Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The World Wall - A Vision Of The Future Without Fear At SPARC

The World Wall is another wonderful project conceived by artist Judy Baca, and SPARC held an opening last weekend to unveil the Canadian section of the wall.

The World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear is a traveling installation mural that began in 1987 and is still in progress. Currently, the wall is made up of nine 10 X 30 foot portable panels, and when completed it will include 14 works, with 7 from different nations, and 7 led by Baca. Thus far, Finland, Russia, Israel/Palestine, Mexico, and now Canada are represented. It addresses the big issues facing the world today, like war, peace, cooperation, environment, interdependence, and spiritual growth ... and it is beautiful.

SPARC opened its doors last weekend to show off the new contribution from Canada, The Inuit Send The World A Canary, by Tania Godoroja Pearse (assisted by Kriss Boggild and Kathy Kaiser). It shows an oil pipeline pouring into the doom of climate change on one side, and nature with people working together on the other, and it is a triumph of color and meaning. When this entire wall is complete and assembled, it is going to be a wonder of the world. Like I want to nominate Baca for the Nobel Peace Prize degree of wonder. This is one of the most important works of art happening today, in my humble opinion - and just straight up fact.

There was fine food and drink for all who attended the opening at SPARC, and though I had to run off to another show, I did get to catch up briefly with the SPARC gang to congratulate them. We also discussed how Joel Silver needs to give back the Edward Biberman Venice mural that was in our former post office to be on public display permanently at SPARC. It's for the entire Community to enjoy, not some private production office that isn't even up and running after years, leaving the old P.O. an empty ghost building of no neighborhood vision. It's just sad. And wrong. Give it back, Silver!

I digress. Please take this exceptional opportunity to view an artistic miracle in progress while it is on exhibition at SPARC until October 13, 2017. This is how you create world peace and progress, by working together as one world, one heart, one love. When you see spectacular works like this, you know that it is indeed possible.

685 Venice Boulevard

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Evening With Jack Johnson At The Hollywood Bowl - Music Under Constellations

With all the craziness in the world these days, the mellow vibes of Jack Johnson's music was exactly what was needed this past Sunday night. Johnson played a sold out show at the Hollywood Bowl, which was transformed into an intimate-feeling beach party for the evening. The weather was perfect, the majority of the crowd was clad in Aloha shirts or breezy dresses (and very white), and the stars twinkled above like they were put there just for this event.

Jamtown set the tone early, playing their party-style tunes under a setting sun for an appreciative crowd of revelers. The collaboration between the individual talents of Cisco Adler, Donavon Frankenreiter, and G. Love is even better as a group, and all the partiers at the Bowl on this night were eating it up. With song titles like "Island Time", "Out To Sea", "Strawberry Moon", and "Jetstream," you gather that this is a band that digs their vacations, and they instantly made us all feel like we were on a good one of our own. After their last number, Adler shouted out, "You look ridiculous, you don't even understand it, this is beautiful!" - and I completely understood his enthusiasm. All was truly beautiful, and we were all in it together. Loving it.

The whole endeavor was sponsored by the "All At Once Foundation" in association with Johnson's Ohana Foundation. This meant that recycling was strongly encouraged (they gave out refillable glasses to drink from), plastic was strongly discouraged, there were bike valets, and best of all, the Bowl was strung with lights made from recycled materials just for this event that gave it all the feeling of a backyard jamboree. Of all the artists out there, it truly seems to me that Johnson is among the very most legit when it comes to walking his talk. Love the guy.

It's been a while since Johnson had played in L.A., so the crowd was all the more hyped to get down to his surfy, acoustic jams. He's such a casual character (remember the SNL skit where they had Jack Johnson shoes that were bare feet looking shoes?), that it almost took everyone by surprise when he ambled on to the stage, saying, "Hey, how's it going?" The ovation that met that simple greeting was massive, making clear the respect that Johnson has earned over the years. The band kicked it off with "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing", with the audience already clearly in the palm of his hand. I was sitting in a box with a new friend named Taylor, and when the band next began to play the song, "Taylor", she was beside herself with happiness. It was her college theme song. I get it. I was happy for her, and just looking at her beaming face reminded one of the absolute power of music to elate. Great.

"Flake" brought me right back to 2001, when my brother brought home an advance copy of Brushfire Fairytales for me to check out. Johnson's debut album made a fan of me from the first listen, and for life. Every song was great, an instant classic, and when he played this one it was as fresh as if I'd just heard it. I heard someone say all of Johnson's songs sound the same, to which I'd reply, "Excellent!" It's a timeless vibe, Brah. Keyboardist Zach Gill was particularly fancy on this one, a real standout. It's fun because you can tell how much of a good time these guys all have playing together, and it's infectious.

