Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Pooh-litically Correct shit

October 8, 2017

Sometimes thinking people who’re trying to get it right wind up getting it horribly wrong. I applaud them for caring, but I think they’re half the reason people got annoyed enough to vote for Trump.


poolitically correct sml

“Tampon Pads” and a floating apostrophe – someone’s drunk and has a pen…


Does the term “feminine” seem “blaming” to you? Well… to me deleting it does. It’s not negative to me. I actually think feminine might be a better way to do many things. This rejection of the term makes me think of the way some racial terms keep changing, as if it’s the term that matters, not the way the world operates. They are feminine hygene products. If you’re trans, post-menopausal or identify otherwise, they are still feminine hygene products.

The NAACP knows this. I think it’s hilarious that this petition had only 34 supporters.

I will call people whatever they want to be called. Male, female, he, she and they… which is something I do even though MS Word thinks its wrong. An ex-boyfriend wanted to be called African American. After an hour of pushback, because, you know, I’m actually African as in I have the passport he’d never want, I used the term when talking with him. I adjusted when talking to other friends who prefered “black”. I never use the term “coloured” (note the u) in America, but in Cape Town, sure. Every world has its language. It’s no biggie. Everyone can choose how they’re addressed, as long as it’s not “Your highness”.

But back to the bathroom sign, at the most politically correct venue EVER…

If you’re going to go there, why not include “Adult Diapers”, “condoms” and “cigarettes”, just in case? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen hipsters who protest FOR the Environmental Protection Agency flick cigarettes into the drains that run straight to sea in LA. If you are going to be a pain in the ass political correct person, don’t shirk your responsibility. Take daily action to change things. Like, “be the change”, bro.

Why was I at 18th Street Art’s Center? This amazing traveling show called UNSEAL UNSEAM, which reminded me not to romantisize my recent past. Its a reinterpretation of the opera BLUEBEARD with amazing, subtle and sincere performances. I was moved, and I have a low tolerance for pretension. Here is a link to my friend Alicia Byer’s review on a music blog called NEW CLASSIC LA.


unsealunseam sml

Steve Hofmeyr loves to watch you pee

December 18, 2011

It's impossible to take this for granted.

I have had quite a few “I know I’m home because” moments. Most of them are amazing; like walking down to the almost empty beach this morning with my mom, swimming around in ice cold, crystal clear water, watching penguins cleaning themselves on the rocks. Or crossing the road without bothering to see if it’s legal. Or going to buy fruit at the market on the beach – spending $15 for a box of 24 peaches, a bucket of lychees, and a bag of plums and apricots. Oh and a huge sack of potatoes. Or being able to buy a lamb curry pie at a petrol station. Or order a rock shandy and actually get a rock shandy. Best of all has been a real sense of religious freedom. I pulled my scarf over my head after the beach today to ward off the sun, without wondering if anyone would give me a dirty look. I don’t have to listen to some vibrating mental case singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” every time I turn on the radio. Yes, not everybody in this world is Christian. And I like that.

But then there was the trip to the movies – the side of the second world that’s not so awesome, at all.

Two of the toilets are broken (and smell it). But worse still, I have to look at the multiple posters of a racist (when it's convenient) reactionary (usually) who makes music I hate. MTN, what are you thinking?

And here's the best bit. When you sit down, he's there AGAIN. WATCHING. Freaky. I see someone decided to give him a thought-bubble.

Just cause Malema is worse, doesn’t make the kind of patriachal when-we junk Steve Hofmeyr talks okay. And I certainly don’t want to do kinky German sex stuff with him. Apparently all Ster Kinekor cinema toilets have this awful MTN advertising in them now.

On the plus side, I don’t think liberal or left wing feminists are likely to struggle with their bowel movements when they have this to look at when they go. If I sold laxatives, I’d sue.

Staring in the window

October 15, 2011

I hate that I can only live one life. I know it should be enough, but it’s hard to let go of the things you once expected you’d do. Like watch your daughter sitting on your man’s shoulders. Saw this the other day on campus. He’s holding her up so she can watch the orchestra rehearsing.

Someone came and closed the door while I was watching. Prophetic, perhaps. I guess it's always easy to imagine a perfect life inside the lit up windows. In reality I'd probably have ended up single parenting while the kids' father put their education up his arm.

