The Road Less Travelled - Part 2
I read a book called Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jefferson, what I took from that book was that fear would always be there, the only way we can overcome it is to move through it, to take the leap and do the very thing that frightens us in order to get to the other side. I decided that If I wanted this dream to happen I had to chase it with passion and gusto!
So I packed my bags for London and off I went. My father's sister lived there and I thought that would be my base, I had no Idea what Edgware was like but I was so hungry for my dream that nothing else mattered.
I gave my mom a pep talk before I left saying, " Mom, It doesn't matter how miserable I am or how hard I cry to you on the phone, you are not to let me come home and you are to remind me that
"Nobody said it would be easy Dani, this is what it takes to make it out there, you can't fight for your dreams if you don't have thick skin to face the hard times that go with it"
London was not exactly what I expected, the last time I was there I was younger and in the heart of the West End and Piccadilly Circus. Now I was pretty much on my own mission stuck in Edgware and the hustle was real. Edgware is about 25 minutes from London on the Northern line. Lots of Indian immigrants and a prevalent Jewish Community.I used to run to the Tube in the rain, getting soaking wet from the huge puddles and feeling rather cold and miserable. I would buy a copy of the "Backstage" newspaper every week and search the audition section for any non equity auditions I was right for. The problem was that without working papers there was no way I was getting near the West End, I would have to find independent listings for Pop artists. I went to Pineapple Dance Studios to look into taking some classes and met a lovely Scottish girl called Kirby who became my friend.
We used to go to Notting Hill to Portobello Market which was my favourite, it was a bohemian treasure trove of antiques, clothing and trinkets stalls.
There was a vintage record stand that only stocked soul, funk and Motown CDs.
I could have stood there all day listening to the likes of Marlena Shaw "Woman in the Ghetto or Nina Simone. I loved this eclectic market as I felt I was in the epicentre of the world with a melting pot of cultures and languages like French, Italian and Spanish that followed me down its different alleyways, I even found some flamenco guitarists to jam with one day, this was my happy place.
My aunt was very sweet at first, but I soon realised she had quite a temper or more likely a mood disorder. She was always hot and cold and after a month kicked me out of her house for no good reason. I called our dear family friends "The Furmans" who also happened to live in Edgware and they took me in with open loving arms. It felt so wonderful to be with ex South Africans, so familiar and homely, I am eternally grateful to them for coming to my rescue. Needless to say I never heard from my aunt again.
I had to find a way to get out of Edgware and out and about in London town meeting people. I answered an ad in the paper for a modelling agency. I took the train for what felt like an eternity to this agency on a high street. I charismatically introduced myself and was asked if I would like to become a scout for the agency. I was hoping to get a salary but was informed I would only get commission once the model was signed. There was no contract and naively I just went on my way with empty pockets and a handful of business cards.
Feeling rather deflated with my current situation and future job prospects, I decided to go to an interview for a bartender's position in Picadilly Square at a very trendy and upmarket cocktail lounge just behind the Windmill Theatre called Sugar Reef.
On the tube ride I had devised a plan in my mind how I would get around not having work papers. It was simple, I would just pretend I was Spanish, I mean I had been training for this moment for the last 4 years, I looked the part, could throw in a song lyric or two that I had memorised and they would think I was part of the EU! I would be a lovely girl from Barcelona in England to study English and in need of a part time job.
I was interviewed by Jake, a very handsome, green eyed man with shiny black hair and a killer smile (he looked like Adam Garcia, Mr Coyote Ugly).
It was show time and wow, was I on! I introduced myself in a Spanish accent (If only you could hear it, think of Sofia Vergara in Modern Family with a Catalan twist) "Hola, yo soy Daniella, I am from Bar-th-e-lona, I can make any cocktail for you, todos! (everything) Mojito, Cosmopolitana, Martini, whatever you like.
He asked me about my experience and how long I would be staying for? We chit-chatted and before I knew it I was interviewing him, asking him how long he had worked there and if he ever thought of a career in modelling? He giggled sheepishly and said no and the next thing I was making my sales pitch, passing him a card from the agency and convincing him what a killing he could make with that face and jawline! All the while I was workin' my Spanish accent, thank God his last name wasn't Garcia!)
Jake was "mucho impresso"(very impressed) with me.
" I don't think I have ever met anyone with as much enthusiasm as you, I like it, it's very refreshing, when can you start?"
I told him I would start right there and then, he advised me to go home have a good night sleep, take a shower and come back tomorrow.
I was so proud of myself for landing a job but even more so for pulling off my Oscar worthy performance without getting caught out! Little did I know the fun was just getting started.
