Not just the last photo of 2006, the last photo my little Olympus will ever shoot. (See Native Intelligence.) This is Paradise Cove beach on the last day of 2006, shortly after sunrise, looking southwest.
Yeah, you've seen this angle before, if you're a regular browser of this blog. No, it's not the shot I had planned. Look for new pix with a new camera in the brand new year.
So we're cruising Mulholland Highway today, David and I (it's one of our favorite things, a destination in mind but no set plan on how to get there) when Dave casually says, "There's a surfboard in a tree." And we slow down, look up and sure enough, there it is. A surfboard in a tree.
The first sunset of winter at Broad Beach yesterday, so much color that my camera went on the fritz. Some of the photos came out so crazy bright and gaudy, all that was missing were hippos and elephants pirouetting through Dance of the Hours. These shots are pretty much as things looked: indigo, blue, violet and gold. Lots of gold. Broad Beach was quiet, some dogs, some strollers, a big, bearded backpacker moving fast, headed south. Last light brought silent flights of pelicans, gliding, riding low, headed home.
The symbols of the season are out in full force here in Malibu. We've got our annual few days of bone-chilling morning cold (36! Are you kidding??), the joyous ka-ching of cash registers and, of course, religious displays. The nativity scene, lovely lifelike figures gathered in a manger, comes out of storage. (That the baby Jesus lies swaddled in the parking lot of a real estate office adds a modern layer of worship.) Each year winter winds come screaming down the canyon and send a member of the tableau flying. Each year someone stops his car and tenderly carries the statue back to its place. Chabad of Malibu does its part for Chanukah. A giant menorah stands on PCH, a new branch of it glowing for each of eight nights as the holiday progresses. In the Colony Plaza Shopping Center (how's that for a forgettable name?) on weekends, Santa and Chabad hang out in harmony. Kids line up to sit on the giant elf's red lap, all the while serenaded by someone playing Chanukah tunes on an electric piano. So come all ye faithful - we're celebrating here in Malibu.
"Sun and moon, sun and moon, time goes."
Bundle up if you head for the beach today - it's chilly. Well, relatively speaking. Not compared to Tahoe (2 degrees last night) or Mt. Shasta, which managed a balmy, double-digit 12 degrees. But here in Malibu, land of tanned and sunsplashed weenies, we're shivering. Morning temps of 40 call for coats and hats and gloves, hot chocolate and a hearth. So far, the day is slow to warm. So pack that extra t-shirt, maybe wear some socks. It's 66 degrees and breezy. Almost winter.
The clouds have gathered and more are on the way. It's warm today, the air tender, December in the Cove. A sprinkle this morning, a tiny drumming on the roof, then gone. And now the whole sky shifts and gulls dip and wheel and ride high currents only they can reach.
The weather's changing. So still and cold at dawn that even the racketing crows sleep in. A thick swath of fog blurs the horizon, Catalina gone, swallowed in white. It feels like maybe rain is coming.
Each year around this time the evening sky thins out, gives way to sunset pinks and blues so pure you can almost hear them, feel them settle into your chest like memory. The sunrise, by contrast, is brash and garish, clownish, a bravura look-at-me aria.
We in the gallery, the surfer checking the swells, the day laborer awaiting his crew, the sleepless new mom, the dog walker, the commuter, the cleaning lady, we stop and watch and applaud nonetheless.
The puppy turned a year old yesterday. She's a lab, which means she's barely halfway through her reign of terror. She's odd-looking, with short legs, a long body, so small people ask me if she's a miniature breed. (She's not.) Someone here in Malibu was giving her away and we adopted her. Well, the big dog did. He took one look, lay down and surrendered. We clearly weren't leaving without her. And thank goodness. The puppy's smart and fast and gleeful, a total party girl. At doggy day care, she's the chick with the lampshade on her head. If they did beer bongs, she'd be first in line. She worships the cats. She chews shoes. She steals food. She snores. We love her.
Each December, when the full moon brings full tides, our beach fills up with stuff. Sometimes it's logical, like the year hundreds of oranges got swept out to sea from an Oxnard orchard, then rode the eddies to wash up on our shore. Sometimes it's just plain weird - pink plastic widgets from a capsized container, or fleets of foreign jelly fish blown far, far off course, their tiny sails, translucent purple, sticking out of the sand. This morning, after a wind-tossed weekend, the debris made sense. Kelp, lots and lots of kelp, torn loose by big waves. And this trio of shiny new kayaks, lashed together with a cable lock already rusted shut.
Well, yeah, when I've been up since 4:30 because the setting moon lit up the bedroom like the scene of a prison break, which started the black cat purring, which woke the puppy who, when she jumped up on the bed, sounded like she was having so much fun that the big dog had no choice but to jump up too, which brought the crabby gray cat running, yelling foodnowfoodnowFOODRIGHTNOWDAMNIT, the four of them like some crazed and furry Rube Goldberg machine with the end result that the dogs and I were at Bluff Park in the dark without coffee because I can't operate heavy equipment before daylight. So yes, the rosy freaking light of dawn.
