From Tragedy to Comedy: Three Green Travelers on Horseback

A friend named Sally, saw a play I wrote years ago and said “I think comedy is the highest art form, much harder to write than tragedy.”  Perhaps it was a not so subtle hint – my play was about African immigrants being killed in London in the mid 19th century. But I didn’t think too much about the comment and went on with life.

I’ve watched over the years as my taste has changed. Now I mostly watch comedies on TV, I love a good joke, I’m most attuned to the unusual, the startling, the unexpected in life. My friend Vice said to me once “the world is depressing enough, when I write,I want to bring hope.” And I thought of course, it’s true, shouldn’t we all?

For years I have had a Congolese fetish statue on my desk (pictured above).  I bought the statue because it spoke to me, and I thought myself brave for showing this truth: down with hypocrisy! Show the nails and arrows!

But thanks to a change encounter in Dakar last week,  my little man has been replaced by three green riders on horseback. Phew. . . why’d it take me so long?! I look at them each day and I literally laugh.  Who are they?  Why have they all clambered onto the same horse?  Where the heck are they going?  I have no idea, and they bring me great joy.

Sally and Vice are right. The funny, the unexpected, the possible, that’s what matters. Let’s climb on the green horse and go for a ride!

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Landed in LA

LA musings 4 weeks in . . .

I’ve landed in my new home Los Angeles: just me, twelve boxes and a bicycle. A skinny pregnant sister arrives at the airport in a truck to pick me up. Since then I’ve found a place to live (6th floor, Larchmont Village), bought me a car (a Lexus Hybrid named Bessie) and settled in just a little.

LA is as foreign to me as any country I’ve lived in – some moments so far:

  • A fundraiser at the home of an A-list Hollywood director. I almost don’t go because I’ve seen all the photos on the internet of his pool filled with naked barely legal boys, but at the last minute I decide I will go on the advice of my mentor here “never turn down a meeting you haven’t gone to yet.” Tonight the boys are all smiling and dressed in suits – dozens of them, as if they are all in on a secret (that isn’t).The other guests are a Cypriot priest, the eighty year old wife of a politician, some producers and artists, a sprinkling of celebrities. I eat all the hors doevres and chat it up big time, this is not so hard.
  • A Christmas and then a New Years party in Baldwin Hills (the black Hollywood) with people I know. Smoking weed on a terrace and looking out over city (this is legal here, right?). Dinner is collards, ham, mac and chesse and black eyed peas – but skipping over fried tofu and vegan collards. The other guests are all black, mostly transplants from the South – a musician here, a set designer there, some kid just who just got fired from his social work job for losing it and beating up a transgender homeless teen. He gives me long warnings about how to deal with people living in “survival mode” and I realize I’m living, way beyond just getting by.
  • A networking event in the valley at some chain Irish family restaurant that I end up at because of a brief flurry of saying yes to everything (which has now ended). The host is an aging white homosexual who between sipping on two for one daiquiris with a side of potatoes skins dolls out advice interspersed with a steady stream of celebrity name-dropping. Us attendees all stand up and tell our stories: a 60 year old Asian man with gold teeth and a pony tail who says he can’t find work but one of the other guests recognizes him and can’t contain his excitement. An awkward 20 year old from Omaha who says she is having some trouble out here, can’t really find her any work, “you know how it is, comedy is really hard for women and people of color.” A black guy who pitches his movie (Hollywood Square) which is about a man (him) who arrives in Hollywood (we’re in the valley) and is square (doesn’t drink or party). A bald white man who brags about his film which stars the neighbor on the Brady Bunch, the substitute bus driver from the Partridge family, and host of extras of shows 40 years ago. A transgender woman who fiddles with her pearls and says she won the award for best artist in LA but can’t make a living. Once we get 30 minutes into her speech which at first I am very moved by, but once we are 30 minutes in  the aging white homosexual has gone on another side story about talking to Steven Spielberg or some other mentor or some studio that he opened for 700,000 by just picking up the phone, or how we should be friends with the guy in the Xerox room because he will be running the network soon – at this point I just walk out.
  • Other than that I’ve had a few work meetings, writing a bunch, made a couple friends, and may have landed my first gig. Mostly I spend days wondering: Who are my people? all the while feeling oddly confident and that things are unfolding as they should.
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Our Own West Wing, Borgen, The Thick of It . . . 90 Plein Street

South Africa’s Political Drama – 90 Plein Street (the address of Parliament) Season 5 began airing last week.

I head wrote Season 5 for awhile (’til I had to move onto another project). I took the project through breaking the story overall and many of the episodes.  I remember vividly our discussion and debates in the room – how do we make it inspirational and hopeful and yet reflect the increasingly dark reality that is South African (and global) politics.

