London – Los Angeles. Travel day.
It’s long-haul time again, heading back to the West Coast, from whence I came just a week ago. The intervening time has been mostly consumed by Glastonbury things but there was also one new video piece to be finished, by 360 animator and film maker Run Wrake. It’s a new piece for Miss Sarajevo, to replace the Bill Carter documentary footage that has accompanied the song until now. I enjoyed having the Bill Carter footage in the show, being from his original documentary about the surreal beauty pageant staged in the Bosnian warzone, as we haven’t ever used it before. There was a feeling however that, all these years later, perhaps it was a little odd within the context of the 360 show, to be so specific about locating the song in such a particular time and place. I had a conversation with Bono about it just a couple of weeks back and it was one of those times when a new idea just presents itself in a very complete form (I love those days). I can’t quite remember now how we hit upon the thought of children’s drawings (a knock-on effect of watching too much of the Tellytubbies, perhaps) but the notion appeared of starting the piece with kid’s drawings of beauty queens and fairies, that gradually turn into kid’s drawings of war atrocities. There are quite a few resources of children’s drawings of war, going back many years. They’re tough to look at of course, but there is something fascinating (is that the right word? humbling, even) to see how children draw everything with the same, neutral perspective. Some of the war images were from Darfur or elsewhere, but there’s at least one from Sarajevo. It makes for a very powerful piece beginning, apparently, with a rather cute and sentimental take on the song lyrics. That alone, in a U2 show, would be enough to make the viewer suspicious, but by the time the naively rendered fighter helicopters arrive, your stomach drops a little as you realise what’s about to happen. (Honestly, you just can’t have anything nice, can you?)
That was my week in Britain, and today I’m back on yet another flight. I went through my regular routine though when I was settled into my usual seat upstairs, waiting for departure, I had a visit from the pilot. “Mr Williams?” he said, “Very good to have you on board today, I’d just like to extend our thanks for your continued custom….” It was a nice gesture but when the pilot is sent out to greet you, you know the moment is approaching when you should think about spending a little more time at home.
I attempted a couple of movies, though having done so many flights of late I’m beginning to run low on options. Had a go at Killing Bono which wasn’t, perhaps, as much of a dog as I’d been led to believe (and if Neil McCormick was punched as many times in real life as his character was in the film, then perhaps the world is not as unjust a place as one might suppose.) It was funny to see the schoolboy U2 story and then recognise the point at which I came in. God, it’s been a long time. I tried a Wynnona Rider film to follow (we like her) but couldn’t stay with it, so read for a while (re-reading Andrew Smith’s Moon Dust).
LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, was a complete zoo. I stood for a full 90 minutes in the immigration queue, making it the longest line of the tour to date (eclipsing the hour or so it took us to get out of Brazil). The combination of grim officiousness and superficial over-politeness is a complete head-wreck after a long flight. It’s such an anomaly too, here in the land of ultimate customer service efficiency. I always stand in the line, feeling the tense, unease in the air, the hours wasted, the vast inconvenience, and can’t help but think that this, right here, is the terrorists’ victory.
I did eventually escape and made it to the Hotel Fabulous before falling in a heap. There’s some kind of big hair event going on, so the place was awash with leggy models and men with ponytails. Perfect end to a perfect day, really.