Friday, December 26, 2014

House and garden of stars

It was a pastel end to a pastel day, and close to the very end of a pastel year; my heart was pastel too.

That's how I ended my Christmas day: calmly staring across to Cape Town from Bloubergstrand as the light faded from fire-to-black while longing for the champagne left in the bulbous bottom of the third bottle of champagne (Sterhuis 2010), appropriately named Starhouse.

Their wines come from the vineyards hugging the lofty slopes of Stellenbosch's Bottelary Hills, vineyards caressed by crisp ocean breezes from both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Vineyards seeped in moonlight.

In the murky darkness I made my way back to a friend's home to finish the bottle, while sitting quietly in her garden breathing in the night smells and listening to the frogs in the distant vlei, also to my soft-beating heart.

Alone and content. And contemplative of the abyss.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas on the tip



I've long ago learnt to write before eating, which is why I know that any attempts now to blog will be futile: I've had my chicken salad, it got here while I was still stuffing around and because I was starving this is now a half-hearted attempt to put words down. The old adage of a starving writer producing the goods is not only an accurate one, but a reality. A full stomach in my case leads to much of nothing.

Especially on a scorching hot summer's afternoon in late November: clammy-and-wet armpits, sweat trickling down my abdominals, a thankfully cool breeze through Narona pizzeria in Buitenkant street, Gardens. 

My glasses are glued to the damp and sticky bridge of my nose as a skinny-white and decrepit old man with battleship grey hair and pronounced sinews (I don't think there's an iota of fat on his scrawny scarecrow body) sidelines past with one impossibly-heavy Pick 'n Pay shopping packet in his gnarled right hand.

I'm on a perspiring glass of Fairview sauvignon blanc: I sidelined into here for some relief and shade en-route to collect a few groceries.

It's pay day: for someone who's freelanced for the maajority of his existence in a materialistic society, it's still enormously satisfying to receive my salary into my account on the 25th of every month, irrespective. 

That, in the photo, is the terrifyingly tall Christmas tree at the Victoria & Albert Waterfront.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dirty nails



I've been in a muddle, to put it mildy. Since getting back to Cape Town on Friday 14th. Disorientated, resistant to being back, a changed person and stretched mind, yearning for another pond, pressured.

Friday afternoon saw me pass my last 'big stress' milestone for 2014. It's downhill and into the summer holidays on 12 December from here. While I recalibrate after five months of enduring stress, living on adrenalin, I've constant flashbacks from - the - past - twelve - months.

I've drawn up a constitution for myself. Based upon the lessons I've learned on this year's rocky and convulated path.

As the winter rains peter away to summer's nothing I dug my fingers deep into dark and loamy soil yesterday; my friend's garden became my solace yesterday, with two bottles of champagne, it's where I restored myslef, grounded myself, literally.

My words today right now feel awkward and inconsequential; putting them down feels as awkward and useless as peeling a potato with a cheap-plastic fork.

People have crossed my path these last few weeks, some I've allowed in, some I've observed over the half-closed stable door that's been scratched and scarred by over eager mutts, many of them my own.

I'm still squinting in the bright summer light, looking longingly over my shoulder at the retreating winter. As the city and peninsula is topped up to the brim with sun-seeking holiday makers from right across the globe, I've noticed the needle on the increasingly frenetic cyber dating sites move from 'dates' to ''right now': hungry people at the end of a long year; a sense of release is pervading everything (forgive me for projecting).

As for me, well I've slept. Hardly budged into the night. 

I'm leaving Woodstock at the end of January, I'll be giving my two months' notice next week, I'm happy now to go: my reasons are many. I'll be moving into my own place again, living alone again, seeking a resorative garden. Somehow.

A full circle within the much larger full circle.

Another coffee, another chocolate croissant down the hatch.

Writing of hatches, I open up the (other) hatches that have been battened down for too long: I can't see land yet, but I'm expecting The Dove to bring back at least a twig and one green leave, an olive one I hope, before end-year.

Yesterday. 






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hibiscus flowers in life, and death


Today my energy is low, I'm two hours short on sleep, I've just - second ago- heard of a friend's early death from a weak heart and a consequent heart attack. A punch in the solar plexus and an ample going around and around in my head because of the pause button pushed. A moment's silence to Hans and his smile, to the people he's left behind.

Then after useless words to dive back in to the deep pit of assignment marking that needs doing before midnight on Friday. Meanwhile summer has arrived in Cape Town and with it the strange-sounding seasonal migrants from the north, all here to worship the sun and to devour vats full of Cape wine.

The south-easter suddenly stopped in its tracks not even an hour ago, now the oppresive heat beneath a a flat-blue sky.

While gym-going types pass my coffee shop and shorts and white legs, mostly belonging to the northerners, abound my heart is heavy and listless.

Christmas trees and baubles abound. 

My second last lecture tonight.

A gradual but most welcome winding down. Down. Down.





Monday, November 17, 2014

My 1000th post is dedicated to anti-totalitarianism: Viva Ann Frank and the Velvet Revolution!


Last Wednesday morning during a brief spell of sunshine in Prague I unexpectedly came across these two 'memorial tablets' (called stolperstein in German, meaning 'stumbling block') embedded in the pavement; it took me less than a second to work out whom they were a monument to. I got down on my knees for much more than to merely take a photo. (Apparently there are many more of these embedded in the most exquisite pavements of this most exquisite city, not to mention the many thousands across other European cities.)

In my stumbling upon these aptly named stolperstein I was given pause to think deeply, as I believe is exactly their intention, hence this post. What follows is my stream-of-consciousness, or percolating as I like to call it, because of my 'stumbling'.

Firstly, I've been keeping this online notebook since September 2007; it has been a fascinating personal journey thus far. I have learnt so so much. Especially about myself. About the putting down of words.

Secondly, this is my 1000th post on this my Beautiful Mind blog. Which is why I've given much thought to what I will dedicate my 1000th blog post to:

ONE: I dedicate this 1000th blog post to every single one of the Jews who were murdered by the nazis (like aids and apartheid, I refuse to capitalise the word nazi), and especially to Ann Frank, whom I believe without doubt would have been a blogger championing human rights and anti-totalitarianism were she alive on this 17th day November 2014.

