Tag: Cape Town

Rent boy goes west

Mosquitoes have begun sending out the recces early this year. They’re coming in at high altitude late at night – not in packs, but in pairs. They split up once they’ve gained entrance to the bedroom. One makes for the head, the other the feet.

Being a reconnaissance mission, they are meant to check out conditions ahead of the summer advance, then leave quietly. But there are always one or two who can’t help themselves. Like some of our recces in 1976 who just had to push on to Luanda, these little suckers are hanging for a hit of blood so bad that they throw caution to the winds and embark upon a frolic of their own. Let it be said that they don’t always make it back to base.

Soon the mosquito queen – there hasn’t been a king since the Great Slapping of 1984 – will summons her wing commanders. The chief spokesmozzie will read out the reports from the scouts who have travelled from Port Edward to Kosi Bay, from Durban to wherever Kwazulu-Natal ends and Mordor begins.

The queen will put it to the vote. Is it properly summer? Are the targets slow enough? Drunk enough? Mosquitoes are easily excited – especially when their blood-blood levels are low – and the vote, conducted by a show of proboscises, will be unanimous. We attack at 3am.

I need to get out before the onslaught begins. Cape Town has three mosquitoes and a summer that doesn’t leave you perpetually drenched in sweat. I spent seventeen years there and only returned to the east coast after Brenda showed signs of being a lot colder and madder than all the winters put together.

My plan, if you can even call it that, is to spend summers in Cape Town and winters in Durban. However, due to the sudden but not altogether unforeseen change in my marital status, I no longer have a home there. This would mean having to rent. Given my budget and the feeding frenzy of greed around Cape Town’s property market, I’d be lucky to get an asbestos box downwind of Koeberg.

I am going to have to rent out my Durban spot and use that money to get something a bit closer to the action. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my place isn’t fit for human habitation, but it will certainly take more than a rug to pull the living room together.

I have four dining room chairs that were ripped to shreds by the cats formerly known as ours but which were really hers. I assume it was the cats. It could just as easily have been the ex sharpening her teeth late at night when the full moon was out. When I took them in to be reupholstered, the dude asked me what colour material I’d like. I told him it didn’t matter because I lived alone. He seemed to understand.

I don’t have a colour scheme. Or a scheme of any kind, really. I bought a microwave oven that’s too small to accommodate a dinner plate. All my meals are on side plates. The bathroom hasn’t had a light for months because I can’t get the cover off. None of the windows have curtains. I hung two metal elephant heads on the wall, knowing their protruding trunks would almost certainly put someone’s eye out. The beds are pushed up against the wall like prostitutes and their bases are naked. The local monkeys seem to think the place is theirs.

I want to advertise it on the accommodation site Airbnb since this would give me the flexibility to return should something unexpected happen, as I fully expect it to. It also means having to make an effort to get it looking more like a B&B and less like the result of senile squalor syndrome. The thing is, I can’t do it on my own. I need a woman. Studies have shown that women are genetically predisposed towards interior decorating. They understand what goes where and why. They understand colours. They understand concepts like flow, light and space. I don’t even understand how my stupid miniature microwave works.

I am, however, currently between women. And should I solicit advice from those with whom I have had dealings and dalliances, I’d be lucky to get more than a two-word response. One of them obviously being ‘off’.

So I did the unthinkable. I had a sex change. No, I didn’t. That wouldn’t help at all. I’d still have my useless man brain. On the other hand, it would allow me to become a lesbian and have sex with women. Hang on. I haven’t thought this through properly.

Anyway. I did the next most awkward thing. I went to the CNA and looked for a home décor magazine. Inexplicably, many of them insist on featuring gardens. I live in a complex. The garden is not my responsibility and plays no part in my life. I have a vague sense it’s out there somewhere, but beyond that I don’t really care what it does.

I wanted ideas on fairly basic stuff. Like how to make a bed look as if Charlie Sheen hadn’t just spent a week in it. And how to use scatter cushions without making Liberace seem butch. Also, where to put two enormous couches and a wooden table that were removed from the huge marital home in a fit of pique but which aren’t altogether suited to the new, reduced circumstances.

