Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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p. x

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ex urbanis

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pp. 1-12

I walked up the gravel path not because I wanted to but because it looked like the fastest way to get away from the houses and onto open land. Nothing smells here, which surprises me. In the cold predawn air, the November wind burns harsh against my skin—a relief, actually, after the buttoned-up heat of the hotel room these past four days. ...

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The Journey Out

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pp. 13-31

When you drove out to Malibu in those days, the journey unraveled in stages. The road gradually changed, the houses changed, the color and smell and temperature of the air changed. Only the ocean remained the same, sprawling its way from Hawaii on your left, squeezing the road hard against the hills that dropped abruptly to the coast. ...

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Blowin’ Smoke

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pp. 32-50

From my bedroom window I see a pencil-thin glow on the ridge two miles north of where I’m standing, a flat line like the sun makes when it sets over a calm ocean.Above the red line a thick band of yellow bleeds into the dark sky, outlining the contour of the ridge as if someone has aimed a spotlight on the mountains from behind. Six o’clock on a fall ...

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Cowboys and Indians: A Drama in Three Acts

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pp. 51-70

I am in a bubble, suspended above normal space and time, lost in the still frame of a moment that could last forever.The harsh October sun burns like sandpaper against my skin as the hot desert air pushes the last filaments of moisture westward, even here on this island twenty miles off the coast.The shadowed deep green of late-season oaks marks a horizon ...

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Wasting Time

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pp. 71-91

Six o’clock on a cold weekday evening in the middle of December and I am standing alone outside the Malibu branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library.The library is a concrete box, the first in a line of three concrete boxes connected by a flat concrete roof and a raised concrete walkway. The county courthouse is located in the second box, ...

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Wisdom in Solstice Canyon

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pp. 92-108

The message on my answering machine was short and to the point. “Doris Hoover needs help pulling weeds in Solstice Canyon.” I didn’t know Doris Hoover, and I wasn’t sure where Solstice Canyon was, but I returned the call.The voice on the other end of the line set a time for us to meet, provided detailed directions, and suggested I bring lunch, ...

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On the Fence

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pp. 109-132

know how to build a fence. I know how to run a string line, dig a post hole, and mix cement, how to set the post in the ground. I know the cold, acid smell of a cast-iron T-post pounder. I know salt running down my back and blisters on the palms of my hands and muscles in my shoulders aching from banging the heavy metal cylinder up and down, up and ...

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The Days the Rains Came

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pp. 133-155

In the dry land of southern California, floods have killed more people and caused more property damage than droughts, which we fear more. We call them twenty-year floods or fifty-year floods or two-hundred-year floods, as if we’re surprised when they occur. But anyone who takes the time to check will find that along southern California’s coast, ...

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Long Way Home

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pp. 156-172

In the photograph I see Lee Washington sitting in the middle of the gold sofa that runs along the far wall of the basket room in her house in Zuma Canyon. I remember that I moved a few steps backward into the living room to take the picture, so the doorway between the two rooms frames Lee sitting on the couch alone. ...

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More News from the Front

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pp. 173-182

Big news: Jeff Jennings has reclaimed his seat on the Malibu City Council, and incumbents Walt Keller and Carolyn Van Horn have lost their bid for reelection (this is the first time Van Horn has not served the citizens of Malibu as a council member since the community incorporated). I learn from friends that former planning commissioner and unsuccessful ...

DATA

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pp. 183-184

SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. 185-186