Hi there girls and boys. This week, a letter from Ellie.. enjoy
Firstly, many many thanks for all of the kind comments on my two posts. I have to give credit to my girl for the formatting and just about everything else. I just gave her the thoughts.
This week I will have been here in the U.S. for a year. Time has flown by and because of world events I’ve remained here. I fear that if I had gone home I wouldn’t have returned to my job here. As it is, at this moment, I’m not adapting well to life in Los Angeles. Two months in and I’m missing Houston, if only for the difference in crime. The weather could be a pain in the arse, constant sunshine and a girl from Blyth aren’t a match made in heaven. I do actually like the sun unlike certain others I could mention, but every day? Here in LA it’s a better climate, but it has its own problems. Mainly the guns, drugs and violence. I’m in what used to be called South Central, now renamed South LA. I live in what is known by some to be the worst area, West Adams. You know when someone says, “Oooh you don’t want to go there”, and you think, “Come on, just how bad can it be?” Well I cried myself to sleep on my second night here, when I saw a man shot, actually shot dead, across the street.
I’m from Northumberland, where the worst you’ll see is perhaps the odd occasion when a farmer will let off his shotgun to scare away crows. Inner-town Blyth has the usual drug problems of any town, but definitely small time. Here though, oh dear. Almost every day I am offered something by someone, and openly, very much like the lyrics from White Lines.. “What you got, dust, flakes or rocks? I got china white, mother of pearl, ivory flake, what you need?” The schools and uni I work in have armed security guards! Now don’t get me wrong, back home I have seen armed police walking round Newcastle city centre with big semi-automatic rifles, but very rarely and usually only when the terrorists decide that they can be arsed to get out of bed and threaten us. Here every other person has a weapon of some sort. My dad is ex-police, what used to be called armed response and one of the reasons I moved here was that a friend of his works in the local PD and occasionally checks in on me. Still, it’s extremely un-nerving that some white supremacist can gun down a black man in the street and it is reported as an everyday occurrence. I suppose we have to be grateful it is reported at all. I’m friendly with the murdered man’s two teenaged sons now, we play basketball in the street, they’ve shown me where not to go in the area, they’ve had me over to meet the family at a barbecue. Two young men on their own now because some stupid person decided he didn’t like their colour. I’m getting quite attached to them. When I leave here I might see about making life better for them I can.
I’m a believer in that if you keep your wits about you, act like you’re a local, and don’t go down alleyways after 5pm, you should be ok. So far, that was the only incident I’ve witnessed, although I hear shooting most nights. Anna has offered to move me away to a nicer area but I’m literally next door to where I work, or my journey to USC takes me about ten minutes in a taxi, as there is not a chance I’d walk or cycle there. I wouldn’t fancy a commute. The public transport system looks hellish. My rolling six month contract as a high school physio and sports science instructor gives me some great interaction with young adults who, at least on the surface, are great. I’ve not had a bad word said to me yet when I go shopping or whatever. I think it could be the accent. People are more willing to say hi and engage in conversation if you’re British. “Oh, but you’ll be in a mainly black area”… and? I’ll leave your casual racism to one side to be chucked on the bonfire later on.
Since I’ve been in the US, I’ve had a chance to catch up with our friend Jessica from CNN who was in Houston for a few days on assignment. We’ve visited and stayed over with each other a couple of times since and caught up with each other’s lives, along with many many hugs and kisses. She’s been our friend for a long time, since we were 14 in fact, and has lived in the U.S. since she was 17. Seeing her on tv always produces a small private thrill..I’ve snogged her!
Another thing I am liking about living here in LA is that I have my own apartment. In Houston I had to share with a Trump-supporting young-Earth Christian student teacher, whose idea of hygiene was a shower once every three days. “Man, ya’ll wash all of the nutrients from outta ya skin if y’all do it more than thay-at”, she’d drawl while painting a sign that read, “gays should Die!” Student teacher? Capital letters? No? I kept my sexuality to myself, as I do most of the time.
She was appalled at my often three showers a day routine, about as much as I was by her stink, both politically and literally. Here though, I can lie in the bath, I’m still not calling it a tub, all day if I want to, walk around wearing little, and Skype is an altogether better experience as Anna can no longer just tease, with me having to whisper my approval in case the God-botherer hears me.
