i’ve been around for a long, long year

chrysler in medford
While up in Medford my wife spotted this long blue/black Chrysler parked out near an old laundry, so I had to try and draw it. It was so long and mean looking it reminded me of the Batmobile. I stood in the hot sun to draw this, trying to get shade from a lamp-post (they don’t give much shade, by the way). This is a car that says, you’re gonna listen to what I gotta say, then I’m gonna run ya outta town. This isn’t a car for the streets of Colindale. This car is master of his domain.

hey paper champion!

philadelphia museum of art

Five hours to kill in Philadelphia, so what do I do? Do I go down to the historic centre, visit where United States of America was made, see the Liberty Bell, see where Ben Franklin lived, eat a Philly cheesesteak? Well I wouldn’t do the last one as I don’t eat that sort of meat. No, for me it’s all about Rocky. I took the train to 30th St Station (an impressively grand station, in what I must say is an impressively grand city), checked out a map with my ipod on the free wifi (gotta love technology), and walked over to the famous Museum of Art, where Rocky Balboa famously ran up the famous steps, humming the famous tune under his breath, jumped up and down a few times, then ran down and got back into his tourist bus with the scores of other people doing the same. I for one walked up the steps. The view is very nice. At the bottom of the steps and to the side is the famous (and impressively grand) statue of Rocky, a prop from the movies which has become a pilgrimage spot for folks like, well, me. Well I wish they had a statue of Clubber Lang, he’s my favourite. Him and Mickey. “This guy’ll kill ya to death! He’ll knock ya to tomorrow!” Anyway after a sketch and a few photos of the Italian Stallion, I sauntered back to the train station, having only enough time to stop and sketch one Philly fire hydrant. I liked the yellow traffic lights here too. And then I flew to England, to tell everyone I saw Rocky. They were suitably impressed.

rocky statuephilly hydrant

they’ve got cars big as bars

1936 dodge ram

I stuck around the Harvest Fair in Santa Rosa on Sunday afternoon, sketching old cars, getting a red sunburned neck in the process. The cars belonged to members of the Antique Automobile Club of America and ranged from old 1920s Fords (the sketch of which is in the previous post) to more modern classics from the 80s. I am not a car person, not a gear-head in the slightest, but I absolutely salivate at these classic designs. Partly because for me they represent the classic America; as I said to one of the old fellows I spoke to, this is how I imagine American cars – enormous, long, sleek, magnificent, with fins and curves and power and elegance. Of course, you get here and it’s all beige Toyotas and testosterone-fuelled SUVs, and they all look the same, no matter the car-maker, a bit of a  let-down. These beauties make up for that.

The blue 1936 Dodge above reminds me of Daddy Warbucks. The red 1958 Chrysler Saratoga below, of which you can only see the rear end, reminds me of Biff Tannen. That was a long, long car, and a wide one. There’s no way that would fit into a regular parking spot at Target.

1958 chrysler saratoga

I really liked this green Oldsmobile 88, from 1954. I really liked the old-fashioned license plate.

1954 oldsmobile 88

This is also my entry for this week’s Illustration Friday, the theme of which is transportation. And what transportation!

and now my life has changed in oh so many ways

Five years ago today I moved to the US, and we’ve been here ever since. Just thought I’d mention it.

It was a culture shock, for sure. One of the first things I did was not get my sketchbook out – I wasn’t drawing as much back then – but throw a pumpkin at the Santa Rosa harvest fair. I even blogged about it, back in 2005:  https://petescully.com/2005/10/10/week-one/ So you know, I have moved a lot of the stuff from my old blog onto my petescully.com one. There’s more to come, but my ‘letters from america’ are all there (which were weekly observations for the first year, and then tailed off), plus a lot of the sketchbloggery.

