Coffee-Shop Schmuck -- Roy Blumenthal, Artist-at-Large: Picture of Roy by Dook, used with permission -- Thanks Dook!

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Remember my Amazon.com booklist. Buying books through the links here will make me rich!!! Ooooo, baby! 

I'm also a Throat-for-Hire. Listen to my online voice reel, then book me by calling my voice agent, CONTRACTORS, on +27 11 726 6076.


Friday 28 May 2004

Joe Parker's Comedy Express, Carnival City, Brakpan

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * *

In the babe count, I'm not counting Bianca, since that would bias the reading. She takes it right up to five stars, seeing as she's so gorgeous, and we've kissed and stuff.

We're in Brakpan, and, granted, only the rich-ish Brakpanners and Boksburgers and Benoni-ers and Springs-ers come to Carnival City, and only the ones with some sort of taste come to see stnadup comedy, but hell... no matter how much money these women are spending on hairstyles, I'm convinced that this part of the world has a Misogynist Hairdressers' Guild. Ooooo bebbe! We're talking prime poodle cuts with frizz on these buxom chicks.

Martin Jonas is last on tonight's bill. He's really funny. And warm. The audience just loves him, and even the hecklers are smiling at everything he says. Very nice energy.I'm here with Bianca cos we've made an early escape from the Memar TV farewell party. Most of the staff have finished their contracts, and it's only the producers and other key staff still active on the project. I'll be one of the last to finish, seeing as I'm in charge of getting the last chemistry lessons sorted. Sigh. Hanging on till 11 June. 

The party was at the Horror Cafe in Newtown. Great venue. Free drinks supplied by Memar. Which means that all of my ex-colleagues are getting horrendously pissed. Vomittingly so. And I don't drink or do drugs, so this is just nasty to me. And Bianca's not drinking cos she's going to be performing a little later. At Joe Parker's Comedy Express. At Carnival City. In Brakpan.

So we've made our escape, and I'm sitting at a table on the edge of the action. Prime view of the stage and all of the punters. Sitting next to Hendy, the scrumptuous sound engineer. But believe me, even with Hendy and Bianca to give a guy hot flushes and sticky underpants, this room is dog-city. 

Even uber comedian Joe Parker avoids making jokes about how the women look. He knows it's just not funny to these desperate men.

Bianca's second in tonight's lineup. Which is quite a tough slot, cos the audience is only starting to get warmed up. And it seems to me that they're a little rowdy, and possibly a tad hostile. The first dude, Alistair Plint (I think), has had a very hard time. And one dude wearing a baseball cap heckled him interminably.

Joe Parker puts him in his place when he comes on to introduce Bianca. "Hey," says Joe, "this cap you're wearing. Why does it say 'The Lounge'? Cos it's so spacious in your head? Is that it? Huge sofas sprawled around the inside, huh?" The guy shuts up. Then Joe yells, "Put your hands together for Biancaaaaaaaaa Jaaaaaaaane!" And the crowd roars. Cos everyone loves a babe with supreme breasts and a short skirt and black-rimmed glasses.

And her on-stage personality is a winner. The crowd loves her immediately, and she's funny, and they're laughing, and, before it's even started, her set's over, and she's off stage, and someone else is at the microphone. And then, moments later, she's leaning against me and breathing deeply cos she's so wired from the adrenaline.

I've done standup comedy three times in my life. Twice at the old Drum Cafe when it was in Greenside, and once at Carfax in Newtown. All three of them worked well for me. I got the people laughing, and kept them laughing, and stopped talking before they stopped laughing. And I'm addicted. And I'm convincing myself that I oughta get up there and do more of it. Trouble is, it's one of the most vulnerable-making jobs in the whole world. Very very very dangerous for the psyche to stand up there and make people laugh. 

It's one of the reasons I've kinda stopped being a standup poet.

But now that I'm on kissing terms with Bianca Jane, standup comic extraordinaire, and on chaste hugging terms with Stacey Sacks, standup comic whose work I haven't yet seen, I'm getting tempted BIGTIME into giving this a serious try.

Joe Parker, a comedian who can whip a hostile crowd into bubbles of laughter. What a gentleman. He likes this portrait of himself even though it looks nothing like him.After the gig, all of the standups still there gather in the sports bar for a drink. Joe Parker sits on my left. Martin Jonas straight ahead. Bianca on my right, with her leg over mine. Alistair Plint beside her. A Cape Town comic whose name I simply cannot recall beside him. A few hangers on like me.

"What's that?" asks Joe. Someone's been trying to talk to him over the noise. "When I worked in a bar band," Joe says, "I developed this uncanny ability to listen to the audience from the stage. It's a survival thing. You've got to hear what they're saying, and nip situations in the bud. It's odd. Nowadays, after years of doing that, I can hear conversation across the room, but I honestly can't hear what people right next to me are saying."

I'm sketching Martin Jonas on my palmtop. I finish that, and start on Joe. Like last night, I'm having a bit of an off night with the drawings. Though I did dash off a really accurate one of Alistair earlier, on a torn piece of a brown paper bag. I gave it to him, and he says he wants to use it for his cd. "With absolute pleasure," I said. He wanted to know my address and stuff, so he can offer me royalties. "Nah," I said, "go for it. Use it with pleasure. No royalties needed."

Joe looks at his portrait. "It doesn't have to look like me," he says. "It's more an indication of what you're seeing as the artist."

Drinks are finished, and everyone limps off into the very late winter night. 

It's a long drive back to Bianca's place, and we're not yet in the kind of intimacy where it's okay for me to come in and have coffee. Mainly cos her mom lives with her, and her dog is a jealous bastard called Chester. The beast has a reputation for biting Bianca's manfriends. When I picked her up earlier, he did some very snarly growling, with lots of jowl-juice flying. Eish. This could be a bad omen. I'm a cat person myself. But hey. Bianca's no dog, and she's got assets I wanna raid. I'll do my best to impress Chester. No bites yet.

So we sit in my car for ages. And it's cool, cos it's a cul-de-sac, and we've got a good view of the street, so we can tell if any fierce strangers with guns are about to raid us. Until, that is, the windows fog up from the heavy breathing. Coming down from comedy can be quite a lot of hard work.


Thursday 27 May 2004

Spaza Gallery, Troyeville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

A supremely unflattering picture of Bianca. For some reason, I'm having an off night tonight. The drawings are each looking worse than the next. But Bianca gets to walk off with a portfolio full of pics. Lionel Murcott's ones are awesome.Bianca is posing for my portrait circle. We've just taken our first break, and Bianca and I have snuck off into the small exhibition room, the one where my 78 pictures are hanging. Out of sight momentarily, we cop a quick kiss, and a smouldering hug.

"Naughty!" she whispers as my hands cup her firm bum.

And then it's off to eat wholesome soup.

The way the portrait group works is this. We take turns every week to bring a model. The first sitting session comprises five three-minute poses, during which all of the artists do quick loosening-up drawings. At the end of the first sitting, the model gets to choose one of the quick sketches from each of the artists. Then we break for soup, which Drew Lindsay, the gallery owner, supplies. Followed by two long posing sessions of thirty-five minutes each.

Posing is fully clothed, unless the model insists on taking his or her clothes off. Yeah. Wishful thinking!


Friday 21 May 2004

Grace Hotel Foyer, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: N/A 
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Jacqui and I have sat in this very sofa, sipping tea together. But I'm not with Jacqui tonight.

Bianca and I are on our first date, and we're curled up on the sofa together, very intimately indeed. There's a group of schoolkid types sitting across the room, and they keep looking at us and giggling. They think we're having sex or something.

We started out at Sophia's, which was lekker, apart from them getting our tea order wrong. It tasted like dishwashing liquid mixed with pool chlorine. And then it took them twenty minutes to bring a replacement pot, cos they had to use a different kettle, seeing as the original one seemed to have chlorine in it or something.

Anyway, here at the Grace, everything's very civilized, apart from the way Bianca and I are entwined.

"It's WAY too early for me to be thinking about a relationship," I said earlier, while we were strolling around Rosebank, chatting.

"I'm afraid of being hurt," she had said.

"Me too. But one of the things I'm trying to do is get out of this celibacy/slut/monogamy cycle I've been in," I tell her. "It's one of the things I'm working on in therapy. I think that's what happened with me and Jacqui... I was IN relationship mode when I started up with her, and just leapt in, assuming that this was a relationship. With you, I just want to be, and let you be, and explore this with you."

"Sounds good," she says.

She's also just ended a relationship. When we met at Memar, the Ethiopian educational tv project, we were both still involved. And while I found her attractive, I'm an ardent monogamist when I'm in a relationship, and I had no reason to believe that within a few weeks I'd be hitting the tarmac without a parachute, dumped by Jacqui like a Ugandan war prisoner flung out of a helicopter.

So we'd been polite with one another, and Bianca and I passed like ships in the night.

Until we both got dumped.

So I gave her my card in the parking lot one day, and said, "When are we going on a date?"

And she said, "Once I'm out of this project. I don't do work colleagues."

"Neither do I," I said. "But we're not really colleagues, seeing as you're on the biology team, and I'm on the chemistry team. But it's better that way. Call me when you're ready!"

So here we are at two in the morning, causing matric students out on the town in their uber sophistication to crane their necks and giggle.


Thursday 20 May 2004

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: N/A
Babe Count: * * * * *

The babe count above is misleading. It's an accurate measure of the babeage. Problem is, the babeage isn't physically with me in my flat. She's on the phone with me.

This afternoon at work, I used my palmtop to check my email, to see if there was anything else from Jacqui, any follow-up daggers to the heart. Zilch from her. But... oh joy! A message from Bianca, telling me she's curious about me, and offering me her cell number.

So, on the way home from my portrait circle, at around ten o'clock, I called her from my car.

I've been at the Spaza Gallery all night. That's where Lionel Murcott has decided to host out portrait circle. A bunch of artists get together once a week, and one of us brings a model. We have three sitting sessions, and some really amazing art gets produced. The model keeps his or her clothes on, unless we hire a proper nude model. But it's winter, and we'll probably only do that in summer.

The way it works is that our first sitting is a warm-up session where we all do very quick sketches. From next week onwards, the model will get to choose one quick sketch from each of the artists present as payment. 

Which is how I persuade Bianca to model for us next Thursday.

Bianca and I have been speaking for three hours straight, with me having sat in the garden, then strolled around the dark neighbourhood streets for an hour or so, then gone upstairs to my place to turn my computer on, then headed for my bedroom, then slowly, item by item, took my clothes off at her request.

Hmmmmmm. Yummy. If we're this good on the phone, this could turn out to be one gorgeous adventure. With or without nude models.


Wednesday 19 May 2004

Steve's Edit Suite, Memar, Highlands North

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A 
Ambience: *
Babe Count: N/A

I'm cooped up in Steve's suite, viewing chemistry lessons that will educate Ethiopia's children. Actually, the stuff is so complicated and hard to view that I'm willing to make a prediction... I'll bet that after a year or so of watching these programs -- and it's not just chemistry... it's grades nine to twelve of chemistry, physics, maths, English, biology and civics -- I predict that the school suicide rate will go up dramatically. They're gunna be saying to themselves and their friends, "I'm so so so stupid! I can't understand any of this stuff! It would be better to die!!!"

But maybe it's my mood. I'm waiting for Jacqui's promised email, the one with my good points. Therapy was tough tough tough this morning. Oh man. And Zahava is pregnant. So therapy is going to come to an end in about two or three months. 

Jacqui sends me an sms at around 7pm.

I download my mail onto the palmtop. There's an email with an attached document. I read the email feverishly. And it's addressed to "The Red King of the Flower Valley". That's Jacqui's pet name for me. 'Flower valley' is a direct translation of my surname. 'Roy' is French and Gaelic for 'king' and 'red'.

In the covering letter, the email, she thanks me for our ten months together. And she's very generous about that. And she asks me not to contact her again. And she says sorry for changing her mind about resuming couples therapy, and that we won't be doing it.

The attachment itself is beautiful. And luckily I've got my spare jersey with me in the edit suite, cos I bunch it into a ball and wail freely into it. And I don't give a damn if anybody hears me anyway. Fuck them. I'm a man in the throes of deep grief.

And you know what? I'm NOT going to honour Jacqui's request. This whole thing has been entirely on her terms. She's the one who has called all the shots, defined all the parameters. Well, fuck her. I'm also part of this. And her request for me not to contact her is utterly ludicrous. She said some RADICAL shit in Tuesday's email, and she's got some stuff to answer to. She's not getting off that easily.

I don't know if she's reading this or not. In the attachment, she ends off saying that I can write whatever I like about our relationship and breakup, and that she won't be following this site anymore. But I'm curious about something... she's still signed up to receive the email update telling her when content on the site has changed. So who's she fooling? Does she mean to say she's going to receive the update but not look at the site? Why does she want to receive ANYTHING at all from me?

I wonder if she's sent me this confusing stuff as a way of repelling me? Maybe she figures that the best way for me to get over her is to be damn harsh? I dunno. That doesn't feel right. She came across to me in our relationship as a seriously caring and compassionate woman. Why she would write stuff like she did on Tuesday is beyond me. Specially seeing as tonight's email is so love-filled.

So I send her an sms. It says that I reserve the right to make up my own mind as to whether or not I'll contact her. I know that I'm in serious reaction here, and that I'm not about to leap into any decision, especially not one that simply buys into her one-sidedness.

Right now, I've got to stop crying, and start focussing on managing Ethiopia's school suicide rate.


Wednesday 19 May 2004

Cafe Nescafe, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: N/A 
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I'm sure there's a modeling agency somewhere nearby. There is just way too much prime babeflesh jauncing around. All thin and bony, hence, not quite what I'm after, since flesh is what I dig, not the marrow. But heck, it's good to sit here on a weekday morning feasting the eyes. Cos hey, even if I'm nowhere near bedding any of these babes, watching is lovely.

I'm not at work cos I know tonight's crunch night. I've got to sign off the majority of this week's episodes tonight, and it's going to be a late one. It's Steve's last week, and he's got a crushing load of programs to edit. I can only go in at lunchtime, once he's finished, cos I need to use his edit suite to do my viewing, seeing as I do quite a bit of re-editing to get the stuff into the shape I want it in.

So I'm sitting here reading the last few pages of Rushdie's THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET. A superb book. Highly recommended, though nowhere near the absolute miracle which is MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN (one of my top three books, along with Nicholas Moseley's HOPEFUL MONSTERS, A.S. Bayatt's POSSESSION, and John Irving's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE. Okay. That's five on my top three list. But who's counting?).

However, I can't concentrate. I'm still burning up over Jacqui's unbelievable gutshot of an email.

I send her an sms. "Please send me the email you promised to send me ages ago in which you list my good points."

She messages me back that she'll do it tonight. Great. I'll be waiting.


Tuesday 18 May 2004

Primi Piatti, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * 
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Phone: +27 11 447 0300

Ian Henderson and I are meeting to talk about running workshops together. He's a musician by night, and a trainer by day, amongst other things. And he's just come home from a two-week session in Burundi, doing some kind of strategic intervention.

This morning I was at Wits University, delivering my creativity workshop to the Wits Post Graduate Internship program students. Fourteen high calibre individuals hand selected for an intensive one-month series of seminars, workshops, lectures, all aimed at preparing them for work in the real world.

And it was a delicious experience for me. Serious amounts of supreme babeage in the class. Yeow. Something about being back at varsity. Ah. The hormones.

Over lunch with Stacey at the Hard Times Cafe in Melville, I read through the feedback forms. Seems like I came across as universally excellent, with my name tag game being the big hit of the day.

But for me the big hit was to come around 5 o'clock, in the form of an sms from Jacqui telling me she'd sent me email explaining her aversion to my being in touch with my feminine side.

So, in the edit suite at work, with shaking hands, I clicked my phone to bluetooth, unsheathed my iPAQ palmtop computer, connected to the internet, and downloaded my mail. And there it was. Something from Jacqui. The subject line: "A Hard Letter to Read".

Not kidding, really.

I've agreed with her not to divulge the details of the email, but what I can tell you is that I'm still reeling. She's decided not to go into another session of couples therapy with me, seeing as we're no longer a couple, and her decision is final. And she elaborated on how my being in touch with my feminine side has made her feel over the nine months.

You know the taste you get in your mouth when your filling hits a piece of tinfoil? That electrical nerve-burst? Well, add that to being mashed in the solar plexus by a prize fighter. Then add a squash ball to the right testicle.

Seems that over our nine months together, my feminine side so repulsed her that she had to call it quits. Never mind the supreme sex she readily admits to have enjoyed with me. Never mind the many times she told me, "Roy, I've NEVER felt so loved by ANYBODY!" Never mind the little notes on my bathroom walls from her telling me how much she loves being with me.

Well. Yeah. Never mind those things.

And at the end of the email, a kind of a disclaimer, saying that she realises these feelings are her feelings, and that it's her shit, and that she's dealing with it in her own therapy. Her saying how terribly sorry she is for her role in hurting me. And asking me for my feelings on her letter.

Jeez.

Double jeez.

I'm just totally dazed. I'm reeling. I've never in my history of failed relationships been hammered this hard by anyone. I've never fallen this far in love. And I've never fallen this far through love, to crush myself against the bottom.

Triple jeez with a major goddamn thrown in for good measure.

So I pack it in for the night at work. I can't edit. I can't concentrate on chemistry lessons for Ethiopians. I can't stop shaking, and I'm crying in the edit suite. Not good. Not good at all.

So I fire off a couple of smss to Jacqui as they occur to me. Things like reminding her of instances where her email was inaccurate. She smss me back to say that she understands my anger, and that it's justified, but can we speak about it in a few days, cos anger scares her so much.

Quadruple muthafuckin jeez! Who is this chick??? It's clear to me that I don't know her at all.

So I sit in my car and feel dazed. Then I head for Primi Piatti to make my appointment with Ian. He tells me his sister's here from London. And she's back for good. Gonna stay in South Africa. That she's going to join us for our chat, cos she's got a few ideas of her own.

"I'm still reeling a bit from an email I got from Jacqui," I tell him.

He puts his hand on my shoulder. He's just gone through a painful breakup, but he's now reconciled with his babe, and they're making a go of it. "Oh man," he says.

"So," I say, "is your sister single?"

She arrives. Hoo boy. Blonde bombshell. Self-assured. Bright. A delight.

But I've kinda got this silly rule... Don't do friends' sisters. Don't do friends' ex- or current-girlfriends. Don't do their mothers either. Don't do work colleagues. So unfortunately, I won't be looking at Bridget in that way.

But I WILL be looking at Bianca like that. Yummy. She's also babesville. And she's sent me an email, seeing as her role in the Ethiopian project is over, and we're no longer colleagues. I've sent her one back, and I'm hoping she'll send me her phone number.

"I must apologise," I say to Ian and Bridget. "At the moment I'm far too in touch with my feminine side."

And I eat a quarter of the pesto rossi burger I've ordered, since my appetite has hit the pavement along with my heart.


Sunday 16 May 2004

The Spaza Gallery, Troyeville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * *

Phone: +27 11 614 9354
Web: http://www.spazaart.co.za

I'm at the opening of my first art exhibition. I am now officially an exhibited artist. Back in the old days when I defined myself strictly as a poet, I had no idea such a thing could happen to me.

But looking back, I was always peeking over the shoulders of my artist buddies and learning their tricks. I definitely have Miriam to thank for the grounding, and Lionel Murcott for commenting on my stuff, and taking it seriously, and engaging with it over the years.

I've been at the Spaza Gallery since about 3pm, and I'm bored out of my skull waiting for the official opening time of 5pm. Four coffee-coloured children are sitting around me drawing, asking me questions about what it's like being an artist.

Rosa Mabaso, daughter of the artist, Dumisani Mabaso. She loves my work. But doesn't really think this sketch looks much like her. She helps out at the gallery. So I take out one of the extra prints I've made. Show it to her. "Do you like this one?" I say. "Yes," she says. I flip it over, write, "For Rosa, love Roy," and hand it to her. "This is for you," I say. "Wow!!!! Thanks!!!!!" she says.Suddenly there's a stomping sound down the passage, and John appears at the door, wild-eyed.

"HAAAAAAA!!!" shouts John. He's a tall chap with a moustache. Looks like there could be a touch of brain damage there. "HAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!" he shouts again. He's very tall, with black hair, a Beatles-style mop. But he's also very skinny. With vast, bony hands.

A very plump woman runs down the passage and tackles him. "Shut up, John! You're getting excited, and you're not allowed to get excited! Shoooosh!!!"

"I'M NOT GETTING EXCITED!!!!" shouts John.

"When you get excited you shout, and you're shouting," she says, her arms still wrapped around him. He leans down and kisses her on the mouth.

"I'M NOT SHOUTING!" he shouts. "I mean," he says, "I'm not shouting."

"That's better," she says. "Now just calm down, okay?"

He bends down and kisses her again. This time, when he bends, his butt sticks through the door. Maya grabs my arm to show me, and she giggles. All of the kids start giggling, pointing at John's bony backside.

My part of the exhibition consists of 78 prints of my digitally originated sketches, the ones I draw on my iPAQ 2210, using NeFa Studio's MOBILE ATELIER freeware. (These pics are the full colour ones you see on this site. The black and white ones are done in ink, in a sketchbook, and those don't get exhibited.) The gallery is selling them at R95 per print, which I'm happy about, cos I just want to get some of them out there into the world.

The opening is quite weird for me. A mixture of terror, banality, boredom, blather, indifference, joy, pride.

The terror comes from knowing that Jacqui will be joining me. After quite a lot of hard thought, I sent her an sms asking her to come to my opening. She's the most significant person to have entered my life in recent history, and I want to share this with her.

My phone warbles. It's Jacqui. "Oh Roy," she says, "I'm lost!"

Dumisani Mabaso, one of the artists exhibiting at the show. Two of his works are the standout pictures. When I show him this sketch, he says, "That colour blue is my favourite colour. In all my pictures, if they don't have that blue in them, then they're not complete."I talk her through getting to the place, and walk out into the street, down to the corner. I see her car and thrust my thumb out. "Turn left at the corner, and give the hitchhiker a lift," I say.

"I see you!!!" she says, and stops to pick me up.

Oh man. Oh me oh my. She is looking so darn fine. Jeeeez. Ouch. Oh.

Tears immediately before she even manages to park.

I decide that I've got to lay things on the line. I don't really care if she wants to hear this or not, but I have to say it. I've told her in the past that I'm not one for giving up easily. And she knows that I love her. And from our few conversations through the breakup, I know that she loves me. So I say what I need her to know. 

"Jacqui," I say, "I want you to know this. I want to be with you. I love you and you love me."

"I love you too, Roy," she says. Her hand is on my cheek, tender. "But I don't want to be your girlfriend. I want to be your friend."

"Are you absolutely sure that we can't try?" I ask.

"I'm not sure," she says.

"Was it something I did?" I ask.

Little Maya, sitting with her buddies on the gallery floor, drawing. "Here!" she says, thrusting a picture under my nose. "Can I hang it on the wall next to your's?" she says. "Hmmm," I say, "very nice. Maybe you must go and ask Drew." "Who's Drew?" "He's the gallery owner. That big guy with the beard." She makes a gesture over her tummy, describing a pregnant tummy. "Yeah," I say, "the guy with the very big stomach." All the kids giggle.She hesitates. Changes the position of her hand on my face. "It's been almost three months," she says, "and I've had time to get some perspective. And I think one of the things that makes you not right for me is that you're very in touch with your feminine side, and it brings out my masculine side, and I'm not comfortable with that."

Jeepers! This is an eye-opener, a jaw-dropper, a ball-breaker. Women want men to be sensitive. They want them to be in touch. She gets one who's sensitive, in touch, and it's too much for her. But this can't really be it, cos in terms of our sexuality, we're a magical combination. Well, for me, anyway. But from what I can tell, lovemaking for her was also supreme. I dunno. This is weird-out time for me. 

I DO know that in the beginning of our relationship, she was a bit of a John Gray adherent, he of the book, MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS. I happen to be of the school that believes John Gray should be hanged and all of his books burned, because he's really about gender stereotyping, and he causes beautiful women like Jacqui to doubt their own femininity if it doesn't fit within his prescriptive mould. The bastard!

"I've been thinking though," says Jacqui, "that maybe we should go back to Zahava for a few more sessions of couples therapy?"

"I've been thinking that too," I say. Of course, I haven't said anything like this to her before, because I've been giving her the time and space and distance and no-contact that she's asked for. In a very manly kinda way, I thought.

"But I just want you to know that my intention in going to Zahava with you isn't to resume the relationship. It's to decode the things I've been thinking and feeling."

"I understand," I say. "But you're not completely closed to the possibility of us getting back together?" Clutching at bubbles.

She looks at me with a flinch of pity. "Not completely closed to the possibility," she says. She rummages around in her bag. "I've got something special for you," she says. It's a posy of flowers, heart-red, fragrant. "They're the very first sweetpeas from my window-box," she says.

More tears. The window box is her project that I was helping her plan just as we broke up. She's told me that the Travis song on the cd I made for her makes her think of me. It's called "Flowers in the Window", and it's about love and growing old together.

I want to shake her, and get some sense into her. Can't she SEE that she wants to be with me??? Doesn't she KNOW it? Can't she HEAR herself??? Ayee!!! Maybe I can ask John to get excited around her, and she'll see what a catch I am in comparison.

We go into the exhibition, and she's thoroughly proud of me, loves the way the work's been hung. "I helped hang it," says John, his moustache slightly damp with drool.


Saturday 15 May 2004

Hendrik & Neeltjie's Place, Parkhurst

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * * * * *

One of the babes at Antoinette's baby shower. She's a colleague of Antoinette's. The advantage of being an artist is that when you have nothing to say to anybody, nothing in common with ANY of the people at a gathering, all you need to do is pull out the tools of your trade and sketch. In this case, my sketching tool is my palmtop computer, and it causes hearts to flutter and panties to flap. Yeah. Who'm I fooling?Okay, so I'm exaggerating the babe count. Dramatically.

This is because I'm at a friend's baby shower. Sheesh. I thought baby showers were like weddings... places to pick up chicks. Chicks desperate to shag, seeing as they're broody and all that.

But no. What I didn't really figure into the equation is that the babes who go to baby showers are mostly married, with children, and wedding rings, and houses, and dogs.

Antoinette's opening all her presents. I can hear her going, "Ooooooooo! This is beautiful!!!" It's a tiny purple babygro. I can see its reflection in the mirror. I'm in the dining room, eating my seven-hundredth cold sausage roll. It's not that I'm hungry. I'm just in terminal soft-on territory. 

A baby shower must be one of the most effective forms of male contraception available to humankind.

Although, the redhead with the platinum ring and the husband who drives a BMW Z3 is quite appealing. If only I could get rid of the husband. And any yearnings on her part to have babies.


Wednesday 12 May 2004

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: N/A

Forgot to mention what I paid last night at Baglio's, and thought you might just like to know. The beetroot-nosed manager voided the food portion of the bill, but I still had to pay for the Grapetizer. So, for one single tin of Grapetizer, I spent a mere R12.90. 

And for that, for the sheer meanness of the gesture from our wondrous manager, I will not ever go back to Baglio's.


Tuesday 11 May 2004

Baglio's, Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: *
Food: *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

Burp. B-b-b-burppp! Yulp. Uhmp.

This is so uncouth. This smaller-than-life-size, yet extremely huge statue of Nelson Mandela is watching me attempt not to retch.

Now why would I be doing such a thing in Sandton, the swishest lap of luxury this side of Cape Town?

Well, it could have something to do with the delicious chicken kebab I've just eaten. Or the nicely cooked, tasty, rice. Nah. I don't think so. Could it be the slice of lemon in the white Grapetizer? Nah, doubt it.

Ah! I've got an idea. Maybe it's the side salad I've saved till last? Yeah! That could be it!

I'm out on the piazza, where the little oil lamps burn, and the babes sit with their equally babeish friends. It's dark. And the lamps flicker gently enough for me to be able to get through a good few pages of Salman Rushdie's THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET. I'm about halfway through when I start on the salad which I've healthily decided to save for last.

And because I've been trying to spot if it's an engagement ring or a wedding ring on the slinky black-haired Italian-looking cashmere babe two tables away, I'm not entirely observing the state of the salad.

So I pop a slice of cucumber into my mouth and chew. My teeth slide off it. This cucumber is so rotten that my teeth can't actually get a grip on it. Jeeeeeeeeeeeez!

I retch a bit. Get it under control. Sit there staring at the salad for a while. Move the oil lamp closer. The tomato quarters are in exactly the same state of putrefaction. This "salad" may very well have been sweating under a gas heater since the restaurant opened for breakfast this morning. Or, even more likely, it was taken out of the fridge at lunchtime, where it may have been stored after being ignored last night.

The whole pile is rotten.

B-b-b-b-b-burppp! Hands over mouth. I don't want the raven-haired beauty with the dimples to see me vomiting. Far too unslick.

I sit and stare at the salad for a few more minutes. Sip some Grapetizer. Amazing how things lose their taste, isn't it?

Read a Rushdie paragraph eight times.

There's a waiter clearing away some plates. "Excuse me," I say, very politely, very quietly. I'm not at all in the mood for causing a scene tonight. "Could you please ask the manager to come to my table?"

He nods, sees my almost empty plate, and attempts to clear it. I go into tai chi mode, and deflect his hands away, using his own energy to spin him away from the table, in the direction of the manager. He turns again, and tries to take my plate. I try the ice-hockey goalie stance, basically covering the plate with my entire body, praying that my beret will be protection enough against head-injury.

He gives up and goes away.

No manager.

Another waiter. "Please call the manager!" I say.

He also tries to take my plate. But this time it's no more mister nice guy.

I raise my finger, glare at him, and say, loudly, "Uhnhuh!!!! Bring the manager! And leave this plate ALONE!"

The Italian looks up. I burp into my hand. Smile at her. She smiles back. It's definitely an engagement ring.

The manager comes. He's got an alcoholic's nose and cheeks -- red lattice of smashed veins, snarled pathways to confusion and oblivion. A toilet-brush of a moustache.

"Yes sir," he says, in what may very well be an accent he hopes will make me like him. Some kind of faulty upper crust British accent. "How may I be of assistance?"

"I was going to ignore this," I tell him, "but I've decided not to. The rest of the meal was delicious, and I left the salad till last. And took a bite of cucumber. And it's severely off. Fermented."

"Oh my goodness, Sir. I do apologise. Yes. I can see from here that something's amiss. I do apologise. I'm going to follow it up with the kitchen staff and report back to you. But is there anything else I can get for you in the interim? A salad, perhaps? Or something else? A drink?"

His nostrils flare a little when he says "drink". I can tell what he's going to do when this little emergency is over.

I say, "No, nothing thanks. I've lost my appetite."

He goes away. Comes back. "The kitchen staff apologise profusely, Sir. And I do too. I'm really very sorry. This is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. Can I get you anything else, Sir?"

"No," I say. "I don't want anything else. I'd like to leave now, thanks."

"Well, when you're ready to leave, Sir, please just call your waiter to settle the bill."

"I'm assuming you're adjusting the bill?" I say.

"Oh yes, Sir."

There are several things I can say at this point. I could say, "You actually expect me to pay ANY part of this bill? Are you crazy??" Or I could say, "Nah, an adjustment won't be necessary. The kebab was lovely, and I like the way the retching brings the taste back to me." Or I could say, "Yes, well, can you bring me my adjusted bill then?"

It's the last option I choose.

"Oh, yes Sir," he says.

And my waiter brings me my bill.

"Douglas," I tell him, before opening the bill, "I'm not going to be tipping you tonight, and here's why. It's YOUR job as my waiter to make sure that the food on my plate is edible. Your job is to make sure that rotten food doesn't make it to my table. Now I normally tip 20%, and next time I'm here, if you serve me, and you make sure that I don't get rotten food, you'll get 20%. But tonight you're getting nothing from me. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I get you," he says. "And I'm sorry."

He brings my change, and I leave. And all the way, the black-haired, midnight-moon, love-puddle keeps eye contact with me. How on earth does a dude capitalise on a look like this???

I smother a burp, nod goodnight, and I'm off.


Monday 10 May 2004

Wiesenhof, Killarney

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *1/2

It's unlikely that Majid is going to beat me tonight, even though he's just taken four points off me. We're playing to 21, and the score has just gone 9-4 in my favour.

Majid's been playing backgammon since he was a kid, and he's one of the top third of players in our club. But I've read his game, and I'm on top of him. Pumping on the pressure. Problem is, he's read me too. Knows which buttons to push. Which is how he's taken four points off me in one game.

"Oh man," he sighs, looking over my shoulder. "I'm a married man."

I put my perving glasses on, and turn to get another look. There's a brunette sitting with her mom and some thug. The thug could be her brother, cos they're on opposite sides of the table, and don't even make eye contact. 

Majid's attempt at using this wonder-babe as a de-Roy decoy just won't work. Even though I can't get enough of putting my glasses on, craning my neck, peering at her, licking my lips, then rolling the backgammon dice. I am totally able to control my impulses.She's heavenly. Very sweet smile. No obvious signs of irritation at the Iranian leering at her over my shoulder. No obvious signs of taking umbrage at the bald-headed artist craning his neck to peer at her cleavage. Maybe she likes me already?

Back to the match.

Bloody hell. Majid is catching up. 

I make a resolution. No matter how many times Majid threatens to divorce his wife, I'm going to leave my glasses on the table, and play until I'm up to 16-9. I've got to keep that margin to keep hold of the psychological edge. If he catches up more than that, I'm done, cos his confidence will be invincible. So only when I've got that edge will I put my glasses back on and try and see if she's got a nipple stand.

It's time. Yup. She has. A tiny one. But doesn't that mean she's happy to see me???

Nah. Of course it doesn't mean that, but I'm allowed to fantasize, aren't I??

Which brings me, incidentally, to a topic that I feel needs airing. From my experience making love with women, it's come to my attention that very few men know what the hell they're doing in bed. And worse... there are very few women who are in touch with their bodies. So here's a quick crash course for men and women. Please... go and buy these books and read them and practice what the books teach. 

The first is Sheila Kitzinger's WOMAN'S EXPERIENCE OF SEX, Flower Press, ISBN 0-620-10046-X. The second is Margo Anand's THE ART OF SEXUAL ECSTASY, Aquarian, ISBN 1-85538-251-2. And the third is Barry and Emily McCarthy's SEXUAL AWARENESS: ENHANCING SEXUAL PLEASURE, Star, ISBN 0-352-32212-8.

It actually doesn't matter WHAT book you get. Just get something that catches your eye. Do not be embarassed about this. You owe it to yourself and your love partner to know what's what in bed (and out of it).

It upsets me that there are hundreds of thousands, no, millions of women, possible billions, walking around not having had a decent knobbing from a dude who knows how to deliver serious pleasure.

But right now, Majid is delivering serious sexual pleasure to me. He's given me the taste of sweet victory. I've beaten him 21-14. Hoograaaaaah!!!!!!

And the food was okay. I had the latest special... chicken stirfry with penne. Noone's fantasy meal, but nice enough to have again next week.

"Hey Roy," says the good doctor, Peter Wisniewski, from across the room. "You misquoted me on the website."

I reported a conversation I had with him on this site on Monday 19 April. Seems I got the short end of the stick.

He says, at the top of his voice, "I didn't say you had to massage the prostate! I said that in cases where there's a problem with the prostate, ejaculation every day is good. I didn't say anything at all about anally massaging the thing!"

Matt pipes up from somewhere else in Wiesenhof. "Well what DID you say exactly?"

I say, "Well, he told me his wife needed a prescription, and it involved the finger, and daily milking of the prostate."

"Yes, well," says Doc Peter.


Sunday 9 May 2004

The Ocean Basket, Rosebank Zone

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * 1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * 1/2

The babe count is almost acceptable, cos I'm sitting facing the Rosebank Zone escalator, and there are enough teenage vamps learning high-heel swagger to keep my hormones half-topped up.

I've just seen a vaguely amusing movie, and I've truly already forgotten its name. Something to do with "Polly". Probably something like, "And Then Came Polly". Or "Along Came Polly." Well, bad news. She didn't come. Not once. Not that I could make out, anyway. The movie gets a big fat 2 out of 10 on the Roy-O-Metre. 

Made me feel hollow and empty and sad and glum and in dire need of a relationship with a woman who can actually tell that I'm an okay dude to be with and who can make the simple decision to commit. (I'm not mentioning ANYBODY'S name now, am I? If you wanna read between the lines, that's your business, yeah?)

I order the fish and chips special, but with rice instead of chips. It arrives. And there's this little midget piece of fish in the pan. And the rice is on the verge of being mealy from being undercooked. And it all tastes like cardboard.

But maybe that's cos even freshly squeezed virgin juice would taste like cardboard to me right now, seeing as I'm in a foul mood.

All because of the conversation with Jacqui on Friday night.

Ah well. The massage was beautiful. And I've bought Jacqui a voucher for one too. Talk about mixed messages.

On the plus side, there's the exhibition of my portraits at the Spaza Gallery in Troyeville this coming Saturday. I was there earlier today. And it's deep in the Bronx. Really. I'm not going to be expecting ANY of my friends to come to this opening. Heck... I'm not even sure I can make it myself, cos an ex-girlfriend of mine has invited me to her baby shower on Saturday, and then later in the evening I'm doing one of Chantal Nativel's shamanic trance dances.

But hey. My work's going to be up on the walls, with price tags affixed. And hopefully those little red stickers that say, "SOLD!" Not that I'm going to make a trillion bucks off this gig. Cos nobody really knows about the Spaza Gallery except for fringe artists. I found out about the place through Lionel Murcott, my artist buddy whose work adorns my walls. He's starting up his portrait circle again, and I'm part of it, and we're going to be doing it at the gallery on Wednesday or Thursday nights.


Saturday 8 May 2004

Spiro's, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * 1/2
Food: * * 1/2
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * 1/2

Spiro's can be a really glum place. At times, the service sucks stale croissants. This afternoon is one of those days. I'm here with Stacey, and I haven't eaten anything all day, and I'm really quite fiercely hungry, and I've ordered the roll stuffed with bacon and scrambled egg, with just one proviso, one silly little old proviso that any kitchen should be able to get right: no goddamn fat on the goddamn bacon, gottit???

Of course, the waiter assured me he had the order. I made extra eye contact and made triply sure.

Sat out in the garden of my flat with my palmtop and drew this self portrait just after sending Jacqui the 9-sms epic telling her to move on, to let me be responsible for my own feelings. As you can see, pain and sorrow and misery are what I'm taking responsibility for. Goodbye Jacqui. I hope you come to your senses, sweetheart.So the food has arrived. And I open up the roll just to make sure. Not only does this bacon have fat. No. It's actually ALL fat, with a few tiny streaks of bacon inside.

"J.J!" I call. (This is NOT the same J.J. from the Spur debacle. This is another unfortunate soul with the same acronym.)

He scuttles up. I lift the roll. I point at the mounds of ghastly bacon fat.

I say, "Before we go any further, J.J., I have to explain to you that I am extremely hungry, and when I'm hungry, my blood sugar is low, and when that happens, I get extreeeeeemely irritable. I asked you for no fat, and this is ALL fat. Please take it back and make it again."

"Oh, oh, I'm sorry," he stammers. Takes the plate, runs to the kitchen with it.

Comes back about fifty seconds later.

"J.J.," I say, "did they simply cut the fat OFF MY FOOD?"

He smiles. Shrugs. "Yes."

"That's not possible, J.J., cos there was NO BACON. It was ONLY FAT!"

I open the roll up. There's a measly streak of bacon. I probe further. Under the bulk of the scrambled egg is another nest of bacon fat.

"Sorry, Stacey," I say, "but this is unacceptable. And I'm on the verge of popping. J.J., take this away, and bring the bill. We're leaving."

"Aw," he says, "they got it wrong. I'll get them to make it again from scratch. No fat. I promise."

My blood sugar might be low, but he's imploring very sweetly, so I give them another chance.

The reason my blood sugar's so low is that I woke up quite late this morning, and didn't have quite the amount of time I needed in order to eat AND get to my kahuna massage on time. So I ate the last five pieces of corn thins in the house with a bit of jam while I dressed. They taste a bit like stale popcorn, but they're really lovely with salami and cheese.

The kahuna massage is a gift Jacqui gave me for my birthday on the 17th of February. It's at Skin Sense in Rivonia, a really swanky place with a three month waiting list. So the earliest I could take my massage was today.

Yesterday morning I got an SMS from Jacqui wishing me a happy massage, and asking me to enjoy it with the love with which it was given. I sent her a message back to say thanks. Then I lay on my bed for half an hour crying.

I've agreed to Jacqui's request not to make contact with her. And here she is sending me loving smss again. (The last one I got from her came in response to my news that I'd finished my screenplay. She congratulated me. I cried then too.)

Later last night, late, I got another sms from her, saying that she's worried about me, and asking if I'm okay. So I sent her one back kinda asking her why she's sending me messages when we'd agreed on no contact, and asking her if she's okay, and asking her what she wants from me, and mentioning that it's coming across as really selfish on her part to be making contact with me, but denying me that same contact. So I got another sms from her asking if she could call me. So I said yes, and my home phone rang.

And in the hour-long call, we both wailed from start to finish. And she misses me. And I miss her. And I want her back. I want her in my life. 

This is Sjoerd Douwenga, the dude who owns Mardo Photos in Sandton City. They're the dudes who play out my palmtop drawings on photographic paper. I was there earlier this afternoon getting printouts of all my drawings to take to The Spaza Gallery in Troyeville. Looks like I'm going to be exhibiting there on their "Faces" show. Lionel Murcott and I are the two confirmed artists so far. Exhibition opens this Saturday, 15 May 2004.I tell her about an insight I've had in therapy. Zahava has mentioned a technical term called cathexis. The definition I'm about to give is a total busk, and may very well be completely wrong, but it's what I've understood of the term. "Jacqui," I say, "cathexis is something that happens in the development of a child. When it's really small, its world consists of it and its mother. In an abusive or dysfunctional family, the baby and the mother become inseparable. The baby thinks it IS its mother, and vice versa. There are no boundaries. And while this is normal for the first year or two, it's supposed to end, with proper boundaries being set up. In my case, it seems those boundaries weren't set, cos of my mom being alcoholic, and probably cos my dad was abusing her."

Jacqui's listening through her tears. And I'm sort of blubbering along as best I can. I say, "I think that what's happened between you and me is cathexis. By being in a close intimate relationship with you, I've cathected you. I've made you into my ideal woman, and I've become absorbed by you, and I've absorbed you. Which accounts for your feeling enveloped by the relationship."

Evantually, we rang off, and I cried myself to sleep.

I don't understand why she wants contact with me, but doesn't want me. I don't understand why she's hanging onto me, when I've been quite clear with her that I've let her go, and that I'm trying to move on. I don't understand why we're not together. Cos while there's a PART of me that might have cathected her, there are humungously healthy and aware parts of me, the majority of me, that loves her in a completely normal way. And she loves me too. What's with this woman!!??

Jacqui... please make up your mind about me. Stop with the mixed messages. Move on. Find a nice boy to make love with. Compare him to me. Then phone me and ask to come back. And yes, I'll honour your request. I'll welcome you back, provided I'm not in a happy and loving relationship with someone else. But stop with the confusion. I don't need it, and neither do you.

So this morning I get another sms from her, telling me that she's terrified that our contact last night might have given me hope. So I wait till evening to send her my reply. Which is a nine-part epic sms telling her that I'm responsible for my feelings and my hopes, and that these have nothing to do with her at all. And that she's responsible for her feelings. And that there's nothing she can say or do to stop me from having hopes of reconciliation.

And she sends me an sms back to say that she's relieved. 

I dunno.

Anyway. Who knows how the heart works? It's confusing and it's sore. And all I really know for now is that I'm very, very hungry, and I need to eat.

Stacey's just having a slice of carrot cake and some tea. We're not really on a date. Just kinda coffee-shopping together. It's unlikely that anything's going to happen between her and me. Possibly cos of a lack of chemistry. More likely cos I'm nowhere near being able to consider another human being as relationship material. Which in her case means a shag's out of the question.

J.J. brings my meal. And it survives the inspection. And they've put triple the expected amount of bacon inside.

"I wonder if I can spot where they've spat in it," I say to Stacey.

"Nah," she says. "You're probably so used to the taste by now."


Thursday 6 May 2004

The Ant, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Jade Snell, Eran's babe of a girlfriend, looking pensive and sad.I finished work at around eight o'clock tonight, and headed off to Hyde Park for a delicious omelette at JB Rivers. Eran called. "Hey, Roy, come to Melville. Bunch of people with me. Including Lucinda from Cape Town."

I like the sound of that.

The Ant is tiny and smoky. Eran's brother, Amichai, an artist is there. He looks at my sketchbook. "Roy," he says, in a thick Israeli accent, "come for lessons, man. I give them to you for free. I'll teach you about shading. Look at this, man, you're concentrating on line work. Learn to shade. It'll open your work up, man. And maybe your composition will open up too. You've gotten static. Come for a lesson."

He gives me his card. Of course I'll go for a lesson. Brilliant.

Jade's also here. Eran's babe-o-rama girlfriend. She's delectable. But she's looking sad tonight. Not saying too much. Not talkative at all. A bit of tension in the air?

And then there's Lucinda from Cape Town. Sigh. Babeage. Deluxe.

Originally from London, has been in South Africa for years now. 

"How long?" I ask.

"Oh, about three," she says.

"What do you do?" I ask.

"Oh, no," she says, "I realllllly don't want to talk shop now. I've decided that I work too hard, and I want to have a life outside work."

"Oh," I say. "Okay. What's your favourite movie?"

"That's work," she says.

"Favourite book?"

"Got turned into a movie," she says.

She's blonde. Killer figure. I pull out the ink and the trusty Maped Ruling Pen.

"Are you going to draw me?" she says.

"With no shading," I tell her.

"Please don't emphasise the Habsburg jaw," she pleads.

It's true. She DOES have a rather large jaw. But it's a very nice looking large jaw.

Lucinda from Cape Town. Oh for her to move to Joburg. Much more healing where this came from.Somehow, I manage to get the conversation beyond one-syllable, "That's work!" answers, and we start gelling. Talk about relationships. And she opens up a bit. Finds Cape Town to be a very difficult place to meet really nice guys. Is still smarting from the end of her London relationship. Feels homeless.

I read her palm.

"Can you really do this?" she asks. "Or are you just feeding me lines, telling me what I want to hear?"

"A little bit of both," I say. I'm a bit psychic, and I've got some seriously advanced exposure to therapy, having been in therapy for the better part of a decade, and having been a crisis counsellor. But most of all, I'm exceptionally intuitive, and I really do work at being in tune with myself and with the people around me.

And I do have a bit of palmreading experience. I was interested in it when I was in high school, and I did a bit back then.

So now I'm looking at her hand. And she's got the most unusual head line I've ever seen, with no heart line. Well, not that the heart line is COMPLETELY absent. It's more like it's vestigial. "This is what I'm getting," I say. "My guess is that around the age of 16 you had a serious health crisis. Life-altering."

Her eyes go wide, and her large jaw drops. "How did you know that!!!??" 

I point to a snarl-up on her life line. "That's around 16," I say.

"Glandular fever," she says. "Definitely life-changing. Still suffer from some of the side effects. Tiredness. Lack of endurance."

"Okay," I say. "This strong head line. To me, it indicates that you're really very intellectually inclined, and that you've developed huge defences against your emotions. You've been badly hurt in relationships, and you simply don't want that again."

She nods.

I continue. "But, the fleshiness here and here indicates that you're actually quite a sensual woman, and that you're somehow repressing that. There's a wild, emotional woman inside you, and you're searching to let her out. That's what this vestigial heart line and the fleshiness show me."

"I'm trapped in my head," she says. "But I love massage and body work like that."

It's just her and me at this point. Eran is talking to Jade. Amichai and his buddy have left. And it's late in the restaurant.

"Okay," I say. "Put your left hand here." I put my own hand on my chest, over the heart chakra. Lucinda follows suit on her own heart chakra. I'm still holding her right hand. I start calling on energy from the universe, and ask my ritual question silently. Dear Universe, I say, my eyes half-closed, please bring white light and healing to Lucinda, if it's for the greatest good. I say to her, "Okay, now breath," and I take a deep breath myself.

I feel my hands warming up, and the energy is flowing. And her eyes are half closed, and there's a look of almost surprised bliss on her face. It's as though she's never had the opportunity to get in touch with her heart.

I breath a few more times. Then I say, "Okay, we'll stop when you're ready. Come back in your own time." She breaths a few more times, blinks, opens her eyes. I keep holding her hand between mine. "How was that?" I ask.

She ponders. "It was amazing," she says. "I wish I could have that more often in my life. I'm always so in my head, so intellectual."

This drawing of me is by Jade Snell. She works as a makeup artist, and picked up her drawing skills as a child when her mom would give her a makeup pencil to sketch with when she was bored. Spent hours drawing while the adults talked. This is the first time she's used a pen like mine, which is a very odd technical drawing pen."Would you like to be able to do that at will?"

"Yes."

"Okay," I say, "let's go back to it." She puts her hand over her solar plexus, breaths, and she's back in, just like that. "Now we're going to anchor it." I press my forefinger to my thumb and ask her if she ever uses that gesture in real life.

"No," she says.

"Cool. Now follow me. Feel this blissful feeling. Now touch your finger and thumb together." She does it. "Release." She does. "And breath in, feel the bliss, touch them together." She does. We repeat it several times.

"What we've done is a neuro-linguistic anchoring," I say. "Your homework for the next week is to access this feeling as many times as you can every day by touching your finger to your thumb. Repeat this about ten or fifteen times per session, and as many sessions as you can get to. After that, you'll be able to get to this state any time you want by just making this gesture."

