Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Yesterdays scene - now with action!

The actors returned to yesterday’s location at the grave of the poet Hafez Something. They took up the same positions but unlike yesterday they had not only brought additional props but also mobilized a small crowd beforehand. The enactment took its cue from the American live art performance on the Firdos Square in Baghdad in March 2003 where Pentagon directors together with set designers brought in a group of exile Iraqis to create a first tableau in the history of a liberated country.

The expectant crowd milled around the two characters, astir with amazement and awe when a white flag with a hole in the middle appeared from the box. Judged from a strictly artistic perspective it was a very poor performance. The two actors hadn’t rehearsed their lines properly and there was confusion as to what exactly was being said; also the interpreter had disappeared. Phrases hovered briefly like soap bubbles in the light and cool October evening – ‘Old Europe is looking towards Iran for rejuvenation’ – ‘a new beginning’. ‘Iran harbours the vision of the future.’ ‘Together we will gather around the hole to see the new appear in our midst.’ A breeze took them out across an ornamental pond, over a wall and into the streets of Shiraz.

Most fortunately the regime came to the rescue. A group of uniformed police (unpaid extras) was attracted by the flag – now attached to a pole -- fluttering high above the crowd. One grabbed the flag. Another announced it was not permitted to raise any flag in Iran.
The scene was now in disarray. The camera man had followed the interpreter into hiding. Going beyond the simple assertion of the banning of flags, the police angrily indulged in a semantic inquiry. According to crowd organizer Jahan they demanded to know what the hole meant, what it represented. One of the crowd called out ‘the future!’ in Farsi. The actors claimed it was just an opening to look through.

One police officer started rolling the flag around the pole. Another hesitated, took the pole from the hands of his colleague and started unfolding it again – maybe to have a better look at it – maybe to signal a will to compromise; the actor Claus was demonstrating an abundance of intercultural goodwill -- smiling all over, shaking hands with the assembled policemen. Heated discussion all around. The point was made that the banner was an art object and thus should be exempted from a stipulation which targets union and association’s flags.

The police clearly didn’t know what to make of it all and settled on the view that we would have to have permission from the Ministry of Culture and Guidance to film and wave flags. In the end the actors were allowed to stay and talk with the extras who had played the part as a jubilant crowd.

THE ENEMY IS INVISIBLE

Bob Nielsen reporting live from Iran:

As a very special agent working on the ground along the axis of evil you must be prepared to face the enemy, Death, every time you step out into the roaming streets. In Iraq the enemy was multiple, but each of the deadly forces had his own grim face and stood up against you without hiding it. The Americans in their hi-tech battledresses, the Baathists mouths wide open crying "Democracy no! Democracy no!" the fundamentalist Muslims at least audible in their big bangs as they exploded in the middle of the local crowds. But here in Iran the situation is different. For an outsider, sitting in Washington or Copenhagen, Iran is nothing but The Enemy and the oppressed, the Mullahocracy versus the people. But until now, having been here on the ground in southern Iran for about six months (or days, maybe?) we haven't yet seen Evil himself, but his reservoir dogs, racing the streets of Bandar Abbas two and two on their rattling mopeds, black sticks dangling from hips. We try to provoke Him, literally: try to cry out so loud that he finally steps forward from the shadows into the ultimate duel. With us, the agents of Mission Iran. But all that we get are the rumours: Last night when we posed with our box in front of the seemingly holy tomb of the late (but how late?) poet Hafez, one of His secret agents secretly took our interpreter aside for a short, icecold interrogation: Who were these foreigners, these ... Europeans? and what were they doing, (yes what were they intending to do by standing still as Dressman puppets on each side of an old metal box carrying a (secret?) message in Chinese? And the answer? She didn't tell us, and I doubt that she at all really met Him. These Iranians, you know, they see conspiracy everywhere, even at the tomb of the late poet Hafez among flowers, Greekly columns, dim lights and whispering Persian music. And we? Meanwhile we had a Dialogue, or rather a lazy alcoholfreed chatter with some of the locals: A university graduate from the Institute of English and his friend. None of them spoken any particular English, but at least he was able to inform us that the revolutionary potential in Shiraz hovers among the drug addicts, the body builders and the (what was it now...?) He promised to gather every one of these potentials around the tomb of Hafez tonight at six pm. We are prepared! To face what may come! This might be my last report from on-the-ground-in-Iran. I already made one attempt to leave the hotel (yes, sadly I have to admit, that we no longer live in squatted former police academy barracks, as we did in Baghdad, at least we haven't found any, so for now we spend our nights in three stars Aryo hotels), but I failed. At the moment of exit I faced the enemy, yes, finally the enemy fought back. I didn't see him, off course, he is invisible, but indeed I felt him! The setting was this: Very special agent Bob Nielsen crosses the shining marble floor of the lobby in Hotel Aryo heading straight for the door. The automatic door is (secretly) made of glass, but Agent Bob Nielsen doesn't care, he just walks straight out into the light. And is struck, falls to the ground, feels an unspeakable pain, rises up and kicks The Invisible (door) and, once again, falls to the floor. The hotel manager comes running out of the office having seen everything, including the Enemy, off course, to the absolute insiders, the Iranians, the Regime is not opaque, on the contrary, He is in every thing and everywhere. – I ham sorry! the hotel manager exclaims as he uprises the very special, but not especially fit, agent B, accompanies him to the armchair and leaves him there while he runs for water and ice. At the return he once more excuses, - it is problem for us! he says, - it happens very often this, to many of our tourist. – I'm not a bloody tourist! the very special agent cries out, having regained his access to language, and in his rage is about to tell the hotel manager that he is on the contrary a very special agent on the ground in Iran, a man with a mission: as Frank Gaffney from the IRI (the International Republican Institute, red.) in DC says: "It is incumbent upon us to help the Iranian people overthrow their government!"

BOB NIELSEN, SHIRAZ

Monday, October 30, 2006

Freeze frame

A scene on a square in Shiraz: The actors enter the frame with the box. They ascend a flight of sandstone stairs that leads to a mausoleum of a long dead poet. Turning towards the square where the audience is, they put down the box. Eyes shifting for a brief moment: they have no idea what they’re supposed to do, what activity to engage in, how to commence. The answer is supposed to come from the box. But there is nothing in the box, nothing just yet. Shifting is followed by freezing. Fixed gaze on a colonnade across; they stand there for a long time, the box between them. People are taking pictures with cell phones. Soldiers approach, one calls out: ‘Hello! I’m a soldier. Where you from?’ A young man offers to act as interpreter. But there are no words to translate. ‘I you interpret. Me professional interpret. You offering at your service. I would like to give my name. First name is... Surname is... My telephone, home, is....’ The two characters have no clue what to do. If Meysahm hadn’t called cut! -- they would have stayed there until the end of history.

HERE WE ARE!

Ladies & Gentlemen, here we are:

Landfall in Bandar Abbas, Iran


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Teatro Buffo

As we travel northwards Hamlet has become a dominant frame for this live fiction. I haven’t thought it through just yet, but I sense an enormous potential in our plot line. We have taken up the structural position of the theatre company in Hamlet, which enacts the truth within the fiction. Now the question is how far we can go in real life while playacting. And -- whether we will be allowed to enact scenes with Ahmadinejad in the audience.

This teatro buffo arrived yesterday evening in Shiraz in a mini bus. Nielsen and Altheimer play the leading roles. Jaleh P has the part as the interpreter (romantic subplot?). Meysahm acts the cameraman. The extra Majid is our driver. The chorus is made up by the Iranian people.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The End of Billabong

We are continually debating to what extent we should disguise ourselves. We are no longer going with the Billabong Malibu beach identities as it seems that Iranians think we’re tourists whatever outfit we wear, whatever actions we undertake. We decided on the ferry to take off our necktie thus positioning ourselves tangentially to Iranian revolutionary semantics where cravattes condensate all things evil from the West. Two days into the mission, we go around in our suits blatantly looking like agents. Handing out business cards with the emblem of the European Initiative, corresponding with the pin we wear on our lapels. Enacting our arrival in Iran for the camera in a motor boat at a pier in Bandar Abbas, someone called out "Mr. Bond!" In that way it seems like a clever strategy to combine the making of a Hollywood production with a real life enactment of the script; because no one will suspect that what they see has real effects. Cameras, crew and microphones are the perfect disguise! But of course, we are still far away from the urban centres where authorities and vigilantes abound. On this third day, we are still in Bandar Abbas, a bustling, dusty town committed to trade because of its proximity to Dubai and Khesh Island, where goods are exempted from toll.

We had our first crowd experience yesterday when we put down the box on an open square at the sea front. In the box was a football. We challenged the Iranian youth to a game – Nielsen and I on either team. This was an opportunity to measure mobilizational potential of Iranian youth as well as organizational abilities. The results were rather poor. Nielsen’s team mates didn’t play together. He fluttered around bidding his team to play the ball around in vain.
It was a great intercultural moment when Nielsen, in hectic pursuit of the ball, collided with an elderly, completely veiled woman who was sitting with her family pick-nicking at the bluff.
My team played fairly well. But everything dissolved into a confused melee when Nielsen, insisting on the general inclusive nature of the game and the revolution, invited another group to join. We suddenly found ourselves in the dark centre of a crowd of youths. Somewhere someone started to push and yell. It was very intense. Out of nowhere a hand appeared and slapped me on the right ear from behind. The stinging pain and surprise inverted the signs of the situation. I suddenly feared the consequences of actions. What if. Then someone kicked the ball violently into our group from behind us. A small boy was hit on the head and started crying. Complete misanthropy, depression and disappointment set in – we hastily withdrew from this first crowd experiment. There is no revolution without violence. But it is not that kind of violence we’re looking for. If it is possible to deduct the pathos, the key question is: how to act with effect in a world with children?

Friday, October 27, 2006

WE WERE CALLED FOR

Bandar Abbas, Friday 27th October

Nothing. That is what happened. No investigation, no detention, no return to sender, no “first encounter with the Islamic regime” on the axis of evil. But absolutely nothing. No, even less: They didn’t take, question or just notice the comprehensive mass of medias (Handycams, videotapes, computers, digital camera, dictafone or the mp3-players), that we, like every other “tourist” of our time, have to bring with us on our way through the world in order to be able to document and prove that we are (here), that we have been (somewhere), that we have done or at least seen, experienced (something or somebody else). They didn’t even pose the questions that we ask ourselves every day and all along the way: Why are you here? What is the purpose of your arrival to Iran? What is it you want to do here? Not even the fact that we are Danish has caused any particular reaction. On the contrary: They picked us out of the hourlong line of local Iranian passengers waiting for the passports control as if two save the two only foreigners, the two “English”, from having to wait. And when we had finally gotten our box, suitcase and sack from the ferry (that wasn’t a ferry, but – from Valfarje shipping – literally a ship made for shipping, and worse) and were preparing ourselves for the judgement hour, where our box and suitcase and sack – like every other box, suitcase or sack would have to pass through the oversize scanner reciding like a black mausoleum in the middle of the hall, they once again just picked us out of the line or rather chaotic moving mob (the women had started to fight, the men patiently and a little nervous tried to separate them and calm them down) of locals waiting with each his or her overloaded trolley (cardboard boxes with food or living doves (French, Belgian and Brazilian), fifty kilo sacks of UN-rice brought in from Iraq(!), bicycles, ghettoblasters, barrels filled with what-do-know and off course: televisions) and took us aside and asked us to show our passports and then just, as the act of absolute surprise, let us go.

If it was a trick, a tactical first move of surprise, a counter-counter-revolutionary manoeuvre in the midday heat from side of the Islamic Regime, then it was an absolute success! They really got us: We were so taken by surprise that we weren’t able to decide to move any further into Iran. For another half hour we just stood there, alive in Iran! in the middle of a large, vast, echoing arrival hall, until finally the single bordeaux plastic-telephone residing on the single table in the middle of the echoing hall suddenly rang. A police officer answered it and then:

We were called for:

Mr. Nielsen!

the police officers voice echoed out in the vast hall, - is Mr. Nielsen is here?! And so, being the string puppet I obviously am, I immediately went to answer it: - Yes?!
It was our interpreter, Jaleh Parvin, calling “Mr. Nielsen” from Tehran.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Crossing Hormuz, part two

"What do you want to do? -- I have no desires. None."

Rear deck. I woke to find myself in a solid grey soup. 6 in the morning. An eerie twilight helped to create a truthful rendering of how the crossing of River Styx must have felt. Early morning fog was indistinguishable from the sea. It was still the same heat as yesterday evening. No wind moving. On the rear flag pole an Iranian flag hung lazily above the unassuming wake.
The soup was broken occasionally by dark bulky blots, drifting past. All oil freighters -- STOC Persia. Persian Queen. Hormuz IV – we were obviously now passing along the main road and lifeline of the Iranian economy.

