Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Petty About Pride

The fight between Venice Pride and the Venice Chamber of Commerce is so petty I can barely stand to talk about it, but here we are. The Chamber responded to what they say are false accusations with an overly wordy and evasive letter on their website that is essentially a smear piece directed at Venice Pride Board President, Grant Turck.

I know Turck, and I know how tirelessly hard he works to put on a joyous celebration for not only the LBGTQ members of our community, but for everyone. He has stood up to bullies since he was a kid in the Midwest starting his own Gay club at high school, the first of its kind. There are very clearly personal problems on both sides, but I can't stand bullying, and this whole situation feels an awful lot like just exactly that.

This all started when Turck asked for some accountability when going over Pride invoices and finding that there were some big discrepancies. He merely asked about them, and was immediately met with vitriol and the threat of canceling the Pride sign lighting, way back in July of 2018. Essentially, we don't like how you're playing, so we're gonna take our sign and go home (though it is not theirs, they are merely the custodians). This is all documented - but not at all addressed in the response from the Chamber, nor was it addressed why they would choose June - exactly when they know Pride to be - for the sign to be taken down for maintenance. Why not take it down NOW (the O'Venice is already past its freshness date, and needs to be taken down anyway) so it can be ready for the Summer tourists, and Pride? In the Chamber's attempt to punish Turck, they are in effect leveling their judgement at the entire community.

Turck's response to this personal attack was the following:

"Venice Pride always paid the Venice Chamber as agreed. In 2018, the Chamber opted to pay Venice Pride $3,500 via a member of their executive committee as part of a larger sum to settle accounting errors allegedly made by Chamber leadership involving equipment billed to Venice Pride but used at a June 8 Chamber event called Flower Fest."

So ... you know what would clear all of this up? A transparent and complete audit of both Venice Pride's event and the VCC's event for everyone to see. Turck is up for that, but with the avoidance of the topic shown in the Chamber's response ... I'm not so sure they are. I say let the community decide, as that is who both of these entities purport to serve.

I have no real dog in this fight. I'm not gay, and I'm not a member of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. I don't even really want to be involved, but I do think my Venice community should be aware of what's going on .... and I'm always going to stand up against bullying. When you break it down, it's Pride versus Commerce - and the names kind of say it all.

The Venice Pride celebration (with DJ Victor Rodriguez returning!) is happening on June 1st, with or without the lighting of the Venice Sign ...  and I hope that all parties involved can put this pettiness behind them and move forward - and that there will be a fun story to write about it! I'm out.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Aloha Friday!

Today is just about the most glorious day possible in Venice, California. Blossoms are bursting out all over, little straggler Painted Lady butterflies are still fluttering overhead after the massive migration this week, and the sun is shining, weather is sweet ...

I came across this quote today, that after all of the drama of this week in the world - from another mass shooting, to our awful Administration, to local cat fights over Venice politics - is especially perfectly great ...

"Staying positive in a negative world is the new gangster." - Lalah Delia

Yeah, man. I take that to heart, and do my very best to be gangster. Join me, won't you? 
Have an awesome weekend ... looks like it's going to be beach days finally! Yes! (gangster)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Venice Chamber Of Commerce Pulls The Plug On Venice Pride Sign Lighting

OK, Venice. There's a little drama going on with the upcoming Venice Pride celebration planned for this June 1st. Venice Pride received a letter from the Venice Chamber of Commerce on February 22, effectively kicking Venice Pride out of the Chamber, and going even further to say, "Be informed that the Venice Sign will be taken down for unrelated maintenance during the month of June 2019 and will be unavailable in connection with any events scheduled for that month."

Excuse me? The Venice Sign has never been taken down in its decade plus history, and they're going to choose to do maintenance on it now, when Venice Pride is always in June?! The Pride lighting is already scheduled for June 1st, so they could just take it down the next day if need be. It's already on the Sign's own list of events when you do a Google search about it.

I was told that the wind and everything has made it so they need to check that the hardware securing the sign is secure and safe, but again, just take it down the next day. WHAT is really going on?

