Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Community Fundraiser To Save Penmar!

There have been too many good times to count at the corner of Penmar and Palms over the years. The little row of bungalows have hosted countless parties and gatherings of friends, and have been a headquarters for the community for years. As Gentrification continues to rear its ugly head here in Venice, now the Penmar bungalows are in jeopardy. The property has been purchased by an overseas investment group who intend to build more big, ugly, boxes (BUBS), and who could care less about the community.

So that Community came together on Sunday to have a fundraiser to help pay for legal fees as the residents prepare to do battle with the Man. Some may feel that it's just too bad, someone bought the property, live with it. But enough of that. If no one ever stands up to anything, the bad guys win. Penmar residents and their neighbors are standing up, speaking out, and it's a wonderful thing to behold.

Friends and neighbors gathered in the golden hour, and enjoyed a fried chicken spread donated by Hatchet Hall. Several different friends have lived in these bungalows, passing one on to the next friend when they moved, so there were plenty of stories being swapped about the good times had there over the years.

It was touching to see many residents of the surrounding neighborhood show up in support even though it's not their exact battle ... as one woman spoke and pointed out, "It's here now, but it will happen there." People are the fabric of our community, and if all our housing is unaffordable (and ugly with no sense of place or history) and owned by companies that don't even live here, it erodes the character of the neighborhood. And no one wants that.

Entertainment was provided by current resident Lacey Kay Cowden, who regaled us with her beautiful tunes as the stars began twinkling overhead. It was beautiful, enhanced by the knowledge that we were all together in solidarity for a meaningful purpose.

Former residents Matt Ellis and Vavine Tahapehi shared their songs in the backyard that they transformed into a lovely gathering spot for our family of friends, and it all felt timeless - just as it should.

Might as well be resident Paul Chesne brought it home with his custom brand of rock and roll, frequent visitor Paddy Wilkins (DJ Bright Moments) kept the party going with his spinning, and it was greatly enjoyed by all assembled, from oldsters I'd never met before, to our brand new friends that are looking forward to growing up in the uniquely wonderful Venice that we were there to protect.

This stupid project has already been approved by the City Of L.A. (seeing $$$ signs, no doubt), but the concerned neighbors are appealing it. There is a hearing TOMORROW JANUARY 18 with the West L.A. Area Planning Commission. All who care about the future of Venice are encouraged to attend and wear red in solidarity. The information is all on this flyer or you can contact the group at Palms.Penmar@Gmail.com:

This is a time of mass protest in America. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that the PEOPLE band together to accomplish that things that make life in American - and Venice - worth living. This hearing is a wonderful warm-up for the week (year, four years ...) of demonstrating that is about to go down. Please consider joining everyone in making your voice heard.

Save Penmar! Save Venice! Save The United States! Save The World! It all starts somewhere ...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

On The Scene At L.A. Art Show 2017!

"On The Scene In '17" is my motto for this new year, but I haven't been able to really execute because I've had this dreadful cold for pretty much the whole year so far. The show must go on though, so I headed down to the always great opening night of the 2017 L.A. Art Show at the Convention Center downtown, Kleenex in hand.

The line to get inside the hall was so long it was like we were trying to get into a Bernie Sanders rally last Summer (ahem). It went pretty fast, and there was good people watching while waiting, like this lady with a dress made entirely out of forks (who made it much easier for my friends to find me with her as a landmark - thank you!).

It's fun to attend this event with my brother, Paul, because he's deep in the L.A. art world and has a lot of great insight - but he also gets stopped every two feet to chat, so he needs to be abandoned at times if I was going to see any of the art in an already super-densely filled massive space crowded with art aficionados.

Aside from the intense line to get in at the beginning, the Art Show has figured out some things to make it go more smoothly, starting with several little bars throughout so you don't end up wasting all your art looking time in line for a drink. The whole thing seemed more spread out and manageable, even if I never figure out how to get to the food area before they close down. Oh, well.

I think I saw my favorite pieces right out of the gate when Paul showed me the sculpture works by Larry Kagan, where he bends wires in such a way that their shadow on the wall is the real image. How cool! It always intrigues me how artists come up with their art, and this one takes the cake. Like, "I bet if I bend this wire just so, it will look like a chair in the shadow on the wall." What?! Smartie.

... Or "What if I make sculptures entirely out of screws?" How do they come up with these things?! I'm actually always more interested in art like this than the classic landscape in a gold frame, but if that's your thing, there's plenty of that too.

I've always been fond of the quote from Bertolt Brecht when he said, " Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." - because it's so true, and this show was no different. There was a ton of art that reflected our times and current events ... and the reporters from all over the world to cover it.