There were at least thirty magazines dealing with homes. In the end I settled for a pack of three. One of them was called Beautiful Kitchens. Every one of its 146 pages has to do with kitchens – a room most women hate being alone in and which most men know only as the place where the fridge lives.

I got home and saw they were all British magazines. That’s no good at all. Ooh, what a lovely lamp. And it’s … let me get my calculator … only R48 000 excluding shipping! What a steal. I’ll take a dozen.

After flipping through these magazines, I realised two things. One, that I’m not gay. And two, interior decorating has more to do with the actual structure than it does the decorations. For a start, it helps to have a fireplace, high ceilings, a staircase, wooden floors and bay windows overlooking two horses in a field.

People who peruse these periodicals are presumably looking for ideas. Well, I had one. It involves flying to London, catching a train to Wiltshire, going around to Andrew and Amanda Bannister’s converted 19th-century Baptist chapel, ringing the bell and, in the unlikely event that they open the door instead of unleashing the hounds, saying, “Love what you’ve done with the place. May I have it?”

I found this decorating tip. “Paint all the walls white, then wait a while before choosing a colour. That way you get used to the effect of the changing light.” You would have to be mental to follow this advice, and not only because it’s utter gibberish. I repainted my bedroom a couple of years ago. There was so much screaming and swearing that the body corporate sent someone around to have a word.

I can only assume advice like this is given by people who can afford to pay others to do the painting.

I don’t want to read about “intimate seating areas where you can curl up with a good book”. If I’m going to get intimate, it’s damn sure not going to be with a book. And at my age I want to be able to stretch out on my back at the first signs of intimacy.

“Jane and Roger have a Buddha from Nepal that creates a beautiful focal point.” I have an aggressive gecko from Westbrook. It creates a terrifying focal point for herpetophobics.

Decorating tip: “If you’re unsure about choosing colours for a room, just pick out an accent from a cushion and build the scheme around it.” Bru, I don’t know what you’re smoking, but if your cushions are talking to you in any kind of accent, regardless of what scheme you’ve got going, you need help.

“An off-white wall makes the perfect backdrop for a set of antlers.” Indeed. There is nothing quite like the skull of a dead stag above your bed to get you in the mood for love. Especially if you’re wearing pyjamas made from the foreskins of baby otters.

These magazines are full of attractive white people with perfect teeth and matching dogs and children called Jay, Poppy or Milo. They are constantly stumbling upon run-down farmhouses or barns and turning them into paragons of gorgeousness awash in Louis XIV couches. Here, we have run-down farmworkers sleeping on couches from Louis Fortuin Furnishers there by the bottle store.

Meanwhile, let me know if you want to spend summer in an eclectically furnished simplex on the north coast. Bring your own side plates. And mind the elephants.

Hovel

Ben Trovato takes a break from protesting to redecorate his home.

The bandersnatches are on their way

 

We have finally overtaken Britain as the world’s foremost nation in whining and complaining.

Crime is too high. Standards are too low. Sex is too fast. Service is too slow. I hate my job. I don’t have a job. I have a headache. I have Ebola. Too many white people. Too many black people. Not enough rain. Too much rain. On and on and on we go.

Sure, every nation complains. But a lot of them don’t stop there. We complain, then sit back and wait for something to happen. And when it doesn’t, we complain some more. We shake our heads and mutter about emigrating. Then the weekend rolls around and we braai and get drunk and suddenly this is the best country in the world.

Here, complaining is about as effective as getting a duck to participate in the ice bucket challenge. They don’t notice, they don’t care. We need to change tactics. Death threats, issued by mail or telephonically, have been known to get results. If that fails, step it up a notch. If you’re a whitey, stop a darkie in the street and ask him to teach you how to make a petrol bomb. Then offer him a ride home. Or to the taxi rank, at least. It’s that kind of bonding that will be the salvation of this country.

