Thursday, September 20, 2007

A trip through time and space

I am trying to fully understand the trip Jack and I just took, the people, the places, the events, past and present. It encompasses so much, the details of it are overwhelming. Just traveling from Oakland, California to Cape Town, South Africa is a monumental task. You are literally moving through space and time and you feel the enormous weight of them both as you make that trip. It was as if we moved from the here and now of our lives in America through space not just to another spot on the globe, but to another time, another era.

The effect of so much of what South Africa was is still present, you can see, hear, smell, and touch and be touched by it. I know that every place holds its history. If it is not immediately evident, with a little digging it can be revealed. But in South Africa all one needs to do is turn a corner, glance out a window, or look into the eyes of the person you just asked for directions and you can feel the weight of the past pressing in on the present. The present is such a fragile thing, and so many people must work so hard to make sure the past remains in the past. Navigating the present and mapping the future are serious endeavors that are not taken for granted, because every moment in the present is so delicate, so valuable, so precious. We don't have that sense of time here, we walk over, around, and through our history as though it never happened. So many of us take today for granted and assume the arrival of tomorrow without reflection and only a little worry about those things that matter the least. As we go about our daily lives, as we move through space and time ignoring the weight of our collective past and indifferent to the fragility of the present, we are putting off a task that only grows larger the longer it is ignored.

The Blood Knot is a journey through space and time, it began with our trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Right now I am not sure where it will lead or when it will end, but I look forward to the rest of the journey.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

And many MANY thanks

At this time, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who made this remarkable trip possible. This trip was an extraordinary gift that is rarely afforded to stage actors. I hope we'll do you proud.

Thank you to the funders who trusted us and believed in our intensions and the significance of this trip in creating our BLOOD KNOT.

Thank you to everybody at A.C.T. who worked so hard on the logistics of this trip.

Thank you, SAJ, for being such a great companion. Our journey has just begun.

And especially, everyone in Cape Town who guided us, taught us, and shared your communities, homes, stories, spirits and humanity with us so generously - THANK YOU! I hope our paths cross somewhere in the future.

I can't wait to share with all of you the photos, videos and voices we collected during our visit (with the help of the A.C.T. IT team, of course).

Next - Prague? ; )



(1) Why is pale better?

(2) Can we forgive? - Others, ourselves?

(3) What is family?

(4) What is blood?

Last Day - September 6, 2006

(1) One more trip to District Six Museum. More time with Noor. He talks about the word, “Boss.” He then points to the sky, and says,”I have only one Boss.”

(2) I pray here more than I have in years.

(3) For the first time, SAJ and I separate. I’m looking for St. George’s Cathedral and walk maybe a mile out of the way. Hopefully I got some great pictures. I am so sweaty and tired and everything is packed so I can’t change. It’s going to be a lovely flight home.

(4) Everyone at the hotel seems genuinely happy to have met us and sad to see us go. It must be SAJ.

(5) Easy drive to the airport.

(6) Great porter helping us with the luggage. He is a 5'6" soccer player from J’burg. This is just his day job.

(7) SAJ really messed up the luggage thing and must repack.

(8) I enjoy this immensely but I stay quiet as a good friend should do.

(9) Found a smoking lounge at the Cape Town Airport but it was closed for renovation. Walked in anyway. Two guys working. They didn’t seem to notice me. And I smoke to my heart’s content.

(10) Take off!

(11) Patches and Nicorette.

(12) Cape Town to London – 12 hours

(13) Heathrow – the biggest mall in the world – Tiffany’s, Herrod’s, Gucci’s etc. It seems obscene.

(14) London to SFO. This last leg of flight seems to take FOREVERRRRR.

(15) There it is, the Golden Gate Bridge. We are back!

(16) Caresa takes me home.

(17) My wife has food, iced tea, and vodka in the freezer. All waiting for me with a love note on each one. She will be home soon.

Family, blood, humanity.

Robben Island - September 5, 2007

(1) Pissing rain and soaked to the skin.

(2) What can you say? I think I’ll just let the recorded testimonies do the talking. You’ll see in here soon.

(3) Tears…but not of sadness. Tears of joy for the human spirit. Forgiveness? Maybe.

(4) Last night here. SAJ, thank you. I love you. You are an easy travel companion. A joy and a challenge.

