Monday, November 12, 2018

California Fires - A Community In Action

The absolutely horrible wildfires in California over the weekend (and still not fully contained) were shocking. I've never seen actual flames from the beach here in Venice, but I did on Friday night. And it was scary. There wasn't even a chance to fully process the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks on Thursday, before that same community needed to be evacuated for the fires. Beautiful Malibu was going up in flames, and we could SEE it. It was a really heavy week.

There was a Movie Night at Muscle Beach on Friday night, also the first time that has happened, that I know of. They were screening the wonderful surf documentary, Hawai'ian: The Legend Of Eddie Aikau, and I never thought I'd be nearly out loud sobbing while sitting at Muscle Beach - but there I was. A good little group turned out to get their minds off of everythig, though we were all distracted by the encroaching flames on the horizon to the north. Every now and then, the streaming would falter and the movie would stall, so we'd go look at the flames until it came back on. (Thanks, Lance!)

We weren't looking at just the glow from the flames, but actual FIRE. When the movie was over, and the much needed drink at James Beach was gulped down, we went up to the rooftop across the street. The words being used were "Surreal". "Apocalyptic". "War zone". "Hell". And yes, "Climate Change". Danny Samakow and I were getting emotional about it, mainly because you felt so helpless to help. I don't think anyone slept well that night.

Saturday morning the whole town woke up to thick smoke and the smell of wood burning. You could look directly at the sun, as it was so obscured by smoke you could barely make out the orange ball of fire within it. Fires make for gorgeous sunsets, but this one was heavy with so much loss. Then the beautiful part of it all began to happen ... the Community jumped into action. All social media feeds were full of offers of places to stay (um, does that only count for fire victims?), places to donate necessities for the people who have lost everything, citizen firefighters fought alongside the official ones (and all of the inmates making like $2 a day to save others!), and the outpouring of help and love continues to this moment. The expected Santa Ana winds mercifully did not yet arrive, and that gives a fighting chance to putting this entirely out before they do show up. We hope.

People around the country (and world) have sent messages of love and thoughts and support, with even the Empire State Building turning blue and gold in a symbol of solidarity. That's one thing that has always been - and remains - great about this country. When something goes really bad, everyone bands together to help. That's when you realize that we really are all in it together. Climate change, especially, but all of it. Voting, shootings, failing infrastructure, natural disasters - it affects us all. Times like these really spotlight the Power of the People - because as we heard over the weekend, our leadership is both clueless and useless. So, thank you to everyone who shows up to help. The everyday heroes. It reminds me of the story Mr. Rogers would tell:

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

Today I think we can all also find comfort by realizing that there are STILL so many helpers. Thank you. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Hills Are Alive ... With The Sound Of Wildfires

California is on fire. Again. It's pretty close to Venice this time, like you can see it in Malibu from the beach. It's super hot. The air is of poor quality. People have been evacuated ... my friend didn't even have time to grab her toothbrush. Shops are closed. Schools are closed. Animals are being evacuated from the L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park. And it's just another day in Southern California in 2018.

A friend of mine posted today that wildfires are terrorist acts. The devastating damage they do starts somewhere ... and it's usually because of an idiot who doesn't know better than to not smoke and toss out your butt. Or make any sparks anywhere when it's dry and windy and prime kindling for a massive fire. We should be better at avoiding wildfires by now.

This has already been an intense week, with the midterm elections (where basically no candidate but Bernie even discussed climate change and the results of it that we see and feel daily), yet another mass shooting (this one not far from the area being evacuated for the fires, as if they haven't suffered enough), and now all of this natural (but most likely man-made) disaster. THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY. Geez.

Get out there and enjoy the hell out of yourself, because we all deserve it. Be safe. Be smart. Be kind. Look out for each other. Love.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Venice Says Vote!

It's November 6th. Voting Day. The Midterm Elections. Time to stand up and use your right to vote, your voice, your citizenship, your HEAD - and GO VOTE! It's shocking to me how many people don't use this one weapon we have against tyranny and oppression and sit on their hands and whine later. I have no time for it. I was out walking around town this morning, and was encouraged to see so many people with "I Voted" stickers on, and reminders for everyone to go vote everywhere you looked.

