THE COLONY

This past week I found myself in the Malibu Colony. I had been invited there by a potential client who wished to discuss the possibility of working together. Before I left he called and gave me instructions on what to say to the guard at the Colony Gate. it was not information that I required, because long before he thought of living in the Malibu Colony, I had lived there. It had been forty five years, but the protocol at the gate hadn’t changed.. As I drove up, I felt like i was going through a vortex that I had passed through many times, but this time was different because I could see well above the dashboard.

When I got inside I went to the potential clients house. It felt like I had been there before in a previous incarnation. I may have actually been in the house. There are not too many houses in the Colony. Many have been razed and rebuilt over the years for something grander. But, there are a few leftovers from the old days. When i was living in the Colony in 1973, it was a lot more bohemian than it is now, as was Malibu. It more resembled Big Sur than it does Brentwood by The Sea. There was one store on Malibu Road. It was stand alone. They sold groceries, but I often went there by myself with other children or my sister to buy candy. The Cross Creek Mall was coastal chaparral . There was nothing but dirt road on every side of the store, and I remember walking around the dirt in Malibu in bare feet, with tumbleweeds rolling by.

It was a wild place to be a kid. Incredibly successful parents allowed their kids to roam in front of the houses on the beach. It was like Lord of the Flies. I found it kind of scary as I was a pretty well behaved five year old, but the gangs of kids of all ages gathered together, and younger kids emulated their older siblings and friends. My great passion was collecting sea glass. A red or a blue piece made the whole summer a success. But, I knew eleven year olds that were smoking pot, and thirteen year olds that were having sex. My parents decided it wasn’t the best place for me and my sister to grow up, and they were right. A lot of the kids I met while I was there didn’t make it out of their childhoods. There was a lot of mischief there, and not all of it was benign. Over the years I have returned infrequently.. But I always notice the way the Sun shimmers on the sea in the late afternoon, and the beach I had played on as a kid has been diminished by rising seas(see the picture that accompanies this article. )

It was amusing when my host asked me if I had ever been there before. I explained that I had. It had been one of the few places I had thought of as home during my life and it was a return of sorts to be invited back there out of the blue. The meeting went well and I am sure there is some work to be done there. After my meeting, I asked if my host would mind if I went for a run and a swim. They did not. I ran down to the end of the colony, took my shirt off and dove in right by the house where I had once lived. It had stood between a home that had belonged to Larry Hagman and another that belonged to Stewart Resnick. At the time Larry Hagman was in reruns as Major Nelson in “I Dream of Jeanie”(an amazing feat in my six year old eyes.) Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were frequent guests there, and to me just seemed like the other hippies I had seen around Malibu. I just googled Stewart Resnick and he is a billionaire and philanthropist. Barbara Streisand lived a couple doors down.

When I jumped into the ocean this time I decided to swim out to a buoy despite recalling that was how Jaws had begun. That thought reminded me of a party that I had been at in the Colony a year after we had moved out. it was Christmas 1975, and my parents took me to a holiday party at the house of friends. I sat down to watch the NFL playoffs and a young man, who I recall reminding me of my father, and also reminding me of someone my age, came and sat next to me. He sat with me through half of one game and the entirety of another.. We mostly talked about football, which I really liked(and still do.) We sat together the whole party and by the time it was coming to an end the other party goers were pretty annoyed at not being able to talk to my new friend, because that summer his film Jaws had become the first great blockbuster. As he was leaving, my mother asked what we’d talked about for four and a half hours. “Your son knows more about football than anybody else I’ve ever met,” he replied.

As I swam to the buoy, I felt myself getting caught up in a rip tide. Over the years, I had laughed with friends about how Cat Stevens had found himself caught in a riptide in front of Irving Azoff’s house and made a deal with god that if he let him survive, he would serve him. He kept his word and became Yusuf Islam. I had been caught in lots of riptides over the years in my California incarnation, and because the colony offers no lifeguards(they would encourage visitors to what is actually a public beach) I realized I was on my own. I thought for a moment, that I may have been being punished for laughing at Cat Stevens by the same god he promised to serve, but I found after swimming parallel to the shore for about fifty yards, I was free of the riptide without having to pledge allegiance to any religious order(though I probably have already done that) but that's another story.

After I swam, I walked along the beach. it’s a small group that lives in the Colony and they keep an eye on strangers. Partly for security reasons, and partly because the people living there have worked hard to get behind Los Angeles’s most exclusive guard kiosk. A few people smiled and waved. But few more looked at me suspiciously, concerned that I had wondered over from the “public’ beach. Having lived in the Colony I wanted to let them know I had once been a resident. I mentioned that to a friend who had also lived there in his youth and he said, “Having lived in the Colony, is like winning Wimbledon, you’re always welcome back.” That thought made me laugh. Over the years, since I have left the colony, I have identified with other places. The Haight in San Francisco, Mill Valley in Marin, Paris, Venice, Coldwater Canyon. A few places. But they have all turned out to be scenes going by in window outside the train I have been riding on. Being in the Colony in my present state of mind allowed me to recall how it had felt to have been there a long time ago. I was reminded that my father and sister have both died since my family lived there many years ago, and that my mother will soon be experiencing whatever dissolution death brings. People come and go, but the lands on which they lived remain and always will.

Robert Mitchell