|Bury Me With Dignity by Russell Winje © 3/1/2007 updated 8/16/2007|
|1. Fevered Dream|
Russ, a country man from the high deserts of California, finds himself in a dream, exploring a remote desert island off the west coast of Southern Africa. What appears to be an abandoned shack across a bleak, open courtyard is approached for a closer look. The stench of a dead animal lying on the porch causes him to throw his hand to his face to prevent the recoil of his stomach. Now he can see that it is a burnt and mutilated black man with arms and legs chopped off. Russ wants to kill him to stop the pain. The black man rises in the air and floats at Russ saying "Don't pity me. Bury me with dignity." |
He wakes from the fevered dream.
|2. Leaving Johannesburg|
Russ wakes from the afternoon nap to a cold overcast Johannesburg day on the south side of the Northcliff with an international flight back to Reno, Nevada scheduled for that day. He is fighting off a cold and fatigue, probably caught while producing a late night international radio show the night before. He is stunned by his dream but has to be on time for his ride to the airport. |
A woman driver arrives at the base of the villa Russ has called home for a month - he has been on movie location with the owner of the villa. He bids his new friend and his family goodbye as they return to their work of providing special effects and props for the movie Russ has watched them work on. Russ maneuvers through the props in the driveway and gets into the waiting car. It speeds off down steep Northcliff streets past minivan taxis filled with black workers and down the twisty mountain road through expensive houses to the highway.
After a stop to get medication at a chemist, the driver delivers Russ to the airport. Together they make their way through a bad airport restaurant, the bustle of international travelers, then security, ending up at the entry to the main lobby. The driver is there to see Russ leave, not to say a friendly goodbye.
|3. The Diplomat|
Making his way into the spacious main lobby of the airport, Russ finds no plane at his departure gate. A well-dressed black man waiting at the empty gate asks Russ  if this is where to depart for Atlanta, Georgia. After a quick exchange, the man rushes off through the crowd, leaving his luggage with Russ, claiming to go for information about the flight. |
Nervously waiting for the man to return, Russ guards his and the man's luggage, not knowing if this is part of a diamond theft scam or a bomb threat. The man returns and announces that they are at the correct gate, invites Russ to sit with him, and opens his briefcase, containing only a sandwich on top of some papers.
A friendly exchange begins in which the two men learn brief details about each other. The man offers to help Russ with his current movie project. Russ finds that his new acquaintance is a diplomat, but learns nothing more about him.
The boarding gate opens, and both men step in line to board the plane.
|4. Crossing The Atlantic|
During the endless flight through Isle De Sol to Atlanta, the two men keep in eye contact across the packed cabin. Just before landing, Russ approaches the Diplomat and confirms than the man has a willingness to help Russ with his project. The Diplomat gives Russ his ordinary sounding details and Russ returns to his seat. In Atlanta the two men rush off in their own separate directions. |
Even before his trip to South Africa was dreamed of, the stress of middle age following the raising of his daughter as a single man causes Russ to ignore a possible breakdown by immersing himself in the rebuilding of an 1860's cottage on his remote farm. Wanting more from his life, he begins to pursue the making of a movie, as if it were one of the bands he had enjoyed promoting so much in the 60's. |
Somehow, Russ knew he would enjoy meeting a woman from another country some day. The promotion of the movie on late night radio shows puts him in contact with people from around the world. After a show on New Years Eve, a woman from Johannesburg flirts with Russ on email. Together, the two lonely adults make arrangements to meet on one side of the Atlantic, or the other.
|6. Lonely Traveler|
Not a seasoned traveler, Russ makes unexpected rapid progress through the passport process and within two weeks is at the gates to the Reno airport, leaving for South Africa. Schedule changes put him in the mix of airports and airplanes a day ahead. His son meets him in Reno before his flight to make sure his dad has not cracked under pressure. Satisfied that his Dad will be OK, the two make plans to meet when Russ returns in a month. |
One airport after another leads the way through Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Georgia and Cape Town, South Africa. A concerned passenger sitting with Russ questions him to make sure this obviously green traveler from the country is aware of what's ahead of him in Johannesburg.
When the fellow traveler asks Russ how it feels to be in Africa, Russ replies "Lonely".
|7. Unexpected Views On The Horizon|
The short stopover flight leaves Cape Town on a milk run to Johannesburg with a new set of business travelers on board. Russ wonders if he can now say that he has been to Africa, even though he did not get off the plane. Arriving in Johannesburg much earlier than scheduled, Russ and fellow passengers are led through the luggage area and customs before entering the main lobby. Russ' concerned fellow passenger waves goodbye. |
Through some confusion caused by a misidentification, Russ finally meets Mickey and together they start an uneasy introduction to each other and Johannesburg. Added confusion caused by Mickey's drinking earlier in the day and the mistaken assumption that her car had been stolen stacks up on Russ' jet lag and his first on the ground encounters with street people and crime on the streets of Johannesburg.
With beer and wine and chips in hand, they come to Mickey's townhouse on the side of Northcliff. Soon they are looking out at the city skyline through burglar bars. Colorful parrot-like birds and loud ibis types add to the newness of the experience as their freedoms contrast with the bad movie-prison impression of life in a Joburg setting.
|Inside the townhouse the two share drinks till Russ falls asleep and Mickey works on her ad business in her small office. By early evening they prepare to leave for a dinner out as Russ learns when to carry money and ID and how to hide things in the not so secure townhouse.|
Mickey and Russ drive out through the townhouse electric gate and back on to the streets of Northcliff. Russ struggles with the new sense of this city as he watches the surprisingly multicoloured throngs of people returning home after work while Mickey drives through streets on the left side of the road. Entering a parking lot of a family restaurant, Mickey deals with the self-proclaimed parking lot security man before entering the establishment. The waiter knows her and brings wine as they order. The dark corners of the parking lot and entrance to the restaurant seem to hold hidden eyes watching their every move. |
As dinner ends, and Russ and Mickey discuss the days ahead of them, it becomes apparent that Russ must exchange his US Dollars for Rand before they return home. After a stop at a darkened parking area outside the Cresta Mall Foreign Exchange, the two cross the four-lane D.F. Malan to a busy Greek market filled with a crowd of women of many races doing last minute shopping.
Returning home Russ reviews his new food and money trying to be confident with so many changes in one day.
|10. Backward Moon Over Sailing Ships|
Outside the townhouse the two sit in the courtyard and discuss security and the need to get Russ set up with his own key and gate device. A late thunderstorm has passed, leaving the air cool and pleasant. Jet lag pushes Russ to bed, only to wake him late in the night at what would have been his California mid morning.|
Searching for a place to sit and watch the full moon move in what appears to be the wrong direction, Russ calculates why the southern hemisphere sky is different. Still confused by the long distance experience, he makes his way back to bed.
