Monday, March 28, 2016

More Love!

If you read my last post, you'd know that I've been having a hard time with all the hateful rhetoric going around these days, never mind the actual violence. I decided to really make a point of searching out and  focusing on the LOVE that I know exists in everyone, and talk about that instead. When you make these choices, the world seems to arrange itself accordingly. Like when first thing this morning I saw David Busch sitting on the sidewalk in front of Mystic Journey on Abbot Kinney, offering "Free Love" to anyone passing by.

Well, I of course took him up on not only a "More Love" piece (which is a "command"), but also the chance to sit down on the curb there with him to hear what he had to say about the state of our city and country's affairs these days. I asked what he'd been up to lately, and he simply replied, "Love". Awesome.

We discussed the homeless "problem" here in Venice, and the only problem he sees is the persecution of people by authorities simply because they can't afford a proper house - because of an affordable housing crisis here in Venice that we all feel. He considers the sweeps on the homeless down at the beach a form of terrorism, and so do I. It's all about fear, and we both cannot understand why people who need the most help in one of the richest cities in the world, really aren't getting barely any. We talked about Venice being a "Cultural Wetlands" - which I loved - and how it's biodiversity of both people and creativity are being severely endangered ... and how we'll both fight to preserve it.

This will all be discussed in depth tomorrow night at the Venice Neighborhood Council meeting held at Westminster School at 7 p.m., where they will attempt to come up with "Homelessness solutions." David Bush will be there, perhaps with the best solution of all ... More Love.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Good Friday Wish

I've been having a bit of a hard time lately. I'm one of those people that really absorbs other peoples' pain, and lately it feels like pain is really beating the pants off of pleasure in the world. It took me ages to stop freaking out over 9/11 (and I'll still bawl if I really get talking about it or see old footage), until my brother finally said one day, "If you don't stop, people aren't going to want to hang out with you." That helped. I like to hang out with people. But lately, it's like everywhere I look it's anger and frustration and sadness and pain, and I really don't know what to do about it.

More terrorism in Turkey and Belgium. Innocent people killed while waiting to travel home to loved ones. The awful violence at political rallies, and the actual (public) re-emergence of the KKK?!?! I really thought we had made so much progress when we elected President Obama, and now it's as if we've back-slid as a country like 50 years. I can't stand it. So I freak out inside. I cry. I rage. And then I go for a walk. Natural beauty is often the only thing that helps.

Today is Good Friday. A time for us to pause and reflect and hope for a better future, with the hope and promise of Easter coming right up. I was consoling myself with thoughts like that when I saw a fuzzed up dandelion, and did the only thing one can do ... picked it up, blew, and made a wish.

A wish that love will conquer all. That everyone can just stop, breathe, collect ourselves, and look at the big picture. The picture that includes social justice for all, equal rights for all, good health and education for all, but most of all, LOVE FOR ALL. No matter where you come from or who you are, you love someone, and someone loves you. Everyone is like that, so why would anyone ever want to hurt someone that has love in them? I realize that this is a tall order, but I also realize that it's pretty much everyone's common goal for themselves. It just needs to be turned inside out to include the whole world. Seriously ... what is so hard about the very simple Golden Rule?

As if to reinforce this message I was thinking, I passed by a quaint wooden gate door, where someone had chalked a heart right across it. There you go. We can do this.

Happy Easter Weekend, to everyone! May all of our wishes come true.

*I just read a quote from Jack Kerouac that said, "Have faith and wait." So I am doing both.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Paint The Bushes!

Deviating a little from my usual route this morning, I saw something that I think is kind of great on Main Street and Westminster. The floral-painted building on the corner that houses a production company (Concrete Images/Durable Goods), went out and painted their hedge to match!

I'm not sure how great this is for the foliage, I'm not a botanist, but I can tell you that it is awesome and fun, and sort of makes you feel like in Alice In Wonderland when they all go out and paint the roses, just for fun. It also reminded me of a quote from that book/movie that fits for the parts and people that I love the most in Venice ... "You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."

