Friday, December 12, 2003

Manhattan Grill, Cresta

Friday, December 12, 2003

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

Bonnie Pon, boss of Starburst Pyrotechnics, fireworks display king!It's eleven o'clock at night. My shoe soles are still smouldering. I have tiny splinters in my hands and arms. My eyebrows are a tad singed.

Funnily enough, Troy Bentley's suffering something similar.

And so is Bonnie Pon. But with the addition of a pressure bandage round his ankle from when he fell in the hole.

Bonnie is the head of the Pon family, the dudes responsible for many of the night-sky fireworks spectaculars you see in South Africa. They go all over the place, and they've got state-of-the-art equipment. This year they've synchronised their explosions to the music by using an amazing computer program linked to various detonators. These people are WAY up there on the technological wizardry scale.

So lemme start at the beginning of the evening, before the burning started.

I'm in Bookdealers of Rosebank, trying to find some suitable new screenwriting books. Or sketching sourcebooks. Or anything that a compulsive book-buyer might want, really. Jacqui is off at the Hoogland Hydro for five days of pampering, and I'm killing time till tomorrow, when Damon and I will recommence work on writing our B-movie horror screenplay.

Margaret Pon, Bonnie's wife. She looks a whole lot better in real life than in my drawing. And I'm not just saying this cos they bought me supper. It's cos it's true!My phone rings. It's Troy Bentley, Damon's cousin. "Get your butt to Cresta," he says. "Fireworks starts in half an hour!" I discuss where to find him, and skedaddle, after only buying one book, something on how to structure corporate social investment programs.

The traffic is crazy. Getting to my flat just across the way from Cresta Shopping Centre is sheer mania. But hey. Fireworks! I park. Walk to Cresta and find Troy.

Every year, he helps the Pons out with setting up, monitoring, and packing up the show. Last year he also invited me, and I ended up helping load the trucks at the end. Hard, dirty work.

Tonight, I'm early, and Troy is on fire duty. He's got a team of six guys, and they've all got fire beaters. That's cos Cresta borders a nature reserve and office park, and noone wants a fire now, do they? Specially not me.

So the show starts. And it's absolutely unbelievably mindnumbingly wonderful to be allowed into the restricted zone, and see the fireworks from below. To feel the vicious thud of the big rockets as they smash out of their metre-long plastic launchers 300 metres up into the air. To smell the spent gunpowder as it pelts down like hail. Yeah! This is the life.

And all's going perfectly well, really. Until the very last minute of the 21-minute show. That's when the corkscrewy sorta sperm-like explosions happen, with the white flames showering down under power. Carried by the wind. To the ground. Into the dry grass.

So of course, no fewer than three fires start. And Troy and his men are gone, sprinting into the dark. So I figure that a bit of heroism is a good thing on a Friday night. I go sprinting after them.

Theresa Pon, one of Bonnie's daughters. Yummie.And boy, do I find out just how difficult it is to fight fires on a dark night in marshland with thorn trees? From about 8pm till 11pm when we finally get into the restaurant, we all battle the blazes manfully.

Troy and I team up, working as a pair, beating the advancing fires against the wind. Of the six fire beaters employed to do this job, only one guy is effective. The other five kinda hang back, superstitiously warding off the flames with broken branches held over their eyes.

So it's basically me, Troy, Bonnie, and the tall dude, whose name I don't know. We put out three goddamn fires all on our lonesomes.

Except Bonnie walks to some reeds and then disappears. A calm yelp from him, and he re-emerges a minute or so later. He's fallen into a human-sized hole, and his ankle is wrecked. He limps back to the real world.

There's a romance involved in firefighting. I'm sure it's one of those esoteric things that only firefighters know, and that noone can know unless they've been there. It's this... the grass sings like a billion serpents all writhing in a high-pitched orchestra-tuning pit. And the singing is tangible... it feels like there's something like razor-wire just below the surface of the grass, ready to uncoil and slice your legs off. Scary as all hell, but beautiful.

At some point, the wind changes, and starts blowing towards us. I've been going to gym, but not enough. I'm winded. I'm thirsty. I'm scared that I might be hallucinating. I hand my fire-beater to one of the five branch-wielders, and fall back. I see some torches on the horizon, and I head for them. They turn into red revolving lights. It's the firebrigade.

I stumble up to the truck, feeling as though I'm about to pass out. "Please can I have some water?" I say to the driver.

"Eva Pon, married to one of Bonnie's sons. She and Theresa definitely pushed the babe count into the four figures.Sure," he says. Climbs out of this monster truck, heads to one of the vast taps on the side of it, checks the valve number, and lets rip. I can report that I'm the only person I know who has drunk straight from the mouth of a fire engine. And the water is hot. But that doesn't stop me from drinking around two or three litres of the stuff.