I started training with some other bartenders who were Italian and let's face it Spanish isn't so far off. After a few days I could feel they were starting to get a little suspicious of a Spanish girl unable to speak her mother tongue. The stories and lies flowed out of me like the River Nile, I told them how my family moved from Morocco to Spain and then had to move to Israel when I was young as my father was transferred for work.... it made the tensions ease but I am sure they either thought I was completely cooked or had Boderline Personality Disorder. The weekends were so busy and I don't know if you have ever had to stay in character under pressure with a hundred people shouting at you for drinks, but it wasn't easy. One night I nearly blew my cover by swearing in my South African accent.
I was anxiously waiting for Jake to ask me for my passport again so he could pay me my wages but I knew the longer I could stall the more tips I could make which was most of my earnings anyway. A week went by and he called me to his office again. My survival instincts kicked in and I did what any good actress would do at this point, I cried, and then the lies started to pour out,
"I have had a really tough time, my apartment was recently broken into and my valuables and documents were stolen, I have gone to the police but I'm waiting for the embassy to issue me a temporary passport."
Jake hugged me and assured it would be ok. He asked me to bring my documents in as soon as they could be replaced.
I liked Jake and I felt bad but I needed the job and a girls gotta eat.
It had been 3 weeks and Frederico (one of the other Italian bartenders) and I had to go pick up some cocktail ingredients from the supermarket. Guess who we bumped into on the way, my friend, Kirby! I hadn't seen her in a while and she definitely had no Idea about my other personality so you can imagine the look on her face when I opened my mouth to speak in a Spanish accent.
I grabbed Frederico and pretended we were in a hurry as she looked at me like I was from Mars, well technically I was from Barcelona.
By this point I was absolutely exhausted, I couldn't take lying anymore, feeling like a fraud and most of all I felt like I was having a legitimate identity crisis. I honestly was starting to forget who I was, enough was enough, the madness had to end so I quit.
I was proud of my first major hustle and knew this would be the first of many.
I had to move out from the Furmans as I felt I was overstaying my welcome and went to stay with my childhood friend, Kelly who was staying in Leytonstone, not the most desirable neighbourhood. Kelly worked like a dog to make ends meet and was never home. She had 2 Afrikaans room mates who played Afrikaans dance music all day long, I felt like a fish out of water. It was the loneliest I had ever felt, I missed home and called my mom one day, crying and telling her how much I wanted to come home. To my disappointment my cries were met with a distant response which was so unlike her, one I had trained her to say when I left.
I hung up the phone, cried some more and then gave myself a pep talk to toughen up and pull myself towards myself.
I found an ad in Backstage for an audition for a vocalist at a studio in Ladbroke Grove, a very prominent recording studio in fact where many famous artists have arisen from.
The place looked legit, it was a trendy complex full of artists and musicians, each with their own private studios.
I arrived at 2 giant wooden carved doors and a very tall man with a jovial disposition named Michael, opened them, he spoke at a hundred miles an hour telling me about the business and about his 90's one hit wonders he had written, it was hard to get one word in with him. After playing him some of my music he agreed that he would work with me on an artist development deal and we would co write together. I worked with him for the next month and a half.
It was a gorgeous studio with state of the art gear and honestly with my current living situation and running low on my dad's allowance I thought about just moving in there. My mother thought it was a great idea too, the couches were comfy, it was clean, the only problem was it didn't have a shower. My mother suggested I just use the toilet as a bidet and the basin as a bird bath, I mean how bad could it be? God did we laugh!
I have to mention that I also got the "Heathrow Injection" upon arrival to London, It's a term used for gaining weight after moving there, I mean with the greyness and rain, lack of motivation and having to eat on a dime it was no wonder the kilos were piling on. Let's face it, London was not a conducive place for getting a bikini body. I wasn't too pleased about hitting Europe not in my best shape but the time was now and I had to make do even though it upset me greatly. Oh well, the show had to go on!
I was very excited about my European Contiki Tour I was about to embark on.
I went to Paris first to stay at my mom's friend from her kibbutz days in Israel. The only problem was she lived in the ghetto of Paris, Sarcelles. I was warned to come home during daylight as the crime rate was so high and antisemitism was rife. I heard a horrendous story about a teenage Jewish girl who was forced to swallow her Magen David (star of David) necklace on the train. This was not the Paris I envisioned. I couldn't wait to get out of that ghetto and so off I went to the centre of Paris to Notre-Dame Cathedral and Montmartre.
I felt like all my art history books were coming alive, I met a lovely painter up on the hill who I liked to call El Greco (he was Greek). We strolled around Montmartre on it's cobblestone streets and went into cafe's that were reminiscent of The Cabaret Voltaire which was part cafe part Cabaret, a place for artistic expression. The Cabaret Voltaire was a staple of Zurich’s art scene with a history dating back to 1916 and is still open to this day. It was a magical place that was frequented by painters, poets, writers and eccentric visionaries, all sharing their philosophies on life, love, art and the world as they knew it while feverishly smoking cigarettes and sipping on cafe noir (black coffee)
This was the Paris I had dreamt about and El Greco brought it to life for me. He gave me some of his art supplies and I painted a decent rushed attempt of a portrait of a man sitting in a cafe across from me. I got a glimpse of what it must have felt like to be a real artist trying to make ends meet in Paris.
