Reflections on the luxury of life interrupted
It’s Wednesday again, and I’m eager to get back to the city. Newly confident in navigating the Cape Town City Bowl layout as a result of last week’s Wednesday Adventure, I head straight for Kloof Street. In figuring out that Kloof becomes Long Street – and the heart of the city – the plan is simply to walk and see what comes along the way.
Within 100 meters of where I park, a café called “The Power and the Glory” catches my attention, and it’s easy to decide to start the day with a cappuccino. With the flexibility of time, the flexibility of adventure unfolds, and it’s at that moment I realize the recipe for any new adventures in an unknown city includes all that I have today:
Place all ingredients on a pair of comfortable shoes for several hours and see what happens.
And that’s how my day unfolds from Kloof to Long and back again.
Sophisticated and ’boutique-ey,’ upper Kloof offers small, intriguing shops with perfectly displayed wares. Peeking at proprietors through gated front doors with a smile, they happily buzz me into perfectly kept studios of goods with handwritten price tags reflecting the care with which each garment is produced – several evolutions beyond the printed label, and well beyond the handwritten-in-Bic price tags lower on Long.
It’s comfortable. Quiet. Cape beach pastel. After stopping in a few shops, though, I feel drawn down the hill and begin to look for Clarke’s Book Store, where Kloof meets Long.
Lined floor to ceiling with endless shelves of books about South Africa and by South African authors, I learn about the Kalahari, Steve Biko’s (grown) son’s plan for ‘a nation gone astray‘ and the value of ostriches in fashion and on the soul just by looking at titles and reading summaries on back pages.
The creak of the wooden floor occasionally fills the silence inside the bookshop without interrupting the comfort of the hustle-and-bustle-noise emanating in from the stream of passers-by just outside the open door. After purchasing a book on the Bo-Kaap and Steve Otter’s My Year in Khayelitsha, and ordering Sindiwa Magona’s Beauty’s Gift, I reluctantly leave, lingering a moment with one last glance up at biography section (another day) before heading back onto Long.
Marking the boundary of Cape Town 300 years ago, Long Street was originally settled by the Cape’s Muslim community, and remains today one of the city’s most diverse thoroughfares. Known for its nightlife, in the middle of the day I pass clubs holding several early revelers before being invited into the African Music Store by the sounds of Miriam Makeba singing Malaika at full volume in the street. Over an hour later I leave with a Mandela t-shirt for Niles and Makeba’s Legend album, educated a little more about South African jazz musicians and the latest new South African sounds coming from Goldfish.
And so the day continues as I wander down Wale Street with side trips along the walking malls of Shortmarket and Church Streets and back past the Iziko Slave Lodge and St. George’s Cathedral to end with a slow stroll through the Company Gardens – which takes me back up the hill to Kloof. With each passing step, I see a different face, look into a different pair of eyes, and try to understand the vast different perspectives on life that Capetonians hold.
From the 3-piece suited young businessman (who says when I pause at the street corner and look to him for solidarity in crossing through traffic, “Don’t worry; they won’t bump you.”) to the parking attendant (from Zimbabwe who tells me she is saving her money to return to school and dreams one day of going to New York), to the beatnik waiter at the Mozart Cafe (who is living in Cape Town, “for now.”), I catch only small fragments of a place that holds endless stories from divergent histories, backgrounds, experiences and economic status, all coming together in the City Bowl.
When it’s time to head home at the end of the day, I know I will be back – to discover more of those stories, and more of the City, in my next adventure – next Wednesday.