Monday, November 30, 2009


Sometimes this place just speaks for itself:

To this, I raise my hands and shrug.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mr. Fox IS Fantastic!

True, I'll see anything Wes Anderson ever does, but WOW, did I love The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It's super creative, funny, smart, with a none too subtle dose of social commentary, if you're looking at it with that mind-set ... otherwise, it's just a purely delightful lark. With a little fox named Kristofferson included. Fresh.

Stop-motion animation hasn't been this endearing since Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and I can see this one becoming just as classic. Really. I wouldn't even really say it's too much for kids, as most of the dialogue would fly over their heads, but it's not scary or anything, so it could be one for the whole family to lift up the arm-rests and snuggle in together to see.

I don't want to say too much now, as I don't want to wreck if for you - and you MUST go - but just trust me as someone who just fell madly in love with this movie (and with Mr. Anderson by proxy), that it will charm your holiday print socks off. Or your flip-flops, depending on where you're viewing.

ENJOY! (and you will)

Whistle, wink, click! (Mr. Fox's "trademark")

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Brush With A Superstar.

RaRa Superstar is as Venice as it gets. He is an artist and drummer who plies his trade/s on The Venice Boardwalk, and around the world. We've been friends for a long time, but I never really knew his whole story until we sat down together yesterday in the golden afternoon, watching humanity go by together in front of his booth on The Boardwalk.

Ra was born in Oceanside, California but didn't stay there long. His was a military childhood, so he grew up all over the place ... Detroit, Cleveland, New York ... ("I grew up in 30 of the 50 States, but those were the ones I liked."), trying to figure out where he belonged all along.

Then one day "Circumstances led me to live under the Brooklyn Bridge", where all he had was a drum his brother had given him. He said he didn't know how to play it, but he learned quick - in a week - to throw down beats enough to eat. He was inspired by the kindnesses he was shown by passersby, commuters, fellow bridge dwellers - everyone would bring him food, smoke him out, share what extra they had - to where he realized that things weren't so bad, and that he was actually incredibly blessed. When one man that he saw a lot named Pep invited him to his apartment to hang out one night, Ra was dazzled by the paintings all over the walls of the place - jungles vines climbing, nudes everywhere ... mind blowing stuff. It was then (as up 'til then his form of expression - mostly to get girls - was poetry) that Ra decided to be a painter.

By then Ra had a daughter, Essence, and he was in Detroit with her when he hit the lottery. They took the money and bought art supplies, and Ra and Essence made his first painting together. Ra's name used to be 7 Guess, when he was doing rap, and after a bunch of soul searching, he realized that he wanted to be about the Sun and positivity, and changed his name to RaRa Superstar for his new phase as an Artist. (I still don't know his real name, and I kind of don't want to - the guy clearly IS Ra Superstar, and that's that. I didn't even ask.) It took him a while to get up the nerve to try to SELL his painting though, so he still did other things to get by.

Mostly, Ra played his drum and did astrology for people. He traveled city to city doing that ... meeting people, making enough money to get to the next place, and occasionally hitting the lottery right when he most needed to. He has a LOT of good karma. His first day back in New York, he met a guy who came right up to him and said, "YOU belong in Venice Beach." That seed planted, it didn't take long before Ra made his way West. His first day in Venice Beach, he saw that same guy from New York! "I made it, Man!", he yelled as they greeted each other incredulously. That was a good omen - and he's been here ever since.

Still doing drumming and astrology to get by, Ra had a hard time on The Boardwalk initially, as wherever he would set up his drum, someone with more seniority would be drumming right there and tell him to move. Same with astrology, until he kept getting moved down all the way to Brooks. He was working on his paintings all along - going through phases: Egyptian symbols, an all yellow and green phase, Venus and The Sun ... (now his son, Ra, had come along - from an Italian woman he'd met on The Boardwalk - and was the inspiration for the Venus phase), but still hadn't worked up the courage to put them out for sale yet. He was selling faux-Egyptian artifacts until his display fell over and they all broke and he pretty much HAD to start selling his paintings to be able to survive.

When he began selling them at the beach was when he began doing painting that incorporated his poetry and words into them. He started painting the frames when he had some that were all tore-up looking, and he thought he'd try and make them look better by carrying the painting over onto the frames. That's when they started to sell. That was 1999, and he's been down there earning a living off his positivity and colors from that day forward. Whenever people started copying him (and they do), he'd shake it up and try something new. He began doing smaller pieces on plain wood ... and then everyone down there started doing that, so now it's on to BIGGER pieces on wood. I commented that it seemed to follow the economy doing it that way, and Ra said there's a lot you can tell about the state of humanity being out there every day. Total anthropology. Ra said you can tell the time of year it is by just watching the people go by - oh, the French are on vacation, or kids are out of school, or these guys are here for the Rose Bowl, on and on.

With so much life and diversity going by every day, it's reflected in Ra's art, lifestyle, and even offspring. His newest baby, Princess, was born to him by his current girlfriend, who comes from Japan. And whom he also met when she was walking by his Boardwalk booth. It's no wonder then, that when asked what he loves most about life in Venice, he says simply, "The Boardwalk." He is OF The Boardwalk, and appreciates it all day, every day. Especially when in far off places, like his upcoming show in Amsterdam, followed by another in Sweden (where his "Absolut Venice Beach" piece is sure to be a hit with the Absolut Distillery). His YouTube Channel, "Superstar TV", takes you along on his adventures across the globe. That's a good place to send him messages too, and get in touch with him about the piece you'd like brightening up your place - if you can't make it to The Boardwalk yourself, that is.

Ra's art reflects the love he has for life, more than anything. In fact, he calls it the "Love More Movement". And who can't get behind that? His upcoming Amsterdam show's theme is "Life Is Beautiful, Just Add Color". In fact, he sweetly presented me with a piece that says exactly that on it ... and will serve to remind me of that truth, and also of its creator.

RaRa Superstar himself adds such vibrant color to Venice. His kindness, uplift, and enthusiasm for expression and people, confirm every time you see him (or his art) that life is indeed BEAUTIFUL.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby!!

A bunch of Venice friends made the somewhat rare trek far past Lincoln last Saturday to celebrate our friend Hilary's birthday with some ice skating at the newly opened (for the Season) Pershing Square Outdoor Skating Rink. Yeah, there's a closer one in Santa Monica, but that one is really crowded and pretty slushy, and downtown you get that pseudo-Rockefeller Plaza feeling going skating amid the skyscrapers and lights. The main difference is that the trees are Palm, not Pine - and the skill level among Southern California skaters is probably not that of East Coast kids raised on ice skating.