I guess I’m thinking about this a lot because my brother’s about to have his second kid. I was meant to be the one who had kids. Life had other plans.

I guess as long as I never get a pet, nobody can mock me for my failure to breed. I’m more terrified than anything of becoming one of those sad career women who’s emotionally obsessed with their dogs / cats / iguana – even if there are so many of them now that I’d never struggle to meet people like myself.

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

May 11, 2011

Facebooked by my friend Selwyn. I love this.

lionel richie spoof

I considered combining this with missing posters from Walmart's notice board. But that would be insensitive.

In case you can’t read them in this blurry photo, the tear-off things say “I can see it in your eyes / I can see it in your smile / … etc.”

But I did think this one, from Obs Fest in Cape Town South Africa was er… fair game.

Lost! "Have you seen my cat? About 100 lbs, likes to play with his food." Observatory (aka obz) is a suburb full of hippies, cat lovers, and arty types. It's very windy there.

And a new addition from @EmperorNorton on twitter.

Yeah, well. Now we have.

San Francisco: City of A Thousand Dry Cleaners

January 17, 2011

It’s hard to go to a new place and not compare it to places you’ve been before. The more you travel, the more you start to see the trends. That doesn’t mean every city doesn’t feel very different to the one before or the one after. Cities are like lovers: it doesn’t matter how many you’ve been to. A first time is a first time, every time. And when it begins to feel too much like home, it’s probably time to leave before you get kicked out.

The market for laundries is er… flooded. So you get natural specialisation: Dry Cleaning is the biggest one. Then there’s organic dry cleaning. And finally, there’s this place with the doggie in the window.

San Francisco lives up to its reputation. I was there for about five minutes when I overheard my first classic conversation between two drunk guys on the pavement outside a bar.

CURLYHAIRED GUY: You just tell him “Imps and Elves party, my place, now!”
SLICKER DUDE: No no, he already likes me, it’s not that… it’s just…

A photogenic city, as pretty as the pictures.

I’ve heard more people discussing that their therapist said, yoga, and wine in the last 48 hours than I have the entire five months I lived in Orange. I don’t mean to make it sound pretentious. Some people might say it is. I think it’s cultured. And hilarious. Like yogurt spiked with LSD.


Speaking of LSD...

The picture you have to take. Golden Gate Bridge is as beautiful as you imagine, and more. San Francisco is probably the only city that really rivals Cape Town for pure beauty.

Got me thinking about the cities I’ve loved most in my life. You know those places – the ones where you imagine an entire lifetime on the first night, or where a whole new future seems possible.

While sitting in an asian bar-restaurant eating the most amazing prawn dumplings with dried shaved garlic and shopped spring onions in a warm vinegar sauce, I thought it over. I decided that a great city needs to have certain elements to be great. Not all of these, but most…

A harbour – or large river: Or something like that. Because great cities all have a history of having lots of immigrants, who enrich the culture. I am a sea girl, in any case, so gulls, the sound of fog horns, fog and the smell of salt all make me very happy. Being landlocked makes me very sad. Without the Sea, Cape Town would just be a stuck up little town with a big rock in the middle (think Paarl+hippies). With the sea (and the music and the food) it’s awesome.

Great food: If not an amazing cuisine, like Florence, then variety, like any great American city, or like Paris. Prague will never really be a great city because the food sucks. The Russians are apparently responsible for ruining it. Same goes for Rome (unless you’re loaded). Antananarivo (Madagascar) scores on may levels, with food being one of the major ones. You can eat like a king there (French, Malagasy, Chinese, Indian… you name it) for three dollars. Think free range foie gras steaks. And the most amazing pastries.

Music: Antananarivo may be polluted and its clubs sex markets for asshole tourists, Maputo’s police will pull you over for a bribe on the way home, and Paris is expensive. But you’ll find stuff that’ll blow your mind when it comes to live music. Barcelona’s clubs are the best. The dance floors are air-conditioned – although not air-conditioned enough to stop every guy over the age of 15 trying to get it on at random. Yes, that cliche, it’s true. Same goes for Cape Town. I’m excusing Florence cause makes up for the lack of decent live music with incredible food and art.

