Border Protection won’t let me give you the good stuff

The last thing I did before I left South Africa this week was buy all this great food to bring back for everybody. Tasty stuff. Ostrich pâté, springbok pâté, crackers called Salticrax which aren’t exotic but the name is funny even if you’re sophisticated, like me. Supersophisticated. Look how poised I am while the manager at the duty-free shop takes back all my stuff once he realizes I’m American, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn’t allow meat. And the Salticrax aren’t that funny on their own.

i tried to bring meat

This left me torn between sadness over not having any treats to bring to work on Monday, and excitement over looking non-American enough that I got away with buying this at all. If that’s why it happened. I’m pretending it was. While I sort that out, here are some hassle-free souvenirs:

For Claudia, an undead flower.

undead flower

For Brian who’s been painting and posting the most contagious black lines in search of his Black Madonna, a tavern wall.

bar wall lines

For the Black Madonna.


For all my artistically risky friends, and the regular risky ones.

at the bar in neiu bethesda

For my friends who worry about size of their ass or anything else.

outside the sculptor's house

For my friends who brew their own. This was in the yard of a microbrewery where Scott accidentally ordered a popular lager and the proprietor said, man, you’re at a microbrewery, you’re being insulting. We re-ordered. The head was impassive.

in the brewery yard

For Jacob who enjoys a roadside skeleton.


For Rachael who is macabre.

unkempt lovely

For Amy who thinks about decorating her rafters.


For Goth Mom whose shadows are delicate yet terrifying.

also at the bar

For Launa who would wear these quite well.

for launa

For Shandy, the only woman in the Western world to wear a baby as stylishly as Africans do. Check this out, with a bath-sized towel. Every mother there does it just like this. I don’t know how the baby doesn’t fall out backwards or why this looks so right.

for shandy

I don’t know why I’m cursed with hair that won’t turn into soft dreds.

i wish i had more hair

It’s possible that I haven’t surrendered enough, yet, to something. A shampoo-free life. Something.

god first

This is for Scott and Becky who showed me a version of surrender, the version where Scott drives an hour in a traffic jam to a city that’s closed.


To see the lights.


Hello from Gandhi to Jake.

gandhi on the wall

Also for Jake.

safari table tennis

And here’s a little take-home for me so I remember how it felt to spread out my pencils in front of a breathtaking tableau and then remember that I can’t actually, like, draw. I can’t draw big things.

i tried

I tried anyway, of course, artistic risk and blah blah blaaaah. That was enchanting for only so long. About this long:




I was so blank in the face of that, I went up to the edge of the pool and took a picture of that instead. Like, fine. If the sky’s going to be that way I’ll just see what’s in the pool.

the lion pool

The pool was at Glen Garriff Lion Farm in Harrismith, where I also got to see this. I watched and watched and watched.

not from a can

To simulate my experience, imagine that it’s chilly but the sun is relentless. Imagine smacking sounds and tearing sounds, longer and more luxurious than noises you can make yourself. But you can try. After a while you maybe can’t help it. There you are in the sun and the stillness, watching this, not a single canned thing for miles and miles. I mean hectares. Just this, and this is everything, and it stuck in my eyes and ears and now I’m giving it to you, and Border Protection can’t really do anything about that.


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