Friday, May 28, 2010

Medicine, with a Spoonful of Sugar.

Whoa. Memorial Weekend already?! Time is flying ... and I'm concerned that we're not paying attention to that, and wasting a whole lot of time being dissatisfied, and bickering - in the media and among ourselves - over things that divide us, while preventing anything from going forward in a positive fashion. Again.

I cannot bear some of the criticism I'm hearing lately about our President - who thank GOODNESS is our President these days, over anyone else even put up for the post in recent memory - and hearing comparisons to Katrina. That is so ridiculous I could (and do) cry. People were stranded on rooftops, and bodies lay bloating in the streets of a major American city during Katrina - and Bush said "Brownie's doing a heckuva job", and then went back on vacation in Texas to clear brush. Obama is handling MULTI-crises at all times, and doing so respectfully, and nobly. Accepting responsibility for an Oil disaster, when it is all due to de-regulation in the record-profiting Oil Industry, and BP who wouldn't cough up for a part that would have prevented this whole catastrophy. We have never had to deal with a nightmare of this scale before, and I truly believe our President is doing the best he can with the resources he's able, amid constant street-fighting from oil company execs and lobbyists, and a bunch of jackasses in Congress and the Media (and a swath of the general public who just don't get it, and probably never will).

It might also be time to look into your driveway, or pause during your rush-hour traffic and ask yourselves how much blame YOU should accept with respect to oil, before you go dissing the excellent President we finally have. I've had it with all that. We are a great country when we're working together, not when we look to the entire world like an elementary school playground, tattling and pointing fingers, and missing the big picture entirely. We'd better work together now, before as my main man, Kris Kristofferson, sings, "It's over, nobody wins."

Now that that biz is somewhat off my chest, I again invite and implore you to enjoy and appreciate your beaches (or lakes, rivers, ponds, creeks, mud puddles ... any natural body of water you know and love) now, while you still can - and actively participate in ways of preserving those stunning and sacred resources. The Portraits of Hope Lifeguard Tower panels made their way onto Venice beaches this morning, and reminded me that there IS still Hope for us - but only if we can start appreciating in our hearts and minds both our Earth - and each other. Whatever our differences might be.

Have a beautiful and safe Memorial Weekend, Everybody! Have hope, get involved, and get WET!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ocean Pacific

The O.p. was so beautiful this morning ... like it is every morning, whatever the conditions. Always beauty, just different sometimes. Things I saw this morning that made me happy:

- Little kids freaking out at the waves rolling in, waving their water-winged arms.

- The first smile (more of a grimace, but we counted it) from the Runner Girl we've passed every morning for a year.

- The mohawked Ultimate Fighter, as we call him, turning all the way around to smile and wave. Also a first. He's very serious and dedicated.

- Two bundled up old ladies, with their hoods tied so tight that you could only see their sunglasses. In May.

- Tons of little shells digging their way back into the sand, looking like tiny pastel butterflies.

And finally - it's been a few weeks - DOLPHINS!!! We yelled and exulted more than normal this morning when we spied them in the surf. I think because the horrific BP disaster (and it is a DISASTER on an epic scale. The Gulf of Mexico is dying from this.) - has made me appreciate and love even more just looking out at the water and seeing it still be bright blue. And ALIVE.

But that's just for now. You never know what's going to happen next, and it's not always happening to "Someone Else". I know people that have not been to the beach in actual YEARS, that live just a few miles East. (What is the POINT of living in Los Angeles without ever seeing the Beach?!) That is sad, and a real mistake, because as we're seeing every single day, we do not have any guarantees that it will always be there - or that we'll be able to live to see anything with no more natural resources. Ugh.

So this Summer, do yourself some good. Breathe in the Ocean air, and watch how thrilled little kids still get when they see the vast - and funnest thing ever - blue sea stretched out in front of them. It makes you want to protect it with all you've got. And certainly appreciate it while you've got it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rastaman Vibrations

Rastaman vibrations down on the Boardwalk this morning, and you have to give him points for originality:

That made me think of my favorite (or one of) Bob Marley quote:

What is my message? Truth, peace and love, And music and livity.

