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Gratitude & Expectation
Bonnie Morgan. Publisher of Topanga New Times
Editorial, Feature

Gratitude & Expectation 

The issue you hold in your hands (or view online) is our 26th of 2023. It is a retrospective on the past year with a selection of some of the most popular and important stories written by our staff. Always seeking excellence, we also know that the production of such a publication requires many hands and I am particularly grateful for the help this year of our family of writers, copywriters, wordsmiths, webmaster, social media geniuses, artists, thinkers, strategic advisors and loyal distributors. 

Many locals know by now that there is really only one encyclopedia of history in the Santa Monica Mountains area of Los Angeles and that is Suzanne Guldimann.

Suzanne Guldimann, a walking encyclopedia

Author, artist, photographer and musician who has lived in Malibu all her life, Suzanne loves the Santa Monica Mountains. I daresay she has traipsed and toiled along every canyon and mountain top trail and walked every inch of accessible beach. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for almost 20 years, but she is also the author of 11 books; her most recent release is Life in Malibu II, which explores local history and nature. Since joining Topanga New Times as editor-in-chief, Suzanne has covered topics from history to nature (she is, in fact, our resident naturalist). I am delighted to announce that her 12th book will be published in 2024 by Topanga New Press and will offer an indepth look at the natural history of Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains

Jimmy P. Morgan. Clearly the man loves to read and write. We were recently graced with his fourth Gift of Reading compilation highlighting—not the latest bestsellers—but decades old classics with the capacity to delight modern readers.

Jimmy Morgan with the irrepressible smile that masks deep things going on in that head of his

…when people learn that I write a lot about books, I’ll be asked if I have read this one or that one and, while not quite embarrassed to admit that I know nothing of it, I do feel a bit of a void followed by the nag to fill it. This is especially true when the book is recommended by the thoughtful, often-introverted type who has already shown that they view the world with curious eyes and ears… like readers of this column, for instance.

Jimmy is a retired eighth grade history teacher after all and so his passion is not just for history but for teaching. Which he does in his myriad series of columns on books and ideas, particularly relating to the U.S. Constitution. We feel he has come to the conclusion that everyone needs to repeat eighth grade, but he’s not dismissive about it. He’s just so darned happy to share. And goodness knows, we could all use a bit of a refresher. Ahem.

For the first six months of 2023 we had the great good fortune to be able to share the work of Los Angeles cultural historian Emmeline Summerton. Emmeline is a writer and creator of the massive Instagram account @lostcanyonsla that celebrates the history, music, art, and fashion of LA’s iconic canyon communities.

Emmeline Summerton of LostCanyonsLA

Through old photographs she explores  what has been bringing newcomers to the Santa Monica Mountain region for more than a century and shares the stories of people seeking adventure, creativity, and new ways of living in this unique oasis of nature and beauty. For Topanga New Times she captured Topanga-based Nature Boys and had us exploring Topanga’s mid century arts scene through the life of artist Wallace Berman and his eclectic circle of friends that included Topanga locals Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn and George Herms. She continued with the 1920s roots of Hollywood demonstrating how early filmmakers, 

then primarily located in New York and New Jersey, began to hear LA’s siren call in the early 1900s when the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce first boasted of the city’s “350 days of sun” in a brochure aimed at those brave enough to venture west.

Continuing the tale through the 1940s she walked us through the connection between the LA canyons and Hollywood’s golden age, both as a location for movies and as home to the actors who starred in them. It is her coverage of the golden era of Rock Music in Topanga Canyon that nearly broke our chart for reads (Nature Boys did too!) and so we include it here in our retrospective.

Back in 2022 we published a series of thought pieces by Jill Cotu and Peter Walzer. We refer to them as the “Power of” series because they addressed the Power of Love, the Power of Perspective, the Power of—you get the gist of it. They were sensitively and sensibly written, and quite popular–we are waiting on their production as podcasts for New Times Radio to give them another life. 

