Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Venice Or Venaughty?

Everyone is racing around out there trying to get everything done in time for Christmas. The post office is crazy. Traffic is crazy. Moods are crazy. Families are crazy. Our government is certainly crazy. But in spite of all the craziness, there's a great feeling surrounding it all. Some might call it the Christmas Spirit. People are just a little bit nicer. A little bit cooler. A little bit more helpful. A little bit more fun. We're also all reflecting back on a year that was extra crazy, and thinking ahead to what will be next year. I already know it's going to be better, it just has to be. This reflection also begs the question ... were you Venice or Venaughty ... and what WILL you be next year?

I like to be balanced, so I suspect I will be a little bit of both (in a good naughty way). The world can really use us ALL being a whole lot nicer, so my hope for the new year is that everyone will fall far more over to the VeNICE side of things - no matter where you are. It's a state of mind, after all.

As we spread out all over the globe, please know that I wish a MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all!

And the BEST New Year any of us has ever had!!!

Looking forward to sharing many yuletide tales upon my return back to VeNICE. Spread peace, good cheer, and have fun, Everyone!

Love, your Christmas Carol 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Café Collage - The Locals Hang

Café Collage has been taking care of Venice locals since 1993, and locals remain their focus. Amid all the change going down in the area recently, it's a consolation to walk into the doors of a place that has remained chill and unpretentious no matter what is happening around town. If you've been missing Abbot's Habit (and who hasn't been?), Collage offers the same relaxed neighborhood atmosphere, with the same affordability ... but with, ahem, better food and coffee. Just saying.

I have a long list of people and places that I want to write about in telling the stories of Venice, and Café Collage has been on it for years. It got moved up higher when I recently read Patti Smith's M Train, and she talks about sitting in our own Café Collage years ago, when a surfer ran in yelling, "Art is dead!" and ran out. I can't have Smith writing about a place in Venice that I haven't yet written about, so I bugged manager, Paul Evidente, until we finally sat down to chat about the wonderful spot there in the shadow of the Venice sign.

Collage will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2018, and locals have loved it the whole time, making it a welcome part of their daily routines. There have been four different owners in its lifetime, and current owner, Jennifer Park, has guided it to be the best it's ever been. The café got its name from the murals that used to be painted all over the ceiling, and has always been a place for local artists to showcase their work. Raymundo has been back there making your sandwiches since 1997, and always has a smile and a hello, no matter how busy working he is. There is a warmth extended to everyone from everyone, and it is both noted and appreciated every time I walk in.

Between serving the customers/friends coming in all morning, Evidente told me that he locals are the foundation, and that there is "no such thing as Venice Beach without the locals." Exactly. Whatever is left over at the end of every day is brought down to the beach and given to the homeless. There is never any trouble inside of Café Collage for exactly that reason, there is a mutual respect between everyone.

Having said that, it can also be crazy, and employees of Collage have pretty much seen it all. There might be a topless girl having her picture taken under the Venice sign. A homeless dude might be chopping wood outside to make a warming fire. There might be a "Running of the bulls" meeting up (a bunch of rollergirls being chased by one dressed like a bull). There might be a fight outside, but never inside. And if there is a fight, locals like Tonan will take care of it (as has happened). "If you take care of your locals, the locals will take care of your business," Evidente said, and that is fact.

Rachel Walker is a bright spot in my day when I walk into Collage and am so pleasantly greeted every time. She told me that she's tried everything on the menu, there's something for everyone, and every single thing is good. She's right. They update the menu all the time to stay current with the competition, but there really is no competition in the area when you can still get a drip coffee and something to eat for like $3.00. At a time when pricing of just about everything in Venice has become outrageous, it's awfully nice to be treated well and not break your bank over breakfast. They know their customers, and keep everything affordable, as a priority. "I just want to make sure every customer walks out happy and content," says Escalante, and you can truly feel the sincerity behind that statement when he says it.

He continued, "Venice is a small community, and we know all the faces. There's still a 60's, 70's, 80's feeling, and it's all about the people. I'm from Hawai'i, and I'll never go back. The fun, the drinks, the ladies ... that's why people want to come and be a part of it, every tourist's first stop is Venice ... everyone wants a piece of Venice." But for those who live here all the time, Café Collage is still for you most of all.