(5) Quickly buying gifts for family and friends. Using phone card minutes. Packing, watching soccer. Dreading the flight home and 24 hours on the plane.


Robben Island:

Townships-Day 2, September 4, 2007

Townships, Day 2

(1) Waiting for Songs. People going to work. The market across the street already set up. Cabbies waiting for a fare and playing cards using a dumpster as their table. Traffic and pedestrians daring the traffic to hit them.

(2) And once again, a warning to be careful. I know we are old, but do SAJ and I look vulnerable? This is vanity speaking.

(3) Miles of settlements and poor black townships lining the highway. It’s overwhelming. It’s numbing. The highways littered with everything. Garbage and thousands of old tires. Horse drawn carts picking up scrap metal. Songs says it is a common living here. Cages of chickens and women butchering them on the side of the road.

(4) Cape Flats, the area between the Table Mountain and the ocean. It stretches out for miles. One black township with 1.4 million people. Mainly one, sometimes two-room shelters crowded right next to one another – it just seems to go on forever.

(5) It’s so….and I can’t think of another word, numbing.

(6) I tell Songs I need to see the ocean. It is breathtaking. Cape Town is a city with a sea, flat lands, hills that lead to highland vineyards and mountains in the distance. It should be the sister city of San Francisco.

(7) We visit Rodney, also a musician friend of Songs, in the “coloured” township of Bellville South. It’s like a gated community compared to informal settlements or black townships. Kitchen, bath, living room, two bedrooms, garden in front, back yard with a garage and chihuahua that jumps all over the place. It’s the family home and he lives with his parents. Hell, I wouldn’t want to leave home neither.

(8) The disparity of life because of color… tint…hue… the spectrum of the rainbow…

(9) In America, there is this thing called “white guilt.” I experience that. And in South Africa, I think there is this thing called “coloured guilt.”

(10) Coloured, coloured, coloured
Black, black, black
White, white, white

(11) Raymond makes a lovely cup of tea.

(12) Raymond’s house has a wall between the toilet and the bath/bathroom sink. I use the toilet and upon exiting, his mother points out the bathroom door, and says, “wash your hands.” Moms are universal.

(13) Raymond talks about “coloured indifference” and “coloured fear.” He admires blacks. He claims they are fearless. When do generalizations become bigotry, even when they are meant to be compliments?

(14) So many questions about the play are being answered. If not answered, then recognized. SAJ and I are already arguing about who the “good guy” is in the play.

(15) That’s a joke.

(16) Culpability…who is responsible? How far back do we go? What is retribution? What is forgiveness? Can we forgive others? Can we ever forgive ourselves?

(17) Blood, family, blood, humanity.

(18) It seems to me that this play is eternal.

(19) Songs suggests we tip Raymond. I ask should we have tipped Nkululeko? Songs says no, not really.

(20) There is a black woman washing the windows for a coloured family across the street.

(21) SAJ is my brother. I can’t wait till he meets mom back in Kansas.

(22) Lunch at Tiger’s again. Even better! Sitting at the patio when 20 – 25 pale…and I mean Nordic white tourists walk around the corner. SAJ jokes that my presence must have confused them. I get the joke but what am I, but a tourist.

(23) In the play, SAJ’s character talks about the bar he used to frequent before my character’s arrival. SAJ suggests we visit such a bar.

(24) And against my better judgment we head back to Nkululeko’s house and “his” bar next door.

(25) You can’t buy a “single” drink here. You have to buy a bottle. It’s like blue-law dry Kansas.

(26) Well if you gotta buy a bottle, you gotta buy a bottle. When in Rome…

(27) Recording everything

(28) A last drive around and I hope pictures and voice recordings come out. They ARE the record.

(29) At dinner, a 27-year old South African white female bartender claims we have seen more of Cape Town than she has, and she has lived here all her life. Why?

(30) Tired. Still bad TV. And I’m still looking forward to breakfast.

