Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Zen Oasis In The Canals

Yesterday I was waxing philosophical about life and nature, and so grateful I got out of Dodge for an adventure into some natural beauty. Today I'm on my beach walk in the morning, and so in my head I made it all the way to the jetty at the end of the Marina before I realized there was a giant, stunningly beautiful Pacific Ocean right there. Your thoughts create your life.

I felt kind of bad about that, and took a moment to stop and acknowledge it, and breathe it all in. Then I began the walk home, and got right back inside my head. Some people were walking all slow and taking up the whole sidewalk on Venice Boulevard (drives me nuts, lately it's like walking behind people wandering at the airport), so I ducked into the Canals, both for the beauty and the open sidewalks.

Just as I was grumbling to myself about annoying people and gentrification and flaky L.A. people that don't return messages or do what they say and Ow, I got a hangnail and how can I personally stop climate change and ... a gap opened up in between some houses on the Canal, and I had to stop. It was a Zen oasis. Another reminder to CHILL.

I'm not super up on Buddhism, but I do know a big part of it is to be present. To Be Here Now. Organized religion has screwed up so much of the World, so I'm not a big fan. I did study pretty much all of it in College though, and I know that the overarching tenet they all have in common is to believe in Good. Just add an O to God, because everyone calls that something different. I think it all started as one thing, then like language and the game of Telephone, it spread out and people made up what they wanted to, but it all comes down to The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. It's so dang simple to believe. But apparently so hard to implement. Faith is believing that we can.

I walked out of the Canals, refreshed, renewed, and reminded once again to be present. To be grateful. To be GOOD. And to try and have it last more than one day. Ommmmmmmmm.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Superbloom 2017 In The Anza-Borrego State Park

I've been itching for a little adventure, and also highly aware that a rare "Superbloom" of wildflowers is going down in the California desert, so I talked my brother into (begged) heading out there for a road trip - Destination: Beauty.

The area getting the most Superbloom buzz by far this Spring is the Anza-Borrego State Park, about three hours away in the Southern California desert, Northeast of San Diego. The rains we finally got this year have caused the desert blooms to explode out all over the place in a riotous celebration of rebirth. Spring has sprung!

We didn't get that early of a start from Venice (Paul.), so we had a strict pedal to the metal policy of no stopping until we reached the blooms. This was actually kind of hard, because the entire drive was gorgeous, once we left the main highways. It's SO important to me to get deep out into nature pretty regularly. I need to remember that there are wide open spaces and so much natural beauty remains, and we're so, so lucky to have it. Each time I have an outdoor adventure, it renews in me a fierce responsibility to cherish our Earth, and protect it. When I even think of politicians wanting to cut the EPA, and ignore climate change, and build and drill in our National Parks ... I just freak out. All it takes is one visit to any of these wondrous natural destinations, and you just can't believe we're even having that conversation. So, again, these nature road trips are beyond crucial - especially now.

My brother, Paul, is a wonderful photographer, so he of course wanted to stop at every mountain road turn-out to capture each vista. I kind of had to crack the whip. We had a plan to return and get some of them on the way back, and then we took a different route out, so you'll have to trust me that there were some awesome cows, trees, cacti, and ramshackle barns along the way.

Anza-Borrego is deep in Native American reservation territory, and it was cool to travel through and see all these places with such long histories and tribal traditions, surrounded by such vast expanses of stunning beauty. I repeated the truism at one point that the journey WAS the destination, because this drive was so very lovely the entire way out there. Alice In Wonderland and Dr. Seuss references were also made the entire way, as the landscapes were so colorful and surreal, it felt fictional.

The photographer was on a race with natural light, so we kept speeding along. And never ate. The scenery was so beautiful, we sustained ourselves on a visual diet, actively ignoring the stomach grumblings. I'd heard the traffic and crowds had been awful down there for the Superblooom, but we didn't find that to be the case. One highway adjacent area was pretty riddled with tourists, but that was about it. We skipped the main Park parking lot, carrying on through and out of the little town of Borrego Springs, as per the Wildflower hotline (#760-767-4684). Winding along the mountain passes, commenting on the funny names (Peg Leg Road), we finally came around a curve and BEHOLD! An entire valley full of an absolute Superbloom!

