Friday, August 1, 2008

Stolen away

Grand Farewells

It was with more than a little trepidation that I opened the door to Office Johannesburg for the last time that Friday morning. Everything looked the same, only it felt completely different. I was the first person in the office and I hastily cleared my desk. There was not much to be done and an empty gym bag held what was left of my professional possessions.

Thankfully, M-lite walks in and we can get the ball rolling on the plan for the day. That is: once she gets herself rolling. I sit and wait for her to perform her ablutionary excursion, complete with loitering greetings to the help staff. I sit and wait with a kind of rueful familiarity - this was the last time I'd wait for her before an outing and I reminisce on the waiting that had so characterised (at least a part of) our relationship. The night before this morning M-lite, her beau, Sophia and myself had enjoyed a few late night drinks in my 'honour'... i suppose. I will say with no shame that if nothing else I danced my way out of Joburg, and I am grateful I got to party with everyone before I left.

When M-lite and I return. I find a book and a tiny card on my desk, a most thoughtful gift from Certain Someone and immediately stalk about the building to find her. She's sitting at her desk and taps away lightly at her keyboard.
"Thanks for the gift, that's really great of you."
"Well we both love books and we both really wanted to see the movie so it seemed like the perfect gift."
"It was, really, thanks."
We hug and I take it all in for the last time. The girl I was crazy about. The gift she's given me was so thoughtful - if I take nothing else away from my experience with her over the year past, at least I did "crush the best one of the best ones" - and that will always be my song for her.

I have to move on to the day's procedure though so I return to floor and I have my last post-mortem. I'm not really listening, everything discussed here would all be academic to me in a few short hours.
"Anyone want to add anything?" Deputy asks as the conversation winds down.
I clear my throat, suddenly awkward. "I don't have anything to add but if we're wrapping up I'd like to, um... we'd like to.. do something else."
"Floor's yours," Deputy shrugs.
"Thank you." I move to front and center and deliver a thank you to our internship co-ordinator, Chief, on behalf of the interns. I'm a closet orator and spoke for a tight 7 minutes, it was my own way of saying goodbye without saying goodbye. We eat cake after and i say my more personal goodbyes.

After shakes with my fellow interns at the cafe I decide it's time to walk away, goodbyes can drag and I'm frankly terrible at them. Sugar is also on her way out and offers to walk with me to the parking lot. Sugar had been my best friend in the work environment and there was nothing I hadn't/couldn't tell her and vice versa.
"How are you feeling?" she asks in that way which means I can't just reply by saying 'i'm cool'
"I feel... like I might carry a few regrets but that I can live with them."
"I know what you mean. But you're going to be better off."
"I know, I wouldn't go if I didn't think that was the case. I'm just gonna miss..." I struggle for the words, "this chapter."
She looks at me quizically.
"You know, like if my life were a book, I'd miss this chapter
"But there's so much more to come."
"Uh huh," I feel this goodbye is beginning to go down that emotional road and so I steer it clear. "Okay I must go now, I'll be in touch. Try not to miss me too much."
She laughs.
"Or laugh at me too much." I tease.
"Okay my friend."

On the Road

The next morning I picked up parental unit XY at the airport and we begin the long trek South. Johannesburg shows me what she's made of one last time by getting me hopelessly lost on the way out. I wonder briefly at the irony of all that as we finally see the right signs. Parental Unit XY catches me up on everything that's happening at home with the extended family and we comment sporadically on the remarks on the radio. PUXY and I have always gotten on very well and I don't think I'd be an even remotely well adjusted person had he not understood me the way he has over the years. No trip with him would be complete without the Beatles and we sing along to our favourites which makes the experience all the more enjoyable... and hard on the throat.

We stop at Colesberg, the middle of everything in the country, I feel. It's cold and empty. By the time we get there the streets had been rolled up and there was nothing else to do except go sleep. We ate at a fast food outlet which had surprisingly great imitation KFC and watched a Bond film (another firm favourite for myself and PUXY). As I lay in bed, early on a Friday night I thought about where I was. The middle. Halfway between where I was and where I was headed. 100% sure about my past and 100% unsure of my future. Scared and excited, I am two-face Dent.