"Thank you, Roy," she says. "Phshew. I really didn't think I'd end up having a healing session tonight with a total stranger."

"When are you moving to Joburg?" I say.


Thursday 6 May 2004

The Spur, Balfour Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * 
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * *

After my Spur debacle on 27 April, I did some phoning. I called the Cape Town head office. I called the Johannesburg head office. Left messages. 

A very concerned Bev called me from Cape Town, and asked me to tell her what happened.

So after much flirting, I sent her to this website.

Within an hour, one of the managers in the Cape Town head office called me to tell me that they were taking my complaint very seriously indeed, and that the Johannesburg head office would be calling soon to make arrangements.

So Wouter from Joburg Spur called, and told me that the new owner of the Balfour Park branch would be calling me shortly to make arrangements. He also told me that J.J., the manager who offended me, would be apologising personally.

So Clifford, the new owner of the branch calls. "Wow, I read what happened, and I really want to apologise completely," he says. He's got a South-of-Joburg accent. Sounds like he must have been a bit of a streetwise chap in his youth.

"Thanks," I say.

"I'd really like you and your editor to come around for a free meal. We want to fix this up for you. And J.J., the manager who offended you, will apologise to you personally."

"Hmm," I say. "I'm not sure I ever want to see J.J. again. In fact," I say, "I'm surprised you haven't fired him."

"Look," says Cliff, "I understand. But we're actually sending J.J. on a customer complaints course, cos he's actually a very good manager in other respects. But yeah, we've had a few complaints about how he deals with certain customers. But then again, some of our regulars love him."

"But Cliff," I say, "we're not going to come for a free meal if they're gonna get it wrong again. I don't want a raw burger. And Steve doesn't want a raw burger either. And we don't need any fights with J.J. either."

"You have my guarantee," says Cliff.

Which is how Steve and I come to be sitting in the Spur this fine Thursday.

And the good news is that there's no sign of J.J.

But Cliff is here, and he's a really cool looking dude. Middle-aged, thin as a kebab-skewer, and a heck of a lot of nervous energy. This guy's a workaholic, and an old-school "my word is my bond" kinda bloke.

He accompanies our waitress, who takes our order. It's the same as the one we had last time. Ultra well done patties. The rolls toasted on the insides. Pepper burgers. This time we go for chocolate milkshakes instead of soft drinks.

"Are you from Germiston?" I ask. I grew up there, so I think I recognise the accent, the body language.

"Nah," he says, "just next door. Alberton."

"Hey," says Steve. "I'm from Alberton."

They chat about school. Turns out they both did matric at Eden College. "When did you matriculate?" says Cliff.

"Ninety-six," says Steve.

"Yis," says Cliff. "I was in seventy-nine. We had this English teacher. Little round oke. Got away with murder. What was his name?"

Steve's jaw has hit the floor. "A little round guy. About this tall? Hurwitz!!!"

"Ya! Hurwitz!!!" says Cliff. "What a pushover. We used to smoke in his class."

"Us too," says Steve.

The food arrives. And Cliff and the waitress watch anxiously as we examine our order.

It's perfect. Thumbs up to the Spur.

Except that the chips and the onion rings are cold. They must have put them on the plate before they cooked the burger patties. Which must have taken way longer than they normally cook them, leaving plenty of time for the extras to cool down. But it's not worth complaining about, and they're not THAT cold, and they're tasty, and we're hungry, and we've got work to do.

The milkshakes are delicious.

J.J. still hasn't appeared.

Cliff comes to us and says, "J.J. is just busy in the back, and I've got to shoot. He's going to come and apologise. Thanks for coming back, and I hope we'll see you again."

"You will," says Steve.

We wait a while, wondering if J.J. will have the guts to face us.

We're about to leave when the waitress arrives. With a bill.

"Uh," I say, "this meal's on the house."

She looks surprised. But recovers quickly. Picks up the bill and smiles broadly. 

She's just about to walk away when I say, "But your service was good, so we're giving you a tip." Steve and I pitch in, and give her what would have been a twenty percent tip if we'd paid for the meal.

Still no sign of J.J.

Steve and I look at each other.

Steve says, "I don't really want to see the fucker."

"Me neither," I say.

And we slip out of the restaurant and head back to work, burping contentedly.


Wednesday 5 May 2004

Fournos Bakery, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * * * * 
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

What a fine fella is Anthony Minghella. I mean, he must be a good chap... he shaves his head, just like I do. Superb.Yay! Just skived off work for a coupla hours to see Anthony Minghella talk about filmmaking at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank. The whole of Joburg's filmmaking community pitched up for a mutual masturbation session (cos that's what happens when filmmakers gather... serious unreality, air kisses, grumblings behind backs about "massive lack of talent", and "what a hack!" and other compliments). Half of the Cape Town wankers were here too. Brilliant. Major schmoozing opportunity.

And I've finally managed to get a coffee-date commitment from Robyn Aaronstom! 

Excellent. Worth all the schmoozing in the world. She's babeage deluxe. And hopefully she's single. Seeing as I am. What with the breakup and all that. Sigh. We'll just have to see what develops over coffee.

Robyn's one of these success stories. She's been the Script Continuity person on dozens of Hollywood movies. Until recently, she used to spend half her year in Hollywood, and the other half in Cape Town. I'll find out over coffee why she's now based in Joburg. And what she's going to be doing next.

I order the Cajun Chicken salad and a glass of water. And I'm in a hurry, cos I've really got to get back to work. Lots and lots and lots of Ethiopian Chemistry lessons to view before midnight on Friday night. And I really do not enjoy working late nights, even though that's what I have to do some nights.

While I wait for my lunch, I make eye contact with a pretty blonde outside. (I'm sitting inside, cos I've brought scripts with me to check, and I don't want them blowing away.) And it's one of those situations where you just know that if you could somehow find a reason to chat to the babe, there might be some chemistry. But it's really a case of "ships-in-the-night-that-pass-very-fast". Eye contact means zip unless courage is on the table. And I'm all couraged-out right now.

Anthony Minghella is a really warm and funny British filmmaker. He wrote and directed THE ENGLISH PATIENT and COLD MOUNTAIN and TRULY MADLY DEEPLY. He created the British television hit, INSPECTOR MORSE. And the lovely thing about sitting in a full cinema with him talking is the realisation that he's just a dude. Just someone like me. Someone who made a decision to follow his passion. 

And here he is, wearing ordinary clothes, talking about his gorgeous wife, telling us about the American backlash he got for using non-American actors in the quintessential American story, COLD MOUNTAIN. Telling us how he got to spend $83 million of other people's money. Breathtaking.

The food comes. I eat it. Very nice, thank you. Now bring the bill with some urgency, please. And the bill doesn't arrive. And then when it does, it takes the waiter another ten minutes to ignore me. So I walk up to the till and ask the lady there to process my bill immediately. Which she does. And I go back to work knowing that Robyn and I will be coffee-ing, and that I might be spending several million dollars of other people's money within the next five years. Cos my heart is set on making movies.


Sunday 2 May 2004

Doppio Zero, Greenside

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * 
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Phone: +27 11 646 8740

I was on my way to the Fullstop again this morning, laptop stowed in the boot, screenplay printout in my bag. But something made me choose Doppio. Probably cos I was going to have supper here last night, but it was full, and I hadn't booked.

So I park, and make my way inside.

There's Damon and Wendy. Which is a wonderful coincidence, cos I've just smsed Damon to let him know that I'm venturing forth into the world of coffee-shops with my laptop, and that today is the day I'm going to finish HOME, my feature film screenplay.

And it's also coincidental cos last night I was at The Radium Beerhall with Damon, watching Wendy play ultra superb music yet again.

"Uh!" says Damon when I draw up a chair. "Stop procrastinating!!!"

"Breakfast first," I say, "and then writing."

"I'm totally starving," he says.

I order a breakfast from Laura, our blonde, young young young waitress. Yumph. She's divine. 

"But Laura," I say, trying not to see if she's wearing a g-string under her white, tight pants, "can you please make sure I don't have any mushrooms with this?"

"Can we give you a second sausage?" she asks.

I'd like to give HER a first sausage. Then a second. Maybe even a third. Depends how fit she is. "That'll be great," I say, "as long as they're beef sausages, not pork, and as long as the chef cuts them open and burns them slightly." See, if you're offering me breakfast, you'll find it safe to assume that I want EVERYTHING well done. Hard eggs. Crispy bacon (no fat). Very brown toast (made with brown bread). Burnt sausages.

Damon orders the vegetarian breakfast. And Wendy gets an awesome sandwich.

The decaff cappuccinos are possibly the best in Johannesburg, and I have my first of the day before the food arrives.

After breakfast, which is exactly as I ordered it, and absolutely hits the spot, I get up and search for a table that has a plugpoint nearby. Laura shows me to one just inside the door. Perfection.

Smooch smooch air kisses with Wendy, a nice assertive hug with Damon, and I'm on my own. Me and my laptop. And my screenplay. In a world I've been living intimately with for the last four or so years.

Last night I printed out a copy and bound it. Slept with it in my bed, where Jacqui would have been sleeping had I been in a relationship with her still. Woke this morning, reached over, and fondled it. Would have been right where Jacqui's squiggly bits would have been.

When Mariaan smsed me yesterday to ask if I wanted to do coffee with her, I was deeply engrossed in being unbearably solitary, and very sad. I spent the day thinking about Jacqui. And one-night stands. And how love doesn't go away. Hence no real squiggly bits to fondle this morning.

So, directly after fondling my script, I read it.

And I have to admit to feeling rather impressed with myself. 

I've known for some time that I only have about ten or so pages left to write, and that these pages are very much setup pages that have come about as a result of the way the story changed in mid stream while I was writing it. So the ending I've written needs various bits and pieces to be inserted early on in the story and rippled throughout the screenplay.

What I hadn't realised is that I've written a very tight film, one that I'd love to see onscreen. It's a film I feel I'd be able to say, "I wish I'd written that!!!" after seeing it.

So I spend the entire day, till about 7 o'clock, finessing, honing, tweaking, adding, removing, fussing. And at that magical time, I type the most beautiful words the in the English language (except when used in the same sentence as 'Roy and Jacqui'): THE END.

I rock! I rock and roll! I am a god! I am a genius!!! I cook!!!!!!! I am awesome!

I've finished my feature film screenplay!

The first person I want to phone is Jacqui. And I don't. I don't sms her. I don't do anything. I don't email her the script. Why? Because she's asked for no contact at all. None whatsoever. She's said it'll be cool if we bump into each other somewhere. She won't run away or hide or anything. But no active communication between us.

Which I find odd, cos she reads this site. I can't imagine how it must feel for her. This is a woman who loves me dearly. So reading about my exploits must be unbearable for her. I would find it very difficult reading about her exploits. And it's very difficult for me. Cos I love her dearly. And I don't want her to be hurt. But I want to move on. I want to find a way to get her out of my system. Because as senseless and obscene as this breakup is, that's how it is. It's final until proven otherwise. And that's just not going to happen.

So I feel odd with this outpouring. Knowing that she and hundreds of other people are reading this stuff. As Mariaan said on Wednesday, it's weird. But Zahava, my therapist, reads it too. And thinks it's incredibly good therapy for me. And I agree.

But right now, sending an sms to Eran, Damon, and Janet -- my three first-readers -- feels very empty. And the accomplishment of finishing my first major screenplay feels a tad hollow. All I really want to do is curl up with Jacqui and Sheepy and cry.

Instead, I'm heading off to Rosebank to watch SWEET OBLIVION, a movie about people who don't fit in.

Now. Where's that sweet, sumptuous waitress of mine? I wonder if I can persuade her to pose naked for me?


Wednesday 28 April 2004

The Fullstop Cafe, Parkhurst

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I've hinted generously and abundantly in my smss to Mariaan that I'm hoping to get her naked tonight.

She arrives for our date looking radiant and ready to get undressed. But I could just be projecting.

"Jeez, Roy," she says. "This is so weird. I mean, I don't really know what to say. It's just weird."

"Me wanting to get you naked?"

"No, the whole Coffee-Shop Schmuck thing. I don't really know what to say."

"Cos it might make it onto the site?"

"Yes!!!"

"Relax, I'm not going to put anything incriminating onto the site. I'm quite sensitive that way."

"No, that's okay," she says. "I trust you."

There's been some sort of odd mistaken identity thing between me and the waiter. When I arrived, I was playing with my Nokia 6600. The waiter said something along the lines of my having my entire life on the thing, and how I used it for everything. I was wondering how he could possibly come to that conclusion when he said, "I mean, I even see your phone coming up on our website statistics."

"Hmmm," I said, "which website would that be?"

He cuffed me gently on the arm, and smiled broadly, a kinda, 'how-on-earth-could-you-FORGET!!!-which-website' kinda smile.

"Come on Sandy," he said. "Our website."

"Uh..." I said, "Bad news... I'm Roy, not Sandy. But now I've got to know about this website."

"Oh no!" he said. "I'm so embarrassed. Oh no!!!!"

And he disappeared.

So I tell Mariaan about it. Our speculation is that this MUST be gay underground. I'm fairly camp, and very much in touch with my feminine side, and many gay guys mistake me for gay.

So when Ian arrives to take her white wine order, he calls me Sandy again, but this time in jest, to show that he's not ALL THAT embarrassed.

He brings the wine, and I say, "Oh no! No quick escape this time. Reveal all!"

So he digs around in his little waiter-sack, and slides a full-colour business card onto the table. No information on it, except for a funky graphic, and a web address. http://www.artlounge.co.za

"But what IS it?" says Mariaan.

"It's a party we're organizing. At CarFax. Can't give you any details," he says. "But we'll be putting snippets onto the site to tease people. Hope we'll see you there!"

Mariaan orders the haloumi salad. I go for the California chicken. I've been a regular at one or other of the FullStops for a good ten or so years. I don't even recall when the first one opened in Melville, but I was there for its first night of operation. And ate there almost nightly for around four years when I lived in Brixton. And for some odd reason, I simply don't recall the California Chicken. Which I deeply regret. Cos it's seriously lovely food.

Chicken breast, with mozzarella cheese, bacon, and avocado. Hmmmm. Yummmmmmy.

And Mariaan appears to have ordered the starvation version of supper. I'm guessing that she's like many women... obsessed about her weight. And she's probably read some or other John Gray type of book that suggests that it's un-ladylike of a woman to order a decent meal, since it might give the man ideas that she's greedy or out of control or something.

"You can tell a lot," I say, "about how someone is in bed by the way they eat."

She's picking at her food, as if she's a touch scared of it. Maybe she thinks it's going to rise up and bite her?

"Are you serious???" she says.

"Well, think about people you know," I say.

"Wow. Never too old to learn something new," she says. "It explains A LOTTTTTTTT about my ex-husband. A LOT."

"How did he eat?"

"Very very anally," she says.

In that case, she's in for a treat if she ever gets naked with me. I'm a very carnal eater of food. I love the stuff. I enjoy rolling it around my mouth. I'm also the slowest eater I know. And I love tasting every mouthful. I chew a lot, and really get to the flavour.

One thing that puzzles me about myself, and ISN'T reflective of me in bed is my aversion to sticky food. I simply cannot abide getting sticky stuff on my hands or face. I have very mild obsessive compulsive traits, so I think this would be one of them.

In bed, I LOVE juices. All of them. But at the table, even sugar water is too sticky for me to get on my skin.

We talk about her breasts. They really are enormous. "I just wish men would be able to see past the breasts," she says. "They're really just breasts, nothing special. Just part of me. And men don't seem to get that there's actually a person inside here."

A common complaint women have.

"We don't have to get naked, and we don't have to make love," I tell Mariaan. "Why don't we just go home to my place and cuddle a bit? And if you like, I won't even touch your breasts."


Tuesday 27 April 2004

The Spur, Balfour Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: *
Food: *1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * *

Ouch!

Because of last night's chat with Kate, the woman who'll be managing the Spur when the new owners take over, I've persuaded Steve, my editor at Memar, the Ethiopian educational tv project, to come have lunch with me here.

Our waitress duly took our drinks order, and then disappeared for twenty minutes. So we flagged someone down and asked if we could order.

"Well, I'm the manager," says J.J. "Of COURSE you can order through me!"

Steve and I are both eating the same meal today. "Special request," I say to J.J. "Two things. Both burgers must be ULTRA well done. NO pink bits. NO blood. So well done that your chef is embarrassed to put them on the rolls. Is that cool?"

"No problem," says J.J.

I've learned in my life never to trust anyone saying, 'No problem.' The alarm bells should be ringing. But hey. He's the manager. What could he possibly get wrong?

"Number two," I say, "please can you ask them to toast the insides of the rolls?"

He repeats the order back to us. "Two pepper burgers, both ultra well done, no blood, rolls toasted on the inside. No problem."

He disappears. Five minutes later the drinks arrive. I've foolishly ordered the fruit cocktail. Rule number one, Roy. DON'T ORDER FRUIT JUICE IN A SPUR! It's got a preservative in it that I'm allergic to. Wonderful. So I get a coughing fit four sips down and have to abandon the stuff.

Twenty minutes later, the waitress brings our food. Steve and I are by this time sawing at our fake-leather Spur placemats we're so hungry. We're even contemplating eating Morrie and Edna and Beulah and Clyde at the table next door. They're VERY loud geriatrics. Octogenarians, by the look of things. Morrie has a stroller. We know their names because they have to look at the person they're speaking to and bellow that name first to get their attention.

"Hold on," I say to the waitress, who has basically dumped the food on our placemats and is starting to flee. "I just want to check this." It's basically luck of the draw that I happen to cut into the well-done burger of the two. I slice open my pattie, and it's perfectly well done. "But hang on," I say, pointing my knife at the roll. "They were supposed to toast the insides of the roll. They haven't done that."

Steve's examining my pattie, and he's satisfied that if they're gotten it right with mine, his will be fine too. BIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGG mistake, it turns out.

The waitress offers to toast the rolls. "Nah," I say. "I'm really hungry, and now we're late for work."

We eat.

Steve's eating with long teeth. At some point, I catch sight of his pattie. Bloody hell. I'm almost completely through with mine, but he's only about a third of the way through. Oh man. This is disgusting.

Even to a rare-meat-eater, Steve's pattie would have been too rare. Escaping past the pepper sauce is a tiny trickle of blood, and a little bit of icy water.

"Steve," I say. "Don't look now."

He looks. Folds his knife and fork together. Calls a waiter.

"Please find my waitress."

She arrives ten minutes later. And I'm NOT exaggerating about these times!

"I'm sending this burger back," he says. "It's completely raw. And I asked for it to be well done. Take it off the bill. I'm not paying for it."

"No," says the waitress, "don't worry, I'll ask them to put it on the grill."

"No," says Steve. "I'm not eating another bite. I don't WANT the burger. I want you to take it off the bill. I refuse to pay for this."

"Okay," says the waitress, and she takes our plates away.

"Please bring the bill," I say.

It's now five minutes to two o'clock. We've been here for around an hour and a bit, and work is beckoning. Steve and I have to turn out 14 half-hour chemistry episodes every week, and the pressure is enormous. Long lunches are definitely not the norm.

The bill arrives at ten-past two. The waitress flees before we open it. I open it. Full charge. Two burgers and two drinks.

I flag a waiter. "Please call the manager," I say. "We need him here right now please."

Our waitress arrives from nowhere and whisks the bill away from us. Goes to the cash register, where J.J., the so-called manager, whips out a calculator. We see him do a calculation. He smiles in our direction, and the bill comes back. It's now twenty-past two.

He's given Steve a discount off the price of his hamburger. Instead of R28, Steve only has to pay R14.29. J.J. must have figured that Steve ate slightly more than half of the burger.

"Steve," I say. "This is outrageous. I'm refusing to pay ANYTHING on this bill. They've now just crossed the line."

We get up and go to the cash register. But now J.J.'s not there anymore. "Call the manager," I say to someone there. He goes to the back. J.J. arrives exactly ten minutes later, just as Steve and I are leaving.

"J.J.," I say. "Are you actually the manager here?"

"One of them," he says.

"Well, J.J., you've now kept us waiting on this query for more than twenty minutes, and you've charged Steve half-price for a raw burger. I placed the order with you personally. Do you recall?"

"What's the problem?" he says, smirking. "You ate half the burger, so you pay for half the burger."

"No, not at all," I say. "You messed us around with the most appalling service I've encountered in a restaurant, and we're not paying ANYTHING of this bill."

"What? You're paying nothing? After I've given you a half off the price of one burger out of the goodness of my HEART? I'll tell you what... you pay nothing, and don't bother coming back here ever again, okay???" An aggressive rugby-player stance.

"Who's the owner?" I say, notebook out, pen open, the black blood flowing onto the page.

"Ashley," he says.

"Phone number," I say.

"083 283 5418," he says.

Just then Morrie and Edna and Beulah and Clyde arrive, the stroller clanging against the floor. "EDNA!" says Morrie. "THERE'S J.J.!!! EDNA!!!"

"OKAY MORRIE, OKAY ALREADY!!!!! NO NEED TO SHOUT!!!! HEY, J.J.!!!! COME HERE YOUNG MAN!!!!!"

J.J. puts his hand on Edna's shoulder. She presses a fifty buck note into his other hand.

"FOR OUTSTANDING SERVICE!!!" she says.


Monday 26 April 2004

Mugg & Bean, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *1/2
Food: * * *1/2
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I've been watching this blonde two tables away for the last twenty minutes or so. She's having an earnest conversation with an older woman. She fumbles around in her handbag, and pulls out a pen. Scouts around the table, and starts writing stuff down on something.

I'm not certain what she's writing on, but it seems as though it's a paper napkin.

Now I'm here cos I've taken half a day off work cos of yesterday's food poisoning still being in my system, and I've got four Ethiopian educational scripts to get through by tomorrow morning, regardless of what poisons line my stomach. So I've got my notebooks and a pad of writing paper. Tons to spare.

Now the blonde has walked past my table earlier, so I've scoped out her figure. And she's a good looking babe. Nice curves. Very interesting face. Very smiley. With extremely long hair. Below the bottom of her buttocks.

So I reckon it'll be nice and gentlemanly to scoot over to her table and offer her some paper.

Which I do. I simply tear off a couple of sheets, walk over, hand her the pages, and say, "You look like you could use a few of these." I smile. She smiles. Says thanks very enthusiastically. And I go back to checking my scripts. The good deed has been done. And I didn't even slip her my Coffee-Shop Schmuck business card.

And she wasn't writing on a napkin. It was the back of an old slip. Crammed to the brim with tiny tiny handwriting.

My potato gratinee bake arrives, and I start plowing through it. I'm really not very hungry, and the food poisoning really feels like it's ready for a resurgence any minute now. But I do need sustenance, and there's nothing at all in my house except for some soup I cooked two winters ago and froze in Tupperware. I haven't dared look inside the Tupperware. Contrary to popular belief, frozen food DOES go off. It just takes longer to do so. In fact, two winters should just about do the trick.

So while I eat what would ordinarily be a delicious gratinee, I leave the scripts for later and observe the snivelling humanity sitting at the next table.

It's one of those families people flinch to see. 

The man. Beak nose. Hair in a crest over one eyebrow. When he was young, he must have been a neat stiff-arm dancer. Unbearable vomit coloured jacket, the colour made up of a sort of blue-ish wool, cross-woven with a light-gray-brown wool. Ugh!!! People spend thousands of rands on this stuff.

The woman. No chin. None. Whatsoever. Just a bottom lip joined by a long sloping piece of pink skin tucked into a black collar with tiny white polka dots. Very wide collar. Visible above a pinky-red cashmere cardigan. A sprinkle of gold drizzled around her necklessness.

Two daughters. The young one around six. Wearing a pink pajama top with flowers embroidered on it. Still young and innocent.

The other around eight or nine. As soon as I see her, I start mouthing a word silently in her direction. "Escape!" I say. "Escape!!!" But it's too late. She's already trapped. This little madam has a blue and white striped polo-neck top in varying shades of blue, with glitter wool. She's wearing knee-high boots over skin-tight black slacks. Her nails have been shaped, and they've got clear pearl varnish on. And she's wearing dark pink lipstick. Not slap dash. Expertly applied.

She stares at me. "Escape!" I say again, exaggerating my mouth shape. She frowns, looks past me, turns away and doesn't look back. Will never look back.

I finish half my meal, and resume script checking. I'm almost through the fourth one when the smiley blonde with the extreme hair comes to my table. It would be reallllllly nice right now to have her hair spread out over my pillow. Or cascading down past her breasts, to stroke my cheek.

She says, "I just want to say thank you so much for your act of kindness earlier. You took the trouble to notice my need. Not many people would do a thing like that. Thank you so very much."

She gives me a dazzling smile. And I WANT to give her my card. But that'll dash the purity of the moment. So I just smile back and say, "Thank you!"

She smiles again, turns, and her hair catches me in its wake, and I watch her walk away from me.

Later, the manageress, Kate, comes and chats to me. I've paid with my Master Card, and Mugg & Bean has a special on at the moment where you get a free coffee voucher every time you use the card. So she's come to give me mine.

I wheedle some info out of her. I find that she's on her last few days at Mugg & Bean, and that the Spur in Balfour Park has just been bought by new owners, and that she's about to move over there and manage that place.

"Sheesh," I tell her. "That's going to be a challenge. I work across the road from it, and there are only three places in Balfour Park to eat at... the Mugg & Bean, which is TERRRRRRIBLE!, the chicken place next door, and the Spur, which is worse than the Mugg & Bean.

"I know," she says. "But the new owners are going to make a huge difference."

"Maybe I'll try it out tomorrow," I say.

"Let me know. I'm sure things can improve there," she says.

We yack a bit more, and it's time for me to go home and sleep off the rest of this food poisoning. I check my jersey for long blonde hairs, but nothing's caught. I'll just have to imagine.


Sunday 25 April 2004

Chantal's house, Rivonia

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

I'm at Chantal's place in Rivonia. Damon and Wendy have joined us for lunch, but I've been lying on Chantal's bed most of the time, sleeping. And when I haven't been sleeping, I've been leaning over her toilet vomiting up warm, rotten soy-milk mixed with musli.

That was breakfast earlier.

Chantal and I met to do a visioning workshop together, which involves spreading dozens of magazines on the floor, cutting pictures out that answer a question, and then making a collage on huge sheets of paper. She's the woman who runs trance dances every month, and I've done about ten or twelve of these. I get in free nowadays, cos I lend her my radio lapel microphone. 

This particular kind of trance dance is a bit of a shamanic thing. It's NOT a bunch of rave bunnies getting high and loving each other up on drugs. This is strictly a mystical experience. We all wear blindfolds, and dance to this incredible music while questing for solutions to our own particular issues.

I most often use the trance dance as an opportunity to do a shamanic vision quest.

Today's magazine collage session has gone very well, apart from me skipping the first of the two sessions. This is a tool I use in my creativity workshops, and Chantal's been in a space where she needs some answers from her subconscious, and I've been in a space where I want to actualise my next relationship.

I've made a picture of my ideal lover. And then I've dialogued with her, using my non-dominant hand. So she's told me some things about herself and what she expects from me. I don't want to make the same mistake I made with Jacqui.

I suspect that what happened with Jacqui is that I decided I wanted a relationship, and then Jacqui came upon the scene, and I recognised her as someone I wanted to be with, and I made the DECISION that she was the woman for me. Aside from the fact that we're mightily compatible, and our sex life was exceptionally wonderful, I think I overlooked the period in which two lovers explore whether or not they're meant for each other. I just took it as given on my side, and expected her to recognise that on her side.

Maybe I am her ideal lover. Maybe not. The timing was wrong. And I hope she does indeed meet her ideal lover. And I hope I meet mine.

Right now, lying on Chantal's bed, suppressing the gag reflex, I'm really quite peeved. Mariaan -- the blonde with the pneumatic breasts -- and I were supposed to go and see a movie tonight. And I realllllllly wanted to get her naked. I've even bought a foldable easel so I can draw her anywhere, anytime. I've had to phone and cancel our date.

Chantal reckons this vomiting is the universe trying to tell me something. "Roy, do you KNOW this girl? How can you just want to SHAG someone you don't KNOW? I can't shag just ANYONE! I think you should listen to the universe."

"It COULD be the universe," I say to Chantal. But I think it's the soy milk.

And anyway... Mariaan and I will be seeing each other on Wednesday night. I'll have my easel ready.


Saturday 24 April 2004

Nino's, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * 1/2

Damon's just left. He's off to have supper with Wendy. So I'm stuck with Akbal.

"Here," he says, looking a heck of a lot like Jay Naidoo when he was a student activist, "look at this one. A real collector's piece. Not more than thirty of these in the world! You know how much? Guess. Take a guess how much."

We're on the sixty-seventh movie poster. This one's for a movie called EPIC ASTEROIDS. It's Japanese, and the photos on the poster are really cruddy kung-fu style pics, but with sci-fi costumes. Sheesh.

"Nah, not for me," I say. "Next one, please."

"It's very collectable," he says. "EPIC ASTEROIDS. Only R400. But make me an offer."

"Akbal," I say, "I'm really only interested in the R50 posters, so you might as well skip the expensive ones."

"Okay," he says, and he bites his lip a little in disbelief. I'm passing up EPIC ASTEROIDS. Chance of a lifetime.

Akbal comes to Melville twice a week, and goes around the restaurants flogging these old posters. He gets them by buying up the stock of old movie companies.

The only reason I'm looking at them is cos he might have some outrageous horror-movie titles. And since Damon and I are writing a horror together, it'll be nostalgically correct for later on in our careers to have crappy b-movie horror posters.

He turns to the next one. Carefully unfolds it. "Early 70's porn," he says. "R800."

A hand gesture from me. The bitten lip from him. A pause before he opens the next one, as if to say, 'Are you ABSOLUTELY sure you want me to move onto the next gem??? This is a CLASSIC!!!' He opens the next one.

I'm passing time, really, so it doesn't matter how long it takes him to get through his pile. As long as he's through by the time Mandy arrives. She's smsed me to see if I want to do coffee. Of course I do!

"Please, Akbal," I say, "if it's more expensive than R50, please don't even show it to me. Truly. If it crosses the impulse-buy pain threshold, I'm not interested."

"But this one!" he says, and he can't go on. I fear tears, and am about to ask the waitress for a wad of serviettes. But he composes himself. "Look," he says, "this one's starring Red Buttons."

"How much?"

"This copy is R1800."

My hand gesture.

He holds up a hand. "But," he says, "I've got a damaged copy in my car. R50."

I look at it. It's for a movie called WHO KILLED MARY WHATS'ERNAME? The slugline reads, 'Somebody just murdered your friendly neighborhood hooker.' Hmmm. It's not horror, really. But it does sound like a slasher. And the movie Damon and I are writing could be called a slasher.

Mandy arrives.

"Akbal, Mandy. Mandy, Akbal." They shake hands. Mandy sits.

"I'll take the damaged one," I say.

He keeps showing us posters for the next twenty minutes, and my stomach starts asking for supper. Eventually, I take two extremely damaged posters for R50 each, and he throws in a third even more damaged poster for free. When he leaves, I ask Mandy if she'd like it.

"I quite like that one," she says.

Damon and I have just had a minor adventure. We wanted to see the five o'clock show of STARSKY AND HUTCH, but we couldn't really decide where to see it. Eastgate and Cresta would have queues around the block. Sandton was too far. Rosebank Zone would be filled with trainer bras.

"Hey, hold on!" said Damon on the phone. "What about The Carlton Centre?"

"Hey," I say, "that used to be a flagship movie house." I was actually thinking of the Kine Entertainment Complex across the road, but it's been a long long time since I've seen a movie in Johannesburg central.

After a bit of discussion, we decide to see it there. We'll be urban warriors reclaiming the city centre. We'll be white boys showing that we're not afraid of inner city thuggery.

We get to the cinema, and I pull out my Vitality Card. This entitles me to see movies for a mere R11. I don't even know what mortals like Damon pay for the things. Somewhere around R30, I reckon. But the guy at the ticket booth looks at me as though I'm a crazed whitey. "Eish, broer," he says, "tickets here are R10. But if you WANT to spend R11, gimme your card."

"I'll save a buck," I say, and we all grin insanely.

Buy popcorn. Go into the cinema. And it's in top-notch shape. Ster Kinekor must be spending bucks upgrading inner city cinemas. Very impressive. The sound isn't as good as it could be, but it's a beautiful experience.

The adventure part comes when I slip out to the loo midway through the movie.

There's this shady looking rasta man lurking outside the door when I arrive at full trot, bladder full to pre-bursting. I go into the loo, and he follows me. 'Ah damn,' I'm thinking. 'Shoulda given my wallet to Damon. And my palmtop. And my cellphone.' But hey, I've got my Swiss Army knife. So this guy must just try. AND I do tai chi.

He steps up to the urinals, unzips, and lets rip. I do too. And for a moment we're busy having a pissing contest. I'm using my stream to write, 'Jacqui, I still love you,' on the porcelain. He's just gushing. I glance down at the urinal next to mine.

In it, covered in yellow wee, a frilly, lacey pair of white panties.

And that's my movie adventure in The Carlton Centre. I'll definitely be going to see more movies there.

Mandy says, "I'm quite hungry. Where shall we go for supper?"

"Let's walk around Melville and take pot luck," I say.

"Great," she says. "But supper's on me tonight. How about Mezza Luna?"

"Excellent," I say, and pick up my two posters. She picks up hers, and we head into the Melville night.


Tuesday 20 April 2004

Park Hyatt, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * 1/2

Mariaan is Afrikaans. Coincidentally, I spent last night listening to Koos Kombuis's BEYOND NIEMANDSLAND on repeat, so I've been singing in Afrikaans in the shower. Which gives me a bit of an edge when it comes to communing with her. My Afrikaans is pretty fluent, seeing as I spent several years with Antoinette, learning the language via pillow infusion. Nothing like making love in your lover's mother tongue.There's a pile of scripts on the front seat of my car. They HAVE to be gotten through by around noon tomorrow. Which means my morning is going to be frenetic and laborious and tedious.

I was going to go through them tonight, in a coffee shop, in a manner both leisurely and languid, and fitting for the artistic temperament.

But hey. Better things happen in life. Which is why they eight chemistry scripts are still on my passenger seat itching to be stroked by my red corrections pen. And that's where they'll stay till tomorrow morning.

Because right now I'm in the Park Hyatt Hotel coffee shop drinking tea with a curvy blonde émigré from Cape Town. She's ordered a glass of dry white wine.

Beauty, our waitress, arrives and produces a glass the size of Dolly Parton's old bra. It's big enough to hold at least three-quarters of a bottle of wine. Wow. Daunting.

But Mariaan is up to it. Must be her Cape genes.

I've just seen a movie... THE SHAPE OF THINGS, written and directed by Neil LaBute. And it's a beaut. 8 out of 10 on the Roy-o-Meter. Bitter, cynical, arty, self-conscious, witty-witty-witty.

But before the movie, I had to buy a ticket. And while I was standing in the queue, I heard some people wondering whether or not to see INTERMISSION. So I but in and say, "See it! It's an Irish cross between LOCK, STOCK & FOUR SMOKING BARRELS and TRAINSPOTTING. It's a thriller, a comedy, and a love story all rolled into one."

A blonde babe with pneumatic breasts and deliciously curved hips says, "And can you recommend COLD MOUNTAIN?"

"I haven't seen it," I say, "but I've heard it's quite a downer."

Somebody else pipes up, "But Jude Law's in it. And Nicole Kidman. It's brilliant. Brillllllliant!"

And so movies were watched.

When I came out of mine, there was a message from Eran. So I give him a call and walk around Rosebank while I'm chatting to him. I finish the conversation outside the Kitsch & Cool shop near the Park Hyatt, and there's the pneumatic blonde finishing a call of her own.

"Excuse me," she says, "how was THE SHAPE OF THINGS?"

I'm looking at the shape of her things, and I'm thinking how I'd love to take her back to my place, get her nude, and draw her. I say, "Ah, it was great fun. Very dark. But lovely. What did you end up choosing?"

"COLD MOUNTAIN. And it was VERY much a downer. At the end, I just sat there in the cinema. I couldn't move." She has big, bold, delicious-looking lips, and they're moving.

"Lets go to the Park Hyatt and have coffee and pretend to be rich foreigners," I say.

Which is how we get to be sitting on one of the couches.

Some things I certainly know about myself. I'm extremely probing, very easy to talk to, and pretty direct.

Soon we're talking about Mariaan's dreams. Her biggest passion in life is travelling, seeing the world, experiencing other people's cultures. She's got some plans that she's letting germinate. And one of these fine days she's going to be making a living doing what she loves.

"So imagine we're somewhere exotic," I say. "Where are we?"

"Brazil!!!" she says.

"Okay. We're in Brazil. Who am I?"

"Ooooooooo," she says, flapping her hand. Her eyes start to shine, and she smiles. He jacket collar is framing her right breast absolutely perfectly. "You're... you're a Brazilian hunk that I've met, and we're having a drink. It's Carnival. It's definitely Brazil during Carnival."

"Hmmm," I say. "So I'm this Brazilian hunk. And what are we doing after we have our drinks?"

Her eyes narrow slightly, and she peers at me. Am I detecting a twinge of lust? Or am I projecting my own desires onto the situation?

She's 35. She was married for ten years, and broke up with her hubbie one year and three months ago. She hasn't had awfully many sexual experiences with anyone since the divorce, but she's not closed to the idea of meeting a good man.

She takes a long sip of wine from the goblet.

"Hmmm," I say, "so I'm this Brazilian god, and you're this beautiful blonde, and we're having a drink during Carnival. I think maybe we go down to the beach and make love?"

She nods slowly.

"Do you mind if I draw you?" I say.

She flinches, crosses her arms, blushes madly. "No, you can't!" she says.

"Are you sure?" I say. "You don't look certain."

"No, it's okay," she says. "You can draw me. It's just that nobody's ever asked me that question!"

I open my leather satchel and extract my sketchbook, my ink bottle, and my gynaecological exploration device, the Maped Ruling Pen.

"Right here?" she says.

"You don't have to sit still," I say.

Three French-speaking black businesspeople in suits have been sitting on the sofa opposite us for the last hour, and they've said about eight words to each other all night.

Mariaan says, "Wow. They're VERY interested in what you're doing."

I say, "They're maybe wondering if I'm some sort of famous artist trying to get you into bed with me."

After a few sketches, I show her the results. I can't tell whether or not she likes them.

"There are two things I want," I say to her, after much deliberation and churning of the gut. This will be the first time I've said either of these things in a first meeting. I say, "One... I want you to pose naked for me."

"Oooo!" she says. "Not immediately!"

"Two," I say, "I want to make love with you."

"I think the ladies love you, Roy. Do the ladies love you? You have such a way. You've worked your way into my heart. Wow. I've never been asked such things before."

"I haven't asked such things before," I say. "Not on a first meeting."

She thinks about it.

She says, "Right now I'm coming down with flu, so, no, not tonight. But another time maybe. As for posing, I'll think about it. Maybe."

She has my Coffee-Shop Schmuck business card. Maybe she'll use it. Maybe she won't.

I say, "Please don't feel pressure from either of my requests. I just want you to know what I want. If I don't say it, you can't know it."

"You've worked your way into my heart," she says.

"That was quick," I say.

"You know it, Roy. You've got a way with the ladies."


Monday 19 April 2004

Wiesenhof, Killarney

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * *

It's backgammon time. Tonight I'm playing Doc Peter Wisniewski, one of the stronger players. I haven't been doing too badly this season. Out of twenty-four players, I'm standing at the solid mid-point. I'm exactly the twelfth strongest player in the club. Glass half full, yeah?

I order the chicken schnitzel with cheese sauce and rice. "Danny," I say to the waiter, "does this dish involve mushrooms? Please answer correctly. Just say no."

"I'll make sure they don't put any mushrooms in it," he says.

"Are you sure, cos I've had this dish before, and they had mushrooms in the stir fry."

"I'll make absolutely sure."

"Good answer, oh Dannnnnnny Booooooy," I sing.

"Why is it that EVERYBODY sings 'Oh Danny Boy' when they first hear my name?"

Doc Pete tells me that it's very important to do a daily cleansing of the prostate, utilising manual massage.

I say, "Whaddaya mean? Are you supposed to use an electric toothbrush???"

"Nah. A finger will do the trick. I told my wife that it's recommended by my urologist. She said I have to get a doctor's note from him."

Now if you don't know what's involved in massaging the prostate, lets just say that it involves KY Jelly, preferably heated to body temperature. And a rather intimate massage partner who has clipped his or her nails. And it's probably a good idea if you've gone to the loo some time before. And a good scrub with an old facecloth is also probably not a bad precaution.

The sex books recommend that if women want to please their men, they should consider slipping a finger in and massaging his prostate while he's busy doing the wild fandango. I've submitted to this treatment, and I must say that it doesn't work for me. Kinda feels like her finger has travelled up my gut into my throat. Quite unpleasant. But hey. Maybe it takes practice?

We get down to some serious backgammon. Peter's written a kiddie's poem which he's hoping to turn into a book. We talk about his writing career while we play. "I've just submitted something to the New Yorker," he says, throwing a crippling double six.

We're pretty even until I accept a mad, bad, terrible cube, which hits the horrid "8", the feared spider. If I lose this game, he'll overtake me, and go into a convincing lead. We play to 21 points in these matches.

Peter goes into a convincing lead when I lose the spider.

The food arrives. No mushrooms. Very appetising. I'm happy with it. Tasty. Wholesome. Better than my mom could have made it, I suspect. 

Not that I'd ever tell my mom anything like that. 

I spoke to my mom last night. She's now in Port Edward, across the river from the Transkei, officially in Natal, where the law is taken pretty seriously. She's staying in the spare bedroom of one of my brother's buddies, and they're looking for a spot for her to call her own.

"Mommy," I said to her on the phone, "have you managed to find a counsellor yet?"

"Ag," she says. "What for? I'm talking to lots of people. What will a counsellor help?"

"Oh, Mommy, I used to be a crisis counsellor. There's nothing wrong with speaking to a professional. They can help you. Most police stations can put you in touch with a free counselling service. Try it, Mommy. Please?"

"Ag, I'll see," she says.

The babe count in Wiesenhof is actually quite high, seeing as Maliska and Renee and Sophia are here. They're all very pretty, and they're all glowing. The only reason I don't give them five stars is to stop them from getting big heads. And they're all in relationships, so a lower babe count score than reality would demand is actually an insurance policy for me. No jealous lovers coming to hunt me down.

But they're the ONLY babes in the joint. There's not another centimetre of babeflesh in sight. Maybe it's the backgammon? Maybe we scare the babes away?

Thwack. Peter flings his dice into the board. Crash. Beats me 21-15.

"You played well," he says.

And I realise that he's just massaged my backgammon prostate without lube.


Sunday 18 April 2004

Sakura Sushi, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * * * *

Phone: +27 11 726 6099

Stacey is very petite, with corkscrew black hair, and light brown, almost-green eyes. Scarily thin, but I can't wait to take up her offer of posing for me. I've gotta see what she looks like naked. (I'm assuming that when she offered to pose for me, she meant naked. One can but hope.) This picture looks nothing like her. But she reckons it looks identical to her mother.When I went to movies with Eran and Jade last week, one of the babes who joined the group was Stacey, a frisky little actress with very tiny breasts. 

We all saw TAKING LIVES, a diabolically clumsy wannabe-thriller that gets a solid 2 out of 10 on the Roy-o-meter. Predictable. A tepid manipulator of emotion. I do admit to one scream moment, in which I shouted, "Aaaaaa! Fuck!!!" and jumped onto the seat. But that was it.

I asked Eran for Stacey's number, but didn't have a chance to use it. That's cos she used my Coffee-Shop Schmuck business card first. So today was a date. We had lunch at Europa in Parkhurst. I had my predictable chicken salad. Stacey had a salad with fried haloumi. Looked amazing, aside from the mushrooms.

My editor at Memar, the Ethiopian educational tv project I'm working on arrives at 2pm to work on his CV with me. So Stacey heads off to the blue skies of Melville, leaving Steve and me to play with my laptop in Europa. "I'm heading out to the Heart Centre later to see Chris Tokalon play sax," she saiys. "Join me?"

"Absolutely!"

So Steve and I get down to the business of getting him a top-notch CV, pay the bill, and I head off to see Chris play. I've done his sound journey workshop before, and it was superb. I have his cd, DANCING IN DA LIGHT. Lush and lovely.

I reach the Heart Centre in time for the last song. Stacey is sitting on a blanket on the lawn, as are a hundred hippy folk, including Jennifer Ferguson, one of South Africa's most under-rated musical treasures. She's sitting on her own blanket with some buddies. "Hey Jennifer," I say, and go and greet her. "Roy Blumenthal," I say, holding her hand.

"I know," she says. But I don't expect her to remember my name, so it's always safer to pre-empt any embarrassment by saying it first regardless. I first met her through her sister Melinda in about 1990, when I was active as a performer in Yeoville's Black Sun. In around 1993 or 94 I started a busking project in Joubert Park under the auspices of the Johannesburg Art Gallery and COSAW, the Congress of South African Writers. Jennifer was gracious enough to consent to playing as a busker in the park for my project. What a generous and loving woman. Her song "Dickie Baby" makes me cry every time.

I sit with Stacey, and Chris plays an encore. Yay! He's a very lekker chap. Good man. Good music. Highest integrity.

It's getting chilly, and the sun has just set in a puff of orange. When Chris finishes, he invites us all to stay for the fire later.

Stacey and I schmooze a bit. Cathy van Rensburg's here. Henning Pieterse is here. Ray Perkel's here. Then we go and sit at the fire for about ten minutes.

"I'm STARVING!" I say.

"Me too," says Stacey.

Which is why we're now sitting in Melville's Sakura Sushi, helping ourselves to maki rolls from the conveyor belt. Tobie Cronje and William Pretorius walk in. "Hullo William," I say. "Roy Blumenthal."

"Yes, I know," he says. "How are you?"

"I promise I'll send you Aria as soon as we have a copy," I tell him. "Hullo Tobie."

"Excellent," he says, and he and Tobie take a seat on the opposite side.

"He's a brilliant movie critic," I tell Stacey.

"And Tobie's such a humble man," she says. "Such a lovely actor. He's in a play that Karen's in." Karen is her housemate, someone I know from SABC days. She plays Maggie in Isidingo. "Karen says howzit, by the way."

"Cool!" I say. "Please offer her a squeeze from me."

Jamie Jupiter joins us. He's a musician. Stacey says, "What do you think of Barrie Ronge as a film critic?"

"Hehehehe," I say. "I used to be his sound controller for about two years on his radio show at 702. He's a good middle-of-the-road critic, I think. Knows his audience. I think if he were more cutting, he'd lose them."

Jamie agrees.

"But," I say, "he went through a phase of praising any film that had a gay character in it, no matter how good the film was."

"Hmmmmm," says Stacey, raising an eyebrow. She has an extremely mobile face. Uses it in comedy routines when she does standup. "Are you homophobic, Roy?"

"No, not at all. Two of my best friends are gay. And I've considered whether or not I may be. But I just don't find the hardness of a male body a turnon. I just can't picture a dick prodding against me and into me to be erotic. I like women's bodies."

Jamie's nodding.

"But," I say, "gay men give way better blowjobs."

"How do you KNOW that?" says Jamie.

I smile mysteriously. Then admit that I'm talking nonsense.

"Well," says Stacey, "it makes sense. Similar to why women give better muff dives. They know their bodies better."

"Not necessarily true," I say. "I've had two girlfriends who turned out to be gay, and they both said I was moderately up there on the giving head scale."

"I've got a horrid blowjob story," says Jamie. "Some friends of mine went out for supper in Cape Town. One thing led to another, and they went down to the beach. And she gave him a blow job. Problem is that she didn't wash her mouth properly after the meal. It was loaded with chili, and she transferred it to his dick. He says he's never had such pain!"

A moment's silence out of respect for the poor guy's member.

And I'm hoping that Stacey might wanna try out her chili technique with me.


Thursday 15 April 2004

Bourbon Street Cafe, Rosebank Mall

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * * * *

Ever  had eyes and dimples work their turn-on magic on you? Meet Myrto.Myrto and I are sitting in a very closed Bourbon Street Cafe at the top of the escalators in Rosebank Mall. Everything's closed, and this is the only place that still has comfie chairs for late night types to sit in.

The reason I'm in a space where I'm able to sit and flirt with a gorgeous babe is that I sent Jacqui the email I needed to send on Monday night. I smsed her to say I'd sent it. It basically asked her whether or not to wait for her, whether or not she had any thoughts on whether or not we had any potential of a future together. This morning I received her reply. A very loving, very straight, very unflinching, "No." So now I'm a free man again, even though I don't want to be.

What's more, I've told my therapist about this curious phenomenon I've encountered in myself. I seem to have three modes. Celibate. Shagadelic. Relationship. She said, "Roy, maybe try and integrate shagadelic and relationship. Allow yourself to just be. Don't make any decisions about the women you date. If you want to shag, shag. If you want to have a relationship, have one. But don't pre-judge. Just allow what comes to come."

So I'm trying to do that. Instead of just going all out to shag someone, I'm also allowing myself to just enjoy the idea that I might be able to date without conquest. Without even the need to call the encounter a date. Maybe I'm just allowed to enjoy myself. And the woman I'm with.

Seconds ago Myrto and I were in TriBeCa downstairs, opposite Cinema Nouveau, sitting in the smoking section with a bunch of South African filmmakers, most of whom work at DV8 in some or other capacity. We were sitting in the smoking section, cos our mutual buddy, Ben Horowitz, the chap who introduced us, is a chain smoker, as are most of the filmmakers we've been sitting with. In just half an hour of sitting with them, my clothes need a double dose of dry-cleaning!