TWO: I dedicate my 1000th blog entry to press and intellectual freedom, even though that fat and greedy rats in my country have begun to worryingly nibble away at it. Nevertheless, at this point, not necessarily forever, I live in a part of the world where I can freely blog 1000 posts about almost anything within the wide parameters of what is defined as 'freedom of expression' by South Africa's liberal and hard-won Constitution. I may freely make my opinion heard on just about any subject, including about the sleaze and corruption of our president and his cronies, and about the enormous disappointment many feel about the ANC government's swift 20-year fall from the pinnacle of grace at the end of apartheid in 1994 to being the swill in the sty: It's their turn to gorge, or so they think


THREE: Not less importantly, my 1000th post is dedicated to the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) of Africa who are being marginalised, in some cases murdered, based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity alone.

Amnesty International maintains that "the continued criminilisation of consensual same-sex conduct in 38 African countries is a serious cause for concern... [and] "violates a raft of international and regional human rights norms, and serves to marginalise one group of Africans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity alone (Amnesty: 2013)”.  

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe said - he has repeatedly claimed that Europe is trying to force gay rights on Africa - "What is natural is made unnatural. And what is unnatural they want to say it is natural." 

"Let Europe keep their homosexual nonsense there and not cross over with it here" he said. "Gays and lesbians are worse than pigs and dogs." 

I believe that some shock therapy is urgently required to rectify the utterances of decrepit despots like Mugabe and the steep class, sexuality and gender inequalities that engender state-sanctioned homophobia on the African continent.

FOUR: In line with my Prague theme, today - 17 November 2014 - is the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia, to which I also dedicate this 1000th post. 

“The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia. The period of upheaval and transition took place from November 16/17 to December 29, 1989. Popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia combined students and older dissidents. The final result was the end of 41 years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent conversion to a parliamentary republic.”


In other words today 25 years ago saw the end of anti-totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia. 

The photo above is of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism at the base of Petřín hill in Prague that I rushed to see last Thursday afternoon before my return flight to SA. The bronze plaque nearby reads: "The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism."


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dial 999


A cold spell with tendrils reaching all the way from Antarctica is lashing Cape Town and much to my surprsie I've had to wear a jacket for most of the day. 

After midday I met Douwe for lunch and bubbly at Cafe Paradiso in Kloof Street, which was a blast from the past: I'd worked there as a desperate and hungry, literally, waiter at night while I worked - for free (times were tough, I needed  portfolio of work) - for the Weekend Argus newspaper during the day. This was 1995. The first year of our democracy. The year I returned to SA from London and moved for ten months to Cape Town because of a short-lived love affair with a Jewish Irishman studying illustration in Dublin. I worked though the 1995 rugby world cup that SA won, on home ground, while observing the hullabaloo from a vague distance while confronting my crossroad of insecurity and passion.
 

It was a hideous time of poverty and, at first, intense loneliness for me. As I freelanced as a writer while scratching my itching flea bites from sleeping on the floor as a desperate digs-mate, first in Mowbray, then in Kings Road Seapoint. And surviving by scraping leftovers from customers' plates into plastic bags that I would take home and devour because I could hardly afford food. My treat was one Amstel lager a week that I nursed until the green glass and beer was piss warm.

This afternoon after lunch I was pleasantly surprised by the the mauve jacaranda blooms on a street in the Republic of Tamboerskloof as we wound downhill to the deep pleasure of an early evening Italian art movie in an uncomfortable-but-who-cares bucket seat at the Labia.

Right now the heady blend of Chilean cabernet sauvignon and my medication seep into my consciousness, to make it un-, while lines / emotions / undotted I-s and uncrossed T-s blur as I gratefully slip away into another world in the deeply nourishing suburban silence of a comfortable apartment in Tamboerskloof. 

This - my 999th blog post at Beautiful Mind - is likely to be riddled with errors, but hey this is a notebook and I'll correct those in the morning.

Resistance


I struggled to leave Prague. I have struggled to integrate myself back into Cape Town; it's happening, automatically, because that's how life is, but with enormous Resistance.

I got back midday yesterday to my Woodstock apartment, which I immediately began cleaning and putting into place before I could relax (that's how I roll) into being alone with myself and not on the constant go. 

Within hours and to my delight winter-like rain driven by powerful and rumbustious wind was slating the windows and disapearing the city into the dove-grey blanket that was numbing me from it and it from me.

Last night I read in a bath up to my ears while listening to the juicy drops fat-splatting against the frosted glass window that opens northwards to the harbour and Robben Island. For as long as I could keep my eyes open for.

All in all I must crashed for twelve deliciously-deep hours before waking at 10h30 this cold and greyish Saturday morning. 

Cape Town. Not Prague. 

The Charles bridge



Despite the tourists, which I struggle with - the slow-moving, sheep-like oblivious hoardes checking off their bucket-lists (yes, I catch a whiff of the irony) - I revisited the Charles Bridge again on this visit to Prague. And again and again at that. For me it's the emotional centre of the city, the arch of history that binds the new city with the mediaveal. I

 confess to be in awe of this famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river, and whose construction began in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and only to be finished in the beginning of the 15th century.

It is wide enough, magnificent enough to fit four carriages alongside each other, also to take my breath away in awe at its haunting beauty. And that such a thing could have been constructed so long ago. Long before there was much happening on the southern tip of Africa where I am from.

Have I mentioned that Prague originated around about the ninth century? You cannot imagine what it's like to travel this ancient albeit relatively small city, which is jam-packed (jam-packed!) with over a thousand years of human endeavour and things to see...

Like the elderly artist on the bridge reading his kindle while waiting for customers to draw.

(I weep with failure when I take my pictures as they cannot even attempt to capture what I'm seeing with my eyes.)






Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In other words, he told the truth


I first discovered the Globe bookstore and café, which started out in 1993 in the Holešovice district in Prague, in 2006 when I was exporing the city on foot with my mother. Apparently five Americans decided to risk opening an English language bookstore and coffeehouse, with this motto, which describes its purpose perfectly: “in libris veritas; in kava vita...” (truth in books, life in coffee...). 

