Posts Tagged ‘signs’

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.

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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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Homelessness… could never happen to me?

August 28, 2015

(Scroll down if you just want to see the pictures)

The subject of a screenplay I’m writing said something in answer to an interview question: that before she went to America, she imagined it being this perfect world, this wonderland free of prejudice and poverty. Having seen the USA with her own eyes and worked there a month, she returned to South Africa with a new appreciation for her homeland.

This is the truth. South Africans visiting Europe tend not to encounter real life there. But, take the train a few miles out of Barcelona’s quaint center, and you’ll see where how most people really eke out a living, in high-rise apartments. Maybe it’s better than where they came from. Maybe it’s not, but they’re in love with the dream.

America is both worse than I ever imagined and better than I ever dreamed. And yes, I’m staying, on what’s charmingly called an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” visa. I must love it here, or I wouldn’t have gone through the trauma of the tough and bank-balance-erasing application process, just to complete a few projects!

But it’s no easy ride. Recently I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to fall off the wagon in America, and how hard it can be to get back on once you’re off.

You see people living under bridge and you think: “Well, that would never happen to me.

I work hard! I don’t suffer from PTSD. Any psychological conditions I suffer from (like radical liberalism) are manageable. I’ve got some sources of income to fall back on. I never sign up for new credit cards, no matter how many offers those snakes at American Express, Capital One, Chase and the other banks send me without my consent, to an address they shouldn’t have in the first place… “

But because I’m home to South Africa for a while, I had to give up my apartment. It’s rent controlled, which means it only cost me $800 a month when I moved in. I gave notice a month ago. Last week, I saw my apartment advertised at $1025 a month – because rent control only lasts until a new tenant moves in. I’m going to have to find about 20% more rent money when I return, to live in one of LA’s cheapest neighborhoods!

And that got me thinking: What if I went away to Iraq for two years to fight a war, came back damaged and with a missing leg, serious PTSD, and a drinking problem? How would I ever find my way back home, then?

The truth is, very few people do.

Hence this rather fiery NEWS24 COLUMN.

The tunnel. Is there any way out of this?

The tunnel. Is there any way out of this?

The resident. He kisses pigeons. His nickname is “Birdman”.

House, phase I

House, phase I. Just a drawing on a wall, with the owner sleeping in front. This is back in December 2014 – note the Christmas Tree and snowman.

homeless before

House, phase II, after a few weeks of habitation.

Current house, with “Stunning Mountain Views” courtesy Skidrobot.

Homeless people are everywhere in California. It's not the America you see on TV, that's for sure.

Homeless people are everywhere in California. It’s not the America you see on TV, that’s for sure.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

The road to Vegas is Paved with good intentions

January 19, 2014

I’m sitting at the bar in my off-strip hotel – a Best Western dressed as the ‘Mardi Gras’ but hey, it was cheap. I didn’t know you could smoke indoors in Vegas. It’s a bizarre sight to my googling post-regulation eyes.

I can’t gamble because I don’t know how to. So I threw money away on the LCD slots. A few dollars.

On the way here I saw …
…A huge donkey pump drilling oil in a graveyard
…Towns with welcome signs bigger than they were
… How I’ve changed since the last long drive alone

And such unimaginable beauty in the dessert dollying by, which was unexpected because Vegas.com derided the drive as boring, scenically.

vegas_abandoned

Abandoned. There’s a lot of these – you could see them as evidence of failure, or proof of someone’s dreams lived out. A story in every one.

vegas_sign1

I’m on my way, apparently.

vegas_christianjewish

Leading up to this: a series of quoted 10 Commandments on signs.

vegas_aware2

Guff. Aware. What does it mean?

vegas_jeanselfie

I am happy when I am traveling.

vegas_thruwindshield

This is not ugly.

vegas_sunsetapproach

There’s a weird glow in the sky opposite the sunset that’s just as beautiful.
vegas_arrival
Vegas. Aaah. LIGHTS. It’s hard to describe until you’ve driven in off the darkening desert into it.
vegas_slotmachine

