STRAIGHT TALK – A CONTRARY POINT OF VIEW
The neighbourhood in which he has lived for nearly 50 years has become a clone zone, writes Herman Lategan
Have you ever felt like a dinosaur? If not, welcome to my world, ditto many of the old-time inhabitants of our neighbourhood. Several of them, too, feel like fossils out of place.
As a resident of Green Point and surrounds for nearly half a century, I get the eerie sensation I have entered through a time warp and stepped right into a strange new country. Not fresh, however, as in innovative, exciting, different or pioneering. No, I have stepped into a dull clone zone.
Let us start an imaginary walk as you enter Main Road on the side where the famous Fan Walk is. As you meander along, look across the street at the new developments that have sprung up. You will notice that most of these flats look quite the same, with some differences perhaps in height or minor details. The overwhelming feeling is that you have entered an architectural theme park.
Some questions arise. What is this new generic look? Is there a term to describe this style? Perhaps Nordic Noir, as in cold, with a dark feel.
Further insults to the genius loci, the spirit of the area, are the characterless franchises that have opened on the strip. Evidently to appeal to the soulless template-people who frequent these places drowning in gluten-free organic almond milk and decaffeinated flat whites.
How I hanker after the eccentric people and families who once lived here. We used to call Green Point “Gom Point”, because generally the people were “gom” (slightly rough, but authentic). It was a jolly mix of café owners, restaurateurs, mechanics, railway workers, fishermen, young and old, quite blue-collar. There were Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Jews, locals, and pockets like York Road, which was mixed, where the Immortality Act was often contravened.
Sex workers lined the streets and added pathos and the mensch-dimension. And then one morning you wake up in a place where so many buildings look the same, the parking bays are heaving with huge 4x4s and a handful of smoked lentils can cost you R48. Huh?
I miss the old Portuguese woman and her two alcoholic sons who sold instant Frisco coffee from a polystyrene cup for R5. They would shake as they handed you the coffee, spilling some of it.
You could sit down on Formica chairs and read the papers. If hungry, a hot dog would cost you about R10. It would be soggy, with brown fried onions. Labourers from around the area would come and chat in their overalls and eat fish and chips for R15. The smell of vinegar in the air. Damn, how I miss those innocent, colourful days when I look at these flats. When people were unconventional, down to earth, their hands dirty because they worked with them.
And then one grey day you look around and you feel like a relic sitting on a marble floor in the foyer of some ultra-modern museum with bland strangers staring at you. #nothankyou.
TEXT Herman Lategan PORTRAIT Philip de Vos PHOTOGRAPHS iStock by Getty Images, supplied
Herman is an independent writer, columnist and journalist, previously with House and Leisure, Style Magazine, e.tv and Fine Music Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@HermLategan) for his irreverent take on current social and political issues.