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November 30, 2006

So this is winter...

Cold. So cold, the furnace kicks on even though it's set all the way down to 65. (In a trailer, anyway.) So cold, both cats creep into bed and, inch by stealthy, pitiless, unstoppable inch, lay claim to prime real estate. So cold, the ocean water is warmer than the air and steams in the cutting wind.
mist rising in Paradise Cove

November 28, 2006


It's almost last call at the Dume Room, the bad boy (and girl) bar in here in Malibu. Just five days left, and it shows. Hundreds of bottles of booze, beer and mixers have dwindled to a few dozen. What you're drinking depends on what's left. The photos are gone, the plumbing's out and the juke box is on the fritz.

Regulars crowd the pool table and huddle around the bar, taking a stab at making merry and failing. At 8 p.m., the place was almost empty. A few hours later, crowded but just as quiet, a smoky wake with a no-host bar.

November 27, 2006

Why we love Diedrich's

Diedrich's Coffee in Malibu

November 24, 2006

Future schlock

Remember this?
Remember this beautiful hillside, home to bobcats and coyotes, roadrunners and foxes and California quail? I was naive when I wrote it would be paved over within the year.

Just a few weeks later...
Just weeks later, a crew cut down all the trees and vegetation, put up a fence and widened the road.

Future shock
And posted a picture of the house to come.

November 23, 2006

Egrets only

This odd little trio of egrets has been dining on the Pepperdine lawn for the past week. You can see them early in the morning, right after the scores of sprinklers soak the grass and force worms and bugs to the surface, gasping for air. These birds are waiting.

The larger one is a great egret, tall and gawky on the ground but aloft, it's like something out of a fairy tale. The smaller pair are snowy egrets, with fringy feathers and big yellow cartoon feet. They shuffle up and down the lawn like tiny Richard Nixons, shoulders hunched, heads thrust forward, wings tucked in at the sides.

I shot a bunch of photos and they mostly turned out so-so, so I'm making up for quality with quantity. (Yeah, right.) These birds are so beautiful, though, it almost works.

Happy Thanksgiving from here in Malibu!
herons 014

Egrets in Malibu

Egrets in Malibu

November 22, 2006

Beginning of the end

The changes have begun at Diedrich's, my favorite coffee house here in Malibu. Starbucks is taking over sometime in the next month or two - like many of Diedrich's regulars, I can't bear to know exactly when so I haven't been asking - and the place is in transition. Vicki's last dayIn the first days after the sale to Starbucks was announced, it was easy to be in denial. Nothing seemed different. Well, that's not true. The supply of "How are we doing?" postcards instantly dwindled as patrons stuffed the suggestion box with variations of "Please! Don't!" But other than that, it's been life as usual. Same great coffee, great pastries, great courtyard to hang out in. Same great morning crew.

Until today, when Vicki will be gone. Here she is on her last day (she doesn't usually wear a paper crown, but it suits her) before she goes to work in the city as a nanny. She took the new job because of the sale. And now it's really hitting us - Malibu is going to be a Starbucks town. Four of them. (The lone holdout is the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, tucked into the heart of the Country Mart.)

So things look mostly the same at Diedrichs. The Christmas decorations are up, the holiday drinks are on the menu, the Christmas carols are not playing, not for a few weeks still because it's that kind of place. Things look the same, but it's not the same at all.

November 20, 2006

Bird war

Hummingbirds are cranky little creatures. Miraculous, the way they fly, the way they look, the way they live, but ill-tempered. I've been feeding them for years now up at the barn where I work. They're used to me, order me around a bit, do fly-bys past my desk if I'm taking too long to realize the feeders have run dry. I'm used to it. Mostly.

Lately, with the days so warm and our winter weather seemingly trapped in Seattle, the hummingbirds have gone a little nuts. Three feeders hang from the eaves of the barn, eighteen feeding stations, but still not enough. Scores of hummingbirds arrived in the afternoon, all fighting for position. I should have been writing but I shot photos instead.

(My brilliant photographer friend, Diana E. Lundin, cropped this photo for me. Check out her amazing photo gallery.

Bird war

November 19, 2006

Sunday morning

Sunrise 11.19.06Sunrise...

in the Cove...

where Mike is fishing.

November 18, 2006

Fog rolls in

Quiet today here in Malibu. PCH, the Pacific, even the new neighbors with the yappy dog, quiet today. The fog's rolling in the way it does in the fall, a thick bank of white stuff advancing off the ocean. Hard to photograph but here goes. It's my favorite moment, when something about warm and cool, moist and dry shreds the fog, sends threads of it snaking down the streets, wraithlike and muffled.11.18.06: fog rolls in

November 17, 2006

News cycle

I wasn't surprised the "Share the Road" post got a lot of cyclists hot under their jerseys. They're a passionate lot, devoted, demanding of themselves and others. I wrote from the viewpoint of a local and a driver. They wrote back as citizens of the biking world. Beach bike(And for a moment of amusement to avid cyclists everywhere, here's a shot of my own un-glam bike, a stolid REI bomber I use to ride around the Cove.)

