Ponte on Long Streetby Montle Moorosi, images Adam Kent Wiest / 14.06.2011
“Hey, why don’t you do a story about the gangs in Woodstock? No, wait, how about you go interview the leader of the 28s? Now that’s fucking great hey?”
“Umm… err, how about a CD review this week?”
“No man, we need you doing more stuff like the one about the homeless.”
“Hey Andy, I’d like to do a story about the Stellenbosch garden gnome fair curated by Pieter Hugo, it’s about polysemics and culture.” Says a brown haired white girl with niggardly aspirations.
“Fucking brilliant!” Says the Zionist elder.
“Fucking bullshit.” I say to myself. Not even 40 acres for a good dump. “Ok then… I heard Senator Park is closing down, let me go check it out or something.”
“What’s Senator Park?”
“It’s the Ponte of Cape Town.”
“OK, that sounds rad, but you should try spend the night.”
“And write the story while you’re there.” Roger adds.
“Hey Andy what about a story about the semiotic conundrums of Rihanna’s new music video?” Says the socialist fat white guy with black Portuguese hairs coming out of his nose.
“Fucking brilliant…get on that. Ok guys, so whose covering the Tretchikoff exhibition?” He says before going to The Kitchen in Woodstock for a butternut quiche.
Back in 2009 a university student by the name of Jeffrey Webster got abducted at Senator Park, this made me laugh when the press and other concerned Cape Town residents threw a tantrum, I mean… shit, you don’t go to a water park without expecting to get wet. On the 20th of April this year the High Court passed a ruling authorising the upgrade of the building. This would involve removing the residents, who were yet to be told of their impending eviction.
Unlike Ponte in Johannesburg, Senator Park’s immediate surrounds aren’t covered in squalor like the actual building itself. Ponte and Hillbrow deteriorated at the same time, while Senator Park’s demise happened against the backdrop of Long Street’s upswing. Today the Park is like a giant pus filled cyst on the arch of a beatiful nordic, blonde hair and blue eyed model’s nose… who probably works at Boss and waitresses part time serving burgers at Royale, just around the corner. The model really hates this cyst, and yet she has this strange fascination with it, always prodding, poking, popping, sniffing… just to see what comes out. And no matter how much Maybelline she applies, she just can’t hide her lovely little cyst. So now she’s just going to get a nose job… or cut off her nose entirely. There’s a by-law for every unpleasant sight in Cape Town.
Its 10am on a Sunday and the corner boys are already out, the whores, the children, the customers darting in and out of Senator Park like the rats they are. The dealers immediately swoop on me as I had expected them to.
“Yo my man, yo my man!” The usual banter in a West African accent.
I seek out the most sane looking guy, as in the one who wasn’t saying “yo my man” over and over again. I find no one, so I head down a side street where I see some kids playing around with a shoddy old bicylce.
“Sup?” They stop what they’re doing and look at me intently.
“Do you guys live inside here?” They nod yes, smiles forming at the edges of their mouths, hair uncombed, skin dry. Only cocaine, no cocoa butter in these terraces. They definetly don’t look like drug dealers. For a second I begin to wonder what would happen to them when they are evicted.
Seeing that I only had R180 in my pocket and I needed some sort of reason to enter the building, I’d just have to slum it down and buy some weed… earlier I dabbled with the idea of buying and smoking tik… you know, to give the story more of a “Cape Town” feel, but when I realised how much I earn I was like “fuck cutting edge journalism”.
At the entrance I’m faced by the usual harangue of “yeah my mans, I got nice coke my mans” and this time I choose a guy in a white Nike jacket and say to him, “I just need some weed.”
“Sure my man, gimme 50 bucks and I’ll bring it for you.”
“Ha ha… um… I don’t think so. I’m coming with you.”
“My man, trust me. I bring it for you now.”
“No you won’t… it’s OK, I’ll just buy from that guy there.” I say pointing to some other Nigerian in a fake Armani cap.
“OK sure, let’s go.” He says reluctantly. I could smell my blood and that Pulitzer again. God I hope I get stabbed!
The foyer of Senator Park as you can guess smells funny. Not like shit, but just funny. Like two pygmies wrestling in a sauna. The dealer took me up the fire escape and we walked up two flights of stairs. It’s like one of those old high rise apartment buildings you’ve been to but without the reputation of prostitution and Wilbur Smith’s kid’s arctic adventure. The carpeted hallways are covered with cigarette burns, and most doors stay tightly shut, but a few are ajar so you can hear high life music or people fucking. Before we reach his door on the third floor, I ask him, “how long have you been living here?”
”Long time my man.”
We walk a few paces, muffled music seeps through the tiny cracks of the doors. I hear babies crying, men laughing, I smell smoke, a child runs past us screaming at the top of her lungs as she’s being chased by another young boy, smiling wildly. We stop at a door, the number missing. He knocks and says something in a language I will never understand or bother to know. He palms something. He takes my R50. He grabs me by the arm and makes me walk with him in the same direction we came, not forcefully but more directionally… like a tourist guide.
On the staircase he gives me two thin joints.
“What the fuck is this?”
“Thats weed my man… some good stuff.”
“Two joints for 50 bucks?” I smell the joints, they smell of compost and Panado tablets. “This shit isn’t worth R50.”
“My man I’m telling you this is good stuff.”
“Maybe they should close this shit hole down!”
“Sure my man, my name is James, take down my numba!”
I walk into the light of the mid morning feeling empty, not disillusioned or emo or bummed or anything like that. Just another empty vessel in a pottery shop set against a back drop of rustic furniture and Tretchikoff prints. Expensive furniture made to look shit. I am loving Cape Town.
*All images © Adam Kent Wiest.