In two months in the USA, I’ve learned that…

Well, that right now on this Saturday night at 22.16, as the block falls silent and with the work I promised myself done, I am glad to be here. But oh, how I would  love to instantly teleport myself into a friend’s bedroom in Cape Town, and wake them up like Peter Pan woke Wendy. “Here I am! Let’s have champagne for breakfast and then hug each other enough to last me another two months.”

shoot films not aliens

A facebook friend working on the set of a 2nd year film uploaded this today. I've asked for details and will link them when I can. If you are willing or interested in funding this films, called The Experiencers, Ed Moore and crew are offering everything from credit, to copies, home baked meals (code for blow jobs?) free of modified corn starch to anyone willing to help out. Get hold of me, I'll hook you up.

Help fund Experiencers. Seriously. If you want… oh nvrmnd. Tasteless jokes are bad, but making a good student film without a rich daddy is badder. Trust me.

So we clear, I wouldn’t go home now, even if I want to, even if you paid me. I’m learning too many things I wouldn’t have by staying where I belong. Some have a point, some just happened to happen while I was here. Some I don’t want to know, and some amaze and inspire me. Most of it couldn’t have been predicted if I’d tried.

1. Everyone says they’ll miss you and they may. But they show it in such different ways that it’s hard to believe some of them. Some of them bother to speak to you on skype, email you, and check in on twitter. They keep you sane when – as an alien in more than one sense, the most important one being that you’re establishing a life that’s not even going to be allowed to last – you are a mess, often. Others … aren’t as cool or brave.  One friend “coincidentally” engineered a huge fight just before I left, breaking my heart again (he was an ex). Another went from “the last guy I shagged in SA” to “may as well be dead.” Others reply to emails, but don’t bother much. You know who you are. And yes, I love you all, but not quite equally right this moemnt, of course. I guess this situation teaches you just how conditional love really is.

2. boys are easier to make friends with initially, but they don’t really last. There could be many reasons for this, but I doubt it’s sex-related, as the “stamina-in-friendship” rule seems to apply equally to gay male friends. My first friendships in Cali seem to all be with men. I doubt they want to sleep with me! But then again, I’ve been wrong when making this assumption at times. Perhaps Justin (Bieber, like, duh) thinks I’m still in Cape Town.

3. Long lost friends from your past will make contact again, amazed that you surprised them, amazed that their lives are what they are, and this will be good in some ways, scary in others. Often they’re not really friends so much as vuisbook friends – people you once loved enough to punch their fucking lights out but clearly didn’t. For both of you, friending each other on Facecake has become a way of laying ghosts. Perhaps the ghost of that fling where you tried the kinky stuff. Perhaps the ghost of schooldays when one of you was the mean girl. Perhaps the ghost of the letter you never returned. Which brings me to…

4. People you didn’t think would matter, suddenly do. Oh Sherri Harvey, where are you? I loved her back in Durban in Undergrad with the love of the best friendship. She was gorgeous and American. I was gorgeous but didn’t know it. As it became clear I would definitely be moving here, I searched all over for Sharon Harvey, a beautiful blonde girl who studied Architecture at Penn State, and took an exchange trip to Durban in South Africa in the 90s. She dated a guy I’d had a crush on for ever but I loved her so much I didn’t care. At some point (now she was in Italy) she wrote to me and I never replied. This was before facebook. I am not sure she’s alive, and neither is the guy who dated her way back then. I still have her letters. Where is she now? Is she dragging a screaming kid around on her leg. Would I recognise her if she cut in front of me on the highway (she was a crappy driver)? Did she build that beautiful building she had planned, which we spent hours glueing together over cheap red wine and whatever else came through my open house? Shit, I wonder.

5. Time loses all meaning. It’s like space travel, Einstein style. That wonderful thing that happened last year? Right here. The terrible thing that happened three years ago? Right here, too. If you’ve just spent the last three years fixing your life up again like an ICU patient, as I have, then moving (touring or traveling is different) to a place where you have no security, no guarantee you can stay, no friends, no family and no idea how shit works is the equivalent of dumping your patient in a sewer and seeing if they float. All their vulnerabilities flare up. Every loss is fresh. There’s a word a friend Sam uses: Skinless. That kinda says it for me, as always, Sammy.

6. Nobody really wants your opinion. My friend Penny, who had something hectic happen to her shortly after I arrived in the USA (I never figured out what exactly, being self involved, covered in insect bites, sleep deprived and high on anti-histamines) is doing a wine course, cause she might open a wine bar some day. When people drink with her they always want to discuss wine, ask her what she thinks of their choice. Penny means to be kind, but like me she’s very blunt. “I’m sick of Sauvignon Blanc” she’ll say. I am the same. I tell people okay, you complain that nobody who says they will will give you feedback on your script? And then they say “Yes! Please!” and then I do… if they’re not in “studying” mode, they generally take it so badly that we don’t speak again. So 7. has got to be that the best thing about studying is the free, mostly fearless intellectual exchange. We are here to learn and that’s gonna hurt and that’s what we’re paying for. If I wanted to hear I was perfect, I’d show this to my mother. Well not MY mother, but you know what I mean.

8. Americans are all postal. Let’s just say they suppress a lot. So you never know when they’re going to let fly all over you and transform from polite date to “I talk so dirty that you’re concerned I slipped a completely different GUY out of the bar.” Family values and the titty bar are side by side, rubbing nipples, feeling the frottage…  So, no different to any culture anywhere really? Yep, that’s it. Just with extra bullets and butter. “Have a nice day!… CAUSE IT’S YOUR LAST FUCKIN’ DAY ON EARTH, MUTHERFUCKER!!!” You get the idea.

9. South Africa is special. It’s hard to explain, but those who know, know. I walked out of a cinema today (after paying get this, mense, peeps and countryfolk! $12 for a ticket, and $12 for popcorn and coke) and in my daze i saw a woman sweeping. She was staring at my breasts. Or so I thought. And then she smiled. Smiled like she knew. It was the BA FA NA T-Shirt, apparently. I’m sure of it. It was that smile.

10. Some things are the same wherever you go. Gravity. Morality. Me. Luckily I came here to challenge myself and not to run away.


3 Responses to “In two months in the USA, I’ve learned that…”

  1. The Burg Says:

    totally agree on points 1 & 3
    and oddly 2….but with girls…for me that it…
    but then…i guess that makes your point valid

  2. Scott Trombetta Says:

    did you ever find Sharon (Sherrie) Harvey? I went to Penn St with her for two years before I transferred. Haven’t been able to reconnect via Architecture community or search, etc
    Scott Trombetta

  3. Jean Barker (@JeanBarker) Says:

    No! I haven’t. I am scared she’s joined a weird cult and disappeared into the mountains or something. If you learn anything let me know – and I’ll do the same.

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