Day Five with no phone and fitful DSL.
Have I already said that I called in the problem to Verizon on Sunday, and they said they'd send a repair crew asap, and asap turns out to mean February 4th? I may not have actually said that before because it took me this long (five days, FIVE DAYS!) to pass that information along without using the kind of language that gives my very proper French mother a migraine, even from four thousand miles away. (Hi mom!)
And now I've burned through most of the three minutes or so that I can get online each day. So on to more magical matters, like the trunk of this sycamore that floated into the Pacific and got tossed onto shore and now graces this cove just south of Little Dume.
(And just for the hell of it, for the crazy contrast, here's another photo from my parking space in downtown LA).
It happens all over the Santa Monica Mountains, chutes and holes and cracks in the rocks that channel the rainfall, make waterfalls. Here's a reliable rimfall, seen from the street formerly known as Debutts Terrace (and changed to I-forget-what by residents not comfortable with an address that sounds vaguely like a derriere.) The water runs here every time it rains, maybe even a bit fuller now after the fires. (And here it is again, a little closer up.)
Day Three of no phone, no DSL and no visit from Verizon's repair crew. Am posting this in the slim window of time...nope, there it goes, DSL just went out again.
In case I get a reprieve, here's the little raft anchored just outside the Cove. No matter how strong the seas were, no matter how hard it rained, no matter how much the wind blew, the pelicans who perch here managed to hold on.
Today's sunrise here.
It's been raining for five days now and we hear a constant roar, the sea in motion, gone mad. The phones are useless, just static and noise, and the DLS cuts in and out.
Here's the view this morning looking north. Below that, a lone egret at the base of the bluff, planning his next move.
This is dawn today, as one set of storms moves out and another set moves in. Yes, when the sun broke above the horizon, things did turn all gold and rosy. But this slate gray sea and these heavy skies, these layers and strata of clouds, that's the truth about how things look right here, right now.
If I could turn this into a flipbook, I would. Instead, here are the highlights of a moment between pushy little Maisie and her beloved Jake. (Scroll)
Sun in the west, rain to the south, rainbow over the ocean. A double, so bright it reflected in the sea.
Downtown Malibu is based on the '70s-era multiple shopping center model. Quaint it ain't.
You've got the Cross Creek Center, a U-shaped strip mall anchored by the movie theater, Marmalade Cafe, and Diesel Books, our very own (and beloved - locals brought the owners bouquets of flowers for the first few months after it opened) indy book store. Across the street is the Malibu Country Mart, another U-shaped mall. Instead of a parking lot at its center, there's a grassy expanse where C- and D-list celebs flock on weekends in search of
These days, it's mighty hard to get to either place. Endless slo-mo construction - achieving what end isn't exactly clear - has oozed out beyond the two malls, into Cross Creek Road and down to PCH.
Come to Malibu today and you may find us all a bit bleary-eyed, a little slow and more than a little wind-blown. From dusk through dawn and even right now, this second, full-on morning, there's an ongoing assault of really big wind.
Has it slowed a little since three a.m., when every motion-sensor light in the Cove was ablaze, when tree limbs thwacked at rooftops, when wooden fences bent and creaked and cracked? A little, yes, it has. That three a.m. wind, timed to the heebie jeebie hour of darkness, blew so hard and blew so fast, the whole house shook. It seemed like maybe the earth shook too, which, for a Californian, is not a peaceful feeling.
So here's the smudgy dawn today, wind still so strong I had to lean against the fence to get the shot. I like the way the tints all kind of shift, more smears of color than a real landscape. Maybe even prettier upside down.
We're hiking up a fire road this morning - literally a fire road, as it was carved by bulldozers the last time Malibu burned - when we come to a fence where some clueless joker is going to raze the landscape and put in a paved road and build an enormous house that will bathe his enormous ego in a nice, warm, rosy I'm-the-king-of-the-world glow - but wait, I'd better figure out how I really feel before I say more.
So we're hiking up a fire road when we see something kind of sparkling and winking in the foggy sunrise. Glasses, hooked to a ridiculous fence put up so a selfish - nope, not going to talk about that just yet - we see a pair of glasses, hanging from a fence.
Two things I love about this - that the hiker who lost his glasses was here in the first place, and that another hiker found the glasses and figured the owner might be back, so he created a wilderness Lost and Found. Civilized behavior in the middle of nowhere. (Except for the @!#*&^!ing moron about to decimate this little canyon to build an enormous house.)
Can I post without a photo of Jake or Maisie?
Can. But, yet again, don't.
We get a little bored walking every day on the fire road to the beach. I know this sounds churlish considering the landscape is heart-stoppingly gorgeous, straight out of a travel brochure. But it's a narrow lane and the dogs move fast and how fascinating can poop from the same six coyotes really be?
