Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Mike's Kitchen, Parktown

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

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

I've ordered the linefish of the day. Yellowtail. With rice. Oddly enough, so has Lionel Murcott. As has Roger Ballen.

We've all got notepads and pens in front of us, and we're scribbling away furiously as ideas come to us.

Roger Ballen is the renowned photographer responsible for the notorious book, PLATTELAND. It's notorious because it shows photos of inbred mutants, and a whole bunch of people have taken exception to these photos, accusing Roger of exploiting them.

It's not easy making a judgement call about this subject. Least of all by me. (Seeing as one or two people have already accused me of being exploitative in my depictions of the people I come across on this website.) But for my money, Roger's making high art, and the fact that people freak out about it is an indication of the power of his material.

We've just arrived at the restaurant after looking through a wad of new photographs Roger's been working on for the past two or so years. He's bringing out a new book, and the three of us are brainstorming a name for it.

His work has progressed over the years. He started off showing exteriors, weird worlds with no people in them. Then he went inside the homes of these people, and showed them in all their gory detail. Mutants. Hectic people, barely human, but exuding a warped and real humanity. Now he's looking at the traces these people leave on the walls of their rooms. The people are almost entirely absent from many of the photos. In one or two of them, you'll see the fingers curled up over the edge of a table while the person hides beneath. All you can see are the gnarled fingers. And that's only if you look hard, cos you'll probably be seeing the pigeon chained to the table, and the weird, naive artworks scribbled on the walls.

The food comes just as we hit a brick wall.

We eat. Lionel and Roger enjoy their fish, eating every last morsel on the plate. My fish tastes like it came out of a slime dam. It's inedible. I take three mouthfuls, then turn in despair to the rice. There's just enough of that to cover the edge of my hunger, and I've got some Woolworth's pre-prepared meals in my freezer now, so I can eat when I get home.

I can't reveal the name of the book, but we cracked it. It's one of those one-word titles that cracks you between the eyes when you see it, capturing the world Roger has sealed in his camera. As soon as Roger mumbles the word, Lionel and I jolt upright.

"That's the one!" I say.

"That's it!" says Lionel.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Piatto Mediterranean Kitchen, Cresta

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *
Phone: +27 11 478 1161

Oooooooooooooo! There's a blonde, early thirties, long long hair, thrilling smile, sitting across from me. She's with an old dude, in his mid or late seventies. Father? Sugar daddy?

I've just GOT to draw her.

Zap out the palmtop, and start sketching. She notices me almost immediately, which is really rare. Most people are oblivious.

It's not exactly obvious what I'm doing, since most people haven't experienced a dude in a beret staring at them for long seconds then glancing down at an electronic gizmo in his hand then scratching at the screen with a stylus. Most people wouldn't have a clue they're being drawn. In fact, it's a pretty good bet they'd think the dude in the beret was a psycho and ought to be put down. The way a vet puts things down.

The blonde with no name. Oh, if only I'd asked. Sigh. Double sigh.So I make an executive decision. Once I've drawn the black layer of the picture, I turn the palmtop towards her, and show her. She looks at the screen, does a double take, looks in my eyes, then back at the screen. A broad smile.

My trout arrives. But I ignore it. I'm intent on getting all the colour done before I eat.

It must be really difficult for her, cos she keeps blushing whenever I stare for longer than ten seconds. The reason I'm looking for such long periods of time is that since I've gone for this Egon Schiele style of colouring, I'm really looking hard to see beyond the obvious. Skin isn't merely pink. It's got all sorts of other colours in it.

I finish, and turn the screen to her again. She looks for a long time, nods, smiles. Looks at the old guy.

I eat my trout. I'm halfway through when she gets up to leave with the old guy.

I pick up my palmtop, and cock an eyebrow at her. She steps up to me, and I turn it on.

"That's beautiful," she says.

And here's Mister Suave sitting here, Roy Blumenthal, the dude who reckons he has no problems with seduction. And he's completely tongue tied.

I literally don't know what to say. "Thanks," I manage. I SHOULD have said, "That's because YOU're beautiful. And I'd love to get your email address, so I can send it to you. And I'll print a copy out, and I can give it to you over coffee." Instead, all I gargle is, "Thanks."

She says, "See you around then?"

"Yeah," I say. "Uh... have a happy night." Aaaaargh!!!! What's wrong with me??? SHOULD have said, "I'd love to see you around. Shall we have coffee?"

She walks away. And how the hell am I ever going to see her again??? Eish.

This is something I've noticed in myself. If I feel attracted to someone in a non-trivial sorta way, I find it quite hard to make a move. This is exactly how it was with Jacqui. We were attracted to each other for at least three years before we made moves on each other. Ugh! And here's this blonde woman who could really be out of a dream catalogue of Babes-Made-For-Roy. And I don't even know her name!

