Here in Malibu
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September 30, 2007

Macro Maisie

Because the user manual of my swell little Canon PowerShot is basically a bunch of cartoon images captioned by someone for whom the English language is, at best, a rumor, my learning curve has been erratic. There are digital worlds trapped within this camera I can only imagine.

Last week, randomly pushing buttons (aka The Scientific Method) as I photographed a bunch of punch drunk bees, I accidentally discovered the macro function. It was just a matter of time (ten seconds) until Maisie became my new favorite macro medium.

Jake, while endlessly photogenic, is just too dignified for this much of a close-up.


September 28, 2007

Eek! A mouse!

So there I was, sitting on the couch, watching TV with Maisie gently snoring beside me, when a mouse went by. It was brown and shiny and very, very fat. And slow. I, however, was fast. Quicker than you can shriek "cartoon cliche!" I leaped onto a nearby chair. The mouse, meanwhile, heaved itself up the wall behind the armoire and promptly got stuck. I got a broom.

Nobody moved for a long, long time, not even Meredith on Grey's Anatomy. She broke up with the cute brain surgeon for about a second and a half and then they got right back together again. See? No movement. Except for the mouse, who somehow sucked in his gut enough to drop to the floor and race to the other side of the room, pale (ew) tail squiggling behind him.

Thinking quickly I called Patsy, the cat, who ran right up to the filing cabinet and said, "He's in there, dummy, in the third drawer up, and oh, by the way, the Nineteenth Amendment no longer applies to you."

So I shooed her off, slammed the drawer shut with the broom handle and shoved the entire filing cabinet outside, onto the the deck, where it sits right now, waiting for the mouse to jump out and move in with my neighbors. And because I just can't seem to help myself, I screamed as I took this picture. And then I asked Hillary Clinton for forgiveness for acting like such a helpless girl.

September 26, 2007

Jumping the shark

jump the sharkThank you, Jeff Bliss, for pointing out the intersection of modern marine science and iconically bad television here in Paradise Cove. Even as the Monterey Bay Aquarium's annual shark tank was being dismantled and the shark itself carried north, the 30th anniversary of the infamous "Jump the Shark" scene from the TV series, Happy Days, approached.

If you've never seen Henry Winkler (and his stunt double) on water skis, trussed up in a black leather jacket, a yellow life belt, and swim trunks that look like Pampers, click the link. It's a deeply dopey moment, filmed right here in Paradise Cove, and worthy of its place in the modern lexicon as the turning point where a TV show goes irrevocably, irretrievably wrong.trawler and shark tank

September 25, 2007

bee serious

The artichoke harvest this year proved surprisingly good. Only four plants but close to a dozen artichokes. Well, there would have been if not for the Great Artichoke Flower Experiment. I let one of the plants go to flower just to see what it looks like, and what it looks like is a sci-fi powder puff of near-neon violet, a haze of crystalline tendrils so dense with pollen, they sparkle in the sun.

I really like the artichoke flowers but the bees love them. They dive in head-first and don't come out for hours, just bumble around in there, high as kites on whatever mysterious compounds artichokes emit. By the time a bee finally finishes, she's coated in white, barely able to fly, veering crazily through the sunflower stalks and dreaming of Dial-a-Ride.
bee and artichoke flower

September 23, 2007

Autumnal equinox

Can you feel it? The first day of fall. Somewhere deep in your primordial brain you'll hear it, that precise click as the sun passes right over the equator later today.

What weird weather will the season bring?

cove pier
paradise cove pier

September 21, 2007

Double double (rainbow rainbow)

A double rainbow at dawn today, a second one at dusk.

And the end of the rainbow here, over Catalina Island.
double rainbow

Through the tree:

Morning surprise

It's not all sunshine and rainbows here in the Cove.

Oh wait - maybe it is...
cove rainbow

September 20, 2007


I have a warrant out for my arrest. Well, I did until I went to court yesterday and sat among hardened criminals who roll through stop signs, don't use turn signals and wear pink polyester pants.

I could tell the long and convoluted tale about how I came to be driving Miss Maisie to the vet for an emergency visit when I was pulled over by a cop for my slightly expired license plates, but I would bore even myself.

I could tell the sad and touching saga of how a calamity this spring kept me from taking seriously any of the Very Scary Paperwork I received as a result of said traffic stop, but I'm still too distracted.

And I could explain how, when I got the letter with a dollar sign followed by the upsetting number "950", meaning I now owed the state of California $950, was about to lose my license AND had a warrant out for my arrest, I suddenly took all of this really, really seriously, but does that even need to be said?

