Month: December 2015

Jingle Hells

Jesus!

The reason for the season. Happy birthday, dude. You’re looking pretty damn good for a 2000-year-old white hippy with a Mexican name. There aren’t too many kids born in a stable environment in that part of the world these days, let me tell you.

You are probably unaware of this, what with being on Sabbatical and all, but your name is taken in vain more at this time of year than at any other. The streets and shops are jammed with people muttering, “Jesus Christ!” beneath their breath. Some shout openly. Few, if any, show signs of being in a state of religious rapture at the time.

Now and then I am forced to deploy an Old Testament headlock and take one of the more strident blasphemers into a deserted shop, like CUM Books, and explain to him that at this time of year, nobody fucks with the Jesus.

Right. That’s enough about Jesus. This is my story. His story has been out for a while and still outsells my memoir by, like, three to one. I should have gone with his publisher.

A powerful combination of poor genes and even worse judgement saw me pass through the apocalyptic portals of one of Hell’s more commercial outlets this week. First, though, I had to progress from level one of Dante’s Christmas Inferno – the parking lot. Car guards are hopelessly under-equipped to deal with motorists in December. What they need is paramilitary training. They need pepper spray and cattle prods to keep people from leaping out of their cars and strangling one another. And that’s just the children.

This particular incubus-infested horror show had a hairdresser’s right at the entrance. The sight of women of every grimace and girth in various stages of lassitude and bedragglement hardly encourages one to move deeper into the belly of the beast.

Next to the hairdresser, possibly deliberately, was a shop called Outdoor and Velocity. It had an impressive range of paintball and pellet guns, including one shaped like an AK-47. The perfect gift for the man whose criminal record prevents him from owning a real gun. There was also a selection of knives that would’ve made the executioners of Islamic State envious.

Health shops were occupied only by their lentil-faced staff while bottle stores made the fall of Saigon seem calm and orderly.

Shopping malls are acoustically designed to enhance the high frequency sound produced by children hysterical on sugar and lies. It’s like psychological warfare; a way of rattling your synapses so you spend more money than you might otherwise have done.

I doubted I could single-handedly contend with this bloated river of humanity and its ungodly stink of anger and fear and money, so I ducked into a pet shop and asked for a medium-sized attack dog. They asked if I was blind. Absolutely, I said. Blind drunk. That’s a lot better than being barking mad, which they clearly were for charging R1 295 for a silly plastic ramp that allows one’s golden retriever to take a leisurely stroll from or into the back of one’s Range Rover.

“Protect the joints of the pet,” said the box. Nonsense. It’s our joints that need protecting from the ravening narcophobics in the police force. Point is, if you can’t lift your dog into your car then he’s either criminally big or you shouldn’t be driving.

I no longer even glance into the windows of jewellery shops because every time I have put a ring on someone’s finger it has ended in tears. “Here, darling, have this fabulously exorbitant bauble. It’s guaranteed to ruin your life or mine. Maybe both.”

Verimark’s Maxxus V-Trainer caught my eye. It’s a vibrating pad you stand on. “Get the body you have always wanted in just 10 minutes a day!” Watching a fat kid wobbling on the pad, I’d estimate it would take me 25 550 days to reach my ideal weight. And that’s only because I would have been dead for the final two years.

Buying gifts for people you loathe is never easy. What, for instance, do you get for the man who

has everything? Here’s an idea. You get him audited by the Revenue Service.

I heard the hideous sound of children screaming as if they were being murdered and rushed over to see if I could help but they were alive and, since I couldn’t kill them all on my own, I had a look around the toy department. The men who work in this section have nervous facial tics and their names are down for emergency vasectomies. The women don’t respond. To anything.

What is this fresh outbreak of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I thought they had been wiped out years ago. Shouldn’t they be called Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles by now?

I found a radio-controlled king cobra snake with glowing eyes and a flickering tongue and it seemed more like something Satan rather than Santa would drop down your chimney. It “looks so real that may scare your friends”. What’s more frightening is that there’s a word missing from that sentence. That’s the Chinese for you. Always looking to cut corners. Save a word here and there and soon enough there’s a secret stockpile of surplus words they can use to build an entirely new piece of junk around.

“Look, babe, here’s something that says ‘Big it that was new fish water real flash remote jump.’”

“What does it do?”

“No idea. I think it lights up.”

“Ooh, let’s get three.”

There are shelves of model cars for boys although they could just as easily be for girls because men rarely drive any more thanks to the heavily armed extremists found at roadblocks. Four beers and you risk spending the evening having your bottom interfered with by a fighting general in the 28s. Not worth it. Sell the car and buy beer. Lock yourself in your room.

There’s a kitchen set with a boy pretending to cook. He looks about 19. Then again, I’ve never been a very good judge of age. It’s astounding that I’m not in jail. “Let the children play happily and feel assured,” lisps the box. So you see, laddie, you can rest assured that it’s quite normal for you to be pottering about in a frilly apron packing the tiny dishwasher and making imaginary vol-au-vents in your tiny oven.

