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Durban City Syndrome

Durban City Syndrome

by 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.

Illustration courtesy and © Billy Pineapples. Contact him here and check out more of his steez here.

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  1. Jason says:

    Nice piece, Luke and Billy.

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  2. Ravi says:

    you 4got the bunny chows!

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  3. jenny b says:

    Ravi you so right what about the bunies and you never said the word kiff once otherwise great article.

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  4. kid video says:


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  5. kathleen says:

    Makes me miss home so much! say hey to the pub for me:-)

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  6. kid video says:

    Seriously, you held the second person shit down, bro. And the images are bananas!


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  7. Locco says:

    Fuck I hate Durban crowds! In general surfers have become greedy mainstream jocks, no individuality, you’ll find the same characters at a rugby game, they even dress the same now, take muscle science, they go to church, but don’t expect them to be charatable when the sets come!

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  8. Black Ball says:

    Once, surfers weren’t allowed to surf North between 7am and 5pm. Those were great days, before the Surf Mafia started pimping substandard Chinese-manufactured gear and the products became more about looks than durability. When bodyboarders ruled North, and surfers would have to sullenly slink off to Bay and Dairy when the siren sounded. They weren’t happy about it, but they had to suck it up. To be fair, we had the best waves, but then they did have Wedge, New Pier, Bay, Snake Park and pretty much everywhere else to themselves. And considering the wild-eyed motherfuckers that were locals at those spots, they could keep them.

    Now…well, nostalgia’s is coloured by rose-tinted memory, for sure, but these days, as Locco correctly states, surfers are no longer considered outsiders, a breed apart who have an affinity with nature and the Zen of wavecraft. Nah, nowadays, for the most part they’re a pack of mallrats, fed a diet of consumerism, who live and breathe with the mainstream. Inevitable, really, considering how the ‘lifestyle’ was co-opted by Big Brands.

    I’ve surfed North Beach for twenty-five years. Sometimes I would be there at 4am, the only one out. That’s a beautiful feeling, being out there that early, just you and the dolphins.

    Sometimes I go back, just to pick off the double-ups that the surfers bail out of. They can’t make the drop. I can. Heh.

    That’s why I love being a bodyboarder.

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  9. Tyrone says:

    Yip that got me missing Durbs! Thanks for the memories… my China

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  10. Mr Smooooth says:

    Too boss bruther……..thats the durban flavour stlye.
    sho bruther luke.

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  11. Chreesh says:

    Taking me back to the concrete streets Lucky. Missing that Durban stees. Too much ciabatta and fresh air can make a man crazy. Nice one ekse!

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  12. Caress says:

    Lucky, very impressive indeed … hey man, this is as literal as it gets!! Good job, bro!!

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  13. onelove says:

    epic piece. love it. miss durban.

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  14. Loop says:

    yup…its the panic to beat the trafic lights and the fading sun on an arvi session. It’s enough to swear at an old granny picking up her grandson from school. Good piece

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  15. stump says:

    You nailed it – awesome article, pineapples!

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  16. ifthejfitz says:

    Does the Cardboard King still rule over the old fort (or what is now known????) ? He was the witch doctor of home sending ceremonies from the strand for so so so many years.
    Wonderful writing lukie!

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  17. Kath says:

    Man the backs up my thighs started feeling like they were stuck to my car seat just reliving the journey through town! Nice piece of writing, I really liked that.

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  18. oscar says:

    i need the basic information as a student just give me or one the thing i will ask from u frist to crack the ATM or distab the robot

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