A Literary Homecoming

‘Fantasy by the Sea’ author Tom Moran returns to Venice to read new works in the place that inspired him to write

By Justin Chapman, The Argonaut, 3/13/2014

For author Tom Moran, taking the podium for a reading of his recent work on Friday at Beyond Baroque marks a long overdue homecoming.

Although Moran spent the majority of his life in Venice, he hasn’t been back in years and is looking forward to becoming reacquainted with the place that influenced and inspired so much of his writing.

Dubbed an evening of “true stories and tall tales from the not-that-distant past,” Moran’s reading will focus on recently penned creative nonfiction that is based on his personal experiences and has been published in literary journals including Stone Canoe, Brevity, Reed, Penumbra, and Rind.

“Venice, for some reason, captivated me,” said Moran, who now teaches professional writing at the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology. “When I lived there, the history and the past just seemed to live right alongside me.”

Moran “has a really dynamic way of telling the tale,” said Richard Modiano, director of Beyond Baroque.

He’s also a bit of a legend around Venice, where he lived until 1995 and wrote extensively about the community. In all, Moran has written 13 books, including “Fantasy by the Sea,” a photo history of Venice that was published by Beyond Baroque with a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

In 1972, Moran began a column for The Argonaut called “In Venice,” which covered local happenings, personalities and history. He later served as editor of Ocean Front Weekly, a paper that was also operated by Argonaut founder David Asper Johnson, and contributed articles to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, LA Weekly, Washington Post and Seattle Times.

Despite the rich history of the region, life in upstate New York hasn’t quite inspired Moran’s typewriter the same way Venice did, he said.

“Of course, upstate New York has a rich history, with Susan B. Anthony, the Erie Canal and all these things, but it just hasn’t reached out to me. I haven’t been enamored with it as I was with Venice history,” Moran said.

Currently on sabbatical, Moran recently spent time in Hawaii researching the archives of multi-media artist Tom Sewell (a collaborator on “Fantasy by the Sea”) for a book about Sewell’s life and work.

Moran is also working on a memoir about his own time in Venice.

The wealth of material for that book includes his stint as a community liaison for then-Los Angeles City Councilwoman Pat Russell, the first woman to serve as the council’s president.

Moran worked with Russell on airport ordinances, including aircraft noise regulations. He later wrote a book about the history of LAX, aptly titled “Los Angeles International Airport.”

“There was so much romance to those old pilots and their single-engine planes carrying the mail that seems so different from the mechanized cattle-moving that airports are today,” Moran said.

Moran also knows that Venice has become a different place than the one he left behind nearly 20 years ago and is eager to explore those changes.

“When I come back it will be a new sort of thing,” he said. “Of course it’s changed dramatically. It’s much more upscale, much livelier, much more crowded … [but] I think Venice is probably still a wonderful place to live. You’ve got the ocean and you’ve got a sense of community that has an awful lot of verve, if you will.”

Despite his extensive local history, this will be Moran’s first reading at Beyond Baroque.

“It will be very interesting for me to be at Beyond Baroque because they’re in that old Venice City Hall, and for many years my offices with Pat Russell were in that building,” Moran said. “It’ll be great fun to go back.”

Tom Moran reads at 8 p.m. Friday at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. $10. Call (310) 822-3006 or visit beyondbaroque.org.