Friday, April 30, 2010

First Fry-days ... The Food Truck Invasion

So ... we all need to have a little chat. How do you feel about the Mobile Food Vendor trucks that swarm into Venice each First Friday (and lots of other days too, just not as many)? In talking to store owners, neighbors, FF revelers, and friends, there appears to be many mixed feelings about them. It's an issue that's getting pretty heated, so we need to address it and come up with positive solutions, instead of just freaking out about it.

First Fridays started as a way to drum up business when the economy started its downturn. It worked. Gone are the free wine and loud music for the locals days, but that jump start did the trick, and now you can barely move at the beginning of each month, as crowded as it is.

With the increased popularity of that night each month, word got out among food truck operators (beginning with the Kogi one, that currently has 61,729 Followers on Twitter!) and where there's a buck to be made ... They will come. With them came a slew of issues of which each could - and should - be its own separate item on the Neighborhood Council agenda: Trash. Parking. Safety. Etc. Etc.

There are pros and cons of the Food Truck epidemic. They offer affordable food - pro. They leave nowhere for anyone to park on First Fridays - con. They bring new customers to Abbot Kinney - pro. Those new customers throw their trash on the ground (or in my bike basket) - con. They create a Carnival atmosphere - pro AND con.

One business owner says they hurt their business ... customers can't park or get past the line of people waiting for their "gourmet" taco to get inside, and they want to punch the rude truck worker out. Another says it's been great for business, and they give the truck a "Bathroom Letter" to use their restroom facilities.

(*In calls and emails to our Councilmember Rosendahl, Venice Officer Skinner, the LA County Health Inspectors, and City Hall, it appears that there is only ONE regulation at the moment - that is the Trucks must be parked within 200 feet of a bathroom facility for the workers in the truck to use if they're going to be parked over one hour, and have a letter from the permanent business offering the use of their bathroom. That's it.)

The Health Department Inspector I spoke to said that with 14,000 registered vehicles to keep up with (never mind the as many as 28,000 ones operating illegally), it's hard to strictly regulate them all (especially in a State that's pretty much broke). 8 Trucks were shut down for Health violations at the March First Friday, and there is no Rating System for food trucks (yet), so the Bathroom Letter is really the only weapon those opposed to them have to brandish.

I have no problem with the old time-y Mexican food trucks, like the great Taco one that is usually around Lincoln and Rose. Those have been a big and important part of L.A. culture for years, and whatever regulations or crackdowns are to be implemented to keep the peace, I hope those original ones can somehow be Grandfathered out of the loop, so they can stay in business. It's the flashy (some corporate) new ones that we're talking about here.

Some of my friends love the new trucks. Many of them abhor them. I personally feel like I do about Chain businesses ... they don't really seem to fit in Venice. It bothered me to see a Pizza slice truck parked a half block away from Abbot's Pizza Co., who have served up their delicious slices for years and years. It irked me to see a guy in a wheelchair not able to navigate the narrow sidewalk because of the line swarming in front of one of the trucks. It concerns me that with all the trucks parked on the street, it's difficult to see around them to cross an already sketchy crosswalk at Palms. It bugged me to return to my bike to see the basket filled with trash from the 11 (!) Food Trucks parked in The Brig parking lot across the street last First Friday. But these are all things that can be addressed and dealt with. Right? Especially if they do indeed increase business for our local merchants whom we love. But DO they? I've heard many locals say that they now avoid First Friday because it's turned into such a madhouse of Food Trucks and "Bridge and Tunnelers". What do YOU think? There's another First Friday right around the corner ... observe and report!

The Food Trucks will be an agenda item at the next Neighborhood Council meeting, so attend and make yourselves heard. Communicate openly about your concerns with the Food Truck Vendors themselves. Write to the Beachhead (and become a Sustainer while you're at it!) to offer your own creative solutions. But above all, please continue to support your LOCAL businesses, who made Abbot Kinney into a destination in the first place.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Keep Smiling!

