The country staggered, uneasy; unsteadily, a drunk powder-keg conjured nightmarishly to life by Tyranny.
Interspersed with loose cannons bristling phallically, rearing to scorch everything in sight just to prove it could; to shut everyone up and raze everything down in its explosively sanitizing, greedily consuming crimson flames, as the untidy and tremulous scramble for political power and social justice, dispensed with herd-mentality and mob-justice continued breathlessly, madly apace, cacophonously sucking up the scarce oxygen which remained after years of struggle.
Between the interminable talking-heads and macabre images of smoking corpses, victims of necklacing; and train violence, political intrigue and assassinations, and hackings, life still had to run its mill.
As if all were normal.
One had to earn a living, maintain relationships (and separations) and attend school; cook, deal with the neighbors, score drugs (I had relapsed after a seven year abstinence), tend to the garbage, and in this incomplete litany of life's inanities, studiously ignore the standard daily reportage of everyday mundanities in South Africa like child-rape.
And see to the rental of course.
It was a schizoid mish-mesh, melting-pot, mad kaleidoscope; hellish everyday gig really.
I was studying Paco de Lucia's technique and mesmerized by his duende. And Sor, Villa-Lobos, Leo Brouwer along with the rest of the entire classical guitar repertoire, the enthusiasm for which I found oppressively necessary, incumbent, and only the polite thing to do, to reciprocate John Silver's entrusting his Guitar Studio to me, and towards preserving -- as he was prone to gently remind me every now-and-then -- his legacy of Classical Guitar performance and tuition.
Privately, I had been re-visiting the Beatles' catalogue, nursing my addiction, and engaged in my on-going middle-nature battle with John McLaughlin's musical odyssey. That and my battle with my erstwhile domestic partner from whom I had recently and falteringly been liberated
It was now 1994, and in the quest for a next act in my recovery -- being broke, separated and close to being unemployable with a spiraling drug-habit again, I decided I was done communicating with, teaching and counselling human beings.
It had been self-defeating, quite honestly, anyway, working with addicts and their families prior to the Studio and my simultaneously conscious decision to use drugs again to Cope. It had just become too tiresome, along with convincing straight people that I could be one of them too.
The recovery rate of addicts was so poor (3%) and the collateral damage - transference, to employ the technical jargon - that, coupled with my own difficulties -- and my invariable ennui -- it was inevitable.
My own relapse that is(collapse, to be reasonable, would be the more precise rendition).
Started a year-and-a-half earlier (at about the time Bob Mabena was hosting funky pop songs from other parts of Africa on his Toyota Top 20 slot on SABC to which I would practise riffs on the flute), the relapse had seen its logical conclusion -- the grande finale, with no resort to an encore -- in my rented-cottage, along with my car, going up in flames and burning to a cinder, down to the very same charred ground so gruesomely common in conflict stricken parts of the Townships.
The coup de grâce. Every addict knows in (her own) inimitable and unique self-inflicting style.
I managed to achieve personally, in a microcosm, an implosion the rest of this mad country could only maniacally posture.
Stoned negligence on my part, this time entailing a lit candle and a few Vesparax, a killer downer, jostling for neuro-pharmacological space, binding with and finally overwhelming Ritalin, an upper, in my not-so-central anymore, very-jiggy (un) nervous system
The sad, sorry saga reduced, along with my life-belongings and work, to a squalidly literal damp-squib. Expedited graciously by local fire-men, one of whom, fanning his cigarette gremlin-like, beckons me for a light. So much fire there had been, but none left to light one cigarette. After action, satisfaction, in the immortal words of the tobacco advertising industry. Incendiary irony, to hazard the pun.
Now, still sifting through the ashes, picking up the pieces a year-and-a-half later, and among which ruins included my lost child, access to whom had been thwarted by her, by now comprehensively resentful mother, I set out to learn a computer programming language -- not knowing how to throw the power switch on a computer, and having walked out on the Studio; and John; and Music, which had become the curse my mother had cast on it
And thus did battle not only with the tormenting ghosts of yore and spooks of present, but set out furthering my elusive gains by attempting to get paid for seek-and-destroy missions, hunting ghosts in machines. For what would turn out to be (the next) fourteen years.
Financially and behavioristically more rewarding -- garbage in, garbage out, programmers laconically describe the process, possibly better than even Skinner might in Pavlovian short-hand. The battle of engaging ghosts in machines made for a decent living and temporary refuge.
It did so, however, at the expense of my already sufficiently weathered soul, mechanizing and stilling it too completely. The mercenary process of battling machines eventually off-sided and ossified my emotions, withered my impulses, threatening to turn me too into a cyber spook.
Enough -- more than enough -- for my body to rebel, and retch. Enough for me to become more-or-less permanently inflamed.
The spook, the djinn -- so to speak -- got out the bottle. This djinn had the bottle to.
For those with an itchy nous for such things, the djinn, according to the Qu'ran, was created by God out of smokeless fire.
In the taxonomic universe of modern priests and apothecaries, the particular condition of perennial inflammation I found myself now afflicted with is shelved under the quaint but socio-cognitively awkward rubric of inflammatory, or auto-immune disorders.
The moniker, most specifically mine, no more common than rheumatoid arthritis.
My marker, the laboratory measure for this thing's febrile intensity, was about 120 greater than what is regarded as being normal. This made me feel special in a perverse sort of way though.
Specially feverish, and close to being crippled, before they finally identified and nailed the thing.
(They're good, when they're willing, the secular priesthood, to nail things.
And for this -- surgical precision -- I am grateful)
--to be cont.