It’s been a journey (and it still is). I really miss family and friends (and chocolate bars) back home. I like it here though, and I like Americans, they’re very friendly. I have my own American family now. But I still say ‘zed’, and spell it ‘colour’, and drink endless cups of tea and eat baked beans and watch the footy and get grumpy about queues and say ‘innit’ and call everyone ‘mate’ and complain about the weather no matter how hot/cold it is. I’ll always be a Burnt Oaker. But I also say ‘diaper’ and ‘crosswalk’ and ‘RE-peat’ and carry hand-sanitizer around with me and … no, that’s it. But I’m slowly Americanizing. If I wasn’t, I’d have just written ‘Americanising’;I chose not to.

So to celebrate, today I cooked a nice typical British Sunday roast.

three years across the pond

Tomorrow, I will have been living in America for exactly three years. Just wanted to note. It was, I won’t pretend, a shock of a move at first, leaving behind family and friends (and match of the day), but I think I’ve kept busy. I wrote a weekly column on my old blog called “from the us of eh”, describing my initial thoughts about this new place I lived in. I draw those thoughts now, mostly, non-verbally.

You can read them all here: “from the US of eh”.

Here’s to more years (depending on the outcome of Nov 4, of course).

half-baked alaskan

So what have we learnt about the Republicans this week? Well they don’t mind throwing all of their hopes and dreams and ambitions and their beloved country behind a woman who a week ago they had never heard of. Oh, sorry, she’s the Veep, not the Presidential candidate- you would never have guessed it though. Palin’s speech, which I thought a little predictable, thoroughly wowed the babies-guns-and-jesus party (or is it guns-jesus-babies? Perhaps it’s the right-wing version of ‘paper-scissors-stone’), half-baked alaskanleading some to claim they’ve found their Maggie. And oh, she blasted her opponent – sorry, McCain’s opponent – Obama’s lack of governing experience, derising his time as a community organizer in Chicago (boo! hiss! stupid do-gooder!), while lauding her own considerable experience as governor of Alaska since as far back as 2006, mayor of a tiny town of 9,000, and of course her time on the Parent-Teacher Association of her children’s school. The PTA: now that’s real government experience for you, not the stupid gotta-get-elected-into Senate! The PTA. Of course she can run the country! You’ve organized one jumble sale, you’ve organized ’em all.

But for me, all of her ‘hockey mom’ doggerel and her parading of her now instantly famous offspring (who all have strange Addams Family names) was overshadowed by some very dark notions to slip through her saucy librarian demeanour. She made it clear that the civil rights upon which America bases its justice system do not extend to certain people if we are accusing them – just accusing them – of being terr’rists. And what is all this about her and her husband having formerly been part of an alaskan secessionist movement? “Country First” is the GOP’s slogan – which country, the US or Independent Alaska?

I tell you what though, she did love promoting the mall town over the big city. New York, city that doesn’t sleep? You should come to Wasilla, mate, we have sunlight for six months of the year, try sleeping through that!

...or is it clive anderson?As for McCain, well he claims he wants to change the politics of Washington, making out as if his party, and the president he has strongly supported in 95% of votes, haven’t been the ones in charge this past 8 years. Oh, democrats run the Senate! But not for most of Bush’s presidency; before 2006, Rove and friends gave King George a free reign. Change?

We’ve also learnt that if you are hoping to attack your opponent on his lack of experiecne, it’s a good idea to choose a VP with less experience. If you are hoping to attack your opponent for being a senator and never having been mayor of a village or governor of anywhere, it’s a good idea to have your main candidate who’s also a senator and also has no such executive experience. If your opponent is campaigning on a promise of change, you too have to promise change, but just pretend you weren’t part of making that situation happen. If you discredited the democratic candidate’s military record in Vietnam last time around, use being a celebrated Vietnam vet as the cornerstone of this year’s candidate. If you accused that same guy last time of being a flip-flop, change your own position to pretend you never agreed with Bush,  and be a flip-flop yourself! If you want to show the USA how much you love the USA, choose a VP who has strong affiliations with a secessionist Alaskan party. And don’t forget your friend Joe Liebermann, the Saruman of this tale.

