Thursday, May 16, 2019

Homage To A Starry Night Restored!

Rip Cronk is a legend in Venice, with his famous murals adorning many walls around town. It was with great delight that I saw his newly restored Homage To A Starry Night gleaming and fresh on my morning walk at the Boardwalk. It had been marred by some very low-level tagging, wrecking what has been a popular photo op tribute to Van Gogh in Venice since 1990.

I was also pleased to see Mr. Cronk there on the other side of the building doing touch-ups to his 2004 work Venice Beach Chorus Line, which always reminds me of the old Aardvark store on Pacific for some reason.

See, the thing is, I'm all for paint on every wall in Venice - but GOOD paint. The Graffiti Walls are there for people to learn and hone their craft. Once you get good enough, you might be offered big walls to adorn. People pay for those big pieces to be done, and artists have earned the right to be paid and display their work for all to see. They become landmarks. They become history. No one has the right to paint over any bit of it ... imagine going into a museum and spray painting over a big painting! Same thing. It's respect. Earn yours, and show it to others until you get there yourself.


Thank you to Mr. Cronk for re-beautifying our neighborhood! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Help The Helpers!

So ... yesterday, like a mere hour after I posted my Help Yourself story about the lovely person putting food out for our people living on the streets, I randomly met the lovely woman walking down Lincoln. "Momma Eileen", a Venice elder and longtime resident, stopped me on the street as she recognized me from social media postings. She had no idea I had just posted about her humanitarian efforts, and when we got to talking (after she hugged me close knowing what I've been dealing with in regards to my Mom's hospitalization), I figured out that she was the benevolent party telling people to "Help yourself!" She was upset. Neighbors had complained, and asked her to put away her food. WHAT?!

In the food's place, there is now a new chalk message, apologizing to our homeless, and urging them to seek help at St. Joseph's. Her jerk neighbors (Developers, of course) complained that the food would attract rats - which to them I assume means human beings that need food. All of the food was in sealed packages, aside from fruit that grows in nearly every Venice yard - that rodents already know about. If it's in a tree or on a fence makes no difference. The only difference here is in the size of the hearts in the parties we're talking about.

I'm seething mad about this, and in that kind of mood where no one should get in your way because you can't take much more. What is WRONG with people, that they would complain about someone helping others? Momma Eileen was even concerned with backlash, and that these heartless wretches would target her in some way if she didn't comply with their complaints to take the food away. Let them try. Not on my watch. The good news is that she gets to keep being her wonderful self, while those fools have to live with their rotten souls, not to mention their karma.

It's time to vote out any and all parties from the Developer/Nimby camps in the upcoming Venice Neighborhood Council elections. It's time to take a moment to examine your own biases and agendas, and come to the realization that we're all in this together, and cruelty gets no one anywhere. It's time to look out for each other, and reclaim our beautiful - and strong - Community for the creative, humanitarian, artistic vortex bubble we've always been proud to be a part of. It's time to join people like Momma Eileen in sharing what we have, no matter what some dickhead neighbor says. If EVERYONE joins in on efforts like hers, the few remaining selfish parties' complaints will cease to matter, because they will be look like the petty, lost souls that they are.

Help the Helpers ... before it's too late (and by that I mean a brewing class war that no one wants, and that no one can win). Thank you, THANK YOU to people like Momma Eileen for trying to make the world a better place every day. I have your backs, and celebrate your very existence.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Help Yourself!

I was on a walk this morning, all the way in my own head, when I was very touched to see that a lovely home on Couer D'Alene had set out a little buffet of to-go food on their fence for anyone who might need it, and wrote in chalk, "Help Yourself!"

