Over the July 4 holiday, I pulled off a major coup. With an assist from my lovely wife, Andrea, we were able to finagle access to my parents Malibu home while they were off in Arizona visiting my older brother.
My parents were out of town, leaving me keys to the car, the house and the beach club. Sixteen years ago, this was called having a rager. Now, it’s called house sitting. Go figure.
So, we called a few friends, packed up a few steaks and a bottle of Kettle One, and went down to La Costa, the place I grew up. From the time I was young enough to run around naked without getting arrested, I’ve been coming to La Costa. I still love spending hours bodysurfing in my favorite wave in the world, even when the waves are small and mostly blown out, like they were over the July 4 weekend.
On the Fourth, there were eight of us, all with our kids, enjoying the perfect July weather. We sat in the sand drinking our cocktails from plastic cups. I watched my own daughter, Lana, run around in the water, the same way I did 30 years ago. I was back in another world, entirely and blissfully forgetting the world of Sacramento.
But you never know when your world is going to intersect with the world of Malibu. As we sat sipping out vodka and lemonade, we noticed a small crowd gathering before the lifeguards. There were two women with a man, dressed in a green fleece, talking to the two guards, and people were starting to gather around them.
“Is that the governor?” someone asked.
It couldn’t be. The governor was locked in heated negotiations with legislative leaders, as our state budget tumbles out of control. Vendors are being paid with IOUs, our credit rating is being down graded by Wall Street bond houses. It’s not possible that the governor could be here on the beach.
But then, this is Malibu. Anything’s possible.
In the world of Sacramento, this was a major development. The governor was renting a beach house on La Costa for the 4th while people on disability benefits and welfare are having their livelihoods threatened. Poor children are on the verge of losing their health care while the governor combs the private beaches of La Costa.
But this is part of what Malibu is. In a paparazzi, cable-news world, Malibu is still a place where anyone can go and expect that some semblance of a zone of privacy still remains. I went over to say my hellos, and was greeted with a familiar and friendly “What’s up?” from Arnold. The familiarity from the governor was not a sign of recognition. If anything, it was probably due to the fact that he didn’t recognize me and that this was how he has learned to greet his fans who approach him whenever he’s in public.
As Arnold and Maria walked on, I had a conversation with myself about what I had just seen. Is this Arnold sighting a news story? It depends if you’re asking the Sacramento journalist, or the kid from Malibu.
In Sacramento, seeing the governor on the beach is fodder for an easy, and not unwarranted attack, on the governor’s politics and how they conflict with his life style. It is a Marie Antoinette moment, showing a man seemingly out of touch with the world around him.
But in Malibu, it’s a guy and his wife enjoying a brief holiday, doing what we’re all doing, having an experience that’s completely ordinary for anyone else in Malibu.