Much of art is derivative, of course, and there are many exhibitors who clearly have been majorly influenced by Warhol and Basquiat - like almost straight knock-offs - but then you get those bent wires and screws and the performance artists, and the relief that there is still some original thought and creativity left in the world.

The performance art was all at one end this year, and though we missed a lot of the action/performance of it by the time we got to that side, it was still cool to see what people are up to. An inflatable amoeba type thing with painted dancers cavorting around it was interesting ...

An invitation to destroy a couch had viewers sitting and watching the destruction while "Pennies From Heaven" played and pennies DID fall occasionally from the Heavens (ceiling).

There was a bloody forest where limbs were dismembered that we missed (and I'm fine with that), but we very much dug the pink carwash thing buffing out silver "LA." letters, that so perfectly matched my friend Deb's arty get-up that people thought she was part of the installation and asking her for photos. Awesome.

I very much enjoyed the live painting that featured street artists like bumblebeelovesyou (who I also love) creating one of his whimsical, happy childhood pieces ...

... and Venice's own Jules Muck there doing a self-portrait, showing this art world that she has indeed arrived.

My favorite section of the L.A. Art Show is always the Littletopia area, full of the latest, coolest stuff from artists who always seem to be the most up my alley.

Littletopia is curated by my favorite gallery at the L.A. Art Show, the Red Truck Gallery, from New Orleans. I love me some folk art, and Red Truck is probably the very best place in the country to feature that wonderful genre.

They had a bunch of new art this year, of which I think the one I most coveted was this piece that warns against the dangers of mixing Pop Rocks with Coke. Don't do it.

I loved the "Artist's Room" by the duo Dosshaus, where a couple hangs out and talks to you in an entirely monochromatic, colorless room where all of the items, including their clothes, were made from recycled cardboard. Deb also looked especially great here in her pink.

There was a surreal installation of stretched out, super-realistic people from Yi Hwan Kwon, that was also very popular with the Instagrammers in the house. To stand in front of them was to question your own reality - or sobriety - as so trippy were they. 

Another really great installation was the big portrayal "Cut-Outs" by Ramiro Gomez of a Los Angeles home. It uses negative space very effectively when the housekeepers and gardeners are cut out of the piece and erected in front of it, proving their importance. It reminded me of the great and important documentary, A Day Without A Mexican from Sergio Arau. Crucial viewing, both. 

Coagula Projects brought an installation from Fred Tieken that would be very Venice-appropriate as it portrayed birds and skateboards and said, "No birds on skateboards allowed on this beach".  Only we would never stand for that. 

There was so much to see and do at this year's L.A. Art Show that it insists upon a return visit, when it's not so full of opening night crowds and people to catch up with. For every piece I saw, there were probably 100 that I didn't - or more. It's always so gratifying to attend events that are all about the art and the people that make it, and that recognize the beauty and importance of art in our lives. The show runs through January 15th, so you have until then to be "On The Scene in '17" yourselves. No excuses. 

Thank you to all involved for another wonderful showcase of the world's art and artists, indeed helping to shape our reality. Hooray for Art! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

50 Years Of The Doors In Venice!

Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of the release of The Doors' first album, The Doors, and Venice held a big celebration right near where it all started on the beach in 1967. The Venice sign was adorned with the band's logo for the occasion, and the surviving members of the band were there to rock the crowd with a loose version of "L.A. Woman" as the rain fell on the assembled crowd there on Windward Avenue - and no one cared. Because it was awesome.

I got there late because work, but in time to catch the dying notes from John Densmore and Robby Krieger (with Densmore bravely taking on the Jim Morrison vocals) with their band with the surprisingly huge crowd for a rainy night in Venice. Not a spirit was dampened as the sign lit up to the cheers of the many gathered Doors fans. Like, super fans - carrying vinyl copies of the debut album in the rain, wearing vintage Doors concert tees, and singing along to every single word the Lizard King ever sang. You could feel the history and the ghosts in the air, and the light mist only made it all the more "Riders On The Storm".

I think it's pretty great that a big crowd of grown adults can still get excited over a sign lighting up, and that's exactly what happened, as social media also lit up with the many photos of all the thrilled fans of a band that really did call Venice home. My all time favorite Doors tune is "Love Street", and thought I didn't hear it played last night - I definitely felt it.

The crowd dispersed - mainly to get out of the rain - to a variety of venues, all offering up their own take on a Doors celebration. I hit the party at The Townhouse, where my friends were, but also where "Jim Morrison Drank Here". I felt required to get that cocktail on this night ... and it was good.

