Saturday, 31 July 2010

Angsty Yowls of the 49th Parallel

I'm making a mix for Anna's upcoming trip to Canada, and managed to put together a whole mix tape of travel-themed songs by Canadian artists using nothing but my iTunes. Some were easy, like Amy Millan's "All the Miles," the Weakerthan's "Relative Surplus Value," Po Girl's "Movin' On," etc. Others were harder, but still kind of hint at the theme, like Broken Social Scene's "Windsurfing Nation," KD Lang's "One Day I Walk," or Rufus Wainwright's cover of "Across the Universe."

Others are obviously just inappropriate. Tegan and Sara are not literally singing about taking someone anywhere, Avril Lavigne's "Sk8r Boi" is not primarily about skates, Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket" is not really about hailing a taxicab. It's a long flight, maybe Anna will fall asleep before the end of the CD.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Panic Fun

Yesterday was a kind of draining, stressful day. Today, I agreed to join a team for a trivia fundraiser that will possibly be conducted in Afrikaans, got started on the process of applying to law school in the fall, set up drinks and dinner with my ex-girlfriend who is somehow an anthropologist in Cape Town, and sort of impulsively booked a half dozen tickets to backpack through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia. One or all of these plans will backfire, but for now they seem pretty fun. I also bought Turkey Lurkey Time for my work computer and listened to it on a loop as I edited all day. I'm really grasping at straws, here.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Status Update of the Month

Brady: Tickets: $40. Blue Moons: $12. Donna McKechnie telling me after the show that her neck and shoulder problems are a direct result of Turkey Lurkey Time: Priceless!

I know I post this about every three months, but it's impossible to stop watching. Donna McKechnie's neck is surreal.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The One Where a Creature Bursts from Dian Fossey's Stomach, Killing Everyone Present

We finished watching Avatar last night and I made some offhand remark about liking Sigourney Weaver because she's such a versatile actress. And then we tried to think of other things Sigourney Weaver has been in, and could only remember Alien and Gorillas in the Mist. We also realized that Avatar is basically just what you get when you combine Alien with Gorillas in the Mist.

(Later, I remembered Heartbreakers. I still think she deserved an Oscar for that.)

Monday, 26 July 2010


This is the view from my bedroom. This is unlike any other view I have ever had from any of the many other bedrooms in which I have lived, which tend to have a) tundra, b) the upper portion of a tree, or c) a couple fighting across the street.

And this is the view from our patio, which looks out onto Signal Hill and the City Bowl. See that, in the distance? That is where I trudge to work in the morning.


And Mike and Anna, whose facial expressions do not do justice to how excellent the wheel actually was. I'm still recovering.

All the Gin Joints in All the World

Anna's birthday party was on Saturday, which meant that I spent Saturday and the early portion of Sunday being swept along from dinner at Grand Daddy to drinks at Buena Vista to dancing at Casablanca. Casablanca was excellent - there were tons of people, Anna and I did shots of Jagermeister at midnight, and then they played Single Ladies and I pretty much gave up any pretense of dignity. (I gave it up with my yoga instructor, who is blonde, German, and insanely fit. The whole time I wanted to be like, "Simone! Simone! Look at my posture! Note how my back is straight as though there is a string going from my spine to the ceiling!" but I stopped myself.)

I barely ever go to straight clubs with straight friends, and it was kind of fascinating watching everyone flirt with each other in a kind of sexual roulette all night. One of my friends was like, "I think all the guys are really into this girl because she's a little crazy," and I was like, "yeah, that seems plausible." About two minutes later I looked up and the friend was dancing on the bar, which had been doused in liquor and set alight. I was like, "oh, heterosexuality," and then Poker Face started and I went totally buckwild.

Yesterday, the craziest part of my night was watching half of Avatar until the power went out and Ma and I conspiratorially ate half a bag of cookies in the dark while Anna tried to get a hold of the power company. I like my weekends like that.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Hair Fail

I had a brunch meeting with a colleague in Rondebosch today, and since I was already there, I thought I'd look for bookstores around UCT, and then I thought maybe I'd grab lunch, and then I decided to stock up on toiletries, and then I realized I should probably go grocery shopping, and then I saw a haircut place and was like, "well, my hair is getting shaggy, and I might as well get it cut since I'm out and about." (If you give a mouse a cookie, etc., etc.)

