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October 31, 2006


After all the hot sunrise colors and hot sunset winds, the cool side of the color wheel is a relief. The sky hangs low and yes, the water's as chilly as it looks. The beach is deserted now save for serious surfers, trotting by one by one with just the slightest nod.
autumn morning

Here in Venice

Halloween. Strictly traditional. Scary and gross.

Venice, CA

October 29, 2006

No two days the same

Palos Verdes, looking volcanic this weekend.
weekend sunrise

October 27, 2006


The heat of the santanas, that's the first thing. Then the motion. Your house rocks, your car rocks, you're pretty sure that, with one more hot and howling blast, you'll jump out of your skin. And then there's the way things smell.

These winds suck moisture from everything they touch, send the molecules spinning. Sage and roses and pepper trees, eucalyptus and pine and a newly-waxed car. Up at the barn, where only plants the deer and gophers disdain can survive, the lavender gives up its heavy purple scent, thick and dizzying.
Foxglove and lavender

October 25, 2006

Go fer a good pun. Fail.

Sitting at the barn the other day, reading, and something flies through my peripheral vision. Turn to look. Nothing. Reading again and again it happens - something flung through the air. But where? Book down now, waiting now, and a tiny spray of soil erupts from the weeds. Grab the camera, of course, creep closer and freeze. And there he is, the gopher, shiny stripey brown, extending his underground empire.

The first picture show

Our movie theater - all two screens of it - is back! Well, almost. Opening date: Nov. 17. Invitation only. Cocktail party to celebrate on Nov. 15. Yep, invitation only.

We've been movie-less since the spring of 2005 when our Wallace theater, small as a screening room, went up in flames. A year and a half (give or take) later, there it is, rebuilt, refurbished but not, unlike so many Malibu businesses in recent months, ruined.

Instead of super-sizing, going all multiple multiplex, the owner simply rebuilt. The same but better. What a concept.
Word is, the seats are cushier, the sight lines better, the equipment upgraded and the snack bar updated. The prices, I'm told, will stay the same.

So it's back to date night in downtown Malibu, dinner and a movie, where the person elbow-deep in jumbo popcorn next to you might just as easily be the same person you're watching on the screen.

Men at work

October 24, 2006

Paint by numbers

Another sunrise? Bear with me, it's that time of year. The weather's schizo: Summer. Fall. Summer. Fall. Winter? No - summer. No, fall! And the fallout is these sunrises, lovely, almost lurid, and to an amateur like me they all scream, "Take my picture!" So I do.

I'll actually have a bit of news later in the day - our beloved local movie theater, shuttered by fire, finally has an opening date. But before I spill I've got to go and - you guessed it - take the picture. Sheesh, amateurs.

Just another Malibu sunrise

October 22, 2006

Finding NIMO (and Pierce and Halle and...)

Not in my ocean - the unaninous feeling at the anti-liquefied natural gas protest hosted by our leading local anti-LNG luminary, Pierce Brosnan. Pierce hard at work

Hundreds of Malibu locals attended a pancake breakfast on the pier, joined by celebs like Halle Berry, Ted Danson, Cindy Crawford, Dick Van Dyke, Tea Leone and Jane Seymour. Just yards away on scenic Surfrider Beach, hundreds more, including Laird Hamilton, Minnie Driver, Daryl Hannah and Gabrielle Reece, took to the waves in a traditional paddle-out.

A news story here. More pix (my paparazzi moment) after the jump.

Anti-LNG demonstration
Hundreds of protestors flocked to the Malibu Pier on Sunday.

Dancers get things started

halle berry
Halle Berry

dick van dyke
Malibu man-about-town, Dick Van Dyke

cindy crawford
Cindy Crawford

paddle-out begins
Surfers get ready to paddle out

(click on any photo for a few more protest pix on Flickr)

Above the fog line

The Pacific is somewhere down there, dark and cold and gloomy. Above the fog line, warmth, and a shifting layer of shining white.

Above the fog line

October 21, 2006

Big pink

It's morning and everything's pink, the sky, the sand, the light, the breaking waves, even the windows of the homes that face east, big pink squares, blank and waiting.

21 october,2006 7:01 a.m.

