Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Omens, visas and impossible life decisions

September 29, 2015

So, the world’s being weird to me. So weird it’s spooky.

Not quite the dream I had in mind.

Not quite the dream I had in mind.

Those who know me know I call myself an atheist. As in, I don’t believe in a godhead. The idea of a human figure running things is preposterous to me. Any spiritual force able to control and link all the world’s creatures is surely more ambiguous and more complicated than the dude in any of the books.

That doesn’t mean I don’t experience what other people call a spiritual life (I’ve seen a ghost), or enjoy religious rituals occasionally, particularly when it comes to the part where you eat and drink feel gratitude for the good things you have.

Being an atheist also doesn’t mean I don’t believe in forces beyond my control. Recently, I’ve been reminded that I have no choice but to do so, because I’ve felt like the world has been trying to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that I’m nobody. I’m nothing. I’m at the mercy of “It”, whatever “It” is.

I don’t know. I’m probably a pretty shitty atheist.

See, while I was trying to depart the USA for South Africa via the UK, first my sandles broke. Odd, timing wise, but no biggie. Then my other sandles broke, too. Then my car broke. But I found my way to the airport.

LAX Departures International

So close, and yet so very far.

Then, they didn’t let me on the plane because I lacked a UK transit visa. And then, just coincidentally, the UK visa site was down, so I couldn’t apply for a transit visa.

As a young twasa and soon to be sangoma who approached me uninvited in a bar once told me, you ignore messages from the spirit world at your peril. Two days ago, I decided to listen to what I think the world is saying. I was going to get a new apartment in Cali, and see how that went for a year or so. If I didn’t, I feared that the next thing “It” would do is break my legs to keep me here.

Of course, I didn’t get the apartment because they don’t take freelancers and I don’t have six months rent to advance the landlord – not after everything I’ve had to deal with recently. That’s the one landlord that replied to me at all. Most just let me twist in the wind.

So I’m back to nowheresville, limboing from day to day, wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do now. The world and people around me seem unreal, and I’m never sure where I’m waking up until I open my eyes and look around me.

this shit is bananas

This Shit is Bananas. No kidding.

lifes_full_of_bumps

Life’s full of bumps. Yes. And oddly, all the images on this post were snapped in the last 48 hours – as if some all powerful force feels the need to state the bleeding obvious every time I round a street corner.

I know things could be worse, so I’m trying to stay grateful, but I feel physically tired and heavy and very afraid right now.

I wrote about UK Visas and Human Kindness  (hint: they’re opposing forces) in my News24 column this week.

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God’s wrath against dildos and porn and parking violations

June 27, 2014

I found this on Facebook, captioned “Haha! Here’s a pic of storm damage on I-75 near the Huntsville-Oneida exit.”

The storm is real. Look how green that grass is. All the dye in LA can't give a lawn the glow of real rain.

The storm is real. Look how green that grass is. All the poisonous lawn dye in LA can’t give a lawn the glow of real rain.

Oh, how I wish it weren’t Fake. This is a rare case of me being on the same page as Christians, but mostly because I think it’s so funny, and I love coincidences. But if you want REAL punishment from God, for accidental crimes, when you least expect it, check out how much this LA tow van looks like it’s hauling a crucifix, on which it will one day crucify your car.

Suffer and die, crappy car that can't afford a garage...

Suffer and die, crappy car that can’t afford a garage…

I got towed, recently. Cost me almost $600 – that’s about 10 days work at what I get paid at the moment, gone, just for being a few inches over a red line. And if you don’t pay your fines here, they put you in jail. For real. It’s kinda depressing, that you could go to jail just for being too poor to make mistakes everybody makes, while celebs can get wasted and drive into lamp posts and walk free the next day.

Hollywood Video. It’s for the birds.

June 23, 2014

Back in South Africa, you still get video rental places – and not just in the dodgy parts of town, and they don’t make most of their money from porn.

