Durban City Syndromeby Luke Mason, image by Billy Pineapples / 03.03.2010
Your first off-the-bottom-off-the-top combo occurs in Glenwood, in a road renamed after a person that doesn’t exist. You put your car on its rail and carve between a granny in Honda Jazz and an irate plumber indicating at an orange light – shouting into his cell phone at his ex-wife while his three assistants catch a couple Z’s in the back of his tiny old bakkie. A bather hurls himself out of harms way and rolls down a bank into Bulwer Park. You tap the roof. It’s taken you this long to get on the road for one reason or another, you figure there’s no reason to waste any more time.
Traffic and time conspire. It takes two green lights for you to get over Berea Road – or whatever it’s called these days. In that time you admire how tanned the resident sign-busker has got over the last couple weeks. A tan like that deserves a couple bob. You are blessed by God.
The sky is grey and potent. The hobo at the next light holds up his sign and grins. It’s painstakingly decorated with glitter pens and sequins. It displays the grotesque image of Mickey and Minnie mouse holding hands underneath a rainbow. He looks at you with the eyes of a labrador with a frisbee. You vomit a bit in the back of your throat. None for you buddy.
Two or three taxis drop in on you on Berea road. You negotiate a couple of close calls and almost float the pavement as you slide onto the highway onramp. It’s apparently a glassy three-foot bowl at North. That’s 2 foot bigger then it’s been all month.
One magical minute at 100 kms and hour – then, deadlock.
You wind your window up and redistribute the sweat on your forehead.
You pick at your thumb cuticle.
You inch forward, snarling at the taxi indicating hungrily in the lane next to you. Fiddy Cent and a red-eyed taxi conductor snarls back and the animal hierarchy of Durban traffic is re-established.
You light up a cigarette, crack the window ever so slightly and smoke vigilantly as “Get Rich or Die Trying” threads itself neatly in front of you.
You stare blankly at the rectangular hole in your dashboard where your CD player used to be and whistle off-key.
One of the DUT buildings has been burnt twice, first by graf writers rocking rooftops, then by arsonists, possibly employed by management.
You watch as municipal workers lean over their picks and throw their lunch wrappers into the gutters.
A barefoot cat, in ripped blue-jeans and no shirt cues the black ball into the middle pocket to take his third straight pool game. Everyone else queues for the taxi.
When they finally finish the highway fly-over, this’ll all just be another place white people tell you never to go.
Down what used to be known as Alice Street, indicators working overtime.
Passed 22 cars waiting patiently for the convenience and great taste of North America’s drive-thru effluvium.
Someone has given the beggar at the next robot a rash vest. A couple months ago he wore a suit and tie. He shakes his upturned hand at you like a judge’s gavel. The wild anger has sunk deeper into his eye sockets.
Gears are changed at four and a half thousand revs as the sun sinks lower over your shoulder. There are beads of sweat forming uncomfortably at you hair-line.
You see a little A-frame peel through as you take the last turning circle on two wheels. You identify both shredders as they tear into the left and the right. You’ve never had a conversation with either of them but you know them by style.
At least there’s parking.
Into your neoprene like Superman in a phone booth.
You lock your cubby-hole, you gear-lock and lock your door, activate your alarm and your Tracker before flipping your keys to a complete stranger who smiles and tells you to hit the lip. The tide’s coming in and you’ve only seen one other wave come through.
There are 5 shortboarders walking up the peer, a yoga class of longboarders in the downward dog below you and an SUP sailor stalking into the line-up from Dairy. In between Clayton’s 12 sticker toting surf-groms, the 15 grizzly North locals, the pow-wowing longboard ballies, the New Pier egos and the unfortunate band of kooks waiting patiently for the highly improbable to happen, you notice a bodyboarder: an almost endangered species in Durban these days. He looks despondent.
As you climb over the sardine remains that have been fired to the steel railings of the pier by the African sun, squeezing between the fishermen smoking chillums, the fishermen who actually fish and the inlanders getting their pictures taken by the sea, you catch the acrid chemical smell of fishy pollution and something that smells like lemon detergent. You breath deeply. Home sweet home.