Monday, September 12, 2011

Been there, downed that, got the T-shirt







Below is a copy of my article on the Cape Town annual pub crawl, published in the September khuluma magazine. Definitely a must for next year!

It’s 15 minutes after noon when I squeeze through the doorway
of the Olimp Sports Bar in Loop Street. It’s way too hot for the end of March. And I’m dressed for winter. I can hear my boyfriend’s voice in my head: ‘Rookie mistake.’ But he’s not here today. At least I’m wearing takkies.
There are at least 100 people about to embark on a boozy adventure. I head to the bar and sheepishly order a Coke while no one’s looking. I was full of bravado, but I’ve been here five minutes and already I’m chickening out of drinking at every stop. Barman Justin Breach has his hand confidently on a draught tap, measuring just the right amount of head. I ask him what he thinks of the brewing madness.
‘Looking at the way they’re starting, they’ll make it to four to six venues,’ he reckons.
I scope the crowd for familiar faces, but instead I see a lot of boobs. Rubbery boobs attached to the bodies of men. I squint to read the hand-written Koki-pen text: National Cleavage Day.
I don’t see any women showing off their lady lumps.
Ulrich, the photographer, and I grab our party packs: for R20, we get Mini Cheddars, peanuts, a Fizz Pop, a route map and a sticker saying ‘Cape Town Pub Crawl 2011’. I attach it to my dress. Let the mayhem begin – we’ve got 10 pubs to visit in 10 hours…
At Ivy League I meet two pretty blondes. Robyn’s hitting the Hunters and Nikki’s cradling a Castle. But their choice of shooters is tequila. ‘So is this the first Cape Town Pub Crawl you’ve done?’
‘Yes. So far, we’re good – ask us how we are doing in an hour!’ says Nikki.
‘We’re going to make it the whole way,’ says Robyn. ‘Even if we need to be carried. We have a wheelbarrow.’
Ulrich and I decide to move off early to the next pub. In the road a distressed-looking man in bright-pink spandex is begging for money. Then I see his mates sitting under a tree in the
shade, and realise it’s his stag party.
I wasn’t planning on having a drink until at least the fifth pub, but at the Fireman’s Arms I crack and order an ice-cold draught. The regulars – old pommy guys – look on with disdain
as our crowd starts pulling in.
‘Do you know that you are number three on the list?’ I ask the barman, Kevin Phelan.
‘I didn’t know that. But I think these guys will be fine. There’s only about six or seven of them I’d be worried about.’
I’ve spotted a pizza sign, so I don’t bother asking him to point out the six or seven. I want to get my order in – a New Yorker with bacon, avo and garlic – before the rest of the gang arrives.
I look up and see the pub is now packed. Donovan, a veteran of last year’s pub crawl, hovers near to order a pizza too. ‘Last year it was hectic! I made it to the end, minus two pubs. I skipped the last two and just came back to Fireman’s.’
‘Is that a rock shandy you’re drinking?’ I ask.
‘It’s a rock shandy with vodka – it’s called a sneaky puff adder. It’s refreshing and you’re not cheating.’
‘But you’re eating now … isn’t eating cheating?’
‘No ways, dude. The older you get, you realise you have to eat. Eating gives you energy.’
A merry couple hanging onto each other approaches me and I want to know if they’re as experienced as Donovan.
‘No, we’re virgins … I mean, yes, sorry, I’ve had too much to drink,’ says Kent.
‘Today we’re officially breaking our virginity,’ says Leche.
So far they’ve had two drinks at each pub. ‘Ja, it’s unfortunate, but they had two-drinks specials … two Savannahs for R25 at the Ivy League – I mean, you can’t beat that!’ says Leche.
‘Unless there’s a really good special, like R22 for a Fosters here. We only drink foreign beers … Heineken, Amstel, Kilkenny, Guinness.’
The organiser of today’s all-consuming escapade, Damien du Toit, is nursing a cold beer while comparing war stories from the previous year with veteran crawlers. ‘We’ve had about
140 arrive so far, we had 90 last year, so the turnout is pretty good. I think everyone’s still getting their drinks on time, yeah, so pretty good so far.’ Pub crawlers are allowed an hour in each pub. ‘It’s a hot day. I think they’re going to be drinking a lot,’ Damien adds knowledgeably.
‘And what about you?’ I ask.
‘I’m mixing it up. I’ve had a cider and a beer so far … I’ll drink whatever I get.’
Jess ‘the creative minx’ – her words, not mine – explains the beginnings of the pub crawl a bit more clearly to me when I arrive outside O’Driscoll’s Irish Pub. ‘I think it started in 2007 – Damien and I were in London together and we all went on a Monopoly pub crawl. There are a lot of pub crawls in London. And he thought, well, there’s nothing like that in Cape Town, let’s do that!’
‘So, what have you drunk today?’
‘Wow … Savannah, J├Ągermeister, brandy and Coke and a vodka, lime and soda. I also had some water somewhere along the line.’
Rounds of applause erupt as I’m the first to step inside O’Driscoll’s. I blush and smile at the group of noisy lads, then notice the big-screen TVs and realise the Stormers have just scored a try.
‘I dropped my wife off at the spa for the whole day,’ one guy is saying.
‘You should’ve dropped her off for two days,’ replies his buddy.
Ulrich’s ready to order his first glass of red wine, but I’m back on the Coke. We discuss the ‘boob’ thing and decide to find at least one girl sporting her bits.
And I do. ‘Did you intend to support National Cleavage Day?’
‘No! And I’m the only one,’ she says.
