Gym People of LA

So here I am, living in Los Angeles for two years now, somehow successfully avoiding two things that seem to come with a 9-0-something zip code: body image issues and a shrink. I eat carbs – specifically carbs laced with gluten – I don’t have a trainer and I’ve never participated in a juice cleanse. I don’t subscribe to sober January (or sober any month for that matter) and I have yet to step foot inside a SoulCycle studio, despite owning multiple pairs of Kate Hudson’s Fabletics stretchy pants. I’ll admit it, clothing that takes me from hiking Runyon right onto brunch just makes sense. I can’t believe I just typed that.

The thing is, its impossible to live in LA and not want to partake in some kind of fitness slash vegan slash stretchy pant situation. It’s nice, like, almost every day so there’s no hiding that winter bod behind layers of warm clothing. Which compels a person to peel themselves from their laptop slash stack of books slash Grace and Frankie marathon on Netflix and get their ass to the gym.

Which brings me to a particularly unsavoury part of trying to stay fit in LA: gym people. Obviously, people sweat it out in the gym all over the world. It’s not like Los Angeles is the only city where it’s inhabitants have access to a mirror and inconveniently teensy swimwear. But having experienced gym culture outside of the US, I can say for certain gym people are of a different breed here. For example:

Territorial Guy – This is the guy who drapes his sweat-soaked towel on various machines in between weights and jump rope to let everyone know that he’s interval training, so to avoid fucking with his flow. I will always fuck with your flow, guy, because guess what? You don’t own this gym.

A-Type Girl – Women are efficient as fuck at the gym, this I like. Most of us are there to get the job done, in and out, because we got shit to do. This gal is other level, though. Whatever you do, do not disrupt her 8.5 treadmill pace or take too long on the elliptical or she may poison your power elixir when you’re not looking.

Zero Exercise Guy – You want to know how to achieve absolutely zero results at the gym? Observe this guy, lounging about on sought after weight benches, watching sports (why does my gym have so many big screen TVs?), playing games on his phone like someone who will literally never encounter a vagina in real life.

I Woke Up Like This Girl – This gal rocks up at 7am in full make-up, false eyelashes, and barely breaks a sweat but really benefits from the half-dozen sultry power squats she’s posting on Insta via Boomerang.

Imma Big Deal Guy – I have a hectic day job, I get it. But I’m never going to participate in a conference call while at the gym. This guy has no problem speaking loudly and obnoxiously into his headset while perched on the leg press with zero anxiety about uttering anything proprietary. He loves to talk total nonsense to fellow gym-goers about the “business” in which he manages. He’s highly caffeinated and probably simultaneously listening to a Tony Robbins audiobook.

Au Natural Girl – I get it, I’ve switched to all natural deodorant too and I’m all about breathable cottons, but dropping to a lotus position to get in a minute of meditation in the middle of a loud gym is going to draw some eyeballs. Also, leave the mala beads at home.

Exhibitionist Guy – I see you. You see me. But there is absolutely no need to acknowledge each other’s presence. I get it, you worked hard for that eight pack, bro. But if you’re after positive reinforcements by way of a sleazy stare, I’ll never give you the satisfaction.

Bottom line, I look at the gym as a Harry-Potter-meets-Dirty-Dancing dynamic. As soon as I place my ear buds into my ears, just like that, I disappear under an invisible spandex cloak. This is my dance space; this is your dance space.

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City of Stars

When people ask me why I moved to Los Angeles, usually the first assumption is that I came here to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. An aspiring actress, struggling writer, or indie filmmaker perhaps. Something sparkly and ambitious that translates to the silver screen.

While I didn’t move to LA to become a star it’s impossible to not be touched by the energy that exists here. The feeling of hope and hustle towards finding a place in Hollywood, should the stars align (pun absolutely intended).

I’m constantly meeting people who are quick to offer their stories of struggle or why they decided to come to LA. Some are somewhat hidden within the minutiae of everyday life, while others seem to shine right through.

Like the waitress at the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice who serves me boozy cocktails, but in her spare time is a singer songwriter.

