Friday, August 29, 2014

The 4th Annual Surf And Skate Auction For Venice Family Clinic - A Very Favorite Event

The Fourth Annual Surf and Skate Auction for the Venice Family Clinic was held last night at the Robert Berman Gallery at Bergamot Station. It is one of my very favorite local events of the year, so cool and creative, and all for the very worthwhile cause of helping to give medical care to our Venice families that need help.

 It was a gorgeous, balmy night in Santa Monica, so there was a great turn-out of people, all in that endless summer kind of mode. The indigo skies and the sliver of a silver moon set the scene for good times and generous hearts.

Artists, skaters, surfers, and artist/skaters/surfers donated their works of art on surfboards and skate decks, and one was cooler than the next.

My brother, Paul Gronner, had a skate deck in the auction, and it was fun to hear him talk about his art with some collectors, explaining his methods and making new friends. It was wonderful to see old friends too, like contributing artists Neil Carver and Jennifer Wolf (and their fresh boards).

Elwood "Woody" Risk had a surfboard and a skate deck in the auction, and I was happy to finally meet him in person after admiring his work for some time.

There were boards from everyone from Tesla Motors to Tony Hawk ... though the art on the pro decks was from the factory, and just had autographs as their original art. Cool still, but cooler if those guys really did some original art ... and it would fetch more funds for the clinic. None of those boards had any bids on them by the time I left, so ... get creative, Pros!

Lots of the works were great because they were so OF the area ... like the Dogtown and Santa Monica Airlines ones ...

Like the ones featuring beach scenes and local sights ...

Even though these are all meant for the walls, not the water.

As the sun set, it got more packed, inside and out. It was boiling hot in the gallery, so you had to take periodic breaks to get fresh air and/or a cold beer. Folks mingled around, artists and skaters like Ed Moses and Jeff Ho were checking out the scene, where you could ham it up for a photo booth or get trucker hats screen-printed by Volcom.

There is a lot of imagination at play with these works, like the deck covered in foliage from Big Red Sun, next to an image of Gene Simmons shredding a bowl in the full Kiss get-up (probably photo-shopped).

In my own bidding, I was torn between the very cool (and close to my heart) Venice Beach one by Jeffrey Manpearl that he somehow cut out of steel ...

... and the one I wound up winning, that I'm so thrilled about, the beautiful deck by Sephira Salazar. She photographed these indigenous people in Peru that gather the sacred water (I need to hear the story again ...) and painted brightly around it, and then there's a little shelf in the front for a candle. I cannot wait to hang this lovely piece in my house and love it every day, even more so knowing that it helped a little bit to help someone out.

The surfboards were all gorgeous, and people were lining up to be photographed next to them all evening long.

It was one of those nights when there are just too many things going on at once, and I had to cut out of there before the band played or the auction and raffle ended. It wasn't easy to get out of there, though, because every time you turned around, you saw another cool person you hadn't seen in a while and had to catch up quick. That's what I like so much about this event every year, it's all very community-minded, and everyone's cool.

Perhaps none cooler than these two little dudes, looking at the art and looking out for each other.

The next generation of skater, surfers and art lovers taking it all in ... you could almost see their own ideas formulating under their little caps. I can't wait to bid on what they come up with at maybe the 24th Annual Surf and Skate Auction ...

Put this great opening on your seasonal list of things to do, it never disappoints, and really helps the Venice Family Clinic a lot. And until next year's auction comes around ... Surf, skate and make art!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Big Wednesday!

Yesterday was one of the biggest, best days ever for waves in Southern California due to swells from Hurricane Maria. From The Wedge in Newport, to Malibu Surfrider, the ocean was showing OFF ... except for in Venice, where it was just merely good.

But just merely good looks like this ... a perfect, balmy evening, a path of golden sunlight setting, and a whole bunch of people out to surf the waves, look at the surfers, the sunset ... everyone having the same idea ... and it was a good one. One to remember for a long time.

It was an exciting day. Even if you have never stepped foot in the water, you could feel it in the air.

It was also my brother, Paul's 40th birthday, and we watched the above sunset from the Venice Pier, and felt only gratitude that the world around us looks and feels like this. Beautiful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Birthday Bliss Weekend

I just had an extra great birthday weekend, full of sunshine, laughter, love and friends. It was awesome.