So, in Malibu Superior Court, the very place Robert Downey Jr. wore an orange jumpsuit and a shit-eating grin while telling the judge that yes, he's a drug addict, there I sat, begging for mercy.

Well, OK, I didn't actually beg. I really only spoke twice. First I told the nice judge how to pronounce my name. ver-ah-NEEK d' tuh-WREN. And then I said, "No contest." As in, dude, really, no contest - I see the deputy over there with the gun, and that bunch of guys in the hall with the prison tattoos, and that cluster of hungry, high-priced lawyers. I give up. You win.

I admitted I was wrong, had my fine reduced, paid $155 plus $10 to get the hold removed from my license, and then I drove home maybe a bit too fast just because I could. And because I was four hours late on deadline.

Miss Maisie sits next to her favorite pickup truck on Earth.

September 19, 2007


There's talk of rain on the way in Los Angeles, which has the local news stations in a lather of anticipation. Never the most even-handed, this Storm Watch! stuff just brings out their histrionic worst. But since the storm's little more than a layer of welcome haze right now, I'll save the soapbox for a rainy day.

Here's the coast this morning, muffled sun lighting up the slow-moving clouds.


September 18, 2007


pre-dawn septemberNo seasons in Los Angeles? Think again.

The earth shifts, the light shifts and summer's gone. Sunshine that hit squarely a week ago comes skimming down now, glances off the edges of things, barely touches, slowly warms.

Chill air slides through the canyon.

Hawks perch, wait for the updraft. Coyote voices carry further. Monarchs move more slowly. Only daylight races, chases night.

bluff hawk

September 17, 2007

Pulp fiction

It's fall and people want...reruns?

This paperback book cover is one of the more popular Malibu images I've posted (take a look - what's not to love?) and I keep getting e-mails about it so OK, I give in, here it is again:

pulp fiction

September 13, 2007


Or is it jetsam? And how do you keep that straight, anyway?

The cowrie shell is from Paradise Cove. You don't see them much any more, not since the last El Nino. I found the blue sea glass on Broad Beach. You don't see that any more either, not since the residents tore up the shoreline with tractors a few years ago, to keep you off their beach. The little sea star was a gift.
sea glass

September 12, 2007

Cure in the Canyons

It's not all puppy dogs and sunrises here in Malibu, despite what the decidedly skewed content of my little blog may say. We've got upstanding citizens doing good works and they need our help.

Ten days from now - see, plenty of time to make plans to be there, to bring a bunch of friends - we've got a tea party/beauty fest to be held at the gorgeous Malibu ranch owned by Dr. Frank Ryan, Bev Hills plastic surgeon extraordinaire.

Seriously - good food, great beauty products, lots of freebies and a chance to sneak a peek into a local celeb's medicine chest. Who wouldn't pony up the $40 to get in? And here's the kicker - it's all for charity! A good deed! Cure in the Canyons it's called, a breast cancer fund raiser. Kind of a prequel to Los Angeles Take-a-Hike.

OK, grab a pen - the details:

Things kick off at 11 a.m. on Sept. 22 at the Bony Pony Ranch. Celeb co-chairs are Shannon Tweed and her daughter, Sophie. Co-hosts are CCH Pounder and Catherine Dent (“The Shield”), Lorraine Toussaint, co-star of “Saving Grace” (now seen on TNT) and, of course, Dr. Frank Ryan.

Info and tickets at the web site: Cure in the Canyons.
Bony Pony Ranch is located at 12555 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90265. (Incentives offered for car pooling,)

From the press release:

For a $40 tax-deductible donation, Tea Party participants will enjoy more than $775.00 in extraordinary gifts, plus they will meander through the historic Malibu property (, and enjoy scores of luxury products and services. Among the A-list beauty products are...
Among the A-list beauty products are those from Ole Henriksen (the man himself will be there), Sephora, NIA 24, Vincent Longo Makeup, Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics, Kinerase Skincare, Angeleno Magazine, Glaceau Smart Waters, Korbel Champagne, Revolution Tea Room, as well as Function Drinks, Twin Magic Lashes, Anastasia Brows, where top beauty brands will give makeovers, hairstyling and skincare advice. Guests can also relax in the Massage Tent, luxuriate in the OPI Manicure Tent, experience Foot Petals, stretch with Yoga Works, enjoy Dole California’s Wellness Center, and peruse literature at One Spirit Books. Shell Vacation Club will offer great discounts, Apple Spice Junction Cookies and Chocolates A la Carte will give sumptuous samples, and more vendors are being added every day. Attendees will receive a luxurious Gift Bag upon departure to add to their deluxe samples from the day.
Night-blooming cereus

night-blooming cereusWe wait for it each summer, ready to skip sleep to see the pale, night flowers in my neighbor's yard. Night-blooming cereus, Queen of the Dark. Most months it's a stick-straight plant, dim-looking and spiny. In August, long buds form. Then suddenly, swiftly, flowers. Huge, the size of softballs. They use every botanical wile imaginable - scent, shape, form, color, motion. I'm not really sure they don't sing.