"We're here for everybody, from the homeless to the rich. We want to make you feel at home, give you quality, and leave happy so that you'll come back to us." Park nodded as Evidente told me this, and I can see them walking this talk every day. Please support this wonderful locals spot, as they have supported the community from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm (later on special events like the sign lightings!) every day for nearly 25 years.

Thanks and Happy (early) Anniversary to all the great people at Café Collage! Oh, and try the Palermo drink - espresso with orange peel, chocolate, and nutmeg. The holidays in a cup!

Café Collage
1518 Pacific Avenue

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Terry Kath Experience ... A Daughter's Labor Of Love

Do you know who Terry Kath is? Well, his daughter is going to make sure you do. My very talented friend, Michelle Kath Sinclair, directed a documentary about her father, Terry Kath, and friends and family finally got to see the wonderful The Terry Kath Experience last night at a screening at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Kath was the lead guitarist and singer of the band Chicago, who died tragically from a gun accident in 1978. Michelle was only 2, and never really knew her father, aside from photos and stories. This documentary is a daughter's search to know her dad better, and it is an obvious labor of true love.

Co-produced with our friends Jordan Levy (also the D.P.) and Tony Papa (also the editor), the film that we'd all been hearing about for seven years was finally up there on the screen for us, on the day of its digital and dvd release (Dvd's already sold out! Now streaming everywhere!). The theater was packed with friends and family and rock stars ("This is like the most epic party I could ever have!" - MKS), all of whom laughed and cried and got to know the absolute genius of Terry Kath, if they didn't know already.

The film opens with a quote from a music journalist that stated that had Kath been in his own group, called something like "The Terry Kath Experience", everyone would know about him, but as he was a member of a big ensemble band like Chicago, and passed away almost 40 years ago before he could get his own solo work out there ("without horns!"), history has not remembered him in the same way that it does someone like Jimi Hendrix. That's sad, because Hendrix himself highly revered Kath, and considered him a better guitarist than himself - and said so.

Watching Kath in concert, it's clear to see why. INCREDIBLE. The music that flowed through this man's mind is almost hard to understand on paper (the film shows his charts), but when you hear it, it's all this glorious rock and roll that makes total sense. The gigantic loss of this man is tangibly felt by all of those interviewed in this film, and as you watch it, you can feel the loss to music at large, never mind the loss of a little girl never knowing her father.

I felt extra emotional throughout the film, because I lost my dad when I was four, and didn't really know him either. We don't have all this beautiful footage of my dad, or the stories, or the music, and I felt myself feeling deeply wistful that we did. Then, right when you had tears streaming down your face at the senseless loss, someone would say something hilarious (often Joe Walsh, who was there, and deserves his own documentary!), and you would laugh while wiping your eyes. As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias ... "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." Agreed, and this film will give you that feeling, for sure.

Michelle travels to Chicago to walk the same streets as her Dad. She interviews all the bandmates and peers of Kath, who all show how much they miss him right on their faces, as well as how much of a thrill it was for them to be interviewed by their friend's now grown baby daughter, who looks so much like him many of them got choked up. The moment that really got me was when they show Michelle on her wedding day (to her husband, Adam Sinclair, another producer and great friend). Her stepfather, Kiefer Sutherland, makes a toast to the newlyweds, and quotes Kath's song that he wrote for his little girl, "Little One"... because he wasn't there to do it himself. I was a wreck, and it really brought home how much Kath was missed, loved, and still in his daughter's life. Beautiful.

Michelle found all kinds of 8mm films in a box of her father's things, and they make up the most of the film, and show just how cool and talented this cat was. A long-vanished Fender guitar is featured in many of them, and serves as the material device that Michelle is searching for throughout the film, along with the memories of her dad. She takes the viewer along on the search, which gives actual goosebumps when she gets close. Her late Grandfather is quoted as saying, "Michelle can have the guitars when she knows their value." This entire film shows that she absolutely knows their value, both to the music world and sentimentally. No one had touched Kath's guitars since him. They retained his tuning. That's a special moment for a daughter, one you can only imagine.

 Chicago started out being called "The Big Thing", a name that was thankfully changed once they got some traction. "Chicago Transit Authority" or CTA was way cooler, and soon they became one of the most popular bands in the world. Michelle's mother, Camelia, fell in love with his character and his music, and watching her watching her daughter's search is one of the most touching aspects of the film. When they return to Terry and Camelia's happiest place, The Caribou Ranch in Colorado, you can feel her nostalgia and love in an exceptionally moving part of the film. It's so moving because you can tell Michelle is really feeling the spirit and soul of her long lost dad, and also what a senseless loss it was. Drugs are bad. 

