Thursday, May 21, 2015

Goodbye To Late Night With David Letterman

David Letterman has just always been there for us. I grew up watching the guy, and though we've never met, he truly was a member of our family. He was the Uncle that could be kind of cranky, always hilarious, and there to tell you exactly what he thought. Like a distant family member, you can take them for granted ... just figuring they'll always be there. I did that. Letterman is on pretty late, and when you have early mornings, you just don't stay up for t.v. shows. When the word came that Dave (as we always called him - "Who's on Dave tonight?") was wrapping up his 33 year run as the best talk show on television, I had to stay up to watch his last three shows. I simply was not prepared for how extra emotional it would be ... I literally cried - and laughed - from beginning to end of each show, none more so than last night when Dave went off the air for the last time.

Dave was just always there. We'd come home from parties and gather around watching Dave. I moved to Hawai'i, living far away from my home and family for the first time, and Dave was there to keep me company. He was my friend when I moved to L.A. and only knew a few people. My Mom liked Dave the best too (after Johnny Carson, of course), always saying, "I can't stand that Leno", so we could all watch as a family. We watched until the very end, when Alan Kalter would have some little funny extra thing to say about Worldwide Pants - always very random and weird and exactly our humor. We cracked up at Paul Shaffer's little stony asides throughout the show, and wanted to hang out with him. We looked forward to Dave's crazy suits, like the Alka-Seltzer one, or the Velcro one. We loved it when he had kids and animals on, and Dave always had the very best musical guests around. I've had friends appear on the Letterman show, and all of them have said it was a thrill of a lifetime. I'm getting emotional again just typing about it.

The love for Dave was clear during the last show, with standing ovations the entire time. I watched at home with my brother, Paul ... just like we would do back in the day. I had tears streaming down my face the whole time, and when the Foo Fighters came on to play Dave off with "Everlong", I just openly bawled (Paul did not).

I'm so sad that I never had the opportunity to see a live taping of The Late Show With David Letterman, but he always made you feel as if you were there. We sure will miss you, Uncle Dave. I hope you have a total blast during your retirement ... and know how very much your show meant to us all.

"Is this anything?!" YES - it sure was something.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May Flowers!

Flowers are busting out all over in Venice, and it is something to behold. Every yard seems to contain its own treasures. The recent rain (still not nearly enough, but we'll take it) greened it all up around here, and life is blooming with a certain natural ecstacy that cannot be contained - even up a telephone pole.

One of my favorite books - and quotes - ever is The Little Prince, when Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes, "If someone loves a flower, of just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars."

Walking around Venice, here on Earth, it is enough to make one happy just to look at the flowers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Help The Venice Skatepark Fund!

We all love the Venice Skatepark, right? Well, then it's time to help them out over there. Jesse Martinez has been lovingly and faithfully cleaning that place every morning since it opened, and paid nothing for it by the city of L.A. The truck he used to haul all the cleaning supplies was stolen. Martinez has been using his own car to get down to clean the park from downtown L.A. (where he had to move from Venice after more gentrification b.s. - a whole other story ...) at 3 am every day.

The Skatepark doesn't clean itself, and the city does nothing to help. That is a crime. Thank goodness for good people volunteering to help (as about 20 did on Tuesday) and to companies that donate supplies and equipment (as World's Best Graffiti Removal did), and to YOU!

Because you can donate right now to the Venice Skatepark Fund HERE, and help make life a little easier on Martinez and his cleaning crew (when he has one, made up of volunteers). You can also make calls and write letters to place a little pressure on the City Of L.A. (another reason why Venice should be its own city) to PAY the man, pay for supplies, and let the Skatepark keep all the fees and things the city charges to use it, but doesn't use the money to maintain it. No brainer, right?

Few things around town are as iconic, or provide as much enjoyment and excitement as the Venice Skatepark ... let's thank it with some help, Venice (and everyone else who has enjoyed being there)!

*Photos by Ray Rae

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Blind Date At Small World Books

Small World Books is not my favorite bookstore in Los Angeles for nothing. I wandered in off the Boardwalk last weekend to get the new title in my friend and I's perpetual book club (because I was 758th in line to reserve it at the Venice Library!), and, as usual, spent way too long inside of there on a sunny day. You can't help it. After I found my book, I turned the corner to see this fun idea, a blind date with a book!

You pick one based off the clever introductions written on the brown paper, and see what you get. Unlike the dating world, here you cannot go wrong. Small World Books (owned and operated by awesome women) has tremendous taste, a super informative staff, and a perpetual sense of fun that probably comes from spending its entire tenure right off the Boardwalk and Sidewalk Cafe. I love it.