Walkability: Every now and then, when they drop the butter-vs-margarine debate for five minutes to take a leak, the lifestyle news feeds put out an article about why French women are so thin, even though they eat butter and bread all the time and drink red wine. They never tell you why, really, so I will: European women walk a lot. That’s why they make the best high heels in Spain and Italy. I love cities where you can walk everywhere. And when you can’t? There should be options. Like the Paris Metro, or free options like the Cable Cars in San Francisco and the free zone buses in Seattle. London’s underground doesn’t count because sharing it with most of the people who ride it makes it the most depressing experience on earth. Not sure why, but the same technology in the hands of the French is fun. It think that’s because it’s acceptable to make eye contact with strangers in Paris, but not in London.

Which makes Cape Town, Durban, Paris, Florence, Antananarivo, Maputo, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, and Barcelona the best places I’ve been.

Still haven’t touched down on a few continents, and I got to get to New York and New Orleans before the clubs close. And Baltimore. And Boston. Shit and Chicago. Actually I’d visit any US city… so far there isn’t one I’d I’d call a shithole, or where I’ve felt unwelcome.

And now – after breakfast in a diner where the waitress called me Honey – it’s time to drive home to Orange on Martin Luther King day. I’m always longing to leave The County, but after two nights of listening to the ceiling creak as the couple upstairs get it on, coming home feels comfortable, safe. I look forward to my own shower, and my own bed, and my own coffee machine. It’s my own little town and my stuff is there, if you know what I mean.


Getting out of Dodge: San Francisco

January 16, 2011

Philosophy, so-cal style.

One friend says it’s the lunar something. Another friend says it’s hormones. Another friend doesn’t want to be friends. And me? Well who knows what I want – and who (more importantly) even cares. In any case, there’s a weird vibe on the semi-deserted campus right now – something to do with something about the way some unknown force affects men of a certain age – and I just had to get out before the emotional undertow sucked me into its murky, self-destructive depths forever.

Orange may look like a nice enough place. But you’d be surprised what a combination of bad judgment and cheap booze can achieve.

And the alternatives to the undertow are just… getting boring. I didn’t come all the way to the amazing USA to sit in my one-bedroomed apartment with the blinds closed, surfing the web, watching stuff on Netflix, talking to people on farkbook chat. I can write anywhere, right?

So I filled her up and put her in drive, turned Gomez up full blast and typed “Golden Gate Bridge” into my GPS: Come on / Come on over / When we collide, we’ll see what gets left over. You said it Ben, you said it.

A good long distance drive is like making your own movie on an endless dolly. Beats any ride at Disneyland. You need supply is a soundtrack, snacks and caffeine. And USA’s roads are tailor-made for my romance with the all-American obsession with burning gasoline. Miles and miles of unexplored terrain. Generally good drivers. Cheap gas. And the opportunity to eat the kind of junk food that only tastes good when you’re going 70mph – chili cheetos and starbucks energy-coffee combo. Brown mountains and misty farmlands peeling back in full 3D while the music tears a wisdom-sized hole in your eardrum. I’d do well to keep these words in mind: When all’s said and done / The things that were given were the things that you won.

I stopped near Bakersfield for a curry at The Taste of India – mostly because of their massive billboards, advertising for about 5 miles before and dominating the little stop that consists of three motels with Jacuzzi suits, a McDonalds etc. etc., a truck mechanic and a gas station. They specialise in Vegan food.

See the circle on the map? That's where I was.

It may not be the best curry I’ve ever eaten. In fact, it isn’t really curry, if curries are spicy by definition. But it’s definitely the most expensive curry I’ve ever had… not counting the $20 in gas it took to get here in my ‘stang. God I love that car. Not because it’s practical. It’s not. It’s rear wheel drive and I’m rear-ending the planet every time I put foot. It just SCREAMS “I couldn’t afford a corvette”. My suitcase doesn’t fit in the boot.

But I feel like a racing driver every time I accelerate.

A no-horse town. The perfect place for an air-field, a prison, a military base, chicken farm, or a bicycle race - flat for miles and miles.

Four hours remain, according to Maggie Magellan; my constant companion, my first American friend. To make fun of myself, I searched Google for motels in San Fran with lunar-themed names. So the Luna Inn – yes really. That’s where I’m headed.

Cause sometimes surrendering to my inner crazy-person beats actually beats making another bad decision.

36 hours in LA, my way

October 12, 2010

Welcome to LA - a breath of fresh air. This is really what it looks like - at least to my cell phone camera.

