Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ronald Weekley, Jr. - Skateboarding Is Not A Crime

I just came from a rally for Ronald Weekley, Jr., the kid that was beaten by police August 18th for skateboarding on the wrong side of the street. In Venice, California. That alone should tell you how wrong it is, but watch the video below and see for yourself -

How horrifying to be there watching that still happen in this day and age! And how inspiring and chill inducing it was to be there this afternoon with a Venice community that CARES, and is demanding action.

Weekley Jr.'s skater friends were there, his classmates, his neighbors, the news, and people that had never heard of him before this despicable incident, came out in support on a gorgeous Venice afternoon, as cars of strangers drove by and honked their support.

The Police line is that the young skater was violating traffic code by skating down the wrong side of the street (who hasn't?), and then resisting arrest for this blatant crime (who wouldn't?!). Then it was somehow decided to have four cops beat him up. In broad daylight. In front of his home that he was skating back to. He has a concussion, a broken cheek, jaw and nose, and frankly, he looked a little like a Picasso painting today. For SWB. ("Skateboarding While Black", as one of the speakers said, and which appears to be so sad, but awfully true. Sorry, but you consider the neighborhood, the kid doing nothing anyone else doesn't do every day in Venice, and it really does look like his afro was his main problem. Which sickens me just to type). His father said that his son had thought he was going to die. In front of his home. For SKATING!

Weekley Jr's very well-spoken and unbelievably calm considering father, Ronald Weekley, Sr. addressed the gathered crowd and brought tears to my eyes with his considerate and heart-felt words. He clearly loves his community, and wants kids of ALL colors to skate safely in Venice. He said people have asked what the family wants, and it is simply to have their son's charges dropped (he had to spend a night in County without visiting a hospital first!) and the police officers that committed their own crimes against Weekley, Jr. identified and charged publicly. In other words, JUSTICE. Which IS what we want, and we do want it NOW, as the chant went.

Mr. Weekley, Sr. went on to say that they hold no vengeance, no hate, and they are practicing forgiveness, but "forgiveness in context". That's right. He asked for skaters around California (and the World) to join together to combat police oppression, and "Redefine what it means to protect and serve!" That got a round of applause, as did most everything everyone said. When they weren't crying.

Like I was when Weekley, Jr. took the microphone stand and cried himself as he very softly said, "Don't be angry at what happened ... Just help people that need it." What a special young man, that he already lives in a place of forgiveness, and himself is moving on to looking how to help others.

Obviously we have a big problem with police using excessive force in this country. It happens far too often to deny it. Now the press has it out that Weekley Jr. had warrants out for traffic misdemeanors  (that almost everyone in Los Angeles has also had), but who cares? Police can't tell you have warrants by looking at you, and warrants don't equal beatings, even in our antiquated law books. The Weekleys have retained Benjamin Crump to help them, the same attorney who handled the Trayvon Martin case. The Nation Of Islam were there today, standing in solidarity in their bow ties, and their Tony Muhammad reiterated that "This is not about color, this is about justice."

Al Sharpton called the family, and let them know that the whole nation is watching Venice now because of this. Venice 2000 and the Venice Neighborhood Council were both represented, and all claimed to be in it "for the long haul." Police need to be re-trained in cultural sensitivity, and as their Pastor, Horace Alan, of Westminster Baptist said, "We are ALL human beings ... and human beings need to be treated better than laws." Amen.

Ronald Weekley, Sr. took the microphone again in closing, and expressed his family's gratitude for everyone there, for this "Community of HUMAN BEINGS", and again said all they want is for kids to be FREE to live and play safely in Venice. Everyone wants that. For it to be the police themselves making that NOT the case is abhorrent, and Venice won't stand for it, I can tell you that. Over-zealous, over-steroided, over-whatever their problem is cops will not be tolerated here. Where skateboarding is definitely NOT a crime.

The press conference wrapped and one of the young skaters started up the Justice chant as Weekley Jr. was surrounded by press wanting more from him.

The chant evolved into "Peace From The Police!" as the group made their way down 6th Street, holding signs that read "Justice 4 Ron!" and the best one, "PEACE for Ron!" To quote everyone there, .... "YEAH!"

Monday, August 20, 2012

AK Supper Club - Concept over Chef

Well, I get back into town and it's right back into the swing of things. I returned to a message from my friend, Alona Cooke, that the AK Supper Club has a new chef, already! Gone is Kevin Kathman, after some what sounds like mutual disagreements about the concept (that, interestingly, he also had at his last restaurant gig in Minneapolis, at the end of my friends street, where I just was), and in is Benadicto Gell, formerly of The Yard, Joe's and Red Medicine.

