Friday, December 18, 2015

The Venice Art Crawl: Holiday Edition!

The Holiday version of the Venice Art Crawl took place last night, and as usual, it was a complete treat for the neighborhood. Also as usual, you pretty much need a jet pack to get around to all the spots, but even without the jet pack (that we were promised by now!), I did pretty good. REALLY good, considering I was on foot (slightly faster than actually crawling) and had no map.

I was wrapping up things with work to get away for the holidays, so didn't get down to the Venice Pier in time to see the Electric Bike Parade take off, and would have loved to have taken part in that, seeing all the fun they had. I got home and hit the ground walking, starting off at Will Leather Goods on Abbot Kinney where Jules Muck was back in town and doing live paintings on leather. Of peoples' pets!

People queued up to get their little dog or cat portrait painted by Muck on a wallet, bag, or even a soccer ball. It was great to see Jules again, and great to see people get so excited about both her work and their pets.

Carrying on down Abbot Kinney, there were a lot of people out and about, but I was on a mission that could not be stopped unless it involved art. I got to In Heroes We Trust just a little too late to enjoy their  holiday nog ...

... But the holiday cheer was in full effect nonetheless, with revelers bundled up to combat the slight chill that we all think is Winter here. There was art, there was hula hooping (even in tiny toddler sizes, that one little moppet kept slamming into me with, and it was no problem), and there were gifts galore in case you could tear yourself away from the partying to check some things off your list.

I checked a great thing off of my list when I headed over to General Admission to have my Locals Only (awesome SoCal skate culture in the '70s photo book) book signed by the photographer, Hugh Holland. They had prints and Tshirts of the iconic photos available as well, which would make the perfect gift for the surfer or skater in your life (as would anything from Venice Originals, but they were closed for the night).

Across the street at Gotta Have It, it was going off, with both live music and live coloring, courtesy of their featured artist, Jared Hoffman.

They aren't included on the VAC map (that I still couldn't find and vastly prefer to the phone app to check things off!) for some reason that needs to be sorted out, because their art and parties at the Art Crawls are always one of the highlights for me.

Last night was no different, as a packed house spilled out on to the sidewalk, where I added a little purple to the coloring poster outside. Super fun, every time, bumping into friends left and right - which is actually the very best part of the VAC, even more than the art.

But the art is always rad, and the point of it all. I hitched a ride down to Washington to say hello to my fun friend, Michelle Blackmon at her great new space that featured the art of Lindsey Nobel, the live music of Christopher Hawley, and a light show by Todd Alter (and a spin art thing that you could do yourself!). It was great, and extra festive over there.

We passed some urban Carolers on the street, which I always love (my name is a verb at this time of the year!), and hit up Arbor (where you could get your photos printed on wood by Lindsey from The Blocksmith) and The Cow's End (where the great Outi Harma, Mark Saterlee and Roitash Rao were showing their work, and in Rao's case, live painting on trash. Awesome).

We popped in to Maui and Sons to see the work of Todd Goodman and Martin Cohen - awesome again. We're SO lucky to have so many talented people everywhere you turn! It sure keeps it interesting in these parts. Snowflakes were projected on all the buildings in Washington Square, so we could kind of fake that we have Winter (and it WAS pretty cold by the water).

I still couldn't find a map, so I missed some places that I didn't know were showing, but had heard there were things happening in the Venice Pier parking lot. Due to time, I missed the whole actual pier (which I found out later had art in all the little alcoves along the pier - bummer), but I did finally get to see inside of the Yellow Submarine. It was kind of strange, with people just climbing in, sitting on the fuzzy benches, and staring it each other. Okay, great, Clark Griswold nod, bounce.

Someone told me there was a giant Nativity scene set up in the parking lot made out of black lights and glow in the dark stuff, which sounded so Venice and awesome, it was kind of the point for us heading that direction. We looked all over and saw nothing of the sort ... until I saw a little cluster of people looking at the back of a pickup truck bed. We walked over and sure enough, there was the Nativity. Not exactly life sized, as I'd heard, but beautiful all the same, and had made by someone's Dad, according to the dog eared map I finally found on the ground. It was lovely.

I got a text to get over to the party at the corner of Venice and Abbot Kinney, which I guess is now called The Kinney Collective. I stopped at my house to drop stuff off, and when we walked down Abbot Kinney to the party, it was simply great. I could hear the music of my friends in the band, Nocona, welcoming the whole town to come and celebrate the holiday.

