Archives for posts with tag: Santa Monica Mountains

Catalina

The day is bright and humid.  The endless hum of lawn mowers, all summer long.  The grass grows lush and green.  The trees heavy with monstrous leaves and creeping vines.  Gold and purple wild flowers a meter high at the side of the road: Golden Rod, Deptford Pink and Bouncing Bet.

The Hudson River meanders gently toward the city, decorated at its marshy edge with great swathes of invasive water chestnut.  Feeding the lazy Hudson River, fast moving creeks course down the mountain, over shallow rocky beds and over the curvaceous, verdant landscape, dramatic water falls, giddy tributaries.  Vast, flat abandoned reservoirs formerly providing local industry with renewable energy.  Magnificent 19th Century, red brick factories stand empty, patiently waiting for a thousand weavers to march through the mahogany doors and start weaving again.

The land like the water resources here in upstate New York remains mostly uncultivated.  That California with no water still provides America with the majority of its fruit and vegetables while this verdant place remains fallow.

No lawn mowers in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Just the wheeling of the hawks, the booming crash of the waves at night rolling up the canyon with the morning mist.  They ask me if I miss Malibu.  They wonder why I would trade Malibu for this.  I had 12 good years in LA before I had my last rather complicated… year and a bit.  Do I miss it?  No, not really.  I miss my house, I miss slopping around that huge room.  Looking at the ocean.  The dogs finding patches of sunlight.  I don’t miss the rattlesnakes or the coyote.  I don’t miss the brush clearance.  I don’t miss the winding road to the PCH.  I miss the prestige of having the house.  I do.

Misty Morning

The magnificent pines at the back of the house, the Brazilian Orchid Tree, the figs, lemons and cherimoya.   I wonder who takes care of the carp?  I wonder if the gophers invaded the garden this year?  I wonder if they fixed everything I never got around to?

As one grows older it is harder to make sense of change.  Rapid, inexplicable change.  This is the great secret of the third age.  We are less adaptable.  We seek comfort and safely.   It is hard to imagine what will come next.Final Day

1.

While few of us would think to ridicule Jews for still harboring less than warm feelings for Germans some 70 years after the liberation of the concentration camps—we would understand the lack of trust, the wariness, even the anger—we apparently find it hard to understand the same historically embedded logic of black trepidation and contempt for law enforcement in the USA.

Revealed, these past weeks, for the world to see: America’s racist underbelly.  News stories narrated by dumb white folk, binging unashamedly on their justified racism.  The condescending white news anchor asks a black man to explain his fear of the police… then scoffs at his reply.  Others crudely condemn the dead black men “He was no angel.”  “His parents were known to the police.”  “He was resisting arrest.”  The same ‘news’ shows use the millions of crowd sourced dollars raised for the white murderer as proof, as if any were needed, that Darren Wilson and men like him are: “Innocent until proven guilty.” “The grand jury proved there was no case to answer.” “Let him get on with his life.”

The KKK leave cruel and hateful messages wherever they can all over social media, proudly letting the world know: ‘a good nigger is a dead nigger’.  Black men doubly assassinated, in life and death… white supremacists proudly spew vitriol over the bodies of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.

They demand, “This isn’t about race.”  “Why do you bring race into this?”

White folk have no incentive to let go of their white power, their white privilege, their sense of superiority… their entitlement.  White people remind you with their slippery smiles that slavery was abolished in 1865.  “It’s up to the blacks to help themselves.”  “If we weren’t killing them, they’d be killing each other.”  “They have the same opportunities as everyone else.”

2.

Every Mexican, working illegally in California, is a slave.  White people loathe manual labor.  White people love slaves.  Everybody needs a slave in SoCal.  The fruit growers would have nobody to harvest fruit without Mexican slaves.  Slaves stand outside Home Depot offering themselves for hard labor.   Mexican slaves mow my lawn, scrub my hot tub.  Slaves clear brush in the Santa Monica Mountains under the midday sun.

Serried ranks of plump Mexican women smelling of disinfectant and carbolic soap clean house, serve slim, white wives their afternoon mint tea.  There are thousands of them!  Thousands of enslaved, undocumented maids.