Peace Frog, one of a few Doors cover bands around town, were playing all the Doors hits downstairs in the Del Monte Speakeasy, and the place was packed with the aforementioned super fans. Dudes that were mad the singer left out a certain moan from the recorded version, or that Jim Indian shaman dance from The Doors movie (He was actually seriously mad). Ladies that forced their boyfriends to full on make out to "their song". People still holding up their vinyl albums from outside. Fans that drove up from San Diego and in from Vegas just to be there for "their band"(and hit on everyone in sight). And us locals that might have even moved here in the first place because it was a place that bands like The Doors also loved. I didn't get my "Love Street", but I did get another favorite, "The Crystal Ship", and I thought the Peace Frog dude did a beautiful job with it, and so did the crowd screaming for "One more!"

What a fun night in Venice ... honoring our past, being fully present in the present (loving every bit of it, even the rain!), and looking ahead to a future that is even cooler than all of the above. And that is up to us. This L.A. woman took a glance around last night, and thinks we're in pretty good shape.

*This story is best read whilst listening to The Doors. On vinyl.

**The wonderful crowd photo is courtesy of Gotta Have It's Instagram - where I'm sure Jim would have shopped.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Venice Tourist Trap

It's always so nice to come back to Venice after being away anywhere ... the familiar sights and sounds, the community of wonderful, generally like-minded people here in our little bubble, the possibility of absolutely anything at all happening ... I love it. And so do a lot of visitors to our little beach town, and who can blame them? But ... I was coming back from my first beach walk of the year, and I was waiting at a stoplight next to a bunch of people on a bike sightseeing tour. The tour guide had on a Madonna-like headset microphone, and was broadcasting his little tour tidbits (that anyone could read on any brochure about Venice) over a little amplifier that must have really pleased the Canal residents whose window they were right outside of. The guy was telling them how he was about to lead them to the shopping street called Abbot Kinney, named after the founder of Venice. Deep, insightful stuff. Why anyone needs a tour guide to check out a shopping street is beyond me, but there they all were, in their dorky helmets, single file riding up Venice Boulevard all nervously (I guess I should just be happy it wasn't a Segway tour. Ugh). It took everything I had to not kidnap them all and take them to some REAL Venice spots, with REAL Venice people, with actual REAL stories behind them that are actually interesting.

I kept catching up to them at the next light, and each time resisted the urge to school the guy in front of his Millenial-looking charges. But I'm trying to be a good Ambassador. We parted ways as I headed off for the French Market for a coffee (where you will still see REAL Venice residents), and was immediately met by this Jules Muck art car ... dubbed "Tourist Trap". I believe I actually laughed out loud at the timing.

Look, I know we're a tourist trap here in Venice, and I may have even contributed to it being so by telling all of our great stories that make people want to visit (Sorry, not sorry). It would just be cool if the people (Gentrifiers) making money off of our beloved town (and there are many) would first be cool, for sure be accurate, definitely not annoying, and absolutely give back to the community in some way. We know Venice is the second biggest tourist attraction in Southern California after Disneyland, so why does the City of Los Angeles not repay the favor with merely a FRACTION of what they make off of us, and put it back here (E.g. - Clean beach bathrooms. Paying Jesse Martinez for his daily skatepark cleaning. A ton of other things ...). I guess I'm saying if we're going to be such a tourist trap, let's be a City of our own, and rule it ourselves. And I KNOW I'm saying - and will continue to say throughout this incoming Administration - POWER TO THE PEOPLE. (Including Tourists).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Holiday Break And Back ... Happy 2017!

... And we're back! That beast of a year 2016 is finally over, we've flipped the calendar to a new year, and 2017 is already feeling way, way better. No major deaths to speak of, I got bumped up to first class from an iffy standby seat back to L.A. from Minnesota, and the Hollywood sign was changed to "Hollyweed" for New Year's Day ... pretty cool so far.

Minnesota is always extra dreamy at the holidays, and this year was no different. As always, my favorite part is to be with friends and family, reconnecting with my roots and gaining strength for a new year from the people who know me best.

My favorite new thing in Minneapolis this year was the Holidazzle Christmas Market in Loring Park. It was strange to me that so many locals had no idea this was going on, and if they did, they didn't go. That was a mistake, because it was the absolute most charming thing we did, hands down.

The park is transformed into a Winter Wonderland full of twinkling trees adorned with lights, a whole bunch of booths selling everything from Christmas ornaments to Holidazzle sausages (brats with spices, wild rice and cranberries in them - mmm). They had free ice skating, fire pits, choirs singing, outdoor movies, interactive sculptures, spiked cider, and the best Santa I've maybe ever seen. He told me my wish for World Peace was completely possible, because it's inside all of us every day. I tried to set my Mom up with him. She'd be the best Mrs. Clause ever.