Ah well. I'm seeing the third Harry Potter movie tonight. Maybe magic will happen.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Mugg & Bean, Rosebank

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Service: * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *
Phone: +27 11 880 5050

I've opted not to do the trance dance tonight. For the benefit of the beginners in the group, Chantal has decided to allow people not to wear blindfolds if they choose. So I'm not keen. For me, the sacred space created by the blindfolds is why I feel able to do my vision questing. It's a pity, cos Jacqui is dancing tonight, and it was really lovely seeing her before, and chatting.

But it's cool, cos there'll be other dances, when the blindfolds will be in place, and that'll be my time.

Right now, I'm in a fairly bizarre space. I've been thrust by the universe into the position of urban shaman, something that I am, but seldom practise in any formal way. Tonight, it's formal. I'm the Lurvv Doctor tonight.

One of the books I ended up buying on the Exclusive Books sale is THE BOOK OF LOVE ANSWERS by Carol Bolt. It's been on my table since I pulled my sketching equipment out of my bag.

One of the waiters spots it. "What's this all about?" he asks.

When two people are absorbed in conversation, they almost never notice that I'm drawing them. In this case, I had about twelve waiters all huddled behind me, watching as I drew, all of them pointing and laughing and commenting. And STILL she and her boyfriend didn't notice a thing. Brilliant."Think of a question about love, then open the book anywhere at random for a solution," I say. I'm busy drawing a beauty sitting three tables away. She's with a dude, and they're fascinated by each other, so she hasn't noticed me scratching away at my palmtop.

The waiter takes the book, asks a question, opens it. "Wow," he says. "Can I try again?"

"Go for it," I say.

He takes the book away and stands near the wall. I see him opening it, smiling, closing, thinking, opening, frowning, thinking, opening again, smiling. he comes back after a good ten minutes. "Wow," he says. "Excellent."

Another waiter comes and touches the book. It's got a red, felt cover, so it's very sumptuous. "Can I try?" says Evans.

"Sure," I say.

"But you must open it for me," he says.

"Okay," I say. "Have you got a question?"

"Is my girlfriend cheating on me?" he says.

I open the book at random. Each page only has one sentence on it. Something enigmatic, provocative. The line I arrive at says, 'It's not what you think.'

"The book says this," I say. "And my interpretation is that maybe there's something in you that's making you suspicious of her. What makes you think she's cheating?"

We talk and talk and talk, and I ask a good few questions, trying to get clarity. My sense is that he's feeling insecure about himself, and that he's putting that onto her. He keeps asking for more of the book, and each answer is more provocative than the next.

It's a twenty-minute conversation, with him standing beside me, my neck craning round so I can make eye contact with him every now and again. In these situations, eye contact isn't always good, cos it's fairly intimidating. And I've got very piercing eyes, so that can be disconcerting all on its own. But sometimes it's important to see someone's eyes. I want to see if I'm touching home base with this dude. I want to know that I'm on the right track.

At the end of it, he says, "This book is very good. But it's grinding me. This book is grinding me, hey?"

"Well, it's saying that there are things inside yourself that you need to look at."

"Thanks," he says.

Lebo is next in line. "Can I try?" he says. "But you must open for me also."

"What's your question?" I say.

"Well, I've been seeing this girl for three months, and she wants me to move in with her. Does she really love me? Must I move in with her?"

I open the book. 'Express yourself,' it says.

"Lebo," I say, "it seems to me that maybe you don't have enough information to make any decisions. You're having some kind of doubts. Are you guys communicating?"

He looks like someone's rammed a syringe into his heart, like John Travolta nailing Uma Thurman in PULP FICTION.

This chat's also twenty minutes. It ends with Lebo saying, "Eish, thank you, my broer. I've got some work to do with myself. This book is amazing. Amazing. An amazing thing. I'm going to do this work with myself. Thank you."

Phshew. That's vastly cool for me. I've contributed to the lives of two dudes tonight.

I think about Jacqui, and open the book. 'Be ready.'

And two minutes later my phone beeps me with an sms. It's Jacqui. She's finished the trance dance, and wants me to know that it was great that I was there in the beginning, and that she hopes I wasn't too disappointed that I didn't dance. She tells me that it was a brilliant dance for her. I sms her to tell her that I've just had these two counselling sessions. She smss me back to say that I'm the Lurvv Doctor.

Well, I'm ready, dammit.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Seattle Coffee Co, Hyde Park

Friday, June 25, 2004

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

Mandy and I meet over lunchtime for a fantastically expensive sandwich and some super coffee. One thing I don't enjoy about Seattle is the price of the food. It's about fifteen bucks for a sandwich which costs about eight bucks elsewhere.

I've changed my mind about the best Seattle in Joburg. I once held the opinion that the Sandton branch was best, since it's in the middle of the bookshop, with a great view from each table.

But Hyde Park must be the true winner. That's because there are many more different sources of customer in Hyde Park, besides book buyers. So, babes who like the Hyde park salons also do their coffee here. (The coffee shop adjoins Exclusive Books, so it's easy for passing trade to pop in for a cup.)