Myrto is Greek. Studied filmmaking at UWC, one of the most prestigious film schools in the world. She's made two short films, and wants to direct. "Right now, I'm doing the script supervising thing," she says. This is a woman with a plan, and she's following it, and success is definitely on its way.

Earlier, down in TriBeCa, I said, "Uh, I'm sure people ask you this a lot, but are you wearing contact lenses?"

She smiles, and her dimples reach their little fingers into my trousers. "No, all mine," she says.

I say, "Well, then I know people say this a lot, but I'll say it anyway... you have absolutely beautiful eyes."

"It's good to hear it," she says. I'm not even sure I can describe the colour. A kind of turquoise, green, bluish, deep colour. Amazing eyes.

Ben Horowitz, one of the best Assistant Directors in the business. But now he's ready to make feature movies. His own feature movies. Other people's. This dude's hot. Use him on your next film.The reason a whole bunch of filmmakers have been convening at Cinema Nouveau is that DV8 and Ster Kinekor invited a bunch of us to the premiere of a "low" budget Irish movie, INTERMISSION. Several times during the movie, spontaneous applause broke out, and most of us clapped at the end too. A remarkably loveable set of characters in the film, doing some bad things, and affirming the power of true love. Tugged at my heartstrings, made me laugh, and gave me some thrills on the action front too. A film I'd love to have made.

Ben and I were sitting four rows from the front when he recognised Myrto somewhere else in the cinema. 

"Join us, Myrto," Ben calls.

She's there alone. Promising. Succulent body. These unbelievable eyes. Layered black hair in a tiered bob. Yummy. Ben moves to his right, leaving a gap in the middle for her.

I've drawn one of my ink portraits of her. But everyone at the TriBeCa table agreed that it might be her in twenty years time.

Up at the deserted Bourbon Street, we're in intense discussion about making films. "Why aren't you directing shorts in your spare time?" I ask.

"I've done my shorts," she says.

"But speak to Ben. The hotel story we were chatting about in the cinema before the film started is amazing. Maybe he'll let you direct it."

"Good idea," she says.

She's got my Coffee-Shop Schmuck card, and has commented on my Che Guevara-ness.

"So where do you live?" I ask. "Must be Bedfordview if you're truly Greek."

"Not at all," she says. "Houghton. But I did go to that famous school in Bedfordview."

"Saheti?" I say. 

Myrto nods, the dimples massaging my beltline. 

A few of my childhood friends went to highschool there. Paul Christelis for one. And a more recent buddy from a couple of years ago. "Do you know Harry Sideropoulos?"

"Harry's my best buddy!" she says. "I love him to bits!"

"Pleeeeeease use my card," I say. "And I'm definitely going to grill Harry about you." I'll do no such thing. Instead, I'll beg him to put in a good word for me. Which I do as soon as I've seen Myrto to her car. I sms Harry, thanking him for his message of support re my mom's rape, and telling him I've met the remarkable Myrto, and asking him to help out a buddy. Maybe she'll phone. But she's going to be in Cape Town for a few months, so maybe I'll just have to be patient.


Monday 12 April 2004

Europa, Rosebank Mall

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I've been wandering around Rosebank Mall wondering if I should catch a movie. I'm on the phone to Ex-girlfriend when Eran and Jade emerge. We gesticulate, and through sign language agree to have coffee at Europa.

I get off the phone to Ex-girlfriend. We've been reviewing the four things I suggested she needs to do to get through this current crisis. 

One -- get a baseball bat and phone book, and, instead of taking out her primal anger on her husband, smash the phone book to bits with the bat. This is one of the most satisfying ragge-management tools I know. When you hit the book, it THWACKS almightily, and bits and pieces of paper spray all over the place. Amazing stuff. Next time you're angry, try it. I used a cricket bat when I was into it.

Two -- do one thing every day that builds her life. This is to stop her from focussing on the negative. She's in a space right now where she's saying that Bernard is ONLY negative, that there' NOTHING positive about him.

Three -- work with her therapist over the next three weeks to find out what her payoff is in being with this guy. She's chosen a situation that is bringing out extremes in her, and there must be payoffs. When we were walking around Emmarentia Lake yesterday, I was saying to her, 'You're getting something out of this transaction, this co-creation. Find out what you're getting out of it, and then CHOOSE to get the SAME end result, but using positive means, not these negative ones.'

Four -- filter everything through this phrase... 'What is the loving thing to do?' I've got it written on my toilet wall, and my shower wall. It reminds me of two things... Firstly, that I am a loving person, and that I can choose to offer love at any time I like, that my presence in the world CAN involve lovingness, even when I'm in pain. Secondly, it reminds me that no matter how the other person is behaving, or how I'm interpreting the behaviour of the other person, that person may actually be operating from love too, and I may simply not be receiving that. It's a reality check. Sometimes people do horrible and inappropriate things when they are really simply trying to communicate a NEED for love, or a fear of abandonment. Or a million things. Asking, 'What is the loving thing to do?' is the most amazing antidote to other peoples' negative energy.

We ring off, and I go into Europa. Eran says, "We're going to see THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Want to join us?"

"Absolutely not," I say. I order the cheesecake and a pot of tea. Eran orders tea only. Jade orders cheesecake and tea. She pushes the babe count up to five, minus one for lack of Jacqui. 

I've  been wandering around Rosebank with the express aim of finding a coffee-shop to sit down in and compose an email to Jacqui. It's just coincidence that I happen to have bumped into one of my best friends in the whole world. And his delectable girlfriend.

The email I'm going to write to Jacqui is about asking her whether or not I should wait for her. My choices at the moment are: 

One -- remain celibate AND ignorant of Jacqui's intentions. Date no-one. Wait for Jacqui, and save myself for the day she knows whether or not she wants to be with me.

Two -- shag a zillion women, and get my self esteem back out of my socks and into my testicles where it belongs. Don't tell Jacqui.

Three -- accept that Jacqui and I are a thing of the past, and start dating with the intention of 'having a relationship'. Notice any cynicism?

Four -- let Jacqui know what I'm feeling, and get some ground rules in place to allow any possibility between me and her to at least have a glimmer of hope. I'm aware of not wanting to do anything irrevocable when it comes to Jacqui. I'm convinced that she's the one for me, and I DO NOT WANT TO MESS THIS UP.

Jade says, "So, are you going to go and see your mom?"

"No," I say. "I've decided not to go. My brother's there, and I'm okay with that."

"I'm curious about your not going," she says. "I've got a similar feeling about my own mother."

"Well," I say, "my mom's spent a lot of energy and time manipulating other people, and I don't know if there's ever been a straight interaction between me and her. On the phone, and via letters and posting her books and tuck parcels, I retain control over the interactions. I'm in a very fragile space right now, and I don't want to give up my control and go into her manipulation zone."

Eran says, "But you're not a young child anymore, Roy. You go there as an adult, with insight, and much better defences."

"If I weren't in this breakup with Jacqui, I might agree with you," I say. "But I know myself, and I know my mom. And I choose not to engage in her stuff. This really is a universe call. It's asking me to wake up to who she is, and to recognise that she is responsible for herself, and I'm not responsible for her. I know it sounds hard, but I choose to be selfish in this. I come first. And I'm more effective -- both for her AND for myself -- by being here and intact, not there and hooked into her stuff."

Jade's nodding.

Aryan Kaganof saunters up. He's wearing a brown leather camera jacket. Vaguely military. He's looking thinner, fitter. He's also newly single. "Hey," he says, "you joining us for a crucifixion?" He sits down.

"No chance," I say. "You know the forty lashes? Apparently you see every single one of them. In real time. Twenty minutes of Jesus being lashed. Who needs it?"

"Only FORTY lashes?!!" he says. "I want my money back! I thought it was a hundred and forty!!!" He says, "I read your Coffee-Shop Schmuck site. Jeez Roy. Sorry to hear about this shit you're going through."

"Here," I say, offering him my cheesecake. "Have a bite of shaving foam."


Sunday 11 April 2004

Ex-girlfriend's house, Brixton

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * *

My nameless ex-girlfriend and I are busy eating our takeaway Nando's meal. She's removed the tablecloth from her gran's antique dining room table, since she doesn't want us ingesting glass. I've spent about ten minutes trying to sweep up debris from the kitchen floor using a grass broom.

The table is broken. It's from the force of the lamp coming down on the edge of it on Saturday evening when she chucked her husband out of her house. She needs a week away from him to let her rage subside and get perspective.

We've just started eating when the electric gate opens, and he drives in. He's come to collect a shirt and some toiletries. We've never met, and this isn't the best time for it. But hey. Here he is.

Ex-girlfriend says, "Bernard, Roy. Roy, Bernard."

We shake hands. He's damn good looking for an American. Shaggy, curly hair. Looks a bit like Iain Banks, the Scottish writer. About my height. Stocky too. I wonder if Ex-girlfriend fell for him cos he's a bit like me?

I say, "Nice to meet you. Pity about the timing though. Very crap circumstances."

"Yeah," he says. "I've heard a lot about you."

"Yeah," I say.

"Want a drink?" he asks, pouring himself a Scotch.

"No, thanks," I say. "I'm cool with the Tab."

"Well," he says, not without irony, "welcome to my house."

"Our house," says Ex-girlfriend.

He sits down. Everyone's silent.

He gets up. Goes and does something in the bathroom. Ex-girlfriend starts telling me about her sister. It's like she's denying his existence.

He comes back. Sits down. Swirls ice in the Scotch glass.

"Want some rice?" I say.

"Nah, I've eaten," he says. "Going to a party just now. Wanna come?"

"No thanks," I say. "Working a full day tomorrow."

Ex-girlfriend continues the story about her sister.

"I have to interrupt you," I say. "Bernard, I need to say some stuff to you..."

He swirls the ice.

I take the plunge. "Bernard, I know this is really uncomfortable for all of us. But I have to tell you this. I love this woman. We spent several years together, and I want the best for her. And what you did is unacceptable." I'm shaking at this point. We're both sitting down. My body is coiled, and my reflexes are ready to take over. My daily tai chi training is about a million miles away. "This is what I need to say... don't hurt her."

"Lemme get this straight," he says. "You come into my house uninvited and tell me what to do???" He's still swirling his ice. And the glass is a heavy one. Beside me is the lamp Ex-girlfriend smashed against the table. It's nice and heavy. Wooden. Turned on a lathe. Heavy enough to break the table.

"Actually, Bernard, it's not 'your' house. It belongs to both of you. And I'm not uninvited. I'm here because she asked me to be here to support her. I care about her, and I care about the fact that she's six months pregnant and her husband was fucking some woman on Friday night."

His foot has gone rigid against the front bar of his chair. His swirling has gone slower, and the little muscle on his temple is twitching.

I say, "Bernard," and I feel my eyes grow dark, a bit of psychosis held at bay somewhere by years and years of self-discipline, but on tap should I need it. My dad taught me some stuff about fighting. He was a bit of a gangster in his day. His weapon of choice was a smashed up snooker cue. "Bernard," I say again, and I lean forward slightly, getting my blocking hand in place, breathing hard and deep to get the synapses open, the tai chi starting to kick in, "I hope you're not thinking what I think you're thinking. Don't do it, Bernard."

"Don't do what, Roy? Make your point."

I point at his hand, the one that's very very slowly swirling ice. "Bernard," I say, "you don't know me. You don't know anything about me, and I seriously recommend that you back down. Don't fuck with me, Bernard."

"Roy, I identify with everything you've said. But I resent your coming into my house and saying 'Don't fuck with me.' I resent it."

Ex-girlfriend stands up and inserts her pregnant belly between the two of us. "Stop it, both of you," she says.

We both seem to consider this.

"What's your point, Roy?" says Bernard, the ice-swirling a tiny bit faster now.

"I don't know what my point it," I say. "I can tell you how I'm feeling. I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm shaky. I'm feeling very protective towards my ex-girlfriend. I care about her, and I want the best for her. I'm feeling like we've just had a dick-size comparison contest, and that it's really irrelevant. I don't know what my point is. I think what I'm trying to express is that I'd like you to treat her with care and love."

He nods. The ice swirling speeds up noticeably now. "I hear you," he says. Then, "I'm impressed at your being able to speak out and stand your ground on this. But I really resent your coming in here and saying, 'Don't fuck with me.' It's aggressive, and I don't appreciate it. Everything else you've said is valid, and I'm listening."

"Okay," I say. "My 'Don't fuck with me' comment was out of line. I apologise for that. Sorry. I was coming across as aggressive. And I meant to come across as aggressive. But it's inappropriate. And I apologise."

"Accepted," he says, and extends his hand. 

We shake.

"Sure you don't wanna come to the party?" he asks.

"Nah," I say. "I've got a bunch of scripts to check tomorrow morning. And I'm really tired all of a sudden."

"Come with me," he says to Ex-girlfriend.

"No, thanks Bernard. I need some time to myself."

"Okay," he says. We talk a bit about Prague for a while, and then he has to go. He drives off.

I spend another five or so minutes with my ex, and call it a night. Tons of work in the morning. And I'm feeling ragged. My love for Jacqui is smashing me right between the eyes, and I'm wishing she could have been here to be proud of me. Heck, I'm proud of me for this, what, restraint?

My ex says to me, "Roy, thank you. One of the things I most admire about you is that you're unafraid to say the things that need saying. Nobody has said these things to Bernard. Nobody's said these things to me. Thanks."

We hug, and I drive home in the cold autumn air, my roof down, my heater on full blast.


Sunday 11 April 2004

Nando's, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * *

Phone: +27 11 726 6406

I'm with my ex-girlfriend, who shall remain nameless for reasons of her privacy. We've just been walking around Emmarentia Lake, and she's been telling me about her husband's infidelity on Friday night.

I feel a bit shell-shocked. She's six months pregnant and looking radiant. One of those pregnant women who is sexy. She's somehow not fallen into the category of expectant mom who gets lumpy and gross. Instead, her breasts have swollen to about four times their normal size. And boy, do I remember them from way back when.

I've spent half the day rewriting a short film screenplay I co-wrote some years back with Jeremy Handler. It's called HOLD. 

Oscar Strauss, a buddy of mine from back at Hunt Lascaris, is now a director. He's been making a superb name for himself in directing commercials, and now he wants to start making fiction. He read a short story of mine in a collection called POST TRAUMATIC and called me up out of the blue a month or so ago.

"Roy," he said, "I've just read 'A Mother, Her Daughter, and a Lover', and I love your writing. I thought you were only a poet," he said.

"No, short stories too. And a novel," I said.

"Well, I want to know if you've got any screenplays lying around."

I told him about HOLD and POLISH and FAMILY, all of them under ten minutes. He asked me to send them. And liked HOLD the most. But with notes. He asked me to remove the love-story from the piece, and make it just pure action. "The love story is really adding complications that get in the way of the sheer romp," he said.

So today I removed the love story. I haven't mentioned this to Jeremy yet, cos he's actually a director, and it's always been in his mind that he'll direct HOLD if it ever gets made. But hey, if Oscar Strauss likes the rewrite (which, incidentally, is draft seventeen!!!), I'll show this new version to Jeremy. The only way it CAN get made is if he agrees to it, since he's the co-writer with me.

What's amazing to me is that this new version is so much slicker than the other drafts we battled over. The original draft (draft three) is what got us into the finals of the British Channel Four 'Short & Curlies' international short film competition. We had a one-week workshop in the Magaliesberg during which we met with script doctors and producers and various industry experts. And not one of them suggested simplifying the story.

So I've done that, and I'm almost happy with the result, but I'm keen for Oscar to give me more notes, to see if it's on track as the film he'd like to make. Still some stuff to iron out, but I think the structure's sound. I've emailed it to him.

Back to the lake. As my nameless ex and I walked around the lake, she told me what happened. (Names have been changed.)

"I went to pick him up, and I must have been a bit early. So I went upstairs to his office. The front door was open, and I could hear the sounds of their fucking. At first I wasn't sure, but as I went inside, I saw all these clothes on the floor.

"I stormed in, and it was dark, but I grabbed him by the hair and yanked him off. I became strong, I can tell you. And there she was, this fat, dumpy, slutty looking woman, completely naked. I don't know how I did it, but I turned the lights on as I threw Bernard off her. She was wearing way too much makeup. I couldn't believe he was fucking a tart like her. A total slut.

"So I started hitting her."

I see a little cut on her hand. "Did you hurt your hand on her?" I ask.

"This? No. This is lipstick. I can't get it off. I punched her a few times. And I picked her up and threw her out the door. She flew. I'm so sorry I didn't throw her down the stairs. I was screaming at her, 'This is MY husband, you whore!!!' Another thing I regret is that I didn't throw her clothes out the window. She should have gone out into the street naked, the bitch.

"As for Bernard, I basically ripped into his office. I broke everything I could. He just stayed on the couch, cowering. Then I found her lipstick, and I scrawled on the walls, 'Bernard's Whore Woz Here!' All of the walls. Then I went over to Bernard, who was vomiting at this point. I don't know if it was because he was drunk or because I caught him. And I smeared lipstick all over him. Then I smeared it all over my own face, and I screamed at him, 'Now do I look like her?! Now am I attractive to you? Now do you wanna fuck me?' And then I left."

Sheesh. I wish I were making this stuff up.

The lady at the counter calls a till-slip number. "One eight seven," she says.

"Is that the pita and the wrap?" I ask.

"It's one eight seven," she says.

"What's in it?" I ask.

"A pita and a wrap."

I look around the restaurant. We're the only customers. "Well then it must be ours," I say.

"Must be," she says, and my ex-girlfriend and I get into my car and head to her new house to eat supper together for the first time in many many years.


Saturday 10 April 2004

Doppio Zero, Greenside

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * *

Phone: +27 11 646 8740

It's 7 o'clock, and I'm half an hour early for Kyle and Jonty, so I'm sitting in the corner at a tiny table, getting some reading done. I'm on the final pages of THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen. Excellent novel delving into the lives of the members of a dysfunctional family. Striking chords with me, seeing as I come from a dysfunctional family.

I've already ordered, since I'm going to be meeting Eran and his buddies for an 8 o'clock movie. I'm eating the Tai Chicken Salad, which is heavenly. Accompanied by strawberry juice. Damn nice. Damn nice indeed.

I'm a quarter of the way through the salad when Jonty and Kyle arrive. The girl who's meant to be joining us is on the phone to Jonty. She's going to be late. A single Jewish girl. 

Could they be trying to set me up? Could they. Hmmm. Gotta ask them to ask her if she shags on the first date. It's all academic anyway, cos I'm not going to meet her, since It's pushing towards 8, and I'm going to be leaving any minute.

Jonty is a spiritual healer, and Kyle's told him about my mom and about my breakup. Jonty and I know each other from SABC days. He's one of the main voice artists for SABC1, and I wasn't allowed to use him on SABC3 promos, cos they had an exclusivity deal with him. 

He says, "Kyle, I know you're vegetarian, but you've got to try the dish Roy's having. I'm sure there's something they can put in there instead of the chicken."

Kyle peers into my bowl. It's got chicken, avocado, various salady things, cashew nuts, and a sweet chili sauce with a tiny amount of satisfying bite. I say, "You know what would be perfect in here instead of chicken? Fried haloumi cheese."

"That's it!" says Jonty, and Kyle nods.

I turn to Kyle and start to winge about Memar. "I worked till just before midnight last night," I tell him. Kyle is one of the editors at Memar, the Ethiopian education project I'm producing on. He does all the corrections on the chemistry and biology programs. "Basically cos I took Monday off, and wasn't functioning too well on Tuesday. Also, the viewing bay is always busy with Arne sorting out preproduction on the old batch corrections."

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Jonty going into healer mode. I see his hands calling energy from the universe, and then he places them against his heart, his eyes partly closed. I stop chatting to Kyle and simply allow the energy in. After about three minutes, Jonty cleanses his aura. "Thank you," I say. He smiles, nods, and we carry on chatting.

What I'm not talking about is a call I got earlier in the day from an ex-girlfriend of mine. She's now married, and six months pregnant. I'm not mentioning her name, cos it's just too ugly what's happening with her, and I think her stuff's private. What happened is that she went to her husband's office to give him a lift home on Friday night and caught him fucking some arbitrary woman whose name he claims not to know. So now she's trying to figure out whether or not to leave him. Sigh. Can't we get our damned relationships right???

But it's time to see a movie, and I ask Laine, our waiter for the bill and a doggy bag, since I'm only halfway through my meal. I'll probably end up giving it to a security guard in Rosebank before the movie, seeing as I've still got about three doggy bags untouched in my fridge. With the best will in the world, it's such a chore to remember to take them to work as lunch.


Tuesday 6 April 2004

Seattle Coffee Company, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

In terms of my ideal world, Seattle Coffee Company in Hyde Park is second only to Seattle Coffee Company in Sandton Square. That's because both of them are situated in book shops in the babe capitals of Johannesburg.

And to quote the nephew of Antoinette (an ex-girlfriend of mine) when he visited my flat for the first time when he was four: "Wow Roy!!! You live in a library!!!!!" And it's true. I spend more of my salary on books than on anything else. So being in a coffee shop in a bookshop is just overwhelming bliss.

The reason Sandton Square edges out Hyde Park is twofold... (1) Sandton Square Exclusive Books has by far the better movie-book and business book sections. (2) The Seattle Coffee Co in Sandton Square is slap bang in the centre of the bookshop, flanked by two incredible sections. In Hyde Park, it's on the outskirts of the shop.

As for the babeage, what more could a bloke ask for? Literate hotties schlepping books to their tables, their breasts pressed against the spines as they bend over to lay their tomes down on the cool marble.

So I'm sipping a grande harmless mocha with no sugar, and I'm more than halfway through a gigantic muffin.

There are two books I'm looking at. One is on how to make art prints. It covers all the techniques. And I'm busy trying to get my linoprinting perfected. It's just that I can't actually get the inking of the plate right. Granted, I'm using water-based inks instead of oil-based ones, and they dry out too quickly, and they don't give great coverage and blah blah blah, but heck... I really want to excel at this linoprinting business. I have a multi-colour linocut that I've promised Jacqui first choice from once I've done an edition.

The other book is by Alan Ayckbourn, the playwright and theatre director. I'm looking at it cos it's called THE CRAFTY ART OF PLAYMAKING, and it distills his 40 years in the British theatre into a nifty handbook of advice for people who want their words to be acted by people. I figure theatre and film are first cousins, if not Siamese twins, and I'm sure my filmcraft can benefit from exposure to a theatre master. I know I'm going to end up buying this book.

What I'm really doing is procrastinating. There are two things I need to do. Firstly, I have to check the graphics on four different scripts for Memar, the Ethiopian educational television project I'm a producer on. Secondly, I have to write my mom a letter.

I've just finished my Tuesday afternoon therapy session with Zahava.

In it, I've expressed bewilderment at why my sorrow and crying and pain is all centred on the breakup with Jacqui, instead of on my mom's rape. I'm baffled as to why I'm cool, calm, collected when I talk about my mom's ordeal to Zahava, but as soon as I just mention the first syllable of Jacqui's name I cry three tissues into pulp.

I've told her about Jacqui's visit to me last night. It was amazing. A massive gift from Jacqui. She smsed me in the afternoon yesterday to ask if it would be okay if she came round to offer me a hug. I sent her a message back asking if I could think about it. What was going on in my mind is that I have to preserve the possibility of a future relationship, and that if I said yes to her coming round, I'd be transgressing the boundaries I'd agreed to with her, and that I'd be ruining all my chances to be with her. So I phone Zahava last night and asked her opinion. "I think Jacqui's offering you her love in a time of extreme duress for you, Roy. I think it's allright for you to say yes." And so when Jacqui came to my place, I had some perspective. And it was the most amazing thing to be held by her. Thank you Jacqui.

Zahava waits, and allows me to say, "Actually, I'm aware of being very angry with my mom. Primally angry. I think this rape has been sent by the universe for me to access that." See, I've spent a lot of time in therapy talking about my dad. How he was almost certainly a paranoid schizophrenic, how he beat my mom when I was a child, how he tried to kill me once when I was 14. All that stuff.

I've touched on the fact that my mom was an alcoholic from the very day I was born. I've glanced over some of the very hectic insults she threw at me when she was drunk. But in some way, I've allowed her to seem like a saint in comparison to my father.

Right now, the anger is flowing.

And then I realise that I haven't actually phoned my mom all day. So I phone. Her line is dead.

I phone my brother's phone. It rings. He answers.

He's driven all the way from Port Alfred to Port St John's in a VW Microbus with only one brake working. The front left one. It's now stuck halfway up the driveway on my mom's hill, cos it's raining there, and the hill is made of clay. He got there yesterday, in time to fetch my mom from the hospital, where she was getting her anti-retroviral course, to kill the HIV/AIDS that may have entered her system.

"How's Mommy, Lance?" I ask.

"Ag, she's okay," he says. "She's handling."

"Is she taking her anti-retrovirals?"

"Ya," he says. "But they're making her feel realllllly sick. She's been vomiting. And she's got bronchitis. Here. Speak to her."

"Howzit, Mommy," I say. I'm clenching my jaw, and putting on half a crisis-counsellor-calm voice (I'm a trained crisis counsellor), and half a cheery-I'm-your-caring-loving-son voice.

"I'm fine, my baby. Thanks for phoning. What's that noise? Where are you? Cresta?"

"No, Hyde Park," I say. And I'm thinking, I don't have to justify the fact that I'm sitting in a coffee shop living my life, you bitch!

"Oh," she says.

"Are you taking the anti-retrovirals?" I say.

"Yes, definitely," she says. "You have no idea how relieved I was when I got them yesterday! But hell they're making me sick."

"Mommy, it's really important that you take them on a full stomach," I say. "They're very dangerous on an empty stomach." I heard on the news this morning that a bunch of people in the Cape had died taking their anti-retrovirals on an empty tummy. But I don't mention this.

"Oh," she says. "The sister didn't know."

"How's your ear, Mommy?"

In my account of her rape, I didn't mention that the bastard also burst her eardrum somehow. Must have been when he clubbed her. He probably slapped her across the ear with his opposite hand.

"No, it'll be fine," she says. "The doctor who examined me is very young. A young black woman. She can't be older than twenty-six. A youngster. She said it'll heal."

"Mommy, that's your ear. I think maybe you should get a second opinion."

"Well, I have to go to Dr Bacher tomorrow." He's the district surgeon. "He's a cripple, you know. Something wrong with his leg. Looks like polio."

"You must take care of yourself, Mommy. Have they found the guy?"

"No. But we're going into town tomorrow, and I'm going to speak to the chief. He granted me the land I'm staying on, so he'll sort this out. Lance is taking me through to Port Alfred tomorrow. We're going to go and look at places for me to stay."

"That's cool, Mommy."

"But you know, it'll have to be rooms in peoples' houses. Small places, you know. Cos of the money situation, you know? Very small places. And what am I going to do about the dogs?"

And if I weren't in a public place right this instant, I'd press the mute button on the phone, and I'd bellow, and scream, and throw things around, and smash tables, and destroy walls, and let out 36 years worth of rage.

But I'm terribly controlled right now. Worryingly so.

"Oh," I say. "Has Lance fixed the brakes yet?"

"No, he's going to go round to Tobie's place and do it there. Willie's going to help him bleed them or something."

"Okay, Mommy," I say. My jaw is hurting from clamping my teeth so hard. "I'm going to say goodnight now."

"Oh, sorry!" she says. "We've been chatting for so long on your cellphone. It must be costing you a fortune."

"Okay, Mommy. Goodnight now."

"Goodnight, my boy."

I put the phone down. 

I consider calling Zahava. She's not going to be available for my regular appointment next week, cos of the holidays. So I'm only seeing her on Thursday. I want to ask her if it's appropriate for me to be feeling this huge well of rage, and I want to know if it's appropriate that I'm holding it in so effectively.

I stay with my finger on the dial button, and work it out. In the end, I stand down, move my finger away. It's all appropriate. Whatever I'm feeling is authentic, and that's how it is.

So here's the letter I'll probably not send to my mom:

Dear Mommy...

You've been an alcoholic all my life. You've been a victim since I first knew you. And you've been an expert manipulator. I don't think I can remember you ever asking for something without some kind of twist to it.

Here's what I think, Mommy. I think this rape was sent to you as a wake-up call, as a little nudge for you to straighten out how you're operating in the world. It's your chance to come clean and start living honestly, and without manipulating other people.

I'm feeling hard and cold and callous, and I hate feeling these things. The Roy I know myself to be is a warm, generous, loving man, with an infinite well of love to offer. I also know that my flipside is to be hard and brutal and intolerant of people I find to be thick. But on the whole, the positive me is the one I know and love.

So when I feel these iron-smooth feelings by speaking to you on the phone after your rape because of your well-placed and unassailable barbs, I don't like you. I don't like you because you bring out the parts of me that I don't like. And I don't like you because those parts of me are very likely the defences I learnt when I was a baby in order to protect myself from you and Daddy.

I wish you weren't raped. But I wish you would learn from what the universe is offering you.

I'm trying to find the learning. I'm doing really hard work just going to goddamn work in the morning so I can deposit money into Lance's account to fix those brakes. To top up your cellphone yesterday. So please don't infer that I'm doing nothing.

All of my friends are saying, "Go to Port St John's, Roy, you've got to go, you've got to be with your mom."

And I'm saying, "Yeah, I'm investigating whether or not there are any charter flights there." But in my head I'm saying, I doubt I'll go. I don't want to mess with my fragile space right now. I hate the place she lives. I hate the manipulation. I'm not going.

So, Mommy, I wish you love. But I really don't want to expose myself to the mastery you have over subtle cruelty. My buttons are way too exposed right now. And while this may seem trivial to you, I'm dealing with something huge for me. I'm dealing with the loss of the love of my life. And it's wrenching and vast. As wrenching and vast for me as the rape is for you.

The rape is yours to deal with. I can support you in my way. Not in your way.

So, Mommy. I'm angry with you.

I'm sure the anger will pass. I need to process it, and express it, and let it shift the parts of me that have always been to scared and hidden to express it. I have work to do on myself.

I love you
Roy

It's a letter I'm unlikely to send, since it really has nothing to do with her. It's my stuff. And though she's contributed throughout my life, it's my interpretation that's stayed with me. My job is to reinterpret. To allow myself freedom.

Because the universe has offered me two opportunities to really look into my world. My mom's rape. And my breakup with Jacqui. My world has been shaken.

Now leave me alone to finish my mocha and my chocolate chip and orange muffin.


Sunday 4 April 2004

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: *
Babe Count: N/A

Tessa Blumenthal, a fairly recent photo, from just before she and my dad left Halfway House to retire in the Transkei. My mom's dream has been to live in a rondawel on the top of a hill near the coast. She's been living her dream. But it seems that some people don't want that. I'm sure Willie's connections are going to find this guy, and then his dream will be over.I managed to speak to my mom around 3:30am, but was too tired to update the site. So now it's around lunchtime on Sunday, and I've just been on the phone to Jacqui. She's being incredibly supportive.

My mom told me everything that happened. I'll report it pretty much as I heard it.

My mom says:

Because of my premonition dream and this guy trying to break in on Sunday, I've been keeping my eyes open. At about 10 or 11 o'clock I had all my lamps and candles on, and I was in the kitchen, and I heard the dogs bark. I knew immediately that it was him. 

I blew out all the lights, and grabbed a cast iron skillet, and he came in. But he barged right past the dogs. It looked like he was carrying a gun. 

I tried to hit him on the head with the skillet, but he raised his arm. Next thing I knew, he'd shot me. There was this loud bang, like a bullet, and I was down on the ground. Turns out he'd hit me with a knob-kierie, on my left temple. Lots of blood. It's still bleeding now, even though I've got a dressing on it.

So anyway, he only spoke Xhosa. Refused to speak English. Told me to get to the bedroom. So I managed to get off the floor and go towards the bedroom. Hell. The back door is all blocked, so I couldn't get out that way. Only the front door.

But because of the premonition, I've had a can of Doom spray handy, and I knew exactly where it was. It was next to the couch. So instead of going to the bed, I went to the couch.

While he was unzipping, I put my hand down, and felt for the can. Now all I'd have to do is wait for the right moment.

This photo was taken a day or two after I was born in 1968. My mom was a beautiful 21 then. My dad was 41. A bit of an age gap.But he lay down on top of me and really hurt my rib. I think it might be broken. And he pressed all of his weight on me. So I had to bring my hand up and try and lever it under him just so I could breathe.

It was horrible, but I was calm. I knew exactly what to do. I was just waiting for the right moment. But he worked at me for about an hour and a half. Just this horrible grinding. I think what saved me is that he didn't have a full erection. It must have been the drink. He was very drunk. I could smell the local beer on him. And I know where they sell that beer. We'll find him.

I kept telling him, in Xhosa, "I'm an old woman, I've got cancer. Why are you doing this?" 

And he kept telling me, in Xhosa, "Shut your mouth! I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"

I was so worried about my bladder. Because of the hysterectomy, my bladder has fallen, and I was so scared that he'd rupture it. But it seems okay. They examined me in the clinic, and it seem all right. Luckily he didn't have a proper erection.

While he was grinding away, I kept my head. Luckily it's full moon, so I could see some details. But I also felt his head while he was trying to kiss me. Sis. That alcohol. But the rest of him was clean. He must have showered before he came here.

He's got a very strange dreadlock style. Not common around here. Normally they have a full head of dreadlocks here in the Transkei. But this one had only a single row of locks, starting around ear level, and they were about eight inches long. Very distinctive. And what I did was to smear as much of my blood over his face and hair and clothes. I wanted him to be easy to pick out in his village.

The blood was from my temple. Luckily nothing was going wrong down there. Just the temple. I was very scared of all the blood. But I thought I'd use it. That's why I smeared it all over him.

But it was getting very difficult to breathe, and my rib was really hurting. Oh yeah... somewhere in the middle of all of this, I put my foot down on the floor and tried to feel for the gun. I still didn't know it was a knob-kierie. So I wanted to know what he had. So I felt it with my foot, and I realised it was just a stick, so I swept it under the couch with my foot.

Shit... it hit something, and some stuff fell off a shelf, and he jumped a bit and threatened me again. I told him it was the dogs, and he calmed down, and carried on grinding away.

Anyway, eventually he got up, and I knew this was my chance. You must remember, I was still on my back, and he was standing in exactly the right position. He was zipping up, and he demanded money. I'd emptied my purse out and hidden my money away about an hour before this happened. I wish I'd been carrying the Doom before. When he came in, I should have had the Doom with me.

So I knew I had my gap. He was asking for money, so I put my hand on the can, and he leaned forward, and I let him have it, in the eyes. And because of my position, I kicked him in the balls. I got him about seven good ones! I can tell you, I felt soft tissue between his legs. I got him. And the Doom too!

I started screaming, cos Wilhellie lives about twenty, thirty metres away on Willie's property. Willie's got connections here, I can tell you. We'll find this guy. We'll find him. Oh yeah... I felt his chin... he's young. I could tell he's never shaved. Smooth. Young.

So he ran away, and it was only a minute or so before Wilhellie arrived. And he took me to Willie's place. We've just come back from the police station and the clinic now. I'm staying at Willie's place. They told me not to shower or anything, but I had to. Sis. I couldn't stand not to. But he didn't ejaculate, I don't think. And anyway, tomorrow morning I have to go to the district surgeon, and they take a swab from deep inside.

I wasn't scared, and I'm very proud of the way I handled it. I really gave it to him with that Doom and kicking him in the balls.

So that's what happened to my mom. Jeez.

Jacqui mentioned anti-retrovirals, to combat the possibility of my mom getting HIV/AIDS from this guy. So I sent my mom an sms early this morning to tell her to insist. And I have the cellphone number of the executive producer of Special Assignment on my phone. One call, and there'll be a nice television crew down there on the next plane to do a story on how inept the government is in dealing with rape cases. Well. That's the threat, anyway. I suppose it's such a common story that maybe they won't. But I do know Chris. And who knows?


Saturday 3 April 2004

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: *
Babe Count: N/A

It's technically Sunday, seeing as it's around 2 in the morning. But for me, it remains Saturday until I've gone to sleep and woken up the next day.

I've just finished brushing my teeth, and my cellphone does its message announce thing. Immediately, my heart leaps. Something's wrong! I hope nothing's happened to Jacqui!!!

I fumble with the button. It's a message from Lance, my brother. He's in Port Alfred, and it's 2am, and something must be badly wrong.

He says:

Hi. Please call me URGENTLY. Mommy was raped today (Saturday). No, this is NOT an April Fool's joke. Lance.

Oh man. What can I tell you? Helplessness. Rage. Despair. Futility. Pain. Loss.

I phone Lance. "Mommy spoke to me on Monday," I say. "She said there'd been an intruder."

Lance says, "I spoke to Willie. He's helping her. They're at the copshop now. She reckons it's the same guy."

My mom lives in a hut on the top of a hill in Port St John's in what used to be the Transkei. There's no electricity there, and she has to charge her cellphone on the car battery. 

When I spoke to her on Monday, it was in response to a "Call Me" message from her. She wanted me to know that the dream she'd had on Saturday night (which she'd told me about on Sunday night while I was sitting at the Mugg & Bean in Cresta) wasn't a warning to me, but rather to her. 

In the dream, she said there was great danger to me. She said there were people, and they were attacking me, and she was very scared. She said that I must be very careful, and she just wanted to warn me.

So on Monday, when I spoke to her, it was hectic to hear that later on Sunday night, in the driving Transkei rain, a man had attempted to enter her hut, and only the fact that she has huge dogs kept the guy from getting to her. She said he appeared to be drunk, and that it happened about 11 o'clock that night. She told me she was safe, and that I mustn't worry.

So fuck. I should've worried.

Lance says, "If it's that guy, he'd better hope I don't find him. He'd better hope." I'm thinking the same thing. I've seen Lance punch a closed door off it's hinges. And I'm hoping that he DOES find this guy. I'm a liberal type of dude, and I don't believe in the death penalty. But you know what? Someone rapes my mother, I'll kill him myself. Jesus.

So I send Jacqui an sms. Aside from my therapist, she's the only person I need to be with right now. But her phone's off. She'll probably call me early in the morning to find out what's happened. Oh man. Oh man.

And I send my mom an sms, saying that I'm lighting a candle for her, and that I'm sending light and love. She's 57 years old. And she's not in good physical shape. Lance reckons that her cancer of the uterus has returned, and that she hasn't got long to live. And now some dude's raped her. Ah man. This is too much.

I'll let you know what's happening.

Right now I'm trembling too much to type anymore.


Wednesday 31 March 2004

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: *
Babe Count: N/A

Sitting at home listening my UNCUT, Best of 2003 cd on repeat. Feeling lonely, and wishing Jacqui were with me.

My phone vibrates, and gives off the cuckoo sound. An incoming sms. It's from Jacqui.

She says that her cd is an exquisite set of songs, and that she feels loved. She also thanks me for our beautiful and soul-full goodbye.

A huge part of me is beaming. That cd I made for her is bursting with love and light. Another part of me is wailing. Tears of loss. I'm wishing that she and I can be together. That this space she's in is filled with healing. May she find herself, and in doing that, find me.


Wednesday 31 March 2004

M&A, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Phone: +27 11 325 2727

Yup, the babe count is full to overflowing tonight. That's cos the babe sitting across from me is Jacqui. It's our meeting, the one where we hand things to each other and say goodbye. She's looking beautiful tonight, in a red-Japanese-sunburst-on-white cotton blouse, oriental-cut. "I bought it on the Woolworth's sale," she says.

We've both been crying intermittently since Jacqui arrived. But there are amazing amounts of love flowing between us. This woman really loves me, really finds me precious. And the same from me. We've hugged a few times. Touched each others hands. I've held her face.

I've got this little condom pouch in my cargo pants. It's right near the ankle, inconspicuous. And I've got it loaded tonight. 

I reach in and pull out a candle. And a lighter. "I brought this in case they didn't have candles for us." And they certainly didn't. This place is VERY brightly lit. 

When I asked the maitre d'hotel  if he could perhaps dim the lights, he said, "Hmm. We don't have a dimmer, but I'll see what I can do. But, just out of curiosity, are you saying the restaurant is overlit?"

Jacqui lights the candle, and I breathe white light into it as she does so. Then I reach into my condom pocket and pull out a blue rectangle of glass. It's a piece of mosaic that's fallen off the wall of my block of flats. Jacqui's a Gaudi-lover, and has done a mosaic course, and is about to make a mosaic. As she realises what it is, and where it comes from, the tears flow again.

I hold it to my heart, and breathe light and love into it. I ask God to enter it, so that it may guide Jacqui on her search for her soul, and that she may be free. I kiss it three times and give it to her. She touches my face, smiles through the tears. "Thank you."

Yet another dipping into the pocket. A smooth, round, white pebble. Quartz. I do the same with it. "This one's just for you to keep somewhere, to remind you of me. The mosaic is for your next project."

All this while, the waiter is hovering. As Jacqui bursts into tears and reaches for a serviette, he braves the table. "Would you like to order?" he asks.

"No, not right now," I say. I'm also on the verge of crying.

Jacqui puts the stones in her bag. "I want to keep the energy in them," she says. And my floodgates break.

The maitre d arrives as I'm pressing a sodden serviette to my eyes. "Uh, sorry to, uh, interrupt. But, uhm, I'd like to offer you an hors-d'oeuvre on the house, just to keep you going till you order." He then goes on to describe it. Something to do with olives, bread, basil. I dunno. I'm crying. Leave me alone! Jacqui nods a yes to him, and he leaves.

The lights slide down a couple of notches. "That's strange," I say, and Jacqui's thinking the same thing.

"I thought they didn't have a dimmer," she says.

And we're onto some other topic. And I start to cry again. And the maitre d pops into my distorted field of vision. "Sorry to interrupt," he says, "but is this level of lighting now acceptable?"

I almost start laughing, but the sorrow's just a little too throaty for me. So I just blub while Jacqui says the lighting's cool. He leaves.

Then Jacqui starts crying for one reason or another. And the waiter appears with the hors-d'oeuvre. Jeeez. The service here would receive five stars, but only if they added a touch of sensitivity to the mix. As it is, four stars is a little generous, but that's okay, cos Jacqui and I are here in a loving space, and we're creating a beautiful breakup. So I'll be generous to the service. But I can't easily forgive the ambience. The lighting, even mysteriously dimmed a notch or two is still daylight-bright.

We talk about things. "Are you seeing anybody?" I ask.

"I don't think I'll be seeing anybody for a long time," she says. Then, "This poet of yours. I don't like the sound of her. I would like to request that you let me interview any of your potential lovers. You deserve only the best," she says.

I touch her arm, delicately, sincerely, tenderly. "That's you," I say.

So we yo-yo through our emotions, with the dude appearing as the tears break. Weird man.

My tuna salad is delicious, and superbly presented. It's just that the knot in my stomach is leaving me a tad un-hungry. Jacqui's ravioli is satisfying to her. I ask the waiter to put more than half of mine into a doggie bag. I'll have it for lunch tomorrow at work.

At the end of the evening, I tell Jacqui that I love her, and that I set her free. "This is what I wish for you," I say. "I wish for you to have a beautiful journey to finding your soul. And if you find a soulmate, I wish that your soul will recognise him as your home. I have found my soul's home, and she is you." She cries. For once, nobody comes to bother us.

"You're so generous, Roy. I feel amazed that you can say this after I've hurt you so badly."

I consider this. I say, "Jacqui, I don't really understand why we can't be together, but I'm coming to understand that you need to be where you are, and you need to have this space, and you need to be free. You've done nothing aimed at hurting me, and you're doing the right thing. For yourself. And if there's ever going to be a you and me, you're doing the right thing for us."

We hug.

And the evening comes to an end. We pay, head out into the night, go to her car. Things of mine in the boot. It's freezing outside. Rain spitting. I offer her my jacket. "It'll give me an excuse to come visit," I say. We laugh. Part of what we've agreed is that we might go on Vitality-points-earning fitness walks together once a month or so. We'll keep contact. And we'll hold a space open so that our mutual friends don't need to be awkward about inviting us to functions.

We put the boxes in my boot. Hug one more time, both sobbing wildly. The cold is nudging Jacqui's nipples into my chest. I love these nipples. I love this woman. I want her! And we say goodbye, and get into our cars before the maitre d'hotel can find some reason to come into the cold-cold night to interrupt us again.


Sunday 28 March 2004

Mugg & Bean, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * *1/2
Babe Count: * * *

I'm trying the Chinese Chicken Salad with Glass Noodles. Basheer, my waiter, is damn good. I reckon if he were working at Primi Piatti, he'd be one of their highest-earning waiters. Instead, he's here at Cresta, getting tipped by students and West Rand dwellers. A tough life.

Last night, after I met with Mandy, the poet, I went to gym, then hit Rosebank for a movie. Saw BIG FISH, which made me cry, cos it's all about undying and unfailing love over an entire lifetime. I wanted to sms Jacqui a hundred times during the movie to ask her to see it with me.

But I was very disciplined. I didn't sms her at all. And around 7 o'clock, I'd even begun to stop checking the screen every thirty seconds to see if she'd replied to my morning message.

So I was quite surprised to find a message from her when I exited the cinema:

Hello Roy, thanks for your lovely msg. I am in the Drakensberg with Clair and Erich etc... for Bear's birthday. I miss you terribly too and the walk on the mountain today reminded me of our walk on Table Mountain. I love you too Roy, and I pray that we will heal totally. Sleep well! Jacqui.

So when I went to sleep last night, sobbing viciously, drool running into my ears, I spoke aloud to the universe. I said, "God, if there is such a thing, if you really do exist, I need your help. I don't know what is going on with me and Jacqui, and I would really like some clarity. Please send me some message, some course I can take, to resolve this. I love this woman. She loves me. If it's for the greatest good, please let us be together!"

I listened carefully, but all I could hear was my duvet getting tear-logged. 

Fell asleep.

Woke this morning on a mission. I sat down before my cd collection and started looking for songs that would make a great love collection to compile for Jacqui. Switched my computer on and started popping tracks onto the hard drive. How's this for a playlist???

Who knows whether or not she's wearing panties. Quite young. Her legs spread in a kinda innocent-young-girl way, as though she wasn't yet eighteen and bonkable. Compulsive stuff.INTO MY ARMS by Nick Cave. NIGHTSWIMMING by R.E.M. IN THE COLD, COLD NIGHT by The White Stripes. EVERYDAY I WRITE THE BOOK by Elvis Costello. I'M YOUR MAN by Bill Pritchard (a Leonard Cohen song). CAUGHT IN A CRAVING by Wendy New. FLOWERS IN THE WINDOW by Travis. DON'T MARRY HER by The Beautiful South. YOUR GHOST by Kristin Hersh (with Michael Stipe). BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springstein. UNIVERSAL HALL by The Waterboys. BE MY NUMBER TWO by Joe Jackson. THERE SHE GOES by the La's. HALLELUJAH by John Cale (another Leonard Cohen song). And finally, (I'LL LOVE YOU) TILL THE END OF THE WORLD by Nick Cave again.

Made it into a cd, and have done the packaging. I'm hoping that with space and perspective, Jacqui will be able to see that this breakup is actually based on an incident, and that the incident doesn't have to mean the end of our relationship. I don't think I was insane in finding Jacqui to be the woman of my dreams. She actually IS that woman! Remains so! And I don't think she spent ten months with me in abject misery. We had great times together, and she's found me wonderful. These are not illusions.

So I'm hoping that when we do the handing-back-of-Roy's-things ceremony some time this week, she'll appreciate the cd, and might actually even listen to it. My propaganda is subtle, but I think persuasive.

So anyway, I'm in Mugg & Bean, and a very large-boned student type girl walks in with her buddies. Sits at the table next to mine. And proceeds to sit with her legs gaping. 

Don't do that to me!!!!!! It means I have to fixate on finding out whether or not she's wearing any underwear. Oh man. Hard-on territory.

Only one thing to do. I whip out my trusty sketch book, and record the dark shadow of her womanhood for posterity.


Saturday 27 March 2004

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Three o'clock, and all's well. This morning, after a long time lying in bed thinking, I sent Jacqui an sms. 

It said: 

Hullo Jacqui... Just letting you know I love you, and am missing you. The anxiety is gone, and now I'm able to mourn the loss of us. Feeling sore, but it's a clean pain. I hope you're having a peaceful, healing time. And I want you to know that I wish you the very best. I also hope that one day in a couple of months, you might decide that I'm a guy you might want to date. And maybe we can start afresh. I love you, Jacqui. Roy.

And of course, shreds of the anxiety are still active, so I'm only checking my phone every fifteen minutes for a response. And there isn't one. She's mentioned that she'd "be away" this weekend, which is why we couldn't do the handing over ceremony where she gives me my underpants and socks and tshirts and trousers and books and keys and we kiss dry-lipped and hug awkwardly and cry. I can look forward to that next week.

But right now, I've got an excuse to keep checking my cellphone for messages. I'm meeting a young poet who moved to Joburg from Cape Town, and is keen to hook up with fellow poets. She's sent one of her poems to the UCT PoetryWeb for comment, and I see great potential in it. It's got some rough spots, but it's got some seriously cool observations in it.

I've spent part of the morning analysing it, and working out what I would do to fix it, and, more importantly, making notes about how a young poet might get from one draft to the next.

I send Mandy an sms:

Hi Mandy... I'm wearing a lilac t-shirt, and I'm sitting in JB Rivers at the end closest to the CNA. Leather satchel on the chair beside me.

Something to that effect.

My phone beeps back almost immediately. The message tone is a cuckoo. Could it somehow be Jacqui messaging me? Of course not. Don't  be an anxious obsessive compulsive, Roy. Come on! It's Mandy. She's on her way.