I wandered around Paris for a week by my lonesome seeing the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower but the loneliness was starting to creep in again. I was thrilled to link up with some American tourists for a day. A few days later I met a man out and about seeing the sights, we walked around together and I asked him if he wanted to join me at an amazing Latin club called "Barrio Latino" the following night and he accepted my invitation. I told him my predicament that I couldn't get home after dark so invited me to stay in his hotel room. That night he took me to the most amazing restaurant with a view of the Eiffel tower for dinner. I savoured every bite of what tasted like a Michelin star meal. I had been living on baguettes, Nutella and Lu biscuits as those were the only edible options in Sarcelle at the apartment where I was staying.
That night after our fancy dinner we went to Barrio Latino. I was so excited to be at this vibey Latin super club that I did what I always do when I'm excited, I fly off like a social butterfly like a true free spirit, forgetting the person I arrived with. A guy friend of mine once told me that I'm the only person that you take on a date but need to take another date to keep you company. Thankfully I found him before the club closed and we went back to his hotel. He was very respectful and didn't try to make a move on me and I was rather relieved. Looking back now I think I must have been very naive or my intuition must have been highly developed to sleep at this random dudes hotel room, I mean was I crazy?
The time had come to go on my Contiki tour that everybody raved about as the best adventure to have on your gap year. We would be departing from Paris and I was super excited to travel around Europe for a month.
My group consisted of Kiwis, Ausies, a few Brits and Americans, not the most exciting crowd but I guess I had to make the most of it.
I met a stunning girl I clicked with who was half Australian and half Croatian and we became partners in crime and partied together. We decided to go on a day trip renting a smart car and discovering a hidden gem of a destination between Nice and Monaco frequented by the European aristocracy and international millionaires whose magnificent villas are dotted along its coastline, none other than St Jean De Cap Ferrat
I'm sure you have figured out by now that obviously I like the finer things in life.
When we got to Amsterdam my whole tour went to the Swarovski Crystal Museum, I couldn't think of anything more boring and went the opposite direction to the flea market across the road.
I bought a beautiful boho silk top from a lovely woman who gave me my first few hits of a joint. I carried on in my element in this carefree market and met up with my Contiki crew after. That night I walked around the city and being that I wasn't such a fan of smoking I decided to eat some bonbons. I didn't realise how long they would take to metabolise so as you can imagine after 3 bonbons and 3 hours later I was extremely stoned. We ended up at The Bulldog, a famous cannabis coffee shop mainly frequented by tourists. I saw this Chinese girl I had bunked with in the last city and I couldn't stop laughing at her and then she couldn't stop laughing at me. This went on for what felt like 30 minutes and soon a crowd formed around us laughing at the 2 of us laughing at each other. I thought ok, this weed is quite a vibe but that didn't last very long. I was pushed on stage by my tour mates to sing a karaoke song, the paranoia kicked in such a massive way that I wanted the earth to swallow me whole, moral of the story, never sing stoned!
I stayed out till 5am and met a pretty woman who invited me to a club accompanied by a dwarf (no I wasn't hallucinating, I asked her if she saw him too!) I ended up at Burger King in the main square around 5am. The busses weren't in service and there were no taxis in site. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get home. I met some Algerian dudes who bought me a hot chocolate and a burger and one of them offered to give me a ride home on his motorcycle. I had no idea of my bearings in this unfamiliar city and here I was getting on this strangers bike. The things we do when we are young!
Thankfully he took me to my hotel fully intact but then tried to kiss me but before he could I jumped off the bike and ran into the hotel so quickly. It was about 6am and the bus was leaving at 8 am. I love to sleep and it was quite an ordeal waking up to catch the bus most mornings. There were many times I thought of just missing it especially when I got to Mykonos, Greece.
What a VIBE!!!! I was in my element there! I went to Paradise Beach and danced so hard on the bar tables that George, the owner offered me a summer job there, 20 Euros a day, accommodation and food covered! I called my mother delirious with excitement and asked her if I could stay especially since we were heading to Germany and Austria and let's face it I was more of sun and sea person. My mother told me to get back on the bus, she had paid for the tour and I was to finish it!
I'm glad I did as I would have missed out on Italy! When we got to Rome I fell in love. The tour group went in to a basement wine cellar the first evening and I was having none of that! I mean here I was surrounded by the most magnificent architecture, incredible sculpted works of art and a divine cafe culture and I must go sit in a basement? Ummm no thanks! I found the only cultured gay man on the tour who shared my sentiments, ironically his name was Daniel and off we went exploring Rome! I also loved Florence, it had such a magical energy. Pisa and Verona weren't as memorable but hey, I can say I've been there.