"Scuse me," says Mandy. Her cellphone's ringing. "Hullo!" she says. "Yeah. I'm at Seattle... Ye-es!... Of course!... Ya. Okay. Bye."

"Your boyfriend?" I say.


Bleep bleep. It's an sms.

She says, "Sorry," and looks at the sms. Blushes a bit. "He's so sweet."

Bleep bleep. Another sms. More blushes.

In between the three calls and fourteen smss from him, we manage to catch up on each others' lives. And then she's off, back to work.

I head for the sale tables, waiting for Damon Berry to join me.

Hmmm. A must buy: ZEN AND THE ART OF FALLING IN LOVE by Charlotte Kasl. And here's WONDER BOYS by Michael Chabon. It was made into a film, and it's by the same dude who wrote THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY, a book I've bought, but haven't gotten to yet.

There's Damon. He's been shooting a movie written and directed by one of his buddies. And there's Ian Henderson. Brilliant! Triple trouble when the three of us get together.

Back to the coffee shop.

Two older babes sit at the table beside us. My eyes are riveted to the one. She's exactly my type. Gorgeous dark hair down past her shoulders, wide, open, smiling face. Obvious intelligence behind her eyes. Confident voice. Lushly built. No wedding ring.

And because I keep monitoring her, she notices, and starts monitoring me. Not that anything comes of this sort of mutual glance thing. Sigh.

Damon regales us with war stories from his shoot. It was an intense, no-budget thang, done in eight days. A forty-minute film. Several night shoots, with only a few hours sleep before the day shoots. He pops his new digital stills camera out of his bag and shows us pics from the shoot. Looks like they had a gorgeous setting, and lovely actresses. It's a story about two dudes who meet two babes. Stuff happens, apparently. But Damon's being very cagey with the story. "You'll have to see the movie," he says.

Eventually, the babes at the next table get up. "Excuse me," I say to the one I've had my eye surgically attached to. "I just have to recommend this book to you." I smile as dazzlingly as I know how, and present her with ZEN AND THE ART OF FALLING IN LOVE. She takes it, and my hand brushes hers.

"Hmmm," she says, "Zen and the art of falling in love. Hmmm." She looks at me. Smiles. "I'll look for it now." Smiles again. Hands it back. Walks away.

Ian's eyes are wider than a Fiat Uno's hubcap. "Damon, did Roy just do what I think he did?"

"That's Roy," says Damon.

"That's completely commendable," says Ian. "Wow. I wouldn't have the courage."

"Well, where did it get me?" I say.

"Still," he says. "Wow."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Spaza Gallery, Troyeville

Thursday, June 24, 2004

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

Beaujolais. She of the Gargantuan mammaries. Yeouch! A real pleasure to draw someone as un-selfconscious as her.Drew Lindsay, owner of the Spaza Gallery, organises his Sunday lunch chefs to make soup for us on Thursday evenings for the portrait circle. We're all chafing to eat. But in the meantime, Beaujolais, our model, is freezing her breasts off for us.

The thermostat in the heater isn't working, and she's opted to go topless. So we're getting a real standout performance from her nipples.

And hey, this is one impressive woman. "All this weight," she tells us, "comes from being on a medication that replicates pregnancy. Over the last fourteen years, my body has simulated pregnancy fourteen times."

She's got quite a bloated tummy and humungoid breasts. These are the biggest breasts I've seen with my own eyes. Vast. Enormous. Hanging. Absolutely amazing to draw. And she's a natural. Not an ounce of self-consciousness. About eight artists on the floor tonight. Two of them babes. Yummy. Angie is particularly scrumptious. She's an animal healer. Learning reiki for pets.

The food arrives. Two different soups tonight. Tomato and orange in one pot, and potato and leek in the other. Both are astounding. Worth every cent of the the fifteen bucks we each pay for the privilege. Then we get back to the artmaking.

Beaujolais used to be a nursing sister in surgery. "I've worked with Chris Barnard once," she says. He's the world-famous heart surgeon who pioneered heart transplantation. "What a man!" she says. "Had an eye for the ladies, hey. You didn't want to be caught in the laundry room with him!"

House of Coffees, Park Meadows, Bedfordview

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Service: * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * 1/2
Phone: +27 11 622 3869

I'm in this part of the world cos I'm going to the portrait circle tonight, and that's at the Spaza Gallery down the road. On the way here, I phone Bianca. "Coffee before portrait group?" I ask.

"House of Coffees, across the road from Eastgate," she says.

Lightning quick sketch of Barney Edwards, to show Dennis how I actually work. "Looks like you!" Dennis says to Barney. "Impressive," says Barney.I've just spent an very enjoyable hour or two at Dennis da Silva's photographic studio. He's a master printer, and two buddies have recommended him to me. Guto Bussab, the dude I co-produced my short film with (he co-produced and directed, and I co-produced and wrote) is a photographer, and Dennis has just started printing for Guto. Roger Ballen, the world renowned photographer responsible for the amazing book, PLATTELAND, has had Dennis print every single one of his photos from the very beginning of his career about twenty-five or thirty years ago. His wife, Linda, recommended Dennis to me too.