Informal Settlements - September 3, 2007

(1) Songs is our guide. A large African man with a great laugh… Reams of knowledge and the wisdom that seems years beyond his age. Without him, this trip would be meaningless. Thank you, Songs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(2) Informal settlements…squatters’ land. Lean-to’s, shacks, shanties, made of scrap metals and salvaged woods. Tarred paper roofs held down with old tires. One door and no windows. A communal water well and a common area for washing clothes. Rows of porta-potties that are blocks long. Stray dogs everywhere. Dust, dirt, litter. No electricity. Large campfires for cooking. A dozen cattle being herded down the dirt road on which we are driving. Where do they graze? Even Songs doesn’t know the answer to that. Tables, set up on corners, that sell “smilies”… sheep heads that are roasted and considered a delicacy. I suggest we get one, but SAJ wisely talks me out of it. People sitting and staring. Children moving dirt with their toes as if it is a game. Clothes and bedding hanging on fences that separate these settlements from more affluent townships. A dirt road that separates one settlement from a township area nicknamed “Beverly Hills.” Beverly Hills is a neighborhood in Langa consisting of one – to two-room bungalows. And believe me…compared to the settlement, the name is fitting. Row upon row of these shanties connected by a common wall, because that means one less wall to build. Most times, connected in the back, too, because that means two less walls to build. These settlements are found throughout Cape Town. They have no names. Children are born here.

(3) And yet people smile and wave.

(4) We re-visit the black township of Langa and home to Songs. He takes us to meet Nkululeko, a musician friend of his. Nkululeko is a percussionist and marimba player and this morning he is terribly hungover. Man, artists are the same everywhere.

(5) Nkululeko’s favorite bar is right next door to his house. Cool.

(6) There is a tour bus on Nkululeko’s street. Tourists having lunch at a restaurant there.

(7) Nkululeko plays some of his latest music for us. It is a DVD recorded in Japan. He shows me a picture of his Japanese girlfriend. I show him a picture of my Japanese wife.

(8) Lots of laughs and jokes at each other’s expense. It’s like hanging with Judd and Rene.

(9) Back on the road. The mass transportation system here seems to be all privately owned. Vans and buses pick up people at collection spots in townships and drive them to Cape Town proper or its suburbs.

(10) All public school students wear uniforms. As a child of the 60’s, surprisingly, I like that they do.

(11) I just saw a dog scratching his back on the front bumper of a Volks Wagon.

(12) Langa has a population of little over 170,000. It is the smallest and oldest of all black townships in Cape Town. Songs seems to know every one of those 170,000 people. Waves, yells, honking horns. We are in the capable hands of a rock star.

(13) Lunch at Tiger’s…A long connected 3-room heaven! You buy your meat (lamb, beef, pork, chickens, sausages, and variety types) in the first room, a butcher shop. You then season it with assorted spices. Songs did this for us. You then give this platter of meat to the cook in the second room. And while he is grilling, you proceed to the 3rd room and come to the lounge and an outdoor patio. The patio is a concrete slab facing the street with cars parked about 6 ft away. Order a few beers and wait for the food. Watch Songs greet everyone and introduce us to them. Everyone knows everyone. All are kind and welcoming. A school bell goes off across the street. Then the food comes on a large tin tray with one knife. It is placed on a chair between us, and it’s every man for himself. Grabbing, pulling, tearing the meat apart and tasting the best food I think we had in Cape Town.

(14) And not one vegetable in sight. Not even a lamb-flavored potato chip.

(15) Recording and filming everyone and everything we can. I hope these machines work.

(16) More black townships. Alive with people and activities. Interactive…not just people rushing home to work, to home. Laughter. The joy of a common struggle?

(17) Back at the hotel, and the woman at the front desk seems genuinely shocked that we spent a day in Langa. Crime, gangs, drugs, etc. She is “coloured.”

(18) Terrible television in South Africa. 5 stations and 3 of them show soccer. The other two, old reruns of American soap operas.

(19) Consciously observing is exhausting. Night, night.


Visual tour of the township:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Prelude to "Tell the truth and shame the devil"

Robben Island is an amazing place. We went on a rainy cold day, traveling across choppy seas (about a four foot swell). You could see the island in the distance, and as we got closer I wondered what that ride must have been like for the heroes that made it, they were shackled below deck in darkness.

The first political prisoner in South Africa was a man named Robert Sobukwe. He spent all of his confinement alone, and he was considered such a threat that he was not allowed to speak to anyone, for years. He is the beginning of a long chain of heroic people who eventually brought down Apartheid.

