sunset

Salt Air

I drove out to Malibu early Sunday evening, timed to miss the heat of the day and the snarl of traffic. My destination was Carbon Beach, aka Billionaire’s Beach – because you need that many zeroes in your checking account to live there. But there’s no such thing as a private beach in California. All 800+ miles of coastline, from Mexico to Oregon, are public access. So there I was. Shoes in one hand, camera in the other, on a meandering stroll along this one-and-a-half-mile stretch of uncrowded, unhurried paradise.

Shadow Selfie.CarbonBeachI’d be lying if I didn’t admit to coveting one or two of those beachfront pleasure domes. There are some truly spectacular modern structures, though my tastes run more to the older, traditional architecture… the white-washed, red-tiled Mediterraneans and the gray-shingled ramblers reminiscent of Cape Cod. But the happy truth is, none of the super shacks can compete with the extravagant beauty of the beach. The warm sun, the salt in the breeze, the glowing sky, the rolling surf, the infinite horizon. The tableau is so familiar, yet utterly unique from one moment to the next, ever changing. A dog romps happily in the surf. A squadron of pelicans swoops down low, skimming the waves. Two dolphins glide by just offshore, in no hurry. Every once in awhile a helicopter zooms by, low and fast. A lone surfer takes his board out to catch a few more waves before dark. And as the sun sinks its rays lengthen, shadows stretch out, colors deepen, the hills dissolve to silhouette and lights begin to twinkle.

On the way back, the tide was coming in a little faster than I was moving, and the beach disappears entirely here and there. I had to clamber over some boulders to avoid getting soaked by the unforgiving waves. I wasn’t entirely successful in that bid to stay dry, but that’s what shorts and old boat shoes are for. I left my sodden, sand-filled shoes at the car (having scored a parking space right where I wanted it on PCH), and continued barefoot to catch the last of the light from the end of Malibu Pier. I even waited until after 9 o’clock for the moonrise, as it was the night after the “super moon” – and I was rewarded with a beautiful sight as the big red moon came up over Santa Monica Bay. But no reward for you, unfortunately, as my trusty smartphone camera just can’t handle celestial events. Here, though, are a few snapshots from one of my favorite places. Enjoy!

breaking wave

CarbonBeach.071314

Carbon Beach, Malibu 13 July 2014

Bleached Seawall

A bit of weather-beaten seawall

foamy gloamy

blue malibu

Malibu in the blue night, from the pier

Malibu Pier

Malibu Pier

 

Perfect end to the day.

The End (so far)

 

Advertisements

Taking The High Road

Every aspect of commercial air travel is hellish.

Except the view.

I always choose a window seat.

Because when your chair is seven miles up in the sky,

you can see forever.

10JUN14.flyingeast

Somewhere over Massachusetts… 10 June 2014

 

23JUN14.cloudsafire3

Somewhere over the middle… 23 June 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[043] An Unmet Sunset

Yesterday, I tormented a friend (who is soldiering through the frozen misery of winter in New England) by mentioning my plans for a late-afternoon stroll on the beach to catch the sunset. I promised photos. (Note to self: Never torment a witch.) It was sunny and bright when I left West Hollywood, only to turn grayer and darker as I cruised down Sunset Blvd toward the sea, until this:

samo clouds

I was hoping for a last-minute save by Mother Nature. It would have been awesome if the sun dropped down into the ocean and set the underside of the clouds on fire! But this was not to be. Instead, it looked like someone kicked a leg out from under the cloud cover, sending its northern edge crashing down into Malibu. Run! beach celebs! Run!

moody sky

It was at this point I decided a walk on the sand was probably not mandatory. That would have required scampering down the steps 100 feet to the beach and (the main deterrent) 100 feet back up. Plus, it was already 60 degrees and threatening to plummet into the 50s. Suddenly seemed like the perfect evening to wander the park that runs the length of these palisades along Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue. (There was a little splash of muted pinks and purples in the clouds out to sea, but that lasted about a minute. Then, fade to black…)

dusk.samo.021714.g

Funny thing. The cloud bank that lowered the curtain on the setting sun also draped the palisades in a premature darkness. I realized I’d never walked along here in the dark, and there was an interesting play of light and shadow going on in every direction. I meandered, camera in hand.

park lamp

The old-fashioned lamp posts are set far apart, letting stretches of the park stay deeper in shadow, here and there interrupted by pools of yellow light. The lamps, though, assault a camera lens like a solar flare. When I got between the lamp and the tree, the leafless ficus branches seemed more like coral than wood.