He has some serious hardware in his studio, which allows him to print huge versions of photos in black and white or colour, onto conventional art paper. He uses the very finest archive-quality inks, which means that a print from his studio will last around 200 years, even if it's exposed to everyday light. (Most ink from an inkjet printer will last less than a month in sunlight.)

He gives me a tour of his studio, and shows me some of the images that he's printed. He's got piles of prints that aren't up to scratch. The discard pile. They're all breathtaking. Every single one of them. And these are the ones that Dennis, master-printer, has decided are below par.

And he's got top British photographer, Barney Edwards, working with him now too, so this is an art-filled operation. Dennis himself is a hot photographer. He shows me some of his pics, and frowns when I marvel at them. "I'm not an artist," he says. "I'm just a technician."

"Rubbish!" says Barney from the darkroom. "You're a photographer!"

Dennis says, "He's been working on me, trying to get me to admit it." There's only the tiniest hint of a smile under his moustache. I can see he's proud to be thought of as a big leaguer. And hell, he really should be thinking of himself like that.

This is Helen. She used to be a press photographer, and snapped one dead baby too many, and decided she needed out of journalistic work. So she's in Dennis's studio, having told him that he had no choice but to employ her.I show him my portraits, the ones I've originated on my palmtop. "I want to print these around A1 size, I tell him. "Problem is that the resolution is ULTRA low. These printouts are basically the biggest I can get them without them getting fuzzy and pixelated." (The printed images are about 5cm by 6.5cm. Tiny, in a word.)

He examines a printout of mine under a magnifying glass. "I think we can work with this," he says.

We choose two images for him to play with, and he tells me he'll have something for me to look at next week.

If we can crack this, I'll be exhibiting big versions of my work very very soon, and I may even start making real money as an artist.

Bianca arrives at the coffee shop. We'll only see each other for an hour, cos I've got to skeddadle soon. But hey. That's cool.

We both order the triple chocolate cheese cake. Yummmmmmmy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Mugg & Bean, Sandton City

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *
Phone: +27 11 883 4913

Not much is open after the play. It's not TOO late. Only about 10:30 or 11:00pm. What's wrong with these places???

So we're at Mugg & Bean, having ascertained that they're still willing to serve us coffee.

"Let's not talk about the play," says Bianca.

And she's right. We can't. One of my friends stars in it, Ashley Dowds, and his performance is good. But the play isn't. It's just lame.

Bianca says, "I can't believe it's an award winning play."

"Where??? Where did it win awards?"

"In Britain."

Basically, the play is about a psychiatric institution somewhere in Britain. A junior psychiatrist wants to commit his patient. The supervisor wants to release the patient. Turns out that the patient thinks that the orange oranges sitting in a fruit bowl are actually blue. Not just the skin, the insides too. And there's a disturbing incident in his past in which it is implied that it's possible that this nutcase has actually had sex with an orange. Shock and horror!!!


I've had sex with a cucumber before. Not just once. (This is strictly a male masturbation thing I'm revealing here. It was told to me by a good friend of mine now living in Cape Town, and I tried it, and it works. Open your mind before you read further. Right... this is what you do... you buy a cucumber of above-average girth. You take it home, cut a section about ten centimetres long. Use a teaspoon to hollow out the flesh, so you've got a cylinder. Be sure to not take out TOO much flesh. You want a fairly tight fit. Soak the hollowed out cucumber in hot water for a minute or so to heat it up to body temperature. Apply cucumber to erection and manipulate. According to my good friend in Cape Town, the inside of a cucumber is the closest vegetable simulation of the inside of a vagina known to man. I'll vouch for that.)

So what's the outrage when a psychiatric patient shags an orange??? Aside from the fact that he must be out of his mind, cos it stings, shouldn't somebody tell him to use a cucumber instead?

Ghirardellis, Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Service: * *
Food: * * 1/2
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * *
Phone: +27 11 784 2375

Bianca has called me to say, "Hey Roy, I've got free tickets from my agent to see a play called 'Blue, Orange'. Wanna come?"

Of course I do! So we're sitting at Ghirardellis, under the shadow of Nelson Mandela's statue. I've ordered the cajun chicken salad.

"Your calamari," says Bianca to the waiter, "...is it the pockets, or the rings, or the whole calamari?"

"Pockets," says the waiter. So Bianca orders it.

"I can't eat it if it's got the head attached. Uggggghhhh."

I'm going ugggggggghhhh just cos it's calamari, no matter how many heads it has. What a gross piece of foodistry. I don't get it. Tastes like the aftertaste of a fish-burp and has the texture of a discarded foreskin at a circumcision party.

But thankfully, Ghirardellis has some stuff to recommend it. The foreign babes, for one. They're everywhere, speaking to each other in their seductive accents. Wearing their monumentally expensive designer garb.

