Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Take A Breather - Gone Fishing!

I'm leaving today for Summer vacation back home in Minnesota, so Blogtown is taking a little breather while I'm away as well. As I was walking down Abbot Kinney this morning, I saw a whole bunch of Buddhas sitting there, reminding us all to remain calm. To take it all in. To breathe. To relax. To be here in the moment - now.

That sentiment carried on as I walked along the beach, soaking up and breathing in all the fresh, salty beach air to sustain me while I'm in the Land of Lakes. And Rivers.

I'll leave you with a little beach meditation and Summertime Pacific splendor ....


... and hope you all have the best time ever while we're apart. I sure plan on it.

Happy Summer Vacation!!! Yessss.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Life Rolls On Into Reggae On The Mountain!

This past weekend was a series of one great moment after another ... the whole time. Things came together effortlessly, and the sun was shining bright (and HOT!) from the crack of dawn on. Friends showed up at Playa De Los Amigos where we enjoyed the unusually warm water and frolicked around in the ocean all day long. It was the best.

Then we had to check out the Life Rolls On event at the Venice Skateboard, always one of the most inspiring days of the Summer. This year the day dedicated to people with physical limitations getting out there and keeping their stoke alive coincided with the arrival of the Special Olympics in Los Angeles, so there was a great feeling of support and encouragement pervading the already great vibes of the day.

Kids and adults in wheelchairs and on crutches got in the bowls of the skatepark and showed that they can still impress with their stunts and tricks as good as their able-bodied friends - if not more so due to their limitations. It's super inspiring, and I always leave with a happy - and grateful - spring in my step.

That only got bouncier when we headed up the mountain for the wonderful two day love fest of good vibrations that is Reggae On The Mountain in Topanga Canyon.

The day was perfect for such a festival - blazing hot, a mountain top breeze and absolutely everyone all the way invested in having a great time. Which one couldn't help but do with all the fantastic music, bright smiles, and colorful festivities all around.

Right as we walked up the mountain I ran into my family friends, the Ellis kids. Though I've known them since they were wee babes, they've grown up and Brooks Ellis is now the founder and organizer of Reggae On The Mountain, and I couldn't be more proud of him (above with his lovely sister, Sydney). He reminds me of a young Michael Lang (you two have to meet!) with his curly hair, bright smile, and relaxed way of making an entire family fun festival come off with ease and positivity. I was so impressed.

A big glass of icy sangria was handed to me, and we went and ate delicious jerk chicken as we listened to the sounds of John Brown's Body drift up the hill to us. I also got an awesome rasta umbrella that is begging for some more rain.

The true order of business (and pleasure!) for us was to see the Easy Star All Stars. I've been a massive fan of theirs since their sublime album Dub Side Of The Moon, but my love was truly cemented with their absolute genius album Radiodread. The Easy Stars were playing the main ROTM Mountain stage and we were right there in front for every note.


Hippies with didgeridoos danced alongside true Rastamen and simply rasta loving white girls like me. A little boy stood there and looked cool while barely swaying in time to the music, adding to the show in his own unselfconscious way.

One Rastaman stood there the entire time holding up a photo of Haile Selassie and giving out pamphlets and suckers. He was the real deal.

The Easy Stars had everyone dancing the entire time, never mind the truly sweltering heat. No matter. No worries. No problem. All we did was dance more and smile bigger.

They played selections from the above mentioned albums, as well as from their Michael Jackson epic Thrillah, and even teased a bit of "Kashmir" at the end, making me speculate that we might be getting a Led Zeppelin reggae album soon?! Ooooh. Kirsty Rock just rocks it. The horns roll it. Everyone is perfect. They're so so so good. People took shelter in the shade, lounging in tree branches and hammocks, with dream catchers there to beautify their daydreams. It was totally idyllic.

We danced and sang along until the sun began to set, then sang more all the way back down the mountain. Oceanside drinks at Moonshadows bled into the next day of beach day all day, followed by Hinanos and backyard nightcaps with best friends. This was truly a quintessential Los Angeles weekend, and I'm so happy and grateful to all who made it so honestly awesome.

Let the Good Vibrations roll on! One Love.

Thanks, Brooks!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Steve McCormick And Studebaker At The Cinema Bar

I was feeling all bad yesterday because I wasn't able to be with my Mom on her 75th birthday. I'm taking off next week to hang with her in Minnesota, but still. Then I remembered that it was my friend Steve McCormick's birthday too, and he was going to be celebrating both his happy day and the release of his new EP, The Laws Of Love, with his band Studebaker and a whole bunch of Venice friends at The Cinema Bar. I just knew that would make me feel better. I was all the way right.

McCormick and everyone he plays with are truly musician's musicians. Like when you're around them, it's on another level, like when you're around IT guys and they talk about tech stuff ... you can't really wrap your head around what just comes totally naturally to them. It's heavily impressive.

The Cinema is tiny, so you're right up close to the expertise. The sound is never great, it's really too small for it to resonate like it should. Having said that, you're totally immersed in it, and that IS great. It was a bluesy kind of night, and that meant we got to hear our great pal, Stan Behrens (WAR), blow on his harmonica all night long. This guy. Not only is he a liver transplant survivor, but one of the best harp players in the world, who rips harder than ever after his new lease on life. Plus he's just a wonderful human.

