Lost and Found on Washington Blvd.

January 2, 2017

Lost art led me to find new art, when a Christmas gift from my father by my mother via Birmingham in the UK got lost in the post and forced me out to track it down. In the course of looking, I discovered another of my neighborhood’s hidden gems.

badly-addressed

My Ma’s handwriting is legendary – few people can decipher it. I now understand why this letter wound up addressed to Jean Bowen, and had to be forcibly retrieved by hand.

The letter led me south-west on Washington Blvd into West Adams, where I’ve wandered a few times before, but not as far. It seemed to be just a series of shops for used kitchen fittings. But there is more, there. In fact, the post office where my parcel was being held is the only US post office I know of rated more than 2 Stars on Yelp. It’s got a real community feel, and everybody was amazingly friendly.

calendar

Every day, I’m reminded of or discover new art. Thanks Dad.

So I got the calendar, but I also, accidentally, got a whole lot more.

persimmon-sexy

I found this amazing persimmon, which I think you’ll agree as my friend Alicia says: “Manages to look like about four giggly things at once”. Another shopper nearby me saw me laughing and requested a photo of her own to show her husband.

americana-liquor-store

Then was wandering home, and this Liquor Store caught my eye. It would make a great period film location. Notice the sign in the window on the right, advertising “OUT OF TOWN NEWSPAPERS”, which dates it pre-internet, or at least pre-smartphone.

graffitti-sell-your-work

This sign is what led me inside. It made me wonder: Who does own graffiti – and could the owner or tenant of the wall claim they do?

I wandered inside, and found the otherwise unlabeled “UNDERGROUND MUSEUM” on Washington Blvd.

noah-wallpaper-lynching

Pretty, chintzy even, wallpaper, Laura Ashley style… until you look closer, and see that it’s repeated images of a lynching.

noah-hoodie

“In the Hood” by David Hammons (2016), also part of the Non-Fiction exhibit curated by Noah Davis.

noah-back-garden

The surprise back garden, where there’s space to work, and in summer, a film screening series.

The area where I live (Arlington Heights / West Adams) is often dismissed as “The Ghetto” or “The Hood” in yelp reviews of places Jonathan Gold went to first, making them safe for the middle classes to explore and briefly over-run.  Most people I meet in White LA seem worried about me when I say I live here, or say in that quintessentially LA-Snob way “Oh really… I think I’ve heard of it. How IS that?” An ex-boyfriend once referred to it as a “bad area”, (because why? Because poor / immigrant / black people are dangerous?) and refused to walk two blocks to a restaurant at night with me. Poor baby…

But I’ve fallen in love with it, and more and more I find there’s much more to it than I ever imagined. And it’s not like it’s just arrived, either. The Underground has been there since 2012.

Be kinder to strangers for Christmas, or whatever you celebrate, or just because!

December 13, 2016

You don’t know what they’re going through.

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 10.25.21 PM.png

The Holidays are hard for me. No Family in Town – or the Country. It’s Christmas. It’s Hanukah (and my very recent Ex-Fiance is Jewish, so I’m attached to that too). It’s New Year’s. It’s winter, and it’s summer at home.

Most of my US friends are headed to Thailand for a wedding over Christmas, which I can’t attend because I can’t travel on my visa and come back. Also, I just got an email from my biggest income source to say they’re closing in three days for the holidays. What holidays? Freelancers like me don’t have holidays…

Or income, until Jan 2nd, Apparently.

So I nearly didn’t drive the 45 minutes to my friend’s birthday party, but then I did, because I figured I at least had gas. On the way, I listened to a compilation CD my friend Carrie made me. It was called “relaxation”, but it was really sad. This was comforting. In my sudden downswing, anyhow.

And then I saw that orange light: GAS. Running out. Shit. Traffic. Shit. After struggling for a couple of miles, I hoped I had enough in my debit account to feed my tank. I began to change lanes near the first gas station I saw.