"A quick cheers to anyone who ever saw us play here at The Mint!" (WOOOO!) Johnson then shouted out to his drummer, our local Venice pal, Adam Topol, who has played with Johnson since the very beginning. He's a wonderful solo artist in his own right, and one of the few drummers out there who can distract me from the whole song because he's so good and fun to watch on his own. After introducing Topol, Johnson said, "My name is Jack, thank you, look at all you guys who came, I can't believe we get to do this!" Many artists feign humility, but Johnson is one of the very few with whom it rings true. You can feel his gratitude is absolutely sincere, especially with how much he really does give back. Like a Sublime cover of "Bad Fish/Boss DJ" for instance! The party was now even more on.

To introduce "Inaudible Melodies" (which I'm still humming today), Johnson told a story of how he originally wrote it in school at UCSB, to try and get an extension on a project. His film school professor, Edward Branigan, gave a lecture and Johnson tried to get all his notes into a song. Bruce Lee was so fast in Kung Fu films that the frames couldn't capture it, hence the line, "Frames can't catch you when you're moving like that ..." Rad. I love knowing stories behind songs.

"I don't really drink beer on stage, cause I'll burp when I sing, but this is the first L.A. show without our friend, Ben Bradley, backstage, so this song in particular is for Ben," said Johnson to introduce "Go On." Bradley passed away earlier this year, and was featured on the cups they gave away, which we heartily toasted to his friend's memory with. And the song was beautiful, of course. As was "Upside Down".

The brand new "My Mind Is For Sale" from Johnson's upcoming album, All The Light Above It Too, is a great example of how Johnson subtly (or not so subtly in this case, where he straight up takes Trump to task) works in his socially conscious messages, like a spoonful of sugar making the medicine go down with elegantly crafted, fun-sounding tunes that actually pack a wallop if you're really listening. "I don't care for your paranoid us against them fearful kind of walls ..." Right on. September seems a long way off when you want this album NOW.

"Tomorrow" started out with Johnson singing his old answering machine message his friends would hear when they called his house. He is clearly still crazy about his wife, Kim, and it was at this point that my box mate, Taylor, told me that Johnson is now her new standard for men. Like, if they don't step up and behave like Johnson does publicly to his his wife, then why even bother? I'm with her. Step it up, Men! Johnson is a fantastic example for you. Pay attention. Thanks.

"Bubble Toes" got people dancing after Johnson said, "If you wanna dance, this is one of our few dancing songs, then it's back to boring again." Um, hardly, but we did dance. Then there was a smooth rendition of The Steve Miller Band's "Joker" that everyone sang along heartily with. "Wasting Time" and "I Got You" were great as ever, then it was my favorite, "Constellations". Johnson dedicated it to his Dad, who gave him this line and memory ... "To lay down underneath the stars, listen to Papa's translations of the stories across the sky, we drew our own constellations." So beautiful, you had to feel a bit emotional. I did for sure. (Shocker).

"Breakdown" was for Johnson's little daughter who was there, and I can only imagine was thrilled when he said, "I love you, little girl!" Cool Dad supreme. "Tape Deck" featured Stewart Cole on trumpet, who goes back with Johnson to his 16 year old punk rock band days, and he stuck around for "Banana Pancakes", giving it an extra flair. G. Love came back out for the one-two punch of "Rodeo Clowns" and "At Or With Me", creating a harmonica frenzy of awesomeness. The good time they have playing together is obvious, and their long friendship creates a cohesion that comes from decades of riffing, rocking, and ruling.

"Whole Wide World" was great, and "Good People" posed the very important and timely question, "Where'd all the good people go?" Seriously, where?! A good answer was that they were almost all at this show, having a ball. I was looking down, taking notes, and Taylor tapped me from behind, saying, "Just so you know, everyone is dancing!" I turned around to look and the whole entire Bowl, front to back, surely was up on their feet, dancing away. So festive, so happy, so needed. Thanks be!

"Mud Football" was more fun - a story in song form, like most of Johnson's tunes. It was the last song of the regular set, and the applause was so thunderous then that Johnson didn't even leave the stage. He returned to the mic, saying, "I'm not gonna clown around like I'm not coming back out, there's a curfew." See - he's the real deal.

Johnson played solo acoustic for the encore, and dedicated "Angel" to his "lovely wife, Kim." We all cheered (and swooned) when he sang "Over 23 years have gone by, and I'm still yours." Again, the real deal. After that delight, he told a story about Willie Nelson getting him stones and taking all his money at poker, adding, "I'm dropping a name, but that's cool." It was.

