All roads lead to the beach in Paradise Cove. Here's mine - a fire road that ends in a precipitous, rocky incline. On hot and sunny weekends, dozens of golf carts pack the route. Most mornings, though, it's just the dogs, their walkers and the occasional coyote.
Anything I think to write about this morning just falls short. It's one one of those days where air and light and sound hit some perfect kind of symmetry and spill out into summer. Later, it'll be too hot. And most likely too loud. The sky won't be this tender blue. But right now, this minute, with a sea breeze so soft the very membrane of your skin seems to vanish, it's perfect.
The statue of a little girl reading sat near the fountain at the Cove Colony Plaza (perhaps the most forgettable name on earth) for years. Kids climbed in her lap. They tried to steal her book. Birds pooped on her head. And then one day, poof! little reading girl was gone. No one seemed to know anything about it. Last week, she suddenly reappeared. Same spot. Same book. Same flock of pigeons circling eagerly overhead.
If you can't smell the thick, soupy funk of skunk coming off this dog, you're just not trying. They can smell him next door. They can smell him across the street. In Washington, DC, the chief of the EPA is right now getting an urgent phone call. See the squiggly little cartoon lines of tear-inducing odor radiating from Jake's neck? See his look of distress? See the thought balloon in which Pepe Le Pew gives Jake the finger? Yeah. Skunk.
The good news is there's an actual skunk remedy. (No, not tomato juice. That just turns your dog pink and makes you want a Bloody Mary.) This mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda is a magical brew that really and truly works. Click the link and read the directions carefully. Don't get any in the dog's eyes. Leave it on for the full ten minutes.
Now, about that Bloody Mary...
OK, no, I didn't actually have breakfast with Jerry Seinfeld - I had breakfast next to him. On the porch at the Malibu Kitchen. First clue was the voice, that laconic New York drawl that can make any word in the English language sound funny. Quick glance and yep, it's Jerry, blue jeans, baseball cap, having coffee with a friend. And parked in front of him is a lovely, blue vintage Porsche. The morning was so quiet, so peaceful, it seemed a shame to muck it up by trying for pix of Jerry. A quick shot of that Porsche, though, seemed just fine.
"Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?" Jerry Seinfeld
For a while it looked like at least one of Malibu's two 76 gas stations had escaped the purge of the orange balls. Yesterday, though, guys with cranes spent the better part of the afternoon removing the old ball and installing the new red one. Where do the old balls go? And what happens to all those cute little Halloween costumes they wear each October? Ebay, anyone?
For all the gentrification going on in the two Cross Creek shopping centers, where idiosyncratic mom 'n' pop businesses (Cosentino Flowers, Tops Gallery, 'Bu Bayou) have made way for international luxury brands (Ralph Lauren and L''Occitane, with more to come), some things stay the same. The local egrets, for instance. Check out the top of this tree - those fluffy bits of white are the gawky, geeky yellow-footed birds, nesting. They shriek and squawk, drop copious amounts of guano on the red brick parking lot below. They seem to be building nests, raising chicks, raising the profile of wildlife in Malibu.
My very proper French mother is so scared of snakes, she'd delete my blog from her bookmarks if she ever saw this post. To be honest, snakes make me a little edgy, too. I was up here at the barn yesterday morning, about to prop open the tack room door when the stick I was reaching for moved. And then it looked at me.
You know how one minute you're standing in one place and a second later, you're 20 feet away and you don't know how you got there? Add a bit of screaming and moaning and that was me. (That was I?) I was the one making noise, that's for sure. My friend, Ken, is still laughing at the voice mail I left in which all I could say was "Snake. Snake? Snake!" But my new neighbor (who, by the way, is close to four feet long and lives in the lavender) turns out to be a Pacific gopher snake. Eats the little varmints who tunnel through my garden, so I'm happy to follow the Prime Directive and let it be. Ken's happy to have a good snake. And a good laugh.
It's Day Five of the great housepainting escapade. Everything I own is either on the deck in piles and boxes or swathed in plastic in the middle of the house. I leave each morning at 8 and return each night at 7 and the crew is still here. They're sanding and patching and taping and priming and they're doing great work at a very good price and yet all I can think is, all this chaos and they expect me to pay them? Yesterday, though, the first colors went up. It seemed like maybe it was going to be OK. Living in a remodel, you get to the point where you can't quite remember why this is all happening, what the point was. It's like being kidnapped, but without the comfort of Stockholm Syndrome.
In the meantime, a few other things have happened. A catamaran owner from Marina del Rey anchored overnight in the Cove, only to discover yesterday morning that the tide had gone out and left his boat stranded on these rocks. Baywatch was called and a group of beach walkers gathered to gawk and lend a hand. As the tide slowly rolled in, the cat lifted. No damage to the hull. Here's Baywatch, towing the lucky sailer safely out to sea.
Also, the New York Times' "Escapes" section touts Oxnard as a thrifty alternative to Malibu. Ummmm, OK.
Back from the book festival in Chicago, where Dave and I got to talk books, meet great writers and stay in a lovely old historic hotel. (I also got barred from a party because I was wearing jeans. Beach not city.)
This was my first-ever Chicago visit so my husband, David, was patient as I shot some tourist pix:
And you might recognize...
Veronique de Turenne and David Kipen:
That's what we've got today here in Malibu. Sky the color of ash, horizon defined more by texture than by hue, a misty breeze that clings to the dogs' coats, coats the tip of each hair so the puppy, emerging from the canyon, looks frosted. So much gray has heft, seems to slow a flock of gulls that glides by. Thank goodness for the candy-colored kayaks. They warm the beach, look like bookmarks for summer.
