Like many old and species roses, it blooms only periodically throughout the year, in spring and early summer, and then perhaps again a flush of bloom in the fall.
The other day while commuting to work, I noticed it is in its fall bloom. I am not certain, but I believe that this is a specimen of the famed rose "Mermaid," beloved of English gardeners like Graham Stuart Thomas and Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West.
There's another Mermaid that makes her home in Topanga. In a quiet neighborhood, a house with an amazing history has become a welcoming gathering place for community events. Built in 1930 as a country club for a real estate development, it has been a brothel and casino, a school for boys, an American Legion Hall, and a gay nightclub.
The Topanga Historical Society has published a fantastic book - now out of print, but they're working on the new edition - that details the community's history and its tradition of bohemian lifestyles.
In the 1970's, the structure became the Mermaid Tavern, named after Shakespeare's Mermaid, and became a place for music, art, and legendary partying. Beatnik artist Wallace Berman exhibited there in 1973. Joni Mitchell sings about the Mermaid Tavern in her song "Carey,"
"Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe and I willIn 1989 the building was bought by someone who fell in love with it, who began a painstaking - and often heartbreaking - restoration. You can read about it at the owner's website - take heed, all who dream of restoring an historic building. But there is a happy ending. Today the Mermaid is a beautiful event and location venue, the owner often donating the space to local community fundraisers, celebrations, and memorial gatherings.
Buy you a bottle of wine
And we'll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down"
I'm relatively new to Topanga and Los Angeles. I was still in school when Topanga Canyon was the Mecca of hippie culture, when musicians like Neil Young built their studios among the oaks, and Charles Manson and his followers acted upon their dark impulses. As in many communities, the traces of the past fade and disappear over time - or knowledge and memory of them fade.
Also visible along Topanga Canyon Boulevard, but hidden so you have to look for it, is a trace of the past. Just north of the vintage shop Hidden Treasures, on the hillside among a tangle of shrubs, is an old wooden sign.
You can just see it when you come around the bend, or when you're pausing for our new traffic light to change.
A mermaid - with a lusty appetite for a hefty tankard of drink. She flips her tail in celebration. You can just imagine her, swimming topless in the Mermaid's pool while the music plays and the marijuana smoke rises.
Is this the old sign from the Mermaid Tavern? I don't know, but I suspect so. After all, how many mermaids do you suppose a place like Topanga might have?
Did any of you hang out in Topanga Canyon, at the Mermaid Tavern? If so, please share your stories.