Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: Jozi (Page 1 of 2)

Joburg Nights

The window is open and the cricket is so loud its like a one cricket band on steroids. I love Jozi at this time of year when everything is lush and green and the summer heat is tempered with rain on most days.

I am up here directing Chantal Stanfield in her one woman show From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, opening at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. It previews on 28 Feb and opens on 2 March, and even though we have just started rehearsing this week, I can already tell that it is going to be so lovely. When I suddenly have a waterfall of ideas (most of which will never manifest and be in the final result) I know I am operating in my creative space and it is delicious. It’s also that time when I find things on the rehearsal floor achingly (and repetitively) funny, and my cheeks are sore after every session.

It is interesting working in a space that isn’t my home, and I seem to have lost any small ability to multitask (let’s face it, I don’t have much ability to start with). Everything feels different. Space and travel and timing and food and even the air is different from home. Here I am loving other dogs (missing my dogs), walking the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets, driving a different car. It’s like I have swopped my life for someone else’s.

This is the second Jew-ish themed piece of work I have done in the last while (I performed Mother in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner; a show I am dying to do in Joburg, hopefully still this year). For someone who is reluctantly Jewish as I am this is hilarious. And we are rehearsing in a pretty Jewish neighbourhood too. All my Jewish radar is on high alert. When you are looking for it, Joburg can be pretty Jewish. I keep having the urge to tap into my ancient Jewish network, to insist they come and see the show.

Whenever I come up to Joburg (my hometown) I am split between wanting to live here and in Cape Town. The urges for both are so strong. This is definitely second prize though; if I can’t live here and in Cape Town at the same time at least I can come up here for a couple of weeks at a time for work.

And, if you are in Jozi you can come and see what I’m doing. Let’s hook up.



37 Million Light Years

imagesThe distance between desire and swallow

The space between frightened heartbeats

The wait for the unwanted answer

The way to describe an inconceivable

I sat on the plane, waiting for the usual ritual of things before we would take off and head home. The flight had been delayed, so the whole trip would happen in darkness. The air hostess went through the emergency exit rules with us in her sing song, ‘this will never happen in 37 million light years’ voice. I imagined the feeling of the red rubber handle, and how heavy 20 kilos would be as I pulled the door out and turned it on its side. I also thought how glad I was that people with compulsions don’t sit in the exit rows.

The air outside, through the double plastic windows, was frosty, and so crystal clear that the lights on the runway were bold and had no halos. The engines started up and the plane crawled to the runway. The notion of flight for this giant metal tube with wings, and all the passengers, with their bags and suitcases, and telephones and laptops, and 300 jackets, and toiletry bags filled with more stuff, seemed as unlikely as another earth 37 million light years away. I knew that this was nothing short of a science miracle, and yet, I was irritated that we would be 45 minutes later than expected; our dogs were waiting. People are funny and strange. We had stood in the boarding queue and tapped our heels and checked our phones and glared at the people in their winter airport coats behind their little ticket desks, urging them to hurry it all up. Like hurrying up a cake that is baking. Nobody says, “We are going to be flying in the air. Let’s make sure this is all safe, and can happen.”

The lights dimmed in the cabin, for take-off. It was magical and beautiful and very sad. We had gone up country to say final goodbyes to one family member and to spend time with others, especially our freshly growing little niece. Now we were going in the opposite direction. I know Cape Town is only 1 264km away from Johannesburg, but when there is a niece that distance away it feels like 37 million light years.

The giant bird tilted in the low sky and started to climb. The lights. 37 million light years of lights below us, like a mirror to the unseen sky above. The two hour stretch of time pulled out in front of us; a rubbery string of endlessness made worse by cramped seats and totally taken for granted expectation. The pilot announced that he would take short cuts, and get us there 20 minutes early, only a half an hour later than scheduled. The distance between irritation and relief. I imagined a mouth, just a mouth on its own, chewing patiently at the rubber string, bite by bite, bringing us home.

Then, like a quantum leap, black hole warp drive, an eternity was suddenly reduced and the plane was readying for descent. Tray tables were put away and the last few bits were thrown into the moving trash bin. Humans are experts at creating waste. Physical, emotional, spiritual. Then, 10 minutes to landing. Then landing.

My heart was split into 37 million light years of pieces. A joyous reunion with home – 10 million. A pulsing longing for what we had left – 10 million, a what if 7 million, and another lost 10 million, lost to how easily we take things for granted.

