Peter Weller's Cigar Paradise
Africa, or finding the Founding Fathers (Rolling in Their Graves) While Smoking my Way Through Post-Apartheid Cape Town
From the Print Edition:
Tyson vs. King, Jan/Feb 04
(continued from page 2)
"That's true!" yells one of the exchange students.
"But the rights of humans would be extinct in those countries without the U.S. forcing a hand, so it's a trade-off!" yells back another student at her peer.
"Talk to the Serbs who had to eat those bombs in Belgrave!" raves Alfred.
Roger raves at Alfred, "I don't hold with the WTO or America's f*&$#ing global business meddling with every c*&%$ on earth, but this is a f*&%$ing party for the f*&$ing Yanks, because Pete's a f*&%$ing Yank; so shut up!"
And on and on, for a solid hour, all of us standing, screaming at a collective decibel level of banshees. A break, a pause as a waitress delivers a course; I light another D.C., and we are up and at it again. Rick is about to come apart at the seams when I see the manager, Per, in the outer room waving at me. I quickly duck out.
"Where're you going?!" yells Rick. "You're not leaving this war, you coward!"
In the lounge, Per says, "Your sociological skirmish has filtered all the way down through the lounge and into the jazz bar; the group has stopped playing and everyone's into a yelling match down there on a par with your war here…is someone smoking pot?"
I sniff the air. I do indeed smell "gange," of which I do not puff. "Is this trouble?"
"Yes, I believe it is," echoes Per ignominiously. "And, should the fuzz arrive, I believe I will have to take someone down with me, which," he smiles, "would be -- you."
Beating a fast track back to the table. The harangue is now ear-splitting madness.
"Can the dope, whoever's smoking it," I attempt to scream over the din.
"WE HAVE NO TIME FOR SUCH LUXURIES!!WE ARE FIXING THE WORLD AT THIS CONFERENCE, MY FRIEND!" waxes Alfred. And he bear-hugs the life out of me as Roger commands, "Our young friend 'Red' has something to say -- ridiculous no doubt, but no more idiotic than every other f*&%in' word spoken in the past hour. But since Red suffered the degradation of this hybrid confab of bullshit with no recourse, I believe we should give the c*%$ the f*&$#ing floor."
And thus "Red," in punked Blue hair, stands. His soft and juvenile tones begin, "I am 19 years…."
"JEEESSSUSSS, DON'T GIVE US YOUR F*&%$ING AGE! THE COPS ARE ALREADY COMING TO BUST US FOR ACTING LIKE MASSIVE LUNATICS AND ASSHOLES!"
"Sorry, Roger," apologizes the youth.
"No problem, Red," responds Alfred the Scot. "But get the f*&$# on with it before I smash the f*&$#ing table."
"Well…," Red softly continues. "I am African. And…I don't consider myself White African or Black African, nor South African or anything else other than…'African.' That said, I can tell you when I went with my father to vote, eight years ago, there we stood in line, for the first time, with blacks who cheered and chanted the songs of their ancestors and tribes. And it was so moving, my father began to weep. You see…ten years ago, this very hilarious yet pertinent fit of madness that I have witnessed tonight could not have happened in a public place among Africans, white or black. I have never heard anything quite like this tonight. And I am sure I never will again."
"You've swallowed the pill of truth there, Red!" says Alfred.
Red continues, "If indeed, we were all in the United States right now, I'll warrant we would have been behaving much more 'politically correct'."
"The truth! The truth! The almighty truth!" screams Alfred.
"Thus is the demeanor of Americans on their home soil," continues Red. "But you've felt the liberty for this rant, because, I venture to say, you've felt the undercurrent of the new freedoms in South Africa; thus you've run amok. I must say I've never laughed so much or seen so many people of color with so many points of view scream so loudly. But, in spite of the fact that you have used this country to pound your various positions tonight; and in spite of the fact that this conversation WOULD probably NOT have happened at the same party in the U.S.A. -- it is the U.S.A. that has made this conversation a possibility for me to hear it tonight in South Africa. Because, were it not for the influence of the U.S.A. and, indeed, whether you like the place or not, folks, were it not for its legacy of its civil upheaval, we here in South Africa might still be living under apartheid, and I would have never met, let alone heard, so many wonderfully MAD lovelies such as yourselves speak so voluminously and violently on so many wonderful subjects at all." And he sits down.
Long Stunned Pause.
And we all jump up and hug Red to thunderous applause, hoops, hollers, belches, etc. And now I see Per, once again, in the other room waving at me, shrugging his shoulders as I light my last Hoyo D.C.
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