Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Farewell, 2019! Moving Forward With 20/20 Vision ...

What a year. It's almost hard to believe we made it ... but we did. This is the longest I've not posted on Blogtown, and it's for very good reasons - mainly having to do with my Mom. What a year of learning. What a year of loving. What a year for realizing what is most important ... Time with loved ones.

I was taking an end of the year reflection walk, and noticed at the south end of Lake Bde Maka Ska (formerly Calhoun, and well past time to get over that) there is a new public art installation recognizing the area's Native American roots with sculpture and words. Dakota words that mean Perseverance. Generosity. Courage.

Of course I had to look them up, but once I did, I thought, Yep. That's what we all need, and that's what I want my new decade to be about. This past year has been a nightmare dealing with the American healthcare and insurance systems (scams), and has certainly required perseverance. And will continue to.

Friends and family have shown generosity in the most unexpected ways, making me want to be more generous myself, both with my time and anything else I can provide. Generosity is the only way I see our country moving at all forward, with income inequality, greed, and capitalism having nearly ruined everything good about this "Democracy". It's time to share, and to look out for each other, because with the climate crisis already ending certain ways of life, we are all going to have to chip in way more to help each other out. There is no choice.

Dealing with all of the above, as well as a zillion other issues, (like electing a less corrupt national leader {they all are to a degree in that racket}, and figuring out how to TRY to save our planet.), is going to take a lot of courage. That's one thing I'm not that worried about. Most people I know are brave enough to do what any dire situation takes ... and things ARE dire. But they're not without hope.

Beauty persists. In nature, and in our hearts. The holidays usually bring out the best in people, and I've seen a lot of grace both personally and in the news in recent days. People WANT to help. They know it makes you feel better inside. They know it makes the world better outside. We CAN make our world a happier place to be in for everyone, I just know it. It starts with ourselves, and I vow to carry the banners of perseverance, generosity, courage, as well as LOVE throughout the roaring decade of 20's we're about to kick off. On my honor.

It looks like I'll be in Minnesota longer, as there's no way I can leave my Mom when she needs me (we might end up going back and forth together, if possible, for the best of both worlds, but that remains to be seen). That alone has been very hard on me, as I haven't been away from the Ocean and Venice this long in 25 years, and that thing gives me my peace every morning. I can find peace in Minnesota in the woods and the lakes, but it's not the same to my heart. It's also hard to find work here, so if my L.A. people can throw me some gigs this upcoming year, or help me find a publisher for my Blogtown collection book - that could be some of your generosity (or a year end donation to @CJGronner on Venmo if you've loved a story this year!).  Thank you!

2019 - and the Teens in general - was super hard, but also super beautiful at times. I suppose that's like life every year, but this one seemed to be in the extreme. I'm heading into the new decade with gratitude above all, but also hope and some serious determination - to make things better for EVERYONE. Happy New Year 2020! Happy New Decade! True love to all until I can give it to you in person myself! X

Friday, November 22, 2019

Clogtown: Full Cycle - Bikes That Give Back!

While I'm on my Minneapolis Mom sabbatical, I'm looking for places and practices and great ideas that could - and SHOULD - be implemented everywhere (always with an eye on if it would be cool in Venice, of course). Well, when I visited Frostbeard Studio (the awesome store of gifts for book nerds), I saw a bike shop across the street called Full Cycle, and a smaller sign that said "Bikes that give back". O.K. .... needed to know more about that, so in I went.

It turns out that Full Cycle is EXACTLY the kind of space that belongs in Venice. Full Cycle is a full service bike retailer and bike service station, but what makes them unique is that they have a PAID internship program for homeless youth in the area. They teach them how to work on bikes, and then pay them so they don't have to steal them, and also can get on the road to independence and get off the streets. So, what do we have an awful lot of in Venice? Bikes. Homeless people. Bike thefts. Mmmm hmmm. Yep. This program could really work, and really help a lot of people.

Founded 10 years ago by Matt Tennant, Full Cycle set out to try to help the homeless by the paid internship program, free bike appointments (bikes can be borrowed for a six month period to provide healthy transportation and recreation), street outreach, and food access programming. All of this connects the homeless youth to the supportive staff members, who help them with community resources and support services.

