Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Let's Be Better Humans - With The I Have A Name Project

What an excellent morning. I had my gorgeous beach walk, and wound up chatting with a dude on a lifeguard tower all about the ocean and nature and how and if we can save it. He thought that by us even having that chat with each other as strangers was a good start. It was really good to know that there are others out there thinking like you do in these times. Then, on the way back from the sand, I saw this big, magic bus parked on the side of the road, with "Let's Be Better Humans" painted on both sides of it. I had to know more, and luckily for me, the bus driver was there.

Jon Linton, founder of the I Have A Name Project was about to take off to Skid Row to go help the homeless, but invited me aboard the bus to tell me about his organization. Linton started this wonderful campaign after volunteering at a homeless shelter and being told by one of its residents that he was touched, because no one ever asked him his name. "You have no idea how long it's been since someone cared to ask me who I am. We are the forgotten, the walking invisible," said the homeless veteran, Chuck Ridgeway. That gave Linton both the idea to do something to help these people - and the name for it. (I had a similar experience myself while volunteering at PATH in downtown L.A., when a man told me it had been so long since someone had looked him in the eye. It's the little things that bond us together, and that is just basic human respect.)

Linton began photographing the plight of the homeless, which led to feeding and clothing thousands in need, photographic exhibitions, mural projects, and a book. The Let's Be Better Humans revolution began because ... just look around. We need a revolution of love and humanity. We exist for one another, we can make a difference, and we can leave this world a better place than we found it ... but only if we do better.

The Let's Be Better Humans hits the streets twice a month to do just that. They distribute backpacks filled with socks, a rain poncho, snacks, and bottled water. FYI - Backpacks and socks are the most requested items in shelters, and the least donated. There's one way to help right there. Linton had just been in Venice to give out clothes in a little pop-up shop they created on the Boardwalk, and they were cleaned out in no time flat by the grateful houseless residents of Venice.

This is the kind of thing I just love, and I was honored to accept the marker Linton handed me to sign one of the seats of the Let's Be Better Humans bus. People from all over have joined this revolution, and their autographs cover every surface of this fantastic vehicle. My heart was full as I stood on the sidewalk, waving farewell to Linton as he honked and headed off to Skid Row. It does the soul good to know that there are still good people doing good works out there ... but it does it even better to do them yourself.

You can do as Linton says ... "Whether it's advocating for the homeless or the planet, you can make an impact. Don't wait for a hero, become a superhero. Never underestimate the power of ONE. Follow your heart and step into action."

Done. Thank you for an inspiring moment of an already inspiring day, Mr. Linton. And thank you to Venice for still being a place where magical encounters like this are not the exception, but the norm. C'mon, Everybody! Let's be better humans! One Love. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Abbot Kinney Festival 2017 - Truly A Venice Homecoming

I always love the Abbot Kinney Festival, and have always considered it Homecoming weekend for people that have lived in and loved Venice. This year, it was especially so, as I'd been gone a month, and not exactly positive that I was coming back. Seeing all the friendly faces and having all that fun absolutely confirmed that I made the right decision in doing so.

It wasn't just "Oh, hey, hi" style bumping into people either. It was the eyes and mouths wide open, arms outstretched, grabbing each other and rocking back and forth while hugging extra tight and yelling kind. Like every two feet. The whole day was awesome, and I'd like to rewind and do it all over again so I could see even more people and cool things. So, to relive it a bit ... The day was perfect, let's just get that out of the way. Blue skies, no clouds, bright sunshine, slight breeze to make it all comfortable ... you could not ask for more, weather-wise. On the walk down to the Festival (after a resounding Vikings victory in the morning!), we came across two little enterprising kids that had a lemonade stand on the outskirts of the Festival. I didn't have my notebook along, but if memory serves, these gems were Hayden and Phoebe. It was the best customer service I had all day, and I wish them well in everything they do, the little dolls. Thumbs up!

We had a slight game plan for doing and seeing it all, but when you keep bumping into the incredible people of Venice, plans change. I honestly could have stood in one spot all day and just talked and caught up with everyone going by, but we did our best to keep it moving. We had to stop into The Green House and have our annual Festival photo with our longtime friends, who I LOVE, and was so happy to see.

The Brig (and all the Beer Gardens) and Trim were going off with more fun, as usual, and the lines were long everywhere you looked. This might have been the most packed Festival I can remember. When you got to the area where the food booths were on both sides, the middle of the street was nearly impassable. Yet no one really seemed to mind.