The film closes with a clip from Chicago's Rock Hall of Fame induction, with Michelle accepting on behalf of her father. What a moment! Her hope is that through this film, audiences worldwide will come to know and revere the work of Terry Kath anew, and that he will continue to live on through his music. At the post-screening Q and A (with Michelle, Chicago producer Jimmy Guercio, and Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine), Michelle said that she hopes that people will leave the film with the "warm, fuzzy feeling that my Dad gives you." Well, mission accomplished, because we all left there feeling exactly that. You will too.

Heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to Michelle Kath Sinclair, and to everyone involved with this exceptional love letter to a father, and to rock and roll. Well done!!!

The Terry Kath Experience is now available to stream everywhere.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Someone Loves You

I was zipping down Abbot Kinney this past weekend, and a reflective piece of street art hung up on a wall caught my eye. It was a shiny heart with the phrase "Someone loves you" written all over it.

What a nice sentiment, because we all know it's true, and we all know that everyone needs to hear that sometimes. I did. You might. And I'm putting it here because it's already been taken down from the wall next to the Grow store (formerly Ilan Dei). The artist put a little bit of work into it, and it should be seen. A lot of people feel all alone at this time of the year, and I'm all for letting them know that they are loved, by people they don't even know.

Pass it on.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Wonderfully Charming Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade!

The annual Venice Canals Boat Holiday Boat Parade was held last night on a balmy Venice evening that everyone looks forward to every year ... especially this year when things are so bleak and weird in the world at large that any chance to be festive and have fun must be jumped at. The Canals parade is always one of the most charming and wonderful times possible, and this year was no different in that sense.

The skies provided a beautiful opening act, as one of the most gorgeous sunsets ever (and that's saying a lot out here) began the holiday revelry in spectacular fashion.

It seemed like there were less decorated boats this year, but the fantastic lights and decor on the bridges and homes more than made up for it. I'm not sure if we were walking down the wrong canals at the wrong time, but we never did see one big linear parade, just more of a sporadic glimpse here and there. I suspect the parade began in one spot, and then everyone just rowed around doing their own thing. There weren't very many lit up ones, making it more difficult to see them once the sun went down. Our vote for our favorite vessel was the canoe filled with big peas ... in a vision for World Peas. I somehow didn't get a photo of them that turned out, but shout out to the Peas!

Our vote for favorite bridge changed with every corner that we turned. There was a lovey dovey "Kiss" one adorned with X's that was very popular with the lovers present.

My little pal Beckett came out with me to the parade this year, and his proclamation was that it was too difficult to pick a favorite because he loved them all. That's the spirit!

Though the tunnel of lights bridge did keep his attention the longest, so I think we'll give it to them.

I think Beckett's favorite house was the one with all the lit-up cartoon characters that he knows, and a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was especially exciting. Kids make Christmas even more fun, and it was a joy to see his little face light up brighter than any of the houses every time we saw something new.

The same house featured a polar bear, that I loved because if you saw that video last week of a starving polar bear up in the Arctic, you know how much these guys need love right now. A lot.

One decorated bridge declared that "Winter is here!" though that bridge was about the only way anyone could know that, as this was an evening when not even a sweater was required. It almost felt like we should be singing "Mele Kalikimaka"!

There was a house that we called the "When Doves Cry" house, all lit up in purple with doves flying around the front ...

... which was a great lead-in to our friends' house, the Revelins, who fired up their Purple Rain machine to the delight of all the passersby. Thanks also to them for a lovely break for little legs, and the much needed refreshments. Love!

Canal parties were going off, and what we call the "Fish House" made our list for best-lit house, which concurred with the vote of the Venice Canals Association.

The second place house was good too, and also featured a jam-packed house of festive party-goers. 'Tis the Season!

The Venice Canals are always an excellent place to bring out of towners, to know the history of Venice, and to feel how beautiful it is here. The area really shows off at Christmastime though, and is well worth the time to stroll through and feel the joy and peace of the season, as well as the love and hope you can't help but feel when you see "Kiss" and "Imagine" as the themes. It's the perfect place to go caroling (and stay warm while doing it)! With all the reflections on the water, it's also the perfect place to reflect on what YOU can do to make the world a nicer, kinder, more peaceful place.

