The winter’s first cold front took hold of Joburg this weekend. The sky is bright and clear and a constant, bone-chilling wind is blowing. The current temperature, at 11:39 a.m., is 7° C (45° F). The predicted low tonight is 0° C. During the months of June and July, Joburgers whine about the cold. We whine constantly and without shame. We sleep more because our beds are the only places we can achieve a modicum of warmth, huddled under duvets in flannel pajamas, sweaters, and two pairs of socks. We don’t go out after dark unless it is absolutely necessary. We wear gloves indoors. We shiver and curse. Even the Melville Cat has surrendered to the cold. He’s hardly left the couch all weekend, and hasn’t brought me a single dead rat. Probably because the rats are hibernating.
The top floor of the Carlton Centre, officially named the Top of Africa, is one of the most underrated attractions in this highly underrated city. Sure, the observation deck is run-down and the windows are smudged. (In fact, smudged is an understatement. Try filthy.) Sure, this part of downtown is a little sketchy. But this is the tallest building in Africa. It costs R15 (about $2) to take the elevator to the top. The view is phenomenal, unlike any other on this continent. It’s like looking over the edge of the world. Pardon the smudgy sky — not even the magical PhotoShop spot-healing brush can heal this many window smudges.
I meet a lot of people around Jozi these days. When I meet a new person, the first question he/she normally asks is, “What brought you to Joburg?” I dread this question because it takes so long for me to answer. The second question is usually, “Where do you live in Joburg?” I like this question better because the answer is easy: Melville. When I tell people I live in Melville, I get many responses along these lines: “Ahhh. Melville used to be nice. Like Greenside or Parkhurst. But it’s gone downhill.” “Oh! Melville is kind of sketchy, isn’t it?”
I shot some photos in the garden the other day. All were snapped within a 10-foot radius of each other, although I shot half while looking down and the other half while looking up. The ‘down’ shots were taken in the middle of the afternoon and the ‘up’ shots were taken at sunset. There’s no need to search high and low for beauty around here. It’s everywhere you look. LOW Tiny wildflower.
I’m melancholy. Bad things are happening everywhere and I feel overwhelmed by life. But it’s nice to know that no matter what, the sun keeps rising and setting. One of the advantages to my current 9-5 schedule is that I’m sometimes awake early enough to see the sunrise. I caught this one last week in our backyard. Even those ugly industrial buildings (I think they’re part of Johannesburg Hospital) look beautiful at that time of day.