I'm usually not at all uptight about my hair. My hair has been the color of a fire truck, it's had blond highlights that made me look like a sick leopard, and once, I insisted that if I was going to go as Batman for Halloween, I had to dye my hair black so I would look like Bruce Wayne when out of costume. (I was a little Type A, even as a child.) Generally, I can cut my hair really short or let it grow freakishly long and out of control, as David somehow tricked me into doing last year by telling me how great it was that I looked like a lion. It looks fine at pretty much every stage in between. I'm not that picky about these things.


Until today, I just assumed that haircuts done entirely with clippers only existed in prisons, the military, and Britney Spears' home when she's going through a rough patch. I was like, "I just want like a half inch off the top, and to get rid of the shaggy parts around my sideburns." And then the guy nodded thoughtfully, pulled out the clippers, and shaved a giant stripe down the side of my scalp. After three or four of these, he was like, "does that look okay?" and I looked up and thought, no, no, that most certainly does not, but you can't really ask him to paste your hair back on your head at that point. You're basically in it to win it, and I decided that whatever lofty and opaque vision he had for my head would probably be better than whatever bastardized compromise he'd have to make if I flipped out. So I was like, yeah, fine, but that's about as short as I want it.

And then he proceeded to shave off pretty much all of my hair - which, when you think about it, is probably about all you can do when you cut hair by running a clipper over someone's head. As Anna put it, the upside is that I probably won't need another haircut this year. The downside is that the gel I bought beforehand is probably the worst $10 I've ever spent in my life.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Will Run for Cake

My biggest accomplishment today was surviving my run, which was actually more like a trot. (Anna kicks my ass at yoga, but I realized today that I run like a fucking gazelle.) We're near the base of Table Mountain, so the route is positively stunning as the sun is rising, and it felt fantastic to just run after being cooped up behind bars, gates, and electric fences for the past month.

And then I went to work and had carrot cake for breakfast, in what is perhaps the best illustration to date that I run because it feels good, not because I'm trying to lose weight.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Run Baby Run

Anna and I vowed to go running tomorrow morning, which will be painful seeing as a) I haven't gone running since the unseasonably warm beginning of December, b) I had a lamb sandwich and two pieces of chocolate cake for dinner tonight, c) I didn't bring running shoes, just my Sketchers, and d) I won't have Garbage screaming in my ear to make me run faster. The only thing spurring me on is that I want to return to the UK with a single chin.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Ryan Wins the Night

IGLHRC finally won ECOSOC status today on a 23-13-13 vote, which was an epic win for everyone back in New York, and also the world. (The way that these battles for ECOSOC status have played out since I worked on this at ILGA in 2006 has been fascinating and disheartening and maddening - in equal measure, and often simultaneously.)

On top of that, it was Ma's birthday today, and when I asked for birthday suggestions, Anna said that chocolate was always a hit, particularly when people knew to go for quantity rather than quality. My brilliant idea was to go to this boutique bakery in town to get her a very, very chocolaty birthday cake. That way, it was festive, it was an instant party, and it was something she really liked. HAT TRICK.

And it would have been brilliant, except that said bakery is closed on Mondays, which I learned when I got there and stood with my face pressed despairingly against the glass, looking past the "CLOSED MONDAYS" sign, the chairs upturned on the tables, and the dark till at the bakers going about their business in the back. What was brilliant is that I called as soon as I got to work, and I convinced them to give me a dark chocolate cake if I could be there before 2pm. And so I did, and gave them 180 rand in an alleyway in exchange for this gorgeous dark chocolate cake with glitter and fresh rose petals sprayed around the top. It was among the best pieces of cake I've ever had in my life, ever, and not just because I bought it like it was crack.

