Here in Malibu
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April 30, 2009

Hooded oriole

hooded oriole

It took two seconds to get this shot. It took TWO DAYS (and some lively verb-adverb combinations) to figure out how to save the zoomed-in image. Hooray for Photoshop, The Most Counter-intuitive Software on EarthTM.

I think this is a hooded oriole.

For more tweets (how's that for a bird segue?) follow me on twitter.

April 28, 2009

A duck's tale

daddy ducksThis morning I leave the dogs at home and head to the spot where the creek meets the beach and forms a little pond. In search of ducklings, I find three mallards instead.

eek -- a human!A step closer and splash! mama duck leaps from a hidden nook on the bank and into the water, herding her brood upstream.

The adults put themselves...

assessing the situation... between their babies and the intruder.

gathering the broodMama gathers the brood...

headed upstream...turns upstream...

swimming away...and they all swim away, out of sight and away from danger.

The End.

April 27, 2009


Sunday sunrise

This was the sun on Sunday, a quick peek between cloud banks. Today's all cool and completely clouded over, as is my brain after a weekend of books and parties and parties and books. And did I mention parties?

April 26, 2009

Sweet spot

LA City Hall at night

One of my favorite spots in the LA Times building on Spring Street is this balcony right off the series of meeting rooms that flank the Harry Chandler Auditorium. I'd have lunch up there a few times a week, lean against the massive railings and gawk at the skyline.

Here's the same view after dark, City Hall on Saturday night during the reception following the LA Times Book Awards. Most recently held on the grand portico of Royce Hall at UCLA, the shindig has been cut back and moved to the 5th floor at the Times.

I know you're supposed to get jaded and blase when you see the same magnificent thing too many times but I appear to be missing that gene. I'm a fangirl, always, and all the way. It's not a great photo but oh, what a glorious view.

April 25, 2009

Signs of Saturday: Peace

lumber yard 002

The logo on the California State Parks law enforcement truck is unexpectedly lovely, the center image in brilliant color, with Queen Califia presiding over some of the symbols of our golden state.

I'm at the LA Times Festival of Books today, signing my history of the Port of Los Angeles at the Angel City Press booth at 11 a.m., then moderating a panel of fiction writers, including the remarkably gifted Janet Fitch and Andrew Sean Greer, at 3 p.m. Come on by and say hello.

If I were home in Malibu though, I'd definitely be in line at Crumbs at the Malibu Lumber Yard, where our local branch of the bakery is giving away 1,000 cupcakes today. Send me a nice photo and I'll publish it.

April 24, 2009

Ducklings in the Cove

Ducks, the 2009 editionHere they are, the newest ducklings, a peeping, flapping none too obedient flotilla. The dogs were with me when I got this shot so I didn't dare come closer. But if all goes well and the little guys eventually learn to listen to their mama, Paradise Cove will have done its part to add duck poop to the ecosystem.

April 23, 2009

Day two of clouds

white and gold

So we're I'm a weenie. Two days of cool, gray skies and I'm ready for Prozac. Here's a shot from the archives, white and bright yellow, antidote to all this muddy light. (Bonus color -- hot pink.)

April 22, 2009


after heat 024

This is all the sun we had this morning, a glaze of gold as the mist rolled in at daybreak. Sounds are muffled now, even PCH, tamped down by the moist, chill air.

April 21, 2009



Perhaps the only good thing about this blast of heat (besides putting the pets into a coma so deep, they can't hear the refrigerator door open) is this lovely swallowtail butterfly, which has turned my shaded courtyard into its new home base.

Meanwhile, here's our fair city's mayor, Andy Stern, explaining the logic behind the Malibu Lumber shopping center:

"I would like to explain something concerning the Malibu Lumber site and the purchase of the chile cook off property. The only way to pay the $25,000,000 purchase price was to borrow a substantial amount of the the money needed to pay for it. Many people would rather have seen a lumber/hardware store in the Malibu Lumber site, but by the time the City purchased the property Malibu Lumber was out of business and we negotiated with others but they could not pay enough rent to pay for the debt on the property.