Thank you for this entirely bonkers bush, folks. It made my day.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Real Springtime In Venice!

Spring has sprung in Venice, and as we celebrated the vernal equinox yesterday, the spring in everyone's step was extra noticeable. The flowers are bursting out all over, and the smell is jasmine and mock orange (my very favorite) wafts everywhere on a breeze. It couldn't be more lovely.

As we know our days are numbered at The Roosterfish, we made that be our afternoon sunny spot. People were partying in the daytime, perhaps feeling it even more since we know these times are precious. We ate our awesome $3.00 burgers out on the back patio (try to find that anywhere else on the boulevard anymore!) and clinked our glasses together in the sunshine, thoroughly enjoying being in the very present moment.

When the sun shifted and the late afternoon grew chillier, we took it inside to my friend David's office, where they create virtual reality. You can tramp around on an Icelandic countryside. You can go to a virtual fortune teller. You can fly over animals stampeding in Africa, with more than full 360 degree views, it's also up and down. It's interactive, so you're choosing your paths and adventures. It's nuts.

I think it's all super fun to see and do, but I worry that with all this technology, people won't get outside and do things for themselves anymore, they can just strap on a headset and go wherever they want. And become fat, unhealthy, sloth-like Wall-E people. A friend pointed out that it's great for those with disabilities, so they can experience all the same cool things able-bodied people can, which is true and great ... but still. It all makes me a little nervous. Especially when there are SO many great places and things to see and REALLY do, that ... I don't know. I'm mixed.

I'm mixed about a lot of things these days, with so much turmoil and division going on in the world. It's now that we really need - more than ever - to not only have real and special moments, but to appreciate them while we're in them. Like our awesome afternoon at The Roosterfish, together with good friends, all knowing and feeling the value of the time we were spending.

Later on, after a wonderful outdoor dinner with friends next to a fire pit, I was back home thinking about it all. I recalled a quote from Jack Kerouac's Big Sur:

"On soft spring nights I'll stand in the yard under the stars - Something good will come out of all things yet - And it will be golden and eternal just like that - There's no need to say another word."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Vivianne Robinson - A True Venice Icon (Who Will Put Your Name On Rice)

We all love Venice, but nobody wears it on their sleeves like Vivianne Robinson. She can be seen most every day on the Venice Boardwalk at her booth Name On Rice, with her top hat and technicolor dream coat brightening the day of everyone passing by. Robinson has been out there writing names on rice since 1994, but it was only yesterday that I finally got to sit down with her and watch her spin her Venice magic.

Robinson was born in Venice, and lived in a house that was torn down to make way for Westminster School. She used to hang out at The Gashouse with her beatnik parents, and loved the Venice Pavilion covered in graffiti, and was sad to see that go ("That should've been a historical landmark." Totally true and agree.). Her love for Venice is palpable, and she retains a sense of wonder that she lives and works here, even though she has for all of her life. "Who would think I'd end up working right where I started?", mused Robinson, but I can't imagine her anywhere else.

But that would be wrong. Robinson's favorite thing to do - aside from charming all the tourists that come to the Boardwalk - is travel. She has worked hard all of her life to be able to see the world, and is and has always been attracted to the places and events that involve the entire world. Things like the Oscars, where Robinson can be found on the red carpet in full Oscar memorabilia regalia, posing with tourists and celebrities alike. Things like the Olympics, which Robinson loves, and makes plans to attend every four years (in full USA Uncle Sam gear). She already has her event tickets for Rio this Summer, and I was getting Olympic fever just listening to her talk about it. "It's all about the whole world," she explained. Exactly.

That's why her job writing names on rice at the beach and taking photos of people with her aliens and cut-outs (and owning the stall shop across the way that sells toys, skateboards, jewelry, and all the beachy Boardwalk stuff) is perfect for Robinson - the whole world comes to her. Sitting with her in the fresh air and sunshine, watching all the people come up and talk to her, you get the idea that Robinson really has it about all figured out. She's so welcoming, so positive, and so lovely, each person left their interaction with her with an extra spring in their step, as she smiled and said, "You gotta give people good memories of Venice Beach ... that's what I want when I travel." And really, that's how you get world peace, if you want to get macro about it (and I tend to).

