Posts Tagged ‘usa’

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 derided the drive as boring, scenically.


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.


I’m on my way, apparently.


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


Guff. Aware. What does it mean?


I am happy when I am traveling.


This is not ugly.


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

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.


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.

America’s political confusions

March 27, 2013

I find myself confused today, about America. Surely by now, they must know what’s right and wrong? But no, they’re human too.

The Anti-War people. They're not going to oppose the war, per se - that would never wash. They have to paint it as selfish or they'd be mauled. America has become more conservative in many ways than in was in the 60s (when it comes to this issue, not race, or gender, or sexual orientation.)

The Anti-War people. They’re not going to oppose the war, per se – that would never wash. They have to paint it as selfish or they’d be mauled. America has become more conservative in many ways than in was in the 60s (when it comes to this issue, not race, or gender, or sexual orientation.)

This means someone's son or daughter is over there, dying for the cause of... please remind me what it is, cause it sure as hell isn't freedom. It's not me who's being disrespectful here. It's the person asking someone to give their life for no good reason.

This means someone’s son or daughter is over there, dying for the cause of… please remind me what it is, cause it sure as hell isn’t freedom. It’s not me who’s being disrespectful here. It’s the person asking someone to give their life for no good reason.



The pro-war people. Do they seem to have more expensive banners – or am I imagining things?

A car in the expensive film school I go to's parking lot. I thought, being left wing, that "Miss me yet" was sarcastic. Turns out it's pro-bush. Ridiculous.

A car in the expensive film school I go to’s parking lot. I thought, being left wing, that “Miss me yet” was sarcastic. Turns out it’s pro-bush. Ridiculous.

But I guess if you go ski in the aspens and your parents bought your car for you, you would be a republican.

But I guess if you go ski in the aspens and your parents bought your car for you, you would be a republican.

Oh, and this is the same car. The guy is also anti-gay - unless he's a pro-gay scout fan. I remember being forced to learn Die Stem at Brownies in South Africa. Whites only brownies. The Scouts should be ashamed of their history, but weirdly are not.

Oh, and this is the same car. The guy is also anti-gay – unless he’s a pro-gay scout fan. I remember being forced to learn Die Stem at Brownies in South Africa. Whites only brownies. The Scouts should be ashamed of their history, but weirdly are not. If homophobia is timeless… I have no words.


Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

May 11, 2011

Facebooked by my friend Selwyn. I love this.

lionel richie spoof

I considered combining this with missing posters from Walmart's notice board. But that would be insensitive.

In case you can’t read them in this blurry photo, the tear-off things say “I can see it in your eyes / I can see it in your smile / … etc.”

But I did think this one, from Obs Fest in Cape Town South Africa was er… fair game.

Lost! "Have you seen my cat? About 100 lbs, likes to play with his food." Observatory (aka obz) is a suburb full of hippies, cat lovers, and arty types. It's very windy there.

And a new addition from @EmperorNorton on twitter.

Yeah, well. Now we have.

LA: How is this is not as good as it gets?

March 3, 2011

I drove to LA for a meeting yesterday morning. I felt like a real screenwriter. You know, driving to LA with a pitch to meet a director in a coffeeshop. On too little sleep. Let’s just say it – it felt real and unreal.

I feel a rising excitement as I get closer to LA, as the grafitti and wall art gets more sophisticated, as the drivers get ruder and the smog gets thicker.

The thrill is still not quite gone.

And sure, it might not work out (thought the meeting went well) but I’m just enjoying this. This is the time when, even if I’m consumed by panic, there’s still time to dream. Everything could still be perfect. And LA is a wonderful place to dream because in LA, a dreamer is never alone, although not every dreamer can afford the coffee.

"I promise you are not just a waitress" - a poster stuck to an electricity box opposite a french bistro staffed by suspiciously attractive waitrons who are probably, actually, actors.

I sat next to two old guys. They were discussing something one of them had written. On the left, two women gave each other notes on a screenplay. A few tables down, two Americans had an intelligent political discussion about Libya. Then went back to discussing a movie they’d like to make. Dreams, dreams, dreams, everywhere here.

If I’ve learned anything in the last four years is that nothing – no matter how wonderful or how terrible – is impossible. I could… find love? Maybe when I’m not looking for it, cause like, I need it like I need a hole in the head. Another hole in the head. It’s possible.

My fellow-blogger Dorothy Black ( collects pictures of "random hearts". Here's one I photographed. Spotted on the floor of a coffeeshop in Vermont Ave., Hollywood.

