BERLIN (Melville, JHB)

berlin_barNo, not the place where JFK proudly proclaimed he was a jelly doughnut (remember his “Ich bin ein Berliner!” speech?), the other place that was on 7th street Melville, cramped right between Stripes on 7th and The Loft.

The blue, white and red sign enticingly glowing, welcoming you with promise that you had found the right bar. During the day, it was emptier than most European churches – those that aren’t yet turned into museums – and at night, especially Thursdays and Sundays , it got so full that most of the party happened outside this establishment – because it was small and cramped up and sweaty – but not the old fried onion kind of smell. These nights were wittily named Detox Thursdays and Sundays. Where a couple of slogans like “Sunday is the new Friday”  and “retox is the new detox” came about and put shame to all other phuza Thursday’s around the country

It was young, vibrant, fresh *but aren’t all bars in Jo’burg like that? – Try* and the only place that played a bloody good range of hip-hop– which appealed to some house heads and hip-hop enthusiasts alike, drinks were cheaper than most places around Melville and they even sold Cheas-Naks ( cheesier than Nik-Naks, IMO, which reminds me, when was the last time a person had those?) You’d know who was there by just looking at the windows but nevertheless you were guaranteed a great time;unless one of your mate’s prospects, or even yours, was not present).

…and to imagine that I fell in love with the place on a lark; this one Sunday night (2008) after convincing people with cars that the braai we were attending was dying down and that Melville 7th street was a better place to continue celebrating the end of examinations!

The interesting thing about this establishment was that after a while, one realised that the same “creative” types – and some others – frequent the place, creating a myriad of attractive yet dysfunctional relationships of any kind, a kind of non-septic cesspool – that’s what drew one there. The thing is, after a while, one becomes highly acquainted with the order of the DJ’s and their playlists – with the DJ adding a couple of new songs here and there – so the music became excessive and the reason why one continued to frequent the place was because of the people, yes, people. Human beings are social creatures and that just makes us all so curious, which makes us ponder and wonder about the next person’s life, especially when you see them all. The. Time. It’s in our DNA. Therefore, I did understand why one would be so drawn to such a state of affairs, it made for a piquant life :

– Who is doing whom now?

– Who is cheating on whom and with whom?

– Would there be any confrontations?

– Who was going to act crazy or out of character?

– Were there going to be any drunken brawls?

– And the classic, who was going to get themselves banned that night.

The post-detox chill session would then take place at some friends apartment where people had been pre-drinking earlier and the conversation would mostly comprise of everyones notes on the latter questions, laugh a bit, drink some more and patiently wait for the next detox night!

It was a way of life.

It was fun.

It was a distraction from the reality that is life but like all distractions,  it’s legacy still lives on but now there’s Kitchener’s (and Braam).

– Ava

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The “Please Call Me”

a "please call me"

– the most useful thing since well, before they were created.

A “Please Call Me” or “call-back” or PCM, depending on the circles you run in, is a free service that you dial. sends a short message to your recipient that simply requires the recipient to do as its name suggests, call the sender! If you are a respectable PCM sender, your recipient WILL call, if not, well…
During my high school days , circa 2001, when PCM’s were unlimited, could only be sent to someone on the same network as yours and simply read “Please Call Me”. Gabsie and I would communicate solely via PCM; one meant one thing; two, something else; three, another and so on… to a point that when they could not capture your thoughts one just had to send a text and if the text could not get the message across, only then would a call suffice. Today, this PCM code still exists but it is only used in those cases when you know that the recipient of your text messages has no airtime or SMS bundles to reply, so you send something like “Are you still coming? Reply one PCM = yes, two = no” and if the person is prone to mess that up you a further “ thereafter odd number of PCM’s = yes, even = no” CONFUSED? Be glad I didn’t explain the one, two, three PCM convo-alphabet-code!
After a while, either people complained of random people sending them PCM’s and when they called back – because that was the primary function of this great new service – people would say they just “made-up” the number or there was something called PCM stalking or there was just such a high volume of PCM traffic because these networks got smart, firstly we could now send PCM’s to any network BUT they started to charge us.. 20c. Luckily, this didn’t last long, so they made them free again but they were limited – BUMMER! No more one,two,three PCM convo-alphabet-code, we still used it even if we had to pay – don’t ask. We basked in limited PCM’s – bloody networks – and to keep us happy they gave us a treat – personalized PCM’s! Well, not fully personalized, all we could “personalize” was the “me” to something under ten characters. Boy! Did we eat this up! We ate it up like we usually do with Debonair’s latest offerings. They were the best thing well, since the unlimited simple PCM’s – the iPad of PCM’s. They were:
  • “Please Call Coin”
  • “Please Call Me” (the people who thought they were being funny)
  • “Please Call Mxit” (for people who wanted to carry on with a conversation on Mxit)
  • “Please Call FB (or Facebook)” (for people who wanted to share news on Facebook)
  •  “Please Call (student number)”  (this one was actually sent to a Unisa lecturer)
  • “Please Call IluvU”
  • “Please Call ImisU”
  • “Please Call HepiBday”
  • “Please Call MryXmas”
  •  “Please Call HepiNuYr”
  • “ “Please Call Marryme” (I can bet you it’s been done)

