They call turbulence ‘rough air’ now. At least, on Delta Airlines they do. I’m on a plane, returning from New York to Los Angeles, and I don’t know if I want to live there anymore. As you can probably tell, I’m Australian. I say probably because I think that by now my accent is kind of ambiguous. I used to think it was quote-unquote ‘softer’, but it really wasn’t. [It was] probably softer, less Australian than the average Australian (Polish parents) but still pretty rounded. Twangy. Chewy. Mumbly. Americans sometimes can’t understand me when I speak. I’m too soft spoken, comparatively, and it’s worse behind the muffle of a panny mask. I think that’s what Australians call the pandemic now. Or ‘panno.’ or the roni. It’s easy to make up cute nicknames for bad things that don’t affect you. In LA people might call it the ‘rona. If they’re gonna shorten it anyway, which is not what they’re inclined to do. Australians are obsessed with shortening words. Diminutives. Lazy. “Can’t be bothered.” I haven’t met many Americans who say that either, as a figure of speech. Ben says it. He’s from the Midwest. Chicago. I think they might have an inferiority complex too. “Can’t be fucked” is mega confusing. “Bloody hell”—more so. It’s extremely vivid imagery when you think about it. Bloody. Hell. The intensity of some Australian idioms feels kind of incongruent with the general laziness of its vernacular. Or maybe it’s about the delivery. How easily words slip off the tongue. “Porking.” “Dogcunt.” “Cunted.” Maximum effect with minimum effort.
I guess they’re also kind of patronising, these words. Everything’s a bit of a joke. If it wasn’t it would be a fucking nightmare.
The laziness thing, though, that’s interesting. There’s a climate in Los Angeles that’s similar. To Australia, Perth. Hot. Dry. Torpid. Some refer to what happens to you when you move to Southern California as the ‘LA lobotomy.’ Or at least, I do. There’s something about the heat and the light that makes you not want to do anything. No drive or ambition. That’s a huge generalisation, of course, and probably wrong. LA is the home of Hollywood.
Bright lights. Blinding. Burning. The glare is pretty constant in LA except for when the sky is overcast with smog. The sunsets are pretty spectacular. Pollution. It’s the same here (wherever that is, PICA?) but in a different way. I heard the isolation is good for Perth for once, and it’ll finally have its day as a global film location. Post-pandemic Hollywood. The weather is good for it. I hope it doesn’t happen. Parking is free and the beaches are still public. They’re way prettier. Cleaner. Fewer mountains but more sharks. I’m being selfish. 10 years away and I’ve managed to romanticise the vast expanse of suburbs. Boredom. Where did I even move to? The same fucking place, but dirtier. More expensive.
The people that I know who grew up here, Angelenos, don’t seem to hate it as much as my friends did, or do in Perth. There’s definitely more going on here (Los Angeles). More people. It’s a haven from the rest of the US, which kinda sucks. The opposite is definitely true of Perth. “Home of America’s Cup”. My license plate had “State of Excitement” as its tagline. 8LG 585. I still remember the registration number (rego) from my first hand-me-down car at 16 years old. I couldn’t tell you what it is on the one I’m driving now. It was a white 1992 Toyota Camry with manual windows and a busted radio. I’d listen to The Drones, Mika Miko, Shellac, whatever, through headphones on a shockproof Discman. I’m listening to Grinderman on Spotify now in a moment of pub rock nostalgia on the 405 freeway. “No Pussy Blues.”
Toes Beach is the only place I know with free parking. The lot is now closed for construction. Great. “You gotta capitalise on it.” That’s some guy talking American-loud into his phone on the bike path. I wonder when that noun became a verb. I’m spelling it with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘zed’—I mean, ‘zee.’ My autocorrect is still set to Australian English. Ten years later. Tomato, tomato.
I rarely swim at the beach in Los Angeles. It’s too cold, too grimy. Too far. The mixologist I sat next to on my first flight from London warned me not to go in the water at Venice at least three days after rain. The dry sediment of car grease and piss, washed up and drained straight into the ocean. The waves are a bit big but the water feels clean in Australia. When you think of it that way. #Perthisok.
Photo Courtesy: Patrick Lennard O’Brien
Born 1989 in Chicago
Lives and works in Los Angeles
Ben Babbitt is a producer and composer working mainly within contemporary electronic music, performance, and scoring for visual media.
Babbitt created the score for BAFTA award-winning video game Kentucky Route Zero, as well as feature film Paris Window, released by Not Not Fun in 2019. His work as both a solo artist and collaborator has been presented at the V&A Museum, London; the Art Institute of Chicago; SCI-ARC, Los Angeles; and the Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Born 1985 in Perth
Lives and works in London and Los Angeles
Steph Kretowicz is a writer, editor and journalist specialising in music, contemporary art and online culture.
Kretowicz is co-founder and editor of arts publication AQNB.com; editor and researcher for Berlin interdisciplinary platform Creamcake; and author of novel and cross-media narrative Somewhere I’ve Never Been, published by TLTRPreß and Pool in 2017. A number of interdisciplinary pieces around new media and distributed storytelling appear on digital commission platform Opening Times, as well as 3hd Festival, Montez Press Radio, Yleisradio Oy, CURL, NTS Radio, and more. Kretowicz is also host of AQNB’s Artist Statement podcast, and has presented workshops, panels, screenings and performative multimedia readings at independent art spaces and institutions in London, Berlin, Tallinn, Helsinki, Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere.