..[Los Angeles without a car, work permit or superpowers]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Don/Ron McLean

In honour of American Mother's Day (which we are not celebrating, since British Mothering Sunday was April 3rd and Interflora has already taken its cut):

 Five Shameless Lies My Mother Told Me When I Was a Child

- If I brushed my hair more often, I'd look like Winnie from 'The Wonder Years'.
(More realistic advice might have been: if I went outside more often, I'd look less like Wednesday Addams.)

- If I wasn't so greedy, I'd realize that plain yoghurt was a perfectly lavish dessert.
(Excellent child psychology. Now I eat snickerdoodle cookies for breakfast.)

- If I listened quietly to the car stereo on long journeys, I'd be able to distinguish between the famous singing brothers Don and Ron McLean. 
(To this day, I hear 'American Pie' and think 'Ah, Ron'; not entirely wrong, I suppose.)

- If my sister and I watched 'Grease 2' again we'd end up living on a park bench.
('Grease 2' was on cable the other day. It's not quite the masterpiece I remember.)

- If I didn't always ask for what I wanted, I'd stand a better chance of getting it
(Come on, mum. I know we lived in the countryside, but this was the 1980s.)


The Old Man and the Sea

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mary Poppins and Other Suspicious Foreign Drifters

The majority of this week has been spent on my CV, hopelessly shuffling and rejigging its items, like some pathetic greengrocer trying to hide rotten apples behind mouldy tomatoes. Huh. Having moved approximately one bajillion times in the last eight years (typing that, I begin counting on my fingers the actual number of moves, which for some reason greatly amuses Dr Strangename; it's ten times, and therefore we cannot move anywhere ever again because I just can't bear to start on toes) my work history is as long as each job is short. Since the ten moves have spanned four countries, anyone examining my full CV can come to no logical conclusion other than that I am a) on the run from the law, b) irretrievably feckless, or c) Mary Poppins.

Midway through trying to fit all of this onto one side of A4 (utilizing the same size font they use to write your name on a grain of rice down at the pier) I have a wonderful revelation: this isn't a research paper or a court transcript or my letter to Santa. It doesn't have to include everything. So I start the CV again, editing my messy life history into a Lifetime movie -- easy to grasp, nice-looking and with a compelling but not too alarming plot. I have cut most jobs that didn't involve Microsoft Office -- because, really, if you weren't logged onto a PC, what productive POWER VERBS could you possibly be using? -- and especially highlighted positions where I spent much of the day staring into the middle distance, because these usually have the safest-sounding titles (Information Assistant, Billing Clerk). The story ends with me skipping along the shores of California, waving my work permit and trilling I'm Jolly Glad to be Seeking a New and Challenging Position in the American Workforce. Fade to credits, commercial break.


The only thing that's really getting me down now (I mean, apart from: the job for which I spent two days drafting the perfect covering letter, only to notice that its posted date was several weeks ago, and then they didn't even deign to answer my email asking if the position was still available. Or the morning I spent trying to input my inconveniently foreign qualifications and work history into a recruitment agency's website, which was not designed to countenance anything existing outside the borders of America and thus awarded me a GPA of 0.0 and a list of jobs in LOCATION NOT FOUND. Or the number of job ads which specify I must have a car, except I can't afford a car until I get a job. Or that I have degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge and am applying to 'clerical/administrative' positions where the main duties are making coffee, making sure we never run low on paperclips, and being shouted at by everyone else,)... the only thing that's really getting me down now is that American CVs all seem to have a little tagline or motto or what-have-you underneath your name. Like,

Ped Xing


or simply

Ped Xing  


Naturally, as a British Citizen, I might occasionally hint that I am a rather wonderful and accomplished person (did you see the bit above, where I mentioned Oxford and Cambridge? Weren't you impressed? I'll be very self-deprecating about it from now on, as per Michael Milton: 'Once he knew that you knew he had gone to Yale, he tended to play that down.') but I don't like having to spell it out, especially in sentence fragments all dressed up in italics. But I try.

Foreign Socialist seeks Westside position in order to buy a car. Moderately proficient in photocopying and answering the phone (no complex switchboards; will not wear a headset). Types with two or more fingers. Enjoys tea-breaks and passive aggression. Work permit expires 2012.

Cinderella-complex waif seeks Evil Stepmother boss. Will do crappy job for low pay and silently resent you for it. Don’t you know she’s a special little princess?

Mary Poppins type with ten addresses in four countries over the last decade requires employment in Los Angeles. Intrigued? Send letter via chimney. No childcare, please.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Königsallee in Winter

Lack of Snow

Reason #1021 why I will never be cool in Los Angeles: I have bus-stop sunburn. It’s ninety degrees today, and I am as pink and porcine as an English rose should be.

It’s only ever this hot on the four-bus days, when I have to spend two hours getting from West Nowhere (WeNo) to West Hollywood (WeHo) for a thirty-minute volunteer job. My first blue bus is crowded with perspiring UCLA students, and I sit in the middle of the back seat, wedged between a man wearing a scooter helmet and a Japanese girl in lollipop brights. The bus smells like squashed, overripe fruit, and we are all dozily subdued.



says an printing shop, an enigmatic semi-haiku of menace, and in Little Persia the billboards wish me a


and sell legal counsel.

As usual, transferring to the Metro at Westwood ramps up the lunacy level, and I get on board alongside a man dressed as an vagabond magician -- top hat, black trousers, white puffy shirt, and a hot-pink lint-roller holstered onto his belt. The bus driver honks at a gardener’s truck full of lilies. Beverly Hills is coming to an orchestrated bloom amidst a symphony of palm trees, with bougainvillea playing every other note on the scale of pink: cerise, sakura, baby, fuchsia. The bus is very hot and I think I might be sick.

Why won’t it snow
Like they said it would
What is it that they know
That I really should

whines my iPod, and I think about snow. Snow in Japan, snow at our wedding, Königsallee snow, snow lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns and then

The rooms was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.


*Louis MacNeice, 'Snow' (1935?)