Never mind MINNESOTA kids raised on ice skating! Saturday night was monumental in that our little 1 1/2 year old friend, Quinn, had his first time on skates ever! As his Dad is a Minnesotan too, this was a big, big deal. See how he takes right to it! With a jaunty wave to his fans, even!

His Auntie CJ tried to show him a thing or two before she completely ate it, swerving to avoid a clutch of kids clinging to the side boards.

It's a surreal field trip to ice skate in the balmy (compared to any other outdoor skating rink around the country) evening, and really did help to get us in that almost the Holidays spirit.

Slick ice is a great equalizer, and it's a good time to even just sit and watch the folks try to stay upright. My favorite is the big guys just terrified and clinging to the edge boards, as their dates laugh and cling to them. One of my friends asked if it was sick that she rather enjoyed watching people fall on their faces. No, it is not. It's just being human. It's a cheap date too - only $6 per session (one hour sessions go from 12-10 pm on weekdays, and 10 am - 10 pm on the weekends), with $2 skate rental fee if you don't have your own.

As the calendar turns toward the Holiday hubbub, treat yourself to a little good old fashioned ice skating ... to remember the child-like fun part of it all.

Skate now until January 18th, 2010 (that already feels weird to write)!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A WIM-sical evening.

I think it's the best when you meet people and become friends, and have no idea what they do in life or anything, you just like them for themselves ... and THEN you find out that they're in a great band or they do amazing paintings or are roller derby girls or work with handicapped kids, and you like them even more.

That's how it was when I met the guys from the Australian band, WIM, at my friend Vav's birthday party last week. They said they were over here to record their album with this hotshot producer guy, and were having a grand old time here in the States, and then we went about our business of having a blast at the party. While chatting with a couple of the guys, I asked who they would see themselves on a bill with, to try and get an idea of what their sound was like, or whose music they like, as I always think that's pretty telling. When they said, "David Bowie and Nina Simone", I knew that I was going to dig what they were up to ... I just didn't know how much.

So last night - after a little (er, LOT) Paqui Tequila at Patio Culture's tasting party - I found myself walking across the street to The Stronghold for the second night in a row to see our WIM guys play a show. We actually had so much tequila that their new no alcohol policy was not an issue in the least, and we were ready for a rowdy night of music, surrounded by our whole gang of friends, old and new. There were a whole bunch of people on the bill last night, and WIM had just been squeezed on at the last moment, so they were to go last/late. Which was a good thing, as they were the clear Headliners of the night.

Their Myspace page says that their influences are "The Middle Ages, The Wheel, and Glitter", and as much as that doesn't tell you, it also lends you some clues. Their sound is kind of 70's Brit Pop, but also very much of the NOW. This was their first time playing in America, and you could see on their faces that they were loving every minute of it. Simon Jankelson, the keyboard wonder, said, "We're absolutely charmed to be here", which absolutely charmed all of us. Their song, "America" has a line that goes, "I've thrown all my troubles away", and that's exactly how it felt if you looked around the room at everyone dancing and having a ball, thrilled to be among the first over here to discover a band that you can already tell is going to win lots and lots of fans. Especially girl ones. Every single guy in the band is adorable, and sweet as pie.

Martin Solomon is a classic front man, stalking around the stage and belting out the hits in his resonant voice that doesn't really remind me of anyone else too much - a good thing. He danced around and sat down with people in the crowd and made the whole room get a crush on him.

Saul Wodak plays the guitar, Dustin Bookatz plucks the bass, and Harry Thynne holds down the beat on drums, all while obviously loving it and having a blast playing together. "John" and "Something For You" (probably the hit single, poppy, harmonic and catchy as it is) were my favorites, but every song was good, and that's not always easy to say. Everyone at The Stronghold LOVED them, and it was one of those great nights where the feeling for everyone is mutual. The WIM guys all gushed about how L.A. was a "Magical place ... ", and what a great time they've had, so I feel pretty good about your chances to see them play again over here soon. Plus they're going to have to tour behind that newly recorded album that we've all now super-pre-ordered.

WIM for sure has a whole crowd of new fans this morning. They left to conquer New York today, so we all hugged our goodbyes after the show, and I promised to brag about them to everyone I know. So here I am. Bragging. We loved WIM, their music, and that feeling they gave us last night - the one where music brings everyone together to have fun and CELEBRATE life.

Thanks, Guys. We can't wait until next time!

*Check out the kind words the L.A. Times Music Blog threw out for WIM:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Freund, Tom - At The Stronghold.

I wrote about The Stronghold as a music venue back in April of this year for The Beachhead, and wondered how it would turn out. I've seen a fair share of growing pains (mega-disorganization one night when we had a visiting friend scheduled to play ... no bueno) and recent confusion about it all, so last night I just finally asked one of the owners, Michael Cassell, just what exactly the deal was ... what their vision for the place is, because it's a really great space, and I'd love to see it do well, especially because - selfishly - it's super close to my pad.

He said that they want it to be all about the music - not about getting hammered (though that could have a lot to do with the fact that they have no liquor license). He said, "People are paying for silence" - meaning that they want it to be a place where people sit and LISTEN to the music, and really appreciate it. Kind of like a McCabe's show. I HOPE that folks will want to pay a cover to just sit and listen to great music in the neighborhood - sans alcohol - but it remains to be seen. The bonus to that is that it can go really late-night, with no booze laws to deal with. And you can always smuggle it in red cups if you've got the shakes or something. Per the management.

So last night was the first time for the no alcohol deal, and it was Tom Freund Tuesday - he's got a residency for every Tuesday this November. I hope you already know him and his music, but if you don't - it's high time you did. I was at a Steve Earle show last month (with Tom Morello and Ben Harper to boot) and I was standing there talking to Tom Freund when this young guy came up and just fawned over him like those other legends weren't even there. "I can't believe I'm at this show and I just met my favorite singer-songwriter!", he rejoiced. It was darling, and so nice to hear, as Tom throws down with the very, VERY best of them.

The Stronghold (the music space is upstairs from the custom jeans part downstairs - you can hear the industrial sewing machine whirring long into the night) is really a lovely interior, all wood floors and big iron spiral staircase loft looking, with leather couches and chairs set up around the stage area. It's downright cozy ... and if it gets too much so, there's a gigantic back patio where you can go get fresh air or pollute it. Coffee and water are on offer, as well as a little selection of snacks. Total McCabe's. Or a Speakeasy.

