Monday, June 29, 2015

Painterly Skies Over Venice

If you were lucky enough to behold the sunset over Venice last night, you're probably still swooning over it today.

It felt like a privilege just to be standing underneath it, to bathe in the neon colors of the Heavens. The social media feeds blew up with one photo more gorgeous than the next ... but none of them could capture what it was really like to be there, basking in its glow. The photograph above by Ray Rae of Venice Beach Photos comes pretty close ...

These are the every day miracles that let you know there is always something bigger than us all, and that together we can all be something bigger ... and better.

Wow. Just wow.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Amazing Grace In The UNITED States

This has been the week we needed in these United States Of America. After weeks and months of pain and tragedy and awful news everywhere you turn ... we finally got some victories. The Supreme Court yesterday voted 6-3 in favor of the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that millions of Americans will continue to receive the damn expensive health care they need. This is HUGE. And long overdue.

Then this morning, the Supreme Court votes 5-4 in favor of Marriage Equality. The rights of marriage upheld for everyone, no matter who you love. This is MASSIVE. And way past time. Our President gave a wonderful speech celebrating this landmark decision. Please watch - and appreciate - how very far we've come.

Then after that, President Obama gave the eulogy at the memorial service for the slain North Carolina minister, Reverend Clementa Pinckney. It is an incredibly moving speech, showing us again that yes, we've come so far, but also how very far we have to go. But today, across the nation, we are able to revel in the AMAZING Grace that is possible when hearts and minds are open, and acting in the name of love. Our President breaks into that very song at the end of the memorial speech, and it is a special moment ... that shows how incredible and amazing everything can be when we are all truly UNITED.

Today, I can say it and truly mean it, with pride ... God Bless America.

*I bet it's gonna be going OFF tonight at The Roosterfish! Cheers, Friends!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I Grew Hemp

If you've been paying attention when walking around town lately, you've probably seen this little tag on the sidewalks.

I Grew Hemp! I love that they not only grew hemp, but that it pleased them so that they went around painting the town about it.

Hemp is a great plant, super rugged and super valuable (and has really nothing to do with weed, so that it was ever illegal to grow is just silly). If you have a yard, you too should be planting hemp. And milkweed for the butterflies. And lavender for the bees. And whatever else you like for you.

It's Summertime ... Grow everything! Including, and most importantly, yourself.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Venice Summer Solstice Go Skate Neptune Festival Father's Day

If you wanted to show off Venice to someone new, yesterday was the perfect day to do it. The sun was shining brightly from the very beginning of the day - no June Gloom for the Summer Solstice! This put everyone in a festive mood from the get-go, so the whole town was coursing with a party atmosphere ... Summer was officially here! Well ... not officially until King Neptune said so.

It was Go Skate Day 2015, so the Venice Skatepark was going off all day long. Booths were set up for merch, raffle tickets were being sold, and everyone and their brother and sister were out skating.

The day was jam packed with fun stuff to do, but you can get sucked in pretty easily when there's so much good skating and people watching to do. It was good to see a bunch of girls and women getting into the mix in the bowl, with one gal showing how it's done wearing only a bikini. Brave.

There were giveaways all day, music pumping, and prizes given out for best tricks. It didn't seem like anyone really cared who won, because we were all winning by just being alive on such a perfect Summer Sunday.

I watched the skating and chatted with friends as long as I could before I had to race over to The Townhouse to meet friends for long overdue drinks, and did that for as long as I could before I had to zip on over to The Sidewalk Cafe for their Solstice Party and to meet up with The Neptune Festival partiers.

King Neptune Masao Miyashiro and Queen Dakota Rayfield led their royal court (and anyone who cared to join) in a procession from The Sidewalk Cafe to the Breakwater, where they would emerge from the sea to declare it officially the start of Summer.

The chant of "Hail The King! Hail The Queen! Hail Summer! Hail Venice! Hail Yes!" was repeated over and over as the costumed revelers brought the party out on the sand.

We all stopped at the Skatepark to blow the conch shell at the skaters and pick up more people to head to the water with us. Cameras were everywhere as tourists were pleasantly surprised at this perfect Venice spectacle passing by in a big cacophony of fun.

Mermaids and pirates and hula hoopers and drummers whooped it up and encouraged everyone to join in the infectious fun, as royal pages carried the Venice sign across the sand.

Once at the water's edge, the King and Queen got into the water where they then emerged shouting the proclamation that NOW it was indeed Summer.