In 2000 the Globe moved to its current location, a beautiful building built in 1895. Even though the owners have changed, the Globe remains a fantastic independent bookstore, "which also hosts literary and musical events, serves as a gallery for the exhibitions of young local artists, but also gives you the possibility to chat over a coffee or a beer and enjoy their food" (http://www.bookstoreguide.org/2007/10/globe-cafe-and-bookstore-prague.html).

With an obvious focus on Czech writers, like Milan Kundera, and especially those from Prague such as Franz Kakfa, there's a focus on Central European literature and history. However, I loved their extensive selection of books by off-the-wall writers like Charles 'Hank' Bukowski, whos works I struggle to find in SA; they're neither in the bookstores nor public libraries. 

In my two coffee visits to the Globe, I got my hands on a few books, including a biography of Bukowski ('A laureate of American low life') and Kakfa Diaries (1910 - 1923), published by Schocken Books (New York). I chuckled at, "writers speak a stench," which Kakfa noted in 1910.

Then, in the Bukowski biography by Barry Miles, I loved his description of his work:

"In rereading Hank's books for this biography I found that his work was still fresh, it had not dated, it goes straight to the point. He gave a vice to the disenfranchised , the marginalised, the mad and the dysfunctional, the factory hand, the working people, the drunk and the disorderly. He made a point of always trying to write clearly so that people knew what he was saying. He did not use a dictionary. He avoided long words and tried to use the easiet, simplest words possible, He told Jean-Francois Duval: 'I like it raw, easy and simple. That way, I don't lie to myself.' In other words, he told the truth.


Sherlock and friend


It was sunny and pleasant, very, today in Prague. Not that I care much about sunshine; nevertheless the city was transformed. The photo is of the riverside where I have been regularly taking my meals, mostly alone, with either dry white wine or good, dark beer on tap. 

I discovered Vinny restaurant Orlik on the Masarykovo nabrezi (nabrezi = rivderside) by chance on my first night here. There are NO tourists thank God (except for me of course!), very friendly and kind owners, and cheap, good Czech food. And did I say anything about the good, dark beer haha?

Tonight is my last night in Prague, for now. I will sleep when I'm dead.

I have met, online, a fascinating journalist with a large daily newspaper here whose name is Lukas and whose dog is Sherlock. I am going to meet him for the first time shortly, for coffee.

This, below,is the other side of the river from where I eat. It's also where my hotel is, in Andel and, ironically, across the street from Lukas's newspaper.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A whisper of gossamer on the Charles Bridge



gos·sa·mer [gos-uh-mer] 

—noun

a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in autumn.
a thread or a web of this substance.
an extremely delicate variety of gauze, used especially for veils.
any thin, light fabric.
something extremely light, flimsy, or delicate.
a thin, waterproof outer garment, especially for women.

Origin: 1275–1325; Middle English gosesomer (see goose, summer1); possibly first used as name for late, mild autumn, a time when goose was a favorite dish (compare German Gänsemonat November), then transferred to the cobwebs frequent at that time of year

***

Mine is a world of words. I live in and through and around them.

Gossamer. My word of the day.

I took the photo yesterday on the Charles Bridge... the bridge of all bridges.

"The dew rose and turned to golden mist, thin as a dream, enveloping them until they seemed gossamer relics of the late night, infinitely transient and already fading." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Offshore Pirate," Flappers and Philosophers, 1920 

Monday, November 10, 2014

A life of almost unbearable intensity


I walk and I walk and I walk. Then I stop to piss and have coffee. To connect to WiFi and to write down my thoughts.

Then I walk and I walk and I walk. Then I stop to piss and have coffee or maybe a beer. To eat. To connect to WiFi and to write down my thoughts.

About it getting dark so early that it confounds me but turns my mind cozy. And thoughts about Kundera's Tomas and Tereza in his Prague. 

And thoughts about Kafka who lived, and who lived here for so short, but fully occupied this city before dying in his lover Dora's care on June 3, 1924 after a life of almost unbearable intensity.

I visit the city's only English bookstore, The Globe, where I stalk around quietly on the creaking floorboards beneath vaulted ceilings in a builidng that's about 120 years old and seems to have aconstant  stream of young American students through it.

I walk and I walk and I walk seeing countless faces of incredible and unsual beauty in this melting pot at Europe's heart. Features and faces and noses and skins and hair that I've never known nor seen before. Incredible and unusual features and also, sporadically, the colour blue of eyes that I can only describe as Siberian-Blue because I've only ever seen that striking colour in huskies by the same name.

I try not to have thoughts of home. Because back there I'll be soon enough.

And there's many thoughts about intimacy and sex, and about the sexualness of my travel and interaction with others in places of strangeness to me, where for me the ultimate and most intimate connection with a place is via a combination of mind and body with a person from that place-space.

And then because I'm human it's time to piss again. And the entire cycle begins all over, and shall contunue until I die. No problem with that: Piss. Shit. Cum. Blood. Ash. Dust. 

After that I'm in the WiFi. 


Lopsided-lump-of-dough moon (& a strike of lightning)


The incredible lightness of being: that's how I experience the people living in Prague. They are light and happy and friendly.

That is in comparison to the heavy sense of trauma that I believe South Africans constantly live under: the trauma of extreme inequalities on every level; the trauma of our past, not even to mention our present; the trauma of being constantly confronted by violent crime. Then, for me specifically, the trauma of the digust and rage I feel for the corruption, sleaze and greed of our rulers whom have so quickly - within a mere 20 years - fallen from a pinnacle of grace into a pit of sleaze and shame. 

Right now, from a distance, I am ashamed of many aspects of my country. It is also clear to me at last that neoliberalism has failed globally, and that neoliberal economic polices are set to sink my country and its people even deeper into gloom followed by inky darkness...as the poor will get only poorer there, that the gaping chasm between the haves and have-nots will crack even wider there. I need to think about how I am to negotiate this personally.

I will never be the same after this journey. Something happened as I delivered the penultimate paper of the empathy conference at 16h00 yesterday; my words, my writing changed me, they also changed, deeply impacted the forty people in the room. I did not know that would happen, that I would recieve an ovation. I happen to 'own' a power (in humility and without ego) that is not really mine; it's not unlike living with a tumour in one's brain and mouth that has a life, but for good, of its own. Something changed last night, the world is a different place.  