Have you ever seen a white person use a mop, hand wash dishes or polish a crystal glass?  Have you ever watched a white person try removing a stain from a carpet?  Have you noticed how inept white people are?  They don’t know how to look after their own stuff.

“Do you know how to remove a stain from a carpet?  When your dog pees on your rug?”

He shrugs, “Mexican people know how to do that.  I don’t need to know.”

Those Mexican slave women used to be black slave women.

Last week President Obama liberated 5 million slaves by giving them the opportunity to ‘come out of the shadows’.  Watch the white elected officials in Congress and the Senate balk.  Their fat, pink cheeks huffing and puffing indignantly at the partial liberation of more slaves.

Without slaves the USA ceases to function.  The USA is addicted to slavery.  The USA was built on hard work… the hard work of unpaid black slaves.  Conveniently written out of white history.  California’s false economy is carried on the backs of Mexican slaves.

When the black slaves were freed the white folk wanted them to go back to Africa.  “The slaves are free… free to go home.”

Those black folk who thought they were equal to white folk were outlawed, harassed.  If they had entrepreneurial ambitions they were made to think again.  When they opened stores on main street, their stores were looted by white folk whilst the police watched… and did nothing.

There was no opportunity given to black people which could not be taken away.

3.

A black face reminds America’s of its not so distant violent racist past (black neighborhoods were being bombed and burned in Boston and Chicago by white police as recently as 1970).   To liberal white people a black face remains a shameful embarrassment: liberals never did enough for black people.  Liberals turned from the thorny problem of race to an easy fix: marriage equality.

White people who claim to hate racism are privately racist.  Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin at Sony Pictures are revealed to be private racists… when this is discovered from hacked emails they call Jesses Jackson so assuage their guilt.  They publicly call prominent black people to apologize for being private racists… but they merely confirm what we already know: white liberals say one thing then do another when they think they can’t be seen or heard.

For the dogged racists a black face reminds them of an unfinished problem… a problem they tackle every 18 hours when another black man is murdered by the police.  Shortly after the shots are fired, the body transported to the morgue… the excuses begin, the character of the dead black man maligned, the Grand Jury is called and the murder justified… forgotten.

Did it seem this time… after Eric Garner’s Grand Jury refused to indict… fewer people agreed with the decision… or made excuses for the police?  Was it my imagination that after the whole world watched the video of Eric Garner’s murder a million times on TV and the internet that people who might have before… did not want to forget.  In fact they cared a great deal for murdered Eric, his dignified widow and their forgiving daughters.

When the people watch the unnecessary take down and murder of Eric Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets on New York they are forced to acknowledge 350 years of racism:  state sanctioned torture, murder, rape, abuse, theft…

The people (all ethnicities) began to drag themselves out of apathy and onto the same streets.  The people saw a black man bullied to death and none of the usual excuses from the police or the mayor or the kkk were very convincing.  The people saw Eric Garner bullied and murdered by the police in a country where the police are meant to protect the people from bullies and murderers!

Fear underpins the systematic oppression of America’s black minority.

4.

This week people understood that the criminal justice system isn’t broken,  that police brutality, secret and corrupt grand juries, the deliberate disenfranchising of black men and the unreported/undocumented incidence of murder by police force… is not evidence of a broken system but the system functioning exactly the way it was designed.

Did you know that once convicted, in many states (11 southern states) a felon is never allowed to vote again… ever.  Why don’t you know that?  Most people don’t.  When a black man is convicted of a felony in 11 southern states he is never allowed to vote again.  He is excluded from the democratic process.  How many black felons did you tell me presently reside in jail and prison?  How many of them are working for free (cotton picking, uniform stitching) in American jails and prisons?

America’s untreated racist wound stinks like Michael Brown’s uncovered, bloated corpse on a humid Ferguson street… and no amount of Fox News deodorant will take away the stench.

Did you know, that until modest changes were made to the selection process, people of color were excluded from the Grand Jury?  Those modest and unenforceable protocol changes were made within the last few years.

They say, the secretive Grand Jury was originally conceived to weed out malicious prosecutions.  That’s just a big fat lie.  The Grand Jury is now as it always was… a secret court used by the police and police friendly prosecutors to help crooked cops out of difficult situations so they can continue waging war against the black minority.