This news was met with hearty cheers, and you could plainly see the delight on the faces of every single face that shared in the festivities. This is exactly the kind of tradition that makes Venice so fun, and the community so stoked to call it home.

I had to bid farewell to the Neptune Festival goers and skip the after-party back at The Sidewalk because it was also Father's Day, and the friends were gathering to celebrate the Dads in our gang.

The kids put on a dance show ...

We all played a good old fashioned game of cards ...

Brats were grilled, icy cold beers were consumed, and the longest day of the year ended with great friends talking and laughing around a fire.

And THAT is how you kick off Summer in Venice, California! May it be the very best one yet for everyone, wherever you may be.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Summer Venice Art Crawl - Fresh Air, Fresh Art

The Summer edition of the Venice Art Crawl was held last night, and - per usual - it was a total blast. My bike is out of commission so this one was done on foot, and man ... there's a lot of ground to cover. We did really well, but still only got to hit about half of it. And it was awesome.

We started off on Abbot Kinney, since that's closest to my house, and it was fun to see some ladies painting outside of the Ohm Salon, while we were deciding if we had time for a quick drink at Wabi. We did not. Not if we wanted to see as much art as we could, and we did.

The Aust store had art by Francesco Masci and tunes by the Cerny Brothers ... and PBR's.

Heading toward the sunset, we passed by the old Anjela Shoe Repair shop, only to be stopped in our tracks by the darling new store in that space, L'Angels. Hand chosen by Andy from the shoe repair shop, the store features 100% work by L.A. artists and creators. Excellent.

Just about my favorite thing I saw in the entire Art Crawl were the jewelry pieces in there by Venice local, Susan Rich. She has taken chips off of the Venice Graffiti Walls and turned them into rings and necklaces. They are so cool I can't stand it. Get in there and see for yourself.

Cruising on up the boulevard, we stopped in to see my friend Peta at Wylie Wilson, where they were featuring smooth jazz and art by John Cesar - and all her wonderful lingerie creations, all made about six blocks away. These are the places that are actively keeping the spirit of Venice alive on Abbot Kinney, and they are the places locals should support. Period.

We crossed the street to see the exceptional work of Fin Dac at the C.A.V.E. Gallery. It's really impressive pieces depicting beautiful Japanese women, like the one on the wonderful new mural up the street.

My favorite piece in there was one of those women done entirely in Italian (Venice) mosaic. So cool.

Another highlight of this Crawl was in the magical space behind the walls of the Ecole Claire Fontaine on Abbot Kinney. There were about ten artists displaying in there, and a bunch of adults playing on swings and climbing trees. It was adorable in there, and showed a lot of good art too (we especially liked the pieces by Audrey McNamara). I'd never been in there in all these years, so it was nice to see the place where so many of Venice's little ones have learned their first lessons.

The Beach House next door featured the art of Alon Goldsmith, and a lot of super cute, super expensive beach lifestyle stuff. And a cool video projection floor.

We zipped in to say hi at In Heroes We Trust, checking out their latest vintage finds quick and checking out the party.

Onward we sped ... the Sole Bicycles garage had a packed house for the art of Isabelle Alford-Lago and her big apes. That one was quite the party, but we couldn't stay because we wanted to get over to Small World Books and check that out. Too late, they were already closed.

The Sidewalk Cafe was real fun, and great because they were showing the fantastic work of our friend, Christina Adshade.

I'd only ever seen her art online, so to see the detail and talent behind it up close was impressive. Plus they were playing old Guns 'N Roses, guys from The Sons Of Anarchy were there, and so was the Tree Man. That's a good Venice hang right there.

From there it was off to Gotta Have It, as most of the other venues were wrapping up by then. DJ Redbeard was playing o.g. reggae and dancehall, and I loved every single note he spun. Great party jams.

The art on display was by Bethany Richards aka Pink Riches. Her art and her style were both extra groovy.

Enjoying a beer with the crew there, we checked the map - and the time. We still had over half to see and no time to do it. I think next time I might have to begin on the Washington Boulevard end of things, because I never seem to make it that far down. Too much art to see is an excellent problem to have, however. The crowd spilled out on to the sidewalk, like parties of yore, and we all remarked how we loved the Art Crawl so much, because it reminds of how First Fridays used to be ... with music, and drinks, and most importantly, everyone you know.