We set out early the next day, at 4am to be precise. PUXY comes to my room and asks if I'm still asleep. I'd barely splept during the night so I answer in the affirmative and we head off earlier than expected. The stars are still out over the Great Karoo as we ride the barren road. So many stars... the clear dust of the milky way was visible in the night sky and we bothdistinctly noticed one shooting star cross the plain.
"Make a wish." PUXY asserts.
I think about the fact that I was only a few minutes away from the middle of everything and sigh, not knowing what I want.
"I wish for a safe journey." I say.
"You not supposed to tell me."
"Well then I guess we're doomed." I joke.
We encounter horrible weather in the mountains of the Western Cape. The torrent does however make for gorgeous waterfall viewing on along the ridges and we savour the slow ride.

The cloud cleared as we hit the home stretch, Cape Town and the mountain, my mountain, stretches horizontally across the horizon, embracing the city, welcoming me back into her arms. It started to feel right just then and the tamult of leaving was gone. I am home now and I'm with my people - I'm off to meet them now, I can't wait for you to meet all of them as well. If my blog is called On the Road thanks to Jack Kerouc, the Cape Town crowd are the crazy ones which I'd take over anyone else any day. Here I go...

Monday, July 7, 2008

.. and now for the exciting conclusion!

Now that I have your attention! Back to the story...


Let me begin with a disclaimer. I referred to a really gorgeous girl as being a 'cutefish' in my last post. This is not to imply that her face resembles a fish's (though that would be cute in my book). Instead it is a reference to the old adage that women are like fish in the sea and there are plenty of them. Every so often, however, you look through the sea and one fish strikes you as being a particularly appealing. She is a cutefish, the pursuit of said fish is what is known as cutefishing.

I spent my last three nights in Grahamstown cutefishing. I scoured the heads of every bar I walked into looking for that telltale blonde streak but to no avail. Cutefish got away, but I did meet a few more interesting folk. I cannot round off my festival account without a mention of Gillian. Gillian comes in as Will's best mate and I felt some pressure to impress her. We spoke at some length about each other's backgrounds and found common ground in deriding Will's female predations. I suspect that if I'd hung around town as long as Will had, Gill and I would get along famously.

Man on Fire

The first time I attended the festival it was as a performer. I was part of a 30 person dance /drama ensemble and we played to a modest audience. So I was surprised to find myself at the arse end of a long queue to get tickets to my old troupe's newest festival offering. Mind you, it has been 9 years. As I walk in the door I see the familiar face of our choreographer on top of the bleachers, she's fussing over the sound technician.
"Hello Auntie G," I call up to her.
She leers over the ramparts and surprise registers on her face. "Beautiful to see you my child." she responds.

I must admit to drifting during the performance. With all the familiar faces on stage I traipsed carelessly down memory lane. I remembered the shy boy who, out of desperation, decided to join a performance group. I wondered at my old shell and how I'd ultimately changed through dance. After the show I congratulate Auntie G and tell her how good it was to see the group in action again.
"Oh my boy, if they had to see you backstage they'd go mad. 'pick 'n pay!', 'little mermaid!'." she laughs. (inside jokes)
I laugh along, not trusting myself to go backstage. "Tell them i say hi then"

My way

The parental unit spent a day with me in Grahamstown and we went to see a few shows as well as visit the market. In small doses, the parental unit is endearing and it was probably this visit that showed me the way to the future.

At my current place of employ I have been informed that the position I wanted to fill is no longer open, in short, the incumbent is staying. Regardless, I have been offered a three month provisional extension to find a new way at the paper. I went to my alma mater (nourishing mother i.e. old university), saw my old dance group, my old friends and my aging parents, all to look back at looking forward.

