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.