Monday, November 29, 2010

GQ Props For Venice

Just when I was breathing this ALL in this morning ... GQ Magazine came along and gave it up for our beloved community.

"When most of this country closes its eyes and thinks of Los Angeles, it pictures palm trees and beach volleyball, beautiful people walking unusual dogs, skateboarding teens, oddball bohemians, the occasional movie star—all bathed in golden light reflected off the Pacific. In other words, it is imagining Venice

Read More

They're not wrong.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give. Thanks.

I am absolutely thankful every single day in Venice. I'm grateful to live in a place where our community cares for each other, for our surroundings, and staunchly supports human rights. Which is why I'm so extra bothered that this year's Feed The Beach, a Thanksgiving feast for the homeless, put on outside at Westminster for the last several years by Nina and James Merced of The Fruit Gallery, and pot-lucked by the entire neighborhood, was cancelled. CANCELLED!

Why? Because red tape and bureaucracy appear to be more important than humanity. The LA Health Department reared its head this year (Why? Neighbor complaints? Silly rules? General Grinch-ness?), and made it too difficult for the Merced's to overcome, with threats of fines, liability in case of someone getting food poisoning or something, seemingly impossible to get permits, and the usual governmental scare tactics. When James went to the Park & Rec to inquire about the permits, he was actually told, "It's illegal to feed the homeless". Now how anyone can even get their vocal chords to vibrate in such a manner to form those words, I'll never know. ILLEGAL to FEED the HOMELESS?! On THANKS - GIVING?!? Simply appalling.

There are plenty of opportunities to get out there and share what you have with those less fortunate. I strongly encourage you to do this at all times of the year, not just when these obvious holiday times roll around, but it's deeply sad that the uniquely Venice Feed The Beach won't be happening, just because our society has become so scared and litigious that we've lost sight of helping the hungry without homes. I keep hearing Einstein's quote in my mind these days, "Remember your humanity, and forget the rest". Perhaps the best advice ever.

All of this had me thinking, just WOW. REALLY?! as I did my daily beach walk the other day. It reminded me of an encounter I had a while back, rocking along the sand, totally immersed in Prince (Controversy), when I saw a Homeless Guy shuffling towards me, and in between us was a weird bird, one I've never seen before. It was in some kind of distress as it wasn't taking off the closer the Guy and I got to it. It had webbed feet like a duck, but normal bird black and white body, but then BRIGHT red eye circles around beady black eyes. The Guy and I nodded our chins at each other, and then passed on by.

A few feet later, we both turned around and looked back at the bird. He saw me turn and said something, that was drowned out by Prince. I took out my headphones and said, "Sorry, what?" He said, "I think he's hurt". I said, "I think so too". We both walked back and looked closer. The bird stayed put. A wave would come and push it along the sand, one time spinning it around so hard it was difficult to watch. The Guy said, "Maybe if I push it up a little bit with my shoe it won't get washed away?" As I was walking barefoot, I said, "Yeah, try that". He did, and it worked a little bit, but after some hissing and craning of the neck, the bird was still not moving. "I don't want it to peck at me if it's sick", said the Guy. "Yeah, me neither", I answered. "Maybe I should go tell the Lifeguard and they can call the Marine Animal people?" We pondered that while watching some more.

The Guy said, "I think he's exhausted from just trying to survive". We exchanged a glance that kind of felt like, "I know how he feels". It was an interesting understanding, and felt pretty heavy. He asked if I had any food to give the bird. I shrugged "Nope", as I didn't have much on, and no pockets. We stood silently for a moment, just watching the poor thing. Finally the Guy said, "I think I have a Vitamin E capsule in my backpack". Kind of random, but it was worth a shot. Energy, maybe? He dug the pill out of his bag, and walked over to place it on the sand in front of the bird.

All of a sudden, the thing went bezerk, flapping its wings and squawking like a maniac. It lifted off the ground and flew to the top of a wave, and then duck-dove under it like a surfer and was back in its element, like nothing ever happened! The Guy and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows and frowns, like "Hm. What do you know about that?" We watched the bird swim along for a moment, making sure he was cool. Once that seemed to be established, I shrugged and said, "Well ... Good Luck to us all!" The Guy smiled and said, "Yep, good luck to us all".