I'm home from Washington and happy to be here, but I can't stop thinking about the Library of Congress. I expected to like it, to love it, really, to be awed and astonished and amazed, but I was utterly uprepared for just how beautiful a place it is. That building is an act of love. It's an act of faith. Every inch of it is imbued with reverence for knowledge and wisdom and learning. There's a yearning quality to it, too, as though the people who built it hoped you might feel what they feel, might see what they see, might be moved to serve, protect and defend (hmmm, that sounds familiar) the world of ideas.
I have a cousin (by marriage) who lives on Broad Beach, in one of the first houses built there. It hasn't changed in decades, a two-bedroom bungalow with a small deck and big windows that face the water. Realtors circle her place like carrion crows, drawn by the 30 feet of beachfront, the clean slate of a tear-down, the millions of dollars be made. Do they disclose to new buyers the battleground Broad Beach has become? I wonder.
I love to hear her talk about the old days, when her nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away, when living in Malibu was like living at the very end of the earth. Now she's surrounded by houses so elaborate and large, it's just silly. Not so silly are how her new neighbors try to keep the public off this public beach - misinformed guards, misleading "private property" signs, misguided sand-moving projects.
The most hare-brained scheme involved moving sand from the beach to build a gigantic, continuous barricade in front of the houses - the Great Wall of Broad Beach - to keep the scuzzy public at bay. I saw it, out for a walk at low tide to look for sea glass. Big yellow bulldozers started at the tideline and scraped tons of sand from the public beach, heaped it in great piles in front of the houses. People complained. A lawsuit was launched. The public won. Sort of.
Because no matter how it looks now, and it looks as though it's almost back to normal, Broad Beach is not the same. The grunion, whose eggs were in the sand those homeowners piled in front of their precious mansions, have not bounced back. The sea glass you used to be able to find is ground to bits or gone. Fewer sea birds come to feast. The level of the sand itself sits just a bit lower, scraped away by each cycle of high tide.
Jenny Price and I walked Broad Beach yesterday - it's one of her favorite places, one of her favorite causes. We puzzled over how much the place has changed and, so long as there are houses to be sold, money to be made, how little anyone cares.
Back from DC to find the seascape here in Malibu moving toward its winter variation.
All summer long, this rowboat languished in the Cove. People used it as a bench, a bar, a picnic table. (After an all-night booze-soaked bonfire last August, it was pressed into service as a bed.) Now, though, after months of high winds and higher tides, of drifting, shifting sands, it's gone. Completely covered. It'll stay that way 'til spring, when some monster swell clears the beach and, all at once, the boat (and bench and bar and picnic table and yes, bed) will be back.
My older brother went to American University here in Washington and when I was in high school, I visited a lot. I mainly went to dance at wild parties, to learn to drink beer and kiss boys, but Jon made sure we did some creative sightseeing too. The Washington Monument, for instance. Nice during the day, amazing at midnight, a dozen of us lying at its base, our feet pressed against the stone, the white, tapering monolith forming a path straight into the sky.
You can't do that any more, of course, so this time I've settled for something more conventional. Sorry about the cell phone pix but for the second day in a row, I managed to leave my camera behind. (One of my favorite things in the National Archive, which didn't photograph well, was a note from 12-year-old Fidel Castro to FDR, asking the president to please send him ten bucks.)
I'm in Washington, D.C. for a few days and I feel like a rube. Even here, in gently suburban Tenleytown, a few miles north of downtown DC.
This morning I walked to the local Starbucks, figuring I may as well start making my peace with the bland coffee and crummy pastries that are soon to take over Malibu. And right away, I could feel it. My Big City chops, in working order when I lived out East, are gone.
I'm used to L.A. now, where we've got views and vistas, where you can reel out your gaze to check out that pink flowering tree or those wild green parrots, stare at that cool '60s car or that pair of gravity-defying fake boobs. L.A. may be vast but, at its core it's a village, metastized.
Here in D.C. it's different. It's faster. More people on the streets. You walk along, eyes open, but you don't really look. There's a safe zone for your gaze and breaking that barrier is bad form. I used to know that in New York and Boston and Paris, even, recently, in Santa Fe.
So it makes no difference that I live in a town of $250 t-shirts and $500 jeans, or that the guy grunting and sweating next to me at the gym is Kevin Bacon, or that I�ve pretended not to notice that�s Brad Pitt sneaking a smoke (pre-Angelina, when the poor guy could still go out in public) at Diedrich�s, or that last week, the paparazzi preying on Britney Spears (who was paying hundreds of dollars for a tank top for her dog) shoved me aside for a better shot. It turns out I�m a country girl.