That is how we need to be in our community, with shorter fences and longer tables. I thought about what it means to help yourself ... yes, take some food and that meaning, but also we all have to really help ourselves. You can't rely on anyone else to know what help you need, so you either need to ask for it or figure it out on your own. My Mom never complains, and it took me begging to get her to go to the hospital, where she is now, being helped because she finally asked for it. I worked on a heavy show for Viceland last year, Dopesick Nation, where there were so many addicts that simply weren't ready (or didn't know how) to get help - which I suspect is the case for many of the people we see living on our streets - the ones that this food spread is for. Yet we're all in this together, and the residents of this home get that.

It's hard to ask for help, and I find myself always trying to help myself on my own, but when you are lacking strength, and feeling sad, I can't tell you much help means. Even just near strangers telling you on Facebook that they're thinking of you and your Mom in a comment ... I NEEDED that, and SO appreciate it, and hope everyone knows that. My heart swells every time I see that someone cares.

I remember Mr. Rogers saying that in times of crisis, "Look for the Helpers." Walking by this home today, it lifted my spirits and encouraged me to go on in strength - because there are people like this among us still. They had also written, "Happy Mother's Day, Mother Earth!" on their sidewalk in chalk, so I know I love them. And thank them. And plan to emulate them. As we all could do.

Help yourself!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bootsy Collins And Jim Vitti In Conversation At The Grammy Museum - Funky!

Oh, Bootsy Baby! My brother, Paul, and I got the chance to go listen to one of the greatest dudes on this (and any) planet the other night at The Grammy Museum when Bootsy Collins was there to talk about the funk with his recording engineer and friend, Jim Vitti, and Grammy Museum director, Scott Goldman. I have to be honest and admit that I really wasn't at all in the mood to go to this on this particular evening, because my dear Mom had just been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting surgery, and I was freaking out about it. But we figured it doesn't do any good to pace around worrying, so off we went to try to not freak out. It was the right choice, and one that has made me feel better about it all ever since.

Goldman introduced the legends by saying, "Our guests tonight have been bringing the funk for decades," and that's a fact. Collins has been on the front lines of funk (inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1997!), leading the way since his time in James Brown's band, on to the Parliament Funkadelic, and on to his own solo career with Bootsy's Rubber Band until right now.

The night opened with a funky video about Collins, narrated by Iggy Pop, that showed just exactly how this inventor of "Space Bass" came into being. Producer Nile Rodgers was there getting the claps started for his friend Collins, who came out in a sparkly top hat and sparkly everything, really, with Jim Vitti, who bears a close resemblance to Mr. Whipple these days, the guy from the Charmin commercials. No one would know that he has engineered and produced some of the funkiest albums of all time. But he did.

Their story starts in Detroit, where Vitti snagged himself a gig at United Sound Systems after coming home from 'Nam. He always loved music and technology, so he began learning and training his ear from the back end, by listening to master tapes. He worked with Bob Seeger, which sent him on his way. Meanwhile, Collins got booted from James Brown's band, saying, "We got sent home for being a little crazy ... he fired us for getting HIM high!" to which everyone gathered there to listen cracked up at.

Collins came to Detroit to be in the band for The Spinners, but knew that wasn't ever going to happen - not a good fit. But THEN he heard about George Clinton and thought, "What is this Funkadelic? I need to meet this mug!" He went to Clinton's house, and knocked on the door of what he said was like The Addams Family house, thinking, "This is the kind of scary I like - 'cause I was tripping too!" There were black lights on and incense burning in the dark, and he saw Clinton in a white sheet in the corner of the room like a ghost, "With chicken feet on like Foghorn, Leghorn!" That meeting let Collins know he was in the right place, saying, "That's who I want to be working with, he's out of his mind!" Soon enough they did begin working together, and that's when he met Vitti.

The Funkadelic would "steal gigs", meaning they'd ask to sit in with some band, and then just totally take over the gig. The energy the band created was unparalleled, and Goldman asked Vitti how they managed to capture that energy on recordings. Vitti answered that he had drawn the shortest straw, as no one else wanted to work with Clinton because he was crazy, but "I just fell in love with the guys!"

He dedicated himself to it, working for hours and hours on just the drum sound. They gave an example of that, playing the P-Funk track, "Funkentelechy" that had the whole room bobbing their heads along, and sharing a soul brother handshake at its end, while Collins' wonderful wife, Patti, danced along in her chair. You couldn't help it.

"This does not sound dated at all," commented Goldman correctly. It's as fresh as the day they recorded it in 1977, and kids today would totally think they just discovered the latest thing upon first listen. Collins' brother, Catfish, was also in the bands, and Vitti's voice caught talking about all the fun they had had, and how much he misses Catfish Collins, who passed away in 2010.

Looking back on their times together, Vitti said, "We were working at the speed of light, it was non-stop. It was like herding cats to get them on the same page, and it was always chaotic." Collins had been giggling while listening, and to this commented, "ALWAYS chaotic." - and you could tell that's just how he liked it.

"Bootzilla" was played next, and the two old friends shook hands, nodded and mouthed along with it. "I love watching you listen to this!", said Goldman, adding, "That bass is SICK!" - and again, he was not wrong. A trust had grown between Vitti and the band, and this song showed that it could be done. "They knew I had their best interests at heart. I love people. I love musicians," explained Vitti to much applause. "We were the craziest," said Collins, and Vitti perhaps felt the need to add, "I was the only straight one in the room!" They shared the story of how on "Knee Deep" Vitti wanted Collins to play the drums, for the 15 minute rock opera that he was sure he'd have to go back and fix, but Collins performed perfectly, shouting, "The Funk will always prevail!"

They spoke about the hand claps on P-Funk albums, and said that they created a monster, because it was on everything after that - to the point that people would call United Sound wanting to rent the "Hand clap machine" because they were always so perfect - but they were real. They told of how Collins was always experimenting with pedals and guitar things, and things like plugging his bass in through a Mu-Tron for "Chocolate City" - giving it that Funkadelic sound. "I was evolving into a monster, and monsters turn on you. Look at that Frankenstein mug!" ... everything that comes out of Collins' mouth makes you smile - almost as much as his music.

"Atomic Dog" was played next and got the whole room rocking. We learned that this classic had the bass and drum tracks backward, as they simply flipped the tape over and played it backwards when they recorded. Whatever they did was awesome, because every single person in there was dancing in their seats. (Note: I played it for my six year old friend the next day and he thought it was THE coolest thing ever! Timeless.) Goldman next opened it up for questions, and one person asked how Collins came to work with Buckethead. Collins answered that Buckethead had sent him a tape of himself sitting on a bed and playing with a bucket on his head, back in the '90's. He freaked Collins out just enough to say, "I want to work with HIM!" - and so they did. There were a couple technical questions from the heads that go deep at these events, and then Goldman asked the two friends what they had learned from their experiences together. Vitti answered, "I always say I've never worked a day in my life. The studio is where I wanted to be. Find something that you really love, get passionate about it, and you'll never work!"

The friendship between these gentlemen is as touching as it is unlikely from the covers of their individual books, especially back in the day, but you can tell it is real and lasting. It was surprising to hear that they had actually NOT seen each other for all of these years since those recording days, until getting back in touch about 4 months ago. They seem so easy and comfortable with each other that you assumed they'd been hanging out all of these years, but nope. They're going to do more music together now, and Collins summarized it all by saying, "It's beautiful when you find that person that helped you long ago, and nobody's tripping. We love each other." It really was beautiful to behold.

There was an after-party held at The Prank a few blocks away, but no one thought Collins and Vitti would make it there, as the line to meet and greet after the event stretched all the way around the current Backstreet Boys exhibit, as everyone wanted to say hi and get a photo with the absolute hero that Collins is. Finally, we looked up to see Bootsy and Patti Collins making their way upstairs, along with Mr. Vitti and his wife. I got to talking with Patti and it came up that we almost didn't come because we were concerned about our Mom in the hospital, and this angel of a woman took me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes, saying, "Your mother is surrounded by angels. She is going to be fine." It moved me so much that she would even care, and then we were joined by Bootsy and my brother, and I felt a calm come over me, powered by the faith and love exuded by these beautiful people.

