Monday, November 27, 2017

Our Thankful And Free California Weekend

Thanksgiving weekend was extra great this year, because my brave Mom got on a standby flight the night before Thanksgiving - with a layover - and somehow made it!

We haven't had Thanksgiving with her in something like 20 years, because I always try to go home for Christmas, and they're just too close together to make it work, usually. So, everything after Mom getting here with no problems was all gravy ... really good gravy.

My brother decided to host Thanksgiving this year, which meant I was going to be doing the majority of the cooking. Which I was happy to do, because I haven't had my own kitchen in a bit, so cutting loose in there was some good therapy for me, and it all turned out pretty dang delicious, I'm happy to say. We had other Venice folks and friends who didn't get to be with their families, so the vibe was very, very grateful. I love Thanksgiving! (Oh, AND the Vikings won! 9-2. Awesome.)

I'm not a believer or a participant in Black Friday, and think it showcases all that is wrong with our society. The day after being super thankful. It's disgusting. So, I usually take that day to get out into nature, and stay all the way away from the ridiculous crowds at stores. It's even better therapy. This year my brother and I took our Mom out to the desert, as she had never been to Joshua Tree National Park, and it's one of Paul's favorite places to shoot photographs. Perfect day trip length (ok, a little far, but we're like that). I thought I'd heard that Salvation Mountain wasn't very far away from there, so we took a detour after stopping to pick up lunch in Palm Springs.

Salvation Mountain is about 60-70 miles away from anything you'd want to go to, but it really was something, and really was worth it. You drive along the eerie, otherworldly Salton Sea on the way there, and it's almost like driving on a moonscape, with oases of date palms every few miles. Weird.

Leonard Knight had the vision to create his self-made mountain after he found God, and set out into the desert to build it. It's all hay bales covered in plaster and paint, super colorful and as eccentric as you'd hope it would be. It's a beacon of love and hope in one of the most desolate possible places. There are little caves all painted inside, and it makes you feel like you want your own message from God to do something totally outlandish. Hmm ...

There are friendly greeters that tell you the fun information and trivia about the place, as they shoot the breeze in the little shade that there is under an information kiosk/lean-to. The guy told me that Salvation Mountain was featured in the film, Into The Wild, which I'm pretty sure is where I first heard about it, and it's haunted me since. And now I've been! And so has my Mom, which is cool, because she's about the number one believer in God ... it's a shame she couldn't have chatted with Knight, but he passed away in 2014. The mountain site is now under the care of the non-profit Salvation Mountain, Inc. The site is free to visit, with only a donation box there to make sure the mountain will remain. To that end, it was declared a national treasure by Congress, as it should be.

The whole thing reminds me a bit of Watts Tower, and how it was Simon Rodia's dream to make that beacon of hope and love in the middle of Watts. I bet the two creative gentlemen would have gotten on like gangbusters. Salvation Mountain is really cool, and very touching to visit. I would encourage everyone to make the detour at least once. It's a special place.

As we were leaving, one of the travelers/greeters told us not to miss the artist colony up the road in East Jesus. We had to go.

East Jesus is all Mad Max type of both people and art, and I wasn't surprised to hear that it's a staging area for Burning Man. It's all art installations with carpeted trails leading you around the attractions. Everything is made from garbage or recyclables, and everything has a sense of humor, and often a blunt message for society. Entrance is free, and a donation box keeps this place going as well.

There seems to be some permanent residents there working on their art, and we met a nice British guy who told us he'd been there two years, and yep, came from Burning Man. Libertarian drunkards, and proud of it!

They're having a lot of fun, that's for sure. It's a little dark and dangerous feeling, and Paul commented that "I bet it gets a little nutty at night." I'll bet for sure. They're coming up with things like dangerous playgrounds, with cheese grater slides and monkey bars telling the person climbing them that it doesn't get better. Several of the installations have chairs there for you to sit and reflect upon it all. I would have too, if it wasn't SO hot. I don't know how people can live there, but they do.

They also live in Slab City, the area between East Jesus and Salvation Mountain. It's a real life Land of the Lost vibe, with people living free and off the grid. It felt pretty lawless, which is cool, and though it seems like the ultimate end of the road, there's a library, an outdoor nightclub, and even a Slab City Hostel. It had no stars, but I think you'd be talking about your stay there for some time. As we were racing against the early darkness, we had to speed off to Joshua Tree to get some daylight sightseeing in. As we drove out of Slab City, the sign bidding you farewell says, "Good luck out there!" Thank you. We need it!

