When I thought about how I'd like to spend my birthday this year, and how I'd like to do something nice for myself to celebrate, the first thing I thought of was a facial by Ashly Macall Smith. Amazing Skin By Ashly is no hyperbole - it's an exact description of how your face looks when she's done with you - Amazing!
I've been haunted by Ashly's facials since 2010, when I had my last one by her at the Tree House in Venice. I can't believe it's been six years (!) but it was well worth the wait. It had been so long because the Tree House is sadly long gone from Abbot Kinney, so I wasn't sure where Ashly was working, and then I heard she moved to Nebraska. Then I recently heard she moved back, so when it was time to pamper myself for another hard-earned year well lived, I was tracking her down.
Ashly is now working out of the Equinox Spa in Santa Monica, so you pass by all the workout people and head upstairs to the 4th floor. Ashly was coming down the steps as I was going up and we had a happy reunion hug there, before she showed me to the steam room. I had a nice long steam, reflecting on my year, and getting myself all good and steamy ahead of my relaxation time.
One of the best parts of a facial by Ashly is her soothing manner. Her gentle voice and touch accompanies each step of the process, and you're very aware of the TLC you're receiving. I always just let her be the judge of what my face needs, because she's a professional and she knows best. This time around she could tell that I've been at the beach probably too much, and that called for the works. I got the aromatherapy facial with some extra-great extras, like the Cranberry Brightening Mask (that felt like a cool jelly mask of chill), some microdermabrasion to get rid of the old sun damaged stuff, and then a wonderful finale of a Vitamin C serum by Skinceuticals that Ashly says is the very best product on the market. And that I really needed it. I was just thinking it smelled strangely like hot dogs, when Ashly said, "It kind of smells like hot dogs, or soy sauce." Which it does, but when everyone was remarking on how much I was glowing that evening - it was well worth it.
As were the extractions. That part of a facial is always a little brutal, and I always feel like I'm going to emerge like a man with bits of Kleenex all over his face from shaving nicks, but I don't. I always look a million times better than when I went in, and as Ashly says, it really is the most important and main part of a facial. "It's all about the extractions ... Preparing for them and then closing them." Now I get it. They're not even that bad when someone as lovely and gentle as Ashly is performing them, and I even kind of dig it, in a slightly masochistic way.
There is always some lovely massage to go along with it, and I found myself in almost a trance as Ashly rubbed my neck and arms while one of the magic potions on my face soaked in. We caught up on life a bit, and she told me that there is also a new venture in the works, called Washly! They're elbow-length washcloth gloves for washing your face at night. You know how the water always goes up your forearms and isn't that comfortable when you wash your face? Solved. Plus they're kind of hot and fancy - and made from recovered textiles (in California!) to boot! I can't wait to get a pair, and we'll all be able to on her website shortly.
When Ashly was finished working her magic, I got up and looked in the mirror and was pretty sure I had time traveled. Ashley reversed the clocks of time on my birthday! I can't recommend her services enough, and am fully honest when I say multiple people told me that night that I was glowing, and I don't think it was just from the birthday buzz. Thank you, Ashly dear!
**You can see what I mean on any Tuesday-Friday, from 9 am to 9 pm. You can make your appointment with Ashly Macall Smith at #562-900-5416, and you too will understand why I was obsessed with getting back to her facial table since 2010. (Now we just need to work on getting her back in Venice!)
The theatrical premiere of the wonderful documentary Made In Venice was held last night at the (newly refurbished and slick) Laemmle in Santa Monica, and it was awesome. The audience was almost entirely Venetian and friends, as evidenced by the hoots and hollers throughout the film. Made In Venice tells the story of the struggle to get the Venice Skatepark built, and the history of modern skateboarding where it was invented.
When the Skatepark finally opened in October of 2009, it was a massive accomplishment, and a huge celebration ... but the struggle to keep it a world class venue continues. The maintenance and upkeep of the Park is handled almost entirely by Dogtown legend, Jesse Martinez, who with his band of friends has kept the park clean every single day since it opened. For free. With no help from the City of Los Angeles, that does nothing but benefit from the tourism this excellent facility brings. It's downright criminal, and now, even worse than I thought.