The City has the equivalent of a mortgage on the property just like most people have on their house and has to earn the money to pay off the mortgage. The alternative was for the city to not purchase the property and see a develper build a 180,000 sq ft mall on the chile cook off property. We made the choice to keep the 17 acres of the chile cook off site open space. There was no other choice."

In case you missed it, the Malibu Lumber post is here.

April 20, 2009

Malibu Lumber

Malibu Lumber Yard

Malibu celebrated Earth Day over the weekend, both with the annual Chumash Day observance and, this being the New Malibu, the gala opening of a shopping mall.

Like so many of my neighbors, I still can't believe that Malibu Lumber is gone. In its place, we're stuck with another chichi shopping district. Considering that close to half the storefronts in the Cross Creek center just across the street now stand empty, upscale retail seems like a fool's errand. You can't buy sand paper or a socket wrench here in Malibu, but if you're in need of a $200 t-shirt, no problem.

Are you looking at me?The shopping center crowd started forming early on Saturday. Crumbs, a bakery, put out trays of tiny cupcakes for visitors to sample. Sound people tinkered with the audio set up. Malibu's mayor, Andy Stern, did a bit of shmoozing. Cylindrical aquariums, sparkling clean and stocked with garibaldi, the California state fish (these were imported from Florida) drew plenty of admirers. It'll be interesting to see how things progress.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite writers, Bob Poole, has a piece in today's LAT about a Malibu veteran who's trying to keep a battlefield from turning into a garbage dump. (Hi Bob!) And here's Martha Groves' piece about Malibu's retail frenzy. If you go looking for the Zuma General Store in Trancas, though, which is mentioned in the piece, you'll be disappointed. It's gone.

April 19, 2009

Century City

in and out

We went to the Annenberg Space for Photography last Sunday, tucked among the sleek, steely spikes of Century City's anonymous towers. Parking was only a dollar, though I think drivers deserve hazard pay for being sent into those vast and spooky underground caverns without a Navy SEAL.

By contrast, this lobby seemed positively warm and cozy.

April 18, 2009

Signs of Saturday: California

that was then

Here's the license plate on a friend's jeep, made of thick, sturdy steel, the word "California" stamped into the metal, the letters plain and proud, none of that loopy and lopsided frou frou handwriting we have on our plates today. Nice.


Speaking of frou frou, our newest shopping mall, located in the late, lamented Malibu Lumber Yard, opens today; locals are really, really mad at U2's Dave Evans, aka The Edge, for the ENORMOUS development he plans to put on a pristine ridge; and I have a book review in the Chicago Trib.

April 15, 2009

The egrets are back

the egrets are back

Everywhere you look these days, birds are flying by with building materials in their beaks, sticks and twigs, grass and string, cast-off Starbucks drink cards. They've been off making mad hot avian love and now, sated and tired, they're in the nesting phase.

In the Cross Creek ghost town Shopping Center, high in a sturdy tree that grows in the parking lot, the egrets are back. Stare straight up and you can see some white feathers, glimpse the nest looking like a bundle of kindling. Soon, the eggs will hatch and small, goofy-looking birds will clamber around the tree, gulping down fish guts, testing their wings.

This annual visit has its drawbacks, but mostly it's magnificent. Beautiful white birds, breeding in plain sight. I love Malibu.

April 14, 2009

Red truck

fab Ford

I'm going to sell the '49 Plymouth soon, but that doesn't keep me from longing for a sweet, vintage pickup like this one, dressing up the neighborhood in Santa Monica. Sigh.

April 13, 2009

Fuzzy logic

whatta face

A few of us stayed up way too late last night and indulged a bit too much. Evinrude channels our general state of being.

April 12, 2009

Sunday movie

Hours of fun for the whole family.