Beauty as far as the eye could see - and then some. One part of the valley was entirely orange, in a floral carpet out of The Wizard Of Oz. The Wonderland of Alice was felt especially here, as while we were hiking out into the massive field of flowers, we looked down to see that every plant had enormous caterpillars squirming around them. They looked like squash blossoms, until you got close up and saw that the thing was moving. It was verrrrry trippy.

"What's to stop a mug from just scattering wildflower seeds everywhere?", asked Paul, echoing exactly my thoughts. This massive display of flowers just naturally occurring inspires those kind of guerilla seed scattering ideas. It can't be helped.

We were still starving, but the sun was starting to dip behind one of the mountain ranges, so we forged on. We hiked around, we read those handy State Park information things. We learned about our place exactly right then in the Universe. We are small.

Another perk of an adventure day like this is it does exactly that, shows you your place in this World, and demands that you be in the moment of right then. You even get a reminder that HERE YOU ARE sometimes, which is helpful.

The wind was picking up and the temperature was falling, but then the light got even better, so ahead we forged. You truly could turn in a 360, and every view your gaze fell upon would be prettier than the next. Paul tends to take a long time to edit and post his recreational photos, but believe me, you have something to look forward to.

The sunset was a tough competitor to the wildflowers, but as a Superbloom is more rare, I'm gonna give it to the flowers this time. This is starry country, so the view continued to excel even as the darkness began to take over.

We made a deal that once the sun set, and we had no more light to waste on being indoors, we would stop at the first place we came to on the mountain road out of the Park that wasn't a chain (I don't do chains on road trips). If it had the word "Roadhouse" in its name - even better. We rounded a curve just after the sun was all the way down, and saw the sign for the County Line Wood Fire Grill. Exactly, precisely what we had in mind. We parked, got out, saw there was a picnic table open outside in full view of the waning sunset, and immediately took a load off. We could smell the wood fire from the grill, and though they were short-staffed and swamped with flower-lookers, everything we had was truly delicious. The staff was great. The view was charming. They're adding a big deck and live music this Summer, and suddenly I find myself wondering aloud when we'll be back in Warner Springs, California. Superbloom or not.

What a sorely needed, wonderful day! I laughed my head off, I marveled at the wonder and persistence of nature, and I felt at my most alive as I breathed in all of that color and aroma. Not just alive, but super, extra grateful that all of this still exists, and that I was there to see it. Road trips are what's up, and I hope you'll get yourself one soon enough that leaves you smiling as you re-live your own memories. If you want it to be Superbloom memories, you need to act fast ... the Sun only lets it last so long.

Thank you, Superbloom 2017! I needed that.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Privée Social Club - A Cannabis Club For Now

When we all woke up on New Year's Day to see the Hollywood sign had been changed overnight to read "Hollyweed", you knew it was a whole new vibe in town following California's decision to Legalize It last fall. With everything able to be out in the open now, the cannabis industry is exploding all over the place. One of the true pioneer's in this field is Venice's own Sailene Ossman, "Mama Sailene", who started the first all-female cannabis delivery service in these parts over 16 years ago, and has been beloved by Venice ever since. 

Times have changed, and now it's all becoming mainstream, and it's great. With the passing in Los Angeles of legalization for recreational as well as medicinal cannabis, it's a whole new world, with something for everyone. Last night Sailene and her partner, Olivia Alexander, had a press preview for their new endeavor, the Privée Social Club, and all I can really say is WOW. Weed has come a long, long way.

Privée is a private, members-only cannabis club that holds events and parties, and once accepted (you need to be referred by two current members) members can gain access to the "Vault" on their website that allows them to purchase all kinds of cannabis based products, most of which are not found in your average dispensary. The events and parties feature products to sample and try, while learning through demonstrations, and mingling with a fine group of like-minded folks. You never know what might happen at a Privée event ... it could be a murder mystery, it could be a Cirque du Soleil type performance, you don't know until you go.

Last night's event was held in a private home on a walk street in Venice, and you could see from the sidewalk upon arrival that everyone was already having a great time inside. Inside, there were all kinds of different stations, from edibles to "Dabbing", all the way to bath products. There was even a CBD oil lubricant "for her pleasure"!