That’s because there’s no netflix, no Amazon Prime, no HBO Go, no Hulu, there. Just Video rental places, the tiny selection on DSTV’s on-demand, and piracy. Piracy offers a much better range, so it’s popular even though it’s slow and gives you cooties. And I’d forgotten, till I popped in with a friend on a hungover day after Christmas, how damn frustrating video stores are. Everything good is ALWAYS out on Thursday nights, everything else is hard to find, and it’s all so damn expensive.

I stopped for groceries at a late-night Ralphs near The Wiltern, and noticed that the Hollywood Video sign light wasn’t even on. It was still serving a purpose though. Pigeons nest there after a long, hot day of scavenging for food in Koreatown.

It must have been buzzing 20 years ago.

It must have been buzzing 20 years ago.

hollywoodvid_cu600

It’s for the birds, now. Literally. Like drive-ins, and if they keep making those disappointing, overpriced failed blockbusters, movie theaters soon, too.

 

 

 

Shut up please, I don’t care who you think you are in #palmsprings

June 19, 2014

It’s a film festival. Not a bar. But some people… you know how it is?

If you love short films, this is an amazing banquet of talent. If you love parties, there's one every single night. If you want to chat to your friends, maybe during another film's screening isn't the best time?

If you love short films, this is an amazing banquet of talent. If you love parties, there’s one every single night. If you want to network, there’s plenty of that too, but maybe during another film’s screening isn’t the best time?

Call me weird, but I’m one of those people who doesn’t go to the movies to listen to other people’s conversations. In fact I dislike listening to them so much that I almost never go with anyone to movies, in case they try to talk to me during the film.

So I am at the Palm Springs International Shortsfest. I decided to attend, to check out what made it in, since they are only 2 hours from LA and have swimming pools and really cheap hotels. And I’m glad I did. One of the best shorts I’ve seen is a really touching documentary called, Joanna, a Polish film directed by Aneta Kopacz , about a woman with cancer’s long farewell to her boy, and his to her. Sounds more depressing than it is – it’s actually very life affirming. I loved the film, but I kept getting taken out of it because, behind me, two old men were having an ongoing conversation.

I am guessing from the tone that their conversation wasn’t even about the movie. It seemed tedious. Maybe they were recommending each other golf courses, or plastic surgeons, or retirement villages. All I know is that they were ruining the film for everybody around them, and they didn’t care. In fact, they seemed to be having fun doing it.

You all know how it goes – there’s a hierarchy of ways to get people to shut the hell up during films. I and others tried them all.

Tactic 1 – Turn and look: This, they noticed, but completely ignored.

Tactic 2 – Turn and stare: This time, I did it for longer, and received a smirk in response. I wasn’t the only one, but they seemed to be enjoying the attention they got!

Tactic 3 – Turn, look and “Shhhht”!: This wasn’t me. The woman behind me cracked first. This caused them to laugh and keep talking.

Tactic 4 – Polite desperation: “Can you be quiet, please or go outside, guys?” This was me. The response was to first drop to a quieter voice, and gradually increase in volume until the end of the film.

As the titles rolled, I attempted tactic 5.

Tactic 5 – Public shaming part I: “Would you guys not start another conversation, please?” This really amused them, and a few people around me agreed with me. The old boys laughed mockingly, but shut up for the remainder of the screening.

Unfortunately, the best film had already been ruined. The others were mostly interesting – the best of the rest being the Lion’s Mouth Opens, which I’d already seen at Sundance. Only one film felt like it didn’t belong – a 17-minute-long schmooze-fest about a local celeb photographer called Michael Childers, who while worth honoring has to be the only reason they programmed the ‘radio with pictures’ documentary full of shots of the interviewer grinning at Childers and Childers talking about how famous he and his friends are. Local is lekker, as we say in South Africa.  But this film stood out by not fitting into the line-up except to get local bums on seats. I watched in silence, distracting myself by hoping that the two noisy old guys would leave before the Q&A so that I wouldn’t have to see their smug faces again.

