Thursday, July 15, 2004
Service: * * * *
Food: * * 1/2
Babe Count: *
Phone: +27 11 402 7709
Something I learned from getting food poisoning three times from Ba Pita in Yeoville, back in the day, when I used to live there: If the tomato sauce bottle kinda burps and puffs a cloud of rancid gas at you when you open the lid, rather don't use the tomato sauce. This is a fundamental rule.
I've ordered the Galinha Trinchada, which is a whole baby chicken, roasted, cut up into pieces, and served with potato chips. And I'm thinking about Karen, and what Zahava said in therapy earlier today.
But before I mention Karen or the food, let me explain why I'm here.
There are two reasons.
The most important one is that Lionel Murcott's car got broken into when it was parked outside the Spaza Gallery two Thursdays ago at portrait circle, and it's been recommended that we park down the road here at the Troyeville Hotel. So I've parked my car under the watchful eye of Thulani, the hotel's resident car guard. I'm eating a meal here because I don't want Thulani to get into trouble. Apparently, he gets fined R100 (on a monthly salary of R800) for every car that doesn't belong to a guest of the hotel or restaurant. Maybe it's a story intended to elicit sympathy, but that's okay. I'm game for anything.
The second reason I'm here is that Wolf Weinek, owner of Antiquarian Books in Melville, and one of the authentic patrons of the arts in this city, recommends this place. Comes here every Sunday, he says. Loves the place. Excellent Portuguese cuisine. So I'm here cos he digs the spot.
Right. The food. The chips are... uh... lets just say... greasy. Nah. Let's call a spade a spade. The chips on my plate are about to be annexed by the George Bush regime where oil wells will be sunk and minor despots deposed. They're not edible.
But I try anyway. "May I have some tomato sauce please, Promise?" (My waitress's name is Promise. She speaks Portuguese to one of the patrons, a ropy specimen with gnarled tendons.)
She brings it, walks away. I open it. PHUFF! says the lid. I close it immediately. I obey my own rules.
I eat a few chips. Then focus in on the chicken. It's delicious. I'm eating with my hands, and I'm reading Michael Chabon's ultra irritating book, WONDER BOYS. What a crap book. I have no idea why I'm putting myself through it. Been reading it for the past three weeks. Heavy going. Luckily I've got about eight other books I'm reading simultaneously. But not tonight. Tonight it's chicken and a bad read.
But I can't concentrate on this idiotic book. I've got more important things to think about. When I told Zahava about Karen being into Mastery & Submission, and about my being mightily attracted to her, she said, "Go for it!" Which is bringing up all sorts of feelings in me. One of them being, 'What do I say to all the other women I've been chatting to on the dating service??' This is an example of my long devotion to serial monogamy. In my mind, I'm already dating Karen, running before I can walk, and hence have to NOT see any of the other women. But this is rubbish. This is all just so preliminary. And who knows? I may not be turned on my the Mastery stuff. But I MAY.
So how on earth do I navigate this?? (Karen, uh, if you're reading this, uhm... I COMMMMMMAND you to ignore this display of vulnerability, okay! Hmmm. That felt good. Lemme try that with more attitide... I COMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMANNNNNNDDDDDDDD YOU!!!!" Yeah. That'll do.)
As for the other women who may be reading this... Uhm... uh... I politely request that you be patient with me as I explore myself more fully. And please know that I'm dating cos I'd like to get to know the person, so I can decide and choose whether or not to have a relationship. I'm trying to not indulge my old habit of falling head over heels before I am ready.
As I finish my chicken, Promise arrives with a finger bowl. That's observant. Very proactive. It's a large silver bowl filled with steaming hot water and a quarter lemon. She walks away with the remnants of my meal. "Promise," I call.
She comes back. "May I have a spoon for my soup?" I say.
She smiles. Does a fake laugh.
She's probably heard that one at least a thousand times in this dive.
I'm debating whether or not to have tea when in walks Wolf Weinek with his wife. He introduces me, but her name washes straight out of my ears and settles in my beret. "What brings you here?" he says. (He's Austrian, so what he says is more like, "Vot brinks yu ear?")
"I'm part of Lionel Murcott's portrait circle," I say, "up at Drew Lindsay's gallery down the road."
"Fantastic," he says. His son is one of South Africa's hottest visual artists... Robert Weinek, originator of the now defunct Bob's Bar in Troyeville.
I whip out my little portfolio album, the one I use to store the photo printouts of my digital artworks. I hand it to him.
"I'll sit there," he says. "I won't interrupt you." He takes the album and sits with his wife. I order tea, which arrives as a tea cup with a teabag in it. No pot. No nothing. Eish. Classy joint, this. Wolf and his wife oodle over my doodles while I drink.
Wolf brings the portfolio back. "Excellent," he says. "You really should try working bigger."
"So how're you doing, Wolf?"
"As good as can be expected from someone being treated for cancer," he says.
Ka-tching. Jaw hitting floor. "What??" I say.
"Oh, just prostate cancer," he says. "I've been on the radiation therapy. Side effects. But I'm all right. I hear from the doctor tomorrow if it's been a success."
"Jesus, Wolf. Get better, man."
"What can one do?" he says. Shrugs. Rubs his shaggy beard. Goes back to his wife.
I call for Tony, the manager. "Hi Tony," I say, when he arrives. He's a hard case. Tall, lanky, muscled, scarred. Don't fuck with Tony. That's clear. "I'm just finding out if it's cool to leave my car in the parking lot for an hour or two tonight? I'm part of the portrait circle down the road, at Drew Lindsay's place, and he said it was all right to park here. Just checking with you. I don't want your security guard to get into trouble cos of my car," I say. I deliberately keep the request in one breath, cos I don't want him to interrupt me.
"No problem," he says, after a long pause. "How long you gonna be?"
"About two hours."
Wolf's food arrives just as I'm packing up to leave. Promise comes and takes the tomato sauce bottle off my table, and puts it on Wolf's. He raises it to me in a salute, smiles, and opens the lid.
I haven't got the heart to tell him about my fundamental rule. And heck... he's undergoing radiation therapy. How bad can some rancid tomato sauce be?