Like the would-be comedian who bags my groceries at Whole Foods while testing out his latest material on me.

Like the guy sitting next to me on a plane, clutching his armrest as we hover above LAX amidst crazy turbulence. I strike up a conversation to try and calm him down, and he introduces himself as “the actor you’ve never heard of that’s been in everything.”

Like my Lyft driver who is also the drummer in a chart-topping reggae band working towards releasing their next album.

Like Preston, the handsome bartender at the wine bar in The Landmark Theater, who works two jobs while pursuing an acting career.

Like my friend Meghan – a fellow Canadian gal – who came to LA to pursue acting and screenwriting and, 7 years later, is still plugging away. Still hopeful.

Like Melissa, my neighbour who’s a film producer and comes from a long line of entertainers and film industry trail blazers, but has migrated towards a life of philanthropy.

Like so many, I spend a lot of time outside of my day job grinding, trying to carve out a pathway to my dreams. For me that means editing and rearranging, trying to improve my screenwriting chops and refine the scripts I’ve written. And while I pound away on my laptop in my little apartment in Venice or a nearby café surrounded by other writers, I can’t help but fantasize about something I’ve written generating interest from a filmmaker.

Each year I head to the Toronto International Film Festival, for years as a fan and more recently as press. While covering red carpets, most journalists flock to the actors but I usually zero in on the directors and screenwriters. My press pass grants me unbridled access to speak with some of the most exciting filmmakers in the world, so if I’m being honest, that’s the real reason I’m there. Maybe if I dig deep enough, that’s part of the reason I moved to LA after all.

This year, I interviewed writer/director Damien Chazelle before the North American premiere of La La Land. After watching his film, I realized I don’t want to be the one feverishly capturing every comment and anecdote on my voice recorder any more, sitting alone at a bar filing my stories. Someday, I hope to be on the other side of the red velvet rope impassionedly talking about a film I’ve written. Now that I live in La La Land, among a city of stars, I sometimes feel like that’s possible.

La La Land is in theatres nationwide. If you live in LA, my dearest Angelenos, this film is for us. Whether you’re in the entertainment industry or not, it’s a reminder to never stop dreaming.

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Dog Park People of LA

I’m not a people person. I’m not what one might call an introvert either, but I definitely don’t feel compelled to engage people I don’t know beyond high-level pleasantries. This isn’t because I lack manners or suffer from social anxiety. I’m just not interested in small talk. Next to filing taxes and getting my pikachu waxed, small talk is my least favorite thing.

You know what else I find tedious? Faking it. Whether it’s joy, an orgasm, or basic interest, I have a tough time putting on an act. It’s exhausting. Like, ask me to organize your book collection by color or to handwrite your Christmas cards for you. But don’t ask me to participate in anything that requires faking it.

I was never an effective networker (insert gasps and surprise). I’m the gal who strolls in, grabs a complementary glass of wine or five and vanishes. My friends and colleagues may find this hard to believe, because when I’m with my inner circle I’m the life of the party. I’m Frank the Tank meets Holly Golightly. I’m in my element. But strangers? No way. Stranger. Danger. Screaming my safe word all the way to the nearest safety exit.

The act of faking it becomes increasingly inane when it comes to mindless banter at the dog park. I have a dog. My husband and I adopted this little ball of fury eight months ago and I’ll admit, I’ve become one of those people. People who allow their canine to kiss them on the mouth, sleep in their bed and basically diminish any hope of having spontaneous sex again. Our idea of foreplay is getting the doggie into her kennel, or “luxury condo” as we have tried to convince her. I really love my dog. But despite being a reasonably good dog parent, I’m hopeless at the dog park.

I’ve never owned a dog in another city, so I may be attaching my experience to Los Angeles unjustly, but I suspect I’m not alone here. Dog park people are kind of basic, am I right? Interacting with humans is one thing, but conversing with another person via your pet is kind of fucked up.