Which is darn exciting. I have a soft spot for poets. Especially good ones. Especially ones who have the courage to meet a strange dude at a coffee shop and entrust him with their words. Especially female ones, what with me being newly single and all that.

She arrives. Amazing striped top. Wild black hair. Slightly mismatched brown eyes, but piercing and alive and intelligent. Yummy.

She's in advertising -- a creative strategist. Loves her work. But loves the power of words. I probe a bit, and find out that her first love is actually music. She's a pianist, and loves the romantics like Chopin and Rachmaninov. Has even heard a recording of him playing. Regards him as one of her heroes.

I can tell that she's a little rattled. It's quite easy to know that, since she says, "I'm a bit uncomfortable talking about myself like this. I've told you things that I've never told anyone else. You won't put them on your website, will you?"

Of course I won't. This site isn't here to damage anyone. It's a romp. And it's supposed to entertain.

Then she says, "But aren't you a bit nervous about what you write here? I mean, knowing Jacqui might be reading this, will you write about our meeting?"

I'm not sure about this. As I sit and write the site, I certainly do edit stuff out. You're reading the highlights package. And yes, I'm very nervous about Jacqui reading this. I want Jacqui to be my one-true-love, the woman who has my kids, the woman who I spend the rest of my life with. Even though I broke up with her last Tuesday in the couples therapy session that was meant to be my commitment to doing whatever it took to support her through the space she needed to take.

And I'm aware that Jacqui reading about my meeting a nubile young poet who I'd looooove to shag right this second might not make it any easier in a couple of months when she finally works out that I'm the dude she wants.

But the thing is, WANTING to shag Mandy is not the same as actually shagging her. And I'm not doing that. (Now naturally, I'm being extremely presumptuous here. I'm sort of assuming that I have enough animal magnetism and charisma and poetic insight for Mandy to be interested in shagging ME. But hey. I've gotta allow myself SOME delusions in this tear-stained space I find myself in.)

I pull out my notes, and run Mandy through her poem, as seen through my eyes. And I show her a pared down draft that I've prepared to show her what I think she really intended to be in the poem. And she's really chuffed with my poetic insight. Now I've just gotta work on the animal magnetism and charisma.


Wednesday 24 March 2004

The Park Hiatt, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *1/2
Babe Count: * * * *

It's around ten-fifteen in the morning, and my eyes are swollen and scratchy, and I'm feeling drained. I've just finished therapy with Zahava, and it's been a rough session. We've been talking about me and Jacqui, and the stuff that's been coming up for me.

So I've phoned my production manager at work and told her I'll be coming in around lunchtime, that I'm taking the morning to recover from therapy. She's sympathetic. "Have some Hiatt cake for me," she says.

I'm not in the mood for cake. What I need is a good pot of tea.

I'm outside in the garden area, sitting on a wrought iron chair, feeling as though I might be a visitor to zis vunderfull kuntry, Sous Afrika, ya? And the inevitable plane load of German air hostesses arrives. They've just spilled off their shuttle from the airport, and they're in full uniform. Blue hems. Hmmmmmmmm.

They all join their pilots and co-pilots and diplomats at a table nearby. Which means that FINALLLLLLY a waitress saunters over. For one of South Africa's premier hotels, the service here is remarkably unremarkable. She takes their order, and starts sauntering away.

"Excuse me!!!" I say, and a German air hostess does the polite thing and calls her back. I smile at her. She smiles back, her lips stretched back in that, "Enjoy your flight, sir!" kinda way. I wonder what jet lag does to one's sex drive?

The waitress is wearing a name tag. I say, "May I please have a pot of tea, Confidence?" I kid you not. That's her name. It says so on her name tag.

She turns out to be very sweet, just busy, and the tea arrives quite quickly. She's given me two biscuits, which is pretty darn generous, seeing as the pot of tea only costs a trivial R15, a mere R9 more expensive than any of the other twenty or so coffee shops in the area.

She's about to walk away when I ask her where the tea strainer is. Cos last time I had tea here, the pot had loose tea leaves in it, and a dinky little silver strainer. "Oh," says Confidence, "if you want the loose tea you need to ask for it. This one is made with tea bags."

Ah well. It's a bit like a relationship. You can't always predict what you're going to get, and you've got to be very specific about what you ask for.

The German air crew continue behaving like cigarette commercial extras, and I sip my tea, considering faking my accent.


Wednesday 24 March 2004

Piaceri, The Wedge, Rivonia

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Troy Bentley called me this afternoon as soon as he heard about my breakup. "We're having dinner tonight in Rivonia. Join us." I'm up for it, and I tell him. 

"Oh, by the way," he says, "I don't mean to be insensitive about your breakup or anything, but I've got a new girlfriend."

I get to the place twenty minutes later than 8pm. That's cos I had an hour to kill before, and headed off to the Morningside gym for a workout. In this Jacqui-separation period, I've clocked up 24 hours in the Toyota Virgin Quest, which puts me in line to win a car or a bicycle or a cap. But I've also found that my mass has come down from an overweight 84 kilograms a year ago to an astounding 78 kilograms as of last night! Still got about four to go before I'm sleek, but I'm quite impressed with myself. 

Which is why I'm twenty minutes late. Cos I've been watching babes butts jiggling on the running machines. Couldn't tear myself away. 

Think I'm going to have to muster the courage to go into one of those adult entertainment shops and buy myself a masturbation machine. That way I can lie back and think of Taiwan, and not feel guilty about whispering Jacqui's name.

But I digress.

So, anyway, when I get out of my car at The Wedge, it's with the grunt of having just done 56 stomach crunches in under a minute so I could qualify for 3 bonus Quest hours, and I'm still sodden with sweat. Luckily my sweat is of the non-smelly variety. So when Troy's 6'1" blonde babe buddy rushes out to greet me, and gives me a hug, and crouches down to get her lips level with mine, and gives me a soft, deliciously spongy-lipped kiss, no tongue or moisture, I have to apologise. "Sorry I'm all wet," I say.

"That's how I like my men," says Renee. She has an awe-inspiring body, and very yummy breasts. And her butt is just yelling out my name. I'd LOVE to see her on a running machine.

Damn. Pity she's got a boyfriend. And she smokes. And she's not Jacqui. Sigh.

But she IS a babe. And because of her, the babe count would have been five stars, but in honour of Jacqui and the fact that I still love her and want to maintain my own illusion that there's still some kind of hope for us, I've had to knock off a star.

And I go into the restaurant, which is one of those modern-styled places with no patrons. There are about thirty tables, and only three sets of people eating there. 

"Hey, Troy!" He gets up, and hugs me. I give him the same schpiel about being wet. He just shrugs. We've been hiking together. We've outfarted each other on bunk beds.

And there's his girlfriend. Redhead. Slim. Angular face. I know it's only been a week for Troy and Linda, but they actually look like a couple. And they look damn good together. Especially with their sickeningly entwined fingers. And the little kissy moments of neck nuzzling. And even though Linda's beautiful too, I can't add that fifth star. That would be dissing Jacqui. I know they're holding back, out of respect for my bereavement. 

And yes, this is a bereavement. Losing Jacqui has been a very bad jolt to my system.

But I've come to one or two realisations through this. 

The first is this: No matter how much I love her, I really do have to put my own needs first. The space she asked for was impossible for me to give her, and I was suffering quite serious anxiety as a result, with trembling and sleeplessness and near-panic-attacks. 

The second is this: her needing space has nothing to do with me. We had a good relationship. The best I've had so far. But it wasn't where she needed to be.

And there's a funny little side effect to all of this. Last night I was looking at her photo, and I decided to put it in a frame. And then I thought, "Hang on! This is curious! I've had four very significant relationships in my life, and I don't have photos of any of my previous loves on my walls!" 

So I went through my photo albums and pulled out photies of my previous babes.

Miriam was my first serious love. That was a three year relationship.

Ingrid was next. Two years.

Then came Antoinette. Two years and four months.

And now Jacqui. Ten months.

So now all four of them are on my wall, in an honoured space.

Cos I've realised that there is no reason to hide them from myself or from my next lover. They're a proud part of who I am today, and the insights and changes I've made are really part of their legacy. My previous relationships are hugely important to what I take into my next one. So, Miriam, Ingrid, Antoinette, Jacqui... I salute you, I honour you, I love you. And I'm grateful to you for the learning.

Which brings me back to Piaceri. The waiter is extremely attentive, and brings me my Chicken Tika salad, which would be seriously enjoyable if I had any appetite, and if I weren't filling Troy, Renee, and Linda in on the details of my breakup. They make cooing sounds of support, and make it acceptable for me to feel all right about being bleary-eyed and shuddery of breath.

Finally, I finish my story, and half my salad, and the rest are ready to order dessert. I turn to look at the cake stand. "What on earth's THAT!??" I say.

"Salami cake," says the waiter. It's chocolate, with little bits of shortbread speckling it. From where I'm sitting, it looks like an ACTUAL salami.

"Gotta do it," I say, and add a decaf cappuccino to my order. Malva puddings for Troy and Linda. Nothing for Renee.

When my pudding comes, it's in thin slices, just like real salami. Adds a star to this place. I'll come back for this cake.

"Renee," I say. "I've been reading between the lines tonight, and I want to say something. I'm not sure if I'm outta line here, but I just want you to know that you have a beautiful body. You are mouthwatering."

"Listen to Roy!!!" says Troy. And I know that I've hit some or other button on the head. This beautiful woman doesn't believe she's beautiful.

"Okay," she says, "I'll have a bite of your salami."

"Ditch the boyfriend first," I say. "And can I call you Jacqui?"


Tuesday 23 March 2004

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * 
Food: * 
Ambience: * 
Babe Count: N/A

Sheepy used to keep Jacqui and me company on hot nights. She's seen a good few bits of anatomy, and she knows just how amazing our sex life has been. Sheepy misses Jacqui, and you'll notice how tear-stained her ears are.I'm tear soaked and sapped right now. Just came home from couples therapy. I had decided that I couldn't take more of this space, and handed Jacqui all of her things before the session started. We'll be seeing each other one more time for her to hand me my stuff.

I've been wondering if there's anything I could have done differently. And I'll certainly be exploring this with my therapist in the months to come. 

In the meantime, supper is a handful of stale CHEEZ NAKS. They're on the other side of the flat, and I can't really be bothered to get up and get them. My car's parked outside. I had intended to come upstairs, grab my gym stuff, and head out for a vigorous workout. But I'm gutted.

I wonder what this is all about. I've spent all of my adult life learning how to be a better person. I've spent tons of time in therapy learning about myself. I'm normally a pretty astute judge of human nature. So what makes it so difficult to stay in a beautiful relationship? (And from what I've gleaned in couples therapy, Jacqui also found it beautiful.)

Anyway. I'm going to be very sore for a while. And Jacqui is too. And I wish we were able to reach out and comfort each other. And be with each other. She said in therapy today that she thinks it may very well have been a factor of timing for her. Maybe we started our journey together a little too early.

I know this is soppy, but at the end of the session, I told her that I would like her to know that the door is open, and that maybe we're both incredibly reactive right now, and that maybe given time, some possibility might open up.

Ah well. I think I'd best go and watch some soppy movie. Even popcorn is better than stale CHEEZ NAKS.

And who knows, maybe I'll meet the new love of my life in the cinema?


Thursday 11 March 2004

Mugg & Bean, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * 

My t-shirt is a little clammy. That's because I've just gotten out of the Virgin Active gym down across the parking lot, seconds before closing time. That's cos I got there late, due to having been at work late. But hey. I'm dedicating myself to getting to gym three times a week now.

Back at the gym there was a pleasant dude in the changeroom who turns out to be a property development construction mogul. We got to chatting cos of the good-natured grunts and groans he was making while changing.

"Rough workout?" I ask.

"Two hours," he says. "Arms and stomach. Yesterday I overdid it a bit."

Two hours! Jeepers! The longest I've stayed in gym has been two hours, but an hour of that was over a cup of Kauai coffee!!!

He tells me he makes his living by building places like shopping centres, holding them for a few years, and then selling them at a profit. I ask him if we can get together so I can pick his brain. I've been taking tentative steps in this direction for some time now, spurred mostly by the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books.

"I'm rushing to get to the rowing machine before this place closes," I say. "My name's Roy, by the way."

"Jeff," he says, and we shake hands. 

I write his name and number down in my notebook. And yup, I carry it with me wherever I am. If I don't have my palmtop and my notebook with me, you know there's something really odd happening in my life. "I'll sms you my business card later, and we can connect," I say. He's happy with this, and I rush for the rowing machine.

Which is why I'm sweatily sitting in Mugg & Bean picking at their smoked chicken salad, and sipping at the biggest strawberry juice in the world. Mugg & Bean likes big.

The salad is unfortunately sub-standard. The chicken slices a quite thick, and it's from some kind of pressed loaf, which has a gristly rind which hasn't been removed. It squeeks against my teeth when I chew. But I'm hungry, and it's okay. And the honey mustard dressing makes up for it.

I call my brother, who's in town from the Transkei (or whatever it's called these days). He's doing some wheeler-dealing, and leaves on Sunday. So I arrange to have breakfast with him on Saturday. "Gimme a call on my cell at about ten," he says. "I sleep on the Buddhist principle. Sleep when I need. Wake up when I wake up."

I call my mom. Her cellphone's broken, and the only way to use it is with one of those walk & talk handsfree earpieces. Which means that all the ambient noise in Mugg & Bean is amplified on her side. "Who's laughing like that???" she says.

I have to look around to know what she's talking about. Some dude at a table about ten metres away is chortling. I tell my mom how far away he is. "It's Joburg," she says. "Everyone lives so fast there. You should move to Cape Town. Much more laid back." 

She tells me about being rained in, and unable to get into Port St Johns in the morning. The roads are made of clay, which, as one might guess if one were a qualified civil engineer, is extremely slippery when wet. So she can't travel. Very frustrating for her, cos she lives on top of a very, very, very big hill (someone from Joburg might call it a mountain; someone from Holland would be unable to call it anything at all, since no Dutch references exist for such tall things). And there are lots of big hills between her and Port St Johns. And her car literally slides down the roads.

I tell her about the situation between me and Jacqui. I'm not all that sure I understand it myself. We went to our second couples therapy session on Tuesday, and it was very hard for me. Basically, Jacqui needs space. Lots of it. She's willing to see me twice a week for the next while... once at couples therapy, and then a Friday movie date, or something of equivalent lightness. 

There are two parts of me that respond to this request. The pleasing, logical side of me, the part that says, "Roy, there's a beautiful relationship here waiting to be healed!", absolutely agrees to whatever request Jacqui makes. The vulnerable, damaged, scared side of me says, "What the hell is WITH this woman!!??? Is she insane? Has she lost touch with reality??? How did I go to sleep one night blissfully in love with her and her with me, and wake up the next morning seeing her twice a week????"

My mom says, "She's got beautiful, kind eyes." She's looking at the photo I sent her in a book parcel.

I say goodnight, and an sms comes through. "Roy why the word love?" says Jeff, the property mogul. I had sent him my details, and signed off with my habitual and regular "Blue skies, love, Roy" signature. He's probably freaking out now about handing his number out to some dude in a gym changeroom. 

But hey. It's not the Houghton branch, and I'm very much NOT interested in dudes. So I send him an sms explaining that it's about spreading light and joy in this weird, soulfree universe we find ourselves in. No reply. There's a good chance he thinks I'm a total flake. Damn. I really wanna pick his brain about becoming a property mogul.

Noma, my waitress at Mugg & Bean, is one of the more attentive waitresses I've encountered in a long time. She's there when the plate is somewhat bare. She's there when the strawberry juice is at last finished. Definitely worth a 20% tip.

Now the sweat has cooled, and the rain is spattering down. Jersey on. Time to go home to my empty flat to be anxious about my date with Jacqui tomorrow night. 

Jacqui bought me a little toy sheep for me to use as a gimmick to give to my voice-over clients. It -- she -- has a little bell attached to her collar. And we call her "Sleepy Sheepy". I'll cuddle up to her tonight. Luckily I haven't inserted the voice recording device into her gut which says, in my voice, "Tired of BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD voice artists? Give Roy Blumenthal a bleat on 082 659 3165!"


Saturday 6 March 2004

The Radium Beer Hall, Orange Grove

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: *1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Tonight at the Radium there's no-one too worthwhile looking to start with. But that's gonna change as the night wears on. Wendy New definitely pushes the babe count over the threshold.

I'm here cos Wendy's doing a gig, and her supporting act is the Durban whizzkid, Ian Henderson. It's quite glum not having Jacqui here with me. But I'm feeling confident-ish that she and I may be able to work something out in this relationship of ours. Last night's date has given me hope. Still, it would be ever so cool to be enjoying the music with her.

Anyway.

Ian Henderson gets introduced by Damon Berry in his most showmanly Master of Ceremonies mode. I've seen a few MCs in my time, and even been introduced by several of them in my time as a standup poet. But Damon must be the most rousing of all of them. He can whip a rotten banana into an enthusiastic roar.

Damon says, "Ladies and gentlemen... all the way from Durban. He's single! He's sizzling! He's Ian Henderson!!! Any groupies here, please give generously!!! Put it together for Ian Henderson!" And the applause rises.

Ian Henderson, a young Tom Waits lookalike. Major musician. Keep your ears tuned.And Ian doesn't disappoint. I've got his CD, and I've given it many a spin on a Sunday afternoon and on late nights at the computer. And he's bloody good. 

Looks-wise, he's incredibly similar to Tom Waits. Long, horse-like face. Brown hair. Craggy face. Dazzling smile. Musically, I think he's a bit of a mix between Dave Matthews, David Grey and Joshua Rouse.

Very quirky, very listenable. And very cool live. Tonight is his first gig as a new Johannesburg resident. He's moved up from the coast. "I didn't think I'd ever like living here," he says, "but I have to admit that I'm kinda enjoying it." Starts his set. Just him and a guitar. And a time delay pedal so that he can do some experimental stuff a little later.

Damon buys me an imported Orange juice. Ten bucks I don't have to pay. And it doesn't take TOOOOOO long for the bartender to get it.

Everyone's very supportive of me in my bereavement. Shoulder massages from Wendy. Pats on the arm from Damon. But it's not really bereavement anymore. It feels like I'm really just giving Jacqui space. I figure that if we're going to go the distance, I'd like to wake up forty years from now saying, "I gave this woman space to be herself. The Jacqui I love is the real deal. It's HER. It's not some projection. It's not her acting out a version of herself that she thinks will please me. It's the Jacqui who had space to discover herself, with me supporting her in that." 

And you know, if it doesn't happen, if in this space, she finds that she needs to be alone, that's cool. That's real. And reality is what I'm keen on. What's more, she's worth it. Every dip and peak in the roller coaster trip I'm strapped to at the moment is fine. Cos she's still the woman of my dreams.

Ian's set is over. "Hey!" he says when he gets off stage to join us. "Let's go compare babies." He's just bought a brand new Mazda MX5. And I've got the original model. Managed to park opposite his.

"So you're going through some stuff," he says. He's just bust up with his babe, and it's been hard on him too. We get to the cars. His is a midnight blue. Killer colour. A true beaut. Mine's red, and has pop-up lights.

Wendy's tuning up. We go back in and I order tea before the set starts. Frances Charlton has stepped onto the stage to tune her ultra-chic didgeridoo. That ups the babe count. A babe with a didge. And she doesn't even have dreadlocks. And her didge is a thing to behold. It's brushed aluminium, with a high-tech mouthpiece. And she's truly tuning the thing! It's a two-piece tube, and it's got stops for the different notes. Very slinky, Ms Charlton.

And then the set starts. And the tea arrives. And it's warm and fine.

Wendy New live at The Radium Beer Hall. Hooboy. I've got her cd. I play it often. On repeat. For hours at a time. This babe's got it. Get her cd. Get it now.And Wendy is at her best, even though she's been dreading this evening with all her heart, cos her wrist is wrecked. She's a shiatsu practitioner, and she's developed some type of tendonitis which has flared up in the last two weeks to such an extent that she can hardly hold her guitar.

But she's been psyching herself all day, and she's ready to burst past the pain threshold in the name of art. And she does. And she's rocking as good as I've heard her. Beware... if you don't have her cd, you're missing out bigtime. It's at CD Wherehouse and Look 'n Listen, I believe. And if it's not, ask for it. And force those suckers to stock it.

Inevitably, the evening wears down. There's a Dublin rain that's been dribbling down like an old man's prostate discharge all day and night. And it's just reminding me totally that I'm all alone tonight. Jacqui's been watching Charlize Theron winning her Oscar in MONSTERS. I haven't seen it yet, but my editor at the Ethiopean Educational TV project, Stephen Foster, tells me that it's hardcore, and brilliant, and a humungous downer. I hope Jacqui's okay after it. Sigh. Would love to be there to hug and comfort her. And get some of that hugging and comfort for myself.

Damon and Ian start applying the peer pressure. "Come on," says Damon. Come to the Blue Naartjie. You're single. There'll be babes."

"I'm not single," I say, suddenly grumpy and snarling. "I'm just giving her space. And I'm not going to the Blue Naartjie." It's almost one in the morning, and I've got to work tomorrow, cos of the day I had to take off last Tuesday because of the breakup.

Damon and Ian smile. That's the answer they've been looking for. 


Friday 5 March 2004

The Ocean Basket, Sandton City

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *1/2
Food: * * *1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Tonight the babe count is at maximum. That's cos the babe sitting across the table from me is Jacqui Maroun, love-of-my-life, looking gorgeous. And what's more, she's smiling tenderly at me.

Now I know I'm reading WAY too much into this, but that's what I wanna do for the moment. I WANT my hopes up there. I WANT to feel that maybe she and I will be able to sort things out and love each other for ever.

We're on a date, one we arranged to go on back at couples therapy on Tuesday.

I admit to having felt terrified of tonight. I feared the worst. 

This morning, driving to work, tears welling, I phone my shrink. Ask her if I should cancel this evening. Chicken out. "Roy," says Zahava, her kid screaming in the background, "I think you should go with it. Feel the fear, but have supper and see a movie with her. Whatever you feel tonight will be a good teacher for your future." 

As I'm listening, a beep sounds in my earpiece. It's a message. "Uh, hang on, Zahava," I say. "There's a message. It could be from Jacqui."

I look at the phone while driving in the rain. And yes... it IS from Jacqui! And she's very keen to meet tonight, and she's looking forward to seeing me. And she's suggesting a nice light movie... RUNAWAY JURY. And suddenly I'm feeling unbelievably relieved. But still petrified.

I tell Zahava, and read the message to her. "Go tonight," she says. "And phone me if you need me. Are you okay? Getting through work?"

We end the conversation when Saul shouts at his mom. He screams, "It's not fair!!!"

"Zahava," I say, "I have to agree with Saul. It's not fair."

So here I am with Jacqui, eating the fish and chips special at The Ocean Basket. We're upstairs, and it's surprisingly noisy. But the fish tastes fresh. I've forgotten once again about the standard option they offer... if you just ask them, they'll do a Cajun burn on the dish you order. So I just have to settle for the normal grilled hake. Which is very nice. And I'm astounded to find that I'm able to eat. Cos my tummy's been queazy all day today, and I haven't been able to eat very well.

And Jacqui looks so lovely. I just want to reach over the table and kiss her. And them make love with her. And all that sorta stuff. Which I don't mention, seeing as we're kinda in break-up mode.

But she's very clear about some stuff. Namely she loves me. Adores me. Thinks I'm one of the most special men around. And thanks me for giving her space. Specifically thanks me for not sending her any messages yesterday.

Phshew. I set myself the goal of refraining from sending her any SMSs yesterday. Not cos I didn't want to contact her. But simply to prove to myself and to her that I could honour her need for space.

It was a very very very very difficult day to get through.

And she tells me, "Roy, I've been forcing myself not to get into my car and drive over to your flat. I've been forcing myself not to send you any messages too. But I've really needed the space. Thank you."

I raise the serviette to my eyes. Swallow hard about five times. I don't want to break down here. I don't want to start crying. If I do, I can tell that it'll be the whooping howling version, the type that comes from deep despair and violent relief. This woman loves me! And she might even want me.

We watch the movie. I nice, workmanlike legal thriller that doesn't challenge too much, and only preaches a bit about gun control. And it's fun, and just what a strained couple might need.

We go walking around Sandton City after, and sit down on one of the benches outside Loads of Living.

It's time for a bit of heart to heart. "Roy," she says, "I feel so guilty."

"Because you feel you're stringing me along, and you don't want to hurt me, but you know I'm hurting. Because you're in a hectically ambivalent space."

She's agreeing.

And I say, "But you're not hurting me, Jacqui. I'm hurting, sure. But it's not YOU causing the hurt. It's the situation. What you're doing, what YOU'RE doing, is giving yourself the space to find out what you want. And you HAVE to do that. If you don't do that, you won't know what you want. And I'll go through any hurt to know at the end that it's me you want."

Or words to that effect. I don't recall exactly. It's a tad emotional here in Sandton City tonight on this bench.

"Roy," says Jacqui. And this time, I recall exactly what she says, cos it's burned into my brain stem. "Roy, if it's okay to ask this without getting your hopes up, I'd like to ask you to wait for me through this. And I'm committed to doing whatever work we need to go through."

We hug. I say, "I'll wait."


Monday 1 March 2004

Piatto, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: *

A dude sitting at the next table. Totally engrossed in smug happiness while all around him hearts are thudding in despair. Okay... not hearts plural. My heart. And maybe Jacqui's back in her spot in Fourways.If sorrow is supposed to be such an aphrodisiac, why'm I not feeling horny?

Jacqui and I met an hour or so ago at Graasroots in Village Walk. We were going to have supper, but things went a little pear shaped. As things do when break up speeches are delivered.

Got an sms from my shrink this morning. She's sick, so she was unable to have our inaugural couples' therapy session this afternoon. Which meant that Jacqui and I got to meet this evening without the benefit of mediation.

This is where we've left things... we'll be in touch with each other next at the rescheduled therapy session, whenever that might be. Jacqui has agreed to my request that she keep an open mind as to the slim possibility of this relationship resuming. I've agreed to her request that I start thinking of letting go.

Who knows? Surely there must be something at least one of us can change to make this a successful relationship?

My artist buddy, Alfred Hilton. Absolutely awe-inspiring portraitist. One of his versions of me sits on the wall above my desk. He's one of my artistic inspirations.What's really bewildering for me is that I truly don't know what went wrong. I mean, there are the obvious reasons. Pressure from outside sources. Blah blah blah. 

But I got it profoundly wrong. 

For me, this was the relationship of my dreams. This babe was a full five-star wonder for me. Was? Make that IS. She IS my full five-star wonder! My fantasies had li'l babies running around. Cats. A house in Tuscany. All that mushy stuff. And I can say with full conviction that this is the only woman I've ever felt broody with. She can be the mom of my kids anytime she wants. 

For her, this was not the relationship of her dreams. This was a beautiful ten-month journey that has now ended.

Okay. I'll admit to being a little alarmist. Maybe she's just premenstrual. Maybe this'll all blow over somehow. But I'm also aware of being way too optimistic. So I'm fearing the worst, even though I'm hoping for the best.

And my Cajun chicken salad arrives. The Piatto philosophy seems to be about offering abundance. So there's a LOT of Danish feta cheese, and delicious, tender chicken strips. But a heck of a lot of dressing, which I'm not fond of at the best of times. So I plod through the eating, thinking about Jacqui.

I wonder if yearning has some kind of energetic impact on the universe? D'you think that if I yearn hard enough, God might prod Jacqui in the arm and say, "Hey, haven't you noticed how much you love this bloke??? Give him a try! And change the way you two do things together so you don't feel trapped!"

Okay. I'm going to give the yearning my very best shot.


Sunday 29 February 2004

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * 1/2
Food: * *1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: N/A

Jacqui gave me a terrific photo of her in a hot air balloon. I've been missing her sorely this weekend, so I couldn't resist rendering her on my palmtop. Jacqui.... you're my biscuit. I love you.So it's the big day of the leap year, the one where men are supposed to anxiously await their girlfriends who will approach on bended knee and offer them rings and propose marriage. 

Well, it ain't happening to me. I'm alone in my flat, knowing that the phone won't ring. And that's cos Jacqui's off on a long weekend with her girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.

But that's not why I'm not expecting the phone not to ring. 

Thing is, things aren't all that cushy between Jacqui and me for right now. We've been suffering a bit of strain from some stuff involving her twin sister and the brother-in-law from hell. I can't say anything about it now, cos it would probably be libelous, and would definitely result in some horrible stuff.

I decided to shave off my beard yesterday. Decided to allow it to be a symbolic rebirth. Maybe I have some changes to make in my love life, in myself, in order to successfully have a long-term relationship. I don't know if it's my imagination, but in this self portrait, I sense a touch of sadness. I'm holding thumbs that Jacqui and I will be able to thrive past this period.It's enough to say that things are complicated, and because of this, it's causing Jacqui to evaluate our relationship on a continuous basis. And while she's not finding me wanting, she is wondering whether she actually has what it takes to be in a relationship right now. (The confusing stuff for me has to do with her saying that she loves me dearly, that I'm precious to her, that I'm perfect for her in all sorts of ways, but that she just doesn't know if I'm the one for her. Ouch.)

If we push past the first couple of days of March, we'll be past the ten month mark. And they've been beautiful months for me.

Anyway. So tomorrow we go for our first session of couples therapy with my shrink, Zahava.

And in the meantime, I've been listening to meditation tapes, doing tai chi, immersing myself in work, and sketching on my palmtop.

Robert Altman. He directed one of my favourite films, SHORT CUTS. I've just bought a DVD in the American Film Institute's "The Directors" series. A documentary on what makes him tick. I've sketched this caricature of him from the photo on the sleeve.Oh... my palmtop. Damn. I haven't been able to sort out the ftp system. It just will not work, no matter what I try. Which is one of the reasons I haven't updated for a while. Another reason is the conflict between me and Jacqui's brother-in-law. So much to write about, and just not the stuff I want to put on the site for now. So I've just been dragging my heels. But hey. Here I am.

Del Amitri is playing at moderate loudness on my sound system. There's a Seattle Coffee Company triple chocolate muffin in the kitchen. I've got a selection of Twinings herbal infusions to choose from. And that's gunna be supper. Music and comfort food.

Hold thumbs for me. I feel Jacqui's the babe of my dreams. And I'm hoping that I'm the babe of her dreams, and that the distance is really just artificially induced. I'm sending tons of white light her way, and lighting candles for us. Here's a request... if you don't mind, please send a beam of white light our way too. That would be kind and generous of you.

Blue skies
love
Roy


Friday 12 December 2003

Manhattan Grill, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * 1/2
Food: * * *1/2
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *1/2

Bonnie Pon, boss of Starburst Pyrotechnics, fireworks display king!It's eleven o'clock at night. My shoe soles are still smouldering. I have tiny splinters in my hands and arms. My eyebrows are a tad singed.

Funnily enough, Troy Bentley's suffering something similar. 

And so is Bonnie Pon. But with the addition of a pressure bandage round his ankle from when he fell in the hole.

Bonnie is the head of the Pon family, the dudes responsible for many of the night-sky fireworks spectaculars you see in South Africa. They go all over the place, and they've got state-of-the-art equipment. This year they've synchronised their explosions to the music by using an amazing computer program linked to various detonators. These people are WAY up there on the technological wizardry scale.

So lemme start at the beginning of the evening, before the burning started.

I'm in Bookdealers of Rosebank, trying to find some suitable new screenwriting books. Or sketching sourcebooks. Or anything that a compulsive book-buyer might want, really. Jacqui is off at the Hoogland Hydro for five days of pampering, and I'm killing time till tomorrow, when Damon and I will recommence work on writing our B-movie horror screenplay.

Margaret Pon, Bonnie's wife. She looks a whole lot better in real life than in my drawing. And I'm not just saying this cos they bought me supper. It's cos it's true!My phone rings. It's Troy Bentley, Damon's cousin. "Get your butt to Cresta," he says. "Fireworks starts in half an hour!" I discuss where to find him, and skedaddle, after only buying one book, something on how to structure corporate social investment programs.

The traffic is crazy. Getting to my flat just across the way from Cresta Shopping Centre is sheer mania. But hey. Fireworks! I park. Walk to Cresta and find Troy.

Every year, he helps the Pons out with setting up, monitoring, and packing up the show. Last year he also invited me, and I ended up helping load the trucks at the end. Hard, dirty work.

Tonight, I'm early, and Troy is on fire duty. He's got a team of six guys, and they've all got fire beaters. That's cos Cresta borders a nature reserve and office park, and noone wants a fire now, do they? Specially not me.

So the show starts. And it's absolutely unbelievably mindnumbingly wonderful to be allowed into the restricted zone, and see the fireworks from below. To feel the vicious thud of the big rockets as they smash out of their metre-long plastic launchers 300 metres up into the air. To smell the spent gunpowder as it pelts down like hail. Yeah! This is the life.

And all's going perfectly well, really. Until the very last minute of the 21-minute show. That's when the corkscrewy sorta sperm-like explosions happen, with the white flames showering down under power. Carried by the wind. To the ground. Into the dry grass.

So of course, no fewer than three fires start. And Troy and his men are gone, sprinting into the dark. So I figure that a bit of heroism is a good thing on a Friday night. I go sprinting after them.

Theresa Pon, one of Bonnie's daughters. Yummie.And boy, do I find out just how difficult it is to fight fires on a dark night in marshland with thorn trees? From about 8pm till 11pm when we finally get into the restaurant, we all battle the blazes manfully.

Troy and I team up, working as a pair, beating the advancing fires against the wind. Of the six fire beaters employed to do this job, only one guy is effective. The other five kinda hang back, superstitiously warding off the flames with broken branches held over their eyes. 

So it's basically me, Troy, Bonnie, and the tall dude, whose name I don't know. We put out three goddamn fires all on our lonesomes.

Except Bonnie walks to some reeds and then disappears. A calm yelp from him, and he re-emerges a minute or so later. He's fallen into a human-sized hole, and his ankle is wrecked. He limps back to the real world.

There's a romance involved in firefighting. I'm sure it's one of those esoteric things that only firefighters know, and that noone can know unless they've been there. It's this... the grass sings like a billion serpents all writhing in a high-pitched orchestra-tuning pit. And the singing is tangible... it feels like there's something like razor-wire just below the surface of the grass, ready to uncoil and slice your legs off. Scary as all hell, but beautiful.

At some point, the wind changes, and starts blowing towards us. I've been going to gym, but not enough. I'm winded. I'm thirsty. I'm scared that I might be hallucinating. I hand my fire-beater to one of the five branch-wielders, and fall back. I see some torches on the horizon, and I head for them. They turn into red revolving lights. It's the firebrigade.

I stumble up to the truck, feeling as though I'm about to pass out. "Please can I have some water?" I say to the driver. 

"Eva Pon, married to one of Bonnie's sons. She and Theresa definitely pushed the babe count into the four figures.Sure," he says. Climbs out of this monster truck, heads to one of the vast taps on the side of it, checks the valve number, and lets rip. I can report that I'm the only person I know who has drunk straight from the mouth of a fire engine. And the water is hot. But that doesn't stop me from drinking around two or three litres of the stuff.

Sated, I head back to the front. The fire truck can't navigate the marshes, so they're driving around to meet us at the road.

Troy and his guys are already at the fence. The fires are out. "Hey!" I shout, and he flashes his torch at me. I've got this tiny Maglite, the smallest one, but it allows him to locate me. 

I see red flicking lights again as I draw closer. Troy says, "Hey! Hang on! There's two more of us here! Whoah!!!" The truck drives off without us. We walk back to Cresta, about a kilometre.

We find Bonnie overseeing the loading of the trucks. He's sitting awkwardly. He gives us two bottles of mineral water each, which we down in seconds. "How's your leg?" I say.

"Sore," he says. He drives a Merc, so I ask Margaret, his wife, to let me hunt for the first aid kit. I find it, find a pressure bandage, and draw on my three months of Boy Scout knowledge to fashion a pretty neat immobilising wrap round his ankle. He'll need help in the morning, but it's not broken, since he can voluntarily move his toes, and a light finger touch to the skin doesn't make him strike dragons or un-crouch tigers.

And then it's off to supper. With about 16 members of the Pon family. The service isn't diabolical. Just ultra slow. We've been saving the world, and it takes the kitchen staff till midnight to get our order out.

And of course, it has to happen. Bonnie orders his meat rare, and it comes out well done. Seems as though his steak got caught in the fire.


Wednesday 10 December 2003

Jacqui's Flat, Fourways

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Oh, shame! Poor Jacqui! She's sick in bed with flu, and I'm upstairs in the loft playing with my iPAQ 2210 palmtop computer.

I've just taken delivery of a Stowaway XT folding keyboard that is nothing short of miraculous. The absence of the keyboard is one of the reasons it's taken me so long to actually update this site.

IJacqui lying in bed. This is drawn directly into my iPAQ, using the stylus as my pen and brush. The package I'm using saves things in BMP format, so I have to convert them to JPG on my desktop computer. As soon as I get an onboard conversion program, I'll start posting these sketches more often.n fact, one of the reasons I'm doing up in the loft -- instead of downstairs, close to Jacqui -- is that the cellphone reception is way better up here. I've sorted out my GPRS connection to the internet, so I'm able to surf to my heart's content up here. Using a bluetooth connection.

Which basically means that I'm finally happy with my Nokia 6310i, a phone which steadfastly refused to connect with my previous palmtop, my trusty Psion 5MX.

So what can I tell you? Tons really. I'll start with the food. Not great. Just a few arbitrary things in Jacqui's fridge. Such as a Tupperware container filled with long green tendrils attached to the remnants of some extra-mature cheddar. And some Primi Piatti gnocchi from a few nights ago.

Babe count is great, cos even though Jacqui's been nailed by the flu, she looks lovely lying there in her sweatsoaked white nightie.

As for the service, it HAS to be great. After all, I'm the one doing the serving! And I'm the model of a caring boyfriend. I've told her that if she's too enfeebled by the flu to call loudly enough for me to hear, she must phone me on my cell.

On the work front, I'm mightily happy to report that I'm finally leaving SABC3, after three very productive years. I've made about 900 promos, learned to edit on the Avid (I've been editing all of my promos for the last year), and logged hundreds of hours of audio post-production and sound design. I've also helped make several dubious shows into stars. Like BUDDY FARO. But that's another story.

Right now, I'm looking forward to an easy and slow start to the year. I kinda feel the need for a bit of relaxation before blasting into the bunch of things lined up. One of these might involve me running a screenwriting workshop in Nairobi. Another might see me creating educational television for Ethiopean schoolkids.

One thing I'll definitely be doing more of in 2004 is voice-over work. My showreel is ready, and I'm just waiting for a custom gimmick to arrive from an American online gadget shop and I'll be ready to carpet bomb the ad industry. Keep your ears peeled. You'll be hearing my voice a lot in the future.

And before I log off to go check on my delicious love-bunny downstairs, I'll just mention that my art will be notching up to a new level next year too. I'll be paying quite a lot of attention to getting my stuff into galleries. I haven't got much to show you right now, but that's not for lack of work. My scanner's a bit on the messed side at the moment, and the artworks I'm producing on this iPAQ are in BMP format, and I don't yet have a converter. As soon as I find one, I'll pop them on for you to see my new direction. And it involves colour.

Thanks for sticking with the site and reading my stuff. I wish you an incredibly rich festive season. And a superb 2004. I'll update things more often from now on, so hopefully I'll see you before the end of this year.

Right now, I'm off to go look at Jacqui's clinging wet white nightie. Sigh. Fever can be a wonderful thing.

Blue skies, love, Roy


Wednesday 8 October 2003

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: *
Food: *
Ambience: *
Babe Count: *

Ugh. Guess who's at home with tick bite fever? Guess who's alone at home with tick bite fever with his beloved Jacqui cavorting with Swiss mountain goats in driving snow on an Alp? Guess who's resorted to eating plain Pro-Nutro breakfast cereal with Milo for flavouring cos he's run out of stuff to eat?

If you guessed, "Roy", then you're psychic. Here... I'm thinking of my bank account details. Receive them telepathically and deposit large amounts of karmic cash into my account. 

If you guessed, "Swiss Army Knife", then you need help. Urgently. Cos unless you've got your own corkscrew, you're a goner!

I've just gotten this little piece of shareware for my iPAQ. It's called MOBILE ATELIER, by a Japanese dude. And it's amazing. Still getting the hang of it. So here's a self-portrait for you.Jacqui's in Switzerland for work. She's staying at a friend's house, and we're smsing each other madly. And being in touch via ICQ too. So it's lucky I'm off work, cos my machine there doesn't allow ICQ due to network security blocks. Here at home I can surf to my heart's content. Which I'm doing tons of, cos I recently acquired a tiny HP iPAQ 2210 palmtop computer, and I'm loading it up with software. 

Very soon I'm going to have to buy a 4 gig IBM microdrive for it. Right now I'm still trying to locate the STOWAWAY XT foldout keyboard on the web, since nobody here stocks it or even knows what it is. So far, only two web companies ship to South Africa, and one of them is charging USD65 for an item that costs USD80!!! The other one wants to ship for USD35, which is still quite high for something that literally fits in the palm of the hand, and weighs only an ounce or two.

But surfing with a tick bite fever headache is unbearable for large swadges of time. So I spend most of my day sleeping. And eating Vitamin-packed gunk.

I'll say this... if you have to eat Pro-Nutro, flavouring it with Milo is a pretty good plan. Stops it from being slimy, and gives it quite a delicious chocolate flavour. Yummy yummy in my tummy.

Now I'm going to sleep. Thanks for the convalescent visit. I'm feeling better already.


Friday 26 September 2003

The Fat Man Restaurant, Magaliesberg

Phone: +27 14 577 1802

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

Damon and I have taken a break from the Valley Lodge, and came to town for Friday night supper. We want to get a taste of the local colour.

"Are you an artist?" says Ilze, our waitress. She's twenty-years-old, and walks like a model.

This must be the number-one most-asked question I get in restaurants when I whip my sketchbook out and start flicking ink across the page. Every time someone asks me, it flabbergasts me. Really, what does it LOOK like I'm doing? Exterminating termites?? I answer her. "Yeah," I say. 

"What are you drawing?"

I'm twisted around in my seat, facing the only fat man with a moustache in the restaurant. I'm sketching. Ilze's looking at the drawing. From my angle it looks like a drawing of a fat man with a moustache. I whisper, "I'm drawing that fat man over there."

"Him?" she says, mirth erupting from her mouth. She claps a hand over her lips and squeals. "He's the owner's husband!"

"Did she name her restaurant after him?" I've just finished the quiche, which was very tasty, but a tiny portion. Not really enough for supper.

Ilze has graduated from modelling school. She occasionally models for catalogue shoots. I'm too scared to ask if she's one of the underwear babes on the Game broadsheets. I'll never sleep again knowing such intimate details.

The fat man looks up, aware of all the attention. Ilze says, "Can I show him?"

"Ya," I say, "but please ask him not to punch me."

"No, he won't punch you! He's not like that!"

She takes my sketchbook over to his table. He studies it. Nods. "Interesting," he says. "Who is it?"

I point at him, and Ilze says, "You!!!"

He looks again. Suddenly he delivers a vast bellylaugh, and the owner comes running out from the kitchen. "Swannie!" she says.

"This man drew me!" he says, still laughing. She takes a look and smiles. Swannie gets up and comes over to my table. I stand up, and we exchange handshakes. "Hey," he says, still jiggling, "are you an artist?"

He's battling to speak English, so I switch over to Afrikaans. I used to have an Afrikaans girlfriend, so I'm fully bilingual. "Yes," I say, in the vernacular.

He's so relieved to be speaking Afrikaans. He says (in his mother tongue), "So, uh... is this me?"

Jeepers. How many more fat men with moustaches can he see?? "Yeah," I say.

He laughs some more, and takes the book round to everyone in the restaurant. Seems I've become a minor celebrity.

"Ilze," I say, in Afrikaans, "is there any chance at all that I might be able to taste a tiny bit of Helena's famous bobotie? Just a taste."

She comes back with the plate heaped with bobotie. And it's delicious. And yeah, it's actually worth travelling all the way to the Magaliesberg for lunch one day to have it again.


Wednesday 24 to Saturday 27 September 2003

The Valley Lodge, Magaliesberg

Phone: +27 14 577 1301

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

Hats off to Natasha for exceptional service! The only reason this place doesn't get five stars is because of an incident involving the inhouse restaurant, a waiter, a manager, and a pair of shorts. More on that later.

Back track a couple of days to when I was phoning around to book a place. Jacqui says, "Have you tried The Valley Lodge?" I hunt up their number. Get through to Natasha. Ask about rooms. Yup. They've got some space available. She quotes me a cost. Not massively expensive, but way over budget.

I explain the situation to her. "Natasha, it's not really a holiday. I'm taking a writing break. My writing partner and I are co-scripting a b-movie horror, and we're basically keen to get away from Johannesburg to do it. Is there any way at all we can get a lower rate?"

She takes down my details, promises to phone me back within fifteen minutes. Calls me back in about three minutes. "Okay," she says, "I've just spoken to our general manager, and this is what we can do for you. We'll give one of you the normal rate, and the other one will come in at the spouse rate. We're basically giving you a special married couple package."

"Wow!" I say. Cos the price she quotes is exactly right. "But," I say, "can you make sure there are two beds? Cos Damon and I aren't actually married! And we just writing partners!"

"I'll see what I can do about upgrading the room. But I'll only know closer to Wednesday."

So, it's Wednesday, just after lunchtime. Our room is actually a suite. Two bedrooms, a huge bathroom. And Damon and I have rearranged everything so that his bedroom is the working room. The beds are big enough for four people each. If Damon and I were typical Hollywood-scum moviemakers, we'd probably be scheming on how to make more effective use of those beds.

We immediately pin flipchart paper over the cupboard walls, flip out the laptops, and start procrastinating. "They've got a mini gym here," I say.

Damon says, "Should we take a paddle out on the river?"

Nah. We decide to work. Which sets the tone for the next ninety-six or so hours. Work for four or so hours in the afternoon. Take a two-and-a-half hour supper break. Work for three hours more. Sleep. Wake up. Morning ablutions, breakfast up in the restaurant, at work by ten for about three hours. Lunch. And so on.

And it totally works! We figured that we'd be happy to get a third of the way through the movie at the end of this short long-weekend. By the time Saturday comes along, we'll have completed 51 pages of tight horror movie script! That's just more than half of the movie, and all of the plotting. We are mightily impressed. If we'd been able to take off a week instead of a midweek, we'd have finished the film by now.

---

Supper. Thursday night. Damon and I took a short break to paddle up and down the river in little kayaks. Dipping the oars deposits water into the vessel. Which wets the pants. My pants are sopping wet. So they're hanging on my door. I'm wearing a pair of shorts.

We walk into the dining hall, and start pulling our chairs out. The maitre d' hotel scurries up to me and says, "I'm sorry, you have to wear long trousers."

I look around the place. There is one other table occupied. "You ARE joking," I say, and continue to pull my chair out. 

He pushes my chair back in. "We have a dress code."

"Call the manager," I say. "This is ridiculous. My trousers are wet." He shows me the way to the door. I decide that I'm not really interested in pissing myself off toooooo much, so Damon and I step onto the terrace.

The manager comes, three minutes later. "Sorry," he says. "There is a dress code, and there's nothing we can do except for maybe room service, or laying a table out here in the terrace."

This is a classic case of  "Sorry, Can't" thinking. I'm used to "Can Do" thinking. My first response to any challenge is to wonder how I can solve it, rather than thinking about the multitude of reasons something can't be done.

I say, "What about your second dining hall? Noone's there now."

He looks ungainly and broken, as if I've just asked him to commit a fireable offence. If this were my hotel, his original attitude would have guaranteed at least a disciplinary hearing. He bows to the pressure of my intransigence, and opens the door to the second dining hall.

The food is nothing special in this place. Very competently made, mind you. But no real variety. And the menu doesn't change from night to night. They can feed about 150 people, I'd guess, and there is a tiny bit of institution about the taste. But it's fine. The breakfast is superb though. Everything you could dream of. In abundant quantity. And fresh.

---

Coming back from supper at the Fat Man on Friday night (see entry above), Damon and I run into the general manager, Mike. "I'm so sorry about the incident in the restaurant last night," he says. "Please, next time, if you're in shorts, please, just take a seat. You're our guests." He's a genuinely good guy, someone who's only been there for a few months, and who passionately believes in the "Can Do" ethic that I love. He's the guy who made the Mount Grace in Magaliesberg the talked-about attraction it is today. Was there for eight years. "No," he says, when I mention this to him, "it wasn't just me. Natasha was my right-hand woman. It was both of us. And we're going to make this place just as great."

Fifty-one pages. That's great! And thanks to Natasha for giving us the space to do it.

And thanks also to the tick that bit me down near the river for giving me tick bite fever. (See Wednesday 8 October above for details.) It gave me another holiday from work.


Friday 15 to Monday 18 August 2003

Quiet Mountain, Magaliesberg

Phone: +27 14 576 1258
Web: http://www.quietmountain.co.za

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

This is about my fifth visit to Quiet Mountain, and there will be many, many more beautiful weekends here. I haven't experienced anything better, and this statement includes the time I was put up by Intel in some five-star hotel in Dublin at fifteen-hundred pounds a night a couple of years back when I was editor of Gadget Magazine.

"So," I say to Jacqui, while Samuel carries all of our bags to our room, "did I oversell it to you, or is it better than you could have imagined?"

"Wow!" she says, running her hand along the hedge. "You're my love-buckle!" And before I can check whether or not Samuel has overheard this term of endearment, Jacqui stops me, throws her arms around me, and plants a vast and grinning kiss across my chops. This is destined to be a seriously lovely weekend.

