“Parys? The last time I was in Parys, I was on the way with 10 other moffies to go make kak in Kroonstad.”
I had just asked Michael Crouse, the last Miss Gay Rhodesia to come to Parys (Free State) for breakfast. I wanted him to join me in a food and travel revue.
“Are you going to wear high heels?” I ask.
“Nee, got. The last time I wore high heels was 20 years ago. I’lll break my ankles. Are you going to wear high heels?” he asks.
“Nee jirre, half of the time I don’t even wear shoes.”
“I’ll pack some feather boas.”
The Impala really comes into her own on the open road, once you’ve cleared the N17 toll road. The sound of the engine revving as you put foot up a hill becomes intoxicating, as do the fumes of the leaded petrol through the open window. Kary Peri-Peri does not have aircon and music yet, so you hear and smell every truck backfire and feel the temperature fluctuating as you pass through shade and sun. Add someone with an incisive wit and piercing intelligence and it is an engaging ride.
“I brought us a pre-breakfast snack,” Michael says. “Have some Athol Brose” He yanks it out of his moonbag. Athol Brose is a Scottish drink made of whiskey, oats honey and cream. A perfect aperitif and conversation greaser.
“I was the last Miss Gay Rhodesia. It was the day of handing over the crown to the first Miss Gay Zimbabwe. It was very hot.” Michael recalls. “I realized too late I forgot my tits at home. Back in those days, you used birdseed to make tits. You poured the birdseed in a pantyhose and make a knot. Perfect boobs. There was none of the silicone falsies of today.”
I take a swig of the whiskey-oats. “What did you do?” I ask. Michael pulls his punches. He says during the pageant a contestant noticed him laughing.
“Michael, what is going on?” Michael pointed to his Plan B tits. “I couldn’t find birdseed, so I used Pro-Nutro, but now with the heat and the sweating, my tits are leaking pap!”
And such was the illustrious handover to the New Miss Gay Zimbabwe. The pageant is now called Miss Jacaranda and contestants face discrimination and participate in fear. Michael somehow never let his gayness or ‘otherness’ bother him. If people had a problem with him, it was exactly that – their problem. He never considered himself a victim and acted as such his whole life.
“My Aunt, you remind me of her by the way, looked at me knowingly as a young man, before I openly came ‘out’. She said to me: ‘Michael, it is hard enough to live one life. It is impossible to live two. Just be happy. ’ After that, I just was who I am.”
“Yo, yo, yo!” exclaims Michael as we floated down the N1. “I feel like a princess! Everyone is looking at us in the car and waving.”
As we pulled into Parys, people were hanging over balconies to take photos. The queen gave her royal wave and we prepared to do our food review.
THE SPUR INDEX
Parys has a Spur. I believe any food review in any city can only be measured by comparing it to the place I eat most often – the Spur in Germiston. It is my benchmark. The most average of averages and thus a mathematically good starting point. You know a town by the people you find at the Spur.
I can say that I noticed that people at the Parys was not as good-looking as the people at the Spur in Germiston – and that is saying something. They were mostly white (even the waiters), overweight with their khaki shorts and socks showing off huge beaf-fed thighs. Hair 80’s style, moustaches half-shaven And that was just the women.
I once ate at the Cherry on Top, a bar place with a nice upstairs balcony. To be fair, their strong point is the view, not the food, but it has to be said that I asked for my last 3 snails to be packed as a take-away for in case I had to re-tread my tyres on the way home.
The reason, we came, Hoi Poloi Boutique Cafe. 100% worth the trip. The place was transformed from a former tyre shop and they did a magnificent job. Artworks, paintings, sculptures and a flair and sense of styling you would expect in Parkhurst or Melville.
The strawberry champagne cocktail as a pre-breakfast drink was marvellous. Lunch menu is eclectic and interesting. Starters include Duck Spring Rolls, Risotto and Truffles and Main courses include a variety of Lamb duck or fish dishes. But we were there for breakfast.
I had an omelette and Michael had Eggs Benedict. The serviette’s are real fabric, a sign of excellence, according to Michael. The bread is home-baked and the food perfectly prepared. Well, almost.
“The Eggs Benedict is marvellous,” say Michael, “but like a cripple. One egg was too hard, but hey Poppie, the Pink Gin is making up for it. ”
I’m not full of fiemies like Michael. My breakfast was perfect. The only gripe I had was the bathrooms. There was a water shortage in the area due to a burst waterpripe and the loos didn’t operate properly. Apart from that, the place is the ultimate sophistication.
“For fuck’s sakes, we are less than a kilometre from the Vaal River.” I complain to Michael. “They could have lined up all the roggels and beggars lying in the streets and made a chain gang with buckets or something.”
“The lack of water in the toilet does not bother me,” says Michael, sipping his pink gin and pursing his lips in the way beauty queens do,”want ek wil nie kak nie, maar jy wil.”
The ultimate sophistication indeed.
TRAVEL IN DEEP TIME
Parys is a bit of a dump. It does not have the money or quaintness of a Clarens nor the beauty and variety of a Dullstroom, but you can drive through the area, check out the antique shops, buy a chocolate and a leather bag and travel back in time – Deep time – in a morning.
The area is a World Heritage site due to it being the site of the biggest verified impact crater on earth. A massive meteorite struck the area around 20 Million years ago and left a massive crater around 250 km wide. So you can travel back in Deep Time and reflect on this while you enjoy what the area has to offer. Did you know, areas of Johannesburg and the East Rand actually fall within this area. How incredible is that? An asteroid around 10km in diameter strikes the earth and 20million years later a Spur pops up! Incredible.
More importantly, it proved to Michael and I, who are from Germiston that we do indeed live in the biggest crater in the world.
I hotwire the car and we drive back, beautifully pickled in champagne and gin. I ask Michael to tell me about the time the okes at the pub asked him to use his ‘gaydar’ and confirm whether *Koos at the pub was gay or not, since he had not had any female action in a while. Poor Koos was paraded in front of Michael like he was at a beauty pageant, waiting for the go ahead to come out of the closet.
Michael looks him up and down like a judge. Within 10 seconds, he delivers his verdict:
“You get back into that closet and nail it shut with 12inch nails. Jy’s te lelik om ‘n moffie te wees.”
I laugh so hard Katy Peri-Peri swerves across the road.
“Ja nee,” Michael concludes, “God makes them butch and straight, but he makes them fucking stupid.”
- Parys. Medium score, but its close distance to Joburg makes it totally worth it.
- Hoi Poloi and Michael. Full marks, both for their fierce and formidable dent they are leaving in an otherwise boring landscape.
*The person in the story is not necessarily called Koos, but since there is such a large number of Koos, Piet , Gert’s and Jan’s at my local pubs, I might be incriminating someone else while protecting the original person involved.
moffie = Afrikaans slang term for a male homosexual person. Depending on how it is said or who says it, it can either be a benign colloquialism or a vicious insult.