For the last several years, we've spent the Fourth of July at friends' house, where the party includes the most incredible fireworks show any host has arranged for for his guests.
Jill and Sparky live high on a hill on the landward side of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. From their hilltop, you can see the Southern California Coastline from Point Dume to Palo Verdes Peninsula.
To reach the house, you drive up a road that winds past palatial mansions, with a view of the sea.
Finally, you leave the mansions behind, and the road turns to dirt, and you find yourself so high you're even above the County water tank.
Over time, our friends Sparky and Jill have created a garden paradise atop this hill, behind bright golden walls. They make the property available as a location for filming or for special events. You couldn't go wrong with a view like theirs.
Flagstone paths and terraces surround a sunken lawn perfect for gatherings. We gathered by an outdoor fireplace to keep warm and talk.
The house is small and nothing special; a white wooden cottage surrounded by a rickety wooden deck. Through the house and out toward the hill is another garden, a dry garden.
Here, a blooming palo verde tree is surrounded by pelargoniums, succulents, and other drought-tolerant plants. Jill is a fantastic gardener, and in only a few short years, she has developed this place into a beautiful retreat.
Here you can stand on the paved terrace and look at the sun set on the Pacific Ocean. The hill seems to drop away beneath your feet, and it's here that we carried our chairs around nine o'clock on the Fourth.
This is the view directly ahead of us, but to the south, you can see every small community fireworks display. As we sit on the hill, we scan the curve of the coast. It's like seeing winking jewels on a curved string of beads. That starburst there is from the fireworks in Pacific Palisades, at the high school stadium. That twinkle beyond is Marina del Rey, Redondo, or Manhattan Beach. Is that small crimson asterisk all the way down at San Pedro? Or is it the Palo Verde Peninsula? Closer to us, there are fireworks somewhere off Malibu Colony.
But the best is last - right in front of us. Out on the water, a tug nudges a barge into position. And right before us, the show starts.
We don't know whose fireworks show this is. All we know is the City of Malibu has issued a permit for it. We speculate which movie star has provided us with this treat. Danny Devito, some say. Jennifer Aniston, say others. We really don't know, but we're grateful for the patriotic gift.
My little camera actually takes pretty good video - better than stills in a dark setting. Here's a bit of video I took as we sat in our lawn chairs, sipping wine and watching our Borrowed Fireworks. You can tell we're having fun.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Jilly and Sparky's place is available as a location for special events - their website is here at Rancho del Cielo.