For that, you have to dig a little deeper. When Venice Pride was going over invoices to plan this year's celebration, they found some discrepancies with last year's vendors, and wanted to make sure they had a correct and adequate budget to plan for this year. When inquiring with one of the rental companies about the overcharges (several) and the disappearance of the discount that they'd been given on the original quote, Venice Pride was told that the Venice Chamber had told the vendor to apply the discount to the following week's Flower Fest instead. A totally different event with a different budget that has nothing to do with Venice Pride - but it was a Venice Chamber event. And now Flower Fest is tentatively planned for June 1st. Hmm ...

The matter had to be handled in small claims court, and there were disgruntled parties on both sides (though Pride was just trying to get back what was rightfully theirs). The next thing you know, this letter shows up (and was attached to an open letter to the Chamber, which is how I saw it) from the attorney for the Venice Chamber of Commerce, Michael Wallerstein, a member of the Chamber. The letter demands that Venice Pride cease and desist using any images of the Venice Sign in their promotion or merchandising, that their membership had been revoked, so they can no longer be a part of the Chamber, and they can't use the sign for the celebration. Wow. That feels petty retaliatory to me ... especially when they ignored California Corporation code, providing no reason for the drastic move, and no opportunity to be heard in a response before being so unceremoniusly booted from the Chamber - AND denied use of the Sign that is the centerpiece of the Venice Pride celebration. Over what exactly?

The Venice Sign hosts several celebrations throughout the year, but none of the others are for a group of people that has been so oppressed historically. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which is a major event in gay history. Gay Pride has grown so much over the years, and now Venice - of all places! - is going to have their own Chamber of Commerce deny the use of the sign (that they don't own, but are merely the custodians of) for this joyful annual event that the entire community enjoys? Again, WOW. I get that there are personal beefs between some parties involved, but you don't punish a whole community. It's just not right.

The Venice Pride celebration will take place on June 1st with or without the use of the Venice Sign, but it will be an awfully glaring omission to not have the rainbow sign hanging there above it - and I'd like to hear the Venice Chamber explain to everyone in attendance just exactly WHY, and why THEN? I don't think this community will stand for it. Or shouldn't. There is a backup portable Venice Sign standing by to take the place of the real Venice Sign, at a large expense for a non-profit organization's budget (which is how we got here in the first place), but the show must go on! I'd hope that the Venice Chamber of Commerce will realize the error of their ways before June 1st, because again, just how are they going to explain away this slap in the face to Venice's LBGTQ community if people show up to dance under the original sign that isn't there?

In these times, we need to support and encourage each other as a community, not get all petty over some creative accounting that was discovered and civilly asked to remedy ... and then this. I would hope that we can all be friends and grown ups here, and I hope everyone can move forward, doing their best to do the right thing for Venice - by including and celebrating everyone! That is how ALL of Venice can be proud.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Hecho En Venice - Outfitter To Venice Locals

You can't go very far in Venice without seeing someone wearing something with "Hecho En Venice" on it, and that clothing brand starts with Oscar Galan. I've wanted to know this story for a long time, so I called him up and we made plans to meet at his "office" - which was the tailgate of his truck parked in front of Hinano's. We sat and chatted in the sunshine as a constant stream of friends went by shouting greetings and stopping for a handshake, and I saw firsthand just how much a part of Venice this cool cat is.

Galan was born in El Salvador, but his family with six kids came to Venice in 1979 for a better life. He attended Venice High, where he fell asleep in class a lot due to a dish washing gig his brother got for him, keeping him up late. Whenever he wasn't working, he was hanging out at the Breakwater, learning to surf. One day a local asked him to fight him for being a kook, and Galan shrugged and said "Sure". His confidence probably prevented that brawl, and gained him the respect of those locals who then deemed him to be cool (and still do).

Circle Skate (now what was Subway by Windward Avenue) hired Galan to work at the skate shop, and after a while of owing him money, the owners gave him the shop instead - complete with their inventory - as they wanted to hang it up. The name was changed to "Venice Extreme" (then "Venice Breakwater") and it became a hangout in its own right, where local kids learned to surf and skate and hang out with those kinds of dudes vs. the gangs. Galan moved the shop across the street to what is now the poké spot under the Venice sign, and all the while kept working at restaurants, now as a chef (which he still does in addition to running his own business!).

While working at the Venice Breakwater shop, Galan had spied a girl looking for change for a parking spot out in front of the shop. She wouldn't give him her number, but he went back inside the shop and said, "I'm gonna marry that girl."

As it goes, once he blew her off, she was interested, and gave him not her number, but her address. And he showed up. That was Galan's wife, Rita, and they've been together ever since (and just finally got hitched last year!). Two sons came along - Isaac and Jason - and soon thereafter, Galan closed the shop. He didn't want to, but he had to cut the overhead, and that was the end of his brick and mortar shop.

The surf/skate culture was in Galan's blood by now, and when he saw the "Hecho En Mexico" logo, he thought, "Hmmm, I could change that to Venice", and quickly taught himself to sew on YouTube. He created a bunch of shirts and hats with the new "Hecho En Venice" logo, and they've been in hot demand ever since. "I do this for fun," says Galan, and you can tell that he means it. I've always been kind of reluctant to don this apparel, as I was NOT made in Venice, but when I expressed this to Galan, he answered, "I wasn't born here. But I grew up here, and became who I am here." I guess I did too, so now I feel like maybe I can sport these duds. The only thing Galan asks is that you wear the almost always navy blue items with PRIDE. No problem.

"Real locals that know me get the secret stash. Before it was if you didn't know me, you can't have a t-shirt. Now, everyone knows me, so they can all have a shirt!", laughed Galan. That certainly seems true, as the respect and friendship continued to be shown to Galan the entire time we talked by everyone going by that knew him - and several were already in Hecho En Venice gear. "The people of Venice is what it's all about. Be friendly. Support local businesses." Yeah. For Galan, that also applies to sticking up for people. You may remember the brawl on the pier a few years back between the lifeguard and drunk tourists. Galan had been dining with Rita in Washington Square, and said, "I'll be right back". Those tourists soon found out what it meant to mess with a Venice lifeguard, as Galan came in swinging - and they left hurting. Venice will have your back.

With all the cool stuff in Venice, Galan's favorite thing about it is still "The water. Go surf!" And he's out there all the time. You can find him out in the lineup, having coffee at The Cow's End, or in his truck office. You can find Hecho En Venice all over town, but for sure at Maui & Sons on the Boardwalk, Rider Shack, Titanic, District, Rip City, Bay Street Surf Shop, Principessa, or at their online store, ShackedStore.com.

Oscar and Rita Galan are the real deal, and it's an honor to know them, and now their story. Their Hecho En Venice line (now including everything from shirts to hats to coffee mugs!) have given all of Venice a way to show their pride - worldwide. Get yours!

*All photos (after the first one) are courtesy of the Galan family.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Superbloom Splendor!

With all the rare rain Southern California has had lately, you knew there was also going to be a rare wildflower Superbloom - and People, it is here! And it's only the beginning ... !

I'm kind of a wildflower dork, and I'll go way out of my way to see a natural phenomenon - and so will my brother, Paul (Also an awesome nature photographer, so I'm double lucky), so a day trip was planned for a Sunday drive to Lake Elsinore, where I'd read was the spot of the moment ... and I had read correctly! You can see the flower covered mountains right from the 15 Freeway, and sure enough, the closer we got, the more backed up traffic became. We didn't even care though, because you know what? I'm STOKED that a whole bunch of people still care about nature and will get out there to appreciate it (even if they don't really deserve it, as I'll address shortly). It's special.

We wanted to really get into it, so we weren't going to settle for snapping shots from the shoulder of the freeway, and waited in the traffic line to find a parking spot at the trail head of Walker Canyon. It's not really a true nature park, I don't think, as there is no one around handling things. A couple Port-A- Pottys have been brought out to handle the huge influx of visitors to little Lake Elsinore, and there was an ice cream truck smart guy there, but that was it. The hills were crawling with nature lovers, but the higher up and deeper in we went, the more space to explore and photograph this natural wonder we had. It was truly spectacular, and THE most impressive wildflower display I've ever seen in nearly half of my life in California. And the big flower spots haven't even started yet! This is going to be some Spring!

