Thursday, July 26, 2007

Inner city living...

The more office blocks and old warehouse’s that fall foul of the new building fad of “loft conversions” here in the city the more I wonder where we are heading too in Cape Town.

As each new “exclusive” block goes up, and another throng of single, "upwardly mobiles" arrive in their BMW 1 series and Golf V’s from the ‘burbs to pitch camp; there seems to be a concurrent new side-walk café that springs up in the midst of the new retro space. Almost as though Vide E and the local building authority have made some not-so secret agreement?

Don’t get me wrong – I have long been an advocate of city living.

For the past two years I have made Adderly Street and St.Georges Mall my home and can say without hesitation that this is the place to be. Coffee shops (as pointed out above) exist on every corner. Restaurants are springing up left, right and centre to cater to the needs of the new city kids and more and more security guards are being deployed every week – in fact if you do get mugged by someone in the city centre nowadays, based on just pure numbers, its likely to be by someone in a "dayglo bib" and uniform.

You know that things are hotting up in town as slowly, but surely, Woolworth’s edge closer and closer to the epicenter. Attracted no doubt by the unmistakable lure of people who work too hard, make too much money and are quite happy to pay 40 bucks and up, for a well packaged and over priced piece of chicken and noodles; so long as it does not take longer than 7 minutes on “high” to steam itself cooked.

Someone told me recently that the Woolworths in Gardens; that one cleverly disguised as a petrol station; is one of the highest grossing stores per square meter in the Cape, if not the country. Without verifying the fact I can only say that if its true, I am not surprised in the least. I have plundered the shelves there several times, post-gym at Wembly - it’s a City thing and fast becoming a way of life. And an expensive way of life at that.

And herein lies my point. City living is by no means cheap. But its convenience outweighs any argument I have heard for moving to the suburbs. I am 5 minutes away ( traffic included), from my door to the office. Parking is never a struggle as it is catered for at both ends. Underground, safe and secure.

But convenience and safety come at a price. A price per square meter. And not very many squares at that. I live in perhaps the most expensive hamster cage I could have ever imagined. And with advent of online shopping – yes we now have it delivered to our door, I feel more and more like a kept “pet” than ever before.

My sister-in-law and her husband have recently purchased a new home in Durbanville. I have no idea what they paid for it, but I am pretty sure they weren’t in anyway robbed. It sounds fantastic – large open garden with plenty of space for future nieces and nephews to play. Large house with plenty of rooms to escape to when one craves a bit of peace and quiet…my version of “escape” is to nip to the toilet and admire the travertine tiling for a while…its nice to get away every now and then.

My sister and her boyfriend have a house in Melkbos – the sea is a breath away and on late summer evenings the smell of braai smoke drifts across the area like Honeysuckle. Again what they paid for it is considered a steal by town prices.

All this sounds fabulous. Nobody can argue with space and open air. But the one thing that would kill me is driving the five hours every day to work and back. You can argue as much as you like with me about the prettiness of suburbia, but at the end of the days it’s just that. A suburb of the place where you work, which ultimately means you have to drive to get to the office. You are waking up at 4am, leaving the house by 5 and arriving at the office a little after 9.

And don’t tell me that, that is okay with you.

Don’t tell me that you don’t mind the drive as it gives you time to get your head straight before work. That you would sacrifice a few hours each way on the traffic to go home to all that space.


You don’t get to see the space as it is generally dark when you eventually arrive home and lets face it, you are too damned tired after screaming at taxis, to get off the couch and “take in the evening air” in that expansive garden.

Yes I may not have a garden, I don’t even have a ledge to sit on but right now to be honest I don’t need one. Yes I don’t have the sea on my doorstep; instead it’s 5 minutes away in Camps Bay. I don’t have space for the kids to run free I hear you say? It’s ok! I don’t have any yet and when I do, did I mention Camps bay is 5 minutes away?

Obviously as I get older and the family expands this argument wont hold up. But for now I will enjoy the sounds of the city from my bedroom window. The sunsets over the buildings and the ability to leave my front door and be on one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Cape Town.

