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Thursday, March 31, 2011

the anguish of coca-cola

There is this coca cola ad, an amazing ad one I love. It's the one about a guy and his friend and one of them is on a train on a really hot day, the kind when the heat comes off the sun in waves. And it's obvious he is on his way to work and stressed when his pal calls him as he(the pal) partakes of an ice-cold coke. He puts the phone to his soda so his friend can hear the clinking of the ice against the glass, the fizzing of the soda and most dramatically the sounds that accompany that first amazing gulp”aaah” Then the long satisfied sigh and the well deserved “i hate you.”

that ad is the reason I buy coke. I think it's a beautiful advert. And every time I tell people this they react with mild shock, how can you be influenced by an advert they all ask. Well it's because of this book I read a long time ago, a book about existentialism a philosophy that begs people to act the way they expect the rest of the world to act. And if everyone in the world bought products because of good ads there would be better ads. I want to live in a world with better ads so I drink coke.

In putting forth this argument of acting as you would have everyone act the existentialists came up with this concept of the “anguish of Abraham.” basically they ask as to act as Abraham did. A voice in his head asked him to kill his son and he was going to do it, he was resolved to stick a knife into the body of a child of his, his son someone he loved above almost all others and he was willing to do it. He must have been in deep anguish, tormented and tortured and he had to ask himself all kinds of hard questions before he resolved to act.

And before I read of this concept I hadn't paid much thought to what a supreme act of faith it was that drove Abraham, the kind of faith that is now thought of as insanity. And he must have thought he was insane. He must have allowed himself pause to consider this possibility. if he did not then he must have been truly insane. The bible glosses over this chapter, but that has never been an introspective book, a book that seeks to cover 6,000 years of human history in nearly a fourth of the pages cannot afford to focus in on internal debates, it can't help but show us only the broad scope.

But that night when Abraham heard a voice in his head tell him to kill his son.

Sure it was a voice that had not yet led him wrong but it was also a voice that no-one else heard. And he must have wondered if he could trust this voice, or even trust himself anymore, he must have been racked with doubt and insecurity of the kind that I can't even begin to imagine. Asking himself a really hard question, If your faith asks you to give up everything else or in the alternative give it up what way can you turn?. He had to ask himself if his faith in that voice, the voice that had promised him a son and kept him waiting for so long that he and his wife had finally taken matters into their own hands. It can't be easy for a wife to allow her husband to go into the arms of another, maybe prettier, definitely younger woman, it can't be easy for her to give up hope of a genetic imprint on what the voice had said would be the most numerous and powerful peoples on earth. And it can't be easy for a man who truly loves his wife to do this, because at the end of all the justifications and rationalizations the only emotion left was betrayal. And this shows he had doubted the voice previously.

I used to think that one can't truly have faith without having a crisis of faith and perhaps this was Abraham's crisis and he passed through with two sons and now he had to kill one of them.

And he must have doubted, he must have questioned and queried and quivered. It must have been a sleepless night and as they walked toward that mountain, a 3 day journey into the heart of his soul's darkness and his faith's demands what could he possibly have talked to Isaac about? This seems like the kind of journey where one is prepared for life, told a couple of humorous stories, some wise words and pearls of wisdom. Finally share a bottle of alcohol together but this could not have happened. And even if they did it must have been with a heavy sense of foreboding and horrible hypocrisy. How could a father have prepared his son for a life that he knew he(the father) would soon end. And the crippling doubts must have revisited him. The anger at a God who wold ask him for this just somewhere below his skin, a subconscious fury that he could not give word or thought to because perharps that anger would be the emotion that finally finished him off. He may even have prayed to be relieved of the faith that held him in it's grip. And yet he soldiered on. Foe 3 days and nights with his son beside him fearing these were the last 3 days of his life.

And the moment came the moment of the sacrifice. And his son asks him
“where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
a completely innocent question. But one that must have broken Abraham's heart into a thousand little pieces. I can imagine him closing his eyes for a moment and confronting all those questions and doubts again, confronting God himself in the vast abyss of a moment, of an eternity. And all he could see was the black of his decision but a decision made. And every syllable of the reply must have caused him a thousand deaths. There was a happy ending but the journey there was harrowing.