I chatted with Tom a little bit backstage before the show, as though we've been homies for a long time, you don't often get the chance to dig deeper at shows and whatnot. He settled down in Venice because he's a New Yorker, and if you're moving to California, you'd better be near the ocean, is how he put it. I totally agree. He has a gorgeous wife, Francie, and a stunning little redheaded daughter called Delilah. They are part of a community of great hipster parents in Venice, which is one of the things he likes most about where we live ... people helping out and creating that nurturing vibe for everyone involved. The Ocean is a crucial part of life for the Freunds, as is the walk and bike-ability of how we get around in these parts. You'll see them hanging out all over town, but Tom said, "I'm an Abbot's guy by nature", meaning Abbot's Habit. That's about the people. If it's about the coffee, he'd take a cappuccino from The French Market, thanks. (Amen). It doesn't hurt that musicians of the highest caliber are friends and neighbors, especially when someone is as about the tunes as Tom is.

Amilia K. Spicer and Steve McCormick are a couple of those friends and neighbors, and opened for Tom last night, taking you to down home Kentucky (where she's from) through her beautiful voice and straightforward guitar playing. Steve is a great harmonizer, both with vocals and guitar, and you can tell they really enjoy playing together. I need to go hear her more. Tom joined them on his stand-up bass for her last song, "Harlan" about the town in Kentucky where she's from - or as she put it, "this is a song about my DNA." It was so lovely with the three of them creating a whiskey soaked visit down home on that stage, that Harlan is now on my list of places to check out.

Tom Tuesdays are the best, and you never know who is going to show up to join him. Last night he was backed up by Matt Pszonak (on lap steel and bass), wonderful percussionist/drummer, Chris Lovejoy, and Jason Yates on keyboards (Jason of The Innocent Criminals). Jason played a few songs of his own to get us further warmed up, and then Tom took the stage for the intimate crowd (that grew less so with each song ... people were still coming in when I left post-Tom!). Tom opened with a song that isn't on any of his albums, "Crow's Landing". Judging from the crowd's reaction, it will probably be on his next one. This night was "Set List Free", Tom said, so with hardly a glance at Lovejoy, they launched into Tom's oldie, but goodie, "Trondheim". I love that one, and not just because I'm Norwegian. And I love the next one, "Bombshell" - and not necessarily because I'm one of those, it's just really good.

Tom's latest album, "Collapsible Plans" is a treasure. Ben Harper produced it (available on his website), and Tom has opened for a bunch of Ben's tour shows. They're longtime friends (and were a college duo together) and their music compliments each other totally. The song, "Collapsible Plans" was next, and the two girls right near me knew every single word - though Tom sang it a lot better. "Unwind" features such fancy finger-work on Tom's guitar, you can't even see his hands, they're such a blur. Funky Wah-Wah sounds permeate the mix, and the hoots and hollers at song's end were well-deserved.

Ah, good old "Copper Road". Tom would have fit in great with the whole desert-rock Gram Parsons times, that's for sure. In fact, he played Parsons' "Hickory Wind", joined by Amilia K., and the country yearning is almost painfully pretty, filigreed with Tom's masterful mandolin work. "Queen Of The Desert" fit that genre as well, and the mandolin ... That mandolin. Sigh. The real show-stopper for the mandolin is Tom's song about his wife, "Francie". PLUGGED IN mandolin madness, that again makes one pause to wonder how human fingers can fly so fast. It's a classic in the Freund ouevre, for very good reason. I'm humming it now.
But then Tom would also fit in great in any smoky jazz bar across the globe. "Comfortable In Your Arms" features his stand-up bass played with a bow, which he glides masterfully. "I want lessons", was all I was thinking while listening to that thing. Glorious. That was followed up by the Beatles' "Come Together" and then I thought, "Exactly. That is really the whole point. Of music. Of love. Of Community." ... I snapped out of that revelation just in time to whistle for the ripper of a bass solo on that one. Geez Louise.

"Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard" is always a crowd-pleaser, with Jason Yates and Lovejoy leading the sing and clap-along. A word about Lovejoy: he just rules. He's so inventive with his little bag of percussion tricks, and such a joy to watch, with his crazy hair and big smile he gets from playing ... he's a real treat to yell and clap for.

"Why, Wyoming" took us back out on the road, with Amilia K. again lending her harmonic gifts. Because there is really no time limit as it stands now at The Stronghold, Tom could play as long as he felt like. Even on a Tuesday school night, that was fine by the entire room. "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends" is always a good thing to remember and celebrate, and when the version is done all slowed down and fresh like Tom did it (joined by Shannon Moore), it's even better. Even BETTER when you get Stanley "The Baron" Behrens to join you, blowing on his harmonica like the bluesiest cat around. When Tom and I were talking pre-show, he said there are two great harmonica players on the planet - Taj Mahal and Stanley Behrens. Seriously. It was so great to see Stan play last night too, as he's been dealing with the dread liver cancer, and its horrid treatments. He's on the list to get a transplant soon, but you would know none of this by watching him play. The LIFE he breathes out through his harp is so powerful, you really do trust that this guy can handle anything that comes his way. Once again, the power of music to heal and elate was clearly evident. GO STANLEY!!!

"Digs" was groovy as ever, and had heads bobbing in unison around the room. "If you don't like the digs, you can find someplace else." Word. Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" was also given a jazzy treatment, and featured a drum jamboree between Lovejoy (I love that name) and Jason Yates on congas. "Stop, Hey, What's that sound?" ... that sound is fresh live music in our own backyard!!!
The last song of Tom's official set (I left, but heard it still going on up there as I went by later) was his excellent (said like Bill & Ted) "Truly Mellow". It takes you back to the time when you were that teen listening to music in the basement ... trying out new sounds, ideas, perhaps herbal remedies ... as you sorted out who you were going to become ... all the while feeling truly mellow. There's a good singalong part that is also easy, just "La-di-dah" repeated back to Tom. This crowd sounded good together too.

Once the applause died down, my crew and I said our goodbyes and ambled down the steps into the night, feeling mellow, feeling lucky, and feeling hopeful that The Stronghold will get it all streamlined and flowing. Live music so close to our homes is just about the best thing ever, so I'm rooting for them. There is a special feeling when you get people together to be just about the music, and in such close quarters. It all goes back to that music, love and community ... and the more opportunities for that, the better.

Tom Tuesdays - one more left in November. Don't be square.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Venice Is A Poem.

"Poetry is what Venice is all about. It ain't the only thing, but it's the fundamental thing."

That's a quote I heard from Jim Smith of The Free Venice Beachhead, who heard it from Pat Hartman. The Beachhead has an entire poetry section each month, but there's a lot more poems around Venice ... even just breathing in, really.