The next in a series of confusing and disturbing dreams fills Russ with pictures of some distant historical past of what appears to be ancient Africa. An unknown narrator introduces naked hunters, rock paintings, and a mix of tall sailing ships bringing explorers from different parts of the world. Waking confused by the dream, Russ quickly forgets it as the reality of his new current life situation comes into focus.
|11. Café Crowd|
Mickey announces over morning coffee that she will join Russ and his friend from the radio shows, Bruce, that day to get some pictures for her advertising presentation. When Bruce arrives the three of them set off through Joburg looking for sports fields en route to Melville. |
Bruce wants to introduce Russ to an actor interested in meeting Russ. Parking near the open café, the three find a table and wait for Bruce's friend to arrive. Russ has an instant of recognition, of a 30 year old man seen in a dream he had in California a couple of days before. Russ announces that he will pick out the man in the crowd. Remembering the details of the dream, Russ searches the man out, only to find the man is actually in his late 70s. The aging actor joins the table and is introduced.
Together, the group at the table looks up and down the street at other street cafés and notice more people from the movie industry. Russ excuses himself and approaches a table to introduce himself to one of the men. He would meet this man again in another setting, when he will realize how incestuous the movie industry in South Africa is and how the tangled threads almost always lead back to the SABC.
Leaving Melville after too many drinks, returning through now familiar intersections, they make their way up the hill to the townhouse electric gate. Mickey instructs Russ to look around for hijackers while waiting for the gate to open. Russ sits up half tipsy and sleepy, attempting to be attentive. With a month left in this country he needs to get active with something other than drinking the days away.
Mickey works at her computer late into the night as Russ fights his way through the huge map book of Johannesburg and trying in vain to get North and South straight in his mind. He makes phone calls to people in the Johannesburg area who have appeared on his radio shows over the last couple of years, setting up possible meetings related to his current movie project. Occasionally Mickey makes her way out of her office to visit with Russ or get some coffee in the kitchen while Russ sits at the phone on the bar between the living room and kitchen. |
Studying Russ' notes over his shoulder, Mickey offers that she knows people from her days at SABC and can introduce Russ to some of them. He writes her suggestions into his notebook as she talks.
The next day Mickey sets up a meeting with a man she worked with on commercials, and who lives further up Northcliff. She explains that the man worked with Stephen Simon on "What Dreams May Come". Russ had met Stephen Simon while in Hollywood the year before, and the connection intrigues him.
|13. Northcliff Meeting|
With the meeting set up, they travel higher up the side of Northcliff passing ever more expensive homes. They arrive at a driveway filled with cars. They park across the street near another busy house, and walk up the steep brick paved entry. |
An older man with short thinning black hair greets them at the front entrance, introducing himself as Lou Guessler. They follow him in through a fake rockface gateway where they find a beautiful sprawling two-story brick home a floor above a production studio, all built into the steep side hill. Teams of black workers move pieces of sets around the parking lot. The late summer midday sun is warm in the protection of the courtyard, created around the sets of stairs leading to the entry doors. They follow Lou into a plush living room filled with sculptured polished wood around a large round table covered with photographs and notebooks. Lou's production manager carries in a box to place on the large round table, pulling a couple of chairs to the table.
Lou graciously asks Russ to join him outside. Russ follows him past an older black woman looking out at them from the kitchen, exiting through a double glass door onto a north-facing courtyard against a massive rock bluff. They pass the group of black workers now gathered around the back door to the kitchen as the older black woman shows up again, offering them plates of food. Lou quickly names the men in an introduction courtesy as he passes through them and up a nearly hidden stairway to a huge garden on the hillside above the courtyard. Lou points out over his home at the skyline of Johannesburg showing Russ the CBD, the mine dumps, the zoo and Melville. Lou asks where Russ lives. A clarity fills Russ' head followed by voices that he hears clearly saying, "This man will be very important in your life". Lou stops and turns, looking Russ directly in the eye, as if he had heard the same voices. The men head back to the house as Lou's investment manager arrives.
The men sit around the round table as Lou begins a presentation showing pictures and portfolios from various movies filmed in Africa and California. A quick 15 minutes later Lou asks Russ what brings him to South Africa. Russ explains that he is promoting a movie and briefly relays the story. Lou remarks that the story Russ relates has affected his own and offers to be a part of Russ' project at some point in the future.
Mickey says that she needs to return to her office. Russ' head is spinning as they leave through the rock-faced gate and get into Mickey's car, heading down the road. The skyline now has a new feel as a voice in Russ' head speaks loudly. "Where do you live?" it asked. "California" Russ answers. "You could live here" the voice continued. "I live in California" Russ says again. "YOU LIVE HERE!" it continues. Russ is shocked but knows he is being put on the spot for a reason. Russ answers, "I live here, but I will go home to California." "YOU LIVE HERE!" the voice demands. "OK! I live here. I live here. This is now my home!" Russ agrees. The voice in his head stops. Russ looks at the mountain he is on, and knows he really could live here. It is beautiful.
|14. Finishing Off Duties|
Soon they are through the security gate at the townhouses. Mickey says she will get some papers and they'll go to get Russ a set of keys. Moments later they are off again and heading back to the Cresta Mall to a security shop. They then drive across town for a bite at a sports bar packed with large young men loudly pushing and shoving each other while watching a rugby match on TV. Mickey and Russ sit at an outside table as the afternoon cools to an early evening. The two agree to go to a park for a walk. |
They drive to a wooded park along a pond. It is dusk by the time they reach the top of the park, and dog owners are quickly disappearing to the parking areas. At a half run the two take to ever-darker streets around the park, heading quickly back to the car. They get in the car, locking the doors behind them, before leaving the parking to head back to the townhouse for the night.
The next day they hit the roads looping through the spokes of streets of Joburg arriving at the Black Eagle Park. A botanical garden path takes them through picnic tables and food vendors to a waterfall where children are playing. Black eagles circle the bluffs at the top of the cliff. It is like Russ' own home, where golden and bald eagles circle his own waterfalls. The day draws to a close as they head back to the townhouse.
They cook dinner together as the phone rings. Mickey's Mom is calling from Cape Town to check on her. Mickey is not allowed to talk to her Dad, as she has been ill and that upsets him. Mickey gets off the phone and asks for more wine.
Dinner conversation is louder than days before, the sound probably passing through the paper-thin townhouse walls. Medleys of words and laughter fill the room. The dinner is goood and the wine better. The night draws to a close, as things eventually get quieter.
That night Russ' dream begins with English missionaries mixing with natives, followed by German missionaries dressed as if in the mid 1800's. A struggle between natives and the newcomers is leading to conflict. There are outbreaks of violence, and a feeling of impending doom. Nervous from the restless dream Russ struggles to wake, hoping to forget the dream and deal with his own life drama.
|15. Breakfast For One|
The next morning Russ sits by the open, barred sliding glass door with his Tarot deck. The death card comes up first. It is Sunday, and Mickey is still asleep. Russ has his own set of keys now and decides to get away for breakfast somewhere. |
He leaves through the security gate. Few people are out yet, mainly well-dressed black couples on foot. Guarded smiles passed between Russ and the couples. Russ comes out on the highway from a back street and finds a man working in the open air in front of his shop and asks for directions to a restaurant. The man checks Russ out and directs him to the place where the man likes to eat breakfast.
The restaurant is easy to find. The cook and waitress are arguing like a married couple. Russ is the first customer. The cook calls out the special to his wife and Russ accepts. Two men come in with a young boy dressed for a sports event. A shop across the alley rattles as the heavily barred entry gate rolls back exposing an open shop door, the shopkeeper looks up and down the street before wiping his hands on his apron and disappearing back into his shop.