So that huge weird cephalapod that Jake and Maisie saw last Sunday? Jumbo squid. I got a lot of mail about it, and these links to fascinating and somewhat alarming (squid attack!) stories about the deep sea creatures. According to ABC7.com, jumbo squid are bigger and more numerous than ever before.
Fishermen are thankful, but biologists are worried.
"I have nearly a thousand dives with these animals and I have been either tested or full out attacked about 80 percent of the time," Scott Cassell said.
Cassell has been studying the Humboldt squid for the past 13 years.
"These animals are some of the most mysterious and unknown species in the world," Cassell said.
Cassell has even made a movie about his diving adventures, underwater excursions that require an armor plated suit.
"I have felt my life was in danger several times with the squid, but knowing that the cable and the armor I was pretty much impervious to the damage," Cassell said.
But Cassell, like other marine experts, says something is not right.
For the third time in ten years, massive amounts of Humboldt squid have been flourishing in the waters of Southern California.
"There is more population of Humboldt squid than is naturally proper," Cassell said.
I know you probably just skimmed that excerpt, but did you see the part about the diver having to wear an armor plated suit?!
A story in the Ventura County Star says it's been 75 years or so since so many jumbo squid have made a SoCal sojourn.
Dale Sweetnam, a senior marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said a run like this hasn't happened off Ventura County since the 1930s. As many as 38,000 have been caught in one year off California over the past three years. Before that, they were almost nonexistent. Sweetnam encouraged fishermen to take only what they can eat.
Nobody is exactly sure why they've recently settled off the California coast.
Sweetnam said squid follow the baitfish they feed on, so they may have found a nice patch of mackerel or anchovies.
Still, as much as fishermen love them, they can hate them, too. Because the squid eat so much and feed in packs like wolves, after a few months, they can deplete other fish.
Apparently the worldwide decline of sharks has something to do with the squid's population boom.
The first year I planted my garden here at the barn, everything grew. Maybe it was a slow year for gophers and bunnies. Maybe this whole gardening idea came as a complete surprise and they didn't notice the tender corn stalks, the spindly sunflower seedlings, the newly sprouted pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes and tomatoes and peppers until it was too late. Whatever the reason, we had plenty of fresh produce that year. Sweet corn to boil and roast, ripe red and golden tomatoes for salads and sandwiches, peppers for salads, and vases full of gorgeous flowers. (The melons were a dud, too finicky for the soil, which has so much clay you can literally hand-build pottery with it.)
Anyway, years two and three of the garden were failures. The minute a spear of green became visible, the wild animals who share this canyon mowed it down. A few sunflowers survived, as did a single watermelon plant. (It produced lovely melons, green and round, but they never quite ripened) So this year, armed with chicken wire, some stakes and a scary-looking air compressor-powered staple gun, I put up a fence. It sits three feet above the ground and reaches six inches below it. It leans a little. (In one spot, it leans a lot.) I'm almost afraid to say anything - and you certainly can't see it in this photo - but everything sprouted. Grew a few inches. And a week later, it's all still there.
We saw this sign go up last week, one of dozens advertising land for sale here in Malibu. And then came the real estate section in the Sunday LA Times. James Cameron's unloading the 730 acres he collected between 1997 and 2000.
The property, mostly pastureland, is adjacent to Pepperdine University and has views of the Malibu coastline and Santa Monica Bay. The site winds through canyons and over ridges covered with oak trees and native plant life. It is accessed by Puerco Canyon Road off Pacific Coast Highway.
Asking price: $25 million.
Barely 11 a.m. and already it's been quite a day.
The ever-vigilant Hans Laetz of the Malibu Surfside News reports in this week's edition about a Las Vegas man's court victory to keep hikers off his Malibu land. The property, which contains parts of hiking trails that have been in use for decades, including the beloved Backbone Trail, was purchased in 2002. The owner, James Kay Jr., lost no time in banishing the public.
"A Las Vegas radio tower entrepreneur who posted key sections of trails in the Santa Monica Mountains with signs demanding that hikers “get the hell off our land and don’t come back” has won an important decision from the California Court of Appeals. His attorney said the ruling will prevent agencies like the California Coastal Commission from forcing landowners to allow public access to trails across private land or roads that, while traditionally open for general use, have never been formally deeded over by landowners. “It’s a very basic right that has been affirmed here, to keep people off of your property,” said Encino attorney Fred Gaines who represented James Kay Jr., the owner of Castro Peak. The court opinion was released Tuesday by a three-member panel of state judges in Santa Ana."
"The Los Angeles Times, in a 2004 report about Kay, said he had sued 23 of his neighbors for their reported refusal to grant him a prescriptive easement on the access road to Castro Peak. The federal government was also investigating whether Kay had mistakenly built his mountaintop radio relay facility on federal land at Castro Peak."(photo: Hans Laetz, malibu surfside news)
It's been weeks since the waves were any good here in Paradise Cove. You'll see the surfers on the beach and on the bluff, facing west, faces bleak, flat water all the way to the horizon. Boards stay put in corners. Wetsuits hang on railings, bone dry. A few days ago, though, things began to stir. A wave here, a curl there, a nicely shaped set in the distance. They're smiling again, these surfers, clustered in knots in the morning, parsing the water, choosing a board and then quickly paddling out.