If we are out of toothpaste and deodorant, Clicks is below. If we cant wait for Pick n’ pay to deliver, then Woolworths is on the next block. If we are in the mood to watch a new DVD, have to get someone a present or the wife needs new shoes Muisca, Truworths and Ninewest are all there to provide help. Literally on our doorstep. No dashing off to the mall, finding parking, paying for parking etc. etc. we live amongst it already.

And the best thing about living in the city?

At 5pm everybody in Town climbs into their cars, points them in the direction of the suburbs and we can have our hamster cage back to ourselves…

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cars maketh the family?

I have the automotive version of ADD.

I am one of those people who simply hate having the same car longer than a year. I get very bored very quickly.

In the past 3 years I have gone from a Mini to an Astra. A Jeep Wrangler to Audi A4. Each one had its own personality – barring the Astra, which had non. In fact the Astra is the Al Gore of makes a great back up but don’t expect to lead the pack.

The Mini was sporty and fun – it looked like it was a blast to drive and it was. It lived up to its reputation as a car that would put a smile on your face. Dressed it up in sexy alloys and a few go-faster stripes, the Mini looked a cut above the rest, turned heads and as a friend of mine succinctly put it, “ cornered like it was on rails”.

The Mini’s problem was that it was a 2-door.It wasn’t exactly J Lo when it came to boot space and when you’re 6 foot 3, getting in and out looked a bit daft…and if I am completely honest a bit gay. There is no way to “alight” from a mini and look manly…trust me I have tried every combination.

On practical level, it was safe to say the Mini had to go.

It was replaced by a more respectable and more manly Astra. While the Opel lacked the class and culture of the Mini, it did make up for its lack of personality with four-doors, boot space that, by comparison, rivaled the Kimberly hole and a multi-functional steering wheel. Granted the Mini had the multifunctional wheel, but it was like pressing buttons on one of those very small Casio keyboards…without the “Bossanova” drum beat option.

The Astra’s steering wheel was thick to the grip and had the sturdy feel of a ships tiller. Sadly it drove the same.

“Thick” and “ship” were words that related well to the Astra. While I didn’t expect much performance from the 1600 engine, I did expect some stickiness when throwing the car into a corner. Driving the Capes’ coastal roads saw the same “negotiation” skills as delivered in a Cosatu strike. I literally had to plead and beg the car around the bends. Grovel to eject it from a corner at pace. And then Genuflect and pray to gain speed again, as I lollopped into the next curve.

True the car had boot space and fuel economy that would make a rickshaw blush, but that was as far as it went. It was a blunt instrument with room for a golf bag, a wife and three kids. Nothing more.

Besides that I missed my car been an extension of my personality…and before you say it, no, the Mini didn’t say “small and tight”.
I needed something that spoke to the world. Something that didn’t say “I work in IT and own a spaniel”; that didn’t give off overwhelming wiff’s of “it’s my mums car but she said I could borrow it if I was careful”.

This is where the Jeep comes in. It’s the Sly Stallone of cars. Impractical, devastating on the Earths eco-system and simply hideous to drive but everyone at some stage of their lives wants to own one.

A four-liter brute, with an American made automatic box and a ride height that made you feel as though you were hunting invading Pygmy tribes.

The front literally lurches when you floor the engine from a standing start. The engine block made the entire chassis sway from violently from side to side simply by turning the ignition. It was great. Totally impractical. But great.

When it rained you could play in puddles with the equivalent glee of a 3 year old in Wellington boots. When the sun was out, simply hoist the top off (with the help of 2 or 8 of your closest mates) and cruise Camps bay main road with a Cheshire cat grin.

Yes it had its small, niggly points. Like the lack of storage space…anywhere. The boot was slightly larger than a Coleman’s cooler box. There was “bucket” storage in between the front seats – it was deep and very useful…if you could get anything past the insanely small opening at the top – it was like inverted funnel.

The petrol consumption was ugly too. One road trip to Arniston would single handedly fund OPEC for a month. The back passenger seat was more like a church pew with cushioning and it handled like a whale on roller-skates.