I was kind of a late bloomer when it came to cannabis, as all those "Just Say No" things in school worked on me. I never even tried it until I moved to Hawai'i and had a roommate that was a botany major (RIP Darren Sakai!). I can't tell you how many days I've spent in my life miserable from drinking the night before, but how with marijuana I've never had a moment of payback. None. I've never seen guys get into a fistfight at a party after smoking weed, but I sure have with drinking. Cannabis is just better all around, and better for you, so it's time to bring it out of the darkness. It's time to lose any stigma around it, and really, we should be celebrating it. What a miracle plant! That was the gist of the conversation at the party last night. One Love. Legalize It. Enjoy its benefits.

The nice thing about a thing like the Privée Social Club is that no one was sneaking around, it was all out in the open, and all very professional. Seibo Shen, from Vapexhale was there last night with his vaporizers and concentrates (this is the "Dabbing" part), and was so informative and well-spoken that I left his demonstration feeling like kind of an expert. I'm really more of a good old-fashioned flower enjoyer, but I can see the advantages to using this kind of a vapor situation - it's just a lot of apparatus for me (though Shen told me they'd be coming out with mobile devices soon. Still, vapor just isn't the same. For me.).

Once anything becomes socially acceptable, the money people are not far beyond. The line of products you can now get that are derived from cannabis is mind-boggling (literally and figuratively), and Privée makes it their business to include only the very best. The packaging these days is incredible. There were cannabis macarons last night that looked like they could be from Ladurée. There were sea salt caramels from Lord Jones that could have come from Godiva. This is not your hippie neighbor's baking, and it's all very scientifically dosed out and precise. No bad trips.

Gone are the days of smoking a grungy old one-hitter (though that's still fine too, in a pinch). Now they have bedazzled vapor pens and bejeweled grinders that are big hits with the fancy Bev Hills members of Privée, I'm told. Some people don't want to go to dispensaries or have some dealer come over, and Privée is perfect for them. It's private, discreet, beautifully packaged and delivered. It's all coming out of the Green Closet anyway. I had a P.R. friend recently tell me that she couldn't join us for cocktails because she gave up drinking, but now that marijuana has been legalized, she'd love to meet us for a smoke. Her smile was so liberated and happy when saying it, you could tell an old onus had been lifted from her conscience. It's totally cool now. Reefer Madness scare tactic days are over, no matter what this lame new administration has to say about it. Oh, and the Privée ladies are available for your own private parties! They'll come and set up a whole display of things at your own party - and I promise you it will be a hit. 

I think my favorite product at the event was the "Lit Kit" from Kush Queen Cannabis (another Alexander entity). It's a cute box with a cannabis bath bomb, a joint, and a cannabis chocolate, all meant to be enjoyed as you pamper yourself in your own little spa day. What an excellent party favor for your girls! (Not that all guys wouldn't love it too). Way better than a bottle of wine, though you could throw that in there too if it was a really rough day. But with the Lit Kit, you'll just feel excellent the next morning too, as an added bonus.

With all that smoking and vaping and dabbing and eating, it was nice that Privée always puts out a nice spread, in the event of munchies. There was a Thai food smorgasbord, empanadas from The Empanada Place (yum), and cookies in the shape of weed leaves (that were not enhanced, they just looked good).

I think the nicest part of these events is the freedom. No one is sneaking outside to share a joint, it's all in the open. There were photographers present from all kinds of media outlets, from L.A. Weekly to Playboy, and no one seemed to mind at all that they were being photographed with marijuana. Like, it's 2017. Who cares?! Plus, these days, if you're not using cannabis in some form, you're probably going crazy. Stress kills. Relax.

I'm so proud of Sailene, because she was born to be doing this, and she's finally getting her recognition for always having been on the forefront of this world. She's a leader in this industry, and is shedding so much light on the entire industry. She even had a cooking show (Smoke In The Kitchen) on Snoop's Merry Jane website. She gets tears in her eyes when she talks about her mission in helping people, and making people feel better through the use of this true and natural medicine. There is a line waiting for her and her products when she visits her parents' retirement community, because the CBD creams and oils and edibles all help so much with everything from their arthritis to cancer treatment. I got some of the Sleepytime Spray, as I get insomnia all the time. I've shared it with my own Mother, who slept great and had no qualms about trying a CBD product, and she's pretty conservative. I've shared it with one of the squarest people I know, and they became an instant fan. Because it works. Because it helps.