Ok, so I already wrote about what a dork I am, and how the cast of Glee wouldn’t let me play triangle for them if I tried (I’m that not-smooth, folks). That was the first part of my first real day in Hollywood, LA. And by the end of this first part, where I left you last, I was signed up to go do a pitch the next afternoon. I had also agreed about a week back to check out a band called Abney Park – a Steam Punk band from Seattle, USA, with a friend who I’ll call Wrestler – not his real name, but if you see him, you’ll see why it fits.

How do you spend a day in LA? Well you get as high as you can. The Observatory is a good start. See what I did there? I know. I suck.

The little white dot on the hillside in the top right is the HOLLYWOOD sign, which really needs straightening out... but I was more interested in this sign. I think it's great that you can't smoke in the nature reserve - at all. But of course, it's not enforced. Smokers are always desperate enough to chance it, and a couple puffed away nearby.

The Observatory is like a combination of Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, and an observatory and a museum. It’s quite literally the first place I’ve been to in America where I didn’t have to pay to park or to walk around. It’s really incredible looking down over this huge city, with its yellowing smog, and seeing at least 20 aeroplanes and helicopters in the sky at any time. It’s like some kind of post apocolyptic sci-fi scene.

Kwah kwah kwah kwah kwah kwah... they're everywhere, so much that I hardly hear them anymore.

Then back to West Hollywood. Which is pretty much my perfect place to live, except that it’s not on the beach. There’s plenty happening on Hollywood and Sunset Blvds all the time. There’s everything from great Thai food restaurants to no-tel motels with water beds and adult movies services signboarded, to LIVE NUDE GIRL bars, to restaurants with Rat Pack Credentials, to Amoeba records… one of the last stores of its kind, with the record industry paying the ultimate price for its stubbornness on digital.

A guy playing shoegazer music for tips broke my heart and got my dollar. This restaurant is the first American restaurant that I've been to in a week that doesn't have Halloween decorations up. The Christmas decorations are still up here, though. Either that, or they're extremely early.

Welcome to the museum… There’s a joke going around that Capitol Records, that LA landmark and tower of song, has downsized to one floor, and now rents the rest to internet companies. Ok, I lie. I just made that up. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. The bit about downsizing to one floor is true though.

Mommy, you dresses you funny.

Speaking of the past… Steam Punk. I can’t say that by the time 10.45pm came and I was still standing in line, I still thought it would be worth it. I was exhausted after 14 hours on my feet. I was stressed about pitching the next day at the Screenwriting Expo. I still had to drive home from LA. And the people in the line outside Bar Sinister reminded me a bit of the old days of Cape Town at Playground, or The Rift. I was never that into black clothing. Had I really come all the way from Cape Town to LA, only to find myself surrounded by obese people dressed up as suicidal chambermaids? Crowds of Hipsters walked past on their way to a cooler club, shouting out mocking comments to the line of goth types snaking around the block at Bar Sinister.

Things got marginally spicier though, when Wrestler went to get a light for his cigarette and asked a BDSM couple higher in the queue.
“Sure,” says Dom-guy. “But you have to spank her.”
Wrestler laughs and reaches for the lighter.
“No, seriously,” says Dom-guy, while Ms Sub waits patiently in position.
Well, smokers… you’ve all seen them looking through the ashtrays at the end of a party… they’ll do anything. And plus, the girl had a cute ass. I know because saw it in detail later when Wrestler gave me a tour of the club, including the upstairs BDSM playroom, where she was bent over a chair with her hands intricately bound in stockings behind her back, and two men taking turns gently teasing her with a leather whip. Wrestler recognised her without being able to see her face.


Abney Park. They're lovely.

Now I was loving the old fashioned club with it’s high ceilings and ornate interior, like a Mad Men set. And Abney Park (from Seattle) weren’t much like the crowd. They’re fun, funny, don’t take themselves seriously. But know their shit musially – listening to them I realised which trend inspired Madness’ latest album, which is possibly their best ever. And Abney Park’s lead singers are undeniably sexy. To see what steam punk clothes really look like – cause most of the crowd wasn’t wearing them on Saturday – check out the less hot but better-lit shmodel version here. Steam punk is like technology for luddite discoverer party people. It’s like Cowboy meets Columbus. It’s really pretty cool.