We rode ferris wheels in the winter sky. We hiked the woods on icy trails. We took in a lot of hockey, both professional and pond. We shopped a little and ate a lot. We exchanged "Merry Christmas!"'s with strangers, and felt cozy in our homes and hearts.

Christmas itself was the usual wonderful chaos, spent with friends inside on a freezing rain, brutal day outside that no one even really paid any attention to, as there was so much catching up and laughing to do. Thanks, as ever, to the fantastic Hendrickson family for opening their home to a whole slew of Spartans that look forward to it all year.

It's always a treat for Mom to have all three of her kids home together, and we once again hit up this year's edition of Star Wars to re-live a little of the childhood that we shared together.

We saw dear loved ones from near and far, and Christmas always puts the patina of nostalgia over the gatherings, reminding us of those who are no longer with us, and those who will soon be joining us (new babies coming in '17!). The people are what make any of it special, and all of couldn't be richer in what we have there. There are so many truly good people, making life a complete treasure to share this Earth at the same time as, that it really helps you to know that no matter what is going on in the world at large, there will always be good people to handle it. Thank God.

I got the dread winter cold, so a couple days were spent just totally down - like didn't leave the house - and even that wasn't that much of a drag. Christmas cards to read, movies and games to watch and play, fridge stocked ... it was fine.

After the whole city seemed to be hacking and sniffling, it seemed fitting that we would end our 2016 with a Sauna party, to sweat out the old toxic past, and prepare our bodies and minds for the freshness of a new year. I know it's just a symbolic flip of the page that mankind made up a zillion years ago, but there's still something nice about the feeling of starting anew with a clean slate - even if it's still pretty dirty from the last mess of a year.

More than anything, being home with so many of my loved ones made it clear that most anything good that happens is because of the People. Not governments, not corporations, but the citizens that decide to make good things happen themselves. It doesn't even really matter what nightmare of an administration is about to take office, it remains up to us to oppose what's wrong, stick up for what's right, and make things happen that are supposed to in order to make it a just and beautiful world for everyone. Everyone.

I saw a beautiful last sunset of the year over a frozen lake, and a beautiful first one of a new year flying over the Western skies. Both let me know that everything has the potential to be full of wonder, and it's up to us to make it so. I arrived back in a very cold and grey Venice, which was and is ok, because that's the lesson. No matter what, there is still beauty to be found. I mean, look!

So here we are. A brand new year to make of it whatever we together choose. Let's decide to make it great, and never look back - unless it's with gratitude for what we've collectively learned to make our time here together as good as it can be. We got this. Happy 2017 to us ALL!!!

I can't wait to see what happens.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gløgg Fest 2016!

Gløgg Fest 2016 is on the books, and it was a grand old time. So much so that I took almost no photos, and just kept the gløgg flowing. Venice always feels like such a community to me at the holidays ... we all come together to spread good cheer and let each other know how much we mean to each other all year long. At least that's how I see it.

Friends came and raised a glass by the fire as we all hoped for a better 2017, and bid a kind of fond farewell to the crazy year that we're just wrapping up. Cookies help. Especially if they're cherry chip.

We love to share our Norwegian heritage with folks who often have never heard of lefse, and some were treated to their very first cup of the Viking mulled wine concoction we call the gløgg. Shout out to my friend Mira for bringing the true Viking spirit and sporting braids with sparkly bows. Viking horns and costumes are always encouraged.

I'm heading back to the North Country tonight to be merry with the hometown crew, and feel so happy that my holiday finale in Venice was spent with such a wonderful crew of good people. To those that couldn't be there this year, you were missed and loved and felt.

God Jul/Merry Christmas to all! Love for an incredible new beginning in 2017, with the knowledge that the People have the power to make things good. We can do it.

* Group photo update coming as soon as Paul Gronner Photography edits them up!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Venice Sign Is Lit

I went out for a full Supermoon stroll last night, which was spectacular and enormous as it rose, then was quickly swallowed up by the clouds. I wandered over by the Venice sign, and had to smile to see what a popular photo background our sign is for people, especially at this time of the year.

The Venice sign is all dressed up in red and green for the Christmas season, and though I couldn't be at the sign lighting this year, the festivity is felt all over again every time you see the lights.

As we bustle around getting ready for the holidays and trying to get it all done before we leave town, it's nice to remember and be thankful for the community that we still have to return to. The Venice Community. Love to all, that we may get it all done, and have the best time doing so! Cheers!