Scary stories from a lovely place
The longer I live in Jozi the more I experience a two-fold and unfortunate truth. A) Most people here don’t actually want to live here. They are here to earn cash or an education and then plan on taking that ‘home’ to invest in lives and communities there. B) This naturally brings with it an uncertainty and even disdain for the natural charm of Jozi. Along with this comes a prevalence of fake charm in Johannesburg which means there are many themed restaurants/casinos/malls as well as contrived spots of charm, safety and character.
The other day I went with my friend Ellie to Montecasino in Fourways which is one such contrived spot of charm and character. What is Montecasino’s theme? A Tuscan village at sunrise/sunset/nighttime depending on which part you are in. What is it? A collection of shops, restaurants, a casino, theatre, cinema and hotel. Where is it? Characteristically far from the city, in the middle of the suburbs, away from anything that is ‘real’ about Jozi.
But I must confess, I actually like Montecasino. Not because it provides an escape from the stress of Joburg or because it is particularly classy. I like it because it’s funny to drive into a parking lot, ride an elevator, be frisked and then step onto the cobble stones of a Tuscan village. Monte (as I affectionately call it) is replete with Tuscan buildings, washing lines hanging between cottages, windows dressed with bottles of wine, pigeons, herons, waxy candles, a bicycle or two, busty ladies and laughing children. The streets are lined with trees in aumtumnal colours, a ‘Polizia’ car and fairy lights. And if you gaze up above the blue sky is dusted with clouds, which changes to sunset oranges, darkness, and then purply hues for sunrise as you walk through Monte. All as fake and contrived and laughable as a fake marriage, love affair or living and taking from a city which you would rather not live in.
The patrons fakely enjoying the fake Tuscan village are sad gamblers (pokies are always sad), white teenagers with R100 each, tourists (because where else in this city could you take them to fakely appreciate it?) and me and whichever unlucky friend I have dragged along to join me in mocking Monte and enjoying the thai restaurant.
It’s all pretty sad really and makes me want to love the natural charm of Jozi even more than I already do and continue to be an apostle for enjoying all the wonderful, real things this city has to offer. Sure it’s hard, but that’s part of what makes it good. Stay tuned for my real guide to actually enjoying the real charm Jozi has to offer; sightseeing, living, eating, shopping. Tuscan not included.
If I can manage it I am going to get my hands on a bunch of stickers that I have heard architects tote and plaster them all over Monte; “Do crime, do drugs, just don’t do Tuscan”. Amen. If only more architects would stick to that mantra maybe we wouldn’t have the problem of so many fake Tuscan villages all over Jozi.
Ellie fake smiling on the fake cobblestones next to the fake tree.