And Bianca's with me. Which is delightful, since she's gorgeous.

De La Creme Patisserie, Melville

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

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

A fine woman. Until she got joined by her boyfriend. A really ugly thuggish looking dude. What's with babes??? Why do they go for the gorillas??? Maybe I should start looking like a gorilla.I'm fractionally earlier than Jan for our 4pm meeting in De La Creme. Nick, the baker, makes the most astounding chocolate cake I've encountered. If you like creamy chocolate excess, the ganaz is an essential life experience. Get yourself to Melville and try it.

Someone presses his hand against the window. It's Jan. He's on his cellphone outside the restaurant, letting me know he's arrived.

I met him through a friend of Jacqui's some time ago. He's a business broker, maverick, crazy man. A bit like me, actually. He'll be heading to China near the end of the year for three months, half on holiday, and half on business.

We're meeting cos one of the things I do is troubleshoot. That's what I did mainly on the Ethiopian project. When I was called in, the Chemistry team was in disarray, and my gig was to get rid of the bad elements, so to speak, and get a good team going. My talents in producing are in structuring. I'm not particularly keen on actual hands on implementation.

So Jan and I are chatting about the possibility of doing some business together. No details, I'm afraid. But I'm excited. He's excited. And we're both members of each others' fan clubs. So hey. Lets see what happens.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Sophia's, Rosebank

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Service: * * *
Food: * * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * *
Phone: +27 11 880 7356

I meet Ian Henderson in the Rosebank Mall.

"You keen on oxtail?" I ask him.

"Nah, not particularly," he says. His girlfriend is about to move to Cape Town, so he's got some decisions to make. Some rock star decisions, since that's what he is. "But if someone served it to me at home, I wouldn't reject it," he says.

"Okay. Well, if you don't mind, I've gotta get oxtail tonight. And Sophia's might have some. The dude told me he'd be buying ingredients this morning."

So we're at the reception of Sophia's.

"Before we sit down," I say, "I just need to find out... do you have oxtail yet?"

Somewhere between Sophia's and Cafe Nicole, I was also at Mugg & Bean in Rosebank. So I practised my new Egon Schiele style by rendering an attractive woman in weird and wonderful colours, leaving an image that would probably haunt her boyfriend if he'd seen it.The chef pops his head round a door. "Welcome!" he says. It's the dude I spoke to last night. He gives me two thumbs up. "I've got your oxtail!" he says. I shake his hand.

"I don't know your name," I say. "I'm Roy."

"Andrea," he says, and shows us to a table, the only table free in the non-smoking section.

Ian and I sit, and a waiter arrives to take our order. He says, "Two oxtail stews?"

"Nope, Moses," I say. "Only one. For me."

Ian orders the fettucine Vitello, which has strips of veal in a creamy sauce.

We talk. "Basically," says Ian, "I'm gonna spend half my time in Joburg, and half in Cape Town. The real dilemma is whether I should have a Joburg-based band or a Cape Town one."

"I've got a guitarist buddy who's probably ready to join a band," I say. I'm thinking of Marc Pienaar, former leader of the alternative cult band, Elegant Chaos. Like Ian, he also hails from Durban. His most recent band was Acoustic Kitchen with Cliff Armstrong. Both Cliff and Marc are guitarists extraordinaire.

"Can he play funk?" asks Ian.

"Hmmm. I dunno. Best if you guys contact each other." I pause. "Please tell me you're NOT going to start sounding like Jamiroquai. Please please please."

"What's wrong with funk???"

The oxtail stew thankfully arrives. And yes yes yes. It's rock and roll. Nothing feeble like funk. Andrea is a maestro, and he gets my highest recommendation. And Ian enjoys his Vitello too.

Cafe Nicole, Cresta

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Service: * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * 1/2
Phone: +27 11 476 4909

When I come across a decent burger, I feel its my duty to inform the world.

While the ambience at Cafe Nicole is fairly extensively shocking, due to it being in the passage between Woolworths and Stuttafords in Cresta Centre, my cheese burger, well done please, with the insides of the roll toasted, is perfect.

The babe count would be very high, if only all the serene women on their way between Woolworths and Stuttafords would actually sit down. So the view is good, but fleeting.

A black haired heartsmasher grinds past on her way to Stuttafords. A forkfull of burger pauses halfway between plate and mouth. Wow. Dyed hair. Around 25. A delight.

Six minutes later, she's finished her shopping. She pauses at a window within grabbing distance of me. I try and exercise my psychic power. "Sit down," I say, in my mind. "Siiiiiiiit down." She half turns, almost looks at me. My powers are strong. "Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit downnnnn nowwww!" I think. She walks away. Damn.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Sophia's, Rosebank

Monday, June 21, 2004

Service: * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * *
Phone: +27 11 880 7356

This is my copy of a portrait of the painter, Max Oppenheimer, originally done by Egon Schiele. Eran's brother, Amichai, recommended that I look at Schiele's use of line. So I headed off to Exclusive Books in Hyde Park, and copied this onto my palmtop. What a breakthrough use of colour for me!!!I've got a sudden craving for oxtail stew. Can't explain it. It hits me every now and again.