Livity. Yes I.

*Oh, and guess what?! Lovely Ziggy Marley is playing this Sunday at Topanga Days! Outside in the sunshine! Along with a host of other great musicians, mellow people, and that fresh, above the mist air ... good, Good, GOOD, Good Vibrations.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Venice Art Walking

This past weekend was the big annual Venice Art Walk, (to benefit the Venice Family Clinic) where we remember that Art is what made Venice so special to us in the first place. As the popular T-shirt goes, "Venice: Where Art Meets Crime". Crime was somewhat in effect, with a rumored mugging in broad daylight near the French Market, but it otherwise may have gone unnoticed, as super dang windy as it was. WHOOOOOOSH!

But that didn't stop hordes of art lovers from coming out to take it all in.

I always like to start at Westminster School, where the silent auction takes place. It's cool because you can see around 400 pieces in one spot, see what you like, and then head out to the studios of many of the auction's featured artists to see where they create their works. I always thought the school part was free to walk through, but I guess it's not. They might want to open just that School part up (for people to look at, and if they want to bid, then pay?), to make some of it accessible to all Venice residents, not just ones who can cough up the steep admittance fee. It is the biggest fundraiser for the essential Venice Family Clinic, so I get it, but if our community is about art, art can also be about the community sometimes. You never know how your next big collector will start out. The school yard is open to all, and has food tents, live music, and mingling about, but if it's art you're into, you have to go inside.

It can be a bit hard to tell what the pieces will look like in a home vs. hanging on a rather blah elementary school wall, but you do your best.

Some of the works had no bids at all next to them (for good reason) and some of them were clearly going to require hand to hand combat to obtain. Beach and Venice-centric pieces are very popular, as are pop culture ones, like Shepard Fairey's skateboarder and Jaws surf spot ones.

That's a cool thing about the Silent Auction part ... one piece will be by your quiet neighbor that you didn't even know was an artist, and the next will be by Ed Ruscha. No zoning.

It's a big job to amass it all and get it hung and sorted, and the whole thing is by and for the Venice Family Clinic, probably the most important cause we can give to in this town, especially in times like these when health insurance is a luxury many can't afford.

Once you do the laps of up and downstairs at the school, it's off to the artist studios you've starred in your guide. It's very cool to be invited into these hallowed spaces where people create their expressions in so many different mediums and vibes. There's the real messy ones, with paint everywhere. The real anal pristine ones where you wonder how anything ever gets done. There's the ones that artists live and work in, and the ones that are strictly showrooms. It's kind of telling as to the art and the artist themselves, if you think about it (and I do).

Highlights for me were the studio (and stories) of rock photographer Guy Webster - Wow. The vivid photography of Gjelina's own Robert Schwan. The colorful maze of the "Milwood Mansions" (Scott Mayers residence).

The Venice beachiness of Jay Mark Johnson's trippy "Spacetime" photography. The live painted naked lady drawing quite a crowd in front of the window of the 99 High Art Collective. The very realistic and cool tree sculpture by Pontus Willfors. All of it is interesting, some of it is just more to my taste ... as it goes with any kind of art.

I really missed "The Eclectic Collector" this year, the craziest house in the world, that I brag about the rest of the year. Where were you, E.C.?! Instead, a really great treat this year was the Neighborhood Numbnuts exhibition put on by local raconteur Alan Shaffer, who has been part of the legendary Venice gang of Bell, Conal, Dill, Edge, and Moses since time began, pretty much. His fantastic photos documenting his years of running around with this bunch were all over the walls of Capri restaurant, along with a piece by each guy photographed. Alan was there to tell stories about each, and there are so many that we're just going to do his own story here very soon.