If you have a different opinion on this let me know but to me, I don't think you can know where you're going until you're sure of where you've been. An everyday mistake, for example, will repeat until your behavior under the circumstances changes. So you need to look back in order to take forward action. Make sense?

The thing that occurred to me, being back at Rhodes, was that when I'd left I was ready to leave. I sat on that monument, writing that note (see previous post) saying "I must go, i know I must go". When I wrote my note leaving Cape Town I said, and I quote: "This wonderful opportunity could not have come at a more inopportune time." I had rushed off for a name and a job but I wasn't ready to go. Now, for the first time in a year, I was faced with the prospect of going back. So it came down to this: I know I wasn't ready to leave home when i did, so I should go back. But am I ready to leave Johannesburg now?

I walked around Grahamstown one sunny day and fought the cheesy notion of heading up to the monument to soul-search. Instead I sat on the lawns and looked at the old clock tower. I pictured my fond farewell to the monument two years ago. I then imagined saying goodbye to Table Mountain and my heart broke. I then pictured the scenes and faces of Joburg and stuck my tongue out nonchalantly.

And the short of it is: I'm going home. I will not be extending my contract and yes, I feel ready to leave this place. I will be on the road again soon.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Al my mate and my alma mater

Okay, the joke in the title is lost on the woefully ignorant or otherwise unfamiliar with Afrikaans, thanks for pointing that out to me, moving on...

Treat this post as the preface to something much, much more elaborate...

This is my third successive Grahamstown festival and fourth in total, it helps that I studied here and have never had to pay for accommodation. Sadly they all seem to have faded together, the billboards all hang in the same places. Certain artists have consigned themselves to certain venues. Some of the shows are reruns from last year, some are sequels, some just have the same motif. I don't think people are meant to attend so many of these in succession. But here I am.

Wizzle the piano wizz

And in walks Will the pianist, my good friend and temporary housemate. Will's latest buzzword is "basically", and basically what Will says, goes on campus. So, basically, i'm telling you the way people are talking around here is, basically, irksome and yes - base. Basically.

"So what's the sitshuashin bra?? it's been like a week basically." he intones.
"Same old, still no word and doing quite well in other areas." I shrug.
He needs no further information to know which areas of my life I'm referring to, "Cool cool, it's good to have you here but listen," he takes a mockingly serious stance "I'm going to be fuckin' buuuusy this fest bra, so we won't have much time."
"I know how to entertain myself in this town, other people will be around." I say this but my phone is dead and my charger in Johannesburg, so I will have to hunt down familiar faces on foot.
"Ya," he continues. "basically I've these workshops and I'm going to go out there and advertise myself and, basically, I'm going to be practicing."
"Of course, you do what you must." I smile encouragingly.
"Forshizi dog."

Will's larger than life that way and I often wonder, without really being mystified, at how we're so close. He keeps a timetable of his daily movements and post-its litter his flat. This attention to detail juxtaposes with the fact that his living space reflects the much archetyped mire of the artist. Despite his brogue-esque brash mannerisms and the things we talk about - (which I could never repeat here because of the off-chance that decent folk read this blog) - Will listens primarily to classical piano and spends most of his waking hours on the ivories, working in seclusion. On his bed pedastal he keeps a book of poetry by Tupac Shakur - a poet to be sure, but the image of someone reading Tupac while listening to Rachmaninov might be bewildering to some. They say a good writer should show and not tell but I couldn't 'show' you Will any more than I can 'tell' you Will, which means I'm either a bad writer or some experiences have to be lived to be understood.