Claus sitting next to me, head hanging, sleeping at one end of the now extremely uncomfortable bench. On surrounding benches other passengers were coming round to see the mist give way to a flat yellow sun disk, horizon and open seas.
Had a nice liquefied white Toblerone for breakfast – teeth biting into nougat and aluminium foil. No coffee or hot water. On Claus' suggestion I have tea mixed with Nescafe. Taste buds in riot, but the caffeine does its work nicely.

Approaching noon, white light blinds the eyes and obliterates all contrasts. Rapid motor boats criss-cross in between freighters. Iran, Iranians everywhere. The blurred contours of the popular Iranian holiday resort Khesh Island passes by on the port side. Inside in the passenger lounge, children, women and men are astir, gathering belongings and getting ready to disembark. The spectacle is accompanied by pictures on a big TV screen of martyrs from the war with Iraq. These are inserted next to battle footage dubbed with songs of mourning, interspersed are segments with tearful relatives recounting joyful memories of the deceased.
Last visit to the rest rooms to wash hands yet again. More water on the floor than in the Gulf. Behind the doors of eight booths are the holes in the floor that are the single most import reason that Western and Islamic civilisations will never merge.
It is a night mare to get out without having to touch the door handle. I feign to have problems with my zipper in order to let another pass me. He is most courteous and patiently waits till I'm all sorted. I will not touch the handle. I must touch the handle. And so we enter Iran.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Crossing the Hormuz Strait

"We were sent for. Yes. That’s why we’re here. Travelling."

We spent three hours in Port Khalid, Sharjah going through Emirates immigration and a standard crowded, tepid waiting room experience along with hundreds of Iranians. -- Families with children, babies and nappy bags, arguing with UAE immigration officials. Young daughters, jeans under tunics, wielding huge beauty boxes. Tiny tribal tradesmen wearing all kinds of exotic multicoloured headgear, dragging oversized packages, barrels, boxes -- animal feed pellets, maize, rice, wheat trickling from punctures in cardboard and sacking.

Finally we were let through to board a bus that would take us to the ferry ramp. Equipped with non-alcoholic malt beverages, cigarettes and adrenaline pumping from the excitement of authentic, analogue travelling, we boarded the aged, four-deck car ferry, Hormuz 14 in the dusk a little after six o’clock. Securing myself a bench outside on the passenger deck, beverages were opened, cigarettes were lit.
The excitement took the edge off the oppressive heat and we would soon be out on the open sea. The melancholic sepia lights of the port and its cargo ships set the proper tone for a voyage into the darkness. Huge cranes were doing their work on surrounding quay berths – off-loading freight containers with goods that the lazy, SUV, racehorse and Golf-crazed desert country cannot supply on its own. That is everything but oil.

At nine o'clock the ship hadn't moved an inch. Lines were still keeping the vessel firmly in place. I was at the bottom of the non-alcoholic malt beverage stash. Workers had only just started to load cars on to the two upper car decks. This was done by way of a hydraulic mechanism, sounding a piercing siren when in operation. Two hours later cars were still being hauled up on decks. South Korean KIAs as well as BMWs with no license plates bound for Pakistan and Iran, a passenger let us know. All covered with a dense layer of desert sand.
The night heat was just as insufferable as the daytime edition. With no wind moving in the port, adrenaline subsiding and drowsiness setting in, the depression of inertia crowded out the last traces of excitement.

I briefly drifted into a sort of consciousness around 2 to see the big moment slowly pass by as in a dream. The tips of cranes, lights passing by our vessel. Somewhere a voice urged me to open the last can and light another Benson & Hedges but I had become another person by then.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

DO I ALSO HAVE TO BE GAY?

At the moment I don’t know where we are. Two nights ago we were in Hong Kong, and this is supposed to be Dubai, but the local people are absent. Every body is imported: the slaves, from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Eastern Europe (the prostitutes), Africans and a hidden masses of Chinese – the tourists, from Russia, Russia and Russia, - the Businessmen, from America, Europe and Russia. I’ve never seen so many luxury skyscrapers, so many private Hummers and Bentley shops, so much technology comfort without any trace of civilisation. Everybody here speaks English. But no one is able to speak English. A society based on 20-25 words, no history, no culture and every day the same: sun and minimum 30 degrees Celsius. Now I know: This is Hell.

