Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kim's Food Corner - Gone Too

I was walking to the beach the other day and noticed that Kim's Food Corner at 600 Mildred was gone. I guess it finally happened last month, but it's not my every day go to market (we go to the Abbot Kinney liquor store - for now) so I only just saw the shuttered doors now. It's sad.

Another little Mom and Pop shop gone. I wonder if the people with all the big ideas lately are going to put in a Walmart? Wouldn't that be the greatest?! I actually hear it's going to be a restaurant, which I guess is fine - as long as it's not a chain. I'll miss stopping in for beach provisions on my way down the boulevard. I'll miss the little small talk with nice Mr. Kim. I'll miss yet another spot where there was something affordable inside for anyone to buy. I'll miss the mural of the canals on the side.

With all of this happening so much lately, I truly hope it never comes to the day when I have to say "I miss Venice" because I then live in some remote village, unreachable by greedy landlords or giant corporations. I truly hope.

RIP, Kim's! You were really good neighbors, already missed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Farewell To Hal's - To Be Continued ...

A couple of weeks ago I got a frantic late night text from a friend who had heard that our beloved Hal's on Abbot Kinney was closing. I immediately put out a call to Don Novack, Hal's owner, to find out what the heck was going on. The bad news was that it was true. The mournful comments and true sadness spread all over town (and the world), and last night was the grand finale of Hal's at 1349 Abbot Kinney.

It was like a big Irish wake all week, with drinks flowing and old friends coming in to pay their respects ... so much so that Novack cracked, "If we'd been this busy all along, we wouldn't need to relocate." Some food for thought there, as often we don't know what we've got until it's gone. I went backstage at Hal's for the first time ever a few nights ago to chat with Novack and get the real story. The joint was absolutely packed to the rafters, and Novack was like a politician, getting stopped every two inches by someone who had a hug, needed a photo, or wanted to express their gratitude for 30 great years of fun at Hal's. It took us like 20 minutes just to walk back along the bar. Once back there - wow. I'd never been behind the scenes at Hal's in all these years. The place is a winding labyrinth of hallways and storage, and a bustle of workers effortlessly gliding by and getting to where they needed to be, providing the same great food and service on almost their last night as they've been doing for decades, with many of the same staff members. I got to see Executive Chef, Manuel Mares, in action with his guys. You could tell that as busy as they were, it was also somewhat emotional back there.

The real story is not that Hal's is being kicked out. Novack went to the landlord to negotiate an extension of the lease when it expired in a few years. The amount that the rent would be raised to then would be such that Hal's would have to charge $40 for a plate of calamari, "and that's not our customer, " said Novack. So it's not exactly about getting the boot ... but it is about that almighty dollar. Novack and the landlord made a business deal, simple as that. The staff will be absorbed by other Venice restaurants (like Sunny Spot, Saltair, Danny's Deli, Canal Club, James Beach, The Sidewalk Cafe, and The Brig), as there will be some down time while Hal's sorts out their next location ... which right now appears to be in Playa Vista (aka The Truman Show) or down the street - or both. As they say on the commemorative T-shirt (of which I was delighted to receive the first one - and hid it until last night's closing!), "The Adventure continues ..."

So the adventure will continue, but it will not, of course, be the same. Venice will never be the same. That is the big problem with all of this that people are having ... that Venice is changing too much, into something that is becoming difficult to recognize. Too posh. Too hipster. Too anonymous. Too ... I hate to say it ... cheesy. At some point, someone has to stand up and say enough. That they have enough money already, and they'd NEVER sell to the highest bidder. SOME landlord has to say, you know what, I have enough money, I had enough when rents were normal. I want cool people here, not wealthy posers, and I'm gonna make sure of that by charging a livable rent (to residents and businesses) and preserve some of what made us special to begin with. BE A HERO, Man!!

SOMEONE has to make a stand. With all the people of Venice saying they can't stand what its becoming ... how is it able to become that? Too much talk, too little action. I'm getting messages from people saying it's to the point where they want to start doing illegal things to make a point ... that's not the answer, but it does show you the frustration many of us are having with the nauseating robbery of our neighborhood. And with all the money we're pouring into the City Of Los Angeles with our new, outrageous rents and property taxes, we still only receive about 1% of the city's budget ... so we have all the trash and mess of all the people who come here, but none of the support that goes along with that. It's a problem. But I digress ... (for now)

For now, the story is about how very much people loved THIS Hal's. People met their spouses there - "Right there in that table! You have to take that table with you!". People celebrated birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, births, everything at Hal's. Many people called it their office, and you could see the same familiar faces bellied up to the bar each afternoon. Most of them were there last night.

This was a place that had a Writer's Block evening dedicated to it, with a Q and A following - about a restaurant! This was a place that had a Facebook page dedicated to it's famous Turkey Burger - which seemed to be the menu item that most will miss most. I personally will miss and crave the Seafood Grill ... and hope it follows them all to the new location.