Hunger sated, Russ heads back to D.F Malan Drive , the main road. There are more black people dressed in fine colorful clothes. Large black women walk in twos and threes carrying small bundles. Russ follows this crowd of women a few blocks before heading uphill to the townhouse. A beautiful sunny street lined with trees climbs toward the townhouse. a few lone black men come down the street. Looking around to make sure he is alone, Russ opens the security gate and waits for it to close. Mickey can be heard in the living room talking to herself loudly, asking where Russ is.
Russ clicks the door with his key and she turns, a bit red-faced and watches him enter.
She scolds him for leaving on his own. She offers to take them to Hartebeestpoort before lunch.
|16. Attacked In My Sleep|
The two leave the townhouse and drive out of town on D.F. Malan Drive. The tarred surface ends and Mickey nervously says she is lost. She turns around and goes back to the paved road. It is clouding up for an afternoon rain as they pick up speed through quiet back roads, coming to a busy intersection with fruit vendors. Crossing the main road, they are back in Sunday traffic heading toward what looks like a flea market in the distance. They get out and follow the crowds through table displays of rugs, jewelry, magazines, shoes and leather coats. Getting restless and crowded, they move ahead to a museum at a restaurant overlooking a canyon. They make their way through the museum, looking for the entry to the restaurant, only to find it closed. They head to another restaurant further down the road. |
Back in the car Mickey's cell phone rings. It is an old boyfriend from school, who is asking her out. She declines. They speed off toward the dam. Crossing Hartebeestpoort Dam's face and into a tunnel through the mountainside they enter a busy parking area with Sunday tourists. Mickey leads the way to a restaurant that is dark and closed off. A waiter approaches and tells them that the power has just gone off due to an electric storm.
He offers to seat them at an outside table. Mickey rudely orders two cans of beer and two glasses. Mickey drinks her beer quickly, leaving some money at the cash register on the way out.
Mickey is silent on the way home. Without much conversation they come back through the security gate and into the town house. Mickey ducks into her office and closes the door, getting on the phone to the old boy friend who had called her earlier.
Russ waits for the phone to be put down and starts making phone calls to change his return flight to an earlier date, then decides to wait and see if things get better before giving up on seeing this part of the world. Time drags on uncomfortably until nearly midnight. Russ waits in the living room to see if Mickey is ever going to come out of the office.
The door to the office explodes open and she storms out, shouting something about the phone bill. On and on she goes, making little or no sense most of the time. Finally she disappears back into the office. Russ gathers up all his things from around the house and puts them behind the couch next to the piano, packing for his exit the next morning.
Around 3:00am Mickey comes from her office and stops in the hallway. After she huffs, Russ hears the bedroom door close, and soon it is quiet. Russ sleeps lightly that night, expecting to be attacked in his sleep.
Without any control over the process, the sequence of dreams once again begins to unfold. A pleasant view over multicolored desert sand dunes quiets his fears at first, only to be followed by the smell of death. Views of colonists, then concentration camps cause him to wake before the bedroom door opens again. Russ is awake for an hour by the time Mickey comes into the room again.
|17. Time To Find A Friend|
That morning, Russ makes hasty phone calls and quietly arranges a room with Lou. The production manager will pick Russ up at the front gate to the townhouse. Mickey is surprised, but leaves for her new job, expecting Russ to change his mind and be at the townhouse when she returns. |
Russ waits outside the townhouse security fence with his luggage, only to be confronted by a black man. Russ reacts in anger and the man beats a retreat. A woman in the townhouse sees this occur and insist that Russ comes to her apartment to wait, offering tea and the use of her phone. The woman, an older retired teacher and counselor, explains that she has seen that Mickey has problems with her relationships.
Russ is shown how to open the security gate, and is asked to wait in the secure parking area till his ride arrives. The production manager takes Russ to Lou's home where a group of men are waiting to go out on location.
Lou greats Russ and explains that they must leave for location, adding that Russ must join them. An hour long journey is punctuated by conversations about the history of South Africa and how it has touched each man in the car. On location at Glen Afric, or Brooker's Farm, the men fall into their individual job routines. |
One man gets out and heads right for the kitchen for a cup of coffee to carry around, with a cigarette in the other hand. Lou heads off to find a production designer who would show Lou where to locate his set for an animal shoot. After work the men drive back to town at breakneck speed and drop everyone off at Lou's. Russ and Lou head out again, this time to see the greensmen at Honeydew.
When they arrive at the greensmen's home, two men are busy dealing with security issues. A huge mastiff comes up and speaks mentally to Russ, explaining life as a guard dog. This is the start of more animal communication to follow. Russ wonders how many animals have been speaking throughout his life, and he simply was not listening.
After a cup of coffee, Russ and Robbie make their way out of the compound and back to Northcliff. Over dinner at a hamburger place, Lou asks Russ what is going on in his life. Russ explains in detail, but leaves out the disturbing dreams. Lou says that Russ must stay with him until his return to the US.
Back at the villa, Lou shows Russ around the house and sets him up for the stay, explaining that some time that month Lou's love of his life will be moving in with their twins and her two children.
That night a black man speaks to Russ in his dreams. The dream is short and Russ has no idea of its source. Because it is so profound and clear Russ remembers it when he wakes.
|19. New Plans|
The next morning Russ knows that he really can live here, as the voices had suggested, waking next to a window without burglar bars for the first time since he arrived in South Africa. He studies the stress showing on his aging face in his private bathroom before making his way to the 2nd floor balcony overlooking the sunrise over the city below. The maid shows up with tea, expecting Lou, but finds that Russ has moved in without her knowing. She leaves the tea and returns to the kitchen, briefly looking at the room that Russ has moved into. Lou lights a cigarette as he joins Russ on the balcony, setting the pattern for many morning visits to come. The maid returns with more tea. |
The two men talk about the day ahead. Lou will be making arrangements to move Evan's household in with his. Russ needs to tell the people he came to South Africa to interview that he has moved, and set new meeting days. Bruce agrees to drive Russ around to see some people, getting directions to Lou's house.
|20. Starting To Pop|
Russ makes calls and rearranges meetings. Lou returns and reads the list of people over Russ' shoulder. Lou says he will be going on location again that afternoon and ask Russ to join him. Lou suggests that they arrange a braai for that night so Russ can introduce his project to some of the people on his list and some of the people Lou knows.|
Russ leaves for the back courtyard to clear his head. The voices in his head once again call on him to notice new impressions; this time about some previously unnoticed invisible electric spinning wind. The lesson stops and a new voice, sounding like a Southern African man, enters Russ' head, simply saying "I'm Paul" then fades away, leaving only the sounds of the traffic in the streets below.
A car pulls up and honks. It's Bruce at the front gate. Russ meets Bruce at the front gate as he asks if he can come in and meet Lou. Russ offers that there is a braai that night, and that Bruce is invited. Bruce and Russ drive off to the first meeting with a woman whose life has been deeply touched by Russ' movie project.
|21. Ring Of Truth|
Wondering how this new voice from Paul will fit into his life, Russ has to allow this event to run its course, hoping the reasons for the new details will become apparent.|
With directions to Patricia's house, one of the people who had been on Russ' radio shows, Russ and Bruce arrive at the door of an older house, run down a bit after the man of the house has died. Patricia waits behind a security gate, and leads them into her modest home.
