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.

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