One of my favorite things about Venice is the poetry of it all. And the APPRECIATION of the Poetry of it all. The Beats hung out here ... The Venice West Cafe (and then Sponto Gallery) celebrated the poets and their muses all day, all night. Jim Morrison wrote poems on the sand, and turned them into Doors songs, before he left to only write poems in Paris.

Some of that poetry can get lost amid the gentrification, crime, and the general busyness of everyone's lives in this Millenium. Beyond Baroque keeps it going, though, with constant poetry readings and cultural events you would grow from just by walking in the door. They are also the Sponsors of the Venice Poetry Wall down - ironically or not? - on the side of the Beach Police Station. I've always loved to take a moment and soak in the words etched there ... now kinda fading and in need of some upkeep, but there to try and capture the reality in front of you in a few perfectly chosen lines.

Punk rock poetry is represented too, as Exene Cervenka pleads, "Head the Future off at the past. Part the freeway, let my people go free."

There are even poems gouged into the walls of the Public Restrooms down at the beach. Not long ago, I was thinking of someone I missed far away, and wondering what they were doing, when I rode my bike up to the restrooms to rinse my feet of sand. I looked up and this Wanda Coleman gem was staring me in the face:

... so sometimes poems in your midst can even make you more aware of yourself. Trip on that.

My favorite one so far, I think, comes from Viggo Mortensen (a longtime supporter of Beyond Baroque) and goes diagonally all across the wall, so I'll tell it to you myself ...

"It was all part of a wonderful secret, an infinite number of welcoming gifts that had lain waiting in the sea."

Leave it to Viggo to perfectly describe our Venice.

Or don't. Write your own poems, celebrate your own gifts ... and the ones waiting in the sea.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seek Truth!

Some good advice popped up parked in front of my place this morning ...
So that will set the tone for the week. Seek Truth. Yes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vive La French!!!

If you know me or have visited me, you've either heard of or been to The French Market Cafe on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice (South of Venice Blvd.). That's because I go there every morning and get what I feel is the very best coffee in town. I love it. I miss it when I'm away. They don't even have to ask me what I want ... and sometimes it's even ready for me when I'm still standing in line to order it. We are tight.
A lovely mademoiselle called Agnes came over from France in 1999, and soon thereafter took over The French Market Cafe from a French couple with her business partner, Lionel. They made some improvements, but kept the general idea ... delicious French food (get Le Cheval for brunch - open face sunny egg, bacon, swiss on baguette - delicieux), along with a store selling all the foods, magazines, wines, and other French things for French expatriates, and Americans alike. Then she met a dashing customer called Patrice ... they fell in love, married and bought out Lionel. Today Agnes and Patrice Martinez run the place together, and it's as though you've entered their own backyard. People they know come in all day, kiss both cheeks, and stay to have a proper European-length meal out on the sunny patio, as kids and dogs play - and grow up - over the years.
I started going there years ago because it was the closest place to get coffee to my house. I continued going there because it is so dang good. I've written about it in my journal good. It took a while (about a decade) to get super in with the owners and workers there, but now I love them all like ma own famille. Carole knows pretty much every detail of my life from seeing me every morning, and has become a dear, protective and supportive amie. Like we've brought each other souvenirs from our travels friends. Mikey offers a smile and sweet comment every day, and makes the coffee just how I like it (though Carole really knows best). Tobias always has something philosophical to say. Genevieve works harder than anyone I've ever seen, and I've made her smile twice this year already! Agnes & Patrice are handsome and welcoming all day long. I bring them cookies at Christmas, they gave me a swell bottle of wine. It's just the kind of place you hope to have in your life ... your morning "Cheers" bar.
Speaking of Cheers, or Salut, rather ... The French Market Cafe FINALLY got their wine and beer license this year!!! After years of bureaucracy and hassles by the City Officials ... you can now buy one of the gorgeous bottles of wine or champagne from the cute cellar inside, and pop it open to enjoy as the afternoon light turns everything gold. It is a terribly civilized way to while away a twilight, that is for sure.
The French Market Cafe nestles you in at 2321 Abbot Kinney Blvd, starting at 7 a.m. They usually wrap up their day by 5, except for Thursday-Saturday is now 10.

J'adore, French Market! See you in the morning!

*Oh, and just so you know. You get in line clockwise around the center of the store, order from the counter (or order ahead online - see above link), pay, get a number and they'll bring you the food outside if it's nice out (usually is) and you found a table, or inside in the little dining room. (I say this because it seems hard for some people to sort out. And Carole doesn't like that.)

** I especially liked going here when it was our last retarded government's "Freedom Fries" days. Burn.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Precious Movies.

I love this time of year. Yes, for the subtle California seasonal changes - the golden afternoon light, the need for a sweater at night, the smell of fireplaces burning around town ... but the real way you know the seasons have shifted in Los Angeles is by the GOOD movies finally coming out. I don't really like it that they save all the good ones until now so that they can be fresh in Award Season voters' minds - spread it out a LITTLE! - but it's just the way it is, so now is the time to be ensconced in a dark theater ... if you can't be at the beach that day, that is.

Yesterday was an especially trying day for some reason, and I don't think anything is in retrograde? Technical difficulties all week;

{Dear Verizon High Speed Internet Customer Service: You can suck it. And by It, I mean the yawning abyss left empty by the vanishing of my business. Losers. Bye. CJG}

... delays of all kinds; rejection letters; a three day headache; and general disillusionment. I'd finally had it with trying for the day, and went to the movies to escape it all. We were going to see the new Coen Brothers' film - because one must - but only front row seats remained. Precious: Based On The Novel "Push" By Sapphire was starting at the same time, and it was also high on my list. WHOA.
If I thought I had even ONE problem before seeing this astounding film ... it all dissipated about three minutes into entering the life of Clarice "Precious" Jones. The things that she endures are so horrifying ... we were shaking with held-back sobs at one awful point ... but she keeps going. The spirit inside of this 16 year old girl is so strong, I was instantly ashamed at myself for thinking I'd had an inkling of a bad day. The performances by absolutely everyone are so honest and touching - and EVIL, in the case of Mo'Nique (who I'm telling you, will win an Oscar) - that you are firmly in their world for every frame.
Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey each play small, but important roles, and excel. (Mariah Carey! Acting well!) But the lead performances, for sure Mo'Nique, but also Gabourey Sidibe as Precious, will just tear your heart out. I left the theater, first shaking my head and wiping my face of tears, but then skipping and clicking my heels that the cards I've been dealt have not ever come near the absolute trauma of this titan of a girl. Who keeps going forward no matter what happens. The movie ends with the dedication, "For Precious Girls Everywhere ..." - and that's about the roughest part of the movie - realizing that these scenarios DO exist. We could all do well to remember that ... all the time. That even though stuff happens that shakes your head up and ruins your day, it could always be so, so, so much worse.

