There are all kinds of things to worry about, constantly. The neurotic self rendered spoilt at an ever widening buffet of injustice, indifference- mayhem upon selfishness. Drowning in devastation, cue gun shots, detonate squibs. A world too far gone and permanently fucked. Someone call somebody and quickly.
Those are the darker moments. Other times are sweeter, I often walk between the Bree street bustle. Beer drinking porters, Bangladeshi shop owners performing their cash register concertos and the hustling hawkers spraying their produce with little water bottles sporting modified lids. Does wonders for presentation and fly shit.
There’s feeling safe and then there’s actually being safe. A difference I can’t quite claim to understand. See Jozi has all the elements of hellishness, but once you’ve done some street walking nothing but the opposite is obvious. I still can’t decide if it’s me feeling instead of being safe though. The truth is I lead an irresponsible life, I keep weird hours and dabble in considerable amounts of contraband. So, the fact that I’m still alive is testament to something. Safety might not be at the top of that list but it features. I think, and I might be wrong, but I think this place works.
A makeshift economy operating on a peeling infrastructure, but where there’s hustle there’s hope. It’s not just the wanting that ministers to my misery, but witnessing the act of acquisition. That essential life giving motion. And motion there is a plenty, like the taxi drivers with loud hailers beaconing clientèle. A new group of vans have gathered on my corner, fat men take turns on their shiny loud hailer announcing their new route. The sweet distorted sound of progess. There’s grumbling about the noise, but nobody does shit, the men are working and these men don’t fuck around. Undefeated.
I once asked a driver, while sitting up front, somewhere I rarely sit- rhymes with white up fuckery, but I asked why criminals fear them so much. Something I’ve heard but also noticed. Nobody gets mugged in front of these guys. One night, about two am, on the corner of Bree and Mooi, I saw two vans chase down a cellphone thief. They disappeared from my eye line, but minutes later the perp ran by naked. True story.
Not too long ago I spent a weekend smoking crank in Grassypark with what can only be described as a policeman. This bonafide boy in blue was less public servant and more public consumer. There was nothing he wouldn’t or hasn’t put inside himself. The 48 odd hours we spent upside down was insightful and decidedly dangerous. After sifting the canon of conversation our jacked up minds produced I have but one line to report. “See bra, the police, they’re nothing but the country’s biggest gang,” a pearl right?
I pushed the driver for an answer. His whole head broke into a smile as he shifted comfortably in his well worn seat. I insisted. Scorsese couldn’t have improved on what he did next. He dropped the smile, looked at me with crackling eyes, then pointed his index finger at the wheel and made a hammer flick motion with his thumb. And people say violence can’t be cool. He then laughed thunderously, calmly, clocking my tumult I suppose.
These are the unofficial, but decidedly authoritative, sheriffs of Joburg city. Fuck I love this place, I feel safe & welcome- I really do. Yes there are muggings, I’ve almost been jacked twice, but the key to that kind of shit is to not take it personally. Too many people exaggerate their roles when they fall victim to crime, it really has little to do with them. It’s just economics, or the arse end of unfairness manifesting, there’s no sinister plot. It’s just crime, and I think that’s ok, because we have superheroes.
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