Tuesday, February 27, 2018

After The Rain ...

Venice is so so so pretty after a good rain. The colors are as crisp as the air, and it looks like everything has just had a thorough scrub down. It's a bit like the feeling of regrouping after a good, long cry.

Which is needed sometimes, as much as the rain. Things always look brighter after both (Just stay out of the water for a couple of days!).

"After the rain, the sun will reappear. There is life. After the pain, the joy will still be here."
                                                            - Walt Disney

Yep. The joy is still here!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Huset - Your Home For Scandinavian Design In Venice

I love Huset. I've loved Huset since even before they opened, so it was high time I finally sat down with its owner, Holly Hallberg, and talked about how great it is to have a place for Scandinavian design (and treats) right here in Venice on Abbot Kinney!

Now, I'm 100% purebred Norwegian, and there are certain traditions that go along with that. I host a Christmas Glögg party every year, and I like to wear a little something that makes me look even more Viking. One year I was searching online for just the right frock for that year's shindig, and came upon a website called "Huset" (meaning "Home" in Swedish). Every single thing was adorable. I noticed that the site was based out of Malibu, California, so included an invitation to the owner to join us for glögg if she was able, and that's how I met Holly Hallberg.

Hallberg was unable to join in the festivities that year, but we kept in touch online, and in 2010, I received the good news that she was going to open a physical store on Abbot Kinney! We met in person, and Hallberg was just as lovely in real life, and it's been a true delight to see her store - and herself - thrive here in Venice.

A native Californian, Hallberg grew up with designer parents, so that aesthetic was in her blood. While working in the film industry in the sound department, she met her Swedish husband, Per Hallberg (an Oscar winning sound editor), and was soon an honorary Swede (but I still like her. That joke is for the Norwegians). Spending a lot of time in Sweden led Hallberg to wonder why there was no real great spot to get all the wonderful Scandinavian goods available over there, here in the U.S., and set out to do something about it. Huset was born online in 2007, and Hallberg has been procuring gorgeous, beautifully made Nordic items - from candy to fashion to housewares - ever since.

Abbot Kinney was always the spot that Hallberg envisioned for her store, and when the former maternity store (the name escapes me right now) space opened up, Hallberg leaped at the opportunity. Her dad did the build out for her, and the beautiful space was soon open for business, with all the Scandinavian flags represented in this destination for goods from the (my) old country.

"I felt like we would be appreciated here," Hallberg told me, correctly. "Abbot Kinney had a good vibe, it fit our demographic, and I wanted to create a full Scandinavian experience for both the locals and tourists." To transport everyone to the nations that always come in first in the happiness polls (and educate them), Hallberg spins Scandinavian music playlists, you are welcomed in by birch trees and blondes speaking Swedish, the air smells great from the scented Nordic candles, and you can taste the same candies that kids of all ages eat up all over Northern Europe (with extra special treats available on the weekends!).

The sweets section was really amped up when Hallberg expanded her store's space late last year, and Huset is one of the only places you can find the loose, bulk candy that is so beloved - and so good! - by anyone who grew up with it. In fact, I offered some to my Danish friend, Tim, last night at the VNC meeting, and he already had some in his pocket! Good stuff.

As Abbot Kinney rents remain ridiculous, Hallberg invited her friend, Anthony, to open up a shop within a shop (as is done all over Europe), and The Mac Studio opened up for business in the back of Huset when she expanded. Not to be confused with the makeup store, The Mac Studio is your place in Venice to get your Mac items fixed. You can bring in your computer or phone or Ipad for repairs, service, data recovery, education, or whatever it needs, all without waiting forever for one of the "geniuses" to help you at the Apple store in a mall. Fast, reasonable, awesome. Put this info in your back pocket for the next time your tech goes nuts and stroll on over!

