Green Thumbs In Malibu

Johnny Appleseed revisited. Windfall = Wanderlust. Travels to England and Holland. The land of mongoose and mango calls. 1979-80

For eight years I lived in a wonderful little cottage on Birdview Drive in Point Dume, Malibu. The place was a converted horse stables just above Westward Beach, a stone’s throw from Bob Dylan’s spread, and just a few hundred yards from the pacific. The rent was two hundred and ten bucks a month, replete with cold running water, an outside shower, and a porta-potty toilet. It was heaven for Carole Cook and I, newlywed.

A ten-foot long border of papyrus snaked between the parking area and the tiny house, with giant eucalyptus trees towering above. The lone mock orange tree just outside the closet-like teeny kitchen gave forth a sweet incense when in bloom. Three varieties of ice plant subbed as a lawn – laden with moisture and good for fire protection it was said.

The syncopated booms, hisses, and cracks of the waves as they hurled themselves on the shore – with either fury or just plain weariness – were like a kind of background music. If you stood on the low pitched roof you could see the long horseshoe stretch of Zuma Beach to the northwest.

Some nights the foghorn and the mournful sea lions seemed to be in conversation. From our bed, you could watch the stars through a skylight, and from the small meditation/music room you could see the lights from the Trancas Canyon residence of our teacher, about three miles away.

Carole and I had an organic garden with eight or nine raised beds; with corn, tomatoes, asparagus, strawberries, lettuce, potatoes, onions, squash; you name it. This was my first serious garden and I enjoyed the whole process immensely. Maybe I spent time in another life as a farmer, I don’t know, but I took to it easily. Carole shared my enthusiasm wholeheartedly. I loved the garden so much that I wrote a song called ‘Homegrown’ about it. §

On a spring afternoon a few months after Carole and I had separated, I smoked some herb, looked over at the garden, and decided to throw some pot seeds I’d been saving, helter-skelter into the raised beds. It was just an off-the-cuff thing. I didn’t give it too much thought. But I was curious to know what Johnny Appleseed must have felt like dispersing all those future apple trees.

A few days later they started sprouting, so I thinned them. Weeks went by and some of the seedlings died, but most of them kept right on a growing. After watching these babies grow I became attached to the spindly things, and wanted to see at least some of them reach fruition. To this end I transplanted a dozen amongst the corn, figuring it would be a good place for camouflage. Feeling like Jack with his beanstalk I marveled at how the weed soon out-grew the corn and everything else in the garden.

My landlord, Rudy Bretz – a wise, kindly man in his late seventies – discovered the young plants and asked me to move them off the property. He had also found another patch belonging to another one of his tenants, but since it was growing on the side of the steep hill and off the property he let them be. Rudy was cool as always. I gathered it took a lot to ruffle his feathers. He’d been on that flight hijacked by the Croatians in the mid seventies, and emerged unscathed and with empathy for his captors no less.

In a way Rudy was like a surrogate father to Carole and I, and was a good example of what a righteous person can be. He had a smile for everyone, and never talked bad about anyone. He looked you in the eye when he talked to you, and always looked for the positive. His wife Emily came from the same mold. I’d have done anything he asked. Move the plants? No problem.

David K. said I could bring the plants to his place if I agreed to also take care of his two fat Indica plants. He was a good buddy, and lived only a mile or so away in the foothills. More importantly, he was someone I could trust.

I transplanted the hardiest plants – eight in all, about four feet high – into five-gallon buckets, and smuggled them to his ranch late one night, praying the notoriously curious Malibu police didn’t stop me on the Coast Highway.

Months passed doing my usual thing: teaching guitar, songwriting, recording demos, and the occasional gig with the Santa Monica Bay Band. Around harvest time one evening David called me,

“Allan you better get over here right now, someone’s been taking buds from my plants.” What should I do…?”

