Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rainbow/Sunset Double Feature!

I stepped out my front door this evening to see this going down to my right:

And this blowing my mind to the left:

I took turns staring at each, and watched the rainbow get more vivid as it got a little darker:

And the Sunset start to give extra sparkle to the sky for you to remember it by:

I came inside after both directions had fully faded away, and went back to the email stuff I was doing, feeling blessed that I can be moved so deeply by just looking up.

Facebook was blowing up with people all over Los Angeles typing DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!! in their status boxes, and I felt blessed anew that EVERYONE can still get excited over such pure and natural beauty as rainbows and sunsets. No politics involved, no family drama, no selfishness involved whatsoever, as it's free and we all share in it.

Just this morning, I sang quoted Bob Marley from "Sun Is Shining" to illustrate how I want to try and be in life, "I'm a rainbow too!" Well, now it's just straight fitting to quote him again, in light of the dazzling we were all just subjected to over here, at the end of the rainbow, at the end of the country ...

When the morning gathers the rainbow
Want you to know I'm a rainbow too

So, to the rescue here I am

Want you to know just if you can

Where I stand, know, know, know, know, know

We'll lift our heads and give Jah praises!

Oh, yes we will. Praise Jah!!

*I promise you that if I was a photographer, these dang photos would make you cry. As ever, real life is better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Abbot Kinney Festival 2010 - Good Vibrations!

Abbot Kinney Festival day always feels like a real holiday in Venice. That crackling, electric buzz in the air, some traditional stuff that happens every year, and that rushing into the arms of old, familiar faces that all go along with true holidays.

As I exited a walk street to turn towards Abbot Kinney last Sunday, I felt that holiday excitement. Then I heard a band opening up with the intro to the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations and smiled to myself. What better way to meet the Festival that my friends and I liken to "Venice Christmas"? The good vibrations were everywhere, and it was all happening under a blazing sun that hadn't made an appearance the entire Summer 2010. The day was charmed.

Booths lined each side of the Boulevard, with artisans and organizations selling their wares or ideas. Hand cast belt buckles, sparkly wings for little kids, and wood carved signs saying stuff like "Surf Shack" seemed to be big sellers ... and made by real live locals, not factories, ahem.

Though I heard a few stories about mega-disorganization during the set-up process, it was all smooth sailing once the whole thing was underway. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood, and everyone I saw was looking good, too. The Festival always brings out the best outfits, again, like a real holiday.

I went to see Matt Ellis's band play, and they were great. So were the Superbroke Orchestra folks playing over at the Kid's Quad. The drag was that I saw a whole bunch of my other VENICE musician friends, not playing, but in the audience. Most every year I have a hard time planning my musical stops at the Festival, as so many bands I know are playing that they tend to overlap. Not so this year. I'm not sure who is in charge of the music, but I kept hearing "It's political", which I hate to hear when it comes to local bands playing a local festival. It was real DJ heavy, which is fine if they're good, but nothing beats a good, local, live band, playing under a blazing sun with their sweaty fan friends raising their glasses and singing along. Whomever books this day for bands ... let's talk for next year.

Another weird thing (and then I'm done, as I wholly loved the Festival otherwise) was this year's poster, and the fact that the Abbot people went with some downtown event planner getup, when this place is teeming with creative types. Artists, graphic designers, party planners, bands ... why look any elsewhere?! Pardon, but a third grader could have done the data entry on this year's boredom of a poster (and perhaps did. Sorry, kid.). I know people who collect those posters, as most times they are stunning, and done by someone we know and love. This year's probably won't sell out.

Digression over. There were well-used bike valets this year, which I love to see. The food trucks were minimal (you know First Fridays has gotten out of hand when the annual Street Festival seems more in control). There were long lines at all the local watering holes. A spontaneous Rio Carnival type drum line went down the middle of the street at one point, and got everyone yelling and clapping along.

The Spirit Of Venice awards were given out to Jesse Martinez (looking very beat up - what happened?!), Earl Newman (creator of what SHOULD have been the Festival poster this year. Note: though the site says the "Official" poster is Newman's gem, it was seen hardly anywhere but on the side of The Brig), LAFD Inspector Mike Neeley, and LAPD Officer Heidi Llewes. Tough guys mingled with baby stroller pushers. The Trim stylists looked all hot and cut hair in the street. One wise looking man walked around with a handmade "LOVE" sign hanging from his neck. Outlandish costumes competed with gals wearing almost nothing for attention. As every good festival should have, there was the guy with a parrot on his shoulder.