Sightseeing on the way from Dubai to Burj Al Arab: Left side of the road: American Dental Clinic, British Plastic Surgery Clinic, Dubai Womens Club, Manchester Clinic, International Polio Centre, Al Alia Plastic Surgery, New York Dental Clinic, British Neuro Spinal Research Centre, Henk van Velden, psychiatrist (Holland), Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Center, Vitelle Plastic Surgery, Childrens Psychology Clinic, Drs. Nicholas & Asp, American Chiropractic Center, Jumeirah Beauty Center, The Dental Spa, Al Shanar Plastic Surgery, London & Paris International Nursery, American Facial Clinic, www.healthholistic.com

No matter what we try to do here, we fail. Yesterday evening when Thomas had given up and lay dead on his bed with Hemingway to the sound of bored or drunk Russians in the next room, I went out in the damp night and into an Iranian carpet shop to engage the distinguished looking gentlemen in a dialogue about the future of their homeland. And I ended up in Moscow Hotel with 4 Russian prostitutes (Roxanne, Jelena, Olga, Marsja) and a bottle of Champagne.

Our camera no longer show the world in a realistic way, and I spent the morning trying to escape an Arabian homosexual who followed me with his “hello my friend, let’s speak’a the English” while constantly fidgeting with his penis. I know Michael Jackson is a paedophile. That is a fact. But do I also have to be gay?

Yesterday I finally bought the tickets for the ferry to Iran. Two one-way tickets. In the office I saw an already old picture of the ferry: A floating pile of rusty iron. “Schrott” as the Germans say. I am afraid ... but what would be Worst Case: If they won’t let us in? After having travelled all around the world to finally get there in order to save them, free them, begin something new! ... and then they won’t let us in. Or even worse: If they let us in ...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cultural Desert

It's warm here. Very, very, very warm. This place is utterly unpleasant and culturally dead. Europe, oh Europe, where are you?
A lot of building is going on. To what purpose I do not know. Tallest building in the world! A zillion corridors with water coolers. Thousand bazaars offering cell phones and cell phone accessories.

Next to Claus in one of the many bumber car type water taxis among Bengalis, Arabs, Pakistanis, gazing at the hazy skyline with Rolex and HSBC written all over, the mind is overflowing with postcard visions of the good life in Gstaad.
Later driving down a dusty highway lined by detached houses in the style of desert forts. New York Dental Clinic. Manchester Clinic. American Dental Clinic. Carpe Diem Plastic Surgery. A mental lifeline is the thought of the sea nearby and Iran a ferry ride to the north. At the beach, one expected to see an American aircraft carrier passing through the Gulf. There were several – could just as well be oil tankers – in these times one resembles the other. It's a question of what filter the mind is equipped with.
Still at the beach -- the sun drove us into the sea which turned out to be not only as warm as the air but also extremely salty and sticky. Claus' bird frame made a couple of futile attempts to dive under. Feet, legs stubbornly clinging to the surface.
Out of the water a bit further up the beach, washing off the salt in a nice freshwater shower with 90 degrees hot water, then back in the nice sweaty black garments. I wonder whether the Congo will be like this. What's Gstaad like in October?

Claus got the ferry ticket for Bandar Abbas. If it's still Ramadan we have to be at the port Tuesday at 1 pm. If it's no longer Ramadan it's 3 pm. Clearing by authorities takes something like 6 hours. Ferry leaves in the evening. It reaches Iran in the morning Wednesday, Oct 25.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE THE ONE I AM