Local artists (Gary Palmer, etc ...), artisans (some of the cutest lingerie I've seen in a long while by CantiqLA), and neighbors came together to kick up our holiday heels right there on the corner in the center of Venice, and it was a blast. The Electric Bike Parade wound up there too, so we all came full circle, and we all loved every minute of it, staying put there until the end.

As I talk about becoming the circle, this morning I had to head back over to Washington to see in daylight the mural by Francisco Letelier that was rescued from the Pioneer Bakery, titled Becoming The Circle. It shows our People, residents of Venice, as we continue to endure the rapid change here, while trying desperately to maintain what we love about Venice. Like wonderful things such as the Art Crawl.

It was a perfectly festive note to wind up the Art Crawl year, with warmth and good tidings tangibly felt at every stop (and, as ever, apologies to all the stops I missed!). Thank you to all from the VAC that continue to work hard to provide such an absolutely Venice experience for everyone who attends. And HAPPIEST Holidays to you all!

With love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December Sunset

California has really been putting on a show lately with its nightly Sunset Spectacular. We've literally been meeting at the windows of my office at sunset time each evening to catch the free (and gorgeous) entertainment.

Sunsets (And sunrises. And full moons. And stars. And Winter. And Summer. And Spring. And Autumn ... you get it.) always make me wax poetic, or else think of poems by others that I love. Like this one, by Fred Babbin ...

December Sunset

The pink-blue sky
With the grey-blue buildings
And windows all in pink
With the jet streams flying
The pink becomes blue, 
Becomes grey, 
While our eye forms abstract designs
In the cold.
And the charcoal streets
With their white-blue lamps
To cancel out
The God-given darkness.
And finally, to the stillness of the night
We close our eyes
And dream of other worlds.

... And dream of other (better) worlds. Yes.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Venice Winter Wonderland

Yesterday was one of the most charming days that happens in Venice, with both the Abbot Kinney Holiday Stroll and the Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade falling on the same day.The day could not have been more gorgeous for Sunday outside, and the snow hill piled up in The Brig parking lot was in the process of melting all day.

Local children lined up to get their annual chance to experience snow in town, with a long sledding queue stretching around the parking lot as kids ran back to get in line again the minute they hit the hay bale finish line.

Sledding was not the only attraction by far, as kids could get their faces painted all fun, sit and make holiday crafts, and most importantly, sit on Santa's lap to relay their Christmas wishes to the jolly old fellow (and this was a really good, twinkly eyes, real beard Santa!).

With all the squeals of delight and happy, laughing faces, it's hard to believe that a Scroogey neighbor complained almost enough to deny our local kids the fun.

Listen, whoever you are ... RELAX. It's once a year. Some kids don't have the resources to get up into the mountains and see real snow, and this is there only shot. It's during the day. It's adorable. You really need to get over yourself, mostly for your own good. In my experience, nobody likes the buzzkill crabby neighbor, and word spreads fast. I"d concern yourself more (and your time would be better spent) with the Bang and Olufsen pop up shop on Abbot Kinney that blasted lousy house music until 2 am on Saturday night. They're days are numbered here in Venice too.

OK, back to awesomeness! Carolers strolled the boulevard, and little stuffed elves were hidden around the boulevard in front of shops that kids could discover and go inside and get a prize. Like a neighborhood Elf On The Shelf. Fun!

It was great to see what felt like all of Venice out in the sunshine, loving every minute of it. I've never seen the kids of Venice happier, and the whole operation was simply heart warming.

The fun of the day rolled right on into the evening, as it was also the Holiday Boat Parade over in the Canals. My friends, the Revelins, were hosting a fun party at their home on the Canals, so we had a beautifully perfect vantage point to watch the boat floats sail past.

The skies had now shifted into a rather ominous cloud mass, but the Christmas carols and holiday spirits were more than a formidable match for any dampening. The Revelins had what might be the most perfect for Venice Christmas tree I've ever seen. A surfboard tree!

The parade kicked off as the sun was setting, and the first boat to pass us by was a Batmobile, with a Batman that assured us he did NOT smell, and a Robin that really DID lay an egg.

There was a crowd favorite featuring a polar bear, with a sign asking us to "Lend a paw to help the thaw." So great.

There was a menorah float, there was a fantastic igloo, there was a floating gingerbread houseboat, all paddling as fast as they could to outpace the encroaching thunder clouds.