Robinson went to SaMo High, and majored in Recreation at Cal State Long Beach. She took odd jobs doing anything she could to satisfy her travel bug, and soon took off to traipse all over Europe. While in Portugal, she came across a man from India writing tourists' names on tiny grains of rice.

He showed her how to do this ancient art, and after about a year of practicing, Robinson got it down. She thought it would be the perfect way to be outside, visiting with people from all over the world, and give them something that would bring them both good luck and a happy memory of their time in Venice.

It was a hit, and soon Robinson was putting her own flourish on it, putting the little grains of rice in little bottles adorned with a flower, a shark tooth, a little something to brighten up the necklaces that the people leave proudly wearing. She uses regular old Uncle Ben's long grain rice, because as the girl waiting to have five names written on rice said, "Uncle Ben's is the best." Robinson uses a tiny fine point marker and a super practiced hand to write the names, and it's pretty impressive. She even gets orders online (, and was about to ship one off to Louisiana as we spoke. She's probably more famous than the famous people that impress her.

"Look at all the famous people that come to Venice," said Robinson as she proudly showed me her photo album full of her with various celebs that have come by and posed with her - and it's pretty much everyone (though her favorite is Andrea Bocelli). Some of them might be cool, but none of them are featured on the big Rip Cronk mural on Speedway, where Robinson permanently stands vending her good vibes. (She can also be seen featured on Modern Marvels on The History Channel). "Yeah, people like to take my picture," she says casually, adding that she also has a YouTube channel, where "Anything that happens in Venice is on there."

Robinson really is nothing but good vibes. A guy named Junior sat with us and kept repeating, "She's a really good lady" over and over. He was totally right about this sort of Godmother to all the Boardwalk vendors and performers. Every word out of her mouth was so positive and grateful and all delivered with a real sense of a kind of awe that she lives her life here - even though she always has. "Just look around, how lucky we are!", exclaimed Robinson. "There's not many places in L.A. for people to walk and enjoy themselves ... and maybe buy something," she said with a laugh, but that's also true. This is her living, though one that she has recently had to supplement with additional part-time hours bagging groceries at Gelson's in Santa Monica to make the ends meet, which she says is a workout. "Change is a part of life, you gotta go with the flow. Be flexible, be positive, and just enjoy everything you can out of life. The last few years there have been more changes here than I've seen in my entire life. I've never seen stores go out of business or people having to move away. But you have a choice, you can be happy or you can be depressed." Robinson very clearly chooses to be happy.

"I just love to be outside. At the Boardwalk everyone dresses the way they want to be. Everybody's happy, you just watch the world go by. Every week I take a new picture of the art walls, I love doing that. I love art and all the murals. I love to paint. I love colors and to be colorful. It's all a learning process in life, and we all learn from each other. It's all about fun!" We sat and thought on that for a moment, really just enjoying being exactly where we were, when Robinson said, "Oh, there's my Mom!" and here came her adorable Mom, Odile Robinson - the Beatnik! Odile was all decked out in green for St. Patrick's Day, carrying a shamrock-festooned cake, which she proceeded to cut and deliver on little holiday plates and napkins to all the vendor friends that surround her daughter's Boardwalk Empire.

"Vivianne is unique, one of a kind. There's nobody like Vivianne," Odile told me, while beaming with pride. Just like Venice - unique, one of a kind, no place like it. Golden hour was setting in, and all of us sitting there just felt so lucky in the moment. "It's the best place on Earth, isn't it?", said Vivian. Odile chimed in with, "And she knows, because she's been everywhere!" So that's settled. Venice is the best place on Earth, and Vivianne Robinson is about the best ambassador we could hope to have, as she spreads the good vibes and positivity here and everywhere she goes in this whole world that she loves.