October 19, 2006

Here in Ralphs

Because nothing says "Halloween" like a chocolate fountain...

chocolate fountain

The santana effect

It's santana season, when hot, dry winds scream down from the desert to scour clean our skies and horizon. Head for higher ground and the Pacific expands around you. There's Santa Monica, clear as a bell, and L.A.'s jagged downtown skyline. Beyond, magnified by a trick of this crazy light, are the mountains.

Cars veer along PCH, drivers fighting the gusts. Birds don't fly so much as they are flung. Their hollow-boned wings brace against the gale, almost useless. Driven by thirst, tongues dangling in the heat, coyotes cross the Pepperdine lawn in search of sprinklers.

In the local fire stations, crews prep and polish their rigs. Menace or promise, reproof or reprieve, every shift in these winds has meaning.
the santana effect

Here in Beverly Hills?

Amusing, bemusing or just plain annoying, there's no end of gummed-up geography when rookies write about L.A. This week, a Brit gossip rag has relocated Beverly Hills to the beach.

Jennifer Aniston has bought a new six-bedroom home minutes away from ex-Friends co-star Courteney Cox.

The actress has reportedly spent $8.1 million on the beachfront property in Beverly Hills which is yards down the coast from the home of close friend Cox.

She is leaving a rented, two-bedroom home in Malibu which she used to share with former fiance Brad Pitt.

A year and a half after their split she is moving on into the larger, exclusive property which comes with half an acre of private grounds.

The 1970s home is being altered to her own design, according to the Daily Mail.

October 17, 2006

De Butts of jokes

So the good people of De Butts Terrace want to change the name of their street, and why not? Life is challenging enough without your own address hinting you're an ass. From the LAT:

"It's an embarrassing name," said Allison Thomsen, one of 16 or so property owners on the street, which sits atop a ridge near Escondido Canyon with views of ocean, mountains and waterfalls.

One resident hasn't told his preschool-age son the name of the street for fear the boy would be ridiculed by other kids. Others have promised to plant a tree and mount a plaque to honor the street's namesakes, if only the City Council will approve the name change.

Residents want to adopt the clunky moniker Paradise View Way, but Mayor Ken Kearsley (who, it would be wrong to omit, does not live on a street that references buttocks) is against any change. He says the name honors a quirky Malibu clan who deserve their place in local history.

Kearsley holds the deButts family, who grew their own food and survived without plumbing or natural gas, in high esteem. He taught their eccentric daughter, Forrest deButts, in 1962, his first year as a teacher at Santa Monica High School.

At the time, she was writing a column for the Malibu Times called Squeaky Mesa, named for Squeaky, the family's pet donkey. After she married and moved to Alaska, her mother, Marianne, continued the tradition. Marianne deButts, in fact, delivered her column to the newspaper one day in December 1987, went home and died.

Either way, here's the view, complete with waterfall, on a rainy afternoon.
De Butts Terrace

October 16, 2006

Heron now

Lately, this great blue heron has been a regular visitor to the empty field that borders our local veterinary clinic. He flies in from the Malibu lagoon, glorious and goofy. The ruffled arc of his outstretched wings supports a body that, aloft, looks so much like a rubber chicken, you can't help but laugh.

When he's standing still, though, as tall as a five-year-old, improbably wild among the speeding cars on PCH, you notice that every inch of land around him is spoken for. Every bit of it, whether with a mall or a park or a parking lot, will be tamed within a few years. And there's nothing funny about that.
Great blue heron

October 15, 2006

The (strange) view from here

The South Bay vanished from sight in this weekend, hidden beneath banked clouds. But the geography of the place remained clear. That's Dockweiler State Beach under those two white plumes, where an industrial complex that includes Chevron’s oil refinery, the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant and the DWP's Scattergood power plant, seems to make its own weather. Clouds over the South Bay

October 12, 2006

Chain reaction

Our shabby, dysfunctional, yet intensely local Sav-On Drugs has been consumed by CVS. We hate it. Well, I hate it. My friends and neighbors hate it. The people I've seen there, wandering the new landscape in a bewildered daze, hate it. What once was an eccentric blend of pharmacy, general store, 7-11 and liquor mart is now a soulless cyborg.Adios, Sav-On. Here comes CVS Gone are the tall displays that formed little canyons and hid you from sight. Gone are the neat rows stocked with unexpected items: French Champagne, Burt's Bee's lip balm, three-for-ten-dollars t-shirts, straw hats, Malibu Gum, Bumble and Bumble shampoo.