Thanks so much to all the fun makers and havers for sharing another beautiful holiday event with everyone, truly making it the most wonderful time of the year (after Summer, sorry!)!

Holiday Cheers!

Friday, December 8, 2017

The KCRW Best Of 2017 Party!

2017 is almost over, and I think we're all breathing a collective sigh of relief. I know we all breathed one together last night at Apogee Studios for the KCRW Best of 2017 shindig, in the best way possible - through the most acclaimed music of the year.

Music and public radio lovers gathered at the excellent Santa Monica facility run by producer Bob Clearmountain to count down the KCRW D.J. picks for their favorite albums and tunes of the year. Small bites and delicious drinks were served, and the newly added cocktail tables in the studio made it all the more easy to enjoy. Early arrivals were treated to a smooth d.j. set from Reggie Watts, who we discovered is as funny as he is talented. He was soon joined by our host, Morning Becomes Eclectic D.J. Jason Bentley, clad in a holidazzling shiny jacket to be proud of. When Bentley asked Watts what was the highlight of his 2017, he responded after some thought with, "I saw this kid pick up a penny ... " and he was right. That was about as good as it got ... besides the music.

Each album selection was announced by a KCRW D.J. opening a sealed envelope, and after an extra rough week in Southern California with all the awful wildfires and an awful government, everyone was ready to celebrate with some good year-end jams.

The list kicked off with #10, announced by Rachel Reynolds, who books the bands for MBE, and chose Father John Misty as her favorite live session of the year. The tenth spot was given to Elbow for their Little Fictions. Reynolds called it "Incredibly beautiful", and "Absolutely stunning .. you can feel the warmth of their living room in Manchester, England. They played "Magnificent (She Says)" from the album, and it was enough to immediately put it on my to-get list.

Travis Holcombe was up next to announce #9, which was Beck's Colors. "I like happy Beck, and it's been a long time since we've heard him. He's on my personal Mount Rushmore of musical icons, and Happy Beck is even better." When asked if it made his personal list, Holcombe replied that it did not, cracking everyone up. They played the track "Wow", prompting the guys to say that they think Beck has been listening to his kids' records a lot in this return to his "Odelay" sound.

#8 honors were presented by Dan Wilcox, and given to Washed Out for their Mister Mellow. This one DID make the Wilcox Top 10, who said he got lucky because this was the album he had listened to the most in 2017. They spun "Hard To Say Goodbye", and I could see why they gave these accolades to this groovy chill-wave group. Cool.

Smooth-voiced Garth Trinidad came up to throw down the #7 spot, which went to Dan Auerbach for Waiting On A Song. This one was definitely on my personal list, and my album of the Summer. It sounds like Summer. It was also my favorite Apogee session of the year, as I was introduced to this lovely album live in this very room. Trinidad remarked that Auerbach was "Our new generation of greats, when we've lost so many ... he dispels the myth that white people don't have soul." Bentley agreed, calling Auerbach a "Genius", and when they spun "Cherry Bomb" it was not hard to hear why. LOVE this album.

Newest D.J. José Galvan took the stage with his drink in hand, ready to reveal the occupant of the #6 spot. Chicano Batman took it home for their excellent Freedom Is Free. It made Galvan's personal list, and he spoke to the fantastic year this band has had. An epic sunset slot at Coachella that by all accounts was especially memorable, and Bentley commented on how they were the only band there that was really SAYING something, socially and politically. They got the biggest applause so far of the evening, and it got louder when they played the title track, "Freedom Is Free". The bass line gave Galvan shivers, and Bentley added that "They also have style, which I appreciate." Clearly. Chicano Batman is a group you want to know more about, trust a sister.

"You're such a character, I love you.", said Bentley by way of welcoming Jeremy Sole to the stage, to which Sole replied, "I like me." Between his shirt and Bentley's jacket, they combined to "break the internet" as they said, (though this was for a radio show). Sole got #5, and gave it to Gabriel Garzón-Montano for his Jardin, which garnered huge applause. "We can talk about this album all day long,"  Sole said, adding that Garzón-Montano knocked it out of the park this Summer at the Annenberg Space outdoor concert opening for Miguel. He dedicated this album to Prince, so he had me at hello, but it is truly exceptional. Everyone was shouting requests, but they played "Fruit Flies", which was so good it had Sole kicking both feet straight out, yelling, "Come ON!" They also played "Crawl" and Bentley shook his head, saying, "It's SO Prince." It would have been fine if they'd played all the tracks, but we had a list to get back to. When Bentley asked Sole what he was looking forward to in 2018, he answered, "Impeachment!" - which received perhaps the biggest applause of the night. Rightfully so. Get Jardin though - it's great.

