Since I have returned from the United States I have been insular, and yes, I am aware of the irony of that statement, because I know I have, to use that tired old cliché, literally poured my heart and soul out onto the pages of this site. So figuratively I have hardly been silent or distanced, but if you were to physically see me, spend time with me (and the truth is I have not done much of that with anyone since returning, therefore insular), you would find me with careless hair, and dark, liquid eyes, eyes that seem to contain unfathomable depths of pain, and that seem to be constantly on the verge of tears. You would find me silent and withdrawn, this is mirrored by my face which is harder, and in stark contrast with the softness of my eyes. Perhaps you would be taken aback by the weight I have lost, or that I no longer laugh as easily as I used to, so yes, I am insular at the moment. I am like an animal that has been injured that crawls into a hole or beneath a house to lick its wounds and to be alone, either to recover or die.
Speaking of animals, I did fundraising for an animal shelter I volunteer at, this past weekend, and I found handling the animals that are in need of great love and care to be extremely therapeutic. The fact that I also only had to deal with people who did not know my story and just wanted to bond, sharing their love for animals, was of enormous relief for me as well as a healing step in the right direction. The joy on a little girl’s face when I held a disabled kitten to my chest so she could stroke it and rub her face against its soft fur and hear it purr, did more for me than anything that I have been able to do for myself in the past two months. The outpouring on my site is more about my attempt to deal…with everything that is going on with me, and no offence to you, dear reader, not written for you. Yes, I have put them out there but that is just the artist in me, I am documenting a work, an experience, an emotion, a happening. So yes, I am insular despite what you may think, but the distance will narrow, the depths will shallow, the mists will lift, the sun will rise.
However, returning to the subject of the US, in this post I want to attempt to share with you my experiences there, while they are still fresh in my mind. I will avoid mention of my lost love (I should stop calling her that but any other names are not likely to be pleasant so let’s leave it at that) except where integral to the activities I am describing. Truth be told, and I am really not exaggerating when I say this, I have very few fond memories of her over there, especially on my second trip. Perhaps, if I am honest with myself, this is because they are now coloured by the events that occurred there and have occurred since, but regardless, they remain bad memories. So I will avoid the subject of her though this is probably neither realistic nor healthy. I know I keep on repeating this like some mantra, but I have no wish to speak of her nor malign her or embarrass her, not because I am any saint but because I choose, as a person and as an artist, to create beauty and lift spirits, not destroy, and by my repeating this I keep on reaffirming this so that I don’t just let go and tear her apart with my words.. Anyway, I hope you will enjoy my recollections.
The first thing I think that is important to know is that I, in a period of mere seven weeks, ended my life in South Africa. That is huuuge!!! To have the will, determination and courage to leave the country of your birth and everything you know and have, and cross oceans to go and make a new life in a foreign country because you believe in someone is something special, and yes, I am most certainly boasting. Some of you, I know, think me a dumbass and a dreamer, a deluded fool, but I tell you I am proud of the fact that I am that type of person. And I made it happen in SEVEN WEEKS!!! That is the type of person you want on your side and in your life. Well…most people would anyway. Plus I wrote three art theory exams in that period and had my first semester art prac crit! I am still amazed that I accomplished it all. The reason I am telling you about this? Well…yes to brag a little about some good that I can find in all of this, and to help you understand some of what I was experiencing while I was there, my frame of mind. You will not be surprised to hear that for a couple of weeks prior to leaving I had such terrible vertigo, dizzy spells and nausea (as a result of nervous tension and stress I think), that I would physically throw-up in the carpark of my complex in the mornings before heading to work. Seriously, I’m not just being dramatic, this happened. Add to all of this the distress caused by the sadness and tears I caused for my family and friends, my pure physical and mental exhaustion as a result of a lack of sleep, and of course, the natural fear of the unknown awaiting me, and you can imagine what state I was in when I finally got on the plane.
But I was also soooo joyful, and excited, and filled with anticipation; my heart sang with my soul! I could not believe the gift that had been granted me; I am just not used good things happening to me. I was like a child on Christmas Eve. I did not sleep on the flight there (I just can’t sleep when travelling) and this is a marathon journey, I kid you not! From Durban it is 8 hours to Dubai where you have a layover, and then from Dubai to Los Angeles is a further 15 hours, it is a nightmare journey! I will never understand parents who undertake such journeys with infants, I love children but honestly, I almost went insane! Thank goodness for my iPod and its tunes, and onboard movies!! But nevertheless you have a lot of time for reflection; it’s like a Christmas Eve (a particularly unpleasant one, crushed into a sardine can) that will not end so you can get to the good stuff!