Steam Punk is punk for luddite inventors, so this lightbox is meant to be powered without batteries - body heat or friction or something. Other toys included spyglasses. Actually it all fitted in nicely with the Camera Obscura I saw at the observatory earlier.

Anyhow, then I drove home. A long, long way it seemed, at night. And after a quick nap I was in my car again and cruising back LA way. I gathered myself. I felt like I might faint or sweat myself to death. I got in line. Kept moving. I pitched to my first production company.

It was an amazing feeling. A total rush. Terrifying. Actually, a bit like a mixture between a fairground ride and a slaughterhouse tour, a casino and speed dating. Pitching a screenplay at Golden Pitchfest works like this:

1. First, you take a number. Well actually you pay to take a number. $15 at the Screenwriting Expo, more if you buy off a scalper, nothing if it’s an all included festival
2. Then you move into room one, where they stun you show you the layout of your final destination, so you can figure out which processing area table to head to once you go in.
3. In room two, you sit on the chair labeled with your table number. I think this is in case the production company person is done early and wants to come fetch you. Or to stop the screenwriters fighting over seats? Weird… we’re way too nerdy for that shit. From there, you can hear the DING as the pitch time begins, the frantic buzz of voices pitching, and the DONG! as everyone gets up and leaves. You’re next.
4. You scramble for your table, with five minutes to tell your story. You try get it done in 2 minutes, to leave time for questions/excuses. If they hate it, they just say “thanks”. If they like it or pity you, they ask for a 1-page printed summary from you. If they really like it, they actually call you, or promise to.
5. When your time is up, you get out of there. Because another screenwriter is already standing by the table, grinning maniacly at the poor dude(tte) who’s about to be subjected to the burden of dashing another poor nerd’s hopes and dreams.

So, in a nutshell, aaaahsome.

After the first taste, I was hooked. I literally stood at the table like an addicted gambler, counting out my last cash dollars to buy another two tickets. II wanted to win, I was sure I would win, if I could stay in the game a little bit longer.

The score? I got two “can I keep the one-page” responses, and one “parents won’t let their kids watch this, so not for us, but I love it”. I headed home to catch up on my assignments for the week, another big fear squirming in agony as it breathed its last panicky gasp of deathbreath. Bye-bye, sucker!

Mexico – it’s just down the road from the roach motel

August 8, 2010

California, Day Two

I feel roach motels get a bad rap, internationally. Sure, nobody LOVES roaches, but while they’re creepy looking, they’re actually clean, and they don’t bite you. Bed bugs, on the other hand, suck your blood. I know a lot about bed bugs now. For instance: the male impregnates the female by simply spearing her body and shooting his wad straight into her womb. No courtship here… and they didn’t sparkle, look tormented or glamour me before sticking it into my skin and covering me with oozing sores, either.

The Days Inn in Main Street S, Anaheim, Orange, California seems to be more welcoming to bed bugs than to guests. They refunded me after a bit of a fight, but weren’t terribly nice about it, and still charged me for the first night. They also showed no interest in debugging the room, or my luggage. In fact, they wanted to simply move me, together with the infestation, to a new room. Let’s just say I will never stay there again.
Here’s a photo of me with The Plague… – I’d embed it but it’s kinda gross.

So I needed to hot-launder and hot-dry all my clothes at temperatures above 50 Centigrade. I figured the most likely place to get that done would probably be Mexico, so I headed South down South Main and pronto, I arrived. Signs began to pop up offering modifications to cars, the cars got cooler and cooler, the food started to look like it might actually taste of something other than trans fats. And I found a coin-op, next door to this Chinese dry cleaners.

Everything in the mexican areas around Santa Ana seemed old. In the laundry there were arcade games I recognised from the 80s. No idea why these posters were up there, or what they are about. Can anyone tell me? The owner-lady had no idea that a sign outside the dry cleaners advertised the cleaning of sleeping bags. I had to show it to her. She then said yes, she would do my sleeping bag, but wasn't sure how much it would cost... "About $15 or maybe much more?" She said.

Everyone in the Laundry was staring at me as I loaded my clothes. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was the only whitey in the place, or because I was laundering 5 loads of clean, folded clothes, or because I had the plague… I guess I guess it was all three. Everyone was very friendly, though, and an old man looked up from the toweling granny panties he was folding, frowned with concern at my bite-spattered neck and said softly “Ah no, chica… que se pasa?” I didn’t know how to explain in Spanish, so I just shook my head ruefully, as if that said it all.

notice board in santa ana

I felt more comfortable in Santa Ana than any part of Orange I've seen so far. I have started looking for an apartment in the area.

The shop next door sold things I needed, like detergent, and black bags to replace my newly purchased, bug-infested luggage. They also had a butchery decorated with a beautiful mural of happy cows, and a donations can on the counter for their kid, who apparently needed money for operations. I felt it would be rude to take pictures of either of those, even with my cell camera.

catholic saints candles for sale in santa ana, california

I wanted to buy my mom the whole set. She loves catholic kitsch like this with a un-ironic love, even though she is not catholic. I think perhaps the nuns at her high school beat it into her.

Santa Ana was a welcoming and welcome relief after the manicured, disposable, new-ness-is-goodness vibe of the richer areas of Orange. It’s not that I think poverty is cute, but I do find flaunted wealth and wastefulness nauseating, and the first-world of malls and motorways where nobody walks is weird for me, as a South African. I would have spent longer there and grabbed some food, but I needed to find a hotel, so I carted my ropas out of the laundry to my un-cool rental car. About six men offered to help me, despite my disheveled, sweaty, red-eyed and diseased appearance. So kind, just really, so kind.

food stamps aceptamos food stamps

Signs of survival-level living: "We accept food stamps"

Funny… when you’re new in a place, a disaster is just another word for adventure, and the funny side of things is a means of survival. And this is going to make a great, great story.

UPDATE – It didn’t work. Read about my ongoing War on Bedbugs in a later post.

Playing chicken with the Maputo Police

August 5, 2010
jinty jackson

This chicken - some of the best I've ever eaten. At some point later that night it began to look like it might become my last meal too.

It was already the chicken’s last meal; a fact that really bothered my friend Jinty, who doen’t like eating chickens when they still looked like chickens, but didn’t really have a choice because we were in a proper late night frango place in Maputo, Mozambique, and they don’t do skinless, boneless breasts around there.

We’d stopped for food, and to de-stress, shortly after being pulled over by a cop on the way home from Motala Jazz club. The officer loitered menacingly by the window, asking if we could perhaps offer him anything to drink – if we maybe we had some stuff in a coolerbox in the boot. I had heard of the Maputo police’s reputation for being corrupt, and picking on tourist drivers, who are always easy to identify by their South African or Swazi number plates.

He let us go without much of a fight. We were clearly sober, and clearly unwilling to bribe him. But we felt a bit shakey, so we pulled over to grab something to chow. Even a policeman who’s just abusing his power to beg a six-pack of beer out of you is pretty intimidating when he’s carrying a loaded rifle, and it’s 1.30am.

Anyhow, great chicken. Moist, throroughly cooked, charred by not burned. And the restaurant (Avenida 24 Julio, in case you’re there) is such a trip; such a weird mix of the old and the new. The clientel were all cool partying locals, the lighting the usual unromantic neon, the music was african, the tables simple and the beers large-size or gigantic. But the walls are still decorated with line drawings of the old days in Maputo – drawings in which there seemed to be only Portuguese people on the streets, all wearing the kind colonial clothing that the Waterfront Cape Union Mart branch sells to Germans visitors year round, marking them as TOURIST beyond all reasonable doubt.

Maputo, in colonialism's heyday.

Maputo is boom town right now… and of course, there are those who are only in it for what they can take. The SA tourists exploiting the poor for cheap sex, cheap labour, and cheap beach holidays. The foreign construction companies exploiting the need to rebuild after the war (the city’s looking much improved since I was last there in 2004.) And then the corrupt civil servants.

We left the chicken place, and headed towards Hotel Halima – more of a guesthouse of faded 70s glam. As we turned into Julius Nyrere avenue, we saw a crazylooking drunk-acting white guy standing at the side of the road, desperately gesturing to cars to turn around, turn around. I didn’t pay any attention. I don’t pick up strange dudes.

Maputo today... a chicken lovers' paradise, where late night clubbers go to heaven when they die.

Yes, I could see the police road block ahead, but I thought “Come on… clearly the reports of corruption are exaggerated. I’ll just tell them sorry, no beer.” And I hadn’t been drinking. I’ve always wanted to be stopped when I was sober!

This time, however, we were pulled over by five men with a decidedly more military vibe, who demanded to see my licence.

My license. My license… oh. No. No-no-no… It was at the hotel.

I tried to explain this. The policeman just kept repeating “License”. Eventually Jinty took off her seat belt, found her drivers’ license in her bag, and gave it to me. I handed it over.

The policeman looked through the window at Jinty.
“Why you’re not wearing your seat belt”, he said. “That’s R100 fine”.
“But… she took it off to find the license!”
The policeman ambled off with my license in his hand.
I got out of the car, and chased him.
“Give me the fine”
“You have to come with me to the police station. You want to go to the police station?”
“No problem,” I said… I hoped I’d call his bluff. “Just write out the fine for me, like you are supposed to.”
“I don’t have paper. You must come with me to the police station.”
“Ok. I’ll drive behind you.”
“You want to go the police station?”
Across the road, a few of his buddies pulled over a 4×4 with a South African family in it, and started working them over too.
“You must pay.”
“Fine. Write out the fine please.”
And so on… luckily, at no point did our guy realise that Jinty and I didn’t really look alike. That would have been worse; even worse than the fear I felt as their hands casually touched their rifles each time I furiously demanded my license back.

But just as I was considering swallowing my shame and my pride, giving in, and coughing up some cash, the ‘crazy guy’ who had been gesturing in the road earlier came walking up.

“English?” he asked us. “Why did they stop you.”

I explained. He took a couple of the cops aside and rapid-fired them in Portuguese, friendly but with the confidence of someone who had clearly had a fair bit to drink, and some power somewhere. He explained to both parties that this was clearly a misunderstanding, and that if we were both happy to leave it, he would let it go.

After a few minutes, and once I’d agreed to give the dodgiest of the cops my telephone number, we were allowed to go, and agreed to give our saviour Paulo Frederico a lift home. “They know me in these parts,” he said. He was a journalist, which explains the booze. He said that the cops do this all the time: stop foreigners and ask for bribes late at night, and that it’s scaring off the tourists. And so on… I could feel exhaustion wrapping me up as I sat there at the wheel, listening to him raging on with the rage of the drunken just. I just kept nodding, thinking that we needed to get up at go in about three hours time, wondering how I was going to do it now.

Eventually the nice man got out the car and waved goodbye from outside the window.
“Paulo Frederico”, he said. “Never forget the name.”
“I won’t,” I promised. And I never will.

A few days later, safely back in Swaziland, I spoke to one of Mbabane’s many NGO professionals about it. He said that in Mozambique, you pretty much have to bribe your way into a job in the police force, so by the time you get a job, you owe too much money to pay back from your salary, and are forced to take bribes. “So in a way, bribing is just part of the system,” he said. “If you are doing it, you are helping things work.” He laughed unhappily.

I managed a shocked, exhausted little smile. Perhaps I’m a prissy, pale over privileged South African chick, but I find that impossible to condone. Unlike him, I’m from this continent. I have no other passports. I don’t feel I can afford to become part of a system so unfair, so threatening and so embarrassing to me. And I say this for selfish reasons, because I’m the one who’ll have to live with it in the long run.

Forget the separation of church and state. That’s a luxury! The separation of the law enforcers and the criminals may be an even better start.

Motala Jazz Club, Mozambique – the journey, not the destination.

July 24, 2010

Time in New York 4:50am; time in Cape Town 10:56pm; time in Sao-Paulo, 4:49am... but Jazz Time? Anytime.

How did I wind up here? At Matola Jazz Bar, Matola, Mozambique? Well… it’s two stories.

I’d been to Africa Bar, Maputo, in 2004, with my ex husband, and – after spending all day trying not to drink the water in a new town – downed about 18 of their awesome Caparinhas on top of a drunken seafood dinner, left at 4am and caught a 5am, 27-hour local bus to Inhambane the next day. Good memories! Dirty, but still alive.

The prostitutes may not have been there then, or I may have been too in love, naiive or drunk, or all three, to notice them then.

This time, six years later, they were there in force. Gyrating, impossibly beautiful, tragically young – and hostile.

In the toilets, four gorgeous model lookalikes in so-cheap-they’re-flammable weaves stared me down while one of them did and redid her make-up, refusing to give me a shot at the mirror. I got into Jerry Springer mode right back, cocked my head, slanted my eyes, and scored a laugh and a chance to clean up my eyeliner. Ah… African unity. The rest of the night was spent watching the girls leading nervous young European tourists out to their taxis, then returning for another willing john, to the tune of an “african” “jazz” band so kitsch that the only thing missing from the lead singer was a white jacket with an Emmental rosebud in his breast pocket.