This place was mainly about love. Love of family, love of community, love of art, love of good food and drinks, love of friends, but mostly love of Venice. The Venice of the last 30 years, the Venice of now, and the Venice of the future (Let us hope that we will still recognize that Venice). Let us hope that people will start making a stand about it, and help to preserve the unique, eccentric, artistic beautiful place that we all fell in love with. We don't want to see turned into a boring Beverly Hills type, generic, fancy, haven for douchebags. Many believe that losing Hal's is a final nail in our coffin. I do not. For whatever buildings and rooms are dear to us, it is truly the people that make anything special. We still have the people. We still have the ability to come together and preserve and protect what is special about Venice to us.

Some believe that this is progress. I do not. Fancier homes, steeper rents, and more expensive restaurants and stores is not progress. It's actually the demise of our culture. It's the homogenization of our society, and by everyone being the same, everyone loses. That's just my opinion, of course, but it's my strong one. It also cannot be sustained. This madness will jump the shark, like everything ultimately does. There will be empty storefronts, vandalized while they sit vacant. Big, ugly box houses will sit empty when no one can afford their property taxes. Tourists will stop coming because the big, expensive scene will be gone, and they have all those chain stores in their towns anyway ... So keep it up, you greedy lot. And hang in there, REAL Venice people. Once it all becomes a ghost town again, you'll be able to snap up something great for a song! Onc can hope ...

But back to the LOVE. "The outpouring of love has been overwhelming," said Novack. He and his dear wife, Linda want everyone to know how much they appreciate the love and support the community has given them for the last 30 years ... "Thank you so much, and see you soon!"

Casa Linda is closing on May 1st as well, and will re-open down the street. Hal's will re-open, so it's really only a hiatus for that turkey burger and seafood grill. It's just ... you know. Not the same. As the card they gave out stated ... the important thing is to "Celebrate Life Together".

As the sun set on the last day of Hal's and the place filled up so much there was a line 25 people long out front (something I've never seen at Hal's!), it was clear that the important thing was the celebrating together. Destin Clover sent me a photo of the sunset behind Hal's last night and said, "Good times come and go ... looks like this one is gone." Ugh. As you looked at the old friends hugging, remembering, crying, baring breasts, wailing on harmonicas, dancing on the bar, laughing ... it was clear that truly more than anything ... Hal's was about the LOVE.

And this morning, it's gone. Hal's the place, but not the love. As moving trucks were already parked outside this morning, there were also candles outside, like at a car accident memorial. The love remains. We'll miss you so much, dear Hal's. Let us all use the feelings of last night to draw us together and help to keep Venice so incredibly special ... together.

Follow @HalsVenice on Twitter and check in with their website - HalsVenice.com - to keep up with their new developments.

*There will soon be a friends page on the website with all the photos taken the last couple weeks that you may go and download as their gift to you. Thanks for the memories, Hal's!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Keep It Clean - A Waterkeeper Comedy Benefit On Earth Day

Ok, bit of a conundrum. Some of my dearest friends on this planet invited me to a benefit for Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization near and dear to my heart - on Earth Day. The only thing was that it was a comedy show benefit, and I'm someone that doesn't really find comedy funny that often. Stand up comedy is usually too mean spirited and awkward for me to enjoy that much, if I'm honest. But then I'd probably even suck it up and go to a Bieber show or something if it was for Waterkeepers, so off I went to the Avalon in Hollywood.

There was mingling, and information, and lots of tequila courtesy of Patron, one of the evening's sponsors (the tequila would help with making the comedy more funny, I figured). There was a very cool car on display coming out soon from Toyota (another sponsor) called the Mirai, that's only emission is water. Host Kevin Nealon joked that if we all here in California bought one, it would solve the drought! Not a bad idea ...

Nealon kicked off the show with, "I see you're all fans of water ..." and then went on to tell a story about his goldfish dying because of unclean water. "Goldfish are like foodies when it come to water, it has to be clean." He informed the crowd that Waterkeeper Alliance currently has 252 Waterkeeper organizations around the globe in 20 countries. So far. They focus on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. They patrol and protect more than two million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines - and I took all that right off their own materials. It's so important, and as we saw an absolutely sickening video of a river choked to death with a mass grave of fish, you understood how they came up with the idea for a comedy show - it would be way too depressing to even talk about it there wasn't also a little laughter.

There was actually just that, little laughter for Brad Garrett, who was there to introduce Ray Romano, and proceeded to rip on Ray Romano and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (President of Waterkeeper Alliance) in just that mean spirited and awkward manner that I was leery of. I settled in for a long night.