We accepted our fate of only getting to half, and decided to console ourselves back over at Wabi Sabi. As we traipsed back over to Abbot Kinney, we passed an enormous, flowering cactus. As my friend Mario was with me, and we had just had a triumph of saving and sharing an endangered cactus that very day, we felt it was an appropriate artistic display to finalize the art portion of our crawling with.

We toasted a great day, a great crawl, and the fact that we got to see so much of that fresh art, in the fresh Summer air.

As ever, thank you so much to all the incredible people that put this celebration of our local artist together every time. It's such a gift to the community, and well ... just fun as hell.

See all you crawlers again in September! (the 17th. Mark your calendars.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Life For A Venice Cactus

The other day my friend Mario posted a picture of a big 80 year old cactus on Vernon Avenue that was scheduled to be torn out today to make way for another BUB (Big Ugly Box, as Mario calls them), asking if anyone could rescue it. They didn't care that this plant had made its home here for going on a century, because you gotta max out that property line, right?

Well ... Venice responded. In no time flat, friends and friends of friends chimed in to say they'd take it ... or some of it, as it was so big no one person could really move it all. Apparently, with a cactus you can just take a piece off and replant it and it will become its own new big cactus. As you can tell, folks have been showing up and taking their special pieces. My heart is full, knowing that this stately queen of a cactus will live on in yards all over Venice (and further afield, as some friends in the desert, Topanga, and other friendly climes have all staked their own claims to share), and that all these lovely people not only cared, but took action - just like that. It's a beautiful thing.

Today was the day. Mario went to check it out and found out that whatever had remained was relocated to a nursery - that the RENTER paid to do. It's still sad to see, but at least we know that new life will grow all over town. Note the previous renters tagged the house, saying, "GOODBYE HOUSE! See you, Casa. You've been awesome. Xo, Keith" "Say it isn't so" "Thanks for keeping Tiger and Jen" - all just bittersweet. So now away goes the little awesome house ...


Thank you to Mario for putting out the call, and to the real deal people of Venice, who have given new life to this majestic beauty that was almost destroyed in the name of "progress". Well done, everyone! 

*Photos by Mario Signore

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Wee Chippy - Revolutionary Fish And Chips For Venice

My colleagues and I were looking for fish and chips for lunch last month, and during our online search for a good spot, someone asked me about The Wee Chippy, knowing that I was in Venice. Well, I didn't know, I'd never heard of it. But I had to know. Now I know.

Joe Gorrie is a Scotsman, living between Venice and New York for the last fourteen years. He had been working in television, grew tired of that, and was about to move back to New York for good, when on a run to the beach, he decided that he had to do something that was "very Venice, something nuts" before he left.  When thinking about what that might be, he thought, "I'm from Scotland, I can do anything with potatoes, what about chips?" Fries. Whenever Gorrie was asked to bring something to a party, he was only ever asked to make his chips. So chips it would be.

The day before Gorrie was packing up to leave New York, he chanced upon a store in his neighborhood that had just opened. Inside were rows and rows of jars of flavored salts. Flavored salts! Now Gorrie knew that he had the thing that would set his chips apart. They would be flavored themselves vs. having to dip them in stuff ... which you could also do! Multi-flavors! It was on.

The Wee Chippy opened for business in March of 2013 in their little half-door space on Westminster, right off the Boardwalk. With no culinary background, no advertising, and only word of mouth, within two months of being open, The Wee Chippy was voted "Best Of Venice" in the LA Weekly. Gorrie also proudly dropped that they have more five star reviews on Yelp than Gjelina does, which is nothing to sniff at.

The chips are getting so much buzz because they truly are delicious. Everything is fresh, they don't pre-make anything. Each batch is made to order, and there's twelve different flavors to try. Everything from black truffle and garlic rosemary to jalapeno-ginger and Gorrie's favorite, sweet toasted onion. Then there are the dipping sauces (like the divine truffle mayo), combining for a flavor explosion every time. "It's never been about money, I wanted to do something for the neighborhood ... you get a bag of chips at the seaside and go for a walk ... Heaven."

Once the Chippy's reputation was built in the first year, Gorrie decided he needed to add a protein so it could be a full meal. The obvious choice was fish, so once Gorrie found the finest purveyor of Atlantic cod that he could, it was on. They started serving fish and chips last July, and there's been lines in front ever since. Speaking of lines, Gorrie said every day around 4:30 pm, there is a line that stretches almost all the way to the Skatepark, full of starving skaters ravenous after their sessions. "The skateboard kids have kept me in business. It melts my fucking heart, it really does." Those skate kids are loyal too, appreciating the Venice Locals discount Gorrie hooks them up with (and there might be an occasional 4:20 deal too), even wearing Wee Chippy shirts in contests. "We take care of each other majorly ... they really did save the shop," Gorrie added, gratefully. I love it.