That’s when SHE rolled down her window.

She was an ordinary, middle-class white woman in a new Beatle. I could see exactly what she wanted to do (make a left turn into her street). But I was trapped between cars at this point, and not, I have to add, in a “keep clear” area. Just you know… changing lanes…

I rolled down my window too and shouted: “Sorry, I can’t move”

“You selfish bitch!” she replied

I replied: “Okay, have a nice day”, in the snarky way we do when someone road rages for no reason, and began to roll up my window, but she was still screaming, so I succumbed to curiosity. Oh, curiosity. It’s a killer.

“Some of us are trying to turn, and you’re just SITTING there”, she said. I considered calling a helicopter to airlift me out, but hey, I can barely afford gas. I noticed the disabled sticker on her orange Beatle (the new kind).

“I don’t think it’s such a big deal, and I can’t move right now. I have to get gas, I just ran out” I said, still trying to reason with her, but not nicely. “Please, don’t be awful. I’ve had a long day and so have you.”

She looked me dead in the eye, paused and said:

“CUNT”. I rolled my window down and waited for traffic to move so I could get out of her way. But as I moved off, I began to cry, about a whole bunch of stuff.

I made it the 800ft to the Gas Station. $20 left. Thank goodness.

I wasn’t nice, in that situation.

I know that. I was annoyed that she was objecting to me doing something that wasn’t aimed at her, so I snarked her, knowing that saying “Have a nice day” would be like telling an upset person to “calm down” – the worst thing to say. Superior. Judgmental. Cruel, even.

I thought, as I drove off sadly, about how she had no idea what happened in my day, and about how I had no idea what happened in her day – or her year. Maybe this is the year her legs stopped working. Maybe today her husband (or wife) left her. Maybe that disabled sticker is for her kid. Maybe it’s fake. Maybe she doesn’t think about it anymore, and she’s just having some kind of hormonal issues. It doesn’t matter – she needed kindness, not my judgment.

I’m going to be nicer, next time. I promise. At this time of year, we all should try a lot harder – not cause we’re religious (I’m not) – but because the festive season is a marker in life, a time of year when all kinds of crises, past and present, come into focus for all of us.

End of sermon.

So I have no words, only pictures.

December 8, 2016
That's me and my friend Carrie.

That’s me and my friend Carrie on Nov 8. After high high hopes, this is how it ended.

trumpvehicle

I got stuck behind this thing on the 110 the day after.

morningaftergraffiti

Actually only found this the day after Thanksgiving. But I suspect someone edited it more recently.

donaldfuckedhillary

Near my yoga studio.

dad-sent-me-this

My father sent me this the day after the results came in.

the-night-before

Erin made this cake, and we didn’t finish it, so I guess that’s why Trump won. America sucks – sometimes.

Day to Day, America is the same, though. For now. That’s weird.

 

Trump. America’s Hitler.

September 23, 2016

Yet it seems like there’s no stopping this guy, when hipsters and entitled white dicks persist in fighting inevitable choices, and refuse to play the politics long game. I’m writing about this for my News24 column, called STOP IT, AMERICA!

So, a few of my favorite sign language Trumpisms, mostly related to his Hollywood star, since that’s in my hood. Gotta credit this link for the last two.

1-trumpstar

STFU. We wish.

2-trump

Hasty swastika

3-trump

My favorite. A wall. Not high enough.

5-trump

I don’t know. This might work. Americans do love animals more than most people… except the ones they eat. What’s with that?!

911 15 years later, and I cried

September 12, 2016

What did watching a stage play telling the story of 911 in the voices of survivors and volunteers teach me? This: People are not numbers. People are not countries. Every life is special, every life is a story, and so every life should be treasured.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-11-30-20-pm

I’m sharing this because I believe my story – my perceptions of the event – have things to teach both Americans and people all over the world something about how to see it.

So, here goes.