Trust me to find a connection with accommodation in Venice. I got put up for free by a friend of a friend, Marco, who happened to own a gorgeous hotel right in the heart of Venice while my tour group stayed 45 minutes outside of Venice at a camping site. What can I say I had my father's hustle in me.
Italy and Greece are 2 of my favourite destinations, the food, the people, the Mediterranean feeling. I have been back twice in my life to visit both. I also enjoyed Switzerland and Austria feeling like Heidi in the hills. Germany was rather boring for me, I'm not the beer drinking type, I can't stand the taste but did enjoy a good schnitzel. We also went to visit some of the concentration camps which was very intense. Holland was fun smelling tulips, eating cheese and trying on clogs.
My tour ended in London and after a grey few days back I decided I was done.
I had always wanted to go to Ibiza and I was so close now being in London. Flights were cheap and there was no better time and since I had no friends to go with, my parents decided to join me there in August 2003.
I had met a lovely young woman a few years older than me in December on the beach in Cape Town and she invited me to stay with her in Mallorca, my first port of call before I took the ferry to Ibiza. I called her when I landed, excited I would have a guide there. Unfortunately she told me she was fighting with her boyfriend and now wasn't a good time. I was stuck in Mallorca at 9pm and not sure where to go. I asked the tourism information centre where the closest town was and they sent me to El Arenal, basically Germany by the sea, even the Mc Donalds menus were in German.
Here I was thinking I was coming to the Balearic Islands with a warm Spanish vibe, sadly this was not the case.
I found a hostel that night with a bar downstairs and tried to socialise but this was not for me, I had to find the Spanish feeling here.
I got on a bus to Palma De Mallorca and met 5 Italian guys who were my age. I missioned around the city with them that day and asked them if I could crash with them for a night so they snuck me into their hotel. That night we partied at a place much more to my liking, Tito's nightclub in Porto Portals, the most exclusive upmarket port where all the action was. What can I say I like a little glitz and glam.
One of the guys tried to get fresh with me but I ever so graciously declined. The next morning I boarded the ferry with my 30 Kg suitcase to Ibiza, sweating like a nun in a brothel! I was so excited to be there, it was August, peak season and I got off the ferry with no accommodation booked thinking I would easily find a place to stay. Well the Island was pretty much booked up and I started to get quite anxious. I thought if all else fails I would just have to bury my suitcase in the sand on the beach and sleep on top of it. It was a brilliant idea until I found out it was illegal to sleep on the beach. I guess I wasn't the first one to come up with such a plan.
I had a contact from the Spanish embassy in Cape Town who gave me a number of his cousin who stayed in Ibiza if I was in trouble. I called from a public telephone but there was no answer. Luckily I saw a page plastered on a lamp post nearby advertising a room for rent. I called it and an Italian man said he would pick me up in front of Mc Donalds at 9pm. For all I knew they could have been human traffickers coming to pick me up and sell me into sex slavery but luckily they were a very nice couple from Rome who vacationed in Ibiza for their summers. I was sharing a room with Alessandro, an Italian guy who was my age and was told not to worry as he liked to party and wasn't around much. That night they dropped me off in Ibiza town which was very different in those days. It was packed with fabulous people and had a vibrant free spirited energy. There were music stands selling one of a kind club mix CD's from all the famous DJ's. The crowd was sun-kissed and ready for the night's festivities. There was no Instagram so people were present and really engaging with each other instead of the cameras on their phones. I loved it there! I recently went back a few years ago but the energy had shifted to exclusive villa parties, there was no longer a central meeting point and exclusivity had now become people's main objective and I was sad to find the town almost empty.
Back then it was still alive and I got on the party bus to Privilege, one of the biggest clubs on the Island. That night's party was called Manumission, it was previously notorious for displaying a live sex show on stage. I didn't witness that but there was a cast of 100 dancers and circus acts swinging from chandeliers and creating a wonderland for adults, I was blown away! I popped a diet pill known as "Thinz", it had some ephedrine in it and I danced the night away solo till 7am. I was slightly parched by the time I walked outside in what felt like an arid desert. It was so expensive to buy a bottle of water in the club it cost 9 Euros and my plan to refill in the bathroom didn't go down so well with the bouncers. Thirsty and in my club attire drenched from dancing so hard all night, coupled with the heat of the harsh Mediterranean sun, I got on the party bus and presented my address to the driver which was scribbled on a crumpled up piece of paper. He had no idea where I lived and dropped me off on the side of a dusty road.
At this point I was desperate for a drink of water and a shower but the only car I saw on the road was a van full of men, construction workers. I flagged them down looking like a common hooker, they picked me up, drove around in circles and dropped me off on another dusty road. At this point I thought