Once they graduate from the internship program, they are eligible to become staff mechanics or food delivery drivers - as Full Cycle also has a garden in the back that grows produce to be bike delivered to the area's shelters and drop-in centers, as well as keep the youth full of fresh and healthy vegetables. I'm SO into it ... and really think this could be a very positive solution to a lot of what's going on in Venice too. For real.

Full Cycle is kept afloat by the United Way, corporate donations, some government money, their bike sales and repairs income, and in-kind contributions. That's great, but there's lots of ways that anyone can get involved ... You can donate or purchase a bike, or bring your bike there for maintenance, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same (because it gives back!). You could make a tax-deductible donation. You can volunteer at their events, or host your own (bike drives, rides, parties - think of the Venice Electric Bike Parade getting behind a Venice shop like this - how great!). You can get your business or workplace involved by giving a team donation. And very importantly, you can refer homeless youth to their programs.  That's quite a few options to help, and all of them are pretty do-able.

Venice (and Greater Los Angeles/Skid Row) probably has the biggest homeless problem, but it's everywhere these days - even in the very cold winters in Minnesota. We MUST do something, and folks like those at Full Cycle ARE doing something about it. And so can you. You can care. You can help in so many ways. There are solutions, as Full Cycle has seen the results of their work helping to get our young people off of these mean streets. Their mission statement: To connect with and support homeless youth, our community, and our Earth through bikes, business, and relationships." What a wonderful concept - made even more wonderful by seeing it in action.

Please consider opening a shop like this, someone in Venice! And Everywhere, for that matter! And if you're in Minneapolis, please consider Full Cycle for all of your bike needs. They're really making a difference. And by supporting them, so can you. Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and I'm very thankful for places like this that embrace humanity and giving in one big group hug - that actually helps people. Thanks, Full Cycle!

Full Cycle
3515 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Open Weds - Friday 12p-7p
Saturday 10a-5p
Closed Sunday

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Clogtown: Frostbeard Studio - Homemade Goods For Book Nerds!

Hi. I'm not gonna lie ... things have not been easy for me lately here in the heartland. Fighting with insurance companies, and trying - and often feeling like I'm failing - to have my mother receive good care is really some of the hardest (though most worth it) work I've ever done, emotionally speaking. After losing her leg this summer, Mom fell and broke her shoulder. Then it was broken worse while at her assisted living place, which required surgery last week. One very draining evening, I left the hospital to go get something to eat, when a sign on a door on Chicago Avenue caught my eye - Frostbeard Studio - Homemade Goods for Book Nerds. What?! Me! I'm a book nerd! The brakes were slammed on, and I ran in to check this place out.

This place is exactly my cup of tea. There is a very little storefront part, where the literary themed items they make are on display, and yep - I wanted pretty much everything.

The main product being made at Frostbeard Studio are soy candles with book inspired scents, like Darcy's Parlour and Sherlock's Study, Old Books and Wizardy Buttery Drink. As the holidays are now very much upon us, they have a whole Christmassy vibe line, like Christmas At The Burrow, Holiday Hygge, and Christmas In The Great Hall. The mood I was in when I got there was Bah Humbug, and it also happened to be my favorite scent of all their candles. Sold.

There are book bags, book cards, book art prints, book shirts, book hoodies, book mugs ("Do you even read?" and "Open Book. Sniff. Read. Repeat."), and, clearly, everyone needs book socks in their stocking.

... all book related things, and all would make the greatest gifts for your bookish friends - along with a good book, of course.

I met the owner, Roxie, while I was there, and she couldn't have been nicer. I love it when people have a dream and make it happen, and that's just what went down here. They wanted to be their own bosses, they wanted to make their living at art, they wanted to make book nerds happy with awesome things that need to exist, and they want to spread the message that reading is cool!

 I love it. And I love everything about Frostbeard Studio, so here I am, publicly thanking them for first, existing, and for second, making my super extra gnarly day so much better just by knowing something so cool (and new to me) exists, and for turning my Bah Humbug into more of a Hygge attitude. Thanks!