Don't shy away from this movie because you think it will be too sad, either. It's actually laugh out loud funny in a few parts ... but inspiring all the way through. Go.

On another movie note ... I like when you go to Netflix and there's the little section that says "Local Favorites For Venice, CA". I always find it kind of reassuring to see the ones that people whom I live around watch - decent movies. What an interesting way to check out demographics. I'd be interested to know what other areas have in that section ...

That's how I first heard about the one I watched the other night, Anvil. What a great documentary! It's great for how METAL it is (Anvil is a metal band from the 80's that never blew up, but the guys are still going for it up in Canada, hoping they'll still break through and be huge.), but also for, again, how really inspiring it is. (It would be a swell double feature with American Movie - similar dreams, equally touching). Though it seems unlikely that these rockers, now in their 50's, will ever be massive (you do find yourself wanting to order their cd's just to help), they love what they do, their families support their dreams, and they never give up hope. And isn't that what it's all about?

View, reflect, and count your blessings.

Monday, November 9, 2009


There is a great place to watch the Sunset in Venice these days, high above the Boardwalk at High. It's the bar on top of the Hotel Erwin (used to be the shoddy Best Western), and the view is so gorgeous you can't even barely stand it.

You enter the Hotel Erwin lobby (centrally located on Pacific and almost Windward) and take the elevator up to the Roof. You walk down a long Hamptons-like wooden sidewalk that leads to the seating areas, where you set up camp in one of the comfy couch sections, and Behold! The entire Venice Boardwalk, and the mountains and sea beyond. stretch out to infinity. There is nothing left to do but toast your good fortune to be in this moment.

As with any decent place with a view, High gets its fair share of Tourists and Tools, but if you and your posse of locals can finagle one of the front couch areas from the very nice manager, Tom, you will pat yourselves on the back as you keep your eye out for the Green Flash. The sun sets over the vast Pacific .. the Santa Monica Mountains turn purple before your eyes.

There are blankets and space heaters for your coziness as the night air turns brisk, and the menus light up so you can see what you're in for. Innovative. One drag is that the bathroom is two floors down (via stairs or elevator) and that can seem like a haul, but there are worse hells.

I haven't had any of the food really, other than little appetizer things, but I can vouch for the drinks - good and stiff (though a little pricey, like most Hotels with a view. Perhaps not a nightly hang spot). There is a restaurant on the street level called Hash that looks pretty good too. High and Hash. The Erwin seems to be familiar with much of its Venice clientele already.

I haven't seen any of the rooms in The Erwin yet, but have heard that they are clean, well-designed, and affordable. The art on the hallway walls seems pretty beachy and cool ... I will for sure recommend the place for my out-of-towners to stay (when my own Hostel is full).

We had a fun and fantastic High Happy Hour last Friday, and the colors of the sunset were mind-blowing. It put us all in an excellent mood to carry on to First Fridays over on Abbot Kinney (aka Food Truck Alley - weird). The lights came on all over town, and from the High vantage point, it looked so charming, that all just had to be well.

Check it out when you want to impress someone with the stunningly beautiful side of Venice. I'll clink to that!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Good, The Bad ... and The Venice.

The Good:

A Bi-Coastal Skate Summit! My brother, Paul, and our Brother-Friend, Aaron, met and grew up together skating the mean streets of Minneapolis. Paul moved West (Venice) and Aaron moved East (Brooklyn), and whenever one visits the other, it's still mainly about skateboarding. Aaron even turned a spare room in his last New York apartment into a "Spare Ramp". Yes, a skateboard ramp built in to fit the room. One time I was in NYC and booked a hotel room. Aaron was offended. "Never do that again. You can always stay in the spare ramp. It's good for your back." These guys clearly love their skateboards.

So it was with great anticipation and joy that the two old friends got up early ("to beat the kids") to skate the new Venice Skatepark together. It was like Christmas morning as a kid (if you had a slight hangover then), and the smiles were wide. I quote Aaron, "It's like butter." Everyone thinks so, and everyone loves it. There was even a very attentive guy down there with a big Dust Buster type thing, blowing away any traces of sand in the Bowl, dodging the skaters taking their turns. Everyone seems to be very courteous about that too - it's very civilized the way people observe and respect each other, and the order of runs. I was impressed.

There was one really quite elderly man down there, all padded up and waiting his turn. I was both proud of him, and a bit worried - it's not really the sport to take up in older age. Paul finished a run and said, "I feel like an old man." You would not know that to look at him here:

Still wrecking it! Aaron's style is very smooth, like surfing, and almost too quick to capture.

It warmed my heart to see these two old friends out there on a glorious Venice morning in early-November. After all the years of skating outside in winter slush, taking the guff of jock dudes that were threatened somehow by skaters, and being harassed by the Cops, Paul and Aaron had their reward this morning ... and are still out there now.

The Bad:

Well ... whether this is bad or not is controversial, but it's been eating at me since this time yesterday, and my friend Steph said, "You need to write about this and get it out of your system." So I am.

I was sailing across Abbot Kinney on Venice Boulevard yesterday on my bike, hair blow-drying in the wind and sunshine, dressed in my Technicolor Tunic, smiling and waving at a friend who had honked as they drove past. Not an antagonist figure in the least. More like Happy Venice Poster Child. And I WAS Happy Venice in my mind too, looking forward to a sunny lunch with Jen at Casa Linda ... Blessed.

I curved past this woman on her bike, (Mom's age-ish, in a bike helmet) and as I swept past her, she yelled at me, "HAVE A NICE BRAIN INJURY!" I DID almost crash my bike hearing that. I think she just wanted her 2 cents heard as someone flew by, and didn't count on me slamming on my brakes, turning to her, and saying, "What did you just say?" She smiled this strange smile and said, "I said have a nice brain injury. Enjoy your cracked skull." I was so taken aback, I just looked at her for a second, and then said, "That's not a very nice thing to say." She replied, "Well, what nice way would you like me to tell you that you're going to die? Falling on your head on concrete from three feet up is absolute death, and you're higher than three feet on that bike."

Again, Wow. "Did you get a brain injury or something?", I asked, wondering why she was on such a crusade with a total stranger. "No, because I wear a helmet.", she answered snippily. "Well, there's probably a better way to say this to someone.", was all I could come up with to say, as I was torn between wanting to push her over and hoping this wasn't some Omen Lady sent to warn me against imminent paraplegia. She just shrugged at me, and smiled oddly again. I was done with her, so said, "Thanks for the advice, I'll look into it {No, I won't}." She gave me two thumbs up and said, "Good Girl!", like I was a little retarded already.

