Global Lay-Correspondent Report on South Africa



Jeff Spahr-Summers


14: Casper (part one)


In Cape Town I found friendship again, however, I have to jump forward to begin the story. About a year ago I heard from my old friend (once he found me online), after leaving college he became a well placed member of the active resistance movement in South Africa. I hadn’t heard from him in many years, he’d even been in exile for a time after some of his comrades were killed in a police raid. I think he was a little disappointed that none of it surprised me in the least. I’m not certain whether I am supposed to mention him at all. This, however, I’ve decided is quite impossible … without him there was no Cape Town. I’ll call him Casper.

Casper was an incredibly interesting guy of many talents. He was a fledgling writer like myself (his father was a novelist), he was a photographer and he was also on the editorial staff of our school newspaper Bayonet. He was brilliant. We hit it off immediately. From the day we met we were nearly inseparable. The two of us began producing Bayonet by ourselves (practically speaking [although there were other editors]). It was us who compiled content, did layout and then printed all of the issues on an old carbon printer. We then stapled the issues together and some of the girls in our class distributed them throughout the school. Bayonet was the first place that poems of mine ever appeared in print.

Casper’s house was right above a rock outcrop on Clifton Beach. His backyard overlooked Clifton Bay. He had a darkroom in his basement, so I immediately became his eager assistant with everything photographic. He taught me how to use his 35 mm Canon camera and all of his darkroom equipment. We used mostly black and white film although occasionally we experimented with color film (which was much more time consuming to develop). We also spent a lot of time in his row boat, rowing around the rocks between Clifton and Camps Bay. Sometimes he would drop me off on the rocks when I was in the mood to write. Sometimes we would row outside the bay into the open ocean, get out of the boat and just swim. Sometimes other friends and I would overpower Casper, highjack his boat and surf in it (we quickly discovered that it took at least three of us … one on each oar and one in the back for balance). Invariably, we would sink the boat in shallow water and have to raise it back above the surface. Mostly we talked in the boat, about anything and everything … from girls to music to writing to photography to politics to awareness to freedom to politics and more.



14: Casper (part two)


Once I was invited to go on holiday with Casper, his sister and his parents. We spent the first night in an old English-like Tavern surrounded by horses. The next day we arrived in Arniston, where we stayed the second night. Arniston was a sleepy old fishing village of little white houses dwarfed by an old white two story hotel. On one side there was the ocean, complete with cliffs falling off directly into the water. On another side were huge sand dunes. Casper took pictures of everything; me and his sister climbing the cliffs about the ocean, the little houses (we hardly ever saw any people), the dunes where I walked off into the distance to provide a single set of footprints moving away from the camera.

Back in Cape Town, practically everything we did was photographed either by Casper or myself. He shot pictures; when I did Gymnastics, when we lazed about with our friends on Clifton Beach, or hung around school. To this day, I carry a camera with me wherever I go (at least in my car) because of Casper. I became such a camera hound that Dad finally broke down and bought me a professional model 35mm Canon, which I picked out in Hong Kong (during the first leg of our trip from Johannesburg to Los Angeles). It was the first of many! I now own five cameras, all different makes, models and formats ... but the only one I really use regularly is my current analog 35mm Canon. Casper didn't drink or smoke, and only once ever came along with me and my drinking buddies out on the town. Casper wasn't about the drinking, and I needed desperately to not be about the drinking, so when we were together we just didn't.

I was so happy in Cape Town that I doubt I would ever have left of my own accord, but I was underage still, and finally Dad transferred back to Oklahoma (I suspect to avoid my having to do Military Border Service [which I would have had to do when I turned 18]). My going away gift from Casper was the free use of his camera and unlimited film for two weeks (which we then also developed ourselves). He also gave me a going away party on Clifton Beach one night. He and his family saw us off at the airport in November, 1976. I still have the pictures of us all saying goodbye, with me (of course) crying freely. In 1977, Casper came to visit me in Oklahoma for a time, and we had a fantastic visit, and that was the last time we saw each other (although we continued to write letters and send pictures to each other for a time)!



Read the Poetry of Jeff Spahr-Summers

Jeff Spahr-Summers: Free Versealphabet, Pantoum Four, playing the bass ukulele, From Table Mountain, kissing the sun, Letter to the Ravenwood King, Headphones, The Fog, oh! darling, The Surprise, i want you (she's so heavy), morning paper, Mother Has a Dream, golden slumbers, maxwell's silver hammer, june, i don't want goodbyes anymore, next to me





Global Report from South Africa


Read the entire South Africa Series by Jeff Spahr-Summers


1: On the Move—December 2007

2: Rain—January 31, 2008

3: Culture Shock—February 29, 2008

4: Lord of the Ridge and Fort Scorpion—March 31, 2008

5: Nightmares and Snakes—April 30, 2008

6:  The Natives are Restless—May 31, 2008

7: Mozambique—June 30, 2008

8: Wild lifeJuly 31, 2008

9: ReconciliationAugust 31, 2008

10: End of InnocenceSeptember 30, 2008

11: Chasing the Cherry—October 31, 2008

12: Johannesburg to Cape Town—November 30, 2008

13: Camps Bay—December 31, 2008

14: Casper   February 28, 2009 (This issue, this page)










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