CANDLES OF THE MOUNTAIN PART 3

“Ahh Nico!  Come meet LouLou.” 
A young man with cha-cha rhythm danced in and kissed me on both cheeks. He and Chantal are speaking at a galloping speed in French, embossed with the wildest sort of laughter, and then another man, Speedy, a leading Parisian graffiti artist walks in, and addresses me without movement; just eyes that seem to sum me up speedily. Behind him is Nathan, a man of composed attentiveness. Then came Fabien, although we met a few days later, I include him now because creative nonfiction allows poetic license of time and place. Fabien is a Frenchman who owns a progressive gallery in Culver city, Castanier Gallery, and shows Speedy.

If the address is Malibu on the mailbox, it is not inside the house. This party began as they all crossed the threshold. The ooh la la’s,  kisses, hugs, gifts, and food that joined the beef, chicken and my guacamole was an appetite odyssey.

The evening began as some sort of theatrical reenactment of a French film. I have longed to return to Europe; instead I found it in Chanel’s home. You must meet Bibi, and Bruce. I coined Bibi, Joplin, because when she danced on the dining table, with her flowing blond hair and abandonment to free spirit she reminded me of Janis. Bruce, her husband wears a flag of acceptance for human imperfection and relished a young Walter Matthew. He is highly educated and so grounded in realism his wife’s antics do not astound him as some husbands may disapprove of such a blooming spirit. There was a Swedish beauty and her friend Shawn, a British theater actor, who inflamed the party with the grandest authentication of the English language in conversation, and joking that turned everyone into belly aching laugher. We were also joined by  two Brits from London; superbly mannered and educated professionals, Rebecca and James, and then a French woman with delicate features and European charm.
“Let us have a toast.” Shawn raised his glass in the light of candles and softly sliding sunlight. I suggested everyone join in with their own toast. When it came to my turn I said,

“  L’ chaim”
“Oh, you are Jewish?” someone called out.
“Yes. Can I stay?” I said with a smile to encourage laughter and not the awkwardness of being the only Jew. I’d rather people know so they don’t trip up and provoke my Jewish temper.
To be myself amongst strangers is rarely so effortless for me. Like the new moon rising over the mountains; the time for full powered laughter and elation had captured all of us. I felt that we were ravenous for a few hours of relief from the catastrophic state of world affairs that we are not personally suffering. There is very little discussion of current events in public places; and I have not seen many people reading the news. My gratitude for the freedom to luxuriate in a pampered and nourishing environment enlarged every time I watch the news.

The fog today has brushed the mountains with a thick white mist almost like a snow mass; yet the temperature is warm and humid and my pores feel moisturized. The wilderness holds my attention to reflection as the natural beauty of eucalyptus trees fanning the wind and wild flowers feeding hummingbirds surpasses the perfection of model bodies and designer outfits of 92065 residents.

Malibu is not all celebrities20140718_174353[1] and rock stars as you may think. There is an abundance of families that flock to the beach, and live the art of hanging out around the Malibu Mart. The community offers weekend festivals, and fund-raisers tied to the care of the ocean, landscape and horses. They offer child and adult surf classes, book readings, hiking clubs, and even have their own Malibu Playhouse and a Movie Theater. The Santa Monica Mountains   open into a hikers paradise, and full suited black leather BMW bikers are everywhere you look .

The night life begins at Sunset when a litter of limo guests enter the driveway of Geoffreys Restaurant for glistening views and cocktails. Down at the Malibu Pier the plank boards are as weathered as I remember as a teenager; only now the restaurants are uppity scaled organic. My favorite restaurant, Malibu Seafood, is still sitting on the shoulder of Pacific Coast highway and as the locals know, you don’t get tossed for another reservation. You can bring your own wine, sit on a deck overlooking the Pacific and taste the freshest fish in California.

What I found most entertaining in a writers way, was the night Chantel and I visited NOBU; “No One Beats Us.” To be continued….




