Predictably, my characterization of this winter as the Big Dry (Chiquihuite, Rikyu Grey) has taken a hit over the past two weekends. Last Saturday we got a solid three inches while today, as I write this on Sunday morning, a steady rain has produced over half an inch and the storm system bodes to dump another couple of inches.

Last Sunday, after Saturday's storm, Lorrie, neighbor Margot and I drove up through the oak meadow-lands of Sulphur Mountain and were met, at the top of the hill, by valet parkers shuffling cars, guests and shuttle buses to the 'Friends of Steve Bennett' fund raiser. It was at Larry Hagman's place on Sulphur Mountain, just east of the Doppler Radar tower (the 100 foot tall silver ball that sits ominously on the ridge and tracks storm systems for the National Weather Service). For some unaccountable reason, we were ushered past the valet parking lots and self-parked the LR3 just below, and in full sight of, the house.

The Hagman place has lived long in my imagination. The opulence and scale of the house is matched, in local legend, by the prodigious solar arrays that power it, and, if the tales are to be believed, potentially much of Upper Ojai. His annual power bill prior to his first photovoltaic installation was 38,000 dollars - the following year it dropped to less than twenty. He owns the largest residential solar-power system in the United States and now he reaps an income from the clean power he feeds back to Edison. His 100 kW (DC) system generates 150,000 kilowatt-hours per year, 10,000 kWh more than he needs to keep all the lights blazing and the air-conditioning cranked in his mountain top estate. Our thin-film array is rated at 5 kW and generates 10,000 kWh annually. (For those tracking this apparent production discrepancy, perhaps Hagman's site is wreathed more often in cloud than our lower, south facing slope and his DC-AC inversion less efficient).

I know Larry Hagman as the charming Major Anthony Nelson, his character in I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970) which I watched in re-runs, in black and white, in Australia. By the time he came to play J.R. Ewing on the prime-time soap, Dallas, that ran throughout the eighties, from 1978 -1991, I had pretty much sworn off TV, but for Hagman, this later show provided much of his wealth as an actor. It also gifted him an enduring persona, which he affects to this day, wearing an iconic Resistol Texan cowboy hat at all public appearances.

His house is a Mediterranean style pile, with Tuscan grace notes set on a knoll commanding its 43 acre site with panoramic views of Ventura County and beyond. On much of its west and south sides, the house is edged by a swimming pool and bridges take the visitor over the water as they (OK, we three) search for the entry. We found the split-level Grand Room which faces the southern view, and a guest kindly opened a sliding glass door to let us in. This room accommodates a 40' long lap pool with a retractable roof above, a grotto spa and a lonely mirrored disco ball on the upper level.

In its 18,000 square foot, the house has nine bedrooms and fourteen bathrooms. Larry has hosted many fund-raising events but last weekend's was possibly the last. Long for sale, it is rumored that he may at last have found a buyer.

In Surf and Turf, I fantasized about the space described between my outstretched arms as I stand on our Koenigstein property signalling south-westward over Sulphur Mountain. Those trackless wildlands thus indicated beyond the mountain ridge were just off to the right as I stood in Larry's belvedere where a yellow bed swung from the vaulted ceiling allowing for a view that reached to Santa Rosa and Anacapa Islands, the Oxnard plain and beyond to the Simi Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains. Further to the left was the Santa Clara River and rising above it, the SP sign on South Mountain. All was revealed. For a moment, I was King of the Hill.

It was about as exciting, after that first rush of wonder, as the view through the porthole of an airliner (Red Smudge). There was a disengagement with the landscape, a realization that a vista, from this great vantage point, represents a sort of horizontal picture plane receding in orderly fashion towards the mists of the horizon. Where was the sharawaggi I longed for? The wild engagement with the rugged landscape? (Sharawaggi)

For the last half millenium or more our western aesthetic world has been more or less split into two - the Classical and the Gothic; the Formal and the Picturesque; or, closer to home, the Arcadian and the Savage. The Arcadian world is populated by shepherds and their flocks, and in classical Greece these sheep turned wildlands into pastoral idylls. Something similar happened to the classical landscapes of California, where grazing destroyed the chaparral and now wolf oaks dot the rolling pasturelands and mustard paints the hills (or will in an few weeks) their eponymous gold. I digress; but only slightly. Larry's architects and landscape designers followed the classical approach - where man is comfortably ensconced in a humanized landscape and the sharawaggi is kept at bay.

Urban Wildland is dedicated to the frisson generated by the juxtaposition of the built environment and a savage landscape, where the balance that allows for human habitation may be disturbed; where fire or flood (and perhaps rampaging poison oak) may, at any moment, make the tenuous occupation of the wild edge untennable.

The Hagman estate is dedicated to the civilizing, classical impulse where wild is transmuted into an idealized vision in which the lawns mimic the sheep nibbled plains of Arcady; the exotic landscaping echoes the paradisiacal gardens of the old world; and the chlorinated, serpentine pools that moat the house ape the River Lethe.

The house - sticks and stucco cloaked in Tuscan garb - mindful of the past but disengaged from present danger, mutely awaits the next wild fire to sweep over the ridge.