I'm also nervous that when everyone DOES go vote, that it won't count. One friend in Venice told me that they had no BALLOTS (!?!??!?!?!?!) at his polling place, and there no volunteers to even do anything about it. Then I saw a video of a polling place in Georgia where a gigantic line was waiting to vote ... but they didn't have any power cords to plug in the machines!!! This, in the year 2018, with so much technology you can call people from a watch phone ... but they can't get it together to run power to a machine. Or even have the ballots to vote on. Shocking. Disturbing. Disappointing. Criminal, actually, when these fools have known it was going to be Voting Day today for a good year. Inexcusable. A sign in the Canals to go VOTE made me feel a little better - but not much.

We encourage everyone to vote, but we can't guarantee that they'll be able to once they get to their janky, out of date polls - or that if they do get to successfully vote, that they won't count. That they'll be mysteriously thrown out. That they'll be switched in the machine for someone you'd never vote for. Whatever shady shenanigans the powers that be try to pull. We were talking yesterday about being fed up with it all and leaving the country ... but to where? At least here we still have the guise of freedom, the will of the People, and the American spirit that we were founded on - whether or not we've ever truly lived up to it (Our experiment in Democracy can really only be counted since everyone has had the right to vote, so the whole real deal is only like maybe 50 years old), or whether or not we'll ever truly get there.

But we still have the right to vote. And the freedom of speech to rat on the villains that would try to take that right away. And that superpower - the Power of the People. Use it today, and every day. And one more time ... VOTE!

 Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

- The New Colossus

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Beautiful Night For A Benefit In Topanga - Starring Butch Walker And Friends

We eased into Daylight Savings Time in the gentlest, most lovely way possible, with an evening at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum for a benefit for pancreatic cancer put on by beloved troubadour, Butch Walker and his awesome friends. The TALPanga (The Autumn Leaves Project) concerts took place on both Saturday and Sunday evenings, to honor Walker's father, "Big Butch", who passed away from the awful disease, and also to raise funds to help those currently suffering from it.

Walker has a lot of cool friends, and they all joined together to bring these magical nights to life in a beautiful and memorable experience for all. The beach was socked in with fog, but by the time we drove the windy road up Topanga Canyon, the sun was out and dappling through the trees that surround the Theatricum, making for an even more gorgeous setting. Tacos Hell Yeah were there serving up delicious Mexican fare, and we enjoyed some of that, along with some cocktails for the cause. An event organizer announced that the first act, Jaime Wyatt, was about to begin, and we all took seats in the wonderful amphitheater to enjoy a night of first class entertainment.

After a few solo numbers, Wyatt was joined by Walker for a lively tune called "Ain't Enough Whiskey", which was then followed by "a song for our Dads", as they both lost theirs - and I bet they would have both loved "By Your Side" with its excellent harmonies, both vocally and on guitar. Wyatt wrapped up her set with a cover of my main man Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down" ... and all seemed right in the world just then.

Walker addressed the crowd next, talking about the Autumn Leaves Project organization he founded after losing his Dad. "We raised so much fucking money last night! I had so much love in my heart I thought I was gonna explode!" His gratitude was genuine, and obvious ... and he was ready to get down all over again. As were we.

Grace Potter took the stage, explaining that she was a new mom "So everything is a rhyme". She opened with the Jackie DeShannon classic, "Put A Little Love In Your Heart", which is a perfectly timed request for these times, for sure. The crickets in the woods surrounding us provided great background vocals, making it all the more enchanting. I'd never seen Potter live before, and she is something else. Fantastic. She cracked that she had borrowed everything from Walker to perform - guitars, picks, "This outfit". Her husband brought her another guitar, and after she thanked him, she asked, "Where's the baby?" She seems like someone you'd want to hang with.

Potter has a new album coming out soon, and played a track from it next, a gorgeous one called "Release". The mic stands were all wrapped in twinkle lights as the stars twinkled above, and you could smell the chaparral in the air ... ahhh. The crowd joined the crickets in singing along for a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless", and then Potter played her beautiful song, "I Can't Look At The Stars" (they make me wonder where you are) for all the people we have lost. I believe those people are among the stars, and it made me want to look at them more. It was like living within a shared prayer at that moment, and one couldn't help but be moved. Grace Potter is a treasure.

A man who is currently suffering from pancreatic cancer spoke to how much The Autumn Leaves Project has helped him, and told how he has now lived well beyond the predictions of his doctors. His speech put a real face on this dreadful disease, and really connected us to why were were all there. He told Walker that he knew his father was looking down, "So proud of you", and they shared a meaningful hug that brought another lump to my throat. What a blessing to know that there are people who will help you get through these obstacles that life can throw at you ... and no one is alone.