I spent a chunk of the afternoon chilling on the shady side of the street at The Free Venice Beachhead booth. I got to meet all sorts of the cool readers of the paper, who to a person, had only positive and encouraging things to say about how we feel about our Community, and where we want it to go (Cityhood is looking good, if people put their money/actions where their mouths are!). There were some good debates, as well as constant hugs and high fives, from people who sometimes you ONLY see on this day of the year. Like Thanksgiving or something (See? We really should make it an official holiday ... maybe once we're our own city that'll get enacted ...).

Wrapping up my booth shift, I headed over to my friends' house that overlooks The Brig. The PACKED Brig, which had been turned into an outdoor dance floor. It was sociologically fascinating to watch the spectacle. A clear vinyl fence had been installed, so you could see into the whole throbbing dance floor, but not one person waiting in line on the other side was dancing. Like we've been trained as humans so much by societal rules/norms, that dancing is only allowed on one side of a fence, though you can hear the same music and see people one inch from you, breaking it down. We danced and waved our arms from the balcony we were perched on, to try and get a little anarchic dancing going, and it did work a little. C'mon everybody! Be FREE!

Then BOOM! 6:00 p.m. on the dot, giant trucks began doing a sweep of the street, with the cops following along behind to lasso any stragglers. The dance party was over. Clean up and dismantling began right then and there, and it was up to you to keep the party going on your own. Not a problem. My friend then told me that when they left the house that morning, they'd heard a band playing Good Vibrations, and how it had felt so perfect for the day. "ME TOO!" I exclaimed, and concurred. And really, underneath it all (and the "it all" part of Venice is vast, I'm well aware), that IS what we try to be about and spread in our little area of the Earth. PLUS, a bunch of fine organizations (see for list) will be given grants from the money brought in by the Festival. MORE good.

Good Vibrations, Man. So let's try to remember that, shall we, and keep it going all year long, not just on the holidays. Drink 'em up!

*Photos by me and Jennifer Everhart.

Monday, September 27, 2010

L & M Arts Opens Up The Block

L & M Arts opened last Saturday about a block from my place, and it was so great to just amble up the street to attend an opening of such a venue, and spectacle. Valets were running around parking fancy cars, even as a stickered-up VW Bus had the prime spot right in front of the place. Ahh, Venice.

The Sun decided to grace us with sparkle and heat for the first time, really, this year in Venice, and the art crowd was dressed to reflect both the sunshiny mood and bright outlook. Colors! As opposed to the black turtlenecks of only a week ago. Flowers in the hair instead of wool caps! Champagne flowing freely, instead of another coffee you didn't even need but were freezing so got one!

All sorts of Venice artists and characters were there, mingling about to celebrate L & M's arrival to the West Coast (and our neighborhood!), and the bold mind and sculptural talents of Paul McCarthy.

The real crowd-pleaser/statement-maker of the show "Three Sculptures By Paul McCarthy" is Train, Mechanical (2003-2010). It is a couple of huge flesh colored George Bushes anally rendering pigs, fully automated and over and over. Complete with lip pursing, and eye rolling as the George's react to their thrusts. It's disconcerting, and a bit awkward to watch, with perfect strangers squeezed together gaping at the repeated motion of the former President with the pigs. Some will find it straight obscene, and I think that might be the whole point.

I take our Country itself as the pigs, and that's exactly what Bush was doing to us all - in the skull, like one of McCarthy's pigs is doing - and a lot of the place just stood around gaping, which was, and remains, OBSCENE! Art shaping culture, and society shaping art is unto itself a train.

I hope that by us talking about all of this anew because we looked at this sculpture may bring new attention to the fact that the Bush/Cheney regime is still walking around, free as they may please, speaking for fees, and that's exactly what is sick and obscene. Clinton being persecuted for a lying about a silly blow job is obscene, when you have these crooks laughing all the way to their banks/porches, while sipping on a beer. Not in jail.