Hallberg loves Venice, and recently got an apartment in town, because Malibu doesn't have the same vibes as Venice does ... or the Huset store! "Venice is special. No other beach city has what Venice has, and we need to protect it." She's speaking my language (which is good, because I don't speak Swedish). If you've been in Venice for any decent amount of time, you know what we're talking about. Venice has been like a sanctuary, with an invisible moat around it, protecting it from lameness and closed minds and Republicans (often one in the same) since its inception, and YES, we need to protect that. You know. Hallberg explains, "Venice has its highs and lows, but that mix is what makes it cool. We're not Beverly Hills, and we're not deep Compton, we're somewhere in between. I love the eccentricity." And I love her for loving it.

There's truly something for everyone at Huset, where the whole family can shop together. Mom will love the beautiful clothes and household goods, Dad will dig all the new items for men that are coming in (think knives, cool accessories, Viking needs), and there are a zillion darling things (THE cutest clothes ever) for kids - plus all that candy. There's also something for every price point, from real expensive Scandinavian designed furniture and centerpieces to a marble eraser from Denmark for 50 cents (plus all that candy!).

LA Magazine voted Huset the "Friendliest store in L.A." a few years back, and Hallberg is very proud of that. She makes sure that Huset embodies the Danish concept of "Hygge" (cozy and charming living) and "Fika", the Swedish word for a cozy coffee break, and soon you begin to understand just why those countries have such a high quality of life (and clean up at the Olympics! Go Norway!!!) I asked Hallberg what her most favorite item in the store was, and without hesitation she walked me over to a basket full of sheepskins called "Gotlan". They are the coziest things imaginable, and Hallberg knows the very farmer that makes them. As cold as it was in Venice yesterday, this is just the right thing for your chilly, starry nights by the fire. Hygge!

Hallberg's own Venice go-to's are getting her coffee from Menotti's, and her gifts from another design wonder shop, Tortoise (who I also still have to sit down with and learn their tale). The merchants of Venice are all great about shouting out the places that they love and support, and that gives me some hope that there is still a grass rootsy aspect to our dear Venice. And, as almost all of my interviewees say at some point, that Community is also vital to Hallberg, and why she chose to work and now live within that spirit. And - again - to protect it.

Viking friends (or "Scandophiles" as Hallberg refers to herself), there are weekly arrivals of fantastic pieces coming to Huset from Europe, so there is always something new to discover when you stop in for your own dose of hygge.

SKOL to Holly's Huset!

Huset is open every day from 11-7.
1316 Abbot Kinney

The Mac Studio

Friday, February 16, 2018

Venice Dennis

It's the Friday of a long President's Day (remember when that was thought of as honorable?) weekend, and I think everyone is in the mood to blow off a little steam ... or just RELAX.  I was thinking just this while walking down Brooks Avenue, taking a different route just for the fun of it. I'm glad I did, because I needed to see this fence mural of Venice Dennis (Hopper) reaching out to give us all a big hug (ignoring his odd Republican bent, of course).

The stencil piece by street artist FCK (Kampah) also honors the long African History of this Oakwood neighborhood street. I love it. I needed it.

Big Venice Dennis hugs to this whole crazy, mixed up country as we head off to celebrate, if nothing else, Freedom. Easy Rider style.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another Venice Family Leaves ...

I was walking down Pacific Avenue yesterday, and got a lump in my throat to see that yet another Venice family is having to leave their house.  This great old beach house is on the corner of Clubhouse and Pacific, and you just know it's going to be torn down for yet another BUB.

I don't know the real story on this situation at all, but I can tell by looking at it that it meant a lot to the "Venice Beach Pontius Family" from 1965 - 2018. 53 years in a wonderful pad full of happy memories ... and I bet they didn't want to leave. I didn't know them, I don't think, but I'm still sad to see them go.

Oh, Venice ... we're doing our best to keep you real, but when will this housing madness end? How? Let's hope we are not reduced to merely a cautionary tale, and folklore about how cool it used to be here. There's still time, while there's still cool. I love you, Venice ... no matter what.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

V Day Love From Venice, California!