Yesterday was also Daylight Savings first day, so we had extra time to explore the absolutely surreal colors bursting out all over. Some of the trails were pretty steep, and my boots were slippery, so it was adventurous also ... which I dig. Every photo we snapped was impossibly beautiful without doing a thing to it. The bright, almost hunting outfit orange of the state flower California Poppies was dominant in this area, with ridge after ridge exploding in the citrus palette that must be seen to be believed. Purple lupine and some other little tiny purple ones were also everywhere, with yellow and white blooms for contrast ... and it was all simply breathtaking. In one case it really WAS breath-taking, as both my brother and I got lightheaded when standing up. One of our new flower friends from the trail gave us a banana, and we realized we didn't really eat in our haste to get to the beauty. There are still good people, People!

There are also idiot people, and it must be addressed that several idiot jerks decided to leave their bright blue plastic dog waste bags along the trails - just thrown there to mar the total majesty that we were witnessing. Had I seen it in action there would have been words - which no one wants on such a beautiful day, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! Let this be a warning.

I also saw several seemingly clueless parents thinking it was adorable to let their kids pull the flowers to make little bouquets - literally teaching their kids to vandalize nature. I'd be like "Um, you know, I don't think you're supposed to be picking the flowers" (because I couldn't help it), and I'd be met with a look like I was the obnoxious one. Wow. O.K. There are no rangers or anyone enforcing anything, so it is a bit of a free for all, and you have to hope people get it by now, but nope. Maybe someone will read this and be like, "Oh, we're jerks" ... but I don't hold out much hope for these clueless, selfish sorts ... or now their kids. Blah.

ANYway, you can't let a few bad apples spoil a glorious day, and it was a real joy to see all the elated faces everywhere. Families taking their Christmas photos. People getting engaged, and married! Babies laughing. Senior Year photos. Many, many international visitors (I'd say the majority. Flower love worldwide!). Old couples holding hands and canes to get up the hill. I saw so many people taking selfies that I had to intervene and offer to take a real photo several times ... it was worth it to know that this beauty would be seen in its glory ... and maybe then the world will care more about taking care of it ... Maybe?

The sunshine came in and out so it was kind of a moody lighting deal for serious photographers, but my little phone camera took all of these, so it was obviously hard to take a bad photo. I can't wait to see my brother's real camera photos (though I'll have to - he's a perfectionist)! There is going to be serious nature photography coming at people all Spring long, if these hillsides keep this up ... we were honestly going "WOW!" "LOOK!" "Oh my goodness!" and just gasping aloud all afternoon long. Everyone is saying "The Hills are alive!" - and we actually were compelled to sing that song out loud. Had to. "Climb Every Mountain" too, as it felt like we did. People seeing our posts aren't even believing it's real, but I assure you, it is. Between our unreal sunsets, ocean waves, and these wildflower blooms, it really is a big reason why we continue to love and live in California, despite the real hardship it often takes to do so. Beauty prevails.

I'm so looking forward to exploring the other flower fields as their blooms open up and give us reason to rejoice, and remember that THIS is what should be important. All the people climbing those hills yesterday are better for it today, and so is everyone who sees their photos, and knows that this kind of natural beauty still exists. The smiles on everyone's faces said it all ... and it was free, nothing but time and energy spent. The Earth was free to do what it naturally does. WE were free to roam and ramble on.

Someone told me there's a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair ... 

I heard that beautiful and classic Zeppelin song  when I was a little girl, and I knew in my heart that I would live here someday. Now I've spent almost half of my life here in California, and yesterday I felt exactly like the girl in the song. I hope you'll get to feel that too (or what the guy that was appreciating her felt)  ... while it lasts. Going To California!

*Thanks to Paul Gronner for snapping photos and Perle Mer for my butterfly dress! 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Tamara's Tamale - Tamales For Everyone!

 Happy International Women's Day, Ladies (and the Gentlemen who love us)!

Tamara's Tamale first came on to my radar a bunch of years ago when the Free Venice Beachhead was hosting a celebration for International Women's Day, when so many people came that they ran out of food. Tamara's Tamale swooped in to the rescue, donating dozens and dozens of the Westside's best tamales and making a whole bunch of Venetians happy.

I've been wanting to know the story behind Tamara's Tamale ever since, so thought when better to do a feature on a women owned and operated business from a born and raised Venice girl than for this year's International Women's Day (even though I think every day should be Everyone Day)? Thankfully, Tamara Tapp agreed, and we sat down for a nice chat in one of her rare quiet moments at her restaurant in a tiny strip mall with Sakura House, Celadon, etc ... on Washington Boulevard.

Tapp is a native Californian, and has spent her whole life in and around Venice. As a teenager, she waited tables at various classic Venice restaurants like Hama Sushi and Maxwell's, and also worked at Conroy's Flowers (at the location that is now Deus Ex Machina). Tapp's family is from Mexico (Sinaloa and Chihuahua) and their main family tradition in cooking was always making tamales together.  Alice Guadalupe Tapp is Tamara's mother, and the author of two books on tamales, Tamales 101 and Fast & Delicious, so she knows what she's talking about. Alice Tapp finally said one day to Tamara, "Let's do something" - meaning with tamales - and after a brief search, they found their spot on Washington, and have been open for business in the same location for 27 years now.

"It's really taken on a life of its own ... It's really hard work, but I do love it. We love our community and it feels so good to give something from our family's tradition back to our neighborhood. Everyone is welcome here, there's something for everyone, and I love people to come and sit and talk and love food together," explains Tapp. "We get new people every day. After 27 years, people are still discovering us." I know this to be true because someone at Christmas time (their busiest time of the year, when business quadruples) was on Facebook asking where to get good tamales on the Westside, and I chimed in with "Tamara's Tamales, of course!" - which several responders had never heard of. Until then.

"I get a lot of Costco people - especially the tire guys - and a lot of people stop in on the way to or from the airport." - both to bring an edible souvenir back home, and as their first stop when they land in town. Business has grown each year, but as Tapp does everything herself with a small staff - the shopping, the cooking, all of it - she can only do so much. They make up to 10,000 tamales each week at the high season, and could easily sell 50,000 - "I just do what I can do". And that's a lot, as in addition to all the tamale making, they donate to two events a month, preferably for organizations and events dealing with kids, women, and mental health. There are volumes of photo albums containing all of the thank you letters and honors from the many various groups Tamara's Tamale has helped in the community. It's a lot.

There are 25 kinds of tamales available each day, with the most popular ones also being Tapp's favorites - the red pork chili for savory and the pineapple raisin for sweet. There are seasonal dessert ones, like lemon in the summer and pumpkin in the fall, and a special "Family Chicken" one at Christmas. There are vegetarian and vegan options, and even a King Crab one that needs to be eaten by me asap. All are extra authentic, all are extra delicious, all are made with love that you can taste.

Tapp has done all the food shows, and no less than Wolfgang Puck wrote the blurb for her Mother's books, calling them "The best tamales in the world!" High praise, indeed. "I want to offer a healthy alternative to people in my community that is still fast to get. There are less and less Mom and Pop (or Mom and Daughter) places like this, so I think that people really appreciate it, from the feedback that we get." About that change happening all around, Tapp says that as a native, the change hurts. But as a business, it's good. "I just want to make the best tamale every day. I love tamales. I try them everywhere. If I see a lady on the side of the road, I pull over to try hers. People bring ME tamales from their families to try ... I just love tamale." And proof of that love is in the pudding - or tamale.

People ask for special orders, so Tapp has found herself making a jalapeño and cheese or a nutella and banana for those with special cravings. Tapp herself has two daughters, who both went to Couer D'Alene Elementary, and have grown up helping in the shop. Both are now pursuing other career avenues, so it's pretty much all Tapp - and that caused her to cut back on hours finally, after being open 10-10 every day for years. Tamara's Tamales is now closed Mondays and closes at 6 pm, and they close for the entire month of January so everyone can have a life after the back-breaking work of the holiday season.

As much as Tamara loves tamale, "I love a taco!" She gets her taco fix at El Abajeño on Inglewood Boulevard (which I'd never heard of so am now looking into that!), is obsessed with Rainbow Acres, and thinks that Venice is in dire need of some good Chinese food after the closing of Szechuan on Washington Boulevard (agreed). Tapp is also a big fan of sushi, and credits the orignal owner of Hama - Toshi, who now owns Hyama Sushi on Sawtelle - for teaching her a lot about the restaurant business. There is a big community within restaurants, and Tapp has friends at nearly every place in town, peppering our conversation with comments like, "Oh, Karen from Café Buna is my friend from elementary school!" ... giving her a street cred borne from a lifetime in Venice.

Tapp and her family have given a lot to our community over the years and decades, and I raise my glass to them in thanks on this International Womens Day. Women working hard and being dedicated to their communities - and the world at large - truly make it all a better place. Thank you to Tamara and her tamales for sharing their traditions, delicious food, and  love with us all ... Viva Tamara's Tamale!

Tamara's Tamale
13352 Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Friday, March 1, 2019

You're Not Beer

I've been pretty busy this week with deadlines for stuff I'm working on, and didn't get much of a chance to be out and about as much in Venice (plus it's freezing!) to have its stories to tell, but this morning I had at least two things make me smile, so thought I'd share with you to wish you a happy weekend. I needed a breakfast burrito from Hinano, so cruised over there to procure it. The sign outside cracked me up:

"Stop trying to make everybody happy ... you're not beer!" Excellent (but you can still try!). Then I headed over to the Venice Farmer's Market after scarfing my burrito on the sand, and just look at these blue orchids the orchid guy had!

Impressive. Stunning. Beautiful. That, along with my favorite beverage in the world - Polito Farms blood orange juice - pretty much made my day. And I haven't even been to the first Art Crawl of the year yet! That's tonight, mostly on Abbot Kinney (try to ignore First Friday stuff), and I hope to see all of you lovely people there.

Cheers to beers!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Venice Mardi Gras - A Magical Mystical Tour!

People have really needed to blow off some steam lately, if the size of our annual Venice Mardi Gras parade was any indicator. The crowd was bigger and better this year, and the level of costume participation was unprecedented in my experience. The beautiful day might have had something to do with it too, as after weeks of super cold and wind and rain, we got a bright, warm, sunny day in which to revel in - and boy, did we revel!

The posted parade starting time was noon, but I knew this meant Venice Standard Time, and sure enough, the Mardi Gras Krewes assembling at the Rose Avenue beach parking lot were still there mingling at 1:30 PST. That was a good thing though, as more people showed up, and more people were more buzzed up after their time inside the Venice Ale House - which makes for a good parade. Mardi Gras Queen, Deanna Navakuku, and King Paul Rivas were all robed up and ready to reign over a day of Venice magic.

The costumes were very colorful and impressive, as most did their best to be on theme with the "Magical Mystical Tour" vibe chosen for this year. The actual cover of the similarly named Beatles album is pretty creepy, with like pig furries in scarves, but surrounding them is a swath of psychedelic Day Glo swirls ... so I went with the rainbow tie-dye (also honoring Venice's hippie past) and matching Mardi Gras mask. I feel I'll get more use from the dress for sure, in these parts - AND it's the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock this summer, so I'm all set.

There was a silvery jellyfish, a parrot, a majorette ballerina, a wizard, a butterfly (Miss Jessica Sugar Long - co-founder of this extravaganza with her husband Johann since 2001!), among a ton of other great outfits. As ever, the Venice sign was held by the purple jacketed members of the Windward Krewe. The Gumbo Brothers brass band (led by co-founder Johann Stein)and the hula hoopers finally struck up the tunes and begain to twirl, and we all set off down Ocean Front Walk, to the delight of the many tourists that had no idea that this was all happening. Just another colorful, fun day in Venice! If they only knew how precious and necessary these events are to keeping our Venice colorful, and yes, weird.

Everyone danced along, tossing out the colorful beads synonymous with Mardi Gras everywhere. (And by the way, this is a grass-roots party with Miss Jessica and Mr. Stein providing the beads and fun off-set only by donations!) Cameras were snapping all along the parade route as people couldn't believe their awesome luck to be in Venice on such a fun day.

People were hanging over their balconies - just like in New Orleans - and blasting off confetti guns to rain down on the parade passing by below. This got a grateful roar each time it happened, and amped up the good vibes even more. Visitors standing along the sides of the parade would join in so that by the time we all got to Windward Plaza, the crowd had grown to be pretty dang big.

We all danced around to "When The Saints Go Marching In" and "St. James Infirmary", posed for about a zillion more photos. Then it was time to head on into Surfside, where The Gumbo Brothers would keep the party going for all of the parade partiers long into the evening.