Check out wonderful Vivianne and most every day on the Boardwalk between Windward and Market - or online anywhere. And look for her in Rio!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Streetlight Cadence Plays For Abbot Kinney

I was kind of in a rush last weekend, just needing to grab something quick at the liquor store on Abbot Kinney on my way home, and wistful for the days when this could be done much speedier. Crossing the street, I heard a guy shout, "We're Streetlight Cadence, from Honolulu, Hawai'i!" There, set up on the corner, was a quartet of gentlemen playing their hearts out for all the foot traffic folks out strolling the boulevard.

Their music and their vibe was delightfully retro, and I was surprised to hear that they were from Hawai'i. The more I thought about it though, I wasn't. Here were these young guys all playing their instruments (guitar, cello, violin, accordion), belting it out for all to hear, in a wonderful example of the Aloha Spirit that Hawai'i is famous for (and which I was recently reminded of by Mona to LIVE as an example). I stopped and thoroughly enjoyed a number before I had to speed off, with a little crowd gathering of others whose afternoons had also been made. I love the DIY spirit of creative people like this, and it's something everyone can use way more of. Just get out there and DO whatever it is that you love!

Thank you to Streetlight Cadence for bringing their music to the people, and for showing Venice their Aloha! Cheers, boys!

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Art Of Chase - Doing What He Loves

We've all seen The Art Of Chase all over town for years ... on walls, on cars, on skateboards ... on pretty much any and everything. The murals and stencils always have a positive message about how we can all make ourselves and the world better, and always provide an almost unconscious, involuntary lift to your day.

Having seen the art all over for so long, it was really nice to see the artist himself this past weekend, all set up on the sidewalk on Abbot Kinney, stenciling anything that anyone brought to him - for free. People brought t-shirts, hats, furniture, a mannequin, or just had Chase adorn anything they had on them, like their skateboard or cell phone case. I live right around the corner, so went home and got an old dress that could use some pizzazz.

Chase hooked me up with a bright pink stencil reading, "DO WHAT YOU LOVE" right there on the back of my dress, as a perfect reminder of which prize to keep your eyes on. I looked around inside the Worldwide Mind space to see Chase's art on the walls, and enjoy an icy PBR while I waited for my dress to dry.

Thanks to Chase not only for sprucing up my dress, but for bringing fun and art to the people both living in and visiting Venice on a busy, sunny Saturday afternoon. Doing what you love, for the pure joy of it. It's really what it's all about.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

HOM Venice By Lisa Boerner - Buy Local!

Let the party for Venice women continue! I recently had the chance to meet and chat with Lisa Boerner, fashion designer for local label, HOM Venice (which stands for House Of Mental!). I'm kind of surprised our paths haven't crossed sooner, as we've both been in Venice for about 20 years - but that's exciting because it means that there are still so many cool people to meet! Venice is alive and kicking ... but more importantly, creating.

Boerner is a Colorado girl, but came West to go to school for fashion. She first wound up in Santa Monica, but went through a phase where she kept attracting new animals and hiding them in her apartment. That didn't go over very well in Santa Monica, so she went looking for a home in Venice, and found the place she's been in now for decades, happily. "All I ever wanted to do was make stuff and sell stuff. That's it.", says Boerner, and with her entrepreneurial spirit, soon landed the licensing contract to create a line of clothes for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The shirts weren't your regular boxy t-shirts, but ones with a fashion cut that a girl would be happy to wear. They were a huge hit, and soon led to a similar deal for The Pink Panther clothing items.

Just as things were really picking up, Boerner's husband, Jeff, got prostate cancer. (Man, I hate cancer.) While dealing with that nightmare in 2008, Paris Hilton was seen out and about wearing one of HOM's t-shirts (that read "I love shoes, bags, and dogs"), and things blew up. Though Jeff was dying, he encouraged Boerner to keep going with it all. Once Jeff passed away, Boerner rode the wave, and  threw herself into the fashion line, and would show up at trade shows with her team in strait jackets and crazy hair to personify their House Of Mental ("There's really nothing else we could've called our company," explains Boerner with a laugh.

