New Moon Fat Tuesday

 

Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

It’s Fat Tuesday, and I’m indulging in some wistful homesickness for New Orleans, one of my favourite cities in the US. The city definitely influences much of what I create– the riotous colour of carnival juxtaposed against the black iron balconies of the French Quarter, the cities of the dead, the motley beads of carnival, particularly vintage Czech ones, were some of my earliest inspirations as well as the stories of Marie Laveau and the markings on her grave, which inspired the piece below.

The Laveau, Choker/Bracelet by Feral Strumpet on Etsy

It’s also the New Moon– time to embrace new beginnings.  New Orleans’ survival after Katrina is truly something to celebrate.  I remember vividly watching from across and ocean as the destruction of the hurricane and the ineptitude and racism of the Bush Administration threatened to destroy New Orleans and the surrounding area.  I felt quite helpless and anguished.  When English people are incredulous about why I would leave the US, sometimes I wish I could explain the feeling of doom much of the country shared while George Bush was president. I love Bob Forrest’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana”– which sums up that emotion very well.  Here he sings it with his son.

Blessed New Moon to all my readers, may you bring some New Orleans style carnival and maybe even a bit of the city’s survivor spirit to whatever you choose to begin now!

Londinium de Los Angeles

“It is as though London stretched unbroken from St. Albans to Southend in a tangle of ten-lane four-deck super parkways, hamburger stands, banks, topless drug-stores, hippie hide-outs, Hiltons, drive-in mortuaries…all shrouded below the famous blanket of acrid and corroding smog.”

–James Cameron wrting of Los Angeles in the Evening Standard, 9 September, 1968

los-angeles-ca-1932

Like it or not, most of my adult life can be pinned to a map of the Southern California coast. The privilege of the emigrant is to know home through absence, perhaps better than those who’ve never left.  I have been researching 19th century California history, a quixotic and surreal endeavor as I sit in my London flat overlooking a street where a Morris Minor and black cab park nightly, a street with a pub which plays the footie and a green that was quite recently glowing with daffs.

The friends and lovers from the past were all tied to the Southern California beach.  There was no place else to go.  Drunken nights, wandering, the ocean was always there cradling us, setting an infinite boundary to our boldness. Cruising up and down PCH, all of it was ours.  And then I left.

Like Dick Whittington and his cat of the pantomime, I heard the two-syllable bell of Lon-don tolling for me.  I packed up Lemmy-cat (and my SoCal husband) and crossed the ocean.  I know many of my fellow ex-pats have surrendered certain aspects of their Americaness– they have closed themselves in that London po-faced way or have let the tumbles of immigrant life smooth their broad accents to something rounder and more placeless. But the longer I reside here the more American I become, or, even more West Coast.”…to speak in superlatives, to live out-of-doors, to tell tales…to believe what isn’t true, to throw dignity out the window, to dress dramatically, and, last but not least, to tackle the impossible.” I have embraced Lee Shippey’s list of California traits without knowing it.  And more and more I am struck by how completely UnLondon it all is.

London, in its present manifestation, is a hard place of fiscal facts, of interiors and conformist decorum.  Increasingly it has become, for me and probably most other writers and artists working here, a place defined by the narrow possible.

I find myself perpetually in a mind of two maps; the jagged, golden coast twisted round the M25.

Where the Heart is

Part of the condition of the immigrant means the heart is in two places at once. Homesickness isn’t the right word for it, because were is home?

Today, after a friend sent me the amazing headline that the California Supreme Court has essentially legalized gay marriage I feel, well, homesick.

I used to live in San Fransisco before the dot-com boom pushed out most of people like myself living hand-to-mouth. Years ago I went back and visited San Francisco briefly during that moment when numerous gay couples were getting married to push the political envelope. City Hall was an OTT mass wedding centre and the whole city had this glow– more than it’s usual tender lighting– as if everyone was just a little in love.

I can only imagine the street parties going down there now. How I wish I was there. Cali, I love you.