We got to Joshua Tree National Park in time for the beautiful golden hour, and Paul had a good time getting some shots of our beloved Mom out there in one of his favorite places on this Earth.

Mom is an exceptional artist, and she found just the right Joshua Tree that she wanted to paint (I have a feeling I know what Paul might be getting for Christmas!). The sun set much faster than we wanted it to, but the stars were beautiful too. We had no luxury of time to stay and gaze on them longer, because Mom was on the red-eye, and we forgot about the holiday weekend traffic returning on the 10! It was at a literal stand-still for nearly two hours, and we started to panic, until it opened up like it always does after that whole mountainous part about halfway. Phew!

A wonderful weekend of total thankfulness is on the books. I said it before, but having good health is the main thing to be grateful for, period. As I had that back, AND my sweet Mother here, PLUS good friends and food, and THEN wonderful creation and nature, I sit here happily writing with a smile on my face, no matter what else is happening. That's what happens when you're truly grateful in your heart ... it IS your glory.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Gratitude In The City Of Angels

We all talk a lot about gratitude at this time of the year, and as Thanksgiving is coming right up, that's great. It's so much more than a word to toss around, though. When you truly feel it, it's super powerful, and as a guru lady on the beach once told me ... "Gratitude is the glory." That is truth right there.

I missed out on a bunch of fun things over the weekend, because last week I woke up on Thursday with my face so swollen it was deformed. It was painful and atrocious to look at, and further reminded me why I would never be a candidate for botox or lip fillers. Yuck. Not a good look. At all. I took Benedryl. Nothing. I finally went in to Westside Walk In Clinic to see the wonderful Hannah on Friday, and though we still don't really know why this happened, my face was pretty much back to normal by the next morning. I still feel a little weird, especially as I don't exactly know what went down, but MAN, did the whole deal make me SO grateful for when everything is working and looking good. We used to see a guy in a wheelchair down on the Boardwalk all the time, and call him our "Gratitude Guru", because he was always so positive and upbeat, despite living under very trying circumstances. People let the littlest things get them down, but when you don't have your health, nothing else really matters. Nothing else can really get done. You simply cannot take it for granted.

A gratitude walk was ultra-necessary for me this morning - especially now that I felt I could go back out into the public. The sky was filled with wispy clouds resembling angels, and I felt completely full with thanks and praise for this beautiful place, and for the upswing in my health (I think). There's still a whole bunch of things that need real work in my life (housing in Venice! lots more work! cool dudes!), but the simple pleasure of not feeling pain and not looking like a total Elephant Woman made me almost click my heels together in the air as I breathed in the golden day and fresh air.

As we gear up for this busy, fun, friends and family time of celebration, let's be seriously thankful - in addition to every other good thing - for every easy step we take, every non-labored breath, and every moment that feels no pain.

To your health!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Queso Truck Arrives In Venice!

Guys. There's a queso truck! THE Queso Truck! I was so excited when I heard my friends and former neighbors, Cammy and Nick Miller, were kicking off a new endeavor in the form of a truck selling delicious queso, because knowing them, I knew it was going to be good!

You've read about Cammy here because she is one of the founders of the fashion label Show Me Your Mumu (which I love) and one of the greatest girls around town.  You've read about Nick here, because he's a writer/entrepeneur who has a line of cards and art at Urbanic, and is married to Cammy. The Millers teamed up with Cammy's brother, Beaux Hebert ("The Queso Kid", I'm told), and Cammy's high school friend and her husband, Katy and Carson Young, to bring Cammy's idea/wish to the masses.

Growing up in the deep South, Cammy and Beaux know their queso, and have taught Nick what's what The real deal. They also knew that you really couldn't find any awesome and authentic queso in Southern California worth really talking about. The Youngs knew the food truck business, after being one of the first to bring them to Atlanta (the Yumbii and YumDiggity trucks), so between them all, it was on. A family and friend affair, that everyone would love! And they do.