And what do you know? Not only did they not have the sense to leave, but when the presenter asked, at the end of the screening, for all those involved in all the films and present to stand, the two old men who’d been talking through vastly superior films by fellow film-makers stood to celebrate their achievement in Michael Childers: Hollywood in the Desert Sky.  I don’t know what their role was. All I know is that I couldn’t believe they had the gonads to identify themselves.

So this was when I had to raise my hand and out them for their rudeness to the entire theater. Ordinary rich trash out for a bit of culture after too many mimosas at breakfast? No problem. Idiocy is expected. But going to a film festival as a filmmaker and then disrupting another artist’s screening to a paying audience has to be the most disrespectful, and amateurish thing you can do. This would have been a good time for them to apologize.

But their response to me and others who vocally supported me? A sarcastic comment: “Ooooh. Such a purist”.

I had to leave, because staying there would have driven me insane. Yes, I’m a purist. I love movies. I won’t apologize for this, and I paid #12 for my ticket and came all the way to Palm Springs. I don’t care who you think you are or if you’re famous in Palm Springs – you simply have no right to ruin another filmmaker’s screening for me.

I hoped for a chance to see Joanna again without them there, but sadly, it only screened once. Look out for it at other festivals. Even disruptive chatter didn’t prevent it moving me to tears and laughter and I know it’ll be showing all over the world this year.

Johanna

Michael Childers: Hollywood Under a Desert Sky

LA’s ever-shifting wall-art world

April 17, 2014

Most of the art I get round to seeing is painted on walls. I love the people who beautify the city I live in with their work.

1000-wallart_dovecan

A new one. I gather it’s all about peace and love.

1000_wallart_love

“All you need is the right kind of love”. Don’t I know it. And if it’s out there, it’s out of reach right now. A married friend recently gave me a well-meaning lecture about how hard love was – as if I didn’t know. But I still think life is better with it than without it, and I still believe finding it is sadly, rare.

1000_wallart_loveme

Yeah. But do it the right way. I love how you don’t even see the car advert dominating the wall.

1000_wallart_cellphone

Check out that cell phone that uses the pipe of the building as an aerial. One of my favourites, which I pass almost daily.

1000_wallart_wilternbuildingbetter

The beautiful Wiltern. I wish I could live inside it. I must go see a band there sometime. Somehow managed to miss Amos Lee when he played.

1000_wallart_wiltern

On an electricity box opposite the big Wiltern… a little Wiltern. So cute. I hope nobody messes it up.

1000wallart_chicken

A lot of the wall art that survives unscathed over the years does so because it’s high up. But unfortunately nobody’s too high up to hide from capitalism.

1000_wallartfaces

Don’t remember where I took this. It’s so cool.

1000goodnbad1

Some places need art more than others. I nearly missed this one, just after a burned out building.

1000-goodnbad6

Someone has badly defaced it so it almost blends in with the lost, run down strip of Chrenshaw, with $20 tattoo parlors, pawn shops and 99c stores competing for sparse clients.

1000goodnbad4

Punch-in: It’s like whoever defaced this with crude, pointless black paint doesn’t realise how what they are doing just underlines what the words are telling them.

1000-goodnbad3

Punch-in: A woman passing saw me looking at it and stopped to talk. “I watched the artist painting this for half an hour,” she said. “The kids who drew all over this should be arrested. That’s what we need. Zero tolerance. I live around here but it’s so dangerous.” Then she crossed the road and I wondered if I’d ever see her again.

1000-goodnbad2

Punch-in: It’s called “The Gift”. Hey whatever you think of what the artist is saying, it’s still something better to think about than what car to buy, or which four letter words to tattoo on your knuckles.

 

1000_wallart_stencil

Stencil art is big in Cape Town too. Damn the moron with the purple crayon!