Claus says:
The world is full of people wanting to be somebody else, trying to hide their true selves behind a mask or an image or even paying some surgeon millions to operate away the only true face they really are and change it into some ideal, the medias of this world are full of presidents lying about their countries, about their politics or about the true intentions behind their military missions into other peoples cultures, and this lack of personal and political honesty is the true disaster, the real threat against humanity in our time, and I find it extremely important, that you, when you travel as a foreigner in remote countries or cultures, that you try to be honest and let people see you just the way you are, and personally I and Thomas we really do what we can to be an example to the world, and to let people see us just the way we are, to be able to, through our very honesty, to maybe change something in the hearts and minds of the people we meet on our way, in LA, in Hong Kong, in Dubai, and especially on our journey up through Iran and in the end maybe leaving behind us the beginning of a new world order.
That’s just how I see it, but in reality it is not that easy, I mean, the other day, on our last evening in LA, and we had spent the entire afternoon driving through the area in our vanilla coloured and slightly cracked ironic-retro Chrysler in the search for Iranian-American satellite TV-stations with whom we could discuss the present contradictions in our world – as their president says – and also, to be honest, with the hope of getting the chance to announce our arrival in Iran live on TV to the people inside Iran, and so we had bought each a suit – me grey and Thomas black – to be able to present our selves in a proper way, and now we were stuck in the suits in the traffic jam somewhere on Sunset Boulevard, and it was getting dark and it was raining, and I just sat there on the backseat with nothing to do, so I looked out of the open window and there, just one meter away on the backseat of another car was a big fat black Afro-American, and he looked at me looking at him, - what the fuck you think you’re lookin at, man! he cried, and I turned away my face, - hey, man, look at that guy! he cried to his fellow black fat-Americans on the front seat, - hey, man! he cried, - you look like Michael Jackson!
Maybe he was right, maybe there is something feminine, or rather androgyne about me, maybe I look a bit like this elderly skinny syphilis-ridden upper middleclass lady, just like Michael Jackson, maybe I just have to accept, that this is they way I am. I don’t know. Thomas just laughed.
But then already the next night, and we were suddenly in HONG KONG, and I hadn’t even changed, I was still the same as I have always been in my grey suit and tie, and we were sitting, Thomas and I and this Chinese businessman Ben from LA and his local mistress at a table in the middle of the overcrowded wildly lit cacophonic chaos in the streets of Kowloon, eating our noodle soup with sticks, and at the next table sat this typical Russian, you know, white and red like a lobster with the broken proletarian nose, and ate like a pig, and suddenly he looked at me and he stopped eating and the fish gravel ran from his mouth and dripped onto the table, - sorry, he said, - can I ask you one question? I think you American, you very look like the president Bush.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dubai, Oct 20

We’ve got a new sign on our box written in Cantonese. Any good narrative starts in China. ‘Always go through China!’ is the new imperative to any journey. As we carried it through the densely crowded streets of Hong Kong, people craned their necks to read the words. Only Westerners who knew Cantonese would ask questions. We made quite a circus in the streets with the two merry locals, Spring and Benjamin, helping us out.

After a day in Dubai -- still processing impressions from Los Angeles and Hong Kong. The mind is tardy, always in the past, being thrown by an alien self into the future. In Los Angeles the perspective was that of the framer. Now the perspective is that of the framed. But we’re still only in the preamble.

T

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spring

From LA to Hong Kong. Trying to catch up on my drinking. Drifting through locations, talks and people. Claus thinks it is important to meet and talk with people. I think so too – when I’ve had some beers. There’s a girl here in Hong Kong – Spring – who has a beauty parlour. She thinks I look 18. She speaks very broken English. I enjoyed the swim in Malibu. We were given a surfboard by some people at the beach. I got up on it only to fall off in the next instant. I would have liked to stay in California. To marry, surf and swim. But I cannot stay. Must go on. Cannot go on. I will go one. I hate it.

