As Venice inevitably develops, a preservation and sense of reverence towards its rebellious spirit remains a priority for other business owners and residents.
The view from inside The Love Dome shows an entirely different Venice—one infused with a latent spiritual energy bubbling beneath the earth’s crust. The owner, Zoe Soleil, might be tapping into the area’s intrinsic Prana, its life-force, with her “extremely anti-corporate” studio philosophy. She charges only $25 an hour for studio rentals for “Workshops on tantric blowjobs, tea parties, and LA’s only weekly cuddle party.” A door in the back marked Employees Only hides a secret room of mystic plants and rare medicinal herbs she uses to brew her Super Love Blends—glass jars jam-packed with a formidable list of ingredients. She’s an intuitive healer in addition to being an entrepreneur who flipped the studio from its car radio repair shop origins without displacing the former owner from the neighborhood. Every dollar of her rent goes to the Venice Community Housing Corporation, a non-profit which “provides transitional housing for recovering addicts, broken families, and battered women.” She recounts a friend coming to her to ask whether renting a nearby storefront for $7000 a month was the going rate for the area. “I just got really quiet,” she laughs. “This was the last little neighborhood on the Westside that didn’t just crazy blow up.”
Nostalgia for a pre-gentrified Venice still lingers in the air the way the smell of fresh baked bread and cappuccino muffins used to on Sunday mornings by the old Pioneer Bakery on Rose. Today no trace of its shabby white gate and Western signage remains—the chubby old ladies with plastic shower caps weighing crackling loaves have been replaced by yogis and a new gluten-free Venice icon—Café Gratitude. Across the street above the trendy Superba Snackbar, a large ominous type reads “SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND TERRIFYING AT THE SAME TIME, LIKE NATURE ITSELF.” It blazes across the eyes of tourists and locals with the ferocity of an omen, the ambiguity of hope. It is a quote attributed to no one, unsearchable. If Venice was a woman, this is how they would talk about her; a seducer and a destroyer. On this last outlying street before Santa Monica, the farthest point in Venice from the canals yet the only street shored up against the circling swarms of corporations and developers ready to eat the city alive, Venice peers from the rooftops of the bustling restaurants, the blades of grass in the few undeveloped plots of land. She is beautiful, with tiny candles flickering through the tall glass windows of expensive bars. She is also terrifying: a carnival town of ghosts and poverty, where dark secrets stay forever.