Anyway, eventually I arrived to a Los Angeles summer which I am telling rocks! Being from Durban and being used to swampy, steamy, stanky, wet summers, an LA summer is an experience. It’s as if your whole life you have been dating one of Cinderella’s stepsisters and then you are suddenly presented with Cinderella herself! And she loves you! Now don’t get me wrong, Durban is great, and our winters are amazing, but an LA summer is like the winter over here…but without the cold!! No humidity just glorious sun! OK so I am aware that I missed the heatwave they recently experienced in LA and a few minor earth tremors as well, but I can only describe what I experienced, and it was awesome! I stayed in Burbank which is in North Hollywood and I loved it. It is ideally located; you are just so near everything! It even has its own airport (Bob Hope)! It is near the big movie studios and was once the home of the aviation industry (Lockheed I think) but once you venture off the main roads it also has an awesome “American movie”, suburban feel to it, with neat little houses with small manicured front lawns, and porch doors and large backyards and American flags and basketball hoops above garages and big-ass vehicles in the driveways and wide pavements.
My favourite place was a cemetery (hahaha, I know! Soooooo tortured artist)!!! In my defence, it is actually a memorial park; Valhalla Memorial Park to be specific, but it’s pretty much the resting place of a lot of dead people so…yep, cemetery. What I loved about it though, was what was once the grand main entrance to the park: The Portal of the Folded Wings. It is a huuuuge dome, detailed with angels and has arches or portals, opening to the four points of the compass. At my lowest, most tortured moments, when I truly felt like I could no longer endure the pain of my breakup I found solace there. I plan to return one day and meet up with the presence of the past me, my ghost if you will, that I am sure must haunt that place, and tell him not to worry, that he will survive and that things will get better…and set him free. You see, I believe that is what we experience or encounter as ghosts or spirits, the imprint of a person’s essence or soul on a place when they have undergone some huge traumatic experience, this is usually death of course, but it can just be a terrible event that occurred there. So yes, I do believe that at this place there is a part of the shattered, desolate me that needs to be consoled and set free, and I plan to return there one day and do that. Perhaps it will become an art piece…
Aaaaand on to more cheery things! The thing I also loved about the area I stayed in, was the fact that that just a few blocks down, there was this amazing Latina feel; billboards in Spanish and Mexican restaurants and stores, as well as of course a large Latino population. Hell, when I was jogging one day I was totally eyeballed by a LAPD cruiser and shadowed for awhile. My Spanish heritage and Latino looks made me a usual suspect hahaha! And I have to say the Whiteys did hold onto their bags and cells a little tighter when I jogged toward them and some even veered way off the sidewalk or crossed over to the other side! I ran a lot when I was over there, especially when everything fell apart, so I got to know the area around where I was living pretty well. Nothing would affect me more though than when I would run past the Burbank Library where two metal sculptures (2 heads; one pink and one blue) stood outside, to me they represented the insurmountable distance between two lovers, those small spaces we just can’t overcome. I later found out that the work, by Korean artist, Oh Soon Mi, is called Mutualism and represents two cultures coming together and talking. This is a fine example of the part the viewer plays in the life of an art piece: my emotional distress created a completely different reading of work than was the intention of the artist. The sculpture was a gift from Incheon, Korea, which is Burbank’s sister city, to commemorate their 50-year relationship (the blue represents Burbank and the pink, Incheon).
