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.