Now this is sorta ugly… I fed all my $1 bills into it and won nothing. It happened so fast, I was amazed… haven’t gambled since I was 12, when I had to drag my parents away from the slots in a Sun City in Lesotho. They let kids wander around in the casino back then.

vegas_slotlady

What I don’t want to become. This tiny little lady was drunk and crazy and feeding the machine, feeding the machine… she is about 60 and I swear everybody in here is chain smoking. I didn’t know you could still smoke indoors in the USA, but in Vegas, everything goes it seems. People bring their tiny dogs in too.

I feel so strongly for this Land after three years here. I realize I’ve become sorta American. And yet not quite. And when I’m home not quite there either. Perhaps I’m destined to really belong nowhere.

Having planned to simply stop and sleep in the cheapest place possible, I wound up having a couple of beers, throwing about $5 into the slots and ordering some food from the restaurant (which, like the hotel, is pretending to be something it’s not – the menu is clearly Chili’s). Anyhow, it’s bedtime soon. I can’t wait.

Ready for kids?

August 27, 2013

I love this billboard, as someone who realized that since men were more scared of babies than aids, condoms were my best bet,

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“Off-color”, as in humor: Where does the term come from?

May 30, 2013

Can anyone tell me the origin of the term “off-color”? Not the wikipedia history (I read it) but why the term was coined that way? Does it refer to “blue” as in “blue movie”? In India, apparently, the same kind of humor is called “non-veg” humor… a lot of the population is vegetarian there so meaty is not to all tastes. In Philadelphia they say “green jokes”… as in feeling a little green? And in Australia “‘A bit crook’, means “… a little ill/sick or a little ‘off colour’.” Source: The Free Dictionary Word of the Day discussion. Link also includes an off-colour joke.

All in all, it seems to refer to jokes that are slightly sickening and make the face turn a different color. However, the fun thing about origins is that nobody ever agrees. Seems that the first recorded use of it refers to diamonds. Those that were not pure white were “off colour” and less valuable, according to the online etymology dictionary.

I like to think of my own humor as “unpasturized”. It is generally better for you than the lifeless boiled-to-death variety, but occasionally it may contain diseases that eat away at your face.

I feel there’s a big difference between “off color”, even physically revolting,  humor, and humor that is just hurtful, stupid hate speech.

I have never understood people who write "wash me" on other people's car windows. Why do they care? But this is much worse. "SWAG". "Homo". "I <3 Farts"... even if this is just a few straight friends teasing another straight friend, it's stupid, homophobic and purile.

I have never understood people who write “wash me” on other people’s car windows. Why do they care? But this is much worse. “SWAG” (secretly we are gay). “Homo”. “I heart farts”… whoever did this thinks there’s something wrong / embarrassing about being gay, even if they are just teasing a straight friend, or kicking it in the dorm parking lot with some drunk buddies at night.

stickfamilyzombiehonorstudent

“Nobody cares about your stupid stick figure family” and “My zombie ate your honor student”. Yes, this I like. I would be proud if my kid did well at school. But only an annoyingly proud mother puts a “My child was student of the month at blah blah blah” sticker on their people mover. It’s sorta nausiatingly sweet and I enjoy seeing someone making fun of it.

See, the person in the SUV above is clearly a mother… there’s even a child seat in the back. The difference is self-consciousness, or context. For example, a Jewish person making fun of their family’s oddities is funny. A Christian talking about the same family as a reason why “they” are “different” is another. Satire mimics the target to expose their hypocrisy. Mockery is bullying.

… and that’s 90 minutes I should have spent writing a script I spent blogging instead. Gone!

An American classic in Indio, CA

October 14, 2012

I’m in a motel. My dream motel. It’s all ground floor. It has a sign that makes you wonder if you’ll catch something.  As we drove up I wondered why the Yelp reviews were so good. Maybe it had gone downhill? I was already pre-booked and worried that the two actors I was putting up would think I’d cut corners on their accommodation.