When I first saw 911 go down on CNN, live on TV in my office at 24.com in Cape Town, South Africa (we were in Parow then) I didn’t get how it was going to change the world. If I’m honest, I didn’t get it was going to ruin the world.

There was something thrilling about it. Sort of like how I think the crazy 50% of Republican voters (and a few Bernie bros) feel about Trump: What could be worse than what we have now? Let’s shake it up man! David and Goliath!

Don’t trust that feeling. I shouldn’t have. I am shamed by it today.

No, thousands of people dying is not nothing, but it does happen, all the time, all over the world, and America often doesn’t care. So at the time, I didn’t understand why I should care, when it happened to them. After all, they still hadn’t apologized for killing millions of Japanese people, when they dropped atomic bombs on Japan to scare Russia. (Still haven’t).

Yes. People are not numbers. People are not countries. Every life is special, every life is a story, and so every life should be treasured.

Back to my story. I was South African then. I still am, but then, my identity was more firmly part of a world in which America was the asshole boss that you hated when they bossed you around, but smiled at when they bought you ice cream (or movies, mostly, in this example). America had not yet taken Nelson Mandela off the terrorist watchlist.

The point is, Americans themselves weren’t the enemy. I’ve always been a passionate liberal, which means negotiation, negotiation, marches, protests… and a few tantrums. But Americans weren’t special to me. Why should they be? American deaths weren’t (and still are not) more tragic to me than those of Rwandans, Afgans, Nigerians, South Americans, Syrians, or any other casualties over the years of the thirst for oil (or the lack thereof), or the economic colonialism disguised as patriotism, or the blundering of prideful wars, however well intentioned they may be to the brave veterans who fight them.

So 2000-odd Americans died, and I thought it was terrible, but I didn’t realise how terrible it was, because I didn’t realise what would happen as a result, and I didn’t realise how I’d feel about it now, 15 years later.

The first consequence I didn’t forsee was that afternoon was that Bush, in his megalomania, would ensure that thousands more Americans would follow, and that, more importantly, the entire middle east would be wracked with extremism in response to America’s gung ho vengeance.  I didn’t realise the terrible prejudice against Muslims that would alienate many in the middle, and put my own country on yet more watchlists. I didn’t realise that, for months and years afterwards, discussing the topic, or questioning the US war on terror, would be seem treasonable – or pro-terrorist.

That night, I was in a bar, and the owners were film carpenters who’d moved to Cape Town, and ran a cool scene in the winter off season (this is before they built the massive studios in Khayalitsha, so big and so state of the art, that US effects films do a lot of their offshore work there). They said: “Don’t joke about this. This will ruin the world you know. America will strike back 100 fold.” They were right. America got Dubya re-elected with blood money, literally.

I also didn’t know then that I’d be sitting in a theater one day, weeping, for the first time ever at a live theater event. I tend to avoid drama. Bad drama is not only depressing, but embarrassing and boring. That over the top theater thing just makes me want to giggle. But this wasn’t that. Aside from one performance, I believed every moment of the 110 Stories told by great actors like Robert Forster, Elizabeth Greer, Nicki Micheaux, Mark Pellegrino, Emilio Rivera, Stelio Savante, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Diane Venora, Michael Welch and Brian White (Mira Sorvina replaced Elizabeth Greer on Sunday). I wept more than once to the great work of playwright Sara Tuft, which never once mentioned Islam.

I was left with this, reminded that people are not numbers. People are not countries. Every life is special, every life is a story, and so every life should be treasured. It may be exhausting, but we have to care. The pain is worth it, because it helps us stand up against this kind of thing. I wish this kind of play was written about every tragedy, and required viewing for all high school history students.

And finally, I wish people wouldn’t even consider voting for Donald Trump, or for anyone who helps him come to power. That includes the Greens, or the Libertarians.

