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Cut Out & Cut Loose 

October is winding down. The nights are growing longer, the days shorter. Temperatures are cooling after what is now being considered the longest heat wave in California’s history. Our autumn color will arrive more towards Christmas than Halloween, but there is a fall chill in the canyon toward morning that leaves the cobwebs and car windows covered in condensation. The night air carries the smell of that uniquely autumnal combination of sunbaked chaparral cooling to dew point and fall flowering plants, like coyote brush and goldenbush. 

The beach crowds have diminished, and many of the iconic blue lifeguard towers have been pulled off the beach for the winter. The terns are back, wheeling and diving, chattering to each other in high, clear voices. Off the coast of Malibu, the squid boats light up the night ocean with an eerie glow, green and white and yellow.

The one thing blessedly absent so far this October is the Santa Ana wind, but everyone in the wildland interface is waiting with a frisson of fear for the winds to blow in, the scariest part of Halloween season for most who live here. A fast moving brush fire near Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades on the night of October 16 that burned two acres of brush and shut down traffic on Pacific Coast Highway was a reminder that fire is a constant concern, even without the winds.

Voting is already underway in the November 8 election, and candidates are amping up their campaigns in a frenzy of last minute activity that unfortunately includes a barrage of unwelcome mailers, but at least campaign phone calls seem to be mostly a thing of the past, drowned out perhaps by the endless robocalls selling bogus home improvements and car warranties. 

This is an important election, one that will have big consequences for everyone who lives in the Santa Monica Mountains. Here at TNT we hope that all of our readers will take the time to vote. It makes a difference. Case in point: Governor Gavin Newsom just signed AB 2344 into law. This new legislation requires state agencies, including Caltrans, to identify barriers to wildlife movement and prioritize wildlife crossings during the planning process for road improvements and new road projects. 

It’s estimated that there were more than 44,000 wildlife-vehicle crashes from 2016 to 2020, and those are the accidents that caused injury or death to the vehicle occupants. The vast majority of wildlife vehicle strikes are not reported. This legislation, described as a way to finally put wildlife connectivity in reach, was sponsored by two assembly members, Ash Kalra and Kevin Mullin. AB 2344 could never have become a law without the support of politicians sympathetic to the plight of wildlife. It’s up to us, the voters, to send people to Sacramento who care about the things we care about. 

We are ready for Halloween here at TNT. Historian Jimmy P. Morgan is celebrating this year by sharing a sleepless night of Stephen King stories, and we have a bit of autumn-themed fiction for all ages in our Storyland section. Autumn is the ideal time for a day at the beach. We’ll take a look at the new Point Dume State Beach staircase, and share some history on this small but beautiful state park that is just a few miles away. It’s one of many special places in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area that offer a welcome respite from the stress of daily life, and the pressures of the approaching holiday season. 

For many, Halloween makes the start of the fall and winter holiday cycle. No one is entirely certain if the old pattern of trick-or-treating and neighborhood parties will return this year, or if the pandemic has permanently reshaped the holiday, but it’s a good idea to use extra caution while driving on the evening of October 31—slow down, stay alert, and be aware that trick-or-treaters may be out on our streets. It couldn’t hurt to buy that bag of candy, either, right? Just in case?

Stay safe, be well. Happy Halloween!

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