All of Studebaker's members are top top notch, from Steve Postell's total shredding on guitar (that he plays very high and tight), soloing like Steve Vai in that little room, to Eric Lynn on the keys (and an amp he had to tape together last minute), it's clear that you are in the presence of masters of their craft. From the grit of the Chicago blues to gorgeous ballads of love (in fact, I feel like I might have seen two people catch each others' eyes for the first time and fall instantly in love - but I might be projecting...), every last note was a pleasure to absorb.

By now, my high spirits were restored. I went in the bathroom and in a bit of synchronicity of thought, right in the middle of the door was this graffiti, telling me what I already know.

Happiest of Birthdays to Mom and Steve! And thanks so much to Steve and Studebaker for the music, and for the elevation of us all of us Venice folks and friends that crammed into that room. Music heals.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Twins In California - You Can Take The Girl Out Of Minnesota ...

... But you can't take the Minnesota out of the girl. A few of us California Minnesotans made the trip to Anaheim last night to see the Minnesota Twins take on the Los Angeles (formerly Anaheim and still weird that it's not) Angels. It's always fun to see the Twins jerseys in a sea of red Angels stuff, and I've always admired the people that do that. It's a certain kind of bravery, loyalty, and I don't care what you think attitude that I love. Though your seat neighbors are not always pleased.

Sports. Sure, it's an opiate for the masses, but it's also always a good time. It was so fun to have our little pal Quinn take in his first Twins game - already a tried and true (and often frustrated) fan of all Minnesota sports teams, even though he's born and raised in Venice. Like I said ... Loyalty.

Our beloved Twins got killed by the Angels last night, but it didn't even matter. It was a beautiful Summer night, spent with best friends enjoying the "American pastime". And doing the wave is always time well spent.

Angel Stadium, I was impressed with your fire explosions and volcano ... but GO TWINS!!!

*Also HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY to my darling Mother! If you see her, please give her a gigantic hug and kiss for me ... see you next week, Mom!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Positive Affirmations On Venice Boulevard

It sure does make your walk a whole lot nicer when every few steps the sidewalk is telling you how great you are.

For the past couple years, someone has been tagging the sidewalk along South Venice Boulevard with awesome little messages and put-ups for whomever happens to be ambling by.

The City (I presume) keeps coming out and painting over them (why?) with black paint, but then the person or persons come back with silver or white paint over the black. So there. I love that they are defiant in their positivity.

Whatever is happening in your life at any given moment, it doesn't hurt to be reminded that, in truth, you are perfect.

Or that you made someone's day.

Or that someone always knew you were the one.

Or simply that you're going the right way.

The newest one brought me back to college, when I was all about Joseph Campbell and his urging to Follow Your Bliss. There is perhaps no better advice in all the world.

Follow your bliss ... and in this case, and on this sidewalk, that leads right to the beach.

Happy beautiful, blissful weekend to one and all!

And THANK YOU to the spray paint bandits that always make MY day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

David Tanych Sculptures - Heavy Metal

I was out for a stroll the other day and took a different route than usual, just for fun. I turned down Broadway, and smacked right into a metal sculpture of giant nails, drilled right into the middle of the sidewalk.

A little ways up the block was another big sculpture, this time of a giant toy jack.

A sign on the fence nearby said David Tanych Sculpture, so when I got back home I checked it out. Tanych is from Vermont, and has been working with wood and metal since his dad put a hammer and nails in his hand when he was ten years old. He added metal to his repertoire after a blacksmith course in North Carolina, and now his work in furniture and sculptures is collected all over the world. He often collaborates with his wife, artist, Meryl Lebowitz.

I'm not sure what kind of red tape hoops Tanych had to jump through to get to put his sculptures right there in the city sidewalk, but I kind of like to think that he just went ahead and did it. I also think they're perfect objects to display in Venice .... a town with parts that are tough as nails, and parts that are full of fun and whimsy.

Cheers to Mr. Tanych for doing his part in keeping Venice fun to look at!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bastille Day At The French Market Cafe - Vive La France!

I have gotten my coffee at The French Market Cafe pretty much every day I've been in town for the last two decades. It's my spot. I love them. In all these years of patronage, I think last Sunday might have been the most fun yet at the French, as they celebrated Bastille Day a couple of days early.

The patio was decked out in red, white, and blue balloons and bunting. The special menu for the day was all French favorites like the croque monsieur, quiches, and le cheval. There was a waffle bar set up outside for the day, and you can be sure that the champagne was flowing.

Our favorite chanteuse, Zaya, was singing the classics like "La Vie En Rose", and there was a fun photo booth set up right in the middle of it all with French props to make one look legit, even if you were a Yank like me.

All the beloved staff were decked out in red berets, even Carole at the register. I'm sure she was secretly pleased. Je t'aime, Carole!!!

No one looked more perfectly Parisian than owner, Agness Martinez. Ever the gracious hostess, she waltzed throughout the celebration, smiling and serving her friends and all the Frenchies who came from all over town to join in on the festivities. It was a madhouse, yet all the service was with a big smile, with laughter and fun for staff and patrons alike.

It was a delightful Sunday afternoon, and never have I felt more the wonderful French qualities being honored on this holiday ... Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity ... for ALL.

Vive La France and Vive La French Market Cafe!!!

*And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear friend, Christina Conway! Vive La Christina!!!