Here in Malibu
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February 28, 2007

So, Starbucks

We're about to have four, perhaps five Starbucks in Malibu, a town of 13,000 people. No one seems to be all that thrilled. Since the demise of Diedrichs, the regulars have dispersed to cafes and restaurants spread around town. Not too many of them have settled for Starbucks and, after two weeks of steady patronage, I can see why.

Walk into either of the existing shops here in Malibu (one in Trancas, one at Cross Creek) and you smell...nothing. Well, maybe the perfume or aftershave or, if it's a surfer or biker or runner fresh from a workout, the body odor of the person in front of you, but never coffee. Which is pretty weird for a place that prides itself on the scorched flavor of the over-roasted blends it serves. The lines are always long and there's rarely a place to sit. The counter help behave about the way you'd expect from someone making a crappy wage. They rarely say hello. They rarely look you in the eye. Say "thank you" as they toss your pastry on the counter and the answer is, if you're lucky, "No problem."

Well, not exactly. A group of Pepperdine students waited (and waited and waited as the counter help slowly chatted about how peculiar Gwyneth Paltrow looked at the Oscars) for their coffee.

"This place sucks," one of them said.
"What about Coffee Bean?"
"You gotta sit outside and it's way too cold."
"As soon as it's warmer, we're going to the Bean."

cross creek starbucks

February 23, 2007

After the rain

Cold and clear today, air scoured clean by rain. That storm moved fast, blew through here like a presidential hopeful. Right now there's the smallest breeze, shivering through the eucalyptus trees here in the Cove. On the beach it's quiet. Low tide, a few birds, a pod of dolphins far offshore.low tide after rain

low tide after rain

Little Dume

February 22, 2007

At sea

I've been swept away by a ton of, well, crap, in the last week.

Like a roof leak:
roof leak

and a dead car:
poor plymouth

and deadly morning coffee:
cross creek starbucks

thursday sunriseFortunately, I'm off to Whittier today to talk books, which always cheers me up. So I'll be back tomorrow (and next week) with lots of updates about these pix in particular and my beloved Malibu in general, including the latest development news.

Meanwhile, if you've scrolled this far, here's today's sunrise.

February 19, 2007

Squid Harvest

squid harvestWe were heading out last night to eat Chinese food (year of the fire boar!) and see a little documentary about Red Hill (which, thanks to a mistake in Calendar, wasn't actually playing last night - it's tonight at UnUrban Cafe). As we drove past the bluff, we saw what looked like a Sig alert at sea. Lights. Lots and lots of lights.

Squid boats, Dave asked? Yes, that's exactly what they were. (This photo is near-useless, I know.) Twenty-two ships at least, spread in an arc around the edge of the Cove. They lure the dumb little squid to the surface with the stadium glare of banks of bright lights, then net them. How many tons of squid do 22 big boats reel in in a single night? I wish I knew. I googled around this morning but information was scarce. One thing I did learn is that the squid harvest is not regulated. (One look at that line of boats and that bit of info comes as no surprise.) Here's a little something from the National Oceanic and Atmosphereic Administration.

What do squid eat? What animals eat the squid? How much squid can be pulled out of our local waters and keep the population sustainable? What happens when the squid population crashes? Which other sea creatures starve? If anyone has answers, or knows how to find them, I'd love to hear from you.

February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

A pagan holiday popularized by Chaucer, then co-opted by greedy commercial interests in the 20th century? Maybe. But when a lovely bowl of flowers is the result, is that so bad?flowers

February 13, 2007

Just some photos

Paradise CoveI've been on deadline for four days, reading and more reading, the new Jane Smiley for NPR (it airs tomorrow at 9:40-ish on KPCC) and getting started on another book for the Chicago Tribune. Spend hours alone with books and your head fills up, gets fuzzy, everything's in increments, all about words. So it felt like another language altogether - well, it was, I guess - to look through the viewfinder and see these images this morning.
Paradise Cove sunrise

February 12, 2007


Trancas Starbucks I was at the Cross Creek Starbucks for coffee yesterday morning, having completed my week at the one in the photo, located on the other end of town. (More about that in a moment.) A barrista with a booming because-I-said-so voice was explaining to a customer how Starbucks is poised to take over Malibu.

"We've got four at least, maybe even five new stores coming in," she said, then added with relish. "Malibu's a cash cow and we're gonna milk it."

The customers in the store, every one of them locals, froze, looked over at her. Because really, what better start to the day than listening to the person pouring your coffee call you a chump? She didn't notice.

"Next?" she said.