The next morning Chantal was not in her transparently privatized bedroom with a gauzy drape.  From the kitchen I’d poured a cup of black as beans espresso from Chantal’s Turkish coffee maker and dozily slumped into a swinging love seat on the lanai. Still in my pajamas,  listless as a floating cotton willow; the grounding I’d felt the day before had evaporated. Looking and listening to birds, rooster, and distant horses, all within a misty silhouette that filled in the hips of the mountains. Beyond the sea, the imagery of my reclusive life in Santa Fe manifested. The skin I wore in Santa Fe; unreasoningly introverted with a coating of protection flaked off and a news skin surfaced.
Just as the image is crystallizing, I sense Chantal crossing the garden towards me.
“ LouLou—are you okay?”
“ I’m not living right at all, ” I uttered without a smile.
She sat down beside me, placed her cell phone behind her, rested her elbows on her knees and leaned toward me to look in my eyes.
“ Oh why? You are not happy in Santa Fe?”
“ Not anymore-I see things differently now.”
“ Yes, this is what happens when we take vacation. If you’re life is not full then you must change it. It’s not always the place that matters, but how you live. You know some people like to suffer, this is not you. I know– believe me. I meet people from all over the world.  I traveled with Carl everywhere.”
“Well  I’m full now– but I’ve been in a cage.”
“ This is not good! I will tell you that since Carl died I too wanted to live in my bedroom and not even get out of our bed. So I worked day and night to keep his legacy going, and to manage the vacation rentals. I made myself so busy just to get through the pain. I was a mess; many times I didn’t think I’d get through it. But you see–I am okay now. I still think of him everyday and some days are rough; but this is life. We don’t know what will happen. You have to live now. When you die no one remembers you; they go on living. “She opened her mouth and her smile asked me to smile with her.
“ We will have a lot of fun you and I. You know I feel like we’ve known each other. You feel that too?”
“ Yes! I think my choice to come here was to meet you.”
“ Oooh lala-then we begin to enjoy. You hungry? I make some breakfast and then we go to Trader Joes. I make a party tonight. How’s that?”
“ I’d like that.”
“ You want some eggs–how do you like them?”
“ I’m so full of joy I have no appetite.”
She threw her head back, and laughed.
“ What time is it Chantal?”
“ It’s eleven o’clock. You sleep very late.”
“ No.  I never sleep this late.”

I followed Chantal into the kitchen where she was leaning against the stove frying eggs; she was on her cell phone.  ‘Cheri, you come tonight for dinner and meet my new friend LouLou.’  Then another call and another. To observe Chantal is to see the openness of a human being without hesitation, restraint or obsession. I followed her around for the rest of the day just like Kou-Koui; her little Habanese dog. Chantal’s  enthusiasm for the approaching party was seamless. As we shopped at Trader Joes, she chatted with customers, the grocery clerk, and the cell phone that rings continuously.

“ LouLou, is that you?”
I was passing her bedroom as she called me in and patted the bed for me to sit.
“Have you had a shower? I will take one after you. I marinated the chicken and meat, so all we have now is the salad.”

In the kitchen she is dressed in a skirt, neck-less blouse, and a magenta flower behind one ear. As  she demonstrates how to cut the cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado,  she darts from one skillet  to another. The music is ruminating through the house; a French wave of seduction and rhythm that entices us to dance around  the kitchen island.  I feel like a young girl learning to be a woman. She is only a few years older than me; yet  her human connection of livingness  is unbridged and unchained.

I intended to write a travel story about Malibu;  as you see the travel story is Chantal.



“There is more enterprise in walking naked (in the Yeatsian sense) and being tough enough to survive such intensity of caring and such openness, between a driving need to share experience and the need for time to experience and that means solitude, a balance between the need to become oneself and to give of oneself…and of course they are closely related.” May Sarton.

The Journal of Solitude.

This book was one of the first of ten that injected my veins with the thirst to write. It was
1992, and while I scanned a bookshelf in Capistrano Beach, this book seemed to say, read me. Several months ago I ordered it online and began reading it after I wrote my segments on the Puzzle of Solitude. How curious that this is book I brought to read in Malibu; as I may teetering between this excerpt every moment of the day.

I landed on Pacific Coast Highway on the fourth of July and zipped up the curves of the road squinting to read the signs. This highway that was once my weekend adventure in a packed mustang filled with high school friends was now mine alone. Inhaling the salty sea breeze, and listening to Tom Petty sing, Free Fall, my heart opened to what I was about to experience. The doubt had vanished and as I crossed the lanes to turn up Encinal Canyon road, I broke out laughing.
Only a few days ago I was sobbing as my doubt and confidence were inflamed with childless fear. Just past Malibu colony the scenery seemed to sigh with relief from blaring radios in convertible Mercedes, motorcycles, and a river of beachcombers flip-flopping down to the shoreline. The terrain rises into a rugged enclave of sand crusted
boulders, as I passed the perfectly seamed and shaved lawn of Pepperdine College.

