seaside towns they forgot to bomb

14 September 2005 – 01:59

Aah, Sea Point. Maybe it’s just the pheromones, or the exhaust fumes, or the soupy mist of oil from cheap takeaways, or the blinking lights, relentless through the fishy smog… Maybe it’s the conglomeration of them all… The whole place reeks of overtiredness.

Main Road, Sea Point. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Main Road, Sea Point. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Know how the Durban beach front feels at night? All sodium glare and humid candyfloss and hooting and “Rayban” pushers, stumbling over sprawling elephantiasis limbs; cabbagey piss and rotting elephantiasis limbs underfoot at every turn, elephantiasis limbs EVERYWHERE?

Or the water slides in Muizenberg? Ice-cream sticks and rusty fish guts and cocoa butter thick in your nostrils? Shrivelled, orange bikini grans and stubbed toes and burnt children scrambling back up, over and over, getting their money’s worth, with fresh snot to add to the circulated stream? Kinda like that.

Like a casino, or a circus, or the school parking lot half an hour before the last night of the end-of-year play. Just like that. The cement, the tar etched with residues of action, the erratic paths of people hopscotching between the pavement’s wet patches of unknown origin, beat-up cabs snaking through the gutters, cruising for someone going somewhere, doing something… you never can be certain what.

There’s an interminable vacancy in all the hyperactivity, a loneliness. A sense that most of what’s done is probably being done to keep up appearances, because it’s in the script. In bar toilets, in sighing lifts and entrance lobbies of peeling flats, people wait, unexpectantly, for something undisclosed… The sour gaggles of Jewish crones… The sweet fags in the coin-op laundrette… The salty dog walkers on the promenade… The makwerekwere… The goosefleshed trannie under the stop sign… LCD Jesus loves you, 01:31, 8°C.

It’s a frustrating place, a titillating place for anyone with even a pinch of the voyeur in them. You never know if today will be your chance to be privy to that something, to overhear the deal… Well, it’s hardly likely to be above board, is it? You daren’t blink in case you miss it, yet you virtually never get to see the loops close, experience the denouement. And your imagination goes crazy.

Oy vey, it’s a schande. Happeningness rubs your nose in it, but, from a distance, it’s too pungent, too slippery to pry open cleanly… You know your conjecture’s amusing but empty.

Romanticism breeds covetousness, even of the sordid. So, you’ve read Burroughs, Bukowski, Genet, Sade. Ballard, Palahniuk, Sartre… Your own illicit missions never feel as archetypal.

It’s like being hopelessly in love, but not being in ’40s Casablanca, you know? Like rainbow soap bubbles popping on your tongue… The bath gets cold before you stop being too distracted by the froth to immerse yourself fully.

jarvis cocker – sheffield sex city (lyrics)

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Sea Point Main Road, 7 January 2013. Photograph: Rosemary Lombard

the city is a woman, bigger than any other…

…the sun rose from behind the gasometers at six-thirty a.m.
crept through the gap in your curtains
and caressed your bare feet poking from beneath the floral sheets.
i watched it flaking bits of varnish from your nails
trying to work its way up under the sheets.
even the sun’s on heat today;
the whole city getting stiff in the building heat.

now i’m trying hard to meet her but the fares went up at seven
she is somewhere in the city, somewhere watching television
watching people being stupid, doing things she can’t believe in
love won’t last ’til next installment
ten o’ clock on tuesday evening
the world is going on outside, the night is gaping open wide
the wardrobe and the chest of drawers are telling her to go outdoors
he should have been here by this time, he said that he’d be here by nine
that guy is such a prick sometimes, i don’t know why you bother, really.

oh babe oh i’m sorry
but i had to make love to every crack in the pavement and the shop doorways
and the puddles of rain that reflected your face in my eyes.
the day didn’t go too well.
too many chocolates and cigarettes.
i kept thinking of you and almost walking into lamp-posts.
why’s it so hot?
the air coming up to boil; rubbing up against walls and lamp-posts trying to get rid of it.
old women clack their tongues in the shade of crumbling concrete bus shelters.
dogs doing it in central reservations and causing multiple pile-ups in the centre of town.
i didn’t want to come here in the first place
but i’ve been sentenced to three years in the housing benefit waiting room.
i must have lost your number in the all-night garage
and now i’m wandering up and down your street, calling your name, in the rain
whilst my shoes turn to sodden cardboard.
where are you? (where are you?)
where are you? (where are you?)

i’m still trying hard to meet you, but it doesn’t look like happening
‘cos the city’s out to get me if i won’t sleep with her this evening
though her buildings are impressive and her cul-de-sacs amazing
she’s had too many lovers and i know you’re out there waiting
and now she’s getting into bed; he’s had his chance now it’s too late
the carpet’s screaming for her soul, the darkness wants to eat her whole
tonight must be the night it ends
tomorrow she will call her friends and go out on her own somewhere
who needs this shit anyway?
and listen, i wandered the streets the whole night crying, trying to pick up your scent
writing messages on walls and the puddles of rain reflected your face in my eyes.
we finally made it on a hill-top at four a.m.
the whole city is your jewellery-box; a million twinkling yellow street lights.
reach out and take what you want; you can have it all.
gee it’s so hot tonight!
i didn’t think we were gonna make it.
it was so bad during the day, but now i’m snug
and warm under an eiderdown sky.
all the things we saw:
everyone on park hill came in unison at four-thirteen a.m.
and the whole block fell down.
the tobacconist caught fire, and everyone in the street died of lung cancer.