And on we three went. I think about that exchange often, but especially today, as we all prepare to gather and feast for the holidays, and hopefully, to share it all. In times like these, when feeding the homeless is "illegal" ... Well, Good luck to us all, indeed.

One more time ... Remember your humanity, and forget the rest!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mmmm ... VeNICE!

I swear I think I had a true moment of enlightenment this morning (whatever that really means). The beach was SO beautiful as I walked along that I had to stop with my feet in the water, and just listen to the waves roll in, feel the warm sunshine on my face, and rejoice internally. I shut my eyes. The shape that took form on the inside of my eyelids from the sun was a neon pink heart. In that moment I realized, once and for all, that the only point at all to the time we spend alive is Love. And all the many shapes and forms that takes: Human, animal, musical, edible, readable, tangible, intangible, and on and on. Giving it. Accepting it. Searching for it. Finding it. Sharing it. Understanding it. Recognizing the beauty in it. Remembering it. Love. That is the only answer to it all.

I think we can lose sight of that sometimes, as the world beats you down a few times, and you get some walls built up, and you doubt, and you distrust, and you fear. That is so sad, and so contagious, and so rampant in these weirdo times, both locally and globally. Our innate ability to love begins to tarnish, and hate sees those openings and gets in there, and War.

Then you have a perfect moment on the beach, truly not thinking of the past or future at all, but just completely soaking in the NOW, feeling only gratitude for it, and you REMEMBER. Then later on, your little homie, JZ, comes to visit from NYC. We go to the park at the beach. He hangs from monkey bars. He sees surfers. He eats a very mature palate for a two year old slice of mushroom pizza at Abbot's. He was just chilling, perfectly parroting everything we said, and making us laugh constantly. The kid deserved a cone at Nice Cream. Now you see this face and want only to preserve that innate love and inner joy, at the littlest things.

Preserve it for him, renew it in myself, and spread it all over.


Your hippie friend, CJG.

*Note that young JZ's shirt says "Stop Global Warming". THAT is what our World should be throwing rallies and tripping out about, not anything else you hear about on the nightly news. Please wake up. Thanks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fistful Of Mercy At Hollywood Forever!

Sunday night found us trekking over to Hollywood to see the beyond sold-out Fistful Of Mercy show at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery's Masonic Lodge. We parked among the grave sites and walked in the moonlight to join the extra-loooooong line waiting to get inside. And waiting ... and waiting ... so it's a good thing people REALLY wanted to see this band, as it is not usual for L.A. people to hang out late, especially on school nights. Listening to people around us made it clear that these were BIG fans ... some drove down after seeing F.O.M. play in Seattle the other night, and just had to catch them again. A whole slew of people would walk by with the "Got an extra ticket?" pitch, which no one did. After the wait stretched on and on (for no apparent good reason) I was amazed that everyone was still super polite and in high spirits - which I would attribute to the fact that they love this music, and that's the kind of fans these musicians draw.

These musicians ... Fistful Of Mercy is Joseph Arthur, Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison. The term "Supergroup" keeps being thrown around, which I'm not sure applies until you don't have to explain to people that Dhani is George Harrison (Yes, the Beatle)'s son, Joseph Arthur sings that beautiful "Honey and The Moon" song from a bunch of years back (among many others, but that's the one people seem to know), and Ben Harper is ... well, Ben Harper. They are Musician's Musicians all, and super, for sure ... so ... there you go!

The Masonic Lodge is a lovely old place, with red walls, a wood beamed ceiling, with dim chandeliers and candles casting shadows all over. Old movie one-sheets hang around (Hollywood, remember, even in a cemetery), and there is an overall spooky-in-a-good-way vibe. Another long line for the bathrooms had strangers making friends, discussing other shows they've seen (like the same one here the night before - I told you, FANS), holding each others' places in line, one lady bouncing her two month old baby that HAD to hear Ben, and even she, standing for hours with her very well behaved infant, said, "The lines are totally worth it to see them in such a small venue". Which (almost) everyone seemed to agree with, happily chatting, until one guy said, "There's such a warm feeling here, isn't there?" Yes, Sir. There was. Which I think comes from that elusive but crucial element of RESPECT. For the band, sure, but also for each other, since we shared that love of the music, and therefore, must all be cool.