Boerner was interested in doing clothing lines that were comfortable, casual, but higher fashion, with better cuts and quality of materials, for a collection that is for the ladies "who we reflect, that are part of this neighborhood, and part of the evolution of the Southern California lifestyle - it's for where the asphalt meets the sand and sun." It certainly is as Boerner says, "Wearable West Side stuff to live in ... but having said that, every woman in America needs these." They actually do. HOM Venice's pieces are so soft, so comfortable, so effortless, you really can imagine everyone digging them, everywhere.

The lines have names like "Sunset on Windward", "Every Day In Venice", "Westside Blues" and "Winter Garden" - I love it. Each of these collections is always shot in Venice, from the beach to the back alleys, letting people know where they come from. Gorgeous, affordable (!) pieces that range from comfy yoga pants to floral cold shoulder dresses, all in styles and prints that feel not only very now, but very Venice.

"A sense of community is important to our lives, and in customer service, which is why I like my things to be in specialty stores - they are about their community," said Boerner when asked about where her things are available (which is pretty much all over the country in stores from our California to Connecticut - and online, of course). Her sense of community here in Venice dates back to the early 90's, when she had a little shop on Abbot Kinney called Pop Fizz, filled with her clothes and art. Her eyes twinkle as she remembered it, saying, "Someone magical came in every day."

About Venice itself, when I asked Boerner what she loved about it, she answered, "Are you kidding me?! What's NOT to love about Venice?! I feel incredibly lucky every day that I live here." Clearly my kind of neighbor. Boerner can be seen biking around everywhere, or maybe at her favorite spots like Gjelina, Abbot's Habit, and Heist, except that she's so busy spinning all of her plates that a sighting might elusive. "Lots of good things are coming ... shoes, bags, swimwear ... I just want to work with exciting people in this exciting place," Boerner told me. "And also create video games." Cool! So maybe also keep your eye out for a Venice video game one day.

So ladies, when you need something awesome and comfortable that will look great whether you're at yoga or dressed up with some heels (Seriously, it will), consider supporting your local purveyor of soft goods, Lisa Boerner's HOM Venice. You'll be seeing me smiling around town in mine.

*Photos courtesy of Lisa Boerner.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"International Women's Day" - Celebrating People With Mona Webster

I'm not a big fan of things like "International Women's Day" (which today is) or really anything that separates humanity from being one (except for maybe sweet, all-inclusive ones like Grandparents Day. I can get on board with that.) I think Women should be celebrated every day, as all People should be, just for making it through each day in this crazy world we all share. So, in the spirit of everyone being everything, I spent a recent afternoon talking to Venice legend, Mona Webster, who said right out of the gate, "We're all totalities. Take me apart and I'm a planet with skin over it. We're all everything, but always on the edge of wanting something." Yes, this was exactly who I wanted to be talking to about all of this.

I've long been fascinated by Mona - from back when she was better known as Roger and had a ton of piercings and extra-long, Guinness Book Of World Record-style, curly, decorated fingernails. When one of them broke, it was devastating as they took so long to grow, so Mona ditched the nails and donned wigs and tutus, explaining, "I'm a pretender, but I'm an honest pretender. I pretend to be a girl - for myself." Literally everything out of Mona's mouth is interesting, and it very quickly became clear that it could not be a traditional interview with questions and answers ("How long have you been in Venice now?" - CJG "Does it matter?" - MW), so I just settled in and mostly listened, taking notes as if panning for gold for the glittering nuggets of wisdom and philosophy amid all the stream of consciousness conversation, of which there were many.

On Webster's coffee table in her modest Venice bungalow was a copy of a one-off (and beautifully photographed) book called The Amazing Story Of Sewell and Webster - And The Inadvertent Gentrification Of Venice, California. I wish there were more than one, because the story IS amazing. You see, Webster and her business partner, Tom Sewell started buying buildings in Venice in 1970, and are now probably one of, if not THE, biggest stakeholders in Venice. Many of the Abbot Kinney and Windward properties call Webster their landlord, a fact that she waved off with, "I don't even realize I have real estate." But she does. A lot. From back when there were still oil wells on the Peninsula, and the arches on Windward Avenue were lit with neon - "It was very festive, very reverent."