War. Crimes. Tribunal.

Thank you to Mr. McCarthy for picking at this awful scab in the middle of our nation's face.

OK. The other two sculptures are from McCarthy's Hummel series (after the folky Teutonic children collectibles of the same name), and are both sweetly innocent and discreetly sinister in the same breath. Ship of Fools, Ship Adrift (2010) is a giant black bronze sculpture of kids on a boat, only they look they've been covered in tar and are decomposing. You really have to see it for yourself to feel the size and weight of it (And you can! In Venice! Right by the Fire Station!).

The outdoor statue is Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl (2010), giant kids that at first glance suggest purity, but then you notice the smushed deformity of them, and you gather that the sin of that apple tree has not been kind to them.

Everyone discussed all of this outside on comfy lounge areas or casual picnic tables, as Gjelina catered the affair and kept the wine flowing.

{Speaking of Gjelina ... I just want to give a public shout-out to Chef, Travis Lett, right here and now. That dude made a giant butterscotch pot de creme with sea salt and creme fraiche (aka: the best dessert on the planet) for my brother's and my birthday last month. I said a GIANT one. If you've ever eaten this thing at Gjelina, you know how special this is. This makes him one of the most generous and cool cats around, and high on our list of favorite Venetians. Thanks.}

Usually at art openings, you see the work, greet the people you know, maybe have a glass of wine, and go on your merry way. This one, people were sticking around for. I saw a neighborhood friend of mine (who jumped the hedge. awesome.) and he said, "Well, hoity-toity!" as his greeting to me, but it didn't really feel that way. Yeah, we were sipping on the sparkling all day, watching James Franco schmooze, and listening to Paul McCarthy (the one with the big beard) wax intelligent and insightful about his work, but so were RV's parked right outside and people wearing their Venice Originals t-shirts. I think just by location alone, the place kind of has to remain open and fresh. I've always loved the depot-like building that houses L & M now, and am happy to see how gorgeously they've re-made the place over.

I'm also happy to see people starting to embrace what I like to call the "Cultural Corridor" of Venice more. In the two block stretch of Venice Boulevard where L & M just opened, you also have Beyond Baroque, SPARC, 826 LA, and the Pacific Resident Theater, never mind the little jams that sometimes go on at my own private venue (aka: my place). There's a lot of really great cultural events happening in these spots most every night of the week, and I keep hearing local people say "I've never been".

To that, I say get on it. Because there are bold statements, literary blessings, free expressions and mind-opening works (in almost every medium) happening right in our own back/front yards.

We are lucky people.

L & M Arts
660 South Venice Blvd.
Venice, 90291
Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 am - 5:30 pm
... And by appointment.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Yes Men

Do you know about The Yes Men? I didn't, until my very trusty What People In Venice, CA Are Watching section of Netflix told me about them. They are merry pranksters who take on mostly corporations in elaborate hoaxes that make those corporations look both stupid and greedy, and let's throw awful in there, for good measure.

They have two documentaries so far, The Yes Men and The Yes Men Fix The World, which are kinda like Punk'd for the corporate world. They have some cheesy production gags that you have to overlook, but after watching both of them, I felt empowered, riled up, and honestly touched that there are still people who will go way out of their ways to try and right some global wrongs.

Just for one example, they go after Dow Chemicals, and get invited (as imposters) to speak on CNN (to 300 million viewers!) about about a horrible Union Carbide chemical accident that happened 20 years ago in Bhopal, India, with no payout to the victims. The Yes Man imposter says on the air that they're finally going to do right by the people and pay them 14 billion dollars, to set an example for other corporations to do the right thing. Dow's stock dropped immediately, and they lost 2 billion dollars in 20 minutes! How messed up is that, that stockholders PUNISHED the company for doing the righteous thing?! Profit, or Human life? Priorities, People, priorities.

They get into lots more admirable scenarios, and are kind of modern day Supermen, if you ask me. Check them out, get inspired, and maybe stir up a little not-into-the-status-quo mischief (that tries to HELP people!) yourselves.

