Recently in Memoirs Category

As promised last night, here's the story: 

It was a mid-winter's night when I was about 14 years old. The Pretoria Show (sort of like the US equivalent of a State Fair combined with a trade show) which ran for a couple of weeks every year, was in full swing.

I got to hang out there almost every night during that time, because my mom was working for a sewing machine company and running their stall at the show. The show hours were brutally long – from early morning until about 10 at night – so I had no choice but to tag along, help out and sometimes also to explore the enormous show grounds on my own. There were several massive exhibition halls, tents, fields (where equestrian shows, pop concerts and other outdoorsy type things were held, with pavilions for spectators) and of course, the large amusement park with the roller coasters, merry-go-rounds and all the other rides.

The sprawling show grounds are located in the western part of the city. Right around that same time, girls my age had been disappearing in that very area of town; vanishing without a trace. Sometime after this particular night, the man who had been identified as the kidnapper shot himself and his lover (who happened to be the aunt of one of the kidnapped girls) while being chased by police. None of the kidnapped girls were ever seen again, nor were any remains ever found to give their distraught families closure.

Back to the Pretoria Show: so on that particular night, I must’ve been wandering around again on my own for ages. Eventually, I saw a poster advertising some sort of magic show. Intrigued (and probably somewhat chilled too from being outside), I decided to enter the theatre and see what it was about.

I don’t remember many details surrounding this particular show, but I do remember that I found it dead funny. The magician/hypnotist’s routine included the usual shtick of randomly pulling rabbits from hats, and then eventually, pulling people from the audience and hypnotising them. He made grown men crow like roosters and dignified ladies act like little girls. The audience (myself included) was screaming with laughter.

When the show ended, I followed the rest of the audience out into the now-almost deserted show grounds. I still remember telling the woman next to me that the show must’ve run overtime, because all the other stalls and halls seemed to have already been closed down for the evening. I was a tiny bit alarmed that my parents would possibly be worried, but was soon distracted from that thought when I heard the sound of a helicopter and saw a blindingly bright search light.

I looked up. It was a yellow South African Police helicopter and it was flying low across the grounds, sweeping the search light back and forth. We shielded our faces as the chopper flew over us, kicking up a gust of wind and a swirl of dust.

Moving towards the gates, we rounded a corner and suddenly I saw a few hundred police officers. And police dogs! The dog lover in me squealed with delight: “Oh, look at all those gorgeous Alsations!” I remember telling the lady who was still walking next to me.

I wondered aloud what on earth was going on, what they were all doing there, when suddenly, from a distance, I glimpsed someone vaguely familiar standing in the middle of this massive crowd of cops and canines. When we moved closer, the figures became increasingly clearer and even more familiar. The recognition finally dawned and I told the woman next to me, with some amazement and not a bit of excitement: “That’s my parents! And oh… wait, is my mom CRYING?”

It turns out that all those cops (almost every single one who was employed by the Pretoria City Police Department at that time) and that helicopter? They had been searching for ME! As I had suspected when we left the theatre, the magic show had indeed run overtime… by about an hour! So knowing that I fit the profile of the kidnapped girls, my frantic parents immediately called for help when I didn’t appear at closing time, as I had dutifully done every single night until then.

Even though I had done nothing wrong and it wasn’t actually my fault, I was in so so SO much trouble, it wasn’t even funny. Not with the cops, understand – they were just happy that the case of one “missing girl” had for once just been a misunderstanding, and that it had a happy outcome. I could’ve handled trouble with the cops, I think. No, it was far worse: I was in seriously hot water with my parents.

They were certainly NOT happy. Especially not my dad. He was FURIOUS. In fact, technically, I believe I am probably still grounded. That’s what “you'll NEVER EVER EVERRR leave your room EVER AGAIN, young lady, except for school and church” means, after all, right?

So, that then concludes the true story of how a whole city’s entire police force was once looking for me. 


Today, exactly 17 years ago, I set foot on U.S. soil for the very first time. 

I'll never forget the date, because I left South Africa the day after my mom's birthday (I still remember telling her that leaving the country and thereby getting out of her hair was my present to her).