So, the Trancas Starbucks. It's next to How's Market, just across PCH from Broad Beach. On the plus side, parking is easy, you can get the LA and New York Times, and the crew is efficient. They'll call down the line and start drinks for you long before you reach the counter, which is useful in such a busy spot. Unfortunately, you get the trademark scorched coffee Starbucks inexplicably specializes in, and the same chilled, limp pastries available at every branch. Seating is scarce. Inside, customers struggle over six small tables. Outside, on the narrow deck, it's the same thing, except with smokers. None of the Diedrich's regulars seem to have landed here. Celebrity sightings can be good: we've seen Pierce Brosnan hop from his limo and get in line, Linda Hamilton hang with the school moms, surf god Laird Hamilton patiently listen to friend's a long, long long tale of woe, and Cindy Crawford, kids in tow, picking up a nonfat chai.

Further details of the Cross Creek adventure next week.

February 9, 2007

Kareem comes to Malibu

Kareem and MelissaMalibu's beloved indy bookstore, Diesel, is hosting basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at 3 p.m. this Sunday. (That's author Melissa Lion, Diesel's events coordinator, in the photo.) Kareem's signing his new book, "On the Shoulders of Giants," a look at his love of jazz, basketball and African-American history. A nice piece in the East Bay Express says L.A. writer Raymond Chandler is one of Kareem's favorites:

"...he describes Chandlerís Philip Marlowe as a ďhardened but virtuous hero [who] never gets the girl, never has a private life, but tries to do some good in a corrupt world.Ē The basketball star evidently shared Marloweís underdog sensibility, having spent many years as a too-tall, skinny-necked teen who couldnít talk to girls, and who looked the other way when one of his high school coaches used a racial slur. Despite such humble beginnings, he went on to become one of the top players of all time."

Another good Kareem story on

February 8, 2007

The little things

Sometimes all it takes to put you in a good mood for the rest of the day is a backhoe driver, kicking back and chatting on his cell phone. Life is so simple here in Paradise Cove...Multi-tasking

February 7, 2007

Air hed

I'm not an aisle seat kind of flyer. No matter how long or short the trip (even on Jet Blue, which has those cute little individual TV screens with CNN and HGTV) it's all about the window. Here's the view flying home from New Mexico on Sunday. Downtown LA on Sunday

February 6, 2007

What's for breakfast?

What's for breakfast?I'm back from chilly and peaceful New Mexico, back to warm weather at the beach and hot tempers on the freeways. Nothing like inching along the 405 for no visible reason on a Sunday afternoon, then getting tailgated for miles on PCH by teenagers in a big fat luxury sedan to jolt you back to SoCal roadway reality. Another reality is that Diedrich's Coffee here in Malibu has finally closed. Gone for good. So I'm in search of a new coffee spot. Our options are Starbucks or Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and two indy spots, Lily's and Malibu Kitchen. (I'm leaving out actual restaurants in town that serve breakfast, like Malibu Inn, Marmalade and Coogies.) Here's the methodology: Visit each place for a week at the same time of day. Order the same thing each time. Rate the places on how long it takes to get served, what the service is like, whether they recognize regulars, what' the crowd is like, how's the seating, and is it possible to get away from the smokers. I'll publish individual results each week, then post a comparison at the end of the experiment. Bottoms up.

February 2, 2007


More than half a million people live within driving distance of the Sandia Mountains here in New Mexico. On Thursday night, just four of them - OK, four of us - went cross country skiing there. Under the light of a full moon (yes, Maggie, Bill and Curtis, the word 'lunatic' does come to mind) we strapped on skis and made our way for a mile along a fire road to a frigid, windswept peak. Clouds drifted across the night sky. Fine, dry snow drifted across the trail. Pines and pinons cast shadows, crisp and sharp while the moon rode high, a dreamy blur when it vanished. Just before midnight, we climbed a final rise and there it was: to the left us, the modest sprinkle of lights that is Santa Fe. To the right, Albuquerque, glowing like phosphorescence on the mesa. It was very cold, a little scary and utterly spectacular. A perfect birthday. Sandia Mountains
(Photo: Sandia Mountains as seen from Cedar Crest)

Snow. Again.

It snowed again today here in New Mexico. Cold and so beautiful. This is Edgewood, in the eastern Sandias. The mountains strip the storms of their moisture, so the high desert towns here get the lion's share of the snow and Albuquerue makes do with what's left.
Edgewood, NM

February 1, 2007

The old Frontier

The Frontier RestaurantItís a tricky thing, missing a place you used to live. Memory, unreliable witness, plays tricks. Size and shape and color, scents and sound, all adjust according to inner need. And thatís not even accounting for the actual changes that take place over time. So here in Albuquerque, a funky, high-desert town now transformed by a building boom, itís nice to see the Frontier Restaurant hasnít changed a bit. Same shape, same sign, same color scheme. Same people whiling away the morning in the coveted window booths. Well, itís open 24 hours a day now, which is new. But for a place renown for cinnamon rolls as big as your head, and crispy home fries covered in green chile and melted cheese, that seems like progress.

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