July 31, 2009


I’m all for name change – definitely, 100%. Let’s do it NOW.

But not the complicated ones like Pretoria, a.k.a Tswane, where history, prejudice and general intolerance will have the politicians deliberating until pigs fly… By the way, they said that would happen the day the USA got a black president, and presto – pig’s flu!

No, let’s start with the obvious one – let’s start with Africa’s powerhouse. The continent’s financial and industrial hub. Let’s start with Johannesburg! Also fondly known as Jozi, or Jo’burg, Egoli, and I’ve even heard murmurs of Azania... all rubbish names! All flat and pathetic.

I spent the past week there and I think it’s unfair that Superman has Metropolis, Batman has Gotham City, Chuck Norris has the entire state of Texas, and a population of superheroes up there have to be content with “Jozi”… it’s just not right.

To understand a wee bit about Jo’burg, and therefore my quest, you have to see where I come from: a quaint little village where people start their day when they feel like it, wave to their neighbours in the street if they can muster the energy, and anything – like a bird farting – can easily be construed as an event worthy of celebrating with a glass of wine. People call each other ‘bru’, ‘my friend’, or ‘dude’ and there’s a general consensus that nothing is important enough that it can’t wait till tomorrow. Life has a certain pace: languid.

But the name is apt: Hermanus… say it twice and you’re asleep.

Jozi’s different! Jozi’s frickin’ frenetic: zoom-zoom-swish-peep-crash-boom-oops-sorry-*&#**@-bang-bang-ahhh…. and that’s a typical day before breakfast… for a toddler!

People call each other by cool superhero names like Boytjie, China, Siyaya-Sam, Cousin, Amakosi and Leonard!

They don’t drive – they fly! Mazda can’t sell one single car in Jozi because “zoom-zoom” just don’t cut it here. If you can’t go zip-zip-zip-swoooosh, you’re doomed.

You’ve heard of the fast lane? These guys have three!

We wear sunglasses. A true Jozi superhero wears a windscreen – big, bold, black visors that not only block out harmful rays that other alien planets can launch at them, but also allows a clear (and possibly X-ray) view of the road ahead – which, of course, is always cluttered with useless drivers from Boksburg. They live on cigarette smoke – and don’t care (because only poefs from Durban get lung cancer). You can’t blame them – cigarette smoke is the constant. If they didn’t have that, they would be overwhelmed by the nuances that is Jo’burg’s atmosphere – the breathable one. And which superhero today has time for that?

It’s the only place I know where I could actually see and taste what I was breathing – a fascinating experience. Where I come from air is boring: it’s invisible and always seems to carry a bit of ocean breeze. Smells slightly of olive trees. When I get too much of it my head starts to spin – and that can’t be good. Who needs that anyway when in Jo’burg a new experience is just a breath away? What Paris is to the palate, Jo’burg is definitely to the lungs – an overwhelming experience with every breath!

Seriously, these people are fantastic… not in a “hey dude, you’re a wonderful guy”-kinda way. Hell no, more like the “Spiderman-Captain America-and-Wolverine-rolled-into-one”-way complete with spandex and bright underpants.

Why Egoli? Why Jozi? Let’s call the place Ama-Vezuvius, Nieu-Sparta, or Nova Galactica – something fierce and friendly, worthy of these super-beings.

I grew up here, but must admit I have neglected and eventually forgotten most of the customs and traditions that makes one truly Jozi. Like their overwhelming friendliness that welcomes any newcomer to their city. In 3 days I was fortunate enough to spend half my time among other motorists on the extensive network of roadways, highways and byways – some under construction of which Carmen the Garmin (my GPS) had absolutely no prior knowledge. But it was good, it was fun, it was Jozi in all its glory!

You HAVE to make friends in traffic – it’s pure logic: in Jozi, to get to work on time, you have to leave your house at a specific time (usually before the cock crows), fly a specific route, at a specific speed, for a set time, to the exact same place you work at, every day. And back.

So does any other superhero strong enough to call this place home.

Therefore, logic dictates that you will meet the same heroes, at the same times, on the exact same spots and intersections, on a daily basis – you’re gonna make friends! I saw it – on three different days, at exactly the same time, in three different places, but it was all the same: they knew each other’s lives intimately. They knew families and relatives – they would blow their horns while shouting comments about each others mothers and sisters, generally accompanied by what I assume to be some sort of secret-superhero-salute: a raised fist with a single digit pointing straight at the heavens and a courteous (what sounded like) “thank you”.

I was so fortunate to be part of this experience, the camaraderie – a oneness we would never fathom in the sleepy little fishing village I call home. Not wanting to miss out on this singular opportunity, I couldn’t help but be swept away in the euphoria of acceptance. I started hooting along, saluting everyone in sight: hoot-salute-“thank you!” hoot-salute-“thank you!” and so on. To anyone in sight, especially those who I thought could do with a little extra cheer. It was wonderful! They must’ve known I was from another world because everyone – every single one – reciprocated with a hoot-salute-“thank you too!”

At one point it got so exciting that this one guy got out of his car and rushed over to salute me – it was great: me inside the car saluting and him outside where everyone could see him saluting his head off – his face turning red with the exertion of trying to string all those “thank you’s” together. I suppose he was so excited about meeting a real live Capie that he ran back to his car, whipped out his new cricket bat, and ran back to show me – he must’ve been a sporting hero. Unfortunately the light had turned green and I had to shoot off before he got back – afraid of annoying any of my new friends.

Super people – I love them, I love Jozi!

It was during these special hours that I realized I was a mere mortal among a race of superheroes. Among beings that never conformed, who lived by their own rules, creating them as they went along – a people who laugh in the face of Death... who now has a security escort when visiting Jozi (two of his previous chariots were hijacked and are currently operating a taxi route between Benoni and Springs – very popular! You’d think it would feel weird riding around in that, but when you’re from Jo’burg you brush your teeth with fire and brimstone, so riding around in a chariot made of the stuff is just a bonus).

I digress – again. I seem to have a knack for doing that – going off on a tangent when I’m right in the middle of something else. I’ve always done it. My mother says it’s from when…d*mmit! Let’s get back.

Growing up, we all learn a rime about the traffic light, and the lesson is universal: Green light says GO.
Amber light says BE AWARE.
Red light says STOP, STOP, STOP or you will be a tjop, chop-chop!

In Jo’burg they teach the same rime, but with a slightly different slant. It goes something like:
Green light says GO.
Amber says GO LIKE CRAZY.

I saw it not once, not twice, but several times in the space of every ten minutes. Like riding a wave, the lights would turn red and stupid ol’ me would step on the breaks, only to be swept up – time and time again – by a surge of vehicles coming through en mass picking me up, dragging me through the cross traffic and safely dropping me on the other side of the intersection on a road I had no intention of being on, going in a direction that totally confused Carmen (“recalculating – recalculating – where are you going stupid human?”). This was inconsequential. What mattered was that I crossed the abyss safely (heaven only knows how) and was dropped in the middle of a new crowd who immediately (super-senses) knew I was not from here and enthusiastically started greeting me with the whole hoot-salute-thank you-thing.

I realised they had other super-powers: they were all crash-, crush-, and crumple-proof! With so many millions of them on the roads, flying the way they do, they have to have special powers to stave them from horrible consequence on a daily basis!

Therefore, whenever the news tells of an accident on the R25, you can be sure it was a motorist from Nigel who hit a pedestrian from Umlazi. It couldn’t be a Boytjie from Jo’burg – it’s astro-physically impossible.

Super-heroes – one and all!

No tights, no masks – superheroes acting like normal people in a fantastic city called Jozi – a place full of things you cannot imagine (you’ll have nightmares if you try).

How then can a place like this have a name that sounds like a tea cosy, or your uncle’s cousin twice removed?

Any suggestions?

July 08, 2009

SASI Swimsuit edition

January 29, 2008

Eish SI, I find myself in a puddle of murky fire-engine water. With the next Swimsuit Edition another 8 months away, my predicament has me at your mercy: As a fastidious collector and avid follower of said publication I am proud to say that I haven’t missed a copy since 1998 thanks to steely discipline and a collector’s intuition for intrinsic worth. A collection, I may add, crowned by the addition of the recent 10th Anniversary: Best of Swimwear Edition, reviewing some of the most artfully composed photographs of the past decade. Photography, of course, being the principle motivation for this worthwhile pursuit.

Due to some unforeseen Act of God, as the insurer put it, my valuable and much appreciated collection was recently offered unto the gods along with my house and the rest of my worldly possessions – raised to the ground by fire (front page Cape Times, Wednesday January 16, 2008 – yes, that was mine).

Worldly possessions can be replaced, and countless memories of youth, first love and world travel remain well documented somewhere in the mind. This collection however was unfortunately too valuable for even our intrepid insurer to cover. In correspondence received from their head office, the company believed that it was not within their means to determine a replacement value for such a collection – a sentiment I completely appreciate: I do not suspect it is within anyone’s means to replace an asset that even in today’s volatile stock market environment constantly appreciates, unlike other commodities.

I digress.

Upon an initial partial payment from said friends at the insurer’s office, instinct (and common sense) determined what basic necessities life would require. My wife, bless her, opted for food and clothing. My instincts (somewhat less developed some may argue) drew me along similar lines, wholly focused though on the needs of my mate. Summer was in bloom and with my recent loss fresh in the mind, my focus was on bikinis: I was not about to let Mother Nature score another hit and negate all the hard work my lady put in to shape ‘The Bod’. And what better point of reference than a SI Swimsuit Edition? A hurried visit to the local (and the not-so-local) newsagent, major retailer, corner shop and doctors waiting room proved unsuccessful (for far too obvious reasons). No publications exist in circulation – anywhere!

I have even found myself describing models and poses, patterns and colors, even page numbers of specific issues to wide-eyed surf shop assistants, only to be asked to leave their premises quietly, or be escorted…

My appeal SI, nay quest therefore: to find a supplier somewhere in my world with a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, even if it’s only the Special 10year Edition. Please, my wife’s got money to spend – help me spend it wisely!

Yours sincerely,


Question answered

Yesterday was one of those days! You know the ones where something you’ve always wondered about, pondered endlessly, asked questions about life and the meaning of our menial existence, all of a sudden made sense – in a flash everything came together – a big boom!

Yesterday was one of those days!

Some of you may know me better than others so the above will mean more to others than to you, or not. The following may help.

Yesterday morning in the recesses and cobwebs that once was my mind, lingered a conundrum that happily wrangled its tentacles through the levels of sanity that drove my existence – for years, nay decades... decade and a half… plus three… you get the idea – it was a long time. A question that would wake me in the middle of the night screaming like a bunch of 4 year olds at a Christmas party, while on other days it would mingle unobtrusively in a tub of beer with the other important or otherwise menial questions that define my personality, plotting its next vengeful freakish attack.

Well, today I know the answer to one of those questions. Today a burden that was, is no more. Today is a good day, because today I know why I went to University!

Every single one of you now has a question, an answer or a statement in your head: well done, I’m happy for you, print it on a T-shirt. To me it was a revelation.

Throughout my school career I really had no idea what to do with my life and this remained a mystery until I eventually hurdled the final jaw clenching panic station the national education system could throw at me: the Matric farewell! After that I still had no idea what to do with my life, but it didn’t seem such a big problem anymore because I had new purpose, new focus. Puberty had progressed to a point where now I had to shave once a week… well ‘had to’ is probably exaggerating slightly, but hey, I did.

And then I went to university.

And to this day it doesn’t make sense… well no, until yesterday it didn’t make sense – today it does, otherwise there’d be no sense to this letter, and that would just be silly. Today it’s as clear as the view across Walker Bay after a night of the South Easter trying valiantly to lift our roof – clear as crystal.

I was off to varsity because, of course, it was the natural thing to do: I did well at school, had a lovely smile, played various sports, did the cultural thing, was popular with the other kids and teachers (especially this one lovely lady who………eish, different letter), and I had a future shining bright on the horison. When you have all that going for you, you ask no questions – varsity, here I come!

The next seven years of my life was the most wonderful, frustrating, confusing, liberating, disappointing, fulfilling, freedom-loving years of my life! Hey, I met many of you there (into which category above you actually fit will blissfully remain a mystery forever). I learnt a lot about life, love, and I believe my appreciation of beer had its roots firmly planted in this time. I learnt a lot about the world out there, people and myself. And then there were the actual classes. Classes were different. For seven years I had to bend my mind to dead peoples’ teachings, imprint schematics, complex drawings and charts to memory. For hours had to commit precious time to ideas and concepts I didn’t enjoy and was sure I’d never use for the rest of my sane, adult life. Frustrations beyond belief, emotional strain beyond compare, for hours, weeks months and semesters on end. Why, I ask you, in heaven’s name, why?

To fit a baby seat.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you need a degree to install a baby’s car seat, but for me personally, it helped. Had I not gone to university, struggled through years of agony and mental strain, meticulously honing my ability to get to grips with gut-wrenching frustration and incomprehensible schematic impossibilities (called probabilities in text books), conditioning the mind not to explode (or implode outwardly) when challenged by what seemed so logical, but wasn’t. Trained to accept disappointment when success was ever so close… because the math didn’t work.

Had I not gone through that for seven years, seven very formative years, I would surely have broken that bl**dy thing in half, kicked huge dents in every panel of the car I love so much, slashed those Pirellis – with my teeth – and strapped the dog to the roof-rack with the little baby-seatbelts (if only I could figure out how to get those little blighters from that fricken contraption thingy, that is!). Stupid dog staring at me with those big brown puppy eyes where I lay contorted under the front seat, fingers in various little notches – all which were never designed for moisturised hands (yes, I do), the seatbelt neatly tucking my left cheek, right ankle and entire chest securely to the contraption, which didn’t fit as the picture suggested. It would’ve made a chiropractor’s eyes water.

I would probably have taken the kitchen knife to that leather seat I cherish, that seat I polish every month, that leather seat not even my wife is allowed to sit on, because I’m a man and my baby’s seat must fit – somehow! Had I not gone to university, that would’ve been my fate.

But I went there, I did my time and I installed that seat – I tasted victory.

The wee man traveled in that seat today – he went to class and came back. And the seat is still there, where I left it yesterday, in the exact same spot – seven years and not a second wasted!

How simple everything seems today. How clear it all is. There is meaning to everything that happens in this world after all.