The day broke bright and sunny today, and all we could do on the morning walk along the seashore was breathe it all in deeply, and smile.

The Lifeguard towers from Venice to Santa Monica have all been painted bright Easter egg colors, preparing for a very cool community art project called Portraits Of Hope. They've only gotten as far as the ramps and railings as yet, but it's already beyond cheerful, and yeah, hopeful too.

We take a little break when we reach the Santa Monica Pier every morning, have a stretch, drink some water, duck the wind, and again, breathe and smile. You can't help it.

This morning we were having our chill moment when a City truck came barreling up and stopped right next to the Tower we were sitting on (a purple one) - that does say KEEP OFF on it, but we never heed that instruction. We were wondering if we were going to get told to scram or what by the big, tough looking guy who got out of the truck. We said, "Good Morning," and he handed Jenny a business card, and got back in the truck and drove off.

The card said "Keep Smiling". How great is it that that was the guy's sole mission, just to hand off this card to us, wordlessly. The little story on it was kind of Hallmark fromage, but the idea and the incident were enough to indeed keep the already wide smiles on our face.

Good morning, Venice!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The People's Republic of Venice Welcomes Back The Nightwatchman!

It's been a while since The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) last liberated Venice. In fact, Venice was the site of some of his earliest liberating. We used to have Friday nights at Abbot's Habit that my brother, Paul, booked, called The Habit Night. Tom and I were friends, so when he was working out his new solo acoustic project, The Nightwatchman, back in 2005, he offered to play at The Habit for Paul and I's birthday jam. It was a packed house of riled up Venetians at the height of the sickening, unpopular Iraq War. It was sweaty and heartfelt and kickass. Really, there's some great footage. There was another Habit jam starring The Nightwatchman in early 2006, and then that ball really got rolling, the venues got bigger ... and so did the country's problems.

Last night saw The Nightwatchman return to Venice, for a show benefiting Afghanistan Veterans Against The War (and IVAW) at The Stronghold. The Same. Long. Awful. War. Gone were the backing instruments of coffee grinders and latte foamers, but back were the sweat, heart and ass kicking. Harder than ever.

Tom Freund opened up the night with some of his choice musical selections: "Copper Moon", "Truly Mellow", and, appropriately for the night, his Beatles cover of "Revolution", with his bass standing up alongside him. So was the crowd, singing along heartily at the very start of the night. He's playing tonight at The Stronghold too (Go Tom!) so get on over there. His talent runs deep, and it's always a complete treat to behold.

Longtime comrades of The Nightwatchman, Jason Heath & The Greedy Souls, were up next to help set the tone of the night with their excellent tunes of pondering anarchy. "Anarchist Girl" has always been my favorite of theirs, (and perhaps a theme song of mine at times), and it reminds me every time I hear it of when Jason Heath told me that if things got crazy with tear gas or whatnot when we were both raging against the Republican Convention in Minnesota (2008), that I should soak a bandana in vinegar to combat the fumes. Good information! (We didn't have to use it, but still). They played "Truth Rag", "Flower In The Sun" (another lovely fave), and the rueful "God's Name In Vain" from their great album, The Vain Hope Of Horse. Jason Federici played the accordion movingly, and Ysanne Spevack joined in beautifully on the fiddle. As I told them, their music makes me want to travel. Escape. Reflect. Appreciate. Rock.

Wayne Kramer (yes, of the MCmofo5!) joined JHATGS for "Anarchist Girl", and then stayed up there for his own set. He is a great friend and co-Freedom Fighter of The Nightwatchman's, and he and I met on the 2008 Justice Tour. (He was the one that first told me I needed to get to the ER when I got bit by a crazy post-Katrina spider in New Orleans. I will always remember how I should've listened to Wayne Kramer right off the bat). It was great to see him again, and especially to hear one of my faves of his anew, "Something's Broken In The Promised Land". Featuring such biting lines as "The whole state of Michigan just signed up for welfare", and "The dream is sold out in the Promised Land", Wayne lets you know this is not music for Easy Listening. You'd better think, and you'd better bristle at injustice if you're going to get Wayne Kramer ... and everyone got it last night in Venice, California.