I'd already seen the film at a cast and crew screening last month, and it's just downright great. The fight to get the Park built is extra moving, and there are laugh out loud moments throughout as you get to know all the people that made this dream come true. There was a Q &A after the film, with the ever-reluctant to be in the spotlight Martinez. You see how hard he works in the film - every day - and then we find out after the film that Martinez could now be arrested for doing all of the hard work that he isn't paid for, because the Venice Skate Foundation has lost their "Right Of Entry" permit, which gives them the legal right to be there. Yes, even though Martinez performs the unbelievably hard work of keeping the Skatepark clean, the City of L.A. continues to give him harder obstacles than any he could ever skateboard on. It's not right.
As it stands now, Martinez is keeping it clean every morning anyway. He's no longer that interested in a job from the City, he just wants his ROE back so he can do his (unpaid) job without the hassle. Councilman Mike Bonin is no Bill Rosendahl when it comes to the Skatepark, as Martinez explained that his calls routinely go unanswered for weeks, if they're returned at all. If it were left up to the City, it would take a month to get a tag removed by the one guy servicing all the parks in all of Los Angeles, and up to a YEAR to get a tile replaced. Martinez and Company are not having that, and as a young lady says to open the film, "There's a lot of places that people don't fight for what they believe in - we don't stand for that here." So, they take matters into their own hands. As usual.
There was a righteous indignation that you could feel from everyone in the audience. Like, this is wrong and what are WE going to do about it?! "Venice has a way of somehow providing," said Martinez when asked what we could do for him. He said he'll continue cleaning the Skatepark for another 8 years or so (!), and then it's time for the kids of the neighborhood to take over. As they should. The City needs to realize that this gem that attracts people from around the world should be handled and kept up by the very people that made it happen, who know what's best for it. Until then, we can donate via the donation button on the Made In Venice movie page. We can purchase merchandise (cool shirts and hats!) of which all proceeds go to Martinez. We can keep talking about it, and demanding better for our incredible Venice Skatepark and the equally incredible people that made it happen, and continue to make it the superhot attraction that it is.
Moderator Dan Levy from Juice Magazine closed the event by saying that we all need to continue to fight for Jesse, for the Right Of Entry, and always, The Skatepark itself. Martinez thanked everyone for their support, and the crowd filed out to attend the after-party at Danny's Deli ("If you don't know where that is, you don't need to go!" - Victor Blue). Please go see this fantastic tribute to Venice and its people while it's in its limited theater release. The Venice Skatepark is a source of great pride in our Community, and Made In Venice lays it all out just exactly why.
The fight continues ... and we have their back. Thank you to ALL involved - always.
*Go fast! It's only at the Laemmle in Santa Monica until August 31st!
I know it sounds a bit precious to talk about how grateful you are, but I just really am. I spent the majority of my birthday yesterday just walking around feeling super dang grateful for every good thing in my life. I had a tangible awareness of it all day ... like seeing someone in a wheelchair and being so happy I can walk. Like talking to someone suffering from allergies and being so happy I can breathe great. Like hearing someone bicker with their spouse and feeling so lucky that I get to do whatever I want with whomever I want, whenever I want. Like seeing the news and thanking my lucky stars that I'm not digging loved ones out of rubble. Like seeing a homeless man with a sign asking for food on my way to eating a delicious birthday meal ... It was like my antennae were all the way out and picking up on only the good.
Then I went by the very great big garden in front of Beyond Baroque and saw this hand-painted sign planted there ...
Kiss The Ground. And that's exactly what I felt like doing. And then I kissed the sky ...
I stopped in to Golden State on Lincoln the other day to see what was new, and what was new (to me) was an awesome mural out in the back garden by bumblebeelovesyou. It's playful and fun, with all the freedom and joy of childhood, and I love it.
Just as my heart was bursting over that, I went inside and saw this Steinbeck quote on the wall, one of my favorites.
Today is my birthday, and this is pretty much exactly how I feel as I look forward to a new year of adventures and growth, with nothing but gratitude for all of the good of this past year. Sincerely.