Or I could wind up a struggling screenwriter, working somewhere, writing something, living in a small but beautiful apartment in an area with really good fish tacos within walking distance.

I could live here. I'm a single.

Or they might send me home to South Africa, where I could… write that movie nobody here ever sees. Or that movie that wins a foreign movie Oscar. Same thing really – except then South Africans won’t watch it either.

Or... they say the sky's the limit. What was once in that building that's now leased as storage? Who's the latest porno superstar at Adultcon? And where are all these cars going to? What new building is that orange cement mixing truck mixing cement for?

I guess I hung around for a while. I bought three different colors of nail laquer so that I could paint all my nails different colours. Then I left. And on the way, I passed this writing on the wall: THIS IS NOT AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

Right now, just being near this alleyway leading to a dumpster excites me.

Hooters! For parents who really believe “breast is best”

January 6, 2011

I want to the Hooters website. I needed to set a scene I was writing there, okay. And also I’m always fascinated by the businesses who set up near places where men are believed to lurk at their most vulnerable or unfettered moments – like outside churches sports stadiums, and in airports. Here in the USA, places like this are generally designed to comfort and pamper the male, and are oddly food-focussed.

Nom nom nom.

I’ve never known South African strip clubs to punt their hamburgers. Why bother – that’s not what people go there for. But here in the USA the men seem willing to settle for less actual nudity, provided they can load up on calories while they skinny women in tight clothing serve them food in language loaded with sexual innuendo: “That’s the biggest burger I’ve ever seen! It’s huge!” says the woman in the frontpage flash video. “Much, much more than a mouthful.”. I guess the more deep-fried gunk guys eat, the more likely it is they’ll need to pay chicks to talk to them like that.

If I need to explain anything I’ve said so far, you’re probably too young to be reading this blog. But oddly… Hooters doesn’t seem to think so. In their merchandise section, I found THIS.

Keep your eye on the future, kid. And parents, get your baby-girl a hooters shirt now. By the time they're 18, if you keep feeding them beef full of hormones, they'll have grown into it and with any luck? Hey, they can "put themselves through college", if you know what I mean.

America. Just when you think you’re used to it, it whuppasses you with its weirdness all over again. Someone said to me last night – get this – “You shouldn’t make fun of American Football. It upsets people.”

American men may be a bunch of sports-mad perverts. But they’re a bunch of sensitive sports-mad perverts.

All the trippy people on the train say “hi”

December 26, 2010

This Amtrack Train would make a great moving set. It’s hilarious. I’ve never been to a place with so many rules – there are even more rules on a train than there are on an aeroplane. Wear your shoes. No singing. No using the tables between meals. No laptops in the cafe cart. No arriving for dinner at your pre-booked time. The dining room lady will inform you when she feels that it’s 5.15pm – at a time of her choosing. In the middle of the night, the police were called aboard at a stop to eject some passengers who weren’t behaving. So I’m keeping a low profile and encouraging my mother to do the same.

I love trains. Sleeping on one is twice as expensive as a plane to the same place, 30 times slower, and a million times more entertaining. The Coast Starlight is a sort of down-home version of the blue train - priced around the same as Eurail, if you consider that meals are included.

And the staff are a real motley crew. The woman in charge of the lounge car – Veronica – is the coolest. She has a genuine sense of humour, and the best Spanish accent ever. She’s being heavily courted by a hip hop guy in a big yellow jacket, who I think gave up and got off the train in Portland. Then there’s Henry, who tells the kids jokes and placates the passengers who have been told off by the woman who runs the dining cart. And Bryan who waits in that cart and seems to play good cop to her “schoolmarm cop”. And there’s the woman who runs the dining area for coach passengers, who announces in a seductive voice that she has “Coffee, tea, juice, jalepeno burger… or (whispering) a snickers bar… come see me”. I had to go see her. She’s a little old lady with grey hair who looks like she should be next to a fire, knitting.

And there’s Julio, who nobody’s ever seen, but who gets told where to be all the time. For some reason, they haven’t discovered the joys of cellular or walkie talkie communication, so all internal staff communications are broadcast throughout every single cabin on the intercom. As I write this, Julio’s last known location was the Dining Car.

And that’s just the staff. The passengers get pretty weird too. Like the reborn Christian evangelist who spent an hour lecturing some poor old man whose wife had died about how he needed to move on, then left… she was carrying a goldfish in a tupperware. And the dude who sat carving his lighter up with a flick knife, while making strange grunting noises. And this lawyer from California who followed me around and sat and stared at me wherever I went, and eventually gave me this poem, which I’d seen him carrying around specially printed out since we all got on the train in the morning.

Merry Christmas to you too.

As you can imagine, I’m having an awesome time. This is screenwriter heaven.

Mom wanted me to send my brother a picture of us together, to show I was looking after her nicely. Here's me doing as I'm told.

Cemeteries of the soul – behind garage doors

December 5, 2010

Garages are the attic of a man’s world. While the photos of you when you were a kid, the first drawing of a dysfunctional / smiling family in front of a house, the blonde doll you alternately loved and tortured and your dead puppy’s collar might end up in Mom’s attic, Dad has his own cemetery of the soul.

Garages have always fascinated me. I shot my first production exercise in one. It’s full of mistakes (I’ll never zoom again as long as I live, I swear). But I still love it.

Here, dreams and pride gather dust. Stuff that might belong to many people, dumped there for safekeeping and never collected. If you ask to borrow something from garage, the answer will almost always be “yes”, and quite often becomes: “As long as you never bring it back.” In South Africa, an organisation I wrote about called Men at the Side of the Road raised funds partly by clearing out people’s garages and re-purposing their junk.

And I’ve never been in a garage you couldn’t write a movie about. Happily for me, we were shooting Sarah’s 789 (that’s Dodge-speak for “five minute short”) in an actor’s garage last night, after mine turned out to have no electrical plug for the lights.

A shovel. A ladder. Some unidentifiable stuff. Mattresses? And wait... what is that?

Ronald Reagan signed photo

It's a signed photograph of Ronald Reagan. The president who called a 1988 strike on Iranian ships "Operation Praying Mantis". He was one creepy guy. And look who all's in the background!

And this cat. Loved enough to have its portrait taken and framed. But now the picture's on the floor behind a mattrass, gathering grime. Who was Kitty Cat?

Take 5, Shovel. Starring Dan McDonald, Daphne Karpel and Will Kasson.

Being American seems to involve owning copious amounts of American flags, which go all over the place. On matches. Above the creepy crawly spare pipe. On cupboards, cars, post boxes, doors... Above a box of golf clubs that don't seem to have made it out onto the green for a while.

“You don’t celebrate Thanksgiving?”

November 24, 2010

I got that holiday feeling. By which I mean, most of the people I know in town have gone home to their families for Thanksgiving, America’s bloodiest holiday, on which millions of turkeys sacrifice for the cause, and everyone cooks, like crazy.

Fellow writer Daphne Carpel spotted this at the airport. She has an eye for the poignent in life. I almost cried when I read it... talk about the loss of innocence.

Here in So-Cal, there’s a weird vibe in the air. Queues at stores. Rain in California. So I decided to spend most of this time at home, in my new pink fluffy dressing gown, writing while consuming gallons of specially re-labled “festive blend” coffee. I would have thrown a hot water bottle into the mix, but here they are sold in medical stores only, and used to give enemas. They come with attachments. And although I’ve gone native and now get cold when the themometre drops below 60 farenheit, I just couldn’t face owning anything used to wash out the inside of your arse.

If course, there’s no avoiding the world: Every now and then I need to put my clothes on and leave, even if only to get pizza or milk, or a quick enima. This means talking to the extra-happy US clerks, who inevitably ask me, once they hear my accent: “So, you cooking up a storm for Thanksgiving?” I glance in confusion at my collection of items: Milk, toilet paper, chardonnay, an instant dinner and an overly optimistic bag of salad that will leave my fridge in compost form in a week.

Actually, cough… I am celebrating Thanksgiving. A bunch of us students who can’t go home for the holidays are meeting up and each bringing a dish and it’s going to be really cool. But I like to complicate my life, so I often explain no, “I’m South African”. The people I actually know in the USA – my new friends I guess – are mostly quite well educated. But the woman at Trader Jo’s looked at me like I’d just announced I had a bomb strapped to me. “You don’t have Thanksgiving there?” She said, agast. I shook my head. “Why not?” She replied. After thinking over the possibility of explaining why we also didn’t celebrate the 4th of July, I smiled sadly and replied: “No Turkeys”.

Not that keen to touch Activist Lori Lamb's junk. But it's some poor person's job to do so. Pat Downs are the new controversy here. Seems they're becoming more invasive. I'm almost tempted to fly. Image swiped from

Actually thanksgiving, for all its dubious historial inaccuracy is a kinda cool holiday. It’s a perfect break before the craziness of finals. It involves food and well, being thankful. I got into the spirit of it and felt like I belonged for maybe the first time when I donated a couple of cans and some instant mac ‘n cheese to a shelter. For liberal-ass me, that’s probably the moment when I know I’ve settled in a bit: the one when I do something for the community that, in it’s friendly, weird American way, has welcomed me in the end.