coral.ficus

Then I began to stalk my photographic prey by letting the trunk of a palm tree eclipse the glaring light. Click. The spreading white limbs of a massive ficus took on the warm glow of a bonfire – with inky black silhouettes of towering palms standing sentry high above.

lit ficus under dark palms

Tilting the camera angle slightly up and away from glowing ficus branches… the willowy palms against the night sky took on a more sinister attitude, all black and blue and collars-turned-up cool. Like a gang of bad ass Gullivers surrounding Lilliputian me. Or those nasty aliens from War of the Worlds – fitted with giant Phyllis Diller fright wigs.

dark palms.samo

For one last look out before heading home, I walked over to the fence that keeps people like me from tumbling down the cliffs to an unhappy end on Pacific Coast Highway. Ocean and sky were now swallowed up completely in the impenetrable void. Only the lights on PCH gave away the curve of the coast north from Santa Monica, then west out to Malibu.

pch to malibu

Pushing my little camera/phone’s zoom to its limits, the distant lights of Malibu reveal the border between sea and sky, but the colorful blur looks to me like DNA test results. The ones lawyers show to juries to dis/prove paternity and other kinds of guilt.

malibu lights from samo

I didn’t get the sunset I wanted yesterday. But they seem to happen almost every day, so I’m not too concerned. And I got to discover a different side of a familiar place: after the lights went out. Nice way to end Day 043 of #100happydays.

[013] The Photo You Don’t Take

The last call of the day for lap swims on Sundays is 4:30–6:00pm, and for once I was early. It’s nice to be able to do a marathon instead of a sprint; it’s just a different kind of workout.

The West Hollywood Swimming Pool is located in the newly redone West Hollywood Park, with parking at the adjacent West Hollywood Library. (And now you know why we shorten it to Weho.) Well, there was bit of a traffic jam at the 5-story parking structure, with a car just sitting in the entrance. I walked over to see if the driver was having an issue with the “Press This Button for Ticket” dispenser. Turns out, the maximum number of cars had entered the structure, and the smarty-pants automated dispenser was waiting for a car to leave before permitting another to enter. Makes sense. I’ve just never known a parking structure in LA to fill up! A sort of vertical gridlock. We all just patiently waited another minute or two for another car or two to leave, and our god-given right to park was restored.

I guess that’s all by way of saying what a gorgeous day it was to be in the park. The sport courts were full of people playing, uh, sports. The lawns were full of sunbathers and frisbee throwers and dogs a-fetching. The playground and picnic areas were packed with kids and their parents. Have you ever watched a bunch of kids in a playground? They’ve never met before, but one or two bossypants get everyone organized and they make up games and rules and play and have fun. And someone ends up crying. Just like real life. It’s similar to a dog park, where dogs of all shapes and sizes just… get along. Adult humans seem to lose this cooperative instinct somewhere along the way. (But that’s another post.)

As I walked from the parking structure into the park, I saw more than a few people pointing their smartphone cameras upward, and my eyes tracked along that trajectory. All those photos that were sunday cloudssnapped at that moment will never do justice to the skyscape that caught everyone’s attention – but here’s one anyway. (Little did I know that this was the before shot.)

Fast-forward an hour, as I’m slicing my way through the water. (I may actually be plodding through the water, but it feels like slicing. Let’s go with slicing.) The pool lies on a north-south axis, so every odd-numbered lap (on my way to 90 today; just sayin’) gave me an eyeful of western sky. And on one of those southbound slices – Holy Vesuvius, Batman! – the sky had burst into flame! It was breathtaking, luminous, blood red. So intense that for a few long moments I considered that Something Very Bad had happened to produce this effect. Like a meteor strike… or the Hawaiian Islands had gone off like volcanic Roman candles… or maybe Google had found a way to turn the sky into a high-def screen.

Then, for another long moment, I contemplated getting out of the water and drying off sufficiently to reach into my gym bag, pull out my phone and snap a pic of these artistic atmospherics. But I just kept swimming. With every other lap, more color had drained out of the sky until it had cooled to a dark ember of a cloud. The whole passion play couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes. But what a show!

I don’t have a snapshot to share with you. But I can close my eyes now and experience what the setting sun did to those high, white clouds. It’s more than a visual; memory can function this way as a sixth sense. Or a sense in all five dimensions. Instead of looking at a static photo, my mind is reconstructing the entire experience, including the view through my goggles… the sound of the water splashing around me… the smell of chlorine… and tagging this memory with the thought I had that, sometimes, it’s the photo we don’t take that stays with us.

The photo I didn’t take today makes me happy.
Day 013 #100happydays