The cop’s unwritten law of the street:  all black faces are fair game.

The Grand Jury is unknown anywhere else in the world. It works so effectively because there’s no one in the room defending the victim. In the case of Darren Wilson he was presented as the victim by the prosecutor rather than Michael Brown and this wholly spurious narrative persists.

5.

Criticize racists and the police at your peril.

The police say they have been ‘thrown under a bus’ by Bill de Blasio, Mayor of NYC because Mayor de Blasio told the world he advised his black son Dante: should he ever have occasion to be stopped by the police, Dante should be very polite, not reach for his cell phone or make any other sudden movement.  Dante should assume, like all black young men stopped by the police, that at any moment the police may kill him.

The following day white, bull necked cops feign indignation.  They know they’ve been rumbled, their credibility smashed to pieces.  They’ll have to do what bullies hate having to do: next time they’ll have to think twice.

Bill de Blasio has been warned by the police union not to attend Police funerals killed in the line of duty.   The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association posted a link on its website telling members not to let de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito “insult their sacrifice” should they be killed. The union posted a “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice” waiver officers can sign requesting the two politicians not attend their funerals due to their “consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve.”

Good cop?  Bad cop?

Are there any good cops?  There’s no incentive to be a good cop.  The good guys are weeded out.  It’s a tough time to be a good cop.  Crime figures diminishing, the police have to justify their huge organization, their overtime.  They say policing is a dangerous job.  How dangerous?  Policemen are not all killed by criminals,  30% are killed in road traffic accidents… the police are too arrogant to wear seat belts.

Whilst men like Eric are being harassed and murdered on the streets of New York for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes by police thugs, a couple of miles away in another part of the same city the most audacious crimes this century go unpunished.  Wall Street steals a world of wealth and gets away with it.  They say white-collar crime is too sophisticated for most regular cops to grasp.

The cops protect the rich, protect the 1%… as it turns out they’re protecting them from us…  from you and me.

Cops are used to raise revenue for local government, make politically motivated arrests, used by the rich to silence and poleax their enemies.  Cops illegally hold undocumented workers without opportunity to post bail then deport them after lengthy stays in private jails.  I’ve met undocumented workers who were introduced to their mule (a mule illegally smuggles an undocumented worker back into the USA) by the same border patrol guy who originally arrested and deported them.

The cops take their cut, trafficking slaves.

6.

The conspiracy theorists I scoffed at 10 years ago… well, they got it right.

The jails are kept artificially full to justify more cops.  The artificial wars on drugs and terror are in fact… a war on us.

There is a profound connection between criminality abroad and criminality at home. The so-called “war on terror” and military aggression abroad are linked to repression within the United States.  The drive by the American ruling class to build up the infrastructure of a police state is in preparation for the inevitable confrontation with the working class. This is what lies behind the unprecedented levels of domestic spying, the assault on basic democratic rights, the CIA’s trampling on legality and the Constitution, the militarization of law enforcement and the ongoing police rampage against working class youth.

The Hollywood street performer shot in the head by the police, the Down’s syndrome kid choked to death by the police, the homeless woman repeatedly punched in the head by the police, the deaf guy trying to sign tasered by the police, the countless murders committed by the police remain uncounted.

A pattern emerges, you better be a healthy, able-bodied white male to survive the streets of now USA. You better not be black or disabled or deaf or performing or homeless. You better blend in, become invisible, forget any aspirations you might have to be extraordinary.

White Americans may protest that our racial problems are not like South Africa’s. No, but the United States incarcerated a higher proportion of blacks than apartheid South Africa did. In America, the black-white wealth gap today is greater than it was in South Africa in 1970 at the peak of apartheid.

America: it is still a nation of slaves and slave owners. The system that perpetuates this must be deconstructed and if you are white that deconstruction starts with you… asking yourself this question: am I willing to give up my slaves? My white power? My white privilege? My unfair advantages? Am I willing to acknowledge that implicitly and explicitly I colluded with the historical suppression, bullying, false imprisonment and murder of a minority?

My gay friends believe that winning human rights for black people will be as polite as winning human rights for gay people. They think it’s THE SAME.

