Cape Town’s faded New Year’s day glory

I woke up this January 1st in Cape Town, South Africa, feeling pretty much human – I left the party in a taxi driven by a guy who smelled like solvents and didn’t know my name, how to follow directions, or how find his own way, but he did get me home by 2am, after a few arguments and near-death moments on the road. Or “by 2am, thank God” I thought when I woke up in the morning with my limbs still attached.

I have no idea what this is all about. There was a series of them on the pavement (that's what we call the "sidewalk" in South Africa).

I had lunch plans in the CBD with an old friend so I decided to walk the few miles down the hill to the city, and back. On the way I took photos of all the weird signs I saw.

PAIN in large rough letters on the street wall of the reservoir on Upper Orange street. Twice. I wonder who wrote it and if they're alright now.

I love new year’s day in the city. It’s a slightly sad scene. There’s the faded glory of New Year’s party posters, the darkened shop windows, the people, some still in party clothes, wandering home on a walk of no shame at all, or eating breakfast where they could find it. It’s like the whole city’s either saying “Jeez… is that it?” or “Shitsticks… what the fuck have I done?”

Lost Dog - found by New Year's or still wandering around without anyone to pick up his turds? I definitely saw a lot of turds on the sidewalk so I suspect he's still on the prowl.

There’s also evidence of altered states of mind of other kinds.

No clue what this graffitti is all about. I'd love to know. It's written on the downstairs boarded up garage of an apartment block I always wanted to live in... that has recently burned down.

An attempt to balance beauty and the need for security. Those ivy leaves on the pillar are made out of razor wire. I think they're borderline illegal, since it's not legal to harm intruders. All preventative measures are meant to be non-deadly.

Ahhh... The Lennox. Once the only hotel in town where "non-whites" could stay at the height of apartheid, and where I stayed with my family at some point when we first came to Cape Town, now a run down "bed and breakfast", where people live in what looks, at least from the outside, looks like squalor for all the wrong reasons. The curtains are filthy.

There were three garbage bags next to this sign, stuck on a wall outside the NG Kerk, and some man's clothes in the closest bin. Also, a coat hanger hanging from the tree inside the church security wall.

This button thingy for the pedestrian crossing is so old that it's still only in English and Afrikaans - not also Xhosa.

I walked down through the Company Gardens. They've been the same since forever, although they're less like a monument to colonialism now and more like a museum visited by all South Africans. People sleep on the grass in their lunchbreak, read books on the benches. In 1996, I once walked through at 4am and passed a guy, completely naked and red from the cold, furiously masturbating in public. True fact!

A dodgy dude. But we don't break down the statues here in South Africa like they did in Russia, and neither do we pretend they aren't dodgy like they do in the USA. We just build more. Behind, the gallery, which I must go check out while I'm in town.

Speaking of dodgy... The Great War. Wasn't so great for the dead guys whose names appear on the list up there.

Why is this written in cardboard? In ballpoint? At least have a magic marker, ffs. The sign refers to the outdoor cafe place in the gardens. Seems like the staff just decided to close early today. I don't blame them. I just think the way it's announced is pretty hilarious. And then someone decided it wasn't clear, came back with another ballpoint, and added (We mean the Cafe).

Oh, Telkom.

Nothing less partyish than the poster for last night's party in the window of a store that's closed. In South Africa, most people don't work on public holidays because they're, well, you know, public holidays and shit.

I sometimes wonder if anyone has ever masturbated over a shopfront mannequin. Is it wrong to? And what if you take a photo and then look at it at home, in private?

I have no idea what this is about, but I think it's beautiful. Someone tell me. Kinda looks like someone got all street-arty early in the morning on New Year's Day.

This is who I had lunch with. This is his tattoo. Yes, it's real. And yes, he means it. He very nearly had to be hospitalized due to starvation when the pizzas as Bardelli's on Kloof took over 90 minutes to arrive. I'm getting used to Cape Town time, because the food is so good when it finally arrives. I'm sure by the time I've adapted again it will be time to leave.

And that was my day. Here’s to 2012. May we all not die like in the movies. Specially those of us with shit written on our arms.

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4 Responses to “Cape Town’s faded New Year’s day glory”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Aww, you’re photographing the area where I lived. Sniff. I do think the question of what to do with the statues is an interesting one. When my friend and I took a civil rights road trip through the South in 2004, we drove through Pulaski, Tennessee, where the KKK was founded. There was a plaque that commemorated that event on the building where they supposedly met for the first time, but instead of removing it they had turned the plaque to face the wall. I thought that was an intriguing way of handling it–not removing it as if it never happened, but still suggesting some sort of shame or remorse.

    And someone had drawn a penis on it so that was pretty funny too.

  2. jeanbarker Says:

    Ha ha! Did you take a photo?

  3. Shannon Says:

    Yep, and framed it.

  4. Andre Says:

    I miss the gardens. It inspired me to write my first short novel.

    Loved the library there too. Wish I could just be there, always.

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