Here are two quotes about Robben Island by two of the most famous men who were there:

"In the struggle Robben Island was known as the 'university.' Not because of what we learned from books, but because of what we learned from each other." - Nelson Mandela

"The most inhospitable outpost of Apartheid." - Oliver Tambo


Click to view a larger map of Robben Island:

More pictures from Robben Island:

With Thulani, a former prisoner at Robben Island:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Townships, Colored and Black

The Townships -- where do I start? They are unimaginable, unforgettable, seething, intense, hopeful, forlorn, needy, independent, Black and Colored, and bursting with possibility, depending on which one you visit.

We have spent the last two days, with a little help from my friend Songs Ngcongolo, visiting Black and Colored townships. Their names are: Langa, Guguletu, Khayeliysha, Athlone, Heidiveld, Manenberg, Philipi, and Belville South. Some are poor, some are middle class, some are a mix of both. They are creations of the Apartheid era, they are also places where people live and work and raise families and dream of the future, or can't see a future and just try to get to the next day.

In Langa, Songs takes us around and shows us various areas in the township. Langa is the oldest township in South Africa. The housing ranges from one room shacks, like the one described in our play, to two story brick homes in an area called "Beverly Hills." Incidentally Beverly Hills is literally across the road from an area filled with shacks where people have no plumbing. There are schools, small shops, churches, small eateries, and bars. Everywhere you see people going about their daily lives, going to work, kids in uniforms going to school, driving, walking, talking, laughing, seemingly unfazed by the circumstances that surround them. Unfazed but not unaware, everyone we met spoke of their desire for change. Either in their own lives, or more generally of change for South Africa and all her people. Be it social, political, economic, or educational, it was something that was on every one's mind. This ability to live and get to the next day in spite of what one faces in life is a big part of our play.

Songs introduced us to his friend Nkululeko, his name means freedom. He is a man in his forties who lives in the house he grew up in. It started as two rooms, a kitchen and a bedroom, and the family added to it. Nkululeko is a master drummer, he plays in a band named Amampondo that is hugely successful in South Africa. He has played with Hugh Masakela, Airto, Flora Purim, and other musicians of note yet he lives in the most humble of abodes next to a shebeen called Fanie's (under Apartheid a shebeen was an illegal bar). He and Songs introduced us to everyday life in the township of Langa.

Nkululeko and Songs:

We ate at a place called Tigers, a butcher/restaurant/bar. That's right, all those things under one roof. You go in the butchers and pick out your cuts of meat and some seasoning, you go into the next room to season your meat and it is cooked on a hardwood charcol fire, you go to the terrace to order what you want to drink, your meat is brought to you, and you eat. It was the best food we ate in South Africa.

Incredible poverty and deprivation across the road from Beverly Hills and the undeniable pulse of a vibrant everyday life, this was Langa.

The other Black townships we saw were Guguletu and the largest township in South Africa, Khayelitsha, a place that is home to 1.4 million people.

The Guguletu Seven -- A memorial to seven young black men who were killed at a crossroads in the township.

The next day we went to Colored townships. Their names are Athlone, Belville South, and Heideveld, and all three are working middle class communities. However, being classified Colored didn't insulate you from poverty and one room shacks, remember the circumstances of our characters in Blood Knot. We also saw Mannenberg and Phillipi, both Colored and both achingly poor. That was where we saw how Zach and Morrie (the brothers in our play) lived. Their lives under Apartheid are still being lived today after that horrible system has fallen.

In Belville South we met another of Songs' friends, Rodney Adonis. He was enormously helpful to us. He gave us insight into the life of a Colored man in the 1960s, the time of our play. We talked about the state of mind and psyche under Apartheid. How as second class citizens with a few more privileges, a mindset of fear could be created, whereas for a Black person who had no rights, not even citizenship and nothing to loose, there was often no fear. We discussed the different ways that horrid system impacted the lives of the people it oppressed, both Black and Colored. We saw so much, felt so much, learned so much.

It is very hard to put it all into words, so I'll stop trying. I'll try to put it all into my work on stage. It's a daunting task, but that makes it all the more exciting. Wednesday we went to Robben Island and we heard the most incredible story about that place from a former political prisoner. I will not try to speak for him, we recorded his words and we will put them in the blog, either as audio or transcribed text. I'm just going to call that post "Tell the truth and shame the devil."