I was pleasantly surprised by Ray Romano, I have to say. I never watched his show, so wasn't familar with his schtick, really, and I was cracking up. He talked about the kind of friends you have as you age, and now he's in the stage where you want to be friends with as many doctors as possible. "I'm not gay, but if a gay doctor has an MRI machine, I'm sleeping over." He made some fun of his kid - "If my kid was on the space shuttle, he'd be watching his pee float." - and his wife - "Women want you to spend every waking moment paying attention to them, and then when they're sleeping, they want you to sketch them." HA! Yeah, so?

Sarah Silverman was up next, seeming unprepared (which I thought a little odd considering some in this crowd had paid thousands to be there. You might want to save the new, untried material for another time. I like her a lot, don't get me wrong, but I probably would have rehearsed for this event). Ignoring the "Keep It Clean" theme, about the only thing I can even repeat (barely) that she said was, "I have Angelina Jolie's lips - in my underwear." I'm not nearly a prude, but she made one guy in there real uncomfortable, and I can't tell you why because my Mom might read this, and we want her alive. But I admire not giving a rat's ass ... therefore, I admire Silverman.

Robert Klein brought it back to water and ripped on hypocritical Senators and corporate polluters (the main problem) and talked about how Americans are dumb. How most people in the U.S. think fellatio is a Shakespeare character and cunnilingus is an Irish airline - ba dum bum. He closed by saying, "I wish you not only clean water, but water itself." With California down to its last YEAR of a water supply, his wish was well taken, and seconded by all. It's honestly getting scary, and needs to be taken extremely hardcore seriously right now. (Especially by Big Agriculture - the main offenders).

JB Smoove bantered with Nealon, and Rachael Harris presented a great video of comedians talking about what water meant to them. It was funny, but also surprisingly touching, as these were funny people being funny, but also being nostalgic, and themselves moved by what's happening to these watering holes we grew up loving.

Cheryl Hines (Larry David's former t.v. wife, Bobby Kennedy's current wife) came on to thank everyone and introduce Tig Naturo, who I'd never heard of, but when I said I was going to see her, a friend told me she was like Mitch Hedberg - just about the only comedian I've ever found to be truly hilarious. Well, good job, friend, because she killed it. I had actual tears in my eyes from laughing. If she's on the bill, I could see myself going to more comedy shows. She did this bit about how people laugh that was hilarious. Like the sigh people do after a laugh, "like they're reminiscing about one second ago." Or the person that throws out a pig snort in their laugh, who she so badly wants to find out one day is an actual pig in the audience that comes up to her and says, "Pig fan!" (that one was funnier if you were there). The one that just killed people though was when she talked about seeing an actual sign at a public swimming pool that asked people to refrain from entering the pool if they had "Active diarrhea". As if this was so commonly an issue that there needs to be a metal sign made. People were crying ... and then a man in my row showed me a photo that he'd actually taken like two weeks before of just some sign in Santa Barbara. That's a real thing. Naturo ended by saying, "So I guess I did have water material." Hoo boy ... that was funny stuff. (Naturo is also a breast cancer survivor, and joked about even that in hilarious fashion - not easy).

Dan Aykroyd and Jon Lovitz came on briefly and charmingly to introduce Martin Short. They are so clearly great friends, and that was touching too. Akyroyd said he'd want Lovitz as his friend on a desert island, "because we'd laugh until we starved to death." We all could have had more of them and less of Short, I think, as his set was basically just talking about how great he was. I think facetiously, but still. He made it into kind of a roast of Bobby Kennedy, which I'm not down with because I think the man is simply great. About the funniest thing Short said was that Kennedy looks so good these days he gets mistaken for Rachel Maddow. Courtesy laughs, but nice of him also to be there to support his friend and Waterkeeper Alliance.

But seriously, folks ... the best part of the show (after Naturo) was Kennedy's speech. It was so inspiring, and so vital for really everyone to hear. He told about how he moved to California and has loved living at Point Dume and having a swim every morning to start his day. How it calmed and healed him, and when it recently rained (not nearly enough), how he and his son couldn't go in the water for three days, and that felt like a theft to him.

And it IS a theft. Corporations polluting our water to the extent that you can't go into our publicly owned waterways or eat the fish within them without fear of getting sick or dying, and that is a robbery of our right to clean water, and should be punished accordingly. How his memories of the sea air, the feel of the clean water, the fish he'd caught as a boy, how much more special those thoughts and feelings are to him than any electronic device spent childhood could ever hope to be, and how important it is to not only share water and nature with the kids of today and the future, but to preserve it for them. "We will keep these waterways clean and protected for the kids," Kennedy said in closing, to a thunderous - and well-deserved - standing ovation.