Cool would aptly describe opening act, Alain Johannes. He has played with Eleven (founded with his late wife, Natasha Schneider), Chris Cornell, Queens Of The Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Desert Sessions, to name SOME. He took to the moody stage with his cigar box guitar, with its wholly original sound, and his deep, confident voice, and frankly, nearly stole the show. Each song was lushly arranged, and with the resonant sound of the Lodge, would build to an otherworldly sound that was hard to believe came from just one guy. The songs from his album Spark - a tribute to Natasha - particularly "Speechless", "Make God Jealous", and "Gentle Ghost", were so lovely that I came directly home and ordered that thing. They also earned him a standing ovation from the same people that were previously impatiently wanting the main event to begin, saying "Who is this guy?" Well, now they know. Very impressive.

More waiting was finally rewarded with that main event, as Fistful Of Mercy walked through the crowd to take the stage, each guy (and gal, violinist Jessy Greene) taking his spot on a stool among a vast array of guitars. "Howdy", said Joseph Arthur, giving the night a casual feel right from the get-go. They opened with "I Don't Want To Waste Your Time" (to which one near me said, "Then you shouldn't have made us wait for 3 hours from Doors open" - true enough), which shows off their harmonies, but gets a bit repetitive when they keep repeating the title over and over. They might want to open up with something a bit more up-tempo to rile up the up late audience, but then, most in the crowd would listen to them chant the phone book and be thrilled.

The banter and camaraderie between the guys is tangible, and sort of makes you feel like you're on a couch watching them jam together in someone's living room. Ben threw out a little Ghostbusters theme chorus, considering our surroundings, and the jokes and cracking up all further endeared them to the audience of true fans. "In Vain Or True" and the title track of their debut album "As I Call You Down" were next, and as lovely as they were, they seemed a little loose, or unsure, when it came time to end them, which surprised me, considering who we're talking about.

Ben and Joe looked at Dhani for a beat, prompting him to ask "Why are you looking at me?" Joe replied, "Because you're the Counter" ... so Dhani counted down the 1,2,3 for the first cover of the evening, a spirited hoe-down of Bob Dylan's "Buckets Of Rain", which elated the entire room. It was like a kick in the pants to the night, and had everyone happily bouncing in their chairs from beginning to (tight) end. After Joe (Cowboy-like) and Ben (Mountie) traded hats (somehow causing feedback - Loose Spirits?!) the sublimely gorgeous instrumental track from the album, "30 Bones" was next. It's tied for my favorite, and clearly also had a fan in Alain Johannes, who was now sitting in front of me, nodding his head appreciatively throughout. The guitar talents of these guys is a wonder to behold, and swept you up and away, only to be jolted back to reality by the thunderous applause that met its end. Simply beautiful.

The tune that gave the band its name, "Fistful Of Mercy" followed that, and sounded a lot heavier than as recorded. Ben was BEATING on his signature Weissenborn, and as the guys harmonized, and the violin wove it all together in such a lovely fashion, it was no wonder they went for naming the band after it.

Joe then said, "I don't know about these people but I'd like to hear a Ben Harper song right about now", which freaked the crowd out, and started a little comedy routine between the guys, joking that they sounded like an old time-y country act, ala "Wanna play one with me?" "Why sure, I'd love to!", like they didn't already know they were going to. Then Joe cracked, "What's the last thing you want to hear after sleeping with Willie Nelson?" "I'm not Willie Nelson." Once the laughs died down, Ben started the opening notes of his classic, "Please Me Like You Want To". Love. It. Dhani and Joe might need to practice that one a little more, as their guitar parts were somewhat scattered, but overall, Wow.

Also WOW (as exclaimed by the guy behind me) was Ben's a cappella intro to "Restore Me". Like many of their songs, its lyrics feature references to ghosts and death, making it all the more fitting to be played in a building smack in the middle of tombstones. As slow and plaintive as this one is, the end featured a ROCKOUT, with hands flying over guitars so fast they blurred. The crowd leapt to its collective feet, clapping their heads off, until they went back to the slow, gentle part and finished the mind blow. Which rewarded them with another well-deserved Standing O.

Joseph took the spotlight next with his beautiful song, "In The Sun", which features the chorus, "May God's Love Be With You ..." and had these brethren singing together like they have all their lives. Really, really moving, to where I'll admit to a lump in my throat from just listening. Phew.

Then Dhani took the lead with a song from his other band, Thenewno2, called, "Another John Doe". He switched to the piano for this one, and it was haunting (you can't get away from the graveyard references at this show, at this place, sorry!) and really showed the talents that led these three to find each other and unite as a trio.