Love is literally in the air, as the Venice Sign is lit up purple and red with a big heart, created by Venice artist, Alberto Bevacqua, with assistance from his son, Ara Bevacqua, who handles the dangerous stuff. It's a popular photo op on a regular day, but the heart is causing quite a stir  - and traffic!

My friends at Fiore Designs have been creating the most beautiful floral arrangements I've ever seen for Valentine's Day, so I thought that I'd share some of the beauty with everyone ...

... my only regret is that we do not yet have scratch and sniff internet. You would swoon.

I'd say I love white roses most, and then they come out with lilacs, and I think I love them the most. Then the gardenias come out and you nearly faint with their heady aroma, so they become your favorite. But then you see the rich reds and ravishing hot pinks, and you don't have favorites anymore. They're all the best.

Love is everywhere, whether between lovers, family, pets, nature, and our various passions, but most importantly, I hope that today you find it in your own heart, for yourself (I know how hard that can be on days like this, but you're the best!). Then go BE love. That's how you win.

Happy Valentine's Day to Everyone! Love, Me

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Amiga - A Place For Friends

I'd been hearing great things about Amiga, the new lifestyle shop on Lincoln Boulevard, and finally got there myself the other day. Amiga is the vision of friends, Sadie Gilliam and Nicole Reed, who came together after their respective businesses (Freedumb Founded Jewelry by Gilliam, and the Lincoln & Rose blog by Reed) often found them at the same pop-ups. A friendship was born between the Venice native Gilliam and the San Pedro bred Reed, and they talked about looking for a space for an actual shop site. Gilliam's mother was shopping at the antique store, H. Bleu, on Lincoln, when its owner, Sue (fourth generation Venice), told her she was looking to sublet out the space, and that she wanted it to go to Venice people. That was just last December 10th, and Gilliam and Reed had Amiga open for business by the 15th! They pretty much just looked at each other, shrugged, and said, "Let's just do it!" I love that go for it spirit, and they did it!

That Reed had just found out she was pregnant with her first child only made it all the more impressive, but with help from both of their families (with honorable mention especially to Jeremy Reed, Nicole's husband, for helping to get it ready in time), and all of their relationships with vendors from their pop-ups ready to go, Amiga was up and running just in time for the holiday gift-giving season ... phew! It was all very charmed, and seemingly very meant to be. Women power!

It's been going like gangbusters ever since they opened their doors, as all of their vendors have their own following, and when people come in looking for say, art by Priscilla Witte, they might get turned on to a whole new designer they'd never heard of that becomes their new favorite. It's just that kind of a place.

"This is such a badass spot!", said one happy, new customer while I was there hanging out, and she was not wrong. In just the time I was sitting there chatting with the amigas, we all honestly made like three new friends, and that's when I realized what a perfect name the gals had chosen for their new venture. Amiga!

I got to meet the very cool Robin Wisdom, who sells her delicious "Peace, Love, and Wisdom" candles out of Amiga. She is the wife of artist Norton Wisdom (member of the Cali Locos!), whose drawings adorn her candles. Their daughter did the sketch for the Venice candle, and its wonderful graperfruit aroma make it a best-seller.  Mrs. Wisdom also does the tarot card readings when Amiga hosts their fun events ... aaaand I can't wait until the next one.

They recently hosted a make your own Valentine afternoon, and it was fueled by the Menotti's coffee truck that pulls up to their space on Sundays from 8 am - 2 pm. It's a really good hang, and this past Sunday they had free donuts and coffee, just for fun in the sun.

Amiga also carries Mrs. Lilly Apothecary items, clothing from Jasmine St. D'Aigneaux, chocolates from Rose Avenue Sweets, vegan jewelry made out of recycled bicycle inner tubes from Beatrice Holiday, greeting cards from The Good Twin, and plants from Amiga themselves.

I learned a new word while visiting Amiga ... "Flintknapping". It's the method of making stone tools, and the very cool knives they carry look as if they were carved out of dragon glass. They would be a very cool V Day gift for your dude ... or anyone, for that matter.

