|Bury Me With Dignity by Russell Winje © 3/1/2007 updated 3/21/2008|
|1. African Dream|
A warm African wind blew across an island off the west coast of Southern Africa as I stood outside a simple white shack erected in a bleak open courtyard. In the harsh midday sunlight, what appeared to be an animal, perhaps a black dog, lay on the left side of the front porch. Unable to make it out from that distance, I moved closer. All was silent. There were no birds or even the sound of the wind that moved the dust across the courtyard as my feet kicked up the surface.
The animal stunk as if dead, but it moved with a nervous jerk, making a chill go up my spine. I threw my hand to my face to stop the odor and prevent the recoil of my stomach as I realized it was a man, a black man, burnt and mutilated. I wanted to turn away, but was so drawn to him out of pity and horror that I approached and could see his legs and arms had been chopped off, and his jaw destroyed, burnt skin hanging from his face.
I wanted to cry out, but no one would have heard me. I wanted to kill him to end his pain, but my legs would not move
I stared at him.
Then, as if magically, he rose from the porch floor, faced me and floated toward me saying,
"Don't pity me! Bury me with dignity!"
The shock woke me from this African dream.
The dream left me stunned. I knew it was time to contact the Chief again. It had been exactly one month since I spoke to him the first time by phone, having reached him at his political party's office in Windhoek on April 28th, 2001. Today, on this May 28th date, I called his home number, which he had given to me on April 5th, as we were flying into Atlanta Georgia from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Enishia answered the phone, introducing herself as the Chief's wife. He was just coming home from Parliament, where he is a member. To qualify my reason for calling him this time, I explained to the Chief that I was a seer, and that I had an important dream to relate to him.
After explaining the dream in detail, as it still weaved its way through my waking mind, the Chief agreed that this was important to him as well. His people know and use visions to understand their world as well. He too had important news for me.
A mass grave had been uncovered on a remote prison island off the shore of South West Africa. He asked me to please come and see this with him.
We discussed the details of his upcoming international travels in relation to the important work he was pursuing for his People. With meetings in Washington D.C. in the following two weeks, he would not be available at his home country for some time. Instead, he suggested I get in touch with his lawyer in D.C. and try to arrange a meeting with him in the US.
I made arrangements through his lawyer for the Chief to fly to Reno, Nevada, where I would put him up at a motel at Lake Tahoe for a weekend so we could talk in peace.
This all fell through as more international meetings took him away from the D.C. and landed him in New York; then back to South West Africa before I could get a flight to the East Coast.
I would now have to wait for the future to agree to allow us a time together.
Turning instead to my memories of how I had met the Chief, I found myself back in Johannesburg, South Africa earlier that year.
|3. Leaving Johannesburg|
It was a cold, overcast Thursday afternoon up on the south face of Northcliff, overlooking Johannesburg, South Africa. The radio show I had produced ended at 5:00 am in order to air live in the California evening time slot. Now an international flight loomed that would take me back to Reno, Nevada.
A restless night ensued and kept me awake while I tried in vain to surmount the hurdles of middle-aged loneliness, after a trip halfway around the world in search of a life partner had taken me from my remote home to this place. Trying to push myself to a new life, I had pursued a failed love interest all the way to South Africa. Now it was time to return home without having ended my solitude.
I was lonely again even before I left.
Standing outside the villa I had called home for a month, waiting for my ride to the airport, I watched the black women and men making their way to and from the overloaded taxi minivans, taking them through their daily lives. How Africa had touched me, haunted me, as much as the dream would. I was simply an observer, and not a member of this society, with my luggage and backpack loudly noticeable.
My thoughts ran back to days before as I had stood there looking into the boot of a red Nissan Sentra belonging to a wannabe producer, Paul, who used the car as his office. That day he and I had compared notes. "I'll come see you in California this fall", he had said as he shut the boot. "I have work there. With Sharon Stone" he had said, having pointed her name out in his little black address book.
The sound of a car approaching pulled me out of my daydream.
Right on time, Mickey (my failed romance!) drove up and pulled into the steep driveway of the production studio at the base of the villa, bringing my mind out of the haze of memories and back to the misty air.
Lou and his new family blessed my journey from where they stood half way up the spiral stairs to their studio and house entrance, then made their way back into the studio to finish work on the movie props that lined the driveway behind where I stood.
"Good afternoon. Could we stop at a Chemist on our way?" I asked Mickey.
"I don't know, we're short on time, and the commute through the city to the freeway and airport will be jammed in a half hour," she complained.
"Oh. This cold is going to be tough on the 18-hour flight to Atlanta, and I was told to get some Infludo. Do you know what that is?" I insisted.
"Sure. We can try. Hurry! " She said, unsympathetically.
I loaded into the car which leaped forward and she frantically drove around the taxis at the intersection and down Ethel Avenue's twisty rock-walled lined road winding its way through the expensive homes set in lush gardens. It made me feel like I was back on Laurel Canyon Drive outside Studio City, California, the previous summer.
The Chemist was not busy. I ran in and looked up and down the aisles with confusion, the rush of intention and weight of the cold in my head.
Seeing my dilemma, a young clerk satisfied my request quickly, and I was back in the car, moving through the streets: North, down D.F. Malan, past the Cresta Mall where I had shopped so often over the previous month, then through the artsy community of Melville and onto the freeway skirting the high rise downtown skyline of the CBD.
I looked around, remembering where I had been during my stay, seeing the 40-some story tall Carlton Center, the landmark towers belonging to the SABC, and Hillbrow, or "Gotham", all becoming a blur as we sped up to meet the flow of rush hour commute traffic. Tall artificial mountainous dunes of mine tailings I had first seen from Lou's now lined the road near me.
"If I had made more headway with the movie I would not be leaving right now," I said to Mickey.
"What do you mean?" she responded with disinterest in her voice. "You just spent a month on location, met crews and producers. What did you leave out? You met Credo Mutwa!" She looked over at me, rolling her eyes.
"I need a completion bond. Getting through the doors of Alliance is not easy, and I need their involvement before anyone will work with me," was all I could say.
Mickey brought us into the underground parking lot for the airport where this adventure had all begun and found an open space as near the entrance as possible. The Infludo was kicking in, and numbness from the head cold was hard to separate from the effects of the medication.
Although all I wanted was to sit down, I needed to make sure my flight was on schedule. We approached the first information desk we encountered. Mickey communicated with the lovely black woman behind the counter and then turned and told me I was on schedule to leave in two hours.
All too soon this trip I had used to try and bring new adventures into my life would end, becoming a simple note in history, punctuated by 39 hours in the airline system.
Working our way through the multiracial crowd to the cafe, we sat and choked down a quick bite of dry hamburger with hot coffee, a combo tasting much like paper and dirty water. The clock ticked off a short time and Mickey was ready to leave.
I asked for her assistance through the next step at security and into the main lobby. We moved through the tightly packed crowd and soon were past the first guard station without even stopping to be checked. The swarm of bodies pushed us past the guard without being detained
The hurried guard briefly looked up toward us, without focusing, then the line divided into separate approaches to gated doorways. There the attendant questioned how we got in without seeing the previous check station. Mickey simply said, "I need to interpret for this man, then I will leave."
She was not there to say goodbye; she only wanted to see me leave and said so. As a driver she had proved to be somewhat adequate. As a friend, she would not be missed.
|4. The Diplomat|
After some discussion, I was allowed past the gate on my own, into the huge room where passengers waited at departure gates. Straining to clear my head and access the room, I looked at my ticket and notes from the information desk, and started a search for departure gate number 27. Finding it across the room I discovered there was no plane. The next gate had a plane with my number. An older black man dressed in a fine suit sat watching as I approached the waiting area.
"Are you traveling to Atlanta USA?" he asked.
"Yes," I kept my answer short, trying to politely avoid contact.
"Is this our loading gate?" he continued. "I'm going to Washington DC."
"I'm not sure," I answered trying not to get involved. Having just been told by Mickey to be cautious and not speak to black people, and to watch my luggage, I was too full of question and doubt to be open and communicative, as normally would be my nature.
"Why don't you just go over there to that information desk and ask, and I will watch your luggage," he politely suggested. All my red flags went up.
"No, I think we are just fine, I will wait and see if this is my flight," thinking to myself that I had just been targeted and had deflected the attempt at a deception.
"I'll go check then, you watch my luggage," he said, pushing his briefcase at my feet and briskly walking away toward the information counter clear across the football field sized open room filled with travelers mixing around massive pillars.
He disappeared into the crowd, and then re-appeared at the counter just within view, turned from the desk, looked at me, pointed and turned back to the attendant.
I wondered if I might be assisting a terrorist, or a diamond thief, looking down at the briefcase.
On his return, as I tried to watch him through the crowd, he disappeared behind one of the pillars, then looked around the side of it to see me standing with his and my bags between my legs, guarding them all like a bull dog. He smiled, came out from behind the pillar and walked straight back at me.
"This is the right gate," he said, "Let's sit here and wait."
He sat down, putting his Briefcase on his lap, opening it, as I watched, not knowing what I expected to see, he picked through it checking his lunch that sat with a small handful of papers.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
"I'm working on a movie," I said as I studied his appearance. He wore a fine expensive suit with a discreet flag on the lapel. A large handsome man in his 50's with very deeply reflective black skin, his eye contact never wavered. His self-confidence was apparent.
Without knowing anything else about me at this point, he said," I feel compelled to help you. I can give you an introduction to Alliance."
I just about fell off my chair!
He did not know me. He did not know my project, and he had offered just what I needed. I did not know who he was, and he did not offer to tell me, so I just asked, "What is your name, Sir?"
"I am Riruako. I am a diplomat," he said. "on the way to an important meeting in Washington DC, representing my people on an issue that I have worked on for some 30 years. This may be the last time I need to go to the US as this issue is nearly resolved."
Again he said, "I can help you with your project." I asked where he was from, and he said Namibia.
I had been fixated on trying to pronounce Namibia since the day I was on the way to South Africa on the plane the previous month, and had not figured out why. I had no knowledge of this country, other than seeing it through the plane window on my way to Cape Town. It had no connection to my trip to South Africa, as far as I could tell.
Somehow the nagging familiar to me from the voices I had heard so loud in my head while in Africa tugged at me as my mind became numbed from the Infludo.
|5. The World Over|
Getting to South Africa had begun four years before, when I knew only that I was changing my life, not how or why.
In 1996 I had been at my farm for 9 years. My daughter had left home at age 16 two years before. She and I had worked feverishly to transform the farm from a junk heap to a home.
When she had begun to be uncomfortable around a woman who was my life and business partner, I had asked my daughter if she might not be happier to move on.
By the time two years had passed, I was trying to find how I could possibly fill my life, find companionship. My remote location prevented my meeting people. I had been a bachelor since 1979 when I divorced the mother of my daughter and son.
A love, a companion that would satisfy my future waited out there someplace, and I was not finding it on this farm. I knew already that I must look for my woman out there in the world, out of my reach.
An inner feeling confirmed that I would meet a woman from across the oceans. I wondered how this was possible unless someone walked through my door and into my life.
|6. Creating The Future|
I had never wanted a computer, never wanted to be on the Internet. Late night radio shows had started to fill my life. I resisted any idea of keyboards and monitors.
It was late August of 1996. I found myself at our county fair, talking to a neighbor about the entries I had placed and won with from my garden. All of the sudden I heard myself telling this neighbor that I was purchasing a computer the next week, and going online. I could not believe my ears! But there it was, out of my own mouth.
By Monday I had scraped up over $1,000 and made arrangements for a friend from San Francisco to bring a computer set up to my home. I ordered internet service from the first batch of offers made by our phone company, and had a phone line in place waiting in my atrium, now converted to an office, when the computer arrived the next weekend.
In the 60's I had promoted rock bands at small venues in the foothills of California, some 120 miles from San Francisco. I had scouted bands that interested me, like Quick Silver Messenger Service, The Train, and a quirky group, the Moss and the Rocks. Simple stuff, but it had taught me to promote what I wanted to enjoy, and others would pay for the privilege.
From this past experience, I knew I wanted to use my new Internet tool to bring information to my home, and possibly open the door that would allow my new companion to come into my life.
Within a week I had arranged for a man from one of the late night talk shows to come to my community and give a presentation on UFOs. There had been plenty UFOs spotted in our area, and I had experiences of my own. I wanted to learn all I could. A successful night for the speaker caused other speakers to follow over the years ahead, but not my companion. I wanted more, and a larger audience.
One of my guests came to my shows from Los Angeles. He and his wife brought a series of stories to me to see if I might enjoy them. I picked through them and found one that struck a cord with me. "Beyond The Light Barrier" by Elizabeth Klarer.
My first thought was that I could make a movie from this story.
I hit the Internet and looked for anyone connected to this story. Within a day I found my self in contact with Elizabeth's son and daughter. Following leads I was soon in contact with three others who had known Elizabeth and had enough to go to a late night radio show host, Jeff Rense.
Jeff agreed to a show, based in his interest in Elizabeth Klarer. This show was postponed and set to air on what happened to be the anniversary of Elizabeth's death. The auspicious timing was brought to the public's attention at the end of the show by one of Elizabeth's friends.
The show resulted in getting Elizabeth's son and daughter in closer contact than they had been, and may have effected her son's involvement in the future of this project. Though I didn't realize it yet, this project was developing a life of its own and would also be affecting my life.
|7. Unexpected Guest|
Through the parade of speakers came a doctor in the mental health field. He had found that UFO abductees were having actual physical experiences, masked and forgotten. One of his methods of assisting abduction experiencers was to provide a hypnosis session to those willing to go deeper.
Before the first public event started, the doctor offered an opportunity to anyone who would like a session with him. I decided to step out and be the first, and get the process started.
Not knowing what to expect, I followed the doctor to an available room up stairs. Entering a spare upstairs bedroom, I headed right for the window, opening it just enough to wedge a small piece of firewood on the sill, and thus capture the stick as in a vice.
The doctor invited me to get comfortable either on the bed, or in a chair. I chose a chair in front of him and observed the process he initiated, while I listened to the commotion in the house below, taking note of the progress in my absence, not fully involved in the Doctor or his process.
The doctor asked me to go back in my mind along my own timeline to a place where I met my friends from space. Through a couple of minutes of suggestions and listening to my responses, The doctor was coming to the end to the session. I had only really paid attention to my neglected duties downstairs, and was ready for this to end as well, when I noticed someone had entered my field of view.
From a memory of my space friends from childhood, I knew this could be one I had chosen to call George. This fellow approached me until his face was right in front of me, letting me focus on his features clearly.
His brown skin was deeply wrinkled and his forehead tall. Asking me to watch the center of his forehead, he started to think compassionate thoughts about me.
A gland, just under the skin, in the center of his head started to glow a beautiful orange color. He explained that I could also do this, and then he left, closing the old window as he went.
Deciding I was through, and that I must get back to work, I thanked the Doctor and got up to close the window across the room. The window was already closed, the piece of firewood lying on the sill in front of it. The doctor's fingers were still intact, so I knew he had not done this, as the old window would have slammed shut on him had he tried.
Privately, I knew this was the beginning of direct communications. I would need assistance with things that would come in the years ahead. Changes that would push me out the door of my secure remote home, and across the ocean in search of my future.
|8. Re Building My Life December 4th of 2000 was the 13 anniver|
December 4 of 2000 was the 13th anniversary of my coming to this farm. In honor of this, I started the tear down and rebuilding of an 1860's cabin behind the main house. Though I was not sure what I really would ever do with the building, I knew it was an important part of obtaining my future companion. I was becoming a hermit, and needed a distraction to keep me away from others in my community.
The house was a dreadful mess. I had to strip away every layer of wood and dirt by hand, washing and stacking materials as I went. Dead rats were stuck in dried molasses on the floor. Garbage bags of dust and dirt were stacked in a huge pile out in the snow, and then froze to the ground.
I cut a hole in the roof and installed a Franklin fire place which I kept going from 6 in the morning till 11 at night every day for a month, feeding it with any wood scrap I came across. Though I did not realize it yet, I was bringing on a nervous breakdown.
Finally one day when I was walking back from the barn in a snowstorm, carrying electrical materials for the next part of my work, I thought about this mysterious man I called George. I asked for his help as I stood out in the yard by the wood house and dropped my load of materials in the snow.
Shouting at him I said I could no longer live this way!
A stunned silence followed. I had been getting daily help from him with difficult work in the cottage, though I only now realized it. Noting the silence I told him I must have my companion in my life before I would do anything more.
I picked up the electrical materials and marched off to the cottage.
Minutes latter a voice told me to go write an e-mail to Jeff Rense, asking if he was ready for another show about Elizabeth Klarer. I left my work and immediately fired off an email to him. With in minutes Jeff had written back and said he could put me on the New Years Eve show if I could fill the whole two hours.
I got right on the phone and started booking guests. In no time I had 7 guests lined up with phone numbers and times. Jeff's engineer got on it and the show was set to go in a couple of days.
I worked in the solitude of the cottage until time for the radio show, and then sat quietly in my office as the guests spoke about their knowing Elizabeth Klarer.
This project was affecting lives. E-mails rolled in from around the world after the show from individuals saying they were affected by David's candor, and that it helped them understand conflicts in their own UFO experiences.
|9. The Path To Africa|
The show ended in the early New Years Eve and I was too tired to go back to the cabin, so I hung out with the computer and looked for something to read. Just before the show I was in contact with one of the guests by e-mail. I had wanted to tell him about the changes in my life over the past month just in case he asked about me on the air.
I told him that I had been divorced for more than 15 years. I gave him more information than he needed, and he was quietly polite. His e-mail came from a different address each time he wrote, as he used computers where he could find them.
An hour after the show an email came from the computer he had last used, and I thought it was he.
Instead a woman was writing asking me if being divorced meant I was available. A bit shocked to be asked this, I wrote back and said yes, and asked if she was available? She wrote back in a cheeky manner saying that depends, and we were off.
After all, it was New Years, and I was not at a party, nor was she. A guest from the show had been using a computer at her home office before flying out to Cape Town for a bicycle race. She had taken him to the airport, then come back and read his e-mails from me.
Since I had allowed my heart to break over a messy affair that summer I had made a pact with myself, saying I would only pursue someone who showed an interest in me. I had been looking at dating pages on the Internet as well and learned some of what my own limits were.
As this woman, Mickey, started to write to me she seemed to be meeting those requirements. I also hoped that the George had set this up around the radio show he had suggested.
I began to spend my 17-hour workday between the cottage and the computer, exchanging E-mails with Mickey.
I called the snowy path between the office and the cottage my path to Africa. During the night when I could not sleep I was on the computer with her.
She too was up too late in her night now and we both were suffering jet lag without even leaving our homes. But someone would have to leave soon to close the gap across the Atlantic Ocean, it seemed, and she thought it should be her.
It was February now and she was trying to get a visa to come to the States, and I was booking a room in San Francisco and I would pick her up at the airport. Unexpectedly my inner voice pushed me to get a passport on an expedited form, and 10 days later I had my very first passport.
Stress caused me to swing between joy and tears from the desire to push through changes and past the lack of sleep. One morning, as I came from the barn to the cottage with materials, I asked George how this thing with Mickey was going to turn out. As I passed the wood house where I had made my demands months before I felt a shift in reality, and time went away.
George's voice asked if I wanted to know how it was going to feel being with Mickey, and I said yes.
A deep sorrow flooded over me and I fell to my knees in the pain of despair. With tears in my eyes I pulled my self up and protested that this could not be so, and said I must find out.
By now I was calling Mickey frequently. An E-mail she sent said I must call her now. She had her tickets, and was ready to fly out in a couple of days, but her visa had been turned down. As she cried over the phone I told her I had my passport and we could make a plan in the future if she was turned down again.
With a shaky voice she asked, how long must she wait? I said we would not have to wait any longer, that I would come to her now.
I did not have the money to leave home when I made that promise. She agreed that if I could get a flight that she would provide the home and transportation, as she was between freelance jobs for a month. I offered to buy the food. She asked me to come for a month.
We agreed that we might get married while I was there. I was committed without the funds to get there. I stepped out of my comfort zone and borrowed money for air flight on a friends credit card and made plans to leave my farm for a month.
In three days I would be in Johannesburg.
|10. Leaving home|
The night before my departure, a huge spring storm closed the East Coast Reagan International Airport.
Not knowing this yet, I woke at 4:00 am from a vivid airport dream where a young man was waiting for a ride from the Johannesburg airport. I waited next to him for my ride. His face stuck in my mind. The young man's ride came in the form of one of my radio show guests, calling out the young man's name "Lonnie Trailor".
In a matter of hours I would recognize Lonnie on the streets of Melville, South Africa.
Too awake to sleep, I turned on the computer and discovered the East Coast airport closure.
Quick phone calls and unexpected flight changes pushed me out the door by the time the sun had come up.
Arrangements were in place to leave my 1961 Chrysler for a month at the Motel next to the airport in Reno, Nevada.
Out in the middle of the Nevada desert some two hours later I rendezvoused with a man on the way to my farm to caretake for the month. Standing in the middle of the remote road, alone on a huge valley floor, we exchanged greetings and instructions about farm tricks of the trade, while peeing on the pavement, then sped off in opposite directions.
I arrived at my motel with enough time to shower and grab a quick nap as a knock came at my door. My son, who lives in Reno, had come to see me off and catch up on what was up with this uncharacteristic way around the world trip I was ready to make.
He had heard from my daughter that I had a bride in mind, and my son was looking me in the eye for signs of my having lost my mind. Satisfied that I was not too nuts to travel, he made arrangements to see me on my return, and we both left the motel, a short day after I had arrived.
|11. Learning to Fly|
The airport shuttle dropped me off in front of the small Reno Tahoe International Airport.
A bit confused from the lack of sleep and the concerns about making my connections laid out ahead, I asked the attendant at the ticket counter if I could have assistance from the carriers on my flight, explaining that I had "attention deficit disorder", not really even knowing what that was. She marked the tickets and checked my luggage, explaining that there would not be a problem.
Stepping back from the counter I checked the tickets and flight schedule charts overhead, locating my departure gate.
The waiting area past the simple security checks was filled with Nevada noises of slot machines and loud music. The only thing missing from any other casino was the smoke from cigarettes. Empty rows of seats greeted me at my departure gate.
I pulled out the book my movie would be based on, and pretended to be busy as an attractive young woman in her mid 30's took a seat next to me, sitting her handbag on the floor next to her. She studied the cover of the book I was holding and asked where I was going. I explained that I was on the way to South Africa. She quizzed me about the route I was taking, and I pulled my tickets and showed her that I was first on the way to Salt Lake City. She was going there as well.
The loading gate opened and we boarded the plane, taking seats across the isle from each other. I looked around the empty seats and checked out the signs and magazines. Taking out a travel guide I looked for information about the Salt Lake Airport layout. The lady looked over at me and said I could follow her through the airport and she would point out my next gate.
Somewhat more at ease I leaned back and relaxed as much as the flight would allow, the windows now dark with the early evening. Several house later the seat belt sign came on, and our descent into Salt Lake City brought us quickly to our departure point.
The young woman motioned to me to follow her and we set off through the automatic moving floors and deep into the airport
At an intersection she turned to me and said she would go this way, and I would go the other. She said she lived close to the airport, and that I could come home with her, as I had hours to wait. Her next flight would leave about when mine would, and she would bring me back in time, flirting with her eyes.
It was only then that I realized that she was an employ of the airlines, and had been checking me out as I had requested, and with her own interest in mind as well. Flattered, I politely declined her offer of a short visit to her home, and made my way to my gate.
It was late evening by now, and my flight would leave the empty room by midnight.
Other flights departed from the room as midnight slowly approached. Pretending to be busy reading, I sat in the middle of the room as floods of humanity entered the room and left through gates to the north and south of me. With the first group I nervously checked to see if it was my flight, only to find that I would have boarded a flight to Los Angeles. I learned much about airports sitting there, mainly how to wait.
It would have been easier to just wait than load that never-ending leg of the flight from Salt Lake City Airport to Atlanta Georgia. The upside was the stewardess announcing "Thank you for flying South African Airways" just before the roar of the engines took us out of Utah.
Chasing ever later morning hours eastward over the Midwest and Deep South, nothing could be seen below in the darkness until the mass of humanity lit up the horizon with subdivisions and highways.
The change of time made no sense to me as we ended the long fight at 5:00 AM local East Coast time entering an almost empty airport hub. Three other passengers loaded the underground tramway bound for the center of the departure gates. The tram doors opened into a long wide corridor empty other than for the handful of black janitors dancing with mops and riding floor-waxing machines.
Visitor Information booths were empty as well as outgoing customs and fast food restaurants surrounding the dining tables at the edge of the lobby. No coffee, no vendors, only empty booths. I selected a table close to the area the Janitors were just entering and pulled my denim coat up around my neck to keep the damp cold out and fell asleep, looking like the homeless man I had once been.
A bus cart loaded with glass plates and cups crashed into the door to a food outlet as a young black man pushed his way past me and behind the counter of an opening coffee shop. Unloading his cart while the fresh smell of coffee hit the fan behind him and drifted out into the booth I had made home for the too brief night's sleep.
Sticky syrup covered pastries warmed under lights that now competed with the sun rising through the tall windows facing the suburbia past the commercial parking area below. The customs counter was still closed. My internal clock was still on west coast time, hours behind the waking morning actions of a handful of business travelers passing back and forth through the relatively empty intersection of shops and departure gates. It was breakfast time for them, and might as well be for me.
With my carry on luggage tote over my shoulder, I found the restrooms and washed up with cold water to bring my heart and mind to the shocking reality of being all the way diagonally across this huge country before my farm had made morning light.
The coffee smelled much better than it was. The sticky pastry dripped on my denim coat and smelled and tasted like yesterday's leftovers. Shops started to open and displays rolled out on the newly waxed floors. The customs desk had a young woman behind the counter pulling phones out of cabinets and putting papers on desks as an older man wandered around behind her, retouching her work for approval.
I approached and asked for assistance but only got a glance and a nod before she left the area with a cleaning cart I had not seen from across the room.
The older man ignored my presence and a business dressed older woman passed him in the double doors coming from a dimly lit office and approached the counter near me, going through papers on a desk, and re arranging the phones. Other people came and went from the counter, being handed the papers from the desk before my invisibility ended and the older woman walked over to me.
I pulled out my passport and handed it to her asking what I needed to do to load my overseas flight. She looked at me blankly and said nothing, then looked at my blue closed passport, without opening it. "Find your gate and wait. You are an outgoing passenger and this is an incoming customs office. You don't have to do a thing till you are on the plane."
With other questions dying on my lips, she turned and disappeared behind the double doors to the office and began to turn lights on. I turned instead to the black janitor in the middle of the room and asked him what I should do. He politely took my ticket and looked around the lobby, then pointed down the "X" shaped corridor toward a seating area, and said, "just wait there, you will see others. You have 3 hours to wait." He looked at his wristwatch and showed me it was only 7:00 AM.
The waiting area was much less interesting than the empty lobby. Sleepy travelers sprawled out on open seats with luggage around them.
The morning light now revealed the waiting planes, one right out the two story tall windows in front of my seat. A young window washer made his way through the room from left to right showing off a tricky ballet of hand jives with a 6-foot squeegee. The plane visible out my window was huge, taller than the second floor elevation I stood on.
I moved to the clean windows with my tote and studied the transport that would take me across the Atlantic and to Cape Town, South Africa. I was nose to nose with the plane, with much of the cockpit above me. Two engines some 18 feet tall at the openings sat centered on either side of the fuselage, one each per wing, with gaping rotary teeth gleaming in the first rays of the sun.
Palettes of cargo moved on the ground below and were elevated into the front of the plane. Workers crisscrossed below on the tarmac around wheels as tall as them. Stainless steel food catering carts made their way on board. The amazing size of the jet engines had me spellbound as I studied them. The Loading shoot booted up against the side of the plan shuttered slightly as another load moved into the plane.
It was only 8:00 AM. I packed my tote on my shoulder and wandered around the shops to find another restroom and again splash cold water on my face.
Though I was hungry the thought of another piece of stale food repulsed me. I stood outside the duty free shop and looked at the early morning shoppers selecting booze and electronic goods. More fast food shops and travel agents opened.
The walk took too little time and the chairs in my waiting area were filling up, so I returned and found an empty section and once again pulled the collar up around my neck and settled in for a couple hours of people watching.
|13. World Travelers|
A well-dressed middle-aged couple came to the waiting area with new carry on luggage. Several young couples with children entered, all dressed the same in plain black clothes with white shirts and plain shoes. The bearded men wore wide brimmed black hats and the women wore white bonnets and long dresses. They looked somewhat, but not completely, like pictures I had seen of Quakers or Amish, though there was a difference I could not recognized in my early morning mind. The children were well behaved and quite, even the infant in one woman's arms.
It was 9:30 AM. A brightly dressed black woman came in with her cell phone stuck to her ear. I could not make out anything she said.
She wondered back and forth in front of the windows that separated me from the plane, which was now bathed in full sun. Distant cloud banks went from fog to low clouds then forming thunderheads, taking advantage of the humidity and warming morning air rising from the tarmac on the runways beyond.
The well-dressed middle-aged couple sneered at the black woman behind her back, as she answered yet another in a series of phone calls, speaking to each other in what sounded like some kind of English accent mixed with German words. I felt embarrassed for them and their open intolerance, which seemed un noticed by the black woman now placing outgoing calls.
Our loading gate opened and a stewardess came from the plane to the information booth and announced that the first class passengers could load now. The middle-aged couple stretched and approached the gate, flashing tickets and arrogantly moved down the loading ramp. The black woman entered right behind them. The young couples and some single young adults stood in line and I joined them, rightly thinking that the first class were now on the plane.
A man with a aluminum carry on camera case stood in front of me. We were both soon on the plane and seated next to each other right at the entry door and next to the galley. The smell of fresh coffee and the hot food from the catering carts teasing our noses.
The rest of the travelers filed past us. I looked out the window by my seat, sitting where I had requested, right in front of the engine for the best ride and view. I relaxed into my seat briefly, hoping to unwind in the most comfortable seat I had had since my Chrysler earlier that day, or was it the previous day. My one-hour night’s sleep was not enough to have separated the two days since I left my farm.
The entry door shut, the stewardess spoke with that same English type accent and I remembered now that it was the same sound as Mickey's voice, somewhat amazed at my own lack of knowledge.
The plane shook and we moved backwards away from the Glass windows I was now on the other side of, with an 18-hour flight ahead of us to cross the Atlantic.
The man besides me had buckled his seat belt and drifted off to sleep before we hit the runway, waiting our turn in line for takeoff.
|14. Cape Town|
The steep climb above Atlanta had not quite ended when the stewardess came down the aisle asking what we wanted for lunch. LUNCH! Was that sticky pastry really my only breakfast?
"Duck" I said.
The man beside me had awakened during takeoff and placed his order and dozed off again till the meal arrived, our planes attitude flattening out.
Small bottles of red South African wine accompanied what was an amazingly fine presentation. Or was I simply that hungry.
It was good, and I ate while watching clouds out my window, and the last views of US soil below, before it was only ocean and an occasional ship, then only clouds. Lunch ended and an endless procession of movies started. The man next to me was asleep again as soon as his tabletop was cleared.
I sat mesmerized by the movie, unaware of what I was watching for quite awhile. Morgan Freeman in "Nurse Betty" moved through scene after scene till I also drifted to sleep, waking occasionally to watch sun lit cloud change through the progressing day, till eventually they colored and faded in the late afternoon sun, as we ran away toward the rising full moon. More movies, more food, lots of bottled water, trips to the restroom, walks up and down the aisle and it was now night.
A progress map showed how long we had been in the air, and where we were in the world. Nowhere, and too long left to get anywhere, as I tried unsuccessfully to sleep. Movies continued, the stewardess pulled the curtains back to a sleeping bunk and climbed in as her relief greeted us offering drinks or candy bars. I tired again to sleep, waking occasionally to read the progress map, which now took the place of the movies.
The bright moonlight lit the banks of clouds now undistinguishable from the ocean below.
We flew at over 300 miles per hour, and seemed to not move on the progress map. It was only 9 hours into the flight, as the pilot announced that we were half way across the Atlantic.
Flying east we had once again come to the sun. The moonlight faded away, giving way to the ever-brightening morning sun rising over the breaking cloud banks. Through the patches of open sky I could barely make out land. My first view of Africa greeted me.
My fellow passenger spoke for the first time the entire journey saying "Namibia. That's the west coast of Namibia." "Nammbaia" I tried to say. "NAMIBIA" he said. "Namba" I said. He shrugged his shoulders and said. "I work there this week. In Namibia. I'm a contract miniature cameraman specialist, filming for a new reality TV series. This is my third trip through Africa. I'm heading to Johannesburg first, then Windtook. Where are you going?"
"Johannesburg. I'm promoting a movie there."
"Is someone meeting you there? Have you ever been there? Do you know what you are in for?" he asked.
"Yes a friend is meeting me there. What am I in for? What do you mean?" I questioned.
"Where are you from anyway?" he asked.
"The high deserts of Northern California." I said.
"Well, don't get in any taxies. Don't leave your luggage with anyone. Don't speak to strangers. What are your plans?" he pushed.
"My friend will pick me up and I will stay at her house." I continued.
"Girl friend?" he asked. "Yes" I replied.
He looked away and fell asleep again. I wondered what I was really in for.
We started our decent into Cape Town. The pilot announced that those of us continuing on to Johannesburg would remain on the plane.
When we landed the departing passengers nearly cleaned out the plane. First Class passengers filed past us from the staircase in front of us. New passengers loaded while fresh food and the daily newspapers were brought on.
The stewardess asked me if I wanted a newspaper and I choose "The Star" and sat back with it in my lap looking out my window at the small airport complex we had ended up in front of.
In the distance I could see the 7:30 AM Cape Town commuter traffic crossing a bridge on a Wednesday morning.
I turned to the font page of the paper to read about farm families being killed by armed blacks, rapes of infants, corrupt politicians, and Zimbabwe land grabs.
The man sitting next to me looked at the newspaper in my lap and said. "You are in Africa now. How's it feel?"
"Lonely" I said.
|15. Daddy Morebucks|
Could I now say I had been to Cape Town? I didn't touch ground yet, nor would it seem that I had done so for more than another week. Our flight left over a wet land near the airport then Hout Bay and Table Mountain turning North West into the interior of South Africa, looking much like the Nevada deserts I had left days before.
I looked out as we traced a course at over 400 miles per hour leading toward the Kimberly Diamond Fields with round circles of irrigated farmland and kilometers of pipeline and electric lines. The progress map changed quicker during breakfast and some three hours latter the pilot announced that we were coming into Johannesburg.
Apologizing, he said we would be 45 minutes early. The man next to me again asked if someone would be meeting me at the airport, explaining that the pilot was concerned that early arrivals could mean missed connections. By now I was not sure of much as it had been over 38 hours of airports and flights to get here.
Looking out the window I saw Johannesburg in the distance with a ridge running behind it. I was heading to North Cliff and thought that must be it. Suburbs of 10 acre looking plots lay below us along a north south road. The over all sprawl of the city was much smaller than I expected, and the surroundings bleak as compared to what I thought I would see. It really was like coming into Reno, Nevada and I wondered why I had flown so far to only get back to where I had come from.
We started our decent and the pilot once again, apologetically, announced that there was no place for us at the terminal and that he would land in the outlying areas where transport would move us to the baggage area and security. The man next to me nervously told me to follow him once we had landed.
The terminal building was small in the distance compared to what I had expected. Two red busses pulled up and the black drivers opened the doors to the travelers coming down the portable stairs from our 747.
My fellow traveler loaded on to the second bus, and kept looking back to see if I had joined him.
We drove in under the backside of the terminal and unloaded where luggage carts busily moved to and fro. We made our way under the main structure of the building in an industrial setting, through the groups of baggage handlers to the security gates.
Passport in hand I tried in vain to understand the black security man asking me questions. Finally he grabbed my passport, looked it over, looked me over, stamped it and slowly handed it back watching me closely. "Business or Pleasure?" I finally understood him saying, as he kept a grip on my passport, and I gripped the other side. "Pleasure" I said and he released his grip.
I could feel my red face as I passed him looking for the man with the aluminum camera box. There he was, ahead of me at the baggage turntable. He gather up his bags and waved a good by as he saw me pick out my baggage and start toward him. He pointed ahead of him and down the passage, and I nodded and he turned and disappeared around the bend.
I passed an open customs office and stepped in to check through. The office was empty, and I simply left and continued down the passage to a large open room.
As I entered the room I wondered what Mickey would look like in person. A dark haired woman waved and approached. I looked her in the eyes as she looked past me and grabbed the man behind me and hugged him. I looked again into the crowd and now recognized Mickey, looking disgusted that I had mistook the other woman for her.
Mickey walked over briskly and took the smaller of my bags and only said "You're early". I sat my bag down and reached out to hug her and got a sultry hug in return and she again picked up my smaller bag and said "I'm parked this way. Excuse me, I've been drinking with friends who thought it funny to bring wine around to get me pissed before I came to get you. Had I not phoned the airport I would not have been here on time to great your early arrival."
I kept pace with her as she quickly approached the stairs to the parking area. I was nervous, not knowing what to expect with anything. She led me to underground parking and an empty parking space.
"SHIT! It's gone! Where's my CAR!" My heart dropped to my knees. She looked around and said "SHIT! We are on the wrong level" and laughed for the first time since I landed.
We made our way back to the passenger areas and then to the correct level and found her small white car.
"Put your luggage low in the back seat. Cover it with your coat. Take off your sunglasses and necklace. Get in and lock the door, keep you windows nearly rolled up. Get in the other side, I'm driving, not you" Mickey barked in a series of orders.
We jetted out of the parking lot and into the hot midday sun with no air-conditioning in the little car. Under the underpass and on down the "wrong" side of the road for me, my disorientation starting right at the airport and mixed with my first case of jetlag. The first intersection was filled with black men approaching the stopped cars.