"Better Together" was the final song of the evening, and was again real swoon-worthy, Taylor and I agreed. "Love is the answer, at least for most of the questions in my heart" ... I mean. He's right. Love IS the answer, and when this many people come together and proclaim it to be so, singing together as one ... it's pretty hard to argue with. We are ALL better together ... we're all in this together ... and shows and humanity like this remind us of this in the best possible way. It was a magical night, in a magical place, with magical people all around, feeling the same way. And as the All At Once Foundation's mission statement goes, "An individual action, multiplied by millions, creates global change." That's pretty basic, but ultra true. The good vibes of the night carried over as everyone exited the Bowl, still on that natural high you get from good times that also do actual real good.

Thanks eternal to Jack Johnson for creating his musical, activist, positive world, and for allowing us to share it with him, through song and action. Right on.

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography

Monday, July 17, 2017

Amilia K Spicer Wows And Flutters In CD Release Show At Beyond Baroque

The long awaited new album Wow and Flutter, from our much-loved local folk/country/awesome singer/songwriter Amilia K Spicer was celebrated in a cd release show and party at Beyond Baroque last Saturday night. Though Spicer is often on the road, Venice has been spoiled lately, as Spicer also played at the closing party for Abbot's Habit last month - which got me very excited about this album and show.

Beyond Baroque is a wonderful venue, but in this case did a little double-booking and both Spicer's show and Suzy Williams' annual Lit Show were scheduled for the same time, the same night. I brought this to their attention and a little juggling was done, and now The Lit Show will be next Saturday, July 22nd, also at Beyond Baroque. Some folks showed up to Spicer's show expecting Suzy's, and were treated to a wonderful show anyway, with another one on deck for the following weekend, so everybody won.

It was a beautiful evening, and the courtyard behind Beyond Baroque was filled with friends, family, and fans of Spicer, all there to get down with some fantastic music and fun. There was food and drink, and a lot of catching up with our local luminary musicians that mix and match with each others' shows all the time. It's a true musical community, and always excellent in whatever the combination is ... and this time it was Spicer's turn.

The show opened with a few great songs from Sam Morrow, clad in a Texas Gentlemen t-shirt. The guy has some pipes, and reminded me a bit of Sturgill Simpson, only with better enunciation. He sang about how "the same old bullshit doesn't make the grass green", and other truths. He sang a pretty one called "You Gave It All Away" that had us all nodding and tapping our toes along, including Spicer watching from the front row. "I have stuff for sale, if you like cd's ... or me," said Moore at the end of his set. We liked both.

KP Hawthorn of the band Calico was up next, and was also excellent. She sang a funny song called "405" about being in love with someone on the west side ... when you live in the Valley. We get it. We also all had a group singalong for Hawthorn's cover of "California Dreaming" ... and it was as dreamy as you would imagine. It was really a lovely moment for a group of people to be singing about the place that we're all in, and know and love so well. It was special - even more so considering it seemed that everyone knew all the words! I'll be catching Calico at my earliest chance.

There was a break for some more fresh air and drinks, and then all reassembled in the theater to see the premiere of Spicer's brand new video for her song "Lightning". It was a gorgeous clip and song, and was all the more impressive to find out at its end that Spicer had shot almost the whole thing herself - underwater! This is truly a multi-talent. I was seated next to a woman who told me that she runs a poetry night, and often invites Spicer to play, as her lyrics are so poetic. That exchange caused me to sit up straight and really listen to all the words throughout the night, and I came away from it all even more a fan than I already have been for years. Amilia K Spicer is the real deal.

That was evident from the first notes she and her All Star band performed this night. I mean, Spicer started out on the banjo! Her musical companions for the night were all headliners in their own right, from Steve Postell to Michael Jerome to all the backup singers - all were of the highest caliber. Everyone knew it too, so the place was packed. SRO. People began to spar over their seats, and others offered to sit on the floor. It was a great turnout for a great performer, that's for sure.

They began with "Fill Me Up" from Wow And Flutter, showing us from the start how good it was. It was, as expected, wonderful. It's all just so expert, with the smooth drumming from Jerome, the blistering solos from Postell, the mandolin player ruling, and the lush harmonies from all made you know that you were in some esteemed company. Spicer's sublime "Train Wreck" is so pretty you instantly knew why she has become such a darling of NPR radio in recent days. She's just something else.

Christopher Allis joined everyone on stage for a gorgeous rendering of the big radio song, "This Town" and when Spicer sang the line about "My home is in this town ..." it made me choke up because I don't currently have a home in this town, and it's all pretty daunting with what's out there now. My home might NOT be in this town unless something cool happens pretty soon here ... And then I snapped back to the present and LOVED this song. Spicer's dad grew up in Harlan, Kentucky, so she had to do a song about it. She told us, "Whiskey runs through me like Mississippi mud, you can't water down my blood." To that, I raised my own glass.