There must have been a moment in 1945 after the American’s liberated the concentration camps, when the German people were forced by the allied forces to watch news reels of what was found there… there must have been a moment when the German people collectively owned up.   A moment when they realized what they had done. I’m waiting for white people in the USA to own their part, their collusion with a system that murders, brutalized and demeans a minority… then blames them when they complain.

It never really occurred to me until yesterday that the mass murder and incarceration of black men in the USA is deliberate, systemic, entrenched and unlikely to change until white men learn to share their power.

7.

I bought my first house when I was 20 years old. Remember that cottage? 13 Island Wall, Whitstable. 15 years later I sold it and bought Peter Cushing’s house and the house beside it. 2 and 3 Seaway Cottages, Wavecrest. That was a pretty address. I sold them both and moved to California. 2828 Hume Road, Malibu. Now, it’s time to head east. It’s Time.

I sold my house. Goodbye Malibu. I hope the new owners are happy here. It has been quite a ride up (and down) this mountain… literally and figuratively. This is where I buried my dog and this is where I will leave her. This is where the twins lived, this is the location of many spectacular parties, lovers and probably the worst decision I made in my life… to reply to Jake.   But there you go, it’s sold now. The furniture has been packed, the art wrapped and stowed in boxes. I am relieved.

I am only a few months away from having the gagging order lifted so I get to tell my side of the story… how another rich man used the police and the prosecutor to hide the truth.

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Mountain

Chris

IMG_4742

1.

Another wholly preventable wild-fire in the mountains.

If only, like the Mexicans, the residents of the Santa Monica Mountains could bear the idea of a yearly brush burn.

Then, every decade, they wouldn’t stand miserably by their pyre lamenting the loss of personal items on the early evening news.

2.

So.  I’m writing my last will and testament.  And, after much prayer/thought, I’ve decided to leave everything to my former school Monkton Wyld.

I am also discussing making a charitable donation to Monkton which is now a residential education center.

The Grade II listed neo-Gothic building is set amongst an idyllic eleven acres of lawns, gardens and meadows.

Designed by Richard Cromwell Carpenter, the rectory was built in 1848.  It is in need of help.  Tracery needs restoring, energy efficient windows need installed and a large bay window at the front of the house needs underpinning.

As a Centre for Sustainable Education, Monkton Wyld hosts a range of courses, conferences and gatherings for adults, families and children.

From bee-keeping to scything to yoga, Monkton’s programme promotes low-impact, earth-centred skills for changing modern life.

Meals are prepared in the house kitchen using fresh organic ingredients from the Court’s own Victorian walled garden, orchards and farm.

The Court is managed by a resident volunteer staff with the help of volunteers and overseen by a board of trustees.

They work to develop and promote a lifestyle based on mutual respect for each other and for the wider community and environment.

Sounds perfect doesn’t it?

I want my ashes scattered there.

Have you written a will?  How many single people do?  It is imperative.

I’ve been thinking for many years what to do with any money I might have when I die and this, I believe, is the best solution.  Helping with the fabric of this building may secure its future for decades to come.

The young twins arrived last night.  Spent a couple of hours making beds and sorting where they are going to stow their things.

Because of the terrible storm I could not get up to my house until late yesterday so as I was staying over at J & J’s house.  I drove with Jason to Venice through the Santa Monica Mountains.  The storm has caused huge amounts of damage.   Thankfully CalTrans have dealt with the worst of the mess.  Did I mention that during the storm we saw 5 Pepperdine boys surfing the steep lawn on their campus.  Wetsuits in the rain.  Looked like fun.

I dropped Jason off at work then arranged to meet Sinatra and Hilary at Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney.  After an hour and some extraordinarily expensive Rwandan blend coffee and an ‘artisan made’ orange and cranberry muffin I picked Lily up from school in Malibu and drove her home.

The logistical nightmare that is having three kids in different schools all over LA.

Found myself alone with Max, we sat at home discussing rap music.  He is 13.

My stomach ached all day.  A mixture of anxiety from having JB at the forefront of my thoughts once again and exhaustion from staying up all night at the Sober Living facility.

This morning I woke early and made tea for us all and set about doing long overdue desk work.  All three of us are tapping away quietly on our macs.   Must go buy loo roll.  These boys sure get through it.

I find myself in limbo once again.