But hey, let’s end with my favorite, of all time, so far unblemished.

1000_wallart_byzantine

Because in this sometimes lonely city, the writing underneath the angel picture says: We are all angels with one wing. We can only fly holding each other. I also love the paintings on the wall of the Peter Pan Market and 99c Store opposite it.

Little Los Angeles: Look closer for sad stories and small miracles

April 13, 2014

Look at LA. Isn’t she beautiful? What always amazes me is how much is hidden behind, around, and underneath the buildings that I remember from watching LA Law re-runs as a lonely tween on Saturday nights in South Africa long ago.

sign_laview

Taken from the parking lot at Galleria Mall, Koreatown

sign_oculus

Oculus just released. It’s the story of two grown kids who destroy a killer mirror (yeah, for sure!) by the makers or Paranormal Activity and other horror gems.

Look closer: Someone has drawn red horns on the girl.

Look closer: Someone has drawn red horns on the girl, and made her eyes red. Probably a burned out Hollywood nanny on their day off.

sign_whitebuilding

A building near mine on a cloudy morning. There’s a story poking through from under the fresh coat of white paint…

sign_rabbittag

Two nights before, I went to buy oranges at the Guatemalan market near my apartment. As I left the lobby, I saw a guy tagging the wall, as his getaway car waited in the street. They stopped and admired it and took a photo before they left. The police didn’t come for 25 minutes when I called 911 the other night to report a guy in a white pimp suit shaking a girl in his car, parked in the middle of the road. Just in case you thought the police in SA were the only slack ones. By the time they showed, 10 minutes after I called again, the girl had run off and the guy had driven away.

sign_snaillarge

A sign board at a queue for a ride at Universal Studios’ theme park, reflecting happy holiday-makers. Notice anything?

sign_snailcloser

A little snail made it’s way under the glass somehow. I guess it must have arrived when it was smaller and grown up inside the glass.

Sometimes it’s fun to do it in reverse. See this billboard?

500_lafakeestate

LIVE THE CALIFORNIA DREAM… A swimming pool lined with palm trees in the center of your courtyard. They don’t mention you need to earn a fortune to have that in LA. Apartments like that cost $3-5k a month.

1000_larealestate

And look where it is! Above a fleabag apartment building with cardboard-thin walls, on a triple lane road full of pot holes and cracks, near the freeway underpass where people who don’t even have a home eek out a living from under tarpaulins by the bridge. They recently re-painted this block, but it’s another great LA cover-up operation.

What I love about film-making is how it’s taught me to really, truly look at things. Once you begin to do that, there are stories everywhere you go.

 

He loved Thailand. Can I trust him?

March 30, 2014

Some of my best friends have been to Thailand. No, really – they have. And at least one of them is male and said he didn’t avail himself of the “services” that are apparently frequently on offer to foreign men. He spent his time drinking and getting some tattoos and he loved it.

Many of my female friends have been there too. They rave about the food, the adventures they safely had while traveling alone, the gorgeous beaches and the welcoming and business-suavy people. They return fresh, new, open and happy.

I’ve worked with a cinematographer from Thailand. He’s just like all cinematographers I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with… slightly nuts, heart on the sleeve and mostly brilliant.

So yes. There’s a lot more to Thailand than dodgy massage. This toilet, for instance.

Exactly why would you want a wifi-enabled toilet?

Exactly why would you want a wifi-enabled toilet? Posted on facebook by a friend, from her holiday in Thailand.

But Thailand does have a reputation for being a great place to go if you want to have sex with beautiful women at low cost. I have heard the stories. I have read the stories. I know it’s a pretty big business out there. So when I see a guy say on an online dating site or any other public place that the best place he’s ever visited is Thailand, I wonder… what did he do there? And does he do it here, too?

