Early in the morning, high on a panoramic bluff in Malibu, I’m doing what I almost always do at this time of the day, alternately typing and thinking and looking out the nearest window. The marine layer is still in evidence; the gradually lightening gray-blue clouds meet the gradually lightening blue-gray ocean almost imperceptibly at the distant horizon. My window in the aft-cabin dinette is cracked open a few inches. I have my hoodie on my head. I can hear the waves break, the rush of the work-bound traffic below on the Pacific Coast Highway. A mockingbird sings in the lone gnarly sycamore tree that lives beside the campsite.
I’ve always wanted to come to this place. It’s called the Malibu Beach RV Park. It’s roughly 150 miles from where I live in San Diego. I’ve driven past it a zillion times en route from one work assignment or another—most of them celebrity interviews or photo shoots set in this shimmering enclave of wealth and fame, a kinetic postcard for the Southern California lifestyle, which has come to stand over the years for a truly American lifestyle, a land of Beach Boys, bikinis and multimillion dollar seaside homes, the dream sequence where prosperity frolics barefoot. Every time I’ve seen the modest retro sign on the bluff, I’ve thought the same thing: