Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This one is not about a wedding

I promise. I won't mention it once.

I'm just feeling a sudden rush and swell of goodwill towards the beautiful city I live in.

This happened prior to reading this hilarious article by Jeremy Clarkson about our lavender lined streets. Ok, so Jeremy hasn't been to Alex in winter near midnight, and obviously hasn't had the experience of being young sexy poor female and Zimbabwean on the streets of Hillbrow, or rich and driving a verrrry desirable car on the Malboro offramp, but still - he's right, to a certain extent. Joburg is piss-easy and safe, if you play it right.

I'm busy working on a little something with a dear friend, for the Grahamstown festival. A piece about Jozi. A love poem to Jozi. An exploration into - what is it that makes you love and survive this place? One of my favourite things in this city is listening to people give directions. It literally makes me gas up with giggles, I can't quite say why. Its a certain goodwill promise we have to each other as citizens - we help you get where you need to be. You take the Riviera offramp, ok, then turn left but get into the right lane immediately...then right and second left into, I think its second avenue Houghton...
Oh, I could write a whole play with people giving directions. Or a dance piece. lost people, giving each other directions and missing. Wrong turns and dead ends, cordoned off streets "for security reasons" and negotiating the space between the rising panic of being lost and the delight of discovering a new road or two in a part of town you've never been.

I love this mad city, all of a sudden. When I was 17 my dad owned a flat in Hillbrow - its now a derelict part of town, but (perhaps) on the rise again. Oh, I remember walking up the rise of the 'brow, to the bookshop, to Look n Listen. I remember buying James Dean posters in the poster shop, feeding a sweet teenage obsession. I remember getting flashed by a Twist street vagrant - a foreshadowing of the days when one wasn't allowed to walk those streets alone. Again.

Aah, but this city gets her grip around you, and I'd never have said that five years ago when I was trying to be faithful to The Mountain (of Cape Town. yes, Shiny, I'm talking to you).

I love her history - the gangs, the fever of goldrush, the sudden streets, the dustbowl politics and the hastily erected rules and regulations and streets and forest plantations.

I love the way whole streets and buildings have their identities erased and pasted over and erased again. Joburg has been built and rebuilt and erased and built again several times over.

I dunno, I reckon the city she has a certain something, bouganvillia and koi pond outlets aside.

Since the Georges first hit paydirt here, and the whole fabric of lies and hustle and bluff started to gather momentum, I reckon its a space where you can spin your own hustle and bluff and blunder and people might just actually pay you for it. The tricky part is, she can just just as easily eat you alive as pay you out for your chutzpah. What's it gonna be?



Ah, Jozi, my city. You wanna visit? Text me, I'll give you directions.

12 comments:

Janelle said...

oi, never knock bogey hey. man. its the only thing which grows anywhere on the planet...apart from cold miserable places...and even then it gives it a go...ja. sod ostentatious koi ponds. ja. xxx j

Shiny said...

Oh, you make it sound so tempting, and my sister and the joyous happenings are such a pull too. There is a frenetic energy that Joburg gives off, that you feel the second you enter it's space, that is difficult to explain. Or beat. Maybe a little sabatical would be in order... x

Jeannie said...

Make sure you tell us more about the production - I'm going to be living in Grahamstown from next weekend and I can't WAIT for Festival! Will try and come see it :-)

Rob Inukshuk said...

Oh that buffoon's article really didn't amuse. I don't find the wholesale murder of tens of thousands of South African's each year (and the rest) a subject to make light of unless of course it's worth the 30 pieces to promote the Centenary Celebrations.

Survival means desensitise. That is so very sad. Is the price of the buzz really worth it? I think not, but each to his own.

Chimera said...

Hello hon,
I am so excited that you are getting hitched! Keep mentioning it please! Seem to have a lot to catch up on here...you are getting married ...WHERE?! F**8**g Brilliant!!! I just cannot wait to hear how you do it all and in the meantime this post made me grin. I love the idea of a dance piece around Jo'burg directions! it made me think of getting directions off Zambian women. They draw it in the air. They say 'over there and then just around.' They say 'that side' when they mean 'keep going'. Either that or they just shrug and smile. Both are as eloquent.
Ah but the fandango that will be your nuptials..I am so thrilled for you!
Tanvi xxxx

karen said...

Tam, I love to hear something positive about Jozi...it does my african heart good!!

Lori ann said...

I'm with Karen, it is a beautiful city and it's nice to hear something good.
You can write about your wedding all you want, I love to hear about your plans. Maybe make a seperate wedding blog? Woulden't that be a nice keepsake? just a thought...
xx lori

Tessa said...

Wonderful observations = as always.

I met my man there a few million years ago, so, yes, I love Joies too. It's....well...a brave kind of city, really. Full of battle scars, for sure, but it holds its own.

I remember Hillbrow in it's heyday as well. Artists, musicians and hippies and us, young pseudo intellectuals. Long convos involving existentialism, politics and poetry in the Dunka Donut (I think it was called, can't remember exactly)

Tessa said...

Wonderful observations = as always.

I met my man there a few million years ago, so, yes, I love Joies too. It's....well...a brave kind of city, really. Full of battle scars, for sure, but it holds its own.

I remember Hillbrow in it's heyday as well. Artists, musicians and hippies and us, young pseudo intellectuals. Long convos involving existentialism, politics and poetry in the Dunka Donut (I think it was called, can't remember exactly)

Miranda said...

Great post kister. 21 sleeps til I'm there!
Remember that homeless guy that used to sleep in our car in Hillbrow?

Reya Mellicker said...

I do want to visit, a lot more now that I've read this post. It's a city of extremes, the lowest of the low followed by the highest of the high.

So glad you're there, adding to its richness and depth and contour.

As far as I'm concerned, you can write about your wedding as often as possible. I love hearing about it!

tam said...

Janelle, bouganvillia = only available flowers for birthday parties - hot spots of colour on bedsheet tablecloths. Virulent stuff.
Shiny - it took me 5 years to adjust, but now I wouldn't swop it not even for Clifton...
Jeannie - say hello to the wee city. I won't be there for fest, but will be sure to give you details of the production.
Rob, of course you are right, and I take everything he says with a tablespoon of salt, coz of course its all for effect. OBVIOUSLY we could all show him an alternative time in jhb that would set his adrenalin to new highs. Still, we need things to laugh about, and unfortunately daily doses of crime & corruption make us all a tad cynical. More to post on here, no doubt.

Chim-Chimera, its all rather exciting indeed, and a big dose of mentionitus coming up.

Karen and Lori - there are certainly beautiful aspects to the place, and it has a unique soul - hard and uncaring? maybe, but with spots of real compassion.

Aaah, Tessa, I too haunted the 'brow in my late teens. Dunka donuts, and that other cafe on the corner, oh what was it.. and the labyrinthine flea market, the bookshops. Have you read The Restless Supermarket?
Reya, it is indeed a city of extremes, though there is a broad belt of middle mediocrity too, like anywhere. And not to forget an alarming love of fake Tuscan townhouse monstrosities.

Ok, ok, more wedding stuff coming...