Governments through the ages have forced us to use violence to bring about change. If only they listened to the common people, Russia would still be ruled by the Romanovs and one of Marie Antoinette’s loathsome progeny would be the president of France.

Governments aren’t overthrown because they refuse to meet demands for free weed and beer fountains on every corner. They get their metaphorical heads chopped off because they can’t, or won’t, meet demands for jobs and houses and affordable food and fuel.

Fuck the Jabberwock, my son, for ‘tis nothing compared to the underclass. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Beware the Juju bird!

You’d be an idiot not to have a vorpal blade in these tense times. I haven’t had cause to use mine yet, so I know not whether it goes snicker-snack. I hope it does. You can’t return a vorpal blade. Not in these parts, anyway.

We don’t hear much about the underclass in this country. And for good reason. What? You mean there’s another class below the working class? Good god. Where are our passports? Chanteclare, get the children into the Range Rover. Hurry! Bring the Faberge eggs! Leave the horses!

The only reason the EFF has a presence in parliament is because the government allowed an underclass to develop. To be fair, though, the underclass was always there. The only difference is that they now have a voice. Turn your back on them at your peril. France still has plenty of second-hand guillotines they could easily offload on a country with a 0.6% growth rate.

Unlike Britain, we don’t have a clearly delineated class system. I’ve worked it out, though, and if we had to go down that treacherous road, we’d have at least eighteen classes ranging from lower underclass, through middle nouveau riche and all the way to upper old money, also known as the Oppenheimer class.

Anyway. Where was I? Ah, yes. Complaining. You know what I hate? People who, when you ask how they’re doing, they say, “Alright, I s’pose. Doesn’t help to complain.” I want to shout, “Look over there!” And when they turn to look, I sink my teeth into the fleshy part of their neck and shake them like a terrier shakes a rat.

You gutless drone. Governments love people like you. The given-ups. The what’s-the-pointers. If you can’t even be bothered with the first level of resistance, you deserve to die on your knees.

My job is to fix or foul the fault lines that run through civil and uncivil society, but I’m not going to turn my words into action unless you shiftless swine are prepared to back me up. I don’t want to ride into battle against the political orcs and uruk-hais only to turn around and find you’ve all buggered off to the pub.

We have an odd way of protesting. Cape Town’s taxi drivers, furious at being constantly fined and harassed by the cops, go out and set a bunch of buses alight. That’s like Barack Obama saying, “It’s time to teach those Islamic State terrorists a lesson. Tomorrow we bomb Stockholm.”

The cost of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project inexplicably went from R6.4-billion in 2006 to R20.6-billion in 2012. I expect Cosatu will retaliate by calling for a boycott of King Pie.

Fourteen trustees on the board of the government’s medical aid scheme each earn more than half a million rand for meeting a few times a year. The Communist Party will demand that the SPCA be shut down.

The police are corrupt – stone the ambulances. Teachers are drunk – torch the clinics. The ANC doesn’t deliver – vote for the ANC. Welcome to Alice in Blunderland.

Overwhelmed with outrage, I went to my local pub to think about what exactly I should complain about this week. I have two local pubs. Skabengas in Cape Town and the Bush Tavern in Umdloti. Also Beach Bums, there by Westbrook. And the Blow Hole in Glencairn. And the … okay, so I have more than two local pubs. But right now I’m in Cape Town.

Sweeping changes have been made to one of my favourite bars without anyone ever having consulted me. I am outraged.

The yuppification of Skabengas will go down as an atrocity second only to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Real skabengas used to drink at Skabengas. Now it’s full of hipsters with ironically trimmed beards and young married couples sighing at each other over cocktails and canapés. Obviously it’s no longer called Skabengas. Its new name is Beach Road Bar. The owner doesn’t do drugs, that’s for sure. And if he does, it’s the kind of drugs that stifle the imagination or make you want to water your garden or go to sleep.