Dog park person: Oh hello! Who do we have here?
Me: Uh. Abby. Her name is Abby.
Dog park person: Hi Abby! This is Peanut. So nice to meet you Abby. Peanut wants to know what kind of doggie Abby is?
Me: She’s a rescue. Not really sure.
Dog park person: Peanut thinks she’s part Chihuahua mixed with Fox Terrier.
Me: I’d say whatever mixed mongrels wander the streets of Long Beach, where she was found. But good guess Peanut.
Dog park person: *quickly drags Peanut in other direction*

The human-to-dog ratio where we live in Venice feels like it could be 2-1. That means 50% of the folks in my neighborhood own dogs, for the math prodigy’s out there. So unless I walk our dog at off peak hours – which I always endeavour to do – the chances of me running into someone with a dog are highly probable. In particular a few people, which despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to avoid.

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I’m a happily married woman. I’ve bought into the whole monogamy thing. Which is why I don’t need toned, tanned and highly fuckable young men walking about shirtless and barefoot and fancy free. Like this one fellow who is on the same human avoidance dog walking schedule as me. Strutting about with his dreads tied in a bun a la Citizen Cope, abs glistening in the hot SoCal sun. It’s too much.

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One day a woman with particularly plump lips among other fake body parts approached me and knew my dog by name. She asked if I was my husband’s girlfriend. I said no, actually, I’m his wife. Ever since, she seems to emerge every time I walk by her place so either she’s hot for my hubby or I’ve got a single white female situation on my hands.

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The most aggressive of the dog park people is this older gal with a southern drawl who sips wine from a to-go cup and let’s her dog run around off leash. Every time I see her she tries to convince me to join a Facebook Group for our local dog park, even though I’ve explained to her that Abby thinks Facebook is lame.

I know you’re supposed to socialize your dog and I do, among people I enjoy who also happen to have dogs. Otherwise I’m going to pretend to speak another language. I’m going to cross the street when I see you coming. I’m going say I’m late for a meeting, I left the stove on or my dog has fleas. Let’s spare each other the false pleasantries, let our dogs sniff each others bottoms and carry on with our day.

Follow my dog Abby on SnapChat @abby.dog and Instagram @abby.spike

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I slay. All day.

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The funny thing about creativity and screenwriting in Los Angeles

I didn’t move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. This question comes up almost immediately when meeting new people here. I’m not surprised, LA is the epicentre of entertainment. But I have to admit, when I’m at a party and stumble upon people with “regular” jobs, it’s almost a relief.

My husband and I moved here for every other possible cliché you can think of. To escape the dismal Canadian winters, for a new adventure, a change of scenery. To do what most people wait until retirement to do – spend our savings on living our dream now, while we’re young(ish). Despite my “regular” job and my pure intentions of enjoying the spoils of an eternal summer, it doesn’t disguise the fact that I’m plugging away at screenwriting in my spare time. *Insert eye roll here*

I didn’t move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. But, I happen to love film so it’s not so bad living in the epicentre of entertainment. Moreover, I’m fascinated by the art of creating a script. Stringing words and dialogue together to make people feel something, whether it’s inspired or angry or balling hysterically into a box of popcorn. Film is one of the most powerful communication vehicles in the world. Why wouldn’t I want to take a crack at it, even if nothing ever comes of it?

I’m a big proponent of creating things, even if no one ever sees it. It’s still an outlet. The act of being creative can be a reward in itself, if you train your ego to give you the freedom to enjoy it.

This has always been my mantra. There’s no reason why you can’t lead a creative life, just because you don’t make a living from being creative. Which is why my best friend – a singer who has struggled to find balance between his creativity and what he deems successful – recommended I read “Big Magic”, by Elizabeth Gilbert. *Insert second eye roll here*

I don’t have anything against Gibert, other than the fact that a popular book she wrote transformed Bali from a lesser-known island paradise I traveled in the 90s to a mecca for middle-aged women writing their own memoirs of divorce and enlightenment. I digress; I needed a fun read to get me through a flight from LA to New York a few weeks ago so I picked up her new book.