After the previous night's event, there were no more things to auction off for the benefit - other than Walker's well-traveled jacket with its "Butch" patch. As the entire event was streaming live on Facebook, Walker looked into the camera and said, "I hope your name is Butch - or that you swing that way!" Not only is Walker multi-talented and extra versatile musically, he's also hilarious. Another one you just want to hang with. He launched right into his own solo acoustic set, kicking it off with "21+" to the delight of the place that was packed with Walker superfans - of which I am now one too.

The great "Chrissie Hynde" was next, followed by "some more sad bastard shit" that was "Wilder In The Heart" and "Don't Move" with its line about staring at the stars being super fitting. No one wanted to move - and didn't. Here someone yelled, "I love you, Butch!" to which he made everyone laugh by saying, "I like you a lot". Walker is one of the rare ones - a rock star that is actually a super nice and genuine person. There for his friends. Caring. Considerate. Funny. A truly good guy. My friend KC told me that when her dad was ill, Walker called her every day to check on her. Things like that. REAL goodness, not just for show.  Another true treasure of a human being.

A new one was up next, and painted a whole story with its poignant lyrics about a mean kid calling him names when he was young, ended up being saved by him. "I was born into what I became" is so true for so many ... and this one really spotlighted the deep lyrics and truths that Walker should be far better known for. I feel like Walker should be HUGE ... and he certainly is to his many fans singing along happily in their Butch Walker shirts. The next one was "Pretty Melody" (which it was) and maybe my favorite moment of the night. As Walker sang, the doors of the balcony of the wooden barn on the stage opened up, and Walker's band came out to sing harmonies from above. In a night of magical moments, this one was all the way up there. I loved it.

The band came down from above to join Walker on "Spark Lost" and "East Coast Girl" which I loved with its references to Venice and Abbot Kinney. "It's Gotta Get Easier" was yet another standout, with Walker singing in otherwise absolute silence, save for the crickets chirping along. By now my friend who had never seen or heard of Walker before was also a superfan. You really can't not be.

Walker moved to the piano for "Joan" and "Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You" in a song that everyone can relate to. Its line, "You can't trust a man. It's a species that captures things just to let them go", resonated with me a lot. Walker is a wise cat. "Sorry for the bummer songs, Jakob Dylan is about to change that." With that, Walker was joined in a group bromance of a set from Dylan and the band that was nothing short of wonderful - especially in this setting. They opened it up with "Nothing But The Whole Wide World" which was my friend's favorite Jakob Dylan song - AND his first time seeing him live. Again, in THIS setting. Magic.

"6th Avenue Heartache" and "God Don't Make Lonely Girls" were both made greater by the fact that it was again two great friends supporting each others' causes (Walker played at Dylan's fundraiser for Crohn's and Colitis earlier this year). Walker had now gone electric, and backed Dylan up on a fiery awesome "One Headlight". They brought Potter and Wyatt back up to join them for a cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", but not before Dylan commented, "How fun and special is this night?!" just as I was thinking exactly that. Because it sure was. So much so that after that one, Walker said, "Don't ever let anyone tell you being in a band sucks, 'cause it's awesome!" Right on.

The rest of the show was Walker on his own with his band, playing the fan favorites. He invited them all down front, and they all happily squeezed in down there to sing and clap along for every tune. "Ludlow Expectations" was great, but that's just redundant, because his songs are truly all great. Like "Closest Thing To You I'm Going To Find", featuring a rare accordion/guitar off. Like "The Weight Of Her". Like the covers of "Teenage Wasteland (Baba O'Reilly)" and "Summer Of '69" that prompted one guy down front to shout, "I'm peaking!" Haaaa. At this point we pretty much all were, some more naturally than others, apparently.

The surprise of the night was that Walker was next joined by his old band, The Marvelous Three that disbanded in the early 90's. "Let's play a few for the ladies," said Walker by way of an intro for "Cigarette Lighter Love Song" that was a beautiful ballad dedicated to his mom and sisters, who were all present on this special night for their family. "Mrs. Jackson" and "Over Your Head" were obviously beloved by the fans, as they knew every clap and raising of the bird the song contained. Impressive - and touching. "I'm having a fucking ball!" yelled Walker, and that was clear - and infectious.