and “Please Call Noairtym” (although this is redundant because some networks offer the “Please Recharge Me) ..and many more!
PCM’s had now created the why-send-a-text-or-call-when-you-can-sum-it-up-in-ten-characters attitude which was basically about being short, direct and most importantly you said it for free! Companies also jumped onto the PCM band-wagon and networks made even more money with the PCM ads – luckily one could enable or disable these ads because you’d get “Please Call Noairtym. Blacklisted, need a loan? Call 0860 00 00 00 in seconds”. Again, we were smart about the new PCM’s, especially since this new cyber-speak of dropping vowels and some consonants and shortening phrases like “had to be there” to HTBT or FYI and LOL etc… With these new PCM’s you had to be with the “right” network because some allow you to change every PCM while others allow you to change your PCM message once a day – like the one I’m with.

So, if you’re me and you happened to have met a potential SO, who happens to live his life through PCM’s, you wouldn’t be surprised to one day – after a third date *yes, since I’ve overcome my fear of dates since that disastrous one – to receive a PCM that read “Please Call BeMyGF” Unfortunately, I was with Ava -who thought it was the cutest thing ever! So I accepted with “Please Call Sure”. After a couple of months things had run their course with Mr PCM, I was forced to send “Please Call ItsOver” and  this time I was with Try, his reasoning was since it started with a PCM, let it end with one. I couldn’t argue.

UNFORTUNATELY, I subscribe to the network I do, and it was one of those SMS bundle-free, data bundle free, airtime-less days. I was forced to send PCM’s to people – including the authors of my life. So I received calls and texts ranging from: “what’s over”, “you dumped him via PCM – naaice”, to “PCM break-up, you can be so heartless” and one call as requested by my “Please Call ItsOver” . Luckily the initial recipient of the break-up PCM got the message and didn’t put up a fight, he just replied “Please Call Cool”. Evidently, PCM’s are handy – if you’re with the network that meets your PCM needs, they’re brief and direct but seriously can we really say all we need to say for free and in under ten characters?

*Even Twitter tried with the 140 characters thing but out of a need to say more TMI Me Twitlonger were born -Ava*
If so, then this post would’ve simply been “Please Call PCMsRock
– Coin


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the “café”

South Africa, one of the few countries in the world with a directional name and yet I still meet the odd person who dares to ask where in the world “south Africa” is.  Land of so many interesting things that I’ll leave for you to go Google later. My favourite thing about the country is how one can go to any of its metropolitan areas and at the end of the day feel as though you’ve experienced two different worlds thanks to it’s cultural diversity. See, here there is no “average Joe” there’s an average [insert race/origin/social status] Joe. Which brings me to the “café”. Anywhere else in the world, a café refers to an informal eatery that offers a range of hot meals and sandwiches or an establishment that specialises in serving coffee, because technically café is Euro-speak for coffee, which makes sense.