One had to. Witnessing these musicians building it all to a crescendo together was powerful, and emotional. Like, thank GOODNESS we have music! What would we all do without it?! Especially incredible music like these guys brought. "What I'm Saying" was also just straight up great, and cemented the fact that everyone needs this new album, Wow and Flutter. It's just WOW. Extra well worth the long wait it took to get it just perfect - which it is. I'm not yet familiar enough with the songs to know all their titles, but when she sang, "In a little while, there will be beauty ..." I had to object, because there was plenty of beauty right then! It also consoled me a bit, that in a little while - things will be better. Thanks!

"My parents sent me flowers today." (Awww) "I freaking KNOW!" Spicer acknowledged all who had made this night possible, and noted her parents above all. After a little sorely needed pinot grigio for our girl, she got down to "Wild Horses", which was pure stunning, with its lap steel solo. "I'm a good man every other day ... I'm afraid I built this house on mud" I was all about the lyrics on this night, and I was not at all disappointed. So so so good. Then it was time for "The one that started it all", and they played "Windchill". It was so pretty, I got all teary again. I wasn't alone, as after another beautiful mandolin solo, the whole place burst into applause and shouts of "Bravo!"

Spicer invited a "gaggle of girls" up for "Shotgun", and all those female harmonies were just the best. The best with more tears. I love this song. I love this lady. I love this music. I loved this night. Steve McCormick (who helped Spicer beautifully realize the new album as co-producer and co-musician) came back for a Dixieland inspired NOLA jam that was real fun, and then Spicer announced she had one more before it was time for her to party. She told about driving from L.A. to Texas once, and she was heading down the highway with a crazy storm on one side, and bright sunshine on the other. "Shine" was again so pretty I got emotional as it built to its climax. It's all just so well thought out and special ... I realize I'm gushing a bit, but it's how I feel, and I'm pretty sure there was a lot of gushing being done after - by everyone there.

Sincere CONGRATULATIONS to Amilia K Spicer and all involved on what is a wonderful project that is now being launched out into the world for everyone to hear and enjoy like we did.

Enjoy Wow and Flutter now everywhere. Trust me, you will.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Surfside Venice Opens Surfside!

Surfside Venice had their grand opening jamboree last night, and it was a complete blast. Taking over the space left vacant by Danny's Deli, Surfside was an instant hit with locals and visitors alike. You could tell because it was jam packed inside with a ton of people I knew, and by the end of the night a line had formed outside of people I didn't.

The evening began with a little ribbon cutting ceremony thing, complete with big, fake scissors and crepe paper red ribbon. As it was taking place in Venice, it did not take place on time. The new owners are the same folks that run the travel hostel upstairs, so this venue has been kept in the family. There was a big photo op of all of those involved, the ribbon was cut, and the fun moved inside.

Venice Paparazzi was on the scene, and there was even a Surfside step and repeat for the occasion. Neighborhood favorites from the Danny's Deli days are back on the staff, like Dakota Rayfield, who painted the custom board proclaiming the Surfside love for Venice.

That love is apparent everywhere you look. The new rooms are bright and airy, with a turquoise and white beachy color scheme. The dining room is anchored by a big mural of a wave - perfect for the close proximity to the Venice Breakwater.

One pleasant surprise was how actually good the food was. Beach food is not famous for being that good, so the expectations were not that high. Well, exceeded! The menu has something for everyone, and while it might be a little steep price-wise, it's not that bad for a place that's right at the beach. I had fish and chips - delish. My friend had the seafood pasta - yuuuuum. My brother had a Mexican bowl with fish, and he rolled his eyes at its savoriness. Our neighboring table had just about everything it looked like, and all seemed extra satisfied.

The drinks must also be mentioned, because they're delicious too. I had a "Pink Bikini", and it was even better when delivered by Christina Marquez (of Davy Jones' Liquor Locker fame). Friends everywhere we looked ... that's what you want in a new joint to hang out at. Solid.

We kind of lucked out because as we were eating, the staff began clearing tables and setting up an actual stage right in front of us. The debut band for Surfside was none other than Peace Frog, the ultimate Doors cover band. The singer, Tony Fernandez, channels Jim Morrison (and my pal Shooter Jennings a bit too) so well that if you close your eyes, you've time traveled back to seeing Jim live - which nearly nobody has these days, so it's even cooler.