We all carried on to the (fun and funny) after party, truly feeling not only greatly entertained, but deeply inspired to play any part in helping the superheroes of Waterkeeper Alliance in anything they need help with. And you all should too. It's a really big deal, and everyone has to treat it as such now. Donate, because legal battles against big, sinister, polluting companies takes a lot of dough. Pressure those companies to change their filthy habits by not supporting them in any way with your dollars. I think, most importantly, love and respect your waterways, and hold them dear. When they're destroyed, so are we.

Please support Waterkeeper Alliance, and #Keepitclean!

Twitter: @waterkeeper
Instagram: @waterkeeperalliance

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy 45th, Earth Day!

Today is the 45th Anniversary of Earth Day ... and we've never needed to pay more attention to it. California is in a record drought, with like one year's supply left of water. ONE year. The last white rhino on the planet has to be protected by armed guards in Africa so filthy poachers won't kill it for its tusk. THE LAST ONE. Gale force winds washed away an entire beach outside of Sydney, Australia, gone for good. FOR GOOD. And that's just the crazy environmental issues of this week.

How anyone can deny the urgency of taking care of our beautiful, spectacular, miraculous Earth each and EVERY day is just beyond me. For there to be a single climate change denier left in these times in our world means they have serious mental problems. Each and every person needs to make some effort every single day. Then it just becomes a habit and we can all go forward breathing a little easier ... or at least breathing.

For the last bunch of years, Disney has released an eco-friendly film to celebrate Earth Day, and if some cute monkeys don't get you to stop what you're doing and pay attention to the treasures of our planet ... then we're really doomed. Enjoy!

Happy 45th, dear Eaaaaarth Day, Happy Birthday to you!

Every day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Won't Stop Falling

OK, I've read better poetry, sure. Correctly spelled even.

But I just like so much how someone would stop and take a moment to express their feelings in a creative way to share with all who pass by. It wasn't meant for me (that I know of), but they were obviously thinking of someone special to them, and I like whenever that happens. Wherever. However. So yeah. I do like it when you loose control.

Let someone know how you feel today, whether by a little vandalism, a real, actual phone call, a skywriter ... you'll know what to do.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Choose Life Weekend

It seemed like everyone just felt like going NUTS this past weekend. Spring is in the air, people have kind of been hunkered down, and this weekend was all about getting out there, seeing your friends, and doing stuff outside together. The good omen to start it all off was the first bloom of 2015 for my favorite hibsicus, Sahara Wind. It pretty much always means something good is about to happen.

That good - REAL good - came in the form of Brian Dunsmoor's birthday Crawfish Boil with all of our best homies in attendance.

This is one of my very favorite meals, not only because it is mouth watering delicious, but because you all stand around the table together, getting messy and not caring at all. It's a very communal gathering, and one that helps you get to know your neighbor in a fun way.

We all sucked the juice out of the crawfish heads, and gnawed on our corn on the cob, sitting there under the bright purple jacaranda tree in the sunshine. Having a blast and soaking it all in and up, a ladybug flew down and landed right on my head. Another good omen, and good luck to go with it!

Lacey was the lovely hostess of the day, and little Bootsie was right there in her pocket all day, making sure everyone was having a good time. The day turned to night, we all turned into animals, and that was the end of recording any of it.

The next morning dawned with surprisingly clear heads, and that meant good decisions. Like Hinano's for breakfast. Another posse was rounded up, and everyone felt a lot better about the day after a burrito and a beer. It was then that our friend, Chris, said, "Today I was going to choose Couch, but now that I'm out here looking around at everyone out having fun on a beautiful day, I'm glad we chose Life." Truth. One should always choose Life over Couch. This was confirmed over an alley toast with our Fernet digestif, and it was off down Speedway to keep the party going.

Along the way, we chanced upon a classic car show in the beach parking lot off of Venice Boulevard, where one fresh ride was cooler than the next.

People milled around talking cars, watching the lowriders bounce up and down, and generally digging the scene of a glorious Spring day at the beach.

It was impressive. I'm not sure who it was put on by (was not remotely in reporter mode), but I saw one of my neighbors out there showing off his ride.

 People on bikes, girls on skates, speakers blasting from the coolest cars possible ... it was a good day at the beach.

Bloodies at The Townhouse became ocean dives became back to Hinano's became ditching some of it became making food became more drinks and sunsets and more friends and more ... and somehow all of a sudden it's Monday again and that weekend is now a blur of memories and all I know is how happy I am that WE CHOSE LIFE. I hope you did too.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Replacements Live At The Hollywood Palladium!

We'd been excited for months about The Replacements getting back together and playing at The Hollywood Palladium, and I'm actually still super buzzed from last night's show. It was so fun, I felt like I'd time traveled back to Minneapolis to back in the DAY. That was helped by literally bumping into friends from back in the day every few feet it seemed. SO. FUN. Especially because absolutely everyone there was all the way into it. The whole time.