I rode off, but fumed about it a couple more blocks and spilled it all to Jenny, and we both think she was super out of line, and freaky for even putting that negative energy out there on me. We're kids of the 70's, Man. I get it about helmets and pads and everything, but I've made it this far, and I really don't see myself pedaling along The Boardwalk in a helmet anytime soon. So ... was it bad? Was it good? Was it none of her business? I'm leaning towards the latter. I'll ask the expert on me, my safety, and moral manners ... Mom?

The Venice:

I was unable to attend the Venice Neighborhood Council meeting last night on Medical Marajuana and the Dispensaries around town, but Jim from the Farmer's Market, and Jenny from the Block went and said it was a great meeting, all in favor of legalization and regulation. Everyone was super informed and had data to back up their comments and concerns ... and nothing was really decided. Stay tuned for more on this when I can listen in for myself. But be encouraged that California may soon solve many of its problems (Economic, Prison overcrowding, Buzz-killing ...) through the simple and obvious act of legalization. This is a historic time in our state, and once more California finds itself on the leading edge of stuff that just makes sense (except for Prop. 8 ... but we'll get it next time!).

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This Is It - Michael Jackson's Final Gift To His Fans

The new movie about Michael Jackson's last show, This Is It, opens with the words, "For the fans", and that is exactly what it is - an absolute gift to anyone who ever danced along to "Billie Jean" or "Beat It" ... who sang along to The Jackson Five ... who watched the "Thriller" video 3,000 times ... who stayed home from the Circus to watch Michael perform The Moonwalk the first time on t.v. (me) ... or just someone who can appreciate an otherworldly talent that we'll never see again. This is truly it.

I'm so glad I saw this film, because now the lasting impression I have of Michael Jackson is not at all the tabloid freak show our society turned him into ... instead, it is of a man who LOVED what he did, and who was still the very best at it. This was not a man who wanted to die. He is firmly in charge. He is clearly excited to, as he put it, "show people talent they've never seen before." This live show would have been the absolute best show that ever was. The movie succeeds in blowing your mind with anticipation for the real deal, and then crushing your heart to know that it will never happen, and the world has lost someone incredibly special.

The movie (and the show) goes through all the stages of Michael's career, and he still sings a lot like the little kid we all fell in love with. It's all rehearsal footage, so he's just marking a lot of the dances, to save his energy, but when he cuts loose ... he shows you exactly why he was dubbed The King Of Pop. At one point, he does a kind of dance solo that leaves all his backup dancers laughing and falling on the ground in admiration, and from getting schooled. The entire movie I felt my body twitching while watching him, like you just want to get up and try his moves with him. They're not just the old, familiar ones either - this guy was always pushing forward: new dance moves (sideways Moonwalk!), so precise they're like robot moves, aerial artists, film technology (new "Thriller" segments!) you've never seen in a live show before, fresh new costumes (new, pointy shouldered jacket!), and best of all, Michael Jackson showing you how it's done. As everyone is left gasping at his moves, he humbly says, "At least that helps you get a feel for it." Everyone laughed out loud in the theater at the understatement.

It also rocks. It's a great movie, and would've been a great show, because you know every note and beat of each song, so you feel it more. "Beat It" is as rock as ever, only now he has a cute blonde girl shredding the guitar solo instead of Eddie Van Halen. Michael sort of shadow boxes at one point during it, and looks strong (almost buff?) for a second, instead of the frail guy that you just hope will get through it all. Which he did not - but when you watch him singing and dancing, it becomes pretty clear that there was some serious foul play involved, because no one works that hard and puts up this big of a production to not want to see it through. It is tragic for everyone involved on screen that this show will never come to pass. I applaud the decision to share this footage with the world, because it shows the sheer artistic mastery and perfectionism of Michael Jackson, and his desire to "Put some love back into the world."

So if you ever sang along or mimicked MJ's moves, (or got into a fight with your neighbor over the photo of him in the "Say, Say, Say" yellow vest and hat that there was only one magazine left of - again, me) go see "This Is It". As my friend Kwaku said, "Michael Jackson is our Elvis." He really was. There will likely never be anyone bigger, or more culture changing, in the world again. Sad as it is to see this life force snuffed out and gone, the film celebrates everything spectacular that Michael Jackson contributed to this planet. And it remains thrilling.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Do you remember how you felt on this day last year? This HISTORICAL day?! I do. But it can be easy to forget the absolute JUBILATION of that momentous day ... especially if you listen to the way the media does its daily spin. Two states win Gubernatorial elections yesterday for Republicans, and suddenly the country is rebuking President Obama. Last night we watched the remarkable new HBO documentary, By The People: The Election Of Barack Obama. All the flooding emotions roared back ... the angst of the campaign, the chin up despite the nay-sayers (I was on board from the BEGINNING. I have emails from Obama's Illinois Senate Office before he ever decided to run. I BELIEVED.), the drama, the anger, the fun, the HOPE, and finally, the TRIUMPH! Man. What an epic day. For ALL time.

There are some who want to bag on our wonderful 44th President, (Honestly. The positive difference between him and our last joker/War Criminal is so stark it's alarming. And laughable that there are people that have the nerve to complain one iota about the elegant man who is 44.) for not having done enough yet, or to their personal liking ("We do not see things as they are, we seem them as we are." - Anais Nin), or they are afraid, or straight out racist. What they fail to realize is how FAR we've come around the world in the one year since the election. Rather, how far we as a Nation came OVERNIGHT from the election. The world-wide celebration, hope and support for our new President and we citizens exploded in a burst of heart-felt JOY, that is still being felt today, if you open your ears beyond the network news. And that IS a feat deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize ... certainly if you traveled or listened to anyone from anywhere else during the last reign of - literally - terror. We are a NEW nation, from November 4, 2008 ... and for always. Remember - and CELEBRATE - that fact. And join together to help our President not only clean up our huge messes, but better us as a Country, and as a People.

So ... to help you conjure up those elated memories ... I share my piece from the day after last year's election with you now:
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America."

That was how PRESIDENT ELECT BARACK OBAMA (!!!) began his historical victory speech last night ... and that is how I too shall begin, as I DID have my doubts and my fears, but I also had my hopes and my dreams - and last night, November 4th, 2008, Hope beat Fear.

It's been four long years since Barack Obama burst into my life, when I heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I have not wavered an instant since then in thinking (and being pretty vocal about), "THAT is who I want as my President". Twenty four hours ago, it finally happened ... and I'm still an elated, happily crying mess of joy.