"Are your windows up?" she said as she looked over at me. The first man came by with wire-molded trinkets, the second with scarfs. Ahead another man held up handfuls of avocados. The light changed and we drove on through a city looking much like the edges of any city I had been in. Billboards and car lots scattered amongst small strip mauls, liquor stores and even a McDonald's. Past freeway on ramps and through rolling hills, the city getting thicker. The crowds increasing at each intersection and the diversity becoming more eclectic.
We turned up the hill to the right from the main road, and passed a small lake. "That's where two German tourist were killed the other night" she said "they are not smart about this city, non of them."
|16. Are We There Yet?|
|I watched the lake thinking about how little I knew about any of this. We climbed a ridge through older homes and tree lined streets, intermixed with parks. Down more rolling patches we entered an older part of town with low-rise brick businesses. She stopped at a bottle shop and asked if I wanted beer or wine, and instructed me to stay with the car, lock the doors.
She disappeared into the shop through a crowd of black people. A bicycle shop sat along the row of shops. Out she came with a six-pack of beer and a box of red wine and a bag of chips. "You look wiped out. Lets go home." The heat was putting me to sleep. I watched the streets carefully trying to orientate myself correctly.
A blank spot in my ability to observe the world grew like an oil drop on water. Colors mixed on the surface of my mind, trees looked too tall, streets too long, pedestrians too black. Street signs in what looked like German to me marked progress past fruit stands and large malls and more expensive car lots.
We turned off a main four-lane with the high-rise buildings of the downtown area looming ahead, and started a climb steeply up behind a blues club and parking structure into a quite residential area with a house lined ridge ahead of us. A couple of traffic circles and we pulled up to a security gate at a township tucked against the even steeper base of the place I would know as North Cliff.
She pointed a device at the gate through the windscreen and the gate slid back between pillars topped with razor wire and electric high-tension wires as if I were entering a bad TV movie prison.
She pulled in under a loose woven sunscreen carport next to an old red Austin Minor.
"Lock your door behind you. I lost a radio here last week" she ordered, again grabbing the smaller tot and some of the items from the liquor store, while I grabbed the rest in an awkward attempt to rise to the occasion.
The incline of the parking lot curved between the set of three townhouses sitting mostly unoccupied on this mid week afternoon. A black man pushed a wheelbarrow of garden tools up under a set of bushes and a blue/gray parrot looking bird flushed out and drifted past us on it's decent toward the lower end of the complex. Above in what looked like a truncated blue spruce two loud large back/brown birds squawked at us as we climbed the stairs to the upper level of the central complex. The prison impression was not completed yet.
She pulled her keys back out of her purse and opened a sliding barred security door protecting the sliding glass door entrance to the townhouse that was to be my month-long home. Black walls covered with cheap African art accented the living room with a bright white kitchen contrasting the tunnel effect. A window looked out on the high-rises of the Central Business District of Johannesburg, over the carport with the little red Austin.
I heard the prison doors clang behind me and turned with a shook to see Mickey's dark form facing me, bags of booze in hand. "Beer or Wine?" she said, approaching my startled form in her kitchen, sitting the bags down with a clunk.
Somehow we drank, ate warm cheese and chips, made unexpected and poor love, and I fell asleep in a humid black bedroom as she slipped off to her office.
I could hear her pounding computer keys in the background as I fell asleep.
I woke to the sound of those dark loud birds squawking as they flew off for the night, the low sun sitting to my left. I came out into the black hallway that separated the single bedroom, bathroom and office from the living room.
Mickey called out without looking up from her computer saying "I'm nearly finish, with work and this day. Come see. This is an add work-up for one of my clients. We need to go get some pictures of sports fields tomorrow so I can insert them in a presentation page. Want another beer? Wine? I'm ready. Lets go get some dinner. Pasta?"
The barrage of questions flew past me and out the barred windows of the bedroom behind me before I could think to answer. I was still stuck on the sun moving the wrong direction as it sat. A full moon complicated the issue, rising from the wrong side of the complicated new skyline out the window.
"Those Dammed Hadidahs woke you didn't they?" "I'm a Scorpio. Did I tell you?" she said.
I turned and looked at her back as she faced the computer screen, hunched over the keyboard. "I'm Taurus. Pasta sounds great. Do we need to dress for dinner?" I responded with effort.
"No, it's not a fancy place. Family dinning." She got up, grabbed her bag and headed past me to the door. "You coming?"
Unlike her, I looked in the mirror and re arranged my long hair and pushed at my teeth, sticking my tongue out to see if I had one anymore, or just a shoe leather in my mouth.
"Do I need to carry my passport? ID? Wallet?" I asked.
"Don't be silly. Here, leave them here in this bookcase. Thieves dont steel books." she ordered.
We loaded into her small car again and passed through the security gate. I felt anything but secure with any of this, the wrong way sun and moon tugging at any remaining sense of reality still floating between my eyes and ears. Maybe food will help.
|17. First Dinner|
A different looking kind of black people mixed on the streets. Some of them looking like working women, walking down the hill away from the fancy houses above us. Some looking like dirt covered working labors bent from hard chores. Some just difficult to make eye contact with as their gazes seemed to enter the car with us.
I recognized my first repeated landmark as we came up on the older parking structure behind the blues club, and turned onto the four-lane, passing the malls and car lots. Next too a McDonald's we entered a parking lot with men women and children passing closed shops and entering an outdoor raised dinning wing of a second floor restaurant.
A white parking attendant with a canvas change belt approached us, his crooked teeth on his fat round face spitting some indistinguishable words at us.
"That white car. Don't touch it. Don't let anyone else touch it either." Mickey said as she flicked a coin at him and passed without eye contact. I looked back at him as he tried to express some kind of dignity with the next person who passed him, and his pandering began again, followed by another coin.
Dark corners of the shop sidewalks felt as if they could have had eyes of their own as we climbed wooded stairs to the outside tables of the restaurant.
A young white man seated us, sort of recognizing Mickey, pulling her chair back. A bartender at the mirrored wall behind us poured two glasses of red wine, and pushed them our way as the waiter turned to grab them and sat them at our places.
"Our special tonight is ..." the waiter started.
"Pasta, We'll both have pasta. Give us the Clam Linguini" Mickey demanded.
The waiter nodded and turned and left, signaling the cook past the bar with hand gestures and a node our way.
The smell of pizza and pasta filled the air. Young people played pinball and table games at the other end of the restaurant while adults clanked glasses of beer and wine, the bartender and waiter crisscrossing their work stations. Quickly a young woman exited swinging doors from the kitchen with two plates of pasta in route to our table.
The smell of garlic filled my nostrils along with the steam rising form my plate. "Enjoy!" she said, and sloshed back some wine and stirred her pasta before downing the first mouthful.
Quickly we finished dinner, I grabbed the bill without Thinking and put US dollars down. She took my cash and put Rand down, saying we would go to the currency exchange on the way home.
We left for the even darker parking area with the round-faced man trolling new arrivals.
"What are your plans while I finish up my add work? You know that your buddy, Bruce, has a car too. He's coming around tomorrow, Tuesday."
"Tuesday?" I thought out loud.
"Ya? Tuesday, where've you been? Bruce said he wanted to take you to Melville. That's an artsy community near the CBD"
"The what?" I asked.
"What do you mean? Oh, CBD ...Central Business District. Or Melville. I'll met you two there, we'll have drinks." Mickey said as she sped through early evening streets.
I sat back and look out the window for landmarks. Where's the airport? Which way's that ridge? The Mall and fruit and vegetable store were closing as large numbers of black women, young and old, bustled back and forth with bags. We pulled into a parking structure and entered a secured Mall.
In the entry hall a small glass door to an office alcove was marked "Foreign exchange" where a young white woman sat behind a glass window much like a movie theater ticket booth. "How much should I exchange?" I asked Mickey.
"I don't know, your buying!" she answered. I picked out $200 USD and got a pile of some R1700 back in colors and shapes new to me with pictures of animals I had not seen before.
"Lets go shopping," she said as we turned to leave the mall.
I was trying to figure how to pocket my new money as I sat in the car. We pulled back on the four lane and crossed to a vegetable stand with colorfully dressed women moving up and down the ales. I picked through the mass of colors and shapes of fruits and vegetable so abundant and diverse that I wanted them all, if not just to try.
I loaded my cart and caught up with Mickey at the milk case. She looked my load over and huffed. "Like fruit and vegetables huh? Well, you have plenty now." Let's pay and go home.
Mickey put her stuff in the cart and moved past the cash register and waited for me. I pulled the strange currency out and listened in vain to the woman who owned the store as she told me what it cost. I fumbled with the colored animals in my hands. Mickey grabbed the lot of them and paid the lady who was looking at me now like I had just come from another planet.
We loaded the bags into the car, filling the small back seat, and headed off to the townhouse.
Bags of strange food and new cash surrounded me at the dinning room table. She moved the pile of food from the table to the small kitchen in an ordered manner that had limited opportunity to change. I patiently put the money in one order then another till I was satisfied that I could hide it in my money belt for the night. I hid the money belt in the bookcase and turned to a hand with some wine offered.|
�Lets sit and look at the night yard.� I agreed and got up and headed to the front door, stood and looked at the prison bars and looked for the latch, realizing I needed an exit key. I was really locked in. She had the key. �I�ll give you a key.� We�ll need to go to the security shop.� She unlocked the bared exit, and we moved to the swinging yard bench right outside the bedroom window.
The night air was cooling and moist. A thunder storm had passed while we were at the Mall and the moon moved the wrong direction through the broken clouds. The wine knocked me out. A pleasant relaxing sit was turned in for a black bedroom lay on the other side of the window.
I woke when she was fast asleep near midnight, or what would have been my 10:00 AM California farmer time. Late! I should be awake! I pulled out of the bed and made my way in the dark around the bed and out to the fresh air moving though the locked bared door, finding an out of the way corner that I could call my own.
There by the patio and still in the living room safety I quietly watched the moon again, mesmerized by why it moved from right to left instead of left to right, putting my mind in space, looking at the planet spinning, the apparent movement of the stars, till sleep again offered me a bed.
As I stood to leave my new space, clarity came into my head almost as if I had just came off a high mountain and my ears had popped. Sounds from unknown places entered my mind along with words that were not my own. I passed it off as jet lag and dragged my self to bed.
|19. Business Incest|
The next morning my companion had spent time at her computer by the time I was up and was making instant coffee to jump start the day. Offering me a cup she announced that she would be joining Bruce and me so that she could get some shots of a sports field before the midday sun. |
When Bruce arrived she directed us to load into her car and we sat out for Melville. Making our way down to the four lane I noticed for the first time the street�s name was D.F. Malian, as I worked out were I was and which way to go home if on foot. We wound around past a huge graveyard and past parades of black people in white robes heading off into the wooded areas at the base of a large open field.
We turned up a hill toward what I would find was Park Town, and found one sports field, then another, then yet another on the hill above Melville. We talked our way past a guard and onto the field looking for wall mounted advertisements.
With that out of our way, it apparently was beer time and Mickey announced that we should go to a sidewalk caf� in Melville. Bruce also agreed, in that he wanted us to meet with an older actor that wanted to meet the out of town producer, and I realized that meant me.
Melville was just a few blocks away. A narrow street rolled over a small ridge below the high rise office structures in the CBD. Street caf�s and bars mixed with small grocery stores and coffee shops. We found parking on the main street near a set of tables.
A waitress came from inside the shop and asked if we wanted beer or wine. The others at the table looked at me, and I realized no one was going into their pockets, so I put some Rand notes on the table and ordered beers for all of us.
That clarity sound from the night before was almost present and I knew now it was not just jet lag. I knew that the man I had seen in the dream, of the airport a few days back when I was in California, was coming down the street. I told everyone at the table that our guest was on his way, and that I would point him out if they kept quite.
Looking up and down the street I was stunned to see the man from my dream, only he was not the young 35 year old I had seen, but rather he was a 75 year old in fine shape. �There, that�s him!� �Yes, that�s him� they both said, looking up from their drinks.
He crossed the street and pulled up a chair with us. Seeing that we had drinks he reached for his pocket to place and order, and I assured him I was buying. He introduced himself as Lonnie as he looked at the people at tables in the caf� down the street. �There�s Phillip� he said. �I saw him in TV last night� said Mickey. �He�s a documentary film maker,� Bruce said. �Do any of you know him well enough to introduce me?� I asked. No one answered, so I got up and left for his table down the street.
�Good afternoon. I�m Russell Winje from California. I understand you are a documentary film maker.�
The man politely turned from his table and introduced himself as Phillip, asking what my business was in South Africa. I quickly explained, pointing back at my table. Phillip gave a glance, and a node to the people at my table then turned his attentions back to me. �Oh, I remember those folks form the days of SABC.�
I was to learn that Johannesburg was a small community with cross ties and business incest going back decades interconnecting people through the South African Broadcasting Company. This connection would continue to crop up till it ended up in my own home. I thanked Phillip for his time and returned to my table. The drinks were all empty, and no efforts had been made to re fill them.
�Hungry?� Mickey asked.
�Sure. What do you have in mind?� I asked, knowing that what ever it was probably had my pocket in mind. �Lets go down the street.� Mickey offered. Lonnie excused himself, and said he would like to join us latter for dinner someday, suggesting Ninos across the street.
|20. Cool Runnings|
Moving ahead with the car we found a very full parking lot across the street from a busy restaurant decorated like an island shake. A small white man with a canvas coin belt now was a familiar site to me as he directed us by the size of our car to a very small parking space hidden in the back of the parking lot, as if he had recognized the Mickey and saved the lunchtime spot just for her. He had. |
She got out of her car as he nervously approached her, looking out from under his sun visor and slightly up at her taller than his frame. His features were distorted as he squinted into the midday sun and tired to catch the coin she flipped at him before he turned his attentions at the next car coming in. Waving his arms at them he tired to stop them from entering, even though there were still a couple of open parking spaces near us in the back of the lot. The driver ignored him and huffed around and parked, no coin offered to the self-proclaimed attendant.
Together we all crossed the street into the open dinning area of �Cool Runnings� were a young white man with dread locks seated us next to a rather destroyed night bank box. �Last night armed men attacked the bank truck as the driver tried to get the restaurant�s cash deposits from that box� Mickey said. She had no sooner spoke than a bank truck rolled up and a black driver got out with a crowbar.
�Lets� move to another table, he�s here again for a pick up� picking up the beers the waiter had brought when he seated us, knowing what his usual customers wanted. The waiter returned with a pitcher, looking around for us, as Mickey waved him over. �We�ll all take the lunch special,� she ordered, not looking him in the eye, gesturing with her hand.
Two pictures of beer latter our lunch was done, but the bill was not. The other two looked up and down the street as if someone would show up and remove the bill from the table like the bank truck driver who had taken away the cash from the broken night box.
I figured I was the guy they were looking for, more than I could have imagined. �I�ll take you back to your car. I�m tired. I�m going home,� Mickey said to Bruce. She got up as I tipped the waiter and they both looked eagerly at the Rands I left on the table. I sat my beer mug on the bills to mark them for the waiter and sloshed my way across the street to the car.
Back past Chemist and fish markets, through familiar intersections and past the graveyard, we made our way up the hill to the townhouse electric gate. �Look around! Here is were a high jacking take place while we wait for the gate,� Mickey said looking around over the rim of her dark glasses. I sat up with a half drunk and sleepily attempt to be attentive. None of this was working. I had a month in this country and needed to get active with something.
Sleeping off the beer and trying to get some perspective on what I was trying to do I asked my friend if she had thought about our questions of each other about maybe teaming up. Marriage. It was not an out of line idea, though it was too early to know at this point. Knowing it takes time to even get the papers ready, I suggested that the next day we get started with phone calls and papers in case at the end of the month we wanted to actually go through with it. Agreeing, we sat out for our dinner date with Lonnie at Neno�s in Melville.
Lonnie and my Bruce were seated at a nice inside table. Though the night was warm, a cool breeze came after sunset, and the warmth of the protected table was refreshing.
Mickey was looking lovely, happy for the first time since I had arrived. I wondered if the prospect of marriage had softened her up. Lonnie remarked, �Mickey, I don�t know that I have seen you so happy.� She teased at her wine with our drinking it, studying the windows to the street and looking back at him. �I guess my life looks good to me today,� she said. I took this as a good sign and made mental plans.
We had to go to the CBD. I needed to call my embassy. I needed to book for a marriage license. All this must be done by 10:00AM tomorrow, and then, get serious about seeing what was here in this town. My thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the owner asking what we would like for dinner.
Bruce had told the owner that a California producer was joining him for dinner and the owner was not letting the waiter get at our table, taking us over for himself. I was not the big shot that my buddy let on, but the attentions were welcomed, and I simply relaxed and enjoyed. The owner brought a lovely dinner of Pizza and Pasta with a fine salad to our table. Only Bruce drank too much, everyone else content to enjoy the company.
Leaving in the dark after dinner we made our way several blocks back from main street where groups of black men watch various cars. The man who had chose to watch our car saw us coming and jumped up from the cement wall he sat on and greeted Mickey, announcing the success of keeping her car safe. Generously she paid her debt to him.
That night she worked at her computer late into the night as I fought my way through the huge map book of Johannesburg while trying in vain to get North and South right in my mind while getting the street names down. All I could see was that we were heading into the heart of the city.
Between fits of desperation over street names I pulled my six year old movie note book out and made phone calls to people in the Johannesburg area who I had put on radio shows over the last couple of years, setting up possible meetings to learn more about their involvement with the subject of my current movie project.
Occasional Mickey would make her way out of her office and mix with me and the coffee in the kitchen as I sat at the bar counter separating the living room and kitchen.
Studying my notes over my shoulder she thoughtfully offered �I know people from my days at SABC. I can introduce you to some if you like. Also, maybe you should meet Johnny Clegg, or perhaps you have heard of Credo Mutwa, I think he knew your client�s mom.�
�I�m ready to fill everyday with meetings. I don�t know of those folks you mentioned. Let�s open doors where ever we can� I said, writing the names and suggestions as we talked.
The next day I made phone calls and set up some appointments and we headed to the Department of Home Affairs located at 15 Market Street. From her cell phone Mickey made a call to a man she had done set work with during her SABC days, working on commercials. �There we go. Right after we get out of here, we are on the way to North Cliff to meet Lou. He did some big work in Hollywood with Dream Works.� |
I perked up as she said this, remembering I had meet Stephen Simon in an awkward way the summer before. She handed me the cell phone and suggested that I call the office we were going too. I had little cell phone experience and fumbled around till she grabbed it and turned it one and handed it back.
From my notes I dialed the number of a woman at the Office of Home Affairs whom the man at US embassy had offered the day before. With the buzz of a busy room behind her she agreed to a meeting with me in an hour, giving me a room number on the 5th floor.
By now we were totally out of familiar territory for me, the city skyline looming right out my window. We were in the CBD. One-way streets circled huge skyscrapers. We passed the Star News Paper building with truckloads of blank newspaper some fifteen feet in diameter entering the basement of the high rise. Parts of town were modern and busy, parts of town broken down and trashy. We repeated the nearly one mile loop twice looking for parking. We left the modern somewhat safe feeling part of the city heading deep into the run down section. An opening appeared in front of a security man at an office structure and she pulled in and parked.
�We will have to walk from here. It�s about 5 blocks,� Mickey announced.
Getting out and looking in all directions as quickly as I could the entire sweep of buildings drew my eyes up and I was stopped by smoke coming from a modern office structure where some 4 floors up windows had been broken out and fires burnt.
�Squatters� she said �We go this way.� Pulling me by the arm to get me out of the street where I stood mesmerized as a white taxi van barreled down on me. The security man watches as we headed toward the even more run down part of town.
�That�s China Town way down there,� Mickey said, gesturing off in the distance ahead of us. �I stood in front of a store with it�s window display filled with plant and animal parts, dimly lit, the smell of unrecognized smoke and powder drifting out the door. �That�s a Muti Shop. The Samgoma shop there.� No further explanation was needed as a large Blackman made his way past us to the street, dressed in a robe with a round brimless flat hat. Other faces looked out at me as she again grabbed my elbow and moved me further into the dieing part of town.
A group of dogs skittered around a newer dark sedan, jacked up with the tires missing and the interior trashed, ducking down an ally filled with garbage and a whole set of different disgusting odors.
The darkness from the early morning shadows cast by the decaying buildings gave way to a sunny street, as she pointed out our building now visible in the distance. We turned and walked in the welcomed warmth of the morning sun in a somewhat cleaner street with less traffic. From the eyes in the back of my head a Blackman was noticed exiting an ally and walking quickly in our direction, coming up behind us. My companion had not notice, and my alerts flags were up, as I watched him pick up his pace as if in response to my half turn to face him.
�Hey! Wait! Hey!� he shouted.
I stopped and turn to face him, braced for a confrontation.
�Mickey, is that you? It�s me, Jonathan!�
She spun around with an ugly glare on her face that could stop a Tsotsi, then quickly softened to a smile of recognition. �Jonathan! I have not seen you for years! How did you know it was me?�
He touched her shoulder and smiled. �Oh, Mickey, I would recognize you anytime. So nice to see you.� �Jonathan, how have you been? I have not seen you since we worked at SABC. What are you up too now?� �Still commercials Mickey. Commercials.�
I looked at him, nicely dressed with a vest over a light colored shirt, barite pushed forward on his head. He had clear bright eyes and a truly friendly face. For the first time I had thought I had been nearly attack only to find kindness and a true humanitarian feeling coming from another man I had just met. �I have to run� he said, and crossed the quite street entering a building a couple of blocks from our destination.
A run down parking structure shaded a line of black women and men busy with papers and children, making arrangements with others in line as they handed over bags before entering the glass doors ahead of us. The dark underbelly of the parking structure smelled of garbage and was more or less un used as a parking area.
The lobby of the building was crowed with couples milling around the doors to elevators. An open door exposed couples leaving an elevator and a flood of humanity pulled us into the re-filling elevator compartment. The doors closed and the dimly lit compact room barely reveled the finger-smudged numbers to the control panel.
A black hand reached past me and hit the most used round button on the control panel, activating the elevator car, which dropped on it�s cable before starting to ascend the shaft with a jerky motion. The doors groaned and parted letting us out at the busy fifth floor, and everyone departed for a bend in the hallway, then into a huge waiting room filled with stagnant air and only black faces.
A woman with glazed eyes told us to take a number and join the some 200 people in the room. �We have and appointment!� I said, looking past her into a busy office where a young woman looked up at us, then turned back to the couple at her desk. �Take a number!� the gatekeeper repeated. And Turned to the next couple �Take a number.� She instructed them.
I turned from the room asking for Mickey�s cell phone. I dialed the number of the woman I had just spoken to an hour before. She answered after I saw the woman at the desk pull a phone from her purse on the floor at her feet. �Yes� both the phone and the woman at the desk said. I turned my back to the woman at the desk, and walked a short distance back toward the elevator, now emptying more black couple into the corridor.
�I believe I have a meeting with you this morning. Are we on time?�
�Oh, yes she said. Where are you now?�
�Here� I said, entering the door to her office as the couple that had been with her were packing away their papers and leaving the room past me.
�Oh!� she said with some embracement, �Do come in. Have a seat. Sorry. How can I help you?�
I felt a bit a fool and knew I had just been a pushy white American, out of my element, but took the opportunity and requested that we book for a day to marry. She checked through here dates and offered a day in May.
�No, it must be in March. Don�t you have a date in March?�
�Well, lets see. Oh, yes, here�s a day the 27th of March. You will need this list of papers with you. Can you have these by then?�
�Sure. Book us for that day.� I took the papers without Mickey offering may input. Her silence after all he caustic input since the airport was a point of view different from what I had become used too. It felt a bit empty compared to the enthusiastic faces on the other people in the large room.
�We should go now. I have set up an appointment for you before lunch� she said with little or no emotion.
|22. North Cliff|
Relatively quickly we were back at her car and with few words were on our way out of the CBD and back toward North Cliff. With a brief stop to an attorney that had been recommended, we had papers and a date if we choose to marry. |
Because of Mickey�s enthusiasm the night before for at dinner, and the happy atmosphere when Lonnie had complimented Mickey on her improved outlook on life, I hoped that maybe we were back on track with our hopes and feelings about marriage. I my gut said this was not so, and I ignored it.
My mind in my own clouds, we passed Mickey�s driveway and climbed the mountainside that made the south face of North Cliff, passing ever more expensive houses, till we came to an address she had written down. The driveway was filled with cars, so we parked across the street near another busy driveway, and walked up the steep brick paved driveway.
A man greeted us at a front gate made from a materials that looked like a rock bluff. �Welcome to my home. I�m Lou Guessler. Come in,� he said graciously.
We entered through the rock face like entering a cave. Hidden behind the gate was a beautiful sprawling two-story brick home next to a production studio over a two-car garage. Teams of black and white workers moved pieces of sets around the parking lot. The midday sun was warm in the protection of the courtyard created around the sets of stairs leading to the entry doors.
We passed a mock Boabab tree that workers were busy placing three foot tall fairies in various poses, amongst more fiberglass rock bluffs. Lou stopped and tapped on one rock, saying �Geologist go nuts trying to tell the difference between the real ones and the one�s I make�. I quickly glanced at and touched the two surfaces, only the temperature in the warm sun revealed the difference.
Up the stairs, turning at the door to the studio, climbing again through vines and shrubs to the open double wood doors leading to a plush living room with sculptured polished wood around a large round table covered with photographs and note books. Lou touched a silky deep red polished piece of wood larger than my leg. �Iron wood from a location shoot to the north of here,� he said, gesturing to us to us to touch it. Lou offered us seats surrounding a living room table as another man entered the room.
�Howz it?� I�m Jeremy Pond, Lou�s production manager� said the red haired man who carried in another box to sit on the large round table, pulling a couple more chairs to the table. �I�m Russell Winje, and this is my fieanci, Mickey.�
Mickey gave me a dirty look that would have stopped a carjacker. I was not the only one to see it. Her embarrassment equaled mine as we tried to ignore the others in the room, turning our attentions on the items on the table.
Lou graciously asked me to join him outside standing up to take his leave. I followed him past an older Black woman looking out at us from the kitchen, exiting through a double glass door onto a north facing court yard against a massive rock bluff of the ridge of North Cliff. We passed a group of black workers gathered around the back door to the kitchen as the older black woman showed up again, offering plates of food to the workers. Lou quickly named the men in an introduction courtesy as we worked our way through them and up a nearly hidden stairway past an empty swimming pool and into a huge garden on the hillside above the courtyard, overlooking the double glass doors.
I was too busy watching my step as we came to an opening in the garden to notice the view over his Villa. Lou stopped and looked at me, then pointed out over his home to the view of the skyline of Johannesburg.
�You�re a very visual man. Have you been able to see this far since you got here? That�s the CBD over there, and those are mine dumps, the zoo is hidden over there, that�s Melville.� A helicopter flew over as he said, �One airport is over there. Where do you live?�
That clarity once again filled my head followed by voices that I could hear clearly saying �This man will be very important in your life.� As they spoke Lou stopped and turned and looked me directly in the eye as if he had heard the same thing.
�I live in the mountains of Northern California, at the edges of the high deserts� I told him, the voices still ringing in my mind. �I�ve been in Northern California on location,� Lou said, again looking out over the city. �San Francisco� he said, again looking at me. �You�re a mountain man. I bet you need this much view to have a clear head. Let�s head back to the house; I see that my investment manager has just arrived. I bet you can think again now.�
Descending past the swimming pool the black workers sat around in the shade finishing their lunch. As we caome in through the back double glass doors Lou introduced me to Adam Rosenstein. �Adam, this is Russell Winje from the mountains of California.�
All four of us men sat around the round table as Lou began a presentation showing us pictures and portfolios from various movies filmed in Africa and California. �This is a village I made for a movie here in South Africa. This is a cave for �Ghost�, this is the library in �Dreams�, these are the faces in Hell from �Dreams�. Did you see �What Dreams May Come? I did the special effects. This is the rock quarry where I made the rock bluffs using my own procedure.�
A quick 15 minutes latter he said, �This is what I do. What do you do? What brings you to South Africa?� �I�m promoting a movie about Elizabeth Klarer. Do you know about her?� Lou nearly fell off his chair. Jeremy laughed and said �You cant�s get away from this one can you!�
�Call Dee, Jeremy, tell her to get right over here, and bring her doll.� Lou turned to me and said �this story has ruined my marriage. Dee is my X wife. She works with us here on set design and is due to arrive any time for work. She needs to tell you why this is important to her as well.
I didn�t know what to say. Lou�s openness over such a personal subject was a surprise to me, though I could see that he had already taken me into his confidence.
Jeremy kept shaking his head, and left the room through the double glass doors to the hidden courtyard, lighting a cigarette as he stood facing the sun with his eyes closed, taking a deep drag. Lou joined him, as he motioned to Adam and I to come along.
The black men were gone now, and the court yard was ours. �Adam and Dee are together now� Lou said, patting Adam on the shoulder. Adam�s face as a bit red, though this was not the first time anyone had to explain this story. A quite man in his 40s, Adam simply said �Dee and I live about 15 minutes from here, she will explain things better than I could.�
A car could be heard pulling up outside, and Lou led us back to the living room. The black woman had brought chicken sandwiches to the low table in the living room while we were out. Dee entered the room from the double entry doors as we all came past the round table. �Making a presentation Lou?� she asked. �Oh, you won�t believe this one!� Lou said, offering us seats around the low table filled with food and juice.
�Hello, I�m Russell Winje, and this is �� �Mickey, I�m Mickey� she said interrupting me before I could make the same mistake twice, looking back at me, and moving over to give Dee room next to her on the couch. �Nice to meet you both. Mickey, I think we have met before.� �Yes, you and Lou worked with me at SABC years ago.� �Sure, I remember that� Dee responded. Lou studied Mickey�s face and slowly said �Commercials? Yes, I remember.�
Adam approached Dee and greeted her, taking a seat next to me. Dee had a box of papers and a doll that she pushed around the side of the couch. �Thanks for lunch Lou, what�s the big mystery?� �Elizabeth Klarer!� Said Lou, getting up to leave the room, �You will excuse me, I�ve heard this before.�
Dee quickly finished some lunch and moved to the floor next to the box she had brought.
�Before I start this, I would like Martha to tell her story. Lou, would you ask Martha to come here please?�
From the other room I hear Lou say something I could not understand other than the name Martha. The older black woman who had been busy in the kitchen entered the living room and looked around to see what work she now had been called to do.
�Martha, please tell us about your meeting with the little people� Dee asked in English. Martha just stood there. Dee asked again in a language like the one Lou had used. Still no response from Martha, other than she looked around at all of us in the room.
Dee stood up, and in a polite but insistent voice demanded a response. Lou could be heard from the other room speaking at Martha in a softer tone. Martha started a story in that same un recognizable language. Dee interpreted for us as Martha became animated.
Dee�s voice mixed with Martha�s as she looked Dee in the eye telling her about little people she called the Tokoloshe with light colored skin and large eyes. Martha traced around her eyes with her fingers, saying the Tokoloshe entered her house at night. They bothered her, and she could not prevent it. They checked her body from head to toe without a word. They came more than once. They came to other women in her community. When they came, only the woman involved would know they had been there. Often the women were pregnant and that would cause great trouble with the woman�s family.
Martha grew scared now, and looked at Dee to be released from this telling of a most uncomfortable story. Dee thank her and excused her. I wanted to show you that this is not just a story of encounters, but that it�s also an African story, and quite wide spread. Now let me tell you my story.
|23. You Could Live here|
As Dee reached into the box I could hear Lou speaking reassuringly to Martha with soft tones in his voice. Dee produced a series of newspaper accounts, typed pages, and a doll. Dee proceeded to tell a lengthy story, taking up much of an hour, in which she told about her own experiences with a group of space people and with Elizabeth Klarer. I had moved on to the floor next to her, as others in the room grew disinterested and restless. |
Lou returned with a pack of cigarettes in his hand and headed for the front door, indicating to me to follow. I met him outside with the afternoon shade of the garden now covering the entry stairs.
�What point is your project at now? Who have you found to work with you? You can see that this has been in my life, and that I don�t have the interest that my X wife does. With that said, I would like to work with you when you are to that point,� Lou explained with a studied look on his face.
�Lou, I am not very well developed at this point. I must admit that personal issued got me here before the movie did, though now that I�m here, I will push the movie forward.�
�Lets go back in then and let Adam explain his part of my business,� Lou said as he put his cigarette out and led the way back to the room where Dee had packed up her presentation and prepared to get to work on the fairies in the shop.
Adam had a small set of papers in his lap and began to explain business, as Jeremy added comments. For a quick 15 minutes I was brought up to speed on who funds projects, what projects, insurance, which people Lou has worked with, time frames. So much information and it was only mid afternoon.
Mickey stood up and announced that she needed to return to her office and started to put her things together to leave. I thanked Lou and Jeremy and Adam for their time and agreed to be in contact with them while I was in Joburg.
My head was spinning as we exited past the rock faced gate and got into Mickey�s car, heading down Ethel. The skyline I had just been shown now had a new feel for me.
The now familiar voice in my head spoke loudly. �Where to you live?� it asked. �California� I answered. �You could live here� the voice continued. �I live in California� I said again. �YOU LIVE HERE!� it continued. I was shocked but knew I was being put on the spot for a reason. I figured I needed to act as if I lived here, so I said, �I live here, but I will go home to California.� �YOU LIVE HERE!� the voice insisted.
�OK! I live here. I live here. This is now my home!� The voice in my head stopped, I looked out from the mountain I was on.
I really could live here. It was beautiful.
|24. Dog Park|
A short drive latter we were through the security gate at the townhouses. Mickey said, �Let me get some papers and we can go get you a set of keys. I�ll buy dinner.� |
This was a change. Maybe things were OK with us. �And don�t introduce me again as your fianc�!� she continued.
Oh, I was mistaken. Nothing new. I resolved myself to the idea that though I lived her, it was probably not to marry this woman.
Moments latter we were off again and headed back to the same mall that we had been at days before. As we passed the foreign exchange I stopped and got some more Rands, not knowing what to expect with my money life.
Mickey was on her cell phone when I exited the foreign exchange. It was Bruce.
He wanted us to meet with him again in Melville. After a quick stop at the security shop we headed off through town and met up with him at the street caf�, which was now familiar to me.
A man sat with Bruce, introducing himself as Garth Craig, a casting director and stunt choreographer. Our meeting was cut short as Garth took a call from his agent, Moonyeen Lee. Agreeing to meet us again, Garth pointed out his studio on the second floor across the street from our table, and left, still on his cell phone with his agent.
Once again, Mickey offered dinner, and we headed back across town to a sports bar packed with large young men pushing and shoving each other while watching a rugby match on TV.
We took a table outside as the afternoon cooled to an early evening. �Feel like a bit of a walk?� Mickey asked. �Sure. Some outdoor time sounds real nice.�
We drove to a wooded park along a pond in route to the townhouse. Rows of cars loading and unloading dogs filled the first two parking areas we entered. Finding an open parking stall we joined the dog owners, watching our step through the heavily used dog park to an open field climbing past smaller ponds toward a ridge at the back of the park. It was dusk by the time we reached the top of the park, and dog owners were quickly disappearing to the parking areas. We took to paved streets at the edge of the park and made our way at a half run through ever-darker streets and back to our car. I had just started to understand the need to not be a target as we reached our car, the parking lot nearly empty now. We quickly got in and locked the doors as Mickey left the parking lot for the streets, then crossing the face of the dam. In the distance I could see the Cresta Mall that we had been at earlier that afternoon.
My days had been so full of meetings and new experiences that I had started a calendar for the upcoming week. It was Friday evening now, and most meetings would be on hold. Mickey offered to take me out to the countryside over the weekend, between finishing off her office duties before she would start a new job on Monday. |
Saturday we pack up for the day and hit the roads around the edges of town. Looping through the spokes of streets connecting circular roads surrounding Joburg we eventually came to the Black Eagle Park.
A wonderful botanical garden path led through picnic tables and food vendors to a waterfall where some children, ignoring warning signs from the health department, played in pools of water. Black Eagles circled the bluffs at the top of the cliff. This was one of the most serine moments so far, almost like being back at my own home, where Bald and Golden Eagles circled my own waterfall on Crystal Canyon.
Mickey�s cell phone rang and it was Bruce, offering us dinner at Mickey�s after a walk up to the water tower on North Cliff. We made arrangements and headed off to meet at a small parking place over looking the city.
It was a very clear day as we came over a ridge by a huge dome shaped entertainment building, becoming one of my points of reference. Near by a distinctive water tower also made it�s impression on my internal navigation system. Off in the distance the North Cliff water tower also could be seen. It was starting to make some kind of sense now. I looked at the keys and electric security gate wireless device, wondering if I knew enough about this place to be out on my own yet.
From the outskirts of town I could now see we would come in on D.F. Malin. I could tell that the new and used car lots were over the ridge; I could see the sport�s bar in the distance. Then, we turned off on a street that was new to me, and I was again in new territory. Looking around the water tower at North Cliff disappeared behind a ridge. We were coming up the mountain from the opposite side than we lived on.
New residential streets and steep turns brought us to Bruce standing in a dirt parking area at the base of the legs of the water tower on North cliff. We made our way through wind blown trash and low brush amongst rocks, fining a place to sit and look out over the city.
I could now see the mine dumps and the Hillbrow tower and the high rises in the CBD. From here I could not see the fires burning in the destroyed part of town. It looked modern and full of life. Melville looked small on the hillside facing us.
�Hearabeastport Dam is that way.� Said Mickey. �Given enough time I would take you there someday.� �Pretoria is that way.� Said Bruce. Mickey left with her Camera to get a shot of Bruce and I with the city below us. Bruce took the opportunity to speak with me.
�I want to apologize for not offering to pay my way. I�m on the bones of my ass right now. I can offer you a car and driver when Mickey goes to work on Monday, if you can buy the petrol. You do remember that I didn�t expect you to show up so soon. You and Mickey made this plan on your own while I as in Cape Town. Had I had time to prepare I would not have been such a bum. But that will just have to be what it is. I do hope you and Mickey are on a good track, but I have nothing to do with it. She has been ill, you must know. She has been on medications, and her mother has wanted her to move to Cape Town to say with her and Mickey�s father. I think she�s better. She seems better, but stress is the last thing she needs,� Bruce concluded as Mickey walked back toward us.