Like Anna Nicole Smith, the Wrangler was sexy and fun, but at the end of the day nobody wants to be in a long relationship with it. There was just too much baggage to enjoying it. Too many trips to the gas station. At the very best it made a great weekend vehicle…it just doesn’t do “trips” to the mall obligingly.

The Audi is a perfect blend of big V6 motoring with the creature comforts. It’s like driving a very fast leather couch. Like an expensive Swiss chocolate, it’s classy, luxurious and smooth. It eats up the road with a refined blend of speed and brute confidence. It’s understated. It’s the Superman of cars. By day it’s a mild manner sedan, with boot space, family legroom and a cup-holders but beneath its veneer exterior its 3.0 liter engine does 0 to 100 in just over 6.7 seconds…that’s a lot of Vorsprung shifted very quickly for a family car.

So what you may ask is my problem? I seem to have found a perfect blend of luxury and performance. The surf-and-turf of rides. Smart enough to rock up at a black tie event and yet edgy enough to throw the surfboards on the roof and not think twice

My problem is this. I need a change. I am craving the unorthodox once more. I need something that is impractical – overbearing and downright over rated.

My eyes have strayed across the new 4-door Wrangler, Alfas’s beast of a GT or perhaps, to keep it in the family the new TT.

All are great vehicles – all equally impractical and needlessly more than they need to be as transport. All great choices in my mind. Except things have changed. I am married now and although that, in its self, would not stop either of us from buying any of the above, the thought using any one of them as a “family car” is insane.

Both the GT and the TT are 2-doors and don’t have very big back seats for baby’s and boots for prams. The Wrangler wouldn’t work. The kids would need a climbing harness just to get in and out.

I am stuck between a rock and hard place. If and when we start having kids, do we just use the wife’s more practical 4-door for transporting tots and use my “mid-life crisis” car for weekend getaway’s and tootling to the office.

Do I trade mine in for a Volvo estate? An Audi Avant or a perhaps a Toyota Camry just to fit in with the Constantia-set at the school gates?

I realize that we are not pregnant yet. I realize I am planning my next automotive move, around an unborn, yet-to-be conceived egg; however I am desperately worried that once the nappies are out of the bag and the breast-pumps are doing whatever they do, that I will be too focused on being safety conscious and Swedish in my approach to buying a new car.

I need to act now before my biggest want and desire from a car is enough room for a pram and more airbags than a jumpy castle.

I need big tires, oversized engines and no rear legroom! It’s imperative.


Friday, July 20, 2007

How marriage snuck on me like Rambo...and I like it!

The next big thing…

There are certain stages in life that you know are coming. You know for example that one day you will “get old” and that cash you have been saving each month for your retirement will eventually be seen again (you may also already know what your broker already does. That it probably won’t be enough…but by that time what will he care).

You know too, that one day you will hopefully have kids, the house with the proverbial picket fence (accentuated with various forms of “Mr.Spike”, broken glass bottles in cement and barbed wire). You know that one day you will have to get rid of the sporty 2-door and have to buy a family-mobile…that one day you will be buying school uniforms and telling your kids that if they leave there lunch box at school again they will be hell to pay! Lunch boxes after all don’t grow on trees…along with money, school ties and Pamela Anderson.

So if we know all these things why the hell are we so suprised when it happens to us?

Case in point. I never thought I would get married until I was at least 36 (no idea why that age its just a goal I had set).

I had more wild oats to sow than Brad Pitt in his pre-Jenny / Angie days and Pro-Nutro combined. There was no need to clutter the shag pad, full of manly guitars, men-toys and “casting couch” with such additions as permanent girlfriends or god-forbid a wife!

My mind and life wasn’t built that way.

Until of course I met my wife.

Like a week-kneed teenager on his first date to movies with a face full of acne and saved-up pocket money; I went head over heels for this women and in a flash my life had changed.