"Every Monday" and "Freak Of The Week" were the evening's closers, and there were so many happy faces singing along that you couldn't help smiling yourself. That it was all for a serious cause that helps so many people made it all the better. The ovation at the end of the show was deafening, and I think people left that enchanted forest feeling a little better about the world and these times. If people and events like this are still happening, it can't be all bad, right? Right. I'd go so far as to say it was life affirming. Good people doing good things is what will save this place - and each other.

Thank you to one and all involved ... and especially to Butch Walker, for being one of the GREAT ones, doing GREAT things. Thank you.

*All photos by Jeff Forney

Friday, November 2, 2018

Happy Dia de Los Muertos!

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has grown dramatically over recent years, with the skeleton faces and outfits of the holiday celebrating our lost souls being popular for Halloween costumes also. The darling movie Coco probably helped a lot with that, as well as things like the fantastic celebration put on at the Hollywood Forever cemetery each year. I almost like Dia de Los Muertos and all the altars and costumes and color even more than Halloween, as it puts the emphasis on people that you knew and loved and that are no longer with us ... or ARE they?

Venice got in on the action too, and I saw that some ladies are enjoying their morning tea (?) together out on a lawn party this morning ... and those are just the ones I could see. It's Friday, and the weekend is looming, and the week was exhausting, and people are probably ready to just chill and be done with all the hoopla, and I get it. But we should all try to take at least a moment today and think about those who we lost this year, and those who have been gone a while too. Thoughts and memories keep them alive, and I find comfort in that. Hi Dad! Hi Grandparents! Hi Aunts and Uncles! Hi Friends! Hi Prince! Hi Leonard Cohen! Hi Everyone!

CHEERS to you all out there! This is your day. (And for those of us who still get to run around in this astral plane - have a wonderful weekend!)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Venice Does Halloween '18 Right!

It feels like Halloween started like a month ago, but the real deal was last night, and it was so fun.
After all the parties and Electric Bike Parades and school Halloween events and theme parks and hay rides happening the last couple of weeks, Venice had the Halloween spirit down all over town, with yards and homes decked out with a ton of fake spider webs, lots of cemeteries, and ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and monsters of all shapes and sizes.


People were walking around in costume all day, at their jobs, in their cars ... folks were feeling it. It was a perfect day for trick or treating, nice and balmy even after the sun went down.

 It's always the cutest to see little ones out for their first Halloween trick or treat, and Miss Magnolia was out as a little lamb. The most darling little lamb ever, I mean, with her Chef mom brandishing a meat cleaver, for good Halloween measure (not pictured, but hilarious).

 A lot of people like to take their kids to the walk streets for trick or treating, but my favorite Halloween zone in Venice has always been Rialto Avenue.

Though a lot more sparsely decorated this year, it was still the best. Our headquarters was our longtime friends, Russ and Harry's house, where cocktails were served and we passed out candy to all the little kids out having a blast.

A highlight every years the Haunted House at Dillinger's house, and this year was the best one yet. I actually screamed a blood-curdling scream after one good jump-scare from a terrifying werewolf that jumped out at me (Hi Dillinger, if that was you!). Excellent work.

The Haunted House corner was kind of the main hub of activity for Rialto this year, as the street filled with kids and their adults in one costume better than the next. Baby Trump even made an appearance!

I didn't get a picture that turned out of the cutest little costume of the night ... a baby chick that was so tiny you couldn't stand it. That kid should wear that outfit every day, they could write their own ticket. This one little Hulk cracked me up - because look at him (or her) - but also because it had big mitts on that made it nearly impossible to get the candy out of the bowl without a little help. That kid kept on trying though!

Old friends and neighbors greeted one another up and down the block, even if sometimes you had to be told who was who, so well-costumed were many of the usually familiar faces. Like Dennis as Little Boy Peep.

Russ and Harry were kind of Eyes Wide Shut beaked creatures that were pretty scary, especially if you're a toddler. I love that they have their open house every year, keeping this Venice tradition alive. It was one friend's kid's first Halloween on Rialto, and I wanted them to see the house that turns into a big dragon every year, but I was sad to be told that they had moved away. I guess they didn't share the drill with the new people, because that whole end of Rialto closest to the post office was completely dead - and not in a Halloween way, but in a non-participating way. Lame.

Kids got so much candy that their bags were nearly bigger than them ... which soon meant meltdowns and tired parents. Once it was bedtime, the grownups got down to socializing over on the walk streets, which were also pretty decked out.  While hanging out over on Nowita, I got a call from my brother, who had an extra ticket to see Thee Oh Sees downtown at the Teragram Ballroom. I was in.