Patricia's daughter arrives. Patricia starts to tell her deeply personal story connected to Russ' movie project, complete with photographs and souvenirs. She slips a fabled magic ring off her finger and offers it to Russ, who puts in on his finger, not knowing what to expect. All that comes is a sense of some open psychic space, no voices, no feedback. Russ gives the ring back to Patricia who slips it back over the worn groove on her old finger.
Russ invites Patricia to the braai that night. Though she does not drive at night, she agrees to try and join the party that night. She arranges to join Russ and Bruce at another meeting with people affected by the movie. Patricia sees the men off at the main door. Her face a bit distorted, as she seems to slip away in her mind, not quite seeing the two men as the security gate squeaks and pops as it closes behind them. Patricia slips backed into her house, pulling the doors closed behind her.
Preparations begin for the braai back at Lou's studio as the day's business is wrapped up. Both Lou and Russ are short of money but make a plan to feed the invited guests. |
Russ has kept money aside for groceries, so the two men head out on a shopping trip to a farmer's market. When Lou stops at a small shop to get some fresh bread to add to the meal, he explains that he has not had a dinner party at his home in 15 years, but emphasizes that this is Russ' home too, and that he's really looking forward to the party.
The two men enter the secured parking at a farmer's market and join the crowd of mothers and children of many races, filling the cart with a variety of vegetables and fruit, along with chickens from the fresh meat selection, tea and coffee, but no booze. At the checkout, a black woman in line looks over Russ' cart and remarks on the fresh chickens, sending her daughter back to get one. The two men head home at dusk, in time to prepare the food and fire for the Braai.
The driveway at the studio is blocked with the greensmen's broken down truck. The greensmen are struggling with a repair as Russ and Lou carry in groceries. Lou and Russ prepare the braai, as guests start to arrive. The crowd is a mix of producers, editors, production managers, and artists. Russ sets up meetings with the editor and other guests. Across the street the illegal Shebeen is busy.|
The dinner is prepared and served onto plates as conversation and cigarette smoke surround the kitchen countertop. The noise of voices in celebration of introductions fills the driveway and staircase, each person trying to impress the other with their work history. Lou spends most of his time at the back door with his cigarette glowing in the dark. The food plates are mostly empty, and bellies mostly full with the stories mostly told, as the night draws to a close.
As the last guests left, Lou shakes his cigarette pack and drops the last fag into his hand. He gathers up his keys and he and Russ head out to a late-closing store down the street. The cars at the Shebeen have thinned out after a busy night. Lou drives through the sleeping community to a Spa grocery store. Few cars fill the parking spots closest to the entry door. The two men hurry into the store, not knowing who is keeping an eye on the parking lot this time of night. Lou's stress from a party has been on the surface even though politely concealed. When they return home, town is quieter. Off in the distance a car alarm goes off and a dog barks. Somewhere else a gun goes off and a woman screams, then it's quiet again.
That night Russ walks through dreams mixed with the voices that have become familiar. One voices introduces itself as a member of a dignified people who did not ask to die in a humiliating manner. A scene of military engaging with ill-equipped natives ends badly in a remote desert as the natives try to escape the horror. Fleeing men are slain. Women and children are chained together by their necks. There is no escape for Russ either as he wakes with a familiar sound.
|24. Editor's Eye|
Russ is woken by the sound of an owl outside his window. Later, hadidahs fly in from the east and take up positions on various trees along the slopes shouting "Go Away!" Over coffee and eggs on toast, Lou and Russ talk about the night before. Lou enjoyed the company, though he still had mixed feelings about entertaining. The two men agree to meet back at the Northcliff studio in the afternoon. |
Bruce arrives by 9:30 am and takes Russ to Auckland Park. Near the base of the SABC building, they pull up to a security gate in a tall white cement textured wall.
The gates pull back, and Cecil stands in the parking lot in front of his open triple garage doors. He leads the men past his new SUV, classic Mercedes and white BMW and on into the hallway of his house. They proceed to the complex containing his editing equipment, private office and secretary's office, surrounding an open courtyard. Cecil finishes with phone calls and emails then offers to share his film editing projects as his editor enters and requests his approval of her morning's work.
After the presentation, Cecil takes Russ aside in his office to ask about his project. Cecil is aware of Russ' personal experiences in Joburg, as it is a small community and Mickey had applied for an editing job with Cecil. Russ is interested in Cecil's work, and makes arrangements to have him on the next radio show. Cecil suggests that Russ' personal story should be told, instead of the movie project Russ is promoting
Cecil offers lunch in Melville. Bruce flirts with the lady editor and is turned down when he asks her to join them for lunch. In Melville, the three men walk down the middle of the side streets, avoiding alleys and parked service vehicles. Though surrounded by a modern city, the constant call to caution that pervades everyone's daily life makes Russ realize he is living in a third world atmosphere.
|25. Lion's Cave|
After lunch Russ returns to Lou's studio. Lou is on the phone with the animal trainer in charge of a lion. He joins Russ in the driveway and offers him a caffeine packed "Red Bull". They speed off through Northcliff in the midday sun, Lou balancing a cigarette and a can of Red Bull while negotiating turns through residential streets, past small malls, then open road near a township, skirting a lion park. |
They are on the way to meet the production designer, to talk about the cave and its placement. He negotiates through the location trailers and past the parking lot and canteen then down a small farm road through a group of trees surrounding rocks where the lion cave is going.
Down the slope, a cage sits in the shade near the almost dry creek. With an impish smile, Lou offers to take Russ' picture with the caged lion. The lion is pacing. He produces a small camera from his pocket and snaps the shot. The production designer arrives as Lou takes the picture, and questions why Lou is around the lion. Lou laughs and says the Yank wanted a picture with the lion. Lou is warned that he has made the producers nervous, and must comply.
Russ walks away from the men to let them work, and to clear his own head. Alone for the first time in the open air since he arrived in South Africa, Russ bends down to touch the earth. A spark of connection to the earth hits Russ and causes his heart to race, sweat pouring from his face. Russ tries to stand up then drops to his knees with a sound of blood rushing in his head. He first thought is that he's having a heart attack. The reality of the fool's journey he finds himself on causes tears to well up in his eyes as he wonders if his life will end right here? Breathing becomes difficult and the fear of passing out causes him to try and stand again and refocus as his muffled hearing brings Lou's voice to the surface.
Lou grabs Russ' elbow and walks him away. Lou tries to get Russ to focus on the things around them, showing him the giraffe, wildebeest and kudu being fed. Lou studies Russ' face till Russ responds to him, then the two men sit on a limb to watch the animals follow the feed truck. Russ wipes his face and agrees that he is OK now, offering that it must have been the caffeine as he rubs his face trying to hide his fears. As they return to the BMW to leave, a difference has come over Russ. The breakdown he avoided the month before had peaked, and would no longer plague him.
