ice-blendeds anywhere, and to great signs like "Unattended children will be served a complimentary double espresso." The bad news was spreading fast at Diedrich's this morning and it was like a wake.
Don't get me wrong. We're not idiots. We know it'll be way harder on the people behind the Diedrich's counter than on those waiting in line in front of it. We know we're bemoaning the loss of a company store built on a wetland that was wrested by the state from the Rindge family who, in their turn, briefly owned 17,000 acres of land that had, for centuries before, belonged to the Chumash. But Malibu's a small town, spread thin and long across 27 miles bisected by a highway. Our meeting places are few and we cherish them.
So I called Diedrich's in Irvine and got referred to a chirpy, it's-all-good flack at a PR firm. Steve Coffey, the company's CEO, wants to concentrate on roasting and distribution and is dumping the coffee houses. The deal should close sometime between December and February. Employees get to apply for jobs at Starbucks. You can buy Diedrich's beans on the internet.
Where you'll go to hear about Henry and Rita's son studying Greek at his magnet school in LA, she couldn't say.
Yes, there are bad things about Malibu - crazy traffic, leaky septic tanks, city politics, rude rich people, fenced beaches, no public laundromat - and that's just for starters. It's all stuff to talk about soon. But when you're walking up a hill and a hawk glides by, lands just in front of you and stares you in the eye, well, all that other stuff seems like it can wait one more day.
The late actor (and one-time Malibu resident) Steve McQueen gets the memoir treatment from his third wife, Barbara, who was married to McQueen for all of ten months. His beach house, she recalls, was located next door to Who drummer Keith Moon.
“Steve found him passed out on the beach dressed in a Nazi uniform, complete with jodhpurs, cap, leather coat and a swastika armband. Steve pulled him back to safety and deposited him on his doorstep for someone else to clean up.”The book, "Steve McQueen: The Last Mile", will be released in November. Barbara's also holding an auction to clear her Montana home of much of the "clutter" McQueen left behind after his death from cancer in 1980. Included are saddles, morotcycles, a pickup with a license plate that reads MCQ3188. (The numbers were part of his juvie hall ID tag.) Also on the block are a pair of blue Persol sunglasses McQueen wore while filming The Thomas Crown Affair.
If you'd rather remember the man by his body of work, try his IMDB bio.
Great quote: "Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting."
A long, hard hike this week, way up a twisty canyon. The fog drifting, great chunks of it forming and re-forming, the sun fighting, vanishing. No way to know what kind of day it's going to be. And then that sound, that treble purr, pitched too high for its size but unmistakable. Where? Oh, there, above a ridge, soft-focus in the mist, the Goodyear blimp, all the way from Carson.
Pierce Brosnan's little shindig to protest the proposed LNG terminal drew well over a thousand people to Bluffs Park in Malibu last night, no small feat for a Friday. They stuffed a donation box with cash and checks, bought t-shirts and postcards. PCH was lined with hundreds of cars. Cops zealously patrolled the area, pulling people over for the smallest infraction. So 1960s.
The crowd took up most of a baseball field for the screening of "An Inconvenient Truth," lawn chairs, blankets, picnics and Blackberries by their sides. Most stayed through the entire film, cheering Al Gore and openly lamenting what a thuggish Supreme Court had cost them six years earlier. Local TV news stations were there, interviewing locals, looking for celebs. The Irish Examiner covered the event and quoted its native son:
“As a father and a concerned citizen and a resident of Malibu for 20-odd years, we are protesting this,” the Irish-born actor said. “Please let’s consider this and let’s look at it very clearly before we make any harsh moves.”
Check out Brosnan's website for his views on the project’s impact, which are seconded by Sting, Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen, Barbra Streisand and Charlize Theron.
The Environmental Protection Agency is behind the wheel on this one, still reviewing public comments so there's time to make yourself heard. They could make a decision next year.
Another Adam-and-Eve, dawn of creation sunrise. It had an unpromising start with the sea as flat and dull as slate, no horizon, no sky. Then, at about 7 a.m., a crack in the clouds, a small, sweet swell in the Pacific and all at once it's heroic and stirring and cinematic and you go a little nuts and want to shout 'Don't eat that apple! Don't drink the Kool-Aid! Re-think PCH!'
Yeah, nutty. But you can help fight the Liquid Natural Gas platform the Aussies want to park in the middle of our beautiful, fragile piece of paradise. The benefit's tonight at Bluffs Park. Al Gore's global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, screens at 7:30 p.m. It's free. (But please donate.) A snazzy reception with Real Movie Stars - hosted by Pierce Brosnan - in the rather humble Community Center costs a minimum of $250. Scroll down to yesterday's post for details. To RSVP to the benefit portion of the event call 310/230-4210.
(And as always, you can click the pix for a bigger view.)
A mining behemoth has set its sights on floating a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal off the Malibu/Ventura coast and, call us crazy, but we here in Malibu think it's a really bad idea. The thing would be 14 stories high and the size of three football fields, would play host to a constant conga line of diesel-belching supertankers, would itself spew an annual 200 tons of smog-inducing pollutants into the air and could, if a fire broke out, flash-fry everything within a seven-mile mile radius with a single flaming vapor cloud.
