Bil Browning

31 Days: Malibu on a Paper Napkin

Filed By Bil Browning | August 19, 2011 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: California, hand drawn map, Los Angeles, napkin map, Patricia Nell Warren, road trip

This photo's story is after the jump.

Malibu-coast.jpg

I'm doing a series of posts for 31 days that will feature a photo from my personal collections and the backstory behind the picture. I'm trying to stick with shots that have not appeared on the site before. I'm using the stories as a writing exercise to help me prepare for writing a book. You can find the rest of the series posts here:

When I won the Los Angeles Stonewall Democratic Club's Bob Craig Media Award in 2010, it was the first time either Jerame or I had been to southern California. It was an extraordinary trip filled with Bilerico-related fun about as far removed from our normal lives as possible.

We met friends from Twitter to see the LaBrea Tar Pits and a trip to Universal Studios. We stayed at contributor Jeff Sheng's home for a night and then to a hotel on the Sunset Strip. We went to a party at Hollywood producer Ben Cohen's house where we hung out most of the evening with Cleve Jones and Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger. We did the Hollywood Walk of Fame and spent the requisite amount of time in West Hollywood.

We met contributors Jessica Hoffmann, Prince Gomolvilas, Karen Ocamb, and Patricia Nell Warren on that trip. All four have been blogging for Bilerico for years but we'd never met in person. All four left distinct impressions - quiet coffee with Jessica, Thai Elvis with Prince, Karen's presentation of the award as a past winner herself, and the easy conversations with Patricia.

Of all of them, I've "known" Patricia the longest. I wrote her a fan e-mail back around the turn of the century and we'd corresponded off and on ever since. She was the first person to agree to be a blogger for this new "Bilerico Project" idea. She's very skeptical, a little cranky, and helluva lot of smart; she holds a very special place in my heart and I nearly drove Jerame crazy with my excitement of not only finally getting to meet my idol, but we'd been invited to her home.

We enjoyed chatting with Patricia so much we made plans to meet her again at a small cafe she recommended. Over brunch we traded stories and laughs and when we said we wanted to see the ocean she suggested driving up the coast a bit to see the beaches and coastal towns and then a drive back down through the Malibu canyon. She drew a crude map on the back of a paper napkin stained with a brown circle from my mocha cup to show us where the various beaches and good places to go hiking were along the coast.

As we drove Patricia's prescribed route, we stopped often to take photos and enjoy the sunshine. It was still too cold to actually go in the water but we played at the edge, balancing precariously on rocks to pick up shells. Driving a little further, we pulled over and took a long walk through a state park snapping photos and delighting in the unusual plants and animals we were seeing. At one of our stops, I was taking photos of a yacht out on the ocean when Jerame got this photo of me shading my eyes so I could see the screen easier.

As we packed our luggage that evening for our return flight the next morning, Jerame quietly tucked the paper napkin into his carry-on. When we got home, he pulled it out to show it to me and chuckled at how pleased I was that he'd saved the memento.

I still have the napkin amongst my treasures. Each time I see it, I'm reminded of Patricia's wild mop of beautiful hair, the smell of the ocean, and the warmth of golden sunshine on my skin.


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Great story Bil, but are you sure that you're not trying to take pictures of the goings on at David Geffen's Malibu crib in this shot?

I love Patricia Nell Warren, and I hope maybe we'll get to meet someday.

I miss Southern California, after having lived there almost 20 years -- but I don't miss the traffic or the sky-high cost of housing.

Ah, paper napkins. So many things written on them. Movie scripts, blueprints for houses, phone numbers...and maps of Malibu. Bil and Jerame, I cherish the memory of that meeting too. So much fun...along with the opportunity to blog for Bilerico.

Patricia's map was spot on, though. It may have been hand drawn, but only once did I even need to refer to my iPhone GPS and that was because we'd decided to take a route home that wasn't on the map Patricia had drawn.

I took this pic on the way back to LA. As we were driving back down the PCH at 50 MPH, Bil suddenly says I need to stop at this wide spot on the side of the road so he can get a picture. Fortunately, traffic was light on a Monday, so no one died in the incident.

I'm really into what some folks call meta-humor, so I thought I'd take a picture of Bil taking a picture so I'd have a story to tell. Turns out, Bil used it to tell his story. :)