Of all the art I saw, the ones I most want to organize a heist around are the gorgeous wood stain paintings of music icons by local artist, Justin Herber, on display at The Other Room. Bob Dylan is the one I most covet (Happy Birthday, Bob! 69!), but each one is just jaw- droppingly great. Jimi. Billie. Louis. Willie. Mick. Each of them are all the way up my alley, and you should check them out immediately. Love.

You could really use a solid week to get around and not just see it all, but hear about it all, as every piece of art has a story, and I'm all about the story. It's a great day to be out and about and bump into your local characters and neighbors, so many that you end up chatting and not getting to see it all before it shuts down for the year. And that's all part of the fun. I look forward to this weekend each year, where Venice once again becomes all about the Art - and celebrates that in its every nook and cranny.

Friday, May 21, 2010


We've been talking about people caring here in in Venice, and yesterday I heard the most beautiful example of this. I was riding down the Boardwalk when I ran into Edizen Stowell from Venice Paparazzi. After the greetings and hugs among the gang, we started chatting and wound up getting into how we both strongly believe that there is a sense of community here that is palpable, and actually informs how we live our daily lives. It was then that she said, "Listen to this ..."

Everyone has seen Edizen cruising around on her longboard with her skateboarding Bulldog, Butterface, alongside her. They were true buddies, like on a human scale. Well, poor Butterface had cancer, and last weekend her husband, Alex, called her while she was up in Canada celebrating her Mom's birthday to tell her that things did not look good for Butterface. Edizen got on the next flight out, and while waiting out a layover in Phoenix, had a nap and dreamed of Butter's face, and saw his eyes close. She called her husband and he told her they were waiting for her, but in reality Butterface had died two minutes earlier ... right when she dreamed of his eyes closing.

Edizen finally got home, where Alex broke the news to her. She was upset and crying, and at about 1:00 a.m. Alex went outside and asked for Edizen to join him. This is what she saw:

An anonymous neighbor had gone out at night and created this wonderfully touching mural of Butterface right on the side of their building! In close up, you can see that it says "Venice loved U Butterface". While Edizen was telling me this, both our eyes were welling up that the people of our community feel and care about each other to lengths that you're not even aware of sometimes, until you really need it.

Through the next day and on until right now, people have come by and put out candles, notes, little toy skateboards, and even a stick of butter!! Man.

This gem of a story gives Dogtown a whole new meaning ... and I couldn't be more proud of the compassion and sweetness that continues to endure in our home by the beach.

(and to the Anonymous painter ... THANK YOU for your caring heart.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fruit Gallery - The Greatest Wealth Is Health

I've been walking into the welcoming arms of the Fruit Gallery right off the Boardwalk in Venice for ages, and I just finally (because they're pretty much always busy serving up their healthy doses of natural goodness) had a chance to sit down and chat with the darling couple who own it, Nina and James Merced. When you're at the beach and need something to eat quick that's actually healthy, have a cold and specifically need a ginger shot, or that pesky hangover that won't go away until you crawl your way down there ... the Fruit Gallery fulfills that order for locals and tourists alike.

Nina grew up in and around L.A. and James is a Chicago guy. Nina graduated at the top of her class in high school, and wanted to get out of L.A,. as she was faced with friends turning into gangsters and placing her in danger. She also had to sort out how to pay for College, and was stressing out about that. Right at that time, she was wooed by a recruiting agent for the U.S. Navy who told her they would pay for her further education, and she'd get to travel the world. That sounded pretty good to her. Luckily, this was in the time gap between the Gulf War and the Iraq War, so she went to places like North Carolina and San Diego vs. the Middle East. While in San Diego, she met a dashing Marine named James ("I didn't know the different service branches really mingled?" - Me. "They mingle in Clubs!" - Nina), who she began to date right away. Neither one knew the other was in the Military for a while, as they were both kind of sick of dating within the ranks. Nina had a son (Alex) from a previous relationship, and James had a daughter (Diamond), and soon they became a unit of their own.