The room was dancing the entire time, with total enthusiasm. Loud group singalongs went down with every song, because pretty much everyone in Venice knows every word to every Doors tune. Or should. Another live music spot in Venice was sorely needed, and Surfside is delivering. If sports is more your game, you're covered there too, with large t.v.'s set up all around for whatever event you're into. It's gonna be a hang, trust me.

The dancing was not limited to inside. In fact, the best moves were going down outside on the sidewalk behind the stage, courtesy of Tonen and Company. It was rad, and so fun on a summer night in Venice.

The line to get inside was long by the time we left, and I was happy for the Surfside folks for having such a great time on their opening night. I hope they will continue to honor the Locals vibe, not only by letting us cut the line (crucial!), but by making it clear that our Community is a priority. Venice needs that so badly right now.

It was a super fun night, with a super fun crew, at a super great new spot for Venice. See you there!

Surfside Venice
28 Windward Avenue (Windward & Speedway)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Venice Is Not For Sale - Only It Is.

I was walking down the street this morning when I came upon this little tag on the sidewalk ... "Venice is not for sale". I have to figure it must be old ... because at this point in time, Venice is for sure for sale.

Not the SPIRIT of Venice, of course, but Venice property has been so pimped out and sold, it's nearly unrecognizable if you haven't been here in a while. It's so disheartening. For the first time since I moved here over 20 years ago, I'm thinking I'm not as sure that this is the place for me anymore. I mean, I LOVE VENICE, as everyone knows ... but what I love so much seems to be in ever increasing danger of disappearing completely.

The new people moving in don't get it at all. You can tell just by the things that they complain about that they have no idea what Venice was ever truly like. The fact that Adidas and Smashbox - massive chains that were never tolerated in this town - both just opened for business on Abbot Kinney. Thi should really tell you all you need to know. That Venice, like America itself, has been bought and sold to the highest bidders. It's disgusting, and sad, and I'm getting weary of the battle. I can't stand walking around listening to these entitled, self-centered jerks acting like they own the world, and thinking they can take over our little beach-side Community. It's heartbreaking.

The future is wide open, and it is what we make it. I have no idea what's next, but I'm no longer as sure that whatever happens will be in Venice. I'd hate to be one to throw in the towel on a place in the world that is downright sacred to me, but the greed sickens me on the daily.

It's true that those magical qualities that originally defined Venice cannot be bought and sold ... but you have to still be able to feel them to want to be here, and that's getting harder and harder every day.

We shall see.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Surf Vans Belong In Venice

I love seeing beat up old surf vans with stickers collected from their travels all over them.

These kinds of vehicles have always been parked around town in Venice, and they're a kind of time capsule to mellower times. With shoddy bungalows going for $2 million (!!!), it's getting to be more likely to see Teslas and other luxury cars parked on our streets than the good old Woodys of yore. Money is killing Venice. Don't let it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Live And Learn

The phrase "Live and Learn" has been coming up a lot lately, so it was fitting that I saw it painted on Venice Boulevard by the C.A.V.E. Gallery, where its artist, Kid Acne, had his show Mark My Words open last Saturday.

I was unable to attend the opening, but I like that they brought the show outside on to the sidewalk for all to see, day or night. I've learned a lot in recent days ... like how crucial it is to pay attention to signs and flags. Like what friendships are true and supportive, and which are not. Like how you can try to be the very best person you know how to be, and sometimes it's still not enough. Like what is truly important in life, and what is and what isn't worth getting upset about. Like how karma has a way of sorting things out. And like how even though these are very trying times in the world - and in my own life - it's still so extra awesome to be alive!

Live and Learn ... all day, every day.

Mark My Words is on view at C.A.V.E. Gallery now through August 5th.

C.A.V.E. Gallery
55 Venice Boulevard

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Keep America Thinking!

Hi Friends! My life is utter mayhem at the moment, and I can't even write anything without first thanking the remarkable folks that have stepped up lately and shown me that they love and care. I've had messages from people I've never met or even heard of, offering me ideas about new places, work opportunities, a spare house or couch, and above all, true friendship - whether we know each other in real life or not. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude to any and all that have reached out in any way. Gratitude is the very best way to deal with situations like this, I'm realizing. Big things don't seem as hard when you're grateful for the little things. So, honestly and from the very depths of my heart - THANK YOU. Because of you all, I know that things are actually going to be even better than before - which after the last year, shouldn't be hard.

I'm staying with dear friends at the moment, and while they're in Venice, it's a different neighborhood, and thus a different walking route for me. Today when I was heading down Angelus Place, I saw this great sign, requesting that we "Keep America Thinking - Fund Science". While lately I'm probably thinking too much, I can still get all the way behind this sentiment. When you have a President who appears to be dumber than an actual box of rocks, this idea of THINKING is paramount to our country's survival. I just read that Volvo is now the first major car company that will stop making cars that use gas. While this should have been done decades ago, it's a wonderful start ... which I imagine came about due to some good, old-fashioned, head-scratching thinking.