I still recall the flight over too, almost in vivid detail. It was nerve-wracking, exciting and very very VERY long. Sade's album, the one on which No Ordinary Love appears, was one of British Airways' selections way back then, and I pretty much kept it on a continuous, repetitive loop. (Hearing her voice today still chills me out to the extent of jetlag. Probably not quite the listener reaction that she'd had in mind when she set out to become a musician!)

I wonder how I would have felt if I had known that once arriving there, I would not leave again for nine years. 

I think I would have totally freaked out. (To the point of not actually going in the first place.) And no one (including myself) would have believed that I would actually go through with leaving. Let alone ending up not coming home again for almost a decade. 

And if I had never gone? I wonder how life would have turned out differently for me. Kind of like a Sliding Doors effect. 

Do you have any times like that in your life where you keep on quietly wondering "what if"? Asking yourself if you would have done anything differently, how your life would have turned out instead? Would it have been better or worse? 
I'm still utterly astonished when people stumble upon this here obscure and highly neglected little blog and... gasps!... actually read it. As if that isn't incredibly enough, sometimes (okay, rarely... okay, never! This is the first time ever) people even ask permission to use something I've written and subject their own readers/members to the torture of reading it too!

I received the following e-mail earlier this evening, and I have not been able to stop laughing since:

Good evening Redsaid!

I am Chief Petty Officer Storm Windfall of Lotus Fleet, a Roleplaying Star Trek site, where we while away the time for the release of Star Trek Online, the game.

I am surfing the net for interesting titbits to post on our forums, when I happened on your site.

I never laughed that hard! You wrote i quite well and I could place myself in your shoes, not having that much Star Trek knowledge!

May I, please, please, PLEASE post it on our forums?  I would like to share it with the members, it was so funny!

Thank you for your time

Storm Windfall
CPO Lotus FLeet

PS: Pay us a visit, anytime!

Of course I said yes! I mean, wow, I'm so flattered! So, all hail to all the esteemed members of The Lotus Fleet and welcome to this incredibly obscure little blog. It is, in fact, SO obscure, that it is officially part of the world wide cobweb - that dark, damp, forgotten and largely ignored corner of the Internet where all forgotten websites come to die.

Oh, in case you're wondering? The post Chief Petty Officer Storm Windfall of the Lotus Fleet (I love saying that!) is so interested in, is this one...

After blogging for so long, I feel compelled to make a confession, even though I realise that by sharing my hitherto closely guarded secret, I run the risk of exposing myself as the absolutely uncool, neurotic bundle of nerves that I am. Because you know, that’s one of the many joys of blogging and writing in general: With little effort and a few carefully chosen words, one can seem über-cool and sexy and brave, when that is actually the furthest thing from reality! Which is just another reason why I love writing so much. Yes, I know that you’ve seen right through me from the get-go, but please just humour me, okay?

Here goes. Ready? Brace youselves, because it is bad and you’ll never view me in the same light again!

So read on, if you dare. Just promise to at least try to still respect me tomorrow morning, okay?

The first big purchase I made as a child was a no-name brand, early ‘80’s, portable AM/FM radio.

We didn’t have a lot of money and my allowance was meagre. So it took me months to save up the R19.99 (to give you an idea: these days one US dollar more or less equals seven and a half Rand), and I’m sure my parents still paid half of it in the end.

At about seven years old, I was already – if not a full-blown insomniac – a definite night owl. That small boom box (although, with just one crackling little built-in speaker, you can imagine that it didn’t have a lot of boom, much less stereo!) received a place of honour on my bedside table. My motives for placing it there were carefully premeditated.

Bedtime for little, elementary school-aged me was at promptly 8 o’clock every night. It was strictly enforced by my parents and utterly non-negotiable. They had no idea that 8 o’clock every night was the exact hour that my second breath happened to be bestowed on me, but even if they had known, I’m sure they would have been coldly unsympathetic. The life of a young insomniac is certainly a lonely and boring one…

I needn’t even tell you that anything other than sleeping soundly, lights off, was strictly verboten for me after 8 p.m. Sure, I had tried the whole reading with a flashlight under the blankets thing, but I was caught before I could even finish half a page, and from then on, all flashlights were kept far out of my reach. My nights after that became long, solitary and dark.

Then, a beacon appeared in the form of a tiny radio that emitted more static than sound. Even so, despite its insignificant size, it forever pierced the lonely darkness of my night owl existence.