Wait until you come to South Africa, where the average Joe could point you one of two places:

Range of South African "cafes"1. The Corner Café : an establishment that can be found – yep you guessed it – at the corner of any street and has nothing to do with serving coffee and hot meals, unless one counts the varieties of meals these places make with a type of sausage South Africans simply call “Russian” (post on this to come) and fries. These establishments are a cross between a small convenience store – the only convenience being it’s proximity to one’s abode – and general trader that sell miniature over-priced goods and the only coffee one will find there is in a tin and is either percolated or chicory. These establishments are identifiable by the signs outside which are sponsored by either a mobile network company or a soda company.

NewsCafe Campus Square circa 20132. The franchise café: This establishment is known for it’s food but mostly for it’s cocktails (and cocktail specials), alcoholic beverage launches and alcoholic beverage sponsored parties complete with DJ’s and promo-gals. These places magically turn from a a semi-respectable breakfast meeting place to bar-type place by day, to a full club by night. Yes, there’s coffee but who drinks it when the waitress can slip you a cold one at 9am with your Eggs Benedict. These establishments are the hunting grounds of BEE-type characters (BEE – black economic empowerment, l-o-n-g story but basically proves that South Africa still has a long way to go) who sit with laptops, playing Solitaire, looking like they’re busy on a “deal” or talk to themselves on the phone – and forget to switch to “silent profile” because they look silly when the phone starts ringing “mid-conversation”.

If you’re looking for that cosy place with the smell of coffee in the air and real good croissants and pastries , you know that type of place one would expect to see Hemmingway, Wilde, Van Gogh and even Sartre sipping on coffee and smoking a cigarette, you’re going to have to be specific when speaking to the average South African Joe and ask for a coffee shop. If they don’t get it, ask for a directory or look in your traveller’s guide and any place that got something to do with coffee in it’s title is your best bet… just avoid NewsCafe.

– Try

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What’s Your Taxi Personality?

Nothing beats South African minibus taxis. They make up 90% of the taxi industry – metered taxis (aka cabs) only make up 10%. They are dirt cheap and yeah, some of their drivers are aggro-maniacs with questionable driving skills, but what’s there not to like about a mode of transport where by sitting next to the driver, one automatically becomes his assistant? They even have special seats for pregnant women, women with children and even women with baggage! So, they can’t be bad at all, right?

Travel sites like South Africa Dot Net refer to them as “the somewhat unconventional system with a language and a code of its own” *and here I thought language and code were one and the same – Coin* They even say that “a ride on a minibus taxi will certainly provide you with an authentic South African experience” and (my favourite) “a minibus taxi can provide interesting insights into the lives and cultures of ordinary South Africans.” That last sentence is wholly debatable but I’ll reserve my comments and get on with my post.

Yes, minibus taxis are an experience on their own but I reckon they’re just like any other mode of public transport since one runs into some interesting characters. Considering that a majority of South Africans use taxis, over my years as a taxi-user I’ve come to identify eight common taxi personalities:

1. The One Who Dares To Challenge The Driver: taxi drivers are scary beings, no? Well, not really but there is always that person who will argue with the aggro-maniac version about anything, including: their driving, their chosen route, the fare, why they strike, taxi violence, the change and the state of the taxi. Then this character expects the rest of the commuters to back him/her up and if that doesn’t happen they threaten to start using Rea Vaya or Metro Bus.

2. The One Who Greets: It’s a common African practice that whenever one enters a space that they should greet the people already occupying the space – should it be occupied. It’s understandable, kinda like “I come in peace” thing… But in a taxi O_o This type of folk will open the door (regardless of the 10 car back-up caused by the taxi in rush-hour traffic), greet loudly in a happy-go-lucky tone as if to say “Hi, I”m [name] and I will be providing you with the entertainment for the duration of my/your journey” and then only get in after they get a response, find a seat and spark up a group discussion starting with how everyone’s day was. *Thank heavens for Beats by Dre – Try*

3. The Ones Who Don’t Know Where To Sit: Seats in public transport are tricky, especially when it comes to moving seats at any time during the journey. Questions like “can a person do so? Will anyone be offended?” start running through ones head but in a taxi, yes? Seating is everything! Most taxis don’t have aisles but you will get that person who insists on occupying the flexi-seats near the door even though there is space elsewhere and only move when told to do so by the driver.