So we drive up the canyon where the recent building bust, while bad for developers who have cleared acres of land and carved rough roads deep into the hills, has turned out to be pretty great for Jake and Maisie and me. Huge swathes of open space with just wind and sun around us. Few cars, fewer people, and trails that lead to more and more trails.
Jake sticks close to me, protective maybe, but also I've-seen-it-all mature. Maisie, on the other hand, is very, very busy. She runs ahead, plots our course and so far, does a pretty good job.
We see oaks and prickly pear and poppies, deer and hawks and California quail. We hear rustling in the bushes and smell wild sage on the hot, Santana breeze. And, doggie nirvana - we find miles of piles of coyote poop that's never been sniffed.
The view from West Winding Way.
We're separated from the houses to the north by a small, steep arroyo. A creek runs through it so it's full of trees and shrubs and wildlife. On the other side, modest mid-century ranch homes (which now sell for seven figures) back right up to its edge.
Some, like this one, have a path to the beach. It took some doing, carving the gently terraced rise, adding the wooden steps, the rustic rope handrail. The theory is the homeowners now have beach access. So far, though, the only traffic I've seen is coyotes, usually at dusk or dawn. They glide up from the canyon, skim over the steps and, if Jake barks or Maisie whines, they turn and stare. And give us the finger.
Here's the beach today, moments before the fog rolled in.
Cold this morning, a crisp, brisk 62 degrees inside the house. Outside - and I know this makes people looking at actual snow and rooftop icicles snort with laughter - you need a coat and scarf and gloves to keep warm.
We've got the place to ourselves at sunrise, not much traffic on PCH, no humans on the trails, just birdsong and coyote scat, and this guy running the length of the Paradise Cove pier, rousting the gulls and pelicans who roost there, forcing them into an early start on their fishy, fishing, fish-breath days.
So my friends and family are having a field day with the fact that, after years of freelancing, of keeping a sometimes
eccentric unusual schedule, I've accepted a fulltime job.
Had I known this would be the view from my parking space, or (scroll) this edible bouquet would greet me on my first day (xoxo to you, my Dave!) I would have added myself to the rush hour madness much, much sooner.
I've always felt a little guilty about the fact the '49 Plymouth is a gas hog. About 15 mpg roaring up and down the canyons here in Malibu, maybe 18 or 20 out on the freeway. (Don't laugh, it's got the original flathead six and that thing rules the 10.) So when the Chevy pickup started to show its age (278,000 miles) and it became clear I needed a new car, I thought about a hybrid.
I never wanted a Prius. First of all, it's just too close to the word pious, which isn't too far off from how some of those drivers behave. It's not too cute, either, kind of beetle-like, with a wide read end and bit of a hunchback. But when Saturn, whose redesign turned the Vue from a yawner of an SUV into a sporty, sexy drive, postponed the rollout of the hybrid version for the third time, I just couldn't wait any more. And since I start my new gig at the LA Times today, which means I'll be driving downtown a lot, I couldn't face crummy gas mileage. So I wound up with a Prius.
It's like driving an iPod. Everything is computerized. Nothing is where you expect it to be. It doesn't even have a key. You can't exactly tell whether it's on or off half the time. The digital readout is so fascinating, I bet most driver-caused Prius wrecks happen within the first few days, when you can't quite believe what you're seeing.
So here's my (drenched) driveway now, the '49 Plymouth innocently nosing up to the gate, everything mechanical, everything beautifully engineered and obvious. And behind it is a computer on wheels that, right now, is getting 45 miles per gallon.
It's an embarrassment of riches here in Malibu, what with a major grocery store (two, if the new Pavilions ever opens), an indie-ish market, and a high-end natural foods store. We're a city of just 12,500 - how many beer cases do we really need? Still, it's a bit of a shock to learn that starting today, our Ralphs won't stay open 24 hours any more. Not enough traffic and too much theft, the very nice manager said this morning. From now on, Ralphs will be closed between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
It was 5 a.m. and I was buying dog food. I've been an early-hours customer many times over the years, making the cold, dark drive down a deserted PCH to fetch cough medicine, bottled water, ice cream, toilet paper and, in one memorable transaction when one of the dogs was really sick, Pepto Bismol and a turkey baster. (I had to explain it to the startled clerk then and I feel the need to explain again now: You use the turkey baster to suck up a dose of the Pepto and squirt the vile pink stuff into the dog's mouth.)
Late night at Ralphs can be a scene. Gangs of Pepperdine kids fill the aisles, posturing as much as shopping. Night owls and shut-ins work through their weekly lists. Stoners cram their carts with the sort of stuff usually found on a carnival midway. And one-item shoppers anxiously buying a thermometer or a bottle of baby aspirin reveal the crisis at home.