Eric J. Lawrence is a real music scholar, and you could kind of tell he wasn't that into the #4 spot that he announced .. LCD Soundsystem's American Dream - which made neither his nor Bentley's (nor mine) lists. Lawrence called it basically a James Murphy solo album, but called LCD Soundsystem "one of the most potent live bands around", and said "I have no problem with the new album." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but the list makers and Grammy committee must have thought differently. OK.

"I'm having 'Best Of List' remorse!", said Chris Douridas when he took the stage. It really is so hard to choose from so much good music every year, but it has to be done, and the #3 spot this year went to King Krule for The OOZ, probably my own least favorite album of the year. Blech. Like, I'll change the radio station if it comes on, and I love me some KCRW. I don't get why people like this stuff, but they do. They played "Dum Surfer" which made me sick, and made Douridas say "I thought it delivered on his weirdness." Yeah. It did. Moving on ...

D.J. Valida gave #2 to "one of the best poets of our time" - Kendrick Lamar for Damn. This one made Valida's list, my list, and probably everyone else's list at #1, because, just DAMN. His social consciousness, his production, his lyrics ... "He does it all so beautifully," Valida said, and I wholeheartedly agreed. Bentley clearly did not, cutting short the track "Love" saying, "Alright, alright...". Not everything is for everyone (*See: King Krule), I get it, but on this one Bentley may be all by himself.

As I might be in thinking that KCRW's #1 would not have made my any-numbered list, but Raul Campos came up and gave it to The War On Drugs for A Deeper Understanding - which I do not have for the choosing of this album in the top spot. Not my cup of tea, but Campos called their songs "epic" (meaning in their length, I believe), and called their Apogee Session his favorite of the year (I missed that one. On purpose.) I don't mean to be snarky, it's just not my jam. The honors were accepted by Atlantic Records' Brian Corona, who thanked KCRW for "sharing all the musical joy in this room", which there really was. A joy both tangibly felt and sorely needed, especially this weird and trying year. An acceptance video by The War On Drugs was played, and they were rightfully grateful.

Best Song of the Year honors went to Amber Mark for "Lose My Cool", and Best New Artist was given to Tom Misch. How all of the year's music can be gone through and chosen as best is a hugely daunting task, but KCRW does it well, and stresses to the listener once again how very, very important music is to us all in our daily lives, and how important KCRW is in delivering it (their pledge drive is on now - thank them with your support!). Individual D.J. Top 10 lists can be compared HERE.

Bentley thanked everyone for coming, though we should have been thanking him. The party carried on to celebrate this year's victors, but I raced across town to The Miracle Theater in Inglewood to catch a benefit show (for The Miracle Theater Foundation) from Tom Freund and friends. I love the Miracle space, and though I missed a bunch of the music, I caught Freund backing up the excellent spoken word poet, Adwin Brown to a rapt audience. It was another round of awesome music, making us feel lucky we live in an area with so much abundant and wonderful live musical offerings. 2017 is almost behind us, and music was probably the best part of it. THANK YOU to the music makers, and to the people that bring it to us as well. Cheers to an even better list - and world - next year, everyone!

*KCRW photos courtesy of Brian Feinzimer

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Townhouse Celebrates 102 Years + Repeal Day!

The Townhouse celebrated its 102nd year in operation as L.A.'s oldest bar last night with a shindig to also kick up our heels that Prohibition ended 84 years ago, with a Repeal Day extravaganza that we all look forward to every year.

The halls were decked, and spirits were high, as spirits were flowing freely without fear of arrest, like back in the day. Festivities began early, with a full on pig roast with all the fixings put out on the pool table and served up by our friends at Oscar's Cerveteca. It's all free and open to everyone, and it was delish. I'm still thinking about the excellent cheesy grits they had going on - yuuuuum. What a nice thing to do for everyone, it really is. Also nice was the free whiskey tasting that I didn't get there in time for, but that's probably a good thing.