More pictures from the townships:

September 3, 2007

(1) Check out the reports about French Prez Sarkozy’s address in Senegal in July and controversy surrounding the speech and South Africa's President Mbeki’s response to that.,,2156810,00.html

(2) This may be the most remarkable day of my life and I am not ready to write about it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Church

(1) I haven’t been to church for years unless for weddings or funerals.

(2) We drive to the black township of Langa. It’s still scary, but SAJ thinks he’s getting better at driving here. When he tries to use the turn signal the wind shield wiper comes on.

(3) My first time in a township. Overwhelming. I am so, so, so pale. I have to admit, it’s weird. And weirdness runs very deep. What is color? Keep asking that. What is race? What is tribe? What is family? What is blood? Really, what is blood?

(4) They have a coal-water cooling plant here that looks like a nuclear reactor.

(5) We are early for church, so we drive around. I feel foreign, out of place, a tourist to a struggle.

(6) The church is right across from the police station.

(7) We are standing waiting to meet our host, Gege. He doesn’t recognize SAJ because of the lack of the ponytail.

(8) Remarkable smile – Gege.

(9) Music everywhere. Even before we go into the church.

(10) We sit at the back of the church.

(11) Children everywhere. Youth choir, teenagers that sit on the risers facing the congregation, late-teens or early 20’s in blue blazers and caps doing the confirmation of faith.

(12) Children make you see your sins and your hopeful redemption.

(13) Unbelievable music and everyone knows the songs and can perform them in six part harmony.

(14) I am fighting back the tears. The beauty of the children.

(15) The pews in this church are even smaller the ones at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church in Hutchinson, KS.

(16) Well, it’s official. At a holy ceremony of the First United Langa Methodist Church of South Africa, I was introduced as one of two “fellow Africans from America.” SAJ and I are really brothers.

(17) Long service. Almost 4 hours!

(18) AIDS Awareness everywhere. It’s good to see a church addressing the issue.

(19) Gege’s mother is beautiful and has a remarkable voice. And he is a dynamic force that makes you optimistic for the future.

(20) Meeting with Gege, lots of stuff on tape for Deb.

(21) I miss my wife.


Video of the children's choir singing in the church in Langa:

Sunday, September 2, 2007

More help from my friends.......

S'bangizwe Yekiso is a friend of mine. He is an infinitely interesting young man, filled with energy and enthusiasm and a genuine love of people and life. He works for a wine company called Thokozani. He took us to the Langa Methodist Church yesterday as his guest. Now lets get two things clear right now. One, nobody who reads this can pronounce his name, and two, between me and Jack we figure Jesus was alive the last time we both were in church. I can help you with number one, everyone calls my friend Gege (pronounced Geygey, like heyhey). With number two, you'll have to go directly to Jesus for help.

The service at the Langa Methodist church was an amazing experience. We drive to Langa, a mostly Xhosa black township, and we find the church by following Gege's directions. We drive around a bit looking at Langa. We'll spend Monday and Tuesday there, so we go back to the church and park. Jack and I are obviously not from Langa, but people are warm and friendly, saying hello as they pass. There are a lot of young men and women gathering, the men have on blue blazers and the women have on blue skirts and berets. They are apparently the choir, because they gather and begin to warm up, singing the beginning of various songs. Gege arrives and greets us. At first he doesn't recognize me, the last time we were together I had a ponytail, but we connect and I introduce Jack and he takes us inside and gets us seated in the back and tells us he will see us at the end of the service. From the moment we sat down, there was the most amazing singing happening. The church was a long room with a raised pulpit at the front and row after row of simple wooden pews. They slowly filled up while the young people at the front continued to sing so beautifully in Xhosa. By 10:20 or so the church was packed. The youngest members were seated up on the dais just behind the minister and to his right, looking out at all of us and filling the entire room with their pulsing highly rhythmic and physical energy and their rich soprano voices.

Then the minister began to announce the scripture to be read in a mix of Xhosa and English, as Langa is mostly Xhosa, and solo singers would begin to sing after the readings. This is when we were just blown away. The entire congregation, hundreds of people, young and old would come in right on cue singing in harmonies and full voices, filling the air with the most incredible sound I have ever heard. It brought back memories of church services I attended as a child in Georgia with my relatives (back during the time of Christ), but the singing there did not top this. It transported you on waves of melody and took you out of yourself to another place here in Langa with people you didn't know, but with whom you suddenly felt part of. We were introduced as the Africans from America, and felt the warmth of the congregation's welcoming greeting. Jack leaned over to me and said, "now I'm African."