Being the place it is I'm bound to encounter a few familiar faces. Somewhere between the a stall of imitation Persian rugs and another with imitation firearms I run into Lor. Lor is one of the most beautiful girls I've chanced to encounter in my life, she has long wild tawny hair and, underneath that, radiant green eyes. Hers is the kind of beauty that gives you second thoughts though, that there must be a catch, and I've never allowed myself to like her fully. We walk past one another but both stop after the recognition dawns.
"Hey dude, what up?" I ask
"What are you doing here?" she replies - apparently 'what's up' doesn't count as a question anymore, people ignore it quite frequently.
"Just picking up the festival vibe, you?"
"Ya same, this is my last year so..." - a bit of a non sequitur but i know what she means. I insisted on coming to fest in my last year as well... and the two years following that.
She continues, looking around frantically "I've lost my mother."
"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realise you were following someone."
We say a quick goodbye and part ways. This is the sum of most of my encounters over the festival, I couldn't possibly recount them all. There's that odd awkwardness between people who recognise one another but aren't friends, that moment where you don't want to be rude and say, 'have a nice life' but you don't want to be forward and say 'let's do lunch sometime' - so I settle for a safe 'see ya round' and make my way to Village Green.

VG is the centre of the festival, though there are no productions there, most of the advertising, ticket sales, promotions, stalls and beer guzzling takes place there. Grahamstown residents know it as a bowling and sports field. Over festival the grass is littered with wood chips and the field is invisible. I haggled a much needed cellphone charger from a vendor (it is considered rude NOT to haggle) and make my way out. I then bumped into Jen. This is not an encounter worth revisiting. Jen and I had a less-than-amicable break up two years ago (after three years together). I would have said hi except I didn't see her until she'd pretty much stepped past me. Since she stepped past me I assume she did see me and wasn't in the mood for greetings. Three years together and two to get over it... makes you wonder about the longevity of certain grudges.


The dark-haired and wide-eyed lass, who I refer to here as Dutchess, pulls her face into a tight grimace, forms bear arms and groans in an imitation of the Hulk. She relates an amusing story around seeing the film and I immediately like her. If I told you that Dutchess had been involved in one of the greatest natural disasters the planet had seen and once lived with an assortment of legal malcontents, you'd think me daft or a liar... as you like it. Currently she walks where I used to and studies journalism under the same clock tower I did, we talk at length about directions in life and, while she furiously questions me about my line of work, I feel I could learn more from listening to her.

She graciously accompanied me to what was surely the highlight of my festival - a jazz meets opera and dance performance featuring the imminent Sibongile Khumalo as well as Sibongile Ngoma, Mark Fransman, Shannon Mowday and a host of other transcendent talents. As we traverse a theatrical plain littered with goosebumps, humour and innovation Dutchess whistles the living daylights out of the venue and I resist the urge to stand up and dance. By the end of it Sibongile K provided the release. "I've been working all day," she says to the audience.
We laugh sympathetically.
"I've been working all day," she repeats, "and you just sit there?"
Apparently my sentiment was shared by the rest of the crowd, we needed no further instruction and immediately stood up to jive. I think that's the hope of every performer at this festival, if they can get you on your feet by the end of the show, they've done their job.

Pkwamizzle and the game

My resmate from first year, Pikwa, was keen to join me for a beer and the Euro 2008 Final. We met at the venue - a familiar tavern which has gone by a manner of nicknames over the years, Tonight it's called The Bird. The Bird's low wooden ceiling is capped with smoke and there's only enough wiggle room for one's beer to reach one's mouth. Pikwa foolishly supports the Germans while I'm behind the inevitable champions, Spain. The setup makes for fun playful banter though. We are joined by another resmate, Hank, and my one-time classmate, West. We make small talk, watch the game and drink. After Spain's first goal Hank pulls off his top, revealing a Liverpool FC t-shirt and the name Torres across the back. Pikwa finds this amusing " Why you only taking your top off now? Where was the faith?" he teases.
"Don't hate the player P, hate the game." I say jovially, though I don't think he heard me.