One of the greatest things about the culture of Venice is that when Mona shows up at Gjelina for lunch in her full regalia, though you can see the stares and curiosity of visitors and tourists, no one that knows Venice even blinks an eye. I was eager to ask Mona if she felt any responsibility for the changing of Venice into a place we barely recognize now (at least on Abbot Kinney), and was promptly chastened when she asked ME if maybe I didn't hold some responsibility, writing all these stories about how cool Venice is and what a wonderful bubble from the rest of the world we are, and how everyone should come and visit. Gulp. She went on to say, "Didn't you say you lived in Hawai'i"? The Hawai'ians have more right to be pissed off than anyone in the world, with all those hotels and golf courses built on their sacred burial grounds ... but what are they most known for? The Aloha Spirit, the most amazing spirit I've ever experienced. Where's your Aloha Spirit for Venice? Why not be a good ambassador for Venice to visitors, and let them go away with a good feeling about it here, instead of telling stories about all the pissed off locals?" Double gulp. She's right.

I feel myself getting all mad when I just want to walk up AKB to grab milk or something at the liquor store and have to battle all the airport-like, wandering walkers and strollers ... but why? They have every right to be here visiting a cool place, and we can all be happy that we get to live here. As Mona added, "You can't criticize your neighborhood and live in it too. It's like pissing in your bed. Don't squander the jewels of your insight on petty complaints, it just ruins it for everyone else. Stop trying to pave your own street, and pave the public one. Go fix the world! If Venice is something, BE IT!" Yeah.

Our conversation unfolded over hours, in the glow of Webster's "Portacle" (a combo of Portal and Oracle), a wall of about 25 big screen t.v.'s, all on different channels, all at normal volume. Even with all that distraction, I found myself riveted by the verbal pearls being given to me by Mona. Like ...

"It doesn't matter if anything is right or wrong, as long as it works."

"I'm a Preacher. Not because I do everything right, but because I suffer the same as everyone else."

"It's more interesting to be confused. If you're not, you're boring."

"If you give me 100 bullets, I could make you a picture of what life means."

"I think I'm nobody, and I think I'm everybody."

"People don't need to know where I'm from or what I did."

"When you become more People, you have more options."

"I don't like sleeping, because I don't want my day to be over. Life is too short."

"We love to see the unlikely, because it makes us feel hope."

"The last thing you ever want to be is yourself - because then you can't be changed."

"Release yourself from what others believe about you."

"Every day there's gold in your mouth, but you skid right past it."

"We succeed by realizing that we don't - Together."

"Life is still brilliant, even when things aren't going so well."

"It's working when the world gives you gifts you didn't have before."

"You have to have a tantrum ready to go at any minute. THAT is a Revolution. For yourself."

"Everything you do is a statement to the whole world."

See what I mean?! It's like bumper stickers of truth flowing right into your lap when talking with Mona, and it's plain to see why she is so beloved all over town - which isn't always the case for real estate moguls in these parts, these days. But as she also says, "You don't need real estate, there's still beautiful shells on the beach." And that is the contradiction of Venice right now. Mona calls herself a contradiction too. She owns half the town, but supports its starving artists, from buying their work to taking them to lunch. She collects the rent, but turns around and buys from the store. "I'm flamboyant, yet ordinary too. I'm a girl and I'm a boy (and is indeed straight and married, though "I'm a fetishist 24 hours a day", evidenced by the cage and handcuffs and other like tools in her living room). I'm happy and sad. I'm an optimist and a pessimist ..." and with all the disparate factions trying to live together in Venice these days, I can think of no better contradiction to emulate. Why not be everything! Be everyone!