Back at Northcliff that evening, Jeremy had found a driver for the next day and had been busy loading the truck with the rock wall to go to location to construct the cave. Russ is asked to give a hand with the setup in the days to come.
|26. Names For The Future|
In the morning, Lou and Russ make plans to meet up in the afternoon. The first truckload of feather-light cave props are loaded and heading down Ethel en route to location.|
Patricia arrives to pick up Russ and head to Melville to find Bruce at his rental. With a quick shuffle of coats and notebooks, Bruce gets into the car and they wend their way through the back streets toward a main road. Near an animal rescue farm, they take the long drive leading to Arleta and Burt Forbes, who live in a very rural setting on a 5-acre estate overlooking a canyon, with the skyline of Joburg barely visible. Burt meets them in the driveway and greets them. A table is set in the landscaped garden for tea.
Arleta comes from the house with a tray of cookies and tea. She has a screenplay she and Patricia have been looking over, and modifying, already on the table. Bruce studies the food and starts to help himself despite a disapproving glance from Arleta. She asks everyone if they would like some tea and biscuits.
Soon separate conversations start around the table. Patricia and Arleta engage Bruce while Burt motions Russ to follow him to his new koi pond. Burt asks Russ questions about his project. When they return, Burt gives Arleta an approving smile and suggests that she share the names she has connected to Russ' project.
With the air of superiority about her, Arleta produces a notebook from her briefcase. Clearing her voice from the years of cigarette smoke and looking over her bifocals, she offers names and phone numbers of people. She suggests Russ contact Credo Mutwa, a spiritual leader of the Zulu, offering the use of her phone. Accepting her generous offer, Russ calls Credo Mutwa. A meeting is set up for the coming Monday. After tea, Russ, Bruce and Patricia make their farewells and head back to Joburg.
Patricia drops Russ off at the gate leading up to Lou's studio. Russ holds the gate open for Lou's BMW coming out of the garage. Jeremy has asked the two men to help with the rock features to be displayed on location and soon they're heading away from Northcliff. Lou tells Russ that Marilyn Partridge called to arrange a dinner on that Saturday. Lou takes a different way to location and drives around the back of Northcliff and north toward the Lion Park. |
On location they find the truckload of rock features precariously perched on the top of the ridge. One feature is about to fall as Lou and Russ run to help the workers struggling to keep it balanced. Being much taller than Lou, Russ reaches over his head and pushes with all his strength until another tall black man's hand hits right alongside his and together they take the load until the piece is resting safely on the ground. Smiling at each other, Russ looks him in the face and remembers the day he stood outside Mickey's gate waiting for Jeremy Pond. This is the man who had approached him! They had been introduced to each other on the day of the first meeting at Lou's.
Once the whole load is on the ground, Jeremy takes the workers back to town to meet the taxis that take them home. The animal trainer, Bruce, comes up the side hill to study the pile of fiberglass rocks, telling Lou where to set up the cave.
Producers join the men. Bruce explains that the lion will need to be let out in the open and will need to see his own cage, or there will be problems. Lou agrees to the new placement and heads back to the pile of rock features. With an impish grin, Lou points out letters making up his name on the cave rocks, pointing out that the camera will catch it. These were the rock features from "Ghost and the Darkness". No one knew that Lou was reusing these features.
|28. Theme Park|
When they return to the studio, Ronald Rubenstein is on the phone to ask Russ if he can take Russ to meet the screenplay writer that evening. In no time at all Ronald is at the front door letting himself in, after a quick knock. Ronald expresses a willingness to invest in projects that hold his interest, such as the one Russ is promoting. Ronald has a night of video and demonstrations planned. At Ronald's home the screenplay writer is pulling in, along with a lady friend of Ronald's. |
Ronald is a fine host with a presentation ready. The screenplay writer, Molly, asks about Russ' project. She explains when she might be available. Ronald had not expected that response and the disappointment shows briefly before he asks Russ to join him in his garage/showroom.
Ronald leads Russ through his well-appointed kitchen and out to his three car garage where he has a mockup of an intricate entertainment complex that Lou constructed for Ronald. The theme park was an attempt to introduce the public to extraterrestrials through information and adventure rides. The men return to the women in the living room and Molly is asks if she can take Russ back to Lou's on her way home.
Lou's house is unusually dark and quiet as Russ makes his way through the house. Once again, he hears the white eagle owl on the bank next to his window. As Russ sleeps, strange visions of Nazis and women and children in concentration camps confuse him. Women prisoners are scraping flesh off the skulls of prisoners. Waking from the dream, Russ wonders how his own drama might be clouding any dreams he has had.
|29. Mr. Bones?|
That morning Lou and Russ discuss the presentation Russ saw at Ronald's, while preparing for an early day on location. Jeremy calls from location to ask about food for the workers and Lou assures him that they will be fed as part of his crew.|
With an early start they drive out through the battered and bruised minivan taxis at every intersection. There is pandemonium on wheels everywhere. On location Jeremy and the workers have started to unload the second truckload on the hill near the other cave materials. The pieces of the cave wall move down the hill like leaves in the jaws of African Ants. The men work through the morning break and up to lunchtime. Lou announces that it is time to eat, and leads the way down the hill to the cafeteria.
When the line is moving freely, Lou steps into line with his men. The food line stops when the first black man picks up a plate. Other white men step around the black men, and grab plates while the first black man looks down at the well-trodden ground and just waits. Lou pushes his way through the white men and demands that his men be fed. Lou is told to take a plate for himself and to let the men wait. Instead he pulls out of line with his men, in a show of solidarity and walks around looking for a confrontation with whoever looks back at him. Lou stumbles across the pelvic bone of an animal, and puts it on his head like a mask, looking out through the leg joint holes as he walks around the tables checking everyone's plate. People try in vain to ignore him. The line is smaller now and the cook motions to the black men to join in, seeing the tension growing in the crowd. The black men are nervous, and simply stand around with their plates of food and eat in the sun. Lou looks around the crowd and says "After all, this is Mr. Bones, isn't it?"
|30. Just Desserts|
Back at the studio that night Dee calls and asks Russ to join her for dessert at her house. Adam comes to pick Russ up. Lou again arranges for Russ to let himself in that night. |
Over dessert at Dee's Russ is told about Dee and Lou's failed marriage and the complex ET experience that brought it about. Dee is to be one of the guests on Russ' upcoming radio show, and wants to tell her story ahead of time. Russ' project has opened old wounds in both Dee and Lou, and maybe some healing could come from it.
Dee and Lou's adult daughter arrives and Russ finds that the room he has at Lou's is her room when she spends time with her dad.
|31. Family Day|
Lou and Russ start a day planned around Evan's family. Jeremy has finished the cave setup and watched the lion do a 13 second routine successfully through the cave. Evan arrives with the children and plans are made for the day. Lou drives the group off through the city en route to Evan's family farm where several members of her family wait to take care of inheritance business after the death of Evan's father. Russ and Lou are outsiders, and not very welcome. Though the family invites the pair to join them, the offer is turned down, and Evan returns to Johannesburg with them. Lou's daughter asks them to stop by her school for a brief opportunity to show her dad how well she is doing in the school he has sponsored. Afterwards Russ is taken back to the studio for the night as Lou and Evan have planned an evening together. |
Russ checks the house and comes out to look up and down the street, walking up the road to look at an empty lot for sale, wondering if he might afford it. He checks out the busy Shebeen from the road above it wondering how people contact the owners to make a purchase. Turning to come back in the yard, he sees Martha sitting with her daughter and grandson at the bank overlooking the road, with her cabin behind them. Everyone is enjoying the cooling evening together, each after a day with family.
|32. African Drums|
That night Russ sits overlooking the street from inside Lou's yard, hidden in the trees next to an artificial baobab tree, as people come and go to the shebeen. The next morning he sits alone on the balcony. Lou returns home and suggests that they go to the Rosebank flea market. |
The flea market is in a parking structure and gives a tourists exposure to African art and lifestyles. Lou takes care of business as Russ finds his way through the crowd, greeting people he has met already, and mistaking one woman for Mickey. Lou shows Russ the type of artwork used in movie props while leading the two men through vendors and teams of men drumming in a stair well. As Russ and Lou leave for home, Lou offers to drive Russ to Credo Mutwa's home the next day.