I'll never forget Collins telling me the last time I saw him at an event that he always wore star shaped sunglasses, because he wanted the young kids he meets to see themselves reflected as stars. That touched my heart so much, and cemented this "Mug" as one of my most highly revered. Patti Collins even texted the next day to check in about Mom, and once again assure me that God is great, and things will be o.k. That is the kind of people that they are, and while they are certainly the funkiest - they are also the kindest.

Whatever I can ever do to assist in their Worldwide Funk efforts, and their Bootsy Collins Foundation, that seeks to get an instrument in every hand that wants one - I am IN. Thank you to the Grammy Museum for having us, to KC Mancebo for the invite and the party, and to Bootsy and Patti Collins for making us feel so much better about this world, knowing that people like them are in it.

Bootzilla! (also the name of the Collins' wine label! Get some!)

* Photos by Paul Gronner Photography

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

BeachLife Festival - One Love On The Beach!

The first ever BeachLife Festival took place last weekend in Redondo Beach, and was one of the best times ever. My brother, Paul, and I were called in to pinch hit for our friends at Juice Magazine and already had plans for the first two days of the Festival, but Day Three made us wish we'd been there the whole time (especially for Chevy Metal and Tony Alva's band, His Eyes Have Fangs). What a great day!

There really isn't another live music festival situation on the beach in Los Angeles, so I have a feeling this one is only going to grow way huger in the years to come. There were definitely naysayers leading up to BeachLife, but they should all be zipped up now, as it was one of the more impressive festivals I've been to in a while, in an absolutely excellent location. The grounds were big, but not too big that you couldn't get back and forth between the High Tide, Low Tide, and Riptide stages quickly and easily.

As it was Cinco de Mayo, the festival goers were extra festive, and more than a few sombreros were spotted in the crowd. We were a little late due to our own Cinco activities (Happy Birthday Mia!), and just missed the set by our homies, Venice. We cruised the grounds to check it all out, and there was plenty to entertain. Food booths, beer and wine gardens, a Body Glove bar, art tents, little shops, games, and all of the music, of course. It was a family affair, as kids ran wild - and so did their parents. As the headliners each day were all Senior citizens (Bob Weir, Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson), many of their fans were too, which made for a nice mix of people from all ages, all digging the day together.

We had found parking a few blocks away, so it was an easy stroll into the Festival grounds, and as we could hear bass thumping over by the water, we headed first to the Low Tide stage on the sand, just in time to hear Colin Hay begin. Only we couldn't hear him. He was singing away, but the mics had cut out so we only saw moving lips. Workers scrambled as Hay and his band stood side-stage waiting, but no one really seemed to mind. Beach balls were being batted around the crowd, beers were flowing, and people were just stoked to be there. Soon, the mics crackled and Hay returned, saying, "That was an example of some REAL Men At Work! Let's enjoy being down by the sea -  by some coincidence of nature, I have a song called "Down By The Sea"! Hay's voice rang out clearly, and was met by shouts from everyone, happy to have the sound back. That right there was the only glitch I saw the entire day, which is pretty impressive for year one of any Festival. The song was perfect for the setting, and everyone was into it - especially the female saxophonist.

The classic "Who Can It Be Now" was next, and got the reception that every band's big hits get. "People think we're Australian, but we're really Scottish," said Hay, which was news to me. He introduced his wife, singer, Cecilia Noel to the crowd, and she joined the band for a cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" that everyone loved and sang along to. We stuck around to hear the Men At Work classic, "Overkill", and then headed over to the High Tide stage to catch the Blues Traveler set.