I happen to be sitting at the bar and several girl squeeze in next to me throughout the night looking for drink and a barman, I take the opportunity to engage in some mild flirtation and find my own 'game' is as erratic as ever. Some are received well and others not so much. The best conversation I had was with Roberta:

"Excuse me can I come in here?" her voice chimes over my shoulder.
"Of course, of course." I smile. I can't recall her face now but I do remember thinking I was playing way out of my league. A barman walks past without serving her.
"You know what, it's tricky getting their attention. Maybe we should wave our money around and..."
Suddenly she's being served and gives me an impish grin.
"Niiice," I commend her. "though I can't help but notice you didn't manage to make him stay to get my order."
"Oh, it's really easy, you just make your eyes really big like this" She pulls a face. "and you stare them down."
"Do you think that would work with me."
"On you or for you?"
"No like if I had to do it"
"Probably not, I think it helps to have boobs"
"Possibly," I make a mocking sigh "Mine are still coming in."
An encouraging laugh. "Okay I'll get him to come here again."
"Thank you." I smile.
She pulls the ridiculous face again, laughs it off and then jumps up and down for attention.
"Are you here for the game or for the ...mmm... food?" I ask. My own little attempt at a joke, there's no food at The Bird.
"Just for the company, I don't care about the game."
"I guess for that it helps to have a two X chromosomes." (small talk, forgive my sexism)
"Well," she replies, that grin reappearing on her face. "My operation isn't official until..." she fumbles not knowing where the joke is headed and laughs.
"Okay well, what do they call you until it's official?" I come in with the save.
"Oh well for now it's Roberta haha. No seriously, it's Amy."
The barman arrives and I whisper my order to her. After a second she hands my beer to me
"There we go," she smiles tipping her glass "Cheers,"
I tip mine in response. "Cheers 'Roberta' hehe. Enjoy your evening."

My worst encounter over the festival was with the girl I affectionately know as Cutefish. Granted, I can never flirt when it's someone I think I might like. Cutefish and I made eye contact while watching Aldo Brincat. Bless this the cutest of roundest faces with one white and one pink streak in her hair! After the show we compared balloons given to us by Brincat:
"I see you got a puppy there." she remarks lightly.
"Yeah, he's called Snoopy apparently." I reply, suddenly awkward. "What do you have there, is it a flower?"
"Yeah, i guess it is... It's kind of fitting I guess, the girl gets the flower and the boy get the puppy."
"Yeah, though I think a balloon puppy proabably should go to a younger boy." I say by way of teasing my little balloon toy.
"I guess" she replies. (To my credit, she seemed just as awkward as me)
Then something strange happened, I walked away. I'm not sure why, my head had lost all sense the second she started talking to me and now my body was betraying me. I trudged to the exit and watched her leave.
Warren, you Schmuck, I said to myself.
I bumped into Cutefish again while out that night. She saw me, smiled and said hey but walked right by.
Warren, you Schmuck.

This post tangent horribly at this point and I don't want to break the ethos of what I wanted to say here initially. So here goes, there's something I wrote in my diary in 2006 which brings it to a close, I just need you to bear in mind that I'm posting this two years later but from the same place:

I'm sitting on top of the Monument, it's bitingly cold but for all I know this is the last time I absorb this view. I can't believe I'm leaving and at the same time I know I must. That real world is waiting. I just needed to get up here and look at this place, the light that belongs to her digs, the res that is home and even this wall I'm sitting on. My word, I have two very significant memories attached to this one lonely wall, how many more are out there in those lights? I never want to forget the ways in which Rhodes has shaped me, I came in one way and left something so much more

Revisiting Rhodes now has been a significant re-return and helped me make a very important decision in my life today. Stay tuned for the rest of the festival story... and yes, the decision in question.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Much to crow about.

So much has happened since I last posted. Most of my writing has been on the xenophobic attacks. Not the kind of subject matter I’d imagined for this blog so I’ve kept it separate. I will say this much though. I am heartbroken, and jaded, and disappointed, and angry. I can’t believe we’ve done this.

That line from Fight Club

Meet Carol and Hannah. I believe I did for a brief spell. Hannah describes herself as the queen of England and there’s a certain regal charm to her which befits the title. Carol is more of a tiny explosive with a thick Southern accent. What did we speak about? Not much. Hannah and I did take some very odd photographs together. Carol and I argued about just how much I realistically resembled Enrique Iglesias. But I had fun with Carol and Hannah, and then they were gone.