Come on down to Hinano's tonight (after 8!) and clink a glass with me, won't you? Cheers and heartfelt thank you's to each of you who brighten my every day!
I finally got the chance to see Venice legend Maureen Cotter's one woman show at Beyond Baroque on Saturday night, and now I know why it's such an eagerly anticipated event each year. This was Cotter's 12th Annual show, and the "Deviant Diva" was in fine form for her dozenth solo gig.
I was told to arrive early to enjoy the pre-party in the backyard of Beyond Baroque, and by the time I got there the party was in full swing. Packed with Venetians, all clearly thrilled to be there, especially me. Everyone told me - after expressing disbelief that this was my first Mo Show - that I was in for a treat. Past tales have been told about Cotter's time as a prison guard, a marijuana advocate, an out and proud lesbian, and a longtime member of the Venice Community. This night's program was to feature stories from her childhood in Massachusetts ... where it all began.
Everyone was in fine spirits, as they enjoyed the spirits being poured by Head Bartender (and Cotter BFF), Karen Rosenhoover, and her excellent staff of Barrettes. People were PARTYING - all the better to laugh along once the show began. All the seats were reserved, and the spillover audience members enjoyed the show out back, where the party continued.
There was food, along with the drink, and it all had the vibe of a big family picnic. After catching up with all the friends in the crowd (this is a very OG event, with several attendees having lived in Venice for decades), it was time to file inside and be regaled with adventures from the life of one of our town's most interesting characters.
Suzy Williams, Brad Kay, Sam Clay, and Eric Ahlberg entertained the crowd with a song about "Maureen Cotter" to kick things off, and remained side-stage throughout the program to interject sound effects and musical asides to give it all those extra flourishes.
Cotter is a first-rate raconteuse, and her ribald, unflinching memories held the room transfixed - and in stitches - from the first word to the last. When Cotter was introduced (after we were instructed that we could indeed drink in the auditorium), the applause was so thunderous that Cotter said, "Don't make me cry, thank you all so much for coming to my 12th show at Beyond Baroque!" - and it was on. "My life is based on a true story ...", Cotter began, and took us back to 1943 Lawrence, MA, where she was born at - no coincidence - at 4:20 a.m. Seriously. "I believe in pre-destination", adding that being born at that time and being held by Nurse Betty With The Big Breasts in hospital were the factors that set her off in her life as a "Stoner Lesbian". Also, her time stuck behind bars in her crib directly led to her time working in prisons - of course.
Slides accentuated the stories to fine comic effect, as when Cotter told the story about being obsessed with Santa - and then seeing the photo of her finally meeting the Man. Classic. As were the recollections of being chased by the 19 redheaded Scott kids that lived in the neighborhood and terrorized everyone. Every town has their bully kids, but these ones took the cake, probably because there were so many of them! Cotter and her brother, Jackie, were friends and companions as kids, and he got her to go along with a lot of his capers, like the one that got them into their first big trouble.
Third grade was time to start smoking cigarettes, according to Jackie, and he got young Mo to join him on a trip to Bill's Market, where their Mother had a credit account. They acted very casual, telling Bill that it was fine with their Mom to get a carton of smokes and a gallon of chocolate ice cream. This would absolutely CEMENT their status as being cool with the other kids! The ruse was a success, and Jackie and Mo set out to round up all the other kids who wanted to be bad - "And you all know who you are!"
They all met up under the school bleachers, and each new kid that arrived got a pack of cigarettes and a spoon for ice cream. Cotter had a cig in each hand, feeling the new glow of cool and praise being showered on them by the other kids. Until the Fire Department came to investigate all the smoke coming from under the bleachers. Buzz kill. Their Mother made real sure that Cotter and brother Jackie got a job picking "fucking tomatoes" until they had all the money paid back to Bill's Market. "And that began my career as a liar and a thief."