I had an impromptu opening in the action and met Alona at AKSC (formerly Capri) to sample the new menu and meet Mr. Gell. Oh, MAN, was it good!  We discussed the vision for the space, and it's really more of a Pop Up CHEF concept vs. Pop Up Restaurant ... "It's an adventure .. it's never the same experience," said Cooke.

Well, she's right there. The first dish we tried was an appetizer of scallop crudo, which I described as a dish a Mermaid would make to impress the Fairy Godmother of her Prince Charming. Does that sound gushy? Fine, it's worthy. Raw scallops in their shell sit in a pool of soothing, cool cucumber and melon water. Scattered over and around this loveliness are pearl currants that pop with tartness and look like jewelry from the sea. Topped with Thai basil and Peruvian mint, the ladies at the table could only laugh and roll our eyes. "I want to jump in and swim around", said one friend. I just shook my head and uttered, "It's like alchemy." Yuuuuuum. Summertime perfection.

Equally yet differently delicious were the shell on salt and peppery shrimp appetizer special that you just ate with the shell on because to not do so would be just weird with all that flavor. GOOOOOD. It reminded me of the Virgin Islands for some reason, and came with little slices of grapefruit and tangelo and tiny slices of red pepper that just combined to burst into savory perfection in your mouth. I loved it obscenely.

As I did the ridiculous lamb entree served with black figs, wild mushrooms and blackberry mustard. Within that were these little crunchy bits that turned out to be rendered crispy lamb fat chunks that were so full of flavor, formerly civil friends began to eye one another's hands with an eye to stab them with forks if they took one of those little guilty pleasures. "Aromatic." "I don't usually gnaw, but I'm going to." (ok, that was me).

The braised pork with mangu (a mixture of mashed yucca and plaintains - "African.") was an autumnal dish that would go well with crisp evenings and fireplaces. It also featured little crispy pork bits, and we again searched like truffle hogs around in the plate for them. Holy moly.

I called the poached black cod in corn broth bland ... until I almost drowned from my watery eyes due to a peppery bite that I wasn't prepared for. Take that, the cod appeared to say. Burned.

After we finished up this "Bacchanal of Pleasure" with some "Best Ever" coffee ice cream, we sat around and chatted with the talented new chef, Benedicto Gell. He's from Boston with Dominican heritage, so he's got flavor influences from all over. It's fun to talk to people about food when they so clearly love it dearly and want to share that with you. It's like Alona said, "You follow your instincts and your nose, not a Michelin guide." True. And you only have two weeks to get in on the current action starring Gell. Then it will be a new adventure, and I'm sure I'll tell you all about it, and try not to drool on you while I'm at it. Go. Now.

AK Supper Club
1616 Abbot Kinney
Tuesday through Sunday, 6 - 11ish

*I also spoke with lovely Kailani who is taking over the former Wolf In Sheep's Clothing daytime operations. They're opening soon on Melrose and Fairfax and will be called The Hart and The Hunter. It promises to be out of this world again, and you can say you had it first as Wolf In Sheep's Clothing in Venice. Mmmm.

***UPDATE  - AK Supper Club is now closed for good. Will let you know about what goes into the Capri space, which we will all miss.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Venice - A Great Place To Come Home To

I just got back from a whole bunch of adventures on the road ... Home to Minnesota, the MONSTER EPIC Lollapalooza, and going along on the road with the Jane's Addiction's Summer Tour. If you've read any of my stories while I was away, you know that it might be a drag to come back.  But not if you live in Venice.

My first stop was to baptize myself in the waters of Ocean Pacific off of Playa de Los Amigos. I swam all the way out to the red flags by the end of the Venice Pier, and then just floated there to soak up how absolutely beautiful it is, and how warm the water got while I was away!

Then, smack in the middle of Shark Week, I walked by an old man who just caught a baby leopard shark with his fishing pole right from the shore! (A great white shark was also spotted off of Venice - I saw and learned all of this AFTER my swim. I remain undaunted.) After being a bit of a tourist myself out there in the American summer, it was much easier to appreciate the gorgeous place I live, the perfect weather and sea breeze, and the tourists that want to visit here. An young Australian boy swam out to the flag with me, and I asked him if he liked living here after moving from so far away. He answered, "It's the best place in the world, in my opinion." Looking around at all the sunshine and blue skies and friendly faces waving and welcoming me back, it was hard to disagree.

Thanks, Venice, for making it so easy (excited even!) to come home after such a whirlwind of rock and roll fun. Ahhhhhh.

