Come on down to the basement. Find a seat. Just grab a spot on the floor if there’s not any room on the couch. We’ll get everyone some more drinks and another bag of popcorn is in the microwave. Yes, we’re adding butter. That’s it, get comfortable, it’ll last awhile. I know, the invite promised “NO VACATION PICTURES, SLIDE SHOW OR FILM STRIP,” but we lied. The basement door is also locked and I think you’ll find the company that installed the security did an excellent job with the electric shock that jolts anyone whose palm hasn’t been pre-approved for touching the door handle. It’ll sting, but cause no permanent damage. Well, Jim, yeah, if you keep your hand on the door, I suppose it could cause permanent damage but why would anyone do that?
So come on down and take a look at how I’ve spent my first four days in Cape Town, South Africa.
The flight was typical, though, unlike on a previous flight, I was able to avoid sitting next to a man who vomited from mixing alcohol and prescription pills. For the 16-hour flight to Johannesburg I sat next to a South African native who’s lived in Montauk, N.Y. for more than a decade. Her friends back in South Africa surprised her with a ticket. We eventually spoke about South African wine – as one is wont to do on these flights – and I told her about my sister’s struggles with it at my wedding and Louise’s boss’s enjoyment of it on his trip to the country last year. A few minutes later, she ordered two bottles – which were a little smaller than a 20-ounce Coke bottle you’d get – for her meal and asked “Can I get two more for after the meal?” She added another one after those four and I again worried about vomit at 35,000 feet.
One new thing on this trip is a camera that’s mounted to the top of the plane at the rear. You can watch the plane take off and land. You can even watch it fly but you’ll only see the blinking light at night time. At least you hope that’s the only thing you see.
When we landed, a flight attendant announced that “after that perfect landing” (which, to be honest, I thought was a bit generous; I’ve experienced better) our captain for the flight was retiring after a 40-year career. Big applause all around. And as we went down the runway, two firetrucks greeted the plane, one on each side, and sprayed water over it in a congratulatory gesture – “There’s nothing wrong,” the attendant assured us.
The flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town is two hours. With time to relax I grabbed a milkshake at a Wimpy’s fast-food restaurant. I got a “regular.” And unlike in the United States – where a regular-sized Coke at the movies requires two people to lift it off the counter, and a large comes with its own AMC-sponsored forklift – this shake really was regular-sized, that is normal. How I missed America’s ludicrous portion-sizes.
Oh, god, the slide show. Sorry. I know, the restraints are getting a bit tight. It’ll be over soon.
Here’s a Sunday New York Times. And a Cape Times. Notice the size of each paper. Like almost every paper in the country, the New York Times has narrowed its web width over the years, saving on paper costs. The Cape Town papers remain wide. It’s jarring, feels unnatural when it sits in your hands and cakes your fingers in ink, even though it was the standard size for newspapers for decades.
Each day I buy the Cape Times and Cape Argus. They’re good papers, though an American scouring the sports section will quickly learn cricket, soccer and rugby matter and basketball, baseball and the NFL do not. The editorial page of the Cape Argus includes a section where readers provide SMS feedback. It’s sort of like if newspapers published comments left on their websites, but excluded ones that were racist, sexist, obscene or blamed immigrants for 98 percent of the world’s problems. So you get messages like: “Why do dogs pee on their food and water if they don’t want them? -Esme.” Then the next day you might see someone respond to Esme, who could in fact actually be Steven Wright writing under an alias.
Another: “What happened to the Lotto and Lotto Plus Draws on Saturday night? Could you not manipulate the magnetic devices or scanners fast enough between draws? The balls 3, 10 and 15 rolled out in both draws. That must be a chance of forty six trillion to one. Please manipulate a bit better, because we are not stupid people.” It’s best reading these messages while being totally blind to the context.
Today we ate at a restaurant called Suikerbossie. The picture above is taken from the large lawn outside the restaurant. My fourth-grade level photography skills don’t do it justice. Its stunning setting makes the restaurant and large reception area a favorite spot for weddings. I had the lamb and chicken. Outstanding.
One of the people pictured above hasn’t won a Nobel Peace Prize. These statues sit at the V&A Waterfront. The bronze sculptures honor Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.
The waterfront’s an awesome area but we only spent a few minutes there today. We’ll return. With more pictures!
These guitars – “African guitars” – are located in a craft area at the Waterfront. They’re real. They’re made out of recycled oil cans, like the one on the far left that was constructed from a Castrol can. Clapton should give a benefit concert using one of these.
This guy’s made out of recycled Coke crates. He comes in peace, apparently, or is based on Richard Nixon. All hail our Coke overlords. This is art. Yet if a single middle-aged man in a small town in Texas collected this many Coke crates and built a sculpture out of them, we’d call him a hoarder and mock him on national television.
At the end of our long Wednesday we went to my brother-in-law Anthony’s house. We spent some time in his pool. Americans are used to heated pools. South African pools are usually filled with cold water, the better to cool down on the blistering hot summer days. My spoiled American blood has never quite adjusted to this and the old “once you jump in you get warm” line isn’t always accurate. But Wednesday it was. And any February day spent in a pool is a good one.
That’s about it for now. Haven’t really done a lot of traveling around so far. So don’t sorry, there will be more pictures next week. You’re all coming, right? Right? Say yes, so I can open the door and let you out from the basement now. Okay then.