malibu

"Wanna go to Malibu?" he suggests, when he sees the Santa Monica exit choked off with traffic.

"Sure. Why not." It's only another ten minutes further, and I'm happy just to sit in the passenger's seat and gaze out the window.  

We've driven to the coast on a whim, because it's a pretty Sunday afternoon and we're already out and about. We're already out because we've just finished a reconnaissance mission to check out the venue for a New Year's Eve event we're considering. Tickets are pricey; I don't want to commit until I approve of the place in person. I want to wear the floor-length chiffon gown that sees action maybe twice a year (Valentine's Day being its other night out), and I'm hoping for an event that's fun but also a bit glamorous. Two-thousand fifteen seems like a year worth dressing up to greet.

The recon mission is mostly a bust, though. The venue doors are locked tight, not a soul in sight. Peering in through stately (if dusty) doors, all we can see is the sweeping staircase just inside the entrance. Rather fancy looking, I have to say. I'm just about sold. 

Walking back to the car a slice of low winter sun hits my face. The crisp cold feels like an invitation to play, and back inside a stuffy apartment is the last place I want to be. "Let's go somewhere," I say. Like Chaucer, I'm asking to be walked. I need stimulation and fresh air. If I don't get out of downtown every so often, if I don't refresh my eyes with the sight of trees or sand or just different buildings, moodiness sets in and the loft starts to feel like The Stanley Hotel. Terence gets it, and obliges, nodding. "Let's go to the beach."

The beach it is.

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There's a seafood shack a little ways past Pepperdine on the PCH that I like. The food is overpriced and nothing spectacular, but I don't go for the food. I go because it sits opposite a movie-scenic bluff, over crashing waves and aimed at sunsets that never disappoint. There's only outdoor seating and it's chilly even in summer, but sourdough bread bowls of clam chowder help with that. So does hot apple cider, which they're serving today.

Terence orders a fish sandwich, and I get fried clam strips (along with the bread bowl) so he can try those, too. They come in a red and white paper tray and are never fully rinsed of sand. The occasional bite of grit doesn't bother me, though. Neither does the cold, which is bracing. We pull up our hoods and huddle close, and I glance furtively at the other patrons. I once sat a few tables over from the kid that played Draco Malfoy, and I've seen both a Ferrari and an Aston Martin in the parking lot. 

Malibu isn't what I imagined it would be, before I moved to California. Or maybe it is, and I just haven't seen the parts of it that would match my expectations. It's beautiful but largely inaccessible. All the best parts are closed off to tourists, which I guess is how it should be, considering what it costs to live there. 

When we drive back after sundown, I marvel at how tightly packed together the homes are. Not a single sliver of space in between them through which to see the beach. Like a finger wagging at me: nuh uh, not for your eyes, outsider. I picture clean, wide stretches of sand below sharply dropping cliffs. Living rooms with massive picture windows through which the contentedly rich or the creatively tortured watch the peaceful sea. I wonder what they think about while they enjoy that view, and if they, too, sometimes pine to get away.  

By the time the houses open up enough to see in between, we're past the prime real estate. I crane around in my seat, but it's too dark to make anything out. Malibu keeps its secrets another day.