Jetlagrunk

At US customs you have to take all your books out of your bag and put them in the tray. My bag goes from completely full to nothing but a floppy bit of canvas. It had nothing in it but books. They send the trays through the X-ray. When it’s too late it occurs to me that I have a small bottle of sandalwood beard oil in my jacket pocket, in the X-ray machine. I mentally say goodbye to the beard oil, but amazingly they don’t spot it. They’re after the books. I had about 8 books in my hand luggage. Books are too heavy for checking and I haven’t converted to kindle yet. Even though I write on my iPad. I just don’t like a book that can run out of battery.

 
The attendant evidently has to go through the books. She flicks through the pages to check for fake pockets, but then she reads the title of each one carefully. Is she making sure my books aren’t dangerous material? That’s an uncomfortable prospect. What if I had a book called “The genesis of extreme Islam”? My desire to be educated would probably mean I missed my flight. “Red Alert! The tanned guy with the big beard is carrying the first book in the bible of extreme Islam! Shoot him!” Joking aside it’s strangely invasive that they read the titles. What are they looking for? The Catcher in the Rye? The Koran? The Art of War? Or was she just curious?

 
I drugged myself with melatonin all the way home. It was the strongest I could find so I bounced up every three hours like a slo-mo yoyo. Now I am back in my flat and it’s still in my system coupled with alcohol. It’s really good to be home. Friends old and new are here, and we are about to have Sunday lunchdinnerbreakfastWHAT. I’m not used to the cold, and my brain is not working very well. Its morning in LA, afternoon in London, evmortoon in my body. I’ll eat it if it’s put in front of me – I’ve had a fair amount of Buck’s Fizz. My discernment is as shoddy as my conversation. I’d eat rat and think it was pork. These sentences are probably complete, but that’s more to do with habit. I’m very aware of the word count with my 500 self imposed minimum.
It’s great to have friends who are willing to come over like this. My friend Tanya is on the sofa next to me as I write. She’s hungover to all hell, but she jumped in an uber because she knows my flat is a place of rest and food. I’m wrapped up in multiple layers as if it were midwinter. I’m glad my place is a place of relaxation and recuperation. Its my home, I’ve missed it, and it wouldn’t be home if it didn’t involve an enthusiastic bunch of beautiful misfits.

 
It’s going to be unusual blogging every day in London, simply because I never did it before. Which is why I must. Occasionally though, they’ll be splintered ramblings. As I expect this is. I’m so confused about who I am and what is going on. I asked everyone to express that in a photo.


Pork time. Omnomnom

This blog

“At the end of each day message me with something you’ve done,” said Brian on the day I landed. Brian is my housemate and friend, and a contender for the loveliest man in the world. I met him in a semi derelict office block in York, where I was being encouraged to howl incredibly loudly in the basement. They needed me to make enough noise to drown out a snow machine. A very noisy snow machine. “How loud can you howl, Al?” said the director. Red rag to a bull. The people upstairs called the police because they thought someone was being tortured. A scared and hesitant officer appeared in the doorway and we had to tell him Scrooge was being dragged off to hell and we were all perfectly fine thank you very much. That night we all we all went to the pub. When the show went on in Manchester and York we laughed and pubbed more, and nobody called the police. A year later the show was in The West End, Above the Arts. Thankfully with no snow machine, although there was a noisy smoke machine. Mercifully it usually overheated. The job has become a feature of my Christmas, and Brian has become a feature of my life.  

So when he asked me to write him something every day it germinated the seed of an idea that had been planted a week or so before I flew. I was with Rachel, who is another long term collaborator and friend. We were humping 15 bags of peat out of the basement of The Natural History Museum, as one does on a Tuesday. “I’ve booked a flight to LA.” I told her, trying to make sense of it. “I don’t really know why, where I’m staying, or how I’ll afford it, but it’ll be an adventure.” Words to that effect. I don’t speak like I’m in The Famous Five. Swearier language, fragmented sentences. I talk like I write, fuck it. “You should blog about it.” She said. “I Iike it when you blog.” 