On Monday morning, Lou and Russ head out with the morning traffic following directions to Credo Mutwa's home. To avoid slower main roads Lou races off through back roads while Russ calls ahead to say he will be late for the meeting. Lou's wild driving puts them at Credo's gate on time, and the gardener lets Russ into the compound. As Russ follows the gardener's directions past multiple houses, Credo calls out to him and directs him into his home based studio. |
Over tea the two men talk about Elizabeth and her space contacts. Credo asks Russ to go with a worker and bring a mural sized painting of Credo's into the daylight so Russ can see the future expressed on canvas. When Russ returns to the studio Credo has painted a figure of a blue space creature called a Matsieng, handing it to Russ with instructions not to show it to anyone till back in California. Credo asks if Russ has met this type of space people. Credo explains why he is concerned about contacts from space, and how these contacts affect his community.
The hour long meeting comes to a close. Russ is discovered in Credo's studio, having been unnoticed by Credo's security man when the gardener let Russ in. Credo ignores the concerns of his manservant and finishes his tea with Russ before saying goodbye.
Russ has a Sunday lunch date with Elizabeth's daughter Marilyn. Bruce sits nervously in his car waiting to take Russ to her house. Together they drive to the upscale guarded community of Parktown. At the address, Russ steps out and presses the entry button in a cement wall and waits. Marilyn is an older woman, dressed in casual but fine clothing, and wearing a beeper on her belt as she is on call as an anesthesiologist. Greeting them at the gate she leads the two men to her plastered white oldish house where her husband Tony lets them in at the front door. Tony works as head archeologist at Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley, and is on his way to a scientific meeting in Poland. |
Marilyn, having been a guest on Russ' radio shows, had much information to share before lunch, including her own painting done by Credo Mutwa as well as paintings by Aubrey Fielding. She points at an older cottage across the street where her mother once lived, and explains that many of the books she is sharing come from the office she and her husband now keep there. Her fine house, though a bit run down now, was quite fancy in its day, and is like a private museum of her and Tony's life, and that of her mother.
Marilyn's age shows on a once elegant frame. Proudly she takes Russ into the dining room, set for lunch. The pressure of telling of her mother's story is apparent in small, but obvious ways. The fragrance of curry follows the tray into the dining room and at Russ' request she describes the meal as being rice with turmeric and a beef dish called Bobotie. A milktart dessert follows and finishes the sideboard display. During a pleasant meal, Marilyn tells her view of the Boer War.
A brief visit to the courtyard and Bruce and Russ excuse themselves and return to Northcliff. Wanting to get back to thinking about his day at Credo Mutwa's, Russ calls Dee to invite her for a cup of coffee in Melville.
|35. Corn Woman|
Dee is one of the few people who would understand what an honor his meeting with Credo had been. She takes Russ to a busy section of Melville lined with dress shops and jewelry stores, and to the Perkup coffee shop. Sharing notes with her, but not the painting by Credo, Russ listens intently as Dee relates similar stories of her own. The two sit quietly as they reflect on their own lives and how this story has affected them.|
After coffee, Dee takes Russ to meet a friend at the Cresta Mall. A pretentious man with too many opinions about Lou, Russ has little interest in the man who rides with them as Dee returns Russ to Northcliff.
At the studio Jeremy is frantically making arrangements for elephant props for the next day. Lou draws Russ' attention to a woman in the driveway who is selling Mealies, and requests that Russ buy some of the corn for dinner. When Russ returns with the corn, Jeremy explains the tasks required of them the next day. The two of them will be working with an elephant on location, starting at daybreak.
|36. Fake Tusks|
They leave the studio at 4:00 am to deliver a set of fake tusks to location. Jeremy finds parking and proceeds to work on the tusk until the trainer arrives for the tusk. Russ stays behind between location trailers housing costumes, makeup and actors. A man sits on the porch of a trailer dressed in a woman's robe as he waits for makeup. The man introduces himself as Leo, and starts a friendly conversation with Russ until he is called to the makeup trailer. |
Jeremy returns for Russ and a toolbox. The two men move forward to a place in the trees where the cameras and equipment wait for the early morning shoot. Russ is instructed to keep hold of the tools and tusks, and stay out of the way. When they approach the elephant, Russ and the elephant have an informative mental conversation about the fake tusks.
The stills photographer is asked by one of the men who had been at the braai to take his picture with Russ. Then the photographer moves Russ into the mix of 35mm cameras and reflectors to take his picture with the working crew. The director protests and the photographer makes excuses while Russ returns to the tusks and tool box.
Actors and crew move from a shot some distance from Russ, and set up next to him, bringing their chairs with them. Russ chats with the actors as they share stories about themselves. One actor, full of fun, teases the other actors, pretending to have snakes in his hands. Actors and crew are called away for one last shot before lunch.
|37. Green Haze|
With one more shot completed, the crew and actors head to lunch. Two women in a bakkie give Jeremy and Russ a ride across the creek to the cafeteria. After lunch, they hitch a ride back in a bakkie loaded with props for a stunt shoot. A fake elephant has been set up during lunch, and the props are to be used to push fake elephant poop out of the elephant's butt. |
A comical scene unfolds as one actor dressed as "Mr. Bones" messes with the fake elephant till the camera stops. The crew set up for the next shot, and one actor takes the place of his stuntman, offering to stand behind the fake elephant as the poop is pushed out. With some argument the shot proceeds, only to fail miserably in an explosion of green haze and fake poop, blowing the 35 mm camera onto the camerawoman. No one is hurt seriously, and the crew and actors gather around the digital display to repeatedly watch the scene unfold. Some bend over, holding their stomachs, as the incredibly hilarious scene captured on tape is played back, over and over. Huge relief that no one had been hurt pervades the gathering.
|38. Unpacking Again|
Russ and Lou are moving most of the contents of Lou's house onto his patio in preparation of truckloads of Evan's furniture arriving. Russ' bags are packed as he has made plans to move in with a friend of Lou's for the remainder of his stay. Evan finds this out just before Russ leaves and insists that he stay, as he has become family. Russ goes away with Lou's friend for the day while Evan unpacks her house into Lou's. When Russ returns after a relaxing day he finds that Evan has set up a special room for him in this house that had been a bachelors pad, now transformed into a home. |
This hospitality is the real South African Afrikaans way that Russ would come to know. He finds his bags in the room, neatly placed alongside a table with a chair set up in the stacks of boxes in the only space available for his private use, with a candle holder and matches, some writing paper and a pen.