April 11, 2009

Signs of Saturday: No parking

no parking

The writing's on the wall windows -- people don't take kindly to cars (they're not allowed) on the fire road in Paradise Cove.

April 10, 2009



On deadline again today so all I have time for is this silly photo of this silly cat.

April 9, 2009

Scenes from a mall

It was 70 years ago today, Easter Sunday in 1939, that Marian Anderson, one of the world's great opera singers, performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The venue was chosen not to make room for the crowd, estimated at 75,000, but because the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Anderson access to Constitution Hall because she was black.

Eleanor Roosevelt promptly resigned from the D.A.R. and President Roosevelt said yes to a concert on the mall. Tom Di Nardo of the Philly Daily News has a lovely story:

Wearing a mink coat and an orange-and-yellow scarf on that chilly afternoon, she changed the final phrase from "Of thee I sing" to "TO thee WE sing."

This modest African-American contralto had taken the train from her South Philadelphia rowhouse that day with her mother and sisters. Forbidden to stay at any Washington hotel due to segregation, they'd been promised lodging with former Pennsylvania Gov. Gifford Pinchot.

This is a snippet of a French newsreel about that day. Another video, in English and with more singing -- embedding has been disabled; who knows why -- is here.

April 8, 2009

So beautiful today

pretty today

Can sunlight be crisp? Because that's how it feels here today, the light and the shapes and the colors of the sea, crisp and bright, all because of a few sweet moments of spring rain.

April 7, 2009

It's always something

ummm, what?

Just how badly did that horse's head image in "The Godfather" scar my psyche? Enough to make it my first thought when I saw this car, but not enough to keep me from snapping the photo.

April 6, 2009

Opening sunrise

Opening Day sunrise

Somewhere, right this very instant, Vin Scully is getting ready for Opening Day. It's his 60th year as the Dodgers' announcer and, while there are those who think this is it, he's going to call it a career, I'm betting professional passion trumps numerical symmetry and there will be a 61st (and more, please, more) season.

vin scully and veroniqueYears ago, I got to interview Vin in his broadcast booth at Dodger Stadium. We spoke for about an hour, the team taking batting practice on the field below us. He was classy and kind and very funny and, when the interview was over, rolled my chair closer and the photog shot this picture. Needless to say, it's tattooed on my forehead hanging on my wall.

Some great Scully quotes here. The famous Kirk Gibson home run call is here. Vin and his alma mater, Fordham University, here. A Scully retrospective on the Dodgers site, here. Kevin's Opening Day post here. And a disclaimer about my hair and glasses and general geekiness here.

April 4, 2009

Signs of Saturday: So long, Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic closes its doors

Virtually half the store fronts in the Cross Creek shopping center are empty, so when our local Shabby Chic, purveyor of $4,000 sofas and $400 sheets, started a closing sale, we thought it was part of the local trend. Turns out founder Rachel Ashwell, who turned her gift for genteel thrift store decor into an empire, is pulling back. Way back. As in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Shabby Chic everywhere is overAll of the Shabby Chic stores, as well as the web site, are closing down. You can still find Ashwell's for-the-masses version of Shabby Chic at Target (pronounced Tar-jhay), but the real stuff is now on sale for 30 percent off. (Which makes a small, battered bookcase $400 at the Malibu store.)

But with an entrepreneur like Ashwell, who added to the English language with her take on crumbling English gentility, it's not over. She still owns the name and the brand and, as she promises on her blog, she'll be back with something new, someday soon.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can browse Craigslist, where the words "shabby chic" mean so many things to so many people.

April 2, 2009


puppy faces

This is either a shot Jake and Maisie enjoying a refreshing drive down PCH, or proof the car needs to be washed. Your choice.


I have a book review in today's LA Times.

April 1, 2009

April fools *

ho ho ho

Google giggles. More hoaxes here and here.

* And a fun gotcha roundup from TechCrunch.

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