Patience was key. As was love, as Venice legendary activist, David Busch was there to remind us. "Love is not a point, but a circle." And I was enveloped within that circle all day long.

The Venice Historical Society was there to remind people of what has come before ... and to emphasize those great days when there were no chain stores on Abbot Kinney - where they do not belong. It re-inspired me to get my Venice book launched, as people today need to know what made this place so cool to begin with ... and it certainly wasn't the rampant greed you see today. I had a friend say today that he didn't go yesterday, because he felt it was all about commerce now. That's too bad, because this day really is about so much more - mainly COMMUNITY and our NEIGHBORHOODS. That was felt ... so much more than the presence of the brand name jerks. In fact, I didn't even notice them with all the great people around. I also saw several "Snapchat Must Go" type shirts and stickers. Good for them/us.

It was a delight to see my friends at the Venice Pride booth, all happy and celebrating the recent victories of both the Rainbow Lifeguard Tower becoming a permanent fixture on the beach, and the announcement that The Roosterfish will indeed by reopening, by the fine fellows of South End up the street.

It was rumored that The Fish would be open as a pop-up for the Festival (which we all wanted dearly, not least because the ladies bathroom lines have historically always been the shortest there), but that didn't happen. Not sure why. There was a BBQ place out front, so it felt all festive there anyway.

There was sensational music all day, on a slew of stages. We caught some great funk, we missed the Superbroke Orchestra, heard Citizen Cope was playing somewhere ... but you've only got one body, and you do your best.

The Venice-Brooks Festival again piggy-backed on the Abbot Kinney Festival this year, making it even harder to do and see it all. Which is fine, because it was really fun, with reggae d.j.'s making it feel like a tropical get-away all day.

They had AWESOME music, great cocktails, cool merchants, fun people ... I just wish it was its own Festival day, so we wouldn't have to be spread so thin, racing from one end of Venice to the other all day (you definitely get your steps in on this day). Too much of a good thing is not a bad thing.

General Admission and Fioré Designs put on the alternative festival, and it gets better every year. I would have loved to have hung there all day, but my good friends were playing at the "Locals" stage on Andalusia, and we had to get back over there to reunite with all the homies.

I didn't really stop in to the Kids Area, but was very impressed to see this one little girl giving her all at the hammer game thing. Girl Power! We almost got our faces painted for the fun of it, but those dang kids made the lines too long. Oh, well.

Speaking of kids, I got to meet my new, little friend Coyote, enjoying his very first Abbot Kinney Festival! He seconded that it was one of the best ever. Shout out to Laura and Strader for bringing such a cool cat into Venice ... we'll need him.

The sidewalk chalk street was great again this year, with neighbors and friends all coming together to create a mandala of love and creativity. I can't wait until the Chalk Festival is its real own thing. (A different day than the Abbot Kinney Festival, please!)

I was happy to see the fine Venice activists still at it, showing all who came by that it's a tradition in Venice to resist. And resist we will.

The Locals stage was well under way by the time we got there (after again stopping every two feet to greet a new face that I loved), and it was truly a headquarters of all the longtime Venice beloved family.

Logistics made me miss Lacey K. Cowden, Blue Eyed Son, and Steve McCormick (dang it!), but we got there just as Matt Ellis took over the stage, bringing up Paul Chesne just as we arrived for the aptly titled, "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To". Yes, of course, it was awesome.

With so many of the friends now gathered in one spot, it made it difficult to leave. Especially when the backstage area featured refreshments and a bathroom. We posted up here for pretty much the rest of the fest ... it was just too easy.

The day always go by too fast, but then the after-parties kick in. There were several to choose from, so we went to the one that our friends were going to be playing more music at ... the party spot at the corner of South Venice and Abbot Kinney. We got turned on to a great new band there, Fox Trails (We thought they were saying Fox Hills, but I'm pretty sure it's Fox Trails), that we dug a lot. They sounded like new Harry Styles a bit - and that's a compliment I'm surprised to be giving, but it's true. There's maybe a little Incubus vibes in there too ... good stuff. Good times.

It was such a perfect Venice day, and I was so happy to be back, you just wanted it to go on and on and on ... and it did, until fatigue and dehydration forced us to throw in the towel long after the sun had set. Always the best day of the year in Venice, this year's Abbot Kinney Festival was even better than usual, perhaps because there was no taking it for granted. I KNOW how much I love it here, I KNOW how much the people mean to me, I KNOW that this is still where I belong, and deep down, this is still the Venice we all know and love ... you just have to feel it like we did yesterday, and you'll know too that Venice Lives!