---

Our room is very big, with a super-duper double bed, easy armchairs, lamps, heater, candle-holder mounted on the wall, stable-door. It's luxury. A door at the end of the room leads into a bathroom around twice the size of most peoples' bedroom. A huge bath on ball and claw feet on one side. Toilet with wooden seat in the centre. Antique dressing table with mirror opposite that. And a cherry-wood wardrobe near the door.

Jacqui leaps onto the bed. "Wow!" she says. "Feel this!" I join her. The mattress is firm, and moulds itself to my buttocks. I bounce up and down, trying to make it squeak. This one's the strong, silent type. Not the kind of bed that advertises the activity that may or may not take place upon it. We're not going to have any neighbours complaining about us this weekend.

"Let's have a snooze before supper," says Jacqui. 

And the glint in her eye means I'm very quickly going to forget about the fact that poor old Mrs Hampton was utterly horrified about my paltry offer on her precious flat. It means I'll forget that Joburg is only one hour away. And I'll probably even forget that I own a cellphone, cos it's going to be switched off for a good four days.

---

THIS QUIET MOUNTAIN WRITEUP TO BE CONTINUED. Watch this space.

---

As I promised... a continuation...

Right. Where were we?

Luxury. Joy. A bath with Victorian feet. Bubble bath. And... a picnic hamper! Now... how can I be delicate and non-revealing about this...? Let's just say that it's an ambition to make love out in nature. And let's just say that Jacqui and I are in a great mood here at Quiet Mountain.

So we take the picnic hamper and take a hike towards the mountain. There's a trail, and about a third of the way along there's a nice spot with a windmill and trees and stuff.

We lay the blanket out on the scrub, under a nice bunch of overhanging trees. This would be a GREAT place to make love out in nature. Except for a few things. (1) Jacqui's averse to spiders, and there are spiders EVERYWHERE. (2) We're pretty close to the path, since the spots off the path are kinda in the open, with only small scrubby bushes to hide us from prying eyes. (3) The damn blanket is just not thick enough. And the ground is covered in vicious stubbly grass and sticks that poke through. Whoever lies down on this blanket ready to receive the joy of love is going to get serious lacerations as a result.

So we kinda sit as well as we can and eat our gourmet sandwiches, prepared specially by Terry. Delicious.

So. To be delicate about this rather private matter... let's just say that it's still our ambition to make love out in nature.

---

The food. I'm writing this now a while after we were there, so I don't have details to mind anymore. But I have to say that the food is everything I remember it to be. Unbelievably beautifully presented. Gorgeous colour and flavour combinations. Impeccable place settings. Candles. Super wine choice. And all hand cooked by Terry, and finessed by John. What a team. And Samuel is an excellent presence too.

One of the things I love about Quiet Mountain is that they have a policy of no day visitors and no children.

 It's no accident that Quiet Mountain is a favoured spot for romantic getaways. But maybe they can get thicker blankets for their picnic hampers, and have someone go out with a tractor to clear some outdoor lovemaking spots? John? You listening???


Wednesday 13 August 2003

Graasroots, Village Walk

It's only fitting that a turbaned vegetarian should be eating in a fine vegetarian establishment like Graasroots.From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Jacqui and I have met after work. I've had a lovely day, editing three promos for KUMARS ON 42nd STREET, and two for THE PRACTICE, with Anne, the SABC3 intern. Jacqui's had a grueling day training a client in the software her company develops.

Damon and I are supposed to be meeting for our regular screenwriting session, but he's busy shooting a documentary for the United Nations. They're putting him up at the Balalaika Hotel, which is just next door. We've discussed the possibility of having a drink together anyway. So I can see him AND Jacqui in one night. Neat!

If you're into noses, this one's as kinky as they get.When Jacqui's in the room, the babe count rises to five stars without hesitation. Yay!!! She's looking gorgeous tonight. And I love the fact that I'm in love with a gorgeous woman. "Hullo my Love-Buckle!" she says to me. That's the term of endearment that seems to be working for her right now. 

"Are you ready to order yet?" says Precious.

I opt for the Copioso -- a yummy artichoke, olive, sundried tomato, and avo pasta dish. Absolutely wildly recommendable. Jacqui goes for the grilled veggies. Ultra yummy.

She has flatly rejected 'Cunni-Bunny' as my contribution to naming her. I'm working on it. I figure we've got a good few decades to crack it. So I'm in no rush. Hmm. I wonder if I should try 'Cunni-Suckle' out on her? Probably not.

We've got just two sleeps left before we take a long weekend together. We're heading for Quiet Mountain, one of the most delectable hideaways I've been to. It's in the Magaliesberg, and we both need a rest. And we aim to spend many hours relaxing in each others' arms. Finding appropriate pet names for each other. Through trial and error. 


Tuesday 12 August 2003

Nescafe Cafe, Melrose Arch

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Jacqui and I have just spent an hour or so at Foo Moon, and the smell of smoke is heavy in our clothes. Hans, a colleague of hers, has just announced his engagement to Cheryl, and we've eaten free sushi, and we've smoked other peoples' cigarettes involuntarily, and now we're spending a tiny bit of love time together.

I'm showing her my devious spreadsheet.

I've just come from Linden, where I put in an offer on a flat. I've decided to go the property-mogul route for now. So I'm looking for investment flats. The one I'm after is near Red Pepper, and I want to let it out to someone in the movie, advertising or tv industries.

My spreadsheet allows me to make an unemotional decision about how much my offer price can be in order for the loan to be self-amortizing. I don't want to spend any of my own money on the place. It must work for its living, and yield me lots and lots of hassle-free wealth.

"Your decaff coffee," I say to the waiter, "is it filter coffee, or is it instant Nescafe from a jar?"

"No!" he says. "It's real filter coffee."

"Are you sure?" I say. "Cos this IS the Nescafe Cafe, and I'm going to send it back if it comes from the jar."

Jacqui also opts for the decaff, seeing as the waiter is adamant that it's real coffee.

He brings us our order. I'm having the fruit cheesecake. Jacqui's going for the bran muffin. Not bad stuff. Delicious, actually. And the coffee arrives. And it's darn good! Definitely not from a jar. Recommendable.

So, anyway, the poor old woman who owns the flat I'm keen on, the one who's asking R195 000, the poor old woman with burst varicose veins and two crutches, the one who has to move in with her daughter cos she can't cope on her own anymore, the one who almost offered me a cup of tea when I visited the flat to examine it but didn't cos the milk was off and she couldn't afford to buy more, the very same old woman is facing my extremely generous offer of R107 000. And I say it's generous because it's a good R50 higher per square metre than the average price in the neighbourhood. 

Shame. Poor her. She has to consider my offer and either turn it down or accept it. I'll know on Friday at noon. And if you know anyone who wants to rent in Linden, let me know. I'll give them a good price.


Tuesday 5 August 2003

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * *

It's an uncharacteristically sparse night in Hyde Park with regards to babeage. In fact, JB Rivers is relatively empty. I've just put the phone down to Damon, telling him I won't be meeting him and Wendy in the smoky gunge of Nuno's in Melville. It's just too much for me.

Instead, I'll sit here and draw for a bit. Jacqui's been hectic at work, and we've been seeing each other every day for the last while, and it's all just in overload territory right now. We love each other dearly, and we're each certain that the other is our dream-partner, but Jacqui really needs some recharge time. Which is cool for me, but really quite tough, since I'm craving her every second of my life.

Which is why I'm here moping, feeling vulnerable, holding myself to the chair so I don't jump into my car and head for her place. Sigh. Love is gorgeous. But it can definitely allow me access to my own inner anxiety.

Wait a seccie. Maybe Eran's around. "Hey, Eran," I say into the cellphone, "I'm in Hyde Park. You joining me?" 

Edward's one of the waiters at JB Rivers. Every time I pitch there, the waiters all ask me to draw them. This time, I figure it's best to get them off my back by caving in to their requests. My theory is that they'll take one look at the mutilation I wreak on their likeness, and they'll never ask me again. After showing this to Edward, he was silent for several seconds. Then he rubbed his shaved head and said, "This one... is this my head???""Hold on," he says. A bit of a hand over a receiver, some muffled discussions. "Cool," he says. "I'm just finishing something at home, and then I'll see you in about half an hour. Can Jade come?" A female snigger.

"I don't know," I say. "If you do it right, I suppose she can."

I finish my customary chicken salad and read a third of my latest book-find. It's called THE MILLIONAIRE COURSE by Marc Allen. He's a musician and an artist, and he's made his millions several times over through following his own advice. Things like being clear about your vision, knowing what wealth means to you, having and living your higher purpose. And the book's a practical way of getting those things. A proper workshop. I'm thinking of getting a couple of friends together to work through the exercises together. I want my friends all to be millionaires with me.

When I see Jacqui on Friday, I'll show her the book.

Jeez. Two hours have passed. Where the hell's Eran? I send him an SMS. "I'm finishing my coffee. Where are you?"

He sends one back. "Just leaving Sandton. You still going to be there?"

"I'll wait for you," I SMS back.

While I'm waiting, I start sketching someone. I become aware of a scratchy tenor voice behind my right ear, a metre or two away. It's going, "Hey..." cough, cough, "uh... hey? Uh... yeah, uh, scuse me...?"

I turn. It's a youngish dude with greasy hair, and bright red eyes. I think he's a citizen of Stonedville. This one's soaring. He's sitting at a table behind me. "Yes?" I say.

Cough, cough, cough. "Uh, sorry, man, sorry to interrupt you. What are you doing, huh?"

I can't believe he's asking what I'm doing. I have an open pot of ink to my left. I have a dripping Maped Ruling Pen in my left hand. I have an open sketchbook before me. There is a caricature of a woman on the end of the pen. What does this stoner THINK I'm doing? Fixing cars? Baking bread?? "I'm sketching," I say.

"Oh," he says. "I sell advertising space. For an interior design magazine. You know, for interior designers. For the trade. I sold R75 000 this month. Next month I hope to sell R125 000." Cough, cough, cough, cough, cough.

I'm glad this guy's at the next table. I could get a blob of lung lodged in my neck if I were any closer.

He says, "So, you an artist?"

"Yes," I say. I'm doing the monosyllabic reply thang. Maybe he'll just shut up and head off into the cold to warm his ruined lungs on another joint.

"My name's Shaun," he says. "What's yours?"

"Roy."

"Please to meet you. Can I ask you a favour?"

I stay silent. I know what he's going to ask.

"Can you draw me?"I don't INTEND to exaggerate things in my caricatures. Things sorta leap out at me and take over my pen. I think it's truthful to say that my pen was basically channeling Shaun's nose.

Go home to Creepsville! Instead of saying that, I say, "Sure. But this is a hardbound book, and I don't ever tear my sketches out. So I'll draw you, but you can't have it."

"No, that's cool." Cough, cough, cough.

"That's a nasty set of lungs you've got there Shaun." I start drawing him. Quite an interesting subject. Desperately chiseled features. And quite a few young wrinkles. This dude's no older than about 24, but his skin's a ruin. Must be smoking.

"I almost never sit out here in the non-smoking section," he says. "But I've given up for three days." Hack, cough, cough, cough. "Whenever I do that, my lungs just rebel."

I show him the sketch.

"Hey!!!" he says. "Hey, check at this!" He's talking to two women who've just sat down, increasing the babe-count marginally for the night. "This guy's an artist. He sketched me. Hey man, Roy, that's excellent man."

He doesn't ask me if he can have it. Cos I've already turned my back on him, and I'm drawing Edward, my waiter.

Shaun tries to get my attention a few times, but I ignore him. I hear him engage the two women. "Hey," he says, "hey, I'm Shaun, what are your names? I sell advertising in an interior design magazine. I'm quite arty. I'm only twenty-two. How old are you?"

They ignore him. He shuts up.

Jade and Eran arrive just as Edward calls last rounds. Coffee it is. And because of Jade, the love of Eran's life, there's a babe count at last! Yay!!! Jade gets five stars. Unfortunately, since there's only one of her, and a large restaurant, the overall babe count only rises to four stars. But that's okay. Two photos of Jacqui are next to my bed, so when I get home, I've got a babe count all of my own.


Monday 11 August 2003

Wiesenhof, Killarney

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * 
Babe Count: * * * *

Gillian is my opponent tonight. We settle down before my open backgammon board. She gets down to the serious matter of the accuracy of my reporting. 

"I checked your website for an update, and you haven't mentioned anything since you beat Renee. And, I've read every word, and I don't see any mention of myself. What's going on?"

"I promise I'll feature you in my next update," I say.

"And what about your matches since Renee?" 

Gillian's wearing gorgeous red lipstick, and a polo neck sweater. She's almost certainly dressed for war tonight. She's trying to distract me by displaying her delightful curves. But I will not buckle. I will play well tonight. And I will certainly win.

"Okay," I say. "I'll put the results on my site too."

So here they are: 

Alistair 21--Roy 20.

Andreas 21--Roy 20.

My supper arrives. It's the special... a croissant with scrambled eggs and bacon. I didn't notice that the menu mentioned mushrooms, so I have to send it back. My waiter is Leo. He's been my waiter every time we've played here, and every time, I've asked him to be CERTAIN there are no mushrooms involved in anything I eat. He's gotten it wrong twice. Tonight, when I forget about the mushrooms, he forgets about my preference. Hence, back to the kitchen.

It comes back, and they've either cunningly removed all traces of mushroom and spat on the eggs, or they've cooked a whole new dish for me. Either way, it tastes good.

Gillian and I start playing.

"So why haven't I featured on the site?" says Gillian.

"Well," I say, dicing appallingly. With backgammon, it's always possible to explain away any loss by mentioning how poorly the dice were behaving on the night. "I didn't want to appall you by mentioning that incident with the cat."

"Hmmm," she says, and smiles like a cat, hefting her tightly-clad bosom while shaking her dice cup.

I say, "How can I tell people that I tried that line on you? I was destined to failure. And anyway, it was a tragic night."

Gillian and I sort of attempted to date about a year ago. On my way to meeting her for our first and only date, I was driving along the old Kyalami Road. There was quite a lot of low mist. I was doing about 100km/h in my slinky li'l red sportscar when I noticed a darting movement on the side of the road. Skidding, my brakes and wheels squealing, smoke pouring from the tyres. 

Next thing, WHAM!!! and a cat goes bouncing off the front of my car. So I stop, and see if the cat's dead. But it seems to have taken off into the night.

I drive on. Get to the pub I'm meeting Gillian at -- something to do with Geordie's Arms, I think -- and speak the words destined to prevent me from EVER scoring with her or any of her friends. 

Instead of saying, "Hi, Gillian, you look divine," I go for the impossible punch line. The one that no man should ever say. I say, "You know, Gillian, I came here tonight hoping to get a bit of pussy. And I did. I just ran over a cat."

Which might explain why she's dicing so well. And why she beats me 21--19 by the end of the night. Damned cat.


Monday 21 July 2003

Wiesenhof, Killarney

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * *

Ah! The taste of victory! I've just thrashed Jonathan 21--14 in my first game in the new cycle of our backgammon club. I've made the cut into the B-division, and life smells like organically grown roses. And my beard smells like chicken breasts with peppadew and sweet-onion topping, served with Greek salad. Which just happens to be the dish on special tonight here in Killarney.

It's definitely a recommendable light supper. For only R22, this is enough to fill the gap caused by a long Monday at work, and it's tasty enough to be called a victor's meal. 

"Roy," says Matt, looking up from the pounding he's giving Doc Pete. "How's your relationship with Jacqui progressing?" He throws his dice, shrieks a fist-pumper, slaps Doc Pete's lone blot onto the bar, and says, non-sotto-voce: "Please please please... give us the sordid details. All of them!"

Well, it's gotten to the stage where Jacqui and I are trying to work out pet names for each other. 

I've rejected 'Boy Roy', which is what I was called by Stan Katz back in the days I was the sound controller on his afternoon show on 702. I've rejected 'Royco', cos I don't really want to be associated with a brand of instant soup, even though it's hot and steamy and likes being stirred vigorously, whereupon it foams lightly. And I'm uncomfortable with 'Enormous Boy', cos it's untrue. Mostly.

Jacqui has rejected 'Lust Bucket'. I don't really know why. 'Honey Bunny' is just too mundane for both of us. I don't really feel that calling her 'Jax' is appropriate, cos all of her friends call her that, and it seems to me to be too reminiscent of an incident involving a headmaster and a cane when I was in primary school. (I don't know what they called the administration of corporal punishment in your school, but in mine it was called 'Jacks'.) She's given a provisional 'yes' to 'Jacquilicious', but only in private.

"Excuse me," I say to the Wiesenhof waiter in the privacy of Jacqui being in a different part of the world from me, a waiter who I haven't seen for forty-minutes. "I seem to have drooled all over my beard. I've been talking about my girlfriend and she's so Jacquilicious I can't control myself."

He doesn't seem to know what the hell I'm talking about. Which just proves that Jacquilicious could be obscure enough to be uttered in public. 

"Please can I have a serviette?" I ask the waiter.

"Ah," he says, handing me one. "Are you Boy Roy from the Four-to-Six-Afternoon-Fix with Stan Katz in 1989?"


Sunday 20 July 2003

The Garden of My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Jacqui and I are lying on a blanket in my garden, covered by a purple sarong. It's mid afternoon, and the winter sun is warm. It feels like spring is almost here. 

My next door neighbour -- Pauline, I think is her name -- is sitting on her stoep making a patchwork quilt. She's also preventing Jacqui from allowing me to try to get up to no good under the sarong.

"No, Roy!" she says. "That woman can see us!!!"

"That's okay," I say. "It's her daughter who's the one keen on me." Her daughter stayed with her for a while, but moved out when she got a better job. She sends me religiously inappropriate SMSs like, 'Jesus Loves U2'. I replied to that one, 'That's amazing! Bono must be thrilled!' I didn't get a reply.

We've just been to gym together for the first time. "You know what?" I say, trying to get my leg between hers. "We should make a ritual of this Sunday gym thing. It really felt great being there with you." I'm aware that I'm talking in syrup bubbles, but love will do this to a man.

"Cool!" she says. "That can be one of your three days a week. And maybe it'll spur me to get to yoga more often too."

Sigh. We're so supportive of each other. It's just delicious. Almost as delicious as the rosemary and herb ham on three-corn rye with cumin gouda, tomato and avo sandwiches we're busy digesting. And it's amazing that Steve's Spar on Beyer's Naude Drive sells kosher ham.

"Show me a yoga position," I say, shifting into a position where I can maybe see how lovely her contorted body will look. She's wearing her tracksuit, so I should be able to learn more about the position if I study her carefully enough.

"Pervert," she says, and we nestle together like spoons in the decaying winter sun.


Saturday 19 July 2003

Tokyo Star, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * * 1/2
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * * *
Jacqui-Babe Count: * * * * *

Basically, whenever I'm with Jacqui in a public place, I have to modify my babe count scoring system. Cos Jacqui is the babe-ist of them all. But just cos I only have eyes for her doesn't mean I don't notice whether other babes are present. Like tonight, here in Tokyo Star, owned by Matt Hoffman, Antoinette's brother.

Tokyo Star is where young people hang out. It's next door to the Melville barber shop in the premises that used to house the butchery. I haven't asked Matt if it's his sense of irony that caused him to leave the old sign up on the roof. It says, 'FRESH MEAT'. And it really means it. We're talking trainer bras.

Jacqui and I are here because Antoinette is back from New York having a belated birthday- and 'I Love Joburg'-party. She's invited me and Jacqui cos she wants to meet the new love of my life and pass on a message to her.

"Antoinette," I say. "Don't you have something to say to Jacqui?" Antoinette is the last real love of my life, the one before Heidi, who was probably just a surrogate. Antoinette and I had a marathon stretch together. Two years and four months. Give or take a day or two. And we've been broken up for about two years. Give or take three days and two hours. But who's counting?

"Oh ya!" says Antoinette. "Take care of my ex-boyfriend, okay?"

"Uh, no," I say. "That's not what you wanted to say." I prompt her: "Tell her about the kneecaps."

"Ah! Yes! Well, basically, if you hurt him, I'm going to break your kneecaps," says Antoinette. She's looking remarkably like Cleopatra. She hugs Jacqui. "You two look so good together!" And she means it.

She and I had chatted a bit while she was in New York. She had some husband troubles there involving flower pots smashing against walls, a sugar bowl and lid that went through the open window to the street below, her husband deciding to commit suicide by beating himself over the head with an industrial-size rolling pin, the topless ex-girlfriend of mine running down the stairs while trying to put her t-shirt on, a vastly oversized Polish woman shrieking "I'm terribly scared!" in an incomprehensibly thick immigrant accent while this same ex-girlfriend of mine hid behind her, this rolling-pin bloodied husband burying his head in a New York sidewalk rubbish bin screaming, "I'm so worthless; I deserve to die", and the two of them finally resolving their troubles on a park bench with the husband sitting a respectful distance from the ex-girlfriend due to the stench emanating from his head.

"But you're not allowed to tell anyone about this!" she had said. 

But tonight, here in her brother's pickup spot for meaty teenagers, she mentions this to all and sundry. So I figure I can mention it too. But just don't tell anyone, okay? Your kneecaps are at risk.


Saturday 19 July 2003

The Question Mark, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * * 
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * *
Juacqui-Babe Count: * * * * *

We're taking a chance on the Question Mark. In recent years it turned into a bit of a drug-addled dive, with cruddy food and useless staff. 

But Jacqui and I are totally surprised at the transformation.

There's excellent art on the walls, along with a catalogue and price-list. Two of the artists are sitting on a brand new funky couch nursing cocktails. And the menu is enormous. It's like we've discovered a brand new restaurant.

"Wow," I say to the maitre d' hotel, a young man with what could possibly be a wisp of moustache tickling his lip, "this place has changed!"

"Yes," he says, "it used to have somewhat of a communist slant before."

Jacqui and I look at each other. Two things are clear. Firstly, it's possible English is his second language. Secondly, he probably only knows the word 'communist' from Apartheid propaganda days, and is a little out of his depth. After all, he's only about eighteen, and can't be expected to know what such things mean.

I figure he means that because the old place used to have a load of Soviet-realist film posters on the walls, this could be construed to mean that the previous owners were Soviet-realists themselves. In a limited field of experience, this could be interpreted as being of the communist persuasion. But it's fine. We kinda figure that he means that the old Question Mark used to have somewhat of a Bohemian slant.

Jacqui orders the oxtail with veggies. It arrives in a small potjie, and smells delicious. I've ordered the bacon and avo burger, "Welllllllll-done," I tell the waitress, "with no fat on the bacon, and please toast the insides of the bun."

"Is jy eintlik Afrikaans?" she asks.

"No," I say, "I'm English."

"Oh," she says, "you speak with an Afrikaans accent, so I thought you were actually Afrikaans."

"I had an Afrikaans girlfriend," I tell her. And in fact, that's why Jacqui and I are at the Question Mark. We're catching a bite to eat before heading across the road to Tokyo Star for Antoinette's welcome-home party. She's been in New York for several months working on her masters degree and being with her new husband, a writer and filmmaker.

But frankly, I'm baffled. Many people ask me if I'm British, and I'm not aware of having any serious Afrikaans in my vocal makeup. In fact, one of Antoinette's favourite laughs was to ask me to say the word 'strikkie' whenever her other Afrikaans friends were around. And while my spoken Afrikaans is pretty damn good for a scurrilous half-Jew like myself, my mouth just cannot bend around the rolled-R coming after the ST. Yeesh. Hilarity ensues whenever I try that. (But just try getting Antoinette to say the Yiddish word, 'Schmooze'. We'll see who's laughing then.)

My burger arrives just after Jacqui's dish, and I wish I'd ordered hers instead of mine. But the burger's great. 

"Would you like a taste?" she asks. I nod, and she assembles an assortment of the veggies and some of the tenderest oxtail I've seen trembling off a bone. The gravy smells divine. She prods the fork into my mouth. And it's delicious.

"Everything all right?" says an older gay-looking man of the straight-looking, straight-acting variety.

"This oxtail is worth coming here for," I say.

"Thank you!" he says. "We're rather famous for it nowadays. I'm Ivan, the owner." He goes on to tell us that he bought the Question Mark in September, and got back from Malaysia, where he owns a factory manufacturing hand-drying machines, to find that the managers he'd installed had run the place into the ground. They'd gone so far as to steal plates of food to get enough money for their next drug fix.

"I love the art," says Jacqui. Which gets us a guided tour around the gallery, and an invitation to the next drag show on Wednesday.

"A very classy act," says Ivan. "And your R120 includes dinner and the show."


Monday 30 June 2003

Wiesenhof, Killarney

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * 1/2

The only reason there's a babe count at this place at all is cos I'm playing Renee, newly a mother for the third time, and she's pretty slinky. The waitresses are also gorgeous. But it seems as though Killarney on a Monday night has about as much voomah as a spent scud missile in a Palestinian second-hand shop.

But I'm not complaining. And that's cos I'm tasting victory. (Not to mention the solid, workmanlike flavour of the chicken schnitzel with cheese, no mushrooms.) Renee has just succumbed to the humiliation and despair of losing to me in backgammon, thereby securing me a place in the B-division of our backgammon club. Viva! Amandla! Power to the Blumenthal!!!

Yeah. That feels good.

"I'm going home now," she says. "I've been away from my baby too long."

She leaves.

I hand my score sheet to Matt. "Sheesh," I say, sheepishly. "I think I may have caused her lactose-generating hormones to dry out!"

"Beat her, did you?" says Matt. He's catching up nicely against Andreas.

"Yup," I say, and I can't keep the grin off my face. I just can't hide the fact that I love the pain and humiliation and suffering and despair I cause in others when I beat them. Naturally, I don't really enjoy being on the receiving end of that myself. But that hasn't happened in a while. I've had a very hot winning streak.

I send an sms to Jacqui, letting her know that her boyfriend is champion of the universe, sex-bomb with a set of dice, god of the white and red tiles. She is suitably impressed, and my groin vibrates madly when she smss me back to say how proud of me she is.

I so love being in love.

"Hey," says Matt. "Update your website, you hobgoblin! I want to know sordid details!"


Saturday 28 June 2003

Da Vincenzo's, Kyalami

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * 
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Erich is now officially a married person. Jacqui and I are at table three at the reception. And guess who's with us? Yup...

"What line of work are you in?" I say to the smooth looking guy with very large jowels.

He sort of blinks, wondering why I haven't recognised him. "I'm a minister," he says. "A priest." He waves his finger dangerously at the crowd of people. Maybe he's trying to tell me something?

Oh. 

Bloody hell. He's one of the two dudes who sealed Erich and Janet's wedding covenant. Eek. I should pay more attention in church. 

And the guy next to him? Yup. The other priest. There were two of them. And Erich, given that he's got as perverted and twisted a sense of humour as I have, has put me, a scurrilous half-Jew, at the same table as the emissaries of the Christian Deity. 

But it's all right. I went to an Anglican high school. So I kinda know what to say to priests. Nothing.

Instead, I turn to my right and fondle Jacqui's neck. 

"I love you," I croon.

"I love you," she croons back, and it's lucky the wedding ceremony is already over, cos at this rate, we could easily have skipped up the aisle and joined the queue.


Friday 6 June 2003

Primi Piatti, Rosebank Zone

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Like most of my portraits, Jacqui is much prettier in real life. I'm still working on getting my sketches to work as seduction tools. Sigh.Jacqui and I sitting having coffee at Primi Piatti, a spot where the beautiful people hang out. And the ugly people hang out to hang out with the beautiful people. And we're being beautiful together, oblivious to any surrounding beauty. This is our second date.

We're here together because of a quirk of fate. A mutual friend is getting married. Erich Viedge... Cool dude extraordinaire. Multilinguist. Man with a huge cd collection. Man who brings his friends together.

Last Saturday a bunch of us found ourselves at Cafe Cafe in Village Walk to have our wedding invitations personally issued. I'm on the list. I made it to the cut, being a close friend and all. So did Jacqui.

"Okay," says Erich, standing up and tapping a glass with a pen. I'm blowing soap bubbles, and they're popping on Janet's head. Janet is the lovely fiancée. "Listen up," says the Viedge. "We've set up a gift registry at the HOME store in Rosebank. If you want to get us anything, that's where to go." He sits down. 

I say, "Erich, what would be a really meaningful present from me to you? What would you like ME to give you?" 

He thinks for a while. Snaps his fingers. "Gottit!" he says, eyes bright. "There's a Patrick Rorke painting I've set aside at the Stewart Gallery in Parkhurst. It's R1500. If you can contribute something to that, I'd be very very very happy." 

"Done," I say. I own a Rorke already, a beautiful nude that hangs on my bedroom wall. And Antoinette, my ex, has another of his nudes on her bedroom wall. It was a present from me to her after we broke up. "Which painting of his do you want?" I went to the opening of that exhibition, and had my eye on two of them -- a Muslim Girl, and a Woman Playing Guitar.

Erich says, "There's this amazing painting of a woman playing a guitar. That's the one." This fellow has excellent taste. "Hang on," he says, with another snap of the fingers. "Guys," he says, standing up again. "Roy asked me what I REALLY want, and it's a painting by Patrick Rorke. If you'd like to contribute to that, give some bucks to Roy. He's the contact person."

Everyone's keen, and it's a really meaningful gift. I collect a whole bunch of money, but a few people haven't given any. "Jacqui," I say, "will you contribute?"

"I don't have cash on me at the moment," she says. "Can I transfer some into your bank account during the week?" 

I don't realise it at the time, but this is a delicious ploy on her part to ensure that we make contact during the week. "Sure," I say. And the party dissolves, and we all head for the sunset.

Now, sitting here at Primi Piatti, I find out what Jacqui was up to. She says, "If I gave you money that Saturday, there would've been no reason for us to get together." Excellent! This chick is total babeness. "And when you emailed me to say we should meet so I could hand over the money instead of transferring it, you made my day. People at work kept looking at my smile and saying, 'Who's the guy?'" 

She and I did coffee on Tuesday night. Strolled down to the Stewart Gallery and looked at the painting through the window. Strolled some more. Stood in a doorway and kissed for about an hour. Yummy!

For our second date, we've just seen BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, a movie that blew the top of my head off. 

And that's hopefully the last time I use the phrase, "blew the top of my head off". Quite a negative phrase, don't you think? And a phrase that just invites trouble, seeing as Charlton Heston is still alive and mostly-well and advocating gun ownership. And seeing as he has Alzheimer's, he might not remember how many times he's pulled the trigger. What's more, George Dubbya Bush is still finding enemies under every fig leaf.

Here's an SMS poem I wrote to commemorate Mr Bush's victory in Iraq...

 

WHAT'S IT FOR

by Roy Blumenthal

If the US troops wore Nike boots,
if the Burger King would only serve sin,
if Saddam's soul could be heard from hell,
if dollars were in
stroking Levi-clad skin,
if pulling the pin
meant Palestine would win,
if Bush's spunk could be spiked like junk,
if Korea were clean instead of lean and mean,
if war-wound cots were the price of loss,
if second-hand Jeeps were ours to keep,
then that's what war is for.

So here Jacqui and I sit, adoring each other, and wondering why on earth it's taken so many years for us to finally get together.

And suddenly I'm out of the "shag-anything-that-moves" mode I've been in since Heidi dumped me. I'm now firmly in the cross-hairs of "looming relationship" mode. Sheesh. Where the hell does this stuff come from??? And can it be trusted?


Wednesday 4 June 2003

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *1/2
Babe Count: * * * 1/2

Damon Berry in his flu-addled state. You'll never recognise him from this picture though. But if you tune into Takelani Sesame Street, you might recognise his voice. He's the puppeteer and voice behind the little red muppet, 'Neno'.Damon and I are doing our regular Wednesday co-writing meeting. We've got this whizzbang b-movie horror we're creating, and we meet every Saturday and Wednesday to thrash out the plot. We've cracked most of that, and now need to create a detailed outline, so we can start writing the actual script.

Damon's addled with flu, so we're really not in the work mood. What's more, I stayed up till 2am last night after my first date with Jacqui. We kissed in the doorway of an antique furniture shop in 4th Ave Parkhurst, a gorgeous four-poster bed observing our cavorting. That bed has seen it all.

"So how do you know her?" says Damon.

"Turns out we met a trillion years ago at Lionel Abrahams's writing workshop. She only came once. Says I was attractive to her then. Even remembers the poem."

(I keep every poem I've ever written. I've gone through my files. And here it is...)

UNTITLED

"OK," said the fashion dropout.
"I will give myself
to your tongue
experiment."

The scientist squeezed
her till she 
juice-sluiced,
then took her in his
labcoat lips
till they (he/she/the lips)
glistened.

Jacqui's comments on 18 August 1997: "I love the poem and the way it looks. The 'g' that becomes a 'p' makes a picture. Brings it to life." (She's referring to the fact that this was a hand-written poem, with some tricksy calligraphic effects I threw in for interest. There's also some commentary from Erich... "We've had a glimpse into your rich fantasy life," he said. Which means that Jacqui was there cos of him. Which means that I have Erich to thank for introducing the two of us way back when. Thanks Erich! You da man!)

"Roy," says Damon. "Stop it! Don't do it!"

"What?" I say.

"You can't fall in love with her immediately. Give it some time."

He's right, of course, but it's been years since I've admired her from a distance, and our timing seems good.

Damon says, "Listen, I'm sick as a dog, but should we do some work on the film?"

"Yeah," I say. I open my notebook and write the following: 'In a brief, yet intense discussion, both Damon and Roy unanimously voted against turning the horror classic they are penning together into a romantic comedy. Present: Roy Blumenthal, Damon Berry. Apologies: Halle Berry.'

As usual, the Cajun chicken salad is exceptional. The waiters stand around as I do a quick sketch of Damon. And that's all the work we do on our movie for tonight. 


Sunday 25 May 2003

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

I've just dropped Darryl off at her parents. They're all going through to visit a cousin of hers who lost a husband to kidney failure last week out of the blue. I've been at her place most of the evening after she and I decided to go to an art exhibition. "Wait," says her mom. "Come in. Have you eaten? Would you like some chicken? An apple?"

"Uh... just an apple, thanks," I say.

"What happened to your hair, Darryl? Have you been driving in an open convertible?" Her mom's pretty observant. I like driving my MX5 in winter with the top down and the heater on full blast. It's very romantic.

There's a wedding photo on the wall. "Who's this babe?" I say, knowing that it's Darryl's mom in her heyday.

"Trevor! Come here! Come listen to what this young man has to say!"

Darryl's dad emerges from a room. Handshakes, greetings, introductions.

"Tell him!" she says. Darryl's standing there shaking her head gently.

"I said," I tell her dad, " 'Who's this babe?' "

"I had good taste," he says.

So now I'm in Hyde Park. Still sex-starved, cos as romantic as my car is with the top down and the heater snarling its dragon breath all across my and Darryl's bodies, somehow sex just didn't raise its lovely head today. Sigh.

But heck. Hyde Park is an antidote to that. It's sex city tonight. Babes extraordinaire all over. Two in particular. So I whip out the sketchbook and surreptitiously start a slow drawing. I normally crank them out really quickly, but I'm working on technique at the moment, so I'm using very controlled strokes. This means that I'm observing much more intently than usual. 

I've just finished eating my usual JB Rivers feast... their Cajun Chicken Salad. Lots of decaff cappuccinos. Excellent. A new waiter though. Keeps mishearing me. But no harm done. He'll still get my customary 20% tip. I believe that waiters deserve to be treated as humans. I get very pissed off with people who bark orders at them and then don't tip.

So now I'm really observing this girl's breasts as I massage the paper with my ink-soaked pen.This sketch took about ten minutes. They normally take about thirty seconds. Note the flowers in the foreground. I drew those as an attempted decoy. I thought she wouldn't notice that I was observing her. Fat chance with my waiter standing behind me pointing. Sheesh. Please note that she's really utterly gorgeous in the flesh. My caricature in this case is pretty darn cruel. Not intentionally. I just can't resist emphasising peoples' features.

Which means that any second now I'm going to be bust. Cos the waiter is standing behind me peering all around the restaurant to see who my model is. "Who are you painting?" he says. I cock my head in the general direction of the blonde babe with the sumptuous breasts and the rather prominent nose. He points right at her. "That one?" he says. Everyone at her table looks up. They look at me.

I want to throttle this waiter. Or jab my trusty Maped Ruling Pen in his crotch, like I did to Janine's Matthew in Kaapschehoop. "Yeah, her," I say.

An envoy from her table comes up to me. There are three boys, three girls. All three girls are just totally luscious. The three boys are biceptuals... they spend a lot of time in gym getting slinky so girls like these will go for them. Clearly a very good strategy. Which is why I've been going to gym quite a lot recently.

"Hi," says Greg. "Do you mind if I see your drawing?"

I show him. "Is that Linda???" He laughs. Beckons.

Linda gets up. Comes over.

"Oh my god!" she shrieks. "I look like a witch!!! Oh no! Is my nose THAT bad?"

"Please don't beat me up!" I say.

A lightning-quick impression of Linda. This one captures a bit more of her beauty. But of course, it doesn't look anything like her. This one took about ten seconds to fling onto the page.A bit of small talk. They look through my sketchbook. Smiles all round. They head back for their table. I sneak a super-quick sketch of her. And she catches me again. Immediately back to my table.

"Who's this?" she says.

"Uh," I say, "it's your friend." She buys the story.

"Oh, good. Thank god. Ilana," she calls, "he's drawn you too!" A pause as she flicks through the book again. "You've got a thing for hooked noses, hey?" Back to the table.

I hear one of the guys say, "Hahahaha! Ask him where her broom is!"

Then I turn my attention to Ilana. If this is possible, she's even more desirable than Linda. And I've been studying her panties peeking out from above her jeans. A dark, rich brown. Velvet. Love. Lust. Renewal. Ilana. Definite dream material. I'd LOVE to get her to model naked for me. Serene face. Very interesting bones. A fifteen second sketch.But trying to steal these drawings unobserved is impossible right now. Six waiters are standing behind me watching. And the babe-table is completely aware.

Another super-quick sketch.

Ilana comes up to my table. Yeowch. She's breathtaking. She looks at my drawing of her.

"Can't you draw women so they look MORE beautiful than in real life?" she says.

I have to improvise here. So I say, "You're both WAY too beautiful to capture in an artwork."

Greg says, "Is THAT how you get away with it? You use that line?"

"Yeah," I say, "but I normally get beaten up by boyfriends who can't stand to see their girlfriends humiliated. Did I get away with it this time?"

Both Ilana and Linda say emphatically, in unison, "Yes, you get away with it this time."


Sunday 25 May 2003

Erich Viedge's Home, Greenside

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * 1/2

Erich has invited 40 of his closest friends to breakfast at his place. Most of us arrive around 35 minutes later than the stipulated 9:30am. 

Now one of the things about Erich is that he knows some seriously attractive women. And luckily, he's about to get married, so it's okay to flirt with as many of them as I want to. 

By 'okay', I mean, okay by me. In other words, I'm not treading on his turf. Except when I flirt with Janet, his fiancée. But I do that in front of him, and he knows my errant ways. And he knows I'd never try and shag her. Cos I'm not into relationship-busting. 

But when I say 'okay', I have no idea whether or not I'm coming across to the hordes of babes as some kind of sex-starved drooler. Hmmm. Actually, I've thought about this statement for about a quarter of a second, and I withdraw it. I have a pretty good idea that I do INDEED come across as a sex-starved drooler. Which is pretty darn accurate now that Heidi in Somerset West is off the scene. Praise be to Jah.

So anyway. Jacqui is emminently flirtable-with. So's Darryl (as in Darryl Hannah). So's Claire. And countless of the others, whose names I don't recall, and who are married or attached anyway.

I spend my morning walking from cluster to cluster with Roger von Oech's CREATIVE WHACK PACK in my hand, offering people the opportunity to pick a card to solve a problem they're facing. 

"Oooh, no," says one of the delectables, clutching her chocolate croissant as if it were garlic warding off a vampire. "I don't really like tarot cards." She pronounces it as 'tah-rot'. I correct her...

"That's 'tah-row'," I say, "but these aren't them. These are just idea jolters. Try one. They're not evil."

So she draws a card. It's number 45... DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH IDEAS. It advises her to "let go of a previously cherished idea. Be free to look for new ones. What part of the idea are you in love with? Kiss it goodbye!" 

"Oh!" she says. "This is so cool! Can I try another one?"

Crystal walks down the driveway. Her shoulders are all hunched, and she's pretty dazed. "What's wrong?" says Erich. He's wearing some kind of North- or West-African sarong. When he springs up, his tackle shows briefly, and he rearranges it quickly.

"They've stolen both of my back wheels!" says Crystal.

Her car is parked just behind mine in the street outside. Unbelievable. Broad daylight. Back half of the car on bricks. These dudes are experts. Sheesh.

Always one for a pun at someone else's expense, I can't help myself. "Hey Crystal," I say, "you a wheeler dealer?" 

Jacqui groans, and covers her head with both hands. Four of us are sitting on a blanket out in the winter sun in Erich's garden. She's lying just out of reach. Not that I'd try and reach her, you understand. Cos that would blow any chance I might be under the illusion I have with her. But I think the pun blows things worse than any invasion of body space might. 

And then I clinch it. 

"So, Crystal," I say, plowing in where angels fear to tremble, "are you feeling... TIRED?"

Jacqui sighs extravagantly and starts talking to Darryl. And I start having fantasies of them being lesbian lovers on my futon. And I sigh extravagantly.


Friday 23 May 2003

Stones, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * 1/2

Aryan Kaganof, Dick Tuinder, and I, are here to play some pool. It's Friday night, and kiddies' curfew hasn't yet kicked in. So Stones is filled with an abundance of cross-cultural under-age babeflesh. Most of which seems to be attached to gorilla boys, most of whom are going to strike it a hell of a lot luckier than I will tonight.

Tables are all booked. But there's one that's being dominated by two succulent honeys. The one, the dark one with the sun tattoo between her shoulder blades, the one with delicious, broadish hips and a tiny waist, is dream material for me. 

I kinda wish she were older, cos then I'd consider working my way round to proposing marriage. 

Instead of marriage, I propose that Dick and I challenge them for the table. The blonde one points at the pile of coins on the edge of the table. "Everyone wants to challenge us," she says, a smug smile on her face.

"Beauty will do that," I say. It just slips out. I had no control over the statement, and I expected retribution and further smirking from them.

Instead, a pause. "Okay," says the blonde one. "You're on. We'll call you just now." A shared look between the two of them.

I dunno. I certainly TRY to be a charmer. And I often succeed. But I really don't understand how it works. Surely a statement like, "Beauty will do that," MUST be regarded as Hick-honcho dorkiness incarnate? Surely?? I mean, heck, it's not as if these two honeys have run short in the looks department. They must have creepoids pawing them constantly. So surely originality has to enter the equation. I dunno.

In the interim, Kaganof has engaged the attention of a tall strawberry blonde in a pencil skirt. She's trying to get him to dance. But he doesn't do that sort of thing. So she eyes me from the dance floor, and beckons me to join. This is a babe I spotted as I came in, and she and I had done a bit of eye-contact swapping.

I join her. "I didn't catch your name," she shouts into my ear.

"Roy," I shout back. "You?"

"What?"

Her name is Catherine. "Cat for short," she says. I make a clawing cat motion with my hands, hissing as I do. "No!" she says, and throws back her head and laughs. "More like a kitten!" And she purrs, and tucks her hands up under her chin as if she's sleeping. I think this might be love. She's got that perfect cello shaped body. Curvy all the way. And such a pretty face.

We chat a bit off the dance floor. She's about to study graphic design at Damelin, so she can join an ad agency. "But that's not my dream," she says. I spur her to reveal more. "I want to be a pilot." That's so cool. A friend of mine is a pilot. Leigh. Has his own microlight plane. He's pretty impressive. "But right now I'm just a receptionist." And she shrugs, and her face looks all defeated. And all I wanna do is take her home and give her a big boost of self-esteem.

I show her my sketchbook, and she sits looking at it, enjoyment all over her. It's so gratifying having one's art appreciated. Thanks, Cat. 

Her friend has been hovering around, looking all svelte and  breasty. Her name's Cindy, and she wears a hat, despite the Stones 'No Headgear' policy. "I was in a car accident," she explains, and pulls the hat off very quickly. Her face took a bit of glass. Now she wears the hat to hide what she thinks is her hideousness from the world.

"Do you really think you're hideous?" I say. "Cos you're serious babe material."

"Well," she says, "before the prang I was seriously pursuing the supermodel route." And sure, this chick is model material. Blonde hair. Incredible tits. (I know they're incredible, cos they're pretty much in plain view.) Very slim.

Aryan kicks in at this point. "My camera is in for a service right now, but gimme your number and I'll call you in three weeks, and I'll make you a video portfolio." 

Aryan happens to be one of Europe's most prominent filmmakers. He's the first filmmaker to have made a feature film using digital video. It's called WASTED, a drug movie that made it huge in Holland and the rest of the world. About twelve South Africans have seen it.

"But," says Aryan, "I have some conditions. I film you without makeup, with your scars in plain view. I want to show you, on video, how beautiful you are." She flaps her hands. "Wait," he says, "sure, we can do a version with all your makeup and stuff. But a no-makeup version too. Okay?"

She writes her numbers in his artist's notebook. And he'll call her in exactly three weeks.

Cat's finished looking at my book. "I'm also an artist," she says. "I do oil paintings."

Dick says, "Hey! You should carry them around with you, like we do." He mimes putting huge framed paintings under his arm. "That way you can attract the attention of nice boys."

"Let's go," Aryan says to Dick and me. We're off to play pool in Fourways, near Tovey's. The babes I tried to get a game from earlier have some younger and better suitors, ones with better lines. And Cindy and Cat are ready to go home, not party some more. Sigh. These young people are just not made the way they used to be.

But I've got to try this line on Cat, cos between Cat and Cindy, I would LOVE to make love with Cat. She's just totally sumptuous. Not that Cindy isn't. It's just that Cindy is way too thin for me. Forty-nine kilograms! And she thinks she's overweight! Tells me her ideal weight is forty-three! Jesus. I can bench press two of her.

So I say to Cat, winking extravagantly, as if I were being ironic, and demonstrating said irony, "Hey Cat, since we're both artists, how about you coming round to my place and modeling for me? And if you like, you don't even have to take your clothes off at first."

"At first?" she says, and she's smiling. And oh god, I wish pickup lines worked. Cos she's kinda almost vaguely contemplating the idea of modeling for me with her clothes on.

But it's okay. The line hasn't worked. And I know that lines don't work. So it's time to go shoot some pool somewhere. But just in case, I hand Cat and Cindy my 'Coffee-Shop Schmuck' business card, and get more laughs. Cat comes up close to me, and purrs in my ear, "How do you pronounce this? Is it 'Sh-muck'? That's so funny!!!" Please phone me, I think, as I'm walking to my car. Prove me wrong.


Friday 23 May 2003

Times Square Cafe, Yeoville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: *

I'm in one of my old haunts from back in the old days. The glory days. The days of being an earnest poet who was gonna change the world. Times Square Cafe in Yeoville. Back in those days I used to write a lot of performance poetry here.

Tonight, I'm watching South Africa's most famous unknown filmmaker -- Aryan Kaganof -- playing speed chess against a local maestro. His ass is getting whipped, even though he's a viciously hot player away from the pressure of the clock.

Eric Miyeni is the reason we're here. I bumped into him earlier in Melville, at Spiro's, where he was playing chess against someone. I sat down to play him. 

"Hey," he says to me, in that performance poet, radio talkshow-host, agitator voice, the sneering one, "what colour you wanna play?"

"Jesus, Eric, does EVERYTHING have to be about race?" I say.

He has the grace to laugh. We've known each other since before he got famous. We shared poetry microphones years ago in the Black Sun in Yeoville. We even shared positions in an ad agency a while back, both working as copywriters. He became the creative director there, and I quit advertising for film.

I end up playing black, him white, and we start our mighty race war. I hold out for twenty minutes, by which time Aryan Kaganof and his Dutch filmmaker/artist/maverick buddy, Dick Tuinder are looking over my shoulder clucking at my crap moves.

"Check mate," says Eric. I shake his hand. "Play again," he says. 

Aryan introduces me to Dick while we're setting up the board. "The reason you guys need to meet is cos I think you're very similar." Dick also shaves his head. He's also a multi-faceted artist, working in all sorts of media. Also carries a sketchbook with him wherever he goes. Also tries to shag anything that moves. Also makes movies.

Eric and I finish setting up the board. Then, THWACK. He goddamn mates me in four moves.

"Kaganof," he says, "come to Yeoville and play some speed chess."

So we do. We go in Aryan's car, cos I don't want to risk having mine hijacked out from under me. 

Yeoville is humming. It's bloody awesome. A real buzz of enjoyment in Times Square Cafe. Exclusively black faces. And no women. Not one. Not even a waitress. Sheesh. This is wrong, man. 

Kaganof sits down to play speed chess. He's wearing an old army jacket with someone's name tag still sewn over the pocket. The previous wearer's name was LOVE. Yup. The irony has escaped noone. 

Speed chess. Pretty much the same rules as normal chess, except that you don't say "Check" when you threaten your opponent's king. It's his job to notice that sorta thing. If he moves another piece instead of moving out of check, it's game over. He loses. And it's frenetic. Hands whir as they move pieces and slap the clock. Each is allocated five minutes. If your flag falls before your opponent's, it's game over. 

Kaganof is impressive. But the jovial dude in the winner's chair is even more so, and he wins Aryan's massive stake of two rand. And we've watched him beat everyone so far. This guy's loaded, man. He must have won at least thirty rand tonight!

Eventually a woman arrives. Greets Eric Miyeni as if she knows him. But basically everyone knows him. He hugs her as if he knows her. She smiles. Spreads perfume around the joint, and all the guys look at her. Ample hips. Serious afritude. But this joint's not cooking for her. So she leaves. Eric shrugs.

I order a half portion of the lamb shwarma. I'm nervous. No. Not nervous. Petrified. You know... Yeoville isn't all that far from Hillbrow. And who KNOWS what kind of hygienic standards this establishment holds itself to.

The food comes. Attractively presented. A huge portion. Elsewhere, this would have been regarded as the full portion. I make sure, "Hola bra," I say, using my ingratiating whitey persona, the one that greets black people in township lingo so they'll know I'm a brudda, and not some Apartheid-supporting whitey. "You sure this is the half portion?" And I make that 'Hola sevens!' sign, where each hand looks like a pointing gun, with a twist of the wrists so that the fingers end up pointing at the floor.

"Yebo, gazlam," he says, and laughs.

I feel good. I'm a diplomat for whiteys all over South Africa.

I eat the food. As good as anything I've had anywhere. And no signs of food poisoning. Excellent.

Dick Tuinder gets his turn at the speed chess. Gets whipped. 

I don't even bother to put my two bucks down. If Eric Miyeni could slaughter me in four in Melville, I think the humiliation here in Yeoville would just not cut it for me.

"Hey," says Aryan, "let's go to Stones and shoot some pool."

"Stones in Cresta," I say. "Cos then if I manage to hook up with a babe, it's a very short trip back to my place."


Saturday 3 May 2003

Carluccio's Ristorante, Village Walk, Sandton

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

I've just watched MOONLIGHT MILE starring Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman. And the dude, I think, from DONNY DARKO. It's an exquisite, offbeat movie. And it's only showing at Village Walk Nu Metro. I give it a solid 8 out of 10 on the Roy-o-Meter.

And I'm so inspired that I'm sitting at Carluccio's, surrounded by Sandton money-babes, the type who only date guys in BMW 330i and up cars, the type who look at me and think, "Mr Price T-shirt", and I've got my palmtop open on the table with a pot of tea and a terrifyingly hideous smear of Cherry Cheescake which tastes like shaving foam, and I'm working on HOME, my feature screenplay. (This is not the same one I'm co-writing with Damon. That's a horror. This one's quirky and weird and dark and personal. In other words, mine's unsaleable.)

It's going really well. By the end of the evening, I'll send this SMS to my three movie-writing buddies, the ones who are going to make it with me to driving stretch limousines in Benoni, namely, Janet van Eeden-Harrison, Damon Berry, Eran Tahor: "I've just written the final scene of HOME!!! Of course, I've skipped a few other scenes in my rush to get here, so I've still got another twenty pages to write. But I'm essentially finished with my first draft! Yay!!!!" 

You'll notice that it's a damn long SMS. That's cos I've got a Nokia 6310i, which laces up to three SMSs together to form one long one. Aside from that, the damn thing's useless. It does NOT communicate with my Psion 5MX palmtop very well at all. I'm most unchuffed with it. But it's okay. Cos I immediately get congratulations messages streaming in from my three buddies. And it's just before midnight. And the babes aren't going home. Not with me, anyway.


Saturday 3 May 2003

Espresso, Parktown North

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Damon and I are meeting for our regular Saturday lunchtime movie meeting. He and I are co-writing a wonderful B-Movie Horror flick I'm not at liberty to discuss. We're also in discussions with SABC3 to produce a tv commercial that I wrote. I'll be producing, he'll be directing. 

It's our way of breaking into the commercial side of filmmaking. See, it's all wonderful and great making short movies and contributing to audio-visual art in this country. But in five years, both Damon and I want to be household names to cinema-going audiences all round the world. And that involves making movies for money. And the best movies to make for money are commercials. 

Commercials are excellent things, cos they require fanatical attention to detail, comparatively high budgets, and world-class crews. They're miniature movies that take almost MORE care and attention than full length features.

I've pitched the idea to our marketing whizz. And she's given it an enthusiastic yes. The spot I've written and storyboarded fits in with the new brand image campaign that Hunt Lascaris has created (award winning stuff, in my opinion), and it's really quite funny. She has in turn pitched it to our General Manager, and he's asked me to pitch it to him. Which I did yesterday. And he said a cautious yes. It's cautious cos the SABC is slashing budgets in a bid to become commercially realistic, and there is consequently very little money for things like ad hoc television commercials costing huge amounts of money.

But they're going to find money from various budgets, and we'll see what happens. I'm very happy to be a contractor there, cos that gives me the freedom to do this sort of thing. Thanks SABC3. You're giving me lots and lots of presents.

"Ouch!!!" says Damon.

I follow his eyeline. There is a girl dressed in tight, tight, tight black jeans leaning over the table next to me. And the light is shining through the gap in her crotch. And the cloth is a perfectly sculpted replica of something I'd like to reach out and touch.


Friday 25 April 2003

Da Vincenzo's, Sunninghill

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: * *
Ambience: * * 
Babe Count: * *

Hmmm. Troy has persuaded me to come to this birthday party. It's a buddy of his who he does laser shows with, and he's just turned some ludicrous age like twenty-five or something equally feeble. Troy has promised me that there'll be lots of babes, and that the place is really cool, and that I can't miss it.

I drove around for an hour trying to not miss it. Even with Troy giving me explicit directions, I almost landed up behind bars by driving into the Sunninghill Prison twice. My car doesn't have a GPS like his Landrover Defender does.

Anyway. The place is appalling. One of those lapa-style places that can seat about 500 paying guests. The type of place cheap people with lots of money take wedding guests to. Or hair-oil salespeople. And sure. There certainly ARE babes. Joy and Renee, Troy's babe and close childhood friend respectively. Problem is, they're both attached. Where's Janine from Nelspruit when I need her? Or Heidi, for that matter. 

So sue me. I'm not over the breakup yet. And even if we did only ever see each other in the flesh twice, those two occasions were huge and lovely. And it was about half a year's worth of emailing, SMSing, phoning, longing, fantasising. Sigh. Here's some advice for free... avoid the long distance relationship stuff, okay? Only tears at the end.

Back to Da Vincenzo's. I take the lead in ordering, cos I'm starving after being lost for an hour. But the host is waiting for just one more couple to arrive. They've been waiting for two hours (not only was I lost for an hour, but I was also an hour late). 

"Waiter!!!" I shout. It's necessary to shout, cos they're so far on the other end of this cavernous room that they can't see me waving the menu around. In fact, they can't even hear me shout. It's another diner halfway to my target who hears me and shouts on my behalf. A waiter scurries over to him. He points to me. The waiter looks in my direction. Can't see me waving my menu and shouting. Eventually pinpoints me and sprints over ten minutes later.

"Are you ready to order?" he says. 

I say, "Yes, I'd like the..."

But Troy's birthday buddy, Christo, cuts me off. "No!" he shrieks. "We're still waiting for another couple!!!" The waiter starts vamoosing into the distance, faster than a crab in an oil slick.

I stand up. "WAIT!" 

The guy skids. 

I say, "I'll have the pumpkin panzerotti in Napoletana sauce!" 

And with that, the whole table starts ordering. Christo, who in later life will turn out not to like women as much as he thinks he does now, puts his head in his hands rather camply and sighs his order to the waiter. But he's too far away for me to hear what he's having.

Now the interesting thing for me about this gathering is that most of the guys look like the closet has been their home for many years, probably under the draconian regime of Afrikaans fathers who would bash any gayness out of their boys. But they all seem to have girlfriends who don't talk. And these boys are all wearing technical laser equipment branded t-shirts.

I suppose I shouldn't talk. I'm wearing my bright orange SABC3 t-shirt, showing my solidarity for the place I'm contracted to.

And with a serious dearth of babes in the place, I'm starting to eye the boys, and wonder if I'm in a closet myself.

But then I remember Janine in Nelspruit, who will hopefully be moving to Joburg one of these fine days to pursue her love of acting. I'll be her understudy.


Sunday 20 April 2003

The Green Venus, Kaapschehoop

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Bloody hell. Back when I was twenty-nine or so, I did the Blyde River Canyon hike for the fourth time. Sure, there was a bit of pain and all that, but it wasn't the worst thing I'd ever done in my life. Now that I'm all of thirty-five, I think I have to admit that I'm not a frisky young being anymore.

Which is all my way of excusing the fact that instead of hiking 15.4km today, Damon, Wendy, Troy, Joy, and I took the short cut along the road, and went to fetch Troy's green Landrover Defender (it's got one of those snorkel devices up the side, so you can drive into lakes that are 1.8 metres deep). We then drove that to the last hut, the one in Kaapschehoop. And we decided not to eat camp food. So we're out on the town.

And it's a slightly rundown town tonight. Cos yesterday there was an all night music festival, and everybody is totally hung over. It's so bad that the pool players in The Green Venus are playing with no balls on the tables. The smacks were too loud, so they're miming.

The good news is that Janine Groenewald, the star of Damon's first movie, ENGAGE, has driven from Nelspruit to be with us. And I can reveal here, now, that my gut tells me she and I have some journeying to do. I'm smitten. Not only is she beautiful and gorgeous and vivacious with a sense of humour and intelligence, but she's an actress. So she understands the casting couch. And I'm a producer.

Which reminds me of my favourite movie joke. Stop me if you've heard me tell it before...

A producer and a director are walking along the beach at Cannes during the film festival. The director tugs on the producer's arm and says, "Hey, look at all those naked women on the beach! Let's go down and f*ck them!!!" And the producer, wild eyed and fervent, says, "F*ck them out of what???"

Unfortunately, Janine has brought along her special friend, Matthew. I say unfortunately, when I actually mean, "unfortunately for HIM". Cos soon, the hikers who are still awake at midnight on a Sunday in the middle of nowhere after a hard day's trek to fetch the car, those hikers being me and Damon, are somewhat manic. And I'm being spurred on by testosterone generated by exposure to Janine. 

So, one thing leads to another, and Damon and I pretend to be filmmakers, and she pretends to be an actress, and Matthew pretends to be an innocent bystander who's never encountered such lunatics ever, and never will again. And of course, the sex scene starts being enacted. In the restaurant. With me rolling a fake camera. And Damon yelling direction. 

And of course, like any self-respecting artist, I've got the tools of my trade with me. I never leave home without a sketchbook, a bottle of ink, and my trusty Maped Ruling Pen. The pen resembles a gynaecological excavation device, with two incredibly sharp, strong, metallic points held together by a little spring steel caliper. With this pen, it's possible to circumcise somebody if you should happen to slip and stab them in the groin.

I'm not pointing any fingers at Damon here. He IS a director, and as such, he must be afforded the ultimate respect. Suffice to say that he's demanding a less-controlled performance from young Matthew. "Loosen up, Matthew!" screams Damon while Janine is mounting Matthew's leg, her skirt falling open for the camera, revealing the most delicious white panties I've ever seen up close and personal in a small, Lowveld town. Matthew's being open-mouth kissed, and he's sitting there unable to find anything to do with his hands. Damon shouts, "CUT!!!"

He leans in towards Matthew. "Listen," he says, earnest, ready to pull director tricks out of his bag, "I need you to really feel the part." He points at Janine's crotch. "That part."

At which point, I get a great idea, no doubt spurred on by the word, "Cut!" so cavalierly used by Damon. I figure I'll help Matthew to loosen up. So I grab my trusty Maped Ruling Pen, the one with the twin points made of spring steel, and I jab the thing right between the poor fellow's legs, piercing his jeans clear through to the chair. I remove my hand, and the pen stays there quivering like Excalibur. "Now he's loose," I say.

Damon snaps his finger under the guy's nose. The bloke has turned extremely white. And he's not breathing. Finally, Matthew says, "Uh... that was a lot closer than you might have thought." And that's the last thing he says all night.

Oh... I have to recommend the pizzas. They're brilliant.


Saturday 19 April 2003

The Wattles, Kaapschehoop

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

All right. So I overcatered. I'm Jewish. What can I say? Which is why my shoulders are sore and the ring of pain most people call their waistline is sensitive even to my underpants.

It's the second night of a three-night hike, out in Kaapschehoop, near Nelspruit. Seven buddies and I have done the heroic thing, believing we're superheroes, and walking up hill, down dale, kilometre after stinking kilometre. We've gone hiking.

And you know, it's not really all that bad. Except for the pain. And the heat. And the fact that my pack is a good eight kilograms too heavy.

Now you will have noticed that my rating for this establishment, The Wattles, is a little on the generous side. That's cos tonight is my turn to cook for the eight of us. And boy have I cooked well. And it's been service with a smile too. So send me large tips.

I cooked Lionel Murcott's famous lentil briyani. It's an incredible rice dish he taught me involving baby potatoes, herbs and spices and curry powder, ginger, broad beans, and, of course, the indispensible lentils.

Except, of course, that Wendy New -- famous Joburg/New York singer/songwriter phenomenon, Damon Berry's gorgeous babe -- decided earlier this morning that her pack was too heavy. So she ditched the lentils back at Barrett's Coaches. But that's all right. I've improvised with Troy Bentley's Soya Mince concoction and some turnips and tiny gemsquashes.

The dish turns out to be amazing, thanks to Alfred Hilton's exceptional curry powder mix. Alfred is an awesome artist. His portrait of me hangs above my study desk. 

People line up, and I dish the steaming rice into their camp plates, and they invariably go "Yummy!!!" on taking the first bite. This is probably because the hike has allowed me to access my inner Hitler, and they're probably just scared that I'm going to gas one of them. (And with hiking food, the gas is very apparent, let me assure you. Yes Troy. Yes Damon. I AM referring to you two.)


Friday 28 March 2003

Hard Times Cafe, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

So why am I ogling Amanda, the manageress, wondering what she'll look like naked,Amanda notices the backgammon book I'm reading while eating. "We're organising a tournament here soon," she says. "Do you want to play?" Of course I do. So she takes down my details, and she'll contact me when it happens. Yeah. when I've got a beautiful girlfriend in Somerset West, just waiting for me to fly down for another visit? 

Well... easy answer... I don't HAVE a beautiful girlfriend in Somerset West anymore.

See, after I flew home on Sunday night, nursing my injured shoulder, I thought a lot about some of Heidi's closed body language over the course of our long weekend together. I thought long and hard about how we argued on Friday night after her friends left. I wondered why we were feeling increasingly estranged.

And of course, the answer came on Monday evening in the form of an email. Heidi was basically saying that we're incompatible. And she's probably right. Aside from sharing almost identical senses of humour, and both being great explorers of each other, and being interested in what the universe has to offer, we're really quite different.

So after an initial spurt of hurt anger on my part for being dumped via email, I made some peace with the situation. Thanks for a lovely few months, Heidi. It was beautiful loving you, and I think fondly of you. We've liberated things in each other, and we'll both be moving onto better life-opportunities. I wish you all the best.

Right. Back to ogling Amanda.

She smiles at me halfway through my meal. I'm eating the legendary Danish Feta, Avo, and Chicken Shwarma, the item that was taken off the menu about four years ago, but which regulars still ask for and get. Amanda waits for me to swallow before asking, "Everything all right?" That's so considerate. Most managers wait till you've taken a new bite before asking.

"Delicious," I say, and smile back at her. I wince a little bit, cos the smiling-muscles are loosely connected to the torn muscle in my back. I've been to two superb sessions of physiotherapy, and I'm on the mend. But my shoulder's still a tad tender. A bit like my chicken in the schwarma.

And I'm also still a tad tender about Heidi. A bit like the mashed avo in the schwarma.


Thursday 20 March 2003

Tallahassee Spur, Somerset West

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * *

I'm sitting with Heidi. Two and a half months have crept by without any physical contact between the two of us. We've run up hundreds of rands worth of phone bills, and now we're together again. Sigh. She's a babe. And I would walk 500 miles...

Barries, the manager, sees me drawing, and comes over to take a look. He asks who I'm drawing, and I point out the babe across the way. I make him promise not to tell the girl's boyfriend about the drawing, cos I don't feel like being beaten up for misrepresenting his babe. Barries laughs and calls a few waitresses to look too.Actually... I ran 500 metres for her. At the Joburg International Airport. Damon gave me a lift to the airport yesterday, and it took 90 minutes to beat through the traffic, and I had exactly four minutes to make my Kulula.com flight. And I didn't know the aiport had changed. If you've ever flown Kulula, you'll know that once their boarding gates have closed -- thirty minutes before the flight -- they DO NOT OPEN THEM!

So Damon hits the ejector seat in his new Renault Megane, and my backpack and I hit the tarmac, and I run with the thing over my shoulder. Get to where Kulula's boarding gate used to be, and find a sign pointing me South. Hundreds of metres south. So I start running. And put my backpack on in mid-run. And rip my shoulder.

But it's all in the name of love, and I'm desperate to see Heidi, so I run more. And find the lifts are broken. So run up the three flights of rolling stairways. And get to the boarding gate 40 seconds late. And there's nothing that can be done, save to put me on the British Airways standby list.

Now it's around this point that I should have paused to consider what the universe was telling me. I think it might have been saying, "Uh, Roy... should you REALLY be going to Somerset West right now?" But I wasn't listening. I was trying to get my breath back, and ignoring the pain in my shoulder, and phoning Heidi to tell her I'd be late, and phoning Damon to tell him I missed the flight, and sweating.

And I got my flight.

And seeing Heidi at the Cape Town airport was a real highlight of my year. She's beautiful to me, and she was beaming. Both of us nervous as all hell. After all, this is the second time we're physically together over the course of a five or six month relationship.

So now we're sitting in the Tallahassee Spur in Somerset West, and the affable manager with no eyebrows, Barries, is agreeing to give me the kiddies burger instead of the adult burger. I love burgers, but they're normally way too big for me. Heidi goes for the normal sized burger with the mushroom sauce. I ask for pepper sauce.

And Heidi and I are settling down to being comfortable-ish with each other again. Last night was excellent, and I was able to easily forget my shoulder pain under Heidi's ministrations. But right now it's hurting. And there's no sign as yet that Heidi is shortly going to break up with me because we're incompatible.


Saturday 15 March 2003

Fournos, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *1/2
Food: * * * 1/2
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

Damon Berry and I have my laptop plugged into the cashier's electrical outlet and we've just been bust bigtime by the woman behind the counter. She's laughing at us, and has her hand over her mouth. We smile back.

Bust doing what?

Perving, of course. It all started when the woman in the blue skirt and white blouse walked past about ten minutes ago. I knew something was up when Damon gave himself whiplash. "Roy!" he said, and I jerked my head around to look. We've got this system going to cover the perv action. If one of us sees some quality babeage, we'll point, as if we're highlighting something interesting in the middle distance. This means that the real object of our affections doesn't necessarily know that we're looking at her.

At this point, the blue skirt disappeared from sight, and Damon and I went back to work. We're doing a budget for our first commercial together. We co-wrote it, I'm producing, and he's directing. I can't name the client at the moment, since it's all hush-hush till their new campaign breaks. What I can say is that when I presented the idea to them, they loved it hugely, and have liberated a neat little portion of their budget for us.

So our heads are together over my computer screen as we try in vain to remove R35 000 more from the budget. We've got to come in at a certain figure, or else the client won't be able to afford it. And we're WELL above that figure, and we just aren't cracking the money-shaving exercise. Damon's just finished his spinach tramezzini, and I've stuck to a slice of hand-made ganache cos I'm still recovering from the damned SABC pie I ate some time ago. So Damon pushes his plate aside, and...

Zhlammo! Damon's in whiplash territory again. And yes... it's the blue skirt. And her butt is about one metre from our table. And she's standing at the cashier, waiting to pay. Both of us are staring. This is wetdream territory. Cos her tiny black thong panties are licking over the rim of the slinky blue skirt. And as anyone knows, the merest hint of panties showing is enough to cause sub-belt thrombotics.

And as the dark-haired butt-beaut pays and starts walking out, the cashier happens to look down and sees Damon and me gawping. So okay. Arrest us. We're grotesque specimens of sexist filmmakers who would run casting couches in an instant if we were famous.

Talking of which... I'm flying to Cape Town on Wednesday, and Heidi and I plan to spend a LOT of time on the casting couch together. Might even shoot a screen test of the two of us to counter these long days and nights spent alone in different cities!

(Some developments on the job front, but I can't say anything about those until I've got offers in writing, and those offers meet my exacting specifications for what a job should entail. You will be kept informed.)

In the meantime, it's three sleeps till Wednesday night.


Monday 10 March 2003

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: *
Food: *
Ambience: *
Babe Count: *

The service here is terrible at the moment, and that's because I'm basically limping around in a musty red sarong, my throat all raspy and sore, clutching my stomach. I've been eating stale Pro Vita biscuits with no toppings. Why?

Because of a Cornish Pasty I ate twice on Thursday. Bought it at the SABC S1 canteen. They keep a stack of pies in a sort of unwarming drawer behind the counter. You choose one, they slap it into the microwave oven for forty seconds, and you pray that it's killed the botulism or bubonic plague or whatever has started taking hold in the innards. This particular Thursday, I was so hungry I ignored my tastebuds.

As a consequence, just as I was coming up the stairs of my flat on Thursday night to drop off my laundry and head straight off to a sneak preview of Charlie Kaufman's new movie, ADAPTATION, the sweating and fever started. And a long intimate relationship with my toilet bowl ensued. With me getting to enjoy the pie several times over. Hmm. That texture.

At around 3:30am I saw the very last bit of black gunk leave me on its journey down to the sewerage farm for recycling into the Johannesburg water. I wanted to phone them to ask them to take the SABC off that circuit, cos I'm sure it's dangerous, what with all the food poisoning coming back into the water supply.

But hey. Friday morning I woke up, went to the chemist to buy some anti-vomiting stuff, did my audio mix session on the promos I made for SABC 3 TALK, and then came home again, to sleep for around 19 hours.

Saturday, did the doctor thing. Got antibiotics. Took them. And promptly found myself revisiting them too. To the tune of several litres and several hours crouching over the toilet bowl.

Which is why I'm at home today instead of at work.

Which is great really. Gives me some time to work out how to earn myself a living down in Somerset West. But I wish I could eat something more substantial than a dry biscuit. And the service sucks! Wish Heidi could be here holding a wet facecloth to my dripping brow. Hmm. On second thoughts, I'd rather spare her the details.


Friday 14 February 2003

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: *
Ambience: *
Babe Count: *

So it's been a pretty eventful bunch of months, what with me heading to Somerset West to encounter my cyber-love babe in the flesh, trek 3288 kilometres along the coast in the same car as her, and then return to the bleak world of work, with her there and me here.

Very important when taking a 3288 kilometre trip in a top down car to bring plenty of sunblock and head protection. And a delicious blonde. Oh baby. What a trip. I recommend such things.Which is all my way of saying that I haven't updated this site for a while cos I don't really wanna indulge in kiss-and-tell behaviour. So I won't. 

What I WILL tell you is that Heidi in the flesh is way better than the electronic Heidi. And yes. We're in love. And we're putting out calls to the universe to allow us the opportunity to be together.

It'll probably mean me heading for the fairest Cape, since she has two kids and blah blah blah rationalisation blah blah. Actually, I could use a change of scenery. So Cape it is. And it'll probably involve me making movies and making serious money out of that.

Right now I'm sitting in my study listening to Warren Zevon's latest song -- "My Ride's Here". He's dying of inoperable lung cancer as I type, and that peeves me no end. One of the most brilliant musos to grace my eardrums.

Tomorrow morning, 9 o'clock, I go into the audio final mix studio at Henley to complete the sound work on my movie, ARIA. Guto and I shot a new opening sequence, and it's looking pretty damn cool. I'm starting to feel proud, and all those things artists get terrified about. You know the kind of thing... maybe I think it's cool, but maybe it's a total load of rubbish. But hey. I'm a happy man.

Drop me an email if you wanna be invited to the premiere. We'll be launching it sometime soonish in Johannesburg. Probably around end of April or middle of May. But lemme know now, and I'll include you in my planning. roy.blumenthal@mweb.co.za

This morning, I was up at sparrow's sphincter to get to a Valentine's event at work. I had been roped into performing a poem for my wonderful SABC3 colleagues. I wrote it specially for the occasion late last night at Nino's in Rosebank. And I'm glad I did it. Cos it meant killing two birds with one quill -- I got to entertain my work friends and wrote a Valentine's poem for Heidi. 

Cool, huh? Wonderful to use art to get laid, isn't it? Now I just wish Heidi were here in Joburg so I could cash in on the sex appeal. Luckily, we'll be seeing each other soon soon soon. I'm invoicing that corporate video crowd who caused me some light brain damage when I did the scripting for their company-wank. So I'll hopefully have a coupla bucks to blow on an air ticket.

Here's the poem I wrote for Heidi...

 

LONG DISTANCE LOVE ON VALENTINE'S DAY

by Roy Blumenthal

Got a girl far away on this Valentine's day.
She's across the road, but not in my neighbourhood.
She's an ocean away but everything's okay.

Because...

    I bench-press my love in the sweat of the gym
    so she can know it in the flex of my limbs.
    It's long distance love.


It's a tiresome chore when I open my door
cos my house is alone in calling itself home.
She's a continent away, but it's all okay.

Because...

    I wave my love in semaphore
    so she can know it from the 44th floor.
    It's long distance love.


I spread out on my bed, might as well be dead
cos she's in her bed too with plenty of room.
She's a planet away, but that's totally okay.

Because...

    I tap my love in speed-Morse-code
    so she can know it at the end of the road.
    It's long distance love.


I've got a portrait under my pillow so I can feel mellow
but a picture can't kiss or demonstrate bliss.
But it's way okay.

Because...

    I surf my love with my tv remote
    so she can get it from a satellite quote.
    It's long distance love.


She's so far away
and we just wanna play.
So we croon on the phone
but her posture's unknown.
So we rant and we rave
then we sound quite depraved
and we groan and we moan
till we're both in the zone.
But she's out there
and I'm anywhere but.
Gotta jump on a plane
to figure this out.
It's long distance love.

But... in the meantime...

    I bit-byte my love on the internet
    so she can know it when her keyboard gets wet.
    It's long distance love.
    It's long distance love.

(c) Roy Blumenthal 2003

PS: Oh...I just thought I'd mention it... when Heidi and I drove 3288 kilometres across South Africa, from Somerset West, to Swaziland, to Joburg, in my red convertible with the top down almost all the way... we didn't have ONE fight. Nada. Zilch. This babe and I are so compatible. It's love, chum. And boy, are we compatible sexually, or what??!

PPS: I'm aware of the obscene amount of time this page is now taking to load, so I'm planning an "Archive" section soon. I'll just keep the five most current reports on the front page, and the rest in the archive. That should do the trick, hmm?


Sunday 15 December 2002

Al's Gourmet Chicken, Greenside

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * 1/2
Food: * 1/2
Ambience: *
Babe Count: *

"May I please have a quarter chicken -- the quarter with a drumstick -- some chips, and some iced tea, all takeaway?" I say to the dude behind the counter.

He barks the order to another dude, who wields a pair of scissors to snip through the flesh, skin, gristle and bone of one of the unfortunate chickens stewing in its own juices on the rotisserie. 

I need it to be takeaway cos I've got to rush home and pack for my trip to Somerset West tomorrow. I'm in a frenzy of excitement, cos I'm finally going to meet Heidi face-to-face. She's nervous cos she and her friends performed some kind of avant garde op art on her hair. But that's cool. It's nothing compared to what I do to my own hair. Every day. With a razor. 

But back to my order. I see the guy plonking the quarter without the drumstick into a box. "Uh..." I say, "I want the drumstick, please." 

The guy who took my money barks at the snip artist. "Leg! With leg! With leg!!" I don't like it when managers shout at their staff to cover their own ineptitude. And then I don't notice that he hasn't given me my iced tea. It's only back at home when I see this. And I'm not wasting my precious packing time to go and get the damn thing.

The chicken itself is ultra oily. It's the smallest portion of chicken I've ever eaten from a takeaway spot. Literally a drumstick and a small piece of thigh. I estimate that I got six mouthfuls out of the chicken. The chips were made from glassy potatoes. And I'm still hungry. Looks like I'll be eating muesli later tonight.


Saturday 14 December 2002

Fournos, Dunkeld

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * *1/2
Babe Count: * * * *

"Excuse me!" I say to the waiter, as he disappears after giving me my bill.

He comes back.

"Uh... I'm just wondering," I say, "whether you've made a mistake on this price." I point to the R17.90 beside the entry that reads 'Snapple'.

"No," he says. "That's the price."

"Hmm. That's outrageous," I say, and pull out my 'Coffee-Shop Schmuck' business card, snapping it down subtly on the billfold. "Can I speak to the manager?"

It's a pity, really, this outrageous price. Cos I've just had the legendary Fournos Half Chicken and Salad, which is one of the best value-for-money meals I've seen in Joburg. With one reservation... the size of the salad seems to be dwindling as the months go by. My salad today was really just a few lettuce leaves, exactly two quarter-tomatoes, and three blocks of feta cheese. That's not a salad in my books. That's garnish. 

But the chicken itself is unsurpassable. In terms of taste and tenderness, I have no doubt that Fournos makes the best roast chicken in Joburg.

I'm at Fournos cos I've just been to Stax next door to buy tapes. My sports car still has the original tape deck in it, so I have to transfer my favourite cds to tape to play when Heidi and I drive from Somerset West to Swaziland around New Year.

And I'm popping my car on a train on Monday morning before heading for the airport myself.

The manager arrives. She's the woman who came round a little earlier and asked me if I drive a white BMW. I said no, and she moved on.

"You have a bit of a problem with the Snapple price," she says, smiling slightly.

"Yeah," I say. "But first... did you find the BMW owner? Was there an accident?"

"He was parked next to my BMW, and someone smashed it. They thought it was mine. But it's all right. We found him. Insurance will deal with it. But the Snapple..."

And she went on to explain that the takeaway price is much lower than the sit down price, and that she's now paying almost R10 for a bottle of Snapple, and that she hopes with the improvement of the rand that the price will come down. 

Which is cool. She's engaging me in a real explanation, and she's kind and concerned. But most importantly, she's not bullshitting me. She's telling it to me straight. And that's one thing I really appreciate in someone. So I end up smiling and paying the bill feeling satisfied by the Fournos ethic.

I'm packing up my various books and drawing books, ready to speed off home to tape the STEALING BEAUTY soundtrack when the manager arrives with a huge smile on her face. 

"This is for you," she says. "Because of the Snapple surprise."

She's given me a bag full of freshly baked chocolate croissants. One of the many other things Fournos is famous for.

Thank you!

So yeah. I go away feeling pleased with the service, and delighted to have some tea later.


Wednesday 11 December 2002

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * 1/2
Ambience: * * *1/2
Babe Count: * * * *

"Have you guys employed another chef?" I ask the waiter.

"No," he says. "Same one."

"Hmmm," I say, pushing my nearly empty plate away. "This Cajun chicken salad isn't up to your normal standards. There were very few pieces of avo, not much feta cheese, and overall, the portion seemed much smaller."

"Was the chicken fine?"

"Excellent. But something's changed."

He apologises on behalf of the restaurant, but I shrug it off, saying that the meal was enjoyable anyway. He promises to mention my comments to the chef.

I'm in a great mood. I've just left Dan Selsick's house, and I have in my hand the final music for my movie, ARIA. Dan composed the score, and a magnificent aria that the film is built around. I'll be giving the music to Philip Haupt tomorrow morning to begin the final sound design. We'll have a finished short film before the middle of next year!!! Viva! It's only been about two years and three months since we shot it!

Another cause for my good mood is that I've just received my new contract with SABC3. I'm signing on for another year as a promo producer making trailers for tv shows. My current favourite is FOOTBALLERS WIVES (no apostrophe). If I manage to go till the end of next year, I'll have smashed my previous employment record by three! Yup, three years! In one job. My last long stint was Hunt Lascaris. A year. I'm now on two years, going on for three. Sheesh. Who woulda thought.

When I pay, I slip my new "Coffee-Shop Schmuck" business card into the billfold. The waiter comes back with the card and says, "Why are you giving me this business card?"

I point out the fine print at the foot of the card: 'If you've received this card with Roy's payment in a coffee-shop or restaurant, you should probably check the website.' I say, "I review coffee-shops and restaurants on the internet. You should check it out."

"Oh," he says, and sneaks the card into his pocket. I'm not entirely sure he knows what the internet is, but if he does, he'll be sure to let me know when I go back there.

Which will be sometime in January, I reckon. That's if I can tear myself away from Heidi. As Billy Bragg says in his song, 'The Warmest Room', on the album TALKING WITH THE TAXMAN ABOUT POETRY: "We have such little time / at your place or mine. / I can't wait till we take our blood tests, / oh baby! let's take our blood tests now!!!" (Been there, done that, and we're both in the clear! Yummy.)


Tuesday 10 December 2002

Koeksuster Stand, Gold Reef City

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I haven't been to the circus since I was nine or ten or eleven or thereabouts. I remember it being a crowded place with weird people and strange smells and crazy outfits and animals and danger and freakishness and repressed violence and bizarre claims.

So here I am in advanced adulthood with Genée Heyl, the slinky blonde SAfm newsreader. Her sister is one of the star attractions of the show. Her twin sister. 

And yes. They are identical. And yes. They are delicious. Which is a real pity, cos we're both flirting outrageously, with no goal in sight (at least for me), cos Heidi's firmly filling my horizon.

But sheesh. One of the circus dancers is just hormonal sideshow deluxe. She prances into the ring, and all I wanna do is mount the trapeze with her. Ouch. But she's rather on the thin side, and that's a bit of a turnoff for me. It's as Anthony Burgess remarked about having sex with supermodels: "It's like going to bed with a bicycle."

I don't know how to spell Liayne, but it's pronounced pretty much like the "Li" of "litchi" and the "ayne" of "danger". At first I think it's the radical Afrikaans accent of the ring master coming into play, but Genée assures me that I'm hearing right.

After Liayne swallows a sword and lies bare-backed on some freshly smashed bottles and glasses, it's interval. And we all rush out to devour the koeksusters made by the ringmaster's mother. I can assure you that the only koeksusters that come close are ones I tasted in Oudtshoorn several years ago at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, the festival at which I performed poetry with Bekgeveg. Top hats off to you, tannie! Excellent! And the circus had some moutwatering acts too.

Which is why I'm whistling like crazy whenever something wonderful happens in the ring. I LOVE the atmosphere of people enjoying themselves. And I'm a bit of a clown myself. So whistling loudly in pleasure is one of the great things in life. And Genée tells me that the performers really get off on whistles.

So I'm whistling like a banshee in a cauldron. And the woman in front of me is grimacing every time I cheer or whistle or clap. Until I aim one straight at her ear. Now before I go any further, I must mention that I've done tai chi for the last eight or nine years, and I've been doing it daily now for three or four years. Which doesn't make me a powerhouse monster martial artist. No. It makes me docile. And able to flow away from trouble. 

But I'm just human. And when a woman just can't even crack a smile for the performers below, it pisses me off, and I want revenge.

So I take my glasses off and hand them to Genée. "I think I'm about to be punched," I tell her, and she clings to my arm in girlish excitement. "Uh," I say, putting my lip close to her ear in the extremely loud circus, "I'm left handed. I'm going to need to move fast if this lunk attacks me." She lets go, and my bicep is all warm where her breast was pouting against it. 

The lunk I'm referring to is this massive strongman type. Not a circus strong man. Rather, one of those dudes who runs people off the road at night and mashes them to bits with a baseball bat.

So I wait for my opportunity and whistle super-loudly right in the woman's ear, and she flinches viciously and jams both hands over her ears and turns to scream at me. But her husband restrains her. Only, I notice that both of his hands have formed into fists. And he's flxing. He's trying to work out if he has the advantage over me in a surprise. Of course, the answer has to be no, cos I'm right behind him. I'm above him. And he hasn't had a chance to observe me properly.

Unfortunately, no-one hits me, and I don't get the chance to put my tai chi skills into practice. But hey. The circus is filled with danger. And freaks. And wild animals. And some of those wild animals have husbands.


Sunday 1 December 2002

Grand Cafe, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: *

A friend of mine likes Chinese women. His ultimate aim is to have a Chinese girlfriend. But that ain't gonna happen anytime soon, since he's a faithful boyfriend to his current girlfriend. And this particular Chinese babe has a husband and kid attached. No hope here.I'm procrastinating my late afternoon away, having an unnecessary cup of tea, and a delicious oversized slice of chocolate mousse cake at the Grand Cafe in Rosebank. It's raining sweatily outside, and even with the shopping mall's aircon, it's still quite a steamy day.

The reason I'm procrastinating is that I've got two promos to write for that client from hell that I fired a month or so ago. The production company was desperate, and said I didn't have to interact with the client. And anyway, making promos is what I do for a living, so it should take me less than an hour to bash out two of the damned things.

In the meantime, I'm chortling happily away over Safran Foer's amazing novel, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. It's quasi autobiographical, and involves a trip to the Ukraine to track down the place his ancestors lived. He hires an interpreter who is... let's say... relatively unschooled in the use of English. Hilarious. With dark clouds looming. My kind of humour. Black.

And I'm in that kind of space. Last week when I was having lunch in Melville, some dude scraped a tiny dent into my car as he parallel parked. He apologised, and agreed to pay. So I took it off to my mechanic and asked for a recommendation. He suggested a place where he sends all the classic MG sports cars he specialises in. One of these chip repair places. We're talking about a tiny dent, the size of half of my pinky finger.

This little Chinese girl started playing with her mom's cellphone. Making it ring. Continuously. Using an irritating Christmas tune! I almost asked the manager to have her thrown out. But I was moping too much about the colour of my car to take action. Ah well. Next time. No more Mister Nice Guy.So the dude gives me a quote for R450. I phone the chap who smashed my Mazda MX5's delicate paintwork. He agrees with the quote. 

I say to Errol at the chip repair place, "Go ahead. But... NO body putty on my car! I want you to please PULL the dent out, and just buff it up. And if you have to use paint, it MUST match."

"No problem," says Errol. And his assistant whips out the automotive sandpaper and starts working on the spot, the spot no bigger than half my pinky. (Please memorise this size issue -- it gets important just now.)

"Uh... why's he sanding that spot?" I ask, suspecting that things are about to go pear shaped.

"No," says Errol, "he's gotta put primer on. Don't worry."

Now I dunno about you, but when I hear the words, "Don't worry," everything in me goes into alert mode. My hairs stand on end. My paranoia muscles twitch into spasm. It's like when the urologist starts babbling about the state of the Hong Kong stock market, and you go, "Huh?" and he waits for THAT moment to jam the Dickoscopy tool into your wee-tube. You just know.

"Hang on!" I say, as the assistant plops a blob of white goo onto a piece of cardboard. He then puts some blue goo with it and starts mixing. "That's body putty!" I say. "I TOLD you I don't want body putty on my fucking car!"

"No, no!" says Errol. "Don't worry. It's just primer."

Thwap. The dude slaps the body putty onto the dent. And proceeds to smooth it off.

"Come on guys! You're supposed to pull the dent!"

"Oh, we can't," says Errol. "They broke in last night and stole one of our compressors and all of the pulling tools. Don't worry. This isn't putty. It's microfill."

"Well take it out of the dent right now!"

"Can't. Once it's in, it's in."

Oh god. So now my original sports car, one of the very first to be shipped into South Africa in 1990, has body putty in a tiny dent. And these muthajunkas are busy sandpapering some more. And some more. And now, from a half a pinky, the area has grown to the size of a sideplate. And it's not even. And they're in a hurry.

We've passed the point of no return.

"Please at least get it straight and flat," I say, "and match the colour." 

"No problem," says Errol, and I shudder. And walk away. I don't want to see my car abused.

And when I come back, there's a patch of orange-red paint on my firecracker-red car. And it's uneven. And there's paint spatters all over the door.

"Errol," I say, "I'm unhappy, and this is unacceptable. If this were your car, would you be happy?"

His chin is on his chest. It's three o'clock on a Saturday, and he's got a long drive home to Vereeniging. And he's messed my car up beyond belief. "No," he says. "You're right. It's not cool. Please bring it back on Monday."

Which is why I've accepted the freelance promo job. To pay for a full respray. Cos I know these characters are just schlumpers out to make a living, and that they can't actually afford to pay to have the job done professionally. And I'd be a schlumper myself if I gave the car back to them to mess up further.

So, I pay my waitress, say thank you in Zulu, which elicits a massive grin, and close my book. I've got some promos to write. I've got a car to respray before I get to Somerset West to meet my new soulmate, Heidi. Can't have orange spots on it, can I? Even though orange is one of her favourite colours.


Wednesday 27 November 2002

Panarotti's, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * 1/2
Food: * * 1/2
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * 1/2

I've got no food in my house, and I'm in dire need of nutrition. I've just been to gym, where I had a wonderful session on the rowing machine. As a consequence, my t-shirt is clinging to my unbelievably sculpted chest. And it's been carefully pulled away from my somewhat unsculpted stomach. Which needs at least nine months of work to get it to acceptable levels of tautness.

This girl was wearing a cunning dress, which carelessly accentuated her curves. A most delightful model to study.I prefer not to shower at the Cresta gym, cos of some unwelcome attention I've had from one or two guys touching their hardons in the showers. I kinda prefer not being leered at when I'm showering. I'd prefer people to respect my sexuality. And heck, surely there are more polite ways for men to hit on other men? When I hit on women, I really hope I don't come on so strong. Sheesh.

So that's why I'm in Panarotti's unshowered, sweaty, gym-stricken. But it's okay. I'm not a stinky sweater. I seem to have inherited sweet perspiration glands from my dad. He could do a hundred pushups on command, even when he was 70 years old. Last time I could do one hundred pushups was when I vice-captained the St Martin's School  2nd rugby team to a 55-0 defeat against the St John's College 5th team.

I'm all nostalgic. I'm sitting on the cusp of new things and remembering old times. Antoinette and I used to order the Panarotti's Greek salad often. We'd get the big one and share it, and it was a wonderful meal, with the most impressive feta cheese available in restaurants.

So I've ordered the small size, and a foccacia with three cheeses on it. I've asked for a small foccacia, but they don't seem to understand such things, and it's the size of a normal pizza. And maybe it's the absence of Antoinette, or my frustration at not yet having met Heidi, but the salad just doesn't taste as good as it used to. 

Hmm. On reflection, I think it's to do with the salad dressing. I think they've changed the recipe. Yup. That's it. The old dressing had that same feta in it, and it was rich and creamy and delicious. The dressing I've splashed over my salad tonight is just plain boring.

I wonder if there's a Panarotti's in Somerset West? I wonder how Heidi and I will deal with change if we decide that we're gunna be an item beyond cyberspace? I wonder what feta cheese will taste like with her?


Saturday 16 November 2002

Cafe TriBeCa, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

There are some occupational hazards involved with driving a convertible. On my way to the Rosebank Mall this evening, I arrive at a robot, looking left and right and back and front, being hyper vigilant about Johannesburg's finest -- the hijackers.

I'm listening to Pulp on the sound system, singing along. Suddenly this Bohemian white boy lurches across the road. He's running towards me, and one hand is in his belt. He could be about to pull a knife, or he's making sure his dagga stompie or his crack rocks won't fall out as he stumbles towards me.

I'm checking the robots, trying to gauge exactly when I can pull off safely without getting rammed. I'm in first gear, and I'm revving hard. I've unclipped my seatbelt, and I'm ready for violence. I will apply my tai chi training if the robot doesn't change.

"Hey!" says the dude, slurring, "Gimme a fuckin' lift you poes!" and he tries to hop into my passenger seat. The robot's changing, and I dance the car out from under him.

But I digress. I'm sitting here in TriBeCa with my famous Afrikaans actor buddy, Andre Stoltz. (I have to mention that he's famous, otherwise noone would know it.) Since my last bad experience at TriBeCa, I've decided never to waste my time attempting to eat anything here.

Andre is none the wiser. So he orders a toasted chicken mayo sandwich on brown. "Don't do it to yourself," I say. But he smiles charmingly at Zahra, our extremely gorgeous young waitress with alluring dimples, and orders it anyway.

"Do you have any Snapple?" I say, doing my charming bit.

Zahra says, "Uhm... We've got Smirnoff Ice."

"No! Not alcohol! Fruit juice. Snapple. Made from the best thing on earth!"

She blushes, and apologises. It's clear that in the world of TriBeCa, people who don't automatically order alcohol are a rarity. I'm not entirely sure, but I think this wins me a few brownie points with her. I order strawberry juice.

Andre says, "Roy, she wants you, my boy."

Which makes me think of Warren Zevon, the singer dying of lung cancer as I type. One of his lyrics goes, "I went home with a waitress... the way I always do... how was I to know... she was with the Russians too."

Which makes me think of me. I've never successfully gone home with a waitress. Once in Melville a waitress actually hit on me, but we didn't have sex. She didn't do sex on the first night. And another time in Parkhurst, a few months after I broke up with Antoinette, I took this babe waitress to Hartebeespoort Dam in my car, but we ended up not having sex either. So my batting average with waitresses is zero.

"Here's your strawberry juice," Zahra says.

"And you're ABSOLUTELY SURE there's no alcohol in this? You didn't maybe slip me that date rape drug, did you?"

She blushes, and her dimples get seriously pronounced, and for a moment I think it would be great if I could sit there till midnight and wait for her to get off work, and then be like Warren Zevon just once. But I'm saving myself for Heidi in Somerset West.

Andre's so-called food arrives. It's a limp, lightly toasted sandwich made from regulation government brown bread. There's MUCH too much mayonnaise. There are two small shreds of lettuce on the side, with an onion ring slapped on top. And there are FIVE rather over-sized potato chips. Five. I counted.

It's not Zahra's fault that the food's so cruddy here. So, despite the food, if things don't work out with Heidi in Somerset West, I'll have to come back to TriBeCa to order more Snapples. And maybe next time, if I have a waitress in my passenger seat, I won't have anyone attempting to jump in. Although, looking at Zahra's good looks, maybe there'll be MORE people trying to get in.


Sunday 3 November 2002

Mezza Luna, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

I've just arrived in Melville from Parkmore, where I've been eating Alfred and Gowrie's chicken samoosas. In my boot is an amazing gift. Alfred has painted an exceptionally perceptive portrait of me. In return, I've given him the last remaining print in my first rubber stamp edition. I'm still going to give him his pick of a charcoal drawing.

Damon has SMSed me. "We're at Mezza Luna!" it says. I get there and sit down.

Karl Kikillus is sitting at the next table, flexing his gym-built shirt sleeves. "Classic biceptual," I say. The word rhymes with 'bisexual', and refers to a class of guy in love with his own upper-body strength. And yes. It's a word I coined. So please use it, and make it find a place in the Oxford Dictionary.

I'm with Damon Berry, filmmaker extraordinaire and puppeteer for Takalane Sesame Street, and his girlfriend, Wendy New, singer songwriter with New York edge.

Wendy and I start singing the happy birthday song to Damon.

He blushes, stands up, and does a big-voiced, "I love you both!" and we all hug. It's starting to feel like a threesome until my innate mischievousness kicks in. 

"Hey," I say in a stage whisper, pretending not to look at Karl Kikillus, once a tv star, hero of Popshop, the music video program that ran on South African television in the eighties. "Isn't that Martin Locke???" Martin Locke was also once a tv star.

Damon and Wendy break down into giggles, and I'm saved.

Maria, our Bulgarian waitress who also happens to be a fully qualified dermatologist by day, brings a surprise -- an enormous chocolate brownie in melted chocolate sauce, with scoops of vanilla icecream. One lone candle sways in the breeze. "Wish!!!" says Wendy, and Damon blows. We all eat the cake. Me especially.

Now I have to break to explain something here... Heidi, the babe I'm falling for in Somerset West, has sent me an email telling me that I must focus more on the waitresses in my Coffee-Shop Schmuck columns. She fears that readers will be bored hearing exclusively about her. So...

Maria is short, has long, frizzy/wavy dark brown hair, and brown eyes. She's really very shapely, with a neat, protruding bum, and pert breasts. Her nose is slightly bulbous in a cute, eastern European way. "I came from Bulgaria when I was twenty-two," she says.

"So you became a dermatologist here then?" asks Wendy.

"No, there. I finish school when was sixteen. I study. My father not pay. He say I must pay. When I am fifteen, I come back from swimming trip with school, and I see bags packed in flat. I say, 'Are we going somewhere?' They say, 'No. We are leaving. You old enough now to make living.' They leave. I work. Now I am in South Africa. Work four nights here. And have practice in daytime."

Phshew. What a... uhm... uh... progressive family she came from.

When Maria flits back to the kitchen to bring me my roast vegetable pasta (which, by the way, turns out to be rich, nicely cooked, heavily loaded with olive oil, tasty, tangy, enjoyable), Damon says, "The Somerset West girl sounds like a better bet."


Wednesday 30 October 2002

Mugg & Bean, Sandton City

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *
Food: *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I'm with Carine. We met in an art supply shop a couple of months back during the annual sale, and flirted vaguely in the checkout queue. We've had coffee before, and it's been made clear that she's not interested in shagging me.

We're together tonight because she wants to introduce me to two of her friends. The idea of matchmaking has entered her mind cos of an SMS Haiku I sent to most of the people on my cellphone. (See below, Thurs 26 Oct 2002, Espresso, Parkhurst.)

"Heather and you would be IDEAL!" she says. She pulls out a company calendar, which has all of the staff members of her pharmaceutical giant company posing with exotic cars. "This is her..." she says, pointing to an elf-like blonde babe with a very pretty roundish face. "She buys children's clothes from the age twelve section. That's how small she is! And she's arty, like you!"