As to International Women's Day, Mona is far more feminist than most biological women I know. She CHOOSES to dress like a wonderful, colorful, creative woman, while being a super successful, savvy, strong business person. She obviously admires women, that goes without saying, and she added that, "Lady people have a lot of influence on this world. Rosa Parks changed things, not a man." That's right. As someone who has never felt less-than to a man, this does not come as news to me. All the boys copied MY papers in school. Many more women than men in my life are their families' main breadwinners. I choose leaders based on what I think is best for my country, not whether we share the same genitalia. Frankly, there haven't been too many men I'm at all impressed with lately, so don't really get the big furor for equality - 'cause I've always felt women were the superior gender. We wouldn't need men at all if not for the fun of sex and the resulting babies - and I think they kind of know it. All of the separation is old thinking, in my opinion. We ARE ALL EQUALS, and that's just that. That's why I celebrate Mona today, as maybe our best symbol of everyone being everything, all in one fantastic PERSON.

"Venice is a mess of possibilities. You can hide here. You can believe or disbelieve something. You can talk yourself into or out of something. You can always be on the Planet Mona edge of something." And the view from the Planet Mona edge is pretty great ... because it's limitless. So today is a day not to just celebrate women, but to celebrate us all, trying to live here together in harmony.

As the light outside waned and the t.v.'s signaled it was evening news time, and we'd gone down the rabbit hole of Venice time, I gathered my things to leave. I felt better about Venice. I felt better about myself. Honestly, I felt better about the world, because as we hugged goodbye, Mona reminded me that, "Greatness never ends, no matter how much it's persecuted." We'll all be fine, if we can all just be open to each other, without fear.

Everlasting thanks to wonderful Mona Webster ... and all of the wonderful PEOPLE we celebrate every day.

Also - I love you, Venice.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Slow Your Roll!

My neighbors and I were jolted awake early Saturday morning by the sound of a car absolutely SMASHING into something outside on the street. There was a brief pause, followed by the tire squealing of someone taking off in a hurry. I got up and looked out my window, but didn't see anything. That's because all of the damage was around the corner, at Alexis Bittar.

The car we'd heard crashing had taken off the entire front porch of the upscale jewelry store, totally demolishing it. There was a bumper left behind from a grey Honda, last seen racing down Venice Boulevard, bumper-less. They'd also left behind a big skid mark on the sidewalk, obviously made when they fled the scene of the crime ... "And they didn't even leave a note!", said one of the store's employees, with at least their sense of humor remaining intact.

This morning there were new steps already in place, getting ready for a paint job, looking great and almost like nothing had happened. But it had. And could have been so much worse. I suspect it was drag racing, as that old '50s testosterone-filled pastime seems to be making a resurgence in the man-child circles. The news has shown evidence of this racing in a lot of deadly crashes lately, and from what I heard the other morning, this dumbass driver should consider themselves very lucky to be alive - if a rotten fugitive. There were also people out walking their dogs that could easily have been in the way of this ... which I don't even like to think about.

This is a neighborhood. Yes, there's a lot of stores and restaurants on Abbot Kinney, but it's all residential surrounding it, and it's no place for drag racing. I suspect the driver was still up from a bender the night before, and was not in the mindset to care about other citizens. I can often be heard to say, "Relax, it's Venice" to stressers, or car horn honkers, or uptight newcomers or whatever is causing tension. To that, I'll now add, "SLOW YOUR ROLL!" Seriously.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Vietnam Memorial Visits Venice

When I arrived at the beach this morning for my foggy walk, I was greeted by the sight of a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Hmm. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this "Wall That Heals" being put up right in the middle of where so many people came to protest the Vietnam War ... and also where so many vets of that war have been left homeless and uncared for by the very country they went over there to protect.

There are two veterans that stand with their signs on Lincoln Boulevard at the entrance to the 90 Freeway almost every morning, and they could probably use the time, money, and energy spent on a small scale fake memorial far more than tourists needing to snap yet another picture of a copy of something many haven't seen in real life.

I've been to the real memorial in D.C. and all I felt was sad and angry, that so many lives were lost over such a corrupt endeavor ... and it's still happening. I've been very aggro this week (and apologize if I've come off as gnarly, but I feel SO strongly about making our world better, not worse.) , almost in a panic to get people out to vote and pretty much caucus-shaming them if they didn't ... because I can't sit by and be passive and silent and complacent when today's climate almost guarantees more war unless people can wise up and elect someone that actually truly does want to try something new - and obviously Senator Sanders is the only one even trying.

