There’s no place like home

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Occasionally, it’s good to get out of town for a while.

Last year, around this time, I chose to leave the humble surroundings of the quaint Malibu Times for a foray into the hi-profile, hi-glamour, hi-income, hi-stress, hi-tech, hi-risk world of syndicated television.

National Enquirer TV was a producer’s dream. M.G.M had given us every conceivable toy. There were gleaming digital editing bays, dazzling computer-generated graphics, an arsenal of souped-up iMacs, lightening-speed Internet access and every killer application known to man (not to mention my totally rockin’ personal assistant Eddie.)

It’s been a year of 4:30 wake-up calls, 14-hour days, long commutes into the big city and non-stop ratings-driven hysteria–a year of no life and no sleep. Brushing my teeth and bathing became my biggest luxuries.

As the show wrapped I began to contemplate the future (and a serious loss of income.) So, the all-important question–should I leap right back into another show? Should I sign on for another round of studio suits with slick cell phones and language all their own? Should I look wide-eyed at the sound of vertically integrated companies, target market vehicles, aggregated channels, cable migration, media clustering and hard quality viewing options? No. I decided to shut down–at least for a little while. I needed the beach. I needed Guido’s. I needed Tony’s. I needed a bath. I needed the Times.

My first day back, I decide to dial up the voice mail I haven’t had time to check since early1999 and peruse the correspondence I haven’t had time to open since early 1999 and take note of all the people who have been looking for me since I, like, left the planet.

Weak, weighing 10 pounds lighter and looking 10 years older, I stagger into the Joni Mitchell-style canyon hideaway, which serves as the office of The Malibu Times. There I find a funky, comfy, shake shingle shrine where time stands still.

I am greeted by a fat feline, named Ginger, who is lounging on the flower-filled patio. An old fashioned typewriter bangs away as I boot up a Powerbook so prehistoric it belongs in the Smithsonian. The wind is whistling, the birds are singing and everything is just as I left it. Compared to the glitzy, whiz-bang tension-filled extravaganza from which I had emerged, it is a vision of Amish sensibility–blissfully low-tech. Green Acres meets Gilligan’s Island at Las Flores.

I stroll over to the office commissary (Duke’s) where the attentive staff is all smiles at the sight of my vaguely familiar face. Lingering over fish tacos and an ocean view, I go to work on this story. It’s old times at The Malibu Times. So, okay castaways–I’m back. Bring on the surfer dudes, the City Council and Caltrans. I’ve had eight hours sleep and I’ve reclaimed my life.

Occasionally, it’s good to get out of town for a while.