Thursday, May 22, 2008

Open for business

I am sitting at my desk at work. I can hear the traffic outside and the phone still rings. There was a photo shoot in the studio today. My kids went to school and have gone home with friends for playdates. This is quite a normal day. Except, I just read that there are about 27,000 people displaced from their homes in a city whose official population is some 2.5 million. Yes, 10% of Joburg has been displaced due to xenophobic attacks. Its mainly foreigners that are getting the axe - or rather the necklace (which is the very disturbing practice of putting a tire around somebody's neck and lighting it on fire), but those housing and employing foreigners are also a target.

People are dying, people are starving. Many have been beaten or raped and at the very least, they have been unable to fight back as the few possessions they own have been taken from them or destroyed. It started because a group of South Africans heard from somewhere that foreigners were getting preferential allocations to government housing. This information, coupled with massive unemployment, rising food and petrol costs, growing disassociation and disenfranchisement from the government - and probably also a couple bottles of beer - led to the first attacks on Zimbabwean nationals living in Alex Township. Others caught on to this and the wave of violence spread, through and outside of Joburg. The classic xenophobic beliefs that foreigners are taking "our" jobs and commit all the crimes fueled the classic mob mentality and within a few moments, the thugs got involved. They were doing it anyhow, now its just an easier environment to work in.

Thousands of people, many of them already refugees and (as the current government refuses to accept that Zimbabweans could possibly have reason to leave home) economic migrants, some documented, some not, have been left displaced again. South Africa does not have a refugee camp policy. These people have been seeking refuge in churches and police stations. Ironically, it is the "Red Ants" now guarding these makeshift camps. (The "Red Ants" are a branch of the police force responsible for the search and eviction of undocumented migrants in the inner city and known for the cruelty in which they carry these orders out.) The call has gone out for everyone to bring in food and clothing, especially for the children. Everyone knows someone who is gathering up to take in to some shelter or other. Community associations are up in arms - its just that the government has been awful slow in taking up arms against the terror. The pictures are horrific. The stories will make you cry.

There is a war against foreigners going on in "my" city. I wonder if I should be worried about my safety. I wonder if there will come a point when I need to jump on the next airplane and off to safety. I wonder if I am really a foreigner; how can I be now? And as I ponder all these things, I sit at my desk in a city with violence erupting and exploding around me and I answer the phone calls that are still bringing work in. The city is burning, but if you need a make up artist, we are open for business.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Made for TV

I have recently spent a horrific amount of time reading up on the Josef Friztl case that emerged in Austria a few weeks ago. By now I am pretty sure I have read most things that the general public has been allowed to get its hands on. I can rattle off facts like I am somehow involved in the investigative team and I really hope the bastard is charged with murder for the death of one of his sons. How on earth can someone who perpetrated crimes for 24 years be sentenced for 15 years? Look, he is pushing up in years, and chances are 15 years is enough to see him to his death bed, but really? I spend most of my time and energy on this thinking about the little things like trying to deliver babies on your own. And then there is this tricky one: the kids' mother is also their sister, but that fact is really not important, because being their mother is the dominant role she plays. So the kids are soon to get their Austrian citizenship, but will the courts be as speedy in granting a divorce (assuming his wife asks for one) and removing him as a custodian for the minor children he has adopted and fostered? I know nothing about Austrian law (except that the max sentence for rape is 15 years and that prostitution is legal), but does Josef's name go on birth certificates as the father and as such is he necessarily a guardian of the youngest child, Felix who is still a minor? Ah, its a tricky one. And while I agree that trying to give the family some peace is a great idea, wow am I entranced by this crazy crazy story. How on earth can this happen? I join the ranks with the others in almost disbelief.

The other thing that occupies my brain space these days is the imaginary holiday I am planning. Yes, imaginary, because just like my holiday to 1971 New York City (just to hear Carol King's Tapestry as it is released) and 1954 Chicago (just because I want some furniture and clothes), I can not really go on holiday to Star's Hollow. Yes, that's right, I have become obsessed with the tiny Connecticut town in the Gilmore Girls. Of course, in my imaginary holiday, I am going to visit Loralei and Rory. Its totally possible that Stars Hollow exists, but I haven't done a scrap of web research on this. I just sit on my couch after the kids have gone to sleep and watch episodes back to back while sinking ever deeper into my couch. But, after admitting around a table of friends that "I looooove the Gilmore Girls" (for which I was told I was brave for admitting), I got slammed with, "but who talks like that?" and "its so fake". Ahhh, I talk like that - or at least I want to. Snappy come backs and cutesy inside jokes. Oh please let me talk like that...