The High Tide stage was all fake grass, so everyone had set out beach blankets and towels, enjoying the sunshine and taking a load off while stagehands set up for Blues Traveler. We had only been standing there a moment when John Popper walked on stage to the tune of "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp." He looked more slimmed down and healthy, shouting out, "What do you say, let's boogie!," and lit into an extended harmonica jam to get things going, which led into "Things Are Looking Up". The electric guitar player was shredding for this number, and shared solos with the bassist while Popper already took a break. He came back for the big Blues Traveler hit, "Run-Around" and while everyone was real happy about that, they were even more into their cover of Sublime's "What I Got", this being the South Bay after all.

We followed the pelicans flying overhead back to the Low Tide stage to catch Big Head Todd and The Monsters. Big Head Todd Park Mohr was all decked out in a tropical shirt appropriate for the beach scene, as he led his band into "New World's Arisin'," and got the crowd going. Their big hit "Bittersweet" was next, and got the recognition it deserved from the BHTATM fans.

This seemed to be a good time to head to the Body Glove Bar for a drink, so that's what we did. We ran into Marky Lennon from Venice, and were again bummed that we hadn't made it down there in time for their set. We checked out the Rip Tide smaller stage, and a band I hadn't heard of yet was rocking pretty hard - Lost Beach. People were into it, and that's another thing I like about festivals - the discovery of new bands!

There was workers or volunteers all around, holding up signs letting you know they were the people to ask questions of. There were garbage cans and recycling bins underneath their own little tents, so everything looked nice and tidy all day. There were smiles on every face that you passed by on this gorgeous day, and I can only imagine that this festival will live long and prosper. We cruised back to the High Tide stage while making these observations, and got there just in time for Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. Who I love.

It was nice to see a female on the big main stage, and Potter made it all her own. In full hippie-chick mode, with fringed vest and floral vest, she took to the stage dancing from the get-go. They went right for it, playing her rocking "Medicine". "Thank you for coming, Redondo Beach is an amazing place! I've been here before, but never like this (me too!)!" Because this was Redondo at its finest.

"You all look so colorful out there! If you're chilly, dance harder!" Some high clouds had rolled in and some jackets were being put on at this point, but no one seemed to mind, and did indeed dance harder. They next gave us "Ah, Mary", and Potter brought out her signature Gibson Flying V guitar for this one. The band went briefly into Jackie DeShannon's  "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" before seguing into their own "Empty Heart". There was a big crowd gathered, and they now all loved Grace Potter if they didn't know her before. She was ripping on the organ when we left to post up for Ziggy Marley, and we heard a great cover of "Son Of A Preacher Man" as we were strolling.

A big crowd had already gathered for Ziggy Marley, as what could be better than listening to reggae while smoking and smiling in the sunshine on the beach, actually on the sand at the Low Tide stage. I was hoping Marley would play his Dad's "High Tide and Low Tide" for the occasion, but he came dancing on to the stage to his own latest one, "I Will Be Glad" from Rebellion Rises (which the drum kit also said). When they finished, Marley yelled, "JAH, Rastafari!" and people went wild. Then they played the title track, "Rebellion Rises" with its chorus, "Who change time?" and we'd all yell back, "WE change time!" Because we are the People.

Marley brought his kids out to join him for "World Revolution" and held the mics to the little boys to sing the chorus with their dad - as Ziggy no doubt did with his own Dad back in the day. The kids were dancing and smiling away, clearly having a ball - as were every single one of us there. They fist bumped their dad and left the stage to cheers, as we watched the next generation of this peace and love loving family dance off. The crowd was super diverse and unified in their joy. "Justice" sung with fists raised, led into "Get Up, Stand Up" and everyone sang along to that classic rebel song.

"Them Belly Full" had everyone following the instructions of the song to "Forget your sorrows and DANCE!" There were no sorrows here on this day, and the whole place was dancing there on the beach as the sun began to sink. "One Love" was beautiful to witness, as it really felt like that.