There's something about fish and chips at the beach that is just the best. "I want to bring fish and chips into the 21st Century," explained Gorrie. "I want to do old school fish and chips with a modern spin, with different flavors for every nation. I want to introduce people to new flavors via the most universal food people can share." This new take on it (being perfectly executed by Gorrie's chef from New York, Victor Martinez) has attracted a lot of attention from top chefs all over town wanting to collaborate, and now Gorrie's fellow Scotsman, renowned chef Grant McPherson is in talks to open Wee Chippy locations in Las Vegas ... and it all started here, just off the Boardwalk.

In addition to Vegas locations, Gorrie is dreaming up more ways to bring flavors to the people: a line of potato chips, condiments, sodas, and even a partnership with a chocolatier are all in the works. Oh, speaking of the sodas ... the Wee Chippy label root beer is one of the best I've ever had. It was so refreshing and old fashioned and yum with my fish and chips that I'd like another right now, please. Catering, an app to have chips delivered to you on the sand on the beach (!) ... Gorrie is full of ideas for the Chippy. You may also soon be hearing about rooftop fish frys at the Sunset Suites hotel nearby. Fun.

"Venice locals have made this the place that it is (hence the discount)," Gorrie reiterated. When he put a bench out front for people to sit and enjoy his wares upon, the Police told him he'd have to move it or get a fine. He refused and it remains. This bench is a meeting place. People come in the morning with their dogs and kids, have their coffee ... other people bring their own chairs. It's a place for people to congregate with their neighbors, and build community. Banning tables, chairs, benches and even trash cans (Yes! Gorrie was told he couldn't have a trash can in front! Seriously, people have to stand and eat and walk until they find a trash can. Nice red tape, City Of L.A. Another vote for Venice Cityhood.) hinders that. Cops have been called for a classical guitarist (Vinny!) playing out front. He couldn't play there, but he could play 25 feet away on the grass. Ridiculous. Let's work on that, Venice. Anyway - people have made friends with each other just from meeting at the Wee Chippy, and that's a beautiful thing.

Gorrie and his sweet rescue dog, Theo stick pretty close, getting their sandwiches at Zelda's and smoothies at The Fruit Gallery, but they do love to stroll over to Abbot's Habit to get that bagel. Other than that, you can usually find them in their quaint corner of Venice (that really should be a true food court, with tables and chairs and live music and fun. Come on already.), keeping an eye on the Chippy.

"I CHOSE to do The Wee Chippy here in Venice. There was just something about it. There is so much world class untapped talent just walking by every day here...This is an AMAZING community. Everyone here has my back, the loyalty is beyond," said Gorrie with true sincerity. "I don't even want to go back to New York. I don't want to go anywhere else - gospel truth - I only go as far as the pier. I eat, breathe, work and sleep here, and I love it." I totally get it.

As I finished my absolutely delicious lunch, Gorrie said, "I just want to do good quality food that everyone can afford, and give back to Venice what it's given me." The tag line for The Wee Chippy is "Revolutionary Fish and Chips", and in today's Venice climate, that statement is about as revolutionary - and appreciated - as can be. Viva La Wee Chippy!

The Wee Chippy is open every day, 12-7.
1301 Ocean Front Walk #9
(the ordering window is on Westminster)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wabi Sabi - Beauty In Venice's Imperfection

Ever since Wabi Sabi opened on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in 2001, it's been our go-to place for sushi. We were sad when the Korean liquor store in the location at 1637 Abbot Kinney closed up shop, but really good sushi just a walk across the street consoled us quite a bit. Fourteen years later, it's still one of our favorites, and in fact, has become even more of a beloved treasure more recently when it's become one of the few places on the block that you can still see a lot of locals.

I sat down the other day for one of my favorite cocktails in Los Angeles (the grapefruit basil martini - pure Summertime!) with Wabi Sabi's manager, Fumi Kimura to catch up and hear the latest on what's going on with our hangout. Kimura (who has been at Wabi since a month after they opened) told me that after Yo Santa Monica Mirror posted an item about the Wabi Sabi building being sold (for 7.4 million!), the restaurant has been inundated with calls and emails from people wanting a table for their last night, in a total panic that the place was closing. As of now, that is not true.

