Friday, May 1, 2009

Drug Bust

"Do you remember that night in our digs on Wotsit Street near the Graham, when Dave (AKA Fat Irish) was still living with us? Well Ed had just come back from the Ciskei with, like, a proper, proper haul of weed. None of this half-assed couple of bankies business. A couple of black bin bags in a car boot.

And yea there was much celebration, and making of ceremonial bongs and Boomerang (elegant vodka-lemon-in-a-bucket concoction), and calling of friends to share the bounty. Nesh got naked; Adam got vomitty; Stark got thrown out. Sara and Lisa got high, an annual event; Danny 'M-Net' Scotsman got babooned (M-Net because with a Scottish accent and a prediliction for drink, after 7pm you needed a decoder to understand him.)

As a result, at 3am when there was a heart-stopping hammering of iron fist on digs door, we were mostly passed out and scattered far and wide through the digs, as was the weed. There was some in every room and everyone. But panic only spread truly through the ranks when Adam came belting through the house naked but for his tighty whities, wide-eyed and white-faced, banging on bedroom doors and whisper-shouting 'Pigs! Pigs! This is not a drill!"

I looked out over the balcony and I have never seen anything like it: ranks of Boere cops in riot gear and shotguns. Not one but TWO of those blerrie scary big yellow monster armoured vehicles - what were they called? Alsations on chains. High-octane torches. Guttural shouting and crackle of radios. Jissus. It's one thing having the cops knocking at your door; it's quite another having the full Soweto riot patrol.

Cue flat panic as we tried to rid ourselves of this monster haul of weed. David attempted to chuck a whole plastic bag full over the balcony onto the street, towards the cops (verily raining drugs down upon them) and then was rendered useless for the rest of the night by his horror at the thought of this near miss. We flushed and flushed. Ed - cool-headed in a time of chaos - was methodically chucking baggies into the back garden of the Graham, in the hope we could fetch it tomorrow. I was frantically flicking through Shakespeare - I had stashed my stash in something Shakespearian but as an English major, it was taking me some time to work out which play. Comedy? Tragedy?

It was a full half hour later that, terrified but standing firm and shoulder to shoulder, we finally answered the door to the torch-wielding, helmetted, flak-jacketted cops.

Lead cop: Does Dylan May live here?
Dylan (white and shaky, ready to bolt): Yes.
Lead cop: Mr May, can I ask you to identify this?
(Flourishes grayish rag in the air.)
Dylan (bemused and traumatised): Um, yes, those are my underpants.
Lead cop: And you recently reported a robbery at this address?
Dylan: Um, yes.
Lead cop: Did you sew this name tag in your underpants?
Dylan: Um, no, my Mom did.
Us, cops: Snigger.
Lead cop: Well, good for her, because we've been on a stolen goods raid in Rhini and we need you to provide evidence. Thanks for your time. Goodnight.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009


“Martin Q. Blank: Did you go to your reunion?
..Marcella: Yes, I did. It was just as if everyone had swelled.”
- Grosse Point Blank (1997)

Insurance Seminars
Official Rhodes Reunions are as much fun as partying with your Dad. I’ve been to one. Only once, and never again. It was fun like an insurance seminar. None of the interesting people I’d really want to catch up wouldn’t be seen dead at a Rhodes-sponsored reunion anyway.

Laugh ‘til Beer Squirts Out Your Nose
As a rule, I usually hand-pick who I want to see, and meet them in a cosy bar in London, or at a skanky Jo’burg pub. Some old friends’ company has no shelf life. Conversation's easy like an old well-worn mix tape, where you both know what song’s coming next. In a heartbeat you’re finishing each other’s sentences, swapping obscure jokes and giggling at them like school kids passing notes under the desk in the in class. Those are nights are glorious fun, we always laugh ‘til we cry, and our stomachs hurt. Seeing the cherished old friends that helped shaped the sum of your soul is gloriously life affirming.