Skabengas had wooden tables, wooden benches and people you wooden want to take home to meet your mother. Rastas controlled the bar, a giant TV played terrible music and even worse sport and stray dogs had the run of the place. By midnight the floor was sticky with oestrogen and the air thick with testosterone. It got loud and the pony-faced neighbours complained regularly.

The battered old bar that lurked with intent against the far wall has been replaced by a younger model posing cheekily in the centre of the room. The stairs leading down to the toilets, which would turn into the north face of the Eiger as the night wore on, have been tamed and decorated with sparkly mosaic tiles.

There are sculpted plastic chairs and couches with scatter cushions, the bisexuals of the furniture world. The décor is all pastels and pale wood and whites. A lot of whites. Particularly among the clientele.

Funky electro punky reggae trip hoppy poppy jazzy blues is piped through speakers discreetly mounted in the corners. Après-yuppification, it was women of a certain age being discreetly mounted in the corners.

Having said that, the view over Noordhoek beach and off towards Kommetjie is as magnificent as ever. I’m only surprised the interior decorator never insisted on bringing in flocks of pink flamingos fitted with diamanté collars and leg warmers studded with Swarovski rhinestones.

The other good thing is that you can still bring your dog. Also, an elderly gentleman just walked in with a bright green parrot on his shoulder. He ordered a Windhoek draught. The man, not the parrot. I don’t know what the parrot ordered. It seemed wrong to eavesdrop on a conversation between a man and his parrot. I’ve never seen a man so in love with a bird. I only hope it doesn’t die before he does. It’s a non-racist parrot, too, being quite happy to perch on the arm of a black customer for the classic selfie with parrot. This country should be run by parrots, especially if they only ever say, “Hello. How are you?” Parrots don’t make promises they can’t keep. I had a parrot once. I called him Onan because he kept spilling his seed. Sorry.

My waitress was a young white girl. Her manner was awkward and her forced laugh set my eyeballs on edge. She said it was her first time. As a waitress or among people? I couldn’t be sure.

She waited until my mouth was full, then rushed up and began enquiring about my pizza. It turned into an interrogation. My phone started ringing and still she wouldn’t stop.

It’s very colourful, isn’t it?” she said. Could she not see my gob was stuffed with pizza? Could she not hear my phone ringing and that I was waiting for her to shut up so that I could answer it? Apparently not. Apparently my pizza was so bright and colourful that we needed to discuss it as a matter of some urgency.

When I asked for the bill, she said, “Not a problem.” Are there restaurants where asking for the bill is a problem? “I’m sorry, sir. You haven’t eaten enough to warrant dirtying the cutlery and a napkin. You will have to order another item before we can allow you to pay and leave.”

She brought the bill and stood there while I fished out a couple of hundreds. Then she asked a question I’d never before been asked in a restaurant.

How much change would you like?”

Well, honey-bunny, I’d quite like all of my change, if you don’t mind, and then I shall turn my mind to matters relating to the tip.

Too polite to actually say that, I found myself being pressured into making lightning fast calculations using nothing more than my brain. Having caught sight of numbers, my cerebral cortex shut down almost immediately. I would have sat there slack-jawed and drooling if it weren’t for an obscure neural reflex that had me going, “Ummm. Ummm.”

Customers shouldn’t be put in this position. Working out twelve percent of R97.45 and then somehow relating that to the change from a R200 note is the sort of thing you learn at Harvard.

A letter to God

Dear God,

Sorry to bother you while you’re on holiday. I just felt like getting some stuff off my chest. I’m sure your in-box is stuffed with requests, complaints and demands going back hundreds of years. That’s why I’m slipping twenty bucks into the envelope. Get Jesus something nice. Tell him it was from me.

Here’s the thing. I’ve lost my cellphone charger and I was hoping you could … ha ha. Just kidding. If I’ve been bumped to the front of the line, I wouldn’t dare presume to waste your time with frivolities.