I should have known this. Mickey had said she was a bit down when we first met by Email, and then had said she had not been this happy for a long time. She had shown me pictures of her family in Cape Town, indicating how close they were. When Mickey came back to us she asked if we could go up above the water tower for more pictures, handing the camera to Bruce, who started taking pictures of Mickey and me.
We were alone at the top of the ridge, looking out over the residential areas of North Cliff. �The Town House is over there,� she said.
A couple of young men came up the path with a white dog. I approached them and bent down to say hello to the dog. The young men were college students at a place called Britt�s. They asked where I came from and wished me a good stay in their city.
When I returned to Mickey and Bruce they both scolded me for approaching strangers, saying I was too trusting. Embarrassed a bit I tried to ignore them, and picked a piece of a bush nearby to study it. �And don�t mess with the plants, some are poisonous!� she barked. That really was not necessary, I thought, after all I do have a bit of knowledge of the world.
Bruce offered that we should make our way back to the Town House, as he had a surprise for us for dinner. �You lead the way Mickey, I have never been there, so I don�t know the way.� I wondered about this as Bruce had been sending me Emails from Mickey�s computer. That was how we had met. But, maybe I just missed something.
Bruce proudly carried a bag of groceries to the Townhouse door, leading the way own his own, only being unaware of his destination after a couple of turns. Mickey passed him, stepping over a low gate fashioned to keep kids back, not thieves. Sliding the door back Mickey entered ahead of us, throwing her coat on the coach against the wall by a piano covered with boxes of papers. We all pushed shoes under the piano seat as Bruce made his way to the kitchen, pulling out a Crab along with a bottle of wine.
�Shall we toast your meeting?� he said. �What do you have there?� Mickey said grabbing the wine and looking past it at the crab moving �Shit, Bruce, it�s alive! Now WHAT!� �Russ, you live on a farm, you do this,� Mickey barked.
Bruce fooled with the drawers looking for a wine opener till Mickey took over and pushed him out of the kitchen, aptly opening the wine with one hand while selecting a cooking pot for the crab with another.
Having never cooked a crab, live or dead, I thought of any TV cooking show that might have somehow stuck in my mind, and brought water to a boil before giving the crab it�s last rights. �The man at the fish market assured me he had put the crab to death before he handed the thing over to me, so I don�t know why it�s alive still.� Bruce apologized, taking a glass of wine and joining Mickey in the living room.
Bruce had brought a guitar from his car, and offered to sing for his dinner. The two of them entered into a world of their own. Soft gazes passed between them as I found some rice and started a salad. I wondered how they felt about each other. The phone rang and Mickey came out of her thoughts and answered.
�Mom! Nice to hear from you. How�s Dad. No, nothing here. Bruce�s over for dinner. Brought a crab that�s cooking. I pulled the crab from the boiling pot and waited to see if I was to be introduced by phone to her mom. Mickey looked up at me, and then looked away, taking the phone to the other room. �Yes, Mom, I�m OK. Yes, I�m taking my meds. How�s Dad? OK, I�ll talk to him latter then. Love you. By.�
Returning from the hallway she asked �Dinner ready?� �Sure. Your Mom? Didn�t you tell her I was here? Did you tell her anything about us?� I aked. �It�s complicated. My Dad�s been sick. I�ve been sick. He wont talk to me if it upsets him. I�ve upset him recently. My mother suspects something, but I wont tell her anything till Dad�s better. Let�s eat. Smells good. More wine anyone?�
Dinner was lauder than I had been allowed to play the stereo days before. After dinner we all tried to sing along with Bruce, not knowing many of the words, we all started to make up our own songs. Medleys of words and laughter filled the room. The crab was good, but the wine better.
The night drew to a close as Bruce had to make his way home. He had a late night coming up playing music with a friend Sunday night at a local venue near Melville. �I�ll come get you Monday then? Have some places lined up and I�ll take you around� he offered to me as he picked up his guitar, making his way to the door. �Good night then you two� he said while trying to not look back at either of us, then a quick wave. �Oh, come back here,� Mickey said. �You�re not going anywhere. You�re drunk. It�s late. Take the bed in the office. There�s a toothbrush in the medicine closet,� She continued and indicated the room with her hand.
Things got very quite after he left the room. Mickey cleaned the kitchen and announced that she had a big day the next day in order to be ready to be at work Monday. And it got even quieter.
|26. Breakfast Out On The Town|
Morning found me sitting by the open, barred sliding glass door with my granola and Tarot deck. It was Sunday, and the house was asleep. I had my own set of keys and wireless gate controller and knew my way to town now. I could leave now. I could do this!|
Quietly I made my way out of the house and through the security gate, watching the slow movement of the supposed secure entry. The early morning air was great. Few people were out yet, mainly well-dressed black couples on foot like me. Guarded smiles passed between us as we passed.
I came up on the main four-lane from a back street, coming out next to the closed food market I had shopped at days before. An appliance repairman worked in the open air in front of his shop. No one else was walking the main street near me.
�Good morning. Where�s a good place to eat breakfast?� I asked. �He looked at me, then up and down the street. �Try going that way a block or two, then�.,� He paused and looked at me again, like he was still trying to get around to using his eyes this Sunday Morning. �I�m a repairman in California. Where do you like to eat breakfast?� I asked.
He stepped out further into the sidewalk, and with purpose pointed and gave directions. �Go a block this way, turn right at the white building before the blues club. Go a � block and there�s an open-air restaurant. Great breakfast. California? Why you here?� �Oh, just visiting friends� I offered.
It was easy to find. The cook and waitress were arguing like a married couple, sorting out newspapers for the tables and turning lights on, then off behind each other. I was the first customer of the day. �Take any table you like� the woman called out as she went for the menus at the counter. The cook called out the special to her and I accepted before she put the menus down. �Coffee?� she offered �Yes Please.� I accepted.
Two men came in with a young boy who was dressed for a sports event. They ordered the special as the waitress left for the kitchen, acknowledging them with a smile of familiarity. The Boy circled the dinning area checking me out before joining the men at the table.
A shop across the ally rattled as the heavy bared entry gate rolled back exposing a open shop door, the shop keeper looking up and down the street before wiping his hands on his apron and despairing back into his shop.
Breakfast was farmer�s food of sausage and eggs and toast. Filled comfortably I paid and made my way past the two men talking sports while leafing through the newspaper.
Back to the D.F. I found more black people dressed in fine colorful colors. Large Black women walked in twos and threes caring small bundles. To explore my memory of streets I assumed that I could follow this crowd of women a few block further before heading up hill to the townhouse. The women turned to look at me over their shoulders from time to time, then laughed to each other.
A beautiful sunny street lined with trees climbed toward the townhouse. Only a few lone well dressed black men came down the street as I saw my gate in the distance. With a look around to make sure I was by my self, I opened the security gate and waited for it to stop closing again before going to the townhouse.
I didn�t need to be as quite as when I had left an hour before. Mickey could be heard in the room shouting at Bruce; �Where would he go! His stuff is still all here. Go find him! He�s your friend.�
I clicked the door with my key and they both turned, a bit red faced and watched me enter.
�Where have you been?� Mickey demanded.
�Breakfast. Met another repairman, who showed me a ��� I said as she cut me off.
�What do you think you�re doing? You cant� just go out there on your own like that. Where would we look for you? Oh, forget it. Don�t you have to leave anyway Bruce?� Mickey ordered.
�I�m going to take you to Heartabeastport today,� Mickey said. �We won�t need much. You�ve already eaten anyway. We can eat there if we want. I can�t work today. We wont see much of each other the rest of the month, and I�m sick of this job before it starts.� Making said, making her way to the shower dropping cloths in the hallway as she went.
I made some phone calls to set up a Monday meeting as the steam from the shower came down the hallway. Brushing her hair with the towel and partly dressed in yesterday�s clothes, she announced on the way to the bedroom that she wouldn�t be eating at all today.
By the time she had came back to the living room I had also finished in the shower, learning how to be out of her way in her small space. We closed the house and headed back out through the security gate, past the Appliance repair shop, out D.F. past familiar places till we were a � hour out of town.
|27. Bad Night|
The pavement turned to dirt as we passed a two story tall mock up creature standing in a yard. I didn�t see any more of my landmarks. Looking over at Mickey I could see worry on her face. |
�We missed a turn somewhere� she said, coming to a full stop, looking around. �Back that way, I�m sure� she offered, turning around, and again passing the statue and back to the paved road. �This way. I�m sure� she insisted, stilling looking a bit worried.
It was clouding up for an afternoon rain as we picked up speed through a quite back road. �There we go. That�s the dam over there.� We came up to a busy intersection with fruit venders of a higher quality than I had been seeing in town. Crossing the main road we were back in Sunday traffic heading toward what looked like a flea market in the distance.
It was a busy mix of permanent and moveable shops with cheap African art nearly blocking an intersection. We got out and followed crowds through table displays and rug displays of jewelry, magazines, and shoes, leather coats, none of which looked worth the money, at any cost.
Getting restless with the crowd she pointed at her car across the street. We moved ahead to a museum of sorts at a restaurant overlooking a canyon. Shrubs and low trees partially concealed the canyon and back of the building. We quickly made our way through the museum, looking for the entry to the restaurant, only to find it closed.
The dinning area was outside under the low trees with canopies over the tables. Waiters moved around the partially set tables. The smell of barbeque fires filled the air. �We will be open in an hour� said a young man walking past us on the stairs with an arm load of plates. �You can get a reservation upstairs in the Museum.�
We went up stairs and through the museum without getting a reservation, and back to the parking lot. �There�s another place down the road, let�s just head there.�
Back in the car the cell phone rang and Mickey answered while negotiating the parking lot bumps. �Yes. Howzit? Who did you say this is? Jerry? Where are you? Why do you call me?� Mickey shook her head and said to me that she must pull over and take this call from an old boy friend she had not heard from for some 10 years.
Finding another shop with parking under a tree she got out and continued her phone conversation. �Where are you? Yes, I�m at Heartabeastport Dam. We are about to cross the dam. Why did you call me after all this time? Brie? Sure. I�m with a friend though, could we both come? Well, some other time then� she said, hanging up and turning to see that I was still in ear shot. �An old boy friend. Why call me? Why now? I told him we would not join him. He�s actually right on that ridge overlooking the dam. Let�s head on to the next restaurant.�
Heartabeastport dam face was a two-lane road partially covered by a structure at the center of the dam, that exited into a tunnel through the mountainside. Coming out the other end we entered a busy parking area with Sunday tourist crossing the road from a Snake park to a restaurant. We searched for parking through the crowd, finding a place at a distance from the entry to the open seating area.
The inside tables were dark and closed off. A waiter approached us and said the power had just went off due to an electric storm and they were not sure it would come on before dinner time, and offered us a seat at an outside table. �We just want beer. Can you bring us beer?� She demanded.
The man looked confused, and put us at a table near some Japanese couples finishing up a birthday party for children, complete with party hats and balloons. A buss boy passed with a tray of dirty dishes and Mickey again barked. �Can we have some beer?� The couples at the other table turned to see what had just interrupted their family time.
The first man re-appeared with two cans of beer and two glasses. Mickey drank her beer quickly and looked at me while I slowly got to the bottom of my glass. �Let�s go then. It will be too long till they get power again, and besides, it�s too nosy here.� Getting up and passing the birthday group and leaving some money at the cash resistor on the way past the man who had seated us, looking glad that we had left his place of business.
Mickey was silent on the way home. We hit the main road back to Johannesburg with out any back road detours this time. In a while I could start to see the familiar water towers. It had started to rain when we left the Dam and had not let up by the time we got to town. Without much conversation we came through the security gate and back into the town house. Mickey ducked into her office and closed the door. I could hear her on the phone making apologizes for not making the brie.
I waited for the phone to be put down and started making phone calls my self. I called the airlines first to see if I could change my return time to an earlier date. The expense was nearly the same as the full price I had paid to get there. I thought I should just wait and see if things get better before I give up on just seeing this part of the world. Time drug on till it was nearly midnight. I had waited in the living room to see is Mickey ever come out of the office again.
The door to the office exploded open and she raced out at me, shouting something about the phone bill. �You�re going to break me! All these phone calls! And too who? How are you going to pay me back? Well you can�t stay here! Why don�t you just GO HOME!�
On and on she went, making little or no sense most of the time. Finally without a word from me in my defense, she disappeared back into the office. I gathered up all my things from around the house and put them behind the coach, packing for my exit the next morning. I was not sure where I would go, but I sure was not staying here. I found a way to make a bed hidden behind the couch and pulled my coat up around my neck and fell asleep.
Around 3:00 AM I heard her come from her office and stop in the hall way were she would be able to see the living room. After a huff, I heard the bedroom door close, and soon after it was quite. I slept lite that night, expecting to be attack in my sleep. Just before dawn she went from the bedroom to the bathroom, stopping in the hall were she could study the living room again. Another huff and I heard her say �Maybe he�s gone already.� Then the bedroom door closed again, not to open till I had been awake for an hour.
|28. New Home|
I had some rand notes on the counter next to the phone when she came to the kitchen. She acted like nothing had happened the night before. |
�Here, this should cover my phone bill. I�ll let you know were I end up if you like.� I said and started for the phone. �Mind if I use the phone? All Local Calls,� I asked. �Sure� she said while looking at the money I had given her. �What�s this all about? I just got upset over other things. Where you going anyway?�
�Thanks, I�ll be off the phone shortly,� was all I offered. I had eliminated people from my list of possible rooms to rent and had one name left, so I called.
�Hello, Lou here.�
�Hello Lou. Could I ask a favor and explain latter?� I asked
�Anything,� Lou agreed
�Can I rent a room for a month?� I said quietly into the phone.
�Sure. Need a ride? Call Jeremy Poole. He�s on the way over here right now,� Lou offered.
�Thanks Lou. I�ll explain latter,� I said, relieved.
�Hurry up though, call Jeremy, we have to leave the shop early today,� Lou said and hung up.
I called Jeremy and made arrangements for a ride. Mickey had already left the townhouse giving me instructions to throw the keys deep inside through the security doors when I locked up. She thoroughly expected to see me that night, and it showed.
I waited inside the security fence till a car left the compound, following it out to the street. There I sat on my backpacks waiting for Jeremy to show up.
Looking down the street I had walk up the morning before I spotted a Blackman coming up the hill some three blocks away. As soon as our eyes met he made a direct line toward me. I had no doubt had he was heading right for me, and I had no idea why, so I stood up over my bags to let my imposing height show. This did not deter him as our eyes met and he came right up to me, speaking in a language unknown to me.
My first response in light of my previous night was to confront him saying, �This has not at all been a good day, and you don�t even want to fuck with me� with all my newly learned skills at glaring brought into play. The man jumped back and made a huge circle around me and continued up the hill at a quicker pace. Maybe he just wanted a cigarette, or maybe my bags, but he got a full dose of the venom that had been building up for a week.
�What are you doing out there?� said a voice from behind me. �Come in here please.� Turning I saw a short older woman with dark hair that I had not met before. �Aren�t you the young American staying with the woman upstairs?� she questioned as she opened the gate. �Yes, but I�m leaving today.�
�Please come in, let me make you some tea. I must put this in my car first.� She went to the little red Austin Minor that was parked next to Mickey�s empty space. �What a cute little car!� I said, looking it over more closely.
�Yes, I bought it new when I came here from Scotland to teach. It�s been a wonderful car for me as a single woman. � We made our way to her front door, right under Mickey�s apartment.
�Are you going back to the states today?� she asked.
�No, I�m going to another place for the rest of my stay,� I explained.
Looking up toward her ceiling and the apartment above she said, �That poor girls had problems with her relationships. I am a retired school councilor and psychologist. I have heard her episodes though I have wanted to ignore them. Where do you plan to stay?�
�I have a ride coming to pick me up and take me up the hill to Ethel Drive were I will rent a room. Could I use your phone to contact the man who will pick me up?�
�Sure. And here is some tea. Then I will show you how to get in and out the security gate,� she offered.
I finished the tea while making sure Jeremy knew were to find me incase I was in the apartment with my new friend. The woman then led me outside to the security switchboard and explained how to let my self out when my ride arrived. �Please stay inside till your ride is here, then let yourself out using this pass code.� She then wished me luck and said I could knock on her door if I had any questions, explaining that she would keep an eye out from her kitchen till my ride came.
As I waited for Jeremy I thought about what this woman had just told me. She must have heard the awful noises from our apartment the night before, and was no stranger to them. �Problems with her relationships?� I had really walked into this one.
A small blue car pulled up and cigarette smoke rolled out the window as Jeremy opened it to say good morning. �Is that all you have? Lets put it in the back here and get up the hill. Lou has a full day ahead of him.�
I opened the gate and gave a glace back at the kitchen window to see the woman watching me leave, giving her a wave of thanks. Jeremy opened the door and I through my bags on the back seat. His car was his office and home away from home strewed with empty coffee cups and blankets partly covering groups of papers scattered around on the floor and seat. �Push your way in and don�t worry about what you sit on.� I rolled the window down a bit to let the smoke out, and tried to get a fresh breath of air. We climbed the hill behind the townhouses and in no time were in Lou�s driveway.
|29. Out Of Town|
Lou greeted me and asked me to follow him with my bags, directing me to find a corner in the studio to stow them for the time being. A large man with dark hair, turning white at the edges, introduced himself as Paul Smooke, and turned to put his briefcase in the front seat of Lou�s green BMW three series.|
Lou told us all to load up, pointing Jeremy and I to the back seat. We rushed out the gate as one of Lou�s workingmen shut it behind us. �We�re on the way to location. It�s going to be a full day. You two have enough room back there?� Lou explained as we roared off the mountain at what I would come to know as Lou�s average speed. Paul grabbed the hand rail in front of him, his knuckles turning white, looking over at Lou saying �We have time man!� �Oh, Yea. And I�m making more.� Lou said, lighting a cigarette.
We headed way out of my known tracks, out through roads lined with Cosmos and black people waiting for Taxies. Smaller and smaller shops scattered along the roadside till there were none, and we were in the countryside.
Without any explanation Jeremy started to tell me about the Bore war and how he did not agree with what the British had done. Then Lou joined in agreeing with him. Paul also. I was at a complete loss. What was the Bore War anyway? Wasn�t that some historical end of the century things somewhere else in Africa?
Jeremy went on to say that though he sounded English, he was actually an Irishman from what used to be Zimbabwe. �I first shot a gun in anger when I was 13� Jeremy added, looking out the window as if to look into the past.
Paul turned his large frame in his limited space and looked at me. �Why are you here?� �I�m promoting a movie,� I said �About Elizabeth Klarer,� Lou added, then pulled off the road and into a large truck stop for petrel, leaving to fuel up and pay inside.
Paul and I were alone in the car. �I�ve seen UFOs. Have you? Were are you from?� he asked. �I�m from Northern California. I think I have seen UFOs. What is this place we are going too?� I responded. �We are on the way to a location shoot near the Crocodile river. Lou is doing some set design there and I�m the Art Director of sorts.�
Lou and Jeremy returned to the car and we sped off through the countryside crossing ridges and canyons. At one point we rounded a corner where a road turned off to a private resort, the entry marked by a gateway covered with elephant skulls. It was a ghostly site indeed.
In the curves we swerved first to miss young girls dressed in school uniforms, making their way across the road, then nearly went off the road letting a taxi full of black faces around us on a hill, as it fought to get up enough speed to get around with a truck coming at us down the slope.
Lou never slowed down, and Paul was fuming by the time we crossed the Crocodile river. �I know the artist who lives there. I make some of my rock bluffs there,� Lou said, pointing out the window.
My head was spinning as we started down the dirt road to location at Bruker Farm. A guard let us through a metal gate, checking to see who was in the car.
Watching out the window I was remembering that Brian would be coming around to pick me up at Mickey�s. I had set up meetings with Arleta and Burt Forbes, and Elizabeth�s daughter, Marilyn Partridge, as well as Elizabeth�s long time friend Patrica Climentine, all requiring my keeping in touch with Brian. And I was nowhere to be found. No one I knew had a clue where I was, not even me. I had planned an international radio program and was to produce results that week, and didn�t even have Internet access to keep in contact with the engineer. Now this whole new set of people and circumstances.
Rows of trailers and an open dinning area with kitchen set up under circus tents came into view and we found a place to park amongst vehicles with names of productions teams and animal keepers. Costumes were going to and fro. Paul got out and headed right for the kitchen for a cup of coffee to carry around, with a cigarette in his other hand.
Lou and Jeremy headed off to find Ronnie Van Wyk, a production designer who would show Lou where to locate his set for an animal shoot. We found Ronnie with line producer Paul Wright and a woman I didn�t catch the name of. We wondered around a set of bushes, everyone gesturing and talking at once. Finally Ronnie selected a group of bushes and rocks saying �Set up here Lou.� �Where�s the Greens men? Don�t you need to speak with them about this?� Ronnie finished. Lou offered that they could come in latter, that he had what he needed to get started.
Paul had to be pried away from the kitchen as lunch was being prepared. Lou had more places to go, and got us all back to the car and left for Joburg.
|30. Animal Speak|
We literally flew back to town and dropped everyone off at Lou�s before heading out again, this time to see the Greens men at Honey Dew. Lou explained that both he and the Greens men made plant presentations for sets, and that they had a truck that he would use to get his set to location in a few days.|
We made our way out of town and into the rural community of Honey Dew, then a short distance out to a river, crossing an older metal bridge. Under the bridge Lou pointed out a 12 foot tall �Mr. Peanut.� �These guys did a commercial for Planters Peanuts and built that guy. See those bushes? They�re not real. And see those rocks? I made them.�
We pulled up to a security gate and honked the horn. The slow moving gate pulled back and a fellow carrying a tuck battery motioned us to follow him to a parking spot out of the way. �Hi Lou, who�s this with you?� said Jimmy, one of the greens men. � Excuse me, I have to hide the battery each night, we have lost two already this week. Damn, I don�t know how they manage to get them out without us knowing, or without Mac knowing.�
A huge mastiff came up to me and I couldn�t believe my thoughts. He spoke to me! I heard him say �I�m Mac. People are afraid of me. I don�t know why. You�re not afraid are you? I�m Mac.� Automatically I said I�m Russ. Both Jimmy and Lou looked at me, then greeted Manny who had just came from the main house. �Hello, I�m Manny.� �Yes, I�m Jimmy, and you say your Russ?� �Yes, Russ�. �A Yank, huh?� they both said. �Yes, California. He�s here working on a movie about Elizabeth Klarer.� Said Lou. �I�m Mac, I live with a lot of weird animals.� I looked at Mac as we walked toward the house, wondering if I was really hearing him.
Lou started making arrangements to borrow their truck. �Sure, if the we still have one,� said Jimmy. �Come see our newest acquisition� Manny offered gesturing down the path away from the house. �It�s a turtle,� Mac said �I like the turtle. He�s new here. Been hurt.� �The turtle�s been hurt,� said Jimmy �but he�s ok now�. This mastiff really was talking to me. How many animals have been speaking through out my life, and I simply was not listening?
After a cup of coffee with Jimmy and Manny, and a look through their portfolios came some advice on getting people to work with me in the South African film industry. Thanking them for their input, we made our way out of the compound and back to North Cliff.
�Dinner?� said Lou, pulling into a small shopping center at the base of North Cliff in an area I had not visited yet. We entered a smaller family dinning restaurant looking like a sort of McDonalds. One adult sat reading a book as three teenagers played Fooseball.
�The Hamburgers are good here� Lou offered. �Sure, sounds great.� I replied. Lou proceeded to order for us, pointing me to a table looking out at his car in the nearly empty parking area.
It was about 8:00 PM by the time Lou joined me at the table. �Nice to stop for a bit. So, what�s up with you man?� he asked. I shook a bit and looked out the window for a second or two, then turned and looked at this man I was now trusting with my story. I told him the whole story, start to finish.
Lou�s only comment was �I have known Mickey since the 1970�s, and I�m not surprised. I�m glad you�re out of there. You will stay with me now till you go home. My woman, Evan, and children will be moving in with me the end of the month. We will make a plan at that time,� Lou continued to say �I�ve been through my things with women too. Don�t let it get to you. There�s plenty of life to go, man, with the right people,� Lou concluded.
I was relieved that it had taken all day for Lou to have the time to ask why I had asked for a room.
|31. Private Room|
When we got home to his villa I gathered up my bags and came back into the living room I had first came into a few days before. I had not been anywhere else inside the house. Lou headed up the stairs and motioned for me to follow. |
The stairs wound up two flights to a hallway serving four rooms. �This is my room. This is your room. It�s my daughter, Bonnie�s, Room. She�s off to school, so you can have this room for now. This is your bathroom. Keep that back door locked please.� This is our common sitting room, and check this view out! This patio is great for the morning coffee.� Lou stepped through a sitting room and out on the 8 foot by 12 foot patio with a table and chairs, looking at the lit up sky line of Johannesburg. It was a beautiful site. I was nearly overcome with emotion at finally feeling safe and with a friend.
�I�m just an old man keeping my life filled with work and now a woman, after some 15 years of being single� Lou said, looking out at the sky line. �You met Evan this morning in the studio when you put your bags there. She was the tall brunette sitting at the window with that young dark haired woman.� I remembered her, a beautiful woman who kept an eye on Lou as he led me through the studio. �She�s just had our twins, and has two boys of her own. You�ll see her farm soon as I need to go there to look into moving her home in with mine. We�ll hire Mitch�s truck after we move the set to location.� Lou said, yawning and making his way to his bedroom. �Good night! Get up anytime you want. Use this sitting room and the patio as you like.�
I was quite over whelmed after the shock of how Mickey acted. I opened my bags fully for the first time since I had arrived in Johannesburg, and looked at all that made up my life now. I had been used to traveling with limited clothes while doing the Mountain Man Rendezvous circuit with my Daughter for some 5 years. She and I would pack up and head out into the wilderness and meet up with a thousand other people to live for two weeks at a time in primitive camps like fur traders from the 1820�s.
Looking at my load of cloths and personal items the only difference was the fashion. I had arrived in denim and tee shirts, with the cowboy boots I wore to towns in California, just like any other day of my life.
|32. Old Face|
The next morning I was up with the sun, feeling like I was really at home. �I could live here� remembering the voice in my head just a few days before. My single mattress lay on the floor next to an upstairs window, without bars for the first time since I had slept in this new country.|
I pulled the bed together and put my organized bags on the duvet to make the room presentable to anyone who might enter. Quietly using my own bathroom, realizing the luxury of the kind of welcome I would offer any guest at my home. I felt human again as I studied my face in the mirror for the first time since I had arrived. Stress showed on my 51-year-old face.
I made my way through the hallway to the common sitting area, then to the 2nd floor balcony, my notebook in my hand. The chairs were all lined up against the table to keep the dew from wetting the seats. I dried the tabletop with my hands and sat to look out over the sun rising on the city below.
Lou was still asleep on the other side of the door leading from the balcony to his master bedroom. Downstairs noises came from the kitchen, as Martha got ready for her day. I heard her on the stairs with a cup rattling on a saucer, heading toward Lou�s room but instead entering the common sitting room, and balcony.
�Oh� she said with some shock. �Good morning. Tea?� she offered, sitting it on the table before giving me a studied look, then turning and leaving the room, looking back over her shoulder, then glancing at Bonnie�s room.
Lou could be heard waking around and yawing on the other side of the door. He appeared at the door in track pants and no shirt, cigarettes in his hand, wiping his eyes and stretching. �Esh, what a beautiful morning!� he said.
Martha was again coming up the stairs with another cup rattling, following Lou�s voice to the balcony. We both sat looking out over the city quietly for the length of tea, Lou finishing a cigarette.
I�m going to Evan�s first thing this morning. What do you have on your mind?� he asked. �Can I use your phone and pay you for the calls?� I asked. �Oh, sure you can.� Said Lou. �Then I will give Bruce a call and get hold of some people I have set up meetings with, and be back here before afternoon,� I said, looking over my notes. Lou brought in a phone, putting it on the table, and excused himself to shower.
First on my list was Bruce. When I reached him he was desperate with concern. �Bruce? Russ here. Sorry to not reach you but I was on location without a phone all day yesterday.� �Location? How? With who? Where?� Bruce questioned, nearly scolding.
�I�m staying up on North Cliff with Lou Guessler. I�m taking a room here for the rest of my stay. Get a pencil. Here�s the address. 59 Ethel,� I instructed Bruce.
�But? Oh, never mind. I could see it coming. What�s up? Meetings?� Bruce said shifting gears.
�Bruce, are you still willing to taxi me around? If so, I have meetings with several people, some of whom you may know. Would you like to take me to see Piroska Clements? Then I�ll also make plans to see Anne and Bob Forbes,� I asked, relaying my notes to Bruce as I flipped through the pages.
�I would love to see them. I also want to introduce you to a potential investor, Candy Sparks. Can I pick you up about 9:00 AM? That�s about 2 hours. How do I find your place?� Bruce asked, sounding excited now instead of worried.
�Yes, 9:00 is great. Looks like if you came right up nightingale from around D.F. you will come right into Ethel below Lou�s house. Look for the rock bluffs in front of the ivy covered two-story brick house. Honk and I�ll come out. I�ll be in the studio over the driveway, and will hear you with ease.�
|33. Energy Direction|
As soon as I put the phone down from Bruce I started down my list of people I had made contacts with already and one by one re connected, changing and arranging meetings. |
I was to have lunch with Marilyn Partridge on Wednesday, but had to cancel due to a lack of funds to properly take a lady to a decent restaurant. Looking past my embarrassment she offered that I come to her house in Park Town, with Bruce, for lunch on Sunday.
Dee and Adam asked that I come for desert on Wednesday. Arleta and Burt requested that I join them for lunch on Thursday. Patricia asked for Tuesday before lunch. Grath Craig asked to meet us Wednesday mid morning. Ronald Rubinstien would send a car around to pick me up Thursday for desert at his house, to meet screen writer Molly O�Cornner. Cecil Morrow wanted to show me his editing work at his office in Oak Park on Wednesday, then do lunch in Melville. Jeff Rense wanted me to produce the radio show from South Africa for his office in Oregon my last day in April. Fred Write form Petermyersburg could not be fit in. Joyce O�Murphy had missed her flight connections and was still in the states. David Klarer was out of the country. My ear seemed stuck to the phone when Lou again came to the Balcony, looking around the skyline and glancing at my list of people and meetings.
�Esh! Three meetings a day?� Said Lou. �Latter today I�m off to location again. Do you have time to join me?�
�I�d love too, but Bruce in on the way to take me to several places� I explained, studying my list.
�Well then, I see you can be here this evening. Why don�t we go get some food this afternoon and have a bri here at my house? You can invite all these people and we can meet here?�
�That�s a great idea Lou. I�ll phone now,� I said, wondering how I would afford to feed the group, but figuring that it would all come about.� I called everyone I could and invited them to come around after Dark.
I walked downstairs and into the North facing backcourt yard, on my own to clear my head. Instead of a break from input, the voices in my head said �What do you notice?� I looked around at the rock wall covered with plants and old movie props.
�What is different?� they said. A swirl of energy rushed at me, unseen but felt like an electric wind spinning in a counter clockwise direction. �Oh, that�s going in the opposite direction than in California!� I responded, startled that I felt anything at all and realizing that I had not felt that before, even though I knew instinctively that what ever it was, it was going in the opposite direction.
The voices stopped, and I knew they would be back with a new lesson.
A car pulled up and honked, and I left to meet Bruce at the front gate.
Bruce studied the building and yard from a distance and started to enter the gate as I got there. �Can I come in?� he asked.
�We are having a Bri here tonight, and you are invited, so let�s go now, and I will introduce you and show you around then,� I explained as I passed him in the gate, nearly ready to run as the day had already started to pop.
Bruce�s little yellow car was in bad repair and littered with fast food disposable containers, pushed to the side to allow room for his coat and briefcase. I squeezed my long legs under the dash and we sped off toward distant water towers and Rand Park Ridge. |
We pulled into a parking area and Bruce called Candy Sparks for directions, only to be told that we should wait an hour before arriving, giving her time to make some businesses calls related to our visit. As a result Bruce and I entered a local nursery and restaurant complex, got some coffee and wondered around displays reminding me much of what it looked like in Lou�s back yard. Within the hour we were at the security gate being let into Candy�s yard, parking by her older gold Mercedes.
An older tall Afrikaans woman came for the house and introduced her self to me as Candy Sparks. Her husband who had let us through the gate disappeared behind a large boat in the driveway without greeting us.
Candy led us through her garden and into her office where she handed out freshly printed papers with diagrams and sales pitches. An hour-long presentation started like an Amway sales pitch and sounded much like an internet scam. Bruce looked focused and willing while I looked at the hands on the clock behind Candy, hoping to move them forward faster like a student in a late afternoon class in spring.
Candy wanted to move one ounce gold Rand coins from a source in South Africa, un-named on her papers, to an off shore account, and then into an account that I would set up for the movie. I was to use part of the money for the movie and return the rest to the off shore account as US Dollars.
She finished her presentation with an air of superiority about her, looking over her bifocals at us across her table. Bruce was excited and looked like he wanted a bellboy�s tip for bringing me there. I simply thanked Candy and said we had another meeting to get to and could I have her contact information. In a huffy manner she pointed to the handout and said that it was all there.
We let our selves out of the house, and her husband again appeared from behind the boat to let us out the gate. I thought I smelled cooked turkey, and then figured that it was I. As we headed back toward town Bruce let me use his phone to call Patrica at her home along John Foster Road.
|35. Other Communications|
I must back up and tell this story of meeting Patricia and the ring, as it actually started just before I started the passport process that ended me up in South Africa.|
It was mid February of 2001 and Mickey and I had been in regular communication for over a month. It was not unusual for me to wake in the middle of my short night sleep and go check my e-mails.
This night though, I was flying in my dreams as if on a ship in space. I found myself looking out a window that I had walked up too. The clouds parted and a landmass below looked somewhat familiar. The craft came in a little closer and the details of the surface below became clear. I was looking at the horn of Africa at the Somolian coast.
As soon as I recognized the landmark, the craft turned to the right and headed south over land to a large city. Looking out the window I was drawn out of the craft and into a house where I saw Mickey putting a ring on her finger. The voices in my head told me to wake now and go check the time and write it down.
I made my way down the steep stairs from my bedroom to the office, finding it hard to wake, which was not normal for my months long sleep deprived state. It was exactly 3:30 AM Pacific time. I checked for e-mails, but there were none. I knew that Mickey and Bruce had gone to see Patricia. The voices in my head said that I must ask Mickey what she had done at Patricia�s.
The next morning I asked Mickey what had happened when she met Patricia. Mickey had said to Patricia and she admired the ring as it was a mid 50�s style artsy ring. Patricia had offered the ring to Mickey, who put it on her finger at 1:30 PM South African time. When Mickey put the ring on she had mentioned that she might be wearing a ring of her own soon as an engagement ring.
Of course I did not know the drama that lay ahead for the two of us, so I took this as a sign that Mickey and I were on track as a couple.
|36. Meeting Patricaia|
A full day of my life in Johannesburg eluded me till I thought about the day I met Patricia. Mickey and I were stumbling through out attempts to get a marriage license on a Friday afternoon.|
Mickey thought that maybe we should go visit Patricia. Bruce was not with us. The scene unfolded much as I have described it before, accept that it was Mickey, not Bruce. You will see why I blocked this memory.
When Patricia offered me the ring, Mickey expected that I would have a similar reaction to hers. When I only felt the blank open room she was under whelmed. Quickly Mickey found reason to leave, and we were out the door and down the road.
Somewhere outside North Cliff we passed a remote location for the Office of Home Affairs. Mickey stopped outside the worn and tattered chain link enclosure. She led the way through the black crowd and into a small green building packed with people trying to get the attentions of the people behind a counter.
Mickey pushed her way to the front of the line and demanded that someone give her the necessary papers to apply for a marriage date. The lady in charge told her that like everyone else she would need to wait till April or May. Disgusted and mad she stormed out of the building, me right on her heals.
Out in the car she complained that this was not going to work, that we could not get a license, and needed to call it off. I asked her to let me give it a try. She complained and said I didn�t live here, didn�t know my way around, and could not pull this off. I knew better.
I called a lady, Vicky, whom had been on one of the radio shows. Vicky set Mickey and I up with a meeting with her boss, a lawyer, for the next week. Vicky also gave me the name of the man at the US embassy that I called on Monday to help arrange for a license. Vicky also gave me the name of the lady at the Office of Home Affairs in the CBD and helped me set up the time for the meeting.
When I finished the short phone conversation, and told Mickey I had made the arrangements, she was quite and not amused. The rest you know.
|37. Communication For Someone Else|
Patricia�s directions landed us in an older subdivision and at the gate to an overgrown garden hiding an older un-kept yellow plastered house with the single garage door open. Patricia stood in the driveway near the open garage door and pointed the gate remote at us, letting us in. |
Patricia had become a widow since I had met her over the phone during the sequence of radio shows, having lost her husband, Clem, to a long run illness, the day before our last show. I had not pressed her to keep in touch since then.
She let us in through the open garage door, struggling with the gate remote and garage door. The state of disrepair of the house told the story of how long Clem had been sick.
We were led through the modest kitchen and into a sitting room with a TV and older overstuffed furniture. An older dog jumped on the couch and waited for us to sit with him, before he jumped off and hit the floor running excitedly through the kitchen to the door to great Patricia�s daughter, Andy.
�Hi Mom!� she said sitting the bag of groceries down on the kitchen counter before greeting us. �Hello, I�m Patricia�s daughter, Andy. You must be Russ. We met over the phone. And you must be Bruce. Nice to meet you. Please excuse me, I�m on my lunch break and must run. Mom, here are the groceries I promised. I�ll call you from work latter.� A pleasant and pretty young woman, she bent to kiss her mom before making her way back through the kitchen and out the door.
