LA Diary 2005: February

1 February 2005
Today I received my first letter here in LA, from the local court, a citation to the court, bail $114, 6 months in prison or $1000 fine if I don’t appear or pay…to pay one has to use a credit card or a check, which I don’t have. I have two months time to bail myself out, I can’t believe it, I am furious. I don’t feel guilty, I was mistaken, yes, but not guilty and my even bigger mistake was not to show fear in front of the ridiculous policeman. I feel like writing a book to ridicule him and his xenophobic law, his tight pathetic leather uniform, his shiny bike instead of a girlfriend, his inability to spell my name properly: Jasmina Tesanobitch, his chicken handwriting on the yellow paper…and his law of fear and reprisal which is[??] called democracy: I always knew democracy stinks, Socrates told me so, and of course the silence of all those women at his time did, too…the political idiot from Serbia may as well be the global political idiot…

February 7, 2005

Old people in Pasadena

Last week I went to a writer’s workshop, for women…in an old library, next to a college…here in Pasadena. I saw the ad in the local newspaper: the women there were few and old, never published. They had games of their own, they knew each other for ages, maybe they were even neighbors, it was like playing bridge. I felt ashamed that I had published, they immediately told me I should go to a college, I said, but I’ve been there…they indifferently blinked then, the woman in charge told me, we have no criticism here, no discussions, we just write and read…and I did it with them. Compared to our old women writing or just anonymous women writing these American women know how to write. But they write like mainstream writers. I wonder what kept them from publishing, pets, cooking, they interrupt their writing in order to talk about pets. I liked that too, I liked the pet talk, the how to roast chicken talk, in the midst of an elaborate murder plot. What these women lack compared to our women in the Balkans is the rebellious streak: women s writing in Serbia is undermining: it is eversive if not subversive and they know it; it is forbidden, it is blasphemy, and they transgress.

My neighbor here has a small old dog: Tsatsie, she is white-furred, bowlegged and has big blue eyes. He is tall, good-looking and well-dressed. I could not tell his age. One evening, I was upset: I read the news about my homeland, news of crime and non punishment, news about people getting away with it, an old story which sounded dramatic here.
Sitting under a palm, smoking a cigarette, I felt miserable; my neighbor sat next to me and told me his story: I am eighty, I am at peace with my life, I just watched the news, HE is ruining us, I will be dead by the time everything is lost, but I feel sorry for the young people, not that I have anybody, no, I am alone, I have only her, Tstasie, and a cat, up there in my bed. And a big house, in the hills in LA. I put away some bucks and I am lucky, I can live in peace until my day comes. But HE will ruin us all.
I don’t ask him who is HE, I know it. Bush is HE, I’ve heard it before, Americans I’ve met here are not political activists or politically outspoken, but they speak in metaphors. I wonder what kind of fear that is. It is different than it was in Serbia, people were loud nationalists there. These guys are concentrated on keeping their wealth and appearances and aware that it will be hard to manage that for much longer. They will have to become political, whether idiots or fighters, and they are procrastinating.

February 9, 2005

A lecture by Vito Acconci last night, he seems like his own video 30 years after, he is lively and witty, creative as usual, I like his stammering, I like his movements, compulsively obsessive, and I remember seeing him live at Fabio Mauri’s place in Rome in the seventies.
Last night he said: I was an artist only because conceptual art existed, I never knew to do anything properly, I cannot draw, and I cannot paint I cannot mold…well, yes, and I am a conceptual feminist.

February 11, 2005

If you walk down the streets and you glance at the passersby, you get a hello, a smile, looking for a contact?
At a party last night a guy asked me, do you have citizenship, I said, of course I do, who doesn’t…I did it on purpose, why should citizenship be American.
The girl sitting next to me said: I was ashamed for the Americans when the September 11 happened. I didn’t understand what she meant.
Americans are swift and self-sufficient. They don’t ask for help and when offered they feel very grateful. I am clumsy, I keep asking things I should not and refusing things I should not. I am trying to explain to everybody that I am European but that doesn’t make things better. They feel responsible for my feeling good or bad. They identify with their being American as if it were something that does exist.
I am trying to palpate the American being…
The sweets in the campus of the arts centre are there on the shelf, exposed without glass protection, yet nobody snatches them…instead from locked offices, the jackets and sunglasses of the professors are missing. In Serbia, in Italy, it would be the opposite…
In America all Americans are smiling to each other when they speak, even if they say sad things, it is like a mask, a twitch, it chills me…I put up a serious face then.

