In Memory of Dr. John Michel

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  • Dear Doctor John – Arturo
  • I have known Dr. John for 17 years – Catherine Andrews
  • Dr. John has left us – Enyaj and family
  • Peace and Love – Linda Lu
  • Dr. John’s Memorial Service – Erica Snowlake
  • I first met Dr. John when I moved to Venice – Christopher Stevens

Dear Doctor John

How we miss you so

Your song for Peace and laughter

Echo far now as you go….

Venice lost an elder

A voice for justice and peace

Who will now carry your flag?

Who will stand up to the powers that be?

How often we took you for granted

Such comfort knowing you were there

Fighting for our rights,

Helping people in need…

A reminder of why we should care.

Now you are onto your next journey

Where peace and love abound

Free from all that ailed you

While defending Venice ground.

The Prayer for Peace will be your legacy

Wherever people gather as One

We will miss you Dr. John…

May you dance forever in the Sun.

Love & Light,

–Arturo

———–

I have known Dr. John for 17 years and he has always been good-hearted, happy, cheerful, and ready to help anyone who needed it.  He was a true gentleman, polite and caring, even under the most extreme circumstance. I have for years given him prints and cards of my art to make money for the homeless.

Dr. John stayed with my family as I was going through a 5-year horrendous divorce. He was there, providing counseling and helping me take care of my 3 young children. He would have fun and laugh with us, such a kindly Gentleman.

This last winter was hard for him; he’d call and tell me,” I’ve just had my sleeping bag stolen again”. He would be out in the rain, lying in the street, unable to get up because of his back and his heart failing. He would ask for help from people taking photographs of him lying there, and they would just walk on.

I told Dr. John about 3 weeks ago, “Dr. John, you will no longer be homeless.” The Saint Joseph Center in Venice had made arrangements for him to have his own place in the Horizon Building in Venice. This was befitting to someone who had worked so hard for the cause of the homeless for so many years without any benefit or acknowledgement from society.

Just before he was finally able to have his own little home, after 40 years of being the front line helper, his heart failed him. God had called him home!

No one sees or knows the quiet passing of those who live in small social circles. They are rarely recognized for the charity or philanthropy work they participate in. For helping the homeless, the hungry, or those no one else could reach, Dr. John Michel will always be remembered by those who live in Venice Beach. He is Someone who truly listened to your heart, who made an attempt to help you heal, Someone who got food for you if you were hungry, and Someone who loved you no matter what!!!!! This is everything Dr. John Michel stood for. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could be something like him?

–Catherine Andrews

———–

Dr. John has left us. Although his health was fragile, everyone is shocked. He was such an icon, you expected to see him forever.  He lived these streets with constant police harassment, often the joke of the media, for over 20 years.  He fought with his life to feed and clothe the homeless, petitioned for Venice Cityhood, and championed to have teachers paid what they deserve. He was stubborn and a tad naive, but he was genuine and original and he really helped a lot of people, more than he provoked.  He recently won a trial and had his case overturned for sleeping in a vehicle in Venice,

a vehicle he fed and clothed the homeless from.

I remember arriving on this beach over two decades ago.  My boyfriend and I were so fresh and optimistic we were deemed “HanSal and GreTal” with a Rastafarian spin, by Sunny Zorro, the King of Venice, and Reggae star Micheal Trevor added the “spin.” These late 80’s/early 90’s were amazing times for Venice. Dr. John freely gave out spirulina and bee pollen to the homeless, until the police stole cases of his stuff, never to be returned. I’ve seen him continually harassed by the police. I watched Officer Skinner purposely step on his thick glasses (he’ll love that I named her), and ‘Putz-Man”,

(now he’s laughing his great gawfaw), push him around while he needed a staff to hold him up.  I’ve seen him harassed  enough to be in need of a wheel chair, only to rise up again and dance freely in the drum circle again, with his characteristic long, grey flowing hair, loving the Venice breeze of freedom.

With so much soul lost on the streets this past decade, and even less to buy with your dollars, Dr. John had a hard battle. Apathy is a heavy fog to lift. He fought his dandiest, with the spunk and conviction that characterized a man  from the ’60’s era, calmly enduring the mockery of those who had long forgotten what conviction and individuality meant. When he left this planet, he lay in the comforts of a bed, with his son by his side, on the Mayan day of the Cosmic Wizard. He had a perfect send-off. I now wish in my heart, that those of us who loved him, will continue his good work with his sense of conviction into the future. People such as he, Sonny Zorro, Gail, David, HanSal and GreTal, Adrian Prober, Milton, the two J.C.’s; these are Venice legends that need to be preserved. They are as important as Chaplin and Morrison for our local history. They are charming and warming originals, inspiring tales that need to fly from our  hearts and onto the page, the canvas, the wall, the film.

Now my tears come, so I stop,

All my love to you dear dreamer,

Enyaj and family

———–

Even though Dr. John had very little material wealth while he was with us on the beach – he had more spirituality than most of us will ever achieve before we leave the planet.

Peace and Love from Linda Lu

Drum Ceremony for Dr. John!

with Ibrahim and friends

Saturday April 3rd 11 a.m.

in front of the Venice Bistro/Dudley Ave.

Check out the July 2006 Beachhead, page 6,

online for a rousing Interview with

Dr. John Michel.

www.freevenice.org/Beachhead/July2006/July2006.html

————

Dr. John’s Memorial Service

Loving friends and family attended Dr. John’s Memorial Saturday March 27th at the Vera Davis Center.

Stories of first meeting him and knowing him over the years were shared amid folks enjoying a bountiful feast (including Nice Cream!) and dancing. We played pass the Flag, reminiscing while upholding Dr. J’s famous talking stick. His son Justice was on hand to carry forth his father’s proud tradition. Lois Webb and Vicki Landers, directors of the Center’s tech support team, spoke of the magical way in which Dr. John traveled full circle in their lives, having housed them in the eighties when they were Venice street kids to spending his last days in their home. Catherine Andrews brought several of her visionary paintings, and gifted cards of Dr. John’s favorite, entitled The Ascension, to remember him by. Bo recalled some of his happiest days in the late eighties leading Tent City by the Pavilion on Venice Beach. Our troubadour minstrel Brother, along with Mary Geitlein, Enyaj and daughter Sabina, sang protest, sixties, and original tunes, while others beat African drums. It was a happy occasion, befitting the Gentle Giant who inspired us with his unique Joy and One-Man Revolution. Dr. John! We see you smiling, rising in the Rainbow Light!

–Erica Snowlake

————-

I first met Dr. John when I moved to Venice a few years ago. I was fortunate to have a nice place to stay near the beach. The woman I worked for who owned the place I stayed at was a friend of Dr. John’s for many years and she would invite him over and let him stay at the house on occasions. At first, he struck me as man with a big heart and a strong spirit. It was also quickly apparent that he was fighter. He was constantly protesting injustices in his community, country and the world at large. When he wasn’t doing this, he was busy helping to provide food or clothing to other people in need, often in neglect of his own needs.

Luckily for me, when the unfortunate day came when I found myself homeless in Venice, Dr. John was the first familiar face I ran into. He of course shared what little food he had with me, and mixed he me up a drink of Spirulina, to get some vitamins in me. I was so appreciative of this, not just because I was so hungry, but because I was really glad to be with someone so kind and caring at that moment.

I was homeless in Venice for a year after that, and on many occasions was blessed to have been helped and fed by this kind man. I cherish the memories of the many bowls and conversations we shared.

From the countless souls whom you’ve helped and inspired, we love you man.

You were a warrior and a Saint.

~Christopher Stevens


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