I am not the same. I'm a politcal being now, the gradual transformation has happened, late yesterday afternoon the first but crucial phase of the process was completed... now, knowing that even where I choose to lay my head at night, particularly at night in South Africa, is a political decision.

**

In the early hours of this morning I walked out of my hotel in Prague 5 for a breath of fresh chill air; the foyer lights and music were dimmed, it was empty and sedate and cozy-warm; at the door I turned right into Radlicka street surprised that it was merely cold, not chill.

I walked 100 metres down the deserted steet and then turned right into Lidicka. I walked past the 24-hour and well-lit flower shop where a short woman in baggy clothing whose face I could not make out rearranged stalks and blooms. At 2am. 

With deliberation I walked past the dregs of the Sunday night folk, mostly youngsters and one or two homeless, who huddled at the numerous tram stops on Andel square.

After the square I kept going straight down the long road towards the river tripping now and then on the smooth and ancient cobbles.

I crossed, very slowly, the Palackeho bridge savouring my aloneness beneath a northern hemisphere sky in the centre of the river and of the city and of Europe; it was comforting and powerful.

When I got to the other side, close to the Czech restaurant - that's along Masarykovo nabr, between Fred & Ginger (Tancici dum) and the National Theatre - that I've taken to frequenting I turned around and retraced my steps.

Back in the soundproofed coccoon of 303 I opened my iPad and keyboard to begin this post. I didn't get far because I could not keep my eyes open for a second longer.

It is why I am typing these words in an extraordinarily comfortable Starbucks with free wifi on Vaclavske nam in the city centre, probably not even 50 metres away from where I stayed with my mother, here, almost 8 astonishing years ago. 

My mother. Whom I feel is drifting away... .

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Looking back (and forward)



I never finished this blog post on Wednesday, 5th November: Guy Fawkes day:

I took this photo of the twelve apostles on the winter day I arrived to live in Cape Town last year. It was the 3rd of July, the day before Independence Day, which has always been, symbolically, an important day for me over the years. It was also on 4 July 1995 that I threw up a job at a media house run by a dictator to go freelance as a journalist, a space I've more or less occupied up until now.

Taking the mycitibus between Camps Bay and Hout Bay and back on Sunday afternoon reminded me of this photo, also of the jaw-dropping and inspirational beauty of that stretch of coastline.

I leave for Prague this evening. Already, even though snowed under, I'm in a retrospective frame of mind. More than anything about this trip I'm looking forward to some perspective, from another continent, on my city and country, as well as a lens to look back at how I have lived, how I've occupied my 'new' life and work over the last sixteen months.

For one thing I know that I've burnt myself out, badly, also that I have seeped into a quagmire of listlessness and low-level depression; that I've taken too much on in the last four months and the result is that, again, I've (temporarily) lost my joie de vivre, that currently I'm a husk of myself.

Nevertheless I have to pack my and I've a flight to catch.
  





Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Dear Jack...


From my window on the world, where I sit in silence and staring every day in awe at The Mountain, I've learned so much. About myself. About the world. Thus I strive even more towards a simpler, more streamlined and minimalist existence.

Yesterday, while it bucketed down and The Mountain and most of the city remained hidden from view, I sat in a simple but favourite coffee joint in Mostert Street re-fashioning my personal vision and constitution, so to speak. It's a work in progress so I won't delve deeper into it now, other than to say that anti-Beat Jack Kerouac features prominently in it; Kerouac and Ginsberg have influenced me enormously.

Interesting (from Doglas Brinkley's 'Jack Kerouac: Windblown World' (Viking: 2004)):

"With a ferocious intensity, Kerouac began keeping journals in 1936, as a fourteen-year-old boy in Lowell. His obsessive habit continued for the rest of his life. Long, detailed passages, usually produced daily, are ornamented with poems, drawings, doodles, riddles, psalms, and prayers. "I resort to these diary-logs in order to keep track of lags, and digressions, and moods," Kerouac noted as he began writing On the Road. Kerouac's modus oprandi in these handwritten journals is one of voluntary simplicity and freedom, of achieving sainthood by being lonseome and poor, with empathy for every sentient creature. Early on, Kerouac wanted no part of the postwar scramble for monetary success: "It is beneath my dignity to participate in life." To Kerouac, the "most ringing sound of all human time" was Jesus' refrain "My kingdom is not of this world."

Tomorrrow evening I leave for Prague.

A cherry-flavoured Beacon fizz-pop tastes like my childhood.  

Monday, November 03, 2014

The grey, the moist, and the moody


Today I'm grateful for greyness and moisture and moodiness. Also for Italian blend coffee and chocolate croissants. And for muted thoughts about Munich and then Prague where I will spend just over a week; first an out-of-my-comfort-zone conference and the presentation of my first academic paper, then my uninhibited exploration of and and immersion into a magnificent city and an Eastern European autumn with a freind-and-colleague. 

Yesterday there was sun in abundance and I came close to overdosing on vitamin D. I was grateful for bright golden light, a holiday-blue sky, the glorious reek of factor 50 sunblock, palm trees, palm fronds, icy seawater and then a frosted beer.

Today Woodstock, The Mountain, the city bowl are all disapeared into the deep, wet grey. Where I will shortly be disapearing into too. Happily.

To the other side


Yesterday we took the mycitibus to Hout Bay. The ride, which must be one of the most beautiful, was good for perspective and because it's a long one, I had time to think and reflect. This while being therapeutically rolled-and-swayed by the vehicle's motion on the winding, coastal road, along, the, Atlantic. 

Once there we walked the beach in peace and picked up a shell; and for once I contemplated swimming the cold water. But didn't. I grounded myself via my barefeet in the water and on the seasand and then later on thick green grass beneath a splendid and verdant oak tree.

Then a beer gratefully in the shade at one of the many places along the road just before the start of the Chapman's Peak road.

Then back in to Cape Town via Camps Bay, Clifton, Sea Point, Green Point and the city - all in darkness because of the rolling electricity blackout that snuffed the city and suburbs last night. 