Thanks, again, Venetians. You have really good taste.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Endless Summer Of Color

Well, that's it. The last full day of "Summer", if you can call the London Fog of a sunshine hand we've been dealt this Solstice season thing 2010, by that inept moniker for what we had. I've now come to terms with it, it's in the books, and I can move on, wistfully. I guess. Everyone keeps saying, "Maybe we'll have a boiling hot Christmas and everyone else will be freezing then?" but that doesn't change the lack of Summer, that I truly feel a little gypped going forward without having had. And yet ... we don't live in flooded Pakistan, or still-devastated Haiti, so Whaaaa to us. We're more than fine, absolutely.

Speaking of Haiti, I saw the Summer of Color lifeguard stations being dismantled and painted over this morning, forcing the reality of tomorrow's Autumnal Equinox to really sink in - up to my knees, in the tide changing sand. Teams of people in UCLA t-shirts were out there in the dense mist re-painting the lifeguard towers back into the pale blue of the normal year. It was kind of depressing to watch, truth be told. The bright flowered and fished panels were said to be going to Haiti to help them have shelter and rebuild with happy, bright materials. But one day as we stretched out atop a purple stand, I looked closer at the panels and saw that they were pretty much made of foam core type, bendy/flimsy stuff that would never shelter anyone from anything other than a living room fort. I don't know what they intend to create with it, but it felt a little sketch to me as to how helpful it could be on its own. Would love to know.

Sigh. So gone are the bright colors of Summer, in all sorts of ways. I dig Fall too, though. It's just different. I was mulling all this over when I went to rinse off my sandy feet and saw a guy on a hill off the Boardwalk going off. Dangerous, real crazy off. I've seen a lot of crazy in Venice, and it's rare that I have felt the kind of menace coursing off of this guy. Screaming with real rage, he ranted non-stop and non-sensically, and looked like he wanted to hurt someone or something. Badly. We steered real clear, and international (we took photos for a few couples on the sand) tourists scattered. And there was no sign anywhere of the 5-0 (Guess we should've ripped our shirts off).

Now, there are some obviously crazy people that you can't look in the eye, or have to entirely avoid, like the guy above. Then there are some also obviously crazy people that you can engage and smile at, and it's harmless and cool. Still hearing the rabid screams of the man on the hill, I rode past a homeless upper-middle aged African American woman talking to herself, and smiled at her. She immediately stopped me and told me in no uncertain terms, "I do not do Men. I've been celibate for 19 years, I'm a nun. I'm not talking to myself, I'm talking to him," and she pulled out a little laminated business card sized picture of Jesus.

She went on and on, but in amongst her rambling, she looked me straight in the eyes and told me a list of things about myself and what she wished for me, all of which I wish for myself, exactly. Crazy, but true. I was mesmerized, and sat there listening to her until Jenny returned to see what had become of me, and rang her bell at me to break the spell. I said I had to go, I was sorry, and bless her. She said, "That sex and drugs lady you see on television at that motel isn't me, that's the OTHER Patricia. You can put me in a room with your man and I won't do a thing, I told you, I'm a nun. And I'm not jealous of your hair either", she tossed in as she stared at it. That one cracked me up, and we parted on cool terms, I think.

Just another early morning along the very edge of the country in Venice, proving that we don't need sunshine or blinged out lifeguard stations to make our lives colorful.

Lesson learned ... let the Autumn roll on in.

*Jenny Evs again snapped the photo on the beach.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Venice Beach, Bra!

The sun came out for a quick second this morning, like the tease it is, and then rapidly gloomed over again. I remain sick of it. However, warm and sunny or not, people are still getting out there and having fun at the beach. GOOD fun, it seems too, as we walked among a trail of rose petals strewn about the shore, until we reached this:

A hot pink push up bra, left behind among the flowery remains. It made me smile. Her too, hopefully.

Last day of Summer (such as it was) - Enjoy the fogshine!

*Thanks to Jenny Evs for snapping this!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Venice Art Crawl, Y'all!

Last night was the second ever Venice Art Crawl, and we absolutely adored it. I kept hearing, "This is how First Fridays USED to be!" all evening, and they were right. Crowds of people walking around, and I recognized MOST of the faces. People opening up their spaces to celebrate ART, and our neighborhoods, as the different venues sprawl all over town. Everyone in a good mood, learning about new art, seeing new spaces and old faces, and generally having a grand old time.

