We learned that the two little remote cabins on Trancas Creek in Malibu, where Janice and I lived from 1989 to 1997, were lost in the Woolsey Fire.
Our neighbor whose home also burned—the old Rindge family ranch house--sent us this photo
A “before” shot, from 2009:
The light gray spot in the center is the tin roof of one of the cabins.
Here is a gallery of photos from 2009, when we hiked down to the abandoned cabins.
In 1989, while living in Hollywood, Janice and I were fed up with hearing gunfire and police helicopters almost every night. We saw an ad for a rental in Malibu—“Stream! Trees! Boulders!"—that was so brief because the landlady was so cheap. I decided to take a look. I picked up the landlady at her home in Santa Monica, and we drove up to the locked gate at the end of Trancas Canyon. There was no automatic opener. I had to get out and unlock the padlocked chain. My first ride down that long, bumpy, narrow dirt road at the edge of a cliff was a bit scary. When we arrived at the flat area by the creek, there were two 300-square-foot cabins about 25 feet apart, under a canopy of spreading oaks. (Now I am hoping those old trees are not fully dead, and can regenerate new foliage.) The cabins had been uninhabited for almost a year, and they were in pretty bad shape—you could see daylight through the walls. In one, the old asphalt floor tile was shattered, and there was the strong aroma of rat urine. I thought, “I can’t bring my future bride to live in a place like this.” But when I went home and told Janice about it, she was intrigued, so we went back, with my contractor brother-in-law Mike, and decided we could make it work, even though the landlady wasn’t willing to pay for any improvements.
The cabins were in a forty-acre plot owned by our landlady. Our closest neighbor was almost a mile up the dirt road..
The water well wasn’t working, but Mike trailered down a 150-hp air compressor, we ran the hose a hundred feet down the well pipe, and blew it out. All sorts of stuff came up in the geyser that erupted—wine bottles, dead rats, etc. The previous tenant had left on bad terms, and sabotaged the well. After that, the well worked great and was very productive.
I installed a solar panel array, charging a dozen marine batteries that powered our lights (12-volt automobile backup bulbs) and a DC-to-AC converter for our computer and TV (although we had no reception or cable or dish; we just watched rented VHS tapes).
There was no cell phone reception. I had to string telephone wire for a mile up the dirt road to the nearest telephone pole, where GTE provided us a terminal. I strung the wire atop the chaparral (avoiding the Poison Oak) along the road, but rats and deer would nibble on the insulation, so at the first drop of rain, the wires would short out. I had to go along the line and find the short. I used a little Princess phone with alligator clips on it. I had several checkpoints along the line, to help me tell if the the short was above or below. While I worked, I often sang the Glen Campbell song, “The Malibu (Wichita) Lineman.”
I also bought a propane-powered generator, that we used to pump well water into a holding tank, and to run the microwave oven. We didn’t bother with a clothes washer, because the iron content in the well water would have turned everything brown, so we made trips to a laundromat in Oxnard. I hauled in 5-gallon jugs of purified water for drinking and cooking; Arrowhead and Sparkletts refused to drive down the dirt road.
Our refrigerator was a Swedish-made Sibir that operated on propane and worked through an absorption process. I refilled 5-gal propane tanks that we used for the fridge, generator, bathroom heater, and a little wall-mounted, on-demand Paloma water heater. We could take hot showers as long as we wanted. We didn’t turn brown.
From our 2009 pilgrimage/picnic: The creek runs right behind the trampoline, that was left there by the two young guys who moved in to the cabins right after we left, only six weeks before the road washed out badly in the "March Miracle” rains of 1997, making it impossible to haul out anything that could not be carried by hand or on one’s back. The cabin on the left was our bathroom and bedroom, the other our kitchen, living room and office.
This photo was also taken in 2009, after the cabins had been deserted for twelve years. Neighbor Bill had made occasional hikes down to tidy up. Our refrigerator was where the chair sits. To the right of that was our gas range, to the left was our pantry. At far left was our dining table. That fireplace was our only source of heat in that cabin. I laid the Saltillo pavers.
Our wedding ceremony was held there under the oaks, in 1990, with 100 guests. Legendary Malibu Judge John Merrick officiated. He had married Sean Penn and Madonna four years earlier, and he told me that he liked our wedding better. We had a barbecue and served a few crawfish I had caught in the creek. A Cajun band, Lisa Haley and the Zydecats, performed. The accordion player, Joe Simien, showed us how to cook the crawfish.
