Friday, August 16, 2002

Seattle Coffee Company, Cresta

Friday, August 16, 2002

I've just been to Exclusive Books next door and bought my very own copy of the AA's HOTELS, LODGES, GUEST HOUSES, B&Bs, and I'm standing in the queue for coffee. It's not the longest queue in the world. But it's one with impact.

That's because it contains three female redheads, one male redhead, and one brunette. Two of the female redheads are around eight years old, and they have similar dresses on. They could be twins. But I'm not looking at them.

I'm also not looking too hard at what must be their mother and father, though, from the corner of my eye, I can see a certain resemblance in the set of the jaws, and the way their shoulders slope.

The brunette. She's much prettier than this sketch suggests. But hey. I've always found it hard to get likenesses when I'm drawing someone I'm attracted to. I'm looking at the brunette. She's with them. But doesn't look anything like them. And it's a puzzling arrangement. The mom and dad are in their early forties. The brunette is around 24. She's highly tailored, in a slick pair of black slacks, stylish boots, a creme jacket, and something sheeny-shiny underneath. The rest of the family are Mcullough & Bothwell casual. Big bucks, but serenely so.

I recognise their style. They can only be from Germiston. A kind of small town friendliness, an air of naivety.

The mom asks me what coffees we have.

"I don't really know," I say.

"Oh! Don't you work here?"

It's easy to see how she might think I work at Seattle Coffee Company. I'm dressed all in black today, right down to the underpants, right up to the spectacle frames and black cap. That's because it's the 25th anniversary of the supposed death of Elvis Presley. (I say "supposed" because it's a well known fact that he actually died of an Oreo Chocolate Biscuit overdose in a Seven-Eleven in Texas three years ago, and a bunch of Japanese tourists mistook him for a mound of Ben & Jerry's icecream and ate him, leaving behind a gold medallion and a pair of blue terry-towelling slippers.)

And the reason I'm mourning for Elvis? Because Lorraine at SABC2 sent an email around to selected colleagues threatening death and castration and some really horrible things if we DIDN'T wear black today.

The dad says, "Haha! Look -- he's carrying a bag of books. You don't work here!"

He then goes on to tell me that he discovered a brilliant second hand bookshop in Rosebank. He describes the locale, and I tell him, "Bookdealers of Rosebank." I know, because it's one of the best bookshops in the world. And I design their plastic bags.

And all I'm trying to do is work out what his relationship is with the brunette. Is he seeing her, and out with his ex-wife and kids? Is she some kind of seriously overpaid au paire? Is she a colleague? Is this one of those heterosexual male fantasies involving two women?

I'm also trying to keep making eye contact with her. She keeps smiling at me all the way through the dad's explanations about the bookshop, and how he collects Africana. "There's one shelf in my study," he tells me earnestly, while we're all waiting for his daughters to make up their minds about what they're going to drink, "that's insured for R47 000!" He looks impressed.

I'm not all that impressed. Because a couple of years ago an insurance type came to my place to make sure that I'd valued my goods properly. When she left, I was reeling. My business books, creativity books, film books, and advertising books would have had to be insured for R80 000. The poetry, novels and literary theory books didn't interest them.

I told them to forget it, and cancelled my policy. I would have valued my collection at well over a billion. Not rands. Dollars.

Look, I know I have vaguely obsessive tendencies, but I've read almost everything I own, and I love what books contain. And they have a great effect on people. My ex-girlfriend's five-year-old nephew once walked into my flat and raised his arms in wonder. "Roy!" he said, "You live in a library!!!"

The redhead mom, in the meantime, is dimpling as she smiles at me. "Can you recommend any of the cakes?"

"Oh yeah!" I say. "That --" I point to the Venetian Cheese Cake, "-- hurts!"

"So it's good?"

"Yup. It's what I'm having."

"I'm a tax specialist," says the guy. I suspect it's connected to some or other post-rationalisation he's been making about why he collects Africana. "But I also just love Africana," he appends. "You learn so much."

At the end of a very pleasant ten minutes in the queue caused solely by one family and a brunette, I get to order my Harmless Grande Latte and slice of Venetian Cheese Cake. I sit.

They're seated one table away from me. The brunette keeps looking at me. And I keep seeing how our children will have cute little upturned noses, and they'll be gorgeous-looking, intelligent brunettes, who'll all turn out to be filmmakers obsessed with self-promotion and books.

And I still have no idea who's connected to whom.

After drawing for a while, and looking through my B&B book to try and find a suitable place for me to spend next week working on completing my screenplay, I briefly consider firing Tax Relax. It's not because they're doing nothing for me -- which, as it happens, they're not, and I really MUST fire them. It's because firing them will allow me to get intimate with this dude, see his Africana collection, talk more about bookshops. And at some point, I could pop the question: "Who's the brunette, and is she single?"

But I'll stick with Tax Relax for the meantime, and dream about the brunette fiddling my books while I'm in Groot Marico.

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