I was in town for the Tribeca Film Festival but also to soak in the energy of that grand old city and recharge my creative battery. Despite living in the epicentre of entertainment, LA can really suck ones inspiration dry. The beautiful weather we moved here for is an inconvenient distraction. How could I spend a Saturday inside with my laptop when I could be frolicking at the beach? I’ve heard people joke about how New York is where you go to write and LA is where you go to pitch your script. I’m starting to get that now.

I was halfway through a screenplay that, in large part, takes place in New York. Set in the 1960s amidst some of the most iconic locales of that era, I needed to physically be there to be sure I was getting it right. How can you write about Hotel Chelsea if you haven’t loitered in its lobby, taunted its ghosts or stood below it’s failing façade, held up by precarious scaffolding? How can you describe an afternoon in Gramercy Park if you haven’t lingered by its gate, hoping to sneak in behind a kind key holder? I appreciate not all screenwriters have the means to travel to locations where their story takes place just to soak it all in, but I guess that’s one of the perks of having a “regular” job.

Back to Gilbert’s book, I was at a place in my script where I needed a spark to get the thing done and one section really kicked me in the ass. The theory that ideas float around the universe until they land on a human being they can confidently collaborate with; a channel to transform them from idea to physical thing. And if the human doesn’t act, it will eventually float away until it can find another person to collaborate with. I realize we’re edging on mysticism here, but she had real life examples to back up her theory plus who cares what or who ignites a creative spark in you. Hold on tight and go with it, people!

I’m close to completing the first draft. Whether it was New York, Elizabeth Gilbert or the universe giving me a break, I’m not sure. But sometimes your creativity needs to be confronted. Sometimes you need to shake things up to shake out your story. Sometimes you need to get the hell out of LA, instead of letting an idea passively slip away while you lounge poolside posting Instagram pics.

One morning while I was in New York I was walking over the Brooklyn Bridge when two ladies behind me mentioned Vancouver. Excited to hear some Canadian accents I immediately struck up a conversation, declaring I too was from Vancouver but currently living in Los Angeles. One of the women asked me if I was an important actress they should know about. Immediately I replied god no, I have nothing to do with the film industry. Not yet, anyway.

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Giving LA Foster Youth A Sense of Home

When my husband and I decided to move to Los Angeles last spring, I distinctly remember a colleague of mine asking why we would want to live there. LA, as he put it, was the loneliest city in the world. From the moment we settled on Venice as our new home base, I’ve found the city to be quite the opposite, more inclusive and friendly than I ever imagined.

It wasn’t long before we knew most of our neighbors, something completely foreign to us, despite coming from a high-density city in Canada. We immediately hit it off with one of our neighbors in particular, after frequent run-ins at our communal barbecue. Before long we learned of the not-for-profit organization she and her partner have been building for the past year and decided to volunteer. In part, to meet new people and expand our network, but also because we were inspired by what they were doing.

That organization is A Sense of Home, a movement that sparked organically when co-founder Georgie Smith reached out to her network of friends to help a foster youth who was struggling to set up his first home. After posting his story on her Facebook page, donations began to pour in and before long his home was outfitted with everything he needed along with the knowledge that people really cared. Strangers, folks he had never met before, came together to ensure his first steps into adulthood were met with the love and support necessary to succeed.

Today, their goal is to change the lives of foster youth who have “aged out” of the foster care system by creating homes for them. Using donated furniture and housewares; volunteers work with these young people to help them realize their own sense of home – often for the first time, in the process, helping them achieve self-sufficiency.

When I think back to when I first moved out on my own, away from the comforts of my childhood home, I wasn’t sent out into the world with little more than some clothing and a few personal effects. Furniture, linens, useful hand-me-downs among other items were at my disposal to help me establish my first home of my own. Things that may not seem like a big deal to those of us who were fortunate to have had this support, but crucial to someone starting out with little to no resources. Crucial to a young persons sense of self and dignity. It’s not enough to have a roof over your head if the space inside is cold and unliveable.

In Los Angeles County alone, there are 35,000 youth in foster care right now. At age 18 or 21, state and federal support abruptly ends and the youth who aren’t adopted are ejected out of the foster system, many without the support of family or any community networks to help them make a successful transition into adulthood.

Which is why the work A Sense of Home is doing is so impactful. Many of these young people are smart, driven, kind and articulate, determined to lead fulfilling, productive lives. Something as simple as the kindness of strangers getting together to set up their first pad can go a long way in helping these kids realize their potential.

We volunteered on a blustery Sunday in South Central. The subject was a young woman in her early 20s, warm and gracious, greeting volunteers as they arrived.

The fourplex she calls home has an ancient fig tree towering overtop, peppering the sidewalk with overripe fruit. Despite the sticky residue left as a result of this beautiful but inconvenient vegetation, it seemed quaint. Idyllic even. Until we stepped inside to discover how sparse the furnishings were. Nothing more than a single bed pushed into one corner and a small table with one chair.

Before long, the front walk was lined with volunteers organizing and dusting off furniture, which would be placed according to a pre-determined floor plan mapped out by Smith and her team. Everything from large pieces of furniture to dishes, bedding and beautiful cut flowers, each piece placed with thoughtful and careful consideration.

The amount of people who showed up to help and the level of their enthusiasm were overwhelming, as I watched this young woman’s home come to life while (admittedly) struggling to install a curtain rod. It was clear to me, though, that this was more than just creating a home. It was evidence that people in the community cared. Really, it was an expression of love.

I’m grateful to be living alongside such wonderful people. This big, bad city isn’t at all lonely or uncaring as my colleague framed it. From what I’ve seen so far from our sleepy street in Venice, LA is a town full a generous people who are quietly and selflessly spreading kindness among those who need it most.

Originally published in the Huffington Post.

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Live Music in LA

When we decided to set up shop in Los Angeles, we narrowed it down to two of our favorite neighbourhoods: Venice and West Hollywood. Venice for the artsy, hippie, bohemian, and inspired beach bum lifestyle. WeHo for the energy, excitement, grit and garish atmosphere.

When I tell people in Venice that we nearly landed in Hollywood, they cringe and question how we could ever consider living somewhere as loud and busy as WeHo. Truth is, I’ve got it bad for the gigs. Live music is what made me fall in love with LA, and most of our favorite venues happen to sit in the shadows of the Hollywood Hills.

My groupie tendencies and love of music are what inspired the name of this blog, actually. Sure, LA is famous for the film industry and I’m equally as passionate about that art form. But the bands that were formed here and the music that is inspired by this crazy town seduce me to no end.

Los Angeles is a relentless temptress. Being the nine-to-fiver that I am, it’s hard to hit the town on school nights, but I can’t help myself. Once I’m there breathing in the stench of LA’s late night underbelly, it’s hard to get me home. I realize that doesn’t sound too enticing, but I’m telling you, this city has pheromones.

Over the past several months, my husband (fellow groupie) and I started keeping track of our favorite venues and began listing all the places we want to go next. So far, I’d have to say the Troubadour is my favorite and my husband is partial to the Greek but here’s our ever-expanding list and what we’ve scratched off so far:

Hollywood Bowl
Greek Theatre
The Fonda Theater
Hollywood Palladium
El Rey Theatre
The Echo
Teragram Ballroom
Whisky a-Go-Go
Hotel Café
Roxy Theatre
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The Del Monte Speakeasy
The Orpheum
Basement Tavern
Grammy Museum
Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
The Observatory
The Forum
Troubadour
Echoplex
The Getty
The Mint
The Viper Room
The Shrine
House of Blues – Sunset Strip (now closed)
Club Nokia
Santa Monica Pier
The Regent Theater
The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Pappy & Harriet’s
Bootleg Theater
The Wiltern
Belasco Theater

Before catching a show at the Whisky last week, we had dinner at the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Although I’m about 50 years too late to the party, the place still had an eerie vibe to it and apparently hasn’t changed much over the past several decades. While we were there, hiding in a corner table surrounded by gold records and other precious memorabilia, an older gentleman began telling patrons stories about the old days. How Sinatra would sit and chain smoke and drink for hours with his friends and how Zeppelin would receive blowjobs under the tables from forthcoming groupies. He also shared the “true story” of how Marilyn Monroe, another star who frequented the place, was murdered by the US government and how the hit man who carried out the deed was brutally murdered somewhere in Florida to abolish all evidence. Thank god some of these people are still around to tell these torrid tales.