There’s also that other character at the taxi rank who knows that after two minutes they’ll be getting off but insist on sitting at the back, forcing six people to get out the taxi before they can, which can be annoying especially when a person with baggage who also has trouble moving their limbs is the one occupying the door seat – adds 20 minutes to a journey.

4. The Ones Who Insist On Keeping The Windows Closed: No matter what. Be it a hot day, stuffy rainy day, farts, B.O, someone with freshly chemically processed hair, feet, fried food or even a mix of all of them, the windows stay firmly shut. Try it. get into a taxi, open a window and within seconds someone is bound to tap you on the shoulder telling you to close it.

5. The Ones Who Eat In A Taxi – especially fried chicken: it’s just wrong, especially with a person like in No. 4 around and a taxi is not a cafeteria. Food is messy, taxi swerves. Food falls on me. You laugh it off and there goes my favourite chemise.

6. The Ones Who Stare: they’ll look at you for uncomfortably long periods, look away for a second and carry on looking at you again or look at your big screen smartphone as you are IM-ing your BFF and comment.

7. The Ones Who Hold Conversations About Sensitive Matters (mostly about themselves): like bodily functions (think The Spa of Embarrassing Illnesses inappropriate), divorce proceedings, sex lives and anything else that should not be discussed in a taxi.

8. The Single-Serving Friend: self-explanatory… These make for great conversation.Take “Chocolate Thunder” and Tee, these two guys I met the other day in a taxi. CT is a graphic designer slash ex-male stripper and escort with an American accent and Tee was the guy who didn’t know where he was going – literally and figuratively – but knew if there was pot and beer where was meant to be going, he’d get there. They had a killer idea for Coin’s next children’s book: a bear made of chocolate who always saves the day by offering kids a piece of his body… *OMG! That is wrong on so many levels – Sang*

So, next time you’re in a minibus taxi, take note… you might spot one of these characters or even get to figure out what your taxi personality is!

– Ava

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Bandz A Make Her Dance?

… if you haven’t heard this Mike WiLL Made It production, where have you been? 

It was Aristotle Onassis who once said that if women did not exist, then “all the money in the world would have no meaning.” He was right. Matthew Fitzgerald declared that women unconsciously package themselves as commodities with make-up, jewellery and shape-revealing clothing forcing men to rely on attraction tactics such as driving expensive cars and bragging about present or future earning power just to catch one. But lately, some men are just taking the whole money thing to another level.

Just ask Ava, see, for 2013 we decided to come out of the woodwork and start frequenting the compelling world of the café-cum-club, as they serve better cocktails than coffee, and we all know that it really does go down in café-cum-clubland, at night.  One of the most familiar figures to be found in the poorly maintained minimalist setting that is the café-cum-club is the adventitious male of a certain age, dressed to fit in and believed to possess infinite riches. This type usually travels alone or in pairs, huddled around the small tables and trying not to look uncomfortable in the post-modern chairs while sipping on draught and perhaps the single malt, puffing away on cigars. Their favourite activity is to infiltrate groups of younger females and offer them alcoholic beverages in the hope that one will return his kindness with sexual favours. The women usually accept, give them a bit of attention and then go about their night.

But, when the desired female is with male company, these men get crafty as they assume she is already being bankrolled for the night by said male company – which, by the way never happens when we go out with Try, we always pay for him *Oi! I have a girlfriend I spend on – Try* So, in Ava’s case, the older man ordered a waiter to deliver his intentions: a black bill holder with a wad of cold hard cash and a note that read:

“For you, baby gal… too fine!!!”

At the same time as the Juicy J track blasted over the speakers. After thinking about it, she turned it down – yes, yes we were all bummed – and we left.

