If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

It’s South African Lockdown Day 32, the day I switch my lockdown journaling from evening to morning (although not that early in the morning — it’s 10:39 a.m. already).

Smokey and Jon
Lockdown photo day 32: A man and a cat in Melville, 2011.

The first thought I had when I woke up this morning was: I was unrealistically positive in last night’s post. I made it sound like weathering this lockdown alone is easy for me, and although I may have legitimately felt that way at that particular moment, it is actually not true. The truth is my moods and perceptions shift wildly from one day — or even one hour — to the next.

Last night, basking in the glory of my successful bread-baking afternoon, I felt relatively good. I was cocooned in my comfortable home, safe for the moment and not terribly lonely. It rained hard all evening — a gift in Joburg at this time of year, before the cold, dry season sets in. Both cats were inside with me. I made a tasty toasted Emmental sandwich with avo and tomato for dinner, and it was delicious. I went to bed in good spirits.

I woke up to cool, gray skies, and didn’t actually get out of bed until 8:30. It’s a public holiday in South Africa — Freedom Day, which commemorates the country’s first democratic elections in 1994 — so I gave myself a pass to stay in bed late and not get dressed. (I’m currently still in pyjamas.)

I sat down at my laptop to edit through old photos. I’m currently editing September 2011, which was a very eventful month for me. During that month, I did the following:

1) Traveled to America to attend my grandmother’s funeral.

2) Got my first tattoo on a wild night out in Washington D.C., with my dear friends Claire and Michelle.

3) Visited my mom in South Carolina, where we took a long walk on the beach with her beloved schnauzer Trudy (now deceased), and had lunch at a traditional Lowcountry Gullah restaurant (now closed).

4) Spent quality time with my dad and sister and attended a Baltimore Ravens football game with Dad on the ten-year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

5) Returned to South Africa to find that Jon, who would die about three months later, had more-or-less adopted Smokey the Melville Cat, who was living a double life at the time but we didn’t know it yet.

I relived all these experiences, crying periodically, as I scrolled through the pictures. When I reached my photos from September 19th, of Jon and Smokey scampering around our old Melville garden, playing together with twigs and palm fronds, I had to stop. I stepped away from my computer and climbed back into bed.

These aren’t the best photos I’ve ever taken but the content is gold. I had completely forgotten about them.

Back under the covers, I switched on a podcast called: The Sunday Read: Closing the Restaurant That Was My Life for 20 Years. The broadcast is an audio recording of a New York Times Magazine story by restauranteur Gabrielle Hamilton, who runs a bistro called Prune in New York City’s East Village. Gabrielle, like most restauranteurs in New York and around the world — was forced to close her restaurant and lay off all her staff last month due to the pandemic.

The story was stunning: I both cried and laughed out loud while listening. If Gabrielle’s restaurant doesn’t survive the pandemic, her writing career certainly will.

The podcast made me think very deeply about restaurants, both in South Africa and America, and what they mean to me, and how they’re going to change for both better and worse because of COVID-19. Which restaurants will survive, and how? How will my own life change as a result?

One of the things I love about this pandemic is how deeply it’s making me think and feel. I love all the poignant writing and art, like this story by Gabrielle, that I’m being exposed to and have time to absorb. I love the emotion and creativity bursting out of people and onto the internet, because they have nowhere else to put it.

Once I finished that podcast I felt strong enough to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and sit down in front of my laptop to write this post. I’m grateful for that.

Today’s Worthy Cause

In honor of Gabrielle’s piece I’m featuring one of my favorite Jozi take-away restaurants, Fish Hook in Randburg. I wrote about Fish Hook last year in my Top 5 Fish and Chip Shops post.

Welman Son, owner of Fish Hook.

The first time I went to Fish Hook, it was my birthday. When I mentioned that to Welman Son, the shop owner, he gave me my fish and chips for free. Welman is a very kind man.

Fish Hook has been struggling to pay its staff members’ salaries during the lockdown, and they still have to pay rent. At some point during the lockdown, Fish Hook’s electricity was turned off with no notification and they lost thousands of rands worth of frozen stock.

There is a GoFundMe page to help Fish Hook “stay afloat” (get it?). I just donated. Here is the page: https://gogetfunding.com/keep-fish-hook-afloat/. I really hope Fish Hook will be able to get back in business at the end of this week. I’ll be first in line for fish and chips.

Until tomorrow, friends.

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