We’re doing this post as part of a weekly tandem blog post. There are three of us this time, writing on the same topic, 37 Million Light Years. Please check out Dave and Brett’s take by following their links.



My Heart of longing, place and being

Every time I come to Jozi I have a small internal tug-o-war. I love this city of my birth and growth, almost as much as I am deeply rattled by it. I have written about this before.

I love my family and friends here, and it is a different love from my close and loved ones in Cape Town. I can’t explain why, but it is.

I love the winter here; the clear, dry, frosty mornings and the ridiculously warm and sunny days, where the sun sets (and rises) too early. Don’t get me wrong; I love Cape Town winters equally, where I worship the wet and green, and light fires and make sure my windscreen wipers work.

I love the energy that people talk about here in Jozi, and the suburban relaxing that happens on the weekends. I love driving past my own haunts, and saying the names of the streets in Yeoville out loud. Kenmere, Dunbar, Fortesque, Cavendish.

It is also true that I wish there were more street lights; Orange Grove is scary and dark at night, and the Uber driver who took us to visit our friend seemed nervous about stopping outside his house. I am left deeply uncomfortable by a new style of begging here, where street beggars kneel or lie in the road in between cars at robots, taking it to a whole new extreme. I am shocked by how flippant the response to crime here can be, with friends being carjacked, and aquaintances having their phones stolen off them in mid-conversation.

I hate seeing buildings that I remember in complete shambles or ruins. I miss an accessible Hilbrow even though downtown is unrecognisably regenerating. I sometimes feel like Joburg is Cape Town in reverse.

I am drawn to and repelled by this place for totally different reasons from being drawn to and repelled by Cape Town. Every time I come up here I want to live here again but can’t wait to get back home, I want to do things here, and then remember that I do them at home, I am tugged.

And now it is our magnificent little niece who draws us here with the most powerful heart magnet. Sometimes the love for the small people of our family, who are all away from us, and not in Cape Town, pull our hearts out of our chests and drag us up country, away from our first loves, our furry animal babies, who we pine for and panic about every time we are away from them.

Like I said. Tug-o-war.

Why last week’s 3 Springsteen concert splurge changed my life forever

There are many ways I could tell you about why I went to see Bruce Springsteen 3 times in one week. The minute I heard he was coming to SA I knew I would have to see him. He is my guy. He is the one I would never miss. I have been waiting for him since I saw him in Harare in 1988.

I waited in line on line and only managed to get the shittest seats for what was then the first concert in Cape Town. I knew that wasn’t going to be good enough so I made my friend in Joburg buy me a golden circle standing ticket there too. And then he added an extra concert in here in Cape Town. More and more the notion of him starting his world tour right here, where I live, took hold and I found myself buying the most expensive ticket I could for the very first, added concert too. So last week I saw Bruce Springsteen 3 times; twice in Cape Town and once in Jozi. There were hard-core fans who saw all four, and did roll call to be in the pit, and had their requests played. But I went 3 times and my life will never be the same.

There were a couple of really joyous highlights for each concert that made them special and unique. On the first I met a woman who had been there in Harare in 1988. I sat next to a couple from Madagascar who had come to Cape Town especially to see him. On the second I went with Big Friendly, who witnessed and shared my love. On the third concert in Jozi we were blessed by a special 3 song matinee for those of us early enough to be there and I wept and shook with special happiness.

Of course there were things that frustrated me and made me sad. The almost 100% white, middle aged audience had come to see what they thought was Bruce Springsteen. Dancing in the Dark and Born in the USA. They didn’t understand why he didn’t play more of his hits (from that album I guess).  There were those who were irritated that he started late in Cape Town and left during his hour long encore. There were fist fights by drunks right next to me in the Jozi crowd. The support act in Jozi made me skaam.

But. But. But. The reason I will never be the same is because of the outpouring of love and respect from that most awesome man. He loved us. He thanked us. He saluted us. He played (for hours, and in the rain) for us. I have never seen or experienced a more generous, magnificent, loving man to his band, and to his audiences, all three that I was part of. I walk away with the best lesson. How to love my audience and my fellow players. Thank you Bruce Springsteen. I love you.

Improving Everything

It is the crack of dawn on Sunday 26 January. I am almost out of bed, to walk dogs and then to prepare lunch for friends-like-family. But after all that I am going to see Bruce Springsteen this evening. I am going alone. It is first concert of this tour, and it is here in Cape Town, and even though I have tickets for Tuesday night with all my friends I am still going tonight. Big Friendly bought me this most expensive ticket. That isn’t all. Next Saturday I fly to Jozi in the morning and go with my Jozi friends and family to the FNB stadium to see him a third time. Because he is the one. He is my guy. And I am making it happen because I love him.

