Oh baby drive away to Malibu

Tattoo by Emily North

“Not Afraid Anymore” tattoo by Emily North

There are certain places that become a legend before you even get a chance to visit. As a child of the 80s “Malibu” had a strong currency in my mind though I didn’t understand what or where it was. The word conjured “Malibu Barbie,” with her flaxen hair and metallic swimsuit and pink hued beach mansion. In reality, I’m struck by Malibu’s rugged coast, its quiet beaches, and state parks full of cliffs and chaparral and hiking trails.

T-shirt: J Crew; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

T-shirt: J Crew; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

On my recent trip to LA I took a Saturday to drive out with two of my best friends to have brunch in Santa Monica and continue up the coast to El Matador State Park, a windswept beach full of rock formations, sea anemone, surf and beautiful sand for napping, sunning and restoring.

Bathing Suit: Esther Williams; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

Bathing Suit: Esther Williams; Shorts and belt: Thrifted

I also got to show off my new (and first!) tattoo by Emily North – a phrase taken from “Insight,” one of my favorite Joy Division songs that has stuck with me for over a decade. I find that Southern California is the perfect place to wash away fear and embrace possibility with an expansive view over the endless Pacific.

El Matador State Park

El Matador State Park, Malibu, California


Walking home in October rain I have the sound in my headphones turned up loud. This is the music of fall, of confusion, of heartbreak. Six years ago Tya and I published a fanzine together called “Twenty Years Too Late.” It was a New Order and Joy Division fanzine, twenty years too late. Looking back on it, it became more of a personal zine, less of a fanzine. For me that zine is all about being twenty years old and moving to New York City, the city of my dreams that turned out to be harsher than I was prepared for. This was especially true becasue I moved here two weeks before September 11th. That zine is also about finding a voice after Septmber 11th. It seemed like the way I found to deal with the immense tragedy was to immerse myself in the music of Joy Division, which is, in so many ways, the music of urban decay.
It was fitting then that tonight Tya and I went together to see Control at Film Forum. It was beautifully shot by Anton Corbijn, the photographer who took many of the iconic photographs of Joy Division. What was so visually stunning about the film was how often he recreated those iconic photographs–I could pick out many from the posters that adorned my walls for so many years. I liked the movie, of course, I liked that at the end I could report with confidence, “That’s Gillian Gilbert with Steven Morris, soon she will join the band and they will become New Order.” But Manchester music trivia aside, the film gripped me. Certainly, the ending is melodramatic, what else can a rockstar’s suicide be? The movie is based on Deborah Curtis’ memoir “Touching From a Distance.” The film portrays Deborah as dowdy but strong, practical and determined in the face of emotional turmoil. At the end I’m still not sure how the director wanted us to feel about her, but she had my utmost respect. I came away feeling less about Ian Curtis. Certainly, it does not seem like a film about a real person, but still about the idea and myth of Ian Curtis.
And of course I couldn’t resist the temptation to listen to Joy Division on my way home (“Unknown Pleasures,” “Closer” is still too hard for me to listen to casually). I realized again how much my relationship with this band is really about my relationship to where I was emotionally six years ago. Just how the fanzine turned into a personal zine, I realize Joy Division’s music is highly personal. That’s why they have staying power and why this film can draw so many peolple twenty years too late. Joy Division are a highly personal band.