There was a brief intermission to get refills and laugh some more outside, before returning to our seats to hear about Cotter's idea for an app that helps one find the G Spot, "Because men hate asking for directions ... I'd call it Pokemyspotmanandgo". The cheers of approval most likely reinforced this as a good business idea for Cotter. "That's why I love tonight, you're laughing with me, not at me! Right?" Cotter was most certainly correct there.
That Cotter was entertaining a whole big crows with the stories and adventures of her very interesting life is in and of itself a big deal for a young girl who was told that she could be a secretary, a wife, or a nun. That is, until a little girl she knew asked her, "Didn't you tell them that you were too gay for those choices?" Out of the mouths of babes ...
After the aforementioned (and hilarious) story about her friendship with Santa, it was over already, leaving everyone wanting more. Cotter closed by saying, "Be good to others, what's wrong with that?" Exactly nothing is wrong with that, and we all sang along to "Do You Believe In Magic?" as we filed out to continue the party out back.
Suzy Williams and The Nicknamers played for us, as the beer and wine continued to flow. All of us just felt lucky to be there, I think, on a night that celebrated the life and times of one of our most fascinating elder stateswomen, Maureen Cotter.
We had the run of the joint until midnight, so people sang and danced under the stars until the fun was all gone. As people said their reluctant goodbyes, it was actually fine, because the spirit of Venice is alive and well. And we knew that we'd be doing it again next year.
Thank you to Maureen Cotter for sharing your extraordinary life with us all, and to everyone who helps her to make it happen each year. You're all Venice treasures.
Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals played with the L.A. Philharmonic for the first time ever at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night, and it was nothing short of breathtaking. It was the perfect Summer evening under a full moon, and the crowd gathered together at the Bowl was in a fantastic mood. For good reason. Harper has reunited with the Innocent Criminals - a great thing - but this time they had about 50 more in their posse, as the Orchestra players joined the band for this one special night.
There was an air of anticipation and excitement above it all, as people knew this was historic, that Harper had never played with a full orchestra before - and in his hometown - so the also historic venue was full of family, friends, and longtime fans. The buzz grew as the seats filled with picnickers and the sun set as the moon rose.
The opening act was City and Colour (aka Dallas Green), with a solo acoustic set. He (and it's just a lone guy ala the trend of guys naming themselves a couple of things, like Iron and Wine) was an interesting choice to open, as it was pretty mellow. I'm comparing it to the utter disco inferno of Harper's openers the last time at the Bowl (Fitz & The Tantrums), who really got the night going. Green's slow songs mostly about death were not nearly as invigorating, but that didn't stop several gals from shouting, "I love you, Dallas!" throughout his set, putting us all at ease that Green is indeed loved. Or was loved, as the rest of his songs were about lost love. "Just keep your negative tweets to a minimum," Green implored, and I'm sure that worked out, because after he closed with his popular "Lover Come Back" song, he had certainly created a bunch more new fans. Green left the stage saying, "Thank you to Ben ... You're in for one hell of a night!" Yessss.
A brief intermission (soundtracked by Nick Drake) followed, where people poured more wine and stretched. I also noticed a lot more grey heads in the crowd. Grey heads getting coffees for the show. Harper has been playing his multi-genre music for decades now, and his ardent fans have now grown up with him and are sharing his music with their families. It was very much a family affair.
Harper and his original Innocent Criminals took the stage kind of subtly, other than the spiffy suits they wore for the occasion. They got right down to business with a fiery version of "Fight For Your Mind" that featured a guitar and bass battle between Harper and crowd favorite, bassist Juan Nelson. Nelson SHREDDED his bass apart, and Harper graciously cried "Uncle" before the song merged into Buddy Miles' "Them Changes" with Nelson on vocals. The gauntlet was thrown even before the notes of the first song had died out ... and the Orchestra hadn't even shown up yet!
"Thank you! It's a privilege to be here with you tonight!", shouted Harper over the roaring applause. They went right into the very Rastafari number "Finding Our Way" from the latest BHIC album Call It What It Is. The Bowl was lit up in reggae red, green, and yellow as Harper tipped his hat to Bob Marley with a snippet of "Trenchtown Rock" woven in for good measure. "One good thing about music is when it hits you feel no pain!", Harper sang as we all for sure felt absolutely no pain, because this night was already ruling. Harper must have thought so too, as he looked around seemingly in awe of it all. He name checked a bunch of Inland Empire towns ("Claremont! Cucamonga!") and added, "Your boy made good." Indeed, he did. And when the band lit into the dreamy "Into The Colors", everyone let him know with their whistles, cheers, and yes, "I love you, Bens!"