So one thing we’ve learnt this week is that the Republican Party are pretty good at irony.

do they know it’s pancake day?

Today California and the US is celebrating the quadrennial feast of Super Tuesday. It follows Superbowl Sunday (described by a daytime TV presenter last week as the ‘second-most important eating day in the US after Thanksgiving’ – Christmas must be a miserly affair in that house). I don’t know whether you are supposed to say ‘Happy Super Tuesday’ or ‘Merry Super Tuesday’, or whether it’s politically correct to say either: should I just say ‘Happy Second Weekday’, or ‘Super Pagan-War-God Feast’? Are we supposed to give cards? Either way, Monday was actually described on KCRA3 as ‘Super Tuesday Eve’. Never mind Shrove Tuesday. I suppose tomorrow, being Ash Wednesday, will be appropriately if not wittily rechristened ‘Fall-out Wednesday’. Or perhaps it will be the opposite, ‘Make-up Wednesday’, because that’s what these candidates all seem to do once they stop running against each other for office.

‘Commitment 2008’, that is how the current wave of primaries and caucuses is being sold on the news channels. I don’t know what exactly that means but it sounds serious and brow-furrowing. It’s Democuhcy an’ we mean it, man. In the Democrat corner it’s officially the first black (African-American) candidate against the first woman (Female-American) candidate, and though the media makes a lot of this, I’m glad that most ordinary people I overhear do not (rather, one good candidate against a better candidate, you decide which). For the Republicans it’s Old-White-American against Mormon-White-American, oh and that other guy Huckabee, who is a tabloid headline waiting to be overused. Ah, good luck to them all. None of them are called Bush, which is a massive bonus.

And so the boys and girls of 24 states are out today voting, talking, arguing, getting involved. In so many ways, this sort of election is so much more exciting than the Presidential Race itself, which is a bit like a world cup final, tired and depleted, ending in tears or penalties, although without Zidane to headbutt the cocky guy. It’s like the FA Cup round three: there are more candidates, always a chance a minnow could kill a giant, the debates are more varied, they actually address issues before sniping (oh who am I kidding), and…actually now I think about it, it’s none of those things. What am I going on about, it’s Pancake Day. Give me some eggs and flour, some Jif lemon (or is it Cif now, I forget), some sugar and a nice hot pan. I can’t vote here anyway, I’m not a citizen.
Last night, the newsreader did offer a number to call if anyone has election problems. I was going to call and ask if I should call my doctor if I’ve had an election lasting more than four hours.

Originally posted at 20six.co.uk/petescully

the biometric man

This summer I paid a ridiculous amount of money – more than double what it would have cost just a week earlier, too – to renew my permanent residency, so that I may stay stateside. The reason for the massively increased rate, I was told, was to cover the extra fees for the new biometric requirements, and that I was to go for a super-important biometric appointment when summoned. That was today, and boy do I feel ripped off.

Biometric, what a great word, it makes me think they’re doing to do all these super-accurate DNA tests, use high-tech state of the art equipment, iris scans, midichlorian tests, I don’t even know what I imagined. We were told to leave all cellphones outside the building, perhaps it interferes with their space-age scanning equipment, welcome to the future.

But what a let-down! All they did was take my fingerprints (which they already did before, both at the visa interview in London and at the airport on arrival), take my signature (again, they have that), and then take a photo of me at distance and in bad light with my glasses off (all the bags suddenly revealed under my spectacle-less eyes from having just woken up). I had to fill out a piece of paper with stuff like height and eye color on it – and they rounded down on the height, I was being as accurate as I could and they rounded down because their ancient DOS system computer required it) And that was it, see you later, you’ll hear from someone in the post.