I am only one of 63+ Million American voters who made this day happen. There are as many inspiring stories, and am proud to have my own to share when I'm an old woman looking back on this monumental day.

After being SO inspired by hearing Senator Obama speak at the '04 Convention, I looked him up online. I donated a couple of bucks, as a thank you for giving me chills. (I still have the 2005 email response, thanking ME!) I read his books, growing more impressed. I started talking to my friends and relatives about this guy from Illinois, who talked about America like I remembered THINKING about America as a kid, but had lost in the last very dark eight years. I knew (or was told) that it was probably "too soon" for him to run, but I've always had big dreams. I kept hoping.

Buzz grew, speculation whirled ... and then early in 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for President. I was on board immediately. Interestingly, my thoughts and feelings are still pretty far to the left of Obama's ... but it didn't matter so much, because underneath it all was and is my desire for the States of America to truly be UNITED - and I saw this unique man as interested in that unity above all else.

So began the blog writing, the emails to friends who'd never heard of the guy (and probably weren't that interested at the time), the squeezing into rallies, the phone banking (and getting hung up on), the donating every chance I could, and the constant chatter, trying to get people to listen. It was interesting and challenging, trying to get people involved, when while most of my friends think along the same lines as myself, many are more radical and don't trust any politician. Or they liked Hillary. Or they didn't think Obama had a chance.

I was scoffed at - "Yeah, good luck with that, Carol. America isn't ready for a Black President". I was told that my letters of support for Obama were "Hate Mail" by an old friend. I traveled abroad and had to defend my hopes for a new America to people that had given up on us, and really now saw us (the Government, not the people, I hoped) as the Evil Empire. As I was beginning to myself.

But then it caught on. Volunteer meetings ran out of chairs. People stood for HOURS to get into rallies. People stopped hanging up, and instead volunteered their OWN time. Obama's fundraising went through the roof. Everyone started PAYING ATTENTION! Feeling the same HOPE that I felt.

And then the Iowa Caucuses happened last January. I vividly remember sitting in the car, listening to NPR, fascinated at the process, needing to go inside to a dinner, but unable to tear my ears from the radio. When the news came that Iowa, among the whitest of states, gave their voices - loudly and proudly - to Barack Obama, and gave him his first victory of the Primary Season, I put my head on the steering wheel and cried. Happy, hopeful, anything is now possible tears of joy!

Iowa opened the flood gates, and started the bandwagon. Songs were written, art was made, shirts were worn, and a strong coalition of hope and possibility was formed. It became more a movement than a campaign. EVERYONE felt the darkness of the past eight years, and we all shared the same desire to move in a positive direction. That is, everyone but the opposing factions, who did everything in their power to squash the momentum, to no lasting effect. Sometimes I think things had to get so bad in this country in order for us to wake up and finally come together to DO SOMETHING about it. It's very Star Wars, when you think about it.

It's been a long, LOOOOONG journey since then, full of emotional ups and downs, scandals and wretched tactics from Obama's opponents - but he never wavered in his grace, wisdom and calm. Because of that, neither did we.

The work intensified, making MORE phone calls, talking about it more in everyday life, writing about it constantly, traveling to former Red State Nevada (which WE WON!) to knock on doors, and making more phone calls. Honestly, the "Community Organizing" which was mocked by Republicans, is exactly what did them in. That, and a transcendent candidate named Barack Hussein Obama, whom we truly believed in.

Yesterday dawned (not that I slept) sunny, the most beautiful day possible, and I took that as a good omen, though the knot in my stomach told me not to trust it. I had a text message from a friend/neighbor before 7 a.m. that our polling place had a line of 250+ waiting to vote. That news prompted my first sob of the day ... surely all those people weren't waiting in lines like that to vote Republican again?! I turned on the morning news and saw that those lines were happening all across the country ... It was happening! People were using their voices!

But as a friend pointed out, "we've been bitch-slapped the past two elections", so I held down my growing excitement, terrified of being ruined again. In all frankness, I think I've been in somewhat of a depression ever since Kerry lost to Bush. Not that I held any of the same high hopes in that election, but just that anyone could POSSIBLY have voted in that other direction TWICE. I think the whole planet may have shared in that depression - unless they were profiting from the war and terrible economy in some way.

When it was my turn to get in line, my excitement grew. I couldn't stop talking to strangers in line about what a great day it was (my brother Paul said, "I think you might be electioneering"), and they all agreed. When it was time to punch the hole for Obama/Biden - I had more tears. When I walked out with my "I Voted" sticker on, the whole long line smiled. I allowed myself the tiniest glimmer of hope - again.

I ran from phone calls to computer screens to MSNBC and back around - all day. One pundit would boost you up, only to have another give you a gut punch. This went on all day long. I couldn't eat. I paced. My friend and fellow long-time Obama supporter, Jenny said, "Here, take a chill" - and handed me a glass of champagne to calm the nerves. (It didn't work, but it was delightful).

Finally, having passed up the big parties around town to focus (and rock back and forth) in relative calm, it was time to gather around the television and await the returns. I wondered if my drinking champagne was a premature curse. I hoped that my taking the garbage out that morning symbolically meant the Washington trash was about to get thrown out (everything had much deeper - and possibly sillier - meaning yesterday). Still ... I dared to hope.

It started to look good .. but then Chuck Todd said that it was the original projected map, and no surprises had happened yet, so people should "cool their heels, it could be a long night". UGH! You started to see people arriving in Chicago's Grant Park - nothing but smiling faces of all colors and ages - rushing to get a good spot. Obama would take one state, but then McCain would take another. Then they called Pennsylvania for Obama, and I choked up again - no McCain upset - hope! Then a bunch more, and then - Minnesota, my home state - WON! I danced and hugged and another cork popped. But nothing could be taken for granted until the last polls closed on the West Coast - where we were. Sitting on the very edge of my seat, I watched as the time clock clicked down the seconds to our 8 p.m. poll closing. I was aware of nothing else around me but that clock.

When it hit 8:00, I heard nothing. I just looked at the state percentages, saw California go for Obama, then it switched to say "United States" and the percentage, and then the word PRESIDENT under Obama's name. I literally fell to my knees, then leaped up into a World Series worthy huddle of victory, friendship, relief and pure, unadulterated JOY! Tears streamed down my cheeks and I cried like you did as a kid, shaking and quivering ... SCREAMING! WE DID IT! In lulls while we took breaths, you could hear the same happening in pockets all around outside. VICTORY! DING DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD!!! AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL! WOW!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!! AMAZING GRACE!!