So despite millions of square feet of new development slated to take out a big chunk of our precious open space, despite all of the luxury stores pushing out decades-old mom'n'pops, Malibu has just managed to take a tiny step backwards. We roll up the sidewalks at 1 p.m. Seems we're still a small town after all.
We got pounded last night here in Malibu. After a day of gray skies and gentle drizzle, three hours of precision rain. A conga line of clouds rode in from the Pacific, slid down the mountainside and cut loose. Sheets of rain slammed down on rooftops, slapped hard at windows, turned driveways into moats, turned our bare and crispy hillsides into lethal weapons.
So far, so good. News trucks parked everywhere but no disasters to report. Another storm's on its way, though, and there's plenty of reason to worry. It feels saturated here, as though one more drop of moisture might be too much. So we wait and see, we hunker down, we drive carefully, politely, and send up a prayer that all our neighbors stay safe.
Below is the beach this morning, big disorganized waves, a steep ledge where the tide chewed away a layer of sand. And here's the channel cut by the creek that runs to the sea. For perspective, check out the white plastic patio chair that washed ashore.
Mary's Kitchen, that is.
The first thing, of course, is it's not called Mary's Kitchen. It was, a few years ago, for a little while, but the cafe/bakery/deli that went into the Cross Creek shopping center soon changed its name to Malibu Kitchen. Nice and local. And a wee bit loco, too.
Malibu Kitchen has really good, really strong coffee. They've got the best blueberry muffins on earth. They bake amazing cupcakes, stock a great deli counter, and serve a pulled pork sandwich (served with a layer of homemade coleslaw on top of the warm, savory meat) that's so succulent, entire tables of diners go utterly silent as they eat.
Not so silent are the people who have run afoul of Malibu Kitchen's - ummm, well, eccentric service. If you're a bold-faced name you won't know what I'm talking about. If you're just some ordinary customer, though, chances are you have a story to tell. Like the woman who tried to order the turkey sandwich without the cranberry mustard, and was told no. No mustard? No sandwich.
Or the man who had the bad luck to try to get served on the very day Jerry Seinfeld was quoted in the LA Times talking about the Malibu Kitchen. The owner refused to look up from the newspaper, refused to wait on the guy. Or the time a neighbor tried to buy a tray of cupcakes only to have the owner say no, she couldn't buy that many, and then ripped the tray right out of her hands. In fact, there are so many stories about the - ummm, well, eccentric service at the Malibu Kitchen, it became the hot topic of a fairly large New Year's Eve party last week.
And still we all go back. It's an indie business, after all. The food is great. Celeb sightings are reliable. And for all those displaced New Yorkers living here in Malibu, separated from the big city vibe by so much mellow sunshine, it's like a cranky taste of home.
Maisie started out small and has stayed small. She was barely the size of Jake's head when we met her, a 10-week-old black lab puppy in dire need of a new home. She was skinny and sad, with the sweetest little face.
Jake's not all that fond of puppies so I was in the market for an adult dog to keep him company, but after a maddening six-month period during which we learned just how freakishly nuts private pet rescue groups can be, when a friend called with news of a lab puppy, I was willing to give it a try.
The minute Jake saw Maisie, he dropped down on the ground in front of her and rolled over. She jumped on his neck and started chewing. They lay there like that for a good long while and that was that. She was his, he was hers, and I had just doubled the pet food bill.
Ever since then, Jake and Maisie are inseparable. She's very, very sure she's Maisie, but she's also pretty sure she's Jake. I don't think she's always quite aware that he's his own dog. Which he is. When Maisie gets to be too much, just a little too much love even for noble, patient Jake, he lifts his upper lip just a fraction, and that's that. She backs off, chastened. (For maybe five seconds.)
The whole point of this is to say that, while we thought Maisie would grow into a nice, big, healthy lab, she has, in fact, remained a nice, tiny, healthy lab. Except for her tongue, which wouldn't look wrong on a St. Bernard. Here she is, running (yes, illegally) on the beach. Seriously, how can she even see with that thing in her face?
The winter winds our local newscasters so gleefully predicted have arrived. Not so much here in the Cove yet, where it's breezy with an occasional gust. But out at Bluffs Park, where the dogs and I walked off some of last night's celebration libations, it was another story.
Malibu Canyon was like the mouth of hell. One long screaming squall, wind so fast and wide and high it knocked your legs out from under you. Literally. The dogs, four-legged and low-slung, did fine, did great, really, loved every second of it. Ran for the ball, chased tumbleweeds, waited patiently as, held in place by just a flick of this big wind, I walked and got nowhere.