Well, Heather and I might possibly be ideal, but she lives in Port Elizabeth, which is very far away from Somerset West (where Heidi lives).

Then Carine says, "But you've also got to meet Andrea. In fact, strangely enough, she's here tonight, downstairs, doing the wine tasting. She's going to be representing a wine maker from Stellenbosch. Would you like to go winetasting?"

"Actually, I'm really hungry, and haven't eaten all day," I say, "so maybe we could go after I've eaten?"

I order the chicken and beef pockets. The beef is stringy. And gristly. And hard to chew. The chicken tastes mildly like fish. I find a piece of salami on the plate. This is a dish I have to abandon before I've eaten my fill, and I get very grouchy when I'm low on blood sugar.

So we end up not going to the wine tasting. Instead, Andrea arrives, bringing Greg with her. Andrea is a seriously shapely babe, with waist-length curly black hair, large breasts, and a hard mouth, set from years of pain. In her eyes and the set of her jaw, I read 'hardship-endured'. Turns out she's been hijacked recently, amongst other things.

Greg has brought some of his wine, a sauvignon blanc, from the show, and he's got his handy all-in-one wine opening gadget with him. He attracts the waiter. "Do you mind if I open this wine here? I'm from the show downstairs, and these are my clients. I have to give them a sample."

He sits poised with his gadget ready until the waiter comes back. "It's fine," says the waiter, who starts to leave.

"Hang on!" says Greg. "Can we have some glasses?"

So Greg pours, and frivolity ensues. But Greg really can't grasp why I'm happy to nurse my third-of-a-glass of vino. Where he comes from, someone who doesn't drink litres of wine must be ill. "Is my wine THAT bad?" he asks, studying the label and sniffing the cork.

"Nah," I say. "I just don't really drink, and this is enough for me."

He and Andrea polish off the bottle, while Carine and I stay sober.

"I want to learn to tango!" says Andrea.

"I tango," I say. "Took lessons at the Tanz Kafe a few years ago. It's the most erotic dance imaginable."

She stands up and tugs at my arm. "Show me!" she says.

I do a few turns, twisting her lithe frame this way and that, steering her aggressively, the way the Argentineans demand. Her breasts feel good against my chest. But her sadness feels hard against my heart.


Saturday 26 October 2002

Espresso, Parkhurst

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * 1/2
Food: *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Alistair and I have just finished thrashing each other at backgammon. We ended up square -- nil-nil. So while I feel bruised and battered from the ups and downs of the game, at least I'm still able to sit. Normally, Alistair is so much better than me that I end up with a very painful backside. He doesn't use Vaseline, see? He's gone off home to sulk, and I've been driving around trying to find a suitable parking spot, so I can catch a bite in the trendy part of Joburg.

Espresso is great, since there's a parking space right outside, and I can sit at a sidewalk table with my car winking at me. I like being able to keep my eye on it.

Actually, there's more to it.

Waitresses and managers tend to treat me better when they see me emerging from a sports car. They seem to think I'm more important than I really am. And I do nothing to discourage such thinking.

I've just received an sms from Heidi telling me an email has been sent. Naturally, I can't wait to get home, so I whip out my trusty Psion 5MX palmtop, and my less-trusty Nokia 6310i (it's a dog -- it drops my internet connection if I try to send emails larger than 1kb, and seems not to be able to send faxes larger than one page; my old 7110 could, so why can't this one, huh, Nokia techies??), and grab my email.

Yup. There it is. A message from Heidi.

Just as I'm counting the number of picture attachments, Erich arrives en route to Sandton, so I have to stop myself from being rude. We talk for a while. He and I are in business together. He's kind of taken over from me as the chief engine of Barefoot Press. We're trying to make some serious money out of the poetry tablecloths I introduced the world to two years ago.

Erich leaves after an hour or so, but, before reading my email, I order a chicken prego roll with chips.

And look at the pictures.

Heidi has had a blind mole following her around, and she's taken some digital pics of it. They kinda look a bit abstract on my four-tone grey-scale screen, but the textures are amazing. I'll look at them on a real monitor when I get home.

Half an hour later, and after reading the long and engrossing email, I notice that I'm really hungry, and my food still hasn't arrived.

"Excuse me," I say to the waitress, who is clearly not impressed by my car or my palmtop computer. "Have they forgotten about my prego roll and chips in the kitchen?" 

"No, it's coming," she says, and before she can turn away to go check on her blatant lie, another waiter brings my order to the table.

So I eat the chips while typing away one-thumbed on my Nokia, composing an sms haiku inspired by Heidi. (If you're wondering, a haiku is a Japanese poetry form, comprising three lines, the first with five syllables, the second with seven syllables, and the third with five syllables. The pure form must contain a reference to nature, and cannot have any rhymes.)

SHELL

an sms haiku by Roy Blumenthal

Inland; ears straining.
Dial Heidi on my cellphone:
listen to the sea.

I send it to about a hundred people. Christian Blomkamp, a key writer for the soap opera, GENERATIONS, sends me a reply almost immediately: "2 out of 20, Roy. But keep trying."

Then my long-lost buddy, Brett, sends me a message: "When are you coming to Cape Town to visit?"

I tell him I'm cyber flirting with this remarkable Somerset West babe, and that I've gotten my act together to apply for leave. So I'll be in Cape Town over December. (I have this real problem with things like holidays. As a compulsive workaholic with a thousand projects on at any given time, holidays are weird things for me.)

By this time the chips are finished and I'm ready to start on the prego.

It's edible. That's about it. Nothing special, and I won't be ordering it again. Not at R32.

Dion Scher sends me an sms. "I'm in the movies." I send him one back: "I'm also in the movies. I write the things." Hahahaha. (Well, at least I got to have a laugh.)


Thursday 24 October 2002

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I take a short cut from Auckland Park to Hyde Park tonight. I drive up Beyers Naude Drive all the way to the concrete highway, drive north, exit at the William Nichol offramp, and go South until I reach the parking lot of my favourite shopping mall -- Hyde Park Corner. I'm sitting at JB Rivers, and I've got ink all over my hand.

This guy sat right in front of my view of a blonde with cleavage restraint orders served by the local gendarmes. Any man who does that to me deserves to be drawn.But before I get into details about my meal, you may be wondering what the heck I'm talking about with this "short cut" business. Yeah? Well, if you're not familiar with Joburg, it's probably a good idea to tell you that I turned a seven-minute trip into a half-hour marathon.

But you know what? The time flew. And that's cos I was talking to Heidi for the first time, trying to not find a destination, trying to find an excuse not to stop. (If you're a traffic cop, please note I was using my little walk-and-talk hands-free thingy for the entire duration of the call, right up until Heidi's battery ran flat and left us both in the lurch.)

Who's Heidi? 

Oh, just this babe I've never met, but have connected with profoundly via email. (She's an Aquarian like me, but seems to have none of my antisocial traits. Neat huh? Only thing is -- she lives in Somerset West, a mere 16-hour car trip if I don't take any short cuts. But her honey-soprano voice is good enough reason to keep on dreaming.)

Big hair. Nuff sed.So I'm here at one of my keenest hangouts, a place where horse-riders hang out, with their tight jodhpurs, saddle-sore inner thighs, and wind-burnt blonde hair. 

I've had an exhausting coupla days. On Tuesday evening some dude calls me just as I'm about to leave work and race home to compose a Ben-Hur epic email to Heidi. "Are you available to do a corporate video?" he begs. What? Is the Pope fond of communion wine? Am I trying to amass enough personal fortune to buy a video projector? Of course I'll damn well do the job. I'd sell my mother to get movies sprayed on my lounge wall. Oh, hang on. I've already sold her. That's how I got the surround sound.

So I rush off to his office to get briefed. Seems like a cool job. A 13-part series of 3-minute advertorials for a major retail chain. We agree that I'll call the client the next day to set up a meeting. 

So it's Wednesday. I spend an hour battling driving rain all the way to Fourways, and spend a pleasant two-hours mollifying her. It appears as though this situation has spun out of control. Bad writing from the previous scriptor. And a client nearing panic. She's a tall, thin, pert, ex-model sorta jaded-beauty. Thick Afrikaans accent, but keeps speaking English when I speak Afrikaans. I give up.

"Can I have a script tomorrow morning?" she asks, her voice shaky and thick with anticipated doom. 

"Uh... I'll certainly give it a shot," I say, not believing a word of it myself. "But maybe lunchtime is a better time to aim for."

I drive away and call the production house. I've got to pick up all the files crammed full of info. He says cool, and how did the meeting go?

"Jeeesus. She's extensively pissed off with this whole process, and I had to do some serious damage control on your behalf," I say. "I hope you've got lots of money in your budget for me."

Laughter. Non sequiturs.

I pick up the files, head for Wiesenhof in Cresta, and spend a very tiring three hours reading all about this major retailer. 

I decide not to write the script that night (being last night). 

Instead, I get to sleep at 11pm, and set my alarm for 5am.

I wake up this morning, turn on my computer, and start typing faster than a supermarket shopper with a piss on board. I get a draft done, go to the loo, brush my teeth, eat a dried hunk of smoked goatsmilk cheese from my almost-empty fridge, then reread my attempt. I judge it way better than the previous writer's lumpen prose, and email it to the prodco and the client. Shower. Go to my day job at the SABC.

Get a phone call from the client at around three o'clock.

"Roy, I've got your script in front of me. I've got it right here in front of me. Right here. Can we talk about it?" Her voice is filled with suppressed rage. Quivering. She could actually be on the verge of tears. If I play this wrong, she's going to burst a bra strap.

"Noreen," I say (not her real name; name's have been changed to protect the innocent, namely myself), "I'm hearing the frustration in your voice. Obviously the script isn't up to scratch. Do you want to tell me about it?"

"Up to scratch? UP TO SCRATCH? It's completely unacceptable!!" Twang. There goes one bra strap.

"Okay... I'm listening. What about it doesn't work?"

 "Nothing works! You clearly didn't listen to a word I said last night!" Twang. The other strap's gone. This woman's in free range territory now. "This... this section about... about... about how many people we employ and how many shops we have... it's just completely wrong!"

"Okay... I'm looking at my notes. 44 000 employees and around 400 shops. And it said the same in the press kit."

"But I told you to look on the website for the most up-to-date information! It's not 400 shops! It's 412!!!" Schplit! The dress itself seems to have come adrift, and I'm fighting back a vast and scornful laugh. This woman is an honest-to-goodness suckwit.

So anyway, it turns out that most of her feedback is actually on stupid issues like that. Like the order of a set of attributes of this wonderful retail giant. "Lowest prices has to come BEFORE widest range!" 

So I rewrite the thing and send it to her at around 6pm.

And in the interim, the production house calls and agrees that I ought to be paid a serious amount of money for the way I'm managing to keep this client feeling as though she's in the loop.

So as soon as I get my cheque, I'm going off to buy that video projector,  a DVD machine, and a new computer. Viva retail!

As for my food at JB Rivers -- excellent as usual. This time I've opted for a turkey, avocado, tomato, provolone and lettuce open sandwich on wholewheat bread with honey mayo. Superb. And the waiters love watching me parody their over-wealthy under-tippers with my sketchbook and dip-ink pen. Hence the ink all over my hand.

And I'm missing Heidi already.


Wednesday 16 October 2002

Codes, The Zone, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * 
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *1/2

Right. No excuses for my long absence. Except to say that I've been pretty busy playing backgammon, writing a corporate video (which was shot yesterday and the day before by Envisage Multimedia), kickstarting my Screenwriters' Spitballing Sessions (we meet two Saturdays every month to talk about movie writing).

And also, if I'm frank with myself, I think I've been avoiding Coffee-Shop Schmuck for a while cos it means I have to face some stuff. 

One -- I've only progressed marginally in my feature script since last I spoke about it. 

Two -- my friend Kim, the one who got date-raped twice on that radical drug, has been a burden on my conscience. I'm not speaking to her, and I suspect our friendship has taken a serious dip. But time will tell. 

Three -- my mom and brother asked me to deal with their debt situation, and I narrowly avoided falling into the trap of becoming a tough guy, the sorta guy my father was.

But that's okay. I'm sitting here at Codes, after a three-month boycott. They messed with me, you see. One Saturday, Alistair and I sat down to some vicious backgammon warfare, and the management started getting very stroppy without being straight about it. Instead of the dude coming up to us and asking us kindly to move to a different table, he started applying pressure to us to leave.

A deeply unpleasant character is David, in my opinion. Tonight when he saw me, he avoided eye contact, even when I waved at him. So hey. Perhaps I won't be back. Even though the balcony is very pleasant indeed. And I'm finishing up my "Castro and Coffee", an open potato-Jalapeno omelet, served with a bottomless cup of (normal) coffee. Like all other idiotic restaurants in Joburg, decaff isn't bottomless, even though it must surely cost the company a similar amount of money.

But it doesn't matter. I'm happy to pay for the decaff refill, and the omelet is one of the best I've ever eaten. Except for an impromptu one a one-night stand made for me once. Oh man. It was better than the sex.


Monday 14 October 2002

The Adventure Zone, Norwood

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *1/2
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * *1/2

I don't know why I haven't mentioned this place before. It's where the backgammon club meets every Monday night, mostly because it's owned by Cliff, an authentic good oke, and a serious backgammon player. He could play me blindfolded and still unerringly rip my lungs out. 

I apologise for the warfare that seems to be entering my speech lately. It's just that I saw something this morning that I don't really relish having seen. Yup... a program coming to SABC3 soon.

Hans is cutting promos for something called FIGHT CLUB INTERNATIONAL. It's authentic cage fighting, and we'll be screening it 10:30pm on Friday nights for a while. And it's deeply disturbing on many fronts.

Firstly, these guys realllllly hurt each other. Badly. They're trained fighters, some of them killers. Here's how it seems to work. Two guys get in the cage with a referee. Two rules: no eye gouging, no mouth hooking (in other words, you're not allowed to try to puncture the other dude's cheeks with your hands). Everything else goes. The fight ends in one of three ways: either you give up, the ref stops the fight, or you go out for the count.

Secondly, this stuff normalises vicious fighting. I'm sure that there'll be kids watching this program for tips. And they'll take them to the playgrounds. And because it's "as seen on television", it has a kinda legitimacy to it.

Thirdly, as repelled by it as I am, it appeals to a primitive killer instinct I know I have. My dad taught me how to look after myself as a kid, and I specialised in beating up bullies in primary school. Which was thrilling. But I don't really want to be like my dad, and watching stuff like this puts me there. And I don't like the fact that I saw this dude having his face pounded to mince until the ref stopped the fight. And watched the slow-motion replay. And asked Hans to rewind it so I could be sure of what I was seeing. I don't like the idea that when my busy period eases off, I'll probably surreptitiously borrow the tape and watch it quietly in my viewing room at work. In surround sound.

But back to backgammon and The Adventure Zone.

I'll say this. 

Wendy... you're a superb player. (She's just beaten me 7--0. Which is even better than Tuesday night's drubbing. She took me out 7--1 at her place. And then broke my kneecaps at Scrabble. And we didn't even get to kiss properly.) 

And Cliff. Anything I've said about other establishments having the best chicken salad in the world is gross exaggeration. This is it... The Adventure Zone -- a kiddies concept-playground on top of the Norwood Hyper, a place parents can bring their kids while they shop -- prepares the ultimate chicken salad. It rates as the best I've had. And I've had it several times now. 10 out of 10 to Vincent, the chef, and Andrew, the waiter/kitchen assistant. You guys rock!


Wednesday 9 October 2002

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: *
Food: * 
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * 

I'm on the internet chatting on ICQ to a buddy of mine in Canada. I've forgotten to go to Woolworths, so I don't have any food in the house. And no milk, so, no tea, no Milo. Well, no Milo in liquid form. I'm eating it dry, with a spoon. I might get desperate just now and start snorting the stuff.

Roy, 09-Oct-0 11:59: "I can't chat too long. It's midnight here (almost), and I've got an early doctor's appointment. // Hey... I wrote a corporate video on Monday night (on two hours notice), and the client approved final copy today (after a quick and simple rewrute last night). So now I've got myself half way towards owning a video projector!!!!"

Kristen, 09-Oct-0 11:59: "Roy, I am sad. I woke up this morning and my fish Bombay was dead. DEAD! I only had him two weeks. This is very sad. And Caesar looked depressed. Oooooh! a video projector? congratulations, but you need to type in eng for me, doll. *lol* and I always knew you were brilliant. Please. :)"

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:00: "And this evening I went off to my composer's studio, to witness the recording of the final piece of music for ARIA! (He needed to record the tenor bit. And honest to god, our tenor is a dwarf!!! The real tenor, I mean, not the actor in the movie.) // Sad news about the fish. How're you serving him?"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:01: "hey, who cares as long as he can sing like a tenor. I love tenors. And that isn` funny about the fish. I am crying. In the computer lab at school. You be quiet. when do I get to see this masterpiece? and why does everyone think it is funny that my fish died?? I was so happy to bring him home!"

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:02: "Apparently this dude has this 6'1" blonde buxom wench as a girlfriend. Wild. You brought your fish home??? How? In a Tupperware lunch box? You've got to keep them in WATER, Kristen!!!!!!"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:03: "he is definitely compensating. *lol* And HE WAS in water you fool."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:04: "COLD water!!!!! You're not supposed to put PET fish in the kettle!!! Sheesh, Kristen. I thought YOU were smart too!"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:05: "*siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiighs, crosses her arms and just waits*"

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:06: "Maybe I can recommend something to take your mind off your fish... I'm listening to the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album. It's AWESOME! I've been listening to it on repeat for about two weeks now. Yummy stuff!! // So now what's happening in Kristen's life?"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:08: "in Kristen's life? Jeez. Where to begin with the excitement!! I almost sent you something to read but you know. Didn't. I just climbed back on the meds bandwagon after 7 days without any due to $$$ lackage. Uhm, actually might make it to all of myclasses this week. First time at least four years. Shit! The boy is good, and oh yeah. Got my grad pics done. That is a bit scary. pretty groovy, eh? I have a monetary...dearth? right now. Like, I have ZERO dollars. ZERO! So I couldn't buy my meds when I ran out. That lasted a week. Really truly fucked me up. Counsellor = one psychiatrist and one psychologist. Pretty good stuff I'd say."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:13: "I'm totally confused. I have no idea what tone you're using when you say, "Pretty good stuff I'd say." You've lost me in the cyber gaps, I'm afraid. Can you give me an indication as to whether you're being ironic or straight? And what meds are you on? And why aren't your parents paying?"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:14: "*giggles* I am so sorry. I am being slightly...okay, very...cynical/ironic. My parents aren't paying because I can't ask them for any more money. I am on two different meds, one for anxiety and one for depression, I think. Going cold turkey on them is a real fucking bitch that's fer shur."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:16: "Jeeeesus, Kristen. Of course you can ask them for more money. Get back on the fucking meds immediately, you daft girl! (I'm gunna get frigging heated up about this, cos a friend of mine has just come out of a rehab clinic, which he landed in precisely because he didn't ask anyone for help.) Don't be stupid about this. And shove that pride nonsense where it hurts a male nurse. Actually, depending on the stance, that'll hurt a female nurse too."

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:17: "*LOL* It's okay. I got them now. Monday, as a matter of fact. I had to finagle some money out of my investments, which might as well be called my back up bank account, since I've all but depleted it. But that is for another day. Thank you (quite truly and honestly) for your concern..."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:18: "And talking of male nurses, guess what I'm going to have done tomorrow?"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:18: "*LOL* not sure I want to know, but I was about to ask how you were... tell me."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:21: "When I was in high school, playing my first ever squash game, I got smacked in the right bollock by a muthafucka who was pretty good. He set me up at the front of the court, and nailed me one at about 120km/h (around 65mph). WHAMMO! Down! Out for the count. Limped for two weeks. // So now I've got some sort of cyst on the one testicle, and I have to have a friggggggging urethroscopy. They thread a camera into my bladder through my urethra. And I don't need to tell you where they gain access to the urethra, do I?"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:22: "No sir, I don't think you do."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:23: "And my urologist is lying, I'm convinced about it. He tells me it's a ten minute procedure, under local anaesthetic, and that I'll walk out of there, no problem. "Slight discomfort," he said."

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:23: "*giggles* it might be ten minutes, but I am going to say that when the anasthetic wears off, you might be in for a bit more than slight discomfort, sorry old pal. dude you are falling apart."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:25: "Yeah. I don't think I'm going to get into any stimulating conversations with anyone tomorrow. Problem is, I FORGOT about the appointment, and I have a date with a prospective babe tomorrow night. (We've dated twice now, and we're at that wonderful stage of doing small, moist kisses, without any actual tongue motion. The kinda, "Friends before anything else" stage.) I just don't really feel like telling her, "Hey, Wendy, I'm afraid I'd like you NOT to wear the WonderBra tonight, cos there could be medical complications. Wanna see my urethroscopy scars?""

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:27: "*tries to stay of chair, but laughing too hard, falls off, much to the amazement of fellow computer lab users* hey I love those kinds of kisses. I am not big on the tongue thing. AT ALL. But that sort of sucks. I am so sorry. But...*evil grin*...perhaps she'll play nurse for you and uhm, give you a massage..."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:27: "Oh god. The massage. I'm fairly frightened of the implications of this intrusion. Frightened stiff, as a matter of fact."

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:27: "*LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL* You'll be fine, really."

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:28: "Hehehe. I think I'll have to transcribe this conversation on my COFFEE SHOP SCHMUCK site. Haven't updated it for ages. Too much stuff to do!!!!"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:29: "*laughs again* I'll look out for it. So when do I get an update on the potential date, the soft, moist kisses, the camera in places I don't need to know about, and when do I get to see the movie?"

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:30: "Kristen... I think it's time for me to head for slumberland. I'm glad you're back on your meds, and that you're taking care of yourself. And maybe you can take TWO of those anxiety pills and send me your story. And I'm really not going to be some kinda asshole about it. A pisser, maybe, but after tomorrow, who knows how I'll aim?"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:30: "*stuffs fingers in mouth to keep from laughing out loud* Sleep tight, Roy, doll. *hugs*"

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:32: "Oh... the movie. The movie. The so-called movie. Okay. Look. It took me threatening Dan (my composer) with stapling his lips to his trombone to get the final music composed. So he's RECORDED it now. All he has to do is mix it. He's promised me FAITHFULLY that he'll do it tomorrow. I said, "WHICH tomorrow?" and made the stapling gesture."

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:33: '*LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL* You are cracking me up over here, you goof. Now, go and get a good sleep and be all bright eyed and bushy *well, fill in the blank* tomorrow for the good doctor. *giggles*"

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:34: "So... the movie. When I get the music "tomorrow", after I've stapled Dan's lips to his trombone (he's a trombonist -- did I mention that?), it'll take a good few weeks for us to do our audio post-production. Blah. So... you'll uh... you'll see the movie "tomorrow"." 

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:34: "Good to talk to you and good timing. My class (evidence) starts in half an hour. Woohoo...tomorrow is just when I have a spare moment. *g*"

Roy, 10-Oct-0 12:34: "By the way... do you realise how pissed off a trombonist can get when you wee in his trombone?"

Kristen, 10-Oct-0 12:35: "Uh, yeah. I used to play the trombone. :)"


Friday 13 September 2002

Doug's Donuts, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: *
Food: * * *
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

Sitting at the SABC Radiopark canteen after recording my Sunday night radio slot for SAfm's Computer Gig. What fascinates me about this woman is that her hair is very orderly, except for the bit in the bun. It's wild and wiry and springing out all over.Cresta is humming. It's Friday night, and those who survived Friday the thirteenth are out and about in force. 

Lots and lots of Randburg-style babes. 

Which means realllllllly tight jeans, the type where cracks and bumps and mounds are accentuated. White shoes. Mandatory attendance at hair salons whose stylists are members of the Misogynist Hairdressers' Guild of South Africa. That pink-sweet perfume, ladled over the body. And dolloped on the erogenous zones. 

With countless male slugs attached to their hips. What's with the women in this town? They all seem to have grotesque parodies of masculinity tethered to them. Don't they know I'm in town? 

Anyway. I'm at Doug's Donuts cos I've just come out of Cresta Virgin Active gym, where I spent a sweaty and pounding forty-five minutes chatting with Saranne. My routine is this: 10 minutes on the stepping machine. 15 minutes rowing. 20 minutes on the bicycle. And I try not to get caught sniffing the seats after. Yeah yeah. Sick joke. But given half the chance, and in my present state of abject girlfriendlessness, I'll resort to anything.

So I've only got ten minutes before my movie starts, and I'm really hungry, and Doug's Donuts is the only place that seems to openly have pies. I order a Cornish Pasty from the supremely surly counter attendant, and sit down at the Anat Falafel table next door. The serving guys look at me as though I've just stolen their livelihoods. One of them calls me a skelem, a crook.

The pie's okay. Tastes fine. But then the wonders of modern culinary art take over, and the pie changes from okay to good. See, I can feel it taking hold of my heartburn manufacturing plant, and I know I'm in good hands.

Thirty minutes into the movie, the heartburn kicks in. The pie's now upped it's rating from a mere good. It's perfect. It's behaving the way pies are supposed to behave. Acid-grip! Fledgling ulcers! I'll eat a Doug's pie again.

The movie I'm watching is completely packed out. It's ABOUT A BOY with Hugh Grant. Written and directed by the Weitz brothers. I chuckle all the way through it. Belly laugh in places. The movie is a wonderful piece of work. I give it an unflinching 9 out of 10. It's about as good as they get. 

And it only takes two trips outside to get the screening right. The first trip I ask them to focus the picture, which they do quickly and correctly. The next trip, ten minutes later, is to ask them to fix the lip synch. It's about four frames out, which means when Hugh Grant slaps his remote control down on his glass table, the whack happens a moment after you see him do it. A bit like lightning and thunder when they're far away.


Thursday 12 September 2002

Doppio Zero, Greenside

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * * *
Food: * * * *1/2
Ambience: * * *1/2
Babe Count: * * * *

My cellphone clock tells me it's 6:16pm. I rush inside the restaurant. The babe with streaky hair sitting at the corner table must be Stefania. We wave delicately at each other, and smile. "Hi, I'm Roy." I sit.

"Stefania. At least you sounded like you'd genuinely forgotten," she says. She's a poet I've been corresponding with via email.

"Oh geez," I say. "For some reason I had it fixed in my brain that we were meeting on Saturday morning at 10 o'clock. I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting."

I'm frazzled. A long day at the office, and I've just finished doing some content-editing for the SASWA website.

She says, "That's okay. At least I phoned. I could have just sat here for another forty-five minutes and assumed you'd  just dumped me."

Well. That's taken care of, and we're free to enjoy each other's company. It's very easy to make small talk. We seem to have known each other for ages, even though it's really just been email commentary. She sends me her poems, and I give my opinion.

We eat. I choose the ravioli, stuffed -- if my memory serves me correctly -- with haloumi and feta, doused in a creamy Napolitana sauce. Patricia (pronounced the Italian way -- Pa-trit-si-ah) recommends that sauce. Stefania orders the gnocchi with pesto. Hers looks and smells delicious, but it's a first date, so I decline her offer for me to taste it. Mine looks and smells delicious, and is in fact more than delicious. It's beautifully textured, perfectly cooked, lovely to look at. 

A bit like Stefania, actually. And Pa-trit-si-ah. And the lesbian couple who pulled up in the Merc convertible, sitting two tables away, holding hands under the table. And Catherine who I had coffee with earlier at SABC Radiopark Canteen. She wanted to know if all my writing has sex in it. Then she wanted to watch me write. Hmmm.

"You know," Stefania says after we've become comfortable with the fact that we're sitting here across from each other without keyboards intervening, "I have to confess something. But you're not allowed to put it on your website!"

I look at her, smile, shake my head. "But Stefania, I'm an ex-student-lefty. I don't believe in censorship. So I can't agree to that condition. Tell me."

She smiles. She's very pretty. Especially when she smiles. "Well, I've never, ever, ever been to a movie on my own."

She's approaching the one-year anniversary of a senseless breakup, and she's in growth mode. The world is teaching her things. But this??

"Phshew," I say, after shutting my gaping mouth. "Never? Not once? Ever?"

"Not to my knowledge," she says.

"Wow." This has utterly gobsmacked me. In my movie-going life, I prefer to see films alone. In fact, I'd say I see about ten movies on my own for every one I see with other people. This is a paradigm-shifter to me.

But it's amazing that she's able to tell me such a thing. It means that she's trusting men again. And it means that she's willing to confront her old habits.

We'll see each other again. Maybe at the movies?


Wednesday 11 September 2002

My Flat, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: N/A

It's been quite a week. Last Thursday I'm at work, and my phone rings. It's a pal of my mom's. "Roy, this is Cherry. Take this number down immediately and phone your mother. She's standing at a public phone in the rain waiting for your call."

I take the number, make the call.

My mom's got her manipulation voice on. "Roy, have you got a pen? I need  you to phone Anton. Here's the number."

I write it down. I say, "Who's Anton?"

"Before your father died he sold all of his machinery to Anton. He's supposed to be paying me every month for forty-eight months, but he's only made one payment. I haven't eaten anything except mealie meal for the last two weeks."

My parents retired to some remote place in the Transkei just after my dad decided that one more bankruptcy wasn't for him. So they headed out into the wilderness, with no electricity or running water, and claimed they were loving it. When I could reach them, that is. The people around those parts seem to love stealing cellphones.

"Why haven't you phoned me?" I say, outraged that my mother is standing in the rain, hungry. 

Silence. That manipulative silence. She wants me to say, "Don't worry, Mommy, I'll send you a thousand bucks right now via electronic banking. By the time you put the phone down you'll be able to buy a square meal." Instead, I say, "Who the hell is this Anton? I'll kill him!"

I'm not sitting at my desk as I say this. I'm on my cellphone, and I'm pacing the corridors of the SABC. The hangnail on my unused ring finger is satisfyingly sore. I seem to have ripped a chunk out of it, and there's a little bit of blood.

If I pound Anton to a pulp, and he has AIDS, is it possible that the rip in my hangnail might somehow let it infect me??? Sheesh. There's an argument for a non-violence policy.

"I'm freezing out here, Roy. I'll come back on Saturday and call you. I've only got thirty-three rand left on the phone card though."

So I phone Anton, and he gives me this epic sob story about how this guy took him for a hundred and eighty-two grand, and he can't pay at the moment, cos he's battling just to keep the lights burning and the phones on the hook, and he promises he'll pay as soon as he can.

Which is all a load of nonsense. How do I know? Cos I've heard it all before. My dad went bankrupt a good five or six or twelve times, and his stories were all similar. But I'm a good guy -- right? -- so like Kippie, I let the guy off the hook. I tell him we'll speak soon. And good luck. And I hope everything comes right. Yadda yadda. 

Saturday comes.

I notice a missed call on my cellphone. I've been monitoring the damn thing for hours, and I must have slipped into the kitchen to make some Oatso Easy or something. When I phone my mom back on the payphone, it rings about forty times, and some rural Transkeian woman answers. "This is Roy, can I speak with Tess?" I ask, politely.

"Hello?" Click.

Phone back. Nothing. Very frustrating. I need to get some facts out of my mom. Like how big Anton is. Whether I need to invest in knuckledusters. How much he owes. What the state of my dad's estate is like. Maybe some phone numbers of my dad's old thug cronies. But she doesn't contact me again.

I wait a few days. Till yesterday. I psych myself up, and phone Anton. It rings. Goes to voicemail. I leave a message. "Hi Anton. This is Roy Blumenthal, Sam's son. You owe my dad's estate a substantial amount of money, and I think it's important for you and me to speak about how you plan to pay it back. I'd like you to write out all the facts -- what you owe, what you agreed to, and what trouble you're in now. Also, when and how you expect to make the next payment, and how much it'll be. My phone number is --"

"You have reached the voice mailbox recording limit. Thank you and goodbye."

I phone back. It rings. Goes to voicemail. I leave the number.

This morning, the anniversary of America's foray into real politick, I decide to take the bull by the poopscoop. I phone Anton from my car on my way to work. A woman answers. "May I speak with Anton please?"

Hand over the receiver. "Anton?" 

From near the woman, "Who is it?" Shuffling sounds. Hand withdrawn. Anton on the phone, in person. "It's Anton here, who's speaking?"

"Hi Anton, it's Roy Blumenthal, Sam's son. I left a message on your phone yesterday, and you haven't replied."

"I got back very late last night. I haven't listened to any messages."

"Anton, I would like you to write me a plan of how you intend paying your debt back to my father's estate."

"Sorry? Who did you say you represent?"

"The estate of my dead father."

"I'm very busy right now. We can speak another time. Bye." Click.

I phone back. The woman answers. 

"I would like to speak to Anton please."

A pause. "He's just gone. Here's his cellphone number." She gives it to me.

"Is this a real number? Are you kidding me? Did he tell you to give me this number? Is it fake?"

Laughter. "No, it's real."

After the call, I phone the voice mail directly. It's a little trick I've learned. If it's a Vodacom number, you just add the digits '1-3-1' after the '0-8-2' part. For MTN, you add '1-7-4' after the '0-8-3'. I don't know what it is for Cell-C yet. I'll find out. Anyway, I get to the voicemail. "Hullo. This is Anton speaking. I am not available . . ." I clip off the call.

I'm now at work, and I've got editing to do. I'm making promos for MANCHILD and ICE WARRIORS. 

The one show is a sitcom about 50-year-old men who think they're entitled to be kids again. Very funny. Considering I grew up pretty quickly, and my dad always had advanced kid syndrome. 

The other is a game show that's like GLADIATORS on ice, with serious physical contact. Maybe even torn hangnails.

And I've got some thinking to do. About violence. And my dad's cronies. And extracting money from some slab of dead meat in Midrand.


Wednesday 4 September 2002

Grande Cafe, Rosebank Mall

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * *1/2
Babe Count: * *1/2

Nine-thirty pm. Just arrived here. Have whipped my index cards out of the bottom right pocket of my cargo trousers, and have them spread across the table. The cards, not my trousers.

Tea and cheesecake on my left, pile of books on my right. I'm reading all three of them at once -- PAPERBACK RAITA by William Rhode, DATING: A Survival Guide From The Frontlines by Josey Vogels, GOOD SCRIPTS BAD SCRIPTS by Thomas Pope. And a back issue of SCENARIO MAGAZINE, which has three comedy screenplays in it. Viva!

There's a mound of kugels at the next table. An older woman and her husband. A younger woman and her husband. And a pretty, sharp-faced, red-bloused oldish woman. On her own.

And whenever I look up from my palmtop keyboard, there she is, making eye-contact with me as she yentzes on and on relentlessly about somebody who had a birthday on Saturday. She's wearing a glossy wedding ring. Where the hell do all these wedding rings come from?

Hmm. Just put my glasses on. It's not me she's lusting after. It's the cheese cake. This is one of those occupational hazards. Wearing glasses doesn't really go with being a coffee-shop voyeur. I have to take the glasses off to type, and put them on to leer. Ah well. I make do.

Oh my goodness. A ginger-haired bagel has just sidled up to the kugel platter.

"Heowziht?" he whines, his nasal passages resonating like the second exhaust on a BMW 650. "You guys marrrrrrried neow?"

"Hey Trevor. Ya, we are, hey."

"Okay. Gotta goh neow. Chee-uhrs."

But it's time to stop typing Coffee-Shop Schmuck schtuff, and get down to the deadly business of writing a movie.


Wednesday 4 September 2002

Europa, Parkhurst

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *1/2
Food: * * *1/2
Ambience: * * *1/2
Babe Count: * * * *

My superb friend Erich Viedge is having supper with me. I opt for the Giselle, my new de-facto standard against which I measure all Cajun chicken salads. He's having a sandwich. To drink... for me, an Oran Soda, imported from Italy. For Erich, a Chinotto, imported from Italy. For some reason, this salad isn't as good as the one I had in the Norwood branch of Europa. It's good, but not splendid.

Robyn, our waitress, is going to be seriously dazzling when she improves her general knowledge. She doesn't seem to be able to answer even a simple question.

"Erich wants to meet a woman and have babies with her," I offer as preamble to the question. I ask her, "Do you want babies?"

"Ooooooh!" she says, squirming her shoulders, which seem attached to her bra straps, since her breasts kinda rise and fall with the movement, "you guys are making me blush!"

Erich and I are talking about how to make some serious money. We're looking at the next phase in the life of Barefoot Press, the publishing house I founded and own. No details are available as yet, since our conversations are confidential. But I'll say this: a chateau in France is NOT out of the question in five years time.


Tuesday 3 September 2002

Wiesenhof, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

I'm doing some structuring work on my film. Just cracked a vital piece of information-planting in an early scene. Worked out how to motivate Lesley-Anne's falling for Jules. This causes an orgy of SMS sending. I send self-congratulatory notes to Damon in Cape Town, and Janet in Pietermaritzburg. They send me supportive messages back. Yay! My friends love me and think I'm clever!

Supper is fundamental. A kiddie's burger with chips. I can't handle large expanses of animal flesh. I prefer it pertly packaged, tucked into a wheat-sheath. (Or on a futon.) So this dish is ideal. It arrives, and it turns out to be groovy value for money. The best thing about it is that the bread roll has been crisply toasted on the inside, under a toaster, and not squashed onto a grill. Nice touch.

The tea could be a bit better though. One bag. Big pot. A bit weak for three cups.

---

I catch the ten o'clock show of THE SUM OF ALL FEARS. At the box office, I ask the attendant to alert the manager to my presence at the cinema. She laughs.

"I'm serious," I say. "He's even given me his phone number, in case there are focus problems. This cinema always has a focus problem."

"Cresta???" she says.

I show her the manager's number on my phone.

I get to the queue of people waiting to go in. I say to the usher, "Who do I need to speak to if the focus is incorrect?"

He looks at me, points a finger at his own chest. A couple who've bought tickets for the same movie laugh out loud at my question. The girl tugs at her boyfriend's arm and says to me, "You serious about this?"

I smile broadly. After all, I'm a media guerrilla, aren't I?

In the cinema, the trailers and adverts are out of focus. Just before the main feature rolls, I phone the manager's number.

"Ster-Kinekor-Cresta-how-can-I-help?"

"Hi," I say. "I'm sitting four rows from the front in your cinema, the one showing THE SUM OF ALL FEARS. Please will you ask the projectionist to focus the picture?"

Rapid-fire Zulu and laughter.

I take the initiative. "Hello?" I say loudly into the phone. "Please focus this movie, all right?"

"Please will you hold?"

Click.

She's put the phone down on me. So I dial again. And it keeps ringing until the movie starts. Just as I'm about to get up to complain about the focus to a human being, a contingent of Ster Kinekor uniforms mulls about the back of the cinema, rushes out, and suddenly, thirty seconds later, the movie is in focus.

On the Roy scale, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS gets a sweaty-palmed 8 out of 10. Good, solid, thrills, with a clever script. Very few obvious plot holes. Hmm. Actually. On reflection, it's FULL of plot holes. My reconsidered rating is 6 out of 10.


Monday 2 September 2002

Wimpy, Campus Square, Melville

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *1/2
Food: *1/2
Ambience: *
Babe Count: * *

It's 8:30am. I'm here with my work colleagues. We've decided to have breakfast together instead of having our usual Monday morning meeting, during which we normally view each other's promos in stony silence.

My Egg and Bacon on Muffin arrives. And suddenly I'm transported back to Yeoville, 1988.

I lived in a commune in Raleigh Road while I was at 702 radio, just after I dropped out of Electrical Engineering at Wits. The head of the commune was an authentic tree hugger with a penchant for marijuana and Carling Black Label beer. He also had an ex-girlfriend called Monica-Crazy who woke me up one night by smacking on my window with the hilt of a thirty-inch butcher's knife, asking me to let her in cos she wanted to see Greg.

The way the house worked is that all three of the tenants paid Greg the rent, and he would go and do all the shopping.

One month-end, Greg must have had some kinda problem with his dad's beer-pusher, cos when I woke up at nine, ready to have some muesli and head off for work at eleven (I drove the lunchtime Newstalk with Chris Gibbons, and the Four-to-Six Afternoon Fix with Stan Katz), there was no food in the house. Nothing. Not even a rotten potato.

Which forced me to do the unthinkable.

I got ready for work, and walked down Raleigh Street to the Bimbo's at the start of Rockey Street. There's something you've got to understand about the Bimbo's in Rockey Street, Yeoville, 1988. It was a 24-hour joint that never once, to my knowledge, had more than one person inside, and that was the guy behind the counter.

That morning, I was the first customer he'd seen in months. Maybe even years. So he was overjoyed when I ordered the muffin breakfast.

There's no way to describe the perversion, the sickness, the fetid accumulation of sado-masochistic vengeance laid into one muffin breakfast. All I can say is that I'm happy nowadays that I can afford more classy joints to hang out in. (Like the Wimpy in Melville.) And that I can afford to spend money on therapy.


Sunday 1 September 2002

Primi Piatti, Rosebank Zone

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

Didn't mention that I had tea at the Park Hyatt in Rosebank. World Summit in full ball. Lots of slanty-eyed foreigners and people with turbans. All pretending to speak languages other than English. Great tea. Ultra superb pastries. Oh, woe is me! Bernie is leaving Primi to go and start a restaurant in Bangladesh or Barraine or somewhere equally not-here! He's the manager.

A magic guy. Rumoured to be a second-dan karate champ. Fond of a double Jack on ice. Shaven-headed just like me. And happy to slot me in at the front of any queue, no matter how long, and no matter which crud-holed so-called celebrity was there before me.

So damn. When I hear this news, I'm alerted to the fact that I'd better get into pal mode with Nicky, the owner. Nicky's a young, trendoid Greek guy with serious taste in babes. His girlfriend is one awesome brunette. He's sitting at the table next to mine. I'm with Wendy New, the dazzling musician whose launch I went to on Thursday night. She's Damon Berry's girlfriend. He's my best friend. She's off limits.

The waiter brings the bill. Wendy and I divvy up and pay. I glance over to the table next door and pretend to see Nicky for the first time.

"Nicky!" I say, as if I've had more than the seven conversations I've ever had with him. "Thanks for lunch!" It's taken me this long to greet him because I've lost his name in the dark recesses of my sewerage encrusted brain. In the interests of diplomacy, I don't try to look up his girlfriend's skirt.

"Roy!" he says. "Don't tell anyone I'm eating here, okay?"

---

I decide to go and see MINORITY REPORT. I see it in The Zone, Cine 1. The focus is out. All the way through. But not so badly that I can't enjoy the movie. Apart from a serious plot hole concerning the amount of pain that Tom Cruise would be forced to endure after using the face-changing drug which he proceeds to use without suffering any gruesome consequences, apart from this, the film has enough charisma and story cred to make it into the top three science fiction file, along with BLADE RUNNER (the Director's Cut) and THE MATRIX. Some people say TERMINATOR is up there, but I'm not sure. TOTAL RECALL was way better.

So, MINORITY REPORT gets a good solid 7 out of 10 on the Roy scale.


Saturday 31 August 2002

Grande Cafe, Rosebank

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *1/2
Food: * *
Ambience: * * *1/2
Babe Count: * *1/2

Alistair and I are playing backgammon here today. He's now the doubles champion, after beating sixteen other teams, including the one I was in, to take the trophy. It's a gaudy glossy plasticcy thing, that only a mother could love. And boy oh boy, Alistair definitely had some birth pains to deliver this one. So hey, Alistair -- congrats, boyo! Hard work pays off.

Alistair's game has notched up to a new level. He's been taking lessons with one of South Africa's top players, Tony Matsouris. And it shows.

Except for today. Cos I thrash him. Not once. Not twice. But thrice! Three matches up to 13 points, and I take him each time. With no Vaseline.

As compensation for the butt-stubbing he's just suffered, Alistair takes to gazing in authentic doe-eyed goofiness at the manageress. Blonde. Petite. Hair chopped in one of those bobs that gets motorcycle helmet designers wet around the extremities. Trouble is, Alistair is a romantic. So he doesn't want to find a way to take her home and shag her. He wants to make her like him so he can marry her and have children. Maybe she'll be a trophy wife. Then their children will look like little backgammon trophies.

---

After backgammon Alistair heads off, I decide to see a movie. I wander down to Cinema Nouveau and find that THIRTEEN CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ONE THING is on. I pay my eight bucks (whah whah -- I'm a Vitality Club Platinum Card Holder) and go inside. Pretty darn empty for a Saturday matinee. It can't possibly be Rosh Hashonah yet, can it??? Nope. Just art movie time.

I settle down to a month or two of tedium. Well-acted, mind you, but tedious. I give it a yawn, and 4 out 10 on the Roy-o-meter.

The high point of my evening is when I come out of the movie and see Carmen studying the reviews pinned to the Cinema Nouveau board. I glance around the place, now fairly crowded, to see if her boyfriend is around. She seems to be alone. We chat a bit. Namely about the movie. Unfortunately, she's about to see the same one I've just seen. So I don't pan it. I just mildly encourage her to see AMELIE.

"Nah," she says. "We've already booked. And Alan Swerdlow said it was cool. So hey."

And then I notice the boyfriend, lurking around in the background. He doesn't look too difficult to get rid of.


Thursday 29 August 2002

The Blues Room, Village Walk, Sandton

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: N/A
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

I've invited about 10 buddies to come see Wendy New launch her first album. Masses of people are crowded into the Blues Room. Possibly to see Wendy New launch her first album. But more likely, to get laid by authentic South Africans.

See, there are about ten thousand WORLD SUMMIT passes hanging around the necks of their owners, and about a trillion languages and dialects are contributing to the Bable Babble of the Babes in Battle-gear.

I see Carmen, looking lovely with her long red hair and tasteful slacks. It's astonishing to me how a woman like Carmen can tear herself away from the mirror in the morning. If I looked that good, I'd own a mirror collection. Incidentally, have you ever noticed how mirrors steam up when you kiss them?

"So do I get to meet the mythical boyfriend?" I say, hoping she'll say something to the effect that he IS mythical, and that I'm actually next on the boyfriend list. Instead, she tells me that he only SEEMS mythical, and that he simply couldn't be at the gig due to a last minute emergency something or other.

I'm flitting between my various guests, paying not-enough attention to anyone, and trying to catch the eye of the Bulgarian diplomat called Fiorentina (it says so next to her photo on her neck-slung World Summit pass). Between her ample Bulgarian bulges.

But I lose interest in her when I spot Damon Berry in black leather pants. He's my best buddy, and he's here from Cape Town for just this one night, having been collected at the airport by his loving parents at 6pm. He's one of the puppeteers for TAKELANE SESAME STREET, and they've let him off for the evening. Schmucks. Wouldn't even reschedule him so he could have Friday free. Ah well. That's showbiz.

So I approach him, but he's seriously stressed. He gets like that before he performs. Which makes me glad. Cos that means he's going to be doing his rap on the song, Three Minutes Thirty, which he co-wrote with Wendy.

We agree to touch base after the gig, and he disappears into the little room behind the bar. I pop my head in to say hi to Wendy, and to tell her to break a string. (That's the musicians' equivalent to the actors' break a leg.) She smiles and then bursts into tears and hugs Damon. I disappear double quick and wait for the gig to start.

A long tall woman dressed in black, dressed in black, dressed in black, dressed in black black black. With white panties. Yummy. While I'm waiting, a killer babe with bum-length black hair sits on the bar stool opposite me. I'm in the VIP lounge at this point, chatting to Carmen and a Slovakian forestry dude. So my eye is directly in line with her crotch. The raven-haired sylph is talking to her boyfriend. And forgets that she's wearing a miniskirt. A black miniskirt. With a black blouse. Emphasising her black hair. And she crosses her legs. And it's a Sharon Stone moment for me. From one-and-a-half metres away, I get the full benefit of her smooth white panties.

And the fact that I'm staring at the siren's crotch might just explain why Carmen hasn't ditched her current boyfriend for me.

All goes well with the gig. Except for the fact that the sound desk can't get Wendy's vocal volume high enough, so they take the volume of the band down, which reduces the impact of her terrific songs. Makes them feel a bit energy-free. And she gabs too much between songs, losing lots of the audience not there for the launch.

I buy the cd at the door after, once I've left, after being snubbed by Fiorentina. Not to mention Liesl and Suzelle, the babes I met in Cresta's Seattle Coffee Co. And I play the cd three or four times before going to sleep. And it cooks. It really really cooks.

I send Wendy an SMS that says, "Remember -- I knew you before you were a superstar!"


Wednesday 28 August 2002

Seattle Coffee Company, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

My life is complete. Paycheck firmly in my account. Decaff coffee in hand. And some delicious writing ahead of me.

I get to my table, the one I slapped my books down on before getting to the counter to place my order, the usual, the one the guys at Seattle Coffee Co all over Joburg know by now to be "One Harmless Grande Latte", and find that a Palestine has been perpetrated on me.

My table's been colonised.

But do I look like I'm complaining? Not on your father's nelly I'm not. The two uber babes I noticed earlier on while I was walking through Cresta pondering watching a movie instead of writing my own are camped out in my territory.

But hey. I'm armed. In the boot of my car is a brand new book I've just gotten my slick hands on. It's called DATING: A Survival Guide From the Frontlines. And I've read the back blurb already. And the table of contents. So I know what's what. Gottit? (I bought the book cos I've just had a little meeting with my far-too-gorgeous ex-babe, Antoinette. And after one-year of being broken up with each other, we're certainly not getting back together. And she refuses to have break-up sex with me. So what's a boy to do, eh?)

So I'm vaguely pleasant about the hostile takeover, and the two babes seem not unhappy with my demeanour. So we chat a bit. "I'm in marketing," says Liezl, after I figuratively press her for information. 

