Monday, June 15, 2009

The 'Bu

"Alright, alright, alright..."

I had to get my car 'smogged' the other day. Normally this wouldn't be a problem -- my car tends to run pretty cleanly. But two years ago when I went in for my certification, my 'check engine' light was on, and that is an automatic 'fail.' They had to give me a tune-up, to the 'tune' of about two hundred dollars, before my car could pass the test. Funny thing is, the damn light came back on a couple weeks later and has been on ever since.

So, this time I went to get my engine 'checked' before my smog test. Once again, I had to shell out a couple hundred bucks to address the issue. And this time, I was told that I needed to drive the car sixty miles before I took the test -- in order to reset the 'check engine' light. The shop I went to last time never mentioned this. That could explain why the light came back on so soon -- they never really fixed the problem.

I have since changed mechanics.

Because I tend to put things off till the last minute, I had to make a sixty-mile road trip in order to reset the 'check engine' light before I missed the smog test deadline. I searched Google for a map showing a thirty-mile radius from my house.

As it turns out there is such a map.

I found a very specific map showing the entire greater Los Angeles area lying within a thirty-mile radius measured from an intersection about a mile from where I live. It's called the Thirty Mile Zone and it refers to the limit which union members in the 'industry' can be expected to commute without being paid travel expenses. Consequently, most television and movie production takes place within the Thirty Mile Zone. And the center of the TMZ (aka 'studio zone') is the intersection of La Cienega Blvd. and Beverly Blvd. (aka 'center of the universe'), which is a mere three-minute drive from my house.

And yes, that is whence the celebrity gossip website derives its name.

Looking at the map, I couldn't help noticing that the outer edge of the TMZ passes right through Malibu: The perfect destination for my little road trip.

My first trip to Malibu was over ten years ago with my buddy Brian. At that time, the famous Malibu pier was closed for repairs. We had some pizza and saw part of a documentary about the Malibu surf scene that featured iconic surfers Lance Carson and Miki Dora. Back in the Fifties, the Malibu surf scene was known only to a select few. Guys with names like "Tubesteak" and "Moondoggie" lived in grass shacks on the beach and dodged the cops when they weren't riding waves.

All that changed when a young girl named Kathy Kohner arrived on the beach one day, towing a surfboard nearly twice her size. Kathy wanted to learn to surf and she wasn't about to let her diminutive stature, or her gender, get in her way. The surfers tagged Kathy with the nickname 'Gidget,' short for 'girl midget.'

Kathy kept a journal of her Malibu adventures, which her father, who happened to be a screenwriter, turned into a book. The book became a series of movies and a TV sitcom. And Malibu was never the same again.

This time I decided to delve a bit deeper into the Malibu mystique. I visited a place called the Adamson House which occupies the land between the Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. Originally the land was a Chumash settlement. They called it "Humaliwo" which means 'the surf sounds loudly.'

The Spanish first arrived in Humaliwo in 1542, but did not return again for over 200 years. When they did come back, they established a mission on the site and the Chumash got 'Christianized.'

Eventually, the land came into the hands of the Rindge family who fought several long, losing battles with the state of California to prevent construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Pacific Coast Highway. The Rindges had at one time owned all of what is now known as Mailbu, but after losing so many legal battles, the widowed Mrs. Rindge was forced to sell off the property bit by bit. One of the tracts she sold became the Malibu Colony, an enclave of movie stars who wanted a retreat away from Hollywood. The Rindges also built the Malibu Pier, which was where they used to park their yacht.

When she started running out of cash, Mrs. Rindge began looking for oil. Instead she found mud. But not just any mud -- Malibu clay, which was ideal for tilework. She established a tile factory and created some of the most prized tiles in the world. The Adamson House is filled with decorative tilework both inside and out and is sometimes called the Taj Mahal of Tile.

I wandered the grounds for a while admiring the tile and spectacular view, but I still had a few more miles to drive until I reached my thirty-mile mark.

I decided to cruise up Malibu Road and get a look at the Malibu Colony. I pictured a kind of funky, ramshackle place where guys like Hal Ashby and Robbie Robertson used to live. But now it is just another gated community for big stars like Tom Hanks and Howie Mandel.

I continued north on Malibu Road. I used to know a guy who lived up along there. He was in a group of hikers that used to get together every weekend. We called ourselves Hike Club. One afternoon, following a long, hot hike in Solstice Canyon, we gathered at his beach house to cool off. Well, it was really his dad's beach house, but he lived there, too. It was pretty great, sitting on the deck, sipping a beer, watching the pelicans fly by. Later, we went for a dip in the Pacific. Very refreshing.

It's a nice way to live.

I think that's why I like the show Two and a Half Men so much. If I can't have my own Malibu beach house, I can at least pretend I live in Charlie Harper's Malibu beach house for a half-hour every week. Or every night, thanks to syndication. I even bought a couple Charlie Harper style bowling shirts at the thrift store. It's not quite the same, though.

At one point as I was heading up Malibu Road, I saw what appeared to be an opening that provided access to the beach. You rarely see the beach in Malibu. The houses are packed in so tight that a gnat couldn't squeeze through. Even though, legally, the beach belongs to everyone -- access to the beach generally belongs only to the rich folks. But thanks to group called Access For All, there are now dozens of public accessways leading to the beach.

Even in Malibu.

I happened to find one of these public easements nestled between two huge homes about halfway up Malibu Road. I walked down to the beach where one of the homeowners had tacked up a sign indicating that the area extending 25 feet seaward, to the mean high-tide line, was private property. Since the water was almost up to where the sign was posted, I wondered exactly where I was supposed to go. It didn't matter too much, though. Many of these homes were damaged in last year's fires and are in the process of being rebuilt. So I was free to roam the beach without stepping on anyone's toes.

So to speak.

After a brief walk on the beach, I headed up to the PCH and turned south. I immediately passed by the Malibu Bluffs Park and decided to stop in and take a look around. As I wandered the trails along the bluffs -- overlooking Malibu Road and the houses I'd just driven past -- I began to feel quite at home in Malibu. Like I belonged there. I could easily imagine a brisk morning run along the bluffs followed by a cool dip in the ocean. That's the way life was meant to be.

All I need is $15 or $20 million for a beach house.

Maybe someday I'll get that beach house. Or maybe just rent one for a while. I guess until then I can always watch another rerun of Two and a Half Men and pretend I'm Charlie Harper.

I already have the shirts.