Shiny, waxy white, a shredded veil of palest pink around the rim, then rows and rows of tight-packed petals, dentata, that lure the gaze - lure the moth really, because that's what it's all about - down the slick bright throat. Stamen thick with pollen, a spidery pistil, and that dizzy, dreamy desert scent. A call to all night fliers to partake, to pollinate.

A few dark hours and that's it. Gone with the dawn.
night-blooming cereus

September 9, 2007

Not quite Malibu

I wish I had the nerve to post this link on the main page of LAO but I don't. Too shallow even for me. (Yes, that clucking sound you hear is moi, chickening out as I wait -and wait and wait - for the Sunday papers to hit the driveway.)

What does this have to do with Malibu? Not much, other than half the people in the pix have lived here at one time. But I'm all for starting the day with a good laugh, so here we go: the link of shame. Click through for the whole series. (Alternatively, erase me from your bookmarks.)

To make up for it, here's my little friend, Archer, heading for the horizon in Bluffs Park.

September 7, 2007

And the answer is...

cistern?Here's that strange, concrete cistern thingy, a huge, round vat tucked into the fold of a hill in the wilds of Bluffs Park. Until the fire last year, it was mostly hidden. Exposed now, it looks bigger, weirder and more baffling than ever.

So what is it? Silly me - looking for a straight answer, I've become straight man to a bunch of jokers.

KPCC's John Rabe gets a laugh (and makes a plug):

Everyone knows blacktop sucks up the heat and keeps it all night, making for higher average temps. So the city of Malibu has teamed with KPCC, KCRW, K-Jazz, and KUSC to collect all the public radio mugs given out during fundraisers, crush them, and then use them as paving material. The ceramic material, it turns out, is not only more durable than standard blacktop, but (when crushed) is mostly white, which reflects heat, rather than absorbing it.

This cistern is actually a self-collection site for the mugs. It's big so that people can just throw the mugs in as they drive by. We were going to publicize this during the next fund drive, but since you picked up on it early, we're going public now.

Composer (and former Malibu-ite) Alex Shaprio, goes all Close Encounters:

"Well, duh, it's a hot tub for visiting aliens! See right next to it? That's the landing pad where they park their space craft. You can't see it in the photo, but just out of view there's a gazebo with towels and a small bar for drinks (they're short aliens). The middle thingie is a custom bidet/shower deal that extra-gallactians travel great distances to experience. This is Malibu, after all, and everyone loves a nice jacuzzi and a pool-side cocktail."

And BchyLvr just may be telling the truth:

It's where Pepperdine students go to drink. (Rootbeer, of course.)

Of course.

September 6, 2007

Day at the beach

Why are these people running?
where are they going?

Oh. That's why.

September 5, 2007

Mind melt

tractor at the barnIt's always a surprise to download photos from a digital camera, odd little reminders of where you were and what you saw and what you were thinking. That's the question this morning - what was I thinking? Over and over, the same photo - the big orange tractor up at the barn. Yes, it was hot. And yes, I was tired. But really, the tractor?

Anyway, here they are, two shots whose allure I can't explain: the tractor from afar, and the tractor wheel, close up.
tractor at the barn

September 4, 2007

Hot start

Labor Day weekend in Malibu was crazy. There's no other way to describe it. Well, there are other ways to talk about the heat and the gridlock and the millions of near-naked people who swarmed the beaches and boy, am I tempted, but my mother reads this blog so I'll just stick with crazy. (Hi, Mom!)

Here's what a heat-wave sunrise looks like from the bluff in Paradise Cove where yesterday, even the birds were panting. (Another photo here.) hot start

September 2, 2007

What is this thing?

I've been hiking past this concrete cistern thingy at Bluffs Park for years. Until the big fire last spring, it had been hidden by a screen of trees and weeds. Now it's right out in the open and I'm still no closer to figuring out what the heck it's for.

Educated (and silly) guesses welcome.

September 1, 2007

The big chill

This is New Mexico last February. Just thought it might be an ice (hah - typo) a nice image for such a sizzling day.
Edgewood, NM

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