It was as unexpected as a Telkom rate cut. She blew me away in 5 seconds – I didn’t stand a chance. I tried to fight it. I tried increasing my partying ways from 4 to 7 days a week…I bought more manly-toys and stopped shaving. All in the hope that if I amped up my bachelor lifestyle, the inconvenient truth that I had fallen in LOVE would quickly disappear faster than the “Tom Cruise is gay” rumors.

Alas, just as the Tommy boy-on-boy action stories persisted, so did my romantic notions of “taking myself a bride”.

I say alas, but obviously it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It took an outsider like her to tell me that it does not matter how many electric guitars you have in your pad – if you cant play them, they are not cool. You may have a brass telescope in your trendy town loft because its very “New York”, but it still looks like you are checking out your neighbors when they’re showering (to be honest she had me on this one…I was 18 stories up…who wouldn’t give it a go…)

Fastforwarding somewhat; a bit of wrangling here, a ring or too and some invites sent out to relations who would mind a free meal and we were married. Domestic bliss had arrived and without knowing it was happening I was suddenly a husband.

Obviously there was plenty of time to think about all of this, but you don’t do you? You follow the process as it has been laid out for thousands of years and you take the proper steps to ensure that you do what millions have done before you in order to be hitched.

I look at my wife now and it does not register that we are now man and vrou. I still find her hot! Damn hot! We still have sex and damn it if it does not just get better?

What happened to all the stories that once you tie the knot you may as well buy a bunk bed? Where are all the “okes” who told me very specifically and in no uncertain terms that my life would end as I know it? I’ll tell you where – in the same bars that I left them. Still single, still telling the next line of “manne” the do’s and don’ts of how to “score” chicks and how every time they have been with a women its ended badly…in hindsight not suprisingly. How many women want to hang off the end of a bar with their “man” while he chalks up another Black Label on the tab…for 7 consecutive days.

My point is that I enjoy being married. Do we irritate each other? Sure we do. Do we fight, moan and grumble? Of course! I am human and I always will. Only now I get to do that with my wife. A women who I find adorable, funny, cute and insanely sexy.

If ever there is a person who I wanted to make up with after a fight, it would be her hands down. Lets face it – you don’t beg the Taxman for a cuddle after he has taken your hard earned cash and shouted at him for doing it, right?

Marriage my have snuck up on me. It may have been mores stealthy than John Rambo on a jungle mission. More frightening than Chuck Norris in a tutu but man am I glad it got me.

I look forward to my adventures in marriage – obviously those that have been hurt will tell me not to be so gung-ho, it’s not an easy trip. However I welcome the challenge with open arms…and my electric guitar slung over my back (I still cant play it but I don’t need to now…I’m married…and that’s the cooler).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Greener pastures and greener grass…

I quit. I left a damn god job. A job where I traveled to every known part of the earth, for free and generally in various states of luxury. I only ever waited for planes in the premier lounges. I was able to upgrade to business class whenever I felt like it. I knew the fastest way to get from JFK to Manhattan. I knew the best hotel at the best price that was close enough to Central Park and main shopping areas without breaking the bank.

I thought nothing of saying to friends can’t do lunch on Tuesday, I am in New York, the Bahamas…Ontario…take your pick really.

I lived in Las Vegas for three months researching business for the company –they paid for everything…I lived in Vegas for three month for free…had the time of my life…for free!

So who in their right mind gives up a job like that?

Was it the traveling you ask? Did your wife get tired of hearing your endless accounts of fluffing clients and late night excursions to strip club’s just to “keep the client happy”?

In a word. No.

My wife was quite content waving me off at Cape Town International – she valued her space as much as I did and to be honest she functions better when I am not there to get in the way of things.

The quitting began while I was in Mozambique. I was dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean whilst sipping a random cocktail (from a coconut shell…tourism…you gotta love it!), and literally thinking how great life was, when the phone ran. You have to give it to Vodacom –they really do have the East African coastline pretty sown up.

On the end of the line was my former boss.

