Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Boobs - The Sequel

Women - and Men - have nipples!!! Why should Women have to hide theirs?

... Said the sign held up by a Man on the Boardwalk last week, with his own impressive pair of breasts. Not Man Boobs either ... straight up ladylike boobs.

The Police presence was overkill, per usual, and gave me the idea that the next time I have to place a call to them, I'll add that everyone is topless and see if that gets a quicker response. Methinks it may.

After quite a debate, the man was let go ... though not until after a bomb type robot was also called in to search him, it appears in the photos. Apparently a compromise was reached where he agreed to hold his sign over his offending mammaries. What is wrong with our society when BOOBS get this kind of reaction? You really have to just laugh.

Rumor has it that the guy intends to sue the City ... Boring. He missed the National Topless Day by a few days, when it all would have gone unnoticed, but I admire the chutzpah that prompted him to go it alone, on we ladies' behalf.

Fight the power!

*Photos by Pegarty

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fistful Of Mercy

So there's a new band based in Venice that I think you might enjoy. Fistful Of Mercy is Joseph Arthur, Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison (yeah, George's Son). Check 'em out:

Fistful of Mercy from Fistful of Mercy on Vimeo.

Told you.

Keep an eye out for local gigs that you will not want to miss, for Heaven's sakes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Free Your Breasts, Free Your Mind!

Yesterday was the annual topless protest put on by the group Go Topless.org, wherein a group of ladies of all breast shapes and sizes (and realness) walk down the Venice Boardwalk topless to illustrate the inequality between Men getting to walk around with no shirts on in the hot Summer (finally!), while Women are forced to cover up their chests. Why? The event coincides with Women's Equality Day on August 26th, which I think is kind of funny that we still find that necessary in this day and age. Isn't EVERYONE supposed to be equal?

While we're in Venice, and not Afghanistan (phew), it IS a drag to think that we accept violence so readily as a society, but are still so freaked out by a mammary gland. Like the furor over Janet Jackson's nipple at that one Superbowl ... WHO CARES?! I'd way rather have a kid see that then most anything on the evening news.

I had beach time to catch up on, so I missed the chance to participate in the Protits/Protest, but I commend each and every lady out there for being like, "Yeah, man. What is the big deal?" on my and my fellow ladies' behalves.

I hope it catches on and one of these days we can tear off our tops on the beach. Tan lines are weak. (But I'm happy to have them back again for our last burst of Summer!)

*Photo courtesy of LA Weekly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunshine AND Dolphins!

Well, Lo and behold ... SUNSHINE in Venice, to start the day!

Already thrilled about that, Jenny and I had taken exactly one step off the sandy hill crest down to the water's edge to begin our morning walk, when she yelled, "LOOOOK!" Right off the bat, this:

It was the dazzling bonus to an already glorious morning. Where you just have to stop what you're doing, and reflect. The one-two punch of happiness let us know that absolutely everything will be cool, as long as your attitude and appreciation levels stay high.

This is also a good time to mark your television viewing calendars/recorders for Animal Planet's new mini-series, Blood Dolphins, premiering on that channel August 27th. In it, Ric O'Barry and his son, Lincoln, return to the waters of Taiji, Japan, where they shot their Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove. Important viewing, especially when you get to stand in your beach town's front yard and watch/love the joyous frolic of our local dolphins.

Jacques Cousteau said, "The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it".

And perhaps embrace that happiness ourselves.

Which I'm about to do. Steph and I were about to have nervous breakdowns from our lack of Summer at the Beach. So we're off to Palm Springs in search of sunshine ... just as the sun comes out here. Funny how life works sometimes ...

I'll spread the love, and happiness. Promise.

*Happy dolphin filming by Jennifer Everhart on Venice Beach. This morning.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Abbot Kinney's Capri

We know all about Abbot Kinney's dream for an American Venice, but we also have an American Capri here. Alona Cooke's Capri Restaurant on Abbot Kinney came about in a kind of similar fashion too. After many visits to the Italian island of Capri (including a memorable 11th birthday trip), she wanted to recreate a place that shared the vibe of the Capri cafes she'd eaten and felt comfortable at, in her own town - Venice, CA. Twenty years later, Capri has catered to locals and tourists alike, and watched out its windows as Abbot Kinney Boulevard has morphed and shifted.