While Russ was away, Mickey had called with a request to get together before he left, offering a ride to the airport. Both Lou and Evan are skeptical and warn Russ as if they were his family, offering backup if anything should go wrong.
|39. Swimming In The Crocodile River|
Spending a week as family has been a pleasure for everyone. Even the maid's family were brought into the experience by Evan. Mornings have been spent with Lou and Evan on the balcony. With all the interaction with the family, Russ didn't remember to call Mickey back. |
Lou and Russ have to go out on location. Jeremy is setting up for a stunt along the Crocodile River when the two men locate him near a somewhat abandoned resort. Lou approves of the setup and suggests Jeremy remove it for the night and find a place to store it until morning. As Jeremy tries to turn his car and leave, he drives off the bank and into the Crocodile River. Lou goes for help and Russ stays behind with Jeremy. A ruckus follows in the form of a family of Afrikaners from the rundown resort attempting a comical rescue of the car, without success. Lou returns from location with a driver in a 4 wheel drive truck that pops the car back on the bank. The resort family agrees to keep the props for the night and Lou and Russ return to the studio, nearly hitting a black man on a bicycle in the darkened street when they reach the edge of town. These are the last few hours in Johannesburg for Russ, and his bizarre adventure continues to surprise him.
|40. Closing Out|
When they get back home, Evan has rounded the kids up for a trip to the store before it closes for the night. A normal family evening ensues at the table discussing their day. Evan has taken calls for Russ and announces to him that Mickey confirmed a dinner date for the next evening; Cecil left a message that he would pick Russ up to share some of his work as well as prepare for the upcoming radio show; Dee called with information about the show. Producers and clients are making last minute contact before Russ leaves for California. It is all coming to a fast and furious end. |
On Tuesday morning, Cecil arrives to take Russ to his office. He cues up his documentary on the coelacanth to familiarize Russ be familiar with the subject when the radio show airs, then returns Russ home. Soon afterwards, Mickey arrives to take Russ to dinner. Evan greets Mickey but remains distant with a reminder that they met years before when working at SABC. Mickey and Russ return to the outside tables at the sports bar. The cold air stings Russ' nose as he sneezes and feels a bit chilled, and asks to be taken home. Mickey agrees and arranges to take him to the airport in the morning.
|41. On The Air|
The next day Russ feels hung over even though he hasn't touched alcohol in days. Lou's cigarettes bother Russ for the first time. Burning nose and throat, Russ knows he is better off in bed. Fevered dreams of Africa mix with the memories of his month at Lou's as he sleeps through lunch and dinner and he wakes again at 3:00 AM for his radio show. |
When Russ comes to the kitchen Lou has made coffee and organized the studio so Russ can be ready to co-ordinate the phone calls for the show. Lou heads back to bed. Russ calls the radio show engineer in Oregon and the flurry of phone connections start after breaking world news is aired. Dee is downing coffee and is ready for yet another radio show connected to her story. Cecil is at his editing equipment, taking advantage of the quiet morning.
Apologizing for the possible delay, and explaining the news to the international audience, the introduction music for the show begins, and the host brings each of the guests on by name. Russ has little to say as the other guests are well prepared. Bruce is not put on the show, and comes to see Russ afterwards. Bruce's part of the project had ended and he felt the change. Russ is too ill to give much explanation about the changes. All he can offer is that Mickey is taking him to the airport that day, and that he will contact Bruce when he is back in California. The fever is coming back as Russ returns to the bedroom to get some rest before his flight.
|42. Personal Shambles|
Days before Easter, Russ returns to his home in California only to find that Bruce had been shot in the chest during a car-jacking, and a sports stadium collapsed due to overcrowding. He calls Mickey to get details. Russ' own life is in ruin and needs to be rebuilt after his month away. He pushes ahead with his cabin remodel. From research on the internet, Russ begins to discover much about the diplomat he met at the Johannesburg airport and the mission he is on. He discovers the man is a Paramount Chief seeking reparation for his people for genocidal treatment. Graphic details recorded by Germans reveal the horror that occurred without the world seeing. The connection between Russ' dreams while in Africa and the struggle this Chief is involved in are unmistakable and Russ puts more of the pieces of the puzzle together as he wonders if he will find the man who narrated his dreams, or find that those voices are his own mind speaking to him.
|43. Invisible Namibia|
With more information flooding into his head, Russ becomes his own narrator and third person observer flying in his mind through the history of this part of Africa. Thousands of years of history reveal bushmen and herders interacting with explorers and settlers as the details from the dreams flesh out from reality.|
Conflict between indigenous peoples and Europeans led to outbreaks of violence and the deaths of tens of thousands. Russ is shocked by how the world chose not to see this and wonders how it could have entered his dreams. Was it because it was Africa? Russ contacts the Chief to explain how he has been touched by this.
|44. Producer On The Make|
As Russ tries to get on with his life, the dreams do not let him go. He stays in contact with the Chief to help him make some sense of everything. A producer Russ met on location calls one night, with the news that he is in California and would like to spend some time with Russ, perhaps help with his project. Russ agrees to meet the man in Reno and put him up at the farm for a short time. |
The producer is not particularly helpful, in fact it becomes apparent he is a bum. He very soon attaches himself to a woman whom Russ has been unable to eject from his farm. The two hatch plots while Russ works on his cabin and business.
The producer and the he new lady friend insist on traveling together to Reno when Russ takes the man back to the airport. Russ suspects something is afoot, but is unable to fathom what, and too busy to give it another thought.
|45. Bride And Groom|
Though Russ is taking the producer to the airport in Reno, the producer and his friend have different plans. They direct Russ to the downtown area and announce their intention to get married. The producer tells Russ he wants Russ to be best man, as if this is first prize. What can Russ say to such an offer? Look at the entertainment factor alone! The procedure is a circus. Neither the bride nor groom know the procedure and have to wander from one building to another until all the papers are in place. With traffic-stopping ignorance, they ask Russ to take them to the INS so the producer can get a green card before leaving town. Of course, their ignorance shows as they are turned down in their ill fated attempt to fool the authorities.|
Russ drops the producer off at a motel for the night. He evaluates what has brought him to this point and wonders if his own search for a change in his life looks as bizarre.
|46. Dreaming And Living The Nightmare|
During the four-hour return trip to the farm Russ ignores the new bride's chattering and goes into his own thoughts as he reevaluates the information about the Chief and the people he represents. |
This uncomplicated man had spoken with eloquence when Russ talked to him about his title and quest for reparations from the German Government. He also discovered that the Chief was a member of parliament. Because the Germans kept remarkably complete records, he found much of the information in his dreams in the history of the Chief's country.
The Natives fought heroically against the Germans but lost disastrously. Men, women and children had died in the desert battles, in concentration camps and on labour farms. Russ was told by the Chief that the case against the Germans had been dismissed because the court they filed in had no jurisdiction over this matter.
In the course of many phone calls to the Chief, Russ meets each of his daughters as the Chief is busy with the next steps of his appeal, as well as running for president of his country.