I’m in Cape Town at the moment. Love what you’ve done with the place. But the weather? What in your name were you thinking? Were you perhaps under the impression people living here would enjoy spending half the year wearing oilskins and thermal underwear? To give credit where it’s due, though, you did get it right in Durban. You couldn’t find a city with lovelier winters. Summers you apparently subcontracted out. But to Lucifer? Sure, he works fast, but he does have a bit too much of a thing for hot curries and humidity.

I’ve just driven through the Transkei and couldn’t help noticing that it could do with a bit of a touch-up. I’m not suggesting you do it yourself, obviously. If you still haven’t got around to sorting out the Middle East, you’re clearly running a bit behind schedule. Perhaps you could spare one of your lieutenants, though. What’s Noah up to these days? He was always good with his hands.

I hope I am not coming across as too much of a pain in the butt. I know what happens to rude, arrogant people. You curse them by making them very rich. What a burden to bear. Every night I pray for you not to send money my way and every day I find my prayers being answered.

Listen. There are a few people I need to mention. I have a list, but for now let me give you two names. Julius Malema and Steve Hofmeyr. I know we are all hypothetically your children, but you must have been on some kind of transcendental medication when you spawned those two pieces of work. I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but if you ever find yourself short a couple of sunbeams, do us all a favour.

By the way, about that earthquake on Tuesday. Were you trying to tell us something? There are easier ways, you know. Is your email down? Can’t you speak English? Or even Zulu? Everyone seems to have an opinion on the event and, given that one in three people in this country is mentally ill, it’s hard to know what to believe. Someone said you were punishing us because we abolished the death penalty and allow gambling, abortion and homosexuality. Given your reputation in the Bible, it may well be the case. I don’t care. I was in Cape Town and felt nothing. Most people in Cape Town feel nothing at the best of times. Well, most white people, anyway. But you’re not to blame for that. Or are you?

Do you have any clout with the Chinese or Vietnamese? Probably not. But on the off-chance that you do, could you get them to stop snorting our rhinos? I’m sure they’d rather have cocaine. Perhaps you could bring the street price down a bit. And please kill Facebook.

I know the Jews are your chosen people and you’ve done very well to fit a big country like America into a small pocket like Israel, but how does your boy feel about this? I would have thought he might still have hard feelings about that nasty business a couple of thousand years ago. Then again, he was always big on forgiveness. We have people like that here, too. A lot of parents forgive the men who kill their children and say it’s what you willed. They like to think they are emulating Jesus, but they aren’t really. They’re just not very bright.

Oh, before I forget. I have something for you – a token of thanks for all the times you’ve saved my ass. It’s a copy of my book Incognito – The Memoirs of Ben Trovato. I imagine you’re quite capable of purloining your own copy, but they’re selling out fast and the publishers in this country are reluctant to reprint once they have their pound of flesh. Meet me on the beach – being omnipresent you’re unlikely to go to the wrong one – at 3pm on Tuesday and I’ll give you a signed copy.

Yours truly,

Ben

 

 

 

 

Shoot me now

If you’re going to expose yourself, there’s no better place to do it than in the Namib Desert.

“Come up,” said my daughter, Liberty. “We’ll shoot you.” A lot of fathers live in fear of hearing those words. Did she have patricide in mind, or something a little more visual? It was hard to say.

Flying from Cape Town to Windhoek takes as long as it does to fly from Cape Town to Durban, except it’s four times more expensive and twice as weird.

Alice fell down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. You get the same feeling landing at Hosea Kutako International Airport.

Liberty was born in Windhoek – something for which I have repeatedly apologised. She and her Belgian-born boyfriend, Laurent, graduated from Afda film school in Cape Town a couple of years ago and have set up their own production company in Namibia.

When I told her that my memoirs had been published and that I needed to decide whether I should once and for all ditch my disguise, which has served me well over the past ten years as a writer, she suggested we head for the desert.

Laurent’s parents own Namib Sky Balloon Safaris near Sossusvlei. They live, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. Crime isn’t a problem. If you do get stabbed, it’ll be by an oryx or a porcupine.