The cutest truck ever launched about a month ago and is already a huge hit, with long lines forming when it parks at The Brig, where I found it and got to try the deliciousness on a recent Friday. My admission to you is that prior to this glorious treat the best queso I'd had was probably the Velveeta and Ro-tel kind that people make for football parties - and I'm not mad at it. In fact, "The Classic" at The Queso Truck is exactly like that, but better (they don't use Velveeta). I was sssssstoked. If you're a little more adventurous, you can get your queso with chorizo, chicken and kale, and even truffles! Yowza.

I got mine with chips - because you do - but you can also get it with fries, tortillas, or raw asparagus for the halfway well-behaved. There's drinks and a Mexican chocolate queso dessert that now I have to go back to get, but really, it's all about the queso. And the great news is that this queso re-heats perfectly! I can only do so much queso at once, so I put the rest in the fridge without great hope of anything but coagulated sludge. The next afternoon we discovered that happy leftover container and zapped it a few seconds, and bam. Back in cheese heaven, just like that. Perfect. Maybe even better, as the flavors had chilled together overnight. I'm drooling on my keys here, pardon.

The Queso Truck is available to roll up to your fiestas (and it's so colorful and Mexican blanket themed that you want it there as decor! There's even merch!) and events, and your guests would be so happy, I promise. I'm so happy right now just remembering it ... I gotta go hang in The Brig parking lot until Friday. And I most likely won't be first in line. YUM.

The Queso Truck can be found via its social media places pictured, but mark your calendars that they dish up the queso on Fridays and Sundays at The Brig, Wednesdays at LACMA, and all over Los Angeles the other days. You'll love it.

Te amo, Queso Truck! Olé!!!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tom Everhart - Waves And Bubble Baths

If you were in Beverly Hills last Saturday night, you may have thought you were in Venice. So many Venice friends made the trip east of the 405 for Tom Everhart's art opening at the Mouche Gallery that I heard someone say "I feel like I'm at Abbot's Habit." It really was pretty funny, as everywhere you looked there was either a Venice person or a friend of a Venice person. It was awesome.

Waves and Bubble Baths (showing at the Mouche until December 11th) is new works from Everhart, over 150 pieces all based on a drawing of a wave done by Charles Schulz in 1991 for his comic strip. The Snoopy character shows up in each piece, to show scale, and all pay direct tribute to that Shulz wave, but also to the various inspirations that have been important to Everhart in his long career. The bubble baths refer to the various bubbles Everhart dwells in as he works, like his Venice studio, his relationship with Schulz, his studio in Tahiti ... and the bubble we live in here in Venice (Thank God).

There are tips of the hat to such diverse luminaries as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Missy Elliot, Biggie Smalls, Frank Stella, and Venice, California - of course.

The champagne flowed as friends caught up and congratulated Everhart and his muse/wife, Jennifer. Venice cleaned up nicely, as the ladies were hot and the gents were dapper. It would have been great to have turned it into an all night lock-in, to give everyone the chance to chat, as there were so many old friends present that it was hard to even just greet them all, never mind hear all of their latest. We need a sequel/closing party!

The new work was gorgeous, with the bright colors of Everhart's palette providing excellent selfie backgrounds for those that take those. I noticed some new color schemes in there too, as in the blacks and golds of Snoop Dogg's Sound Wave, and the pinks, purples, and golds of the beautifully abstract Andy's Tsunami. All of Everhart's work is fun to observe, and it gets even better when you know the meanings behind it. Do read the artist's written piece about the show here. It provides wonderful insight into the making of this art that had us all in Beverly Hills celebrating with our friend.

Cheers to Tom and Jenny! Thank you for the art, thank you for the fun!

Tom Everhart - Waves and Bubble Baths
Mouche Gallery
340 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Friday, November 10, 2017

anyone lived in a pretty how town ... called venice

Things have been pretty hectic lately, and my morning walks have suffered. Well, TGIF, and my reward was a glorious, gorgeous morning stroll all over town. I hit the Venice Farmer's Market to get my citrus and salad fix for the week, and say hi to all the lovely locals there. I was thinking how I haven't gotten out that much and my stories have suffered as well ... and then on my way to the beach, I turned a corner on Venice Boulevard and got another reward.

e.e. cummings is one of my all-time favorite poets, and there painted on a little bungalow's fence was one of my all-time favorite e.e. cummings poems - anyone lived in a pretty how town. It could not be more charming, and could not have made my day more ...

... until I turned the corner again, and saw the triptych of lovely hand paintings that accompanied the poem.