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Slowly, softly catch the monkey


The loneliness seemed to seep in deeper and deeper the more I ambled (almost without purpose) up Long Street and as it in turn seeped into Kloof street. 

Late Saturday afternoon. 

My almost-without-purpose purpose was Melissa's far up Kloof street with its big sky floor-to-celing shop window in-your-face view on to the in this case majestic The Mountain and its immediate slopes. It's here that I crawl into so that I may have some perpsective on the swind-swept and crazy city bowl below, where I live and have sex.

Long street was bathed in honey-sky sunshine that cheered me, as did the awareness of the many cheek-by-jowl architectural styles telling me amazing stories from other times and languages and places and people.


The southeaster had terrorised, ripped and shredded the city since Thursday; but I heard the kindly Melissas' cashier telling two German tourists that Sunday was going to be a perfect day, that they should book tickets on the cablecar so perfect was it going to be.

The street was in shade then at 15 minutes to 6, as was large parts of The Mountain's steely and then grey-granite slopes.

The shop was quiet and calm and peaceful inside, instantly soothing, and the three people inside were all quietly, deeply absorbed in the things that they are each doing alone: the music was good, just right, and the view - yes, I have every reason to harp upon it - extraordinary.

As much I need to be alone, I'm fighting it... I desperately need perspective and centredness in my Creator as this old chapter closes, the new chapter is opened and the first words written. However, rather than stare into my own abyss (which I'm so damn good at normally doing) I co-dependently crave humans and skin-on-skin to fill the loneliness of the void. But desist I must.

An elderly couple stopped against the wind walk up the hill on the other side of the road. They're holding hands. And walking fast. The music, now instrumental and voiceless has upped the tempo and  appears to be in stride with them. A woman with a whingy-whiny voice behind me, at the small round table accompanied by a large but softspoken man that is undoubtedly not hers, gay probably, also lonely, is self-centredly on her mobile to Warren about a movie on Sunday afternoon at 4, so-much-so that I'm doing all that I can to resist throttling her.

Plugging sore holes with people, all birds with some or other level of 'broken wing' syndrome. Just like me.

I wonder about my choices available to me this Saturday night. I fear I might take the same old route I've always walked at similiar junctures.

I am going to thottle her.

Again, today and in our not-speaking, I'm aware that Lee is, despite appearances, is most stable and reliabe and loyal. Despite even knowing that in my core I am incapable of changing myself, nor making things different.

I write to save my life.

I finished Hemingway's The Garden of Eden earlier in the day, which took a most unexpected turn from about half-way. It's also clear from his writing that he was an alcoholic, but while I feared it in the words I also found it delicious and understood it perfectly. And the writing! The end, though, I did not like.

The wind is now howling down the street; I can softly hear it moaning.

[This is a first and rough draft; there's no way I could push send now. I don't have the heart.]

I must go now. 

(I remember hoping that I would plant corn that night and not weeds; even as I hoped I knew the chances were that I wouldn't.)

 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Amphibian greens and blues / Golden blondes and hues



Mind spirals spirals round and around, circles in the sand and circles in the forest, as I find myself walking down my own garden path: my eyes are tired and tender from too much (sun)light; I'm a winter person and am anxious at the upcoming assault of my senses: too much heat and too much light for months to come (summer's two months, still, from its peak, not to even mention the 1000-ton heat that oppresses from January, that presses my leaves and soon-to-be-dead flowers.

I long for coolness, white feet and blonde hairs, untouched by the sun: to stroke and maybe ruffle soft and golden arm hair, to tweak and squeeze an ear lobe, fine-fine hairs, to pinch the webs between solitary fingers on calloused-cut hands and the amphibian webs between toes on mouthfuls of erotic feet.

I long for the coolness of the pond, beneath the fern fronds and under the rocks, resting amongst peaceful nature's quick-witted tadpoles and angel fish.

skin-on-skin. and peace. and rest. i'm longing for right now.

I'm weary and wary.
The lee of an arm to rest in, for now, at least, or longer.
I'm weary and wary. 

May I rest / may I relinquish control / for a short while at least / ?

Erotic, too.

(But it's not all about me.)

Warning!


Apathy neutralises the senses
as survival deploys its brutal forces one gets cut
off from others and becomes more and more
familiar with the complete inward-turning of death 

– stanza from “On My Behalf” in poet Antjie Krog’s 'Skinned' anthology

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Beautiful-day-foam on my coffee

First coffee of my Sunday.

Was on my way to work reading and adoring Hemingway's posthumously published The Garden of Eden for his "simple declarative sentences", his "wind and sand-scoured bones".

Was on my way to work to write out the Great Procrastination that cannot be procrastinated about for a second longer; which was when I decided to procrastinate for many seconds more by not getting off at my stop.

Instead I hopped off at the Station (such an old fashioned term IF one thinks about it) before a brief-brisk sun-blanched walk to great coffee and a sumptuous value-for-money breakfast; priceless though was that I was left alone.

So what's up with the pic? I'm waxing all lyrical about my #route102 Lawly MyCitibus stop: It's on Roodebloem street, Woodstock and drives and smoothly churns my creativity. So much so that words drip - and sometimes pour - from my jangling finger tips and mental nerve-ends..

I'm reminded of a slim volume I purchased years ago at a Waterstones in London, and still have,  of 'Poems on the Underground'.

Last night the wind hustled and rattled me with the litter down Greatmore street. Tonight, right now,  it's tearing at the building and shredding dark.

I'm safe, but my mind's in another part of town.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

(no title)


A pigeon pecks haphazardly at the tar at the base of the long and old silver-painted electricity pole, exactly outside Nerona pizzeria on Scott street. This as summer slinks into the city, ramps up the tempo, lengthens the days, forces everyone into shorts and last year's funky street wear. A lot of the skin that I see is white-white.

I peck around at the base of my life, jaw clenched, tired to the very sockets of my eyeballs, drinking a little too much, and a little too obsessively, while ending, beginning and then ending, again, relationships while fatally procrastinating with critical work I should have sunk my teeth into months ago. (Let's see if I can start it today and wrap it by Friday evening.)