Then James' mother back in Chicago got ill, and he had to go back there to take care of her. Meanwhile, Nina was in a terrible accident where she and her baby boy were hit by a car and thrown through the air together, injuring both pretty badly. There really was no choice but to head to Chicago all together, where soon Nina and James had a baby son together, Jonathan. That stint in Illinois would last about a year and a half, before they were going back to Cali'.

Once re-settled in Riverside, Nina climbed up the corporate ladder at a sewing machine company (she's also a seamstress), and James was a real estate guy. Getting caught up in the work routine, and having stress from health problems with the baby, Nina's own health began to suffer. She had stomach problems and kidney stuff, and went to a bunch of doctors regarding both their son and herself, and was advised to improve her diet, cut out the soda, and take better care of herself.

She did as told, and her health (and the baby's) vastly improved. She soon fell back into old habits, as we do, and felt sick again. Once she connected the actual improvements and declines to what she was putting into her body, Nina's interest in natural foods and remedies grew along with her strength. She and James began thinking about doing for their work what they were doing for their bodies, and started looking into starting a natural juice/healthy food business.

It just so happened that the woman who owned the Fruit Gallery right off the Boardwalk on Venice Beach was selling her store. Nina and James came down one weekend and sat on the grass, watching the customers flow in and out the Fruit Gallery's door, and knew they could move to Venice and make a go of it.

And a GO they have. Business never skipped a beat, and has only improved. They are a vital part of the Venice community, and have the regulars and friends to prove it. The juices squeezed out of fruits and vegetables right in front of your face; the shots for whatever ails you (the cough one is a no-fail, and the ginger will snap you out of most anything); the delectable smoothies with fun names like The Hangover, Hawai'i 5-0, and Venice Peach; the filling and garden fresh wraps or perfect acai bowls, the fresh coconuts, whacked apart when you're done sipping so you can eat the meat ... all of it is a pure shot in the arm of health, with none of the pain.

It's not just about the foodstuffs either. It's more about how Nina and James have created a small town feeling in their square of Westminster. They truly care about their friends and neighbors. It's not just about knowing what Harry Perry likes to have and how he likes to have it each day, it's about seeing the area's kids born and growing up coming in with their parents for a healthy snack. It's not just about selling the idea of healthy living, it's about sharing it.

In that vein, Nina and James started "Feed The Beach" in 2007, where they invited the local homeless they'd come to know well to join them for a free Thanksgiving feast, served right there in the Westminster Square. Once they posed the idea to the surrounding merchants/friends, they actually had more offers of help and food than they even thought they could use! As Nina said, "You can't turn down that spirit, you can't turn that away. I had the idea, but so had 10 other people been thinking it ... you just have to start talking about it, and then do it." It turned out that they COULD use all the help and donated food, as from the first of the now annual events, the line of hungry homeless extended around the corner down the Boardwalk.

Even then, Nina said, "Everything we needed, came." That is the spirit of community that draws we who live and remain here together. That is the idea behind a place that is like no other, and why people come from all over to experience that electricity in the avenues. Underneath all the hoopla, people CARE here. That is personified by the Merced family, ask anyone.

There was a very cool attempt at having a THIRD Friday thing on Westminster to punch up business at the Boardwalk and have another fun thing for local shops, neighbors and visitors to mingle among each other and perhaps dance a little, but the Police were called out by a cranky neighbor for the big disturbance of music and fun, and that was that. Ahh, Venice ... it can't ever be too easy and great, but we keep trying.

Nina, James and I bonded over the fact that each of us, since we were little, little kids, always knew we wanted to live here. James and I from watching Sunkist Good Vibrations commercials in the Mid-West, and Nina from being brought here as a little girl. So here we all are. And we've all found each other. And we all love it, and appreciate every day of our Venice lives. Lives that are healthier, cheerier, and more neighborly because of places like Fruit Gallery, and people like the Merceds, again, that CARE.