There are two places I can recommend for it. The Questionmark in Melville, and Pizza Pronto in Sandton. A runner up is Scala in Melville, which makes a superb oxtail soup.

Tonight, I don't feel like being in Melville. Both Scala and Questionmark are too smokey for me, and I've got a cold, and I'm just a tiny bit grumpy.

And I've kinda been boycotting Pizza Pronto for the last year or so cos of a pricing surprise I got once. It's the venue for the backgammon club's summer matches, and it's just way too expensive when the regulars like us have to pay full price on a Monday night. But that's my quibble, and the food is absolutely worth every cent, so do go there. And tell Rob I sentcha. I forgive him.

So here I am in Sophia's, which I suspect DOESN'T do oxtail. But the pasta is out of this world, and my favourite dish lives here... a broccoli and cheese sauce over pumpkin filled pasta. Oh man. Deliciousness.

"Hullo!" says the chef.

I don't recall his name, and I'm not feeling too chatty tonight, so I stick to the basics. "Hello!" I greet back. Then, "You don't by any chance have any oxtail stew on the menu tonight, do you?"

"I'm buying oxtail tomorrow," he says. "If you come on Wednesday, we'll have it ready for you."

"How long will it stay on the menu?"

"A few days," he says. "And I've sourced the perfect oxtail. I grew up on a farm in Cyprus," he says. "So I know when to buy. Winter is perfect. The animals all eat well, they're nice and fat, and the meat is realllllly tender. Oxtail you shouldn't really buy in the summer. It's very tough then."

"You'll see me soon for oxtail then," I say, and order the gorgonzola gnocchi. Cos their gnocchi is light and fluffy.

I've been in hermit mode for a little while, but here's a basic update.

First things first... I'm proud to be named in FAIR LADY magazine as one of "Ten Contemporary South African Poets Worth Reading". The article is by Gus Silber. Check out page 66 of the July 2004 edition. Yay!!!! Fame at last!

I finished my gig at Memar, the Ethiopian educational tv project I was producing for. Ended my stint there on the 11th of June. But not before going into a nice bit of heavy debt by purchasing a high-end digital video camera from Peter Prukl, one of my producer colleagues. He was selling. And I need a camera. I wanna start making little movies. A perfect match. It's a Sony VX1000, the first prosumer 3-chip camera. It's a little old, but it suits my needs, and I can make my money back on it by producing one or two corporate videos. Bingo.

Last Wednesday, Jacqui and I had our farewell picnic at Emmerentia Lake. She apologised for the hectic email she sent me, and we had a really tender, respectful discussion about why she has decided that we can't be an item.

Haven't quite mastered Schiele's colour or line here. But I thought a self-portrait might be a good exercise. I kinda messed it up at the last moment by working the black layer too much. So the black lines are too thick and dense. But hey. It feels right. The mood is close to what I was feeling this morning when I drew it.I've spent the last three months, since the breakup, thinking that maybe with time she'll realise that I AM the dude for her. And I've not believed that her reasons were right. After three months though, during which she's delved deeply into herself, she honestly believes that I'm not right for her, and I am now able to hear that.

So, tough as it is, I've been able to say goodbye, and allow myself to move on. She says she's also been holding on, and that she's needed a specific "let-go" date, something she can write in her diary as the day we said goodbye.

I wish her peace and love and joy, and I hope she meets someone who she CAN be with. She's beautiful, and she deserves the best.

One of the things we talked about really blew my mind.

The thing that's been hardest for me about the breakup is that I met someone who I felt "at home" with. This is the first time in my life I've experienced that feeling. "At home."

Difficult to explain. But basically, I'm a dude who kinda hoisted myself up by my own bootstraps. Seriously disturbed family life, and I dissociated from my parents when I was around five years old. From that moment on, I "brought myself up". The inverted commas are there to signify that the process was flawed. When someone "brings themselves up", they're essentially taking over responsibility for their parenting. I became my own mother and father, and, consequently, don't have any benchmarks in my life for unconditional love.

So, when Jacqui came along, I felt that. For the first time in my life, here was someone who loved me completely. Still does. But, for whatever reasons, can't be my lover.

My confusion and pain has been centred around this question... "If Jacqui can't be with me, does this mean she was lying to herself and therefore to me about her love for me? Is the entire relationship invalidated because of her need to end it?"

"Roy," says Jacqui, sitting on the long strip of black cloth I brought for the picnic. She's wrapped in my fluffy blanket from my bed, one we've made love on many times. I'm wrapped in the smaller fluffy blanket, one that we haven't made love on. "I wasn't lying to you. I DO love you. And I DID love you, throughout. Think of it as a temporary thing. This didn't last forever. But it doesn't mean it wasn't real." She pauses. "Now you HAVE that benchmark. You have a reference point for what it feels like to know complete love."