Alas, the rain won that race, but nobody seemed to care, as it just made it feel more wintery that we were experiencing actual weather.

A beautiful sea horse led float may have been my favorite, though I did confuse them for dragons at first.

When the rain picked up steam, we retired inside to sing Christmas carols led by our host, Rick, on guitar. The best was the whole gang belting out "War is over, if you want it ... !" at the top of our lungs together. It turns out we really do want it. It was perfect.

While warming up with our holiday cheer inside, the stars re-emerged outside, and it was time to take a stroll around the canals to see how all the bridges were decorated.

There was a bridge with ships, and a bridge with a Matterhorn looking mountain on it. All the lovely bridges reflected their lights on the water, and as people were photographing each other atop the bridges, new friendships were made. Everyone was laughing so hard in every photo, it was kind of hard to get a good one. Not a bad problem to have.

A bunch of our Venice crew was in New York to celebrate the wedding of our friend, Lexi, but another big bunch of us couldn't be there, so it was perfect when we crossed the bridge that said "Kiss" across the top of it, with a sign saying that if you kissed on this bridge, it would be eternal love. I blew a kiss to Lexi and Lewis and wished them exactly that!

And really, LOVE is the whole point of this season, and for events like this. Spending time with our loved ones, letting them know how much we love them, and going big to celebrate exactly that.

Love was also ALL I felt for our Venice yesterday, with its spirit of humanity and fun and good times always buoying up the proceedings. Thanks and love to all involved for what was a complete blast of a special, memorable day!

Fa la la la la la la la LA!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Colorful House

For years there has been a great house on Rialto Avenue that could almost have been Frida and Diego's place. Every wall was painted a different color, every surface spoke of whimsy and fun. I walked by the other morning to find it halfway torn down, and looking so sad.

I never knew the people that lived there, I have no idea why they sold or chose to tear down this great house, but I hope they know it will be missed. I hope the new thing that goes there can rise to their level of unique character, their level of Venice, and not turn it into another terrible, no personality, white square box. Please.

It reminded me of a kids poem called "Me And My Colorful House", by Kimo Duo ...

The entrance to my house is colorful
To greet anyone who comes;
Still grows that willow tree.

Who will come after me, I do not know, 
He will feel sorrowful though -
For those here ... in the past.

To the previous owners ... Thank you for all the years of day brightening! I hope you bring your fun to your next home.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Another L.A. Christmas!

If you've ever spent Christmas in Los Angeles, you know what it's like. Kind of weird. Usually bright and sunny, with people sweating in the scarves and sweaters that they want to wear to feel wintery, but don't really need. The streets empty out and it becomes a ghost town. The beach is nearly empty, because even though it's warm enough, it doesn't really feel right, especially if you grew up being used to a White Christmas.

Matt Ellis has a new single out now that portrays just exactly what that L.A. Christmas feels like in "Another L.A. Christmas". Even if you did grow up here, I've been told, it's still a little weird because it doesn't look like all the other Christmases on t.v. But there's still something great about it. Feeling like you have the whole city to yourself, and sharing it with the ones you love (that are still in town) creates a special bond, because you're here, alone together.

Aussie Ellis finally made it back home for Christmas last year, but while I'm freezing (and loving it) in Minnesota this year, I'll be thinking of him and his back here in Venice  ... singing this very song.

"Another L.A. Christmas" is now available everywhere on Itunes.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Venice Sign Got Lit For The Holidays!

The Venice Sign wasn't the only thing that got lit for the holidays last Friday. It seemed as if the entire town was on a party mission to go absolutely nuts ... so we did.

The festivities kicked off with Carolers caroling as Venice residents and visitors streamed in to the center of town to Windward Avenue, which had been blocked off for the festivities. Booths lined both sides of the streets, with local organizations and businesses making their presence known. You could buy hot chocolate and treats for good causes, and get your gift shopping started with crafty things and art.

Our local artists were down there live painting and sharing their work, and putting faces to names with people that admired their work. Francisco Letelier was there with his cool Venice clown mural, further illustrating how important that part of our Venice is.

A giant panda was installed in Windward Circle for the holidays, so that was cool, and provided many a photo op for the evening.

Since we don't have snow, snowflakes were projected on the buildings and a big peace sign created a nice centerpiece to the crowd, that by now was getting massive.

Drinks were flowing in back of the stage, and friends and neighbors shouted greetings everywhere you went. I ran into one friend who said, "We only see each other on the happy days!" which I quite like, actually. Living here, that's a lot of the days.