That one was utterly lovely, and then the entire Bowl sang "Happy Birthday" to guitarist, Relentless 7 hold-over, Jason Mozersky, as a roadie brought out a cake for him to quickly blow candles out on before they went into "Shine", the new one with the catchy, "If you were all I had, I would have it all" chorus.
People loved it, but you could tell they were not yet as familiar with it as the ones like "Welcome To The Cruel World" that came next. People roared to hear the opening chords on Harper's signature Weissenborn of a song that is over 20 years old now - and as great as ever.
The night would only get greater from there, as Harper brought out L.A. Philharmonic conductor, Thomas Wilkins, to introduce the orchestra. "Good evening, Brother!" said Wilkins as he gave Harper a bear hug, in what is clearly a friendship based on mutual admiration. Wilkins said he'd been to Harper's family music store in Claremont and was "like a kid in a candy store" as they are both "instrument geeks". Wilkins asked Harper at what age he switched over to the Weissenborn, and Harper answered that he never switched, "That's where I started." As the musicians filed onstage, Wilkins asked when was the last time Harper had something like this behind him, to which Harper replied, "I've NEVER had something like this behind me before!" - letting us all know that we were in for something extra special.
The orchestra began tuning, and Wilkins said, "This is my favorite sound, because it means it's time to rock and roll!" It sure was. Harper turned around, taking it all in, and said, "That's a lot of Innocent Criminals, huh?!" The extra Criminals were dressed in white, setting them apart, if their clarinets, harps, horns, and strings didn't already do that. They began with the title track from the new album, the very heavy, social justice track "Call It What It Is (Murder)" that calls out murdering police officers to their faces. It had an extra weight with the orchestra playing behind it, and the band was TIGHT (which seems miraculous when you know how little practice there must have been with how much Harper tours). It felt important - and it is.
"Amen, Omen" with its majestic, soaring strings brought me to tears for the first time of the night - but it would not be the last. There's just something about symphonic music that touches my heart directly, and when it's being played over some of the most lovely, heartfelt lyrics ever, you just better have brought some tissue along. I wasn't alone either, I saw people dabbing their eyes - male and female - plenty on that one. The strings section was really showing off throughout, in fact, as they wove their magic through "Forgiven" next, and the whole thing was so gorgeous that Harper would turn around to listen to them during his lyrical rests. It was truly something else.
As was "Power Of The Gospel". First of all, for any act known mainly for rock and blues to come up with this beautiful gospel hymn to above and sing it so raw and meaningfully is pretty dang rare, but then to have it be accompanied by an orchestra of this stature, it really was a religious experience. Complete with the requisite guy yelling out, "Take us to Church, Ben!" He did, and he sang his heart out while doing it - taking off his hat out of respect while doing so. Wow. Just wow.
The crushingly beautiful instrumental "All My Heart Can Take" was next, and Harper turned his chair around to play his Weissenborn facing the orchestra. It was completely silent in the Bowl, save for the chirp of crickets in the surrounding hillside. The music began slow and lilting until building to a crescendo that was again so sublime I felt the tears sting my eyes and my chest tighten. The entire audience was transfixed, and transported up into the stars, where we were more than happy to stay. I'd rewind this part of the night over and over if it was taped, and in my mind, it was. I'm back there
now, in fact ...
'K, I'm back. And so was the show, with "Roses From My Friends", and then one of my favorites, "When She Believes". The song has always made me feel like I'm at an outdoor café in Paris, but now with its added strings and harp and all the glorious rest, it was elevated into something from a real symphony. When Harper sang the line, "Now I have heard a hundred violins crying", he turned and gestured to the orchestra with a big smile that let us know he was as thrilled as we were. He looked so happy that it was impossible to not feel as happy for him. He shared at song's end that he had written that song in 1998 for his daughter Harris on the occasion of him feeling like she believed in him to take care of her. There was very little stage banter as there was a strict curfew to adhere to, so it was nice to hear that little back story.