Wayne launched a new organization, along with Billy Bragg, at SXSW called Jail Guitar Doors that is working to rehabilitate prison inmates through music. Wayne did time himself in 1978 and The Clash wrote a song ("Jail Guitar Doors") about it, hence the name Billy Bragg chose when he started the initiative to honor Joe Strummer's life. Wayne told last night's assembled about it all and said "Send us money. Guitars ain't free y'know. Something happens when they pick up that guitar, and they're not gifts. They're a challenge - to use as a way to cope, and to not go back to the Pen." I think we can all get behind that. So please do. "Bad Seed" was next, in honor of those "bad seeds" they're working with. "Hollywood Boulevard" spoke the great line, "tough thumbs in your belt" that I loved. Wayne is a real poet, and makes you feel wiser after just one listen. He dedicated the next one to his lovely wife, Margaret, "who didn't show up tonight." "Let It Be Me" was an incredibly dear love song that made you feel the true depth between them. He wrapped it up with a jangly acoustic guitar version of "Redemption Song", which everyone sang along, and seemed to truly feel.

Wayne introduced his dear friend, Mr. Morello, who sprang onto the stage saying, "I'm The Nightwatchman, and it begins tonight!" And so began the song called, "It Begins Tonight", with Tom on his trusty "Whatever It Takes" acoustic guitar, and banging along with himself on his stomp box. Shouting that let you know everyone was on board followed that, which led right into "Flesh Shapes The Day". Tom really knows how to throw down as a showman, and the crowd was all the way into it all the entire time, yelling especially for the "Si Se Puede!" line.

"Maximum Firepower" has always been a rile-er of the masses, and it was no different last night. "The Nightwatchman giveth and taketh away" was as true as a lyric as it was for the volume. One minute the entire place would erupt in deafening applause, the next it was what it must sound like when you're deaf. Silence. "If you take one step towards Freedom, it'll take two steps towards you." Inspirational as ever, Tom sings the truths we all need to hear. And act on. "The Dogs Of Tijuana" was dedicated to Wayne Kramer, with its Mexican guitar melodies and "Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah" chorus, and warning that "Every dog has its day, and tonight we're coming home!" (That made me smile that I was at a sweet rock show a mere two blocks from home!)

"Thank you! It's always nice to play The Peoples' Republic Of Venice! Full of Hippies and Liberal Activists ... and you have the Beach!" Yes. Yes we do, Tom. And you're clearly welcome back anytime. He dedicated the next one to the Soldiers of IVAW (whom we really got to know on that epic Justice Tour, visiting the horror show of the Walter Reed Hospital - you really should re-read that article here - it was enough to make ANYONE a Hippie Liberal Activist), the beneficiaries of the evening. "When The Tigers Broke Free" was Tom's adaptation of the Pink Floyd song, and made you feel the pain of a child looking back on the death of his Father. More than poignant when you think of the many, many pointless deaths that have happened during this awful war. It's time to end it. We've lost too, too much already. There is no winning for any side of it anymore. Just ending it, and mourning the incredible damage it's done to us all.

Which leads us to the acoustic version of Rage's "Guerilla Radio" - always a crowd favorite, one that Tom hopes will be played when the day finally comes "When War Criminals of ALL administrations are brought to trial and convicted." Huge applause for that, extra so since the night was in honor of those AVAW/IVAW members. "There is nothing more courageous than a Soldier willing to stand up against an unjust War". "ALL HELL CAN'T STOP US NOW!!" was yelled by everyone, not just the super fan guys that sat down front and sang along to absolutely every syllable. Cute.

A special guest called Serj Tankian (System Of A Down) joined Tom for their sublime duet, "Lazarus On Down". It features gorgeous deluxe guitar from Tom, and otherworldly vocals by Serj, who was in the best voice I've ever heard him. Hauntingly quiet in there, these two founders of Axis Of Justice brought the house down. Almost literally, so eruptive it was after the last note died out.