We calmed down long enough to watch the incredible scene unfold in Chicago. A crazy wind whipped up suddenly outside (it was seriously crazy, making it very hard not to make "Winds Of Change" jokes, or think of the ghosts who we hoped would somehow be able to see this wondrous event) as we heard Obama give the victory speech that not only inspired us, but also called us to action. Because this is just the beginning, people. We have WORK to do. We have had great, great damage inflicted on us as a people, and as a nation, (and inflicted it upon many other people and nations, I'd regretfully add) and change is not going to happen overnight. We know this. We accept this. We SHALL overcome! So just for today, let's get back to the celebration!

We had sent out the word to all friends to meet in the parking lot of The Brig, a local bar, to join us on a victory bike ride. People we didn't even know were there waiting with our friends, as we rode up around the corner, screaming and ringing our bells. EVERY car that drove by was honking, with people hanging out the windows screaming. As our large group took over the street with our bikes, blue star balloons streaming behind us, EVERYONE we passed screamed along with us. I've never ever seen anything like it, and tears streamed down my cheeks to meet my gigantic smile. I hadn't felt that pride of country in a long time, maybe since I was a tiny kid at the Bicentennial ... or maybe the Miracle On Ice ... and so it made perfect sense that we celebrated like kids last night.


After that, it's all a blur of happy mayhem. But when I woke up today, it was not a dream, rather, it was the FULFILLMENT of a dream! The headlines shouted triumphantly, and photos of people celebrating around the world nearly brought me to my knees again. It made me feel almost exactly as profound as 9/11, only in the exact opposite way - ELATED, as opposed to devastated. The whole world rallied around us again ... this time in joyful celebration! I can barely see through my now-welling-again eyes to type further, as I've wanted so, so badly to feel this way again about my beloved country, and now I, WE, can.

I think today of Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's Grandmother, who died ONE day before her Grandson became President. I think of Obama's parents, who never lived to know of their son's transformation of a nation. I think of Martin Luther King, Jr, who died so that yesterday we DID judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. I think of Bob Marley, who sang "Get Up, Stand Up" ... which we DID yesterday, to join together and CREATE CHANGE and say NO MORE! But most importantly, I think of all of us. We who are still here, who created and saw this wonderful day happen in history, but who can now also be here to back it all up in the days and years ahead.

One day, one party, one man ... can do NOTHING to change the world beyond the initial celebration. We must now ALL come together to live up to our best ideals, and really, to save the world. Things would have been drastically, ruinously, different had things gone the other way last night ... and I think we all know that. No matter who you voted for, there is no way you can be against the outpouring of joy and unity that happened last night in The United States of America, and around the globe. This is our time to lead again, by GOOD example. To truly live UNITED, as one people, and one nation ... we cannot forget that THAT is why we were founded as a New World, not to be split down the middle by things that really don't matter so much in the end. Taxes, abortion, etc .. those things that divide us aren't the things that made us great. It was the idea of a true Democracy, and that all people are created equal. What made me cry and shout in triumph last night wasn't that my guy won ... it was that we as a people SHOWED that our Democracy DOES work, that we ARE all created equal, and that America really IS beautiful. That out of many, we are truly one.

Last spring I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the exact spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech, after a day spent at the Walter Reed War Veterans Hospital, and choked up to think of how far we had gone astray since Lincoln's day, and thought we had maybe failed for good. Next January, a million people will again fill that same space, and know that they helped make a national dream come true.

Let us continue that line of work, dream-making. Let's give all kids the dream of college. All families the dream of affordable/free health care. All workers the dream of jobs. All economies the dream of thriving. All eco-systems the dream of surviving. All nations the dream of peace.

Why not dream? Last night, we as a WORLD, learned that anything is possible.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dia de Los Muertos at Rose & Roger's!

Years ago I was reading the LA Times and was struck by the absolute beauty of a house that was being profiled for the Home section, or whatever it was called at the time. It was painted all sorts of Kahlo colors, with exquisite tile mosaics throughout, and looked like just about the most serene and happy house on Earth. I actually cut out a huge picture of the front door and glued it into my journal as something I would like to aspire to one day in a home of my own. I would think about it from time to time, and wonder about the woman who created such a haven for her family.

I met Rose Portillo and her man, Roger Bowers, through my good friend, Shane. We'd see each other at various Shane functions over the years, and I would always find myself raving about her from our fun and enthusiastic conversations. Then Rose and Roger offered to host Shane and his Bride To Be, Jenny's, engagement party at their home. The night arrived, and as we parked on the steep road in Silver Lake, and walked up the sidewalk and through the gate, my jaw dropped as I immediately recognized the front doorway from my journal all those years before! I KNEW the cool lady with the cool house!!!

Who got even cooler when she told me that every year she and Roger host a Dia de Los Muertos party on November 2nd. Which I've now attended each year since the discovery, and it is so beautiful, warm, welcoming, and touching that I find myself looking more forward to it than even Halloween. (Especially this year for some reason, I was kind of a Halloween Scrooge. The Grinch Reversed.)

The centerpiece of the house, and the party, on November 2nd is the Altar to honor all the Lost Loved Ones. You can bring a picture, a bottle of their favorite hooch, a letter, a candle, whatever item you choose to remember your dearly departed with. Looking over the photos - some yellowed and bent with age and handling - and reading the notes ... brings on emotions in you, but then you look around at all the LIFE and COLOR all around you in the house and you realize that life is a CELEBRATION - and that is the very best way to give tribute to those people (or pets! There's a whole little altar for a pet rabbit!) now gone from our lives. So we party!

Rose, her Mother, and friends make home-made tamales and salads, and other delectable dishes show up all night to join them. The entire house is decked out with Day Of The Dead people and paintings, and the yard is an array of color and sparkle too. The house is from 1927, and is the same house that baby Rose was brought home to, as it was her Grandparents' place. When they passed on, she moved in and has been creating her masterpiece inside since 1995. Your eye cannot stop moving - even in the bathrooms - as there are tiny details adorning literally every inch of the walls, ceilings, floors, all of it. She has also taught the art of mosaic to at-risk L.A. youth, showing them that things that are broken (tiles, pottery, humans) can still be useful and create beauty.
Rose is also an accomplished actress, and has a production company, About Productions, with whom she is this instant in the middle of co-directing and writing the play, Bleeding Through, running now through November 22 at the Shakespeare Festival LA. It's about the ghosts of Angelino Heights, where more cinematic murders have taken place than anywhere else in the world. I'm going. Come with!
The ghosts were out at Rose and Roger's house last night too - in a good way. The colorful warmth of their home welcomed revelers both living and not. And a good time was had by all.