To those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, enjoy. And to those of you who don’t, consider it! I can’t imagine anything better than a celebration with no baggage – no memories of missing family, no complications, just good food, and the people you choose to have with you. Your gay family, if you know what I mean. I think when I go home I might keep the tradition, just for fun. A friend and former colleague blogged about her thanksgiving excuse for cooking cool food here.

And this year I’m celebrating some great things like
The storm of creative collaboration born of slight desperation over our latests project, the first one that forces students to film a narrative – the 789.
The fact that I’m starting to make friends, and the warm and welcoming-ness of Americans so far. Thanks, USA.
The friends back in South Africa who kept me sane online, who held my hand and who I miss like crazy. Who gave me the faith it took to come here.
My mother, who sent me photographs and a card with jasmine flowers and fynbos from home pressed in it. Jasmine for my birthday. Arrived a few months late but I could still smell the flowers in her garden.
My father, who is flying my mother here to visit me.
The first crush I’ve had in ages. It’s not a good feeling exactly. But it’s better than nothing.
The future, which may not be the reason I’m wearing shades. The past that pushed me here. The hope that I’ll overcome the past.

Overshare – why not. People have died for less.

Bowling. Not for Columbine*. Just for fun.

November 9, 2010

… in which an alien goes bowling, breaks her In & Out cherry, and hears the sound of music.

This Japanese poster for The Big Lebowski is just... I don't even want to know what the title became.

Considering The Big Lebowski is one of the top 10 reasons I am becoming a screenwriter, and considering the fact that Cape Town is in truth very, very close to Parow, it’s surprising that I do not know how to bowl. I think I went, once, as part of someone’s birthday party, but all I remember about it was how much the birthday girl’s brother complained about driving to Parow the whole way through. I was dating the annoying, self-centred brother. Apologies for stating the obvious.

I got a ride with a girl in my class, Sarah, who has been nice to me. She’s also cool in an odd way my friends back home would like – the kind of person who could make driving a motorised tricycle seem stylish, but isn’t pretentious enough to do it. We we went cruising down the boulevard through 23.5 identical suburbs, past 789 identical 8-store markets, passing Disneyland’s nightly fireworks display and on. I’m not surprised onse babe Charlize Theron feels at home in California. It’s really very much like her native Benoni – just with fewer guns and better Mexican food. The GPS didn’t know which side of the road the bowling alley was on, but as it turned out, that wasn’t really a problem.

This sign is one of only 56,000,8998,99766 signs in the U.S.A. that is visible to the naked eye from space. The alien schools already hold compulsory early morning bowling classes in the belief that it will "help them blend in". Now you know.

We were out in Anaheim because one of the students who came from New York wound up living out there, thinking “eight miles from school isn’t far.” And because the beer was supposedly cheaper.

Americans have a newspaper for everything. For instance, Adult Daipers Monthly, which is printed on recycled disposible adult daipers. (Not really, but that'd be cool.)

It’s B.Y.O. socks for the next bit, where you hire a pair of shoes for $3.25 and pay 5 bucks to bowl. Or you order a pint of Newcastle and watch other people. That’s what I did. I have been having one of those weeks where stuff lands on your head all the time, and you fall all the time. If I wasn’t driving, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be handling balls that weigh more than my head.

I'm not sure I understand the need for the giant rear view mirror. I for one do not want to see my own ass on the way out.

At about midnight, we ended up at In and Out Burger. I’ve been trying to avoid this discovery, as their food is clearly addictive. Now I have tried it, I think about it three times a day. When I grow up, I want to be an In and Out Burger Dealer, although I’m not sure whether or not I’d be keen to sleep with In an Out Burger ‘ho’s. It’s not delicious because it’s packed with healthy goodness. In and Out is basically everything McDonalds wants to be, but isn’t. It’s like McDonalds that doesn’t have McD’s signature “faint whiff of garbage truck”.

Then it was back to the Bowling Alley, and the bar had closed.

The sign on the right says "Popcorn only in the bar". I guess the popcorn must be the free bar snack.

See now, in South Africa, when the bar closes, everyone bails. Often drunk drives, but if not, shares taxis, or whatever. In America… they start singing the songs from Musicals, apparently. Or maybe it’s just the film school students I hang out with.

Sarah wouldn't let me take a picture where she wasn't pulling a face.

I don’t know any songs from Musicals. They’re kinda big here. I guess a lot of them are from here.

