This is going to be a little bit about language and a lot about instinct or feel or, please forgive me, groove. Musicians can use the word “groove” in a sentence and get away with it, often two or three times during one gig or recording session. But good luck to the rest of us. Watch out, Moms, if you think your brown bag school lunches have, of late, been in a good groove. Even if they have, you might think twice about saying it out loud.
The same might be true of “funky” and “cool.” “Cool” has been appropriated by advertising to the degree that it might as well be “new” or “improved.” Where you used to see packages with “new” color schemes, you now find a “cool new package!” Advertising has kept its hands off of “funky” because of the meaning that implies something has stank or has gone bad. Hence, no “funky cheddar potato chips,” but lots of “cool Ranch” chips.
Why am I driving the Wordmobile around the block like this? Because Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice was, for a sustained time, a little cool and a little funky. There were some pleasant low-key shops down there, some nice homey-simple food places, and a lot of mellow folks who, for the most part, were just hanging out.
There was a feeling, it had dimensions, and many might say you could find it in quantity during its annual street festival.
But I think that’s over. And if it’s not over in any official sense, it’s over in the sense that I can feel it’s over.
Abbot Kinney was still a little funky when we moved to Santa Monica about ten years ago. What generated that feeling? There were no chain retail stores, there was still some fuzz on and around the patrons, and while a lot of the antique and retro item places were clearly playing to the cool upscale, the street didn’t look like it was trying to do that.
Now it does. Now there are all kinds of new things on Abbot Kinney and the reason they have located there is because somebody told somebody else, “This is a cool location. And you have a cool business.” The minute you’re negotiating cool, you’re a baby step from branding. And branding is the death of cool. Not immediately, but the door is open. Look into that open door and you’ll see Napster, MTV, Vans… lying on shelves, frozen like ready-to-serve TV dinners.
But as I told you, this is about a feeling. Let me babble a bit more about that feeling. Pretend I’m your buddy who’s done a little too much… anything… and you’re just listening to my spew as a way to talk me down.
The feeling I get is that it’s all more serious now down on Abbot Kinney. People are seriously trying to launch a business or a brand and get something going in a big way. But for right now, they need some of that beautiful but rare element that can only be mined in certain places at certain times: Cool Credibility. And you can’t get that renting out a suite on Olympic Boulevard. Hint: There’s a few blocks of Sepulveda in Culver that might have it, but… I’d get over there this week.
People will say, “Duh, the rents are going up.” Yeah, well, that can be a barometer. But sometimes the funk and cool start evaporating way before that happens. The jacked-up rents are just the stamp certifying the change.
So, what does it matter? Maybe not at all. At a certain point, yours truly was funky and cool and when it went away, nobody wrote any essays. I think my mother was actually glad to see the change. I’m not quite sure when it happened. I think I was in a Gap store…
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) An LAPD motorcycle officer was seen
(a) chasing a motorcycle on sidewalks.
(b) heckling Eric Estrada.
(c) jumping a shark.
2) CA cities are attempting to stop
(a) naked break dancing.
(b) medical ‘pot’ clubs.
(c) that Burger King breakfast
3) Richard Riordan will support
(a) Robert Blake, for a few months.
(b) Antonio Villaraigosa.
(c) two cinderblocks on his chest.
1) (a) “Sidewalk, or moto-path?”
2) (b) “Killer Weed? Or…killer weed…”
3) (b) “I couldn’t get Hahn’s phone number…”