 

So I did. It’s useful for me to do something every day, I’ve discovered. There are nights where I’ve mashed it out in a ten minute rush while someone smoked (wahey etc), one night I had to take myself off the dance floor and find a quiet corner of a party with no quiet corners, another night I where I did it in an uber pool between venues (ooer missus). But people engaged with it. And thank you for that as it kept me feeling it was worth doing. When the forces of darkness kidnapped my car, Lyndon covered the extortionate recovery fee, but it would have put him in a very tricky situation if I hadn’t been able to repay him swiftly. I didn’t know what to do and reached out to you here, and people I would never have thought to ask for help made it possible for me to pay Lyndon back. That was one of the most emotionally conflicted and glorious mornings of my life, as the little pings came in. I am going to find ways to pay back that kindness, and I’m determined to pay it forward. Thank you to everyone who helped and also to everyone who helped by sending positive energy or just engaging with it or smiling. To be LA about it, I’ve been harvesting a lot of positive energy out here.

  

I’m about to board the flight home. I’m writing this in the airport, but if I get too involved I might miss the plane which would be ridiculously dumb. The point of this blog today is to slap myself in the face with a gauntlet. I challenge myself to continue this for a year. So there’ll be over three hundred more of these. Worth seeing if I can pull it off (vicar). It’ll be hard in London. So that’s why I want to do it. But for now I’d better put this in. Before I get off. 

  

Here’s a picture of the place I stayed in for most of the trip. Happy times. More to come. See some of you in London. 12.30 my place. Message for address, as I don’t want to get crashed by a load of total strangers.

Hollywood

62. I keep on writing this post and then looking back on what I’ve written, thinking it’s a load of guff, scrapping it, and starting it again. That hasn’t happened before. So I asked myself why. I think it’s because right now the last rays of sun are fading from my final sunset here. I feel the need to tell you “This is what I’ve learned,” and wrap it all up in a neat little package. LA has clearly had an effect on me. We’re encouraged to storify ourselves here. People say “So what’s your story?” and then wait, counting to 30 in their heads, before interrupting and reciting their elevator pitch for themselves with dead eyes. I’ve got so used to it I’ve started to accidentally do it. I overhear myself cramming all the salient points into the first few sentences, and wonder what the hell I am doing. Making a story of the ridiculous shit and the ridiculous joy that has brought me this far. It’s nonsense. Nobody is as simple as the story they tell about themselves, or the story other people tell about them. And conversations should range with the listening. 

Essentially there’s a lot of balls here. Despite this bullshitmongering, I have certainly had the chance to look at myself, which is good as I’ve not liked doing that in the past. And I’ve come to terms with myself. There are plenty of opportunities for self improvement and self change in this place. They’ve efficiently capitalised on the gap between expectation and reality. Some people come with big expectations and then when it’s not how they imagined it they cut bits off themselves or pump things into themselves or tweak or pull or paint themselves in the hope that it’s just that bit that isn’t working. Yogis, psychics, trainers, tatooists, surgeons, dancers, house flippers, fighters, improvisers, singers, actors, lovers, healers, gamblers – they’ve all got their stall out. Whatever someone has decided is the thing they aren’t doing well, the thing that if they had it everything would be different, there’s someone. Someone will sell them something and make them feel better. For a short while. As a visitor you can keep yourself busy with first time discounts and free trials without going too deep. You can come away feeling shinier and happier, and able to love yourself without shame. I think the best way is to come to this place expecting nothing. I didn’t really give myself time to expect anything, I was too busy trying to work out where to live. And I found the right place. And I’ve been able to look at the man in the mirror. It’s helped me turn a corner in my story. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change.

  

They play Man in the Mirror about five times every day. You’re Amazing Just The Way You Are six times, Don’t You Forget About Me every other song. That song in California is enough for Simple Minds to never have to work again. I got so bored of it I instinctively switched off the radio every time I heard the opening chords. In between songs people phone up to dreamily tell listeners how lovely their wife is and how happy they are. The DJ tells them how wonderful love is in a comforting voice. There’s a lot of super cute super sweet smiley happy people holding hands. Everyone is so so happy.