The replies to the post had a cycle of their own - first the flamers, then those who respectfully agreed and disagreed. The former were, well, educational - new words, new spellings, new anatomical possibilities. Who knew? The latter are worth sharing.

Will Campbell (who, by the way, has a great photo gallery on responded to the post on his own blog, [sic]. He's with me - to a point.

But then she has to go letting “the thousands of cars speeding by” off the hook so easily while demanding that the “arrogant” cyclists get the hell out of their careless ways. Even more aggravating is the fact that she expects large groups of riders to somehow stay as far right as possible. At all times.
All I’m saying is two wheels or four wheels we all have a responsibility, and to kissoff the “slow Sunday driving days” and accept that PCH is a de-facto “freeway” for cars to play on and for bikes to cower from may very well be the reality, but that doesn’t make it right. And definitely it’s not right to expect a crowd of bikes to get as far right, as that fails to take into account that there might not be much right to ride on.

There's more, and it's worth reading.

Ditto for Pat Veesart, whose thoughtful note is excerpted here and runs in full after the jump.

Bicyclists often ride on or near the white line at edge of a bike lane because bike lanes are often littered with rocks, broken glass, and other debris. The law allows cyclists to make decisions about where it is safe to ride. If a cyclist feels the need to be in the travel lane - maybe because he or she does not feel safe riding next to parked cars (where one might get a car door in the face); or maybe because they are working their way over to make a left-hand turn or; or possibly because there is a drainage grate coming up that must be avoided - then motorists can just be patient for a moment. I can assure you that the cyclist will be wanting to get out of harm's way just as fast as he or she possibly can.

So thanks to everyone who took the time to write, and who rides a bike here in Southern California, despite the risks.

Oh! And I appreciate the offers to join you for a ride, but that kind of cycling is out of my league. (Seriously - did you look at my bike?) But if you're stopping at Deidrich's or John's Garden or even a Starbuck's while riding though Malibu sometime, let me know.

From Pat Veesart:


As somebody who rides a bike to work daily, and as somebody with some background in bicycle advocacy, I was a little perturbed by your short piece on bicyclists in Malibu. I am not at all surprised that you are hearing from frustrated bicyclists. My job often takes me to Malibu and I generally enjoy your column as a means of learning a bit more about a town that I will never live in, but find my myself involved with never-the-less.

PCH is not a freeway. It is state highway with cross streets, traffic lights, driveways, sidewalks (in some places), and lots and lots and lots of people going to the beach. There is no reason why pedestrians, bicyclists, or kids on skateboards should suffer or be exposed to great physical harm because of the stunningly rude and self-centered driving habits of the average Malibu-area resident. And yet, somehow, their rude behavior is the fault of bicyclists?

Oh, I know that cyclists break the law too. I see people riding on sidewalks, against traffic, blowing through stop signs and traffic lights, etc. I have even broken the law myself a time or two (or three or four). Of course I see many, many more motorists daily breaking the law, simply because of sheer numbers. There are humans on bikes and humans in cars. You might have noticed how fallible humans are.

Bicyclists often ride on or near the white line at edge of a bike lane because bike lanes are often littered with rocks, broken glass, and other debris. The law allows cyclists to make decisions about where it is safe to ride. If a cyclist feels the need to be in the travel lane - maybe because he or she does not feel safe riding next to parked cars (where one might get a car door in the face); or maybe because they are working their way over to make a left-hand turn or; or possibly because there is a drainage grate coming up that must be avoided - then motorists can just be patient for a moment. I can assure you that the cyclist will be wanting to get out of harm's way just as fast as he or she possibly can.

Almost daily I take my life in my hands riding a bike in traffic. I have been shoved out of bike lanes, clipped by drivers with flaming hair, honked at, cursed at, cut off, and generally reviled because I dare to use the street that is supposed to be shared public space. Nowhere is it written that automobiles have exclusive use of California's streets and roads (except freeways).

Also, I am acutely aware of the physics involved. In a car/bike crash - I lose.

A little more patience; a little more consideration - on the part of both bicyclists and motorists; a little more education about the rights and responsibilities of driving a car and riding a bike; forgiveness - this is what we need more of.

Pat Veesart

November 16, 2006

Lights, camera, action...