But appearances aren’t everything, and the actors knew this before I did. This place’s tatty exterior hides an oasis of small town romance. The reception is truly 24 hour,  it’s a lovely family business, friendly and personal, with cricketing trophies belonging to the Indian owner and coffee made fresh at 4am if you need it. The rooms are amazing for the price: firm beds, clean, new showers, space and quality furniture.

Would you stay here? I always wonder what goes on, and what the stories are behind, the cars parked in lots of places with signs like this one. It’s neither in a city, not is it at the center of it. And the letters seem to have given up and fallen over. But don’t judge yet…

A classic straight off the a Tarantino movie set.

But take a look inside. And wow! Staying here and an amazing meal at Macario’s Bar and Grill has reminded me how I love to travel and made me want to get in my car and go explore more of America.

My actors and I are staying the night to prep for an early start on the final shoot day for “Indio, CA” tomorrow.

The Romney Paradox

September 8, 2012

So, tell me. Is this picture real or not? You’d be forgiven for believing it was real, given that whole “Clint Eastwood Talks to a MOTHERFUCKING CHAIR” thing we had to deal with recently.

What people are tweeting it and facebooking it as: “Romney’s family misspell their last name in the greatest Freudian slip in history.”

It’s easy to believe. Ann’s speech was ludicrous – implying they struggled financially as a couple: “We moved into a BASEMENT APARTMENT”. OH, YOU POOR DEARS. I didn’t know they had luxury basement apartments. To put it another way: I bet you could afford a roof over your heads, right?

The picture of “Romney and his family spelling M O N E Y” is easy to believe because it represents what we know to be true about Romneys – they are rich and they care about rich people. Unfortunately it’s also a lie because, that is Romney in the photo but…
– that is not his wife and kids. They’re a family called the Fischers who love him.
– the letters were switched in photoshop by someone who clearly sees truth in his lie.

This is what I’ll call the ROMNEY PARADOX. See, pinocchio paradox

The truth is that if Romney weren’t a liar, this would have been his RNC appearance stunt. But since he’s a republican…

Extreme capitalists (by which I mean, people who inherited all their wealth and yet think poor people earned their poverty) are the Pinnocios of our society here in the USA. They have to persuade low income families that having nobody give a shit whether they live or die is… HA HA HA … good for them, and their kids.

I know this type. It’s not that different to what I call the “Chief” back in SA. The guy who exploits poor South Africans, but by flashing his wealth at them persuades them that by siding with him, they have some small chance of getting their hands on a little of what he has. It’s a lie.

It’s an effective lie, unfortunately.

Rabies alert! But how do you tell if a bat is bat-shit crazy?

April 27, 2012

Rabid bats are plaguing California! Well actually, one rabid bat was discovered after it died, and someone bothered to figure out why it snuffed it, NPR recently reported. But of course it’s news, because well, it’s awesome news, offering great punning opportunities, and in the past, people have died after being bitten.

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This bat is clearly crazy.

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This bat is completely normal.

This is America, so a few searches turned up some cool signs, advising people not to fondle bats, no matter how adorable they were.

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... no matter how sweet and vulnerable they seem.

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I'll bet you er... $5 (cause that's what I can afford right now) that somebody is going to sue due to the confusion over whether the sign related to baseball bats or bats that fly around.

The question I have, though, is this: How do you tell if a bat is crazy? Do they fly all over the place with their eyes closed? No, they do that already. Or, do they start bumping into walls suddenly? Swooping down to steal fat people’s hamburgers?

Maybe you know for sure if you find a bat in your kitchen, making itself a cup of coffee or reading the newspaper.

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If your cat starts acting crazy, eating out, or trying to fly, you know it's bye bye kitty. Time to send it to the funny farm. At least, that's what you'll tell the kids.