One was given tickets when you arrived, to exchange for drinks at 1933 prices ($1!) for an hour when you heard the bell ring. They offered old timey themed drinks, and I indulged in a "Penicillin" which instantly cured whatever ailed me. The era-appropriate jazzy musical stylings of Brad Kay were on display entertaining everyone downstairs in the Del Monte Speakeasy, where the real draw of the night for me was also taking place - a talk on Venice (and drinks!) history given by the wonderful bar historian, and my friend, George Czarnecki.

Czarnecki is a true Venice treasure, and his rich baritone held everyone rapt while he spun tales about the ghosts of Townhouse past. He introduced the talk by saying it was the most important day on "the calendar of cocktail culture", and that if we had been sitting there like this during Prohibition, we'd have been breaking the law in this "Den of Iniquity" - which it still is. Czarnecki thanked our hosts, owners Louie and Netty Ryan, then told of how he and former owner Frank Bennett (who he came to work for 24 years ago!) used to come downstairs after work and polish off a bottle while regaling each other with yarns from their shared war veteran days (Korean and Vietnam, respectively). When the bottle ran dry and Bennett ran out of wind, he would slam his hand down on the table and exclaim, "AMEN!" and they'd go back upstairs to let people in for a new day.

Venice - Coney Island Of The Pacific by Jeffrey Stanton was cited by Czarnecki as the definitive history of Venice (I'm working on the modern history myself), and stressed that "If you're going to live and work in Venice, you BETTER appreciate what was here." (Hear that, Snapchat?) He went on to say that "You can't really understand unless you've seen what we've lost, and what we have left." Exactly. That is what all we who love and care about Venice have been struggling to preserve. What we have left.

"Somewhere Cesar Menotti is smiling a wry smile that we're using his name to sell coffee," cracked Czarnecki about the other previous owner (there have only been three in all its 102 years). Because Menotti slung drinks upstairs, and when Prohibition came about, he simply moved the operation downstairs. He explained that the stairways are so steep at The Townie because they used to be elevator shafts to pulley the drinkers downstairs! In all my years of bellying up at The Townhouse, somehow I never knew that. You wouldn't be invited downstairs, however, unless Menotti "liked the cut of your jib."  It was also known as a Mafia bar, "where the bodies would just wash out with the tide in the morning." This was said with a wink, but I wouldn't be at all surprised. This was - and still is in some ways - the Wild West.

"In the '30's, this country could use a drink, a bracer," Czarnecki said about the Depression Era, but I feel like we all needed one just as bad on this night decades later. During Prohibition, the toast that would ring out in The Townhouse basement was "Let us strike a blow for Liberty!" - which they eventually did. As we must all do again now. Everyone knows this, and Czarnecki addressed it by saying, "Exercise your franchise - Vote! If you can't vote FOR something, vote to REPEAL something. Then find yourself a good saloon." Like The Townhouse.

In closing, Czarnecki, our beloved boulevardier, led us all in the glass clinking and shouting of "Let us strike a blow for Liberty!" We did, and then dear George bellowed, "Ladies and Gentlemen - AMEN!" as his mentor had done before him. (These days I would add, AWOMEN!)

Louie Ryan thanked everyone for coming, saying he was merely the "Custodian of The Townhouse at this point", and that George had led him in how to honor the venerable bar's history when he took over from Bennett. Todd Van Hoffman summed it up, saying "The Townhouse honors the living history of Venice." You truly can feel the aura of its history, and I was jealous of the broad who had dressed up in perfect Prohibition Era style ... it made it feel like we'd just emerged from a time machine. Let's all theme it up next year!

Then the bell rang and we all drank like 1930's people. The Mudbug Brass Band led the parade from upstairs to down, and regaled the crowd with their Dixieland fun until last call.

Happy 102 years, Townhouse! Happy 84 years of legality, Drinkers! To Liberty!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Turning Point Pilates - New Space, New Services!


I first wrote about Robin Solo and her Turning Point Pilates studio back in  2014, and so much has changed since then in just three years that we needed to do an update story. As anyone living in Venice knows, rents are bordering on the criminally outrageous, and Solo has had to move her studio three times due to greedy landlords. Awful Snapchat took over her original studio space in the office park behind Tlapazola, sending her scrambling to find a space that her clients would still travel to. She found a spot on by Alan's Market on Washington Boulevard, and then that landlord wanted to jack up her rent. She needed to find a spot less than a mile away to keep her clients - crucial to any Mom and Pop business, but Solo is just that, solo. She's doing it all herself, like many women these days. She needed a little divine intervention, and found exactly that one day when out looking for her new space.