And on top of THAT, I finally picked up a wireless router after being in this apartment for three solid weeks (technology: 20, Ryan: 1), and even if it took me three hours to set it up and configure everything so that I could actually pick up a signal across the apartment, I did it, and here I am.

Hits and Misses

I uniformly failed at the plans I had actually made for the weekend (to finish a journal article that has now been ruining my life for the past two years, to pick up a wireless router so I'm not AWOL all weekend, grocery shopping for fruits and vegetables to stave off scurvy for another week, etc.) but I did succeed at other, less critical but still important things. I went to yoga, and felt that all weekend. Anna, Mike and I went to the Waterfront, where we rode the Wheel of Excellence (because I insisted, because I'm twelve and because you can't pass up something with a name like that), got a drink, and then sat in a bookstore to plan our respective trips to Canada, Switzerland, and through Namibia and up to Victoria Falls. I finally watched Up in the Air. I sorted out my library of PDFs so I can actually find things when I have to start writing in October. I went for a long drive down past Camps Bay, which is beautiful and where I have to spend a weekend sometime when it's warm out. I finished a pile of books for work, finally read Camus' The Stranger, and started reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, because it was on the bookshelf and because I should oddly probably read it for work and my PhD. As far as failures go, it was an epic success.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Come Rain or Come Crime

I was leaving the house this morning as it was drizzling when Daleen stopped washing dishes and looked up.

"Are you planning to take a taxi?"
"No, I was just planning to walk."

She thought for a second, and was like, "I think you should wear a sweater." I was already wearing a zip-up sweatshirt, so I said I thought I'd be fine, and she was like, no, you also need a sweater. I ran upstairs, put on a sweater, and was like, "okay, see you tonight!" and she stopped me again.

"Don't you have a windbreaker?"
"No, I'll walk fast and beat the rain."
"You need a windbreaker."

So she ran upstairs and got a windbreaker, and I put it on, and I looked like a marshmallow trudging off to work. And she nodded with approval and said, "there, now you'll stay safe."

It wasn't until I left the house that I thought, dry, or warm, maybe, but I don't think layering keeps you safe. And then I realized that she was probably halfway trying to keep me dry and halfway trying to pad me for if I get stabbed. She thinks of everything.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Compound Adjectives

I don't know what's more embarrassing - that I'm getting my PhD and I had to have compound adjectives explained to me by my boss, that I'm learning grammar from what looks suspiciously like a Geocities website circa 1996, or that this is apparently a big enough problem at Kent Law that they need this resource. All of these things make me sad.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Coping Mechanisms

I realized yesterday when I was at Clarke's that I've spent twice as much on books as I have on food since I got to Cape Town. Partially, this is because Daleen is a phenomenal cook. (Yesterday, she made bean soup, mutton, meatballs, rice, carrots, squash, and potatoes for dinner. Today, I took my two-day old pasta and damp roast vegetables out of the fridge and my stomach burst into tears. It knows what it's missing.) But partially, this is because I've tracked down a bunch of books that are a) published in South Africa and way easier to get here than in the US or UK, but b) still ridiculously expensive. I basically need to get a library pass to UCT soon or else I won't be able to afford food and then I'll have to eat better. Wait, what?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Plugging In

I've been terrible at updating anyone on my life since I got to Cape Town, mostly because the flat doesn't have wifi, and I've been tearing through my research projects at work to finish in time for me to take a week of vacation in Namibia in September. I'm planning to crack this weekend and buy a wifi router for the flat, mostly because Skype would go a long way in helping David and I work around two 9 to 5 jobs and a six hour time difference. And with that, I will probably be online more, and puttering around in a cardigan with cats at my feet and a cup of tea and a novel in my hand significantly less. (My feelings about this are mixed.)

