Here in Malibu
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August 31, 2007

Chili Cookoff unfolds

Yeah yeah, I know it's blurry, but I love the look of carnival rides when they're still all embryonic.

chili cookoff sets up

August 30, 2007

Kite flying

Remember this dead (but still lovely and quite sturdy) tree, which became home to a white-tailed kite this summer?

Well, scroll a bit.

white-tailed kite


This is the tree today. Gone.
And the white-tailed kite's gone, too.
tree gone

August 29, 2007

How does the garden grow?

barn gardenI've been saying for a while that my garden soil is clay. Not pure clay, or else even the hardy plants I manage to grow wouldn't survive.

But when the same corn that grew head-high in all of my other gardens fights to grow just four measly feet up at the barn, I have to face reality.

And here is that reality: the very same soil that produced this (not too shabby) plot of green also produced this little bowl. All I did was take a shovelful of dirt from the corn patch, add water and stir. It congealed, clung together so well that I rolled it into a fat strand. That held together so well, I coiled it into a pot.

My friend has a kiln and offered to fire this little bit of garden produce but so far, I've declined. I mean, what if it worked? That would be just too disheartening. So I'll settle for this, a rude, raw vessel that I fill it with sunflower seeds for the birds.

August 28, 2007

Big blue

It's Chili Cookoff time again here in Malibu. The carnival rides are slowly drifting in, collecting on the open field that serves as the festival grounds. Lots of curious kids and people walking around as things slowly get under way. And a great blue heron, wondering what weird wildlife has encroached on its turf.
great blue heron

August 27, 2007

Monday sunrise

Chilly morning, horizon lined with fog. Then, this frilly rosy golden rim of clouds as the sun rises.monday sunrise

August 24, 2007

Wistful thinking

If you've driven up PCH toward our little beach town lately, you've seen the Malibu Inn. Wooden building on the land side, tall sign advertising local bands, parking lot almost always full.

There's new development on all sides now but if you look carefully, you can still see the roadside diner's original outline. (Whether you'll see vintage cars like these depends on which car club is cruising the 'Bu that day...) Old Malibu

August 22, 2007


It was a long day yesterday, what with hijacking LA Observed and finishing the last chapter of a book project and dressing the little dog in a raincoat.

The first two tasks make sense, but the raincoat? I come up empty. Is it that that Maisie's a good-natured little lab with very short legs? Or that I cleaned a closet and found this little slicker, which a friend gave her? Does a branch of my family tree reach out to the Marquis de Sade?

Whatever the answer, Maisie was jolly while a friend and I dressed her. And then we laughed so hard, we frightened the neighbors. I dressed the little dog in a rain coat.

August 21, 2007

A shark in the pen

trawler and shark penThere's a young white shark in the floating pen outside the Cove. Brought in by fishermen who found it tangled in their net, it's a male "young of the year", which is means he's under a year old.

He's been there since Aug. 6. That's about the time the trawler started anchoring right next to the pen. The PIO for the aquarium says the shark was scraped up when he came in, but seems to be adjusting. Bait fish that have been placed in the tank are missing, presumed eaten. (He won't hunt larger prey, like seals and sea lions, until he's over a year old.) They'll watch him for a week or so to see whether he's a candidate for the exhibit, the PIO said.

And here's today's dawn, a ribbon of fog creeping up the canyon.
misty morning

August 20, 2007

Instant house

It took all of a month to dismantle, remove and replace one of the original trailers in the Cove. Here's the new house, delivered in two parts by semis last week.New trailer

trailer gone


1973 trailer ready for demo

August 17, 2007

Midnight snack

One day the pumpkin was fine.

The next morning, snack-attacked.

So mysterious.



pumpkin at the barn

August 15, 2007

Growing season

The weather finally turns. The sun rides higher and suddenly it's spring. You put seeds into the ground. No matter how many times you've done it before, no matter how long humans have practiced this particular act of faith, it feels more like an act of madness.

The first sprouts push up, so slight and pale they're almost invisible. Then it's summer and that fine green haze is tall and strong and bearing fruit. And flowers. Here's my first bunch of sunflowers from the garden up at the barn. Below that - globe artichokes, cherry tomatoes and sweet corn. We're just counting the days to the harvest.sunflowers



August 14, 2007

What a difference a few decades make...