Donovan comes to check up on me, to make sure I’m not ‘drinking on the job’. Next to me a guy starts blowing a vuvuzela up a girl’s skirt, and I realise the wheels are starting to come off when I see that she willingly let him do it.
‘They’re a very fun crowd,’ says barman Mike O’Brien. ‘But when it gets to stop number nine, that’s when it’s going to start getting interesting … never mind who makes it to stop 10! Those are the real hardcore guys.’
Ulrich and I set off for the half-way mark. A group of people chase us down, shouting, ‘Follow the photographer. He knows where he’s going!’ One guy hugs a building. Apparently it’s where he went to college.
Dias Tavern is quieter, the only sound the rhythm of hungry, tipsy people chewing. Soon all the burgers are sold out.
The pressure to drink is getting too much. I order my second beer. But we don’t stay long and I have to down it. Ulrich is attracting followers like the Pied Piper – it must be the size of his lens.
As we reach the Kimberley Hotel, Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds come hurtling down the street. Again. And again. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that second beer. But when I blink, they’re still there. Turns out they’re filming a car-chase scene for the action-thriller Safe House.
One of the pub crawlers jumps into an extra’s car. Ryan and Denzel smile at the crowd they think has turned up just to see them. Someone next to me shouts: ‘Ryan, show us your tits!’
To great applause, the star lifts his shirt to expose his sculpted torso, while the more experienced veteran, Denzel, admonishes him from the back seat.
They reverse away, so I focus my attention on the ’fro boys, Joshua and Taariq. ‘And what are you drinking today?’
‘Black Label,’ they answer in unison.
‘So this is pub number six. Are you guys feeling strong?’
‘We’re going to finish this off and still party some more… You can’t end off on a pub crawl. That’s just weak,’ says Taariq.
‘Who goes home after a pub crawl? asks Joshua.
I leave them arguing about whether they did, in fact, drink Black Label all day, or whether they had Fosters at Fireman’s Arms.
I’ve lost Ulrich but I’m greeted with joyous screams from the blondies at Perseverance Tavern.
‘You’re the pretty girl!’ says a guy I don’t know.
Shirts are being torn off, or into pieces, shooters are being
lined up and I’m starting to suffer from a severe dose of FOMO (fear of missing out). I order my third beer of the day.
Much better.
The blondies introduce me to their friends Chris and ‘Dan the American’. Dan asks whether I’ve ever played the penis game.
I look confused.
He tells me to say the word ‘penis’, but quietly. A loud brunette comes to my rescue by popping her head into the conversation and saying, ‘Happenis!’
To which Dan responds, saying ‘penis’ even louder. ‘See, I said it louder, so I win! If you say it louder than me, you win,’ says Dan.
I tell them I’m not playing this game.
They say it’s great to play it in church, when everyone is quiet.
I leave them to out-penis each other and head to the bar, where barman Nicholas Mynhardt reports: ‘All has been good, no complaints. It’s all in a day’s work.’ Savannah and Castle Lite have been the biggest sellers. Not what I expected.
It’s just after 7pm when I order a beef and Guinness pie at pub number eight, the Dubliner in Long Street. And a Coke with a sneaky shot of vodka. Both hit the spot and I’m feeling
inspired to bring out my Irish party animal.
At the packed bar I’m bombarded with J├Ągermeisters, and questions. ‘Are you still working?’ ‘When are you going to party with us?’ ‘You’re the pretty girl!’ Oh no, he’s back…
I down my shot and duck in the opposite direction, only to bump into an old varsity acquaintance who happens to be one of the torn-shirt trio. ‘Sshtay right there, I’m going to buy you a shhrink, don’t move’, he says. Someone – I suspect it was him – had written on his face: ‘Kiss me here’, with an arrow pointing to his mouth. As soon as his head turns, I pull a ninja bomb.
Our followers from earlier are parked on the floor of pub number nine, Zula Sound Bar, and the vibe is definitely more subdued. There’s no electricity. It appears we have arrived just in time for Earth Hour. I do get an honest Coke this time and find a candle. Ulrich is looking slightly worse for wear and says he’s going home. ‘It’s this flu,’ he mutters.
It’s clear by this stage that many a soldier has fallen and the pace has indeed slowed down to a crawl… As much as I’m into saving the Earth, I’m going to fade fast in the dark if I don’t make a move. I wander up the narrow staircase to number 10, Neighbourhood Pub, proud that I’ve made it all the way.
To my delight, all the MIAs are out on the balcony – the ’fro bros, the blondies, the boob boys, Dan the American and the rest. The loud brunette and I have a drink together and discuss the night’s activities. We’re disappointed that we haven’t seen anyone throw up or strip down. Capetonians clearly aren’t that wild, but they do have staying power. This is not the end of the road.
‘Amy, we’re going to this house party, you should come!’
‘Hey, journalist lady, are you drinking real drinks now?’
‘Look, it’s the pretty girl!’…
Oh s**t!
I’m at a crossroads.
I can delve deeper into the night and wake up with Gandhi’s flip-flop in my mouth and the wrath of grapes hanging over my head, or bow
out graciously, name and reputation still intact. I take out my phone. Who to call? Beep, beeep, baap beep, bip, baap.
‘Hello, Excite Cabs, how can we help you?’

2 comments:

Michael said...

join-up for next years pub crawl on http://gonepubbing.com

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.