ISIS couldn’t have designed a weapon more dangerous to America than a man who makes everybody in the world hate its president – and trust me, we worse than hate him. We fear him. He’ll make America everybody’s enemy, because he’s said we’re all America’s foes, more times than I care to count.
screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-11-29-51-pmI went to New York a couple of times, and it’s an extraordinary city. That this place, the immigrant capital of America, the most welcoming place in the country in many ways, was the target, gave me a personal reason to be more appalled than I can tell you.

Info about these pictures of murals by Mr Brainwash, who the article calls a “wannabe Banksy”, like I care, you snobs, available here.

 

 

Self-Storage: A place to keep your crap

August 26, 2016

I used Self-Storage once, while between apartments, and had an odd, melancholic conversation with an uber driver on the way to pick something up out of it.

Self-storage is to private property what obesity is to great food in America – a serious problem. A kind of addiction. A greedy perversion of what should be a pleasure and a human right.

foodstuff.jpg

This inspired my latest News24 Column.

Recently, I was about to move in with someone, and realistically needed to ditch 90% of what I own. Plates, cups, furniture, duplicate soda stream machine, microwave, toaster… you get the picture. That’s okay. I thought it was. I’ve been forced to reduce, toss, get rid of and let go of things many, many times over the years, though I will confess to keeping an entire 500 LP and 600 CD record collection at my Ma’s house, and the record player and a few other boxes at my Dad’s. But aside from that, I’m willing to let go. Yet I thought, for a moment, about getting self-storage. You know, just in case his soda stream broke and we, you know… needed mine.

And then I realized how crazy that was. How sad. How utterly expensive. I realized this urge was all about the fear of change – that somehow my identity was – is – tied up in this mere stuff. And in disgust, I made a list of only what I wanted to keep. Everything else, anything I can’t remember, must go.

In the process of researching why I was having so much trouble doing this, using my favorite analyst, Google, I also found these entertaining advertisements, mostly from one New York company, Manhattan Mini Storage. New York city may be the only place where self-storage is justifiable, and these guys’ adverts are like an American version of SA’s Nando’s Chicken’s, which make fantastic use of opportunities to satirize politics in South Africa and Southern Africa.

Nando’s agencies do their jobs so well that their ads get banned, as they did for this takedown of Zimbabwean Dictator Robert Mugabe.

gay clutter

Gay marriage is just as annoying as straight marriage, as it turns out. It’s very hard to de-clutter a shared space. It begins to be about territory.

 

Ouch.

Ouch.

 

People don't know what they store. The reason it's in storage is it's of no use to them.

People don’t know what they store. The reason it’s in storage is it’s of no use to them.

 

New York political snobbery. Another billboard mocks "secret republicanism"

New York political snobbery. Another billboard mocks “secret republicanism”

 

I know people like this. My desk used to be pretty messy, when I had an office job. No longer.

I know people like this. My desk used to be pretty messy, when I had an office job. No longer.

Wait, what is this? This looks like something I need in my life right now. A service that comes and cleans up my future room mate’s junk, so that I can easily move 10% of what I now own into the space I’m sharing?

No such luck, baby. It’s just another storage place.

I saw a billboard for this in LA. I thought it was a decluttering service. Turns out it's physical "cloud" storage. They pick up your items, catalogue them and store them with other folks', and retrieve them when you ask them to.

Turns out it’s physical “cloud” storage. They pick up your items, catalogue them and store them with other folks’, and retrieve them when you ask them to.

 

Guns for Everyone?

June 17, 2016

After Orlando, I thought about it again, and I still think it’s a shitty idea. So I wrote about it.

twitter graph

Here’s my latest column for News24.

Bernie Sanders Fans Never Give Up.

May 18, 2016

Bernie Sanders fans are not giving up, not for any reason, not ever. If this president isn’t a socialist leaning one, the next one probably will be.

Nurses trust bernie

In Korean, in Koreatown, where a lot of people work as minimum wage nurses, and would like to earn more than $10 an hour.

bernie again grafitti

Replacing a pro-bernie poster I blogged about previously, this is still cannily located next to a homeless encampment on Glendale Blvd. A high traffic area.

