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