Malibu's new movie theater...and our local movie theater re-opened. Destroyed in a fire close to two years ago, our sweet little twin theater is back. But better. Think ArcLight, shrunk-to-fit. There are actually fewer seats than before, wider, cushier, set on a slight incline so the expensively-coifed head of the person in front of you won't interfere with your viewing pleasure. The screens are upgraded, the sound is better, there's a fancy marble lobby, fancier snack menu.
gala opening...The great thing is, ticket prices haven't changed. Still twelve bucks. Amazing anywhere, let along in a town where new landlords are busily booting out decades-long tenants in a rush to double and triple their rents.

These pix are from the launch party night. Warm evening, balmy breeze, great band, great food. No major celebs, alas, unless you count the realtors and hair dressers recognizable from their publicity shots. John Evans and Alison Reid, owners of Malibu's glorious indie book store, Diesel, sipping Champagne with Karen Duffy Walker Gindick, Iowa girl extraordinaire.

A gala opening for a twin theater. Ahhh, Malibu.

November 15, 2006

They hate me, they really hate me

Well, they hate what I said. I've been hearing from cyclists who, to put it mildly, are irked by my "Share the Road" post. (And more than a few who agree, and who said so in very nice language, with good spelling and punctuation and without calling me names and for that I am grateful.)

The truth is, the law is, cyclists have the same rights as cars on the road. If they drift into your lane, it's up to you to avoid them. If they run a stop sign or red light, they can get a ticket. If they run afoul of a car, though, a different set of laws comes into play - Newton's Laws. And when it's car versus bicycle, the object acted upon most violently is the bicyclist.

I'm not advocating the vehicular mayhem on PCH, just reporting it. I see it every day. So if you're driving a car, share the road. And if you're riding a bike, share the road. And if you're the guy who hit-and-run my bicyclist neighbor John last year, left him on the pavement, put him into the ICU for weeks, left him unsure if he'll ever work again, please know another set of laws applies. Karma, baby. It's real and it's gonna get you.

November 14, 2006

Share the road

There's little doubt this sign is aimed at the cars racing down PCH every moment of every day. Share the road, you selfish drivers, talking on cell phones, putting on makeup, shaving, eating, writing, reading, dressing, messing with the kids - no need to go on, we've all seen it, we've all done it - share the road and give two-wheelers a chance.

But on weekends, when pelotons of cyclists take to our little seaside highway, when, by their sheer numbers they form an entity of their own, swollen and amoeba-like, stretching, bulging, breaking and re-forming, riding three and four abreast, tracking the thick white line that marks the shoulder, shouldering their way into the lane of cars next to them, sure drivers will steer clear, then I think the sign speaks to them.

Share the road, you arrogant cyclists. Sure, it's narrow, sure it's scenic, sure that's the Pacific just a few feet away. But the slow, Sunday-driving days of PCH are long gone. You're riding on a freeway now. That 45 mile-per-hour speed limit sign? Pure fantasy. I'll slow down for you, steer clear of you, change lanes for you, but my fellow drivers? Will they yield? Do they even see you? Who knows. You quite literally take your life in your hands each time you think your valuable, vulnerable bicycle status means anything at all to the thousands of cars speeding by you on those 10- or 20- or 50-mile rides. So please, ride to the reality, not the dream. Right to the right. Share the road.cyclist on PCH

November 13, 2006

And Hows

There's a long tradition of breaking loyal shoppers' hearts here in Malibu. There's logic behind it, of course, and symbiosis. The stock market goes up and real estate spikes. People who still remember the last land bust start to sell. Investors, the betting kind, sure prices can only head up up up, start to buy. And then they change things. Everything.

A teensy ten-year grocery history of Malibu: Hughes was replaced by Ralph's on the east side of town. In the middle of town, Westward Ho turned into the recently-shuttered Cooke's. Further west, Trancas market got replaced by Hows, which was created by the guys who used to own Hughes. (And, just to make things a bit more confusing, they had a stake in Cooke's.)

Enough of that. Here's the point. Hows is the last indie-ish (it's a chain of three) market in town. On any given day you can see Cooke's loyalists cruising the aisles, parsing the landscape, looking for familiar labels, familiar faces. It's kind of small, kind of crowded, definitely out of the way, but it's got a bit of soul. Lord knows we can use it. (Hey - cute '49 Plymouth!)
Howe's Market in Malibu

November 12, 2006

Big wind

Is it blowing where you are? Because it's crazy windy here. The whole house is shaking, not too difficult for a mobile home, I suppose, but it's wild out there and we're rockin'. The roof on this place is supple, almost like cloth, and it ripples in the gusts. You hear them travel along its length, thrumming, harplike on the rafters. The little umbrella out on the deck, the bright blue one the big black dog likes to sit under in the afternoon sun, it's long gone. All that's left is the white plastic handle, sheared off just inches above where it was screwed onto the deck railing.

