taking a trip down…

sometimes i wonder about myself, you know. sometimes i really worry.

tv plus magazine flies me down to cape town for all of 48 hours, to once again be one of the judges for their high school drama competition. i fly in somewhere around midnight on friday night. i have every intention of reading scripts on the plane, but instead i sink down in my seat, pull my cap over my eyes and hopefully don’t snore for the duration of the 2 hour flight. upon landing i, surprise!, don’t wait an eternity for my bag and when i get to the counter at budget, my paperwork is all done. i give them my cell phone number and the nissan tiida is mine for 2 days.
just like that.
paul is waiting up for me and wolf gets up out of bed when i make it to claremont. we make chai tea and eat mint chocolate balls while we catch up till about 2 a.m. i marvel at what hugo, their spca pavement special, looks like now. just goes to show, one never knows what one will get when one gets one of these lucky dip dogs. originally a dark brown ball, he now has curly ginger hair and is a marvel of hard to place features. one of those adorable mutts that wins your heart in movies.
saturday late morning i head into town to check out the afro coffee cafe to see if they have any more of the fabulous colorful bags like the one i’ve worn to death. i check the website for their address, only to discover when i get there that afro coffee no longer exists. their website says they do, but they don’t. guys. time to update your website. please.
i wander back down to miriam’s kitchen, one of the best places to buy salomies. (some kind of curry filling wrapped in a roti – a south african version of a burrito). i get a chicken salomie even though i don’t eat chicken 98% of the time. when i eventually get home, wolfgang and i polish it off with some tomato jam. all gone. yummy!
before that though, i walk through the greenmarket square flea market to get to my car. it used to be my all time favorite place for all kinds of unique items, but now it’s pretty much all curios and not much more. some leather jackets catch my eye and i spend some times going through the tchatchkes on the guys’ table. i buy an antique looking pencil even though it’s not working. imagine my surprise when i get home and google the marking on the pencil.
 
S. MORDAN & CO. MAKERS
and i discover that this pencil, according to it’s markings, was made before 1850, i.e., 160 or so years ago! wow! score! probably worth way more than the hundred bucks i reluctantly parted with for it, though my intention is not resale, but personal use.
and then… and this is the part that really worries me, i proceed to clean the keys on my laptop. granted, the guys have left by now and i’m at the house all alone, and i’ve been meaning to do it for months, but please. i’m in cape town for the first time in 4 months. i should be out making the most of it, but instead i. am. cleaning. the. keys. on. my. keyboard. . . . . .
and i’m aware as i’m doing it, that this is weird. i. am. weird.
i leave an hour early for the theatre. i’ve decided to see if i can find ronald’s old flat where i stayed with him in 1981 and where wolfgang and i parted with our cherries. i drive to rosebank and find liesbeeck road. i walk through the now graffiti’d subway to get to the other side of the railway line and i’m surprised that i don’t really remember it. the elision of chunks of memory is scary…(i, unlike clinton, inhaled).  i don’t see the flat. it’s not where i think it was, so i stop to ask a family walking into their big old rambling house, whether they know a bridgebank road or bridgebank court. they point next door. i wander over there, but the blocks of flats across the road look more familiar than the building i’m looking for. it’s been renovated, but it’s not an improvement. i stand infront of it and stare, just as the occupants of a car parked infront of the building stare at me. i decide that i must look odd just standing there staring, so i move off.
i don’t know what i’m feeling.
from there i head into town, but on the way i have to pass the university of cape town,

where i spent 5 long years. on the spur of the moment i find myself on the ivy-walled campus. driving around and marvelling at how much and how little i remember after all the time i spent there. i finally head my car towards town, but when i get to the artscape complex. i am still almost half an hour early. i decide to head to beach road, mouille point, across the road from my friend ineke’s old apartment. i park my car and head out towards the ocean. i stand in the twilight and watch the waves crashing against the mostly submerged rocks where we scattered the ashes of one of my best friends in the world last november. i flew down to cape town almost every month last year saying a protracted goodbye to someone i found it impossible to part from, but finally i didn’t have a choice. i stand there. the last time i was in that same place, i had the gritty charcoal of ini’s cremains still clinging to my fingers, dusty smudges on my white pants.
i don’t know what i’m feeling.
introspective. sad? yes. i miss her crazy, wise, funny, penetrating, quirky self. i always will. i’m wondering about friendship. about the amazing people i’ve been privileged to have in my life. i think about about how though my friendships are consistent, my contact with those friends is not always so. something to change. i am getting old enough to have my best friends die. i don’t like this.
i get in the car and drive through the twilit city, the mountain a cardboard cut-out against the sky. i head to artscape where i am going to be one of the judges deciding, in essence, what direction a number of young actors’ lives will take. they are young and earnest and inexperienced and all pale in comparison to last year’s winner. i write my notes, i write down percentages. at the end of the night, we sit on the stage waiting for the results to be read out and winners announced. it is strange to see one of my high school teachers whom i used to dote on, in the audience. time contracts and expands and somehow is all the same moment. a winner is chosen. the girl who was 3rd last year, does not make top 3 this year. she walks off the stage, trying to disguise her emotions. i feel for her. around me the extremes of joy and disappointment. cameras flash. kisses, handshakes. the mask of comedy. the mask of tragedy. side by side.
i gather my masks and head back across the mountain.
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a prince among men…

somewhere round 1981 when my mom was (finally) divorcing my paedophile-monster-step-dad and things at home were hell, a sandy-haired, flidgerty (flighty+fidgety) young man with the most beatific smile (and for some reason this stays with me all these years later – the most gorgeously shaped calves and eloquent hands and feet!) took me in for about 6 months. he asked no financial remuneration and at a time when it was against the law for me to be staying in the then-white enclave of rosebank, he was flagrantly defiant.

i remember i had an old tape cassette player. he had some boby dylan tapes. i would play “lay lady lay” ad nauseum, usually right before bed, till he’d come in and request that i please, PLEASE, give it a break.

i always wondered about ronald’s sexuality. though i don’t know why i even wondered cos people like zackie achmat (one of south africa’s foremost aids activists) would pop in and out of the apartment and i knew ronald was close to dr. ivan toms (r.i.p.). i really didn’t care. ronald was my friend and one of the many guardian angels who’ve appeared opportunely throughout my life and for whom i’m eternally grateful.

once i moved out into my first commune and got caught up in university life, drama school, and eventually moved to johannesburg and then l.a., we lost touch. i googled ronald over the years, but never found anything. till a few days ago. i tried again. i googled “ronald louw port elizabeth” and my heart sank when the first item which popped up, was an article by zackie achmat.

ronald louw, law professor, activist, exceptional human being, died of aids on the 26th of june, 2005, a month to the day before i came back to south africa. despite being best friends with one of the foremost proponents of hiv testing, ronald did not get tested. i feel selfish to be mad at him, but part of me is, because now i will never get to see him again. he was one of those people who was the change he wanted to see in the world and i benefited from that. i have tears in my eyes as i sit here writing this; i will never get a chance to thank him.

http://gravitando.files.wordpress.com/2007/11/the_little_prince_046.jpghttp://gravitando.files.wordpress.com/2007/11/the_little_prince_046.jpg    

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.

 

against his bedroom wall, ronald had painted a scene from “the little prince”. i only remember now that he was the one who introduced me to that masterpiece. through his generosity of spirit, he opened up the world for a young teenage girl from the cape flats. i haven’t seen him in over 20 years, but i will miss, and be grateful to him always.

he was a prince among men.

“Goodnight, sweet Prince.
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

“the rest is silence”…
– hamlet – william shakespeare
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