"It's good to be on the beach!," shouted Marley. "You gotta keep the beach clean! We gotta leave a good planet! I don't want to live on Mars!" and that was also the song they played next, from the Fly Rasta album. We stayed for "On A Beach In Hawai'i (or Redondo, as it were)", and it was real hard to leave, but there were no press photo passes given out for the Willie Nelson set happening next over at the High Tide stage, and we wanted to get as close as possible. It was hard to hear Marley playing "Coming In From The Cold" on the wind instead of right down front, but Willie ... come on.

We squeezed in with everyone on the VIP platform, and the entire area was already engulfed in a cloud of weed smoke for Willie. Things were running a little behind schedule, so by the time Nelson took the stage, the sunset was bright orange and there was stiff competition for where to look - at the stage or the natural phenomenon going on - but then you realize Nelson is 86 years old and a natural phenomenon in his own right. I felt emotional. They opened with "Whiskey River" and the crowd just ate it all up. Nelson played his trusty Trigger, and the guitar is even more bashed up than when I saw it last summer at the Hollywood Bowl.

"Still Is Still Moving To Me" was up next, and the sunset was only getting better. The festival organizers must have been high-fiving each other and popping bottles at this point, because the backdrop was truly exceptional and as beautiful as you could wish for. People were passing joints between strangers, toasting each other, and generally just ecstatic to be right there. The screens showed some extra happy older ladies right in front, singing and dancing and laughing and LOVING it. I was so happy for them ... I was so happy for all of us. Because it was very moving to see so many people so collectively happy and all in agreement for once - that Willie Nelson is an American Treasure and we love him. "Whiskey For My Men, Beer For My Horses" and "Good Hearted Woman" showed off Nelson's 88 year old sister, Bobbie, banging on her piano like someone half her age at least.

"It's All Going To Pot" and "Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die" were a pair for the smokers, who only smoked more as these were being played, as they all sang along lustily. Nelson introduced his son, Micah ("The Particle Kid!"), who both sang and played guitar along with his Dad. "If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time" and "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" were next, but I think there were several Mamas who did not heed that advice, as there sure were a lot of cowboy hats in the house. Nelson would kind of talk/sing at times, but every time he got to the word "Mamas" he growled it extra firm and loud. With gusto!

"Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground" featured a solo on Trigger that prompted me to say to my brother, "This is American history!" as we watched. "On The Road Again" only solidified that fact, and showed off how very beloved Nelson is, as the entire joint belted it out word for word. A drunk guy climbed a palm tree behind us for a better view, but the distraction was brief, as Nelson swung into "You Were Always On My Mind" and I got emotional all over again. Respect was shown, and as loud as it had just been, it was now silent as an "Awww!" was said in unison at the beautiful song's start. "Shoeshine Man" and "My Favorite Picture Of You" were also both great, and then the nearly 90 year old played a new song, "Ride Me Back Home" and it was an instant classic. Bobbie Nelson played a solo that prompted my brother to say, "This train ain't stopping!" cracking me up.

Nelson through his autographed cowboy hat into the crowd just then, and the whole place again went AWWWW! Whoever grabbed that thing is stoked. Nelson left the stage briefly, to return in his signature red bandana over his braids. "Georgia On My Mind" had everyone swaying together, and then it was time for the full church revival version medley of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?/I'll Fly Away/I Saw The Light" Lights came up on the crowd as everyone clapped and sang along to Bobbie tearing up the keys, and John Popper came up to rip through a harmonica solo for it. It all built up and up until the last chord, and Nelson shouted, "Thank you! We Love you!" while waving to the crowd. Popper played him off the stage as no one wanted to let him go. It was really touching to see so much unity and love in action ... all together there on the beach.

Congratulations to BeachLife Festival on a wonderful first event! We're already looking forward to next year! Thank you!

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography
** Photos of Willie Nelson by Jessie Lee Cederblom for BeachLife

Monday, May 6, 2019

Venice Celebrates Cinco de Mayo With Annual Parade and Fiesta - Viva Mexico!

The annual Venice Cinco de Mayo Parade and celebration took place this past Saturday, and I got to see the whole parade for the first time ever! Paraders met up at the corner of California and Lincoln, where dancers, marchers, bands, and classic cars and low-riders convened to show their Mexican pride.

There's always excitement for a parade, and this one had Venetians lining the streets to see the bright colors, music, and history brought out for this wonderful event each year. I got there early and stayed late as we were capturing the activities for our documentary, 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED, and we could not have asked for a more gorgeous day for our efforts to capture the spirit and essence of our real Venice. The whole day was awesome.

With all the talk of immigration and walls and negativity toward our Mexican neighbors, this event was more important than ever to show the pride and history of the beautiful country that we used to be.

There was a float with men and women dressed up in old-timey 1862 Mexican garb, letting everyone know that this part of Venice history goes way, way back.

A dude dressed up in a superhero outfit was roller-skating around, and he told me he was "Captain Native America" and it was his job to welcome everyone to the event. Love him.

The classic car clubs were out in force and slicker than ever. Mexican flags hung from them with pride, and the drivers of some low-riders treated the parade watchers to the hydraulic coolness of their cars bouncing up and down as everyone egged them on.

I think my favorite shot of the day was this little guy riding in his own mini classic car, and beaming ear to ear to be right out there with the big boys. 

The parade route this year went down Lincoln, turned left on Rose, then left on 7th to the Oakwood Park and historic E.L. Holmes Square - the real epicenter of our African American and Latino history. The street was full of parade participants and celebrators alike, with taco trucks and merchandise booths lining the street, where you could purchase traditional Mexican wares.

Folklorico dancers entertained the crowd, from young to old, all dancing their traditional numbers with traditional music.

Several mariachi bands played, giving the whole day a festive soundtrack to party along to. And people were partying.

The car club guys lined the street in their lawn chairs, tossing back beers and greeting one another like the old friends that everyone seemed to be. It was interesting - and pretty cool - to see guys from former rival gangs embrace and wish each other well ... even though one guy told me that he and the guy he'd just been talking to had shot at each other in the past. Over territory. It all seems so dumb now that they're older and wiser, but it was real and heavy when it was going down, and pretty impressive that they've been able to let things go and live in peace. That was just one of many touching moments throughout the day.

We got to interview several people who live and breathe the history of Venice - like my friend, Lydia Poncé, who walks her talk daily. It's inspiring to be in the presence of people who care so deeply, and are consistently on the front lines of standing up for what's right. Venice needs more of these gems, and should consider itself lucky to have the ones we still do.

The Venice Gondolier marching band played in the parade and at the park, and it was great to see the kids appreciating and participating in their town's history with such enthusiasm. They are all torch bearers to the future, and my heart swelled to see them all there - and proud.

The beautiful and powerful Aztec dancers we saw at the First Baptist Church rally a few weeks ago were back to dance for their people, and their gorgeous costumes brightened the day for everyone. The little ones just killed me with their little outfits and smiles at being a part of it all.

Families came out en masse, enjoying their traditional foods and drinks, dances and rituals. Old friends and neighbors greeted each other all day, and new friends were also made. I had just about the best street corn I've ever had, and happily chowed it while my face became a sticky mess. YUM. I heard so many good stories, and ran into so many cool people that I can't wait to share this film we're making with everyone ... you will laugh, you will cry, and you will think. I could have stayed there all day, enjoying the happy festivities there in the sunshine with so many other happy people of Venice - but we had to get over to Great Western Hoagies to interview my awesome friend, Sergio Perez (all decked out in his Cinco de Mayo best!) about the special place Hoagies has in the heart of Venice - and what Venice means to him. Again, I can't wait to share it all with everyone.

Venice Cinco de Mayo was another fantastic community event, and I hope everyone got to experience even just a part of it - or you fully missed out. Thank you/Gracias to everyone for making it a beautiful day, and for keeping the true history of Venice alive and very well.

Viva Mexico! Viva America! Viva Everyone TOGETHER!