Alona grew up in West Covina, California, the daughter of parents who liked to travel - and eat - a lot. They'd go to Europe by ship, and young Alona developed a palate for good food, and a curiosity for trying new things. She was interested in architecture and design, and studied at Long Beach State, but wasn't positive about the direction she wanted her life to take. She got political, and did a lot of speaking on behalf of Women's Rights, moving to L.A. proper in the middle of it all. There she befriended a group of artists (dating Chuck Arnoldi for a bit), who encouraged her to join them in moving down to Venice, which was still real cheap and ever-funky.

The first house Alona lived in was on the canals, and she opened a little clothing shop where Cafe Collage is now, called "Chi Chi Del Rey", where all the local girls bought their bikinis and cute dresses. After that stint, she started getting freelance design work, to decorate homes and stores, but it wound up not being as fun or social as she'd imagined, and she started to think about other lines of work. That led to her being a founding owner of the West Beach Cafe (now James' Beach), because she just wanted a good cup of coffee, she says, and the West Beach was the first place to have a legitimate espresso machine. She and the other owner parted ways after a while, and Alona began thinking about a place of her own.

While traveling around Italy to look at furniture and things for design clients, Alona kept thinking about all the great little cafes on Capri, and how she'd find one she loved, and would keep eating there night after night, because it was just how she liked it. Relaxed, no scene, good Italian food, good wine, and cool people for regulars. That was it. "I just do it", says Alona, "I have a vision and I make it happen."

Yes, she did. She found the little place on Abbot Kinney that Capri still resides at (1616), and knew she would call it Capri, as "There's just something very special and magical about that place". The size of it was little, like Capri, and it just fit. Since 1989, Capri has been serving great food (honestly, every bite I've ever had there has been delicious) to the locals, and tourists love it because they can always get a table, a good meal with delicious wine, warm hospitality, and Venice flavor all at once.

I sat down to chat with Alona last week, and right off the bat, she gave me an education via a demonstration about how the different size and shape (both matter) of the glasses she poured our wine into, made a drastic difference as to bouquet, flavor and feel. Even subtle differences in shape were uncanny, and I humbly apologize to any people I waited on in college who I thought were bitchy for being super particular about the glass their wine came in (though it was a glass tumbler kind of joint).

Alona's didactic flow continues, with seminar brunches from a James Beard Award winning cookbook author here, and a wine tasting from a California vintner there, with something interesting to glean every time. Capri hosts special events all the time, like closing down last year to host our dear friend, Erinn and Tim's, wedding ceremony right there in the dining room. Special, special memories have gone down in this room, and you sense that every time you clink a glass.

As far as local flavor goes, right now Alan Shaffer's Neighborhood Numbnuts photo exhibition is up on the Capri walls, featuring photos of and works by the guys around the neighborhood named Moses, Conal, Edge, Dill, and Bell. This again, education, in local art is up until August 28th, when it will soon thereafter be replaced by a show of surf art ... just in time for Summer, if it ever arrives.

Alona has been feeding food, drink, stories, and fun to Abbot Kinney denizens all along, as fancier, newer restaurants open and close all up and down the street. Capri is a place that just feels like it's always been there, so you can forget about it as a dining option with all the hoopla going on around it. Being that place that feels like it's always been there isn't easy, and I'm so glad that I got to dig a little deeper into the story behind what is a true neighborhood landmark. I also got to dig a little deeper into some delectable swordfish with light fluffy mashed potatoes and crisp zucchini, with my gorgeous red wine (in the perfect glass for it).

The people of Venice amble by outside, there is no rush to turn you out of your table, and everything just feels comfortable, cozy and, best of all, easy. This is real, old school, artist Venice, and Alona invites you to "C'mon down!" anytime ... because "You gotta get up to get down". Exactly.

Rediscover Capri Restaurant ... it's delicious.

And located at:

1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, 90291

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

French New Wave Venice

There are many times in life - especially in Venice - where you go, "This is like a movie", or "I couldn't even make this up". The place is full of characters, that as a writer, you think, "No one would ever believe this person was real, if they weren't". I'm constantly writing down little moments in my notebook, to use in a script or book later on, as inspiration is constantly everywhere.

