Over the Memorial Day weekend, I needed to take a break from our collective grief
and did something I almost never do as a Southern Californian: go to the beach.
I hopped on the 101, headed west, and drove through the rolling hills of Calabasas and Agoura until I got to the cerulean blue waves of Malibu.
At its best, Malibu is one of the most beautiful places in Los Angeles County. Alabaster cliffs and sea reeds line the two-lane Pacific Coast Highway, and the verdant hills near Pepperdine feature some of the most exclusive real estate in California, if not the world.
At its worst, Malibu is overbuilt and overproduced. Built on top of each other, beachfront houses sometimes bear a closer resemblance to glamorous shanties than multimillion dollar properties. There doesn't seem to be any privacy; sometimes, the houses feel like they're begging to be whisked away by rising sea tides.
After mitigating Memorial weekend traffic, I found a plebeian beach and, more importantly, free parking. I took a sumptuous towel my mom gave me, sprayed on some suncreen, crossed the PCH, and found a lovely spot where I sat and meditated for 20-30 minutes.
Everything about those moment were delicious.
The warm sand, the sea air easing my modern anxiety, the snarly radio from a local camper, the site of a dad showing his 6-year-old son how to handle an overconfident kite, and the smile of a nearby, knowing stranger.
Yes, the best things in life are free.
And why is that?
Well, they're given to us by whatever force that created us. Whatever humanity needed in its most primal, pre-civilized state to be happy was already there. Think about it: intense stares over candlelight, belly laughter with long-lost friends, crisp, mountain air first thing in the morning, mangoes and sugar, and that "good tired" feeling after a thrilling and exhausted day living in your purpose. These things have been with us for centuries.
We've just crapped it up in recent years via the Marketing Industrial Complex. It's all over our culture; if we just buy this or go spend that, we'll somehow Have It All. Treasuring the free things in life feels as though it's been relegated to something hokey, like a laminated wood sign you'd buy at Target and then never put up out of sheer stylistic embarrassment. Besides, why bother to count your blessings when you can always buy more?
As I drove home past Billionaires Row, I felt content and happy. I don't disparage people who live in luxurious estates or have a Rolls convertible as a weekend car; I really don't.
Good on them for adding more value, and I can only hope they did it in an ethical way.
But as I noticed the bored blond sitting in the passenger seat of the orange Lamborghini at a stoplight, I couldn't help but wonder, what's with the face? Was she happy? Or, was she and the greasy guy next to her planning their next purchase in an effort to feel something - anything - different from modern malaise?
The light changed. The best things in life have always been and will always be there (even in Malibu). You just have to be engaged with life enough to recognize and appreciate them.