A sand stroll was extra necessary after this, and the view from the Venice Pier this morning was breathtaking. I thought about the poem again.

It made me happy, and made me grateful that the artists and the poets of Venice are still what make it a pretty how town.

A beautiful start to a beautiful weekend for everyone who lives in our little town by the beach, and to all everywhere. Good vibes only this weekend, ok, Universe? Thanks.

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
- e.e. cummings 


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love

I can't take it. It's like EVERY day you hear terrible news about some new psycho mass murder, some new awful environmental tragedy, some new sex scandal by some gross Hollywood letch, some new height of dastardly deeds being put upon us by the nefarious politicians ... it's seriously some new dreadful thing to process every day. ANOTHER mass shooting, this time the worst one ever in Texas. During a church service, when people are there just trying to be good, for the most part. It's too much. It's like all anyone talks about. I'm trying very hard to focus on the good things that are done in the name of love every day, even as they get seemingly more difficult to find in our daily lives. Taking a walk always helps.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard has become mostly avoidable for longtime Venice residents, but there are still some pretty great things about it, including the above bleeding hearts mural, the #Lovewall. People from all over the globe come to Venice, and an awful lot of them stop to take a photo in front of this wall painted by jgoldcrown.

A brief stroll away is a Greg Mike mural, Bear Witness, that has a kind of scary bear, but its bark is one of love. I think that's some pretty good imagery for these times. Turn it all into love, however you can. It's worth a shot, anyway. Love is such a loaded word, but we sure do need all of it that we can get. We can do better.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Halloween 2017 Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween! - is finally over! Is it just me, or does it feel like Halloween goes on for at least a week now? And that's not even including Dia de Los Muertos! It's crrrrazy. And also really fun. Venice is an excellent place to celebrate the holiday that has come to be as big a deal for adults as it always has been for kids ... if not bigger. With all the artists and creatives that call Venice home, the decorating and Halloween spirit is in full effect here in these parts. Even the Venice Sign goes orange for the season! Settle in ... this is a long one.

The whole week kicked off with a big Halloween day party at Couer D'Alene Elementary School last Saturday (because I had to miss the big Jim Robb/Paige Petrone party the night before at The Victorian), that was both really impressive and very small town feeling. Kids and parents alike were all decked out in fun costumes, and the candy barrage had already begun. They had games and crafts and giant bounce houses and just about anything a kid could ever want in a party. Then it was time to go home to get ready for the grown up parties. This was THE night, and there were a ton of them happening, and you want to hit them all, but you just do your best to have the most fun possible.

My brother, Paul, decided to have a Halloween party this year, and worked for weeks and weeks on turning his house into a haunted one, so that's where I was going to post up. He refused all offers for help, as he had a particular vision in mind for what he wanted. And that vision was spoooooky.

You entered through a dark walkway, where a big spider jumped out at you at the exit. A kid friend of mine who all week has claimed to be unafraid of anything jumped about a mile at that one, pleasing me greatly. Right when you walked out of the dark, there was a peep hole area, where you could look inside to see photos of awful clowns ... including Trump. My little pal, Beckett, peered inside and jumped back at that one, yelling, "Scary!" He doesn't even know. There was also a hole to reach inside of that was full of guts (spaghetti, hot dogs, and if you reached far enough back ... a big dildo).

The kids only got to stay briefly, because ... nope. But they got to hang out in the scary cage and take a turn at scaring the grownups. Kids can be very creepy, after all.

There was an entirely new structure that Paul built, to house an alien that lived among bloody hands reaching out at you. Not a room you'd like to be locked in. Sound effects were equally nightmarish.

A portal to Hell had burned up hands reaching out at you that I could barely look at, and a gigantic spider that hung over the outdoor proceedings.

The garage held a bunch of dangling, plastic-wrapped bodies, making me wonder how my brother knows how to do that. Very Saw like (I say that, but I've never seen any of them. Nope.)

Inside the house, Slender Man resided, as well as a very eerie man inside of the wall.

I recently had a real life cockroach incident at La Cabaña, so when I turned on the light in my brother's bathroom to see all of these awful creatures skittering up the wall ... Ok, I really did jump. Disgusting jerks. *Health code note - they were not real.

My favorite costumes at the party were Van Gogh (complete with severed ear) ...

And I also have to give it up for the Fantasia couples costume. 