This is an agoraphobic’s worst nightmare. Rolling plains, mountains and dunes disappear into the distance. It’s vast, empty and primal.

“So will you be taking all your clothes off?” Laurent asked nervously. He had already seen me wearing high heels and one of Liberty’s short, tight skirts – for a photo that accompanied my Sunday Times column – but I could see the idea of me prancing about, willy a-flap in the breeze, might stretch familial ties to breaking point.

“Let’s get out there and see what happens,” I said. They loaded up their gear and we headed off into the shimmering nothingness.

There’s a reason you don’t see many people in black overcoats wandering about the desert. I sweated like a sick pig as they filmed me running, walking and eventually crawling. Laurent fired up the drone while I went off to sit in the middle of one of the many freaky fairy circles in that area. It came towards me at a terrible speed. Moments before it whacked into my head, Laurent sent it soaring skywards, the GoPro capturing a moment of terror on my face.

Did I get naked? Watch the video.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaxG2CrSPRg

THE CREW

Liberty & Laurent of Endemic Productions on location.

_DSC0667_DSC0529

 

THE BASE

The home of Laurent’s parents, who own Namib Sky Balloon Safaris

_DSC0768_DSC0859

Stumbleweeding Through Life

I hope there is some kind of predetermined plan here, and that it isn’t all just loosely held together by a series of random events, because I cannot figure out why, exactly, I am writing this in a noisy backpacker’s bar at 2am on the Wild Coast when, at my age, I should be in a gated community with a devoted wife, 2.4 children and a pair of golden labradors lying at my feet.

Returning from my holiday to Cape Town, which wasn’t so much a holiday as it was an apocalyptic clusterfuck, I stopped off at Jeffreys Bay to try out the new surfboard I bought from Titch Paul’s shop in Muizenberg.

A stiff offshore was blowing and the waves were epic. I jumped out of the car in the parking lot in Pepper Street, overlooking Supertubes, then staggered for a few paces and fell over. A dog came up  and barked at me. A mother hurried her child away. That parking lot has seen some pretty wild stuff over the years, no doubt about it, but not at 10am.

I could barely walk. My right foot felt as if red-hot shrapnel was embedded in it. Other surfers were putting on their wetsuits and waxing their boards. It’s a small town. I didn’t want to be known as that tall, unshaven freak who drives around with a surfboard on his roof, then stops and falls down for a bit and gets back in his car and leaves, but it seemed inevitable.

I went looking for drugs. For many years, drugs were easily obtainable in J-Bay. Then the orcs and uruk-hais from the hinterland descended, with their facebrick houses and facebrick churches and facebrick mentalities, and nothing was ever the same again. Now, you have to get your drugs from pharmacies instead of hippies.

None of the chemists speak English. I tried explaining my symptoms but fell silent when I realised I had forgotten the Afrikaans word for foot. She helped me out by saying, “Jou voet?” Foot. Voet. Hard to tell the difference. Why even bother with another language? Can’t we all just speak English and get along?

She said from the sound of it, I had gout. They speak funny in J-Bay, so I laughed and said, “For a minute there, I thought you said I had gout.” Ja, she said, gout. I was outraged. Gout is something from which fat, old, rich men suffer. I am not rich. What a silly woman. Could she not tell by the way I was dressed?

“How much did you last have to drink?” she said. An odd question. I was wearing sunglasses and, for all she knew, I was a Jehovah’s Witness. It is, after all, only by the eyes that one can tell someone who is partial to the odd dram, or, in my case, nineteen beers and four tequilas two nights earlier.

I removed my sunglasses and looked her square in the eye. She flinched, nodded once, turned to her stockpile of snake-oil solutions and rip-off remedies and handed me a canister of colchicine. “Take two …” I immediately lost interest and began scanning the shelves behind her. Ever since I was a child, I have been astonished at the amount of drugs that are available in pharmacies. I no longer want to try them all, but I remain astonished, nevertheless.

