Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Caped Crusaders

Cape Town, South Africa

Word Up, Karen!

We spent more than a week in Cape Town. It went by fast. When we pulled in on Friday, I was thinking that we would have a quick look at the sights, maybe reconnect with The Dykes (a.k.a. The Dutchesses, a.k.a. Mignon and Anouk), then high tail it out of Dodge. Events and the confusing organization of modern air travel conspired to keep us around longer.

Cape Town (or the small part of it that we saw - almost entirely the city center) is damn nice. The weather is good, the streets are clean, and (unlike JoBurg or Durban) we did not feel like murderers were lurking behind every bush. Our newfound confidence may have been born solely of experience in South Africa, but I reckon The Cape is a generally more prosperous and therefore less hostile place altogether. Public opinion is definitely with me on this one. Most citizens of Cape Town (especially taxi drivers) seem to hold other South African urban centers in low regard. The city is set against a backdrop of mountains that we did not climb and surrounded by reportedly excellent beaches which we did not visit. The OC had had enough time outdoors. Cape Town was all about urban pleasures.

And we got those kicking in short order. On Saturday, we started the festivities with a rugby match at Newlands Stadium. The Stormers and The Cheetahs were head to head as part of the Super 14 tournament. The OC had ever been to a rugby match before. It was a very civilized. Perhaps too civilized. They do not allow you to drink beer in the stadium. That would not fly in the US. Enforced sobriety aside, I am pleased to report that my Cheetahs beat the home Stormers by 3 points in a jolly good show of sporting prowess. After the match, we hooked up with our new friend Rob. He and a local Turk took us out to the Observatory neighborhood for a studenty rock show followed by sloppy conversation in some kind of baroque opium den and then the de rigeur hip-hop dance-a-thon. The next day we had our reunion with The Dutch Girls (discussed elsewhere) and another serious bout of drinking.

It was a busy weekend, the kind that spills over into the week in the form of headache, disorientation, and cigarette throat. Understandably, the weekdays were more low key. In addition to some excellent local museums, we saw a hip hop review put on as part of the month-long Cape Town Festival, celebrated Human Rights Day with a trip out to the harbor to see the enormous yacht that Rob is delivering across the Atlantic and to eat a tasty lobster and abalone dinner, and took in 90 minutes of pretentious student films offered by the Right Eye Film Festival. Jason hit Robben Island (former prison of Nelson Mandela) while I convalesced a bit. We also sorted out some admin, lined up plane tickets, enjoyed some fine local restaurants, and generally took it easy.

By Friday, we were ready for a return to the large life. All week, taxi drivers dropping us off at the hotel had noted the nearby presence of "Mavericks" - a strip club of no small fame. Fate clearly wanted us to go. In a happy coincidence, our Dutch friends were scheduled to return to town that night. We met Rob at nine for dinner before heading directly over to the nudie bar for the usual nudie bar antics. I even got to practice my Russian to small but measurable effect. Sometime around two, a text-based tug-o-war broke out. We wanted the girls to come to the naked club. They wanted us to come to them in a non-naked club. For reasons complex and obscure, we eventually gave in. I was running out of money, anyway. A cab ride later and we were out of the frying pan and into the gay bar. I don't really care for gay bars, but the delightful company of The Dutchesses more than outweighed my distaste for camp.

We laughed. We danced. Everything was going great right up until the moment that Mignon's girlfriend Alice caught Jason smooching Anouk, who just so happens to have a steady man back home. It could have been worse. She damn near caught me smooching her own lady friend. Long story shortish, there was some kind of back in forth in high-speed Dutch and Alice stormed off. She was back two minutes later only to thunder off again, but this time taking a precious cargo of Dutch sisters with her. We were powerless to stop the Viking woman as she sailed away in a taxi with the girls. Thoroughly bummed, we jumped in a cab of our own and headed back to to the hotel where we said goodbye to Rob and set about drowning our sorrows in chicken pie while waiting for the shuttle to the airport.

And that brings us just about to the present. I am writing this aboard a Gulf Air A330 over Ethiopia on its way to Bahrain. We are going to spend the night in what the pre-flight propaganda refers to as "The Kingdom" before continuing on to Cairo and then to the northwest of Egypt to see an eclipse on the 29th. It is going to be a busy couple of days - hopefully busy enough to leave behind recent frustrations, but not so busy as to leave behind recent pleasant memories. Those Dutch girls really got under my skin.


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