Visit the Fruit Gallery and feel great at:

1 Westminster
Venice, 90291

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Summer Of Color

May Gray. I'm already completely sick of it and we're not even into June Gloom yet here at the beach. It makes it extra hard to get up early in the morning to have my walk along the shore, but we do it anyway. It really does affect my mood, this thick mass of gray, and so it was that as we walked along this morning, my mind wandered to darker things. Things like why are there so many big clumps of tar along the beach this morning? The BP horror show in the Gulf Of Mexico has been in my thoughts a lot lately, obviously, but there's no way tar clumps could be HERE already, is there? It HAS been spewing for almost a month ... I don't know. I do know that I have to scrub my feet for a half hour when I get home, and that's with being careful where I step. I walk this stretch of beach every morning, and it's way more tar than normal. Even if it's completely unrelated, there shouldn't be tar washing up, period. And as for the Gulf, people need to go to Jail. For life. No question. And don't even get me going on the huge profits BP has made lately. What an absolute dirty joke.

My friend Jenny and I get pretty riled up in our discussions about such things, and it wasn't until we were walking past the huge tractors digging up sand near the sewage outlet (Again, I'll refrain from THAT digression of pollution in our waters - just for now), that we saw and remembered that this morning was the unveiling of the first three painted Lifeguard Towers for the fantastic Portraits of Hope project.

By the time the Summer is in full swing, all the Lifeguard Towers from Zuma Beach in the North, to Palos Verdes in the South, will be completely decked out in brightly colored patterns. All of them were painted by kids and volunteers around Los Angeles on boards, and the panels will be put up on the Towers by Construction teams.

As we got closer to the last Tower before the Santa Monica Pier (the one we usually take a water break and stretch on), I had to crack up a bit, because something felt different. I realized that the beach was the most immaculate I'd ever seen it in my life - fully raked and groomed, not ONE piece of garbage, and the homeless guy that has been crashed out sleeping near our Tower EVERY morning for over a year, was nowhere to be seen (Paid off to move? How does that work?). Then I saw the reporters and cameras assembling on folding chairs by our Tower, as well as guys in suits and the Venice Marching Band, and connected the dots that they would want to have a pristine beach for all the photo ops that were about to happen. Kinda funny, but nice to see the beach like that, real or fake.

The first three Towers were shrouded in gray tarps, matching the mood of the weather. The line-up of city officials began, with the speechifying that usually accompanies such events. We stood there in our tarry feet for quite a few speeches, and it went on and on.

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky talked about how L.A. beaches are some of the most recognizable in the world, and this Lifeguard Tower project is going to brighten it all up, from land, sea and sky. All Summer long, until October. After that, many of the wood panels will be sent to Haiti to provide both shelter and color to a place that sorely needs it. Wonderful! Supervisor Yaroslavsky said it was actually kind of nice that it was so gray out, as the contrasting brightness of the Towers would be all the more noticeable. True, but when our beloved Sunshine is back, it's really going to be something.

The Venice Marching Band played (and it warms my heart in this increasingly electronic age that there are still kids that sign up to be in Marching bands), and little kids ran about learning about Ocean stuff (and hopefully avoiding tar).

Then the brothers behind the Project of Hope (Please do go to their website - - to learn more about this great organization that stresses the importance of teaching ART to kids, while making them feel that they're a part of something BIG, which this endeavor surely is), Ed and Bernie Massey, were up next to speak, but it was all taking so long that we really had to split and get our days started. We kept turning around as we walked to see if they had pulled off the tarps yet, and all the way back to Venice, they STILL hadn't. (I get it that people work hard on things and want to say their bits, but, Man. Short and sweet, People).