Meet Hugh. Hugh who caught everyone’s attention by wearing nothing but a bed sheet to Flor’s party (the theme was Greece not surprisingly). Hugh was cold but he put on a brave face and drunk enough to warm his cockles I suspect. The two of us wound up in a skirmish with a plastic and foam sword respectively. I’m not sure that I faired very well but it was good fun, and then he was gone.

Meet Todd. Todd stands solemly in the corner and makes conversation with some more strangers. I join them in the heat of the fire and they’re talking about the violence, which has been on my mind a lot lately, so I join in. Eventually Todd and I discuss the situation in Zimbabwe, what are the crucial factors in the upcoming run off. I live - and occasionally love – current affairs, so I’m drawn into this conversation quite naturally. It was enjoyable and engaging, but then Todd was gone.

And then I left, and thought about the strangers I’d met. And what their stories were. There’s that line in fight club “Tyler, you are by far the most interesting single-serving friend I've ever met... see I have this thing: everything on a plane is single-serving...”

Okay it’s not that direct but the idea is this: Every so often we go out, we see people, interesting people, people we might like to be friends with in another lifetime. But they’re not lifetime friends, not this time. You meet them once, you get them in a single-serving. You don’t pick up their details at the door, probably because you don’t want to intrude in their lives, and you don’t even really bother to say goodbye.

I often wonder, is there a point? If every act should be performed with purpose, what does one serving give you? How do you know you’ve made the most of it?

The Crows and the Kugels

I’ve never believed in the phenomenon known as the Sandton Kugel (cool girl) until this Friday past. I'd heard horror stories from some of the Joburgers on campus but had never seen one. It was sometime after Flat Stanley had completed their set and we awaited the entrance of the Counting Crows with bated breath. I heard them before I saw them “Sorry we have friends up here…sorry,…sorry.”
They didn’t - the company I was keeping held all the space in front of them and they didn’t know us. I squared my shoulders and shuffled slightly to the right, obstructing the young imposters. The blonde queen bee groaned at that point but I was unperturbed. This is as far as you’re getting young lady, I thought.
She turned to her posse “I have to get to he front,” she pouted. “Adam Duritz needs to see me and he needs to go home with me.”
“I know,” agrees her brunette friend in the skull and crossbones overall.
Blondie desperately surveys the crowd.
“It think there’s a small space over there, I’ll go in and you just join me later.”
“They won’t let us through.”
“What are they going to do? Nobody’s going to push us out.”
“But,” the brunette objects and my ears go red, “this guy just did.”
“He’s a dick.”
He was here before you, I thought, but couldn’t be bothered to explain to these young banshees (if you’ve heard the Kugel speak you’d know why I say banshee) that they were not the centre of the Universe.
Skulltop seems more sensible “Why don’t we just stay here? We’re close to the front and we’re not supposed to be in golden circle anyway.”
Blondie would have none of it “Okay…mmm… okay,” she looks slyly at a guy standing just to my 1 o’clock, “I’m going to flirt with this guy.”
Guy groans loudly and visibly rolls his eyes skyward.
Blondie stops her hand, which was en route to his shoulder, and draws her brunette friend in closer, whispering conspiratorially “All of these guys are dicks!”
“Okay…. Okay,” she refrains, “I’m just going for that spot. You guys join me later.”
And with that she was off.
Skulltop actually seems relieved, she didn’t join Blondie but enjoyed the concert from her position just behind me. The Crows had arrived. All was right with the world.

I don’t care much for the Crows new album. It’s good but not by contrast to its predecessors but live performances always mitigate mediocre album attempts. I have a newfound appreciation for Cowboys (the track) and Hanging Tree. The rest was phenomenal. The first time I’d seen them live, Anna Begins had brought me to tears and this time it nearly did again. What a song. The album version is not much to speak of but anyone who’s heard a live version of this song will know. It is the highlight of any Crows performance. Unless you don’t really know the band, then it would be Mr. Jones. Which is always fun I suppose. I got my money’s worth when They performed Round Here (which they didn’t at the last concert) with the Have You Seen Me Lately and Murder of One interludes. People who are not into the Counting Crows are bored by now but I just wanted to come full circle..

