Sunday, December 15, 2002

Al's Gourmet Chicken, Greenside

Sunday, December 15, 2002

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, December 14, 2002

Fournos, Dunkeld

Saturday, December 14, 2002

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, December 11, 2002

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

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, December 10, 2002

Koeksuster Stand, Gold Reef City

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

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, December 01, 2002

Grand Cafe, Rosebank

Sunday, December 01, 2002

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, November 27, 2002

Panarotti's, Cresta

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

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, November 16, 2002

Cafe TriBeCa, Rosebank

Saturday, November 16, 2002

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, November 03, 2002

Mezza Luna, Melville

Sunday, November 03, 2002

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, October 30, 2002

Mugg & Bean, Sandton City

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

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, October 26, 2002

Espresso, Parkhurst

Saturday, October 26, 2002

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.)


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, October 24, 2002

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

Thursday, October 24, 2002

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, October 16, 2002

Codes, The Zone, Rosebank

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

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, October 14, 2002

The Adventure Zone, Norwood

Monday, October 14, 2002

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, October 09, 2002

My Flat, Cresta

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

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, September 13, 2002

Doug's Donuts, Cresta

Friday, September 13, 2002

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, September 12, 2002

Doppio Zero, Greenside

Thursday, September 12, 2002

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, September 11, 2002

My Flat, Cresta

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

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, September 04, 2002

Grande Cafe, Rosebank Mall

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

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.

Europa, Parkhurst

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

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, September 03, 2002

Wiesenhof, Cresta

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

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.


"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?"


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, September 02, 2002

Wimpy, Campus Square, Melville

Monday, September 02, 2002

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, September 01, 2002

Primi Piatti, Rosebank Zone

Sunday, September 01, 2002

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, August 31, 2002

Grande Cafe, Rosebank

Saturday, August 31, 2002

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, August 29, 2002

The Blues Room, Village Walk, Sandton

Thursday, August 29, 2002

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, August 28, 2002

Seattle Coffee Company, Cresta

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

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, August 27, 2002

Wiesenhof, Cresta

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

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, August 26, 2002

Europa, Norwood

Monday, August 26, 2002

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, August 24, 2002

Mugg & Bean, Eastgate

Saturday, August 24, 2002

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.