Viva tonto, Viva Pam, Viva Kliptown, Viva Ubuntu!

Viva tonto, Viva Pam, Viva Kliptown, Viva Ubuntu!

Today I went to Kliptown with Jeannie, a skydiving friend who never knew tonto but is touched by his memory. Together, we drove through a rapidly developing Soweto, towards people and places that remain part of the fabric of my life; where what I have given continues to flow in the form of love, understanding, friendship, compassion, and memory.

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Safe Place to Sleep Tonight

Safe Place to Sleep Tonight

I see ghosts drinking Jack Daniels and kicking the rope swing out around the corner of the big porch. They turn to look at me, the dead skydivers. People I’ve held hands with in freefall. Wyat is there, and Elle. And with them is Eric, the love of my life, smiling at me and swilling his drink with a sideways look that says, “You know I hate this stuff but I’m trying to be social.”

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Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust

I walk to the plane with the handmade red pouch strapped to my left wrist. At boarding point, I sit with my head down. This is a solo mission. I look up once, opening my eyes to a view of our friend Raymond’s pants leg as he stands near me protectively. The embroidery reads, “Martin’s Funerals! 011-672-8104”. New sponsor. I start to crack, giggling hysterically.

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Blue Skies

Blue Skies

Freedom. The whole world looks soft from this far up. We’re over the Carletonville mine dumps. From the air, they look like zen gardens, their arsenic-laced sand combed methodically. Even the one shaped like a coffin has somewhat rounded edges from altitude. The township shacks, the dumps, the roads, the railroad tracks, the grassy fields with cows, are draped today in fluffy white distractions.

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Love and High-Risk Human Investments

Love and High-Risk Human Investments

See the crazy white lady enfold the little girl in her arms and carry her to the car with a rubber sheet in case the little girl wets the bed. See the conversation as she explains to her white South African partner that she has brought home a small black child from the township who is now sleeping in the guest bedroom, and that he has to hide in the morning in case she gets scared of him when she wakes up.

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Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday

Skydiver Eric "tonto" Stephenson died on October 28, 2007. Today is his birthday. He was my life partner and my best friend, and the father of two girls he loved to the ends of the earth. I came home to him every day for the years we lived together. We held hands a lot, cooked dinner, cuddled while watching Isidingo on television, practiced kung fu, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, flew wingsuits, and had long talks sitting at the end of the runway at the Johannesburg Skydiving Club. It's more than five years now since he left, and most of the people I spend time with these days didn't know him.

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