This is Adam Botha. He's chatted to me before in a coffee shop in response to seeing me sketching. The other night he spotted me sitting in Europa in Rosebank, and joined me. We connected really nicely, and I'm certain we're gonna be buddies. What a fine chap. And he's a designer. Turns out we worked at the same place. He must have joined Hunt Lascaris FMC about a month after I left. Wow. He has a t-shirt which says, "I survived Jenny Groenewald!" I wish I had that. She was the worst boss I've ever worked for. What a witch. This drawing is my first attempt at using Egon Schiele's colour brilliance.Which is remarkable. Because that is precisely what I have. I'm gutwrenched to have lost her, though. And I still do hope that one day she'll have sorted her stuff out, and will find herself drawn to me. And I hope I'll be single when that happens. Cos this is a woman I would love to be with forever.

In the meantime, I hope she has sex with some useless lovers, ones who REALLY have no idea what they're doing in the sack. I'd LOVE her to feel the difference between me and some others. But ultimately, I want her to find someone who CAN satisfy her in every way possible.

And you know what? I want a woman like that for myself.

I'm still dating Bianca, but it's early days, and both she and I have come out of intense relationships, so we're both uncertain. Maybe we're just waystations for each other.

Ah well. One day at a time.

Now... if you know of any suitable babes for me, lemme know, okay? Non-smoker, non-drinker, non-drug-user. Single. Available. Committed to self-growth. Gorgeous. Sexy. Sexual. Someone who loves communicating. In therapy. Zany. Embracing of the unusual. Kid-free. Someone who lives about five minutes drive from me. Emotionally available. Arty. Independent. No particular age.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

My flat, Cresta

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Service: *
Food: * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: N/A

Troy Bentley and I are eating leftover Nik Naks from last night's movie party. I'm moping. Tonight's a very very very sore night for me. It's the one-year anniversary of my relationship with Jacqui, if we'd stuck it out.

She sent me an email earlier telling me that even though it's over between us, she wants me to know that she'll be celebrating one year of loving me, and that she still does. Oh man. This is so sore.

I sent her an sms back saying that I'm very angry with her. I'm angry with her for cheating me out of being with the love of my life, herself. I tell her in the sms that she cheated us out of a relationship because she lacked the courage to tell me the things that she needed to tell me, that her not telling me those things made it impossible for me to know that things needed to change.

She sent me one back saying:

"I think I feel some of that same anger towards myself too. I robbed myself too."

I sent her a reply saying that it's not too late, that even though her email blew my mind, and has succeeded in turning me away from pursuing her, we may still be able to try and make it work one day.

She didn't reply.

So Troy's here to offer support, and sorta keep me on an even keel. Thanks Troy.

I was supposed to be at my portrait circle tonight, but I just couldn't face it. Lionel Abrahams's death has me rattled. Jacqui's sms hurts like hell. And it's full moon on top of it all, and I respond very strongly to both new and full moon. It amplifies whatever mood I'm in.

Right now I'm down down down, even though I show a brave face at work and with my friends. Therapy this morning was hard, sore work. One of the primary things I'm feeling right now is that I'm profoundly alone. It's one of those judgements I seem to hold against myself from years gone by... that I'm somehow cut off from humanity. Witness my inability to deal with my mom or brother. Witness my not going to Lionel's funeral. Or my dad's, for that matter. A load of stuff I can dredge out to support my argument. Not that I'm going to. Cos I know it's actually just indulging the downness.

Ah well. I've got my next date with Bianca to look forward to, I suppose. And also the possibility of getting up on stage as a standup comic and using this raw, hard, sore material to make people laugh.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My flat, Cresta

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

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

"Jeeez, Roy. I think you've made too much pasta," says Charl.

I'm notorious for overcatering.

Charl says to Bianca and Eran, "You should have seen Roy on the last hike we went on together!"

I've invited a few buddies over to watch a movie on my big screen. I've got an old video projector and a lovely pull-down screen, and light-proofing, and, when I connect the system, surround-sound.

"Luckily," I tell them, "I do tai chi, so my legs are pretty potent."

"And he needed potent legs," says Charl. "His pack must have weighed about 30 kilograms."

"It was my turn to cook supper on the second night," I say. "And I'll never forgive Damon's girlfriend, Wendy. I had all the ingredients for making Lionel Murcott's famous lentil briyani, enough to feed twelve people. I figured there might be other people in the hut with us, so I didn't want to undercater. The ONLY thing I asked Wendy to carry was the lentils. We got to the hut, and I started to cook, and Wendy admitted that her pack was too heavy, so she left the lentils behind at the last hut."

"But it was unbelievably delicious anyway," says Charl.

"This pasta sauce is amazing," says Eran. "Did you make it from scratch?"

"Nah. Three different kinds of bottled pasta sauce, cooked up with red wine and pan-fried onion."