The time to think has allowed Russ to put things in perspective and he feels ready to look at his own life again, perhaps to bring his own nightmares, and possibly those of the Chief, to an end. Despite the late hour when he reaches his farm, Russ checks his office for messages.
|47. Reno Tahoe International Airport|
Russ begins to heal as he learns that he is not desperate and lonely, but very busy and alone. He now knows his self worth is owned, not acquired externally. To have a partner in his life, Russ needs to be strong, be himself. Perhaps the disturbing dreams brought their own lessons and showed Russ a way forward to an unexpected future. The only value derived from the producer's stay had been an introduction to a woman the producer knew in South Africa; Russ had shot her an initial email before leaving for Reno that day and finds a response from her upon returning. Their correspondence soon becomes the highlight of his days.
Russ and Jan begin to share details about their lives in a mature and friendly manner, strikingly different than communication between Russ and Mickey. Jan has a busy life as a single working mother with a good job and home of her own, with no reason to fill her life with unrealistic expectations. The next month of communication is fun, exciting, and unexpectedly draws them towards each other.
Russ is determined to not influence Jan beyond any conclusions she comes to herself, and they slowly find out that they want to know more about each other. Within a month, they are making plans for Jan and her son to visit Russ during their Christmas vacation. Flying through the visa process and across the world, Jan and her son arrived at the Reno International Airport on January 1st, where Russ waits for them to take them to his home.
The trio spend a night in Reno to allow the international travelers to rest before the four hour ride ahead of them. The lights and clatter of the casino town seem obscene to the three so desperately in need of peace and serenity. |
Having been to South Africa, Russ understands the strangeness the travelers must feel as they walk through the casino town with its cornucopia of food and pleasures. Jan and Russ are filled with another abundance as they spend the first of many nights ahead together.
Reno had been Russ' town since he attended University in the late 60's, and he knows how to lead them through the circus and out the other end the next day.
|49. Cultural? Shock|
Snow fell in the night and covers the rooftops of Reno. Jan and Geoff had come from the hot beaches of a South African Christmas vacation to a Sierra Nevada winter as they drive out to the farm in the Cascade Warner Mountains, stopping in Alturas for a late lunch before the last hour of the journey over 6,500 foot Cedar Pass. |
Abundant deer herds crowd the fields and frequently push across the road in front of them as shadows cast by the Warner Mountains pass over Miller Creek at the 1870's farmstead, giving Jan her first view of her home for the next two weeks.
Russ is called out to work the next day, and the visitors graciously join him. Russ takes Jan and Geoff to a local restaurant for lunch and introduces them to various members of the community. No one is left out of the introductions, and the hardened faces of the overworked men and women soften as they each reach out to greet the newcomers with a handshake. Although the ranchers and Mexican working families are new to her, in some way they are familiar to Jan, they are so similar to working people back in South Africa. They are all hard working, honest people with families and goals. Russ and Jan's own goals now draw them together as a family and within days Russ asks Jan to marry him.
|50. Cathedral Ceilings|
About a year before, Russ had been in the county offices to get a passport in a hurried preparation for leaving for South Africa. The same ladies now helped Russ and Jan walk through the process of a marriage license. Russ expected that his supposed friends would enjoy the fact that Jan and he would marry. All caught up in thier own moment, Russ was unaware of the undertow of tension building because of his decision to marry. |
The cottage now was a wonderful place for a marriage. The long hours of work had built toward a future that was now opening in front them. As two adults in their 50's, both Jan and Russ had many lessons behind them, and a willingness to use those experiences to enhance their time together. Jan and Russ moved into the Cottage as a honeymoon getaway for a short three days before the next round of trouble came unannounced.
The producer's wife has became a squatter on the farm, and threat and attacks started claiming Jan to be an illegal alien. People Russ had thought were friends conspired to put claims on his farm.
One of the few people to actually see the blessing in this union was the Chief who congratulated the newlyweds, then told Russ that he would like to have him come to see a mass grave recently discovered on what had been a prison island.
Russ recalled the dream he had before leaving Johannesburg, the day he met the Chief, and knew the two were connected. But the battle Jan and Russ were thrown into drained our ability to fund a trip to South Africa. It took over a year to clear the debris of unwanted old friends away, at great personal expense. Instead the two turned the problems into opportunities, making the cottage a Bed and Breakfast, and attracting guest from around the world. Only then could Russ turn his attentions back to the Chief's story.
|51. Dogs And Pickup Trucks Or A White African American|
Russ and Jan are both familiar with their own parts of the world and have much to share. Jan consolidates her life earnings in South Africa and embraces her new home, spending part of her money on a new pickup truck for their business. Together they work and travel in the western states crossing one high mountain pass after another. In their travels Russ learns how similar and how different California is to South Africa as Jan shares her comparisons of the two parts of the world. Russ also learns about the respect between many South Africans of any race and color. |
Jan had grown 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 Russ had looked at an Afrikaans museum. Jan had climbed the rocky slopes of the mountains around the face of the dam. Like many young South African children she was lovingly cared for as a child by a black woman who loved her, and whom she loved in return. She traveled extensively through Southern Africa, spoke many of the official 13 languages of South Africa and knew and loved the diverse peoples of her country with equal passion.
Russ takes Jan and Geoff through the world of his past, through Yosemite, San Francisco, the coastal and Sierra Redwoods, introducing her to the land and its people.
Jan teaches Russ 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. Russ teaches her about living from their garden and the ways of the high altitude wilderness. Russ learns how to keep his mouth shut when making a deal, and she learns how to grow tomatoes in the snow. The two of them learn how to focus on their love for each other while solving issues flung at us by the odd behaviors of jealous individuals on both sides of the world.
|52. A Life Of 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. The process for a permanent residency is complicated and expensive. Between letters to many government agencies and public servants, while paying at each door they enter, one hurdle after another is waded through. During that time Russ keeps after his first movie, now guided by Jan and stays in contact with the Chief either directly, or through one of his daughters. The Chief and Russ draw apart, though the Chief remains consistent in his willingness to work with Russ right through midyear 2003. Eventually Russ hits a dead end with the Chief when a third party is brought in to represent the Chief, and Russ has to turn his attentions on his own life. |
With Jan's help, Russ prepares a presentation for his first movie project and succeeds in getting it into the hands of a major production company. With possibilities of this project now moving forward on its own, Russ turns his attentions on the African story that has remained in the back of his mind, once again going over the history that relates to his disturbing dreams.
Russ learns about the unexpected connections to places like Shark Island concentration camp and British concentration camps in the Boer War. Ill-conceived racial "sciences" and Eurocentric theories are discussed in morbid German morphological and anthropological journals, comparing the skulls of natives to those of apes. Names like Hitler, and Fischer and Mengele mix with those of heroic native leaders.
Russ wonders if the concentration camp holds the mass graves the Chief wanted to show to him.
|53. Details But No Dignity|
|It is April 21, 2007, Russ reads his last entry of his account to Jan while fighting back tears of pain and rage. His own drama from adventures in South Africa, and the fight Jan and he endured when first married didn't carry as much weight now, in light of the pain and suffering others have encountered at the hands of other humans. The Chief's attempts at reparations are ongoing, with more meetings planned when he and Russ last spoke. Somehow the day would come when he and Russ would meet. Russ could only hope that the world would offer the burial with dignity that the man in his dreams had requested.|
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© 2000 by Russell Winje email@example.com --- Last updated on August 16, 2007.