Of course I didn’t immediately begin my clandestine nightly listening sessions. I had to prove to my parents that I would still be obedient, despite being the grown-up (at least, that’s what I thought) owner of my very own radio. It took remarkable restraint, lying there in the near-darkness of my room, night after night, seeing the dim outlines of the tempting dials – so near and yet so out of reach – containing the promise of aural delight.

During those first weeks of owning a radio, I listened only for short bursts, usually only in the late afternoons, after my homework and chores had been dutifully completed. Although it was still fabulous to be able to listen to my radio in the afternoons, bobbing my tragically rhythmically-challenged body to the Springbok Radio Hit Parade, I somehow, intuitively, knew that the true magic would only come from hearing a little forbidden night music.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally dared it. I quietly moved the radio from the bedside table to the floor right next to my bed, and turned it on. I was barely able to discern anything through the soft static, but I was still convinced that I had unlocked a key to the rest of the world. I lay in my bed, wide-eyed and even wider awake, enthralled and captivated by this magical, musical world in my radio, delighted to know that I was not the only person in the world who didn’t sleep at night.

I surfed those airwaves from top to bottom. I listened to everything on every station, from the evening requests to the late nightly devotion, but it didn’t take me long to get my absolute favourites: Radio Orion was an all-night radio station that began broadcasting when the South African Broadcasting Corporation went off the air at midnight. I LOVED Radio Orion and its warm-voiced announcer, a guy named Robin Alexander. (I’ve no idea what’s become of him. Google searches have led me to a few fan sites about the now-defunct Radio Orion.) For years, Mr. Alexander kindly talked me through many a night, and I’d eventually, sometime before dawn, fall asleep to his soothing, restful chatting and the music he played.

Sometimes, as I waited for Orion and Robin to come on the air, I switched the radio from FM to AM. On AM, I picked up vague snippets of stations broadcasting in other languages, and my imagination would take flight and I would believe that those voices I heard belonged to people in places far beyond the confines of our dusty African farm… even beyond the borders of South Africa and even (impossibly) beyond the ocean.

Thus began my career as an avid radio listener. That little black and silver radio remained my faithful nightly companion until it was eventually replaced with a double tape-deck, portable stereo.

However, I couldn’t quite part with that first radio, so it had a sentimental hiding place in my closet for years, until we eventually sold the farm and it ‘mysteriously’ disappeared during the move to the city.

Many radios have kept me company at night since then, but I shall forever credit that first modest model for making me fall in love with the medium. When I was a nanny in D.C., my host family gave me a portable, fancy brand name CD player for my birthday. I became a regular caller to the Washington jazz station and was thrilled whenever my call and request made it to the air, lining up the kids to listen to their nanny, the local celebrity (even though I cringe whenever I hear my own awful voice on tape… alas, I do NOT have a voice suitable for radio. My face, however, is PERFECT for being on the radio!).

When I returned to South Africa, I missed having a radio, especially at night. So one of the first things I bought when I moved into my little bachelour’s set-up here in Stellenbosch was a cheap shower radio. Good thing I didn’t invest in something more expensive, because it turned out that, surrounded by mountains, I’m unable to have any kind of decent reception for any of my equipment (including my 3G Internet. My signal for that is dismal at best!).

And unfortunately Internet is so expensive in South Africa – and the little that we do have is strictly capped – making it impossibly expensive to stream radio via the Internet.

I’ve been mourning the lack of radio in my life, and just as I was resigning myself to the fact that I’d probably have to be content with listening to my CDs on my laptop for the rest of my life, I came across The Perfect City Challenge contest.

Well, you all know how lucky that turned out for me (thanks again to all of you! Who knew that my imaginary readers could cast REAL votes?). One of my prizes arrived in the mail this week, and after picking it up from the post office – and being delightfully shocked at the size of the parcel (enormous!) – I spent last night setting it up.

I’ve never had satellite radio before – XM was already in the States when I left, but since I had access to great online and offline radio when I lived in Baltimore, I didn’t pay too much attention to it – so I had no idea what to expect. In fact, until this contest, I wasn’t aware that we even have satellite radio here in South Africa!

And oh, wow, is all I can say. Not that you should be surprised by that, because I’m not usually any more eloquent than that.

As I’m writing this, the Worldspace jazz station, Riff, is hopping bee-bopping from the speakers. Yes! I have a beautiful, shiny receiver with two separate speakers!