The last week has been excellent, though - we did the Fan Walk for the semi-final between Uruguay and the Netherlands in Cape Town, which involved a lesbian bar that everyone basically had to rip me away from because I had an Amstel and they played You Shook Me All Night Long and I was like, no, get away from me, this is my home. I went out again when two friends of mine from college were in town, where we somehow ended up going clubbing with two Brazilian guys, evenly splitting the conversation between English, Spanish, and Portugese, and worrying that the less-balanced one was going to die of a heart attack somewhere around his sixth whiskey and Red Bull. It was fairly epic. A couple nights later, I tagged along for the going away party for the woman who rented my room in the flat before I did, who is going back to Montreal. At least three people were like, "you also have a Canadian accent," and I was like, no, nothing quite that sexy, I am tired and there has been champagne and my vowels are getting away from me.

Mostly, though, I've just done a crazy amount of work that I didn't have the uninterrupted time to do in New York, often while sitting in front of the space heater and watching Oprah with the cats and my host mother, Daleen, while she knits sleeves and says things like, "I'm as full as a female badger." Most of you can probably understand how happy this makes me.

Monday, 5 July 2010


Jesus, I am so glad I no longer go on first dates. (It's probably because my relationship is founded on early date suggestions like, "how about we go shopping in the red light district and see if we can run into the guy you're seeing?" or "how about we accidentally crash a faculty lunch in the history department and have sandwiches anyway?" or "how about we ride a mechanical bull and draw on each other with magic markers?" The point where a long-term relationship developed is somewhat unclear.)


While I'm in Cape Town, I'm renting a room in a flat owned by a friend of a friend and her mother, which kind of reminds me of the setup I had that blissful summer in Brussels when I ended up having two fabulous gay foster dads by accident. I tagged along with Anna for yoga and salsa over the weekend, and she's totally fantastic. Her mother, who's a retired teacher, is this really kind, warm woman who makes homemade jam, knits, bakes, and makes clothes, but also really likes extremely violent Steven Segal films and says "fuck" occasionally. I'm obviously head over heels about this woman.

This morning, I walked downstairs and she looked me up and down and said, "I just made Anna a pair of jeans. When you get tired of those jeans, I will make you a new pair. Okay." and then she went to make toast. Swoon.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Oh, Joni

Joni Mitchell's "Blue" is like the best soundtrack for nomadism, ever.

Ow, Ow, Ow

I just tagged along to Anna's yoga class in a big industrial loft in Woodstock, and now every part of my body hurts but I do feel newly energized about this whole becoming fit in South Africa thing. The problem is that I think there might actually be something medically wrong with my legs, because I've never been able to keep them straight, even when I was a child. Rickets? Scurvy? Unclear! I'm hoping that doing yoga every weekend and practicing will help, because something tells me that if I have scurvy, the next three months of meat and potatoes are not going to do much in the way of bone density.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Cape Town, Ho!

I made it to Cape Town! On Wednesday! I'm usually more on the ball about running off and exploring right off the bat, but I postponed that to get 27 hours of sleep over the past two days. It was magical.

I've still had time to get unpacked and settled - I'm living with a friend of a friend and her mother, and they are both totally lovely. The mother is also a fantastic cook, and I've eaten enough chicken pie and bobotie that I think putting a moratorium on my vegetarianism was a very good idea. Also, I was like, "I will jog in Cape Town, and I will come back looking fantastic!" and I'm beginning to realize that I will instead stay indoors, not job, and eat a great deal of white rice and potatoes. The silver lining is that this is probably a good way to ease back into living in England. The flat has a small barrel of instant coffee and a cat named Violet who has become my best friend, so I'm pretty much set. I do not require much to be happy.

When I tore myself away from the house and walked into town yesterday, I managed to pick up a phone, buy toiletries that I forgot or that exploded in my suitcase, and go to a book launch of Sasha Polakow-Suransky's The Unspoken Alliance at Book Lounge, which I managed to finish a few hours before I gave it away and hopped on the plane. Otherwise, I've been trying to figure out what to do about internet, as it turns out that my room in the flat does not have it. (I somehow totally neglected to ask this question when I was inquiring about the place. Oops.) I'll be online at work, so it would actually be a kind of nice incentive to hunker down and get some writing done at home, but it makes Skype with David considerably trickier, particularly when it's combined with the seven hour time difference. I suddenly feel obligated to put "long distance" from New York to DC in scare quotes.