We started out at Gretchen Rollins' "Drive By Gallery", a piece done in the exterior window of Doug Edge's supercool studio on Vernon, of a Jeff Koons-like dog made out of kitty litter sitting on Astroturf, called Eat Grass. Shared some hugs, had some wine, snooped around the very interesting inner sanctum studio of a guy that shared the space, that frankly blew our minds. People in our daily midst are so darn creative, and art is everywhere. This has the potential for every day to be awesome and full of exciting possibilities, in my view, and digging around in it all only makes this more clear.

From Vernon, we cruised on over to Nikki's, then to Venice Originals to check out the in-progress painting of a Venice landscape on a leather jacket by Dougo (Doug Smith), whose painted skateboard decks were hung all over the shop as well.

Super legit, and I can't wait to sit down and hear Doug's whole story (and then share it with you). I ran into an old friend out front of the shop, and just loved that the whole evening felt like it was for US - the people of Venice that live and love it.

Artisan Venice was full of people creating and mingling.

Danny's Deli was full too - video installations and the upstairs full of different pieces by different artists - all of it fairly dope. They even had live music! Take that, First Fridays!

The band played some Doors covers, appropriately, and I especially liked the guitar player decked out in a Charms Blow Pop costume. Between official stops on the crawl, artists had thrown up Pop Up Galleries everywhere to go along with it all, bootleg style.

They had their own official Security people, all of whom were being COOL.

There was a girl at a table outside of Danny's where the Boardwalk begins, handing out maps of all the venues to crawl to ... and after the Maker's shot at Danny's (just to warm up!), crawling was getting to be closer to the truth than sauntering.

Time for a food break. There was a wait at Mao's, so we went across the street to take in some more art at the excellent Market St. building taken over by William Attaway and Gary Palmer (and Destin Clover too). A dramatic red-carpeted staircase led upstairs to an outdoor deck full of rad art, that got even cooler when you went up another staircase to the rooftop, where even more art was hanging.

As were citizens of all stripes that all seemed to know and enjoy each other, as a dreaded guy sang Bob Marley and strummed an acoustic guitar. One guy near me nudged his friend and said, "Rooftops, Dude." I got it. The location just felt classic. The whole evening did, for that matter. It mattered not that it was so misty and chilly that half my photos have mist dots on them. Who cares? When we left there to go claim our Mao's table, my friend Jenny said, "Every single spot I saw someone I LOVED, that I haven't seen for a long time!" How's that for an endorsement of the event?

We watched crowds - ORDERLY crowds, there for the ART of it all - stream past the window as we ate, and agreed that none of us had ever seen so many people on Pacific at night. Sadly, that also goes for the rows and rows of people who were turned in early for the night, sleeping right there on the sidewalk in front of Mao's. That's the reality of where we live, high art and homelessness, hand in hand.

WONDERFUL events, like the new and honestly just so great and impressive FREE Venice Art Crawl, make that reality all the more appreciable. Just when you're faced with the very worst scenarios in our society, right there too is something to celebrate.

Looking over the map again this morning, I'm already excited for the next one, as there are so many stops still to explore. Thinking over the night again this morning, I'm excited too for all the faces I'll see again, and the ones that haven't yet crawled, but will now. I mean, Art, old friends, cool spots, free flowing fun AND no food trucks?! I think the Venice Art Crawl is really REALLY on to something great.

Congratulations to all the artists, organizers, participants, and Venetians, period! We've got yet another thing to be stoked about in these parts.

The Venice Art Crawl is every Third Thursday. I'll look so forward to seeing you there next month!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mason & Morning

I had a great time last night, followed by a magical morning. Let me tell you about it a little, won't you? No photos were taken, as they weren't allowed last night, and I don't like to bring technology along with me on my morning walk at the sea ... some things must remain sacred. (and a lot of my friends are turning into cyborgs ... more on that later). We're mostly all adults, and sometimes grown up books don't have pictures in them. We shall overcome.

