Where But Here?
Venice — a Grand Salon

Abbot Kinney is packed. It’s hard to pass on the sidewalk with all the baby strollers and the packs of people walking like packs of Golden Retrievers – gorgeous, self-assured, exquisitely coiffed with their very long hair.

Even the packs of tattooed guys in their muscle shirts stroll with the assurance of those at a red carpet event. It’s our Oscars, our Grammys.

You spot a couple of friends with their friend having a glass of wine up on the porch and they invite you up and pour you a glass. You join the conversation. Not twenty minutes pass when three more wave as they are walking by. We all wave and shout out “come up, have a glass of wine.” And they do. Now we are eight.

And, for two hours we watch the world walk by, the boom boxes in hot shot cars take over the street’s sound for a moment. The Harley’s drive by, rev-up announcing their place on the street. Everyone belongs. Those golden retrievers, the rappers with the loud boom box, the tattooed couple, the Harley guys – it’s their street too.

The action is non-stop, never dull as the the eight of us sit up on the front porch on a Sunday afternoon jumping from one subject to another with some grouchie grumbles but mostly endless endless laughing. Living life in a real neighborhood – it’s our Salon.

Being real Venetians is to know the rare camaraderie of belonging.

More Tales from Abbot Kinney
Venetian or Poseur?

The street fills daily with hordes of world tourists who read about it in a guide book in Tokyo or Paris. The street is now a must see attraction. You see them walking the street with their private tour guides. They are in love. Would you have believed that guides would be doing packed walking tours on our little raunchy dirty street? What are they seeing? The couple up on the porch barely raise their eyes as the long line of tourists, cameras in hand snap photos, loving and soaking in all the fabulous ambiance as they amble on by. Excitedly they chatter as they make notes about the excitement and buzz on the street so they can tell their friends back home. The street of the fabulous ones is living up to its guide book description.

Ah, but the real true underbelly of the street is unseen by the happy tourists. What goes on behind the curtain is the real action – only a few get to live that authentic life… the life of a real Venetian

This week a newbie shopkeeper flew out of her shop when she saw a nice big rat in the middle of the shop floor at 2 in the afternoon – a little later she shut the place down for the day. It was all more than she could take. She didn’t know that rats are our neighbors around this place – it could even have been a pet of the very private guy who works next door. Who knows? We locals don’t snoop. Or, it could have been one of the tough ones who know not to snack at the ‘rat box’ right at the front door of the Other Room. It would be his last supper.

The newcomer just didn’t know. No one told her. She’s never watched a rat commit suicide when it fell out of a palm tree 30 feet to the ground. That long-time owner didn’t run to the trendy shoe shop next door for help – but simply grabbed one of those near extinct plastic Ralph’s bags while she convinced her dog that it was not his new plush toy. In time, our newbie will keep right on writing that order for a $200 t-shirt – no matter what.

What the newbie does know is that the street is cool. Newbies know it costs nearly $15 bucks a foot to dwell among the true Venetians and they are really grateful to pay it. They know their trendy clients won’t be able to find a parking place They know that’s the price of just being here. Others are so anxious to find their perfect place on the street that they stalk the shops of tenants whose leases are expiring!

Adapting to the extremes of the street will take a little time. But once it dawns on the recently arrived that the abnormal is the normal around here and embrace it, they will begin to become a real Venetian.

What Have We Become?
More Tales from Abbot Kinney

One guy recently defending an enormous proposed project on OFW proclaimed we were all going to be ‘left behind’ if it was not approved. Left behind? The question is “what is Venice left with right now? What is Abbot Kinney now?” It is not the authentic, funky and a little raunchy street it once was. Can Abbot Kinney ever reclaim some semblance of the distinct and real place it was? It was a street like no other in LA. Our Abbot Kinney was put on the world map when GQ named it ‘the coolest block in America.’ GQ would never anoint our little street the coolest anything if they saw it now. Cool is over. Authentic is done and gone.

Real, eccentric, unique, weird, grungy and annoying, Abbot Kinney has been hanging by its fingertips to that image for a couple of years now. It just finally dropped into the abyss of nothing special. No, it was not everyone’s ‘special.’ Those drawn to Venice because it was not like the rest of the Westside, now find themselves living exactly where they didn’t want to live: Aspen is what we have become. That is the new Venice. Just thinking Aspen kind of gives you shiver doesn’t it?… but we need to face it. We have indeed become Aspen.

Between losing 3000 housing units to the ‘sharing economy’ and its short-term rental industry, we are now writing epitaphs for our wonderful, a bit decrepit non-trendy gay bar, the Roosterfish — and the best restaurant the street has ever housed, Joe’s is soon to close. International companies are replacing local shop owners at a lightening pace.
Now the Googleites and Snapchatters who think The Grove has a sense of place, determine our new normal. Every vegan or vegetarian restaurant that opens make the unique street more homogeneous. We have become a mere shadow of our former self. People now walk down the street carrying $40 boxes of donuts to their offices and think they are living the real Venice life. Those $40 boxes of donuts are our new normal.

The Butcher’s Daughter, the NYC offspring, is packed to the gills. Just being there is what is important — not designed for lingering, coffee cups aren’t refilled at breakfast as patrons are lining up for avocado toast. Price is no object. Turnover fast. There is no ‘hanging’ on Abbot Kinney any longer. Remember when we used to linger over lunch or dinner?

There’s still not a french fry to be had on the street and hamburgers are now totally extinct.

We remain, searching for a BLT on Abbot Kinney.