I love this list of the 50 best music venues in LA from LA Weekly, which has become our cultural bible since moving here.

What am I missing? Is there another music venue I need to add to my list?

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Northeast Party House

The smell as you enter the dark and dingy confines of the Echoplex can only be described as a mix of latex, lager and the blood, sweat and tears that have be shed on its well trodden stage. A venue with a reputation for launching the careers of LA-based bands like Foster the People and The Airborne Toxic Event, the place feels a little haunted by rock star souls of the past. Which is why it’s kind of appropriate that we walked in right as Aussie band Northeast Party House was ripping into a song of the same name, as part of the Culture Collide music festival.

I bought tickets specifically to see Kiwi electro-pop rocker Ladyhawke – who I’ve been following and grooving to for years – but when Northeast Party House hit the stage before her set, I was glad I got there early.

Six handsome lads hailing from Melbourne, on their first tour oversees, it was obvious they were excited to be playing for an international audience. New to the game, however, they were not, blowing up the space with testosterone-driven stage antics, they knew they had earned the right to be there. Their set was tight! And loud. And fucking brilliant.

They reminded me a bit of Blur circa the Blur album, but more up beat. At times you could have sworn Trent Reznor was onstage with them, churning out weird and wonderful sounds as lead singer Zach Hamilton-Reeves went borderline ballistic. Mitch Ansell was insanely good on lead guitar, launching into “Enter Sandman” for a few riffs. I’m pretty certain my husband and I were some of the only spectators to catch on, given the sea of millennial-aged hipsters surrounding us.

Funk rock with pop hooks and a beat you can dance to, but a sound that will blow your hair back. These guys are ones to watch.

Their album Any Given Weekend is available on iTunes. The band plays The Echo in LA this afternoon and then heads to New York for the next leg of their tour. Follow their updates here.

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DTLA Arts District

Downtown Los Angeles is not what is used to be – in a good way. The first time I visited DTLA was during a business trip nearly 15 years ago and I thought the place looked post-apocalyptic. As soon as business was done for the day and the banks closed their doors, it was all crickets and tumbleweeds. You could strut down the centerline of just about any side street and barely see another soul. Nothing was happening downtown other than whatever concert or sporting event was taking place at Staples Centre, now part of the LA Live monster-plex.

Hipsters had not migrated into the gritty area yet, igniting a demand for locally brewed coffee and craft beer. Very few people lived there, and even today the population of actual residents is said to be 50,000. Aside from some grand old theatres, downtown didn’t seem to offer much to tourists with dreams of Hollywood and stars in their eyes. What a difference a decade makes.

Strolling, eating and drinking your way along downtown’s eclectic streets today is mandatory when spending time in LA. But if you only have one day or afternoon to do it, head straight to the Arts District.

First, let me preface this with a safety precaution. Don’t walk there. Depending on which direction you’re traveling from, you could encounter some unpleasant streets. I thought it might be “fun” to walk from the 7th Street Metro Station across town, through the Fashion District. What I didn’t plan for was walking straight through Skid Row. I’ve gotten myself into some sticky situations while traveling over the years, but the dire situation in this part of town is not to be underestimated. My husband was actually prepared to smash his iPhone to use a weapon (in manner of Jason Bourne) if someone tried to mug the silly Canadians traipsing right through tent city. After many eerie empty lots, we finally turned a corner and spotted a bearded man spray-painting an art installation and thank fuck, we knew we had made it.

We rested our weary – and sweaty – souls in a shady alley alongside the Daily Dose café. From one block to another we were transported into a different world, suddenly surrounded by artists and creatives. I’ve never wanted to hug a hipster so hard in my life. The locally sourced food and fresh pressed juices were phenomenal and the vibe is super chill. Ivy has completely taken over the beautiful old brick walls and the garden-like setting is adorned with crystal chandeliers.

