Monday, May 29, 2006

This Time for Real

I'm back... no more arbitrary two month lapses. I was feeling guilty under the weight of a seemingly unmoving mountain of "official" writing to complete but I had an inspiring chat with a reader and reconsidered Western notions of guilt. So I'm devoted to chronicling this goofy city and its intrigues, rather than increase my own goofiness and intrigues. A series of briefs to get us started:

Economics 101

I'm tutoring Anele in his introductory economics course (He is my domestic helper and a Zimbabwean refugee. He came to Jo'burg to care for his brother dying of AIDS, but once the brother began taking HAART- highly active anti-retroviral treatment- and gained strength, he kicked Anele out to make room for yet another girlfriend. Anele is very smart and is beginning courses in economics and accounting.) and we are working on one of the most basic concepts in macro-economics- the differences between needs and wants and its impact on economic behavior. However, his crap South African econ text doesn't believe in needs but labels all purchasing behavior as wants- i.e. for South Africans, food, water, and shelter are seen as wants not needs. Oh wait, for millions of South Africans, food and adequate shelter are wants at this point. But, still, the moral amongst us regard them as needs and the BMW 7-series at the side of every mid-level ANC-appointee as wants.

Fire in the Mountain

I'm driving home from the gym, past Bruma Flea Market and the rooftop entrance to the prison-like shopping centre Eastgate (as differentiated from similar complexes dotting the city called Northgate, Southgate, Westgate). Bedfordview (my 'burb) rests on the side of Jo'burg's largest mountain (Linksfield is two kilometers on the other side of the mountain) and as I drive into the boom marking the entrance to my guarded "security estate" I can see waves of flames along the markings of the mountain. It appears like the entire mountain is engulfed in flames, but no one seems to be responding and I don't hear a siren or see any fire trucks. The next morning there isn't a scant mention of the flames in the newspapers and there doesn't seem to be any damage. Am I hallucinating?

My Fair Lady

I see the Pretoria State Theatre production of My Fair Lady with a bunch of kugel and Italian friends yesterday. The production is reasonably good (like seeing Mamma Mia at the Walnut Street Theatre rather than on Broadway) and the theatre most likely holds 500 to 1000 people. It's packed and there isn't a black face in sight- not in the audience nor on stage (only the ushers and bartenders). The announcements and auditorium markings are in Afrikaans. This is eerie.

We were going to have dinner in Brooklyn (suburb of Pretoria) after the show since there is a WangThai and I am in a constant, unsatiated, unfulfilled craving state for Thai food. The show goes on for about four hours and most of us only had breakfast that day and it's now 6:00. I am woozy from the hunger so we decide on the State Theatre basement buffet. It is Afrikaans hausfrau heaven- green-beans, limp and soggy fried potato bits, milky cole-slaw, roast with mint sauce. Oh and lots of cans of Tab which I believe was banned in the States many years ago for known carcinogenic properties. Let's just say the heat-plate-warmed Afrikaaner attempt at chicken curry and yellow mushy rice didn't placate the Thai cravings.


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