The party hosts were pretty good too ... Spacepants (I guess it's an SNL skit starring Peter Dinklage) and Yacht Rock. Good times!

Paul's band, spaceblanket, ruled it as usual, even throwing down a little Halloween theme song cover. In the middle of their set, Steve Irvin did a performance art piece that featured him fully nude, tearing liquid latex off of him like it was his skin. It was both brave and cool, and when the "skin" was left behind on the floor, appropriately creepy.

All in all, it was a complete blast and I'm so proud and impressed with Paul and all of his hard work - Oh, and I almost forgot to mention his delish vegan curry he made for everyone - it was totally worth it and THANK YOU, for providing so much fun for everyone! LOVE you!

A couple days off to recover, and then real Halloween. Venice goes off. And it starts early. I've always gone mainly to Rialto Avenue, but the people I don't see there told me that the walk streets are great, so this year I decided to check out all of it if I could.

The walk streets are great because they never have cars on them, and Rialto is great because they close down the whole wide street. Both are very decorated, and both you will see friends and neighbors ... as well as all of the people that drive in for the occasion. I dug the fresh graves at one house ... meaning I liked them, not that I physically dug them.

There were a couple of witches hanging out, stirring their cauldron of brew. They were great, and it was cute to hear a little kid say, "I remember you from last year!", all excited. He explained that he was something different last year, so they might not remember him. Adorable.

The adults were pretty dressed up to accompany their kids this year, and I especially appreciated one family that was the Von Trapp Family Singers, with all the little kids in dirndls and leiderhosen, only the mom was the captain and the dad was the singing Maria. It was great, and they win my favorite of the walk streets.

The walk streets were cool, but they're very narrow, and there is a lot of trick or treater gridlock. Everyone was having a great time, and I saw more than a few Dads looking at their phones to keep track of the Dodger Game 6 (They won! Game 7 tonight!), and more than a few Dads AND Moms holding on to their Solo cup roadies. Necessary. 

Rialto is still the best, in terms of concentrated Halloween spirit, and almost everyone getting in on the scene. One nice family again rented a giant bounce house thing for the kids to jump in if they could be torn away from the candy getting.

The Haunted House house was even more haunted this year, and though it wasn't quite dark yet when I visited, it was still scary.

The inside part that you walk through is actually scary and I made a Frida Kahlo I just met go through it with me.

Severed heads were hanging from the ceiling, along with some Day Glo worms, but it got real when a horrifying Grandma jumped out at us with a big knife. I actually jumped.

There was also a scary Cowboy in there, and ghouls and skeletons in the bushes. I think some of them are actually there all year long - they looked familiar.

The Dragon House did it up again this year, only they added a giant, kind of albino bat thing. It looked great, as did all of the houses, really. I love how everyone gets so into it!

My favorite costume award on Rialto this year is the little family that went as a recycling truck and recyclable items. Socially conscious AND adorable. I loved them.

The Frankenstein House added some stuff this year too, and really meant business.

There was an extra graveyard and smoke and all the good stuff you want in a haunted scene. I found myself wishing I lived on Rialto, so I could stay in one place all night and watch everyone come to me. There were so many cute kids I found myself looking for new adjectives better than "cute". But they really were. I met some little skater kids who grilled me for directions to the most candy that I'd seen. I sent them to Nowita, as they'd already gone up and down Rialto. I'm pretty sure they cleaned it ALL up.

I stopped to say hi to a casual banana on a porch ...

... and then headed back to the walk streets to try to find my people that I'd taken off from. The sun had set, and spooky music was playing on every street. Every house had candy on the porch and the t.v. on inside showing the Dodgers game - truly Americana at its best. People walked up and down until the either the kids dropped or the parents did, because it didn't seem like the candy ever ran out.

Then it was back to the house to count the candy, sort the candy, eat the candy, smell the candy (I love that cumulative Halloween candy smell inside the bag, everything all mixed up. It's a classic aroma.), and then, ultimately melt down - again, the kids and the parents. Drinks, scary movies, steal some kid candy for the movie candy, and it's a perfectly wonderful Halloween '17 Season wrapped up, with candy and memories to last for ages.

Good job, everyone! I think we all really needed this fun this year, and we did it up right. Love.

Oh, hang on ... It's All Saints' Day now. Have a good one, you Saints.

And Go Dodgers!