T

HOW I LOST MY SWEATER IN LA

Claus says:
Last night I had a quarrel with Thomas because I had done something very stupid, so he yelled at me, but he was also drunk, and so he couldn’t stop yelling, and he just yelled and yelled at me, and in the End I had to go, and so I just started walking in the direction of the car, but the car was in another part of LA and it was the middle of the night and I just walked and walked through the LA, but I didn’t get anywhere and I realised that I had been wrong when I wrote all this about the sidewalks in LA, cause here in the middle of the night there were absolutely no sidewalks in LA, and so I just walked in the side of the road and the cars honked at me. And then finally I came to Santa Monica Boulevard and I was very tired and there was only me and one single car and the right lights, so I just crossed the boulevard anyway, but the car was a police car from Santa Monica Police, and they started that terrible noise they have and U-turned and pulled over at my side, and two policemen, one big white and one smaller and more mexican, came out and started yelling at me, who the fuck you think you are doing! I’m sorry, I said, I’m just a tourist from Denmark on my way to Iran. But they didn’t care about Iran, they told me to “produce” my ID, and so I “produced” them my passport, and they looked at the visa and said, you shouldn’t be out in the streets after dark, you should stay in your hotel with your group. I have no group, I said, I’m just here with my ... but I couldn’t say that word “friend”, not now, when he had just been yelling at me, so instead I said “colleague”, I’m just here with my colleague, I said, and they yelled at me, whatta you mean, colleague, you’re supposed to be tourist! I am, I said, it’s my colleague, he’s also my friend! And so I said it anyway, “friend”, but I don’t even know if it is true any longer, maybe I lied to them, to the LA cops. And then I just wanted to go, but they wouldn’t let me go, you ain’t goin anywhere, man, what you want is, you wanna take a cab right now right here and straight to your hotel! And then they went back into the police car and they just sat there watching me as stood in the darkness trying to stop a taxi or just some kind of car, and after some minutes they rolled down the window and yelled at me, we’ve got the whole night, man, we’re gonna wait here right till we see you get into that cab. But there weren’t any cabs, it was the middle of the night, and just now and then a lonely car passing by. You ain’t runnin’ anywhere, they yelled, no no no, I said, and then finally there came a taxi, and I got into the back seat and I told him to take me straight to the Travelogue up in Westwood. And so he started driving, but then after some minutes when we were half ways up Santa Monica Boulevard I suddenly told him that I had forgotten my car. My car! I said, oh fuck, I’ve forgotten my car! And so he U-turned and started to drive me all the way back to almost where we just came from and down the street, where we had left the car, and as far as I could see there were no police around, so I jumped out and got into our car, but some idiot had parked the car in the corner of a backyard between two pillars, and off course that idiot happened to be me, and I really don’t remember how I got it in there, but now I definitely couldn’t get it out, I tried a bit forward and then a bit backwards, and I opened the door and looked backwards just to be sure, but then there was this sound, like someone opening a very big plastic-box of sushi, and I looked forwards and I realised that our vanilla coloured ironic-retro Chrysler it wasn’t really a car, it was just a joke, a cheap toy made out of plastic, the front part had cracked like the chocolate cover on a vanilla ice cream, and me, I was stuck on the inside, I could hardly get out, and when I finally did, I just sat down on some staircase and started to wait, for what or for who I don’t know, I just waited. And here and there around me the lights at some of the neighbours had been turned on because of the sound of the cracking sushi box, and I could hear them move around like scared little mice behind the doors. But no one dared to come out, and I was too tired to do anything about it, so after an hour or so I just rose up and went out into the street to take another taxi, but it was the middle of the night and the street was completely deserted, so instead I just started to walk, I walked and walked all the way up Wilshire to 24th Street past some Seven Elevens, a club and a small group of young and quite black afro-american guys, and I knew something would happen, and in the moment they started yelling at me, I saw a car passing by, and it looked like a taxi, so I waved my arm, and he pulled to the side, and I got into the back seat. So where you wanna go? he said, I tried to look at him, but it was too dark, I couldn’t really see anything. Up to the Travelogue just north of Westwood Boulevard, I said, but he didn’t answer, he just started driving. And after some minutes I asked him if I could pay with my credit card. No, he said, cash, you gotta pay cash. Oh, I said, but I’m not sure I have that much money cash! Don’t try to play no games with me, he said, you don’t stop a car if you don’t wanna pay! No, no! I said, no no! And then I had to take out one of the bundles of one hundred dollar bills that I save for Iran in the pockets on the inside of my trousers. I gave him a hundred, that all you got? he said, and suddenly I realised, it wasn’t really a taxi, it was just some car and a man. Yeah, I said, that’s all I’ve got. It was a lie, off course it was a lie, I was lying to him, but I thought it would be kind of strange to tell him that I had maybe twelve thousand dollars cash sewn into my trousers, so, well, yeah! I lied. Okay, he said, and pulled to the side, get out! he said. But my money! I said, I gave you one hundred! Yeah, he said, you just get out of my car! I opened the door and immediately he started to drive, and I almost fell out, and before I got up he was gone, it was night, I just stood there alone in the darkness, and I looked around, and I realised, I wasn’t even at the Travelogue yet, I still had to walk another twenty minutes. And then finally, when I reached the motel and I opened the door and I just lay down on the bed without even closing the door behind me, I just lay down and closed my eyes instead, and in that very moment, I realised, that I had lost my sweater.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday, Oct 15. Los Angeles

Chamber music in a strip mall coffee bar. New York Times Sunday Edition $5. I like it here. North LA criss-crossing a flat basin resembles a sci-fi version of my hometown in the Netherlands.

Incongruous California experience: Yesterday’s visit at an Iranian TV network ended in chatter in German over the death of Benno Ohnesorg at the demonstration against the Shah in Berlin in ’67 and Gudrun Enslinn. The network manager did film school at Hochschule der Bildende Kuenste am Steinplatz in Berlin in the sixties. I recognized the immaculate face of Gudrun on a poster for his graduation film – Das Abonnement. Channel Four paid $8000 dollars for the footage to use in a documentary on Baader -Meinhof. It was her only film performance ever (besides the real-time performance with Baader). Ali spotted her face in a crowd at a demonstration and later asked her to play the lead role in this film that took on Axel Springer. The poster credited her as ‘Rosa Enslin’. Both lead actors later died by hanging. Ominous

It is not my destiny to die by hanging. No, I will die in a ridiculous cream coloured car with Claus in the driver’s seat. Only a miracle will save me.