 

And yet it stinks of weed. Weed is only recently legal now so everyone is hoovering the stuff because it numbs the pain. Not only do you smell it on every street corner, but whole districts near the warehouses honk of it like hops near a brewery. And there’s plenty of coke, meth, psychedelics, whatever you want. Get better, take drugs, you’re amazing, you’re not good enough, live fully, obliterate yourself. Everybody is amazing, nobody is anything. The smiley happy people have a community of angry homeless living on the pavement outside their block. They hold hands to step over the sleeping methheads, going to the ten buck ice cream parlour in their active wear.

 

Hollywood. I walked up to the sign today. Is it the only place in the world that advertises itself so prominently? “I’m Hollywood, you’re in me, look at my big letters. You can walk to me but you can only stand behind me.” The right thing to do on my last day, I felt.


The prospect of London is giving me reality checks. I had a great walk this morning with Lisa-Marie, and a necessary talk and think which have both helped me understand why I’m here, what I’ve achieved and what’s next. Now it’s back to work, and I can’t wait. And it’s Spring in England which I can barely understand because it’s been so gorgeous the last few weeks here. Bring it London.

 

Which reminds me. I get back home by 12.30 On Sunday afternoon. If a couple of you are free, it’d be nice to see you.

Jizzy pants and shakespeare

“So yeah, I wear them for like a day or so and then take them off, and put them straight in a ziplock bag.” He says. “For an extra forty bucks I jizz on them.”

 
I’m drinking wine in someone’s flat. On the shelves are rolls of twenty dollar bills, piles of euros, stacks of change. He is a good looking guy. He’s an Olympian. He’s six foot one. Right now he’s going through a tricky patch. When I express skepticism he goes into his room and emerges with a ziplock bag with pants in it.

 
“Here, you see. That’s $120 bucks right there in that bag. I leave them in the sun to cook. I like to add value. I could open it if you like.” “NO.”

 
People in this town find all sorts of ways to make money. It helps me realise how anything can be a commodity if you sell it right. I’m not sure if I’m impressed or horrified. I have more wine, and notice that there are little capsules scattered liberally around the flat with white powder in them. On every surface. “Dude, is that coke?” “Yeah, I like to keep it in sight. It cheers me up.”
This sort of interaction is more commonplace in this town than you might imagine. Perhaps it’s the circles I travel in. I do prefer the company of relatively extreme personalities. And this same guy rents his sofa on Airbnb successfully, all the time, in his crazy boho flat. It’s something to think about. I wouldn’t do the pants thing, rest assured. But the sofa thing? As soon as I get back to London.

 
This has been such a California day. We went to the beach again, this time with no fog. And almost immediately got both sunburn and sunstroke because there is just no ozone here. In order to try and solve it I went to Fatburger. By the time evening came around I wanted to do something English. Perfect opportunity arose as there are some old drama school people here in town bringing their Rock n Roll Twelfth Night celebration joy joy joy show to the Wallis Annenberg Theatre in Beverley Hills. Filter. TwelfthnNight. I’ve managed to go 11 years and numerous friends without seeing it. Now is my chance. I sit with a huge pile of geriatric millionaires who have come to approve of lovely traditional English Shakespeare. It’s bloody great but it ain’t traditional. It’s a party on a stage. I even get a free slice of pizza. The show has been going for eleven years and it’s the first time I’ve seen it. It’s exactly the sort of thing I like to make, a theatre party where the story is told and the audience is involved. But this audience is a tricky one. One of the actors strips down to his pants and a whole row walks out simultaneously. I’m loving it, but I am friends with the sort of people that sell jizzy pants on the internet.

 
I’m writing this in the bar after the show as I am late but driving people in exchange for a beer. One of my guys is smoking so I am dashing this out super speed. I’ve hit 500 words so it’s back to the party and I hate to sell you short but this is stream of consciousness and I’m not editing. If anyone wants some Olympic jizzy pants, I now know a guy…

 
Don’t all shout at once.

(Edit: I did have to edit as Facebook was forcing an update so didn’t post the link properly. Here is a photo of the fluffy pink tiger I won on Santa Monica Pier in my first week. My constant companion.