That was then:
Old Cove

This is now:
New Cove

Shut up and sing

malibu pierSometimes life here in Malibu comes down to the basics: a summertime drive-in movie. Walk-in movie, actually, out on the neon-challenged Malibu pier. A few hundred people carried chairs and blankets and snacks to watch "Shut Up and Sing", a rockumentary about how Natalie Maines changed the course of the Dixie Chicks' career with 15 little words: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Here's a trailer, and some more about the film.

It was a lovely night, clear sky, a million stars and a few slashing, sparkling meteors. The pier swayed a bit in the swells. The portable screen swayed a bit in the sweet night breeze. Afterward, it was drinks and a chat with co-director Cecelia Peck across PCH at the Malibu Inn. All in all, a great way to spend a Monday night. Next up on the schedule - "Bobby", "Blue Crush" and "Best in Show". Cost? It's free.
monday night movies

August 12, 2007

More shark

trawler and shark tankI guess it wasn't much of a surprise to get mail about last week's shark stories - the one about two paddle boarders fighting off an aggressively inquisitive great white, and the one about the Monterey Bay Aquarium's annual portable shark pen, which floats off the Cove. A lot of readers echoed the idea that sharks are just part of life in the water. Several pointed out that, in years of surfing and swimming and kayaking, they have never seen a great white.

Regarding the shark tank story, Karen Jeffries, the PIO for the aquarium, wants you to know that the sharks who died in the course of being collected for exhibit were, in fact, those brought in by local fishing boats.

"A couple of sharks died after we received them from commercial fishermen due to the stress and injury from being caught in a fishing net, and despite the care we gave them."

I mistakenly described the viewing window of the shark exhibit as glass. It is acrylic. The shark who injured its snout (by bumping, not slamming) against the aquarium walls was safely released when it became too large for the exhibit, Jeffries said. Here's a site that tracked its release.

"The young white shark we released in January traveled all the way from the Southern point of Monterey Bay to the tip of Baja California—a journey of more than 2,200 miles that took him 700 miles offshore and to depths more than 1,000 feet below the surface."

It's impossible to read that without wondering what captivity must have felt like to a creature whose natural range is so vast. Here's a trio of shark stories from recent years: a well-written overview from the Christian Science Monitor, and two takes on shark captivity: one from the San Francisco Chronicle, and a more critical one from

Finally, here another web site from Jeffries: The white shark project.

Opinions and comments are, as ever, welcome.

August 11, 2007

Eye on the ball

Maisie never quite grew. She was tiny when we got her and she pretty much stayed that way. A friend calls her a "teacup lab". We know her better as the ball hog. Because that part of her labrador heritage, she got. And here she is on the beach road, living up to centuries of careful inbreeding.
maisie - eye on the ball

maisie - mouth on the ball

August 10, 2007

Happy anniversary

David Kipen and Veronique de Turenne

Happy Anniversary!

It's August 10 and Here in Malibu is one year old. Thank you to everyone (spam bots excepted) who has taken an interest in this little piece of pixilated real estate.

Here's the blog's first post. And below that - what else? - a Paradise Cove sunrise.

Everyone wants a piece of Malibu, including me. My buying power has proven modest – an aging mobile home on a bluff above the beach. We rent the land. The house sits on metal tripods that shimmy in the slightest earthquake, let the occasional raccoon or opossum rest in the cool darkness. Their smell moves through the air vents, a pungent musk that can’t be anything but wild animal.

When the sun goes down, coyotes light up the canyon with yips and howls, bloodthirsty arias that alter your dreams. The cats in the house wake up then, drift to an open window to watch and listen long into the night. At dawn, a membrane of mist hangs above the water. Often there’s a pod of dolphins gliding by, gray fins piercing gray water backed by gray sky. more...


August 9, 2007

Trailer as tuning fork

So. Earthquake. It's been a while. BAM! The earth shifts, the walls shift, and if you're a Northridge-scarred 'fraidy cat like me, your heart skips a beat or two. I'm not sure what that 4.5-er felt like in a stick-built house but here in the trailer, movable housing after all, we were moving. The walls seemed to quiver for a second or two, a low-pitched hum of corrugated metal buried deep within the remodeled walls. Then, that post-quake silence.

Here's the info. A quick internet search says no damage in LA. Thank goodness. Here's Maisie, searching for seismic clues.
Maisie digs

August 8, 2007

Good morning

As in, this is a good morning. Cool, gray dawn. Light mist. Cool pink sunrise. Feels like later today, it's going to be hot.