I miss my parents though, but what do you do when dad has a heart condition and covid is still about? Stay here until it goes away, we’ve agreed. As if here is safer! The young ones and those of my age here don’t seem to care about the spreading of the virus. I was at the supermarket last night where I saw only three people wearing a mask, despite the state law telling us we must wear one. Also in that shop was a man wearing an army uniform, which isn’t unusual here. He was trying to tell the checkout girl that he was entitled to free food as he was a veteran. Is this a thing? Anyway, he dumped the shopping, of which there wasn’t much, and stormed off. I asked the girl if that was the case, do veterans receive food for free, to which she said, “Honey, (one more thing about living here, I LOVE being called honey!), “if I had a dime for every time somebody has tried that, I’d be a rich woman”.
So yes, I miss my friends at home. I’m having such a party when I return! Also there will be an engagement party. I know Anna is going to propose at some point, but we’ve agreed that she will do it when I go home, in person.
A few words about my beloved..
There have been two people online in the emails that tell me that I’m only with her for her money. Firstly, I’ve known her since we were 11 and she has been my best friend since that first day, before any of us at school knew about her parents. My mam and dad will tell you there hasn’t been a day that I’ve not mentioned her, and sometimes I was asked not to tell them allll about what Anna has said or done, just for once. She literally saved my life. She’s responsible for me getting over the horrible thing that happened at the beach. She has a perfect body. She smells like flowers. She can cook. She can kiss. She can sing.
And in any case, money doesn’t impress me. A kind heart, good actions, and a smile impress me. If she wants to spend something on me I always try to persuade her that it’s not needed, not that she does that often. It’s been years since we spent any sort of large amount on each other. It doesn’t matter as long as you’ve got each other. I would happily live in a tent in the middle of a field with nothing as long I have her.
If she counts you as a friend, then you’re lucky as she has few. This is by choice and I know in the past she’s explained why this is. Me though.. I’ve lots of people that I like to call friends, whether or not they reciprocate that feeling, I don’t know. While Anna will happily chat away to anybody then forget their name the second they leave, I’m burdened with memory.
If you were to look at my internet history for the past month or so, you’d be seeing house searches for Northumberland feature quite a lot as we’re looking for a house up there, amongst such things as, why does all of the U.S. money look the same, why is there so much water in the toilet bowl, WHY WHY WHY are there gaps in the toilet stall doors, why those horrible red paper cups?
I attended Newcastle uni, not the one down the road that gets more attention because it’s in Durham, but at least it wasn’t the “University of Northumbria at Newcastle”.. Anyhow, the closest we ever got to an obsession with collegiate sport was the rugby match between the two Newcastle uni’s. Here, the level of support for college sport is insane. I meet lots of players of both basketball and American football in my work. At first I thought these were professional players, with the amount of respect they were receiving. “Honey, (say that again), do you know whose legs you were attending to????” I have to say that I don’t nor do I care really. As long as they are happy with my work, and I am paid, I’m good. “That was Troy Bitchkitten the III, star jumper up and downer for the college football team!”. I REALLY don’t care. If they are a nice person, and most of them I’ve treated are not, then I might take more interest. When you come to have an injury looked at to see if you can maybe play soon, but refuse to disengage your earphones for two minutes in order that I can check your name, I lose interest in who you are pretty quickly. You may be able to swagger in and look all manly, but it doesn’t work on me, for some reason! And no, the sports teams of my employer USC mean nothing to me either.
That said, in my time in the U.S. I’ve massaged the legs of a certain famous tennis player and his wife and they were lovely. The people, not the legs. I’m often asked if I ever like the massaging too much. I can’t lie. I’ve some young cute athlete lying on my couch.. sigh.
In Houston we had the Coogs, oh was I sick to the back teeth of hearing about the Cougars. I’d go for a drink and every bar contained some pissed bloke telling you he was your best friend and that the Coogs were going to win the league or whatever, while the endless football games play on the tv. I’m not a devout follower of football even at home. I’ll go to a game if invited and am always happy to see Newcastle win, and when I was young, yes, I had a non-sexual thing for Laurent Robert, but if it weren’t for Dad or Anna telling me about NUFC, I wouldn’t have clue who plays for them now. We certainly don’t have the likes of this..
The marching bands alone scream the reason why most Americans have a reading age well below what it should be. I’d see many a truck the owner of which has attached a bumper sticker proclaiming their son played for the Coogs, or that their son was in the army. At no point has my mam ever wanted a sticker for her car, telling the world that her daughter went to Newcastle Uni, got a first, but didn’t play football and that her daughter in law to be went to Durham Uni, got a first, didn’t play football either…. No, I’ll tell the world that my son has only the relevant social skills to play football or be a grunt.. strange times.
I’ll continue my little monologue next time, if Anna lets me!
Until then, as she will say, thanks for reading, and stay safe.
Not quite da ghetto.