A good example of this happened the other day. I was on my way home from my morning walk at the beach when I saw my Creepy Landlord pull up in front of my place. If you know me at all, you probably know about this guy. The problems - CREEPY problems - with this person go way back, and our relations lately have devolved in a big way. I recently let him have it in a letter, and seeing him pull up in front was the first I'd seen of him since his receiving it, and frankly, I was not in the mood to deal.

So I went on over to the French Market to get my coffee, and kill some time, hopefully long enough to miss The Creep. I told my friend and waiter extraordinaire, Christopher, that I was sorry I was going to take up a table with just coffee, but I was hiding out from my Creepy Landlord, blahblahblah. I'm usually in and out of there in a hurry, so it's out of the ordinary for me to linger. It wasn't super busy at that moment, so we had more time to chat than normal, and I shared just some of the Creepiness with my French pals.

After a bit, I said my goodbyes to Carole and Christopher, and biked back towards my house. I went an odd way, so I could sneak up and see my place without being seen. When I turned down an alley, I heard the puttering of an engine behind me, but I had my hood up and shades on, so I didn't have any peripheral view, and didn't feel like glancing back and having to deal with something else. Another weird turn by me, another weird turn by the puttering engine. I kept going until I reached the corner where I could see my house. The coast was clear. One second later, a scooter pulled up alongside me, the helmet came off, and there was Christopher, on the delivery scooter!

"I had to make sure zat you were alright", he said in his super thick French accent. He'd hopped on the scooter and followed me as soon as I'd left, going above and beyond the call of waiter, into true friend territory. (And he didn't want any credit or his picture taken, so I had to snap this in passing):

That's what a Community is all about, man. Caring, taking a moment of your own time to make sure someone else is ok, and doing it just because you're a good person, not because you expect anything in return. I treasure that about the relationships I've formed over the years here in Venice. They are legit, and people really do care.

So you see ... cool things don't just happen in the movies, they happen right here, every single day.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Random Venice

One of the best things about Venice is that you just never know what's going to pop up and surprise you ... and every day brings something new. Like this little installation that met us on the beach this morning ...

"Wino Strut"? A white Santa with black eyes? A monkey peeking out? A neon orange star? What does it all mean? I have no idea, but it's things like this that keep it all interesting all the time around here. There was no one nearby to explain, the surfers just kept surfing, and I just smiled at another thing to love about Venice. Randomly.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lamai Thai Massage ... Ahhh.

I got back from a trip back home last week that featured a lot of running around, a lot of going nuts, and a lot of insomnia. This was followed by a multiple-city trek back - after no sleep again - that left me feeling pretty aching and ruined.

Back on the beach, I was stretching on a lifeguard tower, and hearing crackles and pops that sounded more like Rice Krispies than a human body. Jenny and I turned to each other and uttered two crucial words ... "Thai Ladies"?

Yes. Thai Ladies. When you are feeling just wrecked like I was (or in general need of some tough love), there really isn't a better option. The Thai Ladies at Lamai Massage on Abbot Kinney will get IN there on those knots. It will hurt. But sometimes you have to hurt to help.

I've had "L" before, and now I've had Jessy, and both of these women will crush your knots and kinks, with a smile on their faces all the while. This last time was the first time I've ever had to cry "Uncle" on it, when Jessy was walking on the back of my calves, on a knot that had me seeing little animated stars. Breathing through it didn't help, I was dying, and had to ask her to ease up. But just on that spot. The rest of me could take it, but Man, I'm still feeling it today, two days later. A good thing.

I mentioned walking. You see, at Thai Massage, they use walkers like old people use, to support their weight with their arms while they dig into your problem areas with their feet. There are only curtains separating you from everyone else getting this done, so you do hear your fair share of grunts and deep breathing (and sometimes talking - SHHH!) coming from the rest of the clients getting walked all over.

For big guns like my knots, they bring out the Thai Balm, a Tiger balmy type sauce that penetrates as they pound you. It really helps. You put on big Thai pants and a little bib type thing on top, as they fold you into pretzel shapes after the walking part, to stretch out the worked-on areas. I guess they don't want your naked bits in their faces as they do this. By this point, you don't care about modesty anymore, you're just a gelatinous blob.

