I rose at dawnish this morning because I was staying in Long Beach, but my business meeting was on the other side of the Los Angeles area, in Calabasas. I took a circuitous, traffic-avoiding route, heading up the 605 freeway past the Santa Fe Dam up into the teeth of the San Gabriel Mountains. One distant mountain had snow on it. I then got on the Foothill Freeway, driving west past the wonderful cactus retail shop on Reseda, past the racetrack at Santa Anita, past the Los Angeles County botanical gardens, where peacocks not only wander the grounds, but actually have also colonized several neighboring yards, so that the average stucco tract home may on a given day have a peacock on the roof.
I drove past the exit for my old house in La Crescenta, past the mountain to which the Whiting Woods trail ascends, looking 4200 feet up, and marveling that I have stood and watched the Foothill Freeway from that mountain. I saw fields of that odd parasite which runs in orange-filament threads, and ran past Lake View Terrace, a remote, nearly rural Los Angeles neighborhood where Los Angeles cops needlessly used 54 blows on a PCP user named Rodney King, when a blow or two would have sufficed. The riots that resulted when those cops were acquitted in state court torched a good portion of the city. I passed the exit where I used to go eat chicken at an Armenian chicken place, and I passed the Tujunga wash, this huge dried river bed of boulders and moraine. I threaded the Crescenta Valley, LA's tiny little valley, where we used to live, nested between the small but gorgeous Verdugo Mountains on one side, and the taller, imposing San Gabriel Mountains on the other side. I used to look out my back patio at Mount Lukens, which was the mountain to which the slope upon which our postage stamp home ascended.
I turned onto the Simi Valley Freeway, which is the route to the Ronald Reagan library (did you know that Nancy's dresses saved civilization?), but my ultimate destination was reachable by going down Topanga Canyon Road into the San Fernando Valley. I passed a Methodist church whose pithy "drivers pass by" message was anti-war, and I realized I was not in Collin County, Texas anymore. My curmdugeonly complaints about the weather in cloudy, cool coastal Long Beach last night was misplaced, as the weather today was simply wonderful. I listend to K-Jazz, a jazz station that really does play good jazz, and I marveled at how some jazz tranports me and other jazz makes me feel like a bored, transported convict. I got on the Ventura Freeway, which is a distant kin to America's song "Ventura Highway", and headed on up to Calabasas.
My business meeting lasted until three; I caught myself getting testy a time or two on phone calls that interloped. I do not like myself being testy at all. Tomorrow I declare myself a testy-free-zone.
At 3 my meeting let out, and I began tracing down Las Virgines Road towards the Pacific Coast Highway. I stopped at Malibu Creek State Park, a gorgeous place in the Santa Monica Mountains. This 10,000 acre park has liberal doses of easy hiking, a nice creek in keeping with its name, and tons of chapparal.
I am a devotee of chapparal. Chapparal is the "elfin forest", the little bushes and trees that survive well in the microclimates of extremes, which alternate between dryness and deluge. The chapparal has adapted to forest fire (upon which it thrives) and the curious southern CA winters, which can generate 8 inches of rain one year and 40 in the rare "el nino" year.
I had a grand, brief 70 minute hike. Lest anyone be unaware, gurdonark loves hikes that barely qualify for the name. Give me a trail, and forty minutes in, forty minutes out, and I'm ecstatic. This time I saw so many things. I saw a ten inch long slender lizard, crawling swiftly. The hills were alive with green grasses and yellow blooming mustard plant; this European exotic thrives here. Some ceanothus trees had their blue blooms. Wild native penstemon flowers and golden California poppies dotted here and there. Swallows flew everywhere, heedless of people but alive to insects they catch in mid-air for food. A leisurely small hawk hovered overhead. I saw many ducks on the wide, slow-moving creek, including a mallard with rich green head coloration flying at rapid speed. I walked under the shade of tall live oaks. A display explained that before this place was a large state park, it was a large rancho; before that, the Chumash Indians, the local mystical tribe, had lived there. I turned toward a trail named "Chapparal Trail", and there it was.