My antenna is set up on my window sill, pointing north (as per the instructions and with the help of the great little compass that was also included) and when I was finally done setting it up last night, I turned it on with the remote control (I even got a remote control!!! As if I need any more encouragement to be lazy). When the sound of jazz filled my little room, I literally wept with joy.

Gosh, I’m sooo lucky and incredibly grateful to you all, but a BIG thank you has to go out to Miguel, Rafiq and the other Web AddiCT(s) for hosting the contest and for sending me this stunning prize. I honestly don’t know what I did to be so lucky. Thank you to them and to Worldspace for the radio and the subscription.

So if any of you ever find yourself in Stellenbosch, feel free to pop in for a cup of coffee and a spot of satellite radio. No need to give you directions. Just follow the jazz…

Or actually, come to think of it, first base.

(But then again, this was during the ancient times when 'serious boyfriend' meant 'holding hands.' Or a humourless guy. Fortunately he wasn't the latter.)

Last night I found my high school boyfriend on Facebook. I was so excited, because he was the only guy I ever went out with who attended the same school* as I did. The rest of the poor sods who took me on back then were all extramural.

I wasn't sure if the person on Facebook was REALLY him (he had a picture up, but it was kind of small and besides, it has been a long time). And even if it turned out to be him, I wasn't sure if he would even remember me, so I sent him an ''is this really YOU?" e-mail.

Turns out it IS him! I know this because he obviously e-mailed me back. He is alive and well and lives not all that far away from me with a menagerie of animals (no labs though, but I won't hold it against him)... and..?

Blogging for Books: Dreams

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You were always a part of my dreams.

Ever since I saw images of you on our family’s flickering 1979 Telefunken television, I wanted to be with you.

Before I was even old enough to read or understand maps, I instinctively knew to look westward, to where the sunsets mixed with the clouds to stain the sky with ribbons of colour. My childish intuition, not yet honed but also unmarred by reason or logic, told me that I would find you there, far across the ocean.

Even at the tender age of five, I was discreet about my longing for you. I suspect it was partly because I thought I was the only one in the world who felt the way that I did. Little did I know…

So it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that not only were you someone else’s dream too, but that the other person’s dream was about to come true.

I found out on the eve of my graduation from kindergarten.

“What are you all doing for your summer vacation?” Our teacher asked us. Almost in unison, the answer came in a sing-song: “We’re going to the seaside, ma’am!”

I wasn’t a suspicious sort at the time, but in retrospect, I believed she hushed us and told us to speak one at a time – even though she knew full well that a trip to the beach was as exotic a destination as most of the parents in our rather poor farming community could ever afford – because she probably had some administrative stuff to wrap up before the holiday. If she hadn’t given us individual speaking turns, I probably would have been spared a lot of heartache.

It was a good agricultural year, and so predictably, all of us gave the same seaside answer. Except Ashley. Ashley, whose dad owned the only grocery store in our little Bushveld hamlet. That alone already set her apart from the rest of us and made her incredibly wealthy in our eyes. I mean, she had limitless access to all those sweets that we had to beg our parents to buy for us! So she had to be rich.

Even our teacher, who had been absent-mindedly nodding and smiling at the answers the rest of us gave while she scribbled notes and rearranged papers on her desk, looked up with a start when Ashley said:

“We’re going to America, ma’am.”

I stopped breathing. America? America! America…

Our teacher was enraptured and impressed. “What are you going to do there, Ash?”

Ash. Hrmph. I was seized by what I only later in my life would come to identify as envy. My jealousy was just as potent, all-consuming and nasty as hatred.

Still, like the rest of the class, I couldn’t help but also hang onto her every word as she told of their plans to visit places like “Disney World, Cape Canaveral, Washington, D.C., New York City.”

She might as well have said that she was going to the moon, that’s how out of reach it felt to the rest of us.

That night I cried myself to sleep, and two nights later, when I knew that Ashley and her family were flying to America, I crept out of our farm house and squinted up at the night sky, dark as liquid ink and studded with stars. I imagined that she was up there, flying towards America among all those stars. And so I wept all over again.

I was a year older than Ashley, so when the new school year rolled around, I was beginning first grade, therefore I was spared when Ashley took her memories and photographs of Mickey Mouse and all the other exotic beings she’d met and places she had been back to Kindergarten.