Think about it.

*As I'm thinking about all of you dear readers with complete love and fierce gratitude. Please keep the good ideas coming ... I promise it will all come back to you. Karma is real.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Bye, Cabrillo.

Well. Here we go again. Another sketchy situation I have to move out of in Venice. Today is my last day at my Cabrillo Avenue pad that I've lived in since 2013. I have no idea where I'll live next ... or even if it will be in Venice. Obviously that is the hope, but with things going how they are here in our quickly changing - for the worse - Venice ... everything remains to be seen.

My first Venice landlord, the disgusting Phil, decided it was fine for him to enter my place on Venice Boulevard whenever he wanted. He would engage in fun activities like going through my underwear drawer, hanging out on my bed, all that good stuff. When confronted, he lowered my rent without admitting any guilt - other than lowering my rent. He didn't share with his parents - the real owners - why he lowered my rent, so they decided to evict me for not paying what they thought to be the full amount. His criminal activity was not on the docket in our civil trial, so I lost, and had to be out of my home of over a decade in 30 days. It sucked.

We had to move out of the next place because it was under constant jack-hammering construction for months downstairs, and then when it was finished, they told us they were going to put in wall to wall carpeting over our wood floors so we wouldn't disturb the new, posh downstairs neighbors. My friend's dog would have ruined that carpet in one day, so out we were - again.

I've been living in harmony on Cabrillo now since 2013 ... until today. Last year, when my dear friend roommate decided to move to Oregon, I had to get a new one. I found a girl from New York who would only be here part time, because she had a restaurant out there. Great, right? Not great. She went behind my back to the landlord to try to rent out her room while she was back in NYC, which is strictly forbidden. When told no, she decided to break her lease. The landlord told her she could - if she found a replacement for herself. Now, at the time I was working on a tv show that had long hours and I was never home. The NY girl found another girl, and she seemed ok enough. We had a trial period - that I was always gone during - and then she signed a new lease here. And it has sucked ever since.

Psycho Susie the Squatter. This little piece of work would bust into my room so often, I had to get a lock on my bedroom door for the first time ever. She didn't even have her own spoon, so was constantly using everything of mine. She ate my food. She set up a home office in the living room. Since the eviction notice appeared, I have returned home FOUR times to the stove burners left on high for hours, like she's trying to burn the place down to get out of it. She never paid a utility. And then I recently found out she hadn't been paying her share of the rent either (we paid separately). For five months. Now SIX. I only found out because I came home to an eviction notice on the front door. As I HAVE paid my rent every month, I figured great, let's get this girl out of here and I can get someone new in here that actually is a responsible adult that pays their rent, etc. But nope. The landlord, an elderly woman from Minnesota - so I automatically thought she had to be cool - was over it. She didn't want to have two people here anymore, and as it's not a rent control building, that's her choice not to renew my lease. But I didn't do anything wrong! I've never called her to fix anything, always taking care of things myself so as not to bother her. I never complained when our water has been shut off for months at a time due to plumbing problems. I shoot the breeze with her. I thought she got it, she was from the Land of 10,000+ Lakes! But nope. A neighbor told me she asked if they thought she'd get in trouble if she maced a sleeping homeless man in the alley behind the building. Not at all Minnesota Nice. More like cruel. Heartless.  And that's how she was on the phone the other day when she told me I needed to be out on July 1st. When, meanwhile, the squatter roommate is still here until the sheriff comes for her! And I'm out. Wow. Just wow.

Thank goodness I have a wonderful brother and mother who helped me throw my whole life in boxes in two days. Thank goodness my brother has a garage I can put them in. Thank goodness I have friends who love me and have my back, and so far, I don't think I'll have to sleep outside. This all comes at a time when freelance work is extra hard to come by, so it's ultra stressful, believe me.Yet, somehow I feel like things will be cool. The second I hung up with this cranky, inhumane lady, I was done. Like, BYE. I don't need this. I've put up with a hell of a lot the last year, and now it can just be in the past. The place is nowhere near worth it, and I was killing myself to hang on to it with my claws, when it's actually a bit of a dump. Venice has us all paranoid that we have to hang on to places that are so sub-par, just because nothing else is affordable. My friend in Minnesota has a beautiful, massive house with a giant pool, that costs less than my crappy Venice digs. And I don't want to give one more dime to someone that lacks humanity. We can all do better, for ourselves and each other.