Mason Jennings is one of our hometown (Minneapolis) heroes. I've seen him play a whole bunch of times, from us being the only ones there, 'til now when you sort of want to shush people singing along word for word. Last night at the Largo at The Coronet Theater, Mason played a show, just his voice, accompanied by his own guitar, piano, and harmonica. They're super strict there, from how you get tickets, to how you should behave. L.A. needs this whipping into shape, so I appreciated it. We didn't get tickets until the day of (surprisingly still available, but the Largo doesn't make it easy on you. You have to physically go there to buy them - drag - but those with the gumption are rewarded), and wound up with the four front row center most rad seats. Sometimes it feels like trying to be a decent person in life really does pay off.

Watching Mason play so close (you could hear his rubber soled foot tapping - that's quiet), it was like we had our own Hologram Ipod (listen up, Jobs!) of Mason, as his voice and guitar intricacies sounded EXACTLY like he plays them on record. That's not easy to do on acoustic, and he did. Our friend, Alta, had never heard him, didn't even know what genre (I love when you go into something knowing nothing - rare these days) he really is, and she came out of that theater saying, "He is a force of nature". For sure he is - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Hologram Mason played pretty much his greatest hits, from a wide span of his discography, but he was touring for his new LIVE album recorded at the best music club in the country, Mason Jennings Live at First Avenue. The crowd shouted out their requests (which I can't stand), all blurring into one din, until Mason would say, "Which one? OK.", and play whatever he wanted. "Lemon Grove Avenue". "Adrian". "Living In The Moment". "1997" (not about aliens). "The Light (Part II)" (perfect, deep lyrics that make you just sit back and process the wisdom behind them) were all played with just Mason strumming and picking his simple Martin, with exacting precision and total confidence, which I admire so much.

Then it was time to sit at the piano with visible internal organs/keys, crowned with a (fitting for a Minnesotan) Viking helmet. Watching the keys play so closely was mesmerizing, and "Sorry Signs On Cash Machines", a brand new song for an upcoming album called, "Bitter Heart" (which was great), and "Be Here Now" (another admonishment I use all the time to my cyborg friends) were all rendered gorgeously on the piano, to the point where the rowdier folks in the audience were silent too, just listening and picturing the stories being spun in the songs.

An old friend of Mason's reconnected with him and had an old tape of songs he'd sent her, prompting him to get his Dad to dig up a box of old recordings from his house. That giant bunch of songs were recently re-recorded by Mason with just voice and guitar, and the best ones made it on to a different new album coming soon, called The Flood. One of those was called "Dakota", and both its tempo and story took you all over the place, which again you (like words vs. pictures) could imagine in full golden afternoon-lit detail. Superfans/yellers were rewarded with their usual favorites, "Butterfly" (still awesome), and "Nothing" (same).

Back to the piano for another new one that illustrated the sense of humor ingrained in Mason's writing, called "I Think I Broke Your Clutch", which both asked and answered the questions of "Was it the freedom that freaked you out?" and "We can live in a dream ...". "Never Knew Your Name" was followed by "I Love You And Buddha Too" which got the yellers involved with their "Alright's" echoing Mason's (Sorry if I seem overly sensitive to this Mason school spirit, it's just so distracting and chalkboard fingernails to me. Like respect the guy/anyone you like enough to trust them to play whatever they want you to hear ...). "Your New Man" was still funny, and known by heart in the house.

The harmonica rig was strapped on for "Crown" which bled right into "Jackson Square" - again, both lyrical gems. "Anyone who says that life is clear, has never seen a mirror, or been to Jackson Square" - both super heavy, and extra true. Storytelling. I love it.

Blood Of Man is Mason's most recent rock album, and hearing its fine "The Field" played acoustic was certainly as effective, if not more so, in this understated fashion, with its questions about War, and our own hearts (lub-dubbed on the guitar strings). "Sing Out" was slow, quiet and questioning on the piano, so gentle that you could hear the pads of the piano keys being pressed (at least I could. Burn. Just kidding.). With that mellow thought provoker's end, Mason got up, said, "Thanks a lot!" and walked off stage.

Robust clapping and shouting brought him back, to a blur of requests being shouted, so he went into "Ulysses", "Jealousy" (classic and true) on his own, and finally, "Big Sur" as the ones yelling the loudest insisted, for the last number of the night. All classics, really. A standing ovation was a natural reflex, and Mason waved and departed for good. Then so did we, to a late dinner spent talking over the songs, playing, and history of performances we've been to, one of the most satisfying ways to end a show evening that there is. Natural stoke from good and meaningful music is a fine way to fall asleep.