As you can imagine, I am sure, during the first couple of weeks it was pretty surreal being over there in LA. This was heightened by the fact that I was working on my American Pop Art theory essay for Varsity, and reading about Andy Warhol’s journey from New York to LA in 1962: as Warhol gazed out upon the landscape of America, he had a revelation of sorts, “the farther west we drove, the more Pop everything looked on the highways…I didn’t ever want to live anyplace where you couldn’t drive down the road and see drive-ins and giant ice cream cones and walk-in hot dogs and motel signs flashing!”. The truth is though; it is so much more than just that! America is a huge place; it is almost an entire continent for goodness sake! Imagine if Africa were one country (no, it’s not really, Oprah) and you will kind of get the idea. I am happy to say that, though I didn’t do the” touristy-thing” during my time living there, I did get out and see things, often by myself due to circumstances. However on my fourth day there we left for Colorado on a roadtrip. The purpose of the trip was to visit her father so I could meet him, and so I could ask him for her hand in marriage. It was a helluva long drive, somewhere around 12 to 14 hours if I recall correctly, but honestly I loved it. I only wish we had had time to stop at a couple of places. Once we had climbed up and out of California, we reached what seemed to be a vast, plateau with craggy red and orange outcrops: a hard land of brittle light, sharp edges and rough textures with vast spaces between settlements. It reminded me of the Karoo and my journey through it when I was a soldier on my way to the Border (see posts on my military service). Unfortunately I didn’t take many photographs because I imagined I would be making that trip again, many times to see my “father-in-law. Let that be a lesson never to think anything is certain, do it now, you may never get the opportunity again! We drove through Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, past countless Native American (First Nation) reservations, and roadside attractions and despite the tacky, commercialised hawking of “touristy products” I was very keen to experience a foreign culture firsthand. I was amused by the roadside displays of villages with huge fake tepees and dinosaurs rampaging through them (apparently they have found fossils in “them thar hills”). I definitely want to return there and perhaps do some research for a future art project.
Mr. B and his wife stay on the outskirts of Dove Creek (apparently the pinto bean capitol of the world), on a huge plot of land where the man has built a self-sustaining home, and to say that I have much respect for him is an understatement, he and his wife are amazing people. I could quite easily have stayed there in Dove Creek, Colorado. I loved going jogging in the early morning with their big-ass dog, a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, for company. Singita would disappear into the fields to explore and hunt, popping her head up every now and then to see where I was as I ran along the dirt road. There is a stillness and beauty to its isolation which spoke to me, and calmed and soothed my nerves and fears. So suitably soothed I eventually I got up the courage (this is probably one of my fondest memories of the place) to ask Mr B for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The huge grin and expression of joy on his grizzled face (there is not a lot of shaving done there, neither male nor female) as he came over and hugged me, is honestly a memory I will treasure forever. That moment is seriously quite possibly one of the most joyous moments in my entire life.
The other time I also treasure is reuniting with a dear friend from my youth and meeting his extraordinary wife. My only regret is that it could not have been in happy circumstances, by then the traumatic breakup had occurred and I was in so much pain and so distraught that I could not have been much fun to be around. However, they were very kind to me and certainly helped, and continue to help, in my healing process. I had not seen him in something like 25 years but within a day I remembered why I have such fond memories of our time spent together back in South Africa. They live in Clearwater, Florida in a beautiful home right on the water. I am here to tell you, Florida weather is very much like Durban weather but wow, that’s about where the similarity ends. Clearwater is a great little town with an amazing art district and with what seems to be loads of open spaces everywhere, and really interesting houses and restaurants and businesses. I just wanted to explore!!! I look forward to returning to Clearwater to visit with them again.
On my last week in before I left, I decided that after two weeks of being isolated in my ex’s apartment that, with or without her, I was going to get out! And I did it in style; I went to see what was once my favourite band of all time back in the 80s: the Cult. I went into Hollywood, to the Palladium, and I rocked with memories of my youth and with total strangers. I made friends and I danced and I sang and I celebrated that despite all I had been put through I was in the USA. Yes, I was going back ultimately as a failure, going back to humiliate myself but I had had the guts to try, I had given everything, I had not held back, and I had followed my heart and my dreams. That the other person involved lacked the courage or integrity to continue to pursue and bring to fruition what had once been our dream when we were so desperately close was tragic but was surely not my fault. So despite the fact that we three were beginning to show the wear and tear of life, I raged into the night with my good old friends, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy of the Cult, and for awhile forgot my sorrow and pain.
Airports! LAX! I have to say I love that airport and I think that the fact that I have visited it 6 times this year and stayed in one of its hotels overnight qualifies me to have an opinion about it! Yes, homeland security are rude and obnoxious, and yes, you have all the accompanying irritations that are characteristic of all airports: waiting, bad food, crowds, baggage checks etc. But it always just seems to be to me a gateway of hope, of endless possibilities. Plus I really like the signature light columns. Dubai I am kind of ambivalent about, I guess depending on which direction I am heading; to LA or away from it. It is like one huge shopping mall for duty-free shoppers, a Mall of Babel: so many cultures and languages and races. On my way back to South Africa this last time I spent a mind-bending, surreal 18 hour layover there, through a long endless night. So yes, ambivalent. King Shaka Airport in Durban is not bad, it’s new so that’s good, and it’s always the beginning and end of a journey but I look forward to the day when it is merely an airport I visit and LAX or, who knows, another airport is my beginning and end.