And upon enquiring about the Gilmore speak, I have sadly been told that no, my sister and I do not speak like them. Its very sad, but not nearly as bad as realising that all my memories are made for TV. They are edited and clipped at precisely the right point. They do have the benefit of an almost unlimited music budget and with me in the roles of art director, producer, and lead actress it makes the chances of winning an Emmy really, really outstanding. But still, the editor has taken 30 years and condensed them in to a couple seasons of a weekly 30 minute sitcom (though I am toying with entering under the situational drama category instead, its just all the quippy lines that make it so fun to watch).

Nonetheless, made for TV is much better than made for reality. I mean, who wouldn't take the fantasy of Stars Hollow over the reality of the cellar in Amstetten, Austria? Thankfully I have the one to balance the other as I spend my days, because they are both a little too surreal for me to handle on their own. And when this week's episode of "The Katie Show" airs, both will just have a tiny mention, a little one-liner like "Why don't you pose Gilmore Girls vs Josef Fritzl on Google fight?" (Wow, even managed to get in my ever growing dependence on the Google applications in there!) There will be canned laughter and then applause. After all, my show is made for TV and really only includes slices of reality, the rest is just padding. And for the record, the Gilmore Girls can kick Josef Fritzl's ass, just go to and see for yourself.

Friday, August 03, 2007

snip snip

"Cut my hair?"
"No, don't say it like that, say, 'change my appearance'"
"Cut my hair?" This is me repeating myself to my hairdresser. It went on like that for a few minutes.
"Its time for a change." This was Kobus trying to defend himself.
"A change? For years it was jet black and long and straightened. Just recently we added in streaks of red and now we are on to blond almost. How much of a change is that?"
"But its always just been long and straight."
"Cut my hair? You want to cut my hair?" I think Kobus was glad to be rid of me when I walked out of the salon, I was worse than a broken record. I really couldn't fathom the concept of cutting my hair, much less believe the words that were coming out of Kobus' mouth.

I am Sampson. My strength is in my hair, obviously, because I was on a path to revival of self and the mere mention of me potentially losing it, has broken me down and I feel weak. (Cut my hair?) I would have thought I was a bit more Delilah, I generally have a knack for finding the weaknesses in others and breaking them down when I need to. Sneaky. Sly. You'll be too busy watching the foot in the door to notice that the door is all the way open. All that. (Cut my hair?) It looks like I have just switched operatic roles and that is okay, except I am still reeling from the inability to compute the consequences of losing my hair.

To you - and you know exactly who you are, I am the picture of strength. I deal with the big issues with such poise and grace. I take it away for breakfast and chew it up slowly, letting it work itself out of my body naturally. The small issues don't even come near me do they? I am a pinnacle of understanding and accepting. I am stronger than you will ever be. I wonder if you will ever know how weak and pathetic I really am. I wonder if you will ever understand the reasons for the strength I exude. (Cut my hair?) I wear those scabs like a badge, like a hero, but they are window dressing, a lot like my hair. Don't worry honey, look how strong I am, I will handle it, I will always handle it, I will always be there for the people too afraid to let me in anyway. As words drip from my hands, I can almost hear the snip snip of the scissors behind my neck... I am terrified.

But I know what I need to do. I know I need to develop another platform of strength, one that is based here, where I physically am. I know I can not rely on all that I have relied on so far. Because this is as far as that train goes. I need to make some changes, because I want to win, I want to come in first and that might mean running on my own two feet for a little while. So maybe cutting my hair is not the end of the world or the end of my inner strength. Perhaps its just a way of showing that I am as strong as you think I am. Maybe even stronger. And maybe it will show me I am Achilles and not Sampson. Which means of course that once I cut my hair, my new thing may be investing in bullet-proof, kick-the-shit-out-of-you ankle protection. I mean I always have to have a thing, don't I? (But really, cut my hair?)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Its the first time I have attempted to write a blog where the first thing that came to mind was the title. And what a title, you know? I mean, where could I take this from here? Crusty. It just sounds gross. The first word that came to mind was healing, but that is just not creative enough for the put-two-obsolete-and-abstract-words-together-and-call-it-a- description girl. But then crusty doesn't fit under that either. Crusty here, however, is being used as the description of the outer edges of a large scab as it starts to heal from the outside in. And yes, you got it, I am calling myself a scab. One or two of my readers may have at one point or another thought of me as a large scab on their knee following a skateboarding (or similar) fall. I however have never thought of myself as a scab until, um, just today.