Exes That Haven’t Got Fat
Some exes should not be seen nor heard, particularly if they dumped me, and haven’t got fat. In an ideal world, those ones will be bigger than my postcode, with jowels and thick ankles. In an ideal world, I’d just walk up and say;’ Wow. It’s been ages. What have you been doing all this time... APART FROM EATING?!’ Seeing the old girlfriends that spurned you, and are now fat, is gloriously life affirming.

The Ones That Got Away...
... Are the ones you’ll never forget. I guess once a relationship starts, on some plane it never ends. It just carries on. Maybe you got married, maybe you broke up earlier than you did, maybe you shagged her sister. Whatever. Somewhere someplace else, those feelings never stop, they keep just going on an on, like a million flickering TV shows bouncing off the satellites, beaming into space.

Taking Stock
Reunions bring on a heady mix a nostalgia and introspection. Some good, some bad. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices have been half chance. So have everyone else's. We all muddle through somehow.

Amid the rigours of adulthood; the small work triumphs, shallower new friendships, and sane, pragmatic relationships of now hold up like a faded photocopy compared to those bright, shining times, idealised in recollection. Rhodes was heaven and hell, but sometimes I brood, and wonder if I was at my best in those years, with you people, in that place.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Lack of Consequences

“Youth is a fever, the sleep of reason.”
- My Gran, in a letter to me at Rhodes (1991)

Rhodes was a bubble, perfect for unfettered feats of youthful folly.

Rat had a bee in his bonnet about becoming Jesus. So, he locked himself in a blacked out room for two days, with a litre of water, and three Golden Buddhas, a potent brand of lysergic acid diethylamide that peeled your head like an orange and vomited the Encyclopaedia Britannica into your skull. Half of one would have Marilyn Manson convinced he was The Man From Galilee. Rat emerged unshaven, a bit thinner, and with a distinct lack of Christ-like superpowers. I believe he’s a barrister in London now. I somehow don’t see a “Previously Jesus” post script on the brass plaque on his law office door.

Drunk Driving
We all did it, at one time or another. Thing was, the average drive was no more than three km, and Grahamstown’s narrow, sleepy streets seemed to guide you, snug as a marble run. True drunk drivers could never really go faster than about 60 km/h. The stoners drove freaked out slow as a 45rpm record at 33.

In 67 African street, disputes between gentlemen were settled with a duel. The combatants would stand back-to-back, the weapons of choice a Black Label quart and a spatula. At a signal from their seconds, each would walk ten paces apart, turn round, flick the lid off the quart with a deft flick of the spatula, and down the beer. Last one to finish lost the duel, and had to down a mug of Buddie’s Liquor Store No-name Brand Tequila™.

Duly Performed
The Duly Performed Certificate (DP) was as anathema to a tardy scholar as soap to an art student . Skip too many lectures, and you’d lose your DP. No DP meant you couldn’t write exams, you'd fail, and your parents would kill you and bury you in an unmarked grave.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I don’t have a hard-on at this moment, but at 18 I’d get one just brushing my teeth, folding my laundry, or most embarrassingly, during a crowded Dickens tutorial. Closing my eyes and thinking of Andrew Lloyd Webber usually sent it packing. The mere thought of sex drove me up the wall most waking moments in those years.

Frantically snogging like a bulldog eating porridge, stroking her hair with one hand, and feverishly trying (and failing) to unclasp the blasted bra with the other would have me weeping with frustration. I felt like an orangutan trying to play the violin.

The Bra is Your Enemy
Bra un-knotting was a proficiency badge they really should have had in Scouts when I was 15. After the the bra, dungarees were a sexual Gordian knot. Trying to peel off their rape-proof layers and countless buttons off Ilsa was like trying to ravish an onion. Laboriously un-lacing Doc Marten eight-ups was also almost as much of a passion-killer as feverishly trying to put on a condom.

i like my body when it is with your body
Undressing a girl for the first time, with trembling hands felt breathlessly sexy, scary, and heart thumpingly exhilarating as motorcycle speed. Seeing someone naked struck me dumb with wonder and tear-brimming gratitude.