My morning felt a little unfinished not having seen the dramatic unveiling, so I pedaled back down there this afternoon. Sure enough, through the gray mist, the colors popped out at me, even from quite a distance. I love it. With all the gloom and doom and fear shoved at us on the evening news every single night - environmentally, politically, financially, and even in our own community with more bike thefts, OPD fights, redtape hassles and other lameness like that, it can be real easy to fall into that line of thinking. Especially when the marine layer socks us in on top of it, it can be like S.A.D. disorder around here.

So when an entire 30 mile stretch of beach fights back against that to proclaim - NO! This is going to be a Summer of Color! (that's actually the theme of the Lifeguard Tower project, painted across the top of all of them) - it makes you embrace the color inside yourself, and fight back in your own mind against all the heavy gray that looms around you.

Color. Hope. Community. Fun. YES! And all just in time for Summer. A Colorful Summer. Embrace it.

*Photos by Jennifer Everhart & Me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Moods Of Norway ... Knows How To Party!

Syttende Mai is the National Day of Norway, celebrated each May 17. Up until now, we've had nothing to do here in Los Angeles on this holiday to honor our ancestry, and usually just said "Happy Syttende Mai!" to each other and wore a t-shirt with a Norwegian flag on it, to quizzical glances from Non-Scandinavians.

That changed last night with a RAGER of a Syttende Mai/One Year Anniversary bash at the Moods Of Norway store on Robertson. We were greeted by a snow (Real snow! In L.A.! In May!) covered hot pink carpet and a big bright blue tractor and limo parked out front, and thumping tunes blasting from inside the store.

Our hosts were Moods Of Norway founders, Peder Borresen, Stefan Dahlkvist, and Simen Staalnacke, all matching in hot pink plaid M.O.N. suits and huge grins. They are the nicest guys around, and made sure everyone was having a blast all night long - and we were.

My brother, Paul, and I kept glancing at each other and cracking up ... we'd never seen so many Norwegians in one spot in L.A., and certainly not so many natural blondes. I think there's a reason no one is ever mad at Norway ... everyone is extra nice, with strangers coming up to one another and saying how nice they looked, offering to get drinks for you, acting truly interested in what you had to say ... Yep, L.A. can use a lot LOT more of this kind of behavior. I'm so glad the Moods guys chose here to be their first U.S. location.

Everyone was abuzz about the Aha show the previous weekend, and they were rumored to be coming to the party. I didn't see them, but I did see Matt Sorum, Leif Garret, Bobby Trendy (in a fancy veil and puffy sleeves), and I don't really know who else celeb-wise, because I was busy trying out my very limited Norwegian on the natives.

And drinking lots of the freely flowing champagne.

When it got too hot and crowded inside, you could step out back and be served "Super Duper" heart-shaped waffles, fresh off the griddle, made with love by a Norwegian Grandma, decked out in her bunad, the national dress of Norway. Top that off with the fresh cream and lingonberry sauce, and you couldn't really ask for more.

Many of the revelers were decked out in Moods Of Norway dresses and suits, and the bright colors and good looks added to the fun. I covet absolutely everything in the entire store, especially the preview dress from next year that Moods' Meaghan was sporting - stunning.

Venice's own Valerie Hammond is the Moods rep here in town, and she also has never looked cuter. People, you want to get your hands on these togs ... they instantly put you in a better mood. See for yourself. "Happy Clothes for Happy People" is their motto, and it was in full effect last night.

We made lots of new friends, and next year's Glogg Festen might actually be populated by more Norwegians than just my brother and I - more than I even knew existed here.

Norway should be very proud of the welcoming ambassadors they've sent over in these guys from Moods ... it was one of the most fun, warm, and high-spirited parties I've been to in this town, and I've been to a lot of 'em.

Tusen Takk, Moods Of Norway!!! You gave us a wonderful evening, and your philosophy, ridiculously great clothes, and sense of fun is exactly what the whole world needs right now.

Super Duper!

*Photos by

Monday, May 17, 2010

Norway - The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Happy Syttende Mai, my Norwegians!