Patricia started to tell us her connection to Elizabeth Klarer. How the two of them had traveled internationally. How Elizabeth had used her influence to help Patricia gain traveler�s visas through Patricia�s Hungarian embassy.
Photo graphs and news paper accounts were arranged on the coffee table and she purposefully pulled items from the table as she told well rehearsed stories from adventures yeas long past. Her connection with Elizabeth seemed stronger than those with Clem from the way she unfolded her life in front of us.
Eventually she held her hand out, bringing our attentions to the ring on her finger. �This ring was given to Elizabeth by her lover from space. Elizabeth gave it to me when she passed. It�s to be used for psychic communications. Please try it on� pulling the ring off her finger with some difficulty, revealing a white depressed skin where the ring had been.
With a mix of anticipation and trepidation I held the ring in my hand before putting it on my finger. Knowing how the voices in my head had been surprising me daily now.
I hesitated and opened my self to the possibilities then slipped my little finger into the ring.
It was as if I had entered an empty room, which echoed with a dull vibration and a sense of back lighting. Nothing else. I waited a moment, then returned the ring to Patricia, thanking her, but knowing the truth that the romantic connection she had with this subject was hers, and not mine.
Patricia didn�t ask what I had felt, seeing the response on my face, and simply slipped the ring back in place on her hand.
I invited her to join us for the bri that night and she said she would try; noting that for her to travel at night was a bit of a concern. I asked her to join Bruce and I the next day in our journey to see Arleta and Burt Forbes, and she willingly accepted, offering to pick me up and take me to Bruce�s rental cottage outside Melville.
I excused us and said I had to meet with Lou and get ready for the bri. Patricia led us out the main door, not attempting to open the garage again. Standing in her open door, ready to disappear when we left, she opened the security gate with her remote.
Her face was a bit distorted, as she seemed to slip away in her mind, not quite seeing us as we exited the gate. The Security gate squeaked and popped as it closed, and Patricia backed into her house, pulling the doors closed as she went.
|38. Chicken Looks Good|
Back at North Cliff, I thanked Bruce for the day and again reminded him to join us that evening for a Braai. Lou had arrived home just before me and was with Jeremy in the studio trying to get the old fax machine to accept a note to the bank. Fighting their way through the cashing of a check from a client, Lou confided in me, as Jeremy kept bent over the paper tray on the old machine cussing in Afrikaans. �FOK JOU!� Jeremy said. |
�I�m on the bones of my Ass� Lou said, his cigarette ash nearly ready to drop in the unruly papers scattered around the fax machine. �We are trying to get some cash from this check so we can rent the truck to take the set to location this week. See what we are doing here? We are telling the bank that Jeremy is coming with this check, and that we want to put some in the bank, and get the rest in cash. This is not California is it? When we are done here I�ll be with you about tonight� he explained, not lifting his eyes form the fax machine.
�There we go Lou. It went through, and now I can head to the bank. I will be back tomorrow with the money� Jeremy said, gathering up the bank bag. �Jeremy, we are having a Braai tonight, and you are invited. Will you be back?� I asked. �Dinner? Sure, my sister is not that good of a cook anyway� laughed Jeremy as he left the studio for his sister�s car in the driveway.
�Sorry to be so broke right now Russ, but what with my family life changing, and these damn bank problems every Rand I have is spent before I see it� Lou said, looking at his cigarette pack, then pulling a fresh fag out, tapping it on his desk before lighting it. �No problem Lou. I kept enough cash back for food while in South Africa and am up to spending it on this Braai. What is typical for this?� I asked. �Let�s head to the farmer�s market, and I will explain. But we can really do anything,� Lou said, grabbing his key ring from his desk.
Lou backed the BMW out of the double car garage. We sped off through the side hill of North Cliff to a small grocery store that smelled of bread. �I�ll get some rolls and my cigarettes. Do you mind getting the other things?� he asked with some concern in his voice.
�I have not had a dinner her at my place since Dee and I separated 15 years ago, so this is your party. I really have not had any interest in entertaining here, but I bet this will be fun. I�m glad to share this with you,� Lou said as he sat the fresh bread in the back seat, filling the car with a wonderful inviting scent.
�Oh, Lou, I had no idea that you had not been having guest. Are you sure this is going to be OK with you?� I questioned with some concern. �Sure, I am quite ready to get the food for tonight. In fact, I�m going to get the food for your house for the time I�m here,� thinking I was out stripping my welcome early on. �Russ, you live here with me and I�m happy to share my home with you. We will just make a plan as we need too,� a smile greeting my concerns as we headed further away from North Cliff.
The parking lot to the Farmer�s Market was behind two large security gates. Mothers with children mixed through the parking lot with a large variety of vegetables and fresh meats going from carts into trunks. We entered a somewhat open market under a roof covering a loading deck, leading to rows of food displays. The vegetable stand was more diverse than I had seen yet.
Lou scouted the meat counter while I gathered fresh food to cover the next two weeks. When I joined Lou at the meat counter he had located the best priced whole chicken, and pointed out the Boerewors and steak. �The chicken is the best price, and the other meats are too expensive. I�ll get two chickens if you like, and we can build a braai around them� he offered.
�Sure Lou, I have tons of vegetables along with coffee and peanut butter, rice and granola. We are set for weeks� showing him the contents of my cart. �And the price is right! Lets go cook!� I said as we headed to the check out stand.
Women unloaded their carts and inspected our loaded cart with interest. A large black woman asked what we had paid for the chicken, and sent her daughter back to get one. I counted my Rand quickly as I pocketed the change before leaving the check out line, seeing that I had more money left of food, and was OK.
Lou pushed the cart to the back of the BMW and loaded the small boot with our wealth. �Oh, I didn�t get any beer or wine!� I exclaimed, noting that I had seen a lot of consumption by others to date. �Oh, let them bring their own. I hardly drink at all anymore. Water and tea and coffee do me just fine these days,� Lou said with little concern express in his voice. I was relived. I was not a big drinker either, and simply was not ready to keep providing drinks for others. We left as the sun was sitting, bathing North Cliff in the last light of day.
|39. Cooking Up Deals|
When we drove up to 59 Ethel the driveway was plugged with the Greens men�s truck, parked sideways in the top of the driveway. Jimmy and Manny crawled out from under the truck with greasy hands and faces, dragging an old starter motor behind them. |
�Why couldn�t they have taken the broken starter instead of all those batteries?� said Jimmy with a laugh, putting the old starter in the box that a knew one had came in. Dropping back to the ground he started to fit the new one in place, Manny pulling on it from above. �Esh, I�m glad you guys fixed it before I ended up out in the middle of nowhere with it. I�m half the mechanic the two of you are,� said Lou as we carried bags of food to the kitchen.
�Let�s get the fire started. It�s up there past the swimming pool,� suggested Lou, leading the way. �I don�t have fancy Braai charcoal so we will use this scrap wood I�ve save up here. You�re a mountain man, you�ll know what to do with this,� he said as he pulled some wood out from under a bench, and some paper from a closet next to the home made brick and rock Braai.
Turning the handle and Lifting the mechanical grill high enough on it�s chain, attached to an overhead rotating bar, I built a campfire and blew the flame into a consuming blaze. Assured of our success we headed back to the kitchen and to assembled vegetable kabobs and cut chicken, and building a salad at the center countertop sink, cleaning as we went to keep Martha�s kitchen as we had found it.
As we came back to the fire and added the first round of food along with the next application of wood, another car pulled up in the street below.
By the time I got to the front door Paul Scott had let himself in, bringing his friend, Steven, with him, both over dressed for the night. Another car arrived as I greeted the men, and offered that they help them selves to the fresh coffee that had just finished brewing.
Another car behind that brought Patricia, then Dee and Adam up the driveway. As I greeted them Bruce arrived, looking for a parking place closer to the driveway, turning around and coming back down the hill, parking across the street at another busy house.
�That looks like a Shebeen across the street by my car� Bruce observed, �Think my car will be safe there?� �Shebeen? What�s that?� I queried. �Oh, an illegal booze shop of sorts. Check it out. See that guy going in the driveway? He�s going to be let in the garage by the large lady. Look, cases of booze. That�s a Shebeen for sure. Can I see my car from up at the house?� �We�ll have to see. I have not been looking,� I said as I greeted the others and led the way.
Dee had brought her Chihuahua who was now nipping at Bruce�s heals. Dee more or less ignored the dog, as well as Bruce�s cussing. Adam called the dog that reluctantly left Bruce alone for the time being. Bruce wrestled with a briefcase while keeping an eye on the little dog. Lou�s dogs now came out from the studio and greeted the Chihuahua who obviously knew then, and who ran the show.
Manny and Jimmy had finished the truck repair and were cleaning up for Dinner. Another car pulled up and Jeremy Pond joined us on the stairs to the house. I excused my self and headed to the Braai to turn the food and stoke the fire.
The Chihuahua took a stance at the entry door and let everyone through after a quick check at their heels. Bruce passed, looking back at the little guy, who followed Bruce all the way to the kitchen. As soon as Bruce had a cup of coffee in his hand, the Chihuahua barked at his heals, causing Bruce�s coffee to jump in his cup, nearly burning his hand. Satisfied with that, the Chihuahua left the room, smelling each heel he passed.
The Dinner was cooked and smelled like heaven. The small amount of chicken surrounded by Vegetable kabobs and set along side the salad, filled the center countertop abundantly. Some rice sat beside the hot food finished the display.
Dee looked around and announced her approval. �Lou, this is great! You have not had a party for awhile have you?� �Not for 15 years� he said and left the room to have a smoke at the back door. Adam saw the significance of the interaction, knowing these two people maybe better than they knew themselves.
The last guest, editor Cecil Morrow, joined us as we prepared to eat. Bruce and I were to meet with Cecil the next morning at his studio.
The food disappeared onto plates and dinner ended in conversations and cigarette smoke around the kitchen counter top. Lou and I bussed the food away and offered that we move to the sitting room. The conversations did not stop, and no one left the room, satisfied to keep talking around the countertop in the kitchen.
Only Patricia was in the sitting room, clutching a book she had brought, and covering her ring with her other hand. I encouraged her to come back and join us, but the cigarette smoke was driving her away. She apologized and said she would come Wednesday morning and pick me up to go to Arleta and Burt Forbes. Bruce had joined us, along with his new dog close to his heals. �Patricia, pick Russ up and bring him to my place in Melville and I will take us all to Ann�s in my car. Call me in that morning and I will tell you how to find me.�
I took Patricia to her car and we set a time to meet Wednesday at 9:00 AM. The noise from Lou�s kitchen window out shouted the Shebeen across the street. A happy sound his house must have been ready for again. Dee and Adam greeted me as I left Patricia at her car, announcing that they had an early morning, thanking me for the night�s fun.
�How did you get Lou to agree to such a wonderful night? He has been a real hermit� Dee said. �He offered,� I said. Adam just smiled and said good night and thanked me for the Dinner.
Even with these people gone, the noise of voices in celebration of introductions filled the driveway and staircase as I came back to the group. Manny and Jimmy were worn out, and excused them selves. Jeremy Pond followed them out the drive saying he would find a driver the next day and bring him to the studio. Paul and Steven were Difficult to pry loose from Bruce, each trying to impress the other with their work history, while I saw Bruce sneak rolls into his pocket when he thought no one was watching. Lou spent most of his time now by himself at the back door with his cigarette glowing in the dark. The food plates were mostly empty, and the bellies mostly full as the night drew to a close.
As the last guest left, Lou and I finished cleaning up the kitchen behind them. Lou shook his cigarette pack and dropped the last fag into his hand. �Lets go to the store. I need some smokes. These are finished� Lou said as he gathered up his keys and headed out the door.
The cars at the Shebeen had thinned out, though the open garage door revealed an older man and woman re stacking cases of booze after a busy night. Lou drove us through the sleeping community to a Spa grocery story still open that late at night.
Few cars filled the parking spots closest to the entry door. �Lets go quickly to the entry door, look purposeful� Lou instructed as he locked the BMW behind us. �You don�t know who�s keeping an eye on the parking lot this time of night, and you don�t look so much a target if you look like you have a plan,� he explained.
The store was nearly empty and we were quickly back in the car and on our way home. Lou didn�t need to say much about his night; the stress had been on the surface even though politely concealed.
The shebeen was dark now. Our end of town was more quite than I would expect in a city. Off in the distance a car alarm went off and a dog started to bark. Somewhere else a gun went off and a woman screamed, then it was all quite again. No sirens, no follow up emergency noises as I pulled into bed around midnight.
|40. This Should Be The Story|
I woke to the sound of an owl not far from my window. It was in a tree on the bank overlooking the back court yard, putting it nearly at my second floor window. It was not quite daylight, but I had slept soundly and if I would have been home it would have been time to feed the animals. |
The luxury of my own bathroom seduced me to leave the bed and enjoy an extended hot bath before making my way to the patio to watch the morning sun change the appearance of Johannesburg as the largest man made forest in the world woke to the new day. HaDidas that I had heard when I first got there flew in from the east and took up positions on various trees along the slopes, shouting �Go Away!� as I had been told by Mickey their sounds meant. Studying my calendar I wondered what I would learn today.
Over coffee and eggs on toast Lou and I talked about the night before. He had enjoyed the company, though he still had mixed feelings. We discussed our plans and made arrangements to meet back at his North Cliff studio in the afternoon.
Bruce arrived by 9:30 AM and we crossed town on ever more familiar streets. I pointed out to Bruce that we had been to a farmer�s market out that way, and that Dee and her mom lived on this street when they had rented a cottage to Elizabeth Klarer, showing off my ability to find my way around town.
We passed the graveyard on D. F. Malin, turned past Cool Runnings and went past Ninos then off toward Auckland Park. Near the base of the SABC building we pulled up to a security gate in a white cement textured wall.
The gates pulled back, and Cecil stood in the parking lot in front of his open triple garage doors. Greeting us he lead us past his new SUV and classic Mercedes and white BMW and into the hallway.
His house shared the complex that contained his editing equipment, private office and secretary�s office, all surrounding an open courtyard. The secretary came to us and introduced herself, then showed us around the complex as Cecil took phone calls waiting for him. As he hung up from the last call the secretary led us back to his office where Cecil was at the computer keyboard finishing an Email. Before we could start our meeting, a young lady who was his film editor entered and asked him to give his approval on her morning work.
�Follow me. We have a new editing setup and have been busy getting our current documentary moved into the new computers. This docie is actually about the Drakensburg Mountains where some of your story takes place, Russ. Have you been there? If not, this should be of interest to you. This is about a fellow and his son who attempt to kayak from atop the Drakensburg to the ocean,� Cecil explained as he quickly came to the editing room. �No, I have not been there, so this will be great!� I was able to say before the editor started showing Cecil what she had finished.
�Cecil, I moved these files, opened them here and couldn�t save them as before. Here they are. How would you like to have me save them?� With a bit of study and fussing Cecil showed her the new method and left to take another set of phone calls. The editor offered to show us the short segments of the docie along with other completed projects while we waited for Cecil to return.
Nearly an hour went by and she had finished with what she had to show us. Bruce had tried to hit on her asking her out, and she politely, but purposefully said that not this time, not the last time he had asked, nor the next time would she be interested.
Again we followed Cecil to his office. He suggested that Bruce follow the secretary to the courtyard to see the new koi fish, and give Cecil and I some space for a moment.
Cecil turned to me and announced that he was aware of what had transpired since I had arrived. He was not prying, but it was a small community and he had worked with Mickey, who actually had wanted the job of running the new editing equipment, calling a day ago. He had worked with Lou as well, and of course, Bruce. He knew most of the people I had met already, and wanted to know my goals while in South Africa.
I told him the details that he had not heard yet, including the upcoming radio show. It came to pass that Cecil was working on a documentary that related directly to another show that had aired on the program I was producing. I asked if he would like to join us on the show, and he offered that I could use his computer to suggest that to the program engineer.
The secretary again came for Cecil, leaving Bruce in the courtyard, watching me through the window, recognizing that he had been moved out of everyone�s way. I took to private opportunity and quickly caught up on my Email communications before Cecil returned. It was nearly 11:30 AM now.
�Can I offer you lunch at Nenos?� I said as Bruce found his way back to the office. �Sure, I�ll have lunch!� Bruce said before Cecil could answer. �Can I invite the young lady to join us?� Bruce asked, looking down the Hall. �She brings her own lunch, and has much to do right now� Cecil dictated, as he accepted the lunch invitation.
�Let�s take my car� Cecil said, selecting the proper keys as he led us back out to the garage. Bruce hesitated at the editor�s door so Cecil took the opportunity to say, �I know about your being short of cash as well, and before we get to Ninos I want to discreetly say to you that I find your personal story the one that needs to be told, not Elizabeth�s. Also, I�m buying lunch. Please accept my offer.�
�Cecil, thank you for your offer and understanding. I�ll split the lunch bill with you, after all I invited you.� He smiled and agreed to the compromise. �It looks like a go for the radio show with you added in. I will give you the details of timing once I find out. It will be early morning. Like 3:00 AM. Will that be fine with you?� I asked Cecil as Bruce caught up with us. �I�m sure it will be. My time is spent near a phone when it�s office time in the States, and I�m up early anyway� Cecil said, accepting the opportunity.
Cecil took us through Auckland Park to the upper side of Melville, then down back streets to parking in a side street a � block from Ninos. We walked down the middle of the street avoiding allies and parked service vehicles. Though I was surrounded by a modern city, the constant normal call to caution that pervaded everyone�s daily life made me realize I was still living in a third world atmosphere.
Nino was besides himself with being worn down by trying to continue to impress me as an outsider who showed up regularly with customers he knew. I didn�t help his exhaustion by noticing his efforts and thanking him politely. I would not know I would be too busy to return for years to come, though his welcoming is a fond memory, right along with Cecil� kind observations through an editor�s eyes.
|41. Hard Wood|
Lunch finished, and delivering us back to Cecil� studio, I thanked him for his thoughts and company and asked Bruce to get me back to Lou�s. On our way back through town we discussed the upcoming trip to Arleta and Burt�s the next day, and agreed that Bruce would take Patricia and I there and that we should leave her car at his studio apartment. |
Agreeing to be there early, I bid him a good day and entered through the rock-faced gate with the full confidence of a resident. Lou said hello from the window of his studio over the driveway and said he would be right down when he got off the phone with the animal trainer in charge of a lion now on location.
Grabbing his cigarettes and keys, Lou joined me at the garage door. �I didn�t get lunch but thought one of these would hold me till we get home. Want one?� he said dropping two cans of Red Bull in my lap. �Red Bull? What�s this? Caffeine?� I asked as I rolled the can in my hand to read the label. �I guess it�s like coffee and coke, or something like that,� Lou returned as I got out the car to close the gate behind us.
I marveled at how light the gate made from �Lou Rocks� really was, almost as if it was not covered at all. Popping our cans open we sped off through North Cliff in the midday sun, Lou balancing a cigarette and a can of Red Bull while negotiating turns. Down the slopes, through residential streets, past small malls then a small business District till we were again in open road near a township, then skirting a lion park.
I sat back looking at all this countryside trying to find something new each ride. We passed all the familiar sites as we picked up speed; the windows down and letting the fall afternoon air blow the smoke around the cab then out the other window.
�I�m on the way to meet with Ronnie Van Wyk, the production designer, to talk about the cave and it�s location. Also, I wanted to be there in the late afternoon, I�ll show you why� adding mystery to our visit with a playful tone in his voice and a wink.
Past the elephant skulls, the artist house on the river, a huge fenced set of buildings to our right. �What�s that complex Lou?� �Oh, that�s Pelindabe, the nuclear plant. That got us in shit in the past when the sanctions were in place. Remember? We were dealing with Communist China and our nuclear waste when no one else would talk to us. Pissed a lot of people off over that.� �Wow, that place is really something,� I remarked as I watched the complex disappear behind the trees along the river.
We turned left at the stop street at the bottom of the hill and headed to Bruker Farm, turned on the Dirt road, past young women in school uniforms and through the security gate.
Lou negotiated through the location trailers and past the parking lot and canteen. The BMW crept around holes in the road, down a small side farm road and through the groups of trees surrounding the rocks on the high ground where the lion cave would go.
No one was there to greet us, though we had been noticed driving into the area flagged off to keep traffic out. We had enough time to get out and walk around a bit, Lou studying the underbrush for some reason. Down the slop we saw a cage in the shade near the nearly dry creek. �That�s the lion. Want to meet him?� Lou asked. �Sure, can we?� I asked. �Who�s here to stop us?� he said with an impish smile.
The lion was busy pacing in his cage. Lou produced a small camera from his pocket and said, �Stand over there by him and I�ll get your picture.� I walked over by the guy, turned to look at Lou for the shot and heard in my head, very clearly, �FUCK OFF, I�m Busy!� in a gruff voice. I turned and looked at the lion, looking right at me. He kind of smiled, and at the same time ignored me. I turned back to Lou who snapped the shot, catching me with a surprised expression. �Did you hear that?� I asked. �What?� Lou asked.
�Hey, Lou� we both heard Ronnie call out as he climbed the small hill behind us with his clipboard in hand. �Lets take another look at the place for you to set up. What are you doing down there anyway?� Ronnie asked. �Oh, the Yank here needed a picture of the lion. We�re done� Lou laughed.
We met with Ronnie at the top of the hill under some trees as he studied his notes on his clipboard. �Now, Lou, I need your cooperation here. Please put your set pieces here, and be prepared to move them when Bruce, the animal trainer, arrives to show us where to set up. You can be so full of shit that you have Paul worried, and we don�t need that. You and I have known each other since the days at SABC, and I know we need your expertise. We also need to have you work with us. Please.� He said, looking around at the site they were standing on.
�Lou, I�ll see you in a minute. I�m going walkabout. OK?� I suggested. �Sure, see you in a bit� Lou nodded. Ronnie�s voice could be heard making his case to Lou as I walked off in the grassy slopes toward another set of rocks and trees way away from everyone else.
I stood for the first time, alone in the open air, since I had arrived. Bending down I touched the earth with both hands and said to it �I�m here. Here I am. Right here. Did you miss me? I missed you. This is where I live now. See me?� I imagined a blue spark running through me and out into the earth, which seemed to come back at me with a dramatic rush.
For the first time since I had left California I was looking at my self as a person in Africa, on an adventure, loosing a potential lover, running out of money, living with someone who had agreed to take me in without questing me about my circumstance.
My heart started to beat too hard. I stood up, and then dropped to my knees with a sound of blood rushing in my head. I first thought I was having a heart attack, and then remembered that this had happened to me months ago when I was remodeling my cabin back in California. At that time I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown, and had ignored the signs and kept working feverously.
This time there was no work to turn too. I was alone in my own world with the reality of the fool�s journey I had put my self on. Tears weld up in my eyes and sweat on my neck. Was I to die right here? My breathing became difficult and the fear of passing out caused me to try and stand again and refocus.
With some difficulty I was on my feet, and my muffled hearing brought Lou�s voice to the surface. �Hey, Man! You OK?� looking at me as he came up, grabbing me by the elbow and walking me away from where I had been on the ground.
�Look around you. See that truck over there? They are loaded with hay and are about to feed the animals. Look, Giraffe, and Wildebeests, that�s a Kudu. There�s an Impala. See them?� he said as he studied my face. �Yes, I feed animals too. Looks about the same� I responded, much to Lou�s relief.
�Here, sit on this limb and watch for awhile. See the Giraffe take the lead following the bucke? Those are Gemsbok coming in from over there. Take a breath man, relax. OK now?� Lou said as he watched my reactions. �Yes, fine now Lou. Thanks man� I said, whipping my face. �Those Giraffe sure know the routine don�t they?� I added focusing my eyes again after rubbing my face like a child who had just been scared, then was trying to hide it. �Lets head back to the car now. I have something to show you,� he said.
In the bushes around the car Lou poked and pulled at a log, dragging it out in the fading sunlight. �This is a real hard wood. I always gather up something from each location I�m on around the world. I have wood from California, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Help me load this in the trunk. I�m not supposed to take anything off this place, but here goes� he grunted out as we picked the heavy piece up and laid it next to tools in the boot.
Lou pulled some old coats over it and closed the lid. �You ready to go home?� he asked as he pulled his keys from his pocket. �Sure, all set now� I responded with a recomposed voice, and a different self-confidence. Somewhat weak, but strangely stronger, a difference had come over me. I had faced a fear of panic and came through it without it taking me away in a breakdown, as I had worried about months before. I was ready to great the rest of my life without that hidden burnout plaguing me any longer.
When we returned to North Cliff that evening Jeremy Pond had found a driver for the next day and had been busy loading the truck with the rock wall which would go to location the next day to construct the Lion�s cave. Jeremy had picked up the driver, a Nigerian, at a street corner where day workers hung out.
The driver was a well dressed educated man with a good command of the English language. Though he was willing to work for a few days, he made it clear that he was not a day laborer. I offered him food that night when we cooked and he politely accepted, not bringing much conversation about himself to the table. Lou showed him the room above the Braai, and told him he could share that with the workers who used it to change into work cloths in the morning. He accepted and left us for the night.
Lou and Jeremy discussed the next few busy days ahead. The rock wall would go out early the next day and be sat down at location till the animal trainer could look it over. Then Lou would oversea the set up while Jeremy brought the second load out with an extra worker. Then Lou would paint the seams and locate the shrubs provided by the greens men.
With that done, Lou and the driver and workers would pick up Evan�s house full of furniture and bring it to Lou�s. I told them my schedule and they asked if I would be available to give a hand from time to time. With our heads full of plans we bid each other good night and prepared for the next set of busy days.
What had become a normal start to a day was welcomed. Lou and I sat looking out over the city from the balcony with our hot coffee and eggs on toast. We made tentative plans to meet in the afternoon when I returned from my meeting and luncheon. |
The workers had arrived and where standing around in the sunny court yard with the truck loaded with the first delivery ready to go to location. Jeremy threw ropes over the tall but feather light load of fiberglass Lou rocks to prevent the wind from unloading them before reaching location. Before Lou and I had finished our coffee the truck was out the gate and heading down Ethel.
Shortly afterwards I was with my notebook waiting for Patricia outside the rock gate. Right on time she arrived fresh from a good nights sleep. With quick pleasant greetings I waved at Lou in the studio window and Patricia and I were dropping off the high streets of North Cliff to cross D.F. Malin and climb the side hill near Melville. We found Bruce waiting in front of his land lord�s driveway motioning to Patricia to enter and park in the land lord�s carport.
�Good morning you two. You can leave your car here off the street. My landlord is gone for the day, and this space is available. With a quick shuffle of coats and notebooks we were loaded into Bruce�s car and finding our way through the back streets toward a main road.
We passed between the SABC building and Auckland Park, with glimpses of North Cliff in the distance between freeway over passes and high rise buildings. Hitting a cloverleaf of freeway we passed the mine dumps and out a main freeway feeder taking us through industrial sections of town, with a growing squatter�s camp across the street.
The freeway turned to two lanes and rose over a ridge, then dropped into a canyon and climbed the other side. Near an animal rescue farm we found the long drive leading to Arleta and Burt Forbes.
In a very rural setting we entered through a security gate leading into a 5-acre estate overlooking the canyon, with the skyline of Joburg barely visible in front of us. Burt met us in the driveway near the three-car garage. Greeting us while showing us his landscaped yard he led us to the courtyard where a table was set for tea.
Arleta came from the house with a tray of cookies and tea, setting them down and greeting us, hugging her old friend Patricia, and shaking hands with Bruce and I. Arleta had a screenplay she and Patricia had been looking over, and modifying, already sat on the table.
Arleta had knows Elizabeth Klarer, though not as well as Patricia. Burt had made a bronze casting for Elizabeth, and had pictures of it on the table. Bruce studied the food and started to help himself ahead of us being offered to join in. He pulled his hand back when Arleta gave him a Disapproving glance, then she asked us all if we would like some tea and cookies.
Soon we had started separate conversations around the table. Patricia and Arleta engaged Bruce about how they had plagiarized his screenplay, and had been �guided� to make changes that surly he would approve. Burt motioned for me to follow him to see his new koi pond.
Following Burt through his small garden surrounding the house and leading to a set of outbuildings Burt asked me questions about my interest in my project. At one point he showed me where he had completed the sculpture that had been psychically inspired.
Burt led me around through the back door to the house, showing me the cottage the maid lived in, bringing us in to the kitchen and dinning room. Once we had returned, Burt gave Arleta an approving smile and suggested that she share the names she had connected to my project.
With the air of superiority about her, Arleta produced a notebook from her briefcase. Clearing her voice of the years of cigarette smoke and looking at me over her bifocals she suggested I write these names down.
Names and phone numbers of people I had not heard of before poured out of her notebook and into mine. I perked up as she told me how to contact Credo Mutwa, a spiritual leader of the Zulu who had know Elizabeth Klarer and who had delivered one of her eulogies. At the end of the list Arleta offered that I could use her phone to contact anyone on that list if I wanted. Accepting her generous offer I took my notes to the living room and a small desk at the phone. I started with the contact information for Credo Mutwa.
�Hello, George here,� a man on the other side of the phone answered.
�Yes, George, may I speak with Credo Mutwa?�
�Please, who is this, and how did you get this number?� he asked.
�I�m Russell Winje from California, working on a movie about Elizabeth Klarer. Arleta Forbes gave me this number and suggested that I reach Cerdo at this number.�
�You can come speak with Cerdo at 10:00 AM Monday at his home. Come to the Hennops River. Come to the school, turn left and follow the river to his front gate. Honk and I will let you in.�
My notebook was already fat with meetings, and now one of the first names I had learned when I got to Johannesburg sat in my lineup for Monday. With a half day ahead of me I came back to excused myself from Arleta and Burt�s table and asked Bruce and Patricia if we might leave for town. I wanted to make it to Lou�s and accompany him back to location.
|43. Used Props|
It seemed to take less time to make our way back to North Cliff the more familiar I became with the area. New and old landmarks filled the view from Bruce�s, then Patricia�s car windows as I spent more time as a passenger than I had since I was a kid. Much as a kid though, every experience weighed heavy on my mind making impressions that extended into each other with a continuity I could not have planned. When Patricia dropped me off at the gate leading up to Lou�s studio I held the gate open for his BMW coming out of the garage. |
�Let�s go help them with the rock features. Jeremy just called and they have been delayed and will make it there by the time we get there. You had a call from a Marilyn Partridge who wanted to move your Sunday Dinner to Saturday so you could meet her husband. I took the liberty of accepting for you. If that will not work, you can call her this evening, she said� Lou explained, watching me for a reaction as he maneuvered us out a different way from his Ethel studio/home.
Checking my notes �I don�t see any problem with that, thank you for taking the call. I will contact her to confirm this evening,� I said before Lou continued � You will need to also contact Ronald Rubinstein as he wants to pick you up Friday after dinner for desert at his home and to introduce you to a screenplay writer. I also tentatively accepted that for you as well.� �Gee, Lou, I�ll need to keep you on as a secretary won�t I?� I laughed at Lou, adding Ronald to my list.
�Ronald and I have worked on a project together for an entertainment park he has in mind. He will need to explain thought. I did a mockup for him that takes up a two car garage at his place. It has to do with Ets� Lou continued as we came around the back of North Cliff and headed toward the lion park on the way to location. Ets; entertainment parks, Dee Guessler and her mom being abducted 15 years ago; Elizabeth Klarer, and now Credo Mutwa. What would Credo have to offer to this mix I had to wonder?
Again, less time seemed to be needed to make it out past the cosmos and building-up squatter�s camps. School kids in uniforms now looked familiar as we passed dirt roads leading off the main road. The artist house on the river� the nuclear plant� the guard at the entry; all where familiar now.
We pulled in past the outdoor restaurant and found the truck load of rock features precariously perched on the top of the ridge. One feature was about to fall as we ran to help the workers on the ground struggling to keep balanced as the load started to join them on the ground under it�s own momentum.
Being much taller than Lou I reached over his head and pushed with all my strength till another tall black man�s hand hit right along side mine and together we took the weight of the load till the piece was resting on the ground. Smiling at each other with satisfaction, and no words, we turned to the next piece coming off the truck.
Looking the man in the face again and studying him thought back to the day I had stood outside Mickeys gate waiting for Jeremy Pond. This was the man who had approached me! I had been introduced to him as Steven the first day at Lou�s. Even though I had not recognized him on the street that morning, he had recognized me. I had chased him off. What must he have thought of my abruptness that morning, now that I was working right alongside him? I had so much to learn about living in Africa. Looking in his eyes, he knew I had figured the mystery out now.
Soon the whole load was on the ground. Jeremy lit a cigarette and laughed as he walked around the fresh pile of artificial rocks. �You wouldn�t believe it, but we got stopped by the police on the way here. They saw this huge load of rocks and thought they were real! The man who stopped us came up to the window looking the under carriage of the truck over with great interest expecting to see the springs on the axels, I�m sure. I had to get out and tap on them to show him they were fiberglass before he would believe me. I asked him what he had been smoking. He said nothing yet, till he gets home that night, and then he would deserve some Daka,� Jeremy explained, still laughing and looking at the black men who were also laughing at the re telling of the story.
�Now, Lou, I need to get these men back to make their Taxi rides home. Are you set on your own here?� Jeremy asked as he motioned to the workers to load into the cab. �Sure, Jeremy. Russ and I can go over the load from here. I�ll check to see what else we may need from the studio. You guys head out� Lou said as he saw the animal trainer coming up the side hill toward us. Jeremy and the workers pulled out through the brush and rocks and back to the dirt road leading past Bruce who was studying the pile of fiberglass rocks.
�Lou, we will need to put the rock features over here in the open� Brain said as he walked a short Distance away and down the slope, meeting Ronnie and Paul coming toward him.
I stood back by the pile of fiberglass while the men talked, engrossed in their jobs. As they spoke a small herd of Wildabeast came around the brush on their way to meet with the feed truck. The led animal spotted us while the others came closer without seeing us yet. The leader stopped and snorted, and did a mock stomp to spook us. No one heard him as the men pointed and gestured at the location for the cave. The Wildabeast stomped again and did a mock charge like a domestic sheep or goat would do to protect it�s baby.
I looked at the men and wondered if this was a problem. No one looked back. I thought that I should do something, so I projected my thoughts at the concerned animal, and said �leave us alone!� To that the Wildabeast pulled back, shook it�s head and stared at me. I did the same thing again and the Wildabeast jumped, did a little kick and spun and ran back at the others coming up the hill, the herd now seeing me for the first time.
The herd ran off playfully and Bruce noticed them for the first time, as I turned to see if anyone had seen this chance meeting. Bruce smiled with a look of recognition and turned back to Lou saying, �The lion will need to be let out in the open. He will need to see his own cage, even if just a little bit. I will initially walk him through the open area, into the cave and into his cage where his treat will be waiting for him. He can do this twice before he looses interest. We will have only two shots. If he dose not see his cage, he will not feel safe and he will not cooperate. Then we will have problems. The cave must be right here. The truck must be right over there. The cage in view,� Bruce finished.
Lou agreed to the new placement and said he must bring his crew back the next day to complete the job. Satisfied, the men all left, and Lou and I headed back to the pile of rock features.
�See these marks on this wall?� Lou asked. �Sure� I said looking in the fading sunlight.
�That�s my name. See the L?� he said with an impish grin. �It�s hard to see, but the camera will catch it. This is a rock feature from �Ghost and the Darkness�. Paul worked on that film with me. Did you see that movie? I�m re-using these features and only Paul may know this, though he has not noticed yet. It�s a good feature, and I�m going to mix it up a bit to make it different. No one will notice,� Lou said as he walked away, lighting a cigarette, and getting in his BMW.
|44. White Eagle Owl|
We got back to Lou�s with the phone ringing. �Lou here. Sure, he�s right here. It�s Ronald Rubinstein for you Russ. Sounds like he would like to come pick you up this evening.�|
�Hello Ronald. This is Russ. What�s up? What time? Sure. We will be in the house.�
�Yes, Lou, that was Ronald and he would like to come get me this evening. The screenplay writer can meet with us this evening only. He will come get me in an hour. Let�s have some left-overs� I responded while looking through the refrigerator.
We talked about the day and Lou made arrangements for me to let myself back in the house after he would have gone to bed. The next day we would get an early start for location with a crew and spend the day working on the cave. Lou called Jeremy to let him know about the changes and tell him to take as many men as he could fit in next truck load and meet us there mid morning.
In no time at all Ronald was at the front door letting himself in, after a quick knock.
�Hi Lou. Hi Russ. You ready Russ? I�m going to have to show you the job Lou did for me at my place. Quite impressive don�t you think Lou?� Ronald said as he shook our hands and grabbed Lou�s shoulder and tugged on him in a playful manner. �Quite a set you ordered Ronald. I�m sure Russ will want to see it,� Lou said as he stretched and looked for his cigarette pack. �Still smoking Lou? I�ve quite now for good. I like that a lot. Try it! Well, we will be on our way now. Molly will be at my place soon. We�ll have Russ back here before midnight� bidding Lou a good night and leading the way out the door and to his new blue coupe in the driveway.
Ronald asked how my stay had been with Lou. He had also known Lou since the 70�s and the days with SABC. Ronald was an investor who owned a nightclub in Joburg. He had willingness to investing in projects that held his interest, to include Extraterrestrials. Ronald knew of Elizabeth Klarer�s story and had hoped to offer some advice and assistance.
Through his entertainment interest Ronald had become involved with a working screenplay writer who was constantly taking her projects to film. Ronald had a night of video and demonstrations planned. We arrived at his home in a forested draw down stream from the pond I had been to before where the Dog park climbed through the same drainage.
As we got out the screenplay writer and a lady friend of Ronald�s arrived in Different cars. Molly drove a modest Nissan sedan. Ronald�s lady friend drove a new BMW hardtop convertible coupe. Molly was a married woman who dressed in casual slakes and shirt. The Lady friend was fashionable in a knee-lengthened dress with vest and bare feet. The contrast and contradictions stuck in my mind.
