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.
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.
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 Giselé, 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?