It’s interesting that this Bernie or Bust thing is happening at the same time as revelations that the CIA told the Apartheid Government how to find Mandela, leading to his arrest.

Is socialism so much worse than apartheid – or worse than rampant capitalism? Apparently, many Americans want to try a different tack, and aren’t scared of McCarthyism anymore.

Here’s how idiots like me survive a breakup (hopefully)

April 20, 2016

When it comes to pulling the trigger, it’s always me who does that deed. The people I pick to love never do. This isn’t because they love me more than I love them. In fact, quite the opposite…

Still clinging to each other? The flowers died months ago.

Still clinging to each other? The flowers died months ago. It was great when you got them. Finally, everything you wanted. But…

Usually, I’m doing it because I wasn’t loved enough, or because the shame in their eyes over how they acted will never go away.

It works like this:
– They can live without me.

– They let me know they might prefer to.
– I let them go by “ending it”.

Then, I have to try to recover, which involves working myself up to adopting the irrational delusion that, despite the fact that no relationship has ever worked out for me, while all my friends my age (or younger) are married or have kids, I am not fated to die alone.

I know I’m kidding myself, and that I actually will die alone, this time. However, I am still putting one foot in front of the other on the long road to productive self-delusion. Currently, I’m slipping between Stage One and Stage Two (see below).

I’m writing this down to remind myself that stage three exists, and for the benefit of anyone who, somewhere in the future, may Google: “Nobody loves me, and nobody ever will, so should I just kill myself”, and finds this instead, in the hope that I might inspire them to wait a while and see if they feel better.

Post-Breakup Stage One – Shock (24-72 hours)
Characterized by: Numbness and automatic behavior.

 I feel nothing. Just very heavy. Like I just gained 30 pounds since I handed back his house keys and carried my bags to my car.

themarksmattress

Truth on an old, wet mattress

I have been drinking all night and I am still not drunk. Except, you know, legally and medically speaking.

I can’t sleep and I am scared of my dreams, because he’s in all of them.

I can’t eat. I’m hungry, but why bother?

Puppies and kindness make me cry. Yeah, it’s just like PMS. Only worse.

24 hours feels like a week. I get the days mixed up. I can’t believe only yesterday, my whole life was different. How did this happen?

 

 

 

 

Stage Two – This is the worst. (2-6 Weeks)
Characterized by: Delusions (which feel real), obsessive thinking, imaginary conversations, fears, regrets, and that old classic: chronic self-pity. Reoccurs whenever ex gets engaged/married/babies.

Other people’s wedding photos, engagements, and kid pictures make me weep profusely.

By contrast, the people who photograph their cats and dogs don’t seem so pathetic anymore, ‘cause I know I’m so unlovable not even a rescue would like me, let alone live with me.

I keep thinking of things I want to tell him but now, I can’t.

I took this photo of someone's phone. I was on a date with them.

I took this photo of someone’s phone. I was on a date with them.

I need a hug. I need a hug from him. Nobody else’s hug will do. The person I most often turned to in times of distress is the one person who can’t comfort me now. It’s not fair. Cue: tears. I wonder how he is. I hope he’s okay.

Creepy men think I’m sexy. The fact that I’m close to tears seems make me irresistible to predatory types – like the local smack dealer, who relaxes in the 24hr Laundromat I use, between his forays to deliver to clients. True story!

He isn’t trying to get me back. What’s the bet he’s already dating?

I think about him all the time. I bet he doesn’t think about me all the time. I bet he’s already forgotten my birthday… if he ever knew it.

He’s badmouthing me. I know it, I just know it. He’s telling his family and friends all the worst things I did, all the things he’s “forgiven” me for. He’s not telling them anything he did wrong, I bet.

