Archive for April, 2008

… the latest dictionary and today’s who’s who.

Posted in Not-So-Foreign Cities on April 29, 2008 by moderngatsby

 They say, ‘you can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket’ so I found myself against my better judgement agreeing to meet up with a friend’s friend who was in town on business for drinks at a certain bar in the Melrose. Pleasant conversation turned to dinner upstairs where we mostly chatted about people we both had in common and I think he was hoping that the dim-sum he ordered would turn into then-some later on back at his hotel conveniently situated across the square. It had been ages since I’d had this much fun without a carton of ice-cream, some form of liqueur and my DSTV remote. But as Nelly once sang, all good things must come to an end. And they did.


While the idea of expiration dating usually appeals to me, tonight there was an emptiness that pervaded the darkness as I sat on my former ridge overlooking the city. With the air crisp and the full moon high overhead the Shakespearian undercurrent was electric and I felt the magic that comes with nights like these. Haunted by an inability to let go when I know I should, it’s more than a feeling you feel driving past a stranger, a lingering smile on his face as I leave in the morning, or the most haunting of all: letting someone go who is no longer there. Whether it was their decision or mine sometimes it sometimes just feels unfinished. Like there’s something more to come. But isn’t.


As I sipped my coffee, thoughts swirling about me, I got to thinking about relationships and partial-lobotomies. Two seemingly different ideas that might just be perfect together like chocolate and peanut butter. Think how much easier it would all be if there was some swift surgical procedure to whisk away all the ugly memories and mistakes and leave only the fun trips and special moments. But until that day arrives what to do? Rely on the same old needle point philosophy of ‘forgive and forget’? And even if two people can manage the forgiveness, has any ever conquered the forgetness? When it comes to past relationships I had to ask myself if you can really ever forgive if you can’t forget?


Sexual souvenirs like a sweat-shirt or book or even snap shots can remind us of the past long after the memory does but with him no longer in your life the meaning once placed on it is gone. But what makes us forget certain people quicker than others? It took me 2yrs to let go of the Squirrel despite a sprinkling of relationships in between while he had managed to move on relatively quickly to someone else. Am I kidding myself to think that he didn’t have any residual wants or is that ego? Now I can look at him, in the flesh or online, and feel nothing like the way I used to. So maybe time is what we need to get over someone or something? And learn to live with a lessening pain as we live the lesson learned.


But in compiling anecdotal evidence of almost a decade past for a reacquainted soul mate, a single line describing each person, place and permanent scar reminds you that the heart heals over time, and that sometimes things don’t work out for a reason. After all, if you spent your whole life with someone you didn’t love, or didn’t love you, you’d never get to meet that handsome line engineer with amber coloured eyes who works for the national carrier on his way to Cape Town for training. As he says to you just after beverage service ‘I don’t mean to be forward – but you’re fucking cute!’ you know then and there its going to be a fun night even if your return ticket at the end of the weekend is the expiry date of this love affair.


… take back your singing in the rain.

Posted in Self-Truth on April 21, 2008 by moderngatsby

 As I scrubbed the city off my face, and body in a warm shower, the memories from the afternoon flashed back, and I felt hot with shame. There comes a time in one’s life where you have to admit that sometimes you have no self-control. I had made a promise as I drove past the place on my way to lectures that morning that I would rather spend the admittance fee on coffee and a magazine, instead of trawling darkened rooms where dirty deeds cum dirt cheep. Unfortunately, the need for sex was greater than my need for coffee and I found myself handing over a crisp R200 note to the cashier, and heading into the dark. (Pun intended!)


I had come to regret the decision taken a few weeks back when, in a moment of sanctimony, I decided to focus on work rather than me. Instead with my libido racing, and opportunities abounding everywhere, I spluttered and stalled like a driver trying to pull-off in third gear. I think that with the last few weeks where my goals have become clearer to me – the one thing I had not thought about – was a relationship. A real relationship and not one where I set myself up to fail before I even cross the finish line. In choosing emotionally, or physically, unavailable men the reality is that I would be entertained for a few weeks but eventually it would end.