Yes, I come from an Immigrant family. My grandparents came to the United States from Norway. Today they celebrate their Constitution Day in Norway, and fly the red, white, and blue of their country in celebration, kind of like their Fourth of July. I'm flying my little flag here in Venice today too, as I grew up doing in Minnesota.

Most of us are proud of our heritage and realize that all our myriad cultures are what make our country different, great and INTERESTING, for Goodness sake. I can't believe how easily some haters forget that unless they come from a Native American tribe, we are ALL immigrants. How the Native Tribespeople can even bear to listen to the usually somewhat older white men spew about people coming into "THEIR" Country these days, I'll never know. We have a Statue Of Liberty we love, and that says right on it:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door!

So there. Solutions, not spew. Thanks.

Anway, YAY NORWAY!! We've always had great pride in our Motherland, and the good ideas they come up with over there, like Lefse, and the Nobel Peace Prize. But the best one yet in my opinion, is the genius idea and monumentally important undertaking of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, (also called "The Doomsday Vault") on Norway's Spitsbergen Island, 810 miles from the North Pole.

They have blasted deep down into the permafrost of a sandstone mountain, to create a place to store seeds from all over the world, in the event of a horrible natural (or Man-made) disaster that would destroy a country's vital crops. They take seed donations from anywhere at all, and the country remains in charge of their own seeds, though the building cost was put up by the Kingdom of Norway.

The seeds are safely stored deep underground, with the capacity to be preserved for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. There are three chambers, each with the capacity to store 1.5 million seeds (only accessible in the event that seeds are lost for any reason). You reach the vault via a long tunnel, entered into through a portal above ground, lit with Aurora Borealis-like trippiness. Stunning, in its beauty, and ingenuity alike. Ahh, thinking globally! How refreshing.

*You really should study more about it at the link above. It's pretty cool.

With the recent nightmare of the BP Oil Spill (CRIME!!!) we are more aware - I HOPE - of what can go so badly, and possibly irreparably, wrong in our natural world, and stop doing those murderous things. Unfortunately the Svalbard Vault only takes seeds, and won't be able to replace precious Gulf marine life. But their forethought is not only impressive, but necessary, as we watch the filthy oil execs scramble for fixes well AFTER the fact.

I was walking down my street this gloomy Venice morning, and ran into my neighbor, Sven (he's really named that, I'm not just giving the story a Scandinavian twist), and he was out putting a stake up for a wind-blown tree. Next to his curbside corn crop that is already knee high. We spoke only about natural stuff, and though he did have a Bluetooth thing in his ear, we could otherwise have been in anytime, anyplace, talking about the crops and weather. It was kind of great, and again, felt so much more real and important than anything else we could small-talk about. It IS important.

So thanks, Norway, for looking out for the rest of us. Thanks too for providing my ancestry, which I'm very proud of. And I'm not at all ashamed to say I'm an Immigrant.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Venice Double Feature - For When You're Strange

When you're feeling strange ... or just in the mood for an excellent double feature with Venice roots ... go for When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors and The Cool School.

The excellent PBS series, American Masters showed The Doors film last night on PBS, and we simply loved it. It showcases never before seen footage of the band, from its Venice Beach days "Until The End". Jim Morrison is intriguing as ever, and some clips from his own film project HWY: An American Pastoral looked so clear and great that it had us questioning the whole time if director Tom DeCillo had done some recreations with a Mr. Mojo Risin doppelganger. But it was all Jim ... and had us shaking our heads that the world lost yet another musical icon at the super young age of 27.

