Re­vis­it­ing the 80s and New York roots

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

THE SOLI­TUDE of travel lends to the de­par­ture lounge of air­ports some­thing of the mark­ers along the pil­grim’s way: an at­mos­phere of ex­cite­ment and the chaos of am­pli­fied and un­clear an­nounce­ments; the lure of du­tyfree and the as­sur­ance of well­be­ing evoked by a whiff of sur­rep­ti­tiously tested Isse Miyake, the in­cense of sec­u­lar cathe­drals.

Forty-eight hours af­ter my ar­rival in New York City last week, I was in the com­pany of jour­nal­ist Tony Karon.

I ex­pe­ri­enced a sense of the na­ture of the mod­ern pil­grim­age as we drove from my ho­tel in Man­hat­tan over the East River to Brook­lyn, Tony’s home with his wife, Jann, since about 1993.

Tony and I met in 1980 in the days when Ob­ser­va­tory was a hot­bed of veg­gie co-ops and the home-awayfrom-home of the white left.

In­sur­rec­tions were plot­ted and re­vised over a “Bon­te­heuwel brief­case” (a box of Tassies).

Karon – who in those day sported what he re­ferred to as a “Jew fro” – in­tro­duced me to the dub po­etry of Lin­ton Kwesi John­son.

He knew all the lyrics of Inglan is a bitch and other mem­o­rable songs such as Lor­raine.

He did a men­ac­ing, off-key but riv­et­ing per­for­mance of Guns of Brix­ton.

He did the Clash proud as he roared forth in the com­mune kitchen When they kick out your front door, how you gonna go? Shot down on the pave­ment or wait­ing on death row... I’d join in the cho­rus with con­tex­tual in­ser­tions such the guns of Bon­tas/Cross­roads.

We pass by Spike Lee’s pro­duc­tion of­fices, 40 Acres & A Mule. A lit­tle tick on my NYC bucket list.

Then we have cof­fee op­po­site a block of flats. For years there’d been a ru­mour Mariah Carey lived in the pent­house there. Tony didn’t be­lieve the ru­mour to be true.

It could be be­cause of the rainy, cold weather but no­body fa­mous was about.

Any­way, Tony is fa­mous in his fam­ily, and now with me, for hav­ing in­ter­viewed Big­gie. It was a gig for the BBC.

I un­der­stand he and the vrou also ap­pear in a Salt-N-Pepa mu­sic video. On their way from break­fast, they were re­cruited into a shoot of SaltN-Pepa’s Heaven ’n Hell.

Kids killing kids just for the juice. Now Africa is look­ing for the truth. But it’s gonna take a while to en­lighten the yout.

Two white Mzantsians rep­re­sent­ing The Moth­er­land. And all God’s an­gels say: “Amen.”

Mon­day of this past week fea­tured some phys­i­cal dis­com­fort in my New York diary. My black dress shoes are best for short walks – the pro­ces­sion from the cathe­dral vestry to the al­tar; the car to my mom’s front door. At a pinch even that longish walk down Groote Schuur Hospi­tal’s cor­ri­dor to the ICU unit.

My selfie ad­vice was to “walk for 45 min­utes each day and only take the sub­way af­ter you do that” .

I did this and then, en route to Strand Book­store, de­toured via The Vil­lage. I walked in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of Var­rick Street look­ing for Sweet Basil, a jazz club I oc­ca­sion­ally fre­quented when I lived in the area for about six weeks back in 1982.

A photo for my trav­el­ogue seemed a good idea since I had once ac­com­pa­nied Ab­dul­lah Ibrahim to the club to lis­ten to Sathima, his wife, sing on a cool Fe­bru­ary evening.

I just could not find the place. Turns out it had closed in 2001.

An hour and a bur­rito en­chi­lada later, on MacDou­gal I saw a tired, weary soul look­ing at me. He was sit­ting on a bench op­po­site an In­dian restau­rant.

I re­greted that bur­rito be­cause this restau­rant was packed with my Ry­land Es­tate peeps, al­ways a good sign. A masala dosa and chai tea would have been so wel­come. The bur­rito felt like an un­wel­come guest who seemed to have lost all in­cli­na­tion to head back home.

“I love that beret, man,” he of­fered.

“I wore one just like that – the same colour – a long time ago.”

I loved the shar­ing of our same­ness, the mem­oired of­fer­ing pared of self-in­ter­est. It was the desul­tory kind­ness of a mo­ment.


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