Stepping into Transcend Venice’s bungalow-style apartments, you might think you were stepping into an artist’s collective. Natural light soaks the main room and a slight breeze carrying the scent of the ocean wafts slowly in and out with the tide. A set of three Basqiuat-inspired skateboards hangs on the wall and a bongo drum sits next to an acoustic guitar in the corner. One suspects that the people who live here find it peaceful, that perhaps they have escaped the chaos of city life for something different in this artist’s enclave by the Pacific that is Venice Beach.
The air itself seems calmer and the sun a little warmer than further inland, back in Los Angeles proper. Mike Malone, the young, silver-haired Program Director here at the Venice Beach house, believes the location enriches sobriety, and that the pacific vibes in Venice aid in the process of creating a new and lasting harmony for people working to get and stay sober. This house, separated from the iconic beach by a decorative bamboo fence and only a few steps from the sand, is embracing the surrounding area by connecting with the Venice community in its mission.
“We’re working toward creating healthy engagement with the community around us,” Mike tells me. “The difference here is the location. It’s a healing place.” It feels as though things move at a different tempo here, and not necessarily slower. As I tour the house, I find a client sitting down at a table in the kitchen, textbooks spread out in front of him. A staff member sits on the couch writing. It’s about two o’clock in the afternoon and the large television is off.
The client explains to me that the Venice Beach house’s clients benefit from its unique location, and the access they have to the vast, eclectic assemblage of art, food, and culture that Venice offers. The experience of living right in the thumping heart of it all fosters an attitude of connection. He tells me that people here are actively engaged, they move around and in their forward motion, they find their grooves in sobriety. This makes perfect sense.
Being in recovery myself, I know how crucial it is to stay active in early sobriety, how all that empty space in the day needs to be filled with constructive, affirming undertakings. These guys are motivated to do just that. These young men are working toward creating a rhythm for themselves, in Venice Beach and in their sobriety. Mike takes me upstairs to see the rooftop deck.
The panoramic view is spectacular, the ocean appearing to come right up to my chin. A few benches and some cushioned chairs are spread out beneath a space heater, and a well-used barbecue sits on the side of the deck. Mike leans out over the horizon and points, “Some of the best surf breaks in the world are down there.”
Beyond the beach itself, there is the constant humming energy of the famous boardwalk. Muscle beach is down there, among the other landmarks.
If an actual California dream existed in some particular location, it would probably be this, right here. The sun, the beach, the skate- and surfboards, the art, and the healthy, enlightened progress that Venice Beach embodies is as close to that California ideal as anything. Transcend’s Venice Beach house seeks to be a part of that essential radical ambition toward the improvement of community through the betterment of self.
Transcend Venice offers those in recovery what Mike refers to several times throughout our conversation as, “Holistic healing.” The whole person is guided toward a new way of seeing, and subsequently, living life. The positive atmosphere in Venice Beach is one element of that grand reimagining of self that is recovery, and it looks like that approach is working.