While Duritz was on stage he said that South Africa was a beautiful nation, and that he’d noticed what we accomplished in our transition all those years ago. Then he became more sombre. “I know you’re having some trouble now…. but you will beat this.” He mentioned that troubles with immigrants were prevalent in his own United States and urged us to be understanding.

Sadly he was talking to the wrong people, The Kugels don’t care about the immigrants or the people attacking the immigrants for that matter. But hearing someone who is something of a hero to me bring this up made me truly sad. I didn’t cry during Anna Begins but at that moment I cried, for the dead, the displaced and burnt and the children forever scarred…

Monday, May 19, 2008


Last weekend, a failed excursion and my second wind.

Some foiled Friday

Meet Sophia, a Spanish fighter pilot who first chartered herself to our shores in search of a soul mate. Sophia had been a warrior her entire life, sporty in nature and willing to take the helm of any endeavor she undertook. I had that image of Sophia before I met her, I know her today as a socialite, an extrovert without caution. She still fights, for the environment no less, but I suspect the darling concerns herself with people first these days.

So naturally we were talking about a man, we can call him SM1 (soul mate one)
“You might meet him tonight” she explains. She’s holding a thick blue-green cocktail in one hand and sips slowly, flinching slightly at the potency.
I am drinking something pink and fruity, image be damned. “Oh yeah, great, you should point him out… I’ll give him a good talking to.”
“Oh? Mmmmm, maybe I shouldn’t then.” – in mock concern
A Lokian chuckle from me and a reassuring shake of the head. “No worries”

Sophia is a good friend and has been since we first crossed paths, I am grateful for her company. Tonight especially, I was just happy to get immersed into the company of strangers and forget a certain someone... and other black holes I suppose. In our present company I had just met Chocolate Bear. Chocolate Bear likes Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother, which means I instantly like him. We sit at the bar and chat with Bronwen the bartender while Sophia fetches herself another drink. He relates an amusing story about a road trip to Durban and the foibles inherit with jacking a Merc.
“You know, cause they have those special points for jacking.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, and here we borrowed some strangers jack and made a night of trying to change the thing. We wound up at the beach and just smoking spliff…”

And so it went…time passes, more folks join us and we chat. Sophia comes back and we all head to the dance floor. Time passes, in a good way. I had no trouble getting into the mood of the party tonight. Inane though the music may have been at times, I was having a rare bout of fun on fun. The hour clocks over to 2am or so and after taking a breather where I spoke briefly with an Afrikaans man and his Korean beau, I decided to find my new friends on the dance floor again… only to bump into the certain someone. I didn’t even think she came to this place, but there she was. She smiled, she greeted politely, introduced me to the gentlemen she was with. She knows I’m in turmoil over seeing her but continues to dance, sultry swinger that she is. I want to talk to her but she will have none of it and I decide that the good part of my night is over. I left without saying goodbye to Sophia, CB or any of the rest of the hatters… I was done. I wailed along with Jeff Buckley on my way home.

Where the lederhosen at?

The next morning I called Sophia to ask how the night went and explain my damper from last night. She’s sympathetic and explains to me that she had drunkenly told SM1 he was no longer fit to be her soul mate. She had instead hooked up with SM2, who would not leave her alone for the whole night, though she says she tried to ditch him a few times. I guess we’ll see where SM2 lands up. They say they’re heading out to the German schule basar for a few drinks under the sun. After last night I was in no mood, I told Sophe I’d sulk at home and go for a run later and that would be my day. She shrugs (I imagine) and hangs up after a bit. I picked up my guitar and strummed out Oasis’s “Don’t go away” and, as an experiment, cut my own hair. Then I read some… then I turned on the idiot box and escaped to MTV reality-land where a shy chubby guy is struggling to get a date for the prom. Sitting there I thought that I was a sure shooter for shy chubby guy 2 – so I called up Sophia for directions to the Schule basar. “If I see her again though I’m attaching a chain to my foot and diving into a keg.”