"Goodbye To You" featured a gorgeous, lush arrangement (all written by David Campbell in collaboration with Harper) that just made you want the night to never end. That's when Harper told us about how he too goes to shows, and just saw Radiohead at Outsidelands, and wanted them to play the hits, so he understands. "Burn One Down, Kisses, I know, I know! See you tomorrow in Santa Barbara!" - meaning that wasn't happening on this night, in this setting, with this orchestra. Exactly no one was mad at that.
You'd think it couldn't get better, but then they threw down, "How Dark Is Gone" and it was SO. GOOD. This one has a kind of Spaghetti Western soundtrack feel to it, and as such, feels automatically epic. Percussionist Leon Mobley was going OFF, and Harper joined him by shaking maracas while singing, as the rest of the band/orchestra made the whole thing simply SOAR. Looking around, all you saw were joyous, rapturous faces enjoying themselves to the fullest. Hit with music, and feeling no pain. Perfect.
Conductor Wilkins came down off his platform and held hands aloft with Harper, as they thanked each other and the audience for what had just been pulled off. There was no time for the usual make-'em-wait-for-an-encore, so they lit right into Harper's anthemic, "Better Way" - a song full of truth and passion that is perfect for these crazy times we're living in - even though it was written ten years ago. It's one of my favorites, and Harper pours every ounce of himself into it, every time.
If you were at that show, you know that we can do more than BELIEVE in a better way, we can DO something about it. That might mean going to a show like this and getting inspired, because so many people feel the same way you do. That might mean having that song get stuck in your head as you hum it to yourself on your commute, remembering Friday's incredible show. And hopefully that might mean that you start thinking of ways you can help to make sure that a better way is being implemented in your life, because every individual effort at making things better affects the whole. So, LET yourself be hit with the music. It truly matters.
Thank you to Ben Harper, The Innocent Criminals, The L.A. Philharmonic, Thomas Wilkins, David Campbell, and the wonderful Hollywood Bowl for giving us this magical night of music that no one there will ever forget.
I LOVE supercool P.J. Harvey, but haven't seen her play since the '90's. That changed last night when she played at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The big armor-style building was packed to the rafters with Harvey's faithful. I believe we ARE the faithful because Harvey has never flinched at using her voice and her platform to comment on the global problems that face us all, and shine her aural spotlight right in our faces to help us see, through hearing. There are so few artists of this level doing that today that Harvey's music is even more appreciated now than ever.
Harvey's huge male band took the stage in a sort of marching band fashion, banging drums and filling the dark monochromatic stage with all of their instruments. When Harvey herself came out, the place exploded with cheers, as most of us hadn't seen her play in a long time - because she hasn't had many gigs. This is not a woman or a band that is ever going to be singing about dudes doing her wrong or what they're wearing to the party. This is music about REAL life, REAL issues, REAL talk. They focused the first half of the show playing mostly the heavy and pointed selections from her excellent most recent album. The Hope Six Demolition Project, all songs full of serious and legit social commentary that is SORELY needed right now.
They blazed through "Chain Of Keys", "The Ministry Of Defence", "The Community Of Hope" (also the best t-shirt at the merch table), "The Orange Monkey", and the American scolding "Dollar, Dollar", with Harvey regaling us all with her alto sax skills in lieu of her guitar this time out. There was almost no stage banter, which seemed right, because it would almost take you out of the artistic spell that Harvey and her incredible band of musicians (including the wonderful Alain Johannes, another Desert Sessions alum). My friend called it "Art Rock", and he was exactly right. It felt like watching a work of art come to life, which is apt, as the album was recorded as a museum exhibit. I told you Harvey was cool.
It was all so mesmerizing that I wasn't really taking notes, I just let myself be immersed by it. The second half of the show was made up more of Harvey's older (and awesome) material, like "50 Foot Queenie", "Let England Shake", and "The Glorious Land". It was actually kind of embarrassing as an audience to have the biggest applause erupt for "Down By The Water", as it's her biggest radio hit, and for sure her most obvious song, so it made everyone seem pretty mainstream, as it always does. When they began (my favorite oldie) "To Bring You My Love", the stage began to rise, elevating the entire band, and allowing the people in the back to see something too (the sight lines leave something to be desired at The Shrine). It felt important.
The entire room was made up of an extra diverse crowd, but by the end of the regular set, Harvey held each of us rapt. They returned for an encore of "Near The Memorials To Vietnam And Lincoln" from the new album, and "Working For The Man". Then that was it, but we all wanted much more, as all the best shows leave you feeling. It also left me feeling that Community Of Hope that Harvey sings about. Like minded people coming together to listen to very important music and lyrics about our current social conditions, that instead of feeling defeated and hopeLESS, left invigorated and thinking that maybe we can do something about all of it after all. I had just read an article the day before that said that attending live music shows is an actual health benefit. It uplifts you. Every time. It certainly did that for all of us gathered together to listen to P.J. Harvey, and when she sang I believe we have a future to do something good from "A Line In The Sand", I really HEARD her. And intend to do everything I can to do exactly that.
Thank you for your art, Polly Jean Harvey. You are one of a kind.
*P.J. Harvey also plays tonight at The Fonda in Hollywood - get there if you can!
One of my favorite things about Venice is the whimsy that you can find around just about every corner. People being creative, eclectic ... FUN. That's why we all rail against the BUBs (Big Ugly Boxes) going up all over, because that's not who we want to be. Boring. Never. So, though this flamingo fence has been up for ages at this house in the canals, I especially enjoy it now.
A flamingo fence. Why not? I love it. Further on along my walk, I went by the great yard of Gena Lindenbaum on Pacific and 24th, and saw not only another flamingo in the yard, but a bunch more knitted branches and little gnome friends, making it even more whimsical than when I first chanced upon it last Summer.
Thank you to all of the fun people still doing their part to make Venice the creative vortex that it's always been. It is noticed, and very appreciated. Love you, Venice!
The very fun Sundays at Big Red Sun returned yesterday with an afternoon of music and friends in the charming backyard garden of this great space on Rose Avenue. Everyone is so busy these days, it was a true and rare delight to get the gang all together in the name of Summer fun, live music, and friendship.
We were out gathering up the BYOB supplies, so missed the opening set by our good friend, Scott Passaglia, but he got the party started, that's for sure. There was shopping in addition to music listening, and many friends left the day with new jewelry and art purchased from the little airstream trailer store set up out back. We arrived just in time to pull up a bench and listen to tunes brand new and old by one of our local favorites, Lacey Cowden.
Cowden fully entranced the garden party, and had every eye and ear riveted to her throughout her set. Even her dog, Bootsy, was rapt and totally flattened by the story-telling tunes of her very talented owner. It was honestly so quiet for her that I'm pretty sure all auto and pedestrian traffic had been held out on Rose out of sheer respect. It was silent - until massive applause pierced the skies at the end of every tune. Always take the chance to hear Cowden sing ... it's something special.
After a little mingling in the sun and enjoying the perfectly curated tunes from DJ Bright Moments (Paddy Wilkins) between sets, it was Matt Ellis' turn to beguile the garden. He too brought out new tunes to blend in with his well-known and loved selections, and we all tapped our toes along as the sun got a little lower and colors turned to twilight. Vavine Tahapehi joined her husband on a couple of numbers, and all was right in the world as you glanced around at all of our friends smiling and enjoying themselves, seemingly far away from any cares of the outside world. Which is precisely what afternoons like this are for - to remind us of all the good that still exists. Right here.
We wound up the night at the always-wonderful Galley (where they had the Olympics showing out on the patio tv - excellent), and another Big Red Sunday was on the books. Be sure to keep an ear out for the next one, because it's a perfect way to while away an afternoon in Venice. Thank you to all who made it happen!
