I love Johannesburg. I love its diversity. You can go from suburb to town, to township in the space of very few minutes and you can get such totally different vibes, people, styles. I love it.
The other day, a Saturday, I felt townie. Though we had a fuel people strike going on in the country, I still had enough gas in the car and thought, why not spend it. Off I went to Newtown with my pal to catch the Saturday morning vibe. There wasn’t one. We were so disappointed. Mary Fitzgerald Square, which was once the home of a very fascinating morning market was deserted. In the park across the street there was a kind of market. A few trestle tables had been set up and people had put things on them to sell. It wasn’t exciting, except that the guy at the first table of CD’s was playing arrestingly sensual Jazz, which was impossible to walk away from. We bought the CD.
Gromadoelas was showing the only sign of life around the Market Theatre, but not the kind of life that invites. It’s such a shame that the building opposite The Market Theatre is dead. I remember it in the early 1990’s. It was fun around there. No more. We left town.
As we drove a glance at the gas gauge gave rise to discussion on the strike of abasebenzi. ‘Let’s go to Alexander’! I note that even though it’s called Alexandra Township. No one seems to say that. Everyone calls it Alexander. Is that the nations natural cultural propensity for patriarchy rearing it’s last century head? But to Alex we went.
We didn’t go to the home of the black champagne socialist; the lair of the loxion limousine liberal; the weekend watering hole of the Wabenzi. We didn’t go to Neh! We went to Bra Joes’s Chissa Nyama. We ordered nyama, pap, chakalaka and beer. I felt at one with abasebenzi, even though the place wasn’t exactly full of abasebenzi. Abasebenzi were demonstrating somewhere.
We didn’t have any way to open the beer. I know that there’s something that people do when they have two bottles of beer opening one with the other, but I don’t drink beer and couldn’t figure it out. Neither could my pal. My pal went back inside.
“I can’t get these open”. My Pal told the guy.
“Don’t worry bourgeois lami” the guy responded with a smile, “you cheese boys always miss a beat in the township”. My Pal is from the country and sees himself as a former Plaas yaapie who has, over the years, acquired considerable township savvy. He was visibly disappointed that his street cred was being besmirched much to the amusement of Uguluva.
As I said, I don’t normally drink beer. But that day I drank it. I drank it from the bottle and I ate with my hands and I felt very Alexandra. It’s not that I don’t ever go to Alexandra Township. I do, but when I go, I go to the house of my cousins. They don’t hang out in the trendy haunts like 15, Bra Joes and Neh! It’s simply not their style.
But bourgeois cheese boy or not, we are all, fundamentally, from the rural via the loxion.