14 February
St. Valentine’ s Day, people craving love anyway are buying and selling it today and mostly faking it. In Pasadena, there is a window, I am outdoors, on the invisible side of the window…I see tight well-dressed couples of all ages eating and drinking
…and then…four teenaged black girls, fattish fat and one huge, just huge, cross my way: loud and wild, I could not understand a word. Even though black people in LA are more sophisticated than anywhere else in the US I have seen, these were not. While playing or dancing or whatever, the huge one lost her balance, lost her footing and hurdled against the pavement hitting her head on the edge of the wall in front of the St Valentine’s window. Blood gushed, her head hung loose, her huge body, flaccid, crumbled, her eyes turned upside down…her friends were hardly aware of what was going on, they went on playing…I ran up to her…I held her head, her eyes rolled back in place. A waiter from the restaurant came to move her away from the window. The famous question, what happens when you fall on the pavement in US: a foreigner will help you, a local will call an ambulance and the ambulance will charge you. No wonder nobody reacts. Well the girl is back, the bleeding stopped. We managed to put her back on feet and she rolled on with her huge body without thanking anyone: here where everybody says sorry or thanks for nonsense. I felt relieved. She was ashamed and eager to forget.
My friend from NY says, three friends are spending the evening together with the motto: boyfriends don’t last, girlfriends are forever…

16 February 2005

We paid my fine today, I was eager to go to the court, if only to see why he wrote TesanoBitch instead of Tesanovic. My fellow neighbors from LA urged me not to pay, my fellow foreigners urged me to pay and shut up if I need to stay here.
President Bush, the He, has a gay scandal in his staff, but the bigger scandal is the new CIA director, a notorious politician in Latin America. I am ashamed even though I am not American, I always feel ashamed when stupid things are done.

February 20. 2005

It is not true that it never rains in California and that nobody walks, I walk in the rain in California, it is raining now for days…gusts of wind…patches of blue sky here and there and then the storm…
I saw a teenaged boy, a black boy dressed up neatly in MTV clothes pulling out of his pocket a roll of hundred dollar bills and playing with them as a magician. Then he rolled a one-dollar bill to his finger, tucked the rest in his large pocket and dozed off…
My neighbor says, look at these stitches, three of them, I told the doctors, don’t do it, can I just stick the finger together …no way, they wanted three stitches and now they want 700 dollars. I don’t have that money and I won t pay them: we have to pay nowadays for the doctor’s insurance, not only for our cures…she is a painter, her father Hungarian her mother Russian Jew, she says, only when I went to Europe I felt like an [??] American because they called me American, here we are that from where we come from, nobody is American, Americans don’t exist.
I felt the same, I say, the Balkans don’t exist and yet, they call me the Serbian Balkan patriot in the American press. Compulsive patriotism is a global phenomenon, people need to belong and make other people belong.

February 22
I was wifying on the roof today. A guy passing by severely commented, what a strange place to work., I said, I have Apple wifi here. Oh yes, said he significantly, so you are stealing somebody’s wifi. Really, I asked, even if it is Apple and free? It might be mine, says he, well is it yours, ask I…Somebody is paying for that, he insists…I close my computer and off I go…he is paying for something and I am not. But it is like trying to control a well, really.

24 February 2005

Nice day in LA, no rains…after days of floods and mudslides.
Did Bush declare an emergency state in LA? The Germans behaved as if it were an emergency state because of his stay there; my German friend tells me they closed the roads, they sent people home in order to make sure everything is under control.
In Serbia, Berlusconi’s guy Fini, the right-winged politician was met with public protests, and on the other hand welcomed by the government which makes weird coalitions in order to join the European threshold…the worst will be the first…climate change is the first human enemy and responsible for it is the worst policies of those same men.

27 February 2005

Leaving LA, going to NYC for the international feminist conference… Beijing ten years after…and a lot of pacifist activism, readings, lectures. Today a metro station in Hollywood will be closed because of the Oscar awards. I haven’t the faintest idea of what is going on there: I know more news from Europe than from here, only a few miles away. I am much more interested in alternative cultural events. I was at a Mark Ryden exhibition in Pasadena in the local arts museum, an alternative artist who managed to get into the main gallery. It was a very picturesque crowd; I was more interested in audience and their outfits than in the paintings, which are impressive. It seemed to me like an Andy Warhol event, eccentricity, good and bad taste and absolute freedom from any social, political or fashion codes, even aesthetic. I feel much more free that way about my own image and yet I am puzzled as to what my freedom looks like in the eyes of the Other: my codes, my words do not speak here the meaning they used to have.

American flags often decorate the private houses: I protest but somebody told me, this is America after all. Yes, it is and every day more so, here in LA life is so easy and sunny and lazy that it is difficult to go crazy as in war zones: here one can lose it, the contact with reality, and just one day kill your neighbor without any good reason. I wonder if wars are anything different really.

Redondo Beach: signs all over the place, forbidden this, forbidden that. Cannot find a place to eat fish and drink beer and sit in the sun; you can do any two of these together, rarely all three. We just surf on the rules, like the mermaids surfing the waves that are pictured everywhere here on the beach.

About jasminatesanovic

Jasmina Tešanović (Serbian: Јасмина Тешановић) (born March 7, 1954) is a feminist, political activist (Women in Black, Code Pink), translator, publisher and filmmaker. She was one of the organizers of the first Feminist conference in Eastern Europe "Drug-ca Zena" in 1978, in Belgrade. With Slavica Stojanovic, she ran the first feminist publishing house in the Balkans "Feminist 94" for 10 years. She is the author of Diary of a Political Idiot, a war diary written during the 1999 Kosovo War and widely distributed on the Internet. Ever since then she has been publishing all her work, diaries, stories and films on blogs and other Internet media.
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