A youngster with shiny eyes, a skateboard and long sack cloth-coloured dreads slinks past catching my hungry eyes.

The lines around my eyes are deep and more than ever, and more than ever I avoid my face in mirrors and the screens of my mobile, tablet.

I teach again tonight, I still need to prep; I'm sinking in admin at this the arse-end of the year. I have nothing left to teach, to give, I'm a husk of myself.

I get drunk and offensive, like last night, and piss two relationships off - one fatally, so much so that I'm even blocked. At least my stomach was full on food and wine and beer. What almost worries me is that I do not care; because I don't have anything left to give of myself. 

I'm longing for a reprieve: yet the only one will be me keeping up to speed with what I need to do. Procrastination is ALL about fear; it's the fear of not being good enough.

The unexpected afternoon glass of chardonnay numbs me just enough to keep going.

[I took the pic close to dusk in Noordhoek just short of two weeks ago; it's completely unrelated to this afternoon, except unconsciously.]

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Saturday-to-Saturday life-long relationship (I'll love you 'til Niagara falls)


The beginning of October Wednesday-to-Friday retreat had been coming for months: Noordhoek on the Cape Peninsula. I'd been excited, initially, but as the bottleneck of life had become more clogged and pressured, as I knew it would, I'd begun to dread it, foolishly. It became another pressure point on the acupuncture of my life: quickly as possible to stick the needle in and relieve the pressure, then reactively to move on to the next point (as opposed to proactively resolving the source of my dis-ease).

The first thing I did was compromise the retreat time.

Nevertheless it was a fantasy come true: to be sitting with a long-haired beach boy with a big heart at a fave Kommetjie pub and restaurant renowned for its chill vibes, barefoot and sun-bleached folk all occupying a different time zone and attitude to Cape Town, despite that a mere 40-or-so kilometres separated the lighthouse-lit fishing/surfing village from the city.

Nature, ocean, the holiday-blue sky and ozone-laden seaspary straight off the vast and empty ocean, all that there was to separate the storm-thrashed peninsula from Antartica.

He had got there just before dusk, again in the car with the foreign yellow & black number plates.

That perfect melding of outer- and inner-beauty expressed in the eyes and the smile, the softspoken-ness.

They didn't make love on the beach. Instead, at first, they merely lay there body-on-body, breath-in-breath-melded-into-one-inhaled-and-exhaled-and-inhaled-again on the soft bone-white sand beneath a Southern Hemisphere black velvet void-of-eternity carelessly and gaspingly sprinkled with at least a billion carat. In a breeze just bearably cool, not far from the lapping and phospherent salt-water. 

Then in the dark-on-light he haphazardly scuttled around like a crazy-wth-happiness long-legged crab in the icy-Atlantic water. Endlessly whispering my name he scoopeds up shells, scallops and ocean-ground-to-smoothe and aeons-old pebbles. These he poured into my flimsy jacket pockets without weighing my down. 


Little did I know that he'd later describe us as falling stars, although he would mean it (in the past tense of course) romantically, despite it being his response to my goodnight-and-goodluck email a-few-days-but-many-years-later.

Tanned hands on hairy legs and bony knees / a now almost-empty bottle of red wine clunking with anticipation against the steel undercarriage beneath my passenger seat / he'd excitedly lifted the Wolftrap from his sister's wine collection, in Muizenburg.

Falling over each other through the vegetation, between the parking lot and my double bed, he also tapped to the brim the deep and old fashioned bath designed for a time long before water became scarce and climate change a critical issue. 

Also snuck in was a slender plastic bottle of aromatherapeutic bubble bath that he then plunged in whole beneath the gushing, steaming streams to flail and careen not unlike a corpse gone over the Niagara falls.

He wanted to spend the night, as did I, but I didnt feel right - flying in the face of the people who'd sponsored my retreat, to write.

All that I didn't do was write.





Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Saturday was a long-week (but awesome)



The Sunday before last - the one after the Saturday-night before last - I sat beneath a sturdy and handsome palm tree at a bad-service and angry Kloof Street restaurant called Vovo Telo. 

I sat there, at a table, across from a heavy and dark 2,5 years, which I constantly tried to placate and whose void I desperately attempted to fill with my awfully-cheerful banter, paddling ever-faster-and-faster in the way that I do (it comes from being the eldest child of three in a family wracked by non-stop fighting between destructive parents hellbent on NOT divorcing for-the-sake-of-the-children - why THE FUCK not, I've asked myself for the rest of my life?).

But, this time, an exception, I had a broad smile on my internal dial, not for a minute thinking that my life was - already - unalterably changed, also that - arrogantly - I thought I was in control. 

[Haha, the joke was not only me, but also on me!] Although my talents are few, one of them remains my self-deprecating ability to piss myself, at myself.

An infant in beauty-and-screeching is being dummied-shut behind me; my heart melts for the miniscule creature; I find myself heaping blessings and love upon her soul (may her life journey be a blessed one).

Yup, I'm at another coffee shop (sadly) writing about other coffee shops; my existence is one that  exists between coffees and coffee venues. [It's a beautiful day, more reminscent of autumn than spring.]

Right now I'll do anything to distract myself, even ordering a smoked chicken and mozarella on a low-GI molasses-colour roll (my metabolism is fuck-fast) while simultaneously whattsapp-ing, Grindr-ing and leaving off my-meeting-in-6-minutes to the last minute plus one.

Flummoxed. [Have I spelled that correctly?]

I wrote him (not 2,5-years) a goodbye-letter yesterday morning after much heart suffering: Dear Catalyst thank you, but bon voyage.
We (not 2.5-years) would meet again that (Sunday) night, after THE Saturday night, to switch on the lights on the side of the building - just off Nelson Mandela boulevard, not far from my work, where he got me down in the street.


He took a bad photo of the lights in-between the lights-and-sparks of two souls trying desperately to be one, inside a spacious car with yellow and black  Zimbabwean registration plates.

And now I push send (I'll have to come back to fix the mistakes).

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The once-off Saturday-to-Saturday series



It's oh-so easy in retrospect, isn't it.

He said, when I met him, not long before we unmet, that I should follow the light, and shed that which had become heavy.