After a little skull tossing (you had to be there), Joe switched to a little drum set, and they played "Things Go 'Round" next. This is my least favorite one on the album - I feel like the harmonies are too high and it bugs me - but I liked it much better live. But not nearly as much as my other tied-for-favorite - and everyone else's too, as nuts as they went for just the opening notes - "My Father's Son". It's a complete barn-burner, and they completely threw it DOWN. BadASS style. (They played it last week on Conan, with guest friend, Tom Morello, and you need to take a break now and just GET IT here.) Another, wilder, standing ovation, and that was it for the regular set, and the guys walked back through the tripping out happy audience to await their encore.

And await ... so long that the clap-along died down and astoundingly, I saw three people actually asleep around me. They finally returned, and when the noise died down, Ben thanked his long-time mentor, Bernie Larsen, who was down front, and cited him as one of the most influential people on his music, after his own family. Cool. They began the encore portion with PJ Harvey's "To Bring You My Love". Which brought them MY love, as I adore PJ, and have missed her lately. They did it bluesy jam extended style, which I adored, but might have been too late on a Sunday, particularly for the head in her lap asleep girl in front of me. (Her loss).

Alain Johannes returned to join them ("By the end of the tour, hopefully he'll be IN the band" - Joseph Arthur) for The Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes". Ben played bass on this one, Jessy had a shining moment with a violin solo, and Alain again impressed with his textured guitar solo. Complete symbiosis was attained with this one, which made it the perfect lead-in to the night's last song, "With Whom You Belong".

As Joe said to start it off, this song is about friendship, community, and love, and all of that is plain and clear, from the glances they all exchange while playing it, to the lyrics that exemplify those qualities:

Make sure you stay
When you find love in your heart

And as it lights up your way

Don't let your friends fall apart

I said I hope you find friends with whom you belong

I said I hope you find friends with whom you belong

People shared their own glances, singing along, feeling special to be there, among friends of their own, and in the presence of Fistful Of Mercy, who reflected every word of what they said was the last song they wrote in their 3 Day (!) writing/recording marathon for their first album together.

Everyone in the band (and in life) has their own stuff going on, and their own ways of loving and being. It's a tribute to the quality of the band members themselves as humans, and of course, their music, that they can come together to be more than the sum of their parts. But more importantly, that they, and subsequently, WE, can lift each other up to that abstract but tangible feeling of belonging together, in a moment.

Mercy, me!

*Photos by

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stoked On Venice.

Reach out and bring all the energy floating out there closer to your heart -- it's key to enjoying this magical day for all it's worth ...

So read part of my horoscope this morning, and how absolutely true! Walking along the beach this morning, my heart just swelled with gratitude, at how truly magical this day is. The bluest water (If you've seen The Road, you know how special this is), sparkling in the WARM sunshine. The family of dolphins swimming by slowly, like they were on a Sunday (Friday) drive, teaching the baby one how to cruise. Tons of surfers out at the Venice Breakwater, each one pretty good, doing fancy walking moves up and down their boards. (Which you can't really see here, but just trust me, it was all cool):

At one point, I just stopped and sat down on the sand to soak it all up, to appreciate our belated Summer. Strangers walked by, all smiles. Familiar faces giving a two-arms-raised greeting as I rode by them on the Boardwalk, in a mutual understanding of the VICTORY of living that today simply IS.

I love it all so much. And so did an extra grungy guy down there, repeating my head thoughts almost verbatim. Glory. Beauty. Victory. Appreciation. These things tie us all together so much more than any force that seeks to divide us in our humanity.

I guess what I'm saying is sometimes we need to just turn it all off (News, Media, phones, drama, pettiness, blah) and listen to our hearts, and FEED them. All this positive energy really is floating all around us all the time, if only we draw it in close and acknowledge it. It then gets passed on, because your stoke affects the next person you bump into, who you stoke, and then they go stoke someone, and on and on ... Oh man, that sounds so hippie-style, which I suppose I am, but I also really mean it. A small dose of gratitude a day does crazy wonders for your spirit, and thus everyone's around you.

And today I am O.D.'ing.

Thank you, beautiful Venice.

Have a STELLAR weekend, beautiful People!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Street Sweeper Social Club - First L.A. Show at The Roxy!

Street Sweeper Social Club ... "We're not just a band, we're a Social Club!", exclaimed co-front man Boots Riley several times during the band/Social Club's BLISTERING rock show last night at The Roxy in Los Angeles. Meaning, they're gonna melt your faces off with the heavy tunes, the lyrics are going to be equally molten, but it's not just to sing and play about, it's also to live it, and try to improve social CONDITIONS at the same time.

New Orleans has music-based Social Clubs, and that's what the guys decided to name the band after plain "Street Sweeper" was already taken. It makes total sense. They've all spent time helping out in New Orleans, and their rock really is about in-your-face examinations of what's going on in society today. Boots and guitarist/friend Tom Morello teamed up a couple of years ago, when Tom just handed Boots a tape of music and said, "We're in a new band together. Add lyrics to these jams." and off they went. Their first tour was opening for Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails on the NINJA tour last year, but they had yet to play in 80% of the band member's hometown of Los Angeles (Boots lives in Oakland) - until last night's KROQ sponsored sold-out throw down at The Roxy on Sunset.

The fans were ready for it too. I arrived too late to catch the opening acts (Hollis and The Memorials - who I saw just ending, and featured a shirtless drummer playing backwards at the front of the stage. Hmm.), but it was already pretty frenzied in the small room. Especially as it was clear that the Superfans were out, and many had probably maybe only seen Tom play his Rage riffs from a mile away on a Jumbotron at some festival, but never in a place so small you could see the individual sweat beads pour off his face as he executed said magic.

It felt exciting in there, like that concert build feeling when you hear the bass tuning behind the curtain, a couple drum beats, the stray guitar chord, each met with a rising swell of noise from the crowd. Suddenly old school hip hop on the P.A. turned into the Storm Trooper anthem from Star Wars ... ominous ... heavy ... Oh, MAN - the guys (and the crowd was heavily guy) down front were salivating ... Guitar Hero AND Star Wars all in one space/time continuum ... LIVE?! They were real, real happy, and vocally expressed it. Loudly.

The curtain rose, and SSSC stood there in their matching military coats and FBI style shades, meaning business. Boots said, "Los Angeles! I'm Boots Riley, he's Tom Morello, and we're Street Sweeper Social Club!" and with that they launched into the heavily rocking title track from their new-ish EP, The Ghettoblaster EP. It's hard, it's loud, and the place was slam dancing from the first chord. Even this one old guy, who I promise didn't stop dancing - hard - ever.

Tom has described the SSSC genre as "Revolutionary Party Music", and I don't think there's a better way to describe it. From the sheer poesy spat out by Boots, to the legendary guitar prowess of Tom, and the rock solid backing team of Kid Lighting/Dave Gibbs on bass, Carl Restivo on backing guitar, and Eric Gardner beating down the drums, the fact is there is going to be a party every time it's played, and it's serious enough that it could definitely incite a revolution. All you have to do is observe the fans FEELING it to know that.

"Somewhere In The World It's Midnight" is a party rocker from SSSC's self-titled debut album featuring Boots dancing like he does - inimitably - and Tom doing intricate guitar tuner solo moves, but underneath all that is some dead serious subject matter and a lyrical microscope focused on social injustice that oozes from everywhere.


Somewhere in the world it's 3 o'clock Time to get out of school and think, Somewhere in the world it's 5pm And quittin' time means it's time to drink, Somewhere in the world it's 8 o'clock Let's get fly, man, and go to the gig, But somewhere in the world it's midnight And the guerrillas just shot two pigs ...

Whoa. From there they went right into their stellar cover of MIA's "Paper Planes", that is clearly a fan favorite. It ruled. Everyone danced along, and had their finger guns in the air shooting away at that part. Then "Scars" ... just as crazy, (as when Tom pulled out his guitar plug and played a solo with it on his hand) and just as lyrically smart and witty.

(But those words were not even close to crystal clear at The Roxy, and Boots' mike even went out a couple of times. The mix is often muddy. The Roxy could just use better sound all around, straight up. C'mon.)

A tip: You need to just put on headphones and go for a run sometime and listen to what Boots has to say, as from his original days as part of The Coup, to his solo spoken word performances, to Ghettoblasting now with Tom, his words are some of the socially wisest and most acidly funny as I've ever heard.