Tree Man was there, all dressed up in formal wear for the occasion! That was something special to see, and he had a tall friend this year, with a fellow on stilts done up to look like an Abbot Kinney sort. Good times indeed!

There was a special Mardi Gras menu at Surfside, featuring Po' Boys and Hurricanes, and the venue was once again a gracious host to all of the Venetians hell bent on having the best day ever - and I think that was pretty well accomplished.

Venice Paparazzi was there with a fun photo booth, and all the good moments were captured and then some. Had you just landed in Venice for the first time on this day, and seen all of this joy, fun, and love for a community, you would think this was the ultimate place to be, and that it lived up to all you'd ever heard about this magical, mystical place by the sea, as far west as one can go.

And that's just how we like it. These are just the kind of days that reaffirm we're all in the right place, all we types that don't want to be in a place that's just like everywhere else.

That's why we parade. That's why we dress up. That's why we make art and music and love here in Venice. So that we know that there is still someplace special in the world, where we are all free to be you and me. And THAT is how you let the good times roll!

One more awesome Mardi Gras in Venice, Everyone! Thanks and LOVE to everyone there who knows exactly what I'm talking about. You're all just the best.

Laissez les bon temps rouler! xxx

Friday, February 22, 2019

Once In A While You Get Shown The Light ...

In keeping with yesterday's theme of Venice offering up the message you need when you need it ... today I was heading back from the Farmer's Market on a brisk but bright and sunny morning, and there it was. Another sign. This time on a fence, that caught my eye because of the happy little yellow flowers peeking out from underneath of it, like, "Look here!"

More truth. "Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right." Yes, you do. And a little "Scarlet Begonias" quote from the Grateful Dead is always fine. And right after I saw this yet another sign from the Universe, I had a meeting where some light was shown to a project of mine, from a source that I hadn't thought of at all. I hope I'm looking at it right, and that it all works out, but either way, it reinforced the notion that being shown the light often happens in unexpected ways, from unexpected - often surprising - sources. Especially if you're open to it - wide open.

Take this sidewalk wisdom with you as you launch into the weekend, and if you're also looking for some light on a subject, I sure hope you find it! Best of luck!

*A great place to find light - at least lightheartedness! - will be at tomorrow's Venice Mardi Gras celebration! We meet at the Rose Avenue parking lot at the Boardwalk at noon, and parade from there to party at Surfside. Hope to see you out there letting the good times roll!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Your Life Is Under Construction - Expect Delays

Man, there's been so many times where I've been walking around Venice and I see just what I need to see in that moment. There's been a lot of frustration and delays for me lately, and sometimes you have to wonder what you're even doing where you are ... and then you get a little encouragement from the streets/the Universe to hang in there. Your life is under construction at all times - and you should expect delays.

No matter what is going on in your life, negativity never helps, so the flip side of this utility box adorned by that prolific street artist, Wrdsmth, tells you that "I'm pretty positiveno good will come from focusing on the negative." - and that is exactly what I needed to hear right then. If you're dealing with some lameness at the moment (and who isn't?), I hope this little pep talk will help you too.

Thank you to Wrdsmth, and to Venice, for setting me straight, and for the good vibes that are always here if you are looking for them. Chins up!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Façade Of Time - A Public Performance In The Streets Of Venice

There were several community events going on around Venice this past weekend, with plenty of chances for everyone to get in on the fun. There was the Black History Month exhibit and conversation at the Venice Library. There was the "Venice Hootenanny" in Oakwood Park put on by the VNC that was really just a small stage, a big Jenga and Connect 4 game, and that's about it. No food, no drink, no bathrooms ... if it weren't for some of Venice's favorite musicians playing (Paul Chesne, Tom Freund, etal ... ) it would have been a complete bust. Better luck (or planning) next time, folks - but at least we had sunshine and friendship, and that's a lot. The coolest event of the weekend was the public performance of Façade Of Time, a kind of dance piece that traveled all through the streets of Venice to the Breakwater.

The Body Weather Laboratory was the organization behind Façade Of Time, and they started their performance at the bridge at the start of the Venice Canals. An otherworldly voice chanted from under the bridge - with its awesome acoustics - and then a little raft emerged with a woman singing. Performers were scattered throughout the crowd gathered, dressed all in blue, and chanting back to the woman. It had the feel of a co-ed monastery, with 60 blue monks of all ages, races, and genders together calling all of Venice to worship.