We raced downtown, in time to see Thee Oh Sees shred it up for a bunch of costumed moshers. I laughed every time I looked at the drummer (there's two) who was dressed up as Macho Man Randy Savage, fake muscles and all. The Smurf on bass was pretty good too.

Sweaty, spent, and fully rocked, we made our way back to Venice, with another excellent community Halloween celebration on the books! Good job, Venice ... you're the best.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Two Sides Of Venice

There are a lot more than two sides to Venice, really, but when I was out walking to my friend's house yesterday, I saw two examples of some stark differences right by each other. The first was natural beauty that was so stunning, you simply had to stop and stare. I love a hibiscus, and this one was among the top ones I've ever seen. Pink and orange and perfect there in the sunshine, it made you think about how almost heartbreakingly beautiful Venice can be.

Then, right around the corner I saw a trash can out for pick up, and the people had written on its side just exactly how they feel: We do what we want. We don't care ... Fuck the System. It's hard to disagree with ... and kind of how I've always thought of Venice. We do what we want ... we don't care what others think ... and most of us moved here because we don't agree with the system everywhere else. Only now it's starting to BE like everywhere else here a bit ... and that's why I think people get so upset, and so protective, and so argumentative ... because you're either feeling the uniqueness of Venice slipping away - or among the ones making that happen. Both are at odds. And the new ones that are trying to make Venice like everywhere else just don't get it. There's a long history of beauty, and art, and rebels, and music makers ... and the dreamers of dreams who want to live somewhere special, like nowhere else. In our Venice. In our COMMUNITY of like-minded friends and neighbors.

Beauty. Rebellion. That's my Venice. For as long as we can make it so.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Munch Mural!

There is an absolutely gorgeous new mural in progress on the front of Munch that is nearly completed, and it's a traffic stopper. Located on the south end of Abbot Kinney, it is sure to become a selfie destination immediately.

The beautiful work was done by Stefan Thelen, aka Kid Super A, and it's wonderful. I also urge you all to frequent Munch (and not just stop for photos in front), either in their mellow restaurant location, or via their late-night - and delicious! - delivery.

Before it was Munch, it was Marla's ... and I hold them both dear. Support your local Mom and Pop and Sons and Daughters and FAMILY businesses in Venice! They're all too rare around these parts lately, and they're also awesome.

LOVE to the Munch Family, and Congratulations on a new landmark!

Happy Weekend, All! Maybe I'll see you at Munch.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Love On A Train

I was coming back to the Westside from downtown L.A.with my brother and by the time we neared our stop, the train was nearly empty. I turned to ask him something, and noticed this couple fast asleep across the aisle from me. It was so moving ...  I asked Paul to take a photo.

They are Los Angeles. I don't know their story - and didn't want to wake them to ask - but it was such an L.A. story without words that I wanted to remember it, even if I felt a little invasive taking their picture. Were they coming home from a long day of working several jobs? Were they riding the train because they didn't have anywhere else to go? Were they O.K.? It seemed as though they were, as long as they had each other for support. It looked like the definition of love and comfort to me ... and I wish them nothing but well. And more love.

*Photo by Paul Gronner.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Willie Nelson And The Outlaw Music Festival - Last Stop, Hollywood Bowl!

Oh, MAN! I finally got to see Willie Nelson live and in person! At The Hollywood Bowl! For the final stop of The Outlaw Music Festival 2018! Deadheads and Willie fans unite! And it was awesome.

The only drag was that it wasn't a true Hollywood Bowl event, but a leased one, which means you can't bring in your food and drink like you normally always can - and it started at 5 p.m., which also never happens, so we were late. We missed Particle Kid (Willie's son Micah's band), we missed Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real (Willie's son Lukas' band, which was a major drag we would find out later), but heard he played a song from the new A Star Is Born, which I'm not about. Kris Kristofferson version forever (and as it was the "Outlaw" Festival, I kept hoping KK would be a special guest at his good friend's gig, but nope. We ended up getting there for the tail end of the wonderful Margo Price though. We heard her singing "9 to 5" and thought it really might be Dolly singing (you never know - there are often surprise guests in L.A.), but it was Price belting it out in an uncanny resemblance. I'll be happy to see her whole set one day.