One trail was closed off by a fellow standing a sort of motley guard,and I could see movie filming trucks. I would hear jungle-like drums, and I now wonder if Johnny Weismuller's grandon was now Tarzan.
Later, I saw a group of folks climbing a rock face with ropes, so I suspect it was all low budget reality show stuff.
I saw a bobcat on the Chapparal Trail. I don't see many bobcats, as they are pretty nocturnal and dawn and dusk-ish, and they are very aware of and shy of people. But one was not fifty yards from me, coming my way on the trail. Before I could get my camera out, he saw me, turned, and walked swiftly away. I didn't see him again, but he was a marvel. So gorgeous, so wild, so much a reason I like nature hiking.
I took a lot of throwaway camera pictures; I'll post some if any come out. I drove towards the ocean to head to my friends kenmora's and Heidi's condo. After I would past canyon upon canyon, I saw a compact car coming the other way with a surfboard affixed on top. I realized I must be near the ocean, and sure enough, a moment later, the Pacific Ocean came into view. I arrived in Malibu, population 13,000 (of which perhaps 5 to 10 percent are film people, and the rest either very rich or lovably eccentric, living in remote woodlands not meant for people because chapparal ecology depends on frequent forest fires).
The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) runs down the coast by the ocean. I saw folks wind-surfing, but instead of sails, they were using parachute-like kites for propulsion. I realized I don't know what this is called. I passed one of those quirky luxury beachfront, road-hugging homes in a garish faux Mediterranean, and its name was something like la coquetta blanche, but I mentally substituted "this makes me blanch", and I realized that I would not be a good garishly rich person.
Because I was too early for Ken and Heidi's, I stopped at a Fantastic Sam's to get a shampoo and cut. I felt odd when the shampoo process felt so good that I let out an audible sigh, as showing pleasure in public seems vaguely gauche, not that I am exactly Emily Postish.The cosmetologist cut my hair into fine piano wire, as requested (actually, the request was 'number 2 shears', but you get the idea) and then asked me if I wanted gel in my hair. I have not had gel in my hair in 3 decades, so of course I said yes. My hair had a sort of Cameron Diaz moment.
Ken and Heidi have their daughter Bella, who is 2 and entrancing, and they had another fellow over for dinner, who was really interesting. He told about going to a waterfall in Brazil and seeing exotic butterflies. Anyone who talks butterflies is speaking my language. I kibitzed with him a bit about job and business starting ideas, because I have learned I am good at that sort of thing, and he is figuring out his next life's move, but like all chatty introverts, I fear I said too much.
I picked up my e mail, and there was a fascinating e mail from a woman who works at a center for the deaf in Fort Worth. She had been directed to my weblog entry praising the play "The Signal Season of Dummy Hoy" by the playwrights of the play. Her organization hopes to stage the play to raise deaf awareness. I offered to run blitz chess charity events to support this play, and to help in other, more useful ways if I could. I dislike making every coincidence into Providence, but I love the way that ways to make a difference sometimes appear as if inspired, and I hope I can follow the call. I was feeling a little off track on my chess project, as last night I did not go to play chess at Chess Palace, though this venerable chess emporium was a short drive from my hotel, because I wanted to watch the TV show "Angel". I do not know if I made the right decision in this, although Julie Benz did a brief guest starring turn, and Julie Benz has that certain something that somehow makes life more bearable for me. I am not a natural fund-raiser, but it could be a good learning stretch for me to offer some help here. I am coming to think that one advantage of not being good at so many things I do is that I am encouraged not to pre-define myself as unable to achieve things I want to achieve.
I read many great weblog entries by friends tonight, including one that I wanted to comment about but the comments were turned off. I hope to catch up with LJ this weekend.
Now I must prepare for my hearing tomorrow, and then fly all day back home. They say it will rain on Saturday, but I have a bobcat's optimism that the sun will shine, inside, anyway.