It would be years before I would again meet someone who had been to the America of my dreams.

In the mean time, there were occasional postcards from distant relatives who had traveled there for work or – very rarely - vacation. I saved them all. The one with the Statue of Liberty was my favourite. I handled it so often, tracing the picture with my fingers, I eventually managed to erase the writing at the back.

I also learned that my yearning to travel to the United States of America was one that I shared with thousands of other people around the world. It was as common as having a movie star crush.

When I was twelve, my dad sold our farm and our family moved to the big city. For a year after our move, I still went to boarding school in the country, but on weekends, my American Dream took on large, celluloid screen proportions. For two hours at a time, in a dark theatre, my own mundane life fell away and I escaped into the country of my dreams: America. I saw slices of New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington, New Orleans… Along with my fellow South Africans, I glimpsed the gleaming skyscrapers, the white picket fences, the lush green lawns where the children played without a care in the world. If I could have, I would have climbed right through the movie screen to be there too.

I left boarding school to attend the performing arts high school in the city. My world expanded and became decidedly more cosmopolitan. There were actually real Americans in my school! I loved their slack-jawed, easy-drawling accents and in private, tried imitating it without success.

I went to Journalism school. My sister’s college friend, Tish, went away to Washington, D.C. I repeated my childhood offense of stealing and treasuring all the postcards she sent my sister.

At night, my American dreams invaded my sleep. As I saw more movies, the images in my dreams became clearer.

After college, I became a rookie reporter at a community newspaper in Johannesburg.

It was about a year later, when I moved back to Pretoria to begin working for the Egyptian Press Attaché as a glorified secretary, that my dream of going to America at last came true. Tish had since returned from the States and one day she called me at work.

“How would you like to go to America? I have a nanny job for you.”

Two months after my twenty-second birthday and a few months after that conversation, I was on a plane to Washington, D.C.

I’ll never forget seeing the land of my dreams for the first time. We had chased the sun all the way across the Northern Atlantic, and so the November light was already growing dim when we finally reached the American shore. I looked down through the fading light at the quilted patchwork unfurling below me.

“I already love you,” I whispered. “Will you love me back?”

My stay in the States became my first long-term commitment. I didn’t leave (at all!) for nine years, one month and two weeks.

I became an exile, because I simply couldn’t tear myself away from my beloved United States.

Our relationship was complicated, though, to say the least. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, my tongue betrayed me as an impostor every time I opened my mouth to speak. And yes, if you absolutely have to know, for the majority of my stay, I was as legal as a Cuban cigar.

Now that I was actually there, my American dream took on new dimensions. I longed for a Green Card.

It could have been easy. I did meet an American boy who loved me and who wanted to marry me. He was from the South, therefore his mom always dreamed that he would find himself a Southern Belle. South Africa was a tiny bit more southern than she had intended. So when he told me his Mama (from Alabama!), upon hearing where I was from, wanted to know if I was black, I looked down at my pale skin and the spattering of freckles connecting me to my European ancestry, and I knew that I couldn't face the prospect of a xenophobic mother-in-law who would probably always suspect me of marrying her son because I had wanted a Green Card.

And so I chose to do it in the most difficult way: By myself. In early 2001, four years after I had arrived, the immigrant community started to whisper about amnesty for illegal immigrants. It wasn’t. Not in the full sense of the word, at least. You could pay a hefty fine for having been illegal and then be immune to deportation, but in turn, you had to jump through a myriad of fiery hoops.

I thought it would be a small price to pay to make my lifelong dream come true. I found myself a South African immigration lawyer - our shared homeland wasn't at all a requirement, it was purely a coincidence - paid her all the savings I had managed to accumulate over the years, and then I waited...

After five long years of being stuck in immigration limbo, my American Dream turned into a nightmare when I found out that my lawyer had taken all my money without doing anything for me.

And so I had no choice. I gave up my dream. I mourned its demise with an Irish wake at my favourite pub in D.C. and on Christmas Eve 2005, I tore myself away by leaving the country I had loved long before I had even known how and where to locate it on a map.

And now I'm back in South Africa and America has become just a dream again.

Is it childish to hope that it will come true for me again one day?