There are little plastic prams and pushchairs, all of which are being controlled by little plastic girls. This isn’t so much gender stereotyping as it is a reflection of reality. All the boys are clearly in court fighting for custody or getting nailed for child support.

“Anything is possible with Barbie” just doesn’t sound right. I’ve known girls who have embodied this ethos but, while initially fun to be with, stick around for too long and you’ll end up in a mental hospital.

With one exception, the doll section looks like a picnic organised by The Young Mothers of the Ku Klux Klan. Talking Tip has an anxious yet determined look on her swarthy synthetic face. Her box says, “Try me!” but there are no buttons to push. It’s probably a challenge. A warning. She probably says things like, “Don’t be tryin’ none of that white shit or I’ll bust yo cracker ass.” She comes with a spare outfit and removable shoes, which I imagine would be useful when she’s hiding out from her parole officer.

There are also boxes of twins, all of whom look like an experiment by Dr Josef Mengele gone horribly right.

Toy department staff aren’t trained to deal with hulking unshaven brutes clearly unsuited for fatherhood loitering around the dolls, and I could see them becoming visibly anxious. I stepped out into the fetid, roiling swamp of humankind and was almost immediately possessed by the festive spirit.

All I need now is an exorcist.

BenSanta-1

The Christmas spirit

Today, 177 years ago, the Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River.

And in 177 minutes from now, the Boers and the Zulus will join forces to defeat me at the Battle of Gateway Shopping Mall. The Zulus will stream in through strategic entrances to isolate me in a pincer movement that would have made King Shaka proud. The Boers will use their traditional tactics of walking eight-abreast, scoffing ice-creams and knocking me out of the way with their meaty hips and big asses. I don’t stand a chance.

William Butler Yeats wrote, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Here, they’re slouching out of Bethlehem (there by the Free State) and into Durban. Quite frankly these people scare me. If I had the space I would explain how one can tell the difference between trolls, homunculi and troglodytes.

I did a recce at Gateway earlier in the week to check out the exits and locate the shops that sell weapons. If it was going to turn ugly, I wasn’t going down without a fight. To hell with reconciliation. At this time of year it’s every man for himself.

The first thing I noticed was that Christmas decorations aren’t as Christian as they used to be. In the old days you could barely walk through a mall without smacking your head into a simpering polystyrene angel swinging from the rafters. These days it’s all disco balls and plastic dross swaddled in fairy lights. It’s not so much Santa’s grotto as it is Hugh Hefner’s, although in Game you do have a slightly smaller risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

Orphans are big this year. I saw several shops offering to donate a percentage of purchases over R100 to those lucky enough not to have parents. They never say how much goes to the orphans, though. It could be 0000.2% of each purchase. This means that by the end of the holidays, three children in a village north of the Tugela will each get a tin of soup. Next year, if they’re really lucky, they might get a tin opener.

The war for drugs escalates at this time of year. Too many family reunions, dinners and parties mean that young and old alike are desperate for fresh meds. If you’re new at this, I recommend something from the benzodiazepine family. Ativan or Librium will do nicely if all you need to do is get through Christmas lunch without slashing a sibling’s throat.

However, if you’re worried about getting drunk and exposing Uncle Pervy for the kiddie-fiddler that he is, you might need one of the neuroleptics. Thorazine works well, but get your timing right. You don’t want to be slack-jawed and drooling into the turkey with your paper hat over one eye while everyone else is pulling crackers.

I saw a sign saying, “Add more sparkle to your festive season – shop with American Express!” Yeah, sure. It’s all fun and sparkles now, but what happens next year? It’s bad enough what the local banks will to do to you, but you fuck with the Americans at your peril. I’ve heard that Guantanamo Bay isn’t a prison for political detainees at all. It’s for people – Muslims, mainly – who have maxed out their American Express cards and are late with their repayments.

A 10-piece nativity set caught my eye. It was rather nicely done, if a bit outdated. If it were today, the three wise men would be unemployed academics with substance abuse problems, Joseph would be out working overtime to pay for the new baby and the shepherds would be on strike.

I saw television sets so big you would have to sell your house, buy a piece of land and build a new house around the telly. Where will it end, this race for the biggest television? Will new homes eventually offer plasma screens instead of walls? I hope so. I already spend hours staring at the wall. I may as well be watching something.

And lava lamps are still being sold even though weed remains illegal. It makes no sense. You have to be on drugs to fully appreciate a lava lamp. I’m surprised that each purchase doesn’t come with a bankie of Durban Poison.

In the toy section, there’s a doll that speaks six lines. Or does six lines. I can’t remember. Cocaine Barbie, perhaps.

For the boys, there are millions of heavily armed action figures that don’t look so macho as they do gay. This is a good thing. If you want your son to grow up believing he can kill with impunity, rather he does it wearing nothing but cropped hair, a moustache and a pair of tight red shorts. At least that way we’ll see him coming.