Later that night as I curled up with a good book and the smell of freshly laundered linen I got to thinking about men and relationships. Or more to the point how some gay men feel that other gay men disappoint them in relationships. Then a radical, almost earth shattering thought popped into my head, what if everything isn’t their fault? At a certain age and after a certain number of relationships, if it still isn’t working and the exes seem to be moving on and we don’t, perhaps the problem isn’t the last boyfriend, or the one before him or even the one before him. Could it be that the problem isn’t them and that horror of horror’s, is it us?


As I had been away for most of the day, I booted up my computer and trying to forget I found myself scrolling through my unread emails. Immediately one stood out from the hundred-or-so that were there. For a second my heart beat a little faster than it should have. I didn’t mean for it to, but it did, and in double clicking to open the email, I hoped the window on a second chance had opened too. There they were – the first words since his last few that afternoon in the kitchen when everything fell apart. While never haunted by him, in ways that others have, there have been consuming dreams that seemed real and reminded me of him.


Being big enough to admit your mistakes is one thing, doing something about it another thing altogether. I had faced my big mistake head-on and it worked out better than expected. But trapped in a cycle of change but getting nowhere, I decided to take time out and distract myself a little and mix things up. Believing in a reword system I relished the rolling blackouts and took the opportunity to illuminate my study, my bedroom and bath with a hundred candles. There is nothing like listening to poetry on your iPod, a glass of excellent red wine, and a slab of Sprüngli to get you to bed. All in candlelight.


But as I drifted off to sleep I remembered that often, after a break-up, I like to kid myself into believing that they, or I, have done the other a favour. In ‘releasing’ ourselves from the relationship we have given each other the opportunity to find who we’re really meant to be with. But lately I’ve come to think that perhaps it’s true. We all make mistakes as we go along but hopefully learn from them too. Knowing the next time will be better. After all someone like you is looking for someone like me to spend nights of passionate lovemaking, sprinkled with a little poetry, lots of chocolate and a few bottles of wine to smooth things out a little.


We my not have forever, but we certainly would have one hellava time getting there.

… even hero’s have the right to dream.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2008 by moderngatsby

I dreamt last night that you were swimming naked, in the shadow of the mountain, like you always used to on hot, humid days like this to cool down from being outside in the garden. Days like this, where there is no breeze to mop the sweat from your brow, and it mixes instead with the icy water leaving a funny taste on my lips after you kiss me – chlorine and salty. How your eyes used to gleam the way they do, childlike in awe and wonder, as something as pleasing as swimming. Wrapping your Superman towel around your body, you’d get your book and lay beside me naked. While I watched you from the corner of my eye.


I dreamt last night that you were sitting opposite me, eating your breakfast at the gym after training. Your two slices of whole-wheat toast, poached eggs (easy done!) and steamed mushrooms. Your glass half mango/orange mixed with a cube of ice. Your coffee black with a single spoon of brown sugar. The way you folded the newspaper first in half, and then quartered. I remember what it was like to stand anywhere in the gym and know that you were there. Feel you there even if I couldn’t see you. What it was like that first time and how I nearly fell off the treadmill.


I dreamt last night of you asleep next to me. Some part of you touching me throughout the night. I remember it took me so long to fall asleep, after you were gone, missing that touch. The way you used to sleep with no pillows and I with three or four at a time. The way your body would snake across the bed searching for mine – and mine edging closer to the abyss. How in the full moonlight I could see your eyes shimmering looking at me as I watched you. You an early riser, me the late owl but somehow we always managed to find time for Sunday mornings. Reading the papers.


I dreamt last night of us having sex, usually how it would start typically in the kitchen as we were making food for the guests all around us. How you used to find a way to catch my eye, and with just that look I would know what you were thinking about. With just a look I would answer back: yes. The whole evening taking on a new foreplay as music, food, wine, conversation, touching of our hands, feet, bodies, tongues all being a tog-of-war. Sometimes I would catch you looking at me. Sometimes you would catch me looking at you. Always reminded how handsome you are.