Thank you to one and all for a most excellent Venice Homecoming! It was beyond special. I love you all.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Venice Homecoming Weekend!

I'm back in beautiful Venice, just in time for what I like to think of as Venice Homecoming weekend! The Abbot Kinney Festival is this weekend, as is the Venice-Brooks Festival, as is the Venice Afterburn art party at the beach, as is endless fun in the town that knows what that means. I'm so excited to see everyone out enjoying it all!

Let's show everyone what we're all about, and really make this one to remember. It's going to be awesome, and the perfect return to town for me, and to what I love about Venice. What a wonderful kick-off to Autumn 2017 - see you out there, friends!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Venice (Where Art Meets Eviction) - Updated Shirts For Now

My friend Gallo made a classic Venice shirt a bunch of years back, that everyone had/has ... Venice (Where Art Meets Crime). It was funny, because it was true. We all knew it, we all lived with it, we all tried to make the art supersede the crime. Well, now Gallo has an updated version of the shirt to better reflect our current events ... Introducing the Venice (Where Art Meets Eviction) shirt!

Only this time it's not funny, because it's true. And you think it's never going to happen to you - until it does. I was literally blind-sided by my situation, and now find out that my landlord super unlawfully filed my name on the eviction of my psycho roommate in order to get us both out faster ... so now she gets to go to court. And I get to keep looking for a new home in the town that I love that seems to be losing its cool. Money doesn't make a place cool - obviously. The people do. The art does. The traditions do. The beloved spots do (and on that note, Roosterfish re-opens this weekend for a pop-up party before undergoing a little spiff-up to really re-open. Awesome.). Tech companies, big ugly boxes, trendy hipsters, chain stores, overpriced billboard shops, over-hyped restaurants, and all that smack only serve to turn once edgy, awesome places into lame douchebag magnets. Venice is better than that.

Let's all work together to make damn sure that the art always wins over both crime and eviction - which is really the same thing.

Get yours HERE, because you continue to be awesome in spite of it all. TO spite it all.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Prophets Of Rage - The Debut Album Out Today!

Prophets of Rage are THE band for these times, as attendance at one of their shows clearly proves. It is pure energy, pure intensity, and pure rage aimed at the social injustices of now, delivered with the solid one-two-three punch of the classic rock sounds from three of rock and hip hop's biggest bands coming together as one.

Rage Against The Machine. Public Enemy. Cypress Hill = Prophets of Rage, and while we all miss the fiery teachings of Zack de la Rocha leading Rage, Chuck D and B Real bring a whole new vibe while keeping their own legendary personas front and center. It's something else.

The debut album, the self-titled Prophets of Rage is out everywhere today, and we finally get to hear the original songs that these music icons came up with together. I'm blasting it right now, and feel myself itching for either a big, crazy rock show, or an all out, take it to the streets monster protest. It will do that to you.

I was all ready to expose my Minneapolis people to this mind-blower of a rock show this weekend out at Canterbury Downs, but for some lame reason, the sponsoring radio station (93X) cancelled it. That's enough to start our own protest right there. Minnesota people will want to make the trek somewhere else to catch this. Lame.

The new album showcases each member of the band at their best ... from the power trio from Rage (Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford) to DJ Lord to Chuck D and B Real, all in firmly in their element. Standout tracks to me are "Hands Up", "Radical Eyes", "Smashit", "Unfuck The World", and "Strength In Numbers", but every song is gonna do some sonic damage, and absolutely rile up everyone within earshot.

There are very few recording artists putting their mouths where their money is these days, and POR doesn't care what anybody thinks - they just say it like it is. And they mean business. The music - and the movement - is crazy infectious, and unafraid to stand up and speak out to anyone or anything that is keeping the people down.

Guys ... Thank you. Thank you for Making America Rage Again. We need you!!!

Fans - Get it. And definitely catch it live if you can.

Related links:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Stay At Zeno Mountain Farm Venice For A Real Venice Vibe

I'm a major fan of Zeno Mountain Farm in Venice, and now travelers can stay there! The Venice location of this wonderful camp is now open for vacation rentals, and hosted by my lovely friend, Tawney, while they stay.