Chantal’s directions were exact as I pulled into the dirt and rock driveway and parked in front of the house. She has an alert buzzer on the gate so she was already on the flagstone steps when I got out of the car. Even before she welcomed me in words, a radiant warm aura illumined my response.
“You are LouLou, I am Chantal. Come, I will show you around.” Her effortless smile and fluid swaying hips led me through a garden of birds of paradise, palm trees, elm, succulents, pepper trees, cactus, and so many varieties of flowers that my first impression was already sealed,  I was in Shangri-La.20140712_18273120140707_175334

“This is the main house, where you come and go as you please,” and then she  continued through the open rooms sheltered in wood and glass into the living museum of the legacy of  her deceased husband, Carl Gillberg: chest- high clay pots, bronze and cherry wood sculptures, masks, paintings, and photographs.


Carl Gillberg


In the kitchen she announced, “Here, you see this shelf is for you, and here is your vegetable bin to put things, and you take what you want. Just because I bought it doesn’t mean you can’t take it. You see, we are very open and relaxed here.  You just be at home; like it is your home.”
I followed her through a gate; to an open garden. Here is where we shower, you like it?” She looked into my eyes and her mouth widened with anticipatory pleasure. I glanced at the claw foot tub, expansive banana plant, and shower head.
“Does anyone else share the shower?
No no, just you and me. You close the curtain see?” and demonstrated the act.
“You will love it,” and as she parted the corrugated sliding door to my room and I looked inside, the chime of change rang.
“What is your nationality?” she asked placing her hands on her hips.
“Russian Irish.”
“Oooh la la; very strong.”
“And you?”
“I am French Haitian.  I left Haiti when I was very young and went to France.  I will tell you more. Now, where is your luggage?”
“I’ll get it.”
“You need some help eh?”
“No, I loaded it in so I can load it out”
She chuckled.
Her cell phone rang. “ Oui, Cheri—it has been a long time since we talked. What has happened in your life?” Her fluid intoxicating French conversation sent me skipping off the flagstone steps to my car.

I was hopelessly impressed. The majestic mountains, slopping hillsides, and crusted canyons open to the faded-jean blue sea. The spring of joy rose like an orgasm as my eyes blinked with every turn of the head to capture another slice of the Santa Monica Mountains.  20140704_162840

When I returned, she was preparing espresso?
“You like a cup of coffee?”
“I love it.”
“Good. We sit on the veranda and you tell me your story. You like my house LouLou?”
“ Chantal, this is Shangrai-la.”
She threw here head back and her birch brown curls took flight.20140707_194504

Over the next week my life was an interpretation of the beginning except from May Sarton. To be continued.





Adventures in Livingness

Upper Lanai
Upper Lanai

I was flipping channels one night in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I live. I stopped when the opening scene of Don’t Make Waves with Tony Curtis and Sharon Tate. Her name in the credits;  Introducing Sharon Tate. So I lay back against the warm sweat soaked pillows, turned on the A/C and watched. The first scene was on Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu. Tony is in a car crash with Sharon Tate. The appearance of Sharon was that of Bo Derek in the film 10. A vine like body swimming in golden flesh with long honey sand hair draped over her shoulders. The flashback to the Mason Murder was soon replaced with this heart shape faced delivering sinewy gestures that matched her feathery voice. The film came out  in 1963 and the coastline was as pure and unmarked as Sharon; a winding highway empty of cars, cafes and promenades. This is the Malibu I remembered from my adolescent adventures to the beach to watch the surfers.

The scenery unfolded into breathtaking views of the coves and hillsides surrounding Malibu, like organic sculptures  drenched in sea-foam as waves broke. Within a few minutes I bolted up in bed and paused the film.

That’s where I’m going! My journey was given a name. I had a month marked out for a vacation away from Santa Fe while my house was rented to a family of eight. It was a month before the guests would arrive and I still had not penned in my destination.

I went to sleep half way through the movie mumbling to myself; Malibu, Malibu Malibu.
Please God, let me land in Malibu.

The next morning I fished for vacation rentals on the INTERNET and got hooked into
homes, cottages and condos for not less than $1000.00 a night. One estate rented for
thirty thousand a night.

I switched to Craigs list and scrolled down the postings, armored with Russian determination. A posting in bold black came up – MALIBU ISLAND. I clicked through the photographs and prayed. This is how I found my  room  in Malibu;a private room with an outdoor shower  in an estate home perched on the hills above El Matador Beach. In this house the owner, Chantal, also lived.   I booked the month without more than a day of what if’s and what nots could be expected.

To be continued.