I've also been to the Walter Reed Veterans Hospital in D.C., and it changed me forever. It made me vehemently anti-War, and passionately pro-Humanity. I saw soldiers freshly blown up, scrambled, and pieced back together, with nothing but disillusion in their eyes. This was not what they had signed up for. And the vast majority of these soldiers were "minority" or from underprivileged backgrounds ... the very people still being tormented today by Republican front-runners and their followers, and even the Police who are meant to protect us all, but so often target the ones with darker skin. And it's not right. And I can't help but say something every time ... and wish more people did.

I walked by the memorial replica this morning, and got unexpectedly emotional. Not at the sight of an aluminum wall that super pales in comparison to drama and emotion of the real one (kind of like seeing the Statue of Liberty at New York, New York in Vegas), but at the very scary thought that this really could happen all over again. If we're not careful. If we're not vocal. If we don't exercise our rights to vote and choose sane leadership. I don't know how "Healing" this wall of pain can be ... but at least there's a little mobile museum there to try and make people think.

I walked away, a bit uncomfortable at more reverence being shown for a fake wall than our fellow citizens sleeping in its shadow. I think we'd do better honoring our Veterans by taking care of them when they get home vs. carting a memorial replica around to remind us of how we've failed so many of them. Whatever goes down in this country, I'll still be the one putting flowers in rifles to honor those who fought my kind of fight before me.

The Wall That Heals is on display at the beach through March 6th.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Stoop - Get Your Fresh Venice Cookies!

I've seen these guys hanging out in lawn chairs on their roof on Windward Avenue for a while now, kicking it and watching the day go by. Yesterday I saw that these guys aren't just chilling all day at all ... they're manning their little organic cookie window shop! I skidded to a stop to find out what was what.

What was is these three guys from Michigan came out here to surf, but needed to make a living while they were at it, so they opened up The Stoop. Brothers Kyle and Dustin Stuart come from a Centennial family farm in Michigan - Stuart Family Organics - where they grow wheat and grains. They teamed up with their friend Wesley VanderKolk to start off a cottage food operation out of Kyle's apartment baking up organic cookies with their own family-grown ingredients. I love it.

I love when people use their backgrounds and talents to make a happy life for themselves in a unique way, and that's surely what these fellows are doing here. There is a slot for tips to go to the surfboard fund, and it's not unusual to find them closed up for a while if there's a good swell rolling in.

It's not just Specoli guys goofing off though, at all. These are seriously delicious cookies (I had the oatmeal maple raisin delectable one), and blow any Girl Scout joke of a cookie all the way away. Just reading the ingredient label made me feel healthier, but tasting confirmed it. The Stoop delivers. (Which they soon actually will - Venice people will be able to get a fresh cookie delivered to their doorstep. Life is good.)

Focusing purely on cookies has stepped up their cookie game, as they're not distracted by a whole slew of items, just great cookies - like Coconut Cranberry, Chocolate Chip Walnut, Peanut Butter, and my Oatmeal Raisin. It's one thing to get a cookie somewhere, but another entirely when you know you're helping to support young, fun entrepreneurs making the most of the chill of Venice. That cookie window over at Leona has some stiff competition now ... but this window supports surfing.

Get your freshly baked cookies at The Stoop!

239 Windward Avenue
9am-12pm (break for surfing) 4pm-'til they're sold out.

Instagram: Thestoopca

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Zachary Aronson On Venice Boulevard

I was cruising down Venice Boulevard the other day when a long stretch of portraits on a fence caught my eye. They looked to be done with wood burning, and when I got home I looked up the name of the artist, Zachary Aronson.

Aronson is a "Pyrographer", meaning he makes his art with fire. It reminds me of my beloved Dylan piece done in wood stain by Justin Herber, so of course I dig it. It appears that Aronson shows his art all over the place, so we can all feel lucky that we get to see art even while sitting in traffic.

I love the natural materials and tactile appearance of these works, and wish Zachary Aronson the best. Thanks for sprucing up the streets!