Sturgill Simpson was up next on the rotating stage, and came out wearing a t-shirt that read, "If you hear any noise, it's just me and the boys boppin'". I really can't tell you what his set list was, because he is one act I can never make out what he's saying. I've seen him before, and thought how much better he would be if he could just enunciate his words a little bit. His voice reminds me a bit of Waylon Jennings (high praise), but Waylon I could understand.

Simpson and his backing band pretty much made up for the slurring with their excellent playing, with Simpson playing his guitar like it was on fire - and I think it probably nearly was. He mentioned that it would be his last show for a while, as he had his third son born just last Wednesday, and it was time to take some time off to be a Dad ... "But we have cool shit coming next year!" A song I COULD make out, was "The Promise", a cover of the old When In Rome song that Simpson country-rocks up.

I ran into a friend after Simpson's set, and he said, "Sturgill was ROCKING!" - which he fully was. The singing was actually kept to a minimum, and it was basically a guitar shred-athon. "You Don't Miss Your Water ('Til The Well Runs Dry)" was another one I could make out, and it was great. The guy facing us and doing air guitar for the crowd especially thought so. Good times.

After the break, Phil Lesh from The Grateful Dead was up. There were a whole bunch of happy Deadheads in tie-dye, up and dancing in that Dead style that is really hard to explain. Lesh and his band got down with Dead classics like "Althea", "Brown Eyed Woman", "Sugaree" - and that got even the Cowboy-hatted people happy and dancing. Lesh himself let his band (Jackie Green, Jason Crosby, Nathan Graham, and Cris Jacobs) take on most of the heavy lifting, seeming pretty frail of voice and body himself. When he did take over lead vocals, joyous shouts would go up from his faithful followers, acknowledging his legend status to them. It was touching.

When they sang "All New Minglewood Blues", and its line, "A couple shots of whiskey and I'm going back to Hollywood", it received self-congratulating yells from all of those here in Hollywood. Hollywood lines are always crowd pleasers at The Hollywood Bowl. "Candyman", "China Cat Sunflower", and "Shakedown Street" were all pretty good, especially if you ever followed the Dead - which I didn't. Some songs were like 20 minutes long feeling, and often a bit off and/or sloppy, so it was kind of easy to tune out and just enjoy the moon and stars, which I did.

Lesh welcomed back Margo Price to join them for "Turn On Your Love Light", and she elevated the whole proceeding with her gorgeous and powerful voice, and spirited tambourine playing. It was nice to have a woman there, as the whole Outlaw thing can definitely use some more women. And Price is great.

The house played Willie Nelson while we were waiting for Willie Nelson, which isn't usually done, but it got us hyped and ready for The Red Headed Stranger - who is a stranger to no one. When Nelson took the stage in his Dodgers jersey (Turner #10!), the whole place stood up and cheered. "How 'bout them Dodgers?!" he shouted, and all the Angelenos in attendance roared for their team that is going to the World Series for the second year in a row!  I wasn't prepared for how excited I was to finally be seeing the legend that is Willie Nelson - in person! With his famously beat up guitar, Trigger! I had chills and kind of choked up. They lit right into "Whiskey River", and all the faithful sang their praise along.

Nelson and his family band were backed by a giant Lone Star flag behind them, and "Still Is Still Moving To Me" was up next. I love that song because it was included in a reggae version on Toots & The Maytals True Love album, which I hold dear.  Nelson kind of sing/talks these days, and you can tell he's been doing these songs forever. I wore braids to honor the man, and he soon tossed off his cowboy hat to some happy fan in the crowd, revealing his trademark red bandana and two long braids. What a legend.

"Let's do one for Waylon!" shouted Nelson, and they got down with "Good Hearted Woman", which was as great as you'd expect. The man next to me kept just laughing, like he couldn't believe he was really there seeing this. I get you, buddy. People were SO happy to be there. Nelson introduced, "Little sister, Bobbie", who is a wizard on the piano (and recently inducted into the Texas Music Hall Of Fame!), with her waist long hair covering her face as she focused on the keys. She tore through a solo, accompanied by her brother on guitar, and it was super moving to see them still playing together after all of these years. And moving all over again to see Nelson play with his sons now, who he next introduced before launching into "Texas Flood".