As for my blind date with the politically radical surfer, I do not kiss and tell ... but it was well worth it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Yo Santa Monica? The Selling Of Yo Venice.

A couple of weeks ago I started getting texts and emails from bothered, annoyed, and downright disgruntled friends in Venice, over a snarky little article posted on Yo Venice. In all honesty, I haven't really paid much attention to Yo Venice, since its founder, Bret Haller, passed away from cancer just over a year ago. It just felt different, you know? And now it IS different, because Heller's family sold the site to a corporate media group, that also owns the Santa Monica Mirror. Much like the Jules Muck mural of Haller has now been a bit defaced by graffiti, so now too has his site been defaced.

After all complaints I was hearing about this article, and about the new Yo Venice itself, I had to go read the thing. I won't bother reprinting the smarm, because it's infuriating, but you can read it here. If you want.

Its author, Steve Stajich (who I understand lives and works in Santa Monica), ends his bitchy top ten list with "Thanks for the chuckle, Venice. Now, everybody, back to work." Ooooh. Really, dude? Right there he lets us know that he is not OF Venice, so probably shouldn't be writing for a site that represents Venice. And should certainly not be ripping on the town and its sense of fun and freedom. Then, later in the week, I was at lunch in Santa Monica and saw that the exact same article was in the print version of the Santa Monica Mirror! So Yo Venice basically now IS the Santa Monica Mirror. Which I don't read.

That is what the whole topless sunbathing thing is really about. We don't WANT to be Santa Monica. We want to live in a town that values and celebrates freedom and self-expression. We have a topless "Bare Your Breasts" march down the Boardwalk each Summer. We used to have a naked co-ed bike ride down the middle of the Abbot Kinney Festival every year. We had naked poetry readings on Wednesdays at Abbot's Habit. We've always pretty much done whatever we want (and can get away with) in the name of innocent fun and artistic freedom. Now, Money is killing the very spirit of Venice. It is all being threatened with extinction. Not only by the big monied pockets of people that don't get it, but also now, seemingly, by our own sources of news and information.

I was told that Yo Venice is now ran by "a Venice local", but no local I know would have ever dreamed of publishing that bratty article. Bret Haller would NEVER have let that thing get by. I've always loved Yo Venice (aside from the very nasty fake name chat room trolls I've been told about, but can't be bothered to pay attention to), but today I pretty much find myself missing and mourning the old site as much as I do my good friend, Haller.

No worries at all though. For up to the minute Venice info, go to the always awesome Venice Concierge. They're the REAL local deal.

As for Venice, itself ... it's up to all of us who love and care about it to keep it fun, to keep it free. If that means I'm sunbathing topless on the beach, so be it. For Bret, and for the future of Venice. I'll see you out there!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Even In Venice ... Unarmed Brendon Glenn Shot By Police

I was at dinner last Tuesday night with a group of friends, including Louis and Netty Ryan, owners of The Townhouse. The idea was to head over there after dinner for a nightcap, but I bowed out because of an early morning the next day. A couple hours later, there were sirens screaming like crazy, and I wondered what had happened now.

I awoke the next morning to hear the news that an unarmed homeless man, Brendon Glenn, had been shot and killed by the police in front of The Townhouse. UNARMED. Again. Not in some backwards town somewhere where this might not be surprising, but in VENICE. Shocking. Disgusting. ENOUGH.

I went down to Windward over the weekend to talk to people and see how everybody was doing with this. The answer is not good. By all accounts, this was not an incident that called for deadly force. Not even remotely. What kind of pussy needs to shoot someone that isn't armed, when you have a bunch of different options at hand, called billy clubs, tasers, mace, and the rest of your police department to back you up? Shoot them dead?! For WHAT?! And if you HAVE to use your gun (which you don't, almost ever), you don't learn how to aim for a foot or an arm or something that isn't fatal?! It's sickening, and seems to be a systemic problem, nationwide. And the People have had it.

There was a march calling for Justice that I could not attend, but was proud of. There was a Neighborhood Council meeting, that I also could not attend, but heard it was both fiery and frustrating. There have been candlelight vigils in front of The Townhouse, but that doesn't bring back someone's father. The tape of the shooting has not yet been released, but every single person who witnessed it is saying a gun wasn't necessary. They don't even have to, the man was UNARMED.

The answer is not more police, Councilman Bonin. They're the ones who murdered this man. The entire country needs to do some long, hard self-reflection. All these gun deaths are not only unnecessary, but shocking and embarrassing as a citizen of the world. What kind of crazy people kill each other like this over nothing ... all the time?