I briefly made the mistake of taking a trial membership on a dating site, you see. And as you know if you’ve ever used one, people lie on those things, about who they are, what they look like, and what they want. It’s almost as bad as Facebook. But I gave it a shot, because I figured I needed to meet some boys my own age. And normal people do use these sites,  nowadays – it’s not skungy like it used to be. Is it?

Or… is it? Because it seems that the guys who’re still available by the time they hit 35 have at least one of the following flaws:

– Heavy drinker who would like you to come to their place for dinner on Date One.
– Very Short with large beard and belly, possible religious extremist, and political conservative.
– Can’t spell and doesn’t have a job. Would like to move to LA, but needs to stay with me in the beginning
– Dirty fingernails and dirty cowboy hat (I went on one date). He actually came to dinner with dirty fingernails.
– Took profile picture in public toilet mirror. Actually, that may explain why this toilet in Thailand is wifi enabled. It’s so that the guys who might be interested in making love to me can update their dating profile photos between massages while on holiday.

And then there’s the one who went to Thailand. He’s probably my soul-mate, but I’m too scared to find out.

I guess I’ll just be forced to sleep with younger men. The problem with them is that they learn to have sex by watching porn, so they really have no idea how to actually do it with a real woman. One minute you’re kissing them. The next thing you know you’re in some gonzo fantasy and his eyes are all glazed over and dead like a zombie’s.

Los Angeles: A tale of 255 cities, and counting

March 5, 2014

I spend hours in my car some days, stopping to use a bathroom, pick up another coffee, shovel a sandwich into my mouth… and what’s struck me the most is how disjointed and changeable LA is.

A few roads from extreme wealth – extreme poverty – back to extreme wealth… Limousines fight for lanes in the traffic with guys pushing shopping carts. A begger in Beverly Hills has a sign: Beverly Hells. He says he’s hungry. I didn’t know Thunderbird was a meal, but I guess it’ll do for him just for today. I wonder if he’s a screenwriter?

Wall to wall white people in one place. Then suddenly you’re grabbing lunch in what Fox News would call “Not even America”. There’s Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Ethiopia… etc etc.

LA feels like a place that’s grown and been destroyed and grown again without much planning.

This, of course, is part of my city’s beauty.

Don't mess around in this neighborhood... I drove past twice, to see what happened. Nothing did. Then again, I'm white.

Don’t mess around in this neighborhood… I drove past twice, to see what happened. Nothing did. Then again, I’m white.

march4_tattoohell

About 50 meters from the no cruising sign. This place. I love the police lights on the roof. And I shudder to think what kind of tattoo you get for $20.

march4_larain

It rained this week. We were mostly glad, because there’s a drought. But the traffic in LA was worse than ever.

march4_4

Believe it or not, this is the sign for a grocery store. Where I will never shop.

march4_03

Olympic Blvd looking oh so California, as traffic ruins another sunset for millions of Angelinos.

sign_dodgersbar

I will never understand this… how Americans don’t like to have people cheering for the other team in the same bar / stadium / town. It’s so childish.

sign_jesussaves

Jesus Save…. and then it cuts off. Huh. Does he? I see this every day. I just love where it is, right in front of this city full of sin.

Let me tell you about my week

February 21, 2014

I am too lazy to type anymore, and I already wrote a column today, so I am simply going to post a bunch of pictures with snarky captions.  Here’s what I did this week.

I went the doctor and because it was a cheap $25 clinic doctor it took four hours.

What's the big deal. We have free sign language in South Africa too. Anyone can do it, right?