I found a paramedic’s kit but it lacked a plastic handgun for when the ambulance has to go into the townships on a Friday night.

Then I came across a whole series of things you can do in the tub. “Shaving in the tub” was one. This is a filthy habit and you should only get this for your child if you have someone other than yourself who cleans the bath. Everything on the box is in French, which makes sense when you consider what these people regard as acceptable behaviour. What next? Wine in the Jacuzzi? Frog’s legs in the bed? Pissing in the pool?

There’s also a talking octopus. I once met an octopus while snorkelling and in the brief moment our eyes met, we both knew there was nothing we had to say to each other. If octopi could talk, though, I expect they would say, “Please take that pointy stick out of my head and return me to the rock pool from whence I came.” Well, the educated ones would. The more common octopi would probably squirt ink everywhere and try to strangle you with a tentacle.

A shop assistant has just caught me looking up a doll’s skirt. Awkward. I simply wanted to ascertain whether it was anatomically correct. With the education system as it is, I wouldn’t want my nephew growing up thinking that all girls have a piece of hard plastic between their legs. Not that I have a nephew. Or can even remember what’s between … never mind.

With my blood-alcohol levels dangerously low, I repaired to the restaurant area where several companies appeared to be having their get-togethers. Christmas parties used to be held at night. There would be carousing and fornicating and the company would happily pay your bail the next day. Now, the grinches offer their employees a free lunch. As if there’s such a thing.

King or Joker?

Dear King Goodwill Zwelithini, Defender of the Zulus, Head of the Ubukhosi, Sovereign of the Ancient Order of the Knobkierie, Wearer of Leopards, Emperor of Nongoma and Father of Many.

Bayete! Or, in the mangled parlance of those magnificent men who brought development and apartheid to our shores, hoezit!

Well done on congratulating the old National Party regime for their hard work and single-minded determination. It couldn’t have been easy keeping the races apart for so many years and it’s about time a man of your standing gave them their due. You, Sir, are the black Donald Trump of our generation. I’d be surprised if FW de Klerk, or, at the very least, Steve Hofmeyr, doesn’t invite you over for a round of jukskei and a brace of Witblits and Coke.

As you so rightly pointed out, it was the Afrikaners who built the economy and army into the most powerful in Africa. All of this without any help from the other 90% of the population. Quite an achievement. As the Aryan Brotherhood like to say, white is might.

And then, in your courageous words, “this so-called democracy” came along and everything went to hell in a handbasket. You were speaking at your kwaKhethomthandayo Palace to celebrate your 44 years on the throne. That’s the royal throne, obviously. Some white people use the word ‘throne’ when they talk about the toilet. It’s the unspeakable English who talk like this. Get your impis to round them up at once. Is Shaka’s Rock still working? Toss them off, I say. That’s another English expression, but I shan’t elaborate. We want mass murder, here, not mass debations.

Also, you might want to think of simplifying the name of your palace. It’s damnably difficult for white people to pronounce and you might find yourself being accused of failing to appreciate the true value of colonialism. How about Windsor Castle? Your British counterpart would be awfully grateful and I imagine she would want to reward you in much the same way Queen Victoria rewarded King Cetshwayo.

You said history would judge black people harshly as they had failed to build on the successes of the apartheid regime. With all due respect, I’m not sure I agree. One of the biggest successes of the previous order was to prevent black people from getting a proper education. After we were subjected to the scourge of democracy, successive black ministers have done a spectacular job of building on this. PW Botha and his knights in shining polyester suits succeeded in not providing black people with everything from health care to jobs and I’d argue that the ANC has done an admirable job in, if not building on, then at least maintaining that particular status quo.

What was your favourite thing about apartheid? Not being able to go to the movies or beaches in town, not being allowed to sit on park benches or snog white women, having separate public toilets and entrances, being unable to live in a nice suburb or eat in decent restaurants, living in a hostel, carrying a dompas, working for a pittance? There’s so much good stuff, I suppose it’s unfair to ask you to pick just one.

You said you considered yourself lucky to have been born in the same year the National Party came to power. Sadly, I was born more than a decade later and cursed my misfortune at having missed all the excitement of watching white supremacy blossom. Fortunately, the best years of apartheid were still to come so not all was lost.

I’m sorry to say that I never contributed much to the apartheid infrastructure that your ungrateful countrymen are so quick to torch. I’m not very good with my hands. I did, however, play a small part in helping the army to become such an awesome fighting machine. Regrettably, I killed no one. I was thrust into the Signals regiment and taught how to type. As I said, a small part, but a part nevertheless.

Thanks to democracy – and by democracy I obviously mean black people – today’s army could be vanquished by an ADT unit from Ballito. Assuming, of course, the unit was made up of white Afrikaners.

You also proudly said there were medals hanging in your palace that the apartheid government had awarded to the Zulu kingdom, and that you didn’t know how it happened that the Afrikaners respect you so much. It’s a mystery to me, too. Perhaps you should have a word with Uncle Gatsha. He might know a thing or two about it.

King