Gilliam told me that there is finally a "Venice" ring in the works from her Freedumb Founded line, and I'm already in line in front of you, so you better get in there to get yours! She is also adding hats to her line in April, and if they're as cool as her jewelry ... I'm so excited.

"We just feel lucky to be here, and give local artists and makers a home," explained Gilliam. To that point, I witnessed no less than three people come in while I was there to see if Amiga might like to carry their wares. It's a true community store, by and for the members of our community. When I asked her what she liked most about Venice, she laughed and said, "The traffic on Lincoln. It makes people see our sign and stop in!" In addition to that traffic, she loves Hinano's for burgers, Animal House for clothes, Windward Farms for their ceviche (what?! I didn't even know.), and the view of the palm tree clusters at night.

Asked the same question, Reed digs that Venice is flat, and makes for great bike rides. She loves the old cars, the artist community, and the fact that we're all mashed up here. "Extreme wealth and extreme poverty are all right here, and we're forced to figure it all out together. We're exposed to so much in one place ... if I could pick anywhere to live, it would be here."

You never know who you'll meet next at Amiga, and connections happen all the time. I wasn't kidding that we all made three new friends while sitting there -  like exchanged info and hugged goodbye new friends - and it was easy to see why when they were brainstorming for their business name they insisted that it had to have something to do with "Friends". They knew that their motto would be "You - Me - Us", and that's exactly who Amiga is for. Stop in any day of the week, 10-6 (except Sundays when it's 8 am for that Menotti's coffee!) and experience this delightful new addition to the Venice family of friends. (Just in time for Valentine's Day!)

2124 Lincoln Boulevard

Monday, February 12, 2018

2018 Venice Mardi Gras - Wild At Heart!

One of the very most fun events in the Venice annual fun calendar is the Venice Mardi Gras Parade, and this year's carousing last Saturday might have topped them all so far! A cloudy day gave way to sunshine - as it can almost be counted on - as the Venice masses assembled for a little pre-parade tailgating in the parking lot at Rose Avenue and the Boardwalk. This year's theme was "Wild At Heart" and that vibe was apparent the moment you walked up. People were GOING FOR IT this year. We had to, in the name of humanity, and in the name of Venice FUN.

The Krewes of Venice were all there, and the crowd seemed bigger than ever. I think everyone has badly needed to blow off some collective steam, and the folks were ready to throw down for real.

It was all on Venice Standard Time, which meant that if the stated time of the parade was to start at noon, we'd probably get rolling at like 1:30 or so ... and that was about right. Mardi Gras Queen Colleen Saro and her King Steven Eustace led the shenanigans, and were handing out little pieces of their hearts all day. The moods were high, and all gathered were all about letting our good times roll!

The Gumbo Brothers brass band led the way down the Boardwalk, and  - as always - my favorite part of the day, aside from the deep sense of community, tradition, and total blast that it is, is when the unsuspecting tourists watch this cavalcade of joy and festivity go by as a total added bonus to their already awesome day in Venice. It's truly something to behold, and all you see the whole time is ear to ear grins and camera phones raised to try to capture it all. It's really better to just experience it, and remember the feeling in your heart ... because if you were there, you felt it right there.

Folks watching from high up windows of Ocean Front Walk apartments blasted off confetti crackers to the cheers of all of us below, and flasks were passed between friends and strangers, as parading is a thirsty affair. One gentleman created a giant J to pass around to the group - legally now, so haha!

Our local hula-hoopers  led the procession to the tune of our brass band brothers, and Gonzo Rock's drum machine bringing up the bass behind. Sidewalk performers played along, with one even packing up his stuff in an instant to join the whole parade, because why not?

I was dressed by my dear pal, Suzy Williams, and it was a fun trick and treat to cruise among my people in a blue wig without really being recognized until I said something ... I could get in the habit, actually. There's a certain new freedom in mingling about with total anonymity with people that have known you forever. Try it sometime!

You can't really write in words about the feeling of actually being there ... with all your O.G. Venice people, dressed up and showing the whole visiting world what we're really meant to be about. Venice is SUPPOSED to be about the free spirit and the adventurous, wild heart. It's why I chose to move here. It's why anyone did ... until the greed set in and the yupsters came, and think they know what it's about. They don't. But everyone gathered together yesterday, singing, playing, and dancing our way down the Boardwalk knew. And showed them all.

The parade always ends with a jam in the Windward Plaza, and as the Gumbo Brothers got down with the required "When The Saints Go Marching In" New Orleans homage, there was a full-on dance party - and photo opps aplenty (I'm pretty sure we're all about to be featured in a Japanese version of People or something ... LOTS of cameras were out!), and no end to the fun.

That's because it all turned into the parade PARTY, hosted by Surfside Venice. They had a special menu of Gumbo and Po' Boys, with Abita on tap, and Hurricanes aplenty (Ouch). The Gumbo Brothers were the house band for the day, and the good times just kept on rolling.

Miss Jessica Long is the ringleader of Venice Mardi Gras, and she was again in fine form this year, in sparkly wings and great voice. She took lead vocals for a spell, and Marky Lennon (of Venice band fame) backed her up, as if the event needed any more Venice cred. Partiers were dancing so hard that someone's entire dress might have come off ... and no one even blinked. Good times, indeed!

There was special King cake imported from New Orleans, and there was one for everyone ... regular for the kids, rum one for the grownups, and one infused with weed, that proved to be the most popular ...

... which might have been why that evening's sunset might have been one of the best ever. Everyone outside stopped what they were doing, and just sat still, watching this giant fuchsia ball of fire sink into the mighty Pacific. There was collective applause for this nightly ritual, but this one felt special on the tail end of this extra-fun day - though we did not see a green flash. Still all good.

Mardi Gras Venice People ... you're something else. THANK YOU ALL, because man, did we need that! As a town, as a nation, and as a collective group of like-minded, FUN-minded members of our Venice community that KNOW it's still one of the most special places on Earth. It's almost sad, though, because so many people that live here don't even know about it, or if they do, for whatever reason choose not to participate. That's on them, and sad for them, because it's one of the very best days of the year in our beautiful neighborhood that was built for just this sort of revelry. Not tech, not BUB people, not Big Little Lies type Moms, No. It was built for the music makers, and the dreamers of dreams by the sea. We who just want freedom to express, to love, and to welcome. And Saturday's Mardi Gras proved that, once again.

May our wild hearts prevail ... always. I love you, Venice!

*Now while I have you Mardi Gras participants as a captive audience, please consider taking your Spirits of Venice over to the First Baptist Church of Venice (7th and Westminster, across from Oakwood Park) on Sundays (12-3) to show your support and solidarity for preserving Venice history. Learn more about it all this Saturday, February 17th, at the Venice Library. Help keep ALL of our traditions alive!

Friday, February 9, 2018


It's a glorious day in Venice, California! I was on my morning beach/Friday Farmer's Market stroll, and while waiting for the light at Windward and Pacific, I heard two tourist girls talking, and all they could say was "What a day!" back and forth. They were right. It doesn't get a whole lot more fantastic then the great outdoors today. Jasmine is in bloom, the air smells like the best perfume ever (with a distant aroma of breakfast bacon for good measure), the skies are electric blue, and the sun is shining bright. The surf looked great, and everyone was all smiles down at the beach. Magic.

On my way back, I passed this ancient VW bus, and noticed the custom plates ... MGC BCH. Magic Beach! The other day I saw someone write that sometimes you love a place almost like a person, and that is this magical Venice for me. Actually, I love it MORE than a lot of people these days.

Thank you, Venice, for all that you have been, are, and will continue to be if we have anything to say about it. And we do. Happy Friday! Happy Weekend! Please join us all for an entirely magical day of revelry for the annual Venice Mardi Gras parade! Dress up fun, and meet up at noon30ish (Venice standard time) on Rose and Ocean Front Walk. Let the good times roll on our magic beach!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The One Voice Movement - Working Towards Peace In The Middle East

Do you have a good understanding of the Palestine/Israel conflict? I don't. But I do understand that there can be no real peace in the world until there is peace in the Middle East, and there can be no peace in the Middle East without peace between Palestine and Israel.