Venice is a trip. Last week, I was the Neptune Queen on Saturday, having the time of my life. This Saturday, I was sweaty and in tears, moving my whole life to who knows where. Bukowski said, "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire." So, I'm planning on strutting through this fire, without a glance back. The absolute perfect Venice palace might make itself available to me, or I might have to actually live in Neptune, under the sea. Or some awesome travel opportunity may make itself known, now that all my stuff is packed away. Or ... or ... or ... it's wide open.

I hope that I will be able to remain in my beloved Venice and tell its stories, and I humbly ask your help in that endeavor. If you hear of a decent place, or an actually cool landlord for once (Unicorn?) - not the ones that are just trying to suck all they can off of the gigantic, gentrifying teat, or a writing gig in Spain, a Circus to run away to, or anything remotely cool at all, I'm all ears. Thank you for your continued support and love, dear people of Venice. We gotta stick together now more than ever.

Bye, Neighbors! Thanks and love ... and please keep our hummingbird nest safe. That was the best part of this place.

Peace out. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Last Call For Abbot's Habit!

Today is the very last day of Abbot's Habit being open on the corner of Abbot Kinney and California in Venice. That was hard to type.

My Mom and I were just in there having one last coffee, exchanging hugs, and generally not wanting to leave. Not wanting it to really be over. Not wanting to accept that our beloved local hang is closing its doors for good.

Gentrification, man. We all lament it, but it just keeps on happening. People keep raising rents, selling out to the highest bidder, and making it harder and harder for genuine lovers of Venice to stay in both business and in residence. The big picture seems to have been lost in a haze of money and greed that has been changing our town for the way less cool for a while now. Venice is losing its edge daily.

I got choked up several times while sitting in there listening to the regulars exchange stories, and wonder where they'll hang out now. For anyone that was a Habit habitué, places like Intellegentsia or wherever just don't cut it. You want to be where locals are, not where hipsters think is cool. Where will the corner guys hang now that the Habit is gone? Like Stanley Behrens wrote on a goodbye poster hanging up there today, "This was my favorite corner." Ugh, I'm choking up again.

Change happens, we know, we know. But the astonishing rate of turnover on Abbot Kinney, and the lack of vision it is accompanied by, is just downright sad - and wrong. Driving out everything that made Venice special will only make it boring ... the same as everywhere else. Generic. Who wants that?!

We finished our coffees (there was hardly any food left for sale after an intense morning of folks wanting their one last bagel special, etc...), shared more hugs, and will be heading back over there in a little bit to pop some bottles of thanks and one final finalé with Nina. With for sure some more tears.

Thank you for everything over the years, Abbot's Habit. You will live forever in our wonderful memories.

Last call!!!

R.I. P. Abbot's Habit!!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The 2017 Venice Neptune Parade - Hail Summer! Hail Venice! Hail Yes!!!

Last Saturday was just about the best Venice day ever. After the sadness of Abbot's Habit's closing party the night before, everyone was ready to have some fun, and remember what Venice is all about. It was June gloomy out, though, and many were dealing with the vicious hangovers that come with drowning deep sorrows like a local institution closing forever. We were going to have to dig deep to rally if we were going to officially declare it SUMMER in Venice at this year's Neptune Festival. So that's exactly what we did.

I was deeply honored and humbled to be asked to be the Queen of this year's Neptune Fest, along with Jeremy Marco as King Neptune. This has been a very heavy year for many, myself included, and the opportunity to ring in Summer in the name of Venice was just the bright spot I needed to look forward to - and it did not disappoint.

My Mom - the Queen Mother - came in from Minnesota and created a royal robe fit for the Queen of the Mermaids. My dear friend Stephanie Hobgood came in from the Valley and gave me the mermaid hair of dreams. My dear friend Kimberly Jackson came in from Wabi Sabi (where she is the "Door Diva") to bedazzle my eyes with an enchanting mermaid sparkle glow for the occasion. My dear friend Rebekah Ozier created a masterpiece of a Queen Neptune crown that was so spectacular I felt transformed the instant I put it on. It even had shells from our beach in Venice on it! It is truly Venice Historical Museum worthy.

While we were busy getting me all dolled up for the parade, the sun began to ease its way out. By the time we left (very late!) for The Sidewalk Café for the pre-party, the skies had turned entirely blue, and the stage was set for our Summer Solstice Festival.

We arrived to cheers and applause, and I was immediately given a shot that turned my personal tide for the much better. We took photos and marveled over the wonderful costumes that were showing up, and you could tell that we were all ready to blow off some steam.