P.S. This is an entry for this month's Blogging for Books, a contest hosted by Jay of The Zero Boss fame. The topic, in case you haven't figured it out, was 'Dreams'.

All that Jazz

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Out of all the things I’ve inherited from my dad, there are at least a few that I’m grateful for. And no, none of the things on my list include my cleft chin, round face or short torso… all those physical traits that look far more attractive on him as a man than on me, his youngest daughter.

Luckily I also inherited less unpleasant things from him, like my love for reading, flying, trivia, dogs, coffee, travel… and jazz.

I may have mentioned in passing on here before that I grew up on a farm in the South African Bushveld.

Back then, we didn’t have a lot of money. Not that I realised it, because we never lacked food or clothing, and I had the dogs to play with and plenty of room on the farm to run wild, so in my childish mind we were definitely not poor.

In fact, in those days, we had one possession that made me believe that we were actually very wealthy: the record player that stood in a corner in the living room.

That record player and AM/FM radio combo was a monstrosity of a thing. Bulky and heavy and dating from who-knows-just-how-many-years before (which could have been anywhere from the early 1970s or further back), it was definitely not the most practical household appliance. (But then again, few appliances in those days were known to be particularly streamline and light-weight. Just the refrigerator alone from my childhood home would easily have swallowed up an entire New York City apartment.)

But bulky or not, in my eyes, that phonograph was pure magic: from the silver, shiny dials to the tiny, delicate needle… I adored it all. I didn’t understand its mechanics -after all, I believed the needle tickled the black discs on the turntable, thus causing the records to laugh out statically, but melodically. Fortunately, though, one does not necessarily have to comprehend something to derive enjoyment or pleasure from it.

In the same way, I did not understand the complex but beautiful music on the records my dad owned and played, but I loved it nonetheless, for it transported me far beyond the dust of our African farm, far beyond my imagination’s limitations to somewhere unknown where my soul longed to go but which my mind could not translate into language or pinpoint to a place on a map.

Eventually, in young adulthood, I was lucky enough to find a few places that satiated and answered the call of my childhood yearning: first in a speak-easy type jazz club in post-Apartheid Johannesburg, where I was in awe of African musicians freeing themselves from the shackles of our country’s shameful past and offering forgiveness and hope through the pulsing, kindly language of their township jazz.

Then, a few years later, I kicked off my shoes on the floor of an intimate, bare-brick, smoke-filled (before it was banned) jazz joint (the type you see in the movies): the famous Blues Alley in Washington D.C. (And yes, it’s entrance is really situated on an alley along the edges of Georgetown, near the waterfront.)
My shoes came off in there, because all of my heroic legends (including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne) had also walked and performed there, which, in my humble opinion, made it musical Hallowed Ground. To this day, their framed, autographed photos fill the walls, and like guardian angels of jazz, they look over the performances of their contemporary successors like Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis and Norah Jones as well as others who are privileged enough to be invited to perform there and to also walk in the footsteps of their idols.

Like traveling, every time I fed a bit of that yearning (by hearing Vusi Mahlasela and Hugh Masekela at a South African Freedom Day concert at the Kennedy Centre in D.C.; in a jazz club in San Francisco’s North Beach where the beautiful proprietor with the smoky voice, backed by a very capable trio of musicians, brings old classics to life every Monday night; in my amazing friendship with a Zulu sax and pennywhistle player in D.C. who’s lived and played his music there ever since the beginning of his political exile from South Africa, long before I was even born), it left me greedier than before, and so it has come to be that I am always in search of hearing more.

I wish I could remember the first jazz I ever heard on my dad’s record player, but unfortunately I don’t. Thinking back to my dad’s record collection, it would be safe to guess that it was probably Fitzgerald and Armstrong singing Cole Porter standards. Instrumental jazz records, like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, only followed later.

My dad did this spot-on Louis Armstrong impersonation. He used to dance around the house and sing “Wonderful World.” I remember also trying to imitate the Armstrong rasp on several occasions and with great enthusiasm, only to end up coughing and gagging and to be left with a lingering fire in my throat from the strain.

The love affair I had with jazz wasn’t always easy to admit to. This penchant I had for a musical genre that was broadly (yet vaguely) classified by many people as “American and or ‘black’ music” was a very unusual passion for an elementary school aged Afrikaans girl to have.