Drag

Day 60, and midnight finds me rushing out of a bar in West Hollywood, before my car turns into a very expensive pumpkin. I had parked in a vast silent monstrous robot. You drive your car into its mouth, and then you push a button. A system of rolling slick belts and velvety pumps, tongues and teeth lift your vehicle into a cavernous stomach. It sits coldly packed in unimaginable darkness besides all the other cars that have been ingested. When you return you tickle a steel aesophagus with five dollars and it spews the car back facing the other way. But after midnight the fee doubles. And I am down to my last 25 dollars. So I am forced to wrench myself away from the cabaret. Damn shame. 

Lyndon and I have been to Hamburger Mary’s. I am friends with Dolly Levi, and this is where she works every Tuesday. It’s a burger bar. When we were in the Korean Clay Room at the free spa yesterday we mentioned that this was where we were going. The girl in the room with us immediately defrosted into an easy silly fun conversation. Now I know why that information helped her relax in our semi naked presence. It’s a beautifully gay burger bar. Lyndon and I make a lovely couple. I’m the bear.

 

On Tuesday nights, Hamburger Mary’s does drag cabaret. The stage is tiny, but the tables around it are loaded with same sex couples out for a fun night. And they’ve come to the right place. After a very skilled and competent host warms us up gloriously, Dolly is the first act. The presenter has got a lot of mileage out of telling us she is 59 years old. Age is just a number. She is fabulous. It’s a point perfect dance routine, set to Let It Go. Dolly transforms mid song, with an almost impossible quick change. Her lip syncing is bang on. We are in the presence of a Disney princess, in the flesh. It is the only possible solution. As we scrape our jaws off the floor she is effortlessly busting out standing splits against the pole, she is spinning on point, her dress is whirling easily around her. Dolly Levi is the hottest lady in Hollywood. And the crowd goes wild. 


These ladies work for tips, and Dolly knows her crowd as well as she knows her set. There are hands all around us thrusting bills at her. People actively want her to take their money. The music is still playing. She gathers the cash efficiently – gracefully – never missing a beat of her lip sync. She really is singing it to us, it seems. It’s wonderful, artful and honestly entertaining. I’ve never seen Frozen and now I don’t have to. She caps off her set dancing with a huge fan of our dollars. Our cash has become part of her pizzazz.

 

After Dolly, the rest are good, but having only ever met Dolly as a man I’ve been blown away by her mastery. We are lucky in that we are able to catch both halves of her set before we have to rush for the car. The second half is as fabulous as the first. This is likely to be my last night out in Hollywood, but what a way to have ended it. Drag done properly is a beautiful thing. And I was glad that there was one act out of the six performing as a man. He came on first as a leprechaun with a pot of gold and then as rapping Albert Einstein. It’s such a shame that they closed Madame JoJo’s in Soho. It was such a great memorable fun evening. Anyone passing through Hollywood should pop in to Hamburger Mary’s on a Tuesday and check out Dolly Levi and co.

Boot Camp

Day 59 and it’s about time I go to something fitness-fad related – I’m in the city for it. So in the morning I go off to Barry’s Boot Camp. Lyndon has got me a VIP pass. Which is just their way of saying “free class”. Everyone’s a VIP at Barry’s!
The class takes place in a dark room with an orange glow – a clear nod to the agonising fires of hell. My class is run by Eric, who is definitely straight. First we run on treadmills to pumping music, with nothing to look at but our own eyes in the mirror and the flickering orange glow of the terrible fires behind us. Eric spouts instructions and numbers through a radio mic. He knows my name. There is no escape. No Exit. I run. I run and run but I am going nowhere, just running into my own face, running into my own eyes. Sometimes I push buttons and make it harder. I am doing this to myself, I discover. In this inferno, I am the instrument of my own torment. Eric is just the facilitator.