I bought the movie, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE on dvd a few days ago as a sort of reward for getting through the Ethiopian educational tv stuff without losing my mind. I've heard it's a brilliant movie, and it's by the guy who wrote and directed MAGNOLIA, which is a hottie deluxe. So I'm really looking foward to seeing it.

But I'm more looking forward to cuddling up to Bianca in the dark, under a blanket, on my couch. Beats a car seat anytime. And I've invited her to spend the night, and I have a spare set of keys, so she doesn't need to wake up when I do, and she can sleep in if she wants. And she's okay to eat musli for breakfast, cos I don't have eggs in the house, but anyway, she says, "I don't eat eggs in the morning, so it's fine. Musli's good."

And it's really cool to have her here, with my friends. Cos I'm not having a great day. I learned on Monday night that Lionel Abrahams, my writing mentor, has died. And it's hit me harder than the death of my own father. Here's the eulogy I wrote for him on the UCT Poetry Web, a discussion forum for some of South Africa's top poets:

Ah, what can I say about Lionel? I spent 13 years of Monday nights in his company. He turned me from a cocky, arrogant, self-styled literary genius into a humble, knowledgeable, able writer. Didn't cure me of the "genius" affliction. But hey. He wasn't God.

Jane Fox, his widow, said something beautiful on the radio this morning. When asked what she'll miss about him, she said she'll miss his eyes, his infinitely kind eyes.

When we still had the famous Lionel Abrahams Writers' Workshop at the Johannesburg Art Foundation, before it moved to his and Jane's home in Rivonia, I used to help him in and out of his car. Manhandling the wheelchair into place, jamming my foot behind the wheel, putting one hand on top of his wispy-haired head to prevent him from cracking his noggin. What a light man he was. And yet such a heavyweight.

I watched him typing on his computer. Because of his back operation a coupla years ago, Lionel was confined to the wheelchair. It was the op that damaged nerves in his spine, and lost him the use of his hands. Sure, he was palsied before, and had difficulty. But nothing like the ten or so years in the chair.

Typing, for Lionel, was a matter of grasping a long stick in his clawed hand. On one end was a bundle of tissue held in place by sticky tape. That was to protect his palm, or to give a little comfort. Maybe it was there for leverage? The other end was for him to prod, painstakingly, inaccurately, in the general direction of a letter on the keyboard. It took Lionel about ten or twenty seconds per letter to type THE WHITE LIFE OF FELIX GREENSPAN. And his letters to the press. And his reviews. And his comments on peoples' writing. And he didn't stop doing those things.

I visited him last in January or February. Could have been March.

"I can't really eat more than two mouthfuls of food now," he said. It was a Saturday, and I'd dropped in, and Jane invited me to lunch. He'd just gulped a fistful of pills, all in aid of his digestion.

I remember thinking, "Goodbye, Lionel, and thanks for everything. I love you." But I don't think I actually said the words. Who knows? Sometimes thoughts transmit. Instead, I said something along the lines of, "Nah. Please don't die yet, Lionel. You're only 76." It could have been funny, but it was far too true.

Jane's jaw set, and I could tell I'd spoken their big fear. But more. I realised that this was a fear that was on the table. Unhidden. They were alive to it.

The light man I'd helped in and out of his car years back was now half the weight he'd been. A baby bird. His voice indistinct, and very difficult for me to make out, even though my ears have been tuned to his nuances.

"I just don't have energy," he said.

And the "Goodbye, Lionel!" roared in my sinuses, a curious spinning feeling, a letting go. I remember biting my lip and wishing I'd visited much more often than I had in the past three years. When I stopped attending his workshop, I kinda drifted out of touch. Relationships. Fulltime employment. Tons of writing. These things are my excuses for not visiting my mentor, the man who made me into something of a writer.

I can't think why I didn't see him more often. Maybe a fear that this day would come? Maybe a distancing of myself from him so I wouldn't feel pain?

Well, the thing that stunned me as I listened to Jane on the radio this morning is that this man's death hurts me more than my own father's death. I cared more for Lionel than my own dad. What does this say about me? Who knows. But it says a lot about Lionel. It tells me that he was my father in important ways. I can't count them. I won't list any. And I don't need to. Because a thousand South African writers are feeling the same way right now. Their father is dead.

Lionel, may you find a place where you're free of your wheelchair. May you have unfettered access to typing that's as fast as your thoughts. Or at least a private secretary every bit as beautiful and devoted as Jane ready to take dictation. May Herman Charles Bosman thank you for your editing of his work, with only a few queries about certain of your editorial decisions. May you run a Monday workshop in heaven to teach those illiterate apostles how to write. Thank you, Lionel.


I decided not to go to his funeral today. I don't really do funerals, and it's just hectic for me. I figured that the best thing about going to his funeral would be to rub shoulders with some of South Africa's literary hotshots, and have my photo taken with them. But that would be the worst kind of reason to go, cos it dishonours Lionel. So I didn't go.

Instead, I'm at home, thinking about him while I watch a movie with my friends, and Bianca is helping me forget about my various sorrows.