It was vitally important that I cured my foot while I was still in J-Bay, so I began gobbling the little white pills the moment I walked out. The more you take, the better you feel. Isn’t that the guiding credo for pharmaceuticals of any kind? Well, apart from acid. I overmedicated on acid once and had two-thirds of my face fall into my lap while I was sitting on a park bench in Barcelona. I had a terrible job fitting it back on.

Colchicine works on a different principle. One of the side effects of overdosing is that you swerve violently into someone’s driveway and vomit in their garden. In front of their children. On a Sunday morning.

“It’s gout,” I shout. I wouldn’t want them thinking I am spreading blackwater fever through the neighbourhood. But I can see they don’t understand. They have given their facebrick house a name. Something in Afrikaans. I don’t understand, either.

My organs and joints eventually calmed down enough for me to get into the water. Surfing at J-Bay is to surfers what kissing the pope’s ring is to Catholics, only more hygienic. Getting out of the water is another story. To get back to the beach, one has to negotiate a strip of razor-sharp rocks that runs for hundreds of metres. It’s brutal.

Driving out of town a couple of days later, I pulled up at the N2 T-junction and turned the engine off. Left back to Cape Town, right to Durban. I’ve done 23 years in Durban, 14 in Cape Town and the rest … well let’s not talk about the rest.

I could have gone either way. It didn’t really matter. Nobody was waiting for me, on the west coast or the east. I took out a R5 coin and flipped it. Heads. But forgot to call it. Just then, one of those giant satanic crows flew low overhead and banked sharply to the left. I couldn’t remember if it was black cats, black crows or black people that were bad luck, but either way it struck me as an ominous omen.

I swung the wheel to the right, opened a beer with my teeth and headed for the legendary roadworks of the Eastern Cape.

Poltroons, Pizzas and Pangas

Who is Ben Trovato?

Nobody knows for sure – not even him.

“Metaphysically speaking, I have no idea who I am,” says Trovato. “Nor do I wish to know. Asking ‘who am I’ is the kind of crazy talk reserved for stoners and people with Alzheimer’s.”

His 10th and latest book, The Whipping Boy, is more than “just a book”. It is, says Trovato, a weapon in the war against terror, for which a user’s guide will be mailed upon receipt of the beer equivalent of money.

Along with Trovato’s much-loved and widely hated columns, it contains a bunch of fake news stories, hilarious letters to the rich and famous, and outrageous job applications that resulted in the author not receiving a single offer of employment.

Bianca Coleman spoke to him.

 

Where would you most like to live?

Mthatha. I drove through it the other day and was quite taken by its understated charm. However, it appears to be full so my next choice would be a stretch of coastline somewhere in Central America or Indonesia where the water is warm and the cops are asleep.

What is your best-kept Western Cape “secret”?

My identity.

Where do you go to do your shopping and why? Speciality shops or malls?

I could not, in all honesty, answer this question without immediately going out and killing a small animal with my bare hands. Shopping, like marriage, is an oddly emasculating experience.

What are your favourite gourmet treats and where would you get them?

I would enjoy gourmet beef rotis, gourmet mutton bunny chows and gourmet gatsbies but I have no idea where to get them from. At home, getting any kind of meal is a treat, really. It doesn’t even have to be gourmet. Just edible.

What is your favourite restaurant? Where is it, what do you like about it, and what are your favourite things to order and why?

My favourite restaurant is Blikkie Pizzeria in Paternoster. I recently waited over an hour for a pizza and when I complained, the owner came out and screamed at me. They had run out of dough but didn’t tell anyone. He’s like an Afrikaans Basil Fawlty crossed with Stalin. Eating out is so much more enjoyable when there’s a violent confrontation with the management.

What is your biggest/most decadent indulgence and where would you get it?

Magic truffles. They are similar to magic mushrooms but if you have too many they make you invisible. I’m not telling you where they are. And there’s no point in you coming to look for me, either.

What is your favourite outdoor spot anywhere in the Western Cape – to walk, hike, picnic, view – and why?

