Monday, April 25, 2011

Reader's Choice!

Well, life has been a little frenetic lately, and I've been completely low on time to tell the massive volume of stories that are to be told here in Venice - and the World, for that matter. I'm straight back-logged. Which is a good thing, I suppose, but I am realizing how extra-precious our time on this Earth is, that's for sure.

So today, I'm going to share with you what a reader shared with me ... and exactly what I've hoped my whole deal with Blogtown - and with life - could be about - people sharing the GOOD and the stories that bring us together. Aka, the reason/s to be alive, in my opinion.

I got an email from a guy called Matt who said:

Hello, Always hear about your blog from the people at the French Market. I walk the beach with my girlfriend pretty often and we've come across some art stuck in the sand. One piece an actual painting and the other a message-in-a-bottle type piece. Tempted to pick up but left alone for the next passerby. Anyhow, thought was really cool, especially in our neighborhood. Took some pics which are attached. best, Matt

How great! And how happy it made me that really, a lot of us are on the same page. And our old pal, Wino Strut is still at it. Add another to the pile of the stories I have to get to the bottom of!

The cool things are in abundance and that is great news. Please keep sharing them, with me and with everyone ... and continue to focus on the good while you're in this skin's spin. Otherwise, what's the point. Thanks, Matt!

Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Firefly had a Kid!

There's a new Kid in town ... called Kid! Yes, Firefly's Erinn Berkson has both had a real kid - the darling Mia Arbor - and just last Saturday opened her new children's store, Kid. I'm still in complete awe that she can even keep her eyes open after tending to her not-quite 1 year old AND creating a brand new business - in the same year. But she does ... and with style.

The last time Blogtown checked in with Erinn, Mia had not yet been born, and there was no space or time to even talk about a new business ... but a lot can change in a year. The number of strollers on Abbot Kinney has dramatically increased in recent times, and Erinn noticed when pushing her own pram about town that there really wasn't anywhere on the street that carried all the stuff families with kids need in one spot - from clothes to burp cloths, from books to toys. (Plus people kept asking at Firefly if they could carry more baby stuff, and there wasn't really any more room for it in the existing space).

As Firefly The Original has been the one-stop gift shop for Venice since 1999, so now can Kid (also the name of a baby goat - Erinn & Tim call Mia "Goat" sometimes for her deal of liking to chew on paper) be your trusted friend in the 'hood when you have to go to yet another baby shower or birthday party.

Much like Firefly, a space opened up at exactly the perfect time, just two doors down. Now there is a Firefly enterprise flanking each side of Abbot's Pizza Company! Grab a slice, get your gift, be on your merry way! Erinn's husband, Tim Bonefeld, and her brother, Chris, did a lot of the hard labor on the new space themselves (it's all very much a family affair), building gorgeous shelves, painting, all of it, and when the doors opened on April 9th, the first thing I heard someone say as they walked in was "Oh my gosh, it's adorable!" They were not wrong.

The shelves now house clothes so cute you want to stretch them out to fit your adult size (Seriously. Our own baby clothes were never so cute - or soft!). Stuffed animals so soft they might as well be real. Learning toys, like blocks and flashcards in other languages. Good old school stuff like Slinkys and bike bells. Tiny baby stuff like swaddles and baby paper. And WONDERFUL books, always books if it has anything to do with Erinn.

Firefly has been around since the '90s precisely because it is a part of the community it KNOWS. Same goes for Kid Firefly. All we heard all opening day was what a NEED there was for this kind of store on the block, and I suspect a big part of the fun over the years will be watching all the babies grow up (and patronize both stores)!

It didn't hurt that one of the cutest (and I like to add - smartest!) babies in town, Miss Mia, greeted the new customers with her excellent waving skills, when she did her first shift in the store (relax, Child Labor, she's family!). As Erinn said, "Mia's been a real trooper", as there sure has been a lot going on in her first year of life. Yet with all the work, the laughs come easy, and this stretch of Abbot Kinney is the cheeriest around.

Befitting a store such as Kid, Erinn said, "I would like to specialize in treasures and fun." That is why I love her, and that is why you will love Kid.

Stop in! Say Hi! Meet the new addition/s! And know that treasures and fun are indeed in store for you.

Kid Firefly
1405 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice. CA. 90291

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mr. & Mrs. Pringle - Venice's Take-Out Connection

Carole Primerano-Pringle is one of the dearest people in Venice to me. I see her each morning (that she works ... days off she wants to see no one!) at The French Market, where she runs the place like the tight ship that it is. Getting your morning coffee and shooting the breeze for a bit each day doesn't let you know what's really going on with people, however, so we sat down the other day to chat, WITH her husband, Richard Pringle, whom I finally got to meet!

Theirs is one of those great stories of "I just knew". Carole had been friends in her native Corsica with Lionel, who used to co-own The French. He urged her to come over, to work for him, though she says that if The French hadn't been near the beach, she would never have come. (You see? We could be friends on that right there alone.)

Carole began to work at The French in 2002, the day after she arrived in the U.S., and we've been solid ever since. Shortly thereafter, with no real grasp of English yet, Carole was sitting in the sun with her book on a bench near Muscle Beach. She laid her eyes on this guy walking nearby, and said to herself, "This is my husband." She. Just. Knew. Lacking words, she had Agnes (current French owner) write on a business card for her that she'd like to know him and her number. She had seen what car he had come from, went over to it, saw the window cracked, and dropped the card inside. Now that could have been that, and usually would be, but Richard (a native Angeleno) was brave and intrigued and called. They went out to dinner a few days later, hit it off, and were married four months later!