I went in to this show kind of off duty because the plan was to simply rage and feel and love it all without taking notes and photos (and I didn't have my rad photographer Paul G. with me either). So that's what I did, but now today am so hyper about it that I still have to write something to share with you how awesome it was. This band ... !

For the die hards, here is the stellar set list:

I'm In Trouble
Kissin' In Action (with a little Sabbath thrown in - Iron Man)
Little Mascara
Color Me Impressed (I was)
Love You Till Friday (I did)
Maybellene (Chuck Berry cover)
Treatment Bound (when Tommy said they all used to be a mess on stage and now he went to the                                      gym. Where he was on the treadmill for nine whole seconds before he needed a                                    cigarette.)
Take Me Down To The Hospital
Waitress In The Sky
Achin' To Be
Kiss Me On The Bus
I Will Dare
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out (with a little Hendrix "Third Stone From The Sun")
Sixteen Blue
The Ledge
I'll Be You

Whole Food Blues (awesome)
Can't Hardly Wait (And my friend Deb was there who wrote and directed the movie of the same name and I was so happy for her that they played it!)
Bastards Of Young
My Boy Lollipop (Barbie Gaye cover)
Never Mind

Then they left the stage and the sardine-like crowd roared for more. If you know my friend Shane and I at all well, you know that we LOVE the song "Skyway". LOVE. I also learned that singing that to girls in a real skyway was Shane's high school game. Smooth. But we are not people - nor should you be - that yell out requests, and I said, "It's going to happen organically. It's going to. I know it. But time was running out. Then Paul Westerberg came out alone, with just a 12 string acoustic. He played his solo act song, "Ghost On The Canvas". Then ... suddenly, the opening chords to "Skyway"! And Shane and I died happy. Then rose again to have the moment captured. Which it really wasn't, but you can probably tell our heads are beaming and about to explode with joy. Such a beautiful song, such a special treat of a moment with great friends and memories. Thanks, Paul!

The rest of the band came back out for the next encore and we got "Left Of The Dial" and the fantastic "Alex Chilton". Right about here was when I seriously contemplated dropping down off the balcony to stage dive across the entire Palladium floor. It just felt like the right thing to do, almost required. The guys suggested I stay put, so I settled for dancing around like the girl in the Sia videos.

The wonderful Replacements left the stage again, but there was such a thunderous roar for more that they came back out and played - aptly - "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5 (!) then closed out the night with "I.O.U." Phew. The lights came on and everyone was spent from the rock and the loudness of it all, but the happiest exhaustion you can imagine.

The merch line was endless, the lines for street dogs outside were endless, and the total fun of it all seemed endless too, as we kept bumping into more (super happy) people we knew. I even walked smack into one of my dearest friend's brother-in-law in town from Minneapolis! The celebration continued on in the parking lot with everyone raving on about what was their favorite song, swapping show stories from back in the day, and altogether not wanting the night to be over.

So, I guess I'm saying you probably want to get there when they come to your town. It's a damn good time, even without a Minneapolis connection. The Replacements are BACK, People!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Turquoise And Tobacco - Venice Made By Laura Genevieve

If you were at Coachella last weekend, or are going this weekend, all reports back insist that THE accessory for Festival chic this year are the fantastic pieces from Turquoise And Tobacco, the Venice-made jewelry company by my friend, the darling Laura Genevieve.

Laura was born in Kansas, "in a town so small I didn't even know you could have fashion be a career." Her parents had lived in California, but moved to Kansas to be near family, and Laura's Mom always said to her, "Get back to California for me." The family took road trips to the Golden State every year, where that request was solidified in the mind of young Laura. All those stops at National Parks and taking the Amtrak train instilled in her a love of travel, a love of nature, and on one particular trip to Albuquerque, a true love for turquoise.

She wanted to be a triple threat growing up, a singer/dancer/actress, and auditioned like crazy for everything, winning scholarships and chasing the dream. Fashion was always her thing, and when her Mom taught her to sew, Laura began ripping up things and putting them back together in her own way, which got her a lot of attention at school, "where I stuck out like a sore thumb." (We bonded over that, because I was the exact same way. Madonna gloves and a big hat to the football game? Of course.) The highlight of these times were when Laura exactly replicated Jennifer Aniston's fake dreads for her prom. I bet those Kansas kids are still talking about that one!

When it came time to decide on school and a career, Laura detoured on her way to California to Seattle to live with her Kansas boyfriend. She wound up staying a lot longer than she'd planned, splitting up with the boyfriend, but launching her fashion career as a buyer and model for the late Seattle boutique, Sway and Cake. This gave her a taste of the travel and trade shows, and pretty much cemented for her the industry that she wanted to work in.

New Year's Day 2011 found Laura finally making the move to California, to live in Venice - "And only Venice." (Again, my thoughts exactly.) Very soon upon her arrival, she met and fell in love with the equally darling Jonathan Strader, which again affected her life choices (and ensured that they will always win "Cutest Couple" wherever they go, no matter who's there). Now she was interested in a way to touch lives, support other cultures, watch Strader surf, and live a bohemian, gypsy life wherever the surf was good.