A fine way to wake up is a long walk on the beach, even as we're sure Venice must now change its nickname to "Fogtown" (thanks, Jenny Evs!). First up, dolphins. Then a lanky, farm-fresh young man walking down the beach towards us wearing a "Free Hugs" shirt. I knew I'd be haunted by being a jerk all day if I didn't just open my arms wide when we passed him. We two strangers hugged without a word, and then he offered me a sand dollar. I have plenty, so I urged him to pass it along to someone who might not. It was one of the world's sweetest exchanges ever. Then I watched a guy all by himself, purely exalting at being in the chilly waves - jumping, yelling, and waving his arms, not caring who was looking. Right after him, a guy stopped in front of the lifeguard station we were standing on and saluted all four directions with a bow, then raised his arms up, brought his palms together, and back apart, in a gesture of thanks that was also pure and real. And a gratitude reminder that could not go unnoticed.

Carrying on, I finally found out the name and occupation of the beach regular guy we call "The Ultimate Fighter" (for obvious reasons): Alex. He's a professional wrestler. Knew it. Then we saw the little old lady who reminds us of the old guy from Up, with her adorable square-lens glasses, and informed her that dolphins were out there. She once said, "Isn't it wonderful?!" with a sweep of her arms towards the sea, and I hear that phrase every time I see her.

Right about then, I wished aloud that I would see the "Free Hugs" guy again on our way back, so that I could find out how many embraces the kid got. A short distance later, there he was! I asked, and after telling me that I was his first (starting the mojo, I'd like to think), but he got four more after me, for a total of five! This, in truth, kind of surprised me, but certainly encouraged me too. As caught up and cyborg as we are, and as suspicious as we can be of everyone just a wee bit different than whatever the norm is, people still look for - and find - human connection.

Music, or your regular morning, will give you that connection every time ... you just have to let it. And then EXALT in it. Fog or not.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blogtown Birthday! Locals, Rock, Russian Spies?!

Well, with all the fun and life happening in and around Venice lately, I didn't realize until after the fact that ol' Blogtown is a one year old! Man, time sure does fly. My awesome friends made me this painting for my birthday and Blogtown's Birth last year, and it doesn't even feel like the paint should be dry yet.

In the past year I've met so many wonderful people and heard their stories. Some people I knew already, but didn't know their background or how they got here. Some people I knew all about and wanted to share their greatness with the world. So many people, places and events, yet I don't even feel like I've made a DENT in the surface of how many interesting characters and tales there are teeming around me here in Venice, California.

There's a little stat data website that lets you see which stories of yours are most popular, and where, and all that, and while The Venice Beach Freak Show, Jane's Addiction, Gjelina, Moods Of Norway, Shooter Jennings, Tom Morello, and all of those stories rank high with me as well ... it's the little ones that stand out in my heart.

Like my Russian boyfriend, Leon. The update on him and I ... is that one day at the beginning of Summer, he completely disappeared. But not just him - ALL of the little old Russian ladies and gentlemen disappeared! No one seems to know where they went or what happened ... making me think ... Hmmm ... I wonder if they were part of that whole Russian spy thing that came to light around the same time?! Maybe they were all deported and Leon had no time (or English) to tell me what was happening? Maybe they found a different spot at the beach to watch the world go by? I think about him every day on my morning beach walk, and regret that I never got the chance to tell his whole story before the KGB (or whatever it's called now) came for him.

{wistful sigh}

There's also The World's Greatest Wino, Bobby Brown, who is now a real friend. We greet each other every morning, and one of my favorite moments of the last year was when my high school bff, Missy, was here visiting with her kids, who wound up getting their picture taken with Bobby. Later on, Missy texted me saying that her daughter said that when she grew up she wanted to "live in Venice and be friends with everyone like CJ is." That was so great to me, that a young girl from suburban Minnesota can GET IT, and understand that there are places and people who are open to everyone and everything, and that it can all get along together. The update on Bobby Brown, World's Greatest Wino, is no, not that he's got a new song to sing (still "Jingle bells, Jingle bells, help me get drunk!" over and over), but that he's a "medical miracle" and believes he has fathered - at 74 - a baby with his young girlfriend in the Philippines. Stop down and see him at the Boardwalk and put something in his cup, as he's saving up to get down there and meet his baby (once he finds out for sure if it's his)! I love him.