Sure Sav-On was a chain, but it was a chain gone native. This new CVS is viciously well-lit. Short aisles and low shelves form a wide savanna through which shoppers move like nervous prey. You can see everyone from any part of the store. Checkstands with gum and eyeglass repair kits and magazines have been replaced with a kind of holding pen where shoppers mill about until a cashier calls them over. No more browsing. No more gossip. No more checking The Star for the latest pix of Brad and Angie.

And the Bumble and Bumble - what did become of it?

"Right over there," a clerk said, pointing to the grocery section. "With the rest of the tuna."

October 11, 2006

Regular old news

We've got some news to report here in Malibu and it's not about Britney or Barbra or Cher or septic tanks or even our annual mainstays, fire, flood and mudslides. (Is it just me or are the Santa Ana's a bit late this year?)

A deal to build a Santa Monica City College on a seven-acre site adjoining Malibu City Hall has fallen through. No reason given. Other land in the area remains under consideration. The Malibu Times has the details.

The proposed Liquefied Natural Gas terminal is defining the race for governor, according to the PCH Press.

Every news outlet you've ever (and never) heard of wants to tell you that Mel's still really sorry he's an anti-Semite when he's plastered. (And ABC really, really hopes you'll watch tonight as Diane Sawyer make Mel squirm while says so.)

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is being sued by taxpayers who allege the misuse of $385,000 in state bond funds, according to the LA Times.

Bee careful

The puppy who lives in our house likes to chase lizards. She never even comes close to catching one. She's kind of slow and kind of goofy - she's a lab after all - but with all that puppy energy it's good for her to have a job. Not Catching Lizards. Recently, I've had to add to her job description: don't get stung by a bee.

There we were, up at the barn, me working and Maisie running. One minute she's all sleek and black and shiny, cute little labby face and lips. The next minute she's Angelina Jolie.

I rushed her to our vet's office, Malibu Coast Animal Hospital. It's a real hometown practice. Dean Graulich came to Malibu soon after graduating veterinary school and worked at every clinic in town. Now he owns one. He and his staff remember your name and remember your pets and the pets remember them. They treat Dr. Dean like a rock star.

One look at Maisie and they took her into a treatment room. Rattlesnake? Bee? They didn't know yet. But they found the stinger, pulled it out, checked Maisie's vitals, gave her a shot and said she would be fine. They gave me a teensy bottle of Benadryl and kept saying she would be fine until I believed them. I mean, did you know a dog's face could do that?

Later, standing in the waiting room, the tech and I and the rest of the clients just stared at Maisie's astonishing lips.

"It's OK to laugh," the tech said.
And to take a picture?
"Oh, absolutely."

October 10, 2006

Party poopers

Of all the stories that put Malibu in the news recently, none has fascinated the foreign press quite like our septic issues. We've become an international fart joke. Headline writers in India, Canada, the UK, New Zealand and China have gone mad with glee: Malibu Poop Under Investigation! Malibu Poop Patrol! Something Stinks in the Stars' Homes! Not since Mad Mel's boozy midnight ride has our little city made so many headlines. new septic system in Paradise Cove The stories run with headshots of Pam Anderson, Pierce Brosnan and Tom Hanks, and are jazzed up with "what if" scenarios in which inspectors rouse the guilty glitterati in the dead of night and march them off to poop prison.

It's an important issue and we here in Malibu look forward to seeing where the DNA trail leads. Is it local human waste? Local animal waste? Or, as some suspect, a sewage treatment plant further upstream that dumps into our local creeks? Whatever the answer, rest assured that the foreign press will keep us well informed.

October 9, 2006


It would be impossible to grow up in my mother's house and not learn to bake. She's a Frenchwoman and a Cancer, a culinary double whammy that turns even her most casual dinner parties into events. Her idea of taking it easy is using a food processor (sacre bleu!) to slice the apples for a tart tatin or, in go-for-broke sloth, actually baking the chocolate-glazed hazelnut mousse cake the night before. Even now, hearing her describe a dinner menu is like listening to a fairy tale.See Canyon apples So I can bake a little and I can cook a little. Nothing fancy, which I think may be the secret to my recent pie success. Buy great fruit. (I used the two apple varieties in the photo.) Use real butter in the crust. Keep it simple. Recipes after the jump.