The following day, she deserted us for a solo lunch – more like a regretful lunch – at a bar when she turned and saw the same man from the night before. She had a plan. He noticed her and decided to join her table and to absorb her bill. They conversed, had drinks until he suggested they dine in another part of town. Like any single girl these days, she secretly took a picture of him, his car and registration, sent them to me and headed for more drinks, food and “honest” conversation. They then moved back to our side of town – for more drinks – until he had enough, the charade was on for six hours thus far. He looked at his watch, then asked for the bill before stating his vexation “so, Av, can’t we go to your place so we can get it on? It’s getting late.”  She looked up from her phone and dryly said “no” then she continued to IM me about how she thought that a guy she referred to as “Zen Master”  *don’t ask*  was in the same bar and what she should do to approach him. The man abruptly left her. Unperturbed, she called me telling me to come over as she had a backlog of cocktails waiting to be consumed and we could look-out for Zen Master together. I came running.

Peacocking – men who believe the biggest myth in the history of attraction and finances are prone to succumb to it. Yes, money attracts women. It’s a genetic urge. Since the dawn of human existence, the human female, like females of pair-bonding animals wants copulation with the best male, in other words, the man that could provide goods and services to her and her sprog. However, with the introduction of the monetary economy, women have also evolved and realised that all they need is money and they have developed a way to ensure that they get it. The simplest way being toying with the idea that a man may have a chance in bedding her only if he spent a bit – or a lot – on her. Some choose to give it up for reasons one will never wholly understand, while others want not to as they are familiar with the low-investment mating strategy** that is characteristic of the peacock.  Flashy spending may get a woman’s attention, but that’s where it ends. She’ll still go for someone else, like Ava and her eternal lust for Zen Master *or a pool boy like most bored housewives do when their husbands are at work – Try*, and the peacock is back in café-cum-club land throwing racks.

So really now, who’s fooling who?

**low-investment mating strategy of peacocks, explained by Jonathan Beber "once a peacock has impregnated a peahen, his job is done.  The peacock doesn’t stick around to help raise the offspring."
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Sho’t Left | After Roboto

…those are the terms you usually hear in a taxi, here.
No, not a cab where it’s just you and the driver, the mini-bus ones that range from new Quantums to very old types which you cannot make out what make it is.

The taxi’s that most South Africans use as a primary mode of transport, the ones that went on strike after the announcement of the Gautrain and BRT.

The taxi’s whose violence is legendary.

Those that drive bad and stop almost anywhere without warning because the passengers tell the driver to stop there.

The ones with the passengers that stare at every passing car and won’t open the windows on a rainy day and it smells like freshly relaxed or permed hair.

The taxi where the person next to the window has smelly feet and refuses to open a window.

The ones where if you’re sitting in the front you’re forced to count everyone’s fare even if you aren’t too sure about it yourself.

The taxi’s that know their way around rush-hour traffic.

Yeah, the ones with the drivers from hell!

I usually sit in the front to avoid having to shout out any of the commands to indicate my stop, but, if I’m unfortunate I usually sit at the back and pray and hope that someone is getting off where I need to get off.

In my experience of taxis, I’ve rarely seen the drivers as most people say they are, except in the case of the woman whose R50 got ripped because the driver didn’t have change. The last few times I’ve been in a taxi, the one driver tried to sell me Golden products, the other lectured me about how important it is to stay in school, another tried to sell me airtime and most of them are rather helpful.

The worst thing about taking a taxi is sitting next to someone who feels like they have to tell you their life story! And they won’t shut up! You can’t tell them to stop since they’re pouring their heart out and you become the joke of the rest of the passengers and they snigger because they understand how you feel after a long day.

But for all bad taxi experiences, there’s always a funny one that makes you take a taxi again so one can have a story to tell, because after all, don’t we live to tell stories?

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen to me nor  Coin  or Try but to *dramatic music* Sang.

She decided to take a taxi from work – since her lift club left her behind as she took too long to pack up her belongings. So, at that time of the day, her only option was the comforts of the aforesaid taxi’s – although she had hoped that one of the new ones would come by first, but instead it was a jalopy. She gave her signal and it stopped. She climbed in and saw that the only available seat was next to the slide door that didn’t close properly and left a gap so she had a lovely view of the tarmac at the step. Now, Sang, being who she is, was probably being harassed by Coin to “get back to chat”, which she did once the vehicle drove off. It drove in a manner that vehicles of its type do, swerving and driving on the yellow line until it did a rather interesting manoeuvre that left the passengers swaying and Sang’s delicate fingers lost grip of her shiny mobile which fell on the step and tumbled down through the gap it went.