For just $40 per hour, it is about the best personal health care deal around. I staggered out of there (as Jessy just laughed and nodded) feeling like a new - if you can be new and still feel like a wrung out washrag - and improved (but sore) woman. Here is a picture of me right after:

For real.

Knots? Stress? Pain? Just need it because you're depressed at the AUGUST gloom?

Lamai Thai Massage
1350 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, 90291

Monday, August 2, 2010

Festival Of The Chariots = Technicolor Dreams

Waking up on the first Sunday in August to actual sunshine already felt like a dream ... but when you yawn, stretch, shower, coffee, and bike down to the Fig Tree for our annual Festival Of The Chariots brunch ... the dream bursts into full Oz-like color.

When the Hare Krishna bunch puts on the Festival each year to celebrate their whole deal - I'm actually still not exactly sure what the whole deal is, but they all look extra happy -the Boardwalk in Venice bursts into bloom, like a rare flower that only blooms out once a year. Our favorite part really is watching the faces of the oblivious tourists that have no idea what is about to overtake their walk along, scanning the wares, and the spectacle they think they're supposed to be seeing while here.

The enormous, brightly painted and adorned Chariots draw into sight, led by, first, the "JESUS SAVES" People, carrying their various protest (?One Love?) signs ahead of the parade, and then, the vibrantly dressed pilgrims of the Hindu faith that dance and chant alongside the crazy-colorful floats/Chariots, with their elaborate balloons trailing behind (Sacred Cow balloons! That better not be found washed up on the shore, Krishnas!). They hand out little gift bags with religious tracts, sun face stickers, and Dum Dum suckers, for some reason, but you always feel coolest if you get a flower tossed to you. Even if the innocent bystander has no idea of what is coming up along behind them, their quizzical stares almost every time turn into delighted smiles, often coupled with claps along, and nowadays, the camera phone outstretched by an arm to catch themselves with all the action.

We like our front row seats at The Fig Tree, to view it all from the safety of not being run over by an enormous golden wheel. While sitting there, wearing my Sponto Orange dress, I had the distinct feeling of someone's arm encircling my waist as it all passed by. I turned to see who new had arrived, only to find - absolutely no one standing there. I'm not kidding. We always had our pal, Sponto, there with us at these brunches, and have really missed him at this and other occasions ... but maybe he WAS there, hmmmm? It was just weird.

Also weird was when I found out that the little old Lord Krishna dude (that never seems to age year after year of these parades), complete with an umbrella holder, was really a statue. aHA! Trippy. It's a trippy kind of day, really, but all the color (more extravagant this year even, as it was all lit up by the increasingly rare sunshine we so love at the beach) just seems to brighten up everyone's moods automatically. Even the people protesting in the name of their faith - again, such a strange reaction to fun and good deeds - didn't seem as militant as in previous years. We can talk about my religion theories some other time, but I'm all for people getting up and out on a Sunday morning to rejoice in a beautiful day with strangers.

They do more than that, too. The Festival of the Chariots Sunday is always a big carnival-type event too, off Windward Circle.

You can hear music, watch great dancers, learn about Reincarnation, Ask Questions and Get Answers (finally, Los Angeles!), but the best part, especially to the many who really do need it, judging from the long, long line - is the Free Feast.

The spirit of giving, whether that be of food, flowers (I later found a rose that I'd caught from a person on a chariot, forgotten, and still tucked neatly in my cleavage), or simply fun, is what I always take away from this special day in Venice.

I almost wish I could rewind to the time when I was the person that had no idea what was approaching. That kind of pure and lovely surprise is pretty rare, but it's kind of like the place we live ... you get enjoyment every time you share it with someone new, and feel lucky that you kind of get what's going on.

So a surfer talks to a Bible beater talks to a robed Hare Krishna person talks to a Cop talks to a street performer talks to an English tourist talks to a homeless guy talks to a fruit seller talks to me (and so on ...) on a fine Sunday in August in Venice, California. Which is exactly the way it should be, the way we try to live here, and just how I like it. I had to leave before everyone else to do a little work thing, and said, "The real world is a drag sometimes". To everyone milling around The Boardwalk last Sunday, the "Real World" meant anywhere but here.