Tom is also producing a band out of Brooklyn called Outernational. Great guys, and they're cut from the same cloth, to be sure. They joined Tom for their call to arms called "Fighting Song". Accordian and trumpet added to the mix, and gave it a Gogol Bordello-y feel, encouraging folks to quickly learn the chorus and sing along for the fight. "All of the People, all across the World, they want something more!" Absolutely they do. And a good start to the more was the "World Premiere" of The Nightwatchman's brand new tune, "Stray Bullet", which Tom sang for Tomas Young, another friend from the IVAW whom we met after he was paralyzed by said stray bullet pretty much immediately after arriving in Iraq. You simply cannot hear his story and be supportive of ANY War, any longer (if you ever were). See Body Of War and you'll understand what I'm saying. Some plaintive Outernational trumpet drove it all home.

There was a moment for tuning during which Tom encouraged people to scream their lungs out, which they did. He then said, "This is a future Classic ... so Stand Up! If you believe in fighting against Injustice ... against Immoral Wars ... then get on stage and sing along with The Nightwatchman! Get up here!"

So as many people as the little Stronghold stage would hold crammed up there to belt it out along with Tom to "Worldwide Rebel Song"! It was easy to learn the "Worldwide Rebel Song, sing it loud, all night long!" verse and sing we all did. It was a little "We Are The World", only way, way cooler than that lame one they just re-did. I cracked up at one point when Tom stopped the proceedings to get someone to fix the microphone stand for him ... "I cannot have a microphone stand that's leaning to the right!" No more cool hipsters were present at The Stronghold by now, as every single person in there seemed to have now joined the Superfan ranks, with huge smiles and rambunctious singing overtaking any thought of posturing ... "Here we come!"

As with every Nightwatchman show, there is more to it than simply rocking it out together. It tends to stay with you long after the stamp on your wrist fades away. Because you can see how music really does affect true change in the world, not just in the uplift of your mood, but in the tone of your thoughts. Enough people singing the song out loud as one - rebelliously - and then walking the walk (or the Picket Line ... or the Peace March ... ) IS the force of change necessary for anything positive to ever actually HAPPEN.

As The Nightwatchman closed the evening down with his customary, "Take it easy, but take it!", I hope that Venice - and everywhere else lucky enough to host a throw down like this - will indeed take it ... to heart.

*You can see more pictures that rule at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy 40th Birthday, Earth Day!

Earth Day began in 1970, founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as a way to inspire awareness and appreciation for our environment. Though we need to be thinking like that EVERY day, it's nice to set aside a special day for that reason. I remember being a real little kid and seeing this commercial with the Native American canoeing through a filthy city, and the solitary tear coursing down his face was enough to make me never dream of littering.

They need to re-run this one now-a-days, that's for sure. Maybe if enough people re-watch it, they'll think twice about tossing their trash around in a place where it winds up in the Ocean. This very morning I nearly stepped on the top of a Jack Daniels bottle, broken off as if to shank someone in a bar fight. A few feet from where the waves lapped the shore. Who does that?! (And if I would've stepped on it, I was going to take it as a sign that Jack and I have to break up for good. But I didn't.) Balloons litter the shore, all sad and shriveled, but deadly to fish all the same. Cigarette butts are scattered about as if the gorgeous beach is a bus station ashtray. Even if you're in the middle of Hollywood and toss your own suicide device out the window, it winds up in the storm drain that spews out into the Pacific. How can you do that, honestly? Just please PLEASE stop it!

In a beautiful sign that our Oceans are still fighting back, a few dolphins broke the surface right when we looked up from our Earth Day reverie walking. They constantly make everyone's day, and the excitement of seeing a dolphin arc through the water never goes away. They deserve better than they're getting from us. Look!