Outside, I made fun of a polite foreigner who’d not only dared to refuse to leave the club with one of the ladies of the night, but also wanted to choose his own taxi. His polite Danish attempt to choose his own car ended in capitulation of course.

It was the kind of evening when you didn’t bother trying to get laid. Anyone you came on to would assume all the worst things, and plus you probably wouldn’t survive the first kiss.

But things started looking up when my friend Jinty – to whom I’d enthusiastically (and innocently) recommended Africa Bar – pointed out the guitarist. “Oh… he’s so beautiful…” she said in the wistful way of passionately in love married women. I’d been looking at his fingers with half my mind on sexual politics. Now I looked at his face. It was the face of the kind of guy I haven’t gone for much, but probably always should have. The kind of guy who’d really care for you, maybe even love you properly.

So when he came offstage, I came up with my best pickup line ever. “Great guitar. But can I buy your girlfriend a drink? Because she must get really sick of sitting around at gigs.”

Then, the magic words: “I don’t have a girlfriend!”

So I bought him a beer… he tried to teach me to something. I can’t dance, but he led well so I didn’t fall. Then Jinty said “I’m gonna take a taxi now…” And I panicked, as Klesyu announced he was going to the toilet. “I’m coming with you. Now!” I screamed to Jinty over the DJ’s house music, and practically dragged her out of the club.”

In the taxi, when we were almost back at our hotel Jinty asked me for the 5th time, “Are you sure you don’t want to go back?” And I replied again “Yes. I want one perfect romance… just one, Jinty, just one.” And then I thought: “But I haven’t even kissed him!”

“Turn back. Let’s turn back!” I shouted.

The taxi driver thought we were insane. But we threw money at that problem and when I walked into Africa Bar, Klesyu looked surprised and pleased to see me. We gave him our number, and promised to come see him play where he claimed he was playing Friday night. Then he left while we both downed a final Caparinha for my nerves.

And then things went pear-shaped for the first time. The taxi mafia started forcing us in the car. And I just react really badly when someone touches me without permission.

I think I might have punched a taxi-mafia guy in the face to take a renegade car – refusing to be told what to do is always my downfall. Crazy moment – I swear he actually looked scared of me, as we screeched off into the streets at 100kmph, laughing with the driver. We chatted in the car. Until, near our hotel, he suddenly slowed down.

Jinty: “Why are you slowing down?”
Him: “I don’t want to be funny but… I like you.”
Me: “No”
Him: “No, but I like you.”
Jinty: “Nooo. (laughs) You got the wrong idea. We just want a taxi to our hotel.”
Him: “Is it cause I’m black?”
Jinty and I: “Nooooh. No we just.”
Him: “It’s cause I’m black.”
Jinty: “Stop the car!”

He slowed down, but didn’t stop. We tried to jump out. He’d locked the doors. We took one look at each other and broke out of the central locking by force. He shouted “You pay me!” and began to follow us, so Jinty threw money through the window. And then we ran, while he idles arrogantly, shouting “Byeeeee!” as if he just shagged us or something. It was a kilometre in heels (not mine, Jinty’s) to our hotel.

Motala Jazz Bar is all about the music. Most of the people there were men, and the few women there were there for the music too. After the blaxploitation of Club Afrika, it was fantastic just to be able to talk to people who were all passionate about music.

Anyhow, the next day was another story, soon to be blogged, involving an attempt at a romantic lunch with Klesyu that his arrogant cousin Xavier ruined. But Motala Jazz Bar was great the next night. Not sure whether Klesyu was ever playing, or if he was just trying to impress us. But it’s 30km out of Maputo in some industrial area. An adventure that ended in two near-arrests (not for any reason, we didn’t drink that night – the Maputo cops stop any foreign car for bribes, randomly).

But the music was worth it, and I still love that town.

The band was called Zemaria (with an acute accent on the e.)

On bass guitar, Toni Chabuca.

Drums (kit): Paito Cheko and percussion: Nelson Pateta.

Sax and flute and frontman duties by Jose Maria Daniel Mabota. A very kind man who smells good even covered in sweat.