But aside from the minor political scandal it could have provoked, and the fact that it was so uncharacteristic to even FIND jazz records in that tiny, conservative place where I grew up, it was in fashion during those days to – when asked at school what kind of music you liked – ramble off: “Anything but Afrikaans music, country, classical, or jazz.”

I don’t think any of those kids who so faithfully recited that mantra had even HEARD any jazz. But then, I’ve since learned that ignorance about something or someone has never prevented way too many people from forming strong and loud opinions about aforementioned something or someone!

Besides, I didn’t care that my musical passion wasn’t as “in” with the cool kids as the (ironically, American and or ‘black’) bubblegum pop imports that was repeated to death on the radio. I hoarded my passion and continued to listen to my dad’s records until they were too scratched up to play without skipping.

Fortunately, by the time I had all but destroyed my dad’s records, I had become a student at Pretoria’s Performing Arts High School, where many of my gifted friends (read: musical prodigies) were not only like-minded souls, but also provided me with my necessary fix (for free!) with their impromptu jazz jam sessions in the school’s assembly square during recess.

And by the time I had graduated high school, I had enough of my own money (earned by doing various strange jobs) and I could afford to buy inexpensive second-hand jazz albums and cassettes at flea markets.

As soon as I decided I was going to the U.S., I began plotting a pilgrimage to the annual Jazz Festival in New Orleans. I imagined myself walking through the French Quarter along Bourbon Street, live jazz splashing out of all the famous clubs onto the sidewalk, seducing me into paying the cover charge in order to get closer to the magic.

Alas, that dream still remains unfulfilled, for in my almost decade-long sojourn in the States, I never once made it to The Big Easy. Perhaps one day… if (dare I say ‘when’?) American Immigration allows me back into the country.

For now, I’d be more than thrilled to attend the Cape Town Jazz Festival taking place this coming weekend.

Does anyone know if the organisers of the event would hire a girl with no skills in exchange for a free pass to the festival? And whether they’ll throw in accommodation, and a lift, and… well, I’ll skip the food and just settle for a coffee allowance?

You know, like at the car shows, when they use girls to merely stand near the cars?

Oh, right… those girls are all PRETTY.

But really, I can try to make up for the lack of looks by draping myself sexily over the grand piano (a la Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys - albeit a more unattractive, stockier and not-blonde-at-all version of Michelle. Only, they’d have to hoist me up there and find a way to get me down again). Okay, how about draping myself across the speakers..?

Fine, if looks and skills and flexibility are really THAT important, I’d willingly take a demotion and gladly lug equipment behind the scenes, or restring guitars until my fingers bleed, or shine the musicians’ shoes with my tongue, or…

I guess sometimes passion alone just ain’t enough to get you somewhere…

Nine, Nege, Neun, Neuf, Nueve

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That's the amount of years I've been in reversed exile in the States.

I think it calls for some more medicinal drinking, don't you?

Blogging for Books

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My hopeless addiction to books has driven me to enter yet another installment of Blogging for Books, that irresistably clever and yet very challenging contest hosted monthly by The Zero Boss.

This month, the task was to "write an original blog post about one of three topics: lying, fornicating, or going home."

Brace yerselves, for it's a looooong one. (But still well within the 2,000 word limit.)

is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)


  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Terra: YES! Wait... you didn't think that I would be this possessed to post for NO REASON, did ya???... [go]
  • Terra.Shield : OH! ... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: Be a bit like serving drinks at AA?... [go]
  • Marco Author Profile Page: I personally think it is a mindset that has been cultivated over the years, and one, if not stemmed,... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Ms. Crazy Cat Lady Pants!!! Squeeeee! Sooo good to see you! (I thought NO ONE was bothering to read ... [go]
  • Ms. Pants : Kitties don't get enough credit sometimes. (All times, if you ask me, but I'm a Crazy Cat Lady.)... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Hey Tamara! I know, right?? That is a tough act to follow indeed. I adored that dentist. He used to ... [go]
  • Tamara Tipton : Well, I am not sure how any dentist could live up to that standard! LOL! I hope your appointment was... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: I'm really really glad that I'm not the only one, Po! Sometimes I drive myself mad with all the what... [go]
  • Po : Those questions run through my heads for various times in my life too, that is for sure!... [go]
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