On one such surf trip, to entertain herself, Laura made herself a necklace of a skull and leather fringe. People immediately began asking her where she got it, and begging her to make them one, so she did. She was working for various stores and helping out other labels, when she started posting photos of the necklaces on Instagram. She immediately had strangers asking where they could get one. That led to stores and fashion websites placing orders, and soon, "When the side thing takes over your day thing, you quit the day thing and do that, so I did." Did she ever. One day, the actress Vanessa Hudgens was photographed wearing Laura's most popular design, "The Drifter", and she was off to the races. Requests to have the necklaces for photo shoots and fashion layouts began pouring in, and now it's all Laura can do to keep her materials in stock.

When deciding what to name her company, Laura asked herself what she was inspired by ... Native American culture ... family road trips across the West ... Riding horses across fields ... and the name "Turquoise And Tobacco" sprang to mind. Turquoise because she'd always love and been drawn to it, Tobacco because she never wears black in New York (ha!) and she loves the brown of an old, worn in cowboy boot, and she wanted to pay homage to the Native American aesthetic as well.

Laura is a friend who I can get really Venice-groovy with, like Full Moon ceremonies, dream manifesting, and drawing spirit cards and stuff. One such time, Laura drew the Whale card. The Whale is the record keeper, that encourages you to look at your past to create your future and find your own "whale song". When Laura looks back, she is inspired "from the Great Plains to the shores of California, and everything in between. Embracing freedom." Clearly, it is no accident that we are friends. Laura's whale song now sings of travel, surf, fashion and fun. "I'm in this to create the life I want. The whole goal is to have a simple life, travel the world, and do this." Amen, Sister.

In talking about our beloved Venice, Laura says, "The moment I got here - instantly - everything happened for me, for the good. It was the only non-pretentious place in L.A. that was real. That was gritty. That people acted like humans." (Granted, this was a couple of years ago, and there have been some hipster invasions, but still.) Like many of us, her favorite place in all of Venice other than the beach is "The Hinano". I love her.

Turquoise And Tobacco is available all across this great country Laura has traversed ... and abroad. New designs and materials are also in the works, just you wait! Get your special, handmade treasures here:




You can also find these gems in Venice at Animal House and The Golden State, so far.

You can follow Laura's travel and adventures and life in Venice at:

Instagram: @turquoiseandtobacco
Twitter: @turq_tobacco


*Photos by Nico Guilis/@findyourcalifornia (black and white)
and Lauren Meyer, courtesy of Laura Genevieve.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Farewell, Anjela Shoe Service

I was in Death Valley a few weeks ago, and I wore my trusty black boots that go everywhere extreme with me - rock festivals, hikes, whatever. The hard core ones that have been re-soled no less than seven times. I could get new ones, but I love these, and that's that. Death Valley was so hot that I could tell the glue holding the sole on was letting loose, and to paraphrase Boots Riley of The Coup, my shoes were about to look like a Muppet mouth flapping.

When I got back to Venice, I walked on over to Anjela Shoe Service to visit with Andy and have him put new soles on for the umpteenth time. That's when I discovered that he was gone.

I'd been nervous about it for a while, as Andy had hinted at having to close due to his insane rent - after doing business on Abbot Kinney for at least all the 20 years I've been here. This was right on the tail of hearing the awful news that our beloved Hal's is closing (more on that soon), and I'm just sick of it. I think we all (those of us who love and care about a unique Venice) feel sick of it.

Andy's shoe repair was expensive, and he didn't always do the best job. He liked to put black shoe polish over the rubber natural colored sole, and it would rub off after a while and look real budget. He always called me "Michelle", and I finally gave up and let him. He refused to ever let me do a story about him and his old world, crammed to the rafters shoe repair shop that seemed to have absolutely no sense of order. The soles didn't last that long before I'd need them replaced again (like now), but I'd keep going to Andy, because we needed him there as one of the block's pioneers, and he needed to make a living. Plus I just liked shooting the breeze with him, a real character.

Andy never wanted the attention a story brings, and would always try to push me off on two old ladies he said he knew who had lived in Venice longer than anybody and would have good stories to tell. He never did hook me up with them, but maybe he'll see this somehow and we can finally tell his whole, Gepetto-like story (I like to think).

So another Venice institution is gone, all in the name of money and "progress". I keep saying it, but really, People. Look at the bigger picture. Once Venice has all the same stores and posers that populate everywhere else, there is no need for anyone to come here and put up with the parking and the locals resenting them. They can just go to their own stupid mall. Venice is supposed to be different. It all comes down to choices ... and that bigger picture. Think before you cash out, residents. Think before you push out, landlords.  Let's truly BE DIFFERENT.