Gone was the morning gloom we've been having at the beach, and bright blue skies were happening all weekend long. Which meant I was firmly in place at Playa de los Amigos all day, both days. The water was super warm, and you could already feel the rip pulling from Hurricane Maria (which is now causing our coast to be pumping!), so my annual re-birth baptism in the sea was a little less dreamy and floaty than most years, and a bit more about just survival ... metaphor? Anyway, it was a complete joy.

Venice was showing off all weekend, with the perfect weather, tons of people out, and the Summer Music Festival was happening on Saturday, which created a nice, groovy atmosphere and had the locals and tourists all dancing together.

Little kids and Grandmas were out there learning to hula hoop, bikes were everywhere, it really was exactly the kind of day you expect to find when you come here to visit.

As the music and the growing waves competed with the skaters at the park for who could be loudest, I got to close out another year, complete with a magical sunset.

I pretty much got to do it all over again on Sunday, my birthday. A whole day of swimming and sun, and then it was time to celebrate with friends at The Ladies' Gunboat Society.

I cannot say enough how very delicious this joint is, and I'm so very lucky to have its Chef, Brian Dunsmoor, as one of my favorite homies.

Brian hooked us up with a family style feast of favorites like their ridiculously good fried chicken, shrimp and grits, whole trout, and all the sides that make this one of the most talked about food destinations in town right now. For great reason.

So we ate, drank, and laughed our faces off, and I kicked off another year, feeling loved and beyond grateful for the people and places that make up my life.

 It's gonna be a great year, I can feel it. I so look forward to telling its stories ...

Thank you, one and all. Thank you, Venice. Thank you, Mom! Thank you, LIFE!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back To School!

I can't believe how early kids are going back to school these days. I have always loved this time of year, when it's long, lazy, last days of Summer ... end it with my birthday, then go back to school after Labor Day. NEVER before. I know kids out here who have been back in school for two weeks ALREADY. Lame. Sorry, kids.

Perhaps in this spirit, the metal lockers behind Casa Linda on Abbot Kinney are painted to look like giant books. Good disguise ... and it does kind of make one wistful for school days ... Kind of.

To all my little buddies heading back to their desks ... Learn well. And have FUN.

*PS ... Speaking of writing ... this is my 500th Blogtown story. Whoa.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kindness Is Magic

I was walking home down Abbot Kinney late the other night and saw some more street art wisdom, that just really is true ...

When you add a little (or a lot) of kindness into any situation ... you can actually see and feel the magic happening right in front of you. I appreciate these little reminders around town ... and share them with you in the spirit with which they were left. With kindness and magic. Have a great week, All!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Foodshopping In Venice

There's a (kind of) secret dinner party happening in Venice each month, and it's called Foodshop. Held in a nondescript warehouse, groups of friends and strangers - there by invitation only (and invites can be had by just sending them an email telling them a little about yourself) - sit elbow to elbow, often touching elbows, and feast on that month's five course seasonal menu.

People wait around outside until they're ready to seat you, and one guy drove by and asked if it was an A.A. meeting. It is certainly not. You're greeted at the door with an aperitif, and then your party is shown to seats based on how many you are. After the aperitif (for August it's a mezcal, hibiscus, blood orange concoction that I want again right now), it's all BYOB. It's not rare to find people sharing tastes of their wine bottles or craft beers as they meet the new and interesting people around them. You quickly make friends with your neighbors because it's a tight squeeze in there, as about forty people are seated around the long table, in the middle of what I think is someone's wood shop/tool shed when not being used to feed L.A.'s serious foodies. Nothing matches, adding to the charm, and reflecting the guests too, in a way, as all types of folks have caught on. You never know who you'll be dining with.

It feels fun from the moment you walk in the sliding door, and you smell your dinner cooking from the tiny kitchen in the back. I've been twice now, and the food is fantastic. Prepared by Chefs Hyejin Cho and Itay Zach (and their helpers), it is a thoughtful menu, always designed to feature ingredients from the current season. In June we tore through the corn soup, grilled peach salad, Moroccan meatballs, shrimp-n-grits, and a delicious summer berry tart. DEE-lish. And all served family style, so you really get to know your neighbors as you hold platters and serve for each other.