"i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new"
- e.e. cummings

Things that Go Hump in the Night
Her: “If you love me you’ll wait”.
Me: “If you love me you won’t! Anyway, it isn’t premarital sex if we have no intention of getting married.”


“Sex is like kicking Death in the arse while singing.”
- Charles Bukowski

Pillow Talk
I was never much good at pillow talk. I usually ended sex with a slap on her buttock and saying "Well done! Now back to the village with you!” This met with mixed responses.

Pregnancy Scares
In the early ‘90s, AIDS too abstract a threat for us white-bread middle-class types. The thought of telling your and her parents that she was knocked up was teeth-grinding-insomnia-stare-at-the-ceiling-all-night terrifying. In a particularly hot and bothered moment, Nadja said “Whoah! Isn’t this how you get pregnant?" I sighed, rolled off her, stared at the ceiling, and with a flash of inspiration, replied “Hey! Your mouth can’t get pregnant.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Alternative Night

Alternative night was Tuesdays at the Vic, what passes for a nightclub in Grahamstown, though none of the clubs I’ve seen since would want the Vic dating their daughter.

Juggling Mix Tapes
We played everything from blistering hardcore punk to waving, shoe-gazing indie. Most of the music was only available on swapped tapes. This made cueing and mixing songs a plate-spinning nightmare.

The night drew a motley crowd of cliques, from Goths, Metalheads and indie kids, each with their own favourite songs, and idiosyncratic dances. Indie kids tried to look cool, head-bangers moshed in packs. Only the metalheads and punks danced like no one was watching.

Whiskey in the Jar. Only Not.
As all the denizens went in varieties of narcotic malaise, alcohol took a back seat. Kenny (Satan, Saddam Hussein horrible owner of the Vic) would complain “We sold four beers and given out over 200 glasses of water! What the fuck?"

The Rotters

“Let’s get wrrrrecked!” was the call to arms of Craig and Errol, two ropey, atrociously alcoholic felons who terrorised the African street lentilheads’ digs. If the Zimbos made your mother cry, the rotters would send her into a sobbing nervous breakdown. In two years, I never saw either of them without a drink (theirs or someone else’s). Their ethos can perhaps be best summed up in one of Craig’s favourite songs, which he sang to me on the African street roof, one wrrrecked afternoon:

“There's sweat on my finger tips
I got a belly full of beer shits
My head is too close to the wall.
There's blood in my underwear
I don't know how I got it there
I swear I'd bust open my head, should I fall.”
- The Wonder Stuff, A Great Drinker (1993)

Salad Valley Bush-dive
They were breath-takingly, brutally rude bastards to anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path. I myself paid a local thug R50 to beat them up the first night I met them. They’d made some eye-wateringly disparaging remarks about me in front of my new girlfriend’s father. Sadly, my designated assassin got drunk on the 50 rondt at the Spur, and bush-dived the salad bar before he was arrested. The rotters were left untouched, and instead drank themselves to unconsciousness on the African street lounge floor, blissfully ignorant of their intended violent fate. I never did get a refund.

Fish and Chips Bush-dive
The rotters were scarred with countless drinking injuries, constantly falling off, over, and into things. Craig got 20 stitches after falling on his prized new bottle of whiskey. All the way to the hospital he sobbed for his loved - and tragically lost - bottle. Then there’s the time he went down the rock slide at Mermaid Pools on his face. How we laughed. Errol passed out face-first in his fish and chips at a family meal. How his dad didn’t laugh.

Re-tox Parties
The rotters were ever trying – and failing – to give up the grog. A few days of sobriety were always rewarded with riotous re-tox parties that punished them and their livers like a roaring,  brandy-fuelled Volkswagen Beetle crashing into a wall of burning rubbbish bins. These parties lasted for days, with the rotters taking turns for one to pass out while the other drank on, like a wrestling tag team.

