SMOKE: A Petty Life
Originally published: 23 May 2005
I have to be really, really bored to read my local community newspaper and since I'm never bored I hardly ever read it.
Occasionally I'll pick it up and scan through to the reader's letters page for a laugh and a reaffirmation that no matter how bad my life nor I become I'll never have to descend to the depths of folks who actually take the time to write in to a community newspaper.
Sounds a little elitist, but I direct your attention to the following letter on Page 2 of the most recent edition of the paper (19 May, 2005) - it's from somebody living in that cornucopia of lust and marital abandonment, Pinelands:
The Rondebosch Croquet Club hedge is looking a little 'crock'.
The hedge on Liesbeeck Parkway is overgrown while the Belmont Road fence seems inadequate. The trees, almost, but not quite topiaric, are an attractive feature.
The piece of roofing on the corner, complete with 'hieroglyphics', has long intrigued me.
That's it - that's the entire letter. I don't like smirking and chortling at the expense of other folks but that's ridiculous, man. It's senseless garbage - an ode to hedges. It's almost Python-esque. Almost.
Letters like that I store away in my memory banks and stamp them with a Do Not Use sign, for future reference. I can reliably inform you that I shall never have an indecent interest in hedges, nor shall I care a goose-ass about an intriguing piece of corner roofing.
This is my promise to you.
But my interest in this latest edition of the paper came not from the letter pages, because I didn't get there.
I'd just sat down at the table with a vicious, scything pain to the scapula (I get such pains from time to time, and they always strike different parts of my body) and while catching my breath and waiting for it to pass I idly browsed the front story feature, entitled Anger Over Racecourse Party.
I really shouldn't read that newspaper ever because every time I do I end up incensed at something. If the aim of the newspaper was to challenge, disturb, toss up and spit out human emotions so that healing and learning and enlightenment could follow, then maybe I'd be impressed at my own rage.
But it's written by people in sensible shoes and targets the decent amongst us and I guess that's what upsets me so much. I'm anything but decent.
The story was the usual bit about how someone held a party that went on too late and made a lot of noise and residents got upset. I've read hundreds of just such stories in my life and every single one of them is the same - this one was no different.
What was different this time was me, because for the first time I didn't just idly glance over it disinterestedly and move on to the next item as one does - with the nerve in my shoulder screaming I was just not interested in the level of pettiness in the story.
A jazz party was reportedly held at the Kenilworth Racecourse on Worker's Day (1 May) and went on until around 3am the following Sunday morning.
The Kenilworth Residents Association - spearheaded by one Brett Matthews - was outraged at this blatant defilement of their community, and Matthews is now kicking up a shitstorm with letters to the City Of Cape Town.
The whole beef Matthews has with it is that he - and most other residents in the area - were not informed about the party and it was, after all, subject to proper town council procedures designed to protect innocent communities from evil jazz patrons and the sins of the flesh.
Matthews reckons he wouldn't have objected to the party had he known about it, which pretty much makes his protests nothing more than sour grapes for a poor night's sleep.
The reasons he listed on his complaint to the city and the party organisers included:
The lack of public participation
The noise level
The concert was held on a Sunday
The concert went on until around 3am
Matthews moaned a bit about noise and lateness of hour, but told the paper those weren't the only issues: "This is a Christian community and the concert was held on a Sunday", he explained.
That's when my hackles rose and rose and the rumble started in my throat. Because it's that same superior Christian bullshit that surfaces everywhere I look, infecting my world with it's self-righteous, holier-than-thou, politically correct pettiness.
This is not a go at Christianity - it's a rant about Christians who use their religion to give themselves a perceived credibility. Like - I'm a Christian, and therefore I'm OK and you're not.
If I was a Christian I would be highly pissed off with other Christians who speak for my religion like that, using it as a weapon in a fight against the awful mundaneness of their own lives.
What has Christianity got to do with a party that went on a little long and got a little raucous? I understand that Christians shouldn't drink and defile themselves (tell that to half the priests in the Kenilworth diocese alone), and while I can't understand the problem with playing music on a Sunday I can understand that I don't need to understand - it's just the way Christianity goes.
No rock and roll on a Sunday? And they wonder why I'm not Christian.
Still - if that's your thrill then go for it, but who the hell are you to tell others they can't have a party that starts on a Saturday night and just happens to be so good it goes on into the wee hours of a Sunday?
Why should anyone else give two fat asses about your religious beliefs? You aren't defiling the Lord in any way - you're tucked up nicely in your warm bed with your solid wife, two and a half kids and with a proud hedge outside, and even though evil (and I'll admit - there are few things more evil than a roomful of jazz lovers) is about - you aren't participating in it.
By all means don't cave in and rush over the road to indulge in a tasty Fmin7-dim bass lick and a ripped-up stick solo by the man they call Quincy, but don't get pissed off when others do. Move on, Brett, and the Kenilworth Residents Association. Move on.
I get as pissed off as the next guy when some doos plays his music too loud when I'm trying to sleep, but if an oke is having a party - let him party. Even if there are strict council rules which require residents within a 100-metre radius of the establishment to be informed in advance of the event and you don't get your letter.
If partying gets excessive and goes on late every night then by all means take action. But one night's interrupted sleep for a few insomniacs is not going to harm anybody in the long run.
As long as they don't lie in bed listening to the jazz and trying to interpret it in any way - that can get dangerous. Been there, done my interpretations and still shudder at the memories, thanks.
Way too many berets and people called Darling, I'm afraid. Far too many saxophones.
And whatever you do - don't make your pettiness about your religion. Keep it to yourself.
All Smoked Out,