Farewell, Andy. I wish you all the very best. I'm sorry your neighborhood couldn't keep you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Venice Public Art Gallery

I was delighted yet again to see another public art installation in Venice by the wonderful Robin Murez and Venice Public Art. Now when you go to Another Kind Of Sunrise for a coffee or breakfast bowl, you can also sit down and create a beautiful piece of art with their supplies, and then have it be there on display for all to see your latest creation.

It's fun to sit and look at the works done by complete strangers, or be people you may see every day and have no idea the art skills they have hidden up their sleeves. It's also great to have and support a little something unique on the block that is slowly turning into everyone else's same old mall.

I'm usually racing down the boulevard with somewhere to be, but now that I know this little gallery is here for us, I'll make a point of sitting down, taking a moment, and making something that might cheer someone's day like they did mine.

The Public Art Gallery is located at Another Kind Of Sunrise:

1629 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Down the sunny path.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Concert For Social Justice - Live From Hollywood!

Man, when I hear "Concert for Social Justice", I am, of course, there. The event was held last night at The Fonda in Hollywood by the Grammy Museum and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights to fund the organizations' "Speak Up, Sing Out: Songs Of Conscience" program that gets kids from K-12 to write songs about social justice issues. It was a show all the way up my alley.

The lovely L.A. traffic caused us to miss all but about the last chord of the marvelous Rocky Dawuni's tune, "Shine A Light" from his brand new album, Branches Of The Same Tree. His happy music with a message set the tone for what would be a wonderful night of voices singing out together in the name of social justice.

Up next was the Grammy winning group, La Santa Cecilia, and their Latin jams.

Led by La Marisoul in full yellow skirt, getting everyone up and dancing, as she said, "Social justice music can also be good to dance to!" I don't know what the words being sung were (in Spanish) but the universal beat was impossible to resist. You'll want to check them out for sure.

Actresses next took the stage to read letters from around the globe from people speaking out and making a difference for the world. Alfre Woodard led the way, telling stories from Malala in Pakistan, from a Kenyan woman leading a movement to plant trees, and from a woman rising up for the Mayan people ... all ending with the urge to "Speak truth to power". It was moving stuff, and solidified in the minds in all gathered there really what the evening was about - and how very important it is for us ALL to do that truth speaking.

Tom Morello had people yelling for him before he even took the stage - and proceeded to incinerate it. The Nightwatchman and his Freedom Fighter Orchestra had some technical difficulties (like, no sound from the guitar - "The rock can't happen with no guitar."), and took that time to ask "Are we all in this together, People?!" We assured him that we were, and the floor was rewarded with Morello telling them all to move up and get rid of the velvet rope that separated them. 'Cause that's how he is.

With the crowd now smashed together up front, they lit into "One Man Revolution", with its fresh verse change to say, "On the streets of South Carolina, they're ready to blow" - referring to the murder this week of the unarmed Walter Scott, that this time was fully caught on tape. This cannot stand, and we'll sing about it and talk about it and protest about it and cry about it until it stops. When Morello yelled, "Fuck, yeah!" at its end, he was merely echoing the thoughts of everyone there.

"Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine"rocked the house silly, and then Morello did his now iconic take on "The Ghost Of Tom Joad", dedicated to RFK and our late friend, Tomas Young. People now anticipate his ridiculous guitar solo on this one, cameras out and toes on tip. I've heard it a ton of times now, and I still get chills every time - especially now on the again changed line "Wherever there's a cop shooting a guy ... Look for me, Ma, I'll be there!" We ALL need to be there now. When Morello lifted his "Arm The Homeless" guitar to do his teeth solo, it revealed the sign on its underside, "I Can't Breathe!" And really, none of us really can until this complete madness stops.

Everyone was on their feet after that one, screaming for more, and they got it. "The Road I Must Travel" sealed the deal for Morello with this crowd, as the place was all in, singing heartily along with the "Na na na na na!" chorus, and then losing it when it merged into the guitar riff from Rage's "Sleep Now In The Fire".

Another standing ovation, and the room was still trembling when a group of actors took the stage. Martin Sheen, David Arquette, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Chad Lowe took the stage to read letters from the men around the world who are speaking their truth to power. I had trouble hearing them because people were speaking loudly to each other up in the balcony, but did catch Lowe saying, "Tom Morello stood right HERE!" It was that kind of a performance.

"They said Social Justice, and I said 'Yeah'", said Melissa Etheridge when she came on to sing the great and aptly titled for the night, "Testify". Her voice is so unique, raspy and strong all at once, and just she and her acoustic guitar held the room rapt. Even more so when she talked about her coming out in 1993.  "Social justice starts with the individual. Someone steps up, someone else steps up, and then it's a whole crowd ... and now it's all 'Oh, gay marriage' ... We're all really different, and that's the thing we have in common." Truth! Then she sang her "Silent Legacy", with its beautiful line, "Pray in the darkness for wings to set you free ..." Arms were held in the air to applaud after that one.