Molly knew her way around Ronald�s house as a working friend. The lady friend was a guest who was trying hard to be more than a friend. Ronald was casually well dressed in fine clothes, but comfortable. His evening�s attentions were on a presentation and his lady friend�s attentions were on Ronald. We were three people and a guest, though the lady�s focus on Ronald effectively sat herself outside the group, not visa versa.
Ronald was a fine host with a presentation ready built around videos about UFOs and conspiracy subjects, most of which I had seen from my own research. Molly was patient as she waited to know what she was there to learn. The lady friend cuddled up against Ronald on the couch ignoring the conversations while Ronald attempted to keep enough elbowroom for moving as he accessed videos and books from the shelf behind him.
Finally he had built up to telling Molly about the movie project I had brought with me. Molly listened with interest while the story unfolded. She explained that in the future she would have some open time, though right now it was impossible for her to offer at date that she would be available. Her current clients had her held captive over a series of projects that lay ahead and she was too wise to spread herself too thin and become a writing machine. Ronald had not expected that response and the disappointment showed briefly before he asked me to join him in his garage/showroom.
Excusing ourselves from the women Ronald led me through his well-appointed kitchen where he obviously cooked for his own entertainment and into a garden filled with nightlights amongst shrubs. Hitting the lights as we entered the building, Ronald pulled out a mechanical control switch attached to a length of cord running into the side of a double ping pong table sized display of an entertainment complex.
Lights began to glow along with motions of vehicles and searchlights. A four screen viewing center the size and shape of a football stadium sat surrounded by as many as four closed lecture halls, and theme park type rides, further surrounded by circular parking lots.
A main gate sat under a display of rockets and flying saucer shapes, along with two story tall representations of Ets welcoming the miniature people on moving walkways. Multiple cameras focused on multiple screens in the center of the open stadium allowing a full view for each set of staircase shaped seating areas.
The motions picket up as the crowds were moved to the various sections and the entire seating complex moved in sequence to the actions on the screen giving the audience the sensations of movement and complete involvement.
After a light show, the various screens started different presentations for each section, depending on what the visiting tourist had chose to learn. Different types of Ets were pictured on the screens explaining the presentations.
Once the initial show was over, fireworks would emphasize the building excitement before the public would be taken by yet another set of moving walkways to the lecture halls associated with the seating section they had chosen.
Learning was to be mixed with entertainment in the forms of music and lights between lectures and introductions. Afterwards various rides and games were available to the enthusiastic tourist intended to give them the feel of space travel.
The whole idea behind this ambitious park was to put this complex on 40 acres in the desert between Las Vegas and Los Angeles and to involve races of peoples from space giving a platform for social exchange and interaction mixed with theme park activities. Ronald intended to �Process� as many as 30,000 people a day through this orientation program with a waiting list anticipated for this destination resort.
It was a stunning undertaking at just the mock up level, let alone the hoped future outcome. Ronald took me back to the women in the living room and thanked us for joining him. Ronald asked Molly if she could take me back to Lou�s on her way home, and she agreed. The Lady waiting on the couch perked up to bid us goodnight, holding Ronald by the arm. Molly and I were let out through Ronald�s security gate as he watched from his entry door, shutting the gate behind us.
Molly asked me where I needed to be taken, and I called on my recently acquired, though limited, knowledge of my new home and directed her around through the homes and drainages. We came into the back parking area of Cresta Mall, crossed the four lane, past the fruit and vegetable venders, turned up the hill by the blues club, and climbed the side hill of North Cliff as I watched for street names.
For the first time I realized that the street names were on the curbs, and not on street signs as we climbed further into the dark housing areas away from the well lit business districts. Molly saw me straining to see the street names and nervously asked me if I knew where we were going.
Right on cue I saw the name �Nightingale� climbing to my right. �Yes, turn there!� I said. Molly had passed the street and after a quick turn around and a bit of a panic at being stopped in the night street, she followed Nightingale to Ethel, and right to Lou�s driveway.
Molly was amazed that I had shown her the way in the dark on a virgin voyage, but felt assured that she could follow Nightingale all the way back to streets she was familiar with on her way home. Thanking her for the miniature adventure of a ride home, we agreed to stay in touch, and I bid her good night.
Lou�s house was unusually dark and quite except for the dogs locked in the studio who knew me by now and only danced and sang dog stories to me from behind the closed door, greeting my arrival home.
The entry light was dim and difficult to use while locating the skeleton key lock hole. As quietly as I could I made my way from the living room, up the wide winding stairs to my hallway and room on the second floor. It must have been midnight by the time I was in bed and going back over the day before. What could I except to encounter the next day I wondered as once again I could hear the White Eagle Own on the bank next to my window?
|45. Distant Horizon|
It was already Friday Morning when I rolled over wondering if I had slept that night. I must have as dream visions of the new faces I had met paraded past my bed on their way out of the room with the coming of the morning light. Lou was already on the balcony when I got there, with his first cup of coffee and cigarette.Martha had already been up making breakfast.|
�Did you enjoy your evening with Roland?� Lou asked as I rubbed my eyes to wake up. �That was fascinating Lou. What a production you made for Roland�s presentation. Has he actually had people looking at investing in that?� trying to keep a creditable sense to my question. �Not really. Only some folks who wanted a theme park, but not one so focused on such a bizarre fringe. But it was sure a challenge to create. Did you like all the motions and lights?� Lou asked. �Lou, that was a piece of work, to say the least. What�s our day look like?� I asked as the phone rang.
�Lou here. Howzit Jeremy? No, don�t worry about lunch, these men work with me and are part of the crew who are provided for. Who do you have with you? You did what? You picked Steven up at the Hillborw towers? That must have been an adventure. I bet you were the only white face in the whole building! Glad your on your way.� Lou stopped to explain to me that Jeremy had went into the heart of �Gotham� to get Steven because it was too early for the taxies. Continuing on the phone, Lou asked �Then we will see all of you there? We will be on our way soon too.�
Martha had brought breakfast and more coffee by the time Lou was off the phone. We ate and made our way to the studio to let the dogs out. They pushed and played with each other as they made their way to the bushes for their private morning dog park experience.
Lou grabbed his tool box and paint brushes on the way through to unlock the back door by Martha�s house and the working men�s restroom. With a glance to check that all was has he had left it, he turned and handed some tools to me and we headed to the garage.
We had gotten an early start with little traffic to deal with by the time we were out past the lion park and squatter�s camp. Speeding out the two lane road through the high veld passing school children in uniforms coming out from all the dirt roads to the paved road.
Taxies loaded workers, stuffing up to 20 people at a time in battered and bruised min vans were at every intersection. Groaning under the pressure and weight the taxies passed us on the edges of the roads when we slowed for stop streets and curves. It was pandemonium on wheels everywhere I looked.
We crossed the Crocodile River and made our way to the front gate of location. Paul Scott had bet us there and was wiping his mustache before swigging down fresh morning coffee behind his pastry from the outside cafeteria. Jeremy and the workingmen came down the dirt road ahead of us, having parked the second truck load on the hill by the other cave materials.
�Jeremy, I guess you heard already that we will be moving the cave down the hill before we set up? Bruce has reasons that he can explain. At any rate, we will have to do our own greens work as Mammy and Jimmy are not coming today, and tomorrow, early, is the scene with the lion. Let�s hit it and you can get these men back to the studio by the end of the day,� Lou instructed.
It was a busy morning. Everyone was issued gloves from the trunk of Lou�s BMW, except Lou who ran out of gloves and choose to hand his to Steven, the last black man in line.
The pieces of cave wall moved like they were leaves in the jaws of African Ants, obtuse and wobbly as they came down the hill. Jeremy was in charge of which piece went where, and Lou was in charge of the visual effect the camera would see. I pushed and pulled along side Steven working through the morning break and up to lunchtime. Finally Lou announced that it was time to go eat, and led the way down the hill to the cafeteria.
Paul Scott was one of the first seated at the tables with a huge plate of food, cigarette in his mouth as he balanced coffee and juice while pushing his butt into the bench to get traction to go after his plate of food, talking to a man who was trying to ignore him from across the table.
Lou motioned for me to get in line, and stood back with his men for a minute till I was taking a seat next to the animal trainer, Bruce, and his partner. Then, with the line moving freely, Lou stepped into line with his men.
The food line stopped when the first Blackman picked up a plate. Other white men stepped around him and the other black men, and grabbed plates while the first black man looked down at the well-trodden ground and just waited.
Lou pushed his way through the white men and demanded that his men be fed. The Indian cook and black assistants looked around at the crowd and kept feeding the first white men to come, without joining into the mess.
Lou was told to take a plate for himself and to let the men wait. Instead he pulled out of line with his men, in a show of solidarity and walked around looking for a fight with who ever had the bad timing to look back at him. Trying to make him invisible, the men with food sat under the shade of the tent tops.
Lou stumbled across the pelvis bone of a large animal, and put it on his head like a mask, looking out through the leg joint holes as he walked around the tables checking everyone�s plate. People tried in vain to ignore him at their own peril. I got up to go to him and he motioned me to sit again.
The line was smaller now and the cook motioned to the black me to join in, seeing the tensions growing in the crowd. Bruce smiled and said, �That�s Lou for you. Good for him. These pampas asses, the lot of them. Let�s get back to work.�
Bruce left, and Lou took the seat next to me, waving to the black men to join us. They were nervous though, and simply stood around with their plates of food and ate in the sun. Lou looked around the crowd and said �After all, this is Mr. Bones isn�t it?� holding up the pelvis bone again as other tired to look away, but watched him, not knowing what he might do next. Perhaps they too had known him since the days at SABC.
We all worked feverously till all the heavy pieces were in place. Lou said he would take Steven home with us, and that Jeremy could leave now with the other men. The word was out that the production company had some checks to give out, on a first come first serve basis. Lou instructed Jeremy to go past the office with his bill and get some money to pay the black men, and not to tell anyone he was leaving.
An hour after Jeremy left, Paul Scott came around and stood with a cigarette, not offering one to Lou. �That was quite a show at lunch time Lou, or should I say Mr. Bones? Hey, where�s Jeremy?� Paul asked. �Oh, I sent them to get a check. It�s payday. Didn�t you hear?� Lou said with an impish grin.
�What? Payday? Where? Oh Shit!� Paul said, nearly running with his overweight frame jiggling as he made his way to his car and sped off through the security gate.
�That gets rid of him!� Lou laughed, and turned back to painting the joints of the cave wall, making them disappear. Paul Wright came around to check to see if the cave would be ready for first thing in the morning. Looking the structure over and studying it a bit too much he turned to Lou and said �You aren�t selling me the same feature again are you Lou?� �Oh, Paul, what makes you think that? Your lion will love it� Lou said, not looking up from his work.
It was getting dark, and Paul was a busy man with places to go, so he huffed and walked away to the parking lot and drove off with a dust storm behind his car. �Lou dusted the letters off that he had shown me before and kept painting the cracks in the rocks till it was too dark to continue.� Getting on his cell phone lou called Jeremy to see of he had gotten the checks. Jeremy had paid the men and left cash for Steven at the studio. Lou left Jeremy with instruction to come back before the cameraman in the morning and put brush around the cave.
With that done and the sun gone down, Lou asked Steven to help load the trunk of the BMW as Lou hid paint and brushes under a bush for Jeremy to use the next day.
We drove out at a casual pace past the security guard who was packing up to leave for the night as well. At a small grocery store on the paved road, Lou stopped for a soda for each of us. I bought some fruit with the little bit of Rand I had brought and passed the food out when we got back to the car. Steven had not bought anything, being out of money till we got back to the studio. Lou handed him a soda and I passed him some fruit. And so went dinner out together as we headed back to Joburg, the city lights glowing on the distant horizon.
|46. Father�s Farm|
Again when we entered Lou�s studio the phone was ringing. �Get that will you Russ while I pay Steven?� Lou said with a quick look around the office for the money Jeremy left. �Hello Lou�s� I answered. �Well hello Russ, This is Dee. Adam and I would like to ask you over for desert and a visit. Are you available? We�ll come pick you up!� � Sure Dee, that sound great. When?� I asked while looking at Lou to let him see what was up. |
�In a few minutes if you�re ready. Adam will come pick you up,� she offered. �I�ll be here.�
�I guess you will be busy this evening again. You know where the keys are. Let your self in. I�m going to take Steven home; there are no taxis this time of night. See you in the morning� grabbing his keys after paying Steven for his week�s work. �Good night then Lou. I�ll see you in the morning.
What�s up tomorrow?� I asked. �Evan and the boys are coming by with the twins. We need to make a trip to her father�s farm to straighten out some last minute estate issues. You�re coming with us. I want to show you a casino that has used rock features on a grand scale� Lou said, turning and waving good by as he and Steven headed down the stairs. �I�ll lock the studio up when I get back and take care of the dogs. Just pull the door shut,� he instructed as they got in the BMW. I made it past them and opened and closed the gate.
I had just enough time to freshen up and lock the front door on my way to the driveway when Adam met me on the steps by the studio. The night was warm but crispness was coming in the air that made for fresh soothing breaths of High Veld smells. A mix of city air with township cooking fires drifted across the sides of North Cliff.
Adam had brought a yellow sedan that was fresh and clean, after a wash and vacuum for the weekend ahead. He quizzed me about what I had been up too and how I enjoyed being on location. It was a quick ride to their house, simply down Nightingale and past the shop where the wonderful bread was baked and up the hill again to a place on Arizona Street looking back at North Cliff and Lou�s place across a small draw. Adam hit his remote then closed again behind us quickly, watching all the time. Dee met us at the front door and led the way to the sitting room.
The Chihuahua sat on the coach and got off as soon as he saw Dee. An elderly but spunky white spaniel with brown ears woke from his bed in the corner and came to great me. The Chihuahua was excited and welcoming as well, and not at all a pest after my heals as he had been with Bruce days before. Dee had coffee and tea ready and cake on a coffee table, completely safe from the dogs.
�How have you been? Busy? How�s location coming along? I hear they got the cave on location� Dee quizzed. �Yes, Busy. And having fun learning all I can. Yes the cave is on site and complete other than shrubs,� I explained. �Coffee or Tea?� Dee asked as we took our seats. �Coffee Please. Dee, I have a radio show coming up the 3rd of April, very early in the AM. Are your available? Cecil Morrow will also be on.� �Sure, but what would you like to have me talk about?� with question on her face. �The interviewer will be very pleasant and inquisitive. He will ask you about your knowledge of Elizabeth, and about your own experiences� was all I could offer, not knowing what the interviewer might find interesting. �I�ve done other radio shows in the past and have much to share. In fact, let me tell you a bit about my story, outside of what I told you about that day we met at Lou�s,� she said as she served up the cake. �Sure Dee, I�d love to hear more.
With desert and coffee balanced between the side table and my lap I sat back to hear another version of her story unfold. �Let me start by saying as a result of all of this, Lou and I divorced some time ago. I bet he didn�t say much in that regard� �Well, he did say that this story had not let him alone yet� I related to her.
�It all started one evening when my mother had not called to check in. I was working in the studio with Lou with a huge project finishing up in a couple of days. I excused my self and drove out to check on my mom down where I had told you I had once lived. She owned a house and cottage there. I met her standing in her driveway, a bit worn down by her day, but all right.
I offered to bring her back to Lou�s and we got in the car to come up the hill. No sooner had we got back in the street than two people came up to the car, then suddenly were in the back seat. I figured we had just been car jacked, when the surreal started� Dee recalled and a lengthy version of her story unfolded with greater details than she had offered before.
Focused on each other we sat across the coffee table from each other while Adam poured more coffee or tea and occasionally left the room to get the phone. A detailed story of Dee�s debilitating health issues which had caused her to travel great distances seeking medical help had ended with the stunning meeting with the people in her car.
Her health was completely reversed and excellent, to this day. Dee and her mother had left this planet and had met others from the Joburg area on board a space craft in route to another planet. The space occupants of the craft had preformed health surveys on everyone and found Dee�s illness and had decided to correct it permanently.
The whole event took much more time than a trip from Lou�s to Dee�s mother�s place could have taken. Once Dee and her mother had returned and told their story, Lou and Dee had went to the doctor to check her health issues again. She was unexplainably cured.
He life understandably was changed, and so was her marriage. Lou and Deei would break up and Dee would meet and share a home with Elizabeth at Dee�s mother�s place. The two hour long presentation over desert included how Dee and her mother had found the others from the ship who lived in the Joburg area and how these people were frightened and did not want to talk about it.
Dee told about how Shirley McClain had came to South Africa to lecture and had found out about Dee and her mother and had sought them out. There was certainly enough to tell on a radio show, and I now knew more about how gracious Lou had been allowing me to bring this story back into his life.
While we spoke Dee and Lou�s daughter, Bonnie, came by. �Hi Mom. Can I stay in my room for the night?� �Sure hun. This is Russ, the man staying at Lou�s.� �Hello Russ. I was just at Dad�s and he told me you were staying in my old room. Nice to meet you� She said as she reached out to shake my hand. �Nice to meet you too Bonnie. Thank you for sharing your room. I hope it has not been a problem for you� I apologized as I greeted her. �Not a problem at all. I spend weekends with Dad or Mom from time to time between school,� she explained and picked up her bags to go down the hall to her room.
�Dee, I do think this has been a very informative night with a very busy day ahead of me. Thank you for sharing this. I will love to have you on the radio show and will contact you about the times� thanking them and following Adam back to his car. Dee waved us good by as Adam closed the security gate behind us.
�A complicated life these two people have had. You kind of blind-sided them bringing it back up. Maybe some healing will also come from this� Adam said with compassion in his voice.
When I got back to Lou�s I again followed my new routine, which landed me in bed and dip in sleep till morning woke me rested and ready to go.
|47. Where Is My Family|
Lou and I started our day in a routine manner, enjoying the time to relax and talk about the week before. Jeremy had finished the cave just as the cameraman had finished the set up. The Lion had his 13 seconds of fame as he ran from one cage to another, and the week�s work had completed on schedule. |
Evan was dealing with two infants and two young boys, working her way toward Lou�s home early in the day. Lou and I cleaned out the BMW and prepared for a ride to Evan�s father�s farm. An open dune buggy sat in the garage alongside the BMW.
�Use the dune buggy much Lou?� I asked, looking at the car filled with garage stuff and the remains of the trunk load of paint supplies from the BMW. �Na, only when I want to go to Gotham. I love to take the open vehicle into the heart of the black areas and show that I�m not intimidated. Confuses people, and that�s what I�m here for,� Lou said, smiling his impish way.
We had the BMW out in the sun and washed off by the time Evan showed up with her boys and the two month old twins. Pandemonium started as the boys ran for the dogs and ended as Lou called out and told them he would have their ass if they didn�t mind all day. Two suddenly shy young boys stopped and hid besides Evan and looked at Lou for further guidance. �You two are going to Martha�s for the day, and you had better be on your best behavior, or I will know, and you will wish you had been good,� Lou instructed sternly, as the boys looked up at their mom and down at the ground.
Kissing Evan good morning and taking the twins in both Arms Lou paraded around the court yard a short time while Evan and I moved things from her car to Lou�s BMW. Loaded up, we all squeezed into the BMW for the first stretch of road. Dropping the boys at their day care giver, Maria, we headed off through the Saturday morning streets of Joburg.
With a little more room now, Evan took up the back seat with the twins and their blankets. For the first time, Lou Didn�t have a cigarette in his mouth as we sped off along D.F Malain on our way out of town, away from the CBD.
At the edge of town we turned right on a main road then dropped off to surface streets and Saturday Flea markets along many blocks of residential divided four lane. Vender after Vender displayed furniture, mirrors, rugs, clay pots, paintings, fruits and vegetables. Cars parked along the street as buyers moved through the displays and carrying newly acquired goods back to cars. Our street became a rural road as we headed out into open areas broken by small stores and occasional houses.
�Look over this way. See this casino? Those are fake rocks. They asked me to bid that job, but it was too big for my company. Thy decided on that shape and type of rock feature to be applied over standard construction with major security included. Lets turn here and get a closer look� Lou said as he turned into the parking lot and made his way to the front doors where a greeter waited for us to stop as we continued on to the exit and back on the street. We circled the complex one full turn with Lou pointing out how windows were placed and how the roof lines met or what inside and outside corners were made of. In minutes we had a full explanation of what Lou would have done compared to what actually came to pass.
Back on the road and leaving the city behind us we dropped into a canyon with a castle looking structure coming up on the next ridge. �That�s where Michael Jackson wanted to live when he came here,� Evan said. �He didn�t buy it though� Lou added. �And that is a prison there� Evan added.
By this time we were well out of town. We turned on a dirt road and passed one large entry gate and entered the second one. Three nice houses sat around a common drive in the midst of a well-maintained garden with ample trees and lawns. A group of men and women were in the courtyard of the largest house and the eldest woman came up to greet us at the car.
Evan started the introductions with this woman, her mother, then quickly added three sisters and their husbands as they all came to join us in the brick paved driveway. Evan had come to sign papers, as had the others. A Brie was planned for the afternoon but Evan had already excused herself from involvement, having plans with Lou for the night.
Lou and I walked the garden for about a half hour while the women�s voices could be heard going over old and new issues in the house. The husbands stood around the fire with beers in hand watching the door for the wives to return signaling the start of the afternoon events outside.
Eventually Lou and I joined them, though it was an awkward attempt at conversation. Everyone was slightly over dress compared to us, but the advent of the twins coming out in the arms of two of the sisters took the focus and made for conversation. Evan went into one of the smaller houses with her mother to give instructions on what would be leaving to go to Lou�s the next week.
All our business there had been completed. An additional invitation to the Brie was turned down, and we made our way back to the BMW to leave. Evan�s unmarried sister helped with the twins as we loaded into the car to depart.
Lou�s phone rang as we started out the driveway and Bonnie could be heard on the other end. �Ya, we are leaving right now and heading your way. We will be there in about a half hour, By� Lou signed off.
As we left the driveway Evan pointed out how large her family farm had been. Since her father�s death the farm was being divided up. The family at the Brie would be living there in the houses, one of which had been Evan�s. She was not too concerned, as that was another part of her life, and she had left it years before in her own mind.
We drove back past the casino and around the city on a circular route to depart on a street taking us into a forested section of town. More fruit venders crowed the cross streets as we pulled into a parking area for the school where Bonnie was taking classes in massage therapy.
Bonnie was watching the driveway for us and came out with a large box when we pulled in. Proudly greeting her father, she announced that she had just passed an aromatherapy class and had received her sample case of essential oils. Lou congratulated her and expanded on the hard work she had done to get to that point. �You should come by and talk to Russ about message and about his life in America while he is still around� Lou offered. �Oh, that would be great. I will call some night next week and see if we can meet up� she graciously accepted.
With our family day coming to a close for me, Lou announced that he would be spending the evening with Evan and the kids, and that I was in charge of the house. I was instructed on what to do with the dogs and doors and security. Most of it had already happened in front of me, though now I would be on my own in my new home. It was exciting and nervous making all at once.
I was let out at the drive, Lou not even coming in to get me started. I felt like I was 16 again, wondering if I really knew what to do. When they were gone I checked the house and came out to look up and down the street. I walked up the road to look at an empty lot for sale, wondering if I might afford it.
I checked out the busy Shebeen from the road above the garage wondering how people contacted the owners to make a purchase. As I turned to come back in the yard I saw Martha sitting with her daughter and grandson sitting outside Martha�s little home on the bank overlooking the road. We all were enjoying the cooling night together, each after a day with family.
|48. Sunday Crowds|
The night had been uneventful, though busy. I had checked doors and dogs and gates regularly. I had sat outside overlooking the street from inside Lou�s Yard, hidden in the trees next to the artificial Boaba tree as people came and went to the shebeen. The TV was uninteresting to say the least, and after a dinner of left over rice and cold veggies I went to bed. |
The next morning I sat alone on the balcony writing in my journal and drinking coffee in the quite house. Martha was with her family on her day off, making the house mine for the time.
I heard a car pull up to the gate and heard Lou�s voice greet the dogs. Evan could be heard as she moved things from his car to her car. �Lou, I�ll be back Monday to work. I have to go now to get the kids. I love you� �Ye, I love you too. Kiss the children for me� as they said their good bys.
Soon Lou made his way to the balcony with a cup of coffee and a fresh cigarette. �Have a fine evening did you?� he asked. �Sure did. I guess I didn�t know exactly were Martha�s house was till last night when I saw her sitting outside� I answered. �Well, it�s Sunday, shall we go play? I have some things to show you,� Lou offered. �Sure, I�m with you� I said as I picked up the cups to take them back to the kitchen.
Lou and I dropped off North Cliff and crossed D.F. Malin heading back toward Roland�s part of town. We crossed the face of the damn by the dog park and followed the drainage down stream then turned at a liquor store, bared closed for Sunday, and proceeded up a tree lined divided four lane into the community of Rosebank.
Pedestrians crowded the bottom floor of a parking structure that we circled and then entered, climbing to the top level through multiple ramps and around the already full 3rd and 4th elevations. Even the top level was crowded and difficult to find an open parking space. The small BMW finally managed to fit between two tall pickups as Lou maneuvered into place.
One last stab and �Crunch!� �Oh, Damn it!� Lou complained. �You OK?� a young lady called out. Leaving his car Lou bent down to look at his and her bumpers. �You OK!� Lou asked in return. They both were out of the car now and looking around.
No real damage had taken place as Lou had backed out for his last alignment and the young lady had tried to squeeze by. Both had not been looking, and both were red faced from embarrassment. �I�m OK,� she said. �I�m OK too,� Lou said. �Shall we forget it?� the young lady asked. �Sure, were� both OK,� Lou agreed and we locked the car to leave.
The elevator was available but full, and the stairs were close by, so we headed for the staircase and descended to the second level. Coming around through the slightly busy corridor we came into another busy corridor with open and closed shops and window shoppers.
Lou looked down the row of shops and saw a shop open, which did security work and he headed for the door. �I know this man and want to talk to him about some work he wants done with a water feature at his house. This could take some time, so why don�t you go down stars to the flea market and wait for me at the coffee bar? Down those stairs one-half flight, turn left, go to the open door to the courtyard and there you will find a coffee bar. I�ll meet you there.�
Following Lou�s Directions I headed down the stairs. Looking both ways in a sea of black and white faces I saw Phillip Marlboro making his way to the stairs in the busy crowd. He passed me at the foot of the stairs and I called out to him, catching his attention.
�Phillip! Russ Winje here.� �Oh, Hi Russ, meet my son. This is Bobby. We are on our way to get ice cream before he goes back to his mom�s place� Phillip explained. �I understand that you have moved on and are staying with Lou Guessler. Is that right? I saw Cecil Morrow yesterday and he said he had spent the morning with you the other day. I know Lou. Be careful. He can be bad with business and worse with money,� Phillip offered too much explanation.
It was nice to see him, but I was confused about the advice and lengthy explaination. Lou had been a trusted friend, and I had not found reasons to concern myself over the man who had taken me in like a long lost friend. �We must go. Ice cream waits for us,� Phillip said, bidding me a good day and heading up the half flight of stairs with his son.
I looked around, as I stood at the bottom of the stairs in the moving crowd. Row after row of African artwork and clothes met the main flow of bodies and dispersed them to all corners of the second floor of the parking structure converted into a Sunday Flea Market. Some places were well lit and other depended on the light for outside. Displays lined the floor and makeshift-shelving units. Mask and bright cloths mixed with cookery items and spices, some looking like the Mutie shop in the CBD to my eye, and others like an Amway Display with vitamins and crystals.
A confusion of colors and smells crowed by the sounds of voices bargaining for the best prices followed me toward the coffee bar at a large open exit door leading to a set of more permanent shops just outside the parking structure. Tables were crowed with Sunday joy seekers eating rolls from venders with drinks from one of many busy displays. An open seat at the coffee bar caught my eye and I took it and ordered a cup of rich dark coffee.
Secure in my stillness I leaned my back into the counter top and looked back at the parking level I shared with this group of buyers and lookie-loos pawing through various arts and crafts amongst practical products. One row of open tradesman�s displays extended to my left, parallel to another 20 rows in front of me. The common wide lobby stretched back past the stairway and on through the other half of the flea market. Another parking structure was linked with two pedestrian ramps at either end of the two large flat floors, both filled with booths and moving crowds.
Having seen one familiar face I searched for any other people I might know. So many possibilities from having already met so many people, but all I found were similar looking creatures from my recent time in Joburg and what seemed like a distant past in California.
Without being noticed, the seat emptied next to me and Lou showed up and took it. �Found the coffee bar I see! Shall we walk around? He asked. �I just saw Phillip with his son. He said he saw you heading this way. Nice man, but he doesn�t like me. I have had a run in with him over business and he never let go of it. Maybe it�s just his recent divorce. Those pressures cause people to react funny. I did,� Lou explained, not wanting to put too much on another man�s reactions, having had his own situations right in front of me, and which went back some 15 years. �Lets walk� I agreed.
We walked together looking at the displays with out buying. Lou studied the products and mentioned how he loves to get ideas here for his business. �I can make these things from my process, then duplicate them for mass displays made for the camera�s eye. See those masks? I�ll show you some at the shop. Have you seen the faces in the shrubs at my yard? Same things� he explained as we browsed the rows one after another.
Crossing over to the other parking structure we looked over framed paintings on pivoting racks. Lots of American Indian looking pieces depicting stereotypical poses and clothing styles, none of which I actually saw in the western cultures surrounding my farm back in California. It was a bit hooky I thought as Lou led me through the rows of fancy shops. Fine work, though questionable subjects.
�There are a lot of fine artist here in Joburg, but few get the chance to show and sell their works. A lot of competition. Dee is quite a good artist too, but not much of a sales person. These people at least are getting exposure though the subjects may be a bit limited,� Lou offered as I studied the displays, then the crowd, back and forth as we walked.
A woman crossed in front of me and for the life of me I thought it was Mickey. I stopped and watched her walk away looking through the shops as she went. �Thought that was her didn�t you? It wasn�t, but sure caught you out didn�t it!� Lou laughed and poke me in the side. �Yes, Lou. Guess I thought I had seen a ghost� laughing at the mistaken identity.
We crossed back into the first section and traveled through to the more permanent shops. Lou showed me one shop after another then led the way to a staircase going down to the street level. The sounds of African drums fill the stairway as we came around a bend in the stairs. A group of young black men competed with each other in rifts of drum beats from various sizes and shapes of colorful drums. Leaning away from us to make room, but not missing a beat, they smiled and sweated while joyfully pushing each other to get louder and faster. Carlos Santana would have been proud.
Out to the street level we let the sounds of the drums fill us while we walked through open cafes and more shops. Taking a slow walk up the next set of stairs we followed a balcony above the street level crowd and back into the flea market.
The crowd was still growing as mid day lunch crowds came out after church. Lou and I had covered every display, some twice, and had already filled our Sunday. �You have a meeting tomorrow?� Lou asked. �Yes, with Credo Mutwa� I said. �Need a driver? I�d love to take you. Do you have directions?� Lou asked as we climbed the stairs to the top of the parking structure. �Sort of. I�ll check my notes, but I remember it�s along the Henopes River� I offered. �Well then, we are set. I know that area. What time?� Lou said with confidence. �10:00 AM I believe� I said thinking back. �I�ll call to make sure.�
A much-anticipated day had arrived with an uncommon normality. I really had learned that I lived in this place, and had routine and intent as if it had been years of the same lifestyle. Lou and I met on the balcony for coffee. We enjoyed the sun bathing the mine dumps and sweeping across the forested city below us. I gathered up my daily support tools and moved ahead to the studio to make calls. Lou made arrangements with his distributors and salesmen and I set up my first meeting through George at Credo Mutwa�s. |
�Hello, George? Russell Winje here. Are we still on for meeting with Credo Mutwa today?� I asked hoping all was still working out for a potentially very interesting day.
�Yes, I have you written it. Can you make it by 9:00 AM?� George offered with a studied sound to his voice. �I�m sure that�s just fine. Could you verify directions for me again?� I asked as I checked back on our conversation from the call I placed at Arleta Forbes� home.
With the directions confirmed we agreed to meet at the new time. Lou and I finished our morning at the studio early enough to leave right as the phone hit the cradle. Jeremy Pond had arrived early as well and was heading for the phone while it still slightly shuttered from being hung up.
�Good morning men. Busy day for you too I see� Jeremy offered as he pulled his notes from his pocket and dialed his first chore of the week. �Yes, I�m taking Russ to see Credo Mutwa this morning� Lou explained and we hit the door and were out in the early morning streets and heading toward D.F Malin through walking crowds of workers.
The first four lane through the familiar shopping centers was not too busy yet, but the first section of freeway was a nightmare. Traffic was thick and starting to slow. Lou observed that we would be held up and maybe late for our meeting as cars stopped ahead of us. �Here, call your appointment and tell them we are stopped in traffic and will be late,� Lou said as he offered me his cell phone and maneuvered for an exit and overpass that took us away from the traffic and onto a rural road.
�George? Russell Winje here. Looks like Monday Morning Traffic has us stopped and we will be late. Will that still be good for our meeting?� hoping we could reschedule. �Yes, come to the gate and honk and I will let you in� he agreed.
No sooner had I hung up than Lou accelerated dramatically on the narrow open road, clear of traffic. Rows of eucalyptus trees lining ridges and then valleys, one after another sped past the window as I looked out and noticed that we were on the same road that Mickey had gotten lost on so many weeks before on that day we had ended our relationship.
Lou noticed the tall artificial structure that had caught my eye that infamous day with Mickey and announced, �See that funky structure? That�s my competition. They have not figured the process out though. Not even a Mr. Peanut, is it?� he laughed as he cranked the wheel the opposite direction than Mickey had taken, and stuck to the paved road, avoiding the dirt road at the backwoods intersection, then picking up speed much too quickly.
�We are gaining on the clock now� he said, gripping the steering wheel, coffee in control of the throttle. Much too soon we came up on the Hennops River and sped past the school before I could get a word out. Thinking Lou must know the way, I waited a short � mile of hairpin turns before questioning his choice.
�Lou, was that the Henoops school? Shouldn�t we have turned there? The directions said to follow the river past the school for a distance.� �Eish! You�re right!� Lou said, slamming on the brakes and spinning and sliding into a turn on some loose gravel at a driveway on this more rural paved road. Accelerating again we went back down the slope to the river canyon ahead.
Sliding to a near stop, we turned on the dirt road and passed the school at a conventional speed, almost too calm after the last hurried stretch of road. Lou lit a cigarette and leaned his elbow on the open window trim as he relaxed back into his seat. I pulled my notes together and made sure my pen worked as we pulled up to a security gate George had described.
Lou relaxed further into his seat and announced that he would wait here for me. Before he could honk his horn for entry, a black man left his garden work and approached the gate, offering Lou to park inside the gate. I got out to meet the man and asked where I would fine Credo Mutwa.
The man looked at me, watching my mouth move as if he had no idea what I was asking, and said something to me that I also could not understand. He finally motioned for me to follow him, and led me through his garden work and toward a group of houses. Without following further, or answering my next group of questions, the gardener pointed at the group of houses and returned to his morning chores. I walked toward the row of houses and buildings hoping to get some clue.
I passed the first house and headed down the drive as a voice called out from behind an open door �In here!� the voice said. I stopped and looked around and the dip voice cleared and called out again �Come in here!�
I approached the building�s open door and the voice again commanded �No. The other door.� Looking around on the poach of the house I was now standing on I saw and opened a sliding glass door, leading into an art filled living room where a large Blackman sat on a tall stool in front of an easel.
�Good Morning. I�m Credo Mutwa. Who are you, and why are you here?� pointing to couch and indicating that I should take a seat. �I�m Russell Winje, and I�m here in South Africa promoting a movie about Elizabeth Klarer. I understand that you knew her. I am not sure why I�m here. I thought you might be able to tell me� I offered as I searched for words to give to this very impressive man focused on his work, and taking time in a busy day to meet with a stranger.
�Yes, I knew Elizabeth. She was real, what happened to her was real�.
As I looked past Credo there were paintings by him of aliens flying over a destroyed Johannesburg skyline. I asked questions and answered questions. We spent some time just getting acquainted, then deeply and quickly talked about our own space contacts.
�Some 12 races visit and interact on this planet of ours. Some are beneficial to deal with for various reasons, and some are downright selfish. Some are from our future� Credo explained, looking at me over his thick bifocals. He kept working with his painting as we talked, focused on our conversation and his paper on the easel.
He asked about the space people I have met as he painted and then went on to say that I should go with a man named Sam and get a painting from his garage. Calling to Sam, Credo instructed us to dig deeply into the adjoining garage and pull out a mural sized painting and bring it into the sun.
Sam and I dug though many paintings and pulled out a mural sized painting of space people over Joburg showing different races and space craft in flight. Two blue figures stood at the bottom front of the painting with familiar Joburg skyline features in the background. A scene of futuristic panic and destruction lay out through the painting, being observed by the groups of space people, one of which was a reptilian-humanoid type. The painting was too large to bring into the house with Credo, so we leaned it up against the outside wall were we could study it in the morning light. Credo called out for me to join him again �Come have some tea with me� he offered.
When I came back in Credo, still painting, asked if I had seen anything that I recognized. I said that I had seen similar races to those portrayed, but that the one race I had met was not pictured there . Then he handed me the painting he had been working on saying. �Don�t show this to anyone till you get back to the United States. This a Matsieng.
They are teachers, traders. They are tall, and they glow. They are tricksters. They gave us fire. Don�t react when you see them, express humility. Don�t look in their eyes. Do they look like the people you have met?�
�They do look like those I knew. Same skin color, though slightly different features,� I answered.
Credo then went on to explain �These races come to earth for reproduction purposes. It is common in Africa, and a problem for me as a spiritual leader becuase I have to deal with women with broken families as a result of having been made to feel special by these visitors, and having fallen pregnant then losing the children. The visitors then abandon the women. Jesus was from such an encounter,� Credo said as he watched my reactions.