Apple Pie
3 to 4 pounds of apples, peeled and sliced into large chunks, eighths or tenths.
1/4 c. white sugar.
1/4 c. brown sugar.
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 to 2 Tblsp unsalted butter
1 to 2 tsp fresh lemon zest

Starting near the outside edge, line the pie crust with apple chunks. Move in concentric circles inward. When you've got the bottom layer covered, mound the rest on top. Go for density without overcrowding.

Mix the spices and salt with the white sugar, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the apples. Don't worry, it'll all migrate downward. Do the same with the brown sugar. Cut the butter into tiny chunks and drop it around, random but even. Sprinkle in the lemon zest.

Put the top crust on, crimp, then cut steam holes. Glaze with an egg wash or cream or whatever works for you.

Bake in a 450 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes. (And be sure to preheat it all the way as the first 15 minutes are critical to cooking the fruit.) Then lower the heat to 350 and bake another 30 or 40 minutes, depending on your oven, the fruit, the day, your tastes. You can stick a tiny paring knife through one of the vents to see how the fruit's doing.

Cool to room temperature before serving. A few hours is fine, even overnight is good. The flavors blend and mellow and the juices have time to solidify.

Meyer Lemon Pie
It's a Shaker recipe that Jenny Price (a wonderful cook) forwarded to me from her mother's recipe collection.

Slice 2 or 3 Meyer lemons, paper-thin. You can leave the rinds on if you like pie with a strong bite, or peel half of them for a milder flavor.

Mix in bowl with 2 c. sugar. Toss and leave to macerate several hours or overnight.

Mix in 4 beaten eggs, then pour the fruit mixture into a bottom crust. Add a top crust. Crimp.

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven, then another 20 minutes at 375.

Cool to room temperature before serving.

October 8, 2006


The Malibu Pie Festival? The one some friends and I entered on a lark so we could have the fun of planning and shopping and baking together? I won. First place in the apple pie category for a Classic Apple, and third place in the fruit category for a Meyer lemon. As Laura Ingalls' mother would say (in those marvelous books, not that sappy TV series), you could have knocked me over with a feather. Barry Bostwick at the pie festival
It was fun. A gorgeous day, a festive crowd, a blues quartet filling the Malibu Country Mart with great music, everything low-tech, low-key and friendly. (That's one of the pie festival judges, Barry Bostwick, in the photo. He's asking a question about my Meyer lemon pie, which is hidden behind the pitcher. You can see Melissa's rustic fruit galette in the foreground. Barry passed on both our pies and went with berry instead.)

It was pie heaven. There were pie t-shirts, pie mugs and whole pies for sale. There were scores of pies to judge and pie-eating contests to cheer along. The members of Malibu Methodist Church, the organizers of the festival, ran things like clockwork. Karen, Melissa and I? We're already planning our entries for next year.

October 6, 2006

Humble pie

I'm baking an apple pie in Otis Chandler's kitchen. OK, it's my kitchen now, but it still looks an awful lot like it did when this little trailer was Otis' surfside retreat. Same avocado green formica counters, same linoleum floor, same beige plastic light plates, same leaky dishwasher, same…well, you get the picture.Pie time

I've made a few changes - big, new windows to let in the light, a Dutch door to let out the cats. Most recently I had a crew knock down one of the kitchen walls. (This is a mobile home. It took them all of two hours.) The resulting space and the countless options it revealed have all but paralyzed me. So I'm ignoring the big, fat electrical cords dangling in the corner, and the fact that the back of my 1954 Philco fridge is now the focal point of the living room. (A designer on HGTV is having recurring nightmares and doesn't know why.)

Instead, I'm paring and peeling and slicing and spicing my way to an entry in tomorrow's annual pie competition. An old-fashioned apple and a Shaker lemon. Stick with the classics. Karen Duffy Walker Gindick's pie is a Triple Chocolate Chunk Pecan marvel. She rolled the crust with her grandmother's rolling pin. Those Iowa girls. Melissa's putting fresh figs from her Point Dume orchard into a rustic galette.

Judging is at noon tomorrow at the Malibu Country Mart. You can drive on down for a slice or two. Or just wish us luck.

I got you, babe

We never saw moving vans at Cher's place here in Malibu. No sweaty men hauling boxes. Not a trace of activity, in fact, in her hilltop hideaway, a Mediterranean mansion with a bit of goth around the edges. But as everyone from The Star to NPR has breathlessly reported, Cher went the garage sale route, getting rid of everything from her clothes, crucifixes and car to wigs, her high school yearbook and a table lamp made from a taxidermied armadillo.