Unlike her reclusive friend, who would have looked up and mumbled “oh!” and anticipated that another passenger saw what had happened and stopped the taxi. Sang shouted “Stop the taxi!” and like a Tom Cruise (or even Will Smith, these days) in a traffic scene, she opened the door with great force, jumped out and dodged the on-coming traffic while running in heels, to get her precious cellphone which was at the mouth of a drain. She took a deep breath and picked it up and saw it was still on Yeigo with ten “oi’s” from Coin and told her the story.

For those who haven’t been in a taxi, what are you waiting for? BRT and Gautrain are coming, taxi days are numbered… or not!

– Ava

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Robot Retail Therapy

South Africa… no place like it, really. But then again, anyone can say that about the country of their birth, yes? No?

Well, what makes this country great is its cultural diversity – yes, most countries are culturally diverse but not like South Africa, because here we actually celebrate and recognise all cultures and this all makes for a wonderful variety of English called the Standard South African English *how textbook of you – Sang*. See, it’s not uncommon for language varieties to have different names for certain things like say the Americans call it ketchup and the Pom’s call it tomato sauce, on the left of the pond it’s known as jelly and on the right it’s known as jam – or preservative *and the French have a joke about the English eating preservatives – Coin* The list is long.

Well, in South Africa certain objects also have their own special names… There’s the tennis shoe/sneaker debacle… we call ’em tekkies *maybe because they are tacky – Coin* and a barbecue is a braai (probably the most practiced rite here, which is another post altogether). A napkin is a serviette, sausage is wors, a plastic bag is a packet and when someone calls you a “china” they’re being nice, ditto for when they call you a “bra”… the list goes on, and there’s still the “black” South African Standard English words like how Cadbury’s chocolate éclairs are Jackson 5’s, all toothpaste is known as “Colgate” “packets (see above) are known as “Checkers” and all fizzy drinks are known as “Coke”. Yes this is South Africa.

My favourite South-Africanism is the robot *sigh*, tourists have remarked “are you lot ok with all these robots?” I swear the Japanese must think we beat them to making socially acceptable robots, people must think we live like we’re in I, Robot! To the world, a robot is a machine that resembles a human and does mechanical routine tasks on command but to South Africans a robot is a simple traffic light… yes, we just went one step ahead on that one.

The robots at most intersections are a fascinating place, apart from being solely built to control traffic one can spot the occasional driver digging his/her nose or catch another talk to him/herself only to find out they’re using a hand-free cell-phone kit, the robots are like where life begins. They are that one-stop shop all because of the traffic light vendors:


Forget drive-thru’s, these guys or rather traffic-light vendors have made living in South Africa so convenient.

Need a mobile phone car-charger? They have it.

Need an umbrella? They have it.

Need a cool drink? C’mon, that’s why there’s that cooler-box on the pavement with dry-ice, sometimes in summer they even sell ice-lollies.

When I was a kid, they mostly sold flowers and newspapers but now it’s fruit, DVD’s of the film that is yet to be released around the country, sunglasses, vuvuzela’s, potato crisps, sweets, beanies, gloves, scarves, blow up things, toys and knick-knacks. Watches, artwork, mirrors – I exaggerate not – sportswear, flags and aircon repais. These vendors are heaven sent. They saw a gap in the market and closed it, some call them annoying but I reckon they should also have coffee and to-go breakfast or carry satellite PDA’s linked to various government departments say the traffic department and Home Affairs then the world would be a better place.

They offer a quick – well, they have to be, traffic lights only close for like a minute – and friendly service for the type of condition they work in – which is more than I can say for in-store salespeople. They brave losing a limb and work weekends and public holidays and do it all with a smile.

The only down side is when you really want that DVD but everyone can see that you in the silver Jeep Wrangler with registration plate “AVABABY GP” buys pirated DVDs *sigh*

– Ava

The best ones are around Fourways, Johannesburg or Menlyn, Pretoria
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