I’m proud that it seems we hit the mood right – we wrote this six months ago, but managed to anticipate the scandals of the moment (State Capture) and still give people a reason to believe in and fight for political change.

A joy to work on these . . .



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Mongolia Odyssey

Back from an amazing 2 weeks in Mongolia with IFC. Working on a program which focuses on bridging conflict around water between mining companies, local herders, and government.

Shot some video in Ulaanbataar (the capital) then in South Gobi desert. Love the juxtapositions of the country – ancient and modern, Soviet and Chinese influences, old ways of life and new . . . sometimes love my life and what I get to see.

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Walking in Instanbul

A day in this glorious city: a pre-dawn train ride, cups of Turkish coffee to ease jet lag, wandering through the city, a nap at a friend’s place with a kitten jumping on my head – just perfect.






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The Big News . . .

So the word has been drizzling out, but here’s the official announcement.

After 12 years outside the USA, most of it spent on the African continent, I’m moving to Los Angeles.

Come the end of the year I’ll pack up my things and succumb to the lure of Hollywood.  I’m looking forward to working in TV/Film in the USA, the chance to live on US soil (with our first female president, yeah!), back again close to family and roots, here I come . . .

I’ve heard Kate’s admonition about no Gold (that’s OK, I’ve done enough gold mining to last a lifetime) Tupac’s homage to living and dying in LA (well I don’t know if I’ll stay that long), but I think I’ll go with Biggie on this one.

“Strictly for the women and the weed, sticky green . . . I’m going going, back back, to Cali, Cali . . . “ (or something like that . . . )

See you on the flip side.

Love, Alex

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Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)

Spending the week working in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.  A pretty extraordinary place – old crashing up against new, Russian and Chinese influences.  I just walk around in awe . . .



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Umlilo Season 4 Finale: An Era Comes to an End . . .

Our Season Finale, Series Finale . . . it’s over.  Feels like the time to go out (while we’re still on top) and sad to say goodbye to the stories, characters, cast and crew I’ve been with so long.  Love to you all.

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I’m on TV . . .

Well not TV exactly, but a video of me is on the IFC website . . .

Actually did these interviews and edited these videos – I was in Washington DC last week at a gathering of Sustainability professionals from around the globe. We asked people to tell their stories, and at one point I jumped in front of the camera and did so myself.

So here I am – in the “Personal Journeys” category.  Check it out.

I realize that my frame of reference for this video goes all the way back to college days from my senior thesis which was center around a book by Donna J. Haraway –  Simians, Cyborgs, and Women:  The Reinvention of Nature.  In the book she talked about growing up Catholic and how as a Catholic she was always “drawn to the belly of  the beast.”  Well, so am I.

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Prince R.I.P.

David Bowie died and I immediately felt sad then Prince passes away and I pretend I don’t’ care. My relationship with Prince was much more complicated – decades long, he unsettled me, pushed me, guided me and over the days I remember and reclaim what he meant.  Here are few of my Prince moments:

  • Summer 1884: 12 years old listening to Purple rain on my silver cassette player feeling unsettled and aroused: “Wendy . . . is the water warm enough?   Yes, Lisa. Shall we begin? Yes Lisa . . “
  • Fall 1984: 7th grade, laying back in the orthodontist chair, my mouth strapped open, listening to the assistants gush about the skinny new movie star Prince.
  • 1987: Germany my sister andI playing “If I was your girlfriend” like we are the first to discover it –  especially the last part. “And would U, would U let me kiss there, you know down there where it counts . . . and together we’ll stare into silence.”
  • Spring 1988: driving to school making everyone listen to “Sometimes it snows in April”, the mom making sarcastic weather comments and me wondering who Tracy was.
  • 1995: working at a black gay bar, the crowd always goes wild when they play “Pussy Control” so I tell the DJ to play it nightly.
  • 1996: I take my sister to visit university of Chicago to visit and they tell us repeatedly not to walk into Chicago’s South Side and so that night we head out on foot and end up in a cinema watching Girl 6 with an all Prince sound track.
  • 1997 :“In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name . . . “
  • 1998: Gold Experience CD: “Desperate is the day that is tomorrow . . . the only love there is is the love we make . . . “
  • 2007: I rediscover Graffiti Bridge living in Johannesburg. I put , “Round and Round” on repeat and wonder what happened to Tevin after his arrest.
  • March 2016: a month before his death, my older sister and I spend hours listening to Little Red Corvette covers on you youtube , she always liked that song. I like the lesbian one the best.
  • April 2016: A bunch of us gather in the park in South Africa, almost spontaneously, to remember Prince – I DJ, drinking, laughing, remembering (pics below).

Prince our chronicler, our raconteur, our guide . . . rest in peace.

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