PAUL AND IDA MOVE TO MALIBU
Paul smiled through his beard. Since he was a manic-depressive, I never knew if a smile meant he was up or down. His eyes this time had that twinkly spark, not the basset look as he said, "We're thinking of moving out of the city".
"Oh yeah? Where?
"Well, we might be out past you guys, up Pacific Coast Highway."
"You mean Santa Monica? Or Pacific Palisades?" I pictured one of the high rises north of the pier or at the mouth of the canyon, where retirees from Des Moines came to walk along the cliff edge among the palms at sunset.
"Well, no; we're looking a little farther out."
"You mean Malibu?!"
Paul turned sheepish. His chest and neck flushed. His gold mustache quivered a little with an embarrassed smile. With his cultured Brooklyn tones he said, "Ida's so entranced with Mishell's place in Palos Verdes, that she wants to live somewhere like that." The chairman of our department lived in sunny splendor, faux Spanish style, in Rolling Hills Estates. From his house, you couldn't see the city, only the ocean at the south end of Santa Monica Bay, and other sybarites as they drove home in fancy German cars.
"Oh, and now that you're going to be a fellow, you've got to live like the faculty? What, you've started to play tennis with those guys?" I sniggered as I remembered the backyard tennis court beneath the red brick tiles, setting off the accent color surrounding the green rubberized court.
"Yeah, but I'm not very good. I've never been very athletic, or country club. But it's what you've got to do if you want to get the E/I fellowship here."
"You, a brown-noser?"
"Yeah, I know. But I've got to get serious some time, don't I? I'm not like you; I've got to have everything set out for me, to know what I'm going to be doing. Anyway, when we move, we'll have you guys over. You're just about our best friends in this madhouse."
I may have been the only one who accepted Paul for exactly what he was, a superb physician who was sure all patients, regulators, and indeed everyone else was out to get him. It was this very paranoia that made him such a good doctor - he was terrified of missing something in a patient's condition, of not knowing exactly what was going on. This was his depressive side. His manic phase included an impishness which made him more fun than he could imagine.
As a Senior resident, he was on call one New Year's eve. I was working in the emergency room, sending all the patients in labor up to his service on the fifth floor. Around 10 PM, I admitted a set of twins, the first one breech; she'd need a C-Section for sure. With nothing happening about 11:30, I went up to 5L to see how the twins were doing. Paul was pacing back and forth in front of the operating roon, rubbing his scrubbed, gloved hands together, grumbling about the lazy anesthesiologist who wouldn't get out of bed in time to deliver the babies now, so Paul could get some sleep and be able to watch the Rose Parade in the morning.
"Paul - delivered the twins yet?"
"We're just going in now to do her section."
I looked at the clock. The lady was on the table, anesthetic block in place, belly scrubbed, drapes in place. The time was 11:45. It usually takes about 10 minutes to deliver a baby by section.
"Paul do you realise you have a golden opportunity here? A once in a lifetime chance to deliver twins with birthdays in two different years!?"
"Oh, Al, I couldn't do that. I've got to get these kids out as soon as I can - I can't wait around just for something frivilous. Besides, what would the attending say?"
"What attending!? You're the senior resident here - you're in charge - what's an extra minute or two?" I asked incredulously as his junior resident started the skin incision. Paul turned around as the junior asked for the deep knife. His eyes flashed that twinkly, mischievious, manic smile. He even Groucho'd his eyebrows at me. I left knowing these kids would have a great joke to carry around with them for the rest of their lives, and never know who set them up for it.
This scene filtered back to me as I responded to his vague invitation. "Sure, let me know".
As we were making dinner, I said, "Hey, guess what? Paul and Ida are going to move to Malibu."
"Really? Ida doesn't seem like the type." Ann, having grown up in Redondo Beach and then Brentwood, was sure she knew the Malibu type. People from Brooklyn didn't move there unless they were Barbara Streisand. The beach was far too expensive for Paul and Ida, and they were definitely not Canyon people.
"Well, he seems serious. You know, he's got that Endocrine/Infertility fellowship for next year, and he thinks he's got appearances to keep up with Mishell and Quilligan and those guys."
"But Malibu ...? When are they moving?"
" I don't think they've found anyplace yet - they're still working on it."
"How can they afford it?"
"Well, I think they already own a house, so they're just gonna sell that one, and use the money they get for a down payment and all."
"Wow! How much will it cost?
"Maybe between a hundred and a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars."
"How can they afford that?" Ann repeated. We were both less than three years removed from student poverty, and she still couldn't fathom concepts like equity and thirty year mortgages.
"He's gonna be a rich doctor. He owns a house. He'll be an assistant professor soon at USC. The bank'll give him a loan for two to three times his annual salary."
"Wow!" Her eyes got big.
"Paul and Ida want us to come up and see their new place this weekend."
"Where is it?" Ann asked.
"Somewhere in Malibu, out Pacific Coast Highway. He said call Ida for directions - I've got the number, you can call her up."
"Maybe we can go there this Saturday after we visit my parents."
"Yeah, that sounds good."
"Where is this place?!" I asked as we drove past the Malibu pier. To our left, the Malibu Colony, stinking with movie stars; to the right, Pepperdine's new campus rising from the golden hills.
"It seems like it must be all the way to Zuma," Ann said.
"No, it can't be - that must be, what, a 45 minute drive to work, maybe an hour home in traffic. How can they do that? Why would they want to do that?"
"Well, if you want to live in the country in LA ..."
"But they're from Brooklyn ; They don't like the country. They'd feel ... suffocated by all the space!"
"Wow, this really is the country out here," Ann said as we rolled past Point Dume. The surfer cars and valley boys who drove them over the hills clogged the parking lot at Zuma Beach. This time of day, the sun bouncing off the waves and slanting into our eyes turned the ocean an electric amalgam of copper and crimson. The sand seemed filled with prismatic crystals. The surfer boys ignored it all, and just cranked up Led Zeppelin on the radio.
"Are you sure we haven't gone to far?" I asked.
"No, she said to watch out for the road just after the dairy farm ... look, there it is - this must be it!"
We turned right, onto a gravel road, expecting a little house in the country. What we found was ... a condominium development. Scores of town homes jammed next to each other, in the middle of nowhere. Great views of the ocean, and trees on the rolling hills, and alleys connecting the condo complexes.
"She said it was #23, just pull up behind their car."
"Hey, AL!" Paul hollered from two stories up, standing in his shorts and tennis shirt on a balcony. "Just pull in next to our car down there - we've got two spaces. I'll be down to meet you!"
[Ed. note: work in progress here - imagine we've gone inside and taken a tour of the house; we're suitably impressed, but a little curious about one thing.]
"But Paul, it's so far out here - you have to drive so far each way, it must be two hours on the freeway, isn't it?"
"Nah, it's really like only 45 minutes. The traffic really moves on Pacific Coast Highway, and we miss the rush hour in the morning." He didn't mention the drive home.
"But if you're going to live all this way out, and spend all this money, why didn't you get some space, some land?"
"Al, we're from The City, from Brooklyn. We like having a lot of people around us. We feel uncomfortable out in the woods. That's why I like it here; I can lean out on my balcony, and see all the life of my neighbors. Guys washing cars, fighting with their wives, coming in at all hours. People hollering at each other across the alleys. This is my fire escape, my front stoop. It's just like home!"
bikrutz home next Venice Story