It was only a week: Saturday to Saturday. Yup, that's a lifetime-long; like seeing the world and all-of-nature reflected in a dew drop. Distilled living / pure life.

He was a catalyst. Just this week past. My world is a changed one now.

The week before my life was to change was a bleak and cold one, washed of colour, like what The 2,5 Years had become. 

Hang on, using the word 'become' implies I was a victim, that life had happened to me. Nope, that wasn't the case; I take reponsibility. Fuill responsibility. I had allowed life -  and that which once had been my lifeblood of passion-and-escape from the last chapter (the catalyst before this catalyst), my life and heart - to become washed out and bleak because I had, through complacency and elements of fear, forgoeten that LOVE is in fact a verb.

Hang on, take a step back.

There's the other argument (of course): that once a person's role in your life - i.e. the part where both of your  journeys run parallel, where you walk next to each other for a while - is over, unless you're so-called 'soul mates' of course (but what do i know?). That's when your paths through the forest split apart like a ripe paw paw and you rocket off in your separate ways. (And should you, normally out of clinging and fear and stagnancy, refuse to seperate, that's when it gets really ugly and the '2 x self-destruction-and-decay' begins.

The trick is to know when its over, and to have the balls to act on your intuition.

I had, on numerous occasions, thought the end was in sight. As often as that thought had raised its head, I buried and buried it again in the comfortable, loamy compost I'd surrounded myself with in my comfy potting pot. I'm happy now, and comfortable I had thought, smiling to myself as I fatted myself up to expand myself and root-bound myself.

There is nothing more that the Universe / God hates than complacency and stagnation (not to mention smugness and self-satisfaction).

(I'd very comfotably forgotten my mid-2012 affirmation - my heart is wide open to life.) 


  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bottleneck



When things get hectic, especially for extended periods, I forget to look up. If you're not going to look up, how on earth can you inspire on the holiday blue of the sky?

The photo was my first 'look up' after my chairing of a 'state of the media' event in the Fugard Theatre, at the Open Book Festival, on Saturday. It's a cold photo (taken just around the corner from the Fugard, while walking up Buitenkant street), and as many of mine are, absolutely devoid of people; there is, however, if you look carefully, one seagull whose name is Jonathan Livingstone. Lee introduced me to him far back in March 2012, in Mpumalanga of all places, far from the sea, but he'stravelled far and wide, with me.

In the screen of my tablet, as I type these words, I clearly see my unshaven face; my dark and bristling jaw, except for the grey on the chin, accentuates the lines around my eyes and makes me look older. Which means I look my real age.

Also in the screen I can see, less clearly though, the kitchen counter that's piled with dishes and the untidiness of just over two weeks. That I hate. Between leaving for Grahamstown on 5 September - then almost immediately to Joburg - and today, I've been in a life-bottleneck of note, not unlike the confluence of the buildings in the pic, where very varied strands of life (every one a different architectural style and period) converge and heighten blood pressure, stress levels.

Neverthless I swoop and swoon on the currents of the words-and-sentences-and-paragraphs of the writers and their work, from all across the word, that I flailed myself with over the last five days of the festival. And, like Jonathan, I squawk in joy and aliveness.  

To hell with the dishes, and the un-made bed, also my ragged jawline and the lines around the eyes, I'm drunk with words and writers and life. And the sky's a holiday blue. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

While the rain pelts, words swirl and snowflake (around the sapiosexual)



I'm a few months into my second year of Cape Town living; it's also my second Open Book festival, which started yesterday. Last year's festival also coincided with a vengeful coldfront that bucketed ice water over the city; the retreating winter is as spiteful as all hell because its day's are seriously numbered.

The wet didn't stop me from dashing down to the Fugard Theatre to attend the first event I'd got my hands on tickets for: talking 'writing sexuality' with three writers, one of which is a local favourite, Damon Galgut (3rd right), another - Michiel Heyns (far left) - whom I guess is soon to become another local favourite of mine (because of his wit and self-deprecating humour), and then a writer I'd never heard of before, Karina Szczurek (2nd right). Her stillness and centredness, Polish accent and open-minded approach to sex and sexuality intrigued me. Also that she has been married to Andre Brink, who was in the front row, since 2006. (At first I was, also, astonished at his frailty, but then discovered that he as born in 1935.)

I flourish amongst writers and their words, either written or spoken. Comfortable and safe I am, this is my world, where ideally I slink quietly between the bookish folk and their minds, all of whom could populate Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Hobbit worlds, to take but a sample slice,

Talking about reading sexuality... at an other event much later in the evening of yesterday - Literature Magazines: The Urgency of Literature and New Voices - about and around the publishers of Prufrock (Helen Sullivan), Chimurenga (Ntone Edjabe) and Kwani? (Billy Kahora), hosted by the softspoken journalist Sean O'Toole, I noticed a former lover, and then others in the audiences that I found totally sexually attractive: I am most definitely mentally and physically attracted to, and very comfotable sexually with these bookish, geeky and nerdy 'types'. 

There must be a word that describes the eroticness of this that I so badly attempt, but fail to describe...perhaps what comes closest is the word 'sapiosexual' (n.), i.e. one who is attracted to or aroused by intelligence in others.

You have to be always drunk.
That's all there is to it - it's the only way.
So as not to feel the horrible burden of time
that breaks your back and bends you to the earth,
you have to be continually drunk.

But on what?
Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish.
But be drunk.
                                         - Charles Baudelaire     



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

These streets, those streets



Last week I walked those streets. This week I'm walking these: I've stayed behind at home this morning waiting for it to empty itself of all but me, my coffee, my thoughts, the street sounds from below including right now, a grinder screeching in tin-roofed factory. 

Also my soothing cast-over view across Woodstock that I flick my eyeballs over and across: It's my daily terrain that ebbs and flows between my window-on-the-world and up Argyle Street until over Victoria main, before verticalling into sanitised Upper Woodstock. 

It's then a sedate but abridged walk over peak-time Nelson Mandela Boulevard and into compact and cling wrapped Walmer Esate, before a - rapid dash - over De Waal Drive. Now, at last, I leave the city behind as I'm on to The Mountain and to stop only once safely in the neat dove-gray line of the cloud bank hiding, completely, the granite table. Only now will I truly relax; it is here that I seek to lie in peace, uninterrupted and unnoticed with my head on His lap.  