Zeno is a place where disabled people can go to have a blast, and you can get an inside glimpse of the place and their excellent work in the film that should have won Best Picture of 2014, Becoming Bulletproof

Zeno also has a camp full of tree houses in Vermont, so when the festivities are going off out east, the Venice location back west can be available for visitors to our beautiful town that want to have a truly real Venice experience.

I'm not a big fan of Air BnB, as I feel that it wrecks neighborhoods and takes the authenticity away. Venice has gotten so expensive that people have been forced to rent their homes just to keep them, so I get it from their standpoint, but it also does a lot of damage. Communities fall apart when you never see anyone you know anymore ... but that's why I can endorse THIS Air BnB listing. They WANT people to know and experience the real Venice.

To that end, rooms are named after beloved Venice places that are no longer around, like Stroh's, Abbot's Habit, and Equator Books. They want visitors to know what came before them, what places helped to make it a cool place to come.

The space is on Westminster, right behind the corner where YAS used to be on Abbot Kinney. That's steps from shopping on a pretty cool street (that used to be a lot cooler before chains $omehow sneaked in), a brief stroll to the sand and water, and guaranteed fun because you're in the very heart of Venice.

You're also helping to keep a very important and beautiful space alive by contributing to it financially. Seriously, one viewing of Becoming Bulletproof, and you're gonna want to get involved - even if it's just by staying in their sweet pad while they're away.

Check out their listing HERE, and we'll all hope to see you soon here in Venice!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Great White Opens On Pacific Avenue - Get Bit!

A brand new spot just opened up in the space left vacant by Seed on Pacific, and Great White looks to be just what that little stretch of Venice needed - already.

Serving up healthy breakfast and lunch fare every day from 7 am to 6 pm, it's close enough to the beach that you can get both your pre and post-surf/beach day grinds on foot. It looks DELICIOUS - and I'm told IS extra delicious - with great service to top it off. It sounds like a home run right out of the gate, with unanimously positive reviews from all who have had the pleasure of trying it out in week one. Cheers to owners Sam Trude and Sam Cooper, Chef Alex Thomopoulos, all the staff, and to all in Venice that get to go here. Yum.

I presume they've named the place after the shark and not the band, and the beachy vibes are on theme. The drinks all sound incredible, and as it's an Aussie-owned venture, you absolutely will find a legit flat white.

There is no liquor license as yet, so they're only open for breakfast and lunch so far, but I can't wait to get back to town and try everything on both of those menus and chill on the breezy patio. Welcome to the neighborhood, Great White!

Great White
1604 Pacific Avenue (At Windward)

*Photos courtesy of Great White. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Rainbow Lifeguard Tower Stays! Roosterfish To Possibly Return!

9/11/17 Update: I spoke to Gary Mick, the last owner and he reports that it is not the original owners that are moving forward. He is now happily married and living in Kansas. I'm not there to go investigate today, but I'm told it looks like it's moving along, and I'll get the whole deal asap. Stay tuned! Exciting!

Good news travels fast! My sources in Venice tell me that the petition to keep the Bill Rosendahl Memorial rainbow lifeguard tower was successful, and the wonderfully colorful beacon of acceptance for all will remain in all its rainbow glory permanently! I love it.

A crew of Venice folks from the Venice Pride committee went and testified downtown, and received a unanimous vote to allow the rainbow-painted lifeguard to stay as it is, there on the sand at Brooks to show one and all that Venice welcomes everyone ... and is proud of it!

                                                                                                                              *Photo: Michael Brunt
This great news got greater when I heard that it's looking like the Roosterfish is going to re-open in its original location on Abbot Kinney! The space has sat there empty for well over a year now, and I'm told that they can possibly move back in! I hear the art is even still on the walls (though I've not been inside to see), so they should be back in business in no time! I need to get owner confirmation still, but my sources are thrilled and it sounds like it's real news. Yay! Taking back our town, one Venice victory at a time!

I can't wait to get back and toast you all with a very stiff Roosterfish drink in person - Congratulations to all the friends who made the Rainbow Tower a true Venice landmark, both in its physical form, and in this decision. Thank you for showing that the heart of Venice remains open and strong. Cheers! Love!


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Back To School/Real Life!

Hi Friends!

I had a wonderful vacation home to Minnesota, and now it's time for back to school for the kids here - and back to real life for me. I'm still in Minnesota, but the chill part must come to an end as I figure out what I'm going to do next in my crazy life.