As they near their 10 year anniversary, Carole and Richard still act like newlyweds, darling together. They also work together, as they've started a new business called Take-Out Connect. They work with local restaurants to organize and promote their online ordering process. They are currently focused on Venice dining spots, as this is where they live and are a big part of the community.

As Richard said, "We're a hybrid company." Basically, they connect restaurants with more customers by marketing directly to the people nearby. They offer special promotions through the participating restaurant's site. They make it all more efficient and cost effective for the owners. They track orders, so they know what is popular among customers, allowing restaurants to better prepare their own ordering. As orders come directly in via the internet, it makes it all way easier for the kitchens, not to mention for Carole (The French Market was TOC's first client), who says, "I do nothing. I don't talk to people. We waste no time. There are no mistakes." So there.

Business grows for everyone involved, and Take-Out Connect makes it all seamless. I've used it as a customer of The French, and I've seen it used by being friends with the owners, and would strongly recommend (and do) it as a powerful business tool for any of my other restaurateur homies in the area to blow up their take-out side of things - the largest growing segment of the dining out pie, according to Richard.

The Pringles work a lot, but when they're not, they rarely like to leave Venice - unless it's for tennis, which they both love. The beach (where they met) is their favorite thing about it here, of course, along with the bohemian atmosphere we all try to preserve and celebrate. They can also be seen on the French circuit, especially at Lilly's. Carole is also partial to Cafe 50's, and just typing that made me want to go there right now.

I love it when people find each other. I love it when they find a place, a HOME they both love. I love it even more when they commit, not just to each other and their home, but to the community surrounding them. That Carole and Richard want their business to be of and about Venice speaks a lot to who they are. And who they are is Fantastique!

Check them out!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Liza Lou at L &M

I feel like an awful human right now even being inside long enough to type this up ... but Blogtown has been neglected of late (long story) and that ain't cool, so here we are real quickish. Because today is SO spectacular in Venice, California, that it needs to be honored. Truly. This morning, as dolphins flew through the air down at the beach, like they too were FEELING IT today, I found myself thinking aloud, "THIS is what it's all about". Like meaning of life style awareness and gratitude.

Actually HOT out. The smell of springtime blooms everywhere. Cerulean blue skies so bright they hurt the eyes a little bit. Good waves. Neighbors waving hello, the stoke clear on their faces. Oh, and it's First Fridays again, so everyone is feeling a little rowdy and ready to party.

I remembered a Bob Dylan quote while thinking about it all: "The purpose of art is to stop time."

I could leave you with that, and that would be enough. Instead, I'll tell you about how I love today so much that I decided to go try and stop some time at my friendly neighborhood gallery, L & M Arts. The new exhibition (opened last weekend, up 'til May 7th) is by L.A. artist, Liza Lou, and it is stunningly gorgeous.

Lou now keeps a studio in Durban, South Africa, where she gets help with her millions of beads, creating her unique and sparkly (right up my alley) works of art. From her press release for the show: Lou uses geometric structures in many of the pieces in the exhibition in order to reveal the humanity underlying repetitive labor, resulting in works whose imperfections display ineffable beauty and human tenderness. There you go, a perfect explanation as to why I loved this experience, on this day.

I walked into the East Gallery at L & M and it felt almost church-like holy. Alone in the glittering silence, I stood in front of a giant piece called Gather (one million), 2008-2010 that takes up most of the room. It consists of 150 square feet of nine million glass beads threaded onto wire to make up a million blades of golden grass, tied into sheaves. It's awesome, in the true sense of the word.

{I asked the lady from the Gallery if Lou does all the bead work herself, as I've gotten in many conversations recently about how much an artist can claim ownership - ala Damian Hirst - for their work when it's farmed out to a slew of laborers. That's how I learned about the Zulu women in South Africa working with Lou. I can totally get behind their being employed, I just like it when people do their own work the most. The L & M rep said Lou is very hands on with every piece. Ok then.}

The Book Of Days is another highlight of the show, consisting of 365 single sheets of beaded "paper", each created over one year, all stacked atop one another. It makes you stop to think about how each day can be easily forgotten, but so much goes into it, that it really should force us to think about the beauty within every day we are blessed to get to live. At least that was my take on it, all abuzz from the glorious spring just outside.

I tend to like art pieces that have words in them, so the Destitute:

... and Trust No One ones were particularly dug by me.

Another breathtaking piece was Zulu Love Letter, 2010, a grid of 24k beads on cotton, that tips its hat to the Zulu tradition of bead work actually being its own language - women will tell men their love vibes via a piece of jewelry done in a certain way. Romance!

I'm clearly in dreamy mode, due to the day, the world, and profound - if puzzling - gratitude for everything good in the world, so it was apt when I opened the guide to Lou's exhibition, that it was headed by a Langston Hughes poem:

The Dream Keeper

Bring me all of your dreams
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Dreamy. And it helped me to do exactly what I set out to do this morning - stop time.

L & M Arts
660 Venice Boulevard
Venice, 90291