Jill Cotu, one of our newer voices

Jill Cotu paused after that, and then reached out—she had more to say and wanted to write. When she submitted her interview with local Topangan and World War II survivor Bill Dillon, we realized her talent and asked her to do more for us on a continuing basis. If you are a regular reader of Topanga New Times, you’ll know we’ve all been rewarded. Jill’s story of her Italian family Christmas Eve tradition, along with recipes—The Feast of the Seven Fishes—was the highlight of our recent holiday issue

We are so blessed. Most recently we’ve been approached by our longtime friend Claire Fordham and together we’ve come up with a new tantalizing series that suits Claire’s love of engaging with people:

Claire Fordham, our British Transplant

Transplants is a series of interviews by this British Transplant with others (born and raised in a foreign country or state) who have made Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains their home. 

And wait, there’s more. Topanga New Times characterizes itself as a “magazine” instead of being a local rag (and the issues are free you say?) and even fancies itself as a budding New Yorker or a Los Angeles version of The Atlantic. So, we’ve incorporated fiction offerings in our bi-weekly publication with our Storyland section. 

Suzanne Guldimann has confounded us all, in addition to her mass of work in local history and nature, with her serialized family friendly story of The Coastwatchers, chronicling the adventures of James Ellis Anderson, a young boy from Illinois sent to live with his eccentric aunt in Malibu during WWII. With Suzanne’s expertise in the history of the area, James’ experiences in January 1942 are realistic to the place.

Jimmy P. Morgan offers his heartfelt experiences with a young inspiring quadriplegic who has himself become a mentor to others. Wednesdays with JMo details Jimmy’s story of befriending a neighbor navigating a life of extreme loss. Following a freak accident this young, vital athlete takes years to adjust to his life in a chin-driven wheelchair:

We love receiving submissions for our Storyland section. Look in upcoming issues for the tale of a local Topangan who will be sharing his experiences of volunteering in Ukraine.

Urs Baur, our Creative Director

Do our issue covers grab you? Can you resist looking for what fun, beautiful or cool concept we’ve come up with when that next issue hits the stands? Our publication would not be as much fun if it weren’t for Urs Baur, our resident Creative Director. 

Always one to put a creative twist on things—you might find a catchy phrase, a hand-drawn cartoon or even an “Urs-guided” AI design–Urs keeps us smart, relevant and on occasion irreverent. Most of all he delights me with his quirky mind every two weeks as he wrangles an issue’s content into an image and a message. See for yourself—we’ve placed a selection of our favorite covers in this retrospective.

Producing a bi-weekly magazine is just not enough for us. Let’s do more! we said to ourselves—Let’s invite our readers to local live events. Let’s call it Tea @TNT. Let’s entertain 30 people at a time, feed them, ply them with tea and give provocative presentations and start conversations! Topanga’s Living Room is born! Yes, we did that and our many attendees seem to be looking for more—stay tuned for our programs in 2024. 

I can’t close this retrospective without mentioning our audio offerings. We started by having our authors record themselves reading their articles to accompany their pieces online—a la New Yorker. We grew more ambitious. We took a leap and made it through the early learning curves of producing professional podcasts. New Times Radio launched this year due in large part to Brian Chapman. Who knew he had always aspired to do the next Radiolab! This man’s eerie talents in sound design and production are propelling us out of amateur hour into professional podcast production along with custom ad programming and sponsorship. 

NTR podcast logo
New Times Radio, our podcasts’ mothership

We were stunned recently to hear that New Times Radio has just surpassed 1,000 downloads. Be sure to take a look, er, a listen. You can enjoy Suzanne Guldimann’s pieces during your commute; learn about butterflies, bunnies and salamanders with the kids. Hear Jimmy P. Morgan’s entertaining columns and get introduced to new authors. Enjoy our serialized stories—The Coastwatchers is in its 14th episode and you can start from the beginning at any time. Claire Fordham joins in with her first column of Transplants interviews expertly produced

We are most proud of the production quality of FRAMED! It’s time for all good citizens to brush up on their knowledge of the Constitution! As our most downloaded podcast yet, our guess is that our listeners do want that refresher course. Catch the first episode of FRAMED! wherever you get your podcasts.

Happy New Year readers! We invite you to enjoy our next 26 issues of Topanga New Times, in print and online at topanganewtimes.com

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