It's incredibly sad. You don't think it could happen here. But it did.  And it has to stop.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Glenn. We're all so very sorry this happened to you, here of all places.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Morning Jacket LIVE For KCRW - Truly Wonderful

OK, I LOVE My Morning Jacket. I'd never seen them live. I got an invitation from the fantastic KCRW to attend a live show at Mack Sennet Studios to see My Morning Jacket play their excellent new album, The Waterfall. I was THERE.

Gnarly traffic got us there the instant the show began, so there was no time to indulge in the open bar before squeezing in to the jam-packed house there to see these super talented gentlemen throw down some rock and roll. I'd spent the whole previous evening listening to the new album on repeat so I'd be familiar with it to double enjoy it all, so it was even better, and awesome that they played it all in order. Thus, they opened with the album opener, "Believe (Nobody Knows)" and the people just went crazy from thereon out.

"Compound Fracture" and "Like A River" were up next, and you could feel the reverence for this band in the room. People seriously LOVE them. For good reason. Even though some in the room may not have even heard the album yet, they were all the way into every single note hit.

The room was a sweltering hot box with all that body heat squashed in there, and nobody minded a bit. The crowd was a mix of older NPR bookish types and total textbook hipsters, rounded out by KCRW staffers, and everyone was enjoying it as much as anyone could. Zero jadedness, just pure, unadulterated joy and appreciation to be there. That was tangible in how polite and kind everyone was to each other, moving aside for shorter people, not caring when a drink spilled on you ... it was that kind of vibe, and probably a tribute to the band, and our hosts.

The older couple in front of me were pretty much making out and dancing together the whole time, and I loved them for it. I want to be them when I grow up. They loved "In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)" and they really loved "Get The Point", clearly already having committed its lyrics to memory. I wish you all the love in this world and beyond ... I hope you get the point,  the thrill is gone ... Maybe the nicest breakup song ever. It was impressive all around.

Jim James wore a technicolor dream coat, which went great with the trippy Joshua Light Show type swirly lights dancing around us. James is a shaman of sorts, and he's very hard to take your eyes off, except maybe to watch the shredding of guitarist, Carl Broemel (that's the side I was on, I'm sure Bo Koster, Patrick Hallahan, and Tom Blankenship were mesmerizing too, I just couldn't really see them).

"That song was a matrix to get lost in ... we wanted it to be disorienting, but pleasant, we hope.", said James after a particularly psychedelic passage of "Spring (Among The Living)". People were FEELING it in there, and a guy near me thought aloud how much he wished he was on acid. I've never done acid (perhaps surprisingly to some), but this one made me kind of get it.

After "Thin Line", James thanked everyone for coming, saying that they'd only ever played these songs two or three times, "So it's nice to be playing them for actual human beings." He's right, it was super nice, even more so that the show was being live-streamed on KCRW (and airs on the radio next Wednesday, May 13th), so the whole world was able to be in there watching with us ... though I have a feeling it wasn't quite the same. Or as hot.

"Big Decisions" almost got a bit metal, with a smoooooth ending. I think my favorite track off the new album is "Tropics (Erase Traces)", as it's already almost caused a skip in my Itunes there. So, so good. They closed out The Waterfall with its closer, "Only Memories Remain", another smooth, gorgeous one, that builds and builds until it was an awesome jam that was so good my friend Brad had to leave to mull it all over, missing the encore. He was MOVED. I'm pretty sure we all were.


The band left the stage for a minute, and then came back out and James said, "I've never given birth before, but when we finished these songs, it felt something like that, with not a millionth of the pain. The songs are new and fragile, and you go 'what the fuck do I do in this part?' ... and then you remember to forget ... We're so proud of them." They should be. It's a great album, as everyone expected.

The encore of classics began with "Wonderful", which it surely was, then "Down On Bottom" that had the whole place clapping and dancing along. For "Circuital", James went and put on some kind of little Simon game looking machine around his neck, pulled up a monk type hood, and walked around the stage, singing all distorted and cool. They closed - appropriately - with "Victory Dance", and so it was for us all, just to be there.

Phew! We all exploded out of there into the night, only to find a beautiful, sorely needed steady rain falling from the sky, so maybe it was a rain dance in there as well. All I know is that it was perfectly, indeed, wonderful.

Thank you so much to KCRW and NPR for having me, and to My Morning Jacket for completely stoking us all. Go get The Waterfall right now. You'll love it.

*Great photos courtesy of KCRW's Ethan Shvartzman. (OK ones by my phone.)