We're going. Tonight. For our own awareness and appreciation celebration of those majestic - and endangered - waters. Maybe if kids today (of all ages) see the new Oceans movie (opening today from Disney), they'll recognize ... and never litter again. It really is the very least we can do.

Happy Birthday, Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Sponto Classic Memorial Croquet Tournament - Rain AND Shine!

April 20th is the day each year that Venice friends and loved ones gather to play croquet and celebrate each other. Sponto was always an attendee, and now that he's gone, we've changed it into a Memorial to remember him and all the good times we had together.

This year, the day broke gray and ominous. We remained positive right up until start time (1:00) when we had to admit that the rain was actually falling. Horizontally. We put the word out to meet up at Hal's to ride out the rain delay. In costume (as this year's theme was "Alice In Wonderland").

Two Alices, Two Mad Hatters, A Rabbit, A Flamingo, Tweedle Dee & Dum, some in Sponto Orange or Rasta colors, and a host of others (perhaps too daunted by the rain to fully garb up), started the party with some drinks, eats, and Growing or Shrinking pills (orange jelly beans) by the bar at Hal's ... until the rain slowed to a mist, and then stopped altogether. Like we knew it would.

That was our cue to hop on our bikes and head down to our chosen plot of lawn down at the Bike Path to get in a quick round of Croquet before the weather threatened us again. We set up the wickets, laid down the plastic tarps and blankets for the sitters to sit on (with brightly colored cupcakes and tea sandwiches for our Tea Party!), and chose colored mallets, just as the Sun broke through.

Cold and windy as it was, the high spirits kept us more than warm enough (the flasks of champagne didn't hurt either), and the Spontaneous presence was felt as much as the sunbeams. He would love that the gang gets together in his honor on this day ... dressing crazy, blowing off everything else on a Tuesday, and going absolutely nuts in his name. I know he would also love that a lone saxophone player leaned against a palm tree a big chunk of the time, never even interacting, just serving as the emotive soundtrack for our annual tribute.

To know Sponto was to love him. And each other. It's a great thing to set aside a day just to revel in that. So we do each year, but it really is something that ties together our Venice family all year long. The One Love vibe ... It's catchy.

*Photos by

Monday, April 19, 2010

Field Trip! Soul Food ... Food For The Soul.

Though it's thoroughly great to be in Venice, sometimes you have to branch out and take Field Trips. Luckily, I run with a gang that enjoys excursions to the new and unknown right along with me. So the other day, we decided "Cultural Day", and off we went.

I'm embarrassed to say that in all my years living in Los Angeles, I'd never visited the Watts Towers, though I always wanted to. Vavine was down with me, so we made solid plans to achieve this goal, and Saturday was the day. We grabbed Matt, his Mom, Ann (visiting from Australia), Joey and Paul, and headed to Watts.

The tall spires of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers rise high above the surrounding neighborhood, and you wonder what the inhabitants of the small bungalows nearby must have been thinking of this little Italian man working away for 33 years on his vision. It's impressive simply to behold, but once you know the story behind it, it becomes even more so.

We went inside the little community center (Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center) across the park from the Towers to pay our $7 entry fee and look at the attached art gallery, featuring Wisdom Knots & Other Symbols by Varnette P. Honeywood. I loved every pretty much every piece, and our Art Day was off to a great start. We met our tour guide, the very knowledgeable Marqueeda, gotten up in a bright neon outfit, and she led us to the Towers themselves.

Mr. Rodia bought the property in 1921, and soon began building his giant project. He was a Tile Setter by trade, working at the Malibu Tile Company. Whenever there were scraps from a job, he would take them home and save them. The same went for broken pottery, dishes, glass, bottles, shells, whatever struck his fancy. As Marqueeda said, "He was an early pioneer of recycling." He would get up at 4 a.m., go to work all day, come home to bathe and eat, and then work on his dream all night until 2 a.m., and then start it all over again. For 33 years! He often blasted Italian Opera while he worked, so not only did his neighbors think he was crazy for toiling away on this huge endeavor, but also found him a bit annoying when they were trying to sleep.