These events always take place on Venice Standard Time, which is to say it's not exactly "sharp". Ever. Think of it kind of like Island Time. A crowd was building up outside, as they had been told 3 p.m., and it was well past time to march down the Boardwalk. The royal conch shell was blown to rally the Merpeople, and we processed out of The Sidewalk Café.

We were greeted by shouts from the crowd, and I almost cried to look around and see all the wonderful Venice faces from my past and present, there to join me in declaring it Summer - the very best time to be here in Venice.

There was a brief ceremony to pass down the royal scepters from the previous King (Jeremy Parker) and Queen Neptune (Dakota Rayfield, filling in for Kaycee Smith, who was at Primus. I get it.), where we humbly accepted our royal duties.

It was important to me that my little kid friends would attend this year, because that is the way to keep traditions alive. Those little buddies having these awesome Venice memories will ensure that they want to carry them on when they grow up. The little boys and girls dressed up too, and jockeyed for position to carry a piece of the hem of my robe down the Boardwalk. It was precious, and they were probably the highlight of my entire day.

Once about a zillion photos were taken, it was time to march to the sea! The Venice sign was unfurled over our heads, and King Jeremy and I led the parade on down the Boardwalk. The entire crew chanted the whole way to the water, yelling, "HAIL THE KING! HAIL THE QUEEN! HAIL VENICE! HAIL SUMMER! HAIL YEAH!" at the top of our lungs as we walked.

Apologies to the street performers down there whose acts we interrupted, but you have to admit, it was a pretty awesome sight to behold. A whole town of friends and families marching together through the crowds at the beach, to show them what the Spirit of Venice means. The delighted faces we passed, the cameras being whipped out to capture it all, and the willingness to join in was the very best.

We stopped for more group photos, and all the colorful attire and surroundings made for some all-time great shots. It couldn't even be helped.

The parade carried on past the V statue, and on to the Venice Skatepark. Skaters joined in the chanting, and we exchanged the raised fists when it got to "HAIL VENICE!" As one should. Out across the sand we went, with the little kids picking up the chant at one point. You could tell they thought they were getting away with something a little naughty when they yelled "HAIL YEAH", and it was the most adorable thing ever to hear in their high little voices. I keep smiling every time I think about it.

Once down by the Breakwater, it was time to disrobe and enter the sea to officially declare it SUMMER in Venice!


The water has warmed up quite a bit, so this part of the tradition was not at all torture. King Jeremy scooped me up, I raised the trident, and BAM! It was Summer!!!

I encouraged everyone to join us in the water, and several gamers braved the waves with us, in the name of Neptune! We had a little bathing beauty photo shoot, and I couldn't stop beaming when I saw all the effort and creativity that had gone into the fine costumes of the day. We even had real mermaids!

Back on land, it was time for the official speeches and declaration of Summer. I barely remember what I said, but I know it was heartfelt and very difficult for me not to well up and start crying, both from the sheer happiness and joy of the day, but also the sadness that the Venice we know and love is becoming more unrecognizable every day. I know that I said that events like these - and the PARTICIPATION in them - are what will ensure a cool Venice for the future. I know that I said "We are all still here!" because I looked out and saw everyone I knew, and if I didn't know them yet, I wanted to.

Because these are the very best parts of what we love about Venice. The FUN. The ART. The CREATIVITY. The SPONTANEITY. The COOL. The DIFFERENT. The MUSIC. The FRIENDSHIP. The LOVE. It's all I felt, all day long.

Once I finished rambling on, King Jeremy took the official royal proclamation, and read it with gusto to make it all officially official. Once the words had been spoken, we both took the royal conch shell and blasted it to let all know, far and wide, that it was SUMMER IN VENICE!!!

The cheering and chanting carried on all the way back to the Sidewalk (with brief pit stops to greet our subjects at The Townhouse and the new Surfside - formerly Danny's Deli - it looks nice). The group had re-assembled in the back of the bar in the Sidewalk, and were now being entertained by former kings Jeremy Parker and Masao Miyashiro, giving us their punk jams. It was just so fun.

It was like a big, long photo shoot all day, and every one I've seen shows nothing but happy smiles all day. You really couldn't help it, there was just so much fun being had. The appreciation for Venice and its People was tangible all day long, and I can't get over that I got to lead it all this year.

Eternal thanks to the Neptune Committee for choosing me to represent the fair citizens of Venice and Neptune this year! It will absolutely go down as one of my very favorite life memories, and I hope that goes the same for all who were there in attendance and solidarity. It was a classic day, and a classic weekend. One that shows just how very powerful the spirit remains here in our beachside Community. Forever. You could just feel it.



Love, Your Queen Neptune '17 ... Ceej xoxoxo

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography (the Queen Brother)