�The grays are servants. They work to instill fear of the sky dwellers. Akon met Elizabeth for reproduction purposes then abandoned her. This type of action does not please me as it causes long lasting problems for everyone concerned. Sometimes these contacts have led to animal or human mutilations. Some of these individuals are from our future. Some come for trade� Credo explained as he continued, taking a sip of his tea.
�What are you doing here?� a short man with a large round face interrupted as he rushed into Credo�s room. �Who are you? How did you get in here?� he pressed me for an answer as I started to stand. �This is Mr. Winje, George. Please leave us now. Thank you� Credo said without moving his focus from me, and dismissing George with a wave of his hand. A bit red faced, George left the room. �You got here quicker than he had expected, and he had left to get things for me at the store. He will be ok� Credo explained as he continued.
�You are wondering why will the sky dweller come here. Why South Africa! Why with all the violence and disruption. It�s because it all began here. Humans began here. This is the cradle of life� Credo finished. Our meeting was ending after an hour or more of private discussions. Having been instructed by Lou to be sure and donate some money to Credo, I thanked him for his wonderful conversation and openly placed the Rand notes I had brought on the coffee tray and left the room for Lou�s car in the driveway.
Lou was now parked outside the gate, having moved to let George back in the compound on his return with Credo�s groceries. The gardener let me out and closed the gate before returning to his work. Off in the distance a black woman ran for the gate. �Please, Mr. Can you give me a ride to town?� she asked. �Yes, Susie, please take a seat in the back. Where do you need to go?� Lou asked as the woman, dressed for town, got in the backseat with a parcel in her arms. �Fourways please� she said with question in her voice. �Sure, right on our way,� Lou agreed and we slowly now headed back to town.
|50. Old Elegance|
Following instructions, I hid away my picture from Credo Mutwa, only to bring it out months latter in California. Not even Lou was allowed to see it. |
My Sunday lunch date with Elizabeth�s daughter, Marilyn Partridge, had been postponed till Monday, and as Lou and I arrived back at his studio, Bruce sat nervously in his car waiting to take us to her house. Moving my small cache of notes to Bruce�s car we again dropped down the streets from North Cliff and made our way across town.
Down D.F. Malin toward Melville, past the small sports field, toward the zoo and into the older upscale community of Park Town. Streets lined with older taller trees led off the main four-lane and into expensive homes with tall security fences and guarded communities.
A man stepped out of a guard shack and greeted us at a speed bump, pointing down the street a few driveways to a house on the left. We stopped, and as per instructions, I got out and pressed the entry button and waited while Marilyn came to the gate.
An older woman, near retirement age, Marilyn was dressed in a fine, but casual dress, and slightly made up. An anesthesiologist, she was on call that day, and carried a beeper on her dress belt.
As we came to the door a large round white haired man, her husband Tim Partridge, greeted us. He announced that he was a bit in a hurry as his flight to Poland left that afternoon, and apologized for being a bit aloof as he continued to pack for his trip.
Tim headed up the archeological work at Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley, and was going to a scientific meeting of international participants with the most recent findings. Marilyn shared several books with us, which Tim had either written or had edited on this subject. Tim had been involved in some recent flood rehabilitation work that had led to the uncovering of yet secret artifacts from the linked World Heritage Sites. I had to wonder if this was not tied to Credo Mutwa�s comments on how the Ets had first come here to Southern Africa.
Marilyn took us around her house showing us various things associated with her mother. In one room hung a painting by Credo Mutwa and other paintings by Aubrey Fielding, a person friend of her mother�s and patron of the arts. Marilyn pointed out the window to a cottage across the street where she and Tim kept an office, telling us that it had once been her mother�s cottage.
Marilyn�s home was like an older private museum to her and Tim�s life and the life of her mother. The older house had been quite fancy in its day, though a bit past it�s prime too now, and like Marilyn, with age showing on a once elegant frame.
Proudly we were taken into the dinning room sat for lunch, with all the wine glasses present except Marilyn�s, which was sitting on the sideboard with a half glass of wine remaining in it. The pressure of the unusual telling of her mother�s story weighed on her, along with the busy life she and her husband led. Marilyn left for the kitchen, taking her glass with her, and returned with the first tray of our lunch.
The smell of Curry followed the tray into the dinning room and mixed with the Turmeric rice dish. Green beans added color to the yellow/brown display. A Milktart desert followed and finished the sideboard display.
Instructing us where to sit, Marilyn then placed the lunch before us and started the serving. Bruce was asked to open the wine I had brought, and a relaxed family lunch began, though the pressure of a flight lingered. Marilyn explained the dishes and told her English background version of the Afrikaans and British Bore war.
Tim politely finished his lunch and announced that he would need to finish his packing and bid us good by before desert. Briefly we moved to the courtyard and finished our wine in the afternoon sun near the older swimming pool at the edges of a slightly overgrown garden. Tim came into the courtyard and bid us good by and left for the airport, a car waiting for him in the drive. Bruce and I excused our selves as well, seeing that our busy afternoon had already worn Marilyn down, and our conversations had become circular.
Hoping for some coffee, and wanting to get back to thinking about my day at Credo Mutwa�s, I borrowed Bruce�s cell phone and called Dee to see what her plans were for the afternoon. Agreeing to meet at Lou,s in an hour, I sat and watched the city move past my window as Bruce delivered me back to North Cliff.
|51. Dental Work|
Dee�s car was in the drive when I got to Lou�s. I said goodbye to Bruce and I bent down to Dee�s window and told her it was nice to see her. She was one of the few people who would know how it felt to be so immersed in this bizarre world at the edge of most people�s reality.
�Credo huh?� she mused.
�Yea, Eish! as you say,� I answered.
�Coffee?� she continued.
�At least!� I gave her a comical wink.
Back off the hill we went. Each time I dropped off the slopes, I built up momentum for the adventure ahead. Back past where Dee had lived, past the graveyard, into Melville and down the main street to an end of town I had not been to yet. Our street dead-ended into an older section of town with two story brick buildings and day shops with clothes and jewelry. Finding parking on the street within view of the shops was not easy, taking both of us looking for an opening. A well-dressed woman left a dress shop with a bag filled with hopes and loaded into a shiny sleek coupe, fired up the motor and pulled out as I watched her from Dee�s rear window. �There! She�s pulling out,� I called out. Dee turned at an intersection, watching quickly to hit the hole in traffic. Nosing in, we beat the lady behind us, also watching the street for parking.
Leaving the locked car we walked with purpose past open shops busy with afternoon customers. On the shady side of the street we entered a busy coffee shop and were greeted by a cheerful young lady saying, �Welcome to Perkup,� who showed us a table with a window on the street and told us how to use the facility�s self service dispensers. The alcove gave us a sense of privacy as we adjusted our coffee to taste and tested the aroma with a slow comfortable sniff and careful sip.
�Credo, hey?� Dee said again. �I have lived here all my life and have not had a private visit with that man,� she added.
�Yes, I�m sure. I�m quite honored to have visited his home and enjoyed such quality time with him.� I reflected on the visit that already seemed days behind me.
I shared my notes with Dee, but did not mention the picture Credo created for me. Dee told me again about Martha�s experience and how that fit the situations that Credo said he dealt with in his community. This was such a big event, but still there was much quiet time as we both reflected on our own lives and where things had led us at this point of sitting in Melville. Dee�s life would never be the same again. My life would not stop changing. How could either of us ever again accept �normality� as an outcome?
�Do you have time to meet one other person today?� Dee asked. �Adam Oliver is an old friend who lectures worldwide on health issues. I must go to Cresta Mall on our way home, and he has an office there. I could call him and you two could meet while I shop?�
�Sure, Dee, I think we have agreed that the momentum of our lives carries us forward through much yet to be done. Let�s fill the days!� I stood to pull her chair out for her.
Dee had her cell phone out and called Adam to see if he was available for an introduction.
�Adam, would you like to meet my friend from California? We are on the way to the mall and I could drop him by for a minute. Sure, the coffee shop by the west entry would be great. See you there.�
�Adam is going for a coffee break, and I will take you to meet him there," she suggested while we approached her car on the still busy street.
Adam was a tall man with short gray hair, dressed in blue jeans and white polo shirt. We met him near the entry from the parking lot Molly and I passed when she had taken me home in the night. Adam stood to greet me, hugged Dee, then offered me a seat as he waved to the waiter to bring more coffee.
Though Adam�s conversation was stimulating, I found it a bit flat after my morning with Credo. Adam was more impressed with himself than necessary. He explained that he and Dee had lived together, and I remembered Lou having said something to that effect days before. I learned much about his travels and lectures. He learned little about me, having not asked, and I found no reason to offer. In time Dee came back with a shopping bag filled with colorful clothes showing at the top. Adam stood again and asked if she might give him a ride to the garage to pick up his car, and she agreed.
Stuffing Adam in the back seat with the shopping bag and sweaters, Dee navigated up the hill to Lou�s. She got out and hurried ahead to the studio, saying she needed a bag of cloth to finish some dolls for a scene she was working on. Adam hung back, obviously not feeling welcome to enter, uninvited by Dee.
�Lou is a bit of a user, you know,� Adam said. �Dee�s father built this house,� he continued, lighting a cigarette and looking the studio and house over from the street.
I watched Adam in amazement, wondering what his trip was that he thought I would even be interested in his opinions. Lou showed up at the gate and greeted us both. Adam reluctantly took Lou�s extended hand and shook it with a quick grab and release. Lou�s impish smile was familiar to me by now, and I greeted him and excused myself to head up to the house. Lou stood behind and I could see that he was the only one talking, and not for long, before he turned and headed back to the studio, meeting Dee on the way as she came back to her car.
�Howzit, Dee? Getting to the end of the dolls are you?�
�Yes, Lou, nearly there. I�ll bring them tomorrow. �Bye,� she said, to both of us, indicating to Adam to get in the front seat.
�Lou, what�s Adam�s problem?� I asked, watching them drive away. �Oh, he and Dee lived together when we divorced. I got this house in the settlement and paid it off while buying a house for Dee in return. It was a nice house, but Adam always complained about everything, and thought he should have this place. Dee left him, though, and Adam ended up on his own in a studio near Cresta Mall. I always try to rub him the wrong way, figuring he enjoys the attention,� Lou said as we entered the studio.
Jeremy was frantically on the phone making arrangements with someone and watching Lou for directions. Lou shrugged his shoulders, nodded a yes to him and turned to watch Dee and Adam pull away.
�Russ, look at this! Listen. Hear that? �Mielies!� Hear that?� he mimicked.
In the street below, an older black woman was coming up the hill, turning at Lou�s driveway, standing at the rock entry gate, calling out �Mielies!� to Lou in his second floor window.
�Yes, please! Six, please,� he answered, looking at Jeremy for a response. Jeremy nodded a yes to him, and turned back to the animated conversation on the phone. �Here Russ, take this money to the corn woman and get our dinner!�
When I returned to the studio, Jeremy and Lou were laughing and going through files and notes. �We have a dental job on an elephant tomorrow,� Lou laughed. �Did you know that working show elephants have implant tusks? Well, they are like dentures, and fitted to each elephant�s cutoff tusk. When an elephant is transported and is waiting for a scene, his tusks are removed and stored. When it�s time for a shoot, the elephant is fitted with the dentures during the filming. We own a set of these tusks that I have made for another elephant. Bruce left his tusks in Natal, and Paul is desperate to get shots of the elephant tomorrow morning. Guess what you�re doing tomorrow!�
�You and I have an early date with an Ellie tomorrow, Russ. You up for that?� Jeremy smiled over his glasses. �I�ll need to have you carry the tusks and watch the tools while I run around and deal with other things,� he explained, as he pulled out a paper he had been looking for. �Here we go, Lou. These are the papers for the tusks. They must be in that stack of building props at the top of the hill. I�ll go find them. Come with me, Russ,� Jeremy said with excitement as he headed up the hill behind the house.
Following him past the swimming pool and braai we came to a huge pile of fiberglass grass huts. Deep in the pile Jeremy tugged and pulled on a pair of fake ivory tusks, handing one at a time to me. �Here's our extra money for the week, treat them like gold bars,� he said as he pushed the huts back into place. I carried the feather-light, realistic-looking ivory tusks back to the studio, preparing for my job the next day.
It was still dark when a knock came on my bedroom window. "You ready Russ? It's 4:00am and we have to go. I'll load the car and meet you in the driveway! Let's hit it!" Jeremy called from outside, waiting to hear a response from me. |
I had been up for awhile now, and was dressed and ready to go. Lou was still asleep as I quietly made my way through the dark house with only a bit of light coming from the kitchen where Jeremy had made a pot of coffee before calling me. I grabbed a cup and drank it on the way to the driveway. Jeremy had tools and tusks in his sister's car and was smoking a fresh cigarette as he slid into the driver's seat.
"We're off!" he said, as he motioned for me to get the gate.
That early, or that late if you were up all night, the city was mostly asleep. We circled through streets taking us out through a different set of shops and morning joggers.
"Jeremy, isn't that dangerous? Running in the dark like that?" I remarked with amazement.
"Not if you keep running,� he said with a bit of cheek in his voice.
"I'm not ready to try it,� I said, looking out at the dark city slowly waking up for the day.
We passed multi-story office buildings mixed between heavy equipment lots. Communities all with the word "poort" came up one after another.
"Why all the 'Poorts' Jeremy?"
"A poort is a passage in the ridge. These are all passages from one place to another," he explained as he finished his coffee and lit the next cigarette.
Off in the distance the lights of the Pelindaba nuclear site could be seen in the distance as the sunlight barely touched the hilltops around it. I watched the lights like a beacon as we circled Bruka's farm location site, coming in through the already busy security gate. Jeremy pulled in between the location trailers housing costumes, actors and actresses. Extras and stuntmen and women crisscrossed in front and behind us as we carefully drove through the crowd and parked behind a trailer next to the generators humming away.
Pulling a grinding device from the toolbox and laying the tusk on the ground, Jeremy unplugged a cord and watched to see if anyone ran to plug it in again. A man in a costume came by and asked what was up, saying his lights had gone out.
"I need some power for a bit, OK?" Jeremy responded as he laid the tusk out alongside the car.
"No problem, I'm off anyway. Will you plug me back in when you're done?" the man asked.
"No problem," Jeremy said and started to grind on the tusk. "I need to change the shape a bit to fit this elephant. I'm going to put some tape inside the hole to make for a tight fit, and need to get these burrs off the outside," Jeremy explained as he bent down to put pressure on the grinder.
Another man came up and looked over his shoulder. "You'll need to come with me, Jeremy. Bruce has the elephant over by the camerawoman and can't leave him right away. He needs to talk to you and you will need to move your car,� the man said, walking away.
"Russ, stay here with the car and tools. I'll take the tusks with me," Jeremy said as he plugged the other cord back in. "Act like you�re busy, and don't let anyone make you leave the car or tools," he directed as he got up to follow the man.
I wondered what was up, and thought if my animal communications were real, maybe I could use them to help today. I was mostly invisible as busy people quickly followed Jeremy and the other man toward the camerawoman about a quarter mile away. I tried to reach out and speak to the elephant from a distance, not knowing if I was actually reaching anyone. I explained to the elephant that Jeremy was coming with tusks that were not his, and that we needed some help from him while getting them to fit. As I sat there quietly in my own thoughts, a voice came from behind me. Surprised, I turned and saw a man about my age sitting on his trailer steps, in a woman's robe with slippers, hair pulled back under a white skull cap, his face washed clean and ready for makeup.
"Howzit?" he said, pulling some hot coffee from his cup with an audible sip.
"Good morning. Are we in your way here?" I responded.
"Na, you're just fine. What are you up to?" he asked, leaning forward to rest his back with his elbows on his knees.
"We are here with the tusks for the elephant,� I said.
"American, huh?" he observed, "How is it you are here?"
"I'm here promoting a movie about Elizabeth Klarer. Do you know about her?" I offered.
"Yes, I've heard about her. What is your name?"
"Russ. And yours?"
"Leo," he said, as a woman came to his trailer and asked him to follow her. "See you later," he said and walked off behind her, slippers slapping his feet as he walked, looking back at me with that same impish look I had learned to know from Lou, as he disappeared into another trailer.
"Let's move the car and get to work!" Jeremy called out as he came up behind me. "You take the tool box and meet me in the parking area," he said, while he placed a call on his cell phone. "Lou? It's going to work, but they are loose. I'll get it, though," Jeremy said, then hung up while backing out from between the trailers and into the parking area by the cafeteria.
"Want some coffee? I do!" he said, and walked up to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup, added sugar and cream, then more sugar.
"Sure," I said as I joined him with a styrofoam cup of black coffee.
"Here, you take the tusks, and I'll carry the tools. That way you'll be noticed as being with the elephant today. This is a busy day with the main actors and extras cranking out a full schedule, and we will be shunted around a lot and need to be right in the mix without getting in the way. Don't say much so they don't know you're a Yank. You probably shouldn't be here, but with the tusks no one will question you. Don't let anyone else have them. Don't put them down. They are worth about R3,000 today, and could disappear in a heartbeat," Jeremy instructed as we headed into the short fig tree stand along the creek.
Off in the distance I could hear Paul Scott working to impress someone. As we came closer I could see he was flirting up a woman with a camera slung around her neck, wrestling with a couple of camera bags as she moved between a 35mm camera and sound equipment. The extras and actors on site stood behind a viewing screen where Paul and the woman I had seen days before made sure the equipment was on line. Giving instructions and walking away into the crew, the extras and a stuntwoman followed the two bosses. Jeremy fell in behind them and motioned for me to follow.
Bruce stood beside his young elephant as another animal keeper and a man, made up as a wild African jungle man, waited for the camerawoman and director of photography to get prepared. The elephant looked at everyone approaching, then looked me square in the eye and said, "Was that you? Were you just talking to me? I can't talk now. I'm busy. All these people's feet to watch.� The young but full size elephant spoke in my head, sounding like a teenager, high voiced and enthusiastic. Jeremy reached out and took the tusks from me and handed them to Bruce who looked them over.
The elephant was used to this process. He watched as Bruce decided which tusk went where and presented the first one to him. He tilted his head a bit and pulled his gray lips back slightly. The first tusk went right on and the elephant stood still as the second one was lifted into place and pushed over his cut off tusk. Lowering his head, the second tusk fell off and the process started again. This time the elephant's mouth tightened up and his lips held the loose tusk in place. Quickly the director and camerawoman teamed up the jungle man and elephant and filming began.
All too soon it ended. The elephant relaxed and the second tusk fell off again. Bruce fit the tusk, the elephant held it in place, filming began, the scene ended, and the tusk hit the ground. And it almost all started again, but for a sound engineer with a set of headphones who stopped the whole thing.
"Airplane," he said, and everyone stopped and listened.
"Here's a second plane," he added, and everyone talked. Paul got on his cell phone and everyone watched him.
"Put that phone away!" shouted the director.
"The plane's gone!" the sound engineer called out and Bruce picked up the tusk.
Several more similar passes by everyone and it was time to move the camera. The elephant was retired and I was left holding the tusk again and trying to find a place to stand out of everyone's way. Backing up to a bush and setting the toolbox down, I put the tusk between my legs, looking around at the hive of activity in front of me, when I was approached by Paul and the stills photographer.
"Hello Russ. Let me introduce you to Bleet, our stills photographer. Bleet, this is Russell Winje, a producer from California, here promoting his film. Would you be so good as to take our picture?" Paul asked as he put his arm around me and pulled me in close for a shot.
"Oh, sure, Paul, is that all it will take to get you away from me?" Bleet somewhat teased.
"There you go! Russell, huh? Want your picture by the camera?" she asked, walking away and motioning for me to follow.
Paul looked at the tusk and nodded at them and waved me away. The camera assistants were placing the reflectors for the next shoot and Bleet told me to sit by the film camera and wait. The motion of people swirled around me as she snapped the shot.
The director rushed up and she stepped in his way, motioning for me to slip away.
"What's going on here? Why doesn�t anyone tell me anything around here anymore?"
"Oh, nothing, just taking my pictures, you know," she backed away from the director and looking around to see that I was by the tusk again.
All work for actors and extras came to a stop as the camerawoman and director arranged equipment with the crew for the next shoot. Where I stood, a group of chairs were put in front of me and the actors took seats and started to chat. Two black men began a conversation in front of me, including me as they went, then turning and introducing themselves.
"Hi, I'm David, and this is Faizon. And who are you?" a tall thin African American inquired.
I explained in simplest terms who I was and why I was there. As we spoke, the actor dressed as the jungle man caught my eye and signaled me to be quiet as he crept up behind the largest black man. Running the last few steps to reach Faizon, the jungle man jumped at him, dropped short pieces of rope on his shoulders and yelled, "SNAKE!". Faizon jumped up and turned as he yelled, brushing his shoulders and faking a run at the jungle man, shouting "LEON! DAMMIT! AAAHHH!" then sat back down to compose himself, looking over his shoulders again, still brushing them as he turned back to me to try and ignore the jungle man.
"Damn that Mr. Bones! I'll get him yet,� Faizon said, and the director called them both to the new camera location for the next shot.
Once again I was on my own while all the crew and actors paraded through the last scene before lunch. With a quick gesture of completion, the director acknowledged the end of the scene and left for the cafeteria, the rest of the crew following suit. When Jeremy felt unnoticed he stuffed the tusk and toolbox under a bush and pulled some grass up over them. Satisfied that they were hidden, we headed back to the crowd. Two young women in a bakkie pulled up alongside us, the driver saying, �Hey, Yank, want a ride across the spruit?� |
�Sure,� Jeremy answered for both of us and we loaded in the back of the truck for the short ride across the creek to the parking area near the cafeteria.
Knowing the routine by now, I moved through the line and once again took a seat by Bruce. �How old is your elephant, Bruce?� I asked as I sat down.
�Oh, he�s just a kid still. 18 years old. Thinks he is an adult, though. Good kid. I've had him since he was a baby and he is one of my best. Loves to work,� Bruce said as he sang the elephant�s praises.
All too soon lunch was over and Jeremy and I started back to the set. Jeremy spotted a bakkie carrying some equipment pulling out to return as well, and flagged them down for a ride back across the spruit.
�Sure, hop in the back. Be careful with the tanks and hoses, they are for the next shots,� the driver instructed. The back of the bakkie was filled with a six foot long by two foot diameter tank on wheels attached to a four inch RV septic tank hose and an air line. The black man in the back with us said they were going to charge the tank with air, then release it, as he pointed to a large valve on the four inch pipe. I studied the device, wondering what was coming up. We crossed the creek and pulled in by the fake elephant that had been set up during our lunch break. All the camera would be seeing was the back end of this fake elephant, which had no feet or front legs, just an ass and tail.
We got out of the truck as a set of men approached and pulled the tank to the ground and maneuvered it on its wheels until it was a hose length from the open front end of the fake elephant, which now looked like the back end of a two-person horse costume. The four-inch hose was stuffed with mud and plants from the creek while two other men brought a compressor in and hooked it up to the tank. The camera was now located right behind the fake elephant�s butt and jungle man was dancing around all perked up from the coffee at lunch. I stood back by my bush, out of the way with the tusk between my legs again.
A sudden unexpected movement of people and equipment picked up the digital viewing screen and its related table and director�s chair and put it four feet in front of me in a whoosh of hands and wires. Actors and extras crowed around me looking over the shoulders of the people manning the screen, waiting for the instant gratification of watching the digital rushes for the last shot. The director came over and along with the producers started to view the pre lunch scene, then discussed the next scene with the fake elephant. Leon was instructed to pretend that the elephant had become constipated and to push his arm up its ass and pull out the mess of greenery put there by the crew as we watched. All eyes turned to the crew, busy stuffing the ass as the camerawoman fitted a white sheet around herself and the camera some six feet behind the elephant.
The compressor was running and charging the tank for the first shoot. A buzz of suppressed laughter washed back and forth across the onlookers as Leon in his amazing jungle man costume approached the rear of the elephant and looked over the shoulders of the crew busy stuffing the four inch hose under the elephant�s tail. An extra had been brought in for Faizon and was being instructed where to stand. Faizon himself was arguing that he wanted to do this shot himself, and eventually the extra backed away as the director was reluctantly won over. The air compressor came to a stop, the tank pressure gauge spiked at the highest numbers. A large white man in khaki shorts and floppy hat positioned himself on one knee beside the valve separating the tank from the hose, and proudly watched for a signal from the director.
The first part of the scene started with Leon pushing his arm alongside the elephant making it appear to the camera that he was full length inside the beast. Several times he re-enacted the scene, sometimes without the camera, but just to please the crowd that was trying to keep from laughing out loud. Satisfied that the scene was caught, and viewing it on the digital screen, the director agreed to move ahead, letting Faizon stand between the camerawoman and the fake elephant, and a bit to the side. The camera started with the woman under the white sheet looking like a turn of the century photographer with a portrait box camera. The director signaled the man at the valve, and action began.
An explosion followed which blew a green plug out of the elephant�s ass like a cannon ball. The camerawoman was knocked back by the force and Faizon threw his arms up to cover his face as he fell to the ground alongside the camerawoman who lay under the 35 mm camera on her chest. A green hazy funk drifted over the camerawoman and slowly settled on the group of us at the digital screen. Stunned silence came over the crowd as the fluttering, feathered, exploded ass of the elephant came into view through the haze, and the camerawoman and Faizon lay moaning on the ground next to each other. Then uproarious laughter came across everyone as the crew rushed to pull the camera off the woman. Extras and stunt people pulled Faizon to his feet as another set of people helped the camerawoman to her feet and started to wipe her face with the sheet that had once been there to protect her. No one was hurt seriously, but both were shocked and stunned for minutes to come, yawning to pop their ears. The laughter turned to belly laughs, then like school children when the teacher returned to the room, the laughter stopped when the director tried to say with a straight face, �Did we get that?�
The entire crowd pushed in around me now as I stood in what had become the center of activity as the director pushed his way to the digital screen and pulled up the last scene. The green funk was still in the air around us as the crowd became quiet waiting for the scene to replay. �BANG� it started and the camera showed the chunk of green slime flying right at the lens, followed by a backward pan of trees and sky as the camera spun to the ground, Faizon�s form falling with it. The laughter broke out uncontrollably again. The operator backed the scene up and ran it again. Silence, then another burst of laughter. Then the scene was backed up and run in slow motion. Some bent holding their stomachs as the unbelievable humor caught on tape was mixed with relief that no one had been hurt. Except the fake elephant, of course, who was being frantically patched with duct tape as the rest of the crew and actors wandered around trying to compose themselves, tears in eyes.
Air was bled off the tank for a long time till the pressure was low enough to barely push the green slime from the tube. Reluctantly the camerawoman took a seat behind the fake beast and this time Faizon�s extra stood beside her. An uneventful next scene was shot with everyone in attendance waiting with bated breath, and then laughing quietly and with relief when the green slime rushed out the rear of the elephant and simply deposited on the ground, this time between the camera and the elephant. Jeremy and I gathered up the tusk and left for the parking lot.
The place was abuzz with what had just happened. Jeremy had some papers to leave with the producer and asked me if I wanted to come with him once we locked the tusk and tools in the boot of his sister�s car. Following him up the slopes to a large fancy complex overlooking the whole of Bruka�s farm, we were left without a clue as to where to find the producer. The door to the kitchen was open, and a crew in white uniforms rushed back and forth from a catering truck with stainless steel tubs. I followed Jeremy through the maze of hallways and rooms set up as temporary offices, people looking up from desks as we passed.
Eventually we came to a large open auditorium overlooking the place where the crew was finishing another scene. At a set of windows facing the action, men and women argued loudly about what had just taken place. A woman looked up from the table near them and got up to greet us.
�You should not be here!� she said.
Jeremy held out the papers, which she looked at, and then looked at a door nearby. �Go out that door, please,� she instructed and took the papers back to the people looking out the window. The humor of the green haze was not in this room, and we left before we could be caught laughing at the sudden change in atmosphere.
|54. Full House|
The days before Evan would move in passed quickly. Lou and I picked up and moved his furniture from the house and out onto the patio. Heavy sculpted pieces of polished red ironwood were wrestled to the ground outside and propped up against the wall next to the faces from hell from salvaged props created for �What Dreams May Come�. With each passage through the door, the house became emptier. The first truckload of her furniture could be heard in the driveway as we caught our breath from the rush of morning activity. This day we had coffee on the run, cups sitting in the kitchen by bowls of granola, eaten as we passed through the room. Unbeknown to Evan, Lou had been making plans for me to move in with a lady friend of his when Evan and the kids made the final move. My bags were packed by the door of the studio and I was waiting for my ride, my room empty and ready to be filled by her boys. |
Evan�s car was parked behind the truck and the group of black men moved to and fro with large pieces, soon finishing and pulling out for another load. Lou said his goodbyes to me and gathered up Evan who was studying my bags at the door. Without saying anything about them, she loaded in the car and they headed off behind the truck. I sat in the studio looking out the window remembering the corn woman as I waited for a ride with Joan to my new home. A car pulled up just out of view and I heard the door slam. Quick footsteps came up the stairs as I gathered up my bags to greet my new housemate at the door, instead to see Lou.
�You�re not going anywhere! Evan and I want you to stay with us till you leave next week. That�s final! You can spend the day with Joan, but you�re coming home! Here! OK!� he said, half trying to be serious, and half that impish look. �Evan said that you and I have become family, and there is no way she will let you go down the road while she has anything to say about it,� he continued as he turned and left the studio. I watched the car turn around in the driveway, head down Ethel and disappear.
Joan�s car came right on the heels of his leaving, and I left my bags in the studio and met her at the gate. �Lou has just asked me to stay with him, and I guess I won�t be needing the room after all. Thank you, though,� I apologized.
�Oh, no problem. But we can still spend the day together if you like?� she offered.
�That would be great Joan. Thank you for understanding,� I agreed.
�No problem. I�m running some errands and will end up at my shop on Northcliff, so come along and you�ll meet my son,� she explained.
Jeremy came out from the studio and looked at my bags. �What�s up? You going or staying?� he asked.
�Yes,� I mused.
�Joan, can you give me a ride to the garage? My sister�s car is being worked on near Rosebank,� Jeremy asked, knowing she was going that way.
�Sure Jeremy, let�s go then.�
Joburg seemed to grow smaller every time I left Northcliff. This was to be my last time there, but now I would be coming back to a new household filled with family. A sense of joy came over me as I felt the humanity of this place coming from my adopted family. Joan pulled into a garage across the street from the convenience store Lou and I passed on Sunday when we went to the flea market. Jeremy flirted with Joan, only to be waved off with a roll of her eyes as she watched him close the door.
�Right. Later, Jeremy.�
�Let's go back to my office. We have some time before I pick up my son,� Joan said, checking traffic then pulling out between cars. �So, you�re going back to Lou�s?� she asked.
�Yes, guess I�m there till I leave next week,� I answered as I studied my own words.
�Well, good then, let�s get some work done on each other. I hear you do massage. I do it professionally. Let�s trade,� Joan offered.
�Sounds great. I feel tight as a drum."
The parking lot for the upstairs mall and Joan�s shop was behind the blues bar I had been using as a landmark for my street to climb Northcliff. A sleepy parking attendant didn�t add any feeling of security as we pulled in unnoticed. Joan�s shop was very �California� with essential oils and flute music on display in the window, books and message aids around the counter. Like a time-warp two hours spent as if in Santa Monica, it should have been a shock to come back to the world of South Africa if not for the security bars and alarms associated with locking the shop up to leave. The parking lot attendant only rolled another shoulder in the air as he attempted to complete his nap before leaving work.
�I�ll get my son at Wits University and deliver him home, then take you back to Lou�s,� she suggested.
�Wonderful idea. Where is the college?� I wondered if I knew the way. �Near the CBD. Been there?� she explained.
�Oh yeah!� I answered.
We made our way to the front door of the school to find her early 20�s son waiting for us.
�Hi Tom. This is Russ. He�s a friend of Lou�s and is here promoting a movie about Elizabeth Klarer.�
�Glad to meet you, Russ. I have heard about that woman. UFOs right? Are you from the United States?�
�Right on both counts. I guess I�m surprised that a young college student would know about Elizabeth. How is it that you have heard of her?� I put to him.
�Oh, you know, TV, radio, that kind of thing. I guess everyone has heard about her. A movie, hey?� he said with more interest in the movie idea than the subject.
�I hope so. It�s all a long ways off, though,� I offered, knowing more now about the difficulty of getting a project into the right hands.
Joan navigated through town, past railway lines, under radio towers, onto the freeway and past mine dumps, into a subdivision at the base of Northcliff. Dropping her son off in front of an older house in a marginal community, she made her way back to Lou�s and let me out at the gate with thanks and best wishes for my projects and life. A relaxing day had brought me back to what had become my home, which I thought earlier in the morning was out of my life.
A buzz of activity could be heard in the room by the balcony as I greeted the dogs with a new, smaller Dachshund following them around an old two-man donkey cart belonging to Evan�s father, recently placed in the driveway. The two boys came out of the house running for the Dachshund with Lou right behind them.
�Keep that doggie out of the house!� Lou yelled, picking the little dog up and giving him a smack on the butt while the two boys winced and put their arms up as if they had been spanked themselves. Watching the Dachshund run away with its tail between its legs, the boys nervously listened to Lou while being distracted by my arrival. Evan joined Lou on the steps and handed him the twins while greeting me and asking me to follow her.
�You two mind Lou!� she said over her shoulder as we made our way into the living room filled with Evan�s household of furniture and boxes, past the kitchen with the new smell of her cooking, and up the stairs toward what had been my room. Turning instead to the balcony room, Evan brought me to a room with a full sized vintage wrought iron bed with mosquito net, covered in a well-worn quilt, snug amongst stacks of boxes of clothes.
�This is your room now, Russ. You and Lou are family and that makes you my family, too. There is no way I was going to allow you to stay anywhere but with us till you left. Sorry about the boxes. Please make yourself at home, then join us in the kitchen,� she said with a hug to welcome me home. This hospitality was the real South African Afrikaans way that I would come to know. It was the courtesy I had been raised with as a pioneer family member in the foothills of California. I found my bags in the room neatly placed alongside a table with chair set up in the stacks of boxes in the only space available for my private use, with a candle holder and matches, some writing paper and a pen. I had returned to a family house, after leaving a bachelor pad.
I joined Evan and Lou in the kitchen, as he held the twins and Evan cooked oxtail stew and made a salad for dinner. Lou moved his attentions from one twin to the other, then back to Evan for guidance. A blanket on each shoulder, he proudly smiled at me and included me in his new life. The phone rang and Evan asked me to get it. Following the sound through the new furniture in the living room, I uncovered it from a coat and announced, �Lou and Evan�s. Russ here.�
�Russ? Just who I wanted to talk to. Mickey here! How are you? When do you leave?�
�Oh, Mickey. Fine. Real fine. I�m here with Lou�s new family till April 5th� I said, looking for a indication of a calendar somewhere in the room.
�Well, then, I�ll take you to the airport that day. I owe you that much. Can we get together for dinner before you go? Maybe tomorrow?� Her voice sounded softer and reassuring.
�Sure, I�d love to. And thank you for the offer for the ride to the airport. I�ll take you up on that.� It would be best to close out on a good note, and who knows what that could mean.
�Call me then and we�ll make a plan,� she said and signed off.
Returning to the kitchen, Evan�s motherly ears had heard and understood what just happened without having to eavesdrop. �So, you�re going to see that woman again? And she�s offered to take you to the airport? You OK with that?�
Lou answered for me. �No! Don�t trust her! She�s trouble! I�ll take you to the airport. Forget about her!�
Evan followed before I could get a word in. �You need an Afrikaans woman! I�ll introduce you to a friend of mine. Forget her!�
�I�d love to meet a friend of yours, Evan. However, I should at least say goodbye to this woman, don�t you think?�
�Well, you take my cell phone when you go with her, and call me anytime at all if you want a ride home!� Lou said.
I really did have family here. They sounded like my cousins and sister in my own childhood making loving decisions for me, whether I asked or not. Thoughtfully Evan said, �I can�t introduce you to any of my friends. You�re too nice! You take the phone and call us if you need a ride,� and she turned back to her cooking and started to serve up.
A weekend as a family was an unexpected and pleasurable much needed experience for us all. Lou and I shared responsibilities for the twins as Evan set up her new home. Martha�s daughter and son were brought into the fray by Evan and became the young sons' companions. The older boy, at four years old, interpreted for me as his younger brother chattered at me in Afrikaans. The Dachshund sought me out and talked to me about its new plight, torn between pleasing Lou and avoiding trouble with the other dogs. Lou and I were called upon to move heavy furniture from room to room while adding Lou�s sculptures back into the house. Too much activity with my family caused me to forget to contact Mickey on time, and soon it was Monday, and the last week of my stay. |
Now, in the mornings, it was Lou, Evan and me on the balcony with coffee as the two young sons climbed on their mom and the twins slept. Jeremy stuffed himself into the group and talked to Lou about the prop needed for that day�s unexpected call for set design. The crew had become used to Lou�s ability to provide unusual items. A stunt setup needed to be disguised as a tree holding cables across the Crocodile River, and Jeremy was in charge of delivering something by afternoon for the next day�s shoot. Lou scratched his head and looked out over the city view before smiling and turning back to Jeremy.
�Take the Baobab tree apart, Jeremy, and wrap it around the post! It will look like a thick vine in that small context,� Lou laughed.
�Oh. Sure, Lou. That will work. I�ll get right on it!� Jeremy agreed and headed down to the studio to get one of the black men to help him roll up the fiberglass replica of the tree�s skin. Folded up, the whole tree fit in the trunk of Jeremy�s sister�s car, and he was out the gate.
�We�ll need to go see how he�s doing with that this afternoon, Russ. Let�s get our day going around here and set Evan up for the day,� Lou said as he watched Evan for direction.
More furniture and babysitting chores came up as Evan headed out to shop for baby supplies. I became the secretary answering phone calls and directing them to Lou or Evan.
�Hello, Lou and Evan�s. Russ here,� I became familiar with saying.