Mr. Rodia used no machinery, no scaffolding, no ladders, bolts, welding, or even plans. He used nothing but regular tool box tools (which he ended up signing the piece with imprints of, and merely his intials), and would build up with cement until it dried, then stand on that to get to the next level. He did it all entirely himself, and couldn't have had help if he wanted it, as he both had no money to pay anyone else, and didn't have instructions to give them if he did ... since he was illiterate, and also just made it up as he went along. He would pay neighborhood kids 5 cents to gather up broken stuff they could find for him to use, which led to some rascally ones breaking their own home's dishes to get paid. You can see tea-cup handles sticking out, old soda bottles, etc etc ... and it really is a living history.

The tallest tower stands 99 feet (because if it was 100 feet, he would've needed a permit) and was intended as a Wedding Chapel (Mr. Rodia later became a Minister - people would get legally married somewhere legitimate, and then go get married "By old crazy Sam"). There were two entrances for a bride and groom to enter through separately, then an exit for them to leave together as one. How sweet is that? There was also an adult baptismal font built in, as well as some bird bath sized ones for infants.

Towards the end of the property is a big ship, as Mr. Rodia was a big admirer of Marco Polo and his explorations. Marqueeda said that he made the replica of Polo's ship, and then made his own. "Can anyone tell me where Sam's is?" "We're standing in it", was our reply, as you realized that the entire property was Sam's ship - the Towers serving as the mast and sails.

In 1955, Mr. Rodia left the property to a neighbor, with no instructions, and no one seems to know why. The house part burned down a year later (from a firecracker to the roof), and the neighbor had no idea what to do with it all, so sold it to a Mr. Montoya, who planned to open a restaurant called the "Taco Towers". The City soon found out about it and made plans to condemn and demolish the towers, but luckily, as it takes the City forever to do ANYTHING, that didn't happen. Montoya soon sold the property to a group that recognized the cultural importance and ART of the Towers, and were committed to saving it. The City demanded a "Stress Test" to find out if the structure was sound, and the decidedly low-tech test of a truck pulling on it with a rope was enough to pass, as the cables snapped and the truck wheels came off the ground. Marqueeda told us, "Earthquakes are not an issue, but the weather is", which is why monies are being raised all the time to preserve and restore the structure.

After touring the whole space, we watched a short old documentary about it, and in it, Mr Rodia said, "I had it in mind to do something big ... and I did." He certainly did. It was kind of emotional to see, because it shows the strength and commitment of a simple guy with a cool dream. As the old-timey narrator says in the film, "He wanted nothing for himself. He was content to think of great men, and build in the direction of the Sun." What an inspiration! And I now think that Simon Rodia was himself one of those great men he thought of and aspired to be.

After that complete pleasure, we set off for MOCA to see the new . Driving down Central Avenue to the freeway. We were all a little peckish at this point, and passed by an absolutely condemned looking place called Louisiana Chicken (and Chinese Food). We thought it was just the shell of a building ... until we smelled it, and then saw a line of cars at the drive-through on the side. U-Turn. We waited in line behind a surprisingly sense-making crackhead, and then ordered up our own fried chicken. We made friends with some locals while waiting, and they asked where we were from, taking one look at us and knowing it wasn't from there. First of all, it was the best fried chicken I've had in this city, and second, when we branch out a little from our small worlds, life opens up, friends are made, and that's how world peace starts, I think. A true highlight of a day of highlights.

We cruised through the very good and thorough "First 30 Years" exhibit at MOCA, and then went to Harold and Belle's for some delish New Orleans style soul food. It was a long day and we were now stuffed and spent. Movie time. At home. We wanted something that no one had seen - not easy. Flicking through the On Demand section, we chanced upon one called Gentlemen Broncos from the writer and director of Napolean Dynamite. Throw that thing on your Netflix right now, because it is hilarious and sweet-natured (featuring Sam Rockwell, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jemaine from Flight Of The Conchords), and I can't believe I never heard about it in theaters.