 
Eventually we move. Now we are squatting with weights. Our ankles are manacled. We put the manacles on ourselves. We are rolling around in the orange fire. Eric is telling us we should squat like the girls at Spearmint Rhino. “Oh ha whoops, I shouldn’t mention that. Now you all know too much about what I like.” Eric definitely likes the girls at Spearmint rhino. He is definitely straight. We are bent now, contorting our bodies into more and more unimaginable positions, before it is back to the treadmill and harder and faster and more more and then back to the floor and howling, howling, and Eric is still barking instructions and telling us his hetero manbro stories because he is not gay, those are just dreams.

 
At one point I think my heart is going to explode out of my chest like the thing from Alien. But finally it’s over and we sluggishly high five one another at Eric’s behest before lying on our backs to stretch out. And he puts on Fix You. And then he starts making a motivational lecture that is unutterably, mawkishly earnest. To his captive audience. “Sometimes you might … find out your friends are not your friends, and you need to just … just tell them to fuck off… and that’s ok… that’s ok…” All the while leading to the bit where the guitar drops. I’m so pumped with endorphins I am howling at the start, but this time with laughter. I get it together before he comes back to my side of the room. It’s not at him so much as at the absurdity of the whole thing. And Fix You, of all songs! It’s horribly earnest. When I leave the class, he man hi fives me because he is a bro. I worry that he is sitting hard on something. Maybe one day he’ll let himself. Meanwhile I wasn’t sick which is more than I expected. In fact, I would go back.

 

The second half of the day is spent in a Spa. I had a couple of free passes left over from my Toscars nomination and now is a good time for it. Cold Room, Himalayan Salt Room, Korean Clay Room, Steam Room. That done I feel exercised and chilled, ready to take on the world. As we leave the spa I spy a flyer for one of their treatments. Anal Steam Treatment. The A-Steam. Here is Janey modelling the flier.


You sit on a decorative throne for 20 minutes while fifty bucks worth of steam goes up your bum. The perfect Hollywood treatment, although over here you really shouldn’t have to pay to have hot air blown up your arse. It’s free!

Impro

58 days out here, and very much on the home stretch. Knowing how little time I have left in this climate, I decide to tempt sunstroke and hike up Runyon Canyon after a morning of email fun. At the top I look out over this hazy city that was so alien to me less than two months ago.
I’ve had an extremely positive time here. I need to make some money sharpish when I get back but I’m not feeling daunted or blocked by that. It’s just something I need to get done. Little things every day. And maybe a commercial…

 

Last night I went to see some improvisation. The improv scene is big in this city, and people look for qualifications from the two major troupes on an actor’s CV. Having looked into the two major schools I’ve worked out which one suits me the most, and it’s Groundlings. They are interested in the possibilities of long form character based improv. That’s all that my experience has been, with our improvised Odyssey at The Factory, and my one attempt at a 30 hour Improvathon in Bristol, when I sentenced myself to death by hanging about 20 hours into the show, was exiled as I couldn’t reach the lever with the noose around my neck, shaved off my hair and my beard and came back on as a penitent monk who killed a cyclops with ballet-jitsu before some robots played the death harp to me. I was fine until I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror with no hair. That stuff takes a while to grow back. And it was mid winter.

 

The Sunday show at Groundlings is always sold out, and I can see why. It’s masterful. I’ve been lucky enough to get a friend’s ticket as she is training with them but can’t make the show. I love watching improv when you forget it’s improv. There need to be moments where you remember or you start to think you’re watching a show with a weird script. Some of my favourite Odyssey moments came out of a catastrophic drop that was saved. But I find it joyful watching actors taking risks that could unravel them completely and then discovering that the unravelling is where the gold lies. And the way it seems to work with the Groundlings is that if you’re struggling you just have to head for some sort of punchline and the dude will drop the lights and the band will start playing. If in doubt, make a good joke or fall in love. And if the lights don’t drop then keep slugging as you know you must be doing something right. If I were to come out here again with money I’d book a course with these guys and jump off the cliff a bit. Can’t do any harm on the CV and impro is a muscle. The Odyssey ended over a year ago. I need to get flexing it again.

 

After my canyon walk I am really sleepy. The predicted sunstroke is kicking in. I’m washing all my clothes and getting started on the packing. My God. London, I will be back soon with a lovely tan just in time for summer. How do I make it work that I can come out to the sun every year in shivery January and February?