In a crowd of 7000, I felt hidden enough to enjoy myself though. We met up with the don, El Rey and his muse, the Italian maiden. Flore. El and Flor had been together for five years and are one of those rare-spotted couples that seem to be a perfect fit. El is witty, so witty I want to write down things he says and make a post of them. He has a mind geared toward modern society (and a keen interest in the information age), a luminous green shirt (and car) and two mismatched All Star takkies. Flor almost meets him on height and probably surpasses her beloved on brains. Hers is a gentler soul, she dresses in soft white and long skirts, a smile always in bloom. I like the two of them very much. We all sat together on the lush schoolfield, ate pancakes and wondered where the lederhosen were at…

“At the other German beer fest they had more than two people appropriately dressed… the atmosphere was more genuine… not that the people here aren’t dressed in their own special way….” El muses

“To be fair, this is a German school’s bazaar and not a ‘German beer fest’ per se” I interject.

“… and they drank more at the other one,” he continues.

We wind up across from a table where a flick of Sophia’s scarf (she is a fighter pilot of the WW2 tradition after all) catches some guy called Toughie in the face. Toughie amuses her and regales her with a tale about being pepper sprayed and, unfortunately, how much he misses his ex-girlfriend. Later, when we left the basar, a man pissing against a fence receives a jab from her, I can’t recall what about. This charmer turns around, device in hand and notices Sophia, “oh my, you’re beautiful” he says embarrassed.

I’d never seen Sophe in that way, she was my friend. But as I got to know and spend time with her I found that many guys did. I wonder how many SM’s we’ll go through in the time we know each other.

Safe and remote

You must understand, I thought I was safe on Friday when I went out and saw someone I shouldn’t have. So I was hesitant coming out on Saturday night again, but Sophe, El, Flor, myself and this other guy – call him BJ – head out to supper together at this Italian place which has a thing for pepperdews and watch the Sharks dole out what-for. El is not sporty of mind and jokingly draws our attention to the screen every 10 seconds exclaiming: “Does that mean they’ve won?!” and “Oh look!” and so on…. Then we went to a small place where there’s hardly room to sit. It remind me of my old varsity bar, where people go to drink and chat and not much else. It’s well hidden within a small shopping centre and I rightly assume I will not run into certain someone again. Instead I sit next to Nelly, who likes to make a game of reading people. We play Body Language and imagine relationships up for various people interacting around the bar.

I knew I was at home when two guys start swinging fists at one another and cause bottles to crash. Kids! I shake my head. We later learnt that the pick had peen picked because one fool had hit his girlfriend and the guys seeing it decided to teach him a lesson. I remember that there are sometimes reasons to fight, that last time I had fought it was to protect a weaker friend of mine from bullies, that was during school days. I wanted to go and laud the fight pickers but they were not to be found. I decided that since I was up I would leave. Tonight had gone considerably better than last night, this time I said goodbye to everyone and drove him with Bon Jovi in my ears – because I could.

Never underestimate the value of good company and connecting with a stranger. It validates you as a person in the social sphere, it makes you feel good about yourself shy chubby boy. Also, as Einstein once observed, experiences are relative. A minute with your hand on a hot plate feels like an hour, a minute with your hand on a hot woman feels like a second.

And some parting advice, to the girl at the door of the club of Friday night, who asked a frighteningly ironic question: Yes, guys are dumb, we need to be told everything – from how you feel to what you feel like eating. If he actually puts himself out there and says he likes you and you’re not sure, say you’re not sure. If you think you like him but like someone else more, say “I think I like you but I’m sure I like someone else more.” The golden rule is: Men are simple. Spell all of it out so we don’t get it wrong.