In an effort to gain a better understanding to this seemingly endless problem - and possible solutions - I went to a talk about the whole deal last night at the offices of Grainey Pictures (my new partners on a documentary about income inequality in Venice ... stay tuned!) given by the wonderful folks from the One Voice Movement.

It's a LOT to take in, never mind learn, and after three hours of listening and asking questions of the organizers after the event, there is still so much to know, but you have to start somewhere ... and that place is CARING. Many of us only know about the conflict from barely glancing at a ticker on the bottom of a news channel, but we now live in a Global Village, and what happens over there affects us all. We NEED to care.

It seems like all we ever hear out of these areas in conflict are the extreme voices, and One Voice Movement is partnered with the moderate, progressives in Palestine through the organization Zimam Palestine (meaning "Reins of a horse - to change direction") and the organization Darkenu ("Through Us") in Israel. These are the people that would be like us here in the U.S. who are not at either extreme, that want to resolve conflict through communication, and the aim is to amplify these moderate voices. As One Voice Executive Director Mara Lee told us, "Communication is the most important thing we can do long-term."

                                                              Planting olive trees in Gaza - Photo courtesy Zimam Palestine

The way to do that is to start having the conversations ... the struggles in the Mid-East are over land, resources, histories ... but One Voice is about the PEOPLE. As in the United States, where it feels like both sides can never agree, the thing is to realize that there is FAR more that is the same between us than there is different. Everyone wants their children to be raised without fear. Everyone shares the same basic values. Gaza, as it is now, is a prison city, containing two million people within its walls. Abdallah Hamarsheh, visiting Los Angeles for his first time from Palestine, told us how he has to pass through several armed checkpoints just to take his little daughter to school. That's no way to live. Helping to grow the economy of Palestine would go a long way towards creating peace, because when the State of Israel was created in 1948, it obviously disrupted the entire Palestinian way of life. Here's a brief primer on the conflict that will help everyone get it a little better:

One Voice supports a two-state solution, and are interested in making lives better for ALL Middle Eastern people. Though most think the conflict between the two entities of Palestine and Israel will never end, the two-state solution seems to make the most sense. The majority of both states are in support of this idea, but they THINK they're in the minority, due to government propaganda that tells them they are. Then you get the idiotic Trump saying in December that Jerusalem (known always as a city of peace) is the capital of Israel, and that the U.S. will be moving our embassy there from Tel Aviv, and it instantly makes everything worse again, because Palestine also considers Jerusalem their capital. Thanks, Trump. (The dude honestly makes everything worse. We're sorry.) The U.S. is a longtime ally of Israel, of course, but we need to be an ally of peace above all.

                                                           Palestinian activists in Nablus - Photo courtesy Zimam Palestine

Americans can show their support and solidarity in several ways. We can first, be interested. You can donate dollars to the cause. You can volunteer your time, and share their stories. You can host a discussion like this in your living room to better educate the people around you who really don't have a good grasp on the situation. Like me. You can challenge someone to know more, and find a way to engage. You can add YOUR voice. If you have the desire to learn more and DO more - and we all should - the One Voice Movement is a great place to start. Hope is needed, and the BELIEF in that hope. One Voice can clearly say it better than I can, so I'll close with their mission statement, and hope that you will also feel compelled to get involved in some way. Knowledge is power.

"The OneVoice Movement is a global initiative that supports grassroots activists in Israel, Palestine, and internationally who are working to build the human infrastructure needed to create the necessary conditions for a just and negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are driven by a vision of an independent and viable Palestine and a secure Israel free from conflict, where Palestinians and Israelis are able to realize their national and individual aspirations, building a future based upon principles of security, justice, dignity and peace."

Twitter: @onevoice
Facebook: onevoice.movement
Instagram: onevoice_movement