Good morning

August 7, 2007

Frank and Jamie buy in the 'Bu

cox/arquette home in malibuFrom the LAT's weekly real estate gossip column:

The sellers were actress Courteney Cox Arquette, of "Friends" fame, and her husband, actor David Arquette, star of the "Scream" series of films. They paid nearly $10.2 million for the home slightly more than six years ago and put it on the market in February.

The architectural trophy home was designed by John Lautner, who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright. Lautner, known for his modernistic designs, died at age 83 in 1994.

The four-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot house -- known as the Segel residence -- has ocean views from almost every room and sits on a double lot with 80 feet of beach frontage, according to the Multiple Listing Service. It has exposed concrete, natural wood, skylights, a curved roof line and a pool.

Full details here

But David and Courtney aren't going very far, the San Francisco Chronicle says. (last item on page.)

Former "Friends" star Cox has a passion for interior design and house renovation, and in March paid almost $20 million for a wreck of a property overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

August 5, 2007

Pumpkin 2.0

Remember that little pumpkin, barely
bigger than the blossom that spawned it?

Well here it is, three weeks later.
pumpkin at the barn

August 3, 2007

Three photos from Bluffs Park

A strange recovery after that January fire at Bluffs Park. No rain so not much growth. This datura is flourishing. The prickly pear looks happy. Meanwhile, across PCH, there's Pepperdine's vast and water-guzzling lawn.
datura in bluff's park

bluffs park
Bluffs Park and Pepperdine's lawn

August 2, 2007

Budgies gone wild

Get a few hundred feet above sea level here in Malibu and it's a different world. In the beach flats, it's all about water. Climb into the mountains though, and that endless shining blue becomes a backdrop. Up here at the barn, where I've been spending the evenings lately, the light changes slowly, long sunsets with lots of wild creatures on the move.

This is a small flock - a starter flock? - of Nanday Conures, or black-hooded parakeets, recent arrivals. They've staked out the eucalyptus and coral trees just above the fountain. Acid green feathers with a trailing flash of blue. Chatty, their voices like air raid sirens.


parrots in flight

August 1, 2007

Shark pen * (updated)

Here's that shark pen the Monterey Bay Aquarium floats off the coast of Paradise Cove each year. (That's the aquarium's trawler in the other photo.) Hard to see from shore but, thanks to waterman Vic Calandra's close encounter last week, I'm not all that keen on kayaking out for a better shot.

Aquarium scientists have been coming here for seven years now, chumming our offshore waters in search of great white sharks. Some they tag and release for future study, others they capture and put in the pen. (Some are 'donations' caught by local fishing boats.) The broader goal is information about the predators who, thanks to overfishing, are endangered. The more immediate task, however, is to capture a great white that can survive captivity in the aquarium's wildly popular and lucrative exhibit.

Opinions are - surprise! - sharply divided. Some locals are angry, sure the shark hunt draws the great whites closer to shore. Others object on moral grounds. At least one stressed-out shark died after capture. Another had to be released from the aquarium when it bloodied its snout by slamming itself against the glass in repeated escape attempts. But experienced surfers and lifeguards, while not eager for a one-on-one shark encounter, accept them as part of the natural order. Sharks are out there, they say, with or without the Monterey experiment.

That's something the cast and crew of a location shoot for "Shark Swarm", a made-for-cable scare fest on location here at the Cove last week, learned firsthand. (Plot: An evil developer wrests control of a beautiful beach from locals by poisoning the fish and putting the fishermen out of business. Sharks are pissed. Much mayhem follows.) Production was shut down for a bit when a mako shark took a spin around the pier.

Work on "Shark Swarm," a cable television movie starring Armand Assante, John Schneider and Daryl Hannah, came to a halt at about 2 p.m. because one of Paradise Cove's lifeguards saw a shark.

"The stunt guys were going into the water off a pier for a shot when the lifeguards spotted a 6-foot Mako shark," said propmaster George Hobbs.

Hobbs then joked to an actor that "if a real shark bites you, it will be the best shot in the movie."

Henry Blunt, a lifeguard for the privately owned cove north of Malibu, said, "It wasn't such a big deal but by protocol we have to call everyone out of the water. The shark looked around a couple of times and then took off and hasn't been seen since."

Cable subscribers should be so lucky.

* Not a glass window in the shark tank - it's acrylic.
* The sharks that died were captured by fishing boats and could not be saved.
* The shark that injured its snout (by bumping, not slamming) against the tank was released because it had grown so large.

shark tank
shark pen

aquarium boat

tank and aquarium boat
trawler and pen

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