Sated, I head back to the front. The fire truck can't navigate the marshes, so they're driving around to meet us at the road.

Troy and his guys are already at the fence. The fires are out. "Hey!" I shout, and he flashes his torch at me. I've got this tiny Maglite, the smallest one, but it allows him to locate me.

I see red flicking lights again as I draw closer. Troy says, "Hey! Hang on! There's two more of us here! Whoah!!!" The truck drives off without us. We walk back to Cresta, about a kilometre.

We find Bonnie overseeing the loading of the trucks. He's sitting awkwardly. He gives us two bottles of mineral water each, which we down in seconds. "How's your leg?" I say.

"Sore," he says. He drives a Merc, so I ask Margaret, his wife, to let me hunt for the first aid kit. I find it, find a pressure bandage, and draw on my three months of Boy Scout knowledge to fashion a pretty neat immobilising wrap round his ankle. He'll need help in the morning, but it's not broken, since he can voluntarily move his toes, and a light finger touch to the skin doesn't make him strike dragons or un-crouch tigers.

And then it's off to supper. With about 16 members of the Pon family. The service isn't diabolical. Just ultra slow. We've been saving the world, and it takes the kitchen staff till midnight to get our order out.

And of course, it has to happen. Bonnie orders his meat rare, and it comes out well done. Seems as though his steak got caught in the fire.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Jacqui's Flat, Fourways

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

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

Oh, shame! Poor Jacqui! She's sick in bed with flu, and I'm upstairs in the loft playing with my iPAQ 2210 palmtop computer.

I've just taken delivery of a Stowaway XT folding keyboard that is nothing short of miraculous. The absence of the keyboard is one of the reasons it's taken me so long to actually update this site.

IJacqui lying in bed. This is drawn directly into my iPAQ, using the stylus as my pen and brush. The package I'm using saves things in BMP format, so I have to convert them to JPG on my desktop computer. As soon as I get an onboard conversion program, I'll start posting these sketches more often.n fact, one of the reasons I'm doing up in the loft -- instead of downstairs, close to Jacqui -- is that the cellphone reception is way better up here. I've sorted out my GPRS connection to the internet, so I'm able to surf to my heart's content up here. Using a bluetooth connection.

Which basically means that I'm finally happy with my Nokia 6310i, a phone which steadfastly refused to connect with my previous palmtop, my trusty Psion 5MX.

So what can I tell you? Tons really. I'll start with the food. Not great. Just a few arbitrary things in Jacqui's fridge. Such as a Tupperware container filled with long green tendrils attached to the remnants of some extra-mature cheddar. And some Primi Piatti gnocchi from a few nights ago.

Babe count is great, cos even though Jacqui's been nailed by the flu, she looks lovely lying there in her sweatsoaked white nightie.

As for the service, it HAS to be great. After all, I'm the one doing the serving! And I'm the model of a caring boyfriend. I've told her that if she's too enfeebled by the flu to call loudly enough for me to hear, she must phone me on my cell.

On the work front, I'm mightily happy to report that I'm finally leaving SABC3, after three very productive years. I've made about 900 promos, learned to edit on the Avid (I've been editing all of my promos for the last year), and logged hundreds of hours of audio post-production and sound design. I've also helped make several dubious shows into stars. Like BUDDY FARO. But that's another story.

Right now, I'm looking forward to an easy and slow start to the year. I kinda feel the need for a bit of relaxation before blasting into the bunch of things lined up. One of these might involve me running a screenwriting workshop in Nairobi. Another might see me creating educational television for Ethiopean schoolkids.

One thing I'll definitely be doing more of in 2004 is voice-over work. My showreel is ready, and I'm just waiting for a custom gimmick to arrive from an American online gadget shop and I'll be ready to carpet bomb the ad industry. Keep your ears peeled. You'll be hearing my voice a lot in the future.

And before I log off to go check on my delicious love-bunny downstairs, I'll just mention that my art will be notching up to a new level next year too. I'll be paying quite a lot of attention to getting my stuff into galleries. I haven't got much to show you right now, but that's not for lack of work. My scanner's a bit on the messed side at the moment, and the artworks I'm producing on this iPAQ are in BMP format, and I don't yet have a converter. As soon as I find one, I'll pop them on for you to see my new direction. And it involves colour.

Thanks for sticking with the site and reading my stuff. I wish you an incredibly rich festive season. And a superb 2004. I'll update things more often from now on, so hopefully I'll see you before the end of this year.

Right now, I'm off to go look at Jacqui's clinging wet white nightie. Sigh. Fever can be a wonderful thing.

Blue skies, love, Roy