I dreamt last night that you were here again. But that was just a dream. Some mistakes can’t ever be made right. Not even with the words “I’m so very, very sorry I broke your heart.”







… a house of cards.

Posted in Confession on April 6, 2008 by moderngatsby

 As I sat in the playground between the shadows and candlelight, the glasses of wine from a certain Medoc region complemented the take-out burgers, flamed grilled of course, that were the sum of available choices for dinner in a blacked-out suburb. The comfortable heat of the dying sun gave way to a cool, crisp evening carried on a soft breeze. It brought with it the realisation that the seasons have changed once again and that time had somehow become an issue for me again.


While the man beside me could never be more than just a friend, his body has come to serve a longing hearts’ hunger, and the abyss that has formed in-between is a mutual balance of conflicting desires and dreams. We both know that it isn’t real – and because of this realisation – what we have has become comfortable. Like my recent foray into the world of publishing, I find myself all too suddenly at a cross roads with a choice between that what I want and that which I need to be made.


With an independent income severely reduced from a lifestyle of option to one of necessary survival, the intrinsic remoulding of my life’s view point has meant practical solutions are needed to get me through the next few crucial months. And so, for the first time in my adult life I have had to find a job to pay the rent. Well not in a 9-to-5 kind of environment anyway. So I sat down and decided that where I want to be and what I need to do to get there leave me with one choice: entrepreneurship.


And so, with a wide net of inferred friendships where the degrees of separation are often not 6 but 1, in under a month I was presented with two very definite and viable offers by publishing companies that met what I was comfortable doing in a context I was open to working with. I took the first because it seemed like a good offer and included my two passions in life: polo and sailing as work subjects. Not much of an effort being paid to do something you love and already know is it?


But with a sense of growing unease these past few weeks I have doubted my decision. I think it’s pretty much agreed that ‘open minded: good. Judgemental: bad.’ But are we being too quick to judge judgement? Perhaps judgement is not so much a snap decision as an early warning detection device. If it is instantly clear that a person, a place or even a profession is not for you, is it better to ignore your better judgement and read between the lines or, should you judge a book by its cover?


I think the thing that I fear most is what my two strongest supporters over these past few months will think. Having never been a quitter this early on, a distorted sense of loyalty persists that I make one last Herculean effort to save the relationship and business arrangement before moving on. In an ordinary world this would be an admirable trait, in a Spaniel or a whore, but when you are trying to make you own way in an unforgiving society where success is measured by different rules, reality asserts itself and the right decision needs to be made. Quickly!


With many of my closest friends tied up in their own 30-something tribulations between closing multi-million Rand BEE deals, managing stratospheric head-hunting assignments, jet-setting around Europe, and alcoholic binging chased by one night stands, I find it difficult to solicit their advice. Not because they won’t give it willingly – but because I know that it would just be the blind leading the blind. And so, following sage advice, I’m going to sleep on it. And do my sums carefully this time.


After all, my mistakes are mine to make. So is enjoying the success of those decisions when it comes. In the meantime I’m having fun with a recently discovered box of books that I thought had been lost along with a few DVD’s, and a vintage Henry Mancini album I can’t listen to – a sexual souvenir of a jazz player I once dated – but was never able to get rid of because it reminded me too much of who I wanted to be rather than who I ended up as.


Like the sense of restlessness that has me sleeping until noon on the weekends, drinking endless cups of ear grey tea, and knowing that a certain someone like you is looking for a less certain someone like me. Even if it is only because I have great taste in music.

… three little pigs go wee-wee-wee all the way home.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2008 by moderngatsby

 My right shoulder felt like a head of cabbage being shredded as it hit the unforgiving ground. I unfurled from my protective foetal position onto my back, the dew moistened grass of the Highveld’s veld as a pillow. In contrast to the flaming pain now creeping over my torso the crisp, the sterile blue of the autumn morning held its own and I struggled against a primal urge to scream out in pain. His footfalls towards me were distinctive from the distant galloping of the hunters and as the mud splattered face came over my eye’s horizon the tears burst their reserve and flooded coursing down my face.