I can see these items in Small World Books and Burro in Venice (they do wholesale!), and I can see them gift wrapped all over the land this holiday season ... just in time for the nation's beards to be actually frosty.

Holiday Cheers, fellow Book Nerds!

Frostbeard Studio
3506 Chicago Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Open Monday - Saturday 10A-5P

Friday, November 15, 2019

Save Windward Farms, Celebrate Hama Sushi!

Hi there. I MISS you all. Life has been nuts, and really hard, battling to keep my mother in good care in Minnesota. I meant to post this on Monday, but in all the mayhem going on in my life, it's happening today.... have a great and safe weekend, please!

It's even harder to be away from Venice when so many of our favorite haunts are disappearing. Canal Club closed while I've been away, Surfside closed, Kifune closing, Baja Cantina closing ... but the heaviest hammer so far was the news that our neighborhood grocer would be closing ... Windward Farms had their rent increased 120%, making it impossible to stay open and be able to charge their customers their always reasonable prices on their great food.

Then, to rub salt in the very deep community wound, it was announced that Great White would be taking over the space, and they let everyone know with an open letter that was right up there with the audacity of Adidas' absurd claim that they were "Defining Venice". Great White thought that they created the vibrancy to the corner of Windward & Pacific, and they had caused locals to return to the area. What?! Uh, no. Hecho En Venice creator, Oscar Galan, had his first surf shop right where Great White now is, and I promise you that you don't get any more local than that.

Windward Farms has ALWAYS been for locals, and you knew you would always run into someone you knew while you were stopping in for some basics, or for an excellent smoothie, quesadilla, or chicken salad (my jams). You could zip in to grab a bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal up the street at Venice Cucina. You could go get that quart of milk or thing of flour you forgot for your recipe already underway at home (me more than once).

It was a true neighborhood institution, and everyone that came out to show their love and support for Windward Farms when they heard the news was right. Greed IS ruining Venice.

The outpouring of love - and total outrage - means that there has been a reprieve given, and Windward Farms is still open for business as of now. They are apparently renegotiating the lease, and obviously everyone hopes for the best. Especially me, who does not want to have missed out on one more smoothie! Venice needs Windward Farms, and that's that.

On a happier note (but sad for me), I also missed the 40th Anniversary party of Hama Sushi! FORTY YEARS of sushi in Venice, there in the Windward Circle in the shadow of the Venice sign, that was lit up in Hama colors for the occasion!

There was a block party with live music and cool cars and all the Venice friends and customers mingling over sushi and sake happily - realizing there are still some local institutions that are thriving and not going anywhere. Thank God.

Congratulations and love to Windward Farms for still being open, and for getting to know how very beloved you are! Congratulations to Hama Sushi, Esther Chaing, and all of the staff for the wonderful milestone of your 40th year in Venice!

WE LOVE YOU BOTH!!!! And I sure do miss you.

*Windward Farms photos by Ray Rae/Venice Beach Photos
*Hama photo one from John Vester, two from Todd Van Hoffman

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tom Morello Kicks Off Atlas Underground Tour At The Varsity Theater!

This year has been heavy metal for everyone, and sometimes you need a night of some good, hard heavy metal ... and EDM, and folk, and classic rock, and ... and ... everything else that you will get out of Tom Morello's Atlas Underground show. WOW. I was so happy to have my CA friends here in MN that they could have played the ABC's (and they would have made that sound cool too!), but the show is really something else ... and I'll say it again ... WOW. The Varsity Theater has some stories to tell after Morello kicked off the first date of his new tour there last night in support of the groundbreaking Atlas Underground, the first solo album released under his own name.

I'm pretty sure the last time Morello and I were both in Minneapolis at the same time was when Rage Against The Machine played here in opposition of the 2008 RNC Convention that was happening in St. Paul. That one was nuts, with police in riot gear at one show, and the electricity getting pulled at another, forcing the band to take to the crowd with bullhorns. Last night also ended up in the best kind of bedlam ... but I'm getting ahead of myself. The evening opened with a set by Bones UK, an all female hard rock band from Camden Town, London ("It's naughty. It's where vampires go to drink whiskey!" - lead vocalist Rosie Bones). I didn't get to make their whole set, because parking in Dinkytown is a joke, but was impressed with what I did catch.

The ladies lit into a Bowie cover, "I'm Afraid Of Americans" as I arrived, and Bones added when introducing the tune, "Well, I'm afraid of ONE American in particular" ... and no one had to guess who. That's when I got why Morello chose this band to open his tour. She told a story about playing a great gig in London, when a guy came up and told them they were great, but they'd never be as good as a dude band, because "Girls can't play guitar". Guitarist Carmen Vandenberg proceeded to directly dispel that ridiculous myth, blazing through their single, "Pretty Waste" for an already packed to the rafters crowd. Drummer Heavy kept it heavy, and the Bones Uk won some new fans (mostly male) in Minneapolis last night. Including me (one of maybe 10 females).

The crew came out to set up for Morello's set, and you could feel the anticipation building in the room. I've seen Morello play countless times - and it's still exciting every time - but for the mostly dudes gathered there at The Varsity, they were getting ready to go OFF for their guitar hero, that in my eavesdropping I learned was the first time for many. That might be because Atlas Underground features collaborations with a super-diverse line-up of artists, with everyone from Bassnectar to Gary Clark, Jr. ... Steve Aoki to Marcus Mumford ... Knife Party to GZA, RZA, and Big Boi! I mean ... !

After quite a while of setting up, the lights went out and heavy videos began playing on the screen in front. Black and white images of immigrants in lines and cages, prisoners in jails, and homeless Army vets combined to let you know exactly where we're at as a country. Then a voiceover with the deep distortion of a kidnapper and a hooded silhouette appeared on the screen, saying, "This is a communiqué from the Atlas Underground ..." that went on to say that on New Year's Eve, we're taking it ALL (I asked Morello about this after and he said that "rebellion is a way of re-setting the clock to 0:00 and starting over ... Let fire be your deliverance!") and then suddenly a hoopla began in the crowd. I was in the photo pit, so the ruckus was behind me, and when I turned around, there was Morello smack dab in the middle of the crowd, breaking into his surprisingly EDM Gary Clark, Jr. collab, "Where It's At Ain't What It Is"! The happy and surprised faces said it all ... this night was going to be something special.

Videos played while Morello made his way back to the real stage, dressed in red bandana, shades, Madiba hat, and an Abraham Lincoln T-shirt. The video concluded with Morello's inspiration of a mother, Mary Morello, saying to camera, "Freedom means fighting for your rights ... And it also means rock and roll!" I love her ... and she's right. A graphic reading "Nazi Lives Don't Matter" was met with shouts of solidarity, and Morello blazed through "Battle Sirens" (the Knife Party collab). Musical chameleon, Carl Restivo, and awesome drummer, Eric Gardner, joined Morello for the visual and musical barrage that never let up the whole night. Laptops took the place of the collaborators (who weren't present), with their recorded vocals and presence in the excellent videos bringing them there into the room with us. All of the videos were designed by Sean Evans, and served to complete the show that Morello himself describes as "One part Marshall stack guitar madness, and one part bassdrop meltdown", with all of the trappings you would expect from a Rock/EDM show (though the videos made it hard to shoot photos, the experience is meant to be immersive and in the moment, not seen through your phone).

"Rabbit's Revenge"was a ROCKER - with a point. This collaboration with Killer Mike, Bassnectar, and Big Boi hits all the way home - such as our home is these days - with kids being murdered by cops and all the other myriad problems we're all dealing with. Messages on the screen said things like "Don't Mourn, Organize!" and "Take one step towards freedom, and it will take two steps towards you!" Up close in the photo pit, you can really see Morello bending his notes, and it's something to behold. The entire place was loving it, and vocally letting the band know it. A pick up in the palm solo led to a little Rage riff that led to the Audioslave tune, "Like A Stone" with recorded Chris Cornell vocals. The crowd sang along to every note, and it had more meaning than other times I've heard it sung along to - because now we all know we don't have Cornell anymore. It's become a much more wistful song to me ... and I think to everyone.

Another Gary Clark, Jr. collaboration was next, and "Can't Stop The Bleeding"  had everyone clapping along in double time, and featured yet another show-stopping guitar solo from Morello - which is really what everyone is there for. Morello then took it acoustic with a Nightwatchman song, "Flesh Shapes The Day" on his "Whatever It Takes" guitar. "Clap your hands, Minneapolis!", shouted Morello - and we did. "Alright, stop clapping!", commanded Morello - and we did. "Fuck, yeah!", exulted Morello at the end, and everyone in there said that too.

"Save The Hammer For The Man" found Carl Restivo filling in on the Ben Harper part, and it was gorgeous with the harmonies, and also with the flamenco-style guitar solo Morello threw in there. Morello here took a moment to greet the room, saying, "Thank you all for coming, I'm happy to be back in the city I've played so many great shows in, then went into deeper Minnesota tracks for his shout-outs than the usual Prince, Dylan, and First Avenue. Instead, Morello tipped his Madiba hat to the Walker Art Center, Kirby Puckett (!), and Babes In Toyland (who Morello's high school friend Maureen Herman played bass for). Awesome.

There was 45 seconds of tuning, which for a Morello show means that time has to be filled with the "loudest 45 seconds in the history of this club!" - and I think it was probably the loudest, because my ears are still ringing a little bit. The next song was dedicated to Chris Cornell and our "Moments of doubt", and Morello asked for absolute silence for "The Garden Of Gethsemane" - and he got it. I didn't even hear anyone breathing. The reverence for Cornell - and for the beauty of the song - kept the previously rowdy crowd perfectly rapt, so much so that Morello didn't even use the mic. Sublime.

He had promised to reward the silence with "Heavy metal bangers the rest of the way", and that's exactly what he gave us next. "How Long" featuring Tim McIlrath from Rise Against and Steve Aoki got people hyped out of their faces, and the video played after featured Morello's sons and their friends asking questions, and making statements, ending with "I wish he'd just shut up and play guitar!" Morello gets that all the time (and I've had several online fights defending him from that garbage), and if people don't get by now that this man has some real real things to say - AND walks that talk every day - then we really can't help them. He is always going to speak truth to power, so you'd better get used to it.

So, he DID come back out and play guitar, for a shredding, ridiculous version of Springsteen's "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" that Morello has now very much made his own. It's always a true highlight, and always gives me the chills. The teeth solo gets 'em every time, and last night was no different. The fans were SO into it ... but then it got REALLY nuts. "Are we in this together, People?!", asked Morello and the People shouted in the affirmative. "Well, then why am I up on the stage without you? Please join me on the stage!" OK. This was about as close as I've ever come to being trampled (aside from one very heavy Primus set at Lollapalooza), as the super-fans all pressed toward the stage, jumping barriers, pushing over people, doing whatever they could to get up there. Morello kept asking for more people, and the security dudes were stressing. While they were scrambling up there, Morello issued the warning that people not mess with his stuff or put a phone in his face, as he's been known to throw them. And it's been deserved. There were finally enough people up there for Morello's liking for him to say, "OK, let's finish the night with an old gospel song!" - which was Rage's "Killing In The Name"! It was solid pandemonium in there, as everyone shouted in unison "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" with middle fingers all the way raised. It was chaos. It was cathartic. It was necessary. It was these times, defined in a song.

"Minneapolis, put the house lights up!" They did, and the room was illuminated with the happy faces of the people recognizing that they have the power - so we sang one more. John Lennon's "Power to the People" had everyone jumping up and down together, in raucous solidarity.

The ad for the show calls The Atlas Underground Live Experience "The last big event before we all go to jail." I asked Morello what he meant by this, and he explained that the impending police state, with facial recognition and all that, and the looming situation of Trump refusing to leave office should lead to "Hong Kong style riots in Times Square" ... where we would all go to jail. Because we're standing up for what's right, and up TO what's wrong. If you can be made to feel that way from attending a rock show, I'm sure glad that Morello refuses to ever just shut up and play guitar. We need him now, more than ever. And we need each other ... because we truly really absolutely do have the power - and it's time to use it.

Please do not miss your shot to experience The Atlas Underground Live show, because I want you to feel this way too. We need you. Thanks to Tom Morello, for always asking us to think, and for giving us the inspiration to do something with those thoughts. Like fighting the powers that be.

Fists raised!

The Atlas Underground Live Experience is on tour across America now. GO!

*I miss Paul Gronner Photography!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Venice Muralist Never Hits Minneapolis - A Day Of Prince Art

Well, I'm back in Minneapolis for a bit, but always take a little Venice with me. I was happy to hear that muralist Jonas Never (artist of the big black and white Touch Of Evil piece on Windward in Venice, among many others) was here in town working on a big Prince piece downtown in the North Loop, on the side of a Floyd's Barbershop.

I went down to check it out, and it's a great addition (though the face reminds me more of Fred Armisen as Prince) to the many Prince tributes around the legend's hometown. It made me want to pay a visit to Paisley Park, as I hadn't been out there since I went after Prince's death in 2016. All the hoopla has settled down out there, but as I drove down Highway 5 past Paisley Park, I had to pull over fast. I saw that down a bike path along the highway there was still a big fence full of purple tributes to Prince Rogers Nelson. There was nowhere to safely park, so I went to an office park, climbed a fence, walked back along the highway, through a drainage ditch, over another little fence, and behold - a beautiful memorial remains for all to come from around the globe and pay their respects.

There were so many lovely sentiments written, and so many creative ways of showing one's love for the Artist that can never be replaced, and who will clearly never, ever be forgotten. People had whole books inside of plastic sleeves, flowers, pancake mix, starfish and coffee, and even a purple Prince jacket. One could spend the whole afternoon just reading what Prince has meant to so many.

A little sign said that the memorial was kept up by area neighbors, and to please not take anything, and to be sure to visit the tunnel too. Tunnel?! On my way ...

I was surprised to see a guy down there in the tunnel under the highway, wearing a purple beret and painting away at an easel. His name is Dan Lacey, and he is known as the "Painter of Pancakes". I remembered seeing him back in 2016, when he was set up among the droves of mourners and tributes, doing a piece of Prince on a bike.

Lacey continues to paint Prince and help maintain the Memorial, and he was great about giving me all the information and trivia on Prince that one would ever hope for. He even had a flyer printed up called "Prince's Places", and you can go visit the various homes and landmarks made famous by our beloved native son, including all of the local murals.

There was a piece of Prince done on the ceiling of the tunnel, that Lacey told me was done by an artist that used to cut herself, but now uses knives to create. He pointed out the detail on her piece, and you could see that the whole work was made up of Prince symbols created with a knife. Cool.

A couple more people came through while I was down there in the tunnel chatting with Lacey, and you could see that they too were visibly moved. It was their first visit to Paisley Park, and I forget now where they were from, but their point of being in Minnesota was to pay their respects at Paisley Park. Prince's life was so big and reached out so far, that it's sad all over again when you realize what a massive void his loss has left, and how easily it could have been prevented. It's truly a damn shame.

I told Lacey I would let him know when the Never mural was done and where it is, so here you go! And thank you for helping to keep the wonderful memories of this once in a lifetime star alive for Minnesotans, and for his legions of fans from around the world. He was truly something else.

Prince Rogers Nelson June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016 - Forever.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Venice Gets A Rainbow Crosswalk!

It was crazy to be back in Venice after being gone all summer, and to see how much things have changed. So many businesses gone, so many new ones in. I found myself fondly remembering the days when we stood up and fought against chains, and ran Pinkberry out of town in just a few months, and I liked Pinkberry - just not in Venice. With so much of the cool being priced out of Venice, it was nice to see one NEW cool thing ... a rainbow crosswalk on Abbot Kinney!

I remember sitting in Tim Bonefeld and Erinn Berkson's (owner of one of the few remaining locally owned businesss on Abbot Kinney, the wonderful Burro!) living room after dinner a while back, and Tim talking about how he had the idea for a rainbow crosswalk to replace the dingy one outside of The Roosterfish ... and he made it happen! Dedicated on June 28th, 2019 (when I was gone, sadly) it now glistens there in the sun, AND makes crossing safer on AKB.

The Roosterfish used to be my Abbot Kinney Festival go-to spot to use the ladies room, as there was never a line for it in there. It was almost all gay men. Those days appear to be gone, as the place was packed with the Millenial crowd, and who knows if anyone was gay anymore in there. That's fine, it's just different, and I feel a little bad for all the people who would gather there in THEIR spot. Still, it's pretty cool to have the first rainbow crosswalk in Los Angeles celebrating our LBGTQ friends right here in Venice.

There are plaques in the street for the people who sponsored each color, and they are all to be commended (especially after the debacle this year between Venice Pride and the Venice Chamber of Commerce, who refused to let them use the Venice Sign for Pride - yeah.) for making Venice still have a little cool, and making the now douchebag-filled Abbot Kinney (Seriously. Locals I spoke to that haven't left didn't even know about the crosswalk because they won't go to AKB anymore!)  rainbow bright!

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

New Digs For Nick Fouquet Hats!

It was crazy how much had changed in Venice while I had been gone this summer. Being back in my familiar streets wasn't as familiar this time ... and I fear it's only getting worse. Losing Canal Club was bad, as it had its last days while I was gone, and so did Surfside. Now I'm hearing that we're losing the absolute institution that is Windward Farms! And then this just in, Tamara's Tamales is going away now too! Geez! You really have to wonder if any of our places that originally made Venice cool will be left soon, and it's really sad. I was happy, however, to see that my friend Nick Fouquet and his hats had NOT left Venice, but has moved into a new space formerly occupied by my beloved Marla's on the mellow end of Abbot Kinney, right across from the French Market (where French Fouquet and I both often frequent). And it is great.

You would never know that this bright, airy space had housed a restaurant, as it is now a posh showroom for what Venetians and celebrities all agree are THE world's coolest hats. I've written about Fouquet and his hats ever since he was an apprentice to Greg Westbrook, making hats in the basement parking garage on Abbot Kinney. Fouquet went out on his own, moving his shop up the street to a little bungalow on Abbot Kinney (that formerly housed Fioré Designs), where things really started to take off. Yes, a Fouquet hat is going to set you back, but I'm all for someone who started local and made good locally, so good for him!

The hatter then moved his shop to another little bungalow on Lincoln Boulevard, where they continued to thrive. Things have gotten so big that they needed more space, and that's when they found the Marla's space.

They have the gorgeous showroom, but they also have office space, production space, and even a chill space outside, complete with a living plant wall.

The wonderful hats coming out of here, with their trademark matchstick tucked into the brims, are now topping the heads of some of the world's biggest stars. Everyone from Gary Clark, Jr. to Gigi Hadid, Madonna to Bob Dylan ... they're all wearing Nick Fouquet hats. It all blew up when Pharell wore a Nick Fouquet chapeau to the Grammys a few years back, and now to stand in front of the wall of alphabetically sorted hat forms with client names on them is to stand before a who's who of ALL the stars, from rock to sports. I'm SO proud of what Fouquet has built, and it has been a delight to witness it all from the beginning.

I stopped in to congratulate Fouquet on the new headquarters, but he was off in Portugal or Prague or somewhere, bringing his hats to the entire globe. I did get to visit with Fouquet's right hand woman - and my friend - Ali Jenkins, and wish her well as she's about to be married this coming weekend in New York! CONGRATULATIONS to these excellent Venice friends on all the good! Cheers and much love! One of my very favorite Venice quotes ever was when I first moved here, and there was a man selling hats on the Boardwalk shouting, "Venus is in retrograde, everyone needs a hat!" The logic made some kind of sense to me then, and now, as VENICE itself is in retrograde, everyone REALLY needs a hat. And I hope for mine to be a Nick Fouquet. Lit.

Nick Fouquet Hats
2300 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Monday-Saturday 11-7
Sunday 11-5