Amid all the goodness and fun, there's been all sorts of rumors of petty in-fighting in Venice recently (which I'll soon address) about different little things grown bigger (RV overnight parking, First Fridays, Who is really Venice, etc ...), which makes me a bit bummed. I like to think we're all in this together - which we are. Not just in Venice either, of course, but the whole entire Planet.

So on that note, I'll say that I think my favorite little story of the first year of Blogtown is one of the earliest ones. It is also a fine salutation to kick off a new year ... Good Luck To Us All!!!

*Update: I think the bird might be an American Oystercatcher.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Venicestock 2010

I stopped by Venicestock 2010 yesterday afternoon to catch my friend's band, Jason Heath & The Greedy Souls, playing in an afternoon slot. While it's got a long way to go before the Venice version of a "Stock" can live up to its namesake (at least attendance-wise), it was a sunny (briefly!) way to spend the afternoon, listening to some great live music accompanied by the bass notes of pounding waves.

There's something so nice about hearing music in an outdoor setting, and even nicer when it's smack dab in the middle of Venice Beach, and all that goes on here all the time. The Pacific Ocean was in front of the stage, and the Boardwalk was backstage, so there was plenty to keep all your senses occupied.

My favorite part of the JHATGS set - aside from their thought-full/provoking folky rock jams - was that it had people dancing from start to finish. And I don't mean nodding along, I mean full body jerks and shimmies! This was my favorite guy. Probably everyone's favorite, for his completely non-caring, non-posing purely joyful expression - the entire time.

My least favorite guy was this one ... who plopped himself down in the dead middle of the crowd, turned his chair away from the band, and put in his headphones. I was tempted to ask what he was listening to, but then - like him - found that I didn't really care.

One (probably chemically altered) guy with flowing moves and a completely into it, oblivious demeanor, was dancing so freely down front that organizers seemed to be trying to get him to sit down so as not to distract from the band. Here, however, EVERYTHING distracts from the band, so it's up to the band to distract 'em back - which Jason Heath and Company did a fine job of. But not before a few others in the crowd got up in solidarity with the altered guy and danced along with him, seemingly to prove that merely dancing should not be stopped in Venice. Ever. For any reason.

The whole shindig is put on by St. John of local band, St. John & The Revelations, who also played the Venicestock stage ... though I had to head out after my favorite J. Heath jam, "Anarchist Girl", so I can't tell you much more about how the other bands got down. Other than that they did, and I could hear it all the way over at the house warming party I had to head to next. So YAY! (Especially when the proceeds are to benefit the admirable St. Joseph Center).

It's always a great day when you get sunshine and music together outside, and I hope the little Venicestock will continue to grow into its name for years to come.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

L & M Arts Preview!

L & M Arts, one of the leading contemporary art galleries in the world, is opening a branch like half a block from my pad on September 25th. It's a big deal in the Art world, and the Venice world, for that matter. Paul McCarthy is the opening exhibitor. Today when I was cruising home, I saw one of his large sculptures had appeared in the exterior of the gallery's yard.

As a lot of his work tends to be, it is sort of creepy fairytale feeling. I dig it. It's going to be cool to be able to see world-class exhibits as I just go about my daily biz.

Venice. Art. Yes, please.

L & M Arts opens at 660 Venice Blvd. on September 25th.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good Question ...

I was zipping around in that invigorated Back To School kind of feeling you get the day after Labor Day ... Gotta get things done, new beginnings, stir it up mode ... when I saw this graffiti outside of Abbot's Habit that stopped me in my tracks.

After giving it a moment of thought, the answer was kind of "No". But darned if it didn't propel me back out into the mix to focus on things that ARE important (to me, anyway), and even make a few phone calls to PEOPLE that are important (MOST important).

So I share this question with you as you get back into the hustle and bustle of Autumn life ... and hope that it makes you stop to ponder it all for a moment too - and maybe make a few little adjustments to line yourselves up toward "Important" (to you).