Global Lay-Correspondent Report on South Africa



Jeff Spahr-Summers, US


11: Chasing the Cherry


Alcohol was in abundance at our house. Throughout my childhood dad was a heavy drinker, therefore, so were his friends, and their friends etc. As I grow older I understand this domino effect. Frequently he and his friends (or my mom and my sisters) would drink and watch satellites trek across the night sky. Without the dominant glow of city lights (as in the Northern Hemisphere) the night sky in Southern Africa was breathtaking. The stars that moved inch by inch across the sky were satellites that you could see without a telescope. Dad called his little club “the Southern Hemisphere in Transit Satelliteers”, the SHITS! It was during these times that I began stealing alcohol from behind dad’s bar (mostly Scotch Whiskey or Bourbon), or I would buy Galliano (which was cheap and great with crushed ice). Anything with alcohol in it was fair game.

I learned to tend a bar from dad before we ever went to South Africa. By the time Gerald died, I looked at alcohol with a certain fond familiarity. It was like an old friend and easy to come by. By now we had moved into Pretoria itself because (as dad told me many years later) he had seen one too many Cobras on the dirt roads near our house. I spent more and more time with my new friends drinking and smoking cigarettes. We hitchhiked around Pretoria to wherever the alcohol could be found. We often scoured the local newspapers for wedding announcements (where there was always free alcohol, free food and girls). We would then crash the weddings, our logic being … no one at weddings ever knew everyone. It was so easy. It was at these weddings that I developed a taste for Champagne that would continue for many years. Later, in high school (back in Oklahoma), I would sometimes keep warm Champagne in the trunk of my car and have it for lunch with McDonald’s French fries.

Although we were underage, we would drink regularly in clubs around Pretoria (as long as we behaved ourselves we would be tolerated and not get kicked out). We would ride the bus system to the outer suburbs (sneaking liquor onboard) just for the fun of it. We spent many nights sleeping in parks around the city or streaking until we sobered up enough to go home the next morning. We held numerous parties anywhere we could. We stole liquor from stores whenever possible, and sometimes we also stole food. Sometimes beer was all we could find or afford, so we would buy loaves of hard-crust bread (which were unsliced unless you requested otherwise), eat all the bread inside, pour beer into the shell and drink it like the natives did. I loved going to Johannesburg (roughly 60 miles away) when we had saved up enough money. We would skip out of school, buy round trip train tickets (always making sure we could get home) and hit billiards clubs that served alcohol. The best of these clubs was the Las Vegas Snooker Club in downtown Joburg, where we would play billiards until we could hardly see the balls on the table anymore then we would scamp around the city, only returning to the train station just in time to go home as if we were arriving straight from school. Thus, I began a career of alcohol abuse and debauchery that would last for more than 20 years. Always, I strived to reach one specific goal … to forget!





Read the Poetry of Jeff Spahr-Summers, US


Jeff Spahr-Summers, USFree Verse: After Afrika, Concerning Desire, Age is the color of your eyes when pain invites anger










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