As good, if not better, than the food is the fellowship. The friends you're with soon become friends with the people on their side, then you do on your side, and pretty soon the whole room is having a blast, talking and laughing so much that each new course is almost an interruption. Which is a good thing, because it's pretty Euro in as far as how long it takes for this meal ... it is not fast. You probably shouldn't make too many after-dinner plans, because you will be late. And stuffed.

August's menu featured the above-mentioned mezcal delight when we arrived, and the parade of food that followed was a summery array of plaintain cakes, a great calamari/corn salad, watermelon gazpacho (that could have been way more chilled and strained, we left ours almost untouched, sadly), fried yucca, fish tacos (that you could see the sparks flying from as they grilled right outside the door), and a sinfully delectable dessert of homemade churros and a spicy chocolate sauce. SO good.

There is a "suggested donation" of $70, which might seem a bit steep for fish tacos and no bar, but it's about the experience, and it's a fun one. I first heard about it in Vanity Fair, where a designer I forget mentioned that it was her favorite restaurant. In Venice. And I'd never heard of it. Then my east side living friends invited me one month, and I couldn't believe I was hearing about it from them, when it's in my own backyard. It's pretty underground, and you can't find much info other than their website on the internet ... which it makes it kind of cooler.

Lives were caught up on, jokes were told, cards were exchanged, a wine buzz was achieved, and as we emerged back out into the moon-lit Venice night, you had that feeling of being in on something special. Something created by and for friends, and grown into something food lovers all over town ravenously look forward to each month.

I'll hope to rub elbows and break bread with you there soon, and as Cho and Zach sign off on their invitation each month ... Peas and Love.

*Grill and Churros photos by Jaison Benjamin.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

California Can Save Me

I was walking home kind of late the other night, with a lot on my mind, like where do I really belong ... big life stuff like that. Then - as happens a lot around here - I saw a fence that had been painted with pretty close to my exact thoughts ...

The penguin (?) could kind of be me too, since I do come from Minnesota. I love that you can be strolling along anywhere in Venice and be taught, thought provoked, amazed, blessed and delighted.

Once again filed under I Love You, Venice.


Monday, August 4, 2014

A Colorful Weekend In Venice

I don't know how the weather sometimes seems to know it's the weekend and after a week of bright sunshine while cooped up inside working, the weekend came and was all gloom, not August feeling at all. But where the sun did not shine through, and though the melanin levels suffered from no beach time, there was still plenty of color.

Saturday night we were invited to hear the Blue Oyster Cult play in the Marina from some friends' boats pulled up right next to the stage. They had drinks, a grill with tasty whole fish and hot dogs, and quite possibly the most spectacular sunset of the summer so far. The electric colors competed with the rock for everyone's attention, and the sky won until the sun fully set.

It was also a delight to see that there is a gondola available for rides around the Marina, adding to the Venice atmosphere that we appropriated from our sister city in Italy. It was utterly charming, and the passengers were treated to an gorgeous evening of epic proportions. Soon after the sun set, the (badly, badly needed) rain began to fall, and we enjoyed the rest of the night below deck, listening to the rain beat on the rood as we gently rocked and loved every minute of it. Thanks, Commodore Farrell!

Though Sunday rose as another gloomy day (August Foggest), Venice doesn't let that dampen the spirits at all. It was the annual Festival Of The Chariots and the Hare Krishna colors were flying high. Everyone looks forward to this day each year as the parade comes down the Boardwalk and invites all it passes by to join in the dancing, sharing and fun, regardless of religious affiliation. Like it should be.

Stephanie captured a little of the action, so you can kind of feel what it's like as the saffron colored flowers are tossed out to the crowd by the people in saffron colored robes aboard the chariots.

In spite of the grey skies, the weekend was FULL of color, and the kind of days that carry on with the fun, no matter what the weather does. Yeah, we weren't able to do the usual weekend solid beach days, but were instead rewarded with perfect afternoon Bloody Marys by George at The Townhouse, occasional glimpses of blue sky, rain drops on our upturned and grateful faces, and a finale of a delicious meal at the good old Galley.

Weekends are just great in Venice ... no matter what. Hope yours was exceptional too. And extra colorful!