The sale grossed $3.5 million. The loot's going to charity. Oh, and Cher wants to see what you're going to do with her stuff.

Cher asks that winning bidders send her pictures of the hot stuff in their new homes.

"She jokingly said to me, 'I want to know they're appreciated and cared for and I can call those people in case I want to buy them back,' " said Darren Julien, president of Julien Auction which handled the two-day event with Sotherby's.

October 5, 2006

The big dig

Yep, we're upgrading. The frail, old, leaky, stinky septic system here in Paradise Cove is finally being replaced. It's been a long haul, years of law suits and sewage spills, accusations and denials, streets awash in human waste. You really haven't lived until the unmistakable scent of effluvium wafts in in a gentle breeze from the street in front of you.

We've all got photos and videos of it, copies of letters and e-mails we've sent. Big digWe've all spent time in grindingly dull meetings. And finally, it's happening. Big machines carving even bigger holes for the new septic system. State of the art, says Paradise Cove management. Porta-potties are state of the art compared to what we've got now.

Our space rents have nearly doubled to help pay for all this. It's been a burden on the park's long-term, pre-real estate boom residents, who live on modest incomes. If it works, though, if the waters off our little stretch of beach run clean again, it'll be well worth it.

And P.S. - the LA Times piece calls Paradise Cove a private beach. There are no private beaches in California, as Jenny Price so tirelessly proves and explains.

Cloud shadow

Such a strange dawn. The eastern sky all torn up by contrails, a glimpse of rising sun through the banked clouds. Somehow the light angles up, reflects and refracts, and a vertical plume of frozen vapor, almost a helix in all that blue, casts its own shadow on the layer of cirrus behind it. cloud shadow

October 3, 2006

Life of pie

So I'm entering my apple pie into the annual Pie Festival on Saturday here in Malibu. It's a huge deal. The Malibu Country Mart, which on most weekends is a roiling mob of hipsters, tourists and B-list stars trolling for paparazzi, turns into a little piece of Iowa. Malibu Pie FestivalIt's all picnic tables swathed in oilcloth, balloons bobbing on the breeze, bakers and judges and pie lovers hovering anxiously on the green, green lawn. Sure, you can stroll twenty feet in any direction and blow $500 on a pair of jeans. And yes, that's probably Nic Cage and his daughter playing over there on the swings. But on Pie Festival day, Malibu's just a small, country town.

I've got a game plan. On Wednesday, a friend and I are meeting at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. The See's Canyon apple stand has some tiny, tart reds which, if they hold their juice in the oven, might be amazing. A friend has generously offered his services as taster during the test runs. ("Bake as many pies as you need to," he said. So selfless.)

Karen Duffy Walker Gindick, an actual Iowan (and the news editor at the LA Daily News) is also entering her apple pie. She's a gifted baker, takes it seriously, as only a heartland native can, so the competition is going to be tough.

If you've got any pie baking tips, please share them. (Butter? Lard? Crisco?) I need all the help I can get.

October 1, 2006

About Arnie's Malibu visit...

PG&E and SoCal Edison helped foot the bill.

That's right. The Governator posed in front of the Pacific in our little town last week as he signed anti-greenhouse gas legislation into law. But instead of spending taxpayer money while conducting the public's business, the LA Times reports he let a tax-exempt group set up to create jobs pick up the tab.

Part of the cost is being picked up by the Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth, a nonprofit panel that Schwarzenegger launched in 2004 to lure business to California. The commission is planning to raise about $25,000 to help pay for the events, according to executive director Mark Mosher.

Among the commission's donors are major California companies with business before the state, including PG&E and Southern California Edison.

PG&E gave $100k to the commission in March. Not that the corporation had anything to gain.

In Malibu, Schwarzenegger praised PG&E and other companies for supporting the global warming bill, calling them "farsighted."

Oh. But it's not like there are any guidelines, right?

Watchdog groups said that when the governor takes official actions, taxpayers should foot the bill — not companies with business in Sacramento.

"In my judgment, it violates the spirit of the Political Reform Act for him to privatize a gubernatorial function," said Robert Fellmeth, director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego, referring to the 1974 law promoting ethics in government.

Oh, well, ethics. Never mind.

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