What’s the big deal. We have free sign language in South Africa too. Anyone can do it, right?

washyourhands

I live in a pretty multicultural community.

sign_lowestrates

How come everybody in LA has the lowest rates? Cause everybody in LA lies.

sign_osc

I made a school project and dropped it at the Orange Senior Center for my extras along with copies of the photos.

sign_shotmissing

You don’t want to know what happened as a result of this photo. Too much drama, man, too much drama…

sign_hustlerhahah

Her: Hahahahahah
Him: [boobies] I’m a winner.
Her: Hahahahahha!
I bet the clients at Hustler Casino look nothing like him.

sign_lovemyself2

I went for a romantic stroll on the beach alone on Valentine’s day. This is my favourite beach writing. But I didn’t write it, and I wouldn’t.

sign_santamonicabeach

I’m grateful that I saw this. I wanted to share it with another human being but a blog and whatsapp to a sleeping SA will have to do.

sign_millivanilli

Because my internet still wasn’t working, I went to Amoeba Music at 10pm, and bought Season Three of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

sign_gunspacking

Don’t want to get into an accident with this dude. Something tells me he’s packing.

sign_seriousdrought

Serious Drought Help Save Water. I drive past this sign about 8 times, every day. Rents may be lower in LA but after you factor in gas, I reckon it’s as expensive as New York…

I feared that this would become my future. After all, this guy apparently went to USC film school and look where he wound up.

I feared that this would become my future. After all, this guy apparently went to USC film school and look where he wound up.

2014-02-15 13.30.13

But it’s not all bad. While I was doing my laundry I found the best sandwich shop, ice cream parlor and smoothie place ever on Pico. I hope NPR never finds it or it’ll get full and probably expensive.

And then there’s stuff like writing, sleeping… and eating that I skipped. But I did it.

And that was my week in pictures. How was yours?

Parking in LA is the tampon of living in LA

February 10, 2014

It’s bloody hell. Actually that was a gratuitous pun. It’s a pain in the ass… no I don’t do that with tampons. Okay, done with the puns, then. Parking…

You can live in a suburb, like mine, where you rarely need to walk to do your daily stuff. I have coffee shops, supermarkets… and amazing 24 hour spas, cheap massage places, great takeout, all within 10 minutes’ walk of my apartment.

2014-02-09 15.36.36

Boba. Coffee Boba. Apparently this will kill me. But have you tasted it? It is heaven.

But even if I didn’t want to leave my neighborhood, I’d still have to move my car at least once a week, on Wednesdays, for 3 hours – and that’s if I were not parked in the anti-gridlock zone (move your care between 7 and 9am) or on the street cleaning street (move your car between 2-5am), or the no parking on Thursdays zone…

You can live without a car in LA – there is plenty of public transport everywhere except Santa Monica. But why would you want to? If you wanted to live in a village, you wouldn’t be in LA to start with. Only the rich people in LA want to live in a village (they live in Santa Monica) because hey, rich folks can leave the village in a limo whenever they like. The point and joy of Los Angeles is how much it has to offer. The small problem with it is that it’s so sprawling and crazy that you absolutely need a car to actually LIVE there… and that’s why parking is like tampons here. Why tampons?

Cause, sure, you could make do with rags, or pads, for a few days, or just squat over the toilet. But who wants to do that? Nobody, that’s who.

So of course, everybody overcharges like crazy for parking in LA. A spot with an automated gate will push your rent up by $300 in Hollywood. Something off street will be around $75. And there’s a queue for that. It’s about two years long in Koreatown. I often park about 10 minutes walk from where I live. I have a sure bet spot that opens up often outside what I suspect is a crack house.

Head to a popular beach for a dip? Parking is $15 flat at Huntington. How about Hollywood Boulevard? Well, it’s $5. I’ve been here so long I was excited by that price, tonight. That sounded cheap.

I parked in a 2-hour government run parking spot. $4 for that two hours. Then I ran back and fed the meter for another 20 minutes – 50C. Then I left the event I’d been invited to by Eventbrite, by someone I still have not identified. But thanks – a really cool gig called Hollywood Shorts. More on that sometime soon.

Can you read the sign? It says five dollars, right?

Can you read the sign? It says five dollars, right? Wrong. If you get to the gate, it says $5 per 30 minutes in very, very small print. Flat rate is $20 til midnight.