There's lots more (like the fact the plant, located just outside the border of the ecologically sensitive Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary, would dump millions of gallons of hot sea water into the Pacific each day) but today's post is about a benefit screening of "An Inconvenient Truth" taking place Friday night in Bluff Park in Malibu. (It's an ocean-side park, located where Malibu Canyon Road dead-ends into PCH. You can't miss it.)
The free screening of "An Inconvenient Truth" at 7:30 p.m. - they're taking donations - will be preceded by a 7 p.m. reception hosted by Pierce Brosnan. (That's gonna cost you a 'suggested' $250). The idea is to raise awareness and, hopefully, some cash to fight the thing. Brosnan is scheduled to speak, and a bunch of other bold-faced names are on the invite - Sting, Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen and more.
Movies at Bluff Park are a blast. There's a big inflatable screen, you bring beach chairs and blankets (it's cold here at night), parking is easy, people are friendly and there's plenty for kids to do. To RSVP to the benefit portion of the event call 310/230-4210.
See you there.
You have to sit still to see a lizard. Really see one, that is. A lizard racing away doesn't reveal much. Sit long enough for your body heat to blend with the space around you, sit still enough so rock or tree or human, it's all the same now, and a lizard will show itself. This one does push-ups. Tiny push-ups. Precise. Up. Pause. Down. Pause. Up. A slow scan of the head. The rough petit point of its skin, brown and gold and ash, softens at its belly, bluish now, and smooth. Move slowly enough, get closer and see what it sees - another lizard in the garden. Waiting.
Al Gore's cousin came to Malibu yesterday (he calls him "Albert" in a tone that somehow conjures velveteen knee pants and a bright red balloon) to rouse local Democrats, sell some books, and launch a few barbs at the Bushies. This is Gore Vidal, of course, historian, novelist and essayist, whose long-held view of the U.S. as an imperial empire run by a bunch of monied thugs has found its greatest purchase yet in the current administration. (That's Vidal on the left, Dick Van Dyke on the right. Click the photo for a larger version.)
"There's been a coup d'etat," Vidal told the crowd. "I never thought it could be done so smoothly and easily but it's been done."
He spoke of the "P.T. Barnumization of the American people," and called Bush ("He's so busy in Crawford. What does he do down there? Help illegals across the border, then arrest them and send them to Abu Ghraib?") a man who "babbles about democracy and freedom for everyone, eliminating it, meanwhile, for the folks at home."
And about his cousin Albert: "Why shouldn't he serve in the office to which we elected him once?"
For more than a few snippets of Vidal, check out a recent interview in The Progressive.
The New York Times has finally taken an interest in newbie poker player Jamie Gold, the Malibu talent agent who improbably won the $12 million pot at the World Series of Poker last month. An unkown sweeping the tournament is mildly interesting, but it's all the B-movie plot twists that keep the story alive.
But Mr. Gold, 37, did not come home strutting. In fact, he hasn’t come home at all, but has been lying low while struggling with a jackpot-size dose of scandal and the security worries that accompany such a windfall.
It all started in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, when he took the chip lead on Day 3 of the main event in the poker World Series. Mr. Gold said he was told there had been threats made against him, though neither he nor tournament officials were able to provide much detail.
“People wanted to hurt me or put something in my food because I seemed to be the only thing in the way of other people winning,” he said.
Winning, it turns out, wouldn't be half as hard as getting his hands on the cash. Brit TV producer Crispin Leyser claims Gold (are these great names or what?) promised him half the take and is suing. Gossip blogs claim Gold faked his resume. Gold, meanwhile, says he just wants to use some of the cash to help his ailing father.
Mr. Gold, who stands to make even more money in endorsements, says he wants to share his good fortune with friends. But his focus, he said, remains in ensuring that his parents are well taken care of and starting a foundation for research on Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“At the end of this I won’t have much more money than when I started,” he said. “I may buy a car or something.”
It'll burn off in a few hours, this fog. Already it's thinning in places. Look up. The sky is gray, then blue, then gray again, stutters of color. A hawk glides by, silent as always, gray like the fog, like a memory.
People walk on PCH. There's the jogging girl - woman, really - big boobs showcased in a tight white top, with a high-stepping gait that make her look like a drum majorette. There's the library aide who's been walking to and from work for at least the last ten years. She's shy as a deer and startles if you speak to her but there she is, five days a week, walking. People dash across the highway to eat at Malibu Seafood, families wander down to the beach from the Malibu RV Park.
And there's Walking Man.
He's about 35, tall and square-shouldered with curly russet hair that's always cut short, and he's always walking. Fast. Some people lead with their feet when they walk, others with their shoulders. Walking Man's center of gravity propels him, straight from the solar plexus. He swings his arms and his stride is long and economical. He looks straight ahead, always just straight ahead and each time you see him, you wonder where he's going.