With that achieved, we sat through the rest of the service with all its great singing and the lighting of the AIDS candle and the stirring sermon: "don't run with the chickens and ducks, you are not one of them, you are an eagle, learn to fly, realize your potential, soar like an eagle!" We sat through all three hours and forty some minutes of it.

Then, back to the hotel and we meet Gege at the cigar bar across the street, there wasn't much open, and he helps us with all this language and pronunciation stuff (invaluable), then he's off to the rest of his day, leaving us to the rest of ours. A little help from my friend.......

Jack Reporting #5

(1) Boys and girls… I just found a mall! So western…so modern…so comfortable. And it's at the pier that takes you to Robben Island. How perfect.

(2) We meet Ivan and Fanny. They are wonderful to us. SAJ will elaborate.

(3) We take naps every day. God, we are old.

(4) Dinner at an Irish Bar in South Africa.

(4-a) The doorman says “ no smoking” but everyone is smoking. It’s just like Summers Place or High Tide.

(4-b) Beautiful Africans dressed to the nines. I mean really beautiful men and women in stylish attires. It could be SF or NYC.

(4-c) Moroccan architecture and sturdy furniture.

(4-d) High tech sound system with all kinds of music. Not just “Oh, Danny Boy.”

(4-e) Menu that features “Irish Stew.” Everything else is sports bar food. We settle for the appetizer platter of ribs, buffalo wings, chicken strips, fried mushrooms, potatoes, and onion rings with various sauces.

(4-f) Most beautiful smiles here.

(5) Going to bed early. I have church tomorrow.

We get by with a little help from my friends...

I made arrangements to meet Ivan and Fanny LeKay at the Clock Tower and from there we would all go to lunch. It's Saturday Sept. 1st and it is cold and rainy, but these are warm, generous people who have helped us enormously in our effort to learn the complexities of race and color in South Africa.

Jack and I get to the water front a little early. The Clock Tower is a well known local landmark on the Cape Town waterfront. It was once an industrial and commercial waterfront. Goods, including slaves from the Malay peninsula and Madagascar and central Africa came and went. There is an actual clock tower facing the water, now it is the hub of a lot of the tourist activity and a lot of commercial activity in general. Read that as SHOPPING, BIG TIME! Hotels, shops, restaurants, a trip to Robbin Island (we'll go Wednesday), water taxi tours, a little outdoor amphitheater. All kinds of street acts performing as you walk by. You name it, it is there. My friends arrive and we start walking across the waterfront to a large mall. We pass a lot of street performers, singers, dancers, a comedy act at the amphitheater, but one catches my eye and ear. He is a black African guy sitting against a wall playing a wooden flute and shaking a gourd. He is barefoot, and where he is it is particularly windy and cold. I notice him as we pass on the way to the mall. We get to the mall and it is large and bustling. We proceed to a very nice seafood place and we sit out in the mall so we can see the people pass as we eat.

Ivan and Fanny are wonderful people, they tell us about growing up colored in South Africa. Ivan tells a story about his parents, one dark and one very light. His mother has not seen her sister in years, after a lot of negotiation it was agreed they would meet at a hotel in Durban. Now Durban was a good distance from Ivan's rural home in the western Cape, but his dad agreed to take his mom to Durban. They drove to the hotel in Durban and he dropped his wife off and went away, he had to leave because it was a colored hotel and he was too dark.

Fanny has a similar story involving her mother and her mom's sister. They have not seen each other since their early adulthood. Fanny's aunt is about to marry a white man, she is light enough to pass for white, and has. After some very intense negotiation, it is decided they will meet at a colored hotel and the Aunt's husband to be will not attend. If he did there would be no wedding. They meet and just as in the case of Ivan's mom, the two sisters never meet again.