The Glass of Water Pick-Up Line
Despite constantly reeking of cheap booze, and dirty unwashed hair that looked like rats had been fucking in it, Craig was remarkably successful with women, in those rare moments he wasn’t drooling, passed out and without the rudimentaries of bladder control. He invented the glass of water gambit, a girl-meets-boy master stroke by this Cola Cane Casanova, and a legend to this day. 

Despite bulbous, manic eyes the size of tennis balls, a wide, leering mouth, and a Mr. Spock haircut, Errol pulled Shannon- so well done there.

What’s the Frequency Gwyneth? The Rotter Lexicon
Grog fever – What the drink-starved rotters would fall into thrall to after several hours without alcohol. Symptoms including screaming, cursing at all bystanders and recently previous friends, and downing whatever or whoever's drink was at hand.

Kickin’ it live – The boisterous, hopeful, pre-falling down phase. Just after Grog Fever, and before Showing them.

Showing them – Guzzling drink and drugs at a sprint, where more timid souls would fear to tread. Going out and getting “so drunk you’ll chunder on a bitch’s tits” (actual quote).

Cola Cane – The floor-sweepings of the Zimbabwean alcohol industry. Seven dollars got you a bottle of this violent blend of spirits and wine.

Pouncemania – Rotter feelings toward a winsome member of the fairer sex. Eg. “Fuck me! Shannon’s pounce-mania!”

A Big Fat Lezza - Any woman who's not pouncemania, or who rejects your advances.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Zimbos drank harder, bush-dived further, vomited with aplomb- and that was just the women. The men had nicknames like Dombo, Skurra, and Rodders. They smoked Madison Red cigarettes that tasted like wood smoke, drank, puked, and generally did things that would make your mother cry. 

ZimSoc Parties
Everyone I knew, South African and otherwise, was a member of ZimSoc. You could charge the membership to your student account, and that got you into their Great Hall parties half an hour early to get baboon-whipped on the free wine. The wine tasted like San antiseptic, but at that age we’d drink a bottle of Mrs Mcready’s Bruise Liniment™ if it had an alcohol content percent on the label. The wine did get you in the mood quicker than you were prepared for though. If you remember a ZimSoc party, you weren’t there.

ZimSoc’s resident DJs Gunther and Pete Loverdos of Cargo always played better music than RMR. ZimSoc parties was shotgun-beercan down-downs, stage-diving, and mayhem; AC/DCs’ Back in Black album to RMR’s Hunter’s Gold, Shoop Shoop dance, poncey Roxette razzles.

Intellectual Zimbos
At my Rhodes tenure’s end, I met a new kind of Zimbabwean, who didn’t conform to the vellie-wearing, boxer shorts stereotype. They still drank like Irish dockworkers, but also smoked enough dope to lay low an entire ashram of lentilheads, and adamantly referred to themselves as “Zimbabweans”, scorning the boorish “Rhodies” (Rhodesians). They had a gentle, soft-spoken refinement under their bohemian abandon. You’d find a Shakespeare anthology bookmarked with a bankie* on their bedside tables.

Red Hot Zimbo Love
The first night I met GiselĂ©, all blonde 6’1” of her, she drank me under the table with a combination of sledge-hammering Zim cocktails, including the “Clan Special”, a beer mug of red wine chased with a glass of brandy. I have not the words. As I lost consciousness, she picked me up and fireman-lifted me the three blocks back to digs. I was in love.

So in love, in fact, that at the end of that year I took the long train from Alicedale to Harare, to her country. 18 hours later I stepped off the train at Harare, with its lush tree-lined streets, exotic shades and colours, and fell in love with the place at first sight. Giselé may have helped. She was waiting on the station platform. I hugged her, we kissed, and I was home.

“All seems beautiful to me,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among you,”
- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1856)

*bankie. A South African unit of marijuana. Enough to make you and everyone reading this blog to miss today, tomorrow and come up somewhere three days from now, wondering what… the fuck?