There have been many changes at Wabi Sabi the past few years (as there has been with Abbot Kinney and Venice at large), but the one constant since the first month they opened in 2001 has always been Fumi Kimura. She has managed the restaurant, nurtured its workers and customers, and has been the most lovely and gracious hostess of our neighborhood sushi spot ever since ... but now she's leaving, moving back to Japan, and last night was her last night there.
Wabi Sabi closed down early and a party sprang up in the back room, as friends and neighbors filtered in with armloads of floral bouquets to show their respect and give their love to someone who has meant so much to our community. Kimura has been there through many transitions, and it was clear to see from the many adoring patrons lining up to give their hugs and thanks, that she will be sorely missed. It was fantastic to see so many familiar local faces back on the Boulevard, and to know that they were there for Fumi. Venice family.
The constant sound of champagne bottles popping last night let you know that it was meant to be a celebration, and not as sad as it felt, so we all clinked glasses and toasted our friend, wishing her well ... knowing that now we have someone wonderful to visit in Japan! And also knowing that when someone has been such a big part of Venice for so long ... they tend to return. We can only hope, and send Fumi off with fond memories and so much love.
Yesterday was a beautiful day for a Hare Krishna parade, that's for sure. The 50th Annual Festival Of The Chariots brightened up Venice in their yearly celebration that brings music and color to all of Venice, regardless of religious affiliation.
You'll most likely never see most Venetians with shaved heads and saffron robes chanting "Hare, Hare, Krishna!", but that doesn't stop anyone from dancing and parading along with the monks of the order. I've been out of town for the last few festivals, so it was a delight to attend again yesterday for their milestone jubilee anniversary celebration.
My favorite part every time is when the unsuspecting tourists see this spectacle come upon them. Everything stops as the enormous, marigold-bedecked floats pass by, pulled along by Hare Krishna devotees. Everyone chants and sings and bangs drums and blow horns and the whole thing is just a visual and aural kaleidoscope of positive energy. You can see the wonder and surprise on all of the visitors' faces as the parade envelops them in a massive group hug. It's special, even if you've seen it all 50 times.
I saw a bunch of old friends, kids waving from atop their Dad's shoulders, tourists on tip-toe aiming for the best angle to capture this - to them - once in a lifetime deal. As the procession went along, it picked up more and more revelers, as passersby and the general Boardwalk crowd would join in and walk and clap alongside their fellow fun havers.
The only drag in the whole day - as it is every year - is the group of protesters that hold up their hellfire signs and yell through bullhorns about how we'll all burn in hell. Um. Yeah. Here's a whole group of happy people dancing and singing together in the sunshine, holding workshops about enlightenment, offering a free vegan feast to all who wish to partake, with everyone calling each other "Brother" and "Sister" - and they're the ones going to Hell.
I highly doubt it, and also highly doubt that Jesus would condone the foul behavior of the (mainly middle-aged white angry biker looking men) Bible thumping agitators. But you know what, Free Speech. And the cops are there to separate the two factions, should it get out of hand, but mostly all the Hare Krishna party just laughs at them and their signs with the black metal fonts insisting on gloom and doom. Dumb.
The hatred was easily forgotten, however, in light of the explosion of color and joy that was going on all around.
Giant crowds lined up to get plates of vegan dishes (I see they've added Hawaiian shaved ice and cheese pizza to the mix now days so parents can get their kids to partake, I assume), watch the dancers, listen to the music, get faces and hands henna painted, , look at all the gorgeous saris and costumes, shop for similar stuff from India in the pop-up Govinda's store, and/or partake in the many workshops and speaker tents filling you in on what exactly this group of people believe. It's always felt a little cult-y to me, but I can't really be mad at any religion that is spreading the love like this, and in such a fun way.
There was much to do and see, but then, there always is in Venice. I had an important bloody mary meeting at The Townhouse I had to keep, and another, even more pressing engagement on the sand and in the sea (my Sunday worship) that was crucial that I get to in a timely fashion (and then a stint at Hinano's to make it a perfect Sunday in Venice!), so I had to leave the Hare Krishnas to it, and thank them for another excellent celebration in the heart of Venice.