There was a little house on the south end of Abbot Kinney that Solo thought would be great for her studio, only to find that it had just been rented by a boat supply type place. Crestfallen, she walked around the corner to her car, looked up and saw a "For Lease" sign on the building right there. A call to the (cool and fair) landlord told her that this was meant to be.

Turning Point Pilates moved into its new digs this past March, and the clients came with, thankfully. As the only traditional pilates studio in Venice, Solo definitely has a loyal following, yet is eager to share her methods with new students as well. There are a lot of fusion pilates places popping up, and nearly all of them have some corporate backing taking the financial pressure off. As this is a solo Solo operation, she has gotten creative to keep her business/passion thriving.

To that end, after receiving a nano current facial treatment in trade from a friend and seeing the eye-opening results, Solo purchased her own machine and took the training to offer the electrical treatment to her own clients and friends. I'd never heard of this treatment, so Solo offered to have me come in and try it ... especially because I've been having weird stuff with my face lately (mystery swelling, allergic reaction, I don't know). She described it as "exercise for your face", and explained how the more you work out your body, the better it looks ... the same goes for your face.

Little wands are moved across your face, with electrical currents stimulating the muscles in your face, communicating with them to increase collagen and elastin - the stuff that makes you look youthful. It claims to lift, tone, and sculpt your face, and like body exercise, the effects are cumulative.

Well, I saw the before and after pictures Solo showed me from previous clients, and they were impressive to say the least. Like, real, visible improvement after just one treatment. No invasive needles or operations, it's all just little wands giving you electric pulses for about 25 minutes. Pain free. It's actually very relaxing. With all these ladies having Botox parties and doing everything they can to hang on to their looks, it seems like a good time for them to try this easy little boost. I did, and was super impressed. I don't know why, but after my session my face looked even again. My eyes looked more awake. I went to the Venice sign lighting a couple of hours later and the first friend I ran into told me I was "glowing". I'll take it!

You can too. Solo is offering your first nano current facial treatment for a mere $35 so that clients can find out about this new way to look great ... maybe for that holiday party coming up? That's less than half of any facial treatment I've ever had, with actual, obvious results. I have no idea how much Botox (Botulism in your face?! No.) costs, but I know it's way more than $35. That's like two drinks out on Abbot Kinney! Do this instead.

I'm all about keeping Venice unique, as everyone knows, and I'm all about supporting independent local businesses - Turning Point Pilates/Facial treatments is both. Congratulations to Robin for hanging in there and staying in Venice, in what she now calls her favorite studio space yet. Believe me, I know it's not easy doing it all on your own, but she's doing it, and doing it well.

Support local. Support women. Look and feel great. Everybody wins!

Turning Point Pilates
910 Garfield Avenue
http://www. turningpointpilates.com/ facial-treatment/

 *Photographs of Robin Solo by Patricia Rabin

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dispatch Live At The Troubadour!

Do you know the band, Dispatch? Well, they are awesome, and they just gave me a wonderful night of music and positivity that was so badly needed, I almost cried. Dispatch played two sold out acoustic gigs showcasing their latest album, America, Location 12 at The Troubadour, and probably could have sold out the place the rest of the week as well. It was jam packed for the beloved Boston-based jam band, and I think I was the only person besides my friend I brought along in there who had never seen them before. EVERY person knew EVERY word of EVERY song to the point that I felt kind of like a poser for even being there, but you gotta start sometime!

I am friends with Dispatch's Chad Stokes Urmston from when he was in the band, State Radio, which formed after Dispatch had broken up, so I only knew State Radio music - which I loved. We toured together as a part of Tom Morello's Justice Tour in 2008, and that trip was so memorable that pretty much everyone remained friends for always. We served meals to the homeless. We tried to talk vets out of the Iraq War at the Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. We cleaned up yards and homes destroyed by Katrina in New Orleans ... we were in the trenches together. Urmston always went even more the extra mile though, like on days off he would skip the sightseeing or sports game and go visit a prison and sing for the inmates. He is the real real deal, and also the co-founder with his wife, Sybil Gallagher, of Calling All Crows, a non-profit focusing on women's rights. So, we love him even more.