Truth is, its not a wholly inaccurate description of myself in the recent past. A bleeding wound in the line of constant re-injury. Let me re-phrase that. "Its not a wholly inaccurate description of myself (full stop)." Oh yes, setting myself up for injury is what I do best. Girls, back me up on this. I mean you have seen it numerous times, you saw it before I saw it. Scab that won't develop past the point of crustiness. That is me. Over and over, again and again. I have a soundtrack to the emotional injuries of my life, any one need a copy? I have been fortunate, its not like I am constantly in the crusty stages, sometimes it is a fresh wound and once I allowed a scab, which had been opened and broken over and over and again and again to heal into a throbbing scar; it remains to this day. And its not like anyone causes these injuries, its just me, I should really learn to lick my wounds with my anti-bacterial tongue and invest in a supply of good bandaids. Because obviously the techniques I have been using to date just don't work.

Recently, in my quest for new and improved healing techniques I have turned to an addiction that I hear is very soothing (and infinitely more popular than count the stitches knitting I engage in). Video games. I have recently taken possession (albeit short-term) of a PS2 and I have been engaging in some Tony Hawk action on a nightly basis. I suck. I am worse at video skating than I am at real skating. And that is really hard to beat, as the last time I was on a board, I was having gravel picked out of my back at the health centre as as soon as the alcohol stopped masking the pain. I have also found that it is hard to practice skating without listening to old school punk, which means that things like Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine and Adem have been missing from my evening playlist. This is obviously infinitely more emotionally beneficial than knitting as it is a complete waste of my time and skills. I am not even good at it. And I am allowing myself to be mediocre. And I am also having fun slamming people into walls and watching them slip off their boards in ways that would require them being picked off the gravel instead of the other way around.

You get the picture though. I am in the limbo of healing and working on being nothing for the first time instead of being everything. It is a little bit difficult for me, but maybe for the first time I will have a clear head and maybe just maybe I will move forward from there. Maybe I will remember I live where I really do, even if its not where I want to be. Maybe the Tony Hawk plaster will work where nothing else has. Maybe this scab will become just a scar, after I work through the alphabet (scab, scad, scag...), but for now I am spending my evenings on the couch, controller in hand, getting more and more crusty as I heal from the outside in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

time lord

Where did all the time go? How come it is not bending the way I want it to? Five years passed with revelations and revolutions. A few days passed through my world in the space of minutes, despite the feeling of kid before Christmas that comes with a new place. And this week. I can cross the days off my calendar, but I can't figure out what happened to them. I am stuck in a Doctor Who universe that isn't really mine. Its colding me out. Well everything except the comparison of my life to a Doctor Who episode, because I have firmly committed myself to having the worlds biggest crush on the Doctor. Please note we are talking about the 2005 version of the Doctor, not the classic Doctor with very Simon & Garfunkel just got out of bed hair. And for those of you unfamiliar with either series, Doctor Who is a Time Lord who saves the day all over the universe with his sometimes beautiful accompaniments.

And speaking of hair and time. How is it that a nearly-30-year-old, fully-capable, mother-of-two, holds-down-a-job, world-traveler, and most-vainest of people in the world simply can not find the time to brush her hair in the morning? The routine should very clear by now. It should go something like this (with you know the bits about the kids taken out for edited list purposes):

wake up
put on robe
start kettle for coffee
use toilet
make coffee
drink coffee
take shower
get dressed
have another cup of coffee
apply deodorant
brush teeth
brush hair
gather handbag and other essentials for the day
make sure lights, etc are turned off
go to work

I am pretty sure that most people who go to work every day and especially those of us who are so vain about our hair that we go to the salon EVERY week and even more especially those of us whose job description entails meeting clients, I am pretty sure pretty much everyone else manages to brush their hair. How come I can't? But that I don't even think about it in the morning is the real problem I suppose. Yesterday, around lunchtime, I was greeted by a visitor to our office. Conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hello"
Him: "Hey there"
Me: "How ya doin?"
Him: "Better than you by the looks of it"
Me: "What? What the hell does that mean?"
Him: "Well it looks like you had a night"
Me: checking over my appearance quickly, noting that I am not hung over despite some wine having been consumed "what on earth makes you say that?"
Him: "Your hair looks a state. Clearly had a rough morning..."
Me: "Wow, thats a thing to say..." and then silently to myself I swore at him and at me for a few seconds and headed straight for my hair brush.

And really, despite the fact that I am missing some of my time and spending some of it plotting and writing, I do actually have plenty of it and a hair brush. And I seem to be spending some of my time doing nothing but watching a Time Lord on tv. And I mean nothing. The girl who multi-tasks for fun has been vegging out now and again and watching a very absurd celebrity crush. I could seriously be using that time more constructively, by doing things like brushing my hair. But then I think to myself, well, most of my non-verbal communication is played out by my relationship with my hair and sweeping it forward or to the side or twisting it with my fingers. And some people have gotten so good at reading my relationship to my hair that maybe one of them will step forward and tell me what it means that I haven't brushed it yet today...