Monday, August 13, 2012

New York/Jersey With Jane's Addiction - My Last Stop

The Jane's Addiction company pulled in to our New York City hotel around 5:00 in the morning, after squeezing the tour bus around the labyrinth that is Soho. An exhausted bunch slept for a few hours, and then tried to cram as much New York stuff in as possible before show time that night across the river in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I hit the Museum of Natural History with the kids, saw the giant tower going up on the World Trade Center site, the very pretty High Line, and everything else I love about New York from my cab window. Then I raced back to meet up at the hotel to head to Jersey.

Traffic was so bad in Soho that we decided to hoof it to our bus stuck in it 6 blocks away, so we wouldn't be late for the show. We were probably quite a sight, the band and entourage filing through cars, carrying pizza (the perfect New York plain cheese) and all. You do what you gotta do, laughing all the while.

Once we arrived at the State Theater in New Brunswick, it was quick change time. The Great Escape Artist tour is full of what Perry calls "Immersive Theater", and as it was my last show on the tour, I tagged along with dancer, Bubba Carr, as he rounded up what they call the Chain Gang.

Bubba goes out into the crowd with chains and straps and picks out people from the crowd that he finds interesting or super-fan or just plain hot, and chains them up together to lead them back for a private Jane's Addiction jam in the "Boiler Room". It was hilarious to observe, as the fans have no idea what's going to happen, and I heard one wife's husband say, "This show might end up in Divorce Court", as she happily split in chains, and he watched her go.

Once backstage, Bubba led the group into the Boiler Room, where the band was already jamming "Pigs In Zen" in what felt exactly like a basement party. Their faces were thrilled, and I imagine it will be an experience they brag about the rest of their natural lives. It's that cool.

After a couple songs, the guys adjourned to get ready to ROCK the place, but not before we caught a minute of the mock-able Olympic closing ceremonies. WHERE was the punk rock that we loved England for?! Anyway ...

The night felt electric, and I don't think it was just me feeling nostalgic already. The fans were fired up and slamming drinks (JERSEY!) when I was out in the crowd with Bubba, and you just knew the place was going to go OFF. Which it did as soon as "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" began and the lights dimmed.

"Underground" and the giant white skirts had everyone's jaws gaping, and they never shut. Because "Mountain Song" was next, and it never let up from there. "Before I came here, I thought New Brunswick was a bowling ball ... Now I know better!" said Perry to the adoring throng. "Just Because" is Hezron Farrell's favorite tune, and the kids were rocking out on the side of the stage the entire show. Get ready for the next generation, everyone, because it's in these little ones DNA. Fun.

I don't know if the guys were showing off for me or what (ha), but they were simply on fire, to a man. "Been Caught Stealing" found Perry telling the crowd to move up to the stage, and once that happened, it was a madhouse of people reaching for his legs, holding their arms up for Dave to slap, screaming while smiling.

Perry took someone's camera and took a photo of them, managed to sign peoples' stuff and slap fives, all while singing these monstrous tunes. "Ain't No Right" had simply ferocious drums from Stephen Perkins, and Perry was a spinning, dancing machine.

 I marveled at how little sleep I know we all had, how Perry had a surfing injury on his hip that's been bothering him, and yet from the look, sound and feel of it, it was as if it was their first headlining show ever. MARVELOUS.

"Irresistible Force" was huge, and Etty once again flew and sang above the crowd from her perch high above on a trapeze. Then the crazy music plays as Stephanie Spanski as an Automaton in a baby carriage walks across the stage and trips everyone out. I love it.

The acoustic "Jane Says" is always a crowd pleaser, and sure enough, everyone in that joint was on their feet, front to back, singing along LOUDLY to every word, absolutely beside themselves with elation. Ask 'em.

Someone handed a flask to Perry, who took a swig, and then he returned the favor by passing around his wine bottle down front.  The good times were rolling, for sure. New Brunswick!!!

"We always get requests for this next song {often by me}, and this one will always help you get laid, fellas", said Perry to introduce the pure classic of "Classic Girl". I, and everyone else, almost died. You don't get to hear this one very often, and I've loved it from first listen back in college.

Women were all over Perry and Dave in the front, hanging on to their arms and legs to the point that it was surprising they could still move and play. One lady even had a custom "I heart Perry" shirt on. Meaning it. Looking at the faces, it was as if everyone was having a collective holy experience. Beatific smiles that you couldn't help but return.

"What are you drinking?" asked Perry to one guy, who replied, "I Would For You!" probably thinking he should get his request in vs. answer the question. "You're drinking I Would For You?!"

But instead they got "Up The Beach", which is so massive you could only throw your head back and soak it in. Dave's guitar on that is full Pink Floyd huge, and I had chills the whole time. Which carried over into "Had A Dad", because it too is beyond big.