However beautiful the twins are I am discombobulated.   Absent.   Sad.

Fresh linen sheets.   I love when the cleaning lady comes.  The fresh smells she leaves behind her.   As soon as she arrives I am forced into action.  Clearing, folding and stripping.  The first week she came she broke an 18th century plate.  I was sad but I didn’t really care-my attitude toward other people breaking my stuff is that at least it was used and enjoyed.

There are some exceptions.

I lent a 12-inch Venini handkerchief vase to Korda Marshall when his then wife Felicity had her baby.  They returned it in pieces.  The vase would be worth $11, 000 now.  I wrote to him recently asking him to replace it.  He ignored my email.  Korda is head of Warner Records UK.

I loved that vase, it was a gift from Matilda, Duchess of Argyll and I had carried it from Ardfern in the Scottish Highland all the way home to Whitstable on a bus.  When Richard Green and I first opened the Whitstable Oyster Company we filled it every day with fresh cornflowers.   Of course it could never be properly replaced but occasionally one chances upon one at an auction and would love to buy it.

Still winding down from Sex Rehab.  It feels odd not to have somewhere to go on a Sunday night.   I suppose I have the same feeling of loss that people have described to me here on these pages.   I liked revisiting the Rehab even though it frustrated me.  I liked to remember the process.

So many unexpected doors have opened since I started writing this blog.  Another literary agent contacted me yesterday and I am going to take meetings with them all when I go to New York next week.   I like literary agents.  They are very different from Hollywood agents.  Hollywood agents are like Wall Street traders: crude, indifferent.

I found a short story about the Twin Towers that I had written last year.  I found the first chapter of my novel.  I diligently sent them off to the nice agent Jake B at Rob Weisbach Creative Management.   Now all I have to do is stay out of the result.

After I do the work; it’s none of my business what happens next.   I used to be one of those guys who worried about when he would hear back, when they would read it, see it, make a decision.  Thankfully I am delivered from that particular hell.

I discovered some 13 years ago that my tearing my hair out would not alter the result.

There is absolutely no point in fretting about the outcome.  What will be will be.  I’m not saying that I wasn’t relieved/upset to find out that I had got the grant, was HIV negative, he wasn’t interested etc. etc.  But I saved the feeling for after the fact rather than before it.

The house in Malibu is vacation rented to people from Hawaii who arrived at midnight the day before yesterday.  In the morning I received a flurry of text messages and calls from them claiming that I had scammed them, that the house was nothing like I had described it.  It quickly transpired that they were calling from somebody else’s house.  The following morning, after some testy phone calls,  the Vacation Renter called me to apologize for their foolish mistake.

I am just happy that who’s ever house they were describing never came home.

Goats from Santa Barbra.  Must buy goat.  Why goats?  Well, brush clearance for a start.  The house is situated in the highly flammable Santa Monica Mountains and every year I have to pay $3000 to have the brush cleared around the house.  The last fire stopped 150 feet from my front door.  Goats eat brush.

Also, Birria is a delicious Mexican goat dish.  I love eating goat.   I get to drink goat milk.  Do you remember eating that delicious braised goat on that private, secluded beach with Philippa and Louise on Patmos?  A truly memorable meal.   A man in a shack with a pot of boiling goat.   Delicious.

I have even thought about becoming a vegetarian but I think the deal I will have with myself is this:  If I have grown it or bought or bartered for it from the abundant land then I can eat it.  By the way, I am including vacation rental income in this equation.  I don’t expect to survive on half a pound of plums and a mango.

I wonder how much goats cost?  I have to make these calls on January 1st.   There are over 50 goat-grazing services in California so I don’t think that the acquiring of a goat will be much of a problem.

I have already located a woman who helps plan and plant vegetable gardens.  I have a meeting with her in January so will report then.  Many people have written to me offering advice and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

My lease here in Hollywood expires in April so I have until then to get things into order so I can move back and fully take the reigns of my new Malibu Hill Billy life.

First Year Harvest

My ambition this year is to make the house in Malibu fully self-supporting.

I bought the Malibu house two years ago after selling the property I had owned in Whitstable for nearly thirty years.