Well, in the years since, State Radio has broken up and Urmston returned to his band mates in Dispatch (but still with his oil can guitar!), and they are now on an acoustic tour promoting their latest album, America, Location 12 (offered for pay what you can and free to download online. Great guys).  Urmston invited me to come out to see them, and I couldn't wait to hear the other music he creates, as well as see my friend jam again! The album was played last night in its entirety, front to back, and it is wonderful. People already knew every lick of the new one, and belted it out at the top of their lungs. As I'd never heard ANY of the Dispatch music, I was jealous that I couldn't join in on the raucous singing, but loved it all nonetheless. Urmston was joined by his bandmate, Brad Corrigan (founding member Pete Francis is not along on this tour), as well as some more guys rounding out the touring band, all of whom were beyond excellent. The harmonies, the musicianship, the camaraderie, the positive vibes ... all of it was so good, and again, so needed.

As bands like this are needed. Always an activist band, Dispatch has upped the ante on this new and excellent album, with songs of immigrants, war vets, children, gun violence ... but all of it is taken with a spoonful of sugar, as the music accompanying the heavy topics is so upbeat and hopeful that it feels like there simply MUST be solutions out there for all of it. I would describe it as genreless. People call them a jam band, but that makes you think of the Dead, and here there's reggae, irish jig sounds (Boston), African drum beats, rock, blues, lullabies, jazzy riffs, almost raps, twangy slide ... you name it. There's something for everyone to dig. There were volunteers out in the front bar next to the merch, signing people up and informing them about the Brady Campaign, to end gun violence. They addressed this during the show, and who cares if it's at all controversial to some, but there MUST be at least background checks implemented if we're ever to have any progress in this area. That is not nearly to much to ask, in fact, to me it's not nearly enough. Stop. Gun. Violence. Period.

Ok, the music. SO, so good. I truly loved every note. As I mentioned, they played the entire new album, in order. There was a brief intermission, and they came back with ... (got the set list because it's all new to me!)

Hey, Hey
Circles Around The Sun
Bats In The Belfry
Prince of Spades
and the one I knew already - Out Loud.

People were going crazy. They were singing louder than the band, and when Urmston asked if they'd been there the night before, it sounded like most of them had. And would be happy for it to never end. They said good night, but with this crowd, that wasn't going to be it, and the fellas came right back, to fans yelling out requests. Someone shouted, "Stick to the set list!" - which the band had never heard before and cracked up. They gave us a new one, "Thoughts and Prayers" (a phrase we've been hearing far too much of lately) and it was hauntingly beautiful. "Your thoughts and prayers are not enough, you say you care but you're not my baby" goes the sad chorus, and it ends with the random numbers of deaths in mass shootings being recited. Whoa. "Open Up" lightened it back up and ruled as hard as all the rest. The entire place had to have been exhausted by then, but the band for sure. Cheers rang through the building until the lights came on and Frank Sinatra started singing about fairytales coming true, but the crowd didn't care. The chant of "One More Song!" thundered above the house music, and sure enough, the band came back down the stairs to perform that one more song - "Elias", a clear favorite for the elated room. I've never seen that happen at The Troubadour before. They shut the lights back off and muted Frank and the crowd went off once and for all again. My friend and I just looked at each other and said, "That was awesome."

It really was. As Corrigan said at one point, "Peace is the way forward. Put away all the divisive stuff and find the human core." I was wearing my State Radio "Wage Peace" sweatshirt at the show, so did feel a part of that one. Plus it's so true.

Early in the night, the band said that California is now its second home, which stoked everyone in the house, as we welcomed them with wide open arms. I first ever heard Urmston play with State Radio in this very room, so it was cool to see him with Dispatch for the first time in the very same venue. Now that we're the Dispatch second home, I have a good feeling that I'll be far better prepared to sing along with them the next time they return.

I recently read that attending live shows gives one a longer, happier life. After a show like this, I can see exactly why. Anyone who needs a boost, or needs to feel better about the current world, that someone else out there cares like you do, or you just need to dance around and feel happy, get out to see Dispatch when they come to your town. You will feel so much better. I know I did.

Massive thank yous to Chad, and to Dispatch, and to everyone there that gave out all those good vibrations. We're all in this together, and when the band left saying, "Good night! Peace and love!" - that's exactly what we got.

America, Location 12 is available everywhere now.
Dispatch is touring now. Go!