While First Fridays was happening over on Abbot Kinney, all the locals came here. One Venice treasure after another was spotted in the crowd, from Harry Perry to Vivian the Name On Rice lady. I hadn't seen some locals since last year's sign lighting, so you know this is the event that brings ALL of Venice together. I love it so much. Never does Venice feel more like a small town than at this beautiful and heart-warming event.

My dear friend Lacey Kay Cowden warmed up the crowd with her gorgeous tunes, gaining a slew of new fans in the process.

Cowden's version of "Santa Baby" got everyone in the holiday mood, and our whole gang was beaming with pride as our friend Lacey charmed the socks off of everyone. Check her Go Great Guns ep out on Itunes and keep your ears open for her next gigs, because you'll love it. Thanks!

Our wonderful Venice Symphony Orchestra entertained the crowd with a medley of holiday tunes, and even some Star Wars jams.

One member of the orchestra slayed with his loungey song, and another member got up and belted out some James Brown, and by that point, we ALL felt good.

It looked like the entire street was jumping up and down together when the VSO played "Hava Nagila" to kick off Hanukkah weekend, and it was at that point that I looked around at all the smiling faces in the crowd and felt so happy that at least here, it seems like we're all in it together. Everyone celebrating not just each others' holidays, but EACH OTHER. And how much we all love Venice.

A very Venice moment was when "Gonzo Rocks and the Alien Halo Experience took the stage and played a timpani sounding hibachi grill looking thing thing that was just weird enough to be perfect for Venice. I loved it, because Venice needs to keep it interesting. Keep it authentic. Keep it arty. Keep it weird.

It was fitting then that the VSO launched into "My Favorite Things" because looking around, these WERE my favorite things - and people - all in one place, enjoying it all together.

A bombastic "Carol Of The Bells" was the orchestral finale (and was awesome), and then everyone had to stand still for the politician chatter, sponsor (The Whaler - thank you!) thank yous, and some schmoozing up to the computer companies that no one who lives here and cares about really appreciates. I know this because this is when the crowd booed. Take note, Corporations. THIS kind of night is what Venice is about. Not you. And it never will be.

Anyway, so the last few years have featured celebrities with a link to Venice to flip the switch on the Venice sign, but this year the honor went to an adorable, smiley bunch of Venice elementary school kids who won an art contest.

Sunny Bak (and her dog Pinky!) introduced the kids, who didn't stop smiling or holding hands the whole time. They were precious, and Venice's future looks to be in good hands with them.

It was finally time to light the sign, and after the crowd counted down, the beloved Venice sign switched on with its red and green holiday outfit sparkling. Everyone cheered wildly, and high tailed it over to get their photos of the sign.

I headed in that direction too, but was stopped by a huge circle of people gathered around something behind me. I assumed it was break dancers or something, like when circles form around the entertainers on the Boardwalk. I squeezed through the crowd to see what awesome moves were being thrown down, and was instead disgusted to see a woman being Tazed by the police. Tazed at the Christmas gathering. Hmm. I was told that she had challenged a cop to a fight, and I guess the cop thought they were tougher than her with their Tazer. I guess we can be glad it was just that vs. a gun these days, but still. Overkill. In the middle of a giant holiday crowd. But let's not let that put a damper on our spirits or memories of a perfectly fantastic night for Venice.

Crowds of people lined the streets and took photos of the sign, where I found one of the Sign lighting founders, Danny Samakow, happily gazing up at the lights, and at all the happy people milling about. It was nothing less than great.

The Tree Man posed for photos in the middle of the street, where flasks and joints were passed around openly ("It's fine, no one cares, It's Venice", was one assurance I heard and agreed with when I passed by), and the party was now officially ON, along with the sign.

The Townhouse was also celebrating it's 100 year anniversary and the repeal of Prohibition, so that's where we all headed. It was party mayhem - so fun - and it all went on deep into the night/morning.

Happiest Holidays and Merriest Christmas to all of Venice and thank you SO much to all of the people who come together to put this superfun time on for everyone  - including, and most of all, the residents of Venice who attend each year, love our town, and support and fight for our beautiful beach city all year long. It might have been the holiday spirit, but I could almost physically feel the love for Venice in the air that night. I hope you felt it too, and carry it with you everywhere you go.

Holiday Cheers to you all!

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography and Me.