Kimura said that yes, the building has sold. Yes, there is a new owner. But no, they don't have a new tenant, and Wabi Sabi is staying right where it is, for as long as the new owner allows them to - and even they don't know how long that will be. Total limbo. If the building's new owner is smart, it will be a long, long time. With the closure of our Hal's (now going to be a stupid Houston's/Hillstone!), Wabi Sabi has picked up the slack. The community really can't handle the closure of another community fixture, not without a lot of resentment building up for whoever would take over. So let them be! NO MORE CHAINS! Venice is not everywhere. Gross.

Wabi Wabi is now the place you can walk in and wave to all your neighbors at Happy Hour (5:30-6:30). Wabi Sabi is one of the few places left on AKB where you can get a real drink (and a delicious one!), not just beer and wine, and that liquor license is real valuable. The art on the walls is by local artist legend (being evicted from his Venice studio) William Attaway. The chalk drawings above the bar are by our homegirl, Anna Kondo. Locals who have been priced out and have had to move away make the drive back to Wabi Sabi specifically, always expressing their relief that Wabi is still there, thank God. Wabi Sabi is also one of the places where it's not a hipster scene, and the staff is genuinely glad to see you.

We LOVE the Wabi Sabi staff, and they love each other. It's fun to see people working among friends, going out together in the neighborhood when they get off, and enjoying and helping each other when they are at work. I wanted to take a photo of everyone, and they all wanted to wait until they could all be in it ... so we waited. In the middle of a dinner rush, the sushi chefs can still find the time to make a little origami treasure for a little girl regular. It's like that.

Kimura said that locals are feeling sad that Venice is losing its fabled edge, and are giving up, "but now is the time for us all to appreciate each other even more ... now is the time to grow together in a special way." What a lovely way to put it.

Wabi Sabi means "Beauty in imperfection" in Japanese, and with so much imperfection going on all around us all the time, Wabi Sabi is truly a bit of beauty within it all, and we're all so grateful to still have it.

Wabi Sabi is OPEN - every day.
1637 Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Venice Instameet - Venice Photos All Day

My dear friend (and fellow Norwegian) Pete Halvorsen was recently named an "Instagram Guru" by The Huffington Post, so when he hosts an Instameet, it's a pretty legit affair. He called me ahead of time to get my input on a Venice Instameet scheduled for last Saturday, about where would be a good place to meet, a good route for them to walk, etc ... I was so impressed and happy, because Halvorsen took the time to ask, and to CARE about how such an event would affect a neighborhood, and how to best go about it respectfully. If only everyone rolling through Venice these days practiced the same conscientiousness ... it would be all good.

I suggested they skip the whole Abbot Kinney scene, as it has more than enough attention - and hipsters - already. Instead, I thought it would be nice for them to start in the Canals, which I think is the most beautiful and special part of Venice, and then branch off toward the Boardwalk and all of that. I thought it might be nice to focus more on our nature and our people and our art than whatever the idea of hipster cool is here right now. I was surprised to hear many in the group never even knew there were Canals here! Look at the pure tranquility captured here by Ciara Allen:

There is a preconceived notion that the Instameet people are as hipster as it gets, but though there were quite a few of those hats, skinny jeans and fun mustaches that identify them as such, the photographers I met were all lovely, open minded, respectful, and very talented. It was a delight to share our community with a group of people that not only appreciated it, but captured it all so nicely in their wonderful photos. Their work can be seen on Instagram under the hashtag #NicheinLA, as the social media company Niche was the sponsor of the day. Gorgeous shots, everyone!

At the end of the afternoon, I told my friend I'd just come from checking out an Instameet, and he said, "How much does a hipster weigh?"

"An Instagram!" Haaa. Thank you to all the photographers for being so great while they were here, and for showing Venice in such a beautiful light.

*Group photo by Pete Halvorsen

Friday, June 12, 2015

May Peace Prevail On Earth

Now this is more like it. I was taking my shortcut through the canals to get to the beach and was greeted by this lovely welcome.

The canals are one of the most special places in Venice, simply a treasure, with beauty everywhere you look. The houses are all different, the flowers are bursting out everywhere, and all of it is reflected in the moats of water surrounding it.

When you're here, it really does seem as if peace just may prevail.

Peace! Have a happy weekend.