I couldn’t miss the edge in his voice. Bee-lining it to his place, I harvested his weed and moved my plants back to my place. Still in their five-gallon buckets, I hid them on the far side of the cottage hoping Rudy wouldn’t discover them. Here I am, 31 years old and still being sneaky; but it wouldn’t be for long.

When the next full moon came I harvested my beautiful buds, a sativa strain. Cured and trimmed they wound up weighing about six ounces. After sampling a perfect little THC laden nugget I was highly pleased with the buzz and fragrance. Hard to believe I had a part in creating my own medicinal remedy.

A friend who I’d told of my good fortune bought four ounces leaving me with the two remaining. Suddenly I was rich, and had a stash. Well, I wasn’t that rich, but richer that I had been, and it was nice not to have to buy weed for a change.

With the windfall I bought a round-trip ticket to England, where I visited my lady friend Stephanie, a blonde ex-model with smoky-gray eyes and a wide kissable mouth. We spent the Christmas holidays out in the country on an old farmhouse where I chopped wood for my keep. It was cold and rainy the whole time, but we managed to keep each other warm. Before I left for England I had mailed a bud of my homegrown to Stephanie’s address, so though the English winter weather was dreary, things had a nice glow all the same.

After a few weeks in England my wanderlust returned. By ferry and train I traveled to Amsterdam to keep a rendezvous with Francine, a Dutch girl I knew from the states. The brooding and dramatic brunette and I had a simmering attraction each time we had met. Never having had the chance to take it to the next level – each having other lovers at the time – I was all too eager to finally meet up with her for what I hoped to be a European love session supreme.

She did leave out one small detail in her invitation – her current borderline-psychotic easy-to-anger boyfriend who she shared the flat with. He wasn’t too ecstatic about my visit.

The old flat had the funkiest plumbing I ever saw, and was a block or two from the huge street market where they sold every living thing under the sun. I sampled the Indonesian food and as always the pom fritz. Walking the city for miles, following the canals, I checked out the centuries old buildings and windmills, loving the sense of history oozing from this part of the world.

After a few stolen moments together with Francine and I furtively making out while the boyfriend was at work, we agreed it wasn’t the best time to pursue our romantic fervor. I didn’t want to see the dark side of her lover, or see her get beat up, and so for once let caution rule over spontaneous combustion.

One cold dark afternoon we took a bus to the Rijksmuseum so I could see the Van Goghs. It was her idea to avoid paying the bus fare and we almost got caught. The paintings were vivid and looked as though they were painted yesterday. What an intense style of painting, with so many small strokes.

I stayed in England and Holland six weeks in all, stretching out my meager funds till I was near the bottom of the barrel. Upon arriving back home in Malibu I still had enough money to buy a one-way ticket to Honolulu and visit my longtime friend and music cohort Bryan Kessler, who had just moved there. He’d gone to Hawaii on his honeymoon only a year previous and had been ecstatic about the place.

After coming back to L.A. he showed me the shells he’d found, and the photos of Kalalau Beach on Kauai. That was all the inspiration I needed. But there was more. He’d smuggled back magic mushrooms in a honey jar. For days we drank tea infused with the magic honey, while playing and recording our newest songs, visions of Hawaii dancing in my head.

Bryan had primed me for Hawaii with his descriptions of her tranquility and beauty. So had my sister Annette and brother-in-law Alan Bronstein, also Kauai honeymooners. Plus, I had an affinity for islands in general, and an attraction to these islands in particular ever since I could remember. Now I was finally ready to go.

It was February of 1980, my cottage was sublet, and I had my ticket to Hawaii and $60 left in my pocket. My little on-a-lark growing venture had created the wherewithal for me to travel, thus fulfilling that long-time dream. I was free, single, and open to whatever serendipitous experiences lay in store. So began my first adventure in the Hawaiian Islands.

§ Malcom Cecil (Stevie Wonder’s engineer/co-producer), produced and recorded Carole and I singing the song ‘Homegrown’ at his Santa Monica studio T.O.N.T.O.