Anyhow, they sang for hours, and then when everyone was sober, and only then, we left. Not that anyone got particularly drunk in the first place. I was impressed, and amused.

Driving back to American and British rock ‘n roll classics on the radio, I realised one of the very powerful things about American culture: That musicals and rock ‘n roll and pop radio hits are part of shared folk culture here. I suspect would be unimaginable, in America, to grow up with parents who couldn’t sing you a Doors song, or were vague about who Billy Holiday or Fleetwood Mac or Nina Simone might be.

I wonder what the South African equivalent is. Miriam Makeba, perhaps, or oh no, no. Not Shosholoza? I love being from a place with many questions, with no clear answers, that could still become anything it wants to. But sometimes, from far away, it’s hard to grasp and impossible to hold onto.

* Wiki says: The film title originates from the story of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – the two students responsible for the Columbine High School massacre – attended a school bowling class early that morning, at 6:00 a.m., before they committed the attacks at school starting at 11:19 a.m. Later investigation showed that this was based on mistaken recollections, and Glenn Moore of the Golden Police Department concluded that they were absent from school on the day of the attack.[4]

I haven't seen The Sound of Music. But I've heard the whole thing now.

Let me tell you about my day

November 3, 2010

I swore I’d never, EVER go back to Stater Bros. Stater Bros, for those who don’t know, is a discount store, masquerading as a “market”, trying to capitalise on some kind of pastoral myth that everything about them hates. They specialize in high ceilings, fucking weird people at the tills, and bulk booze sales. And cheap products consisting of corn syrup. As well as “just one drink” booze sales.

They always seem to set up stores within a block of a trailer park.

Bro? Bro from another mutherfucker, maybe.

I hadn’t been into one of their branches until – after one beer at our wrap party for Wilt (a second -year MFA student production at Dodge College) – I realised I really should have just bought tequila in the first place. So off I went, past the Orange police, who had nothing more dangerous to do on Halloween night than arrest a cyclist for having no license, it seemed. Thanks to baby Jesus I was just driving on a beer or two. And guess what? Neither the dickhead behind the til at Stater Bros nor the manager was willing to accept a South African passport as ID. Which meant I couldn’t buy the tequila.

I don’t like being in my 30s, but at the very least it SHOULD mean I no longer get carded. And if I do, it shouldn’t be by someone whose only source of power is gained from bullying people based on their ethnicity.

After lecturing the moron who treated me like I was the problem, showing no shame, I went next door and bought the tequila there instead. It wasn’t cold and the guy behind the counter asked me out (or should that be, asked himself IN!?) but at least he sold me some hard tack, after checking my totally valid ID.

The next afternoon, I woke up. Sort of. Actually first I drank a litre of coffee. I no longer have an alcohol tolerance so three tequilas nearly killed me. After five solid days work as on-set photographer on the shoot. I longed to kick back, relax, and watch some TV.

Wasn’t about to happen though. I had a few things crawling up my to-do-list, like roaches to rotting refried bean sauce, like sands through an hourglass (backwards), like, for instance, my recycling, which has gradually been encroaching on my kitchen to a greater and greater degree, until I was tripping over Trader Joe’s bags full of plastic soda water bottles on my way to the water filter at night…

So I skipped making a to do list (one less thing to do that way) and moved right on to getting shit sorted out.

I paid my rent. I paid my internet bill. I paid my electricity. I paid my gas. I took my recycling and transferred it into bags.

Then I ventured out to the nearest recycling place. I stood in line, wondering why people didnt’ just leave their stuff. I found out why when I got to the front. They PAY you for it here. And guess what? They’re located just in front of the local trailer park. And guess what 2? I had somehow, by fluke known only to me, found myself at the same branch of… STATER BRO’s where I’d thrown my toys the night before. And guess what else? The recycling place gives you vouchers, which you can redeem only at STATER BRO’s.

EARTH WIZE (not spelling wise). I think next time I'll donate my recycling to charity. But it's pretty amazing to see how effective it is to pay people. There was a queue. Really. A queue.

So I want back in. At the counter, scented with garbage and full of joy at not only having saved the planet, but also cleared my house of junk and been paid to do so, I toyed with a pack of gum. Toyed with a banana. Toyed with an energy shot.

It's called GO FORTH MOBILE HOME VILLAGE. But I think people stay longer than they plan to. If you would like to live in a storage container on wheels, California is the place to do it, apparently.

Then I decided no, screw this. I’ll buy it somewhere else. I’ll put that towards that Mustang I always wanted. And the next day, I did. It was only $3 but like writing fees for South African web columns, these things do add up. So I bought the damn car. But that’s another story, for another time.