"The Oath" from the first album was up next, and had Tom blowing a referee whistle, and Boots urging Mofo's to FIGHT back ... I pledge to get their foot off my neck, instead, I shall demand my respect, I'll fight even if I won't win ... Again, serious as hell, but packaged in the rock fun that by now had the band stripped down to their SSSC T's, and the crowd surging like it might hurt in there.

The first song I ever heard from Boots and Tom together was in 2008 on The Nightwatchman's Justice Tour, "100 Little Curses". I wrote at the time, after hearing it just the once, that this group was going to kick the collective ass of the people all around the world. Hearing it last night, I believe that to be absolute fact. Tom opened it with an almost classical sounding sickly fancy guitar intro, that had fists in the air even before Boots lit up the chorus of,

"All my people in the place put your fists in the air, All my down mutherfuckas get up outta your chairs, All my real down peoples we got love for you here, 'cept for that muthafuckas right there, get 'em!

Man, I love that tune. So did the entire place. All Tom has to do at the completion of one of his solos is raise his arm, and every arm in the room goes up in support. And he earns it. The sweat was pouring off his head and down his nose as he made his guitar speak just as eloquently as the rhymes put together by Boots. It's a truly incredible experience every time, and it's evident on his fans' faces that they are experiencing true awe. BadASS.

"Fight! Smash! Win!" and "Clap For The Killers" ("Double up for them gangsters, clap clap"!) was the next one-two punch. I swear I saw some NEW Boots dance moves, even as he struggled a moment with his mike inexplicably cutting out. These guys just BRING IT, every time. And you can see that they also MEAN it. Boots said then that nearly every show, someone says they really like the band, but the guitar player tries too hard to sound like Tom Morello. (Really, I've heard this a few times myself, hilariously.) To which Boots replies every time, "Our guitar player IS motherfucking Tom Morello!" ... and the house screamed in honor of that fact. To which Tom responded with his "Guitar Fury Remix" version of their song, "Promenade".

"Guitar Fury" is no hyperbole. This "Squaredance rap" song doesn't mince any words, and you really need to listen to them all, until they proudly wind up with, "My skin is black, my star is red!" But the real show stopper of this song is Tom's, indeed, FURY. His solo goes all over the place in gigantic Rage-y riffs, which last night wound up with the classic solo with his teeth that brought out camera phones, (and hankies for some, to weep with joy at what they just witnessed) and hoarse yells for more.

And they got one more, the conspiratorial, "Nobody Moves 'Til We Say Go", that builds from a whisper at one point, to the heaviest music mayhem riot imaginable. Or so we thought.

That was the last song of the regular set, but after they left and came right back, Tom picked up the mike and told the crowd how happy they were to be playing their first show in L.A. proper, for a hometown audience of whom Tom requested, "For this last song, I want to see everyone go absolutely apeshit from beginning to end!" Yeah, no problem there. Because the last song was their cover of LL Cool J's ever-dope, "Mama Said Knock You Out".

In this case, "Apeshit" meant that a full mosh pit swirled around the little Roxy floor in aggressive fashion, while Boots screamed "Oakland! L.A.!" over and over. Tom grabbed back the mike and just before his astounding feedback finale solo, said, "Everyone from my 87 year old Mother (Mary, who STOOD and rocked at the rail above the floor for the entire set!) to this Indie Rock kid at his first show down front, I want to see you all JUMP! ELEVATE!!!"

And ELEVATE is exactly what we all did in there last night. Not just physically off of our feet, which certainly happened, to a person. But much more importantly, we elevated in heart, mind, consciousness, and spirit. That's what great music, raw wisdom, eye-opening commentary, camaraderie with friends and strangers alike, and yeah, even some good mosh bruises reminding you that you LIVED hard last night, will do for you. Every time.

Street Sweeper Social Club is a club that's basic tenets are to:

1) Feed the poor.
2) Fight the power. And ...
3) Rock the fuck out!

Now that is a club everyone should want to be a part of. And as evidenced by the beaming faces streaming out of The Roxy last night, not just be a part of, but really know what it means to be elevated ... right off your feet.

Get involved. Get E-volved!

*Photos by

Friday, November 5, 2010

Summer Finally Arrives in Venice!

I have a lot of good stories to share, but ...

SUMMER has finally decided to happen in Venice this year ... in November. There is no way to be inside when you don't know how long this sunshine and heat will last. So ENJOY, my good people, and we'll dig back into reality a little next week.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Legalize It, California! VOTE TODAY!