He showed up about five years ago, dressed in a brown corduroy suit, jacket and pants, neat as a banker denying you a loan. It took a week for his edges to fray, for the suit to look shabby, for the fact to sink in that he's sleeping outside, that he's homeless. But PCH here gives you just two choices, north or south, so if you're on foot, we see you.
Over the years, Walking Man has come and gone. He vanished soon after that corduroy suit fell to shreds, then reappeared in jeans and a blue Oxford shirt. Next it was a grey suit jacket and black pants. One fall, during fire season, he wore the bright yellow bottoms of a firefighter's rig, fat black suspenders slung over his bare chest. It was the only time he looked more mad than dapper.
And now he's back again. Blue jeans and a rugby shirt. I saw him yesterday, hiking up the long, hot hill to Cher's place. I was going to take a picture but the thought of it felt wrong, like spying on Boo Radley. So if you're curious, come drive PCH. Not much traffic in these post-summer days. Walking Man's the guy on the side of the road who, amid all the swim suits and suntans and sand pails, looks like there's somewhere he's got to be.
It's the first day of summer here in Malibu. After an ardent three-month love affair with their beaches, Angelenos have turned their attentions elsewhere and, for the people who live and work here, a holiday vibe has set in. Daily life is more relaxed. More parking and shorter lines. The supply of bear claws at Diedrich's Coffee lasts until noon. Can it be that PCH, our perpetual metronome, already ticks more slowly?
The deserted beach is no illusion. A high tide swept in last night and smoothed away all signs of the summer vacation. It spackled the shore with fine sand, broken only by strands of sea grass and the footprints of a snowy egret.
With news that the Monterey Bay Aquarium has
The shark, a 5-foot 8-inch juvenile male, was captured in the waters outside the Santa Monica Bay and kept for several weeks in a floating pen just outside Paradise Cove. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, then squint a little, you'll see the line of white buoys floating above the pen.
From the San Jose Mercury News:
Baby Jaws arrived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium about 6 p.m. Thursday after an arduous nine-hour journey. He was transferred from a 4 million-gallon mesh holding pen off the coast of Malibu to the ``Finnebago,'' a 3,000-gallon oblong tank filled with 68-degree water for the ride up I-5. He'll be living in the Outer Bay exhibit, the aquarium's largest, with large tuna, ocean sunfish and other deep-sea creatures.
Because the shark is a protected species, aquarium staff needed a special permit from the California Department of Fish and Game when they caught him with a hook and line several miles offshore in Santa Monica Bay, said aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson.
He spent two weeks swimming in the holding pen and snacking on bonito and other fish before the aquarium deemed him fit for travel. The aquarium had set its hopes on a female shark caught in June, but she died shortly after her capture.
For some critics, that raises questions about whether sharks should be kept in captivity at all.
Until the aquarium's successful six-month shark display last year, no one had been able to keep a great white shark in captivity longer than 16 days. While some scientists believe that not much can be learned about sharks' natural behavior in captivity, Peterson said the new shark exhibit has a larger purpose: to help change the image of a poorly understood species whose numbers are declining worldwide.
After the female shark was released in 2005, scientists tracked her via an electronic tag for a month, discovering that she swam up to 100 miles away and dived to depths of up to 800 feet.
``We know so little about white sharks,'' Peterson said. ``We don't know where they have their pups or where they go. Now we're discovering that they travel as far west as Hawaii to Año Nuevo and the Farallon Islands.
``The first step in protecting sharks in the wild is to get people to think about them differently -- to see them as this magnificent animal that has a vital role to play in the ocean ecosystem.''
The aquarium's first white shark, which was caught by fishermen off Huntington Beach and given to the aquarium, was released after it started killing its tank mates in a bout of increasingly aggressive behavior. Abrasions to its snout suggested it was striking the walls of the tank in an effort to swim free.
The Underwater Times got photos of the first shark's injured nose, an online petition to free the shark was launched and then the great fish killed several of its tank mates. The shark was released in March of 2005.
One of the last wild public places on the ocean side of PCH is Bluff Park. By wild, I suppose I mean undeveloped. (If we're talking wild in the more general sense, then let's introduce the endangered Dume Room into the conversation. A fun story for another time.)
One half of Bluff Park is ball fields where local Little League and AYSO and pickup games take place. There's a nice curving path for strolling, some lawns and picnic tables where big events like the annual Car Show happen. You can rent it out for weddings and private parties, and every day of the week you'll see people with picnic baskets and lounge chairs, books and baby strollers. Pierce Brosnan created a lovely spot as a tribute to his late wife, Cassie. There's a bench shaped like a whale fluke disappearing into the sea, free telescopes, and from dawn to dusk someone's there, enjoying the place.
But it's the other side of the property that lures me, a (mostly) untouched chunk of acreage where hawks and coyotes hunt and bunnies and songbirds hide. California quail skitter through underbrush where you might hear an occasional rattlesnake warning you off. I've found papery snake skins shed right on the path, and a bright blue egg shell under a tree. There's a spot at one edge of the bluff where, if you crouch a bit to escape the sight of the houses below, it's just you, a prickly pear and the Pacific.