Ode to the East Rand

A tjop en dop, available now in a convenient one pack! Only at your local Jerry Springer Bottle Store on the East Rand.

“I need to get some drinks. Let’s go to the Jerry Springer bottle store.”

It was these words that caught my attention at a friend’s 18th birthday party just outside Benoni on Saturday night. We were sitting outside (yes, outside) next to a dam having a braai.

“The Jerry Springer bottle store,” I asked, absolutely confused, “Really?”

“No, not really, but you’ll see why we call it that when we get there,” came the response. And, wow, did I ever find out…

After a shortish drive to Kempton Park, we pulled into the dodgiest parking lot ever seen. And it just got worse from there. As I walked into the bottle store (the real name of which is completely inconsequential) a 20-something-year-old man walked out. He had a bull-like nose ring, a black emo fringe with a full mohawk. He was wearing a “wife beater” white vest with obvious grease marks on the nipple area, with the most ambigious length jean shorts I’ve ever seen. Under his left arm was a bottle of cheap brandy, and under his right some box wine – for his girlfriend, wife, lover, stekkie, whatever, I presumed. It was frightening. I thought I was about to get stabbed just for having a face.

“Wow,” I said to my new-found braai friends, “I understand now why you call this place what you do. This is weird.” They laughed. “It gets a lot worse. Look!”

And, man, did it ever get worse.

An older lady, maybe about 50, got out of an old Ford Escourt, complete with Bad Boys sticker on the back window and rust on every door panel. Under her arm was a dog – or what looked like a dog, at least. The poor hound was shelteted in the warmth of her dressing gown. Yep, that’s right, she was wearing a dressing gown – complete with slippers – to the bottle store. Thankfully I left before I found out what she bought. To be honest, I’m actually a little scared to know what people like her drink, just in case I drink the same thing and turn into her… It’s possible. Anything’s possible on the East Rand.

This Saturday evening was a little strange, I’ll say that with all confidence. But, you know, it was actually pretty fun. Actually, when I think about it, my few days on the East Rand were pretty fun.

The mullet: one of the many tourist attractions available on the East Rand.

Yep, there were some really strange people. Yep, there were fires burning all over the place. Yep, there were men with names like Osie and Frikkie pictured on billboards. Yep, there were even posters, signs, dustbins and billboards entirely in Afrikaans. But there were also some really good friends. There were some amazingly funny people, some amazingly friendly people, some amazingly entertaining people, and even some people who just amazed me with their attitudes on life. And there was even a tiger roaming the streets and many, many (WAY TOO MANY) men with mullets – but that just added to the excitement!

Truth be told, I had a really good time on the East Rand. It was as strange as it was entertaining. It was as weird as it was fun. It was just really cool.

But, no, I won’t be moving there. I love Durban. It’s good to be home. And, besides, we have our own version of the East Rand – it’s called the Bluff.

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