�Mickey here. Where have you been? Why didn�t you call me?�
�Oh, Mickey! Sorry. Life has been crazy here. What�s up?� I apologized.
�Well, I thought we were getting together before you left, and you never called back. What�s up with that? How about tonight?� she asked a bit annoyed.
�Not tonight. Busy. How about Tuesday night?� I put to her as the two boys chatted at me, one in Afrikaans and one interpreting in broken English.
�Well, then, if that�s how it is, tomorrow it is. I�ll pick you up at 6:00 pm. Will you be ready?� she responded trying to be back in control of our time together, and realizing that she was not.
�6:00 pm it is, then. See you,� I agreed and signed off.
Evan had returned and brought toys for her boys and Martha�s grandson, who played with her boys on the rug in the front room. Martha was openly pleased to see her grandson included, and relaxed into a more helpful and family mood as her daughter picked up the slack and herded all three boys from the living room to the courtyard while Evan lined Lou and me up with jobs for the day.
Soon the activity was behind us and Lou and I headed off Northcliff in the BMW toward location. The now familiar roads took me up to twenty miles from Joburg as I knew where uniformed school girls could be expected, where taxies loaded and unloaded masses of passengers, where I could study the elephant�s skulls over the entry gate, and where the nuclear plant would be in view. This time, though, we turned off into an older resort along a river and made our way down a narrow dirt road past fishing shacks.
�This is the Crocodile River, and these shacks are rented by fishermen. Jeremy should be along here somewhere, but I don�t see him!� Lou explained as the road ended at a couple of houses. Two wild looking white men came out with guns and fishing poles and glared at us. �Sorry men,� Lou said out the window as he turned around and headed back to the paved road. �I guess it�s the next turnout,� he said as we got back on the road and headed down stream before entering into yet another somewhat abandoned older resort.
Old junk cars and boarded up buildings were mixed between unattractive dwellings with poorly dressed and soiled white children playing amongst low trees and cars on jacks without tires. A large red-haired woman was joined by a larger white man at one of the doors and waved in a most friendly way as Lou searched for a dirt road that would lead us to the river and under the bridge to the nuclear plant. Following the road as far as he could in the BMW without getting stuck, he parked and we walked upstream looking for Jeremy. I tried to gain some elevation to see ahead as I entered the brush and headed for a rock outcropping. Thorn bushes with lethal spikes turned me back, cutting through my heavy denim pants.
�Not a good plan, Russ,� Lou laughed as he lit a cigarette. �I see Jeremy�s car ahead,� he added. Upstream Jeremy could be seen finishing the setup and preparing to take it down for the night. The whole tree had been rearranged into a stump of sorts, and now needed to be carted back to a safe place for the night. Lou inspected it and agreed that Jeremy could find a place to keep it, suggesting the friendly family back at the resort. Lou watched as Jeremy started his car and spun around to leave.
A whiz and whorl of wheels and the car spun in a circle with the tree on the top; one of Jeremy�s hands stuck out the window to hold it in place as it balanced on the roof. Too much gas, and the car slipped one wheel into the Crocodile River.
�Oh, shit!� Jeremy yelled, hit the gas again, and swoosh the car went, slipping all the way into the river, only the front tires on bare ground.
Lou and I laughed, then tried to give Jeremy a hand by pushing on the car, as it now floated with two wheels suspended on the bank, slightly turning downstream with the current.
�Stuck are we, Jeremy?� Lou mused. �Oh, Ja, sure!� he smiled as he got out to light a cigarette.
�I think we need help,� Lou observed, a bit of cheek in his voice.
�Sure, Lou. I�ll wait here,� Jeremy said; he was not going anywhere.
�I�ll know where to find you,� Lou agreed with more cheek. �Want to wait here with Jeremy?� he asked me.
�Sure. I�m ready for a swim, too,� I answered.
Lou left for his BMW and we could hear him drive away. Soon another vehicle was heard coming up stream but the sound was much too loud to be the BMW.
The heads of the two children we had just seen came into view first, bouncing and balancing alongside each other. Then came the heads and shoulders of their two parents in front of them, driving an old VW dune buggy, the two kids holding onto their parents' shoulders and standing on the makeshift rear bumpers, straddling the chugging motor. Like two dogs on the back of a bakkie, the kids leaned in unison as the dune buggy jogged around the holes in the road. The rig and occupants looked like something from the Flintstones; I expected to see feet pounding the ground under the VW.
They raced up to our car, which looked much funnier to them, I�m sure, than they did to us. Getting off the dune buggy that sputtered to a stop as the engine died, the four of them circled the fake baobab tree trunk and then stood watching the car bob in the river. Speaking in Afrikaans, the father asked Jeremy some questions then motioned for the mother to load onto the dune buggy, and for the kids to push it to a rolling start. Jumping on the back of the rig again, the whole crew drove off around the potholes and back down the river.
�They are going for a rope,� Jeremy said. �They think they can pop us out with the dune buggy,� he continued. We both stood there looking down the road behind them, then back at the car, on its own like a boat at a dock.
�Will you look at this light! This is the magic hour. The fading golden sunlight is really friendly to cameras,� Jeremy said as he looked all around him. The southern light was different than the familiar, whiter end-of-day light in the north. The Crocodile River was nearly green in the last light of day, as the cliff banks across the river went from a white chalky color to a light golden brown. These were my last few hours in South Africa, and the adventure was far from ended.
Again the roar of the dune buggy came back up the river road. Leaning into the last turn, the kids helped the momentum of the VW to put it near Jeremy�s sister�s car at the edge of the river. Jeremy hooked his end of the rope under his car, while the father looked for a place to connect on his end, the mother feathering the throttle to keep the VW alive. Finally satisfied that a connection was made, father motioned for kids to hop on the back again. Bouncing to keep traction, and holding onto their parents' shoulders, the kids looked like bull riders at a bar as they tried to stay on the dune buggy as it jerked at the end of the rope. Jeremy�s car only slipped further into the river, then followed the VW downstream a couple of feet. Backing up to slack the rope, then leaping forward again, the VW popped the rope and flew forward, its motor cutting out.. They all got off and walked back to look at the car burbling in the river. Jeremy untied his end of the rope and thanked them for their attempts. They sweetly wished us luck, told us we could come to their house if we needed them, and pushed the dune buggy to a start again, bouncing back downstream, waving as they went.
Off in the distance a four by four pickup passed the VW and made its way up to us. It was the first aid and safety man from location with Lou behind him in the BMW. A thin red haired man got out and started to laugh as he looked through the back of his bakkie for a tow strap.
�What were you thinking Jeremy?� he laughed, hardly able to pass the end of the strap to Jeremy who was standing knee deep in the river, waiting to hook up to the car. Nearly disappearing under the sinking ship, Jeremy poked around till the tow strap was caught. The safetyman hooked his end up and jumped in the four by four to take up the slack. Getting back out from his idling rig, he watched Jeremy climb in and start his car, the exhaust pipe making bubbles in the river. A quick pop and roar of engines and the car was back on the bank, dripping mud and water like a Labrador puppy after retrieving a bird in the river.
It was nearly dark as Jeremy drove out ahead of both rigs, and right up to the house of the Afrikaans family who were waiting outside to greet him. When we pulled up in the BMW Jeremy announced that the father had offered to keep the baobab tree for the night. �Then, we�ll see you back in town,� Lou said, and drove out through the old resort and back on to the road to Joburg.
There was not much traffic by the time we made it back past the lion park, and past the squatter�s camp outside of town. Racing down the dark road, Lou slammed on his brakes and slid to a stop, both of us bracing for an impact. In front of us a man on a bicycle peddled away, almost invisible in the night, not even taking notice of us as we again picked up speed to overtake him.
�That was close Lou!�
�Eish, I didn�t see him till I was right on him,� Lou exclaimed, then lit a cigarette, approaching town at a more moderate pace.
|56. Good By|
Back at home, Evan had rounded the kids up for a trip to the store before it would close for the night. We all stuffed into the BMW and were off to a super market that Lou and I had visited a week before. The smell of fresh bread and belltong greeted us as we entered the main lobby. |
It was refreshing to shop as a family, what with the scattering of kids and carts only making it real. With fresh supplies, we made our way home and enjoyed a fine Dinner that the woman of the house had made in anticipation of our full day.
Evan asked about our day, told about her day, and gave me a list of phone calls to return. Cecil Morrow was to come pick me up in the morning to share some of his work before the radio show. Mickey confirmed that she would come pick me up for dinner at 6:00 PM. Bruce wondered if he would be on the radio show, and Dee had left a number for the radio engineer for Thursday morning. David Klarer would be away for Easter, but asked that I contact him before I leave, and Paul Scott wanted to make arrangements to come visit me in California. I really was coming to the fast and furious end of a long stay, and would finish up my contacts in a courteous manner.
Tuesday Morning Cecil made his way into the studio, greeting the dogs and black workers before turning his attentions on Lou and I. A sales man was back and trying to convince Lou to make fiberglass gravestones for the large number of dieing blacks infected with aids and TB. Un-interested, Lou turned to Cecil and greeted him, then asked the salesman to get back to the products Lou used for set design. Cecil greeted Evan and the boys as they entered the studio, then asked me if he could take me back to his studio for a few hours. Agreeing, we said our goodbyes and were off to Auckland Park.
Cecil used back streets I had only crossed, but not traveled down. I noticed sports fields from different angles, saw white robbed blacks making their way to practice for Easter choirs, taking different paths into the same fields as before, looked down the main street of Melville as we crossed near Cool Runnings from behind, then under the SABC before pulling into Cecil� secured gated yard.
Cecil had cued up a documentary on Elizabeth Klarer before coming to pick me up, and had another one of his own current project waiting on the editing machine. He started the Klarer Docie and left me to watch as he turned his attentions to last minute changes on his own presentation.
�Have you heard about the coelacanth?� he asked. �The are a prehistoric fish that I am busy filming off the east coast of South Africa. This is what I will talk about Thursday morning on the radio show, as requested by the engineer you are working with. I thought you would like to be brought up to speed ahead of the show,� Cecil explained, turning back to me as he brought his docie up on the screen.
In a short lesson I learned enough about the coelacanth to get me in trouble on the next radio show. Cecil was a very busy man and once he was through he offered to take me home. We crisscrossed town again and arrived at Lou�s. �Then it�s 4:00 AM Thursday? Right?� I said to Cecil, and he agreed to the early start to his day.
Evan greeted me on the steps and asked me if I had been to Sun City yet. �No, cant� say that I have� wondering what was up. �Lou?� she called out �Lou, didn�t you take Russ to Sun City?� Stepping out from the studio Lou had question on his face. �Well, no I have not. We have been on location nearly everyday. Sun City is over an hour away the other Direction. You want to go to Sun City Russ?� Lou asked, looking like he hoped that I would turn him down. �Oh, Lou, you know, I don�t think you could get me in a car for another hour�s drive right now. Thanks, but I think I should pass. Besides, I have a date tonight� I explained, and watched the disgust pass over Evan�s face. �I understand the time limit, Russ, but I must say I don�t like the idea that this woman will get her hooks in you again,� Evan said and excused her self to go to the house.
Jeremy was listening and asked if I was going out with Mickey again. �Don�t you want to learn some Afrikaans before you go? Let me teach you an Afrikaans greeting so you can impress Mickey when you see her tonight,� He offered with an impish look at me over his glasses. �Oh, Sure, Jeremy. What would you teach me?� I asked, knowing by now I was going to get in some shit. �Here, repeat after me. �Fokyoyopoos� He said. �Fokyooyooups� I said. �Now listen again. �FOOK YO YO POS�� he repeated a bit slower. The Blackmen in the room perked up and waited for me to attempt the new words. �Fookyayeplos� I attempted again and the room exploded in laughter.
Evan had returned to the room and was trying to keep a straight face. �What are you teaching him now Jeremy?� she demanded. �Oh, just an Afrikaans� greeting for when he sees his girl friend again, just so he can impress her you see��� Jeremy said trying to be sweet and helpful in his manner. �I see, well then, carry on. I�ll want a report, Russ,� Evan said. �Ok, repeat after me� Jeremy continued, and the laughter picked up again as I became the focus of the rooms attention. �Fok yo yo pos� I struggled as Jeremy smiled an approval. �Go practice now� he said, suppressing a laugh.
In a short time Mickey was pulling in the drive. I was dressed for an evening out, with Lou�s cell phone in my coat pocket. Evan stood like a teenager�s mother at the top of the steps making Mickey come to her.
�Your twins are beautiful� Mickey greeted her. �I remember you Mickey. We met at SABC years ago. Be sure and return Russ safely,� somewhat cold, but sort of polite Evan answered without dropping her gaze. Mickey greeted me, looking back at Evan, then asked if I was ready for dinner. �Hello Mickey. Let�s go then,� I answered as I bid Evan good by. Lou looked out from the kitchen window and waved a good by. I was dying to try my new Afrikaans out on Mickey.
Down from Northcliff we ended up behind Mickey�s townhouse complex. �I�ve learned an Afrikaans greeting for you. Want to hear it?� I said with as much innocence as I could pretend to own. �Sure� she said as she navigated a circular round about intersection. �Fok yo, yo pus� I said.
Mickey swerved, hit the curb, bounced back into the street and slammed on the brakes, looking at me in shock. �Who taught you that? Do you know what you just said?� she laughed, whipping tears of laughter from her face before driving on again. �Jeremy� I said. �Want to hear it again?� �NO!� she said. �You Did JUST FINE! And I know why they taught you that one in particular!� she said, shaking her head. I sat back satisfied that the point had been made.
The night of dinner and a visit back to the townhouse was uneventful. We both attempted to be interested in each other enough to act romantic, without the desired results. Awkwardly we embraced on the couch, trying to be back a month before and make some sort of a difference on what had brought the distance between us.
Unsuccessful in this, I asked Mickey if it might not be a good time to say good night. She agreed and we started back to her car. The woman down stairs who had befriended me had acknowledged my arrival earlier that evening, and was now fast asleep at this early morning time. I sneezed and felt a bit chilled in the morning air. �You OK?� Mickey asked. �Sure, just tired I think� as I sneezed again and could feel the sting of the cold air.
By the time we got back to Lou�s home minutes latter I was already under the weather. �I�ll take you to the airport Thursday after noon then?� she said. �Yes, please. My flight leaves in the early evening. Shall we leave her about 3:00 PM then?� I asked, and she agreed.
The light was on in Lou and Evan�s Room as I quietly tried to get to my room without waking them. �How was your evening?� Evan asked as she carried one of the twins around who was not feeling well. �OK, but no changes� I said a bit stuffed up. �You OK? You sound a bit stuffed up� Evan observed. �Sleep in before you get sick. Nothing worse than a cold on a plane� she mothered.
|57. Radio Daze|
By the time I woke on Wednesday I felt hung over without having touched a drink the night before. Both the twins were crying, uncomfortable with colds. Lou sat on the balcony behind my drawn curtains as Yolanda walked the twins, one at a time, back and forth through the bedroom, trying to make their pain subside. |
I stepped out on the balcony with Lou, his cigarette smoke burning my nose and throat. �How was your night? Did you give her your new greeting?� he smiled as if he had not known what I had learned. �Yes, the night started real well with the Afrikaans greeting,� I laughed. �And you look as well as the twins today,� Lou observed. �I�m sure I would be better off in bed,� I said, and headed back into my room for most of the day.
Fevered dreams of my time in South Africa drifted in and out of the room like they were painted on the mosquito net drawn around me. Hours of scattered thoughts covered a month of memories in no particular order. Lunch past. Dinner past. Night fell on the room as I began to approach an early morning wakeup for the radio program.
About 3:00 AM Lou came in and quietly woke me to prepare for the overseas radio show. Some fresh coffee could be smelled coming up from the kitchen as I followed him down the stairs. �You can set your self up at the phone in the studio. That way you won�t be interrupted by the household during your show,� He suggested and led me to the studio where the dogs had been let out for their un expected early day.
�Here�s Dee�s number, and this is Cecil� number. I�m going back to the house. See you when it�s over� Lou said and made his way in the dark back to the upstairs bedroom where the lights were still on. Soon after that I got on the phone, and the lights went out upstairs as the house grew quite.
Calling the overseas engineer for directions I found that an overseas incident might hold our show up. In a flurry of calls I made sure my guest were ready and knew about the possible delay. Dee was up and downing coffee while going over notes from previous shows she had done. Cecil was at his editing machine, taking advantage of the quite office, the door back to his residence open and the coffee pot in the kitchen perking away. Bruce had just arrived at Dee�s, hoping to be put on the show. All I could do now was wait.
Right on time the engineer called back and announced that he couldn�t reach Dee. We compared numbers and found that he was using David Klarer�s number. Fortunately David�s household was already away on vacation, so no early morning call reached him by mistake.
With the numbers ready, and everyone�s voices pulled up by the engineer, the interviewer came into our virtual room. Apologizing for the possible delay, and explaining the news to the international audience, the introduction music for the show began, and the host brought each of the guest on by name.
The fog in my head made my part of the show seem unreal. Fortunately the host was up to speed about the new guest and carried the interviews forward over the hour and a half allotted to us. Cecil� work with National Geo had already caught the attentions of the host a month before. Shrilly McClain had published Dee�s story in a book, and the host had studied up ahead of time.
The interviews were crisp and fresh. Bruce had no place to speak, and my contributions were not needed till all had been said. As a fresh news report came in, the host released us from the show, thanking everyone in a polite and interested manner, our phones went dead. The engineer called me back and thanked me for setting up yet another successful show. Cecil called and thanked me for the spot. I called Dee and thanked her, and Bruce announced that he was on the way over to Lou�s to say good by. Dee�s Chihuahua could be heard in the background barking at Bruce. I wasn�t too ready to see anyone, but agreed to meet with him.
I waited for Bruce to reach the front gate, and walked him to the studio. David had agreed to put me in charge of his movie project, and Bruce was dismayed by the news. �Is this because of the Mickey thing?� he asked. �No, not completely. It�s because I�m the one who created this opportunity out of whole cloth, and can now move ahead un encumbered,� I answered in the calmest manner I could dredge up. �Then, I�m sure this is good by. Stay in touch,� Bruce said trying to pry a further response from me. �Yes, I leave today. Mickey is taking me to the airport this afternoon� was all I offered in return.
As Bruce left I felt relieved to know that part of my life may be behind me, and that somehow I had dodged a bullet. The lights came back on in Lou�s room as I locked up the studio for the rest of the early morning. The fever was coming back on me and I needed to sleep before my flight left that night.
|58. Atlanta again|
I struggled now with the memory of leaving Johannesburg the April Morning in 2001.|
It was more clear now with some distance and time between me and the last time I saw Mickie that I was lucky and had dodged a bullet. Now I mixed my new life with the information and experiences I had gained. Turning my thoughts to the past, once again I as with Riruako at the Johannesburg airport.
As we finished speaking, the gate opened and the plane started to load. Riruako stepped into line, and kept looking back over his shoulder to see where I was. On the plane he looked to see where I sat. I watched the airport building disappear as the plan eventually turned to leave the terminal. As we lifted off and the tug of the G force pulled me into my seat I looked out my window at the last view I would have of Johannesburg, looking for North Cliff or any landmarks that would help me tie by memories back to my month long life changing efforts.
Throughout the flight, though I did not go to see him, Riruako looked back my way from his seat, checking me out as I sat some five rows behind him. The man sitting next to me was from Australia. He made sure that every moment I was quite was filled with information about his life. I learned much more than I needed about this teacher heading back to a seasonal job in Atlanta.
Through most of the flight I tried to sleep off the cold, intermittently watching movies for the interminable 18-hour leg of an endless flight, or getting more biographical background from my fellow traveler.
A one-hour layover at Il Desol was spent cramped in the plan while looking out at the midnight cloudy sky with fog settling in around the small control tower and too minimal public area closed to us at that time of night. Again in the air the endlessness of the flight made my stuffed up head heavy and some kind of sleep followed.
Somewhere outside Atlanta, I got up and went to Riruako�s seat and asked if he really was interested in helping me.
"Yes, I can help you,� he said, giving me his cell number, but not his important title. I wrote the information in my tattered aging notebook, next to the names of greensmen, producers and actors. At the Atlanta Airport he disappeared into the crowd with two other well dressed men in suits. I rushed off for my connecting flight to Salt Lake City, finally finding my self in the customs lines I had expected to encounter on my way out of Atlanta a short month before.
Rushing through the re entry process, then racing through the airport I found the short boarding line to my plane nearly finished allowing entry. I grabbed a quick cup of bad coffee to wet my throat and chugged it down while the receptionist looked at my ticket.
�You have already missed your flight,� she reported, �but this flight is the next one to Salt Lake, and you have been automatically moved to this flight, and may now board.� Expecting to just reach my seat by the time the plane would leave, I quickly stowed my bag over the seat and buckled my seat belt. The stewardess picked up her microphone and instead of announcing that our flight was ready to taxi away to the runway announced that the pilot could not be found and alternative pilot was on the way. Our wait would be about 45 minutes.
The stress of the rush had taken my mind off my own life drama long enough to get me through the airport like a pro and into my seat next to the salesman trying to fall asleep. More or less alone I thought about how I had naively thought I would be returning home with a bride. More or less glad it had not worked out, I was still alone and back to square one in my effort to change my life.
Salt Lake Airport was busy with mid day travelers, and I had missed my next flight to Reno, though by now I was somehow actually on Schedule. A small 40 passenger jet, much like a sports car, was waiting for the passenger like me who were chasing their scheduled flight across Nevada to Reno.
Balancing our bags and coffee, we strapped in and soon were high above Salt Lake, quickly heading west. Flying just above the clouds, with occasional views of the desolate landscape, looking much like flying over Kimberly a month before, I finally recognized Pyramid Lake outside Reno, as we started our decent.
No customs, no crowds waiting for anyone on my flight, I made my way to the luggage area where my bags had bet me to Reno. A first I�m sure for most travelers. My motel shuttle responded quickly to my request for a ride to my room, and too soon I was out of the rush of 39 hours of flights and airports, and left to my own thoughts in a small motel room where I had started this month long effort to make a difference.
My son was available for a visit, and came to my door an hour latter, just before the sun set over Mt. Rose. I tried in vein to tell him what had happened since I last saw him. He tried to listen, but the years of separation we had between us as a divorced family only made my story interesting, not compelling. Much too soon I was again by my self with my thoughts, with a night in a motel ahead of me, then a four drive home through a desert where all travelers are more alone than any were else in their world.
It was days before Easter when I got home to the farm. Watching the news for Joburg during the busy Easter weekend I found that a large sports stadium had collapsed when the overcrowded structure gave way under the weight of a mass of humanity. |
Wondering if it was one of the stadiums I had seen, and if it housed any of the choir singers who used the open fields to practice, I contacted Mickey to see what she knew. Her first response was �Why call me?� It was clear that I was alone in my own world.
What I did not expect to find was that Bruce had been shot in the chest during a carjacking attempt. There was no mistaking that Joburg was fraught with incalculable dangers. Though Bruce would regain his health, it would take some time for him to rebuild. Nearly a half a world away now, I, too, had a life to rebuild.
My attention returned to the project I had taken on at my homestead before going to South Africa. I was months into restoration of an 1860�s pioneer cabin behind my main 1870�s home. My dog was happy I had come home and waited each day to help me work the long hours in the cabin.
The new windows and doors I installed before leaving for South Africa now brought the fresh spring light in through the trees lining the creek as gusts of wind brought occasional snowflakes down the canyon. I pushed forward with new floors and open beam cathedral ceilings, allowing me time to reflect on my recent encounters in Johannesburg. Why had Riruako come into my life? What else could I find out about the mission he was on? Could I again use my internet window on the world to explore this man, and again meet a woman.
I found Riruako�s full name and title, �Herero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako.� As the Paramount Chief of the Herero People, he headed up the Reparations Corporation accusing Germany and two companies, through an international court, of forming a "brutal alliance" to exterminate over 65 000 Ovaherero between 1904 and 1907.
When the building dust and tired muscles would bring me out of the cabin, I hit my office in the main house and studied the history of Namibia and the long thirty year struggle of Riruako as he attempted to assist the healing of his people. A bachelor friend of mine introduced me to a woman he had met on line that lived several hours away, suggesting I should start a bit closer to home with my search. I agreed, and started a line of communication with Linda in Janesville.
My studying of Namibia revealed years of influx of Africans and Europeans crisscrossed in volumes of information filled with pain and suffering, recorded in unexpected detail and capturing a horrific atrocity in pictures and text, affecting the history of the major wars of the world. The inhumanity expressed and explored would unexpectedly encourage manic demonic leaders and scientists in distant countries.
I waded through the extensive records of a genocide I had heard nothing about before now. Historical details piled up and covered each other like dust before a rain. The uncanny parallel of the historical data with my fevered dream back at Lou�s made it a struggle for me to read further. Instead I cleaned the cabin for a possible guest and invited Linda to come for a visit so we could meet in person. I asked her to bring photos of her family and her self to share her history.
The complexity of discovery of the Herero drove me out of the office and back to the dust of the remodel in a seven-days-a-week cycle starting at 6:00 am and not ending till after 11:30 pm for days on end. Evenings were a mix of sleep and waking to send emails and phone calls to those I had met in South Africa and now Linda , putting me back into a jet lag of sorts, much like I had been in while doing radio shows before the first of the year.
A sense of detachment transported me from my desk into the Namibian story unfolding in front of me as Linda agreed to come for a week�s visit. Historic events back 2,000 years paraded through my mind in an attempt to explain why a Chief of a distant people could affect my life while I was caught up in my own life. Would I find that the mutilated man from my dreams was in Namibian history? Would Linda and I find a way to move our focus� from our own middle aged aloneness to some kind of adult communication?
I contacted the D.C. attorney representing the Chief�s cause in international court to see if he would shed any light on the Herero. The legal firm could only say that a court date was set. Any other information I would need to find on my own. This put the Herero search aside for a short time while I prepared to spend a week learning about Linda�s life.
Linda and I both were too mature to expect that our meeting would be anything other than a vacation for us both. That reality came true when we first met face to face and realized mutually that we had only found a friend, not a future companion. A bit disappointed, we both instantly changed gears and instead started our week of friendship with a glass of wine and some home cooked dinner I had prepared.
Through the next week Linda became the first person to live in my newly, partially finished cabin. We shared photos of family and explored our past. Something deep was on Linda�s mind though, as days into our visit she revealed a deep personal hurt that had nearly caused her to commit suicide. She was a librarian at a prison in Susanville. An inmate had raped her, and a guard that was supposed to be there to protect her, had blamed her for the incident instead of admitting that he had left his post, leaving her alone with the inmate. The DA for Lassen County had sued Linda, and made a public mess of the whole thing. She was to return to court after her week at my farm.
We talked at length about the good things in her life, and re connected with her good feelings about her family and life as a young woman in Berkeley, CA. Her visit came to an end, and she drove away from my life and into her own future.
Two hours latter the Highway Patrol called me. They had found my address in the wreckage of her over turned car. She had lost control in a freak hailstorm, and rolled to her death in a single car accident. The first car on scene was actually the son of the man who had introduced us, finding Linda dead, and calling the CHP on his cell phone.
Shocked as much as anyone could be, found myself consoling her family when the CHP asked me if they could share my phone number with Linda�s mother and sister. The wondered if she had committed the suicide they had feared, as beer cans had been found in her car. I assured them that she left her in good spirits, and that I had given her re cycle cans to take to Susanville to turn in for gas money.
He family were glad to know she had had a week away from the pain of the law suit and somehow glad she was also no longer facing the upcoming court trial.
I had found that my search for a companion was taking a deadly serious turn, and that I could no longer look at it as being about me, as a maturity came to mind that I should have learned long before.
In time I became my own narrator and third person observer flying in my mind over San hunters, the bushmen of some 2,000 years ago, and crossing the vast Namib Desert as I tried to understand the reams of data I was uncovering concerning the Herero. |
For a short time I had no interest in looking for changes in my life, and turned my attentions on an Internet group I had wrote to in the past who lived on homesteads around the world. This satisfied my need for communications while I set my self to the task of uncovering a history connected to Riruako�s life.
Watching the Namibian time line develop in my studies, nearly 500 years passed as Nama herders could be seen entering the region, leaving early records of their lives in cave paintings. Somewhere around 1600 the Herero people came into view from the western and northern areas of Namibia, followed in the 1800s by the Ovambo.
Crossing their historical paths, the Portuguese navigators Diogo Cam and Bartolomeu Dias could have been seen landing on the west Atlantic coast of Namibia early in the 15th century. Later in the 18th century, further Portuguese and Dutch expeditions came exploring the coastal regions. Dutch and British captains laid claim to parts of the coast, despite the fact that their governments would disallow such claims, thus establishing the controversy, which continued through the mid 1900s.
English missionaries entered in the 18th century, followed by German missionaries in the 1840s. Britain would annex Walvis (whale-fish) Bay in 1878. The Bremen trading firm of F. A. E. L�deritz then gained a cession of land at Angra Peque�a (now L�deritz) in 1883.
In 1884, the German government, under Otto Von Bismarck, set the death sentence for native peoples by proclaiming a protectorate over the same area, soon adding the rest of southwest Africa (German Sud-West Afrika). This western edge of the African continent might open the rest of the region to Europe, and enhance the colonies at the Cape.
Conflicts between indigenous peoples and Europeans led to outbreaks of violence by the 1890s, worsening in the next two decades. In 1903 the Nama began a revolt, joined by the Herero in 1904. An uncompromising German genocidal military campaign in 1908 led to the deaths of as many as 54,000 Herero out of a population of about 70,000.
The shock of how this could happen or how it could be overlooked by the world stopped my mind as I had to look further into the issue and discovered the deaths of some 30,000 Herero driven into the Kalahari Desert, to be kept from food and water at gunpoint, machine gun towers killing them in mass. How had the world chosen to ignore this death on a scale? Was it just because it was Africa?
Un solicited, a woman from Washington D.C contacted me through the homesteading group. Thinking at first she was connected to the D.C. lawyer, I started a line of communication that seemed business oriented. In no time though she announced that she was on the way to Reno, and asked if I could bring her to my farm. I agreed and turned again to my remodel and distraction of historical discovery.
I revisited the early life of Namibia. Walvis Bay had been a haven for sea vessels early on because of its natural deep harbor. This bay was rich in plankton and marine life, attracting large numbers of whales, whalers and other fishing vessels. This was a valuable location on the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope.
The advent of the German Empire in colonizing southwestern Africa brought a fraudulent sales agreement with the German merchant Adolf Luderitz and the Namibian Nama Chief Joseph Fredericks. It was officially sanctioned by Germany on April 24, 1884 when Bismarck sent a telegram to German Consul Lippert based in Cape Town, instructing Lippert to inform the Cape government that �Luderitz Land� was now formally under the protection of the German Empire.
The Germans expanded their colony by annexing the �uninhabited regions,� or �terra ullius,� signing the so-called protection treaties with different Namibian communities in the far interior. Over the six years from 1884 to 1890 the huge area of �Schutzgebiet Deutsch-Sudwestafrika� grew out of the small private enterprise of Luderitz.
As of December 30, 1886, the whole of the Namibian Atlantic coast from the Orange River to the Cunene River came under German authority. Confusion over Namibia circled the world, making it invisible in the late 1800s and early 1900s at its most vulnerable encounters with Germany.
In my own life though, now I was on the way to Reno again to move my own life into a new point in history. Remembering how death had visited me last time I had a woman come to the farm, I was much more serious about my clarity and purpose, and had made sure that this woman from D.C., named Debbie, knew this was a vacation on a homestead, not a romantic interlude.
Picking her up at the airport September 4th 2001, I booked a room for her for her September 11th return night stay before leaving for D.C. a week later and we headed back to the farm. Debbie had not listened to the details though, and had stars in her eyes as she talked all the way home about the magic of our meeting. She was 20 years younger than I, and I was being careful to not hurt her feelings, but be the mature man I hoped I had learned to be.
Again a week of visiting and sharing passed, and the morning of September 11th came around. Turning the TV on to check the weather and road conditions in Reno, I watched in horror as the first of the twin towers smoked and shuttered as Tom Brokaw voice narrated the event. No sooner had I focused on the drama than the second plane came into view and smashed the future of the world right in front of me.
More death in my view as I looked at my own life struggle and saw it as insignificant in the world. I went to Debbie�s room in the cottage and told her what was going on in New York. By time she was dressed and in the main house to watch the news, the Pentagon had been hit, and the next plane had been lost somewhere in flight on route to D.C.
There was no leaving that day, and we spent the day trying to understand the misfortune of our times. I knew now that the Herero had lived their own massacre, and had some kind of different understanding of their plight nearly a hundred years before. Life on the farm still continued on thought, in spite of the world and history. Debbie and I distracted our selves with the harvesting of the garden and the abundance my life provided, while watching the news for further developments, between replaying of the towers being hit and falling in a dust storm.
My rebuilding took on a whole new aspect, and meant very little any more. I had a trip to Reno ahead of me to return Debbie to the airport. Then it would be back to my own task of remodeling and the return to my business life after nearly a year of being closed down.
The history of Namibia was allowing me a distraction that was much needed now. I had never been so interested in such detailed history; however, I felt compelled to learn all I could between phone calls to the Chief and the bothersome dream that had never let me alone. I needed to get into my own life, or at least another life for a time. I had to finish this cabin remodel and spend time with my customers. |
At the end of September, a late night phone call came from Paul Scott, from South Africa. He was in Hollywood working on a movie and had a break before the next movie in Seattle, Washington. He asked if he could spend a week or so with me and help with any of my projects. I agreed to the visit, and asked him if he knew how to find me. Instead, he asked if I could meet him at the Reno Airport. This routine was very familiar to me now and we set a date.
I offered an early dinner to Paul at a casino, and listened to his lengthy bragging about is life in Los Angeles. He showed me a fake California Driver�s license and fake Permanent Residence card he said a friend had provided to him. He dropped names and suggested big deals, while filling his plate then his mouth with sustenance before the long journey home through the desert.
Tired from the four-hour drive, we pulled into my farm around midnight, nearly hitting a deer crossing the road just a mile from home. Paul was being introduced to remote wildlife right off the bat, much like I had learned about people on bicycles at night in Joburg.
I showed him to his room and introduced him to a woman, a former business partner, who had been staying at the farm while I was in Africa. Though she was some fifteen years his senior, they both smoked like chimneys, and would come to spend a lot of time together outside on the porch.
Two weeks turned into 17 days; Paul spent a lot of time in deep conversation with this woman. She began to attach herself to him, and because she had a steady supply of cigarettes, he didn�t go far from her.
I spent the nearly two weeks finishing the last details of my remodel. My way of dealing with my own life needs had changed dramatically since 9-11 and I now only wanted what was going to come my way naturally, not what I might force. I stopped looking for a woman companion, and instead decided one would have to walk into my life, and want to be there by her choice, not by my pushing.
It was the day before Paul was to go back to Reno. I had not paid much attention to him in the past two weeks. Most of what he had to say was embellishment and repeated loudly.
One day we were out in my meadow alongside the lake that touches the farm, cleaning the hot spring that had started to flow for the first time after a dry season. Out of the blue Paul asked, �Do you remember that little car I had in South Africa? The one we stood at while I got my notes from the boot? I bought that from a lady you might have met while there. You�re a single guy, she�s a single gal, and you both like the same things. Maybe I should introduce you two?�
Based on the rest of my time around Paul I should have just blown this off, but something stuck in my head. It was as if I had already heard him bring this up. I asked him, �Why do you think we should meet?�
�You�re the same age. You both love the outdoors. Her son is nearly grown. Find out for yourself! I have her email address.�
I had noticed that when Paul used my computer to send his group emails around the world, he had been including this lady�s name. When we got back to the office, I found the address and wrote her a letter, reaching her at her office in Joburg.
Something just clicked. It was incredible. One would think we had known each other for a lifetime. An attraction and interest in communicating built from that first letter. But, life was still filled with other people and their demands. Paul needed to get to the airport, and now the woman he had been visiting with wanted to go to Reno with him to �see him off�, or so she said.
|62. Paul�s Best Man|
On October 18th, 2001, Paul, myself and the woman all loaded up in the old Chrysler and headed for Reno. Somewhere out near Pyramid Lake Paul and his new friend started comparing documents and finally announced that they wanted me to take them by a Reno wedding chapel on Virginia Street. With some shock in my voice I agreed and made my way through the downtown area, looking at the gamblers, and looking at my passengers, not seeing much difference between them and the desperate faces on the street. |
�Here�s your stop. What�s the plan?� I asked.
�We want to get married so that Paul can get a green card!� the older woman announced.
�Will you be our witness?� Paul asked. �Best man! How about that!� He put his arm around me again like he had for the picture on location.
What could I say to such an offer? I rolled my eyes and got out and put money in the parking meter. Neither of them offered to feed the meter as they got out, looking around like they owned downtown, and entered the first wedding chapel, complete with window manikins dressed in cheap suits.
Quickly they found out that they had to go across the street and get a marriage license at the 24-hour courthouse. I followed them in, curious as to what they would have to do, and what they would say. The courthouse was secured by guards and metal detectors and filled with odd couples shuffling toward tellers like a 1950�s bank. Standing where I could hear them I watched as their act, well rehearsed, had them making eyes at each other while answering questions about previous marriages and divorces. A complicated explanation flowed out of each of them before the teller stopped them, and showing the simple form and simple answers required. Soon they were done and ready for the chapel once again. This time though they were not first in line, and Paul, looking at his watch and up and down the street said, �Let�s try that place,� in his most romantic smoky voice.
Entering the next street front vendor, I thought about the Mutie shop in the CBD in Joburg, and wondered if there was any similarity. �Do you want pictures? Do you want champagne?� Paul asked, half hoping she would say no, as he had just purchased a carton of cigarettes with his short supply of borrowed money. Looking at the Polaroid camera on the counter, and the twist top bottles of Champagne behind the glass door of the cooler, she said no, and they moved to the cashier.