The monk vibe changed to a bit of a zombie vibe as the performers then all began to walk ultra-slowly across Venice Boulevard and down Strongs Drive to Venice Way. The crowd grew as we all followed behind and along the dancers/walkers, with a reverential silence the entire way. A passerby asked if the whole town was out taking a walk together, and yeah, we were.

There was also a reverence for Venice itself as the performance moved along its streets. Performers would touch a plant, or a fence, or a wall, with such awe and respect that it was like aliens discovering a new place, or like the ancient Tongva people that used to live here having the ultimate respect for nature. It was moving to see ... and to be a part of, just by being there. A tourist girl going by said, "I don't get it. Is this a funeral of some kind?" And in a way, it kind of felt like it. A funeral for Venice ... for art ... for the past ... but as it progressed, and you saw how the experience was affecting people (Venice is still cool! Venice is still out there! Venice is still art!), by the time it was over, it became a true celebration.

That is a goal of the Body Weather Lab, as its mission statement for the piece talked about how they aim to collapse barriers and enable everyone, without hierarchy, to have access to art. This was most evident as the piece moved through Windward Circle, and the streets became more populated. The homeless pushed their carts by as Teslas had to stop for the big group passing in the street (One driver dared to honk, only to be glared at silently by the entire group). The dancers split into four groups, one in each direction of the compass. The woman who had been singing under the bridge was now in the center of Windward Circle, directing her choir.

A mystical New Age-y music was in the air, and everyone was wondering where it was coming from (and why it isn't always being blasted out of Windward Circle?), only to realize that the cars making a tight rotation around the circle were actually all broadcasting the music out of their windows, providing a musical background atmosphere for the chanting performers on all sides. Trippy!

Right then, a man got off of a Big Blue Bus with his bike, and I wish I'd been able to capture his face. Total confusion, but with a smile, like "Where have I just landed?!" This is how I felt long ago when I first stepped on to Ocean Front Walk and knew that this would one day be my home. That this was a magical place, like no other. Imagine just getting off the bus and stepping into this scene ... it made me so happy that our Venice is still capable of blowing someone's mind. In a beautiful way, at that.

The now much larger group processed across Pacific and under the Venice sign, making its way to the Boardwalk. All of the tourists were stopping and staring, wondering ... and then they joined in. This might have been the windiest day I've ever experienced in Venice, and the gale force winds only added to the drama of the performance art happening right in front of everyone's faces.

One group of performers laid down on the ground in Windward Plaza, and individuals took turns hopping up and shouting a Venice street name ... "Electric Avenue!" "Nowita Place!" "Venice Boulevard!" with acknowledgement of the years of art and history in this place. They were laying right where the canals are painted on the sidewalk, so it had an added element of a true sense of place. Everywhere the performance passed, you could almost see the Ghosts of Venice Past. Abbot's Habit was even one of the sponsors (among many, like the Electric Lodge and Venice Community Housing), so you got the sense that this was a piece given to the present from Venice's past - both as a gift - and a warning.

The other group made a circle around the big "V" statue overlooking the beach. They embraced, laughed, circled, and yelled as the wind whipped the whole chorus into a frenzy. Certain performers now brought out little chime and machines that zipped and whirred in the wind, creating a cacophony of sound as the performers came together to process across the sand to the water. 

Everyone basically got some free micro-dermabrasion watching this piece as the sand was violently flinging sand into everyone's faces, but now we were invested and had to see this performance through to the end. All of the dancers stood together in a big line, and the choir director woman led them through a series of higher and lower chants and shrieks as the sun set into the far western horizon. It was a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful experience - and a beautiful Sunday - as the Supermoon grew high above.

I've always said the beach is kind of my church, and never felt that more so than standing there with a big group of people honoring both our town, nature itself - and our place in both.

Congratulations and thanks to the Body Weather Laboratory and everyone involved in making this  memorable day about a dream in Venice come to life. It will stay with us for a long time to come.

May it inspire others to treat Venice with the same respect and adoration, as we together realize that time truly is a façade - and it is what we make of it. So dance in the streets!