They could at least have pretended! They could have just got some little red light and shone it in my ear and typed a few random numbers into a field I don’t understand, and I would have been happy, money probably well spent. But taking information they already have, and charging hundreds of extra dollars for it… I feel like Tottenham Hotspur did after spending sixteen million quid on Darren Bent when we already have perfectly good goalposts. Still, it’s gotta be done…

Originally posted at 20six.co.uk/petescully

i’ve hit more home runs than you’ve had hot dinners

There’s been a lot I want to blog about lately, but I’ve been a little preoccupied; the state of the healthcare system (and mr bush saying nobody wants a nationalized government-funded healthcare system, while his own operation was funded by, yup, the guvverm’nt); presidential hopeful barrack obama scaring his support away by saying he’d bomb pakistan without pakistan’s support; or maybe the weather, which has been unseasonably cool for summer in Davis, to the point of being cold and in the 70s (compared to the 110 degrees this time last year). But I thought I’d wrench myself away from the sketchbook to mention a sporting occasion tonight (no, not the forthcoming football season this weekend): Barry Bonds has finally become baseball’s all-time home-run king.

Barry who? you may be saying back in England. (Didn’t he used to manage west ham?) You probably aren’t though; I remember hearing about some baseball hitters on the ITN news back home over the years. Well anyway, the San Francisco Giants veteran slugger, with the indifferent look on his face, hit homer number 756 tonight, and he did it at home, at the AT&T Park, in fromt of possibly the only people in the country who like him. You see, every time you read about him, every time he is talked about on the news, his name is prefaced by “love him or hate him”. This is because of the allegations of (unproven) steroid use (or is it misuse? that makes it sound like he didn’t use them properly). Well, we’re Giants fans, so we are pleased about it. funny thing is, I used to know a guy in Belgium called Barry Bonds, though I think he was more cricket than baseball. anyway, well done Barry; and now we wait for the Premiership.

originally posted on 20six.co.uk/petescully

move over david

Considerez ceci:

Never mind Beckham. Something else has finally arrived, albeit slightly different. Pepsi Max, as anyone who knows me knows it’s my favourite drink, is here in the US, known however as ‘Diet Pepsi Max’, with all the same shit as in the original, zero sugar, plus the addition of ginseng, meaning I can also wash my hair in it. Pepsi Max! Here in America!

Never mind Beckham. They (the mysterious ‘they’, who make things happen) have remade the Bionic Woman as a new series, and starring as the bionic lass herself is…Zoe Slater! Off Eastenders! There we are, watching the TV, and a preview comes on, and there she is. She’s supposed to be ‘involved in a near-fatal car accident’ before being rebuilt as an android…I really hope this accident takes place new year’s eve, outside the Vic, just for old times sake. I wonder if Dennis Rickman will show up as the six-million dollar man.

Never mind Beckham. Tomorrow is Harry Potter Day, and downtown Davis is having a big feast of activities in the run-up to midnight, when the books will be released. I saw the latest movie, Order of the Phoenix, twice already – the first time, I really enjoyed it, but I couldn’t help but notice all the things that were missing or different. The second time, I enjoyed it a lot more, because I was watching it as a film.

Never mind Beckham. I bought the new Art Brut album recently, “It’s a Bit Complicated”. I’ve followed them for years now, and I was worried that a second album would not, could not, live up to the punch of the first. This second album, however, doesn’t even. I can see what they’re doing, and musically they’re more accomplished (not always a good thing), but the themes are a bit tired, a little samey, there is none of the rough-and-readiness of Bang Bang Rock’nRoll. Whereas their first album seemed effortless, on this one they just didn’t make an effort. I’m still a fan.

And finally, never mind Beckham, here in Davis, in the middle of July, it RAINED! I remember this time last year, sweltering in the ridiculous central valley heat, thinking it would never be cool ever again. It was about 115 F…this week it was in the low 80s, and it even rained. I read in the paper that the last time we saw rain up here on July 18th was in the days of the Gold Rush. I didn’t live here then. And nor did Beckham.

Originally posted at 20six.co.uk/petescully