Heading for home


    It’s the summer doldrums.

    PCH is down to one lane each way, and Malibu is absolutely dead. You could fire off a canon at lunchtime in some of the local restaurants, and the only thing you’d hit is a waiter.

    The mass of people that makes our typical summer just isn’t there. In case anyone had any doubts about where our traffic comes from, we now have the final, indisputable answer. It’s almost all from the outside. I don’t need a massive traffic study to prove that. Simply calculate the waiting time at Starbucks for a morning “grande nonfat wet cap” and you know for certain.

    The narrowing of PCH has also created a monumental traffic jam on the 101 and 405, so those outsiders better start treating us nicer or we just might leave their roads jammed up.

    I know there are a few of you who kind of like the idea of Fortress Malibu, alone and isolated, independent and untouched by others, connected to the outside world by only the long umbilical cord of PCH. “If only they’d stay out of our town,” the refrain goes, “we’d be in great shape.” Probably true if we’d be willing to maintain PCH as our own little road, but that could get a little pricey. This winter season, Caltrans spent roughly $25 million to keep PCH open. Add another $20 million to fix the Las Flores Mesa slide and that means they’re already into PCH for $45 million, and the year is barely half over. Throw in a fire season or a rainy winter and this could end up a $75 million to $100 million extravaganza. The price tag on our independence can get a little high. We have to be grateful that we’re part of a larger transportation network, because if we weren’t, no agency would be spending those kind of bucks to keep a town of 11,000 happy.

    Even the City Council seems to have lost its normal vituperative energy this summer. Its members have taken to bitching and sniping at each other and not much beyond that, and no one seems to be exercised very much. That could change if the campaign investigation heats up, but for now it’s hanging in limbo until the facts are collected or until a major attempt is made to try and block the collection of those facts.

    While nothing much is happening here and while the rest of the country is ignoring or trying to ignore the fracas in Washington, D.C. (about whether she did or she didn’t and who knew and who will squeal), we’re really all dealing with the only real major issue of the day.

    That issue? Are McGwire, Griffey and Sosa going to break Maris’s record of 61 home runs?

    I don’t know if it hits women the same way, but there is something about the pursuit of any record, particularly that record, that dips deep into psyche of every man. It’s the stuff of heroic legend. It’s the pursuit of excellence, the affirmation of manhood, the confluence of strength, skill and eyesight in an assault on a mythic record.

    Once again, I find myself reading the sports page, checking out the National League box scores and bringing back memories and little pieces of information long since forgotten, buried under a truckload of adult responsibilities, about hitting a little, white ball.

    We guys all know this isn’t about athletic prowess, because Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa are great athletes. They have the ability to break the record. As they get closer to the record, the battle turns internal. The battle is to stay loose and focused.

    The trick is to relax. To turn off the thought of 50,000 people sitting in the park, hanging on every pitch. To not swing at the bad pitches. To not swing too hard. To not go for the fences on every swing. To be able to sleep at night when they start to get close.

    Before, when the season was ending, they were behind the record. It was possible to break it but not very likely. Now, they’re on a pace that’s ahead of the record. If they keep up the pace, they may all break it. That’s going to end soon as one and possibly two fall behind and get eliminated from the race. That will leave the leader, probably McGwire, alone to face the world and every pitch.

    The mania is really just beginning now. By this time next month, barring injury, it will become a national obsession. The summit is in view, and it’s reachable. It’s going to be an interesting summer.