Offbeat 20 May 2016
Regular readers of this column will know that I am hooked on comics. I have probably mentioned comic writer Grant Morrison. He’s a bit like Stan Lee: well respected, except I haven’t seen him in a movie yet.
Grant Morrison, if you aren’t a comic reader, is probably best known for introducing surrealism to the superhero genre. He reinvented Doom Patrol, and invented some really bad baddies, especially the Little Sisters of Our Lady of the Razor, and the Pale Police. Purists might argue that the glory should go to Frederico Fellini for ‘Trip to Tulum’, but we are talking superheroes.
Aside from the Little Sisters, the first apparently Catholic supervillains, the one character that sticks with me is Danny the Street. Danny is a sentient street, who also happens to be a transvestite: all the windows in the shops along Danny the Street, even the gun shop, are curtained in chintz.
Don’t look so weird. It’s surrealism. You can get away with that sort of thing when your head bends like Dali. If you don’t believe me, Google him or look him up on Wikipedia.
Danny the Street is not so far off the mark. Places have a way of picking up character. There is actually a term for attributing human traits to inanimate things: pathetic fallacy, but it’s not really pathetic. Actually it is quite cool.
As far as character goes, my favourite street is probably Long Street in Cape Town. By day, the last time I was there, it was kind of bookish, which is to say it had a lot of cool second hand bookshops. From the looks of it, it was fairly seedy when exposed to sunlight. By night it was a different beast altogether. The one side was definitely seedy. The other side was a bit more upmarket, but still ready to mingle. If Long Street has a character, it has to be sort of exciting.
The street where I write this is really quite nice as well, just it doesn’t have any amusing dope dealers trying to hide behind the lamp poles when they see me, like on Long Street, which, in a way, makes it even nicer. I can definitely call it a well-behaved and law abiding street, which is good as I have a kid.
The houses are on the small side, which I quite like. What it boils down to is a smaller garden, which means less gardening. That’s important. I have better things to do over weekends than hanging out with flowerbeds and lawns.
On the other hand, it has a lot of trees in it, so there is greenery wherever you look. With or without lawns, there is enough shade to go around.
It’s not an ambitious street either like those pretentious avenues on the east side of town. It was born middle class and it will stay middle class: there isn’t enough room for big houses. It’s nice and narrow, and doesn’t have the feeling that an aeroplane is about to land on it. Did I mention that it is not steep either? That’s a definite plus, especially walking down to the shop.
On the other hand, it isn’t a lower class street either. I don’t find bottles on the road. The only litter is a few bags from the kids at the school. And even the noisy neighbours are coming home earlier, less noisy and apparently more sober.
In fact, the street I live on is completely dull. There was a fender bender a couple of years back, complete with flashing lights, which brought everybody out into their front yard for a couple of minutes. There are too many dogs and electric fences for burglaries. That’s all.
My street is the kind of character that doesn’t get noticed at office parties.
The useful thing about the street is that it doesn’t define me. Living on Long Street would put me in the realm of an exciting person, possibly edgy. Living on my street, I suppose the only thing you could say about me is that I have trees and sisal plants in my yard.
There might be an economic theory in this, that the prosperity and level of development of a nation can be index linked to the number of boring streets with trees and electric fences.
I hope in future there will be more streets like the one I live on. Boring is good.