Suzelle says, "I'm a griller at Nandos." Yeah, and I'm a frying pan consultant. So I press her, also figuratively, though I could get into doing it beyond metaphor, given half a chance. Turns out she's a tax accountant doing her practical year and finishing honours at Unisa. 

"And you?" I say to the dude they've got with them. 

"Marcus," he says, and I make a snap evaluation as to how much punishment I'll have to deliver to get him to detach from Suzelle. (I assume they're an item.)

I'm not allowed to mention this aloud, but they all hail from Krugersdorp. And the two babes are sharing a bed housesitting a place in Parkhurst.

"But not the way you think," says Suzelle.

"I don't know what you mean," I say, preparing a mental snapshot to be recalled at will late at night, alone, in my futon-nest in my cozy flat in Cresta. With my hot water bottle.

Suzelle catches my attention. "Roy," she says, "...and Liezl. Since you're sitting at the same table, this means it's your first date."

I almost ask Liezl if she believes in sex on a first date, but I've only been sitting with her for about 300 seconds, and I don't want to try setting any records tonight. And besides, I've still got to read that section in the Dating book. Not only that, you simply don't get mattresses in coffee-shops. Not in Cresta, at any rate.

But all of this shouldn't really matter, since I'm in a Cresta coffee-shop to get some more writing done on my screenplay. Right? Yeah. You know about the road to good intention being paved with Wonderbras.

While I'm wondering what witty wondrousness to whip out to impress the two babes, Liezl gets a call from a buddy, and has to leave.

Which would have been reallllllly sad if Suzelle and Marcus had actually been the item I assumed they were. But they're apparently not. So we spend the evening sitting in the coffee shop talking about tax issues, and how I need to fire Tax Relax, and take them to the consumer council to get my money back since they haven't actually rendered any services over the two years I've been with them.

And it dawns on me that I can leverage my famous friends in order to squeeze a real date out of Suzelle and Liezl.

I invite her and her friends to The Blues Room in the Village Walk for tomorrow night's launch of the latest mega-talent on the block. Wendy New will be releasing her cd in a one-hour gig for invited buddies and moguls only. And I'm way up there on the guest list. Important guy, huh?

So I'll be seeing more of Suzelle tomorrow night. And Liezl. So here's hoping that the dating book can give me some more pointers.

And maybe I'll be able to muscle out a couple of scenes of my movie before I go to sleep tonight. But it might be a different movie to the one I'm writing. And it might be set in a house in Parkhurst. Starring two uber babes. Taxing stuff, this.


Tuesday 27 August 2002

Wiesenhof, Cresta

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * *

Let's face it. I don't come here for the ambience. It's Cresta, for godsake! And I don't come here for the babes. It's really the convenience, and the size of the tables, and the privacy, and the fact that it's a five-minute drive away from my flat, or a one-minute walk (parking takes up the rest of the time). Not that I'd dream of walking.

Sometimes it's the food that draws me here. They make a really nice mince on toast. Their scrambled eggs on toast are respectable too.

But tonight I decide to do the Europa Cajun Chicken Salad test.

They fail miserably. Sorry, Kobus. You've GOT to get the salad right, broe! (I'm addressing this to Kobus Wiese, the exceedingly large Springbok Rugby prop who owns the franchise and whose name is in the restaurant moniker. I'm doing it via the internet because then I face very little chance of personal injury. Though he is a nice guy. He even said hello to me once, when he used to spend a lot of time in his own coffee-shop. I think he got too big for the chairs though.)

The chicken in this case is sliced VERY thick, making it tough and stringy, and a little on the -- uh -- let's say, squishy side. One of the pieces I cut open is quite pink on the inside. Not raw, but just past it. However, they do get the feta content right -- there's a fair amount of the crumbly white cheese, and it's got a great texture.

But everything really gets overshadowed by the dressing.

The dressing.

How do I talk about this stuff? It's bright orange, like those terrifying mounds of chips you see on the side of the road in one-metre long plastic packets. And it has some kind of curry powder in it. Perhaps this is meant to impart a Cajun ambience to the dish? I dunno.

This salad dressing comes across like one of those karaoke singers with too much nail polish, jiggly breasts pumping out of the tank top, and a hairdresser who belongs to the Misogynist Haridresser's Guild Of South Africa.

On the bright side, their coffee is delicious, and served in generous portions (I drink decaf, and get one of those Bodum plungers that holds two big mugs of coffee.)

And hey. The salad dressing helps me conserve power on my palmtop as I write a scene of my movie. It's bright enough for me not to need the screen backlight.


Monday 26 August 2002

Europa, Norwood

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *

I'm sitting here with my index cards spread all over the place. The babe count is disappointing, since Norwood's normally full of  lovelies. But hey. I'm here because of the doubles backgammon tournament I'm in tonight, and I've got to get some food into myself before we play, and I've also got to get some writing done.

I order the Giselle, a Cajun chicken salad.

It arrives. I'm bowled over.

I measure all of my Cajun chicken salads against the one served at JB Rivers in Hyde Park. And you know what? From now on, Europa is the king of Cajun chicken salads.

It's quite simply a thrilling dish. Nothing overtly unusual about it. Simply a generous helping, not too overwhelmed by lettuce, but with tons of avocado, and the chicken sliced thin, well-spiced. Carrots and other veggies. And delicious slices of woody smoked cheese which might be pecorino or parmesan.


Saturday 24 August 2002

Mugg & Bean, Eastgate

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * *1/2
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

The two-day script development masterclass is over. I'm sitting in the Mugg & Bean with my spread of index cards across the table. They form a map of my movie script. I've got Clare Downs's notes open, and I'm checking whether my instincts were right on my story. Seems like I'm spot on.

I've been waving the menu around while studying the cards, and now I want to write a bit. It's been -- I kid you not -- six minutes and thirty-seven seconds since I started waving the menu. (My palmtop computer has a handy timer on it.) There is a cluster of six waiters and waitresses standing neart the entrance. I'm near the cake counter.

At the eight-minute mark, the manager happens to glance my way, and springs into action, pointing at me. A waitress scurries up to me, bright smile, hands clasped in front of her. "May I please have a decaff filter coffee --"

She almost runs off to get the coffee, before I can order the Beef and Chicken Pockets. But I manage to call her back before she hits the kitchen doors.

While I wait, I write a short correction to one of my early scenes in my script, and the waitress arrives, sans coffee. 

"Did you want beef AND chicken?" I'm baffled. That's what's on the menu. Why should I want anything different if I didn't actually stipulate? She notes my nodded 'yes' and rushes off.

My timer's no longer on, so I can't really tell how long it takes to get the coffee. But it arrives. It's a decaf cappuccino, not a filter coffee. I say nothing, cos I actually like cappuccino. But it's not what I ordered. 

When the waitress comes back to bring my beef AND chicken pockets, she doesn't take away the little open brown sugar packets. But hey.

What I don't really enjoy is the fact that here at the Eastgate Mugg & Bean, they give only a tiny amount of guacamole dip to accompany the food. And they've already spooned sour cream all over the pita sachets. And the tomato salsa sauce is very wet, so the pita is already getting soggy. When I had this dish in Melville, they had all three accoutrements in separate bowls, in generous portions. Maybe rent is more expensive in Eastgate.

Despite all this, the food is delicious, and I'm seriously hungry.

So I eat up like a good boy, and take the time to study the people around.

It's not very busy for 9 o'clock on a Saturday night.

There's a group of 13- or 14-year old girls beside me. They have Linksfield King David accents. 

One of them answers a cellphone with a long, exhaled, "Yeeeeees?" Must be her mother on the other end. "Ya, we're all at Eastgate." She's subconsciously rubbing the underside of her fledgling breast, where the trainer-bra strap is cutting in. "Later." Click. 

One of them is really tall and slinky, with a very pleasant shape to her face. She's got an alarmingly husky voice. She's the reverse of the boy-with-a-breaking-voice. Hers has gone down to a low tenor. She's going to be the man killer when she grows up. 

At a certain point, all the girls lean towards the centre of their table, elbows on the edges, their heads almost touching. "It's Mark's hair I like," says one. "His HAIR?" squeals the tenor, followed by "Shhh!" from the other three.

At another table, a married woman, out with her three friends, is playing with her wedding ring. She's been taking it off and putting it on all night. She catches me looking at her, and pointedly puts the ring back. 

Moments later she's studying the cakes, her midriff right near my nose. But for some reason I can't smell her. She's anonymous. A married woman in the sexiest labia-parting jeans I've seen in a long time, leaning over my table to peer at the cakes. My palmtop computer's on, its screen glowing green. I pretend I'm not interested, and type a few lines of dialogue in.

She swaggers away after a while, a married woman who knows she's goddamn irresistible. I hope for his sake her husband knows the goldmine he's found. But judging from the way she's been playing with her ring, I don't think he does. She makes quarter-eye-contact with me all evening until the four of them leave.

I sit there for a total of four hours, leaving only when the waitresses theatrically bring out the mops and the manager starts checking his watch every thirty seconds. I'm not the last to leave. The restaurant is still a third full when I saunter out, doing my best to look like a single screenwriter on the up-and-up.


Friday 23 August 2002

Gramadoela's, The Market Theatre, Newtown

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: Not Applicable -- Buffet
Food: * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *1/2

We're having a celebration for the presenters of the script development masterclass. I'm part of it cos I'm the co-deputy-chair of SASWA, the Scriptwriters' Association. 

I finally get to meet Amy Moore. She's the head of NAM -- New Africa Media. They're South Africa's biggest hope in reaching international superstardom in making feature films. She's short, blonde, piercingly pretty (slicing blue eyes), appealingly plump, and the most powerful woman in the Southern African film hierarchy. 

Probably because of the Earth Summit taking place in Joburg, Gramadoelas seems to be hopping with foreign beauties. It's a pretty exotic looking place, filled with all sorts of colonial decor. It makes the place quite pleasant to be in, but the proliferation of copperware is a bit overpowering for my senses.

And the food is not to my taste. But my colleagues seem to enjoy the prawns and calamari and crap like that. Around seafood, I'm basically a little boy: "Yuck! Gross!" Spit spit spit!

Speech time. Luiz de Baros, SASWA co-chair, starts by thanking everyone and handing out bottles of South African Export Quality Port. Luciano Gloor (the Berlin-based part-Italian Swiss producer who made TOTO THE HERO) glows and beams. Clare Downs (the Bridget Bardot lookalike based in London, but with a world pedigree, who is one of the world's best script editors) is up. Amy Moore (I've mentioned her already, hmm?) and Steve Francis (co-creator of Madam & Eve, and co-writer with Gus Silber of SLASH, the latest NAM Films feature, the one that's about to return double the investment to its investors, the one that made a huge splash at Cannes recently) are elated.

But it's when Luiz pulls out two surprise envelopes that the night kicks into high gear. We're honouring two of the industry's biggest supporters with honorary SASWA membership, and they have no idea they're about to be singled out for adulation. Mfundi Vundla and Elsje Stark, two of the people responsible for the most popular soap opera South Africa has ever produced -- GENERATIONS -- are overwhelmed. Gasps, ooohs, aahs. A vigorous round of applause.

The food still sucks, but even though I go home hungry, I've got some very cool business cards in my pocket. Looks like I'll be giving Amy a call sooner than later.


Thursday 22 August 2002

Almar View Bed & Breakfast, Nelspruit

From five stars "Perfect! * * * * *" to one star "Cruddy! *" -- totally subjective coffee-shop and restaurant reviews.

Service: * * * *1/2
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: N/A

I was supposed to arrive here at lunchtime on Tuesday, but, because I was still in bed at home in Cresta at lunchtime, I couldn't quite make it. So I got here just before sunset.

It's my first long drive out of Joburg in my li'l red sports car, and I had a thrilling drive. Kept it down to 160km/h most of the way, but did venture up to 180, twice.

It's a real pity, but I have to go back home just now. I've finished typing a breakthrough scene of my screenplay, and I'm about to pack up. Lunch is almost ready. And I've got a two-day script development masterclass to attend from tomorrow morning.

Pity I'm four hours out of Joburg. If I were closer, I'd probably spend the night, get some more writing done, and leave very early in the morning.

Marely calls me for lunch. She's in her early sixties. Her husband, Theo, is in his mid sixties. They've always lived away from big cities, having worked in the mining industry. Theo was a mining engineer, now a farmer, and Marely a teacher, specialising in kids with learning disabilities, now a B&B operator.

Next time I take a mini writing break, I'll probably be back.

Mainly because of the food.

Lunch is a delicious chicken and risotto affair. My mouth is full, and I point at the nuts, a question mark in my eyes. "Yes!" says Marely. "The pecan nuts. The trees are just behind the house.

I swallow. "And what about the chicken?" I'll ask Marely to put about half of my food in a doggie bag for supper tonight. I could eat food like this every day of my life.

"No. That comes from Pick 'n Pay in Nelspruit."

"No!" I say, alarmed. "You've got to tell the city-slickers that EVERYTHING comes from the farm! We can't tell the difference."

Just then the wild hippopotamus runs inside from the garden, shaking his wet, shaggy, black fur. I'm not entirely certain, but I think I once saw a dog like him. A Scotty. "Liefie!" says Marely, "Go to your box!"


Saturday 17 August 2002

Europa, Parkhurst

I'm having supper with Jason Ashberg and Dion Scher. Jason's a filmmaker. He made one of the one-minute Quickies, one that I co-wrote with him, called THE FIRST MOVE. Dion's a movie writer. He and Jason have just finished making PENDULUM, a short that Dion wrote.

The three of us are pretending we're in Hollywood, and we're waiting for photographers to burst through the door to try and steal pictures of us together to print in the society pages.

Jason tells us a story about our mutual buddy, Akin Omotoso. He's an actor on GENERATIONS, a daily soap opera, and the most-watched show in South Africa. He's also the director of a feature movie that's doing very well on the international film festival circuit: GOD IS AFRICAN.

Well, Jason phoned him last Sunday to say, "Akin -- you've made it, huh?"

"What do you mean?"

"C'mon, Akin. Don't you read the Sunday Times?"

So Akin scuffles with a newspaper, turns to the gossip pages, and finds a picture of himself and some society babe, along with a story about how they were seen in a restaurant together, and how they may be romantically involved, and how Akin dived under the table when he saw the reporter.

Akin fumes to Jason. "It's all bullshit!" he says. Yeah, of course he was at the restaurant. No, he's not involved with her.

Once Jason's finished telling us the story, I reckon that you've got to expect stuff like that if you want to be a soap star. I also caution him that we've got to learn to expect the same treatment in a little while, when we're also high profile celebs. We drink to that.

---

Earlier in the day, I meet with Kim briefly, before the SASWA Feature Film workshop run by Jeremy Nathan, the renowned guerrilla filmmaker. As a member of council, it's my turn to be the Master of Ceremonies.

But back to Kim.

She fixes her eye on a point between my eyes and my lips and says nothing. I've only spoken to her on the phone since meeting her the other day for lunch, after her rape. We're a little uncomfortable. I don't want to encroach on her physical space in any way. She's probably feeling unsafe, and I'm a man, and I just don't want her getting any ideas that I might want to rape her.

She keeps looking at my nose and says, "I'm pressing charges."

"Good for you," I say, and touch her shoulder.

She flinches. "The bruises," she says.

"Haven't they healed yet?" I say. I'm concerned. The rape was two weeks ago. She should be physically fine by now, surely?

"They're new." I look at her. I'm aware that I'm shaking my head. I don't know what I'm about to hear, but I've got a sick idea that she's going to tell me she's been raped again. She says, in her candy-voice, her best little-girl voice, "Don't be cross with me." And I know I'm going to be very, very cross with her. She says, "He did it again. You know last weekend was a long weekend? Well, I went to a dinner party he held. And basically, I was out for the whole weekend. I mean, out, knocked out. Unconscious. The same drug, it seems. I went to the doctor on Monday, and this guy definitely raped me again. The whole weekend."  She points surreptitiously at her crotch. "I'm -- torn. Inside."

I can't be hearing this. Is she having me on? "Kim, are you telling me you WENT TO THIS GUY'S HOUSE?"

"Don't be cross. It's all the drugs I'm on."

Where I come from, I believe in that adage: "If you cheat me once, you're at fault. If you cheat me a second time, it's my fault."

Now, Kim's multiple-rape and bruising and vaginal lacerations at the hands of a sociopath armed with a drug that paralyses women is certainly not a bag of laughs to me. And I certainly do have some sympathy for her. But not as much as I had the first time this happened two weeks ago. Right now, I think she's an idiot.

"I've got to go to my SASWA workshop," I tell her. "I'm the MC today."

"Don't be cross," she says, and there's a vulnerable, drugged, stupid look in her eye that makes me want to go on a killing spree.

Instead, I introduce Jeremy Nathan with an unnatural amount of zeal. "Roy's too kind," he says, and I smile, settling back for an afternoon of learning about the state of feature movies in South Africa today.


Friday 16 August 2002

Seattle Coffee Company, Cresta

I've just been to Exclusive Books next door and bought my very own copy of the AA's HOTELS, LODGES, GUEST HOUSES, B&Bs, and I'm standing in the queue for coffee. It's not the longest queue in the world. But it's one with impact.

That's because it contains three female redheads, one male redhead, and one brunette. Two of the female redheads are around eight years old, and they have similar dresses on. They could be twins. But I'm not looking at them.

I'm also not looking too hard at what must be their mother and father, though, from the corner of my eye, I can see a certain resemblance in the set of the jaws, and the way their shoulders slope.

The brunette. She's much prettier than this sketch suggests. But hey. I've always found it hard to get likenesses when I'm drawing someone I'm attracted to. I'm looking at the brunette. She's with them. But doesn't look anything like them. And it's a puzzling arrangement. The mom and dad are in their early forties. The brunette is around 24. She's highly tailored, in a slick pair of black slacks, stylish boots, a creme jacket, and something sheeny-shiny underneath. The rest of the family are Mcullough & Bothwell casual. Big bucks, but serenely so.

I recognise their style. They can only be from Germiston. A kind of small town friendliness, an air of naivety.

The mom asks me what coffees we have.

"I don't really know," I say.

"Oh! Don't you work here?"

It's easy to see how she might think I work at Seattle Coffee Company. I'm dressed all in black today, right down to the underpants, right up to the spectacle frames and black cap. That's because it's the 25th anniversary of the supposed death of Elvis Presley. (I say "supposed" because it's a well known fact that he actually died of an Oreo Chocolate Biscuit overdose in a Seven-Eleven in Texas three years ago, and a bunch of Japanese tourists mistook him for a mound of Ben & Jerry's icecream and ate him, leaving behind a gold medallion and a pair of blue terry-towelling slippers.)

And the reason I'm mourning for Elvis? Because Lorraine at SABC2 sent an email around to selected colleagues threatening death and castration and some really horrible things if we DIDN'T wear black today.

The dad says, "Haha! Look -- he's carrying a bag of books. You don't work here!"

He then goes on to tell me that he discovered a brilliant second hand bookshop in Rosebank. He describes the locale, and I tell him, "Bookdealers of Rosebank." I know, because it's one of the best bookshops in the world. And I design their plastic bags. 

And all I'm trying to do is work out what his relationship is with the brunette. Is he seeing her, and out with his ex-wife and kids? Is she some kind of seriously overpaid au paire? Is she a colleague? Is this one of those heterosexual male fantasies involving two women? 

I'm also trying to keep making eye contact with her. She keeps smiling at me all the way through the dad's explanations about the bookshop, and how he collects Africana. "There's one shelf in my study," he tells me earnestly, while we're all waiting for his daughters to make up their minds about what they're going to drink, "that's insured for R47 000!" He looks impressed.

I'm not all that impressed. Because a couple of years ago an insurance type came to my place to make sure that I'd valued my goods properly. When she left, I was reeling. My business books, creativity books, film books, and advertising books would have had to be insured for R80 000. The poetry, novels and literary theory books didn't interest them. 

I told them to forget it, and cancelled my policy. I would have valued my collection at well over a billion. Not rands. Dollars.

Look, I know I have vaguely obsessive tendencies, but I've read almost everything I own, and I love what books contain. And they have a great effect on people. My ex-girlfriend's five-year-old nephew once walked into my flat and raised his arms in wonder. "Roy!" he said, "You live in a library!!!"

The redhead mom, in the meantime, is dimpling as she smiles at me. "Can you recommend any of the cakes?"

"Oh yeah!" I say. "That --" I point to the Venetian Cheese Cake, "-- hurts!"

"So it's good?"

"Yup. It's what I'm having."

"I'm a tax specialist," says the guy. I suspect it's connected to some or other post-rationalisation he's been making about why he collects Africana. "But I also just love Africana," he appends. "You learn so much."

At the end of a very pleasant ten minutes in the queue caused solely by one family and a brunette, I get to order my Harmless Grande Latte and slice of Venetian Cheese Cake. I sit.

They're seated one table away from me. The brunette keeps looking at me. And I keep seeing how our children will have cute little upturned noses, and they'll be gorgeous-looking, intelligent brunettes, who'll all turn out to be filmmakers obsessed with self-promotion and books.

And I still have no idea who's connected to whom.

After drawing for a while, and looking through my B&B book to try and find a suitable place for me to spend next week working on completing my screenplay, I briefly consider firing Tax Relax. It's not because they're doing nothing for me -- which, as it happens, they're not, and I really MUST fire them. It's because firing them will allow me to get intimate with this dude, see his Africana collection, talk more about bookshops. And at some point, I could pop the question: "Who's the brunette, and is she single?"

But I'll stick with Tax Relax for the meantime, and dream about the brunette fiddling my books while I'm in Groot Marico.


Sunday 11 August 2002

Mugg & Bean, Sandton City 

Oooooh baby. I'm sizzling. Cooking. Burning up the pre-midnight oil. Been doing so since about seven o'clock when I got here. I'm talking about my screenplay. The one I've just spent three hours on tonight. And the progress I'm making on it over this long weekend.

Yesterday I broke its back by heading for the Grande Cafe in Rosebank. Whipped out my trusty Psion 5MX palmtop computer, and wrote for four hours straight, with only two pee breaks, and several pauses to send self-congratulatory SMSs to my three main filmmaking buddies.

Cracked the scene where Jules gets forced by his mother to do a tarot reading for the lady across the road, and Lesley-Anne -- their Christian cousin-by-marriage who lost her parents in the same car-crash that put her in a wheelchair, the cousin who has just come to stay with them since she's now an orphan -- displays her shock and horror at this terribly satanic thing Jules is doing. And Jules's brother catches her praying over her crucifix, and he warns her that his father doesn't like anti-semites.

And tonight I go into the actual tarot reading. The best thing for me is that I'm not writing on-the-nose. My script is rich with subtext. And I believe I'm fulfilling the fundamental rule of screenwriting. Each line must do two things at once -- it must further the action and deepen character.

But it's really hard to concentrate here in the Mugg & Bean. There's a table of matric students over against the opposite wall. An alarming display of young couples in make-believe-love. Eight 17-year-old girls. Eight 17-year-old boys. Very few pimples. Lots of money. (This is Sandton, the money capital of Africa.) They look so fresh. So commanding.

Two of the girls are exceptionally beautiful. No. Not beautiful. That will come later. They're breathtakingly pretty. One is blonde, and it's clear she's the one they all defer to and want to be. She wears green-rimmed spectacles and a white blouse. Her hand movements are not extravagant. She's not trying to control the table. It simply happens. The other is black-haired. Small. She's the one I'll marry. When she grows up.

They both remind me of my foray into Fournos Bakery in Rosebank yesterday.

I'm sure this guy's harmless, but with the four women standing behind me giggling as I sketch him, I'm almost certain he'll notice that something odd is happening. Then, if he comes up and sees the sketch, I might just find myself hearing Notre Dame's famous bells after being decked in the timpanum by Quasimodo's less-understanding brother.I'm waiting inside for Alistair to arrive with his "mine's bigger and better than yours" backgammon set. If there's one item I want most in the world, it's his backgammon set. I'm going to try to get him to change his will and leave the thing to me. Then I'll kill him. Anyway. I'm waiting for him, and I feel the need to juice out a quick sketch. There's a hunchbacked huge guy sitting outside, right against the window, and I have to capture him before he leaves.

So the pen comes out. The ink comes out. The book opens. And the table of four women beside me goes quiet. One of them giggles. I'm aware of having an audience. It doesn't normally happen. Mostly, when I sketch in coffee-shops, people are so predictably self-absorbed that I can sketch away with impunity. It's normally only the waiters who notice.

This time, all of the women notice me, and watch. I've been looking at them too. Two very young women. One intermediate. And a divorced mother with a Wonderbra and the top four buttons undone. With that crinkly, soft, delicious cleavage skin that only fifty-plus women can boast. Hmmm.

While I'm preparing my materials, they pay their bill, stand up, and all four of them stand behind me. I sketch the hunchback. He has the grace not to notice me. Which is a very good thing, since he's well over six foot tall (if he could stand straight), and he's very beefy. And my sketches are never very flattering. Which means I'm in danger of a flattening.

Oohs and aahs from my new entourage. Then three of them leave. And the cleavage queen comes round to the front of my table to chat. Blah blah yack yack. "Yeah, I sketch in coffee shops. No, I'm self taught. Though I did have a friend who's a damn good artist. Blah blah etcetera." And then I say, "Do you make art?"

"Well. Not really. But I do go for art lessons." And before I ask who her teacher is, I know. I know that she goes to Miriam Stern. Miriam and I haven't seen each other for ages. But we knew each other for a good while. And she taught me pretty much everything I needed to know in order to understand art and form my own opinions.

"So who's your teacher?" I ask.

"Miriam Stern," she says.

"I have two of her pieces in my home," I say. Then I introduce myself by extending my hand, saying, "I'm Roy."

"Renee," she says, and puts her soft hand in mine. I want to keep holding her. I want to take her home. I want her to have sex with me in her divorce-settlement Mercedes. I want her to remind me how gorgeous older women are. But I let her go. Even though the look in her eye says she's trying to figure out a way to get me into her Mercedes.

"Bye," she says.

"Bye," I say. And I stare at her rolling hips. In blue jeans. And I think of Miriam.


Thursday 8 August 2002

My flat, Cresta

Long day yesterday. Edited some promos. Started nine in the morning. Left the edit suite at quarter to ten at night. Gruelling. Knew it would be, cos my old faithful editor, Edzardt Joubert, is no longer able to work with me.

And today it was Babe's Day celebrations at the office. Because we're SABC3, and because we're the Coca Cola Popstars channel, our marketing woman has been able to secure the services of two of the guys who didn't make it into the final five. They come and sing some stuff for us.

Wow!

I'm impressed. And manufactured media superstar hype doesn't normally impress me in the slightest. Which is a way of saying that Popstars -- in my opinion -- isn't hype. These guys are the real thing.

And tonight I head off to gym for the first time in about a month. Not to train, mind you, but to ask a personal trainer whether or not it's safe for me to start training again. I'm still in the after-grip of this nasty flu. So I have a nice long chat with Saranne, a blonde fitness maniac babe who grew up in Klerksdorp. You name the sport, and she's not only played it, but she's probably got colours and trophies in it. "I even have provincial colours for Table Tennis," she says.

She looks a bit like Kim (not her real name -- see below, Tuesday 6 August for details), my friend who got date-drug-raped on Sunday. And if you're interested, Kim's okay. She did the whole AZT anti-AIDS cocktail shock treatment, with tons of other drugs to counteract all possible sexually transmitted diseases. She's also in therapy now, and she's going to be all right.

But before gym, I have a long email chinwag with the Mweb types. I've been having serious trouble using the Mysites tools, and have been unable to upload large files to the server. So I've been up to my consumer activism tricks -- threatening Mweb with serious negative publicity on my radio slot. 

It's interesting what the power of publicity will do. Whole teams of techies spring into action and answer the very real concerns I've had with this site for the last week or so. It turns out, after I call the helpdesk for the seventh time, that the email address listed on the Mysites help page actually doesn't exist, and that the woman who set up the address has left the company. So my emails weren't reaching a human being.

All's well that ends well though, cos I've decided that they'll get some very positive spin when I do my show next week. They've really come to the party, and have communicated well with me, even if I had to threaten them to do it.

So here's a hint -- if you have trouble with any techie sort of issue, tell them Roy said they'll be in trouble with him if they don't sort it out. Tell them Roy's a media animal who lives to expose bad service. Tell them Roy's got a radio show on SAfm's Computer Gig every Sunday night, somewhere between 8:30pm and 9:00pm. You go tell 'em that. Cos if you don't, I certainly will.


Tuesday 6 August 2002

My flat, Cresta

An intense coupla days. Sitting here, thinking back, listening to Travis, it's really been quite weird. Take today.

Before lunch, I get back to my office in TV Block at SABC3 and find a six-page document lying on my keyboard. It's a survey questionnaire on sexual harassment at work. Before filling it in, I spend a moment chuckling to myself at the pun potential if 'harassment' had only been spelled 'herassment'.

So I fill it in, killing the few minutes before I make my way down the long tunnel to RadioPark. I'm meeting Kim (this isn't her real name, for reasons that will become apparent) for lunch. She's just broken up with her longtime boyfriend, and I'm cautiously thinking of hitting on her, maybe, possibly. I'm cautious cos I'm also out of a long term relationship, and I'm still partially hooked on Antoinette, even though it's been a year since we split. I'm cautious also cos Kim's a little bit on the manic side, and I'm not sure I want to spend the energy.

Anyway, I drop the survey into the special box in the foyer, and there's Kim sitting in the shortest miniskirt I've had the privilege to observe close up. Jeepers. This chick's hotter than the inside of a Woolworth's Thai Chicken with Chili after twelve rounds with my heavyweight microwave. What's worse is that we're sitting at a glass-topped table, and all I can do is pretend not to stare at the white 'V' of her panties.

I sit next to her, keeping my eyes peeled. I'm a bag of laughs today, so I open conversation by saying, "Wow, Kim! Beautiful dress. I'm sure wearing something like that constitutes grounds for a sexual harassment case."

She sorta smiles. Nothing too committed. I've just blundered. Bigtime, as it turns out.

I ask how she's been, what's happening in her life, how the breakup's treating her. "How are you?" I say.

She looks at me for a long time, and I can tell that she knows I'm looking at her panties. She says, pointedly, "You DON'T want to know."

Red flag time. "No, I do want to know," I say, putting on my crisis counsellor voice. 

She says a few more times that I don't want to know, and I insist I do. Eventually, she says, "Well, very awful, in fact. Sunday night I had some friends round for supper. I don't usually drink, but this time I had a glass of wine. About eleven o'clock, I started feeling a bit weird, and I was quite surprised when everyone started leaving. It was like a signal had gone off. They all went home, except for one guy. By this time, I was finding it hard to move. In fact, I felt paralysed. I couldn't speak, even though I tried to."

My eyes are no longer on her crotch. I'm doing full eye contact with Kim now. My face is all scrunched up, like someone's about to hit me, and I'm waiting for the punch.

She says, "And then everything went very woozy, and all I remember is feeling utterly terrified. I've never felt that before." She pauses, and I'm wondering if she's going to cry, but she's actually quite numb. "I woke up at five in the morning, and this guy was still with me. He said I had some kind of epileptic seizure, and he stayed with me and helped me through it. I asked him why he didn't take me to the hospital. He said I was in good hands. Then he went home. I slept most of the day, and when I woke up, I found bruises all over. I'm wearing a load of foundation on my neck today so you can't see the bruise."

I'd noticed a bruise on her bicep when I sat down, but tastefully refrained from making some quip about nights of passion. Thank goodness I've got SOME restraint.

"I think I was drugged," says Kim.

From the way she's told me this story, I know she was drugged. And I know she was raped. But I know that she hasn't been ready to know this yet. "Uh," I say, trying to figure out a non-crude, non-threatening way of saying what I'm about to say, knowing that I've got to say it regardless of how it sounds. She's my friend, for godsake. "Uh," I say again, "when you woke up -- were you sore -- I mean -- you know -- uh --" and I point at her crotch, and whisper sort of the next bit, "your -- your vagina?"

She nods.

"Who is this guy?"

"No, I can't say. Cos you know, maybe he didn't do it. Maybe it was a seizure."

"Kim, it wasn't a seizure."

I take a breath and go into fullscale crisis counsellor mode, right here in the middle of RadioPark, between Metro FM and 5FM, in the lunch hour rush. We talk a lot, for about an hour, and we formulate a plan for her to follow. Step one involves going to a therapist. Step two involves talking to the therapist about the need for all the medical tests. Step three involves getting supportive people around her tonight.

I drop her off at home and she promises to let me know what's happening. Later, while I'm viewing an episode of RELIC HUNTER III for editing tomorrow, she lets me know she's seeing the shrink in the morning, and that she's called her ex and told him what happened, and asked him to be with her tonight. I'm relieved, and happy that she's taken control of this hectic situation.

I want to break things. I want to find this guy and rip his eyes out through his nostrils. I want to hurt him. I want to force him to take AIDS tests. I want to force him to say whether or not he used a condom. I want to make him feel the things I'm feeling. And the two things that stick in my mind are the bruises on her body and her vagina, and the terror she experienced. My imagination tells me that this sonofabitch was probably hurting her really badly and doing seriously psychotic things to her drugged mind.

---

Then later this evening, I'm watching an episode of MANCHILD, the new British sitcom that's going to start on SABC3 in a month or so. I'm working late cos the inervention with Kim took a really big bite out of my day.

So who phones me while I'm in the swing of things with this wondrously funny comedy about a bunch of 50 year old dudes living out a second adolescence? Yup. My ex. And boy, is Antoinette sounding sexy? Yummy. Reminds me why I loved her. Why I suspect I love her still.

So we speak for half an hour. And then, near the end of the conversation, I mention why I was peeved with her last Saturday. "It's because you tried to coerce me into coming to your party," I say.

Her voice instantly changes from bubbly-babe-in-a-bikini to hatred-Queen-of-New-Orleans. This has pushed her button. She's furious with me for being angry with her. So we end up saying goodbye to each other a bit more forcefully than either of us is happy with, and agree that we'll speak to each other again. Someday. One day.

---

Before Carine arrives, I whip out the sketchbook and flick out a pic of the woman at the next table. When a hard babe in cycling gear and shades looks at you while you're drawing her, it's hard to tell where her eyes really are. Most people don't notice me capturing them in my sketchbook. She does. Says nothing. Just hardens her mouth and keeps those shades staring at me. Thankfully, Carine arrives, and I've got beauty to look at.Which reminds me of this past Saturday. Sitting in ClockWise in Rosebank with this intensely lovely babe I met at the Herbert Evans sale the Sunday before. Carine. She's a pharmaceutical marketing person who paints. She's recently divorced after a long marriage that she really tried her hardest to make work. No kids. One of the nicest bodies I've yet to see.

"What gives you the most joy in the world?" I ask her after we've been connecting hard over lunch for an hour or so.

She ponders. "That's a reallllly tough question," she says. She's wearing stunning horn-rimmed spectacles, because she can't wear her contacts at the moment, since she's still recovering from the flu, and her eyes are scratchy.

I nod. What's the use of easy questions when you're connecting with someone?

She says, "Being with my friends, with people who know me, love me. Being myself." She nods. "How about you?" Her hair is looking ravishing. She's just been to her appointment at Terenzo's. She sees Terenzo himself. And he's done his salon proud.

"When the September 11 thing happened," I say, "I told myself that if a plane hit the building I was in, I would want to be doing something I love. So I've created a motto for myself. 'I live my art in prosperity and abundance.' What gives me the most joy in the world is a set of two connected things. Creating and connecting."

"I'm going to change my answer," she says. "I wish I'd said that."

We're most certainly going to be seeing more of each other. And I really hope to peruse that body more closely. Maybe she'll let me sketch her.


Friday 2 August 2002

My flat, Cresta

Just beat Jellyfish 50% of the time over about eight matches up to 11 points. I'm a happy chappy. My life is complete.

As is Guto Bussab's. That's because, in addition to being an up-and-coming superstar director, he's also the dad of a two-week-old baby. I popped in at his place earlier to say hi and see how daddyhood's treating him.

He's got black rings under his eyes.

"Kid keeping you awake?" I say.

He laughs at me. "It's all the partying," he says. He's the director and fellow co-producer of ARIA, my short movie.

I laugh with him.

"No," he says, "seriously. I've been partying a lot. Lianne and I kinda had a fight." They live in separate houses within walking distance in Melville. "But it's cool. We're on speaking terms, and I stay at her place every now and again."

He asks if I want to see the baby. Of course I do. When he SMSed all his friends to announce the arrival, he mentioned that it has his nose. This is significant news. Cos it means that he doesn't have to be paranoid about paternity with DNA tests and hair follicle analysis or anything. See, Guto Bussab has a vast nose. An uber specimen of Brazil mixed with Lebanon.

We hop in my car and arrive at Lianne's spot about thirty seconds later. She's happy to see us. And she's holding a funny little putty sculpture wrapped in a white blanket. "Are you sure it's human?" I say.

Lianne smiles. "Guto wants to do a DNA test to make sure Aliks is his." I look at the little thing in her arms. Nothing paternal stirs in me, and I'm relieved. I'm also disappointed that it's not scathingly ugly. It's actually quite a neat baby, with hair and eyes and hands and things like that. And it's nose looks kinda normal to me.

"Looks like MY nose," I say, covering my own nose in alarm. Guto slits his eyes at me.

"When will our movie be ready?" he asks.

I pretend I haven't heard, since our movie is in the very final stages of audio post-production. But we're still waiting for our composer, Dan, to give us the very last bits of music. And then we're going to submit papers to the National Film and Video Foundation so we can collect our massive grant.

"So," I say, trying to change the topic, "I hear Guto's been a bit of a bad dad?"

"Nah," says Lianne, snuggling up to the film director with a nose for paternity suites. "He's a great dad. Just a shit boyfriend."


Thursday 1 August 2002

Primi Piatti, The Zone, Rosebank

It's wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. There's a woman sitting behind me to my left, her back to the big glass door at the coolest coffee-shop in Johannesburg. But this is no ordinary woman. This is sweetheart-material. You know -- beautiful face, a slightly offset nose (for interest), rich blonde hair, silky voice, curves.

And...

She's wearing low-slung blue jeans. So low-slung that I can see the whole top of her lacy g-string, as well as at least four centimetres of the single strand that descends into the furnaces. She's leaning forward, talking to a lunk, a jerk with a smirk. And I'm staring at this woman, twisting my neck. And so's a passerby. He's standing with his nose smeared against the glass. Sheesh.

This isn't even nearly a representation of Damon Berry. He looks a heck of a lot like Billy Idol right now, what with his dyed white hair. And he's trying a facial hair experiment. Aside from a blonde moustache and some fluff masquerading as burns, he's also got a bit of a beard. It looks like a bleached version of an Oral B toothbrush, recommended by dentists. I'm sure Wendy New, his talented musician girlfriend loves him for it.Of course, I didn't notice her on my own. It took Damon's dropped jaw and mumbled alert for me to turn around and look. Damon Berry is my good buddy who is about to head for Cape Town for six months to be a puppeteer on the next season of Takalane Sesame Street. We're having a late night cheerio session.

I'll see him tomorrow at ten, since he does voice-over work for my promos. Tomorrow, I'm punishing him for leaving Joburg for so long by giving him a serious tongue-twister. He'll attempt to say: "Should Schwartz schmooze with the schmaltzy schmucks? Get Inside Schwartz, Wednesday at nine, only on Three."

But back to the babe. She gets up, and her top rides right up too. This is shameless. I think she should be reported to the SPCA for Roy-abuse. After all, I'm just an animal at heart.

Earlier, I was at home playing backgammon on my computer against Jellyfish, an artificial-intelligence neural-net simulation of the best backgammon player ever. It's beating me to a pulp approximately eighty percent of the time. Not bad. Even the best human players only beat it fifty percent of the time. So I'm playing when someone knocks on my door.

Knocking on my door is different to ringing the buzzer. If you knock, it means you're actually standing right outside my front door on the third floor. It means you're in the building. If you hit the buzzer, you're outside in the freezing wind. If you hit the buzzer, I ignore you if I'm not expecting you. And I hope you freeze to death. If you're outside my door, standing on my welcome mat, I can't easily ignore you, cos I know you can hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing loudly on my hifi. If you're standing outside my door, you probably want to speak to me, and you know that I'm home. There's just no hiding.

So I take a guess at who it is and open the door. Yup. Gillian is standing there. She's a distant neighbour from around the corner, also on the third floor. She borrowed my hammer the other day, so she could hang up pictures. She's only been in the block for about two months. I think she may possibly be attracted to me. I know I find her almost irresistible. Not that she's ultra-babe-material. She's a normal, flesh-and-blood woman. But there's something about her that I warm to.

Which is a hassle, really, since I have this policy of not having sex with neighbours or people I work with. Or sisters of friends. Or wives of friends. It's an inconvenient policy, actually, since I find so many of those people almost irresistibly attractive.

So Gill tells me that she's sorry to disturb me, and asks if I'd mind helping her out with something. Her nostrils are pink and flared, and I can swear that she's a little hot and bothered. I invite her in, and she asks what's new, and I send her into my bedroom to admire the framed print I got from Ray Coombs this morning. It's the artist's proof of my rubber stamp edition of coffee-shop drawings. She asks me why I chose those three images.

Now Gill has a very loud voice. And she talks quite a lot. I consider just kissing her to shut her up, but I reckon that would probably count as rape. Anyway, I'm NOT going to do anything like that, since it goes way against my policy. You know the one. About not sleeping with neighbours. But there's a kicker to this. She's also a devout Christian, and she's probably not interested in the deed anyway. So I'm not even going to try. While I might be a lout, I try not to be an offensive lout.

Turns out the favour she's asking is for me to help her take a vast pile of books down to her car. She's a teacher, and she's got about eighty files. As we walk to her flat, she explains that she doesn't want to make two trips in the morning. She also says, "I'm sorry! I have to admit something -- I might be a little bit tipsy. I've had a bit of wine to drink." She giggles.

I wish I didn't have this policy. But nah. I'm resolute. I take the files down to the car, and I race off to Primi Piatti before I can persuade myself to knock on her door.

A narrow escape. And then a reminder of just how single I am when the g-string goddess leans forward to talk to her pet gorilla.


Wednesday 31 July 2002

Mugg & Bean, Melville

A SASWA meeting at Mugg & Bean straight after work.

Work was long and arduous, with some very enjoyable moments. Edited two ECO-CHALLENGE NEW ZEALAND promos, one for THE HOOP LIFE (the best television drama series I've seen, and, I can tell you this, working for SABC3, I've seen a LOT of television), and two for INSIDE SCHWARTZ. Then dashed across from the Henley building down to the bowels of Radiopark to pre-record my Sunday night "Computer Gig" slot with Tony Lankester. I'm the "Priceless Advice" dude. Followed by a quick drive to Melville for this meeting.

Blonde super-babe sitting a coupla tables away from me in Mugg & Bean. Jill looks back over her shoulder once I'm finished the sketch and says, "You're good, Roy!" I don't disagree too vehemently.SASWA. The South African Scriptwriters' Association. I'm the co-deputy chair, and we're meeting to discuss getting funds for "Nuts and Bolts" -- an intense two-day script development masterclass hosted by Clare Downs, the celebrated British script development guru. The council members present agree that we'll have the meeting done and dealt with in half an hour. We do pretty well by only taking one-hour and forty-five minutes.

When we finish, I decide to stick around and chat with Jill Kruger. She's also on council, and she makes documentaries. Her latest -- MY SON, THE BRIDE -- is on two screens at the Earth Summit International Film Festival. A huge honour. And it's also doing superb business on several other film festivals. Of course, she sees no money from all this interest, since, like all filmmakers in South Africa, she was forced to sign away her rights when M-Net invested in it.

But hey. At least she gets a warm glow.

I make eye-contact with Adele, our waitress. We flirt lightly. I don't take it too far, cos that's not polite with Jill around. But still, Jill seems to notice the way I inadvertently glance at Adelle's bum as she walks to and fro. Nobody says anything though.


Tuesday 30 July 2002

Cinema Nouveau, Rosebank

Devastating news. Leon, the head projectionist at Cinema Nouveau, is leaving. He is the chief reason that cinema's so popular. Since he's been there, I've not had to complain about focus. Not once. Which is more than I can say for Nu Metro Hyde Park, Nu Metro Sandton Square, Ster Kinekor Cresta, Ster Kinekor The Zone, Ster Kinekor Sandton City.

And talking of cinema problems. I would advise you to stay out of cinema 2 in The Zone. Aside from a really bad problem with focus (the screen seems to be slanted, making half of the picture fine, and the other half fuzzy), that particular venue also seems to have a lip-sync problem. Most people can only notice when the soundtrack and the visual track are separated by three frames. I can spot when they're a frame out. Cine 2 is often up to 5 or 6 frames out. So when someone bangs a glass down on a table, the sound of the bang happens a good deal before or after.

But wait! There's more! At Cine 2 at The Zone, one of their big bass speakers is smashed. So when the climactic scene in the movie comes up, and the orchestra is at full tilt, that speaker is crackling and hissing and protesting. I first drew their attention to the problem fourteen months ago. No change. So now I don't go there.

Incidentally, if your movie is shown in anything less than perfect conditions, you're fully entitled to get a cash refund or free movie vouchers from the cinema manager. It's about time these people started taking responsibility for the movies they show. So watch your movie, and if the sound was odd or the picture was out of focus, ask to speak to the manager, and be firm yet insistent.

Anyway, back to Cinema Nouveau. Let's all wish Leon all the best in his next gig. He's an adept video camera operator, and he'll be pursuing that for a living. Good luck, dude.

Saw an Italian movie tonight. 100 STEPS. Amazing. A true story about a kid who grew up in a little town in Sicily and decided to stand up to the Mafia. Unfortunately, some of his family members were also Mafiosi. A very cool film. Flawed. Suffers a bit from sticking too closely to the facts. But I give it a respectable 6 out of 10.

My flat, Cresta

Yay! Dan Selsick just called! He's only got one piece of music left to record for ARIA, the short movie I wrote and co-produced. Once his music is finished, we take it into the final-mix audio suite at Henley, and we'll have a little movie to show to the world! Good on yer, Dan!!!


Monday 29 July 2002

Cafe TriBeCa, Rosebank

I'm grumpy. Finished work late. Low blood sugar. Full-ish moon. And my backgammon teammates decided that it wasn't important to train tonight. So they just decided not to pitch for tonight's tournament practice session.You can't see the sunglasses perched on top of her hair, but they're there. They just blend in well, since they're the same shade of black.

So when I get to TriBeCa, I really need to eat. And I've got to do it before my movie starts, else it'll be way too late to eat.

The waiter's pleasant enough. Dreadlocks. Clean smile. Offers me the menu. I choose the famous TriBeCa Chicken Tramezzini with Sundried Tomato Mustard and Mozzarella. And a grande latte.

The latte arrives while I'm sketching a mega-babe with sunglasses perched on top of her jet-black hair. The waiter doesn't know where to put it, and he's not taking any initiative. This irritates me. I put my pen down on a napkin and sort it out. This bodes ill.

I drink the latte. Delicious stuff. Halfway through, I realise that I forgot to do the decaff bit when I ordered. I know because I've got the shakes. Only coffee does this to me. So now I've got low blood sugar, full-moon lunacy, and caffeine poisoning. Not to mention a waiter who just isn't quite gelling with me.

So the food arrives. I can't believe I'm seeing this. The tramezzini looks tired. The dough looks like dough, and there's white gungy stuff oozing out of it. I don't remember this dish looking like this. And the garnish. There's a piece of lettuce slightly smaller than a computer mouse. On it is a single black olive, an onion ring, and two bits of very wilted English cucumber.

"You're kidding," I say. "Is this supposed to be a salad??"

"It's the garnish, sir," he says, smiling. "Would you like some salad?"

"This is an embarrassment," I say. "Tell your manager I said so."

He laughs and skulks off. I eat. The tramezzini is awful. I consider sending it back, but I'm way too far gone on the caffeine and the low blood sugar, so I HAVE to eat the damn stuff. And it tastes like I'm chewing blubbery chicken skin. I quickly work out that it's actually just the rubbery mozzarella cheese that's giving me that sensation, but I'm nauseous.

I leave a quarter of the dish and decide to do something about it. "Call the manager, please," I say to my waiter, after I manage to catch his eye.

This is the woman behind the bar at TriBeCa. At least she's worth coming back for.The manager comes. Turns out he's one of two people at the next table. He and his buddy were watching me sketch the uber-babe a little earlier.

He is massively apologetic, and immediately tells me that I don't have to pay for the meal, that he's striking it from the bill. I feel horrible about this. "I didn't come here to get a free meal," I say, taking my wallet out.

"Sir," he says, "I know you didn't. I'm taking it off the bill because I think it's a mistake, and I want to rectify it, and I'd like you to come back here. We made a mistake, and we'll sort it out in the kitchen, and this won't happen again. And I really would like to take it off the bill."

I've eaten, so I'm kinda sane again. So I agree. "Okay," I say. And I thank him after I've packed away my drawing equipment.

---

I head to the movies, and end up watching NOVACAINE, starring Steve Martin. Awesome movie. Neil, the manager of Cinema Nouveau, tells me before the show that noone's coming to see the movie, and that they have to pull it off the circuit. I give it an 8 out of 10. Good stuff.

---

After, I head for The Zone. Maybe I'll see a late show there. But I desperately need to take a leak. But as I approach the toilets at The Zone, I see a small crowd gathered around one of the television sets suspended from the ceiling. It's tuned to SABC1, and it's the Commonwealth Games highlights package. So I stand for three-quarters of an hour, and watch the Namibian dude, someone-Fredericks, win the 200 metre dash. I feel proud. And I also feel paralysed from the waste down. I limp to the loo, and see the world's longest pubic hair in the urinal. Gross.


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