The taste of the dark, peaty earth triggered a memory and I realised that the tears were more for the death of my grand-father than anything else. A man I never knew but played the strongest part in my most defining memory as young boy at his family seat in rural Saxony. I stood there looking out as a heavy tractor draws up to the hard-carved stone courtyard and the earthy-beaters load themselves into its trailer, their jokes and laughter forming steam in the air. The gamekeepers drive ahead of them in their nondescript Audis and Opel’s, ready to deploy their little regiment across the dense, dark woods around us.

And then, 30-mins later the hunters ourselves saunter out into the crisp winter cold, their sleek black rifles slung casually over their shoulders. Theses are the steely-eyed knights of the afternoon’s combat, and their mostly middle-aged damsel-consorts act out their own part as they kiss them farewell. For a battle they will obviously win. Out in the forest, the orchestrated theatre of death comes closer to a reality as the master of the hunt explains the rules of where to fire and when, for these rifles fire tumble-shells that can kill at a mile’s distance: the shells roll in the air and they land with such impact that, even if they strike an arm or a leg, the shock can kill their quarry – man or pig.

There is hoar frost on the trees, which is melting slightly and dripping down onto the hunter’s hats. As it falls, some catch the early light and remind me of champagne bubbled rising diametrically to the top. Distantly, from over the hill, comes the unmistakable sound of the beaters who are whistling and tapping as they move through the trees, and a horn is blown with a distinctive call. Beside the hunters, one of the weather-worn gamekeepers lifts his horn to his lips to answer. It is the signal for the marksmen to go into battle, and they spread out, a dozen of them, abreast in the woods.

Carefully they start moving forward, stepping over brush and fallen branches, looking occasionally on either side of them, but mainly looking ahead, into the mist from which the boars will emerge at any moment. The sound of the beaters grows louder. Fear builds up inside of me; nestling somewhere in my beating heart that is threatening to burst my eardrums or at least deafen me for life. There are rustlings in the undergrowth, branches crackling, creatures approaching, bug hump-backed black shapes shouldering their way past bushes and ferns, the glint of small angry eyes rushing towards us.

The rifles beside me start firing. I look at a shadow in the underbrush and fire. The recoil forces me to the ground. I remember little else. I do remember that at half-past five, after schnapps, tea and cakes, the hunters had to muster again to offer their ritualistic salute to the fallen. It is now after dark, so the car park is lit by flickering torches arranged in the periphery of the lodge. For the last hour corporate emblazoned bulldozers and dump trucks have been carting the carcases out of the woods for the butcher to cut them open and castrate them, and now they lie in rows, seventy-five dark bristly pigs with long snouts, laid out side by side for the final salute.

According to pagan mythology of German forests, all creatures have souls, so hunting the boar is like a duel between warriors: the victor must do homage to the slain; he must send him out of this world with a courteous salute, and he should mark this by placing a sprig of fir in the animal’s mouth as one last piece of fodder for his journey to the gods. This is the theory. The practice seems less poetic, as dump trucks shovel up the bodies and lay out Valhalla in a pall of diesel fumes. This is the lesson that I learnt most: life isn’t theory but harsh and cold. At 5.45pm the party appear to complete the ritual.

The gamekeepers blow rounds of horn salutes to the different categories of adversary vanquished, one tune for the ordinary boars, a more elaborate fanfare for the dozen tusked monsters who lie in the front rank, and the men who shot these beasts step forward for their accolade, a sprig of pine branch dipped in the dead boar’s blood. The sprigs are tucked under the hunter’s hatbands, and they walk off proudly out of the torchlight. I was ennobled, says tradition, by the blood of the fighter I’d slain. The engines of the dump trucks cough into life and the carcases are carted away.

The diesel engine of the Land Rover brought me back to reality and I was driven back to the cottage by the Bradley Copper-esq guy who had shared the news of his death as I shared his bed that Saturday morning.