The Woolsey Fire and a cold, wet winter are beginning to take their toll on some western Malibu businesses. All of Malibu has suffered, but restaurants and real estate on the west end of town have been hit the hardest and a number have had to dip into savings to keep going. Coral Beach Cantina and Zooma Sushi, which have been at the same location for 37 years, are closing their doors. Rumor has it that another local restaurant is taking over the space and turning it into one large Mexican restaurant. Real estate sales also dipped for the five months following the fire, but the latest news seems to be that things began picking up again. Everything may be returning to normal—or at least headed in that direction. Still, not only is there a lot less traffic on PCH (we still have our peak hours, which are never good), but also I have noticed certain indices of the change. The motorcycle sheriff’s deputies with the radar guns who loved to hang around outside of the entrance to the Ralphs shopping center have not been around as much lately. Apparently, the wonderful target rich environment they enjoyed for several years, particularly on Sunday mornings, has thinned out to the extent that I suspect it just isn’t the fun it used to be. There were a couple of motorcycle officers who were practically an ATM machine for the County of Los Angeles. I don’t know if they wrote the most tickets in the county, but I’ve got to imagine they were up there with the leaders. I know that traffic enforcement is held out as a safety measure, but I’ve often wondered how much of it is safety and how much is just plain revenue generation.

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This gets to one of my pet peeves: street parking or, more accurately, the lack thereof. If the fire and wet winter hit most of the Malibu restaurants, it certainly hasn’t appeared to make a dent in Nobu’s business. The sushi palace has been going gangbusters to the extent that there is still little street parking left after their employees come to work. I’ve learned to time my leaving the newspaper office to arrive at our condo on Carbon Beach just as Nobu has its employee shift change. The secret is to come home just as the prep staff is leaving the restaurant, but before the night wait staff arrives. During the nice weather in the summertime, I will admit that nothing works. Parking along PCH is no simple matter because the local citizenry have developed all sort of devious stratagems to keep you away from the front of their homes, which many claim as some legal right, which, of course, it is not. First, there is the illegal red zone that their contractor paints on the curb to scare you off, so they have parking for their guests. Then, there is the two-car garage ploy with a very wide four-car driveway and nasty warning signs not to park in their driveway. Then, there is the fake garage facade made to look like a garage door that’s really not. Then, there is just putting out official looking yellow traffic cones in front of their house. As you can see, parking on PCH is a bit of a competitive sport, but I guess that’s the price you pay to live in paradise.

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However, as much as things seem to be somewhat dysfunctional on the local level, it is reassuring to see the federal government droning along at its usual efficient pace. Our president has returned from the east, having practically been named the honorary shogun of Japan. The Japanese have apparently learned well that there is no fawning to Donald Trump that could be considered excessive, at least in his mind. If you want to get along with the United States, it’s bread and circuses, honors and parades, smiling and fawning. Since this guy can’t tell the difference between real and make believe, why hesitate? Pull out all the stops. 

Our leader has also enlisted Kim Jong Un onto his campaign team. I’m looking forward to 2020 campaign ads with the smiling face of Kim Jon Un on American television, telling us about his friend, the self-confessed “very stable genius” and his possible opponent, the “very low IQ” you know who. It appears that our leader and the North Korean leader have bonded over their very bad haircuts. If anyone had proposed these events as a screenplay, my guess is that it would never have made it past the outside office. I must say that man has an endless capacity to flabbergast me. And worse, our citizenry seems to think that it’s OK, that this is the way the world should run. It makes me wonder if democracy is truly doomed.

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That’s probably enough depressing news for this week, so I leave you with the thought that, according to a historian friend, there have truly been past American presidents that were dumber and less able than Trump, and prior Congresses that were more dysfunctional and venal than the current crowd. Despite all that, our republic survived. Let’s just hope history repeats itself.

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