Here's the beach this morning, scrubbed clean.
windy beach at 6 a.m. on Sunday

November 10, 2006

Weather or not

It's supposed to be cooler today but I'm skeptical. At dawn, when the cold night air still had heft and mass, still stung, there was this warm little breeze. Not even a breeze, really, but a breath, a drift, a flow. Warm air, twining. And then this sun, twisted in the clouds so if you looked without thinking sunrise, it seemed to drop, sizzling, into the sea.
dawn's early light

November 6, 2006

Doomed room

The Dume Room in Malibu

I confess - I was a Dume Room virgin. I've walked past the place for years on my way to the dry cleaners on one side or the pizza joint on the other but the bar itself, a raunchy, rowdy, smokey place, borderline dangerous in the best dive tradition, remained a mystery. During the day you'd see big, bad, flea-bitten dogs snoozing near the front door, waiting for their owners to drink their fill. At night it was everything a hole-in-the-wall should be - loud and crowded and unpredictable.

Inside the Dume Room

Pam Anderson, Emilio Estevez and Nick Nolte have been regulars. Ditto for firefighters, locals and adventurous Pepperdine students. And, as of last night, my friend, author Melissa Lion, and me.

Except for the cigarette smoke (and septic tank funk) it's my kind of place. Old wooden bar with carved legs, comfy stools, fancy fish tank in front, pool table in back. The drinks are strong and the bartender's friendly. There's live music on weekends and karaoke on Thursday. The juke box is pretty great. Talk to anyone and they'll talk back, buy you a beer, shoot a game of pool, and it's all a crying shame because the Dume Room, after 35 years in the same spot, 35 years of channeling old-style Malibu, is closing. Felled by the same rotton real estate deal that's laid waste to seemingly all of the indy businesses in town.

Last call is Nov. 30. People are already making plans. (And here's an online "Save the Dume Room" petition.)

Sun day, moon day

Sunrise - 5:55 a.m.Woke early all weekend, lured by a strange confluence of light. Sunrise in the east, moonset in the west, the light hot and cold, combustible and quenching, filling the house like sound.

Here's the view from the roof at 5:55 this morning (surf crashing, Southwest Airlines flight on approach to LAX, hawk hunting, being hunted by fierce crows, orange cat lounging on a neighbor's roof,Moonset - 5:55 a.m. rising scents of sage and mist and coffee, huge new spider web in the trumpet vine, and oh! there's the spider, big as a gumdrop, bathed in sun and moon but oblivious to all save the dawn-blind moth now headed for her web.)

November 5, 2006

Three-dog twilight

Jake and Maisie and friend just before sunset this weekend.
What's better than two wet dogs?

November 4, 2006

Dog day afternoon

Jake and Maisie at the beach. Wet-dog heaven.
dog day afternoon

November 3, 2006


So what do you buy when everything at your doomed favorite market is twenty-five percent off? Really weird stuff.

Booze, of course, for the holiday parties to come. The really good and crisp and salty tortilla chips you usually pass over because they're too pricey. Ditto for the hazelnuts and cashews and almonds that go into the holiday spicy nut mix. Giant Tapioca, because you've been looking at it for years now and wondering, what the heck is that? (I'll let you know.) Dr. Bob's Ice Cream, with its ingredient list of cream, sugar and chocolate. I mean, how can you go wrong? The fancy creme fraiche and even fancier butter, stinky cheese, strange mirco-brew from Oregon, avocados, limes, salt, salsa...

Wait! Is that a bottle of tequila? And limes and sugar and triple sec? Oh! And chips and salsa and the makings of guacamole? Ahhh, thank god it's Friday.

Adios Cooke's Family Market

November 2, 2006


Final days at Cooke's Family MarketWe're getting used to things vanishing here in Malibu, entire businesses and landscapes and cultural touchstones. It's been a busy year among the superrich who buy and sell the world we lesser beings live in, and Cooke's Family Market, a resolutely odd grocery store with great stuff and an eccentric staff, is just the latest casualty.

The rich come to Malibu for the same reasons as the rest of us - the ocean, the mountains, the quaint, slightly cracked ambiance. Then they buy up huge swathes of the very wilderness that lured them, wild bluffs and craggy hilltops, bulldoze them into sterile submission and poof! a monster mansion with all the grace and subtlety of a Tijuana bordello is your new neighbor.

cleaned outBut I digress. (Not for the last time.) The final sale began at Cooke's yesterday and if there was a friend or neighbor or movie star you hadn't run into in a couple of weeks, this was the spot to find them. The parking lot was jammed. The store was rockin'. The liquor department was the place to be. First went the tequila - Malibu's that kind of town. Then the bourbon and then gin.

the rushThe sale continues today and I'll be back. Cooke's will close its doors when the stuff runs out, a day or two at most, at this rate. Then the place goes dark and construction begins and a Pavilions is going in. There goes the neighborhood.

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