So there you go ... the next overcast day you feel stumped as to what to do, just go copy the above day, and you'll feel pretty darned fulfilled.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bike Path Sand Castle

Kind of Gaudi style. Impressive. Especially for a Weekday.

*Jenny Everhart took this snapshot in time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Firefly: Art. Funk. Jive.

"Oh, I love that store!" That's pretty much what people say every time Firefly on Abbot Kinney is brought up. It's coming up on 11 years since Erinn Berkson opened her delightful shop, and in that time she and Firefly's fun gifts have gladdened many a heart.

This story is going to be entirely biased because Erinn is one of my BFF's for life, and I've spent a lot of good times at Firefly over the years. That started from day one, when she was originally going to open up in the old Take Note space on the Windward Circle. I went in, happy that there was going to be a good card store (I love cards) in the neighborhood. I liked the proprietress immediately, and assured her I'd be her best customer. Then she got majorly burned, having bought the business, but the Landlord wouldn't give her the lease to go along with it. A very rough and stressful life/business lesson, to be sure. Erinn was undaunted though, and as they say, things happen how they're "supposed to". A space was available on Abbot Kinney Blvd. (and this was before there was really anything other than Abbot's Habit and Abbot's Pizza on the block) and she snatched it up, opening for business on May 5, 1999 - Cinco de Mayo!

Let's back up a second. I recently had a friend ask what things did you want to be when you were little, like 8 or 9, and why didn't you do them if you didn't, and YAY if you did. Well, on the day I talked to Erinn about Firefly, she told me that she'd always wanted to have a store! So now I love it even more. Erinn grew up all over the place, moving 23 times, as her late Mother would change her mind a lot about where she wanted to be. For some, this might have been disruptive or hectic, but for Erinn, she loved knowing a lot of different places, and it enabled her to always do her own thing and not follow any pack. She wanted to be an artist, she wanted to be a writer, and she wanted to have her own store. All things she still wants - and is - today.

After studying Art History and Spanish at school (University of Arizona - Tuscon), she came back to California to help watch out for her younger brother, and somehow this artsy lady got a job at an investment firm, 8-5. Wearing nylons and all. That could only last so long with her colorful spirit, so she then bounced around a bit, working at Mani's Bakery, taking UCLA Extension classes on writing Children's Books, and loving it. Then one day, on a total whim, she chanced upon Take Note, going out of business. She told them she'd like to take it over. She had NO experience, had no idea how a retail business worked, or even where you got merchandise for a store. She will tell you, it was the hardest, longest, most ignorant way possible to do it, but she had the FIRE in herself to get it done. Once the whole Take Note space fell apart, she took her chair and sat outside of the Abbot Kinney space to stalk it, as the Landlord was like the Wizard Of Oz, unreachable and never returning calls. When she finally snagged their attention, she begged and pleaded with them until they relented and gave her the lease. The lease on what she now describes as a "Haunted Mansion". There was stuff everywhere, old aquariums and junk, and her family thought she had absolutely lost her mind.

She worked her head off, cleaning and prepping, and asking strangers, "How do you do this? "Hi, how do you buy?" "Oh, you need a re-sale permit?" etc ... and soon found her way through it all. This is an excellent lesson to take from Erinn ... "If you have an idea, do it. I did it knowing NOTHING, but I wasn't going to let that stand in the way of my dream. I was too naive to think that it might NOT work, I just knew it would ... And I'm STILL learning."

Firefly has been busy since the day Erinn opened. She is a Cornerstone of Abbot Kinney (in the middle of the block), and the go-to spot for excellent gifts in Venice. She won't say this, but I will, and that is that she was a real Pioneer of the Abbot Kinney we enjoy today, creating what I think is the first real destination store on the block. She knew from the start she wanted to be in Venice, as changing though it may be, it will always draw more eclectic, more creative people. "I didn't ever say, 'I want a store on Montana' ... I'd murder myself." Exactly.