I hope I don't sound like a broken record, but race and color are the thousand pound gorilla in the room, and in the U.S.A. we act like he isn't there. We continue to talk and eat, I talk about Blood Knot, the plot and characters, I mention the locale of the play, the township of Korsten. I refer to it as black, Ivan says no, it's not black it's colored. I am momentarily stunned. I realize I am still viewing the play through the prism of my experience with race and color at home. They are very similar, but the details are very different. That is why Jack and I are here, to learn the details of the world of Blood Knot. That is why I am so indebted to my new friends in South Africa, who lived colored, who lived black, who lived through Apartheid and are willing to share that with us.

We finish eating and talking and we leave and start to go back towards the clock tower and Ivan and Fanny's car. Then Jack realizes that he has forgotten his jacket and starts back to the restaurant to retrieve it. Ivan and Fanny say their goodbyes and leave and I am alone on the waterfront. I am watching the people and the water, feeling the brisk wind and enjoying the smell of the sea, and then I hear it, the sound of a wooden flute and a gourd. I look towards the shrill melody and the rattling rhythm and there he is. The black African guy. Still sitting and playing in the cold. I see a young girl stop and give him some coins, but mostly people ignore him. He's not colorful or showy or friendly, or funny or charming. He looks poor and like he might smell a bit. Jack comes hustling back into my sight line and I hail him and we start back to where we can get a taxi. Jack is walking a few paces ahead of me, he is always a few paces ahead of me, and I notice the gourd and flute guy again. I am right in front of him, and just on impulse I stop and drop a few rand in his basket. We don't look at each other and I walk on, telling Jack to slow down. We hail a taxi and head back to the hotel.

Blood Knot, race and color, the U.S.A., South Africa, poverty, religion, sex, education, family, all that makes up life. As an old friend once said, "don't go, we have to figure this out."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Jack Reporting #4-2 District Six Museum

(1) 15 Rand to enter the place. Quiet. Reverential. A woman at the reception desk looking happy to see us. A sign in visitor book. Typical museum stuff.

(2) We meet Noor…our guide. He’s busy and asks us to wait for a few minutes. So we look around.

(3) A pyramid of street signs from the destroyed streets…saved.

(4) A map on the floor with names showing where the displaced used to live.

(5) I’m sure SAJ has done better at the history of District Six, so I’ll just add these few observations…

(5-a) I am reminded of Japantown in SF.

(5-b) Noor’s grandfather had 30 children. What’s that about!?

(5-c) A remarkable installation of a District Six home and its artifacts that have been semi-plastered into a wall with Apartheid laws printed over it all.

(5-d) Stairs…

(5-e) and this is it. In the back, a daycare. A museum with a living daycare center. Children at lunch singing their grace… Laughing and eating their meals to the sound of their teacher singing, “food is good, we love food.” The past and the future all in one.

(6) What is “Colour”? There was a black police force, a coloured police force, and a white police force all enforcing the Apartheid law. District Six was raised by the people of colour against the people of colour. That’s a hard one for me. I am so American and white.


Video tour of District Six Museum:

Jack Reporting #4

(1) Just saw a commercial on TV that started with "Are you South African and still having issues with colour? Then get this issue of STYLE!" And they showed pages from the magazine and talked about articles concerning fashion, interior design, and this year's style trend. You gotta be f@#%ing me.

(2) What is "Colour" and what does it really mean to us? I mean REALLY?

(3) They just announced on South African News that the cost of anti-viral AIDS drugs are expected to rise 500% over the next few years. It's just another form of genocide if you ask me.

(4) Bacon is still great.

(5) The hotel we are staying in makes us turn in our room keys before we leave the building and the locals are telling us to be careful on the street.

(6) I get what they are inferring, but it doesn't seem that dangerous.

(7) SAJ needed to do currency exchange and it's like Fort Knox at the banks here. You push a red button, and wait until it turns green and then the sliding door opens and then you walk in and the door shuts behind you. You then push another red button and wait for the light to turn green and then another door opens and then you enter the bank.

(8) And then they tell you that they don’t do currency exchange.

(9) So you try to leave but there are more buttons and two people can never be in the same cubicle at the same time. What are they trying to say?

(10) Just passed a South African Woolworth. It reminds us of the lunch counter arrests, boycotts of Woolworth and the United States of the 60’s.

(11) But this is a very upscale Woolworth. They sell lattes.

(12) What was the other five and dime? Kreisges?

(13) It took us a while, but we find the District Six Museum.