Etheridge next talked about coming out about being a cannibas user. "Plant medicine is good medicine. The freedom to explore our consciousness is a very important freedom." More truth, hit home with her cover of Brandy Clark's "Get High". The lighting turned green, and the air grew thick, as we all smiled along, knowingly - or wistfully.

Etheridge brought on her old bandmates, Kevin and Felix (I think she said) to help her cover "Get Up, Stand Up", and believe me when I tell you, EVERYONE got up. Stood up. It was awesome, and then they played their jam from 1988, "Bring Me Some Water", which was equally well-received, with thunderous applause and whistling.

To introduce the next act, Etheridge confided that she'd originally thought of Jackson Browne as her sperm donor, but they went with David Crosby to be her childrens' "Bio Dad".

People went nuts when David Crosby and Graham Nash came out, and that's when I saw the exact same guy up and dancing on Monday at Arlo Guthrie, up and dancing on this night too. It was a big week for all the good old hippies - and those of us that want to be them - in Los Angeles, to be sure. They have long been outspoken on issues of social justice, and they opened with their perfect for the occasion, "Long Time Gone", and its verse that goes "Speak out you got to speak out against the madness, You got to speak your mind if you dare ..." Truth to power. Their gorgeous harmonies are still intact, and there were a whole bunch of stoked Baby Boomers in the house at that moment, trust me.

They followed that one with "Military Madness", again timely and classic. Nash took over the piano then for his truth speaking, "Chicago (We Can Change The World)", and the people loved it. Like arms in the air, swaying the whole time loved it. "We've been singing this one since the Civil War," cracked Crosby, "About something that just keeps getting worse." He was speaking about the people that run this country, and the wealth disparity, and they were singing a cappella, "What Are Their Names?" It was heavy, and again, extra true.

"It all starts with teaching the kids the right way," said Nash to introduce their classic hit, "Teach Your Children." Everyone with a voice sang along, and basically yelled the "And know they love you!" part. Hearts swelled.

As they did again when Kerry Kennedy and Bob Santelli of The Grammy Museum introduced the winner of their "Speak Up, Sing Out" contest, a girl named Jade Rhodes from The Brentwood School. She wrote and performed a song called "Invisible", about what a refugee from Darfur might be feeling and thinking. She held the entire room's attention, the entire time, and a star just might have been born. People loved her and shouted their encouragement, as she shyly left the stage. It was great, and showed how important and special the work for social justice is.

Kennedy said that when they were talking about the musicians they wanted for the concert, musicians who have dedicated their lives to singing - and acting - for social justice. "The first person I called was Jackson Browne, and he not only said yes immediately, he called his friends to join him."

 Out came Browne, saying just that, that he'd always just wanted to sing songs about social justice, and so he did. "Lives In The Balance" is just such a song. Listen to the lyrics and receive an education about unjust wars. Truth to power. "Far From The Arms Of Hunger" was no different, slow and lovely, but hitting as heavy as anything fast and hard. "Looking East" kept the wisdom and the beautiful music coming, and then he covered "I Am A Patriot" by Little Steven, and got the place dancing again with its slightly reggae beat. The faithful did not want it to end.

As always at a good social justice jamboree, you have to have an All Star Jam! As Morello is about the best ringleader in the world for these kind of things, he took the mic and said, "No Social Justice concert would be complete without a Woody Guthrie song to anchor that shit (Sorry, kids - the fight for social justice is not always PG13)! ... Whether you're of the Occupy Wall Street generation or the Aquarius generation ... This land is your land!"

All the evening's artists returned to the stage (except I didn't see Crosby and Nash?) to belt out that "Alternative National Anthem" together as one. La Santa Cecilia's accordion player added a lovely touch to this version, and folks took turns singing the ALL the verses, including the previously censored ones. It was especially great when young Jade Rhodes got her turn to take a verse, happily sandwiched between Morello and Browne. I mean, C'mon! It was a night to remember for everyone, but probably the most for her.

Morello called for the house lights to be turned up, so he could see that everyone in the place was standing up, singing "as loudly as it's ever been sung on Hollywood Boulevard to date" and jumping wildly up and down, "From the sound man to my 91 year old mom sitting right up there!" We stood, we sang, and we jumped for freedom, for justice and for rock and roll.

There was a long, mutual standing ovation from artists to fans and back, and Morello yelled, "The future is unwritten!" It's important to remember that. Nothing can't be changed. Nothing can't be improved. Nothing can stop us, when we stand up, and speak out - together.

Speak truth to power.

*Beautiful photos by Paul Gronner Photography.