Imagine if Peter Tosh were alive today ...

He might see California become the first state to legalize marajuana in the United States! As Jim Morrison says in The Doors movie, "We're trying to change the world out here in California!"

Sure, it will be a big mess to figure out, and Mexico will go nuts with their drug trade and border stuff, and federal government is gonna get its mitts in there, and Monsanto is in on it, and Evil Empire stuff rages all about ... but at least you're not gonna keep having young men (mostly) thrown in prison for having a little weed on them.

This is historic stuff. I hope so much that it passes, for all the benefits it can offer, and for Peter Tosh and Bob Marley and anyone who has ever listened to them and felt irie.

Today is an absolutely beautiful day in Venice - I saw a Rainbow Wave this morning! - and the sand looks like gold dust. I have a lot more to say about a lot more things (Happy Dia de Los Muertos too!) but I have to get outside, for goodness sakes! We are lucky people.

Let's hope the rest of the country can feel the same, and SUPPORT our President, not battle him. Duh.

Now ... crank up that reggae!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween, Venice Style.

I don't know what my problem was this year, but I just wasn't feeling Halloween. Didn't feel like whipping up a cool costume. Didn't feel like doing the big party thing, didn't feel like seeing the same old sexy whatever costumes. Just didn't feel it.

Then yesterday, on real Halloween, much like Linus and the Great Pumpkin, my hope and appreciation for the holiday was completely restored. We went by my neighbor, Calico Jack's, party and had some hot cider and treats, as the pre-trick or treating excitement built for the kids. Then off to Meenoy and Marcia's party on Abbot Kinney, where we had some delicious pumpkin soup, and some cauldron type drink made from black vodka. Then, as Rialto was right across the street, we thought we'd walk over and look at the decorated houses. Last year it wasn't as big a deal as it has been in years past, but we thought we'd at least check it out, disappointing or not.

Well, not THIS year! It was the absolute greatest. Almost every single house had FULLY decked out in Halloween mania! There were a TON of kids, one more darling than the next (Chubby Batman boy was my favorite, though a garden gnome gave him a run for the money. My sweet two year old buddy, Quinn, was Tattoo from Fantasy Island, but I didn't see him live, so he just gets honorable mention here now). It was like Norman Rockwell painted Halloween, so adorable and wholesome feeling was it all.

Everyone was smiling and having a great time, laughing, sharing and making sure the kids got plenty of candy. One high hedge turned out to be alive - and scared the pants off passersby - as the guy that lived there entirely camouflaged himself into the hedge and would pop out to scare whomever he chose. One in our party may have a new hedge complex as a result.

As it is Venice, sometimes it's hard to tell if it's a person's regular getup, or a costume, so you have to be wise in what you say. There was so much, as I called it, "School Spirit" last night, that I was beaming with pride in my community. That never mind our differences, politics, local scandals and problems, we still know how to come together in the spirit of FUN.

I remember once in college, a friend's boyfriend went to the store and bought every glow stick the place had in stock, dropping a lot of money on them. He came back and we cracked open every one of those things and flung it all over the walls, a ball, and each other (mmm, probably kind of toxic ... shrug), and made up a wild game of indoor glow in the dark tag. When we were all agape at how much this guy had spent on it all, he replied, "Hey, there's nothing worse than running out of fun." I never forgot that.

That was the feeling around Rialto last night too ... you could tell some folks had gone for it at no small cost, adorning their homes in Halloween regalia, getting copious amounts of candy to share with neighbor kids, or creating the trippiest possible costume (a GREAT Avatar won my personal mind's contest). But it wasn't at all about the money spent, it was entirely about the feeling of community, and of recreating the very best parts of what we all loved about Halloween as kids. You could just FEEL it ... smell, taste, hear and see it too.

And so my Halloween spirit was restored ... beyond. I loved every bit of it. Even though every day we can bitch about something, complain about society's ills, and choose to focus on the negative, we can also choose to rise above it in the name of a good time.

After last night, I feel pretty confident that we're all good in the fun department. No matter what happens, it was a good reminder, like my old friend said, that there's nothing worse than running out of fun. Let's do what we can to ensure that that never happens around here.

To the good people of Rialto ... THANK YOU! You made me love Halloween again. I might even believe in The Great Pumpkin now. Wow.