I’m not much one for walking, hiking, picnicking or doing anything that doesn’t end in applause or payment. In fact, I think the outdoors as a concept is heavily overrated. My only contact with nature is when I go surfing, but this can hardly be considered outdoorsy fun considering that in these parts nature has a nasty habit of biting your legs off.

Where is your favourite local holiday destination, and why?

The Victorian Times tavern in Fish Hoek. I can walk there, stay as long as I like and almost walk back. The locals have fascinating stories to tell about the time they were captured at the fall of Tobruk. There’s also a pool table and tons of women whose faces have fallen off. It makes a fabulous holiday destination if you don’t mind sleeping in the bushes.

What is your favourite long or short distance drive anywhere in South Africa – passes, scenic routes, small town destinations?

My favourite short distance drive is to the bottle store. Long distance would have to be all the way up to St Lucia, with a few days at Jeffreys Bay for some epic waves and a panga fight with the insensitive brutes who are building on the dunes.

Where did you most recently go for a day drive and why?

I drove from Fish Hoek to Muizenberg on Boxing Day. It took me all day because the city council is digging up the coast road and a million Vaalies were occupying Boyes Drive. By the time I got there I couldn’t remember what I was meant to be doing and had to turn around and come back. That took another day.

Where is your favourite or dream international holiday destination, and why?

I am drawn to Thailand. The people there are very spiritual but at the same time they won’t hesitate to chop your head off if they don’t like you. They put a lot of the most dreadful things in their mouths, but not dogs. For this alone, they get my vote.

What are your hobbies/free time activities and where do you like to do them?

I am a collector. I collect mainly small change, speeding fines, parking tickets and bills from my post box in Sea Point. I once collected a butterfly when it flew into my study but I couldn’t bring myself to stick a pin through it and the little bastard escaped through the window before I could call myself a lepidopterist.

What makes Cape Town the most special/beautiful place for you and why?

Everything is so beautiful. The girls, the beaches, the trees, the penguins, the queers, the bergies, the N2, the perlemoen poachers, the 28s, Bontehuewel. I love them all.

What don’t you like about Cape Town, or what would you like to change about it?

Table Mountain. It blocks the view and is infested with muggers and fynbos. I would demolish it and build the world’s biggest theme park using a lot of chrome and face brick. I would also crank up the temperature of that big, frigid wet thing. And maybe build a few beach bars.

If you did not grow up in Cape Town but elsewhere in South Africa, please tell us your earliest childhood memory of that place.

I grew up in Durban. The earliest thing I remember, as I made my way down the birth canal, was the sound of my parents bickering. I tried to pull myself back up but my hand slipped and the next thing I knew, I was being held upside down by a man in a white coat. Instead of doing the decent thing and putting some clothes on me, he smacked me sharply on my naked bottom. I got a leg loose and kicked him in the face. “That’ll teach you, motherfucker,” I thought. I had paid close attention to what was going on around me for the previous nine months and, thanks to my mother, was born with a filthy mouth that has served me well to this day. I remember the doctor passing me to my father, who smacked me. Then he passed me to my mother, who did the same. I was also smacked by several orderlies and a security guard until someone covered up my shamefully small willy before the nurses could see it.

Where is the best place to take your children and why?

The best place to take most kids is straight to an adoption agency, especially if they are capricious, tantrum-throwing brats who aren’t so bright and won’t go to sleep at night. Whatever you do, don’t take them overseas because they will end up sitting in the row behind me kicking my seat all the way from Joburg to London.

What is the quirkiest or most unusual place you know in the Western Cape and why?

I would have to say parliament. For six months of the year it stands empty. The rest of the time it resembles a lurid convention of professional prevaricators, bogus democrats, pusillanimous poltroons, serial philanderers and an assortment of hypocrites, perjurers and profligate wastrels.

What, in your opinion, makes Cape Town unique?

Nowhere else in the country is one’s maternal genitalia so profoundly invoked as it is during the many wonderful al fresco debates that take place around the city.

Describe your perfect Saturday or Sunday.

I wake up.