The Whitstable house was a slim, 1880’s, three floored, terrace.   Clad in white ship-lap it looked over the Swale and I would sit on my wide, all weather balcony watching the sea crawl over the long, shallow beach.  Sea Gulls wheeling over the ocean, huge cargo boats on the horizon.

The Malibu house could not be any different.   Built in 1972 the house was originally one large family home but had been divided into two apartments in the mid 80’s.

Frankly, it was the ugliest house I had ever seen: Big Sur interior meets Scandinavian sauna.  Acres of dark wood, bad carpet, virulent yellow paint and stained glass windows.   When I moved in I threw away thirty clinking clanking wind chimes.  The downstairs apartment, where I originally moved, was beautifully proportioned and very cozy but upstairs, where I now live, had towering ceilings and mahogany Shindleresq detailing.

By far the most beautiful aspect to the house was the view over the Pacific.  I traded cargo ships for schooners and sea gulls for pelicans.  In February, every year, the great hump back whale migrates across my view.

Isolated

The house is either ‘wonderfully isolated’ or ‘terribly isolated’ depending on who you have visiting.   It was made more isolated in 1984 when a portion of Rambla Pacifico, the road that leads directly to my house, was destroyed in a landslide cutting off hundreds of people from their homes-mine included.  Thankfully, this April, the road will be rebuilt after 26 years.  So, instead of a 7 minute drive through the Santa Monica Mountains from the Pacific Coast Highway it will take two minutes.

Why, you may ask, did you buy the house in the first place?  Well, the house may have been ugly and isolated with no direct road from the PCH but the three acres of garden was an oasis beyond description.    The moment I stepped into that garden I realized that I would have to buy the house.

A long drive, planted with palms and lavender and fruit trees, leads past a deep fish pond to a wide granite path weaving through grandly planned terraces stepping from the top to the bottom of the property.  Under a canopy of Brazilian orchid trees the paths are dappled with sunlight.

In the spring, after the heavy rains, waterfalls gush down rough-hewn gullies and then a miracle happens the arid mountain is transformed, becomes lush with wild flowers and green grass.

Last Years Bananas

There are fruit trees planted all over the property and my first year in the house I harvested bananas, plums, grapefruit, figs, lemons, mangoes, guava, oranges, nectarines, peaches, walnuts and tangerines.

There are foxes, coyote, deer and bob-cats.  There are hummingbirds, hawks, and quail.  At night huge white owls feast on gophers and field mice.

I pride myself on knowing the names of trees and shrubs where ever I live.  I could tell you the name of every species that makes up an English hedgerow.  I knew nothing of native Californian flora and fauna so I threw myself into learning what was what in my new garden. I found Rye, Coast Live Oak, Black Live Oak, Baby Blue Eyes, Morning Glory Wild Lupins and California Poppy to name but a few.

With my possessions arriving from Whitstable I had to make upstairs livable.

The first great simplification!  I painted everything in the huge, upper apartment a pale cream, covered up the stained glass windows, painted the kitchen cupboards a pale blue-gray and one accent wall a Sottsass pink.   I hired migrant workers and planted empty parts of the garden with native grasses and drought resistant cactus and the like.

My furniture arrived from London and seemed to suit it’s new home.

This Summer

My friend Maury Rubin who owns the legendary City Bakery in New York moved into the apartment below and I got hooked to the Internet and the parameters of my Malibu estate.

Today, instead of abandoning Malibu I have decided to move back into my home to enact the second part of this Californian story of how the west was won and hopefully I can take you all along with me.

My intention is this:  to get off the grid, to be fully self-supporting, to grow vegetables and graze goats on the property.  I want chickens and a pig.  I want more than fancy fruit.  I want tomatoes and onions for chutney and green vegetables to keep me moving.  This year will be the year of the great growing and cooking experiment and we’ll throw some personal drama into the pot no doubt-but this year is about growth of the natural and the personal kind and it will all begin on January 1st 2010.

I am quite sure there is a community of market gardeners and goat owners only moments from my house and to whom I am going to reach out and make this dream come true.

I have no idea if I am even allowed to do any of this-or what laws I may break or if any or all of this is possible but that’s what this new blog is for: to bring you along as my trials and tribulations unfold.  I know that you’ll help me,  you’ve helped thus far.   Let’s have another adventure shall we?