The Doors came together on the sands of Venice in 1965, and their music still floats on the wind all over town. Every time I stroll through the Canals, I hear "Love Street" somewhere in my mind, and think how the Venice vibe itself could be counted as a member of the band. Speaking of the band, Ray, Robbie, and John are all spotlit as the highly skilled musicians each is in their own right, and what they all put up with for the greater good. Thank goodness there remains such fantastic capturing of it all, as it happened. Jim is perhaps the best example we have of a true "Rock and Roll Poet", and his poetry remained the most important thing to him until the day he died in a Paris bathtub. Scenes of a wasted Jim rolling around on stage pull you back into a time when there were still guys who didn't care at all about what people thought of them, they just went for it ... making it bittersweet when Johnny Depp narrates, "You can't burn out if you're not on fire." (And none of their songs have ever been used in a car commercial). Watching this wonderful documentary, you feel wistful for the time when Jim still prowled around town.

The Cool School is all about building the Los Angeles Art Scene in the 1950's, led by the seminal Ferus Gallery. No one cared about what was happening art-wise here in those days, until Walter Hopps and Ed Keinholz lit the match with that place. Venice ("The Backwater of Bohemia") again played a big part in that, as it was a total slum (jarring pictures of extra ratty Canals and Oil derricks pumping all along what is now the Boardwalk), it was affordable for artists to live and work here ("Nobody wanted to be here, but Look! You can see the ocean right there!").

It also aired on PBS as part of the equally fantastic Independent Lens series, but you can just Netflix it up. Familiar Venice faces like Ed Moses, Ed Ruscha, and John Baldessari are all over the film, and it actually cuts back and forth between old footage and the Ferus Artists having a reunion lunch at our own Hal's.

These guys (and a few token gals) built the entire L.A. Art Scene (and were in fact the first to show Andy Warhol's Soup Cans, at the Ferus Gallery) into what it is today - with even MOCA now showing the "First 30 Years" exhibit right now, full of basically all these folks' greatest hits.

They were again, different times ... "When you could live a life of poetic poverty." (Though lots of us still do a pretty good job of that now). Having seen this insightful documentary, I can have a whole new appreciation for what these guys, who you see on the regular strolling about town, built up from absolutely nothing.

As Walter Hopps says toward the end of The Cool School, "Art offers the possibility of love with strangers." Having viewed these two stories back to back, I understood that element completely. As what The Doors did, what the L.A. art pioneers did, and what Venice continues to attract and promote at its very heart.

Love with strangers, and people who are strange, alike.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Moment In Time

The World is huge. We know this much. But there are so many things that make us all the same. Sometimes there are things or events that come along that make this all the more clear ... like the massive "A Moment In Time" photo project from the New York Times "Lens" visual journalism site.

They've had photographers all around the world take shots at the same time (15:00 UTC on May 2, 2010) for several categories: Nature and the Environment, Family, Social Issues, Play, Arts and Entertainment, etc ... You go to the home page, pick a category and spin the globe to the region you want to see. So far, ALL the photographs I've seen have been exceptional, and force you to realize how ONE we all are.

One cautionary note ... as the home page says, "Make no plans for the rest of the day." They're not lying. I only stopped looking at photos long enough to share it with you here. This is the ultimate armchair traveler's dream, and you will get sucked in.

Gotta go ... I'm off to Africa.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Purple Haze!

For anyone who thinks there aren't seasons in California ... behold the Jacaranda!

The sultry purple tree blooms at this time each year, joyously announcing SPRING!! The blooms last for a few weeks, reminding me of the beautiful lilacs that grew in my childhood backyard in Minnesota. They brighten up any street they're on (you just don't want to park under them. The blooms are a sticky mess to get off), and the season is NOW.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the trees burst open every year at the same time that the Los Angeles Lakers are ruling their way through the NBA Playoffs ... nature's homage to the Purple and Gold! (You know the Lakers are from Minnesota too, right? Right.)

The royally hued trees create a purple rain throughout the entire city, and always seem to pop up out of the blue, as a raucous burst of colorful surprise. They make my day. They also let you know that the Coppertone-scented Summertime is not far behind ...

There are some good streets around where both sides are lined with Jacarandas, so that when you drive (or bike or walk) along under them, they create a purple canopy that just feels special. And everyone likes to feel special.

Enjoy them while they last!