Monday, July 02, 2007

blow your house down

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in..." Then I'll sniffle and grumble and sneeze your house in... I remember the worst flu I ever had. I was living in Coventry and working out at the diner. I would wake up in the morning and feel ok, so I would go through to work and on my drive all the way back it would hit me. One night I was so bad that I got home, collapsed on the couch and proceeded to allow the dizziness to set in. I wanted orange juice, I had orange juice in the fridge, the fridge was in the next room, it was a small place, the fridge was not that far away. For some reason I couldn't do it. I crawled, on all fours, crawled I tell you - after more or less falling off the couch - to the kitchen and smeagoled my way on to the counter, managed to get a cup and then managed to get some orange juice in it. I was delirious. I sat on the kitchen floor to drink my juice because I couldn't manage to crawl with the cup of juice. When the cup was empty, I continued to sit on the kitchen floor because I just couldn't manage to build up the strength to get back to the couch, let alone my bed. Dizzy to the point of ridiculous, alternately burning up and freezing socks off. Slowly, and with the aid of my roommate I was pried off the floor and dragged back to the couch. I remember Ally McBeal came on. It was the first time I had seen it and I was delirious or it was brilliant. I still can't say, I don't think I've seen it since...

I feel a little fluish now. I don't even think it is the flu. It is called too-much-stress-and-my-body-is-worn-out weakness. And of course I am stressed out and of course I am over-working myself. I know this because those are two things I really do well. In fact I have to say they are my most consistent personality traits. There are plenty of other personality traits that we could go into, but I am not strong enough to face those right now. I want to go home. (Hey that is another consistent one, isn't it?) I want to crawl into bed and wait for my mom to pop in her head and announce dinner plans. I want to watch mediocre (or even good) sitcoms on tv. I want to be a little girl for a few hours while someone else makes the decisions. Hell, at this point I would settle for just being settled...

Moving is no joke. Its like a big bad wolf came and blew down my house, my world. Organise this, phone them, go here, pick up that, oh my, what about this? I dunno, maybe it is more like the Wizard of Oz, house spinning, my head spinning and I have landed where exactly? And I feel somewhat delirious and like I want to sit on a kitchen floor (although not the one in my new place, not until it is cleaned, the people who lived there before me were filthy people) with my head up against a fridge. I think it is just fatigue, but even if it is the flu, I know the feeling and I like repeats, and I'll take it. I am just looking for the comforts of home, my home, a home, any home.

And I suppose that is why, when I was greeted this morning by a little voice declaring that I had not read him a story last night (he fell asleep on the couch), it didn't matter for a second that my body was on the weak side of life, I huffed and I puffed and I made it all the way through the Three Little Pigs without sneezing. And I tried to hold back on the kisses, just in case I am a little more than exhausted...

Friday, June 29, 2007

fire exits

I read like a tarot card, its so easy to pick out my mood and to divide up what I am really saying. But I am not alone. I think it is actually rare that people are able to conceal their real feelings. And I am generally pretty good at picking these things up. Last night was just another night, like any other night. An exhibition, some drinks and then a packed full space of people mushing and pushing and putting on their smiles and their attitudes. A sea of bodies, dancing and laughing and full of the expectations of this life... I played along, I smiled and put on my attitude and danced and laughed, but I am feeling jaded.

I saw him. He doesn't know who I am, but I know who he is. I know his history, his story. I know this because when people are in a sea of other people all mushing and pushing each other, sometimes they talk. And they gossip and they say things to get an edge. But that is not the point right now, we all already know this and I don't need to rehash this for you right now. The point is that I know what he has gone through, in a very superficial way perhaps, but it is something I have gone through. And I was fascinated. It was, if nothing else, more interesting than worrying about venue capacity versus possible exits in the case of a fire. I watched him and his interactions with the people around him. I watched him dance and flirt and smile and laugh. I saw how he dealt with the mushing and pushing. I saw a moment of release, where all the old rubbish just went away and he mushed and pushed back and he relaxed and became himself. It was revealing, and it released me. I stopped watching him, I stopped thinking about fire exits and how close I was to one. I let go myself.

Transformation. Realisation. And I danced with abandon and I mushed and pushed and I was full of the expectations of this life. I was full of dreams and possibilities, and pushed back the regrets and the bittersweet sentiments that I cherish. I started to watch me in my minds eye and I laughed, for it was far more interesting than the fire exits. I felt assured, reassured and not pressured. And then I had to leave. All the mushing and pushing, its not forever me, it was a night, just another night. I made a bacon and egg sandwich. I skimmed through a cooking magazine and went to bed, joined eventually by my babies who mushed but didn't push and who are intensely filled with the expectations of this life. And this morning, I got my daily tarot card emailed to me: The moon (now go pick that apart).