I’ll never see his mother / daughter / siblings again. I’ve lost a whole family. I should never have fucking met his family. I should have ended it as soon as I knew I would eventually be ripped away from them

Every photo in my automatically updated dropbox reminds me of him.

Every photo in my automatically updated dropbox reminds me of him.

He’ll tell his new younger girlfriend I sucked compared to her. He did that to me, about the women before me, so why would I differ, just because I defended them to him?

I see the juice he drank in a store and burst out crying. This is only the 15th time I’ve burst out crying because of him, since I woke up at 8.30am, and it’s just gone noon.

I’ll never get over this. I’m going to be this sad for the rest of my life. But I’ll stick it out until August or September, and it’s not better yet by then, I can kill myself without feeling like I didn’t try to get happy.

Maybe I should write to him and tell him all about how I feel, and how I really loved him. Not so I get him back, but just so he knows.

I only want to do new things. I can’t do old things because they all remind me of another life, so I need to change everything. EVERYTHING! Cue: tears.

Stage Three – Glimmers of hope. (About .5 seconds per glimmer)
Characterized by: Wild plans, impulse control issues, and occasionally casual sexual encounters. I haven’t reached this stage yet, and being convinced I never will, am relying on past experience and hearsay to portray it.

there are feelings

A poem by Nayyirah Waheed. She’s wonderful. I love her, but I feel like I’ve felt all this shit too many damn times before, now.

I want a tattoo!  But he hates it. Oh wait, I’m not with him! But I can’t afford it, and I can’t figure out where it could go where it won’t look ugly when I’m old, so I’ll clean my house.

I wanna cut my hair short and dye it blue!  Which I could do now, because it wouldn’t start a fight. But I can’t afford it, so I do my laundry.

I wanna get in my car and just drive: Which I could do now because I’m not dating him. But my car’s a wreck, and I don’t have a tent. So wash dishes and murder some roaches.

I am in a crappy mood: But who cares. I don’t have to pretend to be happy for his sake, all the time.

I have amazing friends: I appreciate them more because they helped me survive this thing, again.

Oh look, I lost 10 pounds. That’s cool. Maybe someone else will want to ruin my life and break my heart again soon! Yay!

But what I’m really waiting for is this

“OMG! I haven’t thought about him for half an hour.”

I’m nowhere near there yet.

But the secret is knowing that what I feel now is not what I’ll feel forever, although it sure as hell feels like forever right now.

To be continued…

PS: If you are an ex, or even the ex of the moment, reading this, and you think “OMG, that bitch, this is about me! And my penis looks tiny in that picture of the statue!”, you’re partly right, and partly wrong. Not all of it is about you, and not all of it isn’t. Don’t be a hater. All it is is proof that I still care about you, whichever one you are, in my own bitter, twisted – but never really vengeful – way. I don’t need your permission for that. And in truth, this article is all about me. It’s all in my head, and despite whatever you told you current girlfriend/wife, I do know that.

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Angelinos of mercy

March 11, 2016

Today, a total stranger cared enough about me to help me survive Los Angeles for another month, when my car broke down, and needed to be resurrected from the dead.

A car breaking down in LA generates a weird feeling of being disenfranchised and helpless. It’s humbling in some good ways, because you learn how millions of Angelinos live, but it’s not the way anyone wants to stay. LA has all the variety and adventure of New York, but you need a car to experience it fully.

1000newlicense

This car died. I wasn’t as lucky that day.

California without a car – specially if you’re trying to earn money as a filmmaker – is a series of waits for expensive buses, expensive uber rides, packed trains that don’t go where you need to, and often favors from friends. It’s four hours less in your day. It’s arriving sweaty and tired for meetings and work, if you get hired at all.

I’m still reeling from the generosity of a stranger, who essentially gave me $465 dollars, when he really didn’t have to. I wrote about it in my column. Yes, it all really happened.

1000la skyline

The city’s ripped back sky

smiley field

The highways that go everywhere. The smiley on the hill.