In between Bruce Springsteen concerts we are starting our 2nd ever improv fest. I think this is huge, and awesome. On Wednesday we kick off with one of my favourite genres, Western, and I am so excited to get all dark and dangerous. Thursday nights (in our 2 week fest) are Crime nights, where a made up crime will be dissected and discovered, made up in front of the audience. Friday nights see the return of Family Musical, and Saturday is dedicated to Superscene, both extremely popular with our audiences last year.

The bonus cherry on the top special amazing end to this coming week is that I will be seeing my magnificent new love, my then two week old niece, Leeya. Oh the joy.


Most of you know, I’m jewish by accident of birth, and proximity to and love of family (to whom it may or may not mean a little or lot more), but personally, I can take it or leave it. Mostly I am not proud of the special antics of visible Jewish behaviour and am definitely the other side of Zionism (which is a whole ‘nother story and can be found on this blog in better and more serious detail here and here).

I am often in mood swings with the Jewish stuff; I love making and eating kneidlach, which I do generally very well. I have some fond memories of Jewish occasions and traditions, kept in a bastardised kind of way by my grand parents, and I love Kletzmer music with a deep and abiding soul connection. I will speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism in the same way as I do with racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia – I despise discrimination and hate those that practice it. But the truth is, I am often embarrassed by the way Jews behave!

So, what happens? I fall in love with, and marry, a perfectly un-Jewish gentile (his 6ft4 frame stands like a lamp post amongst my very Jewish family of bedside cabinets), who is delighted, entertained and fascinated by all things Jewish. Big Friendly has three ‘yarmies’. He asked for and received a Channukiya for a wedding gift. He indulges in an Afrikaans-ised Yiddish that is as hilarious as it is corrupt. He loves Shabbash (Shabbat, with our friends the Noodles). He geshvitzes and shloofs. He gets toegedreidt (instead of tsudreit (sp)) and he loves all Jewish references in movies and books. Go figure.

When my cousin decided to come to Jozi from Australia to hold a rolling four day barmitzvah for her son I realised that is was going to be a series of firsts for Brenton. And it was brilliant.

Day 1 was a drive through a sleepy public-holiday-Jozi city centre to get to the Lion’s Shul. All Jozi Jews of a certain age remember this shul near the old Alhambra Theatre because of the two lion statues on either side of the doors. It was Big Friendly’s first time at any shul. He was a little unnerved that men and women would sit separately and so I sent him in with my brother, and I went upstairs to the opposite balcony so that we could at least see each other and pull faces. The shul is cute, old and gorgeous, with lots to look at. Imagine Big Friendly’s total surprise when some of the men, with giant prayer shawls in place, hauled two little leather strapped boxes out of bags and started putting them on heads and arms. His eyes nearly popped out of his skull.

After the service, and his horror at the kids pelting the barmy boy with sweets (Big Friendly’s second fave things, next to chocolates), his amazement at the Brocha spread, and his fascination at how, throughout the service everyone kept up a constant chatter, he asked me why one of the men was a ninja. He felt very sorry that this guy, the ninja, had been asked to leave for a section of the service. He in fact was a Cohen, who had to leave so the family could get preference for coming up to the bimah (you try and explain that!).

That night, at the party, I watched Big Friendly as the barmy boy was hoisted high above heads on a chair and shaken about in celebration. I watched as the look of confusion spread when he took in the barmy singer, singing along to the remix track of “Simeltov u Mazeltov” and his amazement at the food and the Jewish love of it.

Then there was the Friday night supper. Brenton loves the Kiddush wine. I had to give him my glass as well. He still laughs every time he hears that there will be benching, and he forgets every time that it means grace after meals.

Then there was the actual service and main reading at the Glenhazel shul on the Saturday morning. It was a long one, in a giant, modern shul. I don’t remember why, but Brenton absolutely loved it. Maybe because he got given another special yarmie. My fave moment was when a wooden walking stick suddenly went horizontal among the seated men, and I watched as ancient Hymie tried to poke my cousin with it; he needed help to go to the bathroom.

Saturday lunch in an old Joburg garden was when Big Friendly attached to Frank the French bulldog. And when we drank pink gin and watched kids versus adults play the most vicious, dangerous and hard-core game of soccer.

It was intense.

Being home is a lot less Jewish.

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