"Three Days" was the hottest thing ever, with Etty and Steph gagged and wielding canes to surround Perry in a threesome of fever dream proportions. Married ten years, Perry and Etty still look at each other like they're about to devour each other on stage, and having been a bunk mate of theirs along this tour, I can tell you that their love is true, palpable, and one of the few marriages I admire these days.

Aside from the obvious hot as hellness, the music on this one takes you on an epic journey, with Dave and Chris Chaney's guitar and bass swirling around Stephen's heavy drums that had the drooling fans hooting and hollering at how very metal it was.

After the screaming and stomping and clapping for an encore reached frantic proportions, Perry came back out and said, "President Perry told you so, you work your ass off, so you need to party your ass off!" and no one disagreed in there.

They gave them the awesome "Splash A Little Water On It" that went right into "Ocean Size", where I don't believe I'd ever seen Dave so animated or Perry so possessed by the moment. He was rolling around on the ground, giving his fucking ALL to these New Jersey people, who were jumping and holding up their arms like it was the first and last show they'd ever see.

"Stop" was last and when it got to the part everyone knows every word to: HUM along with me, hum along with the tv, hum along with the GODDAMN RADIO!!" the poor State Theater's roof was blown off and I don't even know where it went. But it did have to Stop, and when the sweaty and spent band left the stage to people shouting for even more, it was a group that knew they had kicked some serious ass. The crowd looked it too, wrung out, but joyously happy.

As was I. It was a complete blast going along on this leg of the Jane's Addiction journey, and documenting it along the way. I'll have these monumental memories for a lifetime, sad as I was to wind it up for now. I am blessed. I am inspired. I am thrilled that I get to know these creative, talented, visionary people, and even more so that I get to call them true friends.

THANK YOU from the depths of my heart to Perry and Etty Farrell, Hezron and Izzadore, Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins, Chris Chaney, Stephanie Spanski, Bubba Carr, Doug Goodman, Monique Sanchez, and all the crew, drivers, venues, and places that we rocked together ... for sharing your world with me ... and the whole world. Wow. For the people at the rest of the tour stops, I sure hope you all get out to see this tremendous show, because you will carry it with you the rest of your days. I know I will.

And Summertime Rolls on ....

*Bus and Me photos by Mr. Bubba Carr.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jane's Addiction Tea Party - Boston in Brief

Phhheeeew! Jane's Addiction's stop in Boston, Massachusetts was a whirlwind of historical sites, great food, and lots of family and friends. And a day off!

We stayed at a hotel right across from a cemetery that dates back to 1660, and it felt a little ghosty around there, if I'm honest.

Hot summer days had the streets choked with tourists, which was a little daunting, but I did make a wish (why?) on Paul Revere's grave ...

And his house ...

... Saluted old Ben Franklin ...

... peaced out in a little peace garden ...

and generally soaked it all in. Literally, as it was so extra hot. And stormy.

I had perhaps the best oysters of my life with the Farrell family at the delicious Little Creek Oyster Bar, and the "Best Cannoli in Boston 2012" at darling little Cafe Paradiso. Wow. Yum.

The Jane's show was at the Bank of America Pavilion, an outdoor venue next to the harbor that was breezy - thankfully - and fun.

The show was all kind of a blur, as there were a lot of visitors at this show, and a lot to keep track of. Once again, the fans were INTO it, and it's so inspiring to see this troupe of performers (Band, Dancers, Crew!) out there, night after night, giving it their absolute ALL.

From "Underground" to "Mountain Song", from "Jane Says" to "3 Days", people were pumping their fists throughout, all the way to the back row. It's just so rock and roll! From old fans from day one, to people just learning Jane's Addiction's epic music now, it doesn't really matter, because the minute they start a show ... it's ON.

"Splash A Little Water On It" had the band on fire, and Bubba Carr putting it out with his clay man splashing antics. This production is definitely a SHOW - and it's hard sometimes to even know where to look, as so much is going on, but it always comes back to the band.

Perry was very into the fact that Boston had their tea party, and rebelled against the man waaaay back in the day ... "You threw that shit into the sea and didn't take no shit!", he yelled, and though today's audience probably had nothing to do with that whole uprising, they were happy to yell for themselves anyway. Kind of like Celtics fans. (Just kidding).

After a massive singalong to "Stop", the band left the stage to thrilled screaming. A little visiting with people backstage, and then it was time for the overnight bus trip to NYC.

We'll see you again, Boston!  - Perry Farrell

* George W. and Cemetery photos by Bubba Carr
** Crowd and band shot by Casey Riddles