Minnesota has been fully showing off, with absolutely perfect weather every day, and all the most fun things happening around this time of the year as the good NICE people of Minnesota try to cram in as much Summertime as they can. It's funny, it's the day after Labor Day, and it's like the state knows it. It's instantly about 20 degrees colder, and you can tell people are already beginning to think about hunkering down for the long winter.

It's been a little strange being here and watching the scorching heat wave and wildfire news coming out of L.A. I mean, Venice almost never gets HOT, and I've seen all my friends back there freaking out about it. I currently have a sweater on, with a blanket on my lap ... but the windows are open.

My roots, my family, and my hometown friend and favorite spots have all been making me feel so welcome and at home, that I'm actually feeling pretty torn as to where I really belong. After looking at a studio with a hot plate in Venice for $3,000 a month (!), super awesome Minneapolis pads for nowhere near that are starting to sound more interesting. But I've made Venice my home, it's super important to me, and I don't really know  - I don't know! Anyone who would pay that much for a shithole apartment in Venice is an idiot ... and I don't fancy myself to be one.

There are so many cool things to do in and around Minnesota, just as there are in California. I was here for the State Fair this year, and it's truly the very best one around. The people watching alone!

The crafts, the food, the animals, the art ... it's all just so great. Everyone loves it, and is so happy to be there, you can feel it in the air. And it's been said many, many times, but the people are SO nice here (aside from murdering cops, but that's another story). Just checking out at a store can launch a brand new friendship - and often does.

There is so many good music and art shows that it really does rival L.A. In fact, I'm currently torn between watching some bands here or there - as better seats can often be had here. The Walker Art Center is top shelf, and I checked out the newly renovated sculpture garden during their Garden Party with my Mom, and it was great - in fact, every precious moment I get to spend with my beloved Mother is great, and that's a big part of it too. When you're away a while ... you can tell that time is passing too quickly. And that time is increasingly precious. My love swells, and I can't imagine leaving. And then I can't imagine not ...

The Jimmie Durham exhibit inside the Walker was fantastic. What a cool artist that I didn't know of before! Very witty, very insightful, very cool.

As was the interactive exhibit by Teamlabs that let you color your own art, scan it, and immerse yourself in it as it bloomed all around you in a dark room. Frrrresh.

The natural beauty is art unto itself in Minnesota, and it's everywhere you look. 11, 842 lakes beckon you every day, and you can't go very far without falling into one of them in your path.

My dearest friends are big boaters, and I've spent a bunch of time the last couple of weeks on both the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers ... and at this spot where the two meet. The Mississippi mud makes it very clear which one is which!

I spent my birthday on the Mississippi too, clinking glasses with dear friends from high school, college, and from my time in Hawai'i, and when I looked around at their wonderful faces, my heart felt full. Well, almost full, as my Venice/L.A. friends weren't there, and I've spent nearly half my life there now too. Where do I belong?! I'm thinking maybe both ... !

So now it's the Tuesday after Labor Day ... the freelance job I was going to rush back this week to start has been pushed once again. I don't have a new place yet in Venice (again, not willing to shell out 3 G's a month for basically a storage space to live in!), so there's really no rush to get back ... other than that I miss it and as of today I'm already freezing here in the North Star State.

I've spent a lot of time in my life thinking in the woods at Wood Lake Nature Center. It always helps me, calms me down, makes me feel better, and I'm so grateful for this wonderful resource of nature right in the middle of my hometown of Richfield. It's exquisite, and the place where I get a lot of my best ideas. It will likely provide me with the answers I'm searching for within this story, and within myself.

A gentle rain has just started up, and I can hear a little roll of thunder in the distance, as well as a train horn further off. The high school marching band was practicing earlier and I could hear their instruments in the wind, and a massive wave of nostalgia nearly made me cry. Then I saw some Venice photos on social media, with all those friends having a blast over Labor Day weekend, and I felt extra left out. I've gotta figure this out. Thank you for your patience and support, and your love and friendship, as I navigate a very unsettled and strange time in my life, though it's also one that is very liberated and wide open and possibly exciting. I've been thinking, we only get one turn in this body, maybe it's time to live somewhere foreign? Be a Dreamer somewhere else? Why not? This planet only has so much time left, if we're being honest, so maybe live nowhere and just check it all out? Or explore SPACE!!! Lots of thinking, I tell you what.

I promise, I will always continue to be your very own Pueblo style storyteller Kachina doll, wherever I may be. But Venice ... I sure hope I'm back with you very soon!