Some background here. I had previously worked at a Radio station part time – weekends mainly…did fairly well but never pushed any boundary’s of quasi-celebrity. I had fun – got paid and in my youth mainly used it to get laid, to be quite honest with you. I had a standard Monday to Friday, 9 – 5 job in the week. But as business took over my life I had decided to give up the fun, well-paid hobby and get serious. Get a real job that would enable my wife and I to live well and focus a bit on a career.

My former boss had other ideas though – while I was pondering the light blue ocean, the white stretch of sand in front of me; my former boss propositioned me. In a manner of speaking.

Would like to come back and work in radio fulltime – Monday to Friday…a mere three hours a day and better pay than I was on now?

It was a tough call.

In the 0.2 seconds it took me to make up my mind I did spare thought to the loss of perks, travel, luxury and voyager miles…but these things would always be there I thought. I can always go back. Right now someone is offering you your mornings off. A work day that kicks off at 2 in the afternoon and enough cash not to have to worry about breaking that agreement you have with Standard Bank regarding living in their house till is paid off.

It truly was an offer I could not refuse.

My wife said I would get bored. I would miss the travel, the strategy the clients and the company credit card. I told her no way! I would start a new business on the side, I would consult in something or the other. Start gym! Write! We would have more time to spend together…every reasonable argument for working just three hours a day I could find really.

So we were agreed – she was dubious but accepting. I was just plainly in love with idea of living 5 minutes from the studio and staying in bed till 12.

Within an hour I had resigned my position, found a fax machine in the middle of the untouched and tranquil Mozambican bush and signed a 1-year contract to do the afternoon drive show. Life can change so quickly so they say…

The adage “be careful what you wish for” is a powerful thing to hold onto.

When I got home, I was indeed working just 3 hours a day – I was indeed earning enough for us to be comfortable. Indeed I tried staying in bed till 12…once; but isn’t it funny how when everyone else is at work and not available for breakfast at Caprice; cant make coffee at 11 at Vida, that you begin to feel a little bit like someone who has taken leave from work during the week but cant share it with anyone. Its like pulling a “sickie” and then finding out that no one else did so you have to entertain yourself.

I was reminded of Hugh Grant in “About a boy”…he divided his days into units of time…each unit being 30 minutes. A haircut is 2 units for instance, picking up the post 1 unit. I have now managed to make “taking the car to be washed” a 3 unit adventure, which includes having lunch, a spot of shopping and catching up on Facebook.

Now, I have to admit I hate famous people who grumble about their lot in life – not that I am famous, however I think I am pretty privileged to be doing what I am doing? Nothing grinds me more than the latest P Diddy tune banging on about how hard it is to be a multi-millionaire and be adored by the unwashed masses…being a “player” who is set upon by “player haters”. Nothing makes me want to increase my propensity to vomit, than having to try and understand the complexities of Victoria Beckham’s lavish lifestyle and just how much she has to suffer to be loaded and stick-thin…poor dear…there, there, you silly has-been.

My point though, is that while you sit in your office and wish that you could be sitting at some sidewalk café instead (as I am right now typing this), whiling away your time, catching up with friends, avoiding deadlines and the boss; just remember the grass is not always greener.

You are surrounded by friends and colleagues right now. You can get up and go make yourself a cup of tea, chat about “housewives” last night (it was good one wasn’t it?). Around you are people who understand what sort of a day your having, can sympathize with the workload and know what’s happening in your life.

You see all my mates are at work too. Right now it’s me and a waiter called Juan…although I suspect he made that up. My wife is at work too –so we are not spending anymore time together…I go to gym…but more to chat about last nights TV than anything.

Would I give it up? Hell no. Am I complaining? Definately not. But do I miss the days of going into work…that first cup of coffee, those first few minutes of chatting and delaying hitting the startup button on the PC? Hell yeah!

A friend once told me, there will always be someone who’s life you would want – as humans we are never satisfied with our place in life, no matter where we are…the “the grass is always greener”.

And its true, I am sitting here at 11am in the morning writing about my loss of the corporate life in exchange for one of freedom and creativity…having just received a text from my actor-model brother: “In Ibiza on a shoot…hope all is well x”.

No who wouldn’t want a job like that…