According to Freeman Kincaid Jr., son of the original homesteader, the cabins were built in the early 1920s by Angus Campbell, a Scottish Canadian who was a highly decorated veteran of WWI. Campbell was so disgusted with the human race that he wanted to live far away from other people. The cabins still had their original tin roofs—the manufacturing stamp was visible. Later, the cabins were used for hunting expeditions organized by the owner of the Malibu Trading Post, which was located at the corner of PCH and Trancas Canyon Road, where now stands a Starbucks and other establishments. Hollywood celebrities used to go deer hunting in Malibu often. Freeman's sister Evelyn Kincaid, who lived up the road from us, and whose father in the 1880s homesteaded the 150 acres that included the cabins, told me that Clark Gable and Frank Capra had stayed in those cabins on guided hunting trips.
We felt as if we were living in our own national park. Every night we fell asleep to the sound of the rushing water (except in the height of summer, when the creek was a still pond), and the rhythmic, gentle cacophony of a hundred croaking bullfrogs. And sometimes the yipping of coyotes in the distance.
There were a few mountain lions around—after a rain we would see their huge tracks on the dirt road— but we always had at least five or six big dogs (a "six-pack of curs") loose on the property, so the cougars didn't come near the cabins. I did buy a .38-caliber pistol, and I used an air rifle to (illegally) kill rattlesnakes, which were plentiful. Our dogs were bitten a few times, never fatally, however, because we always rushed them to the vet for antivenom. It’s a wonder we didn’t all get Lyme Disease, from all the ticks.
Evelyn Kincaid used to regale us with stories of the old Malibu and her family’s interactions with the Rindges and the Deckers. The Kincaids had a sort of rivalry/feud with those other pioneer families. However, when the Kincaid home burned down in 1934, the Rindges were kind enough to let the Kincaid family stay in a line shack of theirs, near Trancas Cyn. Rd and PCH, where the Malibu Garden Center operated until recently. Now there are many shops in the location, behind Vintage Grocers.
David K. Randall’s The King and Queen of Malibu is an interesting and colorful chronicle of the pioneer era.
We found on the property about a dozen 15-gallon nursery pots with soil in them. Neighbor Freeman told me, “They weren’t growing Petunias in those!”
Apparently the property had a rep with local law enforcement. One time I watched a police helicopter hover about six feet over my tomato plants, the pilot checking them out. Almost blew them over with the rotor wash.
We learned that some fraternity boys had been previous renters there, and threw some epic parties, at least one of which brought out the cops, who almost drove off a cliff trying to get to the cabins. One bizarre, tragic story was that at one party, someone had a flak jacket, and a drunk kid put it on and had someone shoot him with a pistol. The jacket wasn’t bulletproof, and the wound proved fatal.
Janice and I also hosted a couple of big parties—“Moondances” coinciding with a full moon—where about 30 or 40 friends danced into the wee hours and camped out on the grounds.
I found all sorts of Chumash Indian artifacts and tools. An archaeologist who was exploring Trancas Creek told us that the place had indeed been a Chumash site. I didn’t show him the relics I had found, and which I still have.
During the eight years we lived in Malibu, we saw just about every celebrity there is. I had a casual chatting relationship with Martin Sheen when we would run into each other in the Pavilions parking lot. We mostly discussed politics. Janice often flirted with Emilio Estevez in Trancas Market. Bruce Springsteen almost ran over me—the bumper of his Ford Explorer scraped my leg—while awkwardly pulling a uey in the Trancas Market parking lot. I saw Robert Downey Jr. fall on his drunken ass getting a twelve-pack out of the cooler at Ralphs. You name him or her, and we had an encounter. Johnny Carson, Nick Nolte, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Sam Elliott, Peter Falk, Neil Simon, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, and on and on. But in Malibu, you don’t make a big deal out of star-watching. It’s not cool.
In January of 1997, when Janice was expecting with Casey, we moved out of the cabins, to Ventura. The cabins would have been no place for a newborn, with the road washing out regularly, and the abundance of scorpions, snakes, and mountain lions, and a rapidly-flowing creek to fall into. Less than two months after we moved out, a huge rainstorm totally washed out the dirt road. The landlady couldn’t afford, or wouldn't pay, to have it bulldozed, and Edison no longer maintained that road as it used to—they accessed their power line towers via another fire road. So the cabins sat uninhabited. Bill, whose trailer was just up the road, said that a couple of times, homeless people squatted there, but they didn’t last long. It's too far and treacherous a hike up and down the creekbed.