Cape Town’s faded New Year’s day glory

January 1, 2012

I woke up this January 1st in Cape Town, South Africa, feeling pretty much human – I left the party in a taxi driven by a guy who smelled like solvents and didn’t know my name, how to follow directions, or how find his own way, but he did get me home by 2am, after a few arguments and near-death moments on the road. Or “by 2am, thank God” I thought when I woke up in the morning with my limbs still attached.

I have no idea what this is all about. There was a series of them on the pavement (that's what we call the "sidewalk" in South Africa).

I had lunch plans in the CBD with an old friend so I decided to walk the few miles down the hill to the city, and back. On the way I took photos of all the weird signs I saw.

PAIN in large rough letters on the street wall of the reservoir on Upper Orange street. Twice. I wonder who wrote it and if they're alright now.

I love new year’s day in the city. It’s a slightly sad scene. There’s the faded glory of New Year’s party posters, the darkened shop windows, the people, some still in party clothes, wandering home on a walk of no shame at all, or eating breakfast where they could find it. It’s like the whole city’s either saying “Jeez… is that it?” or “Shitsticks… what the fuck have I done?”

Lost Dog - found by New Year's or still wandering around without anyone to pick up his turds? I definitely saw a lot of turds on the sidewalk so I suspect he's still on the prowl.

There’s also evidence of altered states of mind of other kinds.

No clue what this graffitti is all about. I'd love to know. It's written on the downstairs boarded up garage of an apartment block I always wanted to live in... that has recently burned down.

An attempt to balance beauty and the need for security. Those ivy leaves on the pillar are made out of razor wire. I think they're borderline illegal, since it's not legal to harm intruders. All preventative measures are meant to be non-deadly.

Ahhh... The Lennox. Once the only hotel in town where "non-whites" could stay at the height of apartheid, and where I stayed with my family at some point when we first came to Cape Town, now a run down "bed and breakfast", where people live in what looks, at least from the outside, looks like squalor for all the wrong reasons. The curtains are filthy.

There were three garbage bags next to this sign, stuck on a wall outside the NG Kerk, and some man's clothes in the closest bin. Also, a coat hanger hanging from the tree inside the church security wall.

This button thingy for the pedestrian crossing is so old that it's still only in English and Afrikaans - not also Xhosa.

I walked down through the Company Gardens. They've been the same since forever, although they're less like a monument to colonialism now and more like a museum visited by all South Africans. People sleep on the grass in their lunchbreak, read books on the benches. In 1996, I once walked through at 4am and passed a guy, completely naked and red from the cold, furiously masturbating in public. True fact!

A dodgy dude. But we don't break down the statues here in South Africa like they did in Russia, and neither do we pretend they aren't dodgy like they do in the USA. We just build more. Behind, the gallery, which I must go check out while I'm in town.

Speaking of dodgy... The Great War. Wasn't so great for the dead guys whose names appear on the list up there.

Why is this written in cardboard? In ballpoint? At least have a magic marker, ffs. The sign refers to the outdoor cafe place in the gardens. Seems like the staff just decided to close early today. I don't blame them. I just think the way it's announced is pretty hilarious. And then someone decided it wasn't clear, came back with another ballpoint, and added (We mean the Cafe).

Oh, Telkom.

Nothing less partyish than the poster for last night's party in the window of a store that's closed. In South Africa, most people don't work on public holidays because they're, well, you know, public holidays and shit.

I sometimes wonder if anyone has ever masturbated over a shopfront mannequin. Is it wrong to? And what if you take a photo and then look at it at home, in private?

I have no idea what this is about, but I think it's beautiful. Someone tell me. Kinda looks like someone got all street-arty early in the morning on New Year's Day.

This is who I had lunch with. This is his tattoo. Yes, it's real. And yes, he means it. He very nearly had to be hospitalized due to starvation when the pizzas as Bardelli's on Kloof took over 90 minutes to arrive. I'm getting used to Cape Town time, because the food is so good when it finally arrives. I'm sure by the time I've adapted again it will be time to leave.

And that was my day. Here’s to 2012. May we all not die like in the movies. Specially those of us with shit written on our arms.