It was so fun to have a bunch of our Venice friends hanging out and having a ball together, learning and feeling great. It got even better when we left and were presented with a Privée gift bag to take home, filled with all of the things we'd just learned about. Stoked.

It got better than that when we all strolled home together under the starry skies, with a final nightcap visit to Mona's house. Ahh, Venice. We just love you so much.

Congratulations to Sailene and Olivia, and all of the wonderful people associated with Privée Social Club. I don't know if I've ever attended a party where every last person was warm and open and conversational and fun. It speaks to the character of our hostesses, and also to the nature of the plant. It brings people together, it allows people to share, and it heals - body, soul, and perhaps even our society.

Privée Social Club - They're waiting for you.


Monday, March 20, 2017

The Cali Locos Hit The Manhattan Beach Art Center

The Cali Locos took the fun to Manhattan Beach last Saturday night, and it was definitely one worth heading to the South Bay for (which I don't say all that often). A nice Venice contingent represented, as we got to have the first Cali Locos show last Summer. The Somos Locos show took place at the Manhattan Beach Art Center, and was an all day affair for M.B. people.

They dedicated a new skatepark, they had a book signing of a new hard cover Cali Locos book (California Locos -from Coagula Curatorial), and then they had the one night only art opening in the evening, with live music and a bunch of good food and drinks.

It was a beautiful night outside, and art patrons enjoyed an indoor-outdoor party the whole time. The Cali Locos were all present, and basking in the congratulations of all of their friends and fans.

There was a new Dusters California skateboard released for the event, and they were displayed prominently in the center of the gallery. And everyone wanted one.

My brother, Paul, installed the art for the last two Locos shows, so he's pretty much an honorary Loco now, and was warmly greeted at every turn, especially by Locos ringleader, Dave Tourjé.

 John Van Hamersveld held court in the middle, shooting photos and shaking hands.

 I particularly love Van Hamersveld's Indian series. Clearly.

Gary Wong and Chaz Bojórquez were also there mingling and catching up with folks, while Norton Wisdom also made the rounds discussing his work. All had new pieces in this show, one better than the next. This group makes it tough for collectors, because it really is so hard to choose one that you like best.

Each of the Locos' styles is so different, but they compliment each other so well. Each piece in the show appealed to a different part of me, and I really had a hard time coming up with a favorite. I guess the best answer would be to aspire to own one (at least) of each!

Outside on the patio there was live music by a young lady on a ukulele (reminding me that I want lessons), and a bar set up with wines from Rebel Coast Winery that were really good. And so was the owner/bartender Doug, who gave us stickers that said "Don't Be A Dick". Right on.

Waiters were circling the place with trays of good stuff, like Chinese chicken salad in their own little containers, and doughnut kabobs. Yes, doughnut kabobs. My brother and Jeff Ho got down on that.

Juice Dan was there documenting it all for Juice Magazine, and comparing jackets with Paul ...

While Juice's Terri Craft  got us all caught up on the latest skateboard shenanigans. What a treasure Terri, Dan and Juice are to this skate and surf community. It cannot be overstated or mentioned often enough. Love them.

There's really nothing better than a good party in the name of art and creativity. Saturday night's Cali Locos shindig was one of the best. You want to make sure you get out to see anything this groovy art collective ever comes up with ... it's always something to remember. As is their philosophy, "Somos Locos". We are crazy ... about LIFE.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Venice Art Crawl - St. Patrick's Day Eve Edition

Last night was the first Venice Art Crawl of 2017, and it was a complete blast. The theme this time was "This Is Venice", and everyone did their best to show what that was. REALLY was. I'm not sure if it had anything to do with it being St. Patrick's Day Eve, but people were in the mood to go OFF. And did.

We kicked off the night at In Heroes We Trust with a little music and pre-party, as you do. This Crawl focused on the Venice Boulevard corridor (I've always called it the "Cultural Corridor", and in fact, this is the zone that Danny Samakow is talking about making our Venice Arts District. Solid.), from the beach to Beyond Baroque. With so much ground to cover, I had to kick in the spurs and wrangle everyone to go, and after zooming past the gorgeous Paris photos at Le Pop Up Gallery on Abbot Kinney, we traipsed through the walk streets to Beyond Baroque, who were hosting the Inaugural L.A. Punk Film Festival. How cool. The only thing was that we had no time to sit and watch films when there were still miles to walk. They might want to think about having it be its own event next time, so everyone can attend. Just a thought. It was fun just walking around last night, almost like Halloween for adults, with crowds of people walking the streets in clusters, letting everyone know which house/venue not to miss.

One not to be missed was  at the corner of Venice and Abbot Kinney, where the front yard of the new Josa store from Tulum was having a bootleg event, off the map, in true Venice style. Jules Muck was there doing a live painting of a big, beautiful flower on the building, and Death Of Politics played out on the front lawn, pretty much stopping traffic at that intersection. The Electric Bike Parade going by received an enormous ovation as they lit up the foggy night on their colorful cycles.

I heard a lot of friends saying this Art Crawl felt like the old days, and they were right. That's what I love about the VAC too, it always feels like it's about the Community, and you always see people you know. Oh, and basically everywhere is serving up drinks, so it feels like the old First Fridays when you could drink and have music in the stores. No one was feeling any pain last night (though we all are today).

As the clock was ticking, we headed off down Venice to the Library parking lot, where more live painting was happening.

The Boys and Girls Club had a community canvas going, where any and everyone was invited to pick up a brush and add to the masterpiece. We used to do this at Abbot's Habit back when my brother was the manager there. They'd put up big canvases and someone would do a sketch and then divide it into squares. Each person chose a square to fill in, showing how all our different styles made up the creative whole. They always turned out beautifully, and I could kick myself that the one I bid on was lost in one of my moves. Boo. We should do it again before Abbot's closes! O.K.

There was an interactive game set up where you could toss a bean bag and win a book. The books were all gone by the time I got there, which was fine because I was awful at it. But good times. The night only got crazier as it went, so I lost all my cards and map with notes and names on it, etc, but shout out to this stop where we had a lot of fun. Thanks!

Off we went to Sunny Bak's place, our tireless Art Crawl leader. She was showing her incredible Beastie Boys photos and her venue was stuffed with appreciators of the arts (on a day when the NEA is being de-funded, this Venice experience is more important than ever!)

They were also showing Harold Cleworth's fantastic car paintings at this stop, and I loved the Lowrider one that said, "Bless The Lowered".  Fresh.

I knew we could not miss the first time the Paper, Scissors, Rock salon was on the Art Crawl, and I was totally right. You could tell from a block away in the fog that this joint was going off. People were partying out on Pacific Avenue, in the street, like the good old days.

You could hear the music of Jeremy Parker and Masao Miyashiro setting the good vibes, and when we rolled up it was so tight inside you could barely move.

Great photos from Ray Rae and Josh "Bagel" Klassman were on display, and Bart Saric and Jeff Ho were showing their paintings, but the best part of this location was all of the extra fun people who came out. It was like a big house party in there, and this stop was a unanimous favorite.

We could have stayed at any one of the stops for the whole evening, as each of them were so fun this time. This is always a problem when you want to see everything, and having such a good time everywhere we went meant that there were some good venues I missed, and I'm sorry. By this hour, we had to hightail it over to Gotta Have It, where our friend's awesome band, Restavrant, was going to be exploding the place into smithereens, as they're known to do.

Gotta Have It was also jam-packed, again with solid wall to wall friends. Restavrant does not mess around, and they had the room going crazy the whole set. Like, there was a mosh pit in a vintage store last night in Venice. Super, all-star fun.

The fog outside only grew thicker, but no one cared and the party spilled out on to the sidewalk out front, as it should. People were making liquor store runs, and passing out beers to friends and strangers alike. It was a good, old fashioned, sweaty, proper rock and roll jamboree, and every single person in there was stoked. It didn't appear that anyone minded that it was now officially St. Patrick's Day, a day on which you're kind of expected to party pretty hard. Again. No problem.

The walk home was thick with mist, letting you pretend you might be sort of Ireland-adjacent. All I know is that I was smiling, and today's text messages were all about how much of a grand old time everyone had. A humble and true thank you to all the participants, from artists to musicians, to planners to players. I love you all an awful lot.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, O'Venice!