�Do you have your wedding license? If not, you must go across the street and get it at the courthouse.� The attendant announced in a mechanical singsong voice, with a practiced smile. I followed them across the street where they completed that part of the exercise and returned to the chapel.
I looked out the window and saw the Circus Circus casino, and thought we were certainly at the right place. In no time they were trying to act like honeymooners. Paul was beginning to look at his replica watch; the time until his departure was clicking away. A couple of quick minutes passed and a look of accomplishment passed over his face. The newly married couple, proud of their deed, stepped back on the streets of Reno and announced that they were ready to go to the airport. I could not have written the script that would have described this bizarre day.
�Let's go by the INS first,� Paul proclaimed as he entered the car again, the Chrysler sinking to one side under his weight.
�Do either of you know where that is?� I asked.
His new wife produced an address from her bag and handed it to me. Obviously they had worked out details of this event to some extent ahead of time. I hoped they would get a room before the consummation started.
Finding the INS building on the outskirts of town, the two strolled in with papers in hand and expectations abounding. Minutes later they were back in the parking lot, a bit dismayed, announcing, �We need an appointment! They didn�t care that we had just gotten married! Can you believe that?� Paul said in a voice loud enough to be heard by the guard at the front door. �Take me to the Airport Inn!� he said, leaving the title �Driver� out of his request. I guess I had found out how he got around LA without a car.
These two people were focused on each other rather than on me, thus allowing me to return to my own thoughts. Did my own love interest look as bizarre to those watching me? How was I to know I was being true to my own heart? I guess I needed to know what I felt inside.
The four-hour return drive from Reno through the night was shared with the new Mrs. Scott. Paul had taken a room at the Airport Inn to rest up before his flight. His new bride chattered almost all the way home, telling me about the grand plans the two of them had made. I tuned her out as soon as we left Reno, and went into my own thoughts filled with the vast information I was finding on the Internet concerning Chief Riruako and the Herero. |
This uncomplicated man spoke with such elegance on April 28, 2001, when I told him I had discovered how important he was to his people and their quest for reparation from the German government. His wife, Enishia, had directed my most recent phone call to him through the head office of his political party in Windhoek, and to the Namibian parliamentary office.
My research had expanded quickly. The German government had kept remarkably complete records, with pictures and scientific papers tied together with lengthy written explanations. Much of what I saw in those haunting dreams could be found in Namibian history, if one only would look.
Before the turn of the century, the Herero fought a series of heroic wars against the German masters. Hendrik Witbooi, the main Hottentot leader, and Samuel Maharero, the Herero leader, repeatedly defeated or humiliated German forces fighting for their land and traditional life over a three-year period. The Hottentot and Herero signed a peace treaty in November 1892 which ended the Fourth Herero War (1880-1892). The Germans resumed the war, attacking the followers of Witbooi at their camp at Harukranz, killing 78 women and children. German commanders were ordered to annihilate the Witbooi tribe.
On Jan. 12, 1904, the Hereros launched attacks on almost every German farm and village. To overcome this, the Germans replaced their commander with the ruthless Gen. Lothar von Trotha, brought in from northeast Africa.
At the battle of Waterberg the horrors of my dreams were fleshed out in detail as fleeing Maharero gathered a mixed group of some 25,000 men, women and children in a sandy valley with steep bluffs on three sides andh the 200-mile waterless Omaheke sandveld desert behind them. Von Trotha forced the people into the desert, where he poisoned the few water wells. His troops locked the Herero in the desert to die by the thousand. Trotha's genocidal tactics used a 150-mile line of German guard posts to keep the Herero in the desert. Oral histories say men slit the throats of cattle to drink the blood. They suckled the breasts of new mothers. Infants withered and died in days. Some Herero cut open the bellies of the dead to drink the liquid from their stomachs. Men who escaped the desert were lynched. Women and children who survived where chained around their necks and worked to death.
I thought about a call I made to the Chief in June of 2001. I had found that the Herero People's Reparations Corporation accused Germany and two companies of forming a "brutal alliance" to exterminate over 65 000 Ovaherero between 1904 and 1907. The companies asked the court to dismiss the case, while the German government countered by stating that the US-based lawyers had no jurisdiction to take them to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
As we pulled into the farm after the drive from Reno, the new Mrs. Scott was asleep and the car was quiet, allowing me the last few moments to finish my thoughts.
My connections to the Chief had moved to his family members as I met each of his daughters over the phone, one at a time. The Chief was busy pursuing the next avenue of appeal and, as I would find out later, pursuing the office of President of Namibia.
His dreams to end a nightmare nearly one hundred years old had been an international effort and somehow had spilled over into my dreams. Unexpected changes in my life would also cross half a world again the next time I entered my office.
|64. Lonely or Alone?|
I learned from my experience in South Africa that I was not desperate and lonely, but rather busy and alone. I learned that self worth was owned not acquired externally. If I wanted a good woman in my life, I had to be strong in my own right, and that had to be recognized by the right person. Maybe Paul had left me with an unexpected future. Time would tell. |
Jan Parton responded to my email when she came to her IBM office the next day. Our half-a-day separation in time put her at her desk where she worked as an executive secretary at the same time I came into my office after the long ride home from Reno.
We started a casual conversation around my having just left Paul in town. I did not tell her anything about Paul�s recent romantic escapades, figuring that was Paul�s business.
Jan told me that we were the same age. She had a 15-year-old son. She lived in a nice community called Thornhill. I had not been there, so it was unfamiliar to me. She explained that an old AECI dynamite factory had been turned into the gated community of Modderfontein, Lakeside, and Thornhill, the company housing from the 20�s and 30�s being restored and the complex landscaped around ponds, golf courses and wooded patches. She obviously had a decent life there. Our next month of communication was fun, exciting, and unexpectedly drawing us toward each other.
I was determined to not influence Jan beyond any conclusions she came to herself. We slowly found on our own that we wanted to know more about each other. Jan mailed an expos� in the form of an unconventional scrapbook of pictures and memorabilia from her life. A sweet flow of African life flowed across pages of water buffalo, Egyptian goose feathers, Jan and her son at Pilgrim�s Rest, and a history in pictures of her adventures and friends. I was quite touched. By the end of September we had shared phone calls and discussed events in her daily life and adventures in mine.
Few people in either of our lives knew much about our new friendship, though my business partner, now married to Paul, wrote and asked Jan to come visit.
Jan shared her stories from me with her son. No one on my end of the world was interested in my overseas stories. Artist and supposed spiritual people simply wanted to show up for dinner parties and then go home, acting as if they were friends until I started to talk about myself instead of asking about their lives. By the time Jan started to plan her yearly Christmas vacation with her son and life long boarding school friend, Pam, she was entertaining the idea of spending part of the time in California with me.
Coming to the USA from South Africa was not at all easy, as I had learned from Mickey�s trials and errors. Jan, however, flew through the process of hoops and barriers, staying focused and honest and came out at the other end of the maze with a visitor�s visa for two years, as well as two round trip tickets for her and her son.
No small task, and at a huge expense. A time had been set, and the ball was in my court. We had learned much about each other since October, and the excitement over our meeting made it to the surface, We both approached each other as adults with lives half way around the world from each other, and not ready to give those up for any non event.
Jan would go to the sunny summertime beaches of East London on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa for the first half of her vacation, then come back to Thornhill, change suitcases and head to Reno, Nevada. Everyone in Jan�s world expected that she was on a short vacation to California, if they paid attention at all. Jan as well, planed to return to her life in Joburg by mid January.
Jan purchased a new cell phone with international roaming and we kept in touch as the day of departure arrived. Her son sent SMS� to me and Jan hit an Internet bar in East London when Pam and Geoff were on the beach. Jan and Geoff would leave Joburg on the same flight I had taken the night I met the Chief, and arrive in Reno the afternoon of January 1st, 2002.
This was to be an auspicious way to start the New Year. Many of the events of note in my life over the last four years had started with the New Year. Once she was safe on her plane somewhere over the east Atlantic, and really on the way, I loaded into the old Chrysler and headed to Reno.
Like so many other trips through the desert, I crossed dry lakes and sand dunes as if it was all still the same drive, each one ending at the Reno Tahoe International Airport.
Self employment can have its advantages as well as its controls over your life. I had been able to take a year away from my maintenance service and build my own cottage in addition to impulsively traveling internationally for over a month. As the boss I was able to take the day off midweek to travel on this Tuesday, January 1, 2002, to Reno Nevada and pick up a lady at the airport, heading into her vacation in California. |
The other side of that coin was that a long time customer of mine waited back in Cedarville with an electrical emergency looming in a rental house, and I would have to divide my time in a fair manner that satisfied everyone�s needs. That didn�t have to be worked out right now, though, as I parked the Chrysler near the somewhat empty Reno-Tahoe International Airport entry door. This time my dog Muka had to wait at home so that I could spend the night in Reno with Jan and her son to give them some time on the ground before the four hour drive home.
Reno had been my town since the late 60�s when I graduated from the University of Nevada. I knew the streets, the businesses, and over this last year had learned a lot about the airport in particular. I booked lodging for us at Circus Circus. I laughed to myself as I sat at an airport caf� near the arrival gate, remembering Paul sinking into the Chrysler after his ill-fated attempt at a green card marriage.
I had sat at this same caf� while waiting for my departure time, nearly a year before when my adventure to South Africa had taken me into an unknown future. I was quite prepared to make sure Jan�s coming to America would be everything my trip had not been. I would welcome her with true friendship and hospitality supported by honesty to her and myself.
I pondered what our first meeting would be like, and got up to go to her entry gate, only to see on the announcement screen that her flight was delayed an hour. I knew why, as I ordered another cup of coffee and sat at the caf� table looking at the stairs she would come down, remembering my own descent at the same time of day the previous April.
I knew that when you come in to Atlanta from Isle De Sol you have to go through US customs. Mad cow scares around the world cause you to delay through foot cleaning troughs before making your cumbersome way through customs and onto the airport tramway. The time needed is just enough to miss your flight, and you are put on the next flight to Salt Lake City.
I called home to find that Jan had phoned from Atlanta while I was on the road and was waiting for her next flight, just as I thought. Now, she would be in the air over Utah, and an hour from Reno, after an hour and a half of uneventful airport time and shuffle at the Salt Lake City Airport.
I could feel the stress of the 39 hours of airplanes and airports it takes to get from Joburg to Reno and knew that when Jan and Geoff hit the ground they would be like sea-legged sailors trying to walk on solid ground, as they expected it to keep moving.
I remembered that I wished someone had been in Reno to meet me that April afternoon when I hopped an airport shuttle back to my Chrysler at the motel for my night�s wait before driving home. I remembered my son coming to the motel to take me to dinner, knowing that I had arrived back in Reno after an African adventure. I knew as Jan�s airplane landed in Reno now that this would be different for both of us.
The crowds of weary travelers started down the stairs in front of the caf�. I moved to the foot of the stairs and watched for the two people I would be guiding. First I saw a tall thin red haired young man�s head above the crowd, then his mother�s face, searching the crowd ahead of her. Our eyes met, and Jan and I started a future that would be filled with companionship and love. All the stress of wondering faded as we met in the crowd at the bottom of the stairs as if we had only been separated, not unknown to each other.
We embraced as I ran my hands over her thin shoulders and freshly cut short silver hair. Nearly my own height, we stood eye to eye studying our sudden recognition of what seemed like a lifelong relationship which had simply been put back on track. Her son, the man in her life, greeted me, and in his best business manner, looked around for the luggage carousel and went to collect their things.
Hand in hand, as if we had grown up that way, Jan and I followed him quickly, starting our adventure together with sudden enthusiasm masking her unavoidable jet lag. Geoff pulled off luggage that Jan had marked with colored ribbons at my suggestion, to detect them in the crowd.
One suitcase, one night case, one more suitcase, and nothing, and nothing, and nothing. One suitcase was missing, Geoff reported. Jan left us for one of the few times she and I would be apart again, heading across the small airport to the Delta Airways counter to get instructions for missing luggage.
Geoff and I caught up with her after a short trip to the Chrysler to unload the first group of luggage. We were back in time to find that Jan had provided with answers to questions as the attendant assured her that the luggage would meet up with her by evening at Circus Circus. We were given a paper and told to leave it with the front desk and they would take it from there. Now Jan would get the shock of the classic car that would take her to her new home.
Jan had told me about her visits to the �Piston Club� car club at Thornhill, so I knew she would enjoy this mode of transportation. It was not the Mercedes she left in South Africa, but it was a most unique ride. I had a tape player strapped to the dashboard with a bungie cord, and a well-used car blanket protecting the seat.
Geoff made a nest from the coats in the back seat, and Jan pulled in close to me as we started out across Reno to our room before dark. She had left long days, warm sunny summer beaches just a week before and now watched snow flakes melt on the warm windshield as the last sunrays of the short winters� day lit our way into the parking structure at Circus Circus in downtown Reno.
I could see the place that the Scotts� had tied the knot the previous October, and wondered if Paul ever told her. We found our room and I offered that maybe a dinner would be in order, thinking her teenage son might have a hollow leg. Agreeing that a sit at a restaurant would be nice, we made our way through the crowds to the buffet.
Jan and Geoff were both a contrast to the rest of the crowd in the buffet as their thin, fit forms made their way through the hefty crowd of overfed Americans filling plates with masses of food. Geoff and Jan both looked at each other as they picked through the long rows of plenty, trying to get a dinner that looked like something from home.
At the table we all looked around at the results of too much abundance sitting at the tables around us. Having been to South Africa, I understood the strangeness they must have felt as they picked through the cornucopia of food to find their satisfaction well before those around them were finished.
Jan and I were filled with another abundance, though, as we were paged to get her luggage on the way back to our room where we would spend our first of many nights ahead in each other�s arms.
Snow fell in the night and covered the rooftops we could see from our 12th floor window. A repeat of the buffet with the early morning crowd brought us to the Chrysler right after the working traffic settled down. Because Jan and Geoff were going to need farm attire to enjoy their stay at my home, I had lined up some places to shop before we left for the farm. |
Early morning midweek Reno malls were quiet and easy to navigate. Hand in hand, Jan and I explored shops looking for western wear appropriate for walking through the meadows to the hot springs, or up the Warner Mountains to snowy ridges. Geoff marveled at the small town Reno was, compared to Johannesburg. One shop down, and a couple of road supplies behind us, we left Reno through the Sierra Nevada valleys leading north to Susanville.
Into the short two-week stay Jan had set aside for her and Geoff, I wanted to pack as much of this part of the world as I could. The road I chose took us up Long Valley Creek in the valley made by the Diamond and Petersons ranges of the most eastern side of the northern extent of the Sierra Nevada mountains. We passed a little town where I had once owned a 1900�s grocery store and hotel near the Fort Sage Mountains at the edge of Honey Lake, then on to the pioneer town of Susanville in the most southern end of the Cascade Mountains.
Our road narrowed as we climbed the steep, twisty road through mountains past Eagle Lake and on to the edge of Modoc County at Adin in Big Valley, where we got our first glimpse of Mount Shasta poking some 13,000 feet up through the broken clouds. Antelope ran through the open plains as we crossed Adin summit and dropped into the Pit River Valley just before Alturas, with Cedar Pass in the Warner Mountains ahead. It was late afternoon, we had made good time as the warm couch the Chrysler made purred through the mountain roads, melting light snow flakes on the windshield.
The main street of Alturas offered a handful of restaurants for travelers coming out of the Pacific Northwest, and we picked one at our end of town to settle in for a rest from the road, parking with license plates from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Idaho and Montana, as Geoff read off the names. It was not the Reno Circus Circus crowd at our little Vietnamese restaurant. Neighbors at our table included an aquarium of tropical fish. Geoff quickly found out that the cactus in the window next to us was in fact real, pulling his hand back in sudden discovery, as the waitress placed his plate in front of him.
Jan and I marveled at how comfortable we were in each other's company even with the stress of jet lag still in control. Trying to put some sense into her disorientation, and remembering Lou�s kindness in Joburg, I pointed out which way Reno was, where north was, the ocean, the deserts.
A woman in the booth next to us added some help, hearing our discussion, and told Jan that she lived in Redding, CA, pointing back down the road we had come in on. With some clarity from the rest and dinner, we again took to the road with the last couple hours of sunlight lighting up the Warner Mountains and Cedar Pass ahead of us.
The abrupt climb from the Pit River Plateau to the 6,500 foot pass put us in view of the Hays Range of Nevada, with mountains some 100 miles distant poking up with their tops slightly lit to the east and south. Not until we had wound our way four miles down Cedar Pass could Surprise Valley be seen, Cedarville only slightly visible on the valley floor through the last mouth of the canyon.
The small town closes early on a mid week winter�s day, and a quick cruise through town was all it would take to put us on the last leg of our journey toward snow covered Mount Bidwell, some 24 miles up the valley. Abundant deer herds crowded the fields and frequently pushed across the road in front of us all the way to our home at the middle of Upper Lake. The shadows cast by the Warner Mountains passed over our Miller Creek as the 1870�s farmstead came into view. It was the first view of Jan�s home for the next half a month.
Muka greeted us at the gate, checking out this woman and her son, then looking at me to ask in her own way if they were staying. The house was fuller than I expected. The new Mrs. Scott had cooked a dinner of spaghetti for us as a homecoming, while a middle aged hippy from Studio City slept in a pile of his laundry on a spare bed off the living room, his old dog glaring out the door at the new arrivals.
Having just eaten, we thanked her for her efforts, and I guided Jan and Geoff around their January home before Geoff disappeared out the back door and headed to the barn to play in the snow bank made by the avalanche from it�s roof on the north side of the 40-foot tall structure.
Jan and I loaded her things into my upstairs room. She asked me who the houseguests were, and I told her that one was Paul�s wife. The shock and humor made her laugh out loud. Geoff, exhausted from trying to smash all the snow he could find, came back in wet and tired, and retreated to his own bedroom, prepared by his mom in his absence. Soon, Jan and I were also asleep and the house seemed to go quiet, though not empty, behind us.
There was no way out of my work the next day. Jan and Geoff and I loaded into the service truck and headed off to check some electrical problems at the rental in Cedarville. A Mexican family lived there in chaos, trying to work around one electrical short after another as a cascade of problems nearly took their house out, the smell of dirty laundry mixed with the ozone of burning electrical connections.
Though the wife was a cleaning woman at the local motel, her teenage sons overwhelmed her ability to keep up at home as the whole family tried to occupy one room after another, following the fading power supply.
Jan stood right next to me as we graciously looked past the mess while the woman of the house took us room to room, pushing boys' messes away to expose the inner workings of her electrical life. Geoff disappeared back up the canyon we had driven in the day before, exploring caves he had seen along the creek. By lunchtime, he rejoined us, and I took them for their first introduction to the valley people.
All eyes seemed to be on us in the restaurant as I introduced Jan and Geoff to people who had known me for fifteen years. The owner greeted us and asked if Jan knew Paul, as he had sat in her establishment often in his 18-day stay while I worked in town.
The size of farmer plates of food even overwhelmed Geoff in spite of his hunger after an adventurous climb through caves and snake dens. Ranchers warming up around the wood stove sipped the last of their coffee, listening to the sounds of the South African voices and watched me with questions on their faces. I didn�t leave anyone out of the introductions, and the hardened faces of the overworked men and women softened as they each reached out to greet the newcomers with a handshake.
The next days were much the same as one rancher after another met us during the work schedule laid out ahead of me in my normal life. Even a walk in our remote meadow brought an introduction to our neighbor, Eddie, working the creek irrigation on the fields he leased from me. He spoke with muttered speech that confused Jan.
As Eddie walked away along the edge of the meadow with his rubber boots sloshing in the ankle deep floodwaters, Jan asked what he had just said, and was that an accent, or what? I looked up at him and saw him spit before bending to push his shovel in the muddy ditch to reroute the water. �No, his mouth is full of chew,� I explained. And she laughed as she suddenly realized that was also why the woman at the restaurant had slurred speech the day before.
Though the ranchers and Mexican working families were new to her, they were still the same as those farmers Jan had known in South Africa. They were all hard working, honest people with families and goals. She could see that there was no way to say no to neighbor�s needs while she and I mixed our own time together the maintenance service they had come to depend on.
The next week came to a close with more introductions and more struggling to solve problems for customers. My house cleared out of some guests, but filled with others, somewhat out of my control from my years as a bachelor and the expectations of others to use my home as a stopover for themselves.
Jan and my most private moments came to be the time in the 40 mile drives between ranches in my old service truck. It was apparent that she and I did not want to be apart, so one day, outside the community of Eagleville, I popped the question, and asked Jan to marry me. With only a moment�s hesitation, to stretch the moment in a humorous manner, she adamantly said yes!
Then it was true. We did find each other from halfway around the world, having nearly met from the circle of mutual acquaintances in Joburg back in the spring of 2001. Our day off was the next day, and we agreed to secure a marriage license at the county seat in Alturas, and set a date to Wed the weekend ahead.
About a year earlier, I had been in the county offices to get my passport in a hurried preparation for leaving for South Africa. The same ladies now helped us walk through the process of a marriage license, explaining that we could either take care of business right there, or have a licensed person conduct a ceremony of our choice. |
Somehow I expected that the people I knew here would enjoy the fact that Jan and I would marry, judging from the enthusiasm generated by the women at the county office. The week before, I had invited members of our community to come to a potluck dinner and dance in the cottage to introduce them to Jan and Geoff, with what seemed like a welcoming at the time.
A mix of customers, neighbors and friends from back in the 70�s joined in by greeting the South Africans. Some had met Paul, and came out of curiosity, though none were told that my former business partner was not the new Mrs. Scott. When it came to the Saturday we had chosen for the wedding, not as many old friends and neighbors were available. Caught up in our own moment, I was unaware of the undertow of tension building because of our decision to marry.
The cottage which served well for the dance, and now was a wonderful place to marry. The long hours of work had built toward a future that was now opening in front of us. As two adults in their fifties, both Jan and I had many lessons behind us, and a willingness to use those experiences to enhance our time together.
The handful of people who witnessed our union celebrated our event with us, then left us to announce the news to our family and friends in our own way. Jan and I moved into the cottage as our honeymoon getaway for a short three days before the next round of trouble came at us unexpectedly.
My first clue that trouble was in the air came as I contacted my mother and father to share our joy. Mother listened, then without a word turned the phone to Dad who only said, �How Could YOU!� and hung up. Then the new Mrs. Scott insisted the cottage was hers and proceeded to move in, and asked Jan when she was leaving.
Stunned, I contacted a lawyer for advice, only to find that an artist friend of Mrs. Scott�s had already hired the lawyer and was also asking when Jan was leaving. The parade of friends from my past quickly joined suit and turned their backs on us, starting an ugly battle in attempts to drive Jan away.
Threats of turning us in to the INS came from one old hippie, then another �deeply spiritual� individual, and then another because they figured, in an uninformed manner, that Jan was an illegal alien.
Jan and I moved back into the main house in an attempt to allow the aging Mrs. Scott to clear her head, only to be attacked daily by �old friends� who now attached themselves to Mrs. Scoot, and started to sneak through our house and outbuildings, taking anything that they thought must be owed them from years of my having shared my life with them.
After breaking and entering into our locked home on multiple opportunities while Jan and I were at work, we finally had to visit the sheriff and start the long process of unplugging these people from the little cathedral ceiling building that I alone had created, ironically, to get these people out of my life.
One of the few people to actually see the blessing in this union was Chief Riruka. I had contacted him shortly after Jan and I married to tell him that my adventures in South Africa had come around to introducing me to an Afrikaans woman who was now my wife. I put Jan on the phone with him to hopefully start a line of communication that would help me past some of the difficulty I had with phone conversations complicated by my lack of exposure to the Herero language.
A gracious man, the Chief congratulated us, then told me that he would like to have me come to Namibia to see a mass grave recently discovered on what had been a prison island. I recalled the dream I had before leaving Johannesburg, the day I met the Chief, and knew the two were connected.
The battle Jan and I were thrown into would drain our ability to fund a trip to South Africa, and effectively cut us off from her family and friends. Even her son would choose to leave for his father�s home in South Africa by Spring, wanting his teenage life in the city back.
It took over three years to clear the debris of unwanted old friends away, at great personal expense. In between, we hit each INS meeting and requirement right on time with success, staying focused on our love for each other, turning each dutiful trip out to San Francisco and Northern California into a mini vacation and extended honeymoon.
Finally success came one day as we arrived home to find the aging hippy moving Mrs. Scott in the back of his broken down pickup. Her tracks were still warm in the driveway as Jan and I started swabbing the accumulation of cigarette smoke out of the cottage, and repainting the walls and ceilings. A week of smudging for a spiritual clean up, and gallons of paint later, we opened that cottage to new life as a Bed and Breakfast, and immediately attracted guests from around the world who enhanced our life on the farm.
Paul knew nothing about what had happened, having given up on his green card efforts long before. Jan contacted him at one time to see if he would volunteer any information, only to find that he had not heard from his bride since he left. It was only after Jan and our life got back on track that I was able to return to my involvement with the movie I started in 1998, and to my interest in the Herero story pushing at my door.
|68. Teaching And Learning|
I learned much from Jan about a part of Africa that you only know from living there. In return Jan learned about California and farm life from me. Right off the bat Jan sold her Mercedes when our service truck was stolen by my erstwhile friends, and used the money to buy a pickup truck. In return I learned more about the source of respect between many South Africans of any race and color. |
Jan grew up in the early days of apartheid. Her family of Afrikaners lived in Johannesburg and its Western suburbs. Her grandparents lived at Hartebeestpoort and she had gathered her family�s mail at the post office in the building where Mickey and I looked at a restaurant and Afrikaans museum.
Jan had climbed the rocky slopes of the mountains around the face of the dam that I looked at and played in the tunnel I traveled through. Like many young South African children she was lovingly cared for as a child by a black women who loved her, and whom she loved in return.
Through the homes of several stepparents from Jan�s parents' different marriages, as well as the home of her grandparents, then into Capricorn High School in Pietersburg, by her own choice Jan traveled much of South Africa. After her matriculation from Capricorn, she moved to Durban, then Cape Town, a young unmarried mother-to-be, taking a job in a hotel much like many of such hotels she had lived in with her mother while a traveling family of a man who blasted ports for ocean going vessels, or tunnels for trains.
Giving her daughter up to adoption, Jan moved to Johannesburg, where she would not meet her daughter again for nearly 30 years. A hard working, self reliant woman, Jan worked in the advertising industry, the film industry, and after a failed marriage, the adoption of Geoffrey and a foray into the startup IT industry as a single parent, she was with IBM when we met.
These travels and experiences took her as a young adult on her own through most corners of South Africa, Botswana, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Namibia. She crossed the Makgadi Makgadi saltpan, canoed on the Okavango Swamp, and crossed the Drakensberg Mountains. She understood much of the official thirteen languages of South Africa and knew and loved the diverse peoples of her country with equal passion. She danced to the music at Hugh
Masekela�s J & B Junction as one of the few white faces, knew political leader Wally Serote, played football with the young men at the filling station near her home. She was working on the 44th floor of the Carlton Center as masses of black people came from the townships protesting and toi toi dancing down Commissioner street in the mid 1970s. She listened to blues music with black colleagues in her home while BOSS kept watch in the street below, and crouched quietly under 3rd bridge in Moremi Game Reserve where she bathed in the river while a pride of lions padded across the bridge overhead.
As her husband and guide in California, I took Jan to many of the places I had traveled to as a child. Transferring Jan�s timeshare here from Jeffreys Bay, we spent a week with my father in Yosemite, visited my daughter at San Luis Bay, spent a week in San Francisco, walked in the snow at the Grand Tetons, hiked the Pacific Coast Trails along the Oregon coast and climbed Bachelor Mountain in Central Oregon, traveling in our 1961 Ford Ranchero. We saw the desert spring flowers in the canyons of the Hays Mountains, drove over snowy Fandango Pass in the Warner Mountains, went through blinding sand storms at Pyramid Lake, stayed at a sleazy hotel in Lake Tahoe and had a wonderful time dancing to an even sleazier blues band; we ate pancakes with loggers at the Whistle Stop Caf� at the base of Mount Shasta.
We drove up the scenic California coastal Highway 1 from Los Osos to Brookings, Oregon and crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 8,050-foot Pacific Grade Summit on Highway 4 from Markleeville to the Calaveras Sequoia Big trees, where my mother was raised. Through 8,573-foot Carson Pass along the Kit Carson Trail we explored, and down Iron Mountain road to my family�s pioneer home in Coloma, CA. We traveled over Echo Summit into Tahoe Valley, over historic Donner summit into Truckee, CA, and over Yuba pass to the north end of the California gold country at Downeyville. We climbed Mt. Lassen, circled Lake Almanor and Lake Shasta, crossed the three forks of the American River, as well as the Yuba, the Feather, Stanislaus, Carson and Sacramento Rivers, all flowing into San Francisco bay. Standing at the base of a giant Redwood along the Eel River, we heard Redwoods sing, and also along the Smith River in Jedediah Smith State Park. Up and down the Cascade Mountains we cruised, and into their belly through volcanic lava tubes. Oregon was crisscrossed through the Willamette Valley, and up the coast to the four-mile-wide Columbia River at Astoria, then back to the home of friends at Looking Glass along the Umpqua River.
Jan taught me what she had learned about business in the movie industry, and how the black people now move through all aspects of their shared South African world. I taught her about living from our garden and the ways of the high altitude wilderness. I learned how to keep my mouth shut when making a deal, and she learned how to grow tomatoes in the snow. Between the two of us we learned how to focus on our love for each other while solving issues flung at us by the odd behaviors of jealous individuals on both sides of the world.
|69. To Each Their Own|
It takes years to go through the process of moving one�s life from one country to another, no matter how much you apply yourself to the process. Through the first year Jan and I were together we moved her house full of furniture with various degrees of frustrations, successes and loss from Johannesburg through the hoops of the new homeland security regulations in and out of ports of entry until a partial collection of her life arrived at our door. The process for a permanent residency is complicated enough to justify legal counsel, further rearranged by restructuring of the INS after 9-11. |
Between letters to many of my government agencies and public servants, while paying at each door we entered, one hurdle after another was waded through at as many as four different locations, hundreds of miles apart. We had no idea how families on a more limited income can cope, or how the Scott couple thought they had done it all with a Reno wedding.
During that time I kept after my first movie, now guided by Jan, and stayed in contact with the Chief either directly or through one of his daughters, eventually speaking with each of them by phone. The Chief and I drew apart, though the Chief remained consistent in his willingness to work with me right through mid year 2003.
May 19, 2003, I reached his daughter Oshie at their home. The Chief was at his parliamentary office and had left a message for me, asking that I be introduced to a man named Duncan, who would take my calls for now. Duncan, a friend of the family, was there when I called, and I met him over the phone. His manner was businesslike and somewhat detached. He directed me to be in contact with an agent in Hollywood who would now handle any movie about the Chief and his efforts with the international court.
To be respectful of the Chief�s request, I took the contact information for this new Hollywood connection and placed a call, only to find that no one knew about me, or about my communications with the Chief, and had no interest in finding out. After more than a year I had hit a brick wall.
With a full plate of my own, and not knowing why the Chief had set up this dead end road, I had to pursue the things I could handle myself.
I stayed in contact with those I met in South Africa, and moved back into a pushy attitude toward my first movie project. I set up a new website dedicated to a pitch with pictures and details. I found out Marilyn Partridge had passed away. Lou and Jeremy went their separate ways after �Mr. Bones� was completed.
It became increasingly difficult to stay in touch with Lou as he was now traveling internationally to places like Dubai. Jeremy was all over South Africa, but I was able to reach him from time to time. I had asked Jeremy to put me in touch with the woman I had seen on location but was not introduced to, and when he was unable to by July of 2003, I went on line, researched, and found her myself.
Because of my new exposure on the internet, and more direct efforts to be in touch with producers and production companies, my client and I moved from an honored hand-shake agreement to a formal option agreement where I had the film rights in order to safely walk through doors.
Eventually, by the end of September and the beginning of October, I had reached two production companies and was attempting to share my presentation. One company accepted my information, looked it over, and politely came back to me saying that though the material was interesting, it was not a project they wanted at this time. With one turndown under my belt I steamed and stewed for an hour and went back to my notes.
By mid morning I had pushed ahead with my contact information for the next production company and was on the phone with the production assistant, asking for her boss. Thinking that I was part of the production team for the movie they had just finished that day, she put me through to her boss on his cell phone as he left the building.
The head of the production company was gracious and busy. With a quick listen he agreed to accept my information, and asked me to contact him by email, as he was on his way for a much-needed vacation in a remote location and would look at my information when he returned in a month.
I contacted my client with the possible good news, and set out again to focus on my curiosity about the Herero issue, letting Jan�s explanation of Africa affect my researching of history.
The Herero war against the Germans was futile in spite of being heroic, as they disappeared from the world and history almost completely. Europe heard about the atrocities after nearly a six-month delay due to the slow methods of communication, causing the lack of a timely reaction to be viewed as some type of acceptance by the Germans on the ground in Namibia, while the Herero went through the most horrific event in their cultural life.
Still haunted by my dream memory of an African coastal island, I was shattered to read about Namibian concentration camps. Names of places in operation between 1905 and 1907, like Shark Island in Luderitz and Swakopnund concentration camp, came up in my research.
A new problem for the growing European population arose after the effects of killing so many of the natives. Newly confiscated lands could not be properly operated without an inexpensive labor force. The Herero in exile or still hiding had to be lured back into German territory and forced to labor.
Herero were promised they had nothing to fear on their return to the area. German officer Von Estorff explained, �I do not lie, I will issue letters to you so that nothing will happen to you.� Believing this, many Herero returned from hiding in the outlying areas and were directed toward �peaceful� collection points being run by missionaries at Otjihanena and Omburo. One Herero elder was supposedly quoted by a missionary of Omaruru as having said, �We know our Omuhonge, they will not try to trick us.� Instead, the collected starved and demoralized natives where put under military escort and taken to thorn-bushed or barbed wire fenced concentration camps in Swakopmund, Karibib, Windhoek, Okahandja, and Luderitz where thousands of people were compressed into small areas.
Uncontrolled disease swept unhygienic camps where minimal rations were uncooked rice, salt and water. A hell of beatings and maltreatment followed as prisoners were forced to work. Looking like a vision of the World War II Holocaust to come, mortality figures soared to over 45% as statistics collected by German High Command in 1907 showed that, of some17,000 prisoners-of-war, 7,682, died. These camps continued for another two and three years as morbid official figures went even higher.
Jan pointed out to me that between 1904 and 1908 during the Boer War, her grandmother lost children in British-introduced concentration camps where Afrikaner women and children were rounded up and kept captive in order to demoralize the Boer guerrilla fighters in the veldt who gave their lives in battle against the oppressing British soldiers as the Boers (farmers) gave the British a bloody nose. During that same time, on February 16, 1907, Namibian guerilla leader Cornelius Fredericks died in such a camp at windswept �Haifisch� (Shark) Island off the coast of Luderitz .
Captured survivors of Herero guerrilla fighters being kept at the horrific Shark Island were forced to construct railways. Death pervaded these camps of thousands of people, which by 1906 held guerrilla leaders Cornelius Fredericks and Hendrik Witbooi. Suffering from malnutrition, and crowded into tents on the cold and barren inhospitable Shark Island, the prisoners died like flies, taking a toll of as many as 80% of the incarcerated population.
Son of Joseph Fredericks, Edward Fredericks stated in 1917: �In 1906 the Germans took me a prisoner after we had made peace, and sent me with about a thousand other Hottentots to Aus, thence to Luderitzbucht, and finally to Shark Island. We were placed on the island, men, women, and children. We were beaten daily by the Germans, who used sjamboks. They were most cruel to us. We lived in tents on the island; food, blankets, and lashes were given to us in plenty, and the young girls were violated at night by the guards. Six months later we went by boat to Swakopmund, and thence by train to Karibib. Lots of my people died on Shark Island. I put in a list of those who died, (Note. This list comprises 168 males, including the chief, Cornelius Fredericks, 97 females, 66 children, and also 18 Bushman women and children) but it is not complete. I gave up compiling it, as I was afraid we were all going to die. We remained at Karibib for six months, and were returned to Shark Island for a further six months, when we were again removed by sea to Karibib and thence to Okawayo, where we remained till 1915, when the British sent us back by train to Bethany.�
Soon after the closure of the Shark Island concentration camp, British diamond prospector Fred Cornell wrote while visiting Luderiz: �Cold - for the nights are often bitterly cold there - hunger, thirst, exposure, disease, and madness claimed scores of victims every day, and cart loads of their bodies were every day carted over to the back beach, buried in a few inches of sand at low tide, and as the tide came in the bodies went out, food for the sharks.�
Heads and other body parts of victims of Shark Island were taken to Europe where they were in demand to prove the racial �sciences� of Eurocentric theories. In 1912 the racial anatomy study of 17 decapitated Hottentot skulls from Shark Island prisoners, from two-year-old children to a forty-five-year-old woman, were studied and discussed in morbid German morphological and anthropological journals, comparing the skulls to those of apes.
Speculation abounds as to whether any graves from Shark Island camp still exist in or around Luderitz. By now I was sure that the dream I had come to dread at night was about Shark Island. I wondered if this was the place the Chief had wanted to show me. Would I ever go there with him? Could I stand it if I did?
It is April 21, 2007, and I have just finished reading the last entry of my account to Jan while fighting back tears of pain and rage. When I last spoke to the Chief on April 4, 2007, I found out about his run for president of Namibia, perhaps starting when I had been asked to deal with Duncan. My own drama from my adventures in South Africa, and the fight Jan and I endured when we first got married, didn�t carry as much weight now in light of the pain and suffering so many have encountered at the hands of other humans. The Chief�s attempts at reparations are ongoing, with more meetings planned in Europe as we spoke. Somehow the day will come when he and I meet, as remote as that seems from the comfort of my farm in northern California. I can only hope that the world will offer the burial with dignity that the man in my dreams has requested. |
I may only bring personal closure to this, and perhaps end my haunted dreams, when I meet this Chief on his home ground.
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