Janice and I don’t regret moving to Trancas Canyon; those eight years were so colorful and rich. It was sort of a magical place, a bit of paradise in a way. More than twenty years later, we both still have strange dreams about the cabins and environs.
The same landlady’s heirs still own the forty-acre plot. She and they had tried to sell it, but I think the reason no one would buy is that it is commonly assumed that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which owns all the surrounding land, will eventually claim it through eminent domain, probably with inadequate compensation.
It would take a book to chronicle all the adventures and strange and memorable happenings we experienced during the almost eight years we lived at the cabins. Maybe I’ll have to work on that.
Although it will be a sad pilgrimage, we will hike down to the cabins again, to survey the ruins. We need to go soon, before rains trigger mudslides on the now-bare slopes that will surely bury the entire site.
Here’s to a true Paradise Lost.
Copyright 2018 Ken Bash
Update: Here is a gallery of photos from my hike down to the cabins after the fire. https://kbash.smugmug.com/Family/Trancas-Canyon-cabins
attribution: Matt Bors
President Trump recently threatened to pull all federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from California.
His comments came after he decried the state of law enforcement there at a roundtable with state and local officials to address ideas to stop gun violence in the wake of the Parkland school massacre.
"We're getting no help from the state of California. Frankly, if I pulled our people from California, you would have a crime nest like you've never seen in California. All I'd have to do is say 'ICE, Border Patrol, leave California alone,'" he said. "And you know what, I'm thinking about doing it."
"You would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime in this country. And yet we get no help from the state of California. They are doing a lousy management job," he went on to say. "They have the highest taxes in the nation. And they don't know what's happening out there. Frankly it's a disgrace.”
Well, it can’t be denied that Trump has a lot of experience with the issue of crime, but allowing more immigrants into California might actually reduce criminal activities, considering that immigrants commit less crime than US-born citizens.
"Immigrants commit crimes and are incarcerated at a much lower rate than U.S. citizens, according to two separate studies released in March of last year. A study by The Sentencing Project, a criminal justice research and advocacy group, found that "foreign-born residents of the United States commit crime less often than native-born citizens."
Another study, by the libertarian Cato Institute, compares incarceration rates by migratory status, ethnicity and gender.
"All immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives relative to their shares of the population," the Cato study reads."
The Sentencing Project study even goes so far as to suggest that increased immigration "may have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates" since 1990.
So, yes, please, Barky McBosley, get ICE out of here now. Thanks!
But besides committing fewer crimes--certainly far fewer than The Bilious Biped itself--there are plenty of other things that immigrants do that Dolt 45 does not, such as:
Oh yeah, save lives. Like 15-year-old student Anthony Borges, credited with saving the lives of at least 20 of his fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School classmates. His friend said the two hid as soon as they heard shots, but that Borges “took the initiative to just save his other classmates.” Anthony was shot five times in the process, through both legs and his back. Borges and his family are all immigrants originally from Venezuela.
Those 20 classmates and their families and loved ones, and we, are very thankful that ICE had not rounded up Anthony and his family.
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Washington, DC -- President Donald Trump said that he looks forward to meeting the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots when the team visits the White House in April.
"I'm especially excited about the opportunity to meet with the amazing Frederick Douglass," Trump said.
"Freddie has been doing a fantastic job with the Patriots, and he's getting recognized more and more. It's such a joy to watch him with the football, such a joy. And boy can he run. Just incredible."
In an apparent effort to boost attendance, Trump said that the first 25 Patriots to come to the event will receive a football jersey bearing the name "TRUMP" and the number 45. Trump will personally autograph each of the jerseys, he said.
In years past, the Super Bowl-winning team has presented the current chief executive with a jersey bearing his name and number in the succession of U.S. presidents.
At press time, at least six Patriots had said they intend to boycott the White House visit.
"This is a top quality, limited-edition jersey, and it's available on a first-come, first-serve basis only," Trump said.
Trump's daughter Ivanka plans to market official replicas of the jersey as part of her clothing line, he said.
"And if you go to WhiteHouse.gov, right now, we are also offering official NFL footballs, autographed by me, at a fantastic price. Also travel mugs."
Trump urged all football fans to visit the web site. "These items will be going like hotcakes, believe me."
When asked if proceeds of the sales would benefit a specific charity organization, Trump said, "We're definitely looking into that, absolutely. So far we haven't found one that's truly legitimate, however."
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