Last week the coral trees in bloom; an Eastern Cape spring; the old outpost's buildings; students and teachers in a time warp; tiredness behind my eyes; the poverty of desperate people on the High Street that I've never been able to reconcile myself with, the blood of the history of my country flowing in their veins and arteries: the lottery of my life versus theirs: fingers, nails, hair, shit, snot, piss, blood, cum. Ash and dust. 

It seems like there is nothing left to steal: where's the hope?

(A little boy plays with a puppy beneath the blooming coral tree that's made more glorious by the last sunlight before the storm.) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Street razor blade



What good is it if I can't be honest.
That's not a question.
The typed up posts hovering on the edge in Blogger that I may not even dare push 'send' on, because they will startle (dear reader).
So I sit, again, pent up with words-and-my-truth in a Cape Town coffee shop processing my travels-thoughts-desires-fears-truths to Grahamstown and back, then straight afterwards to Johannesburg and back. To New Street and back, To hell and back.
Gutsless I am.
This is Charles Bukowski stuff. 
This is Hunter S. Thompson stuff.
I shall never 'succeed' as writer as long as I censor myself.
Succeed is in inverted commas because I don't give a fuck about succeed in a worldly sense (I'm in the world but, unarrogantly, I'm not of it).
New Street becomes Prince Alfred Street; along that jugular have I slid the razor blade of my life.

I'm in a week of bleakness; my heart desires to burst and splatter from my chest cage; my jaw muscles are swolen hamster-like with stress-and-pressure.

It's a beautiful day, most un-Springlike.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Heading north up the West Coast



Much earlier in the year, before the winter rains, I headed north up the West Coast and spent my third weekend at friends' thatch cottage at the Het Kruis railway crossing, about 40km beyond Piketburg. There the sky is big, the stars bright and the vegetation subdued. 

Back then the region was dry-baked and unpleasant to be outdoors during the day.

In a few hours time I'll be leaving a cool and storm-lashed Cape Town - I'll be sure to see snow on the mountains as I head up the sparse West Coast that I love so much.

It's the flower season; it will be my first experience of the coast's famous flower spring extravaganza despite having travelled this unique and sparse land many times in as many years, including a coastline-hugging flight in a small plane up to the diamond-haunted Skeleton Coast in 1999.

My destination is Vanrhynsdorp, about three hours from the city, where I'll be based for the weekend.

I've been resentful of this upcoming trip, mainly because I'm under pressure at work, and thought that escaping for the weekend would only add to my load. Now that I've packed a book, some wine and meat for the braai (barbeque) I'm looking forward to peace, silence and the perspective that a trip rewards one with.

Happy Friday. Spring is next week... .

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The winter, and life, of my content



I've neither ventured from my pyjamas nor my apartment, but will have to later. 

My floor to ceiling glass sliding door on to Woodstock and the world is being smashed and battered by Wind and Rain; despite of which I hear the squeals-screams-laughter of break-time at the primary school below, but out of view.

A cup of coffee. Then another. Two Bakers' chocolate flavoured cream biscuits dunked into the intense Italian blend. Only two because I've struggled to get a pouch of blubber off my gut; at the gym for health and stress relief almost every day... I've no intention of making the task, that's become pleasureable, more difficult. 

Looking over my notebook from the last few days:

From my see-through desk I watch a slim black & white Woodstock cat pace across a rusted-red tin roof below, going where with such pizazz and determination?

Frrom the large and wide bus window I saw a man that looked like his dog, running and huffing and puffing and ginger.

A little boy with elven eyes and pixie breath walking backwards in laughter down the escalator; it fills me to overflowing with the joy of life.

Very early on he decided not to have children. It was the right thing to do, he felt. A moral and environmentally-conscious choice, with which he was satisfied.


Next week Friday I fly to Port Elizabeth and then hire a car to drive the 120 kilometres to Grahamstown, and to my alma mater Rhodes University (that's the old entrance pictured above):

I have a deep-rooted and intricate relationship with Grahamstown and Rhodes; a large part of that - which I repeatedly return to, to attempt to fathom it - is a deep and dark and sexual space that still haunts me, even deliciously.

Arriving at Rhodes in February 1990 signalled the end of my adolescence, as well as the beginning of the grieving process for the loss of my youth. 


At Rhodes and the immediate world surrounding it I grappled with my coming out; with my desire, no my deep, deep need for a 'life partner' that until then had remained unfulfilled; it was also the joyous and giddy leaving behind of an apartheid-era schooling and two-year army stint towards the end of the 13-year old 'border war' that South Africa waged with its neighbours. 

I had been nothing more than  a 'short back and sides' possession (canon fodder) of a conservative and deceitful state that was in its death-throes. Even though it's mostly unthinking conscripts were - because of the nationalist fervour, not unlike Germany's earlier in the century - cluless and being bullshitted into foolishly dying for 'volk en vaderland'. Because on every front 'Suid Afrika' was apparently under attack: from 'die rooi gevaar' (the communist threat), from 'die Roomse gevaar' (the Roman Cathlic threat'), and, of course what defined it as a nation, from 'die swart gevaar' (the black threat). Below is the flower of the coral tree, which in September will set the quaint and relatively ancient botanic gardens ablaze; I took this picture as I strolled the garden last year trying to say goodbye.  


All of this I left behind, breathlessly, passionately, for a world I'd never ever previously experienced in a society 'built' upon mind-control and manipulatioon: for a free and intellectual space at one of the country's four great 'liberal' universities, where I was able to, again breathlessly, get to grips with my own mind... where I was encouraged to take myself to the edge of my own psychology. While studying Journalism, Politics, English and for the hell of it, Speach and Drama (because I could).


It was 1990, the year Nelson Mandela was released from prison, four years prior to South Africa's first and free elections were held. When we heard the news, the university took us students in busses to spend the day basking in the sun and on the soft sand on the edge of the Indian Ocean only 60 km away... which was where I was also to spend many alone moments the rest of my time there contemplating my life's path, and angst. But I was free to do that.

That was the most important year of my life - I was born in 1990.