With our bearings intact we set out to explore this emerging community sprouting up from what was once mostly abandoned warehouses and industrial factories. Newly converted lofts, movie lots and bougainvillea-lined streets give the feeling of a new era, while still maintaining some street cred.

Stumptown Coffee has a café on Santa Fe and 7th and patrons can peer right into their roasting room to see their beans being churned up close. We grabbed a couple of iced Americanos and traveled east down 7th across the bridge over the Los Angeles River for a stark reminder of California’s never-ending drought. Then we spent the afternoon searching for street art and murals we had seen spattered across Instagram.

Unexpectedly, we spotted a massive wine shop so I had to take a peek. Silver Lake Wine carries an impressive selection of wines from California and all over the world. They had recently opened when we visited and were still getting set up, but weekly tastings and private parties are now available.

Plenty of shops and quality boutiques are popping up in this neighorhood as well. If you’re in the market for some handcrafted pieces for your home or wardrobe – and have a bit of cash to burn – check out Guerilla Atelier or Poketo for something truly unique.

If you linger long enough into the dinner hour, snag a table at Bestia, one of LA’s most talked about eateries, for an Italian feast you won’t soon forget. The husband and wife team behind the award-winning menu have created something really special in this part of town.

There’s so much more to explore in the Arts District, heading north towards Little Tokyo and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). But it’s easy to get stuck on a charming side street and people watch the afternoon away.

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Viva Venice

Three years ago, I was in San Diego on business and decided to extend my stay in SoCal to meet my husband for the weekend in Los Angeles. We settled on Venice, having never spent much time there before. I remember very distinctly sitting on the patio of a Mexican restaurant on Washington Boulevard, waiting for my husband and fantasizing about what it would be like to live there.

The breeze was constant, the temperature was perfect and the vibe was friendly. Neighbourly. And peaceful. Like stumbling upon a tropical oasis in the middle of an arid desert, Venice seemed like a tight-knit community tucked away in the chaos of LA County.

After a few more subsequent trips south, we find ourselves back in Venice to soak up the warmth and the weirdoes. The nouveau bohemians and the Jim Morrison tribute bands. Aspiring artists and American-made treasures ­– vintage, reworked or made new. Musicians seeking a new scene or experience to draw inspiration from. Writers, like me, in sidewalk cafés lingering long after their americanos are finished.

After surviving another long, wet winter on the west coast of Canada, every time I step outside here I breathe a sigh of relief. No socks, no umbrella, no bra. My suitcase was stuffed with only sandals, flowing dresses and kimonos, things I seem to accumulate like crazy despite the cooler climate of home.

We bike everywhere. Big rusty cruisers and no helmets, right alongside the bustling traffic heading to the beach. Something I’d never attempt at home, but all the locals do it, so somehow that makes it feel safe. You hear so many horror stories of traffic in LA, but not in Venice. Not if you do it right.

We’ve holed up in a quaint B’n’B hidden amidst sprawling bougainvillea and lemon trees. Our host has lived in the neighbourhood for 20 years and tells us how much the area has changed. Shortly after she took possession of the house, a teenager was shot and killed down the street. Venice 13 gang tags kept popping up on her fence and well-known hipster haven Abbot Kinney was nothing more than a few shops and dive bars. Balancing gentrification and the history and character that makes Venice so special is delicate business.

While some of Venice’s more iconic sights like Muscle Beach and the longstanding Freak Show will always draw a crowd, it’s the allure of the unexpected that pulls me in. The tropical flowers that grow in every nook and cranny of every side street. Designer pop-up shops in parking lots (I scored a dress and kimono by Mumu yesterday). Masterful murals adorning doorways and alleyways while skaters fly by on their longboards. The charm never seems to fade.

Maybe it’s just a honeymoon phase. Maybe there are dangers and nuisances the locals are concealing. But from where I sit on this breezy backyard patio just off of Abbot Kinney, the fantasy continues.

Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams,
Telling myself it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.

– Going to California, Led Zepplin

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