Claus and I visited Scandinavian Lars who lives in Santa Monica near the beach. He’s set himself up nicely with Pynchon, Bellow, Roth in piles surrounding his comfortable chair, bed. Oh, would I give up my own self to be able to do that. Happiness!

A Dutchman and a Dane walking next to each other is such a spectacle here that people should be charged for the pleasure of staring at us unhindered. On UCLA campus Claus began asking by-passers if ‘they’d like to talk about God’ – a question that almost caused people to break into running to get clear of the European pilgrims. I walked briskly ahead to avoid the embarrassment. The rigid conformity of American middle class culture makes it very unpleasant to break the flow of reality. Self-consciousness has no place here. Postmodernism was just a naming act to control and deflect European irony and secularism so it would have no particular impact on society.

But I am not going to address the cultural divide and the clash of civilisations. The shock waves from the first impressions have receded and I’m now getting through on Flaubert, cigarettes, Fox News and coffee.

Bill O’Reilly believes that the weakness of Europe is caused by her secularism.

No sign of Larry David yet. And my enthusiasm is curbed (as always).

-- T. Bouvard

OUR VANILLA COLOURED IRONIC-RETRO-CHRYSLER

and CLAUS says:

back home in Europe where I come from people say that you cannot walk in Los Angeles because there are no sidewalks in Los Angeles you can only drive, but that is not true, there are sidewalks in Los Angeles and you are free to walk as much and in whatever direction and at whatever time of the day or the night you want, the only problem is you don’t get anywhere. You are always, any minute, at the same place, which is not really anywhere, but just somewhere inbetween, and there is a mini mall and a taco shop and a Coffee Bean & Green Tea Leaf and a sushi restaurant and a hamburger restaurant and a pizzeria and a gas station on the corner, and when you try to leave that place, which is not really there, and you try to walk out of it, for a moment you are just nowhere, but then, as you arrive at a new place, a new part of town, you realise, it is the same place, the same inbetween, you just left, and there is a taco shop and a Coffee Bean and Green Tea Leaf and a sushi and a hamburger restaurant, a pizzeria and off course a gas station on the corner.
So yesterday we decided to stop walking and instead we went for a drive in our vanilla coloured ironic-retro-Chrysler, but everybody else had had the same idea, so we didn’t get anywhere, we just sat there stuck in the traffic in our vanilla coloured ironic-retro-Chrysler, and it started raining and then it got dark and outside there was a mini mall with a taco shop and a Coffee Bean and Green Tea Leaf and a burger restaurant and a pizzeria, a Seven Eleven and a gas station on the corner, and it was indeed kind of ironic, but not especially retro, and Thomas said that this was the reason why we had come to LA: to realise why we have to get to Iran before the Americans: to prevent something terrible to happen.

Friday, October 13, 2006

OUR SCRIPT DOCTOR IN HOLLYWOOD

CLAUS tells:

We are not really there yet, no, not really, we are in Hollywood, so yesterday we went to see our script doctor, Devorah Cutler at Big Time Productions, and she thinks our story is great, - you really have a great story, she said, but then she suggested we work a bit more on our leading female character, the interpreter, maybe in the end she is the real leading character! She even said, that maybe in the end we have to hug each other, me and Thomas, and then in the end of the consultation, when Thomas had gone out for a moment, she wanted to hug me, we were all alone in her office, and then she stood up and came towards me and opened her arms, you know, one up and one more like down, and then she wanted to hug me, and I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t do anything, and then she hugged me, and afterwards I really felt embarrassed, and I said that, you know in Europe we don’t really do that kind of thing, and then she gave us two tea mugs from “Big Time Productions”, black on white, “I’ll buy them for you out of my own money”, she said, and then she called her secretary and asked her to charge us two times a hundred and fifty dollars for the consultation, and on top of that she borrowed six dollars from us to pay her Indian lunch. And then, when Thomas came back she wanted to hug him too, and so she hugged him, out in the corridor, and he blushed and became completely red, you know, the long black tight and elegant suit with the little white flag pin at the collar and then this red head on top of it, it really looked very very human.