Erinn used to live in Idaho for a bit, and didn't think she'd want to live in L.A. again with all the traffic, etc ... but once she hit Venice, she found that it had all the best elements of both places. Small town vibe (neighbors dinging their bike bells hello), sense of Community, art openings, and culture. Firefly has certainly embedded itself in our Community, and Erinn is a very active member ... donating to events and organizations left and right, volunteering, and welcoming one and all to her whimsical world. That world got a little bigger last year when Firefly moved into its current space next door to the last, and the light, airy new digs are even better. She'd always admired the 1409 space, and ran to the phone as soon as she heard it was available.

Change is inevitable, and Erinn has seen a lot of it. She loves the new stores and restaurants that have joined her on Abbot Kinney, and is a big supporter of buying and eating locally. Though she is NOT a fan the Food Trucks on First Fridays - "And you can quote me on that" - which "Take the soul out of it". As all of us seem to be, Erinn is mixed about the "Spring Break Cancun" feel that has evolved from when First Fridays was drinking some wine at your friends' shops and hearing their friends play music on the back porch. Those are some of Erinn's fondest memories of the store, as well as chilling in the back of the old space with margaritas, and the end of long holiday season work days, closing up and toasting with her long-time friends and neighbors.

Every item in Firefly has been chosen with love and fun by Erinn, and it really is a great spot for cute clothes, baby gifts, excellent cards, Art and Kids books, and my current favorite items, Angela Adams bags made out of sail cloth, and little Mexican wrestler masks for your thumbs! She never runs out of ideas, and is constantly spending nights far past midnight, re-arranging, making cool displays, and keeping one step ahead of the next day. "It's not easy work, it's not glamorous, it's always a work in progress, but I love what I do, and I love it HERE."

Her customers love it too. I'll fill in for her sometimes at the shop, and it's a constant stream of people coming in and expressing their love, both for the fun present they just bought (perhaps for themselves) and for Erinn. Their kids have grown up stopping into the 'Fly to get a sparkly ball or great new book, and she's seen them bloom from babies into cracking voiced tweens. The most joyous news is that those customers will now have the chance to see HER baby grow, as Erinn and her husband, Tim, are about to have their first child ... and her due-date is Cinco de Mayo, the same day that she birthed her wonderful Firefly!

I own lots of "Vintage Firefly" that I've had to keep, imbued with the accompanying fond memories. In those days, Erinn's business card said, "Firefly. Art. Funk. Jive." I loved that then, I love it now. And I love Firefly and Erinn. It and she are truly a Community Treasure, and I'm so thankful that she threw caution to the wind eleven years ago, and gave us Firefly ... with all its art, funk and jive.

OK, enough talking about it. I'm heading there now.

1409 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, 90291

Friday, April 9, 2010

Follow The Summer - 291 Sale!

If you were just innocently getting some coffee this morning at The French Market this late morning, you would've looked across the street and seen this mayhem:

It's Sample Sale time again at 291 (that's as in 90 - 291, Venice!), and the brightest, softest, most California clothing items possible are on sale - and for once that word REALLY means Sale. Like $20 for a $180 Hoodie (not that a Hoodie should EVER be that much in the first place, but they are darling)! Or you can throw down just $5 and get the design you like in the flattering deluxe, shapely soft V-Neck T.

There were so many guys and girls there today ($45 Cashmere!), I am convinced that 291 is all you're gonna see Venice people in this Summer 2010. Good. We could all use some brightening up. And a sweet deal.

The Sale is on at 2320 Abbot Kinney Blvd.'s parking lot, today through Sunday.

Brush up on your boxing out skills before you go ... things fly out fast.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

L O V E N I C E!

Today is so painfully beautiful outside there is just no way to be inside typing. So just enjoy the view ...

... Brought to you today from Playa de los Amigos (better known as 27th & The Pacific Ocean).


Tuesday, April 6, 2010