O.K. This was the absolute highlight of the show for me. Talk about A Star Is Born - Lukas Nelson RULES. The entire house was mesmerized as Lukas soared over us all, with both his excellent voice and electrifying guitar skills on this bluesy number that left everyone speechless, with mouths hanging at how very close this apple fell under this particular family tree. Holy smokes. There was a little guitar battle between father and son that Willie ended with a little  twang that made Lukas smile and us laugh. Lukas would play so hard he'd have to push his glasses back up on his nose, and in that moment, I got a brand new crush. What a talent. I know I'm late to the game, but everyone needs to check out Lukas Nelson immediately if you haven't already. Whoa.

They followed that show-stopper with "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys", and that classic had the whole place lit up and singing along. I say let 'em, Moms. Cowboys like this are exactly what you want. "Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground" slowed things down a bit, as this lovely ballad had people slow-dancing together in the aisles. Then "On The Road Again" got people back up singing and dancing together, then one of my very favorites, "You Were Always On My Mind", which was slow and beautiful and moving to tears. Nelson would raise his arm up each time he sang the title line, indicating that his fans are always on his mind - and you can feel it.

"Let's do one for Merle!" with another shout out to another lost friend of Nelson's. It seemed like the entire venue smoked along to "It's All Going To Pot", which rolled (get it?) right into "Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I'm Dead".  It was apparent that all were having a grand old time, both on stage and off. This was kind of the novelty song section, as those weed smoking tributes were followed by the ode to internet rumors, "Still Not Dead Today". Everyone laughed, but also threw up a silent prayer that this song can keep being sung by Willie for a very long time.

"Jambalaya (Fun On The Bayou)" made sure that we had fun in the Bowl, as did "Hey, Good Looking"  and "Move It On Over", which kept people dancing and singing along. The folks in the box next to us moved out their chairs and had their own private little dance floor, in an inspired move.

"It's almost that time again, and if you don't like who's in there, Vote 'em out!" implored Nelson, as they gave us the brand new song by that name. It was met with cheers and it seemed likely that the voters in the house (ALL, I hope!) will do just that. Nelson wrote it for the Texas battle between Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz that seems like an absolute no-brainer. Go Beto! Go Democracy!

The last song/s of the night (there was surprisingly no encore) was a medley of  "I Saw The Light/I"ll Fly Away/Will The Circle Be Unbroken" and hopefully all of our country will finally actually finally see the light. Nelson brought back up everyone involved in this Outlaw show (but not Kris Kristofferson, sigh), and once it ended, he waved and blew kisses to the crowd that never wants to see him go. A true Outlaw. A true Great. A true Legend. There will never be another dude like him, and I was filled with happiness that I finally got to see this great American treasure live ... and that with his great kids, the circle will remain unbroken.

Thank you, Willie! Thank you to Outlaws everywhere! What a night.

*Photos of Willie were not allowed (!) so the one you see is lifted from the L.A. Times. All others by  Paddy Wilkins.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Venice High Weekend - Go Gondoliers!

In all the years I've lived in Venice, I had never been to the Homecoming game at Venice High, which I guess is fine because I didn't go there, but as a resident of its town, I think we should all support the local schools - and Venice High is awesome.

The whole place is under construction for a massive school grounds makeover, but that didn't stop any of the fun. The Venice High side of the bleachers was packed - standing room only. The Gondolier kids are great, with a ton of school spirit, and I even got to meet their mascot, Gondo the Mighty Gondolier! Adorable.

There was homecoming royalty, and a Hall of Fame induction. There were cheerleaders, a dance squad, and a marching band that always makes things more festive. I ran into a whole bunch of people that I knew, and it was almost more a community event than just a high school one. I also learned that the concession stand makes some great tacos! Maybe my favorite in town, probably because someone's Grandma is making them or something. They were delicious.

The Gondoliers were not victorious in their game against Fairfax High, but they were victorious in having the most fun, and making even folks well past high school that didn't attend their school feel welcome and included. I loved it.

Then, the very next night, Venice High (aka Rydell High) hosted the annual Grease singalong! Back to back fun events hosted at this awesome school! I was only there briefly, as Game 7 of the Dodgers game was happening at the exact same time, and my friends, the Halverson's were having a party a half a block away, so I split right after "Greased Lightning" this year. I was there long enough to see all the fun folks in costume, and the old hot rods - and to have another quick taco!

Thank you to all the great kids and families that make having Venice High a blast not just for the kids in attendance, but to the friends and neighbors that  live nearby. Thank you to parents who send their kids to public schools ... your resources help to make them better. Rowing, Not Drifting. You're all awesome.

Go Gondos!!!