Here's this joke I read once am not sure where. It goes Abraham buys his son Isaac a laptop for his birthday however Isaac is not pleased with the purchase, the specs are not up to scratch especially as concerns the memory and he tells his father abut this. Abraham promptly replies
“the lord will provide the RAM.”

anyway I began this with a coke advert. Yesterday I saw this sprite ad, an advert where for what must be a ridiculous amount of money the rapper drake ascribes one of the best verses he ever wrote to the fact that he drank a sprite. And as soon as it was in him he spits “last name ever first name greatest”It's an amazing ad.

The anguish of coca-cola is that now I intend to drink sprite.

Monday, March 28, 2011

bad decisions

For some reason I thought if I spent the whole holiday hangover I would enjoy it much more. In the quest for this perpetuity I was drinking with a couple of my friends in town.

We soon got roaring drunk and yet the liquor kept flowing, karaoke seemed like a good idea and so we sang to our heart's content and the consternation of all other revelers, best thing about karaoke bars apart from the opportunity to lose yourself completely inside the music and sound of another is that they give you all these free shots if you embarrass yourself. So I got drunker, at this point I would say “am very 'unk” the extra syllable seeming like way too much work.

But it was a Tuesday and all good things end even faster on weekdays. We walked to the stage in town. I now live in an incredibly accessible place. In kileleshwa near the main road meaning a 46 mat will take me within yawning distance of the house. And those matatus never end, ever or so I thought. They take a small break between 5 and 530 in the morn then they are back at work. I said good bye to my friends and entered one.

What follows was something that in retrospect was incredibly dangerous, forget retrospect as I was living out the rest of the night I kept thinking how stupid I was. To add a little background on this day I had worn a 3 piece suit with a coat that fit so perfectly god could have been my tailor, at the bar I had spent money foolishly reasoning that all I needed was fare home and a little extra in case of anything therefore rattling around in my wallet was a lonely 100 shilling note wanting for company and being denied it completely. That was mistake no. 1 of the night, though this was a tossup, getting 'unk coming really close.

The second mistake was not to tell the conductor to drop me off at methodist. The third was to fall asleep in the matatu. I woke up and the surroundings were vaguely familiar though strangely alien, this was nowhere near home, I was at nakumatt junction. Immediately I called a halt to the journey and dropped off. The road was deserted of all but light which was pretty cool, the only thing more ominous than a deserted road in the middle of the night is a dark deserted road in the middle of the night.

I gamely stood at the stage, my lonely 100 shilling note having fled me at some point leaving it's oh so feeble little brother, the 50 shilling note in its place.15 minutes later I decided to ask the guard at junction whether I was just exercising futility but he assured me that if I stood there for a while a matatu would come, he looked at my suit and wondered aloud why I ddin't just take a taxi home, I told my story hoping to elicit some sympathy, as it turns out people who toil through the night have no love for those who drink it away and then blame drink for their predicaments.

I waited a little more then I remembered I had a friend who lived quite close to junction, the kind of friend who would put me up for a night or a month without all but the most necessary questions, I reached for my phone sure I had credit(thank you airtel for making such a sentence possible!) but the phone had died. So I went back to my waiting game, hope having fled the building despair now my only motivator.

Like all the American movies I had watched I would stick out my thumb and hope-dangerous I know- from experience I know that a guy on a motorcycle is much more likely to give a hitch hiker a lift in the dead of the night, I have no idea why, maybe they are just more prone to risk. But when one stopped and I told him where I was going 250/= was their lowest price. You know now as I write this I keep thinking that it would make more sense to come back home and then pay one of these guys but right then that thought did not occur. When the 2nd motorcycle driver asked for the same I gave up on that course of action.
I went back to the guard and saw he had this night house right there in junction, I pleaded with him to let me crash there till 5 am so I could then get home but it was like an appeal to a rock. Then the other guard came and he was not in the least bit amused by me or my situation, believing that having made my bed I should sleep in it, or at least not ask to share their's. I asked them to at least watch over me, I told them I was scared of dying or being robbed and while the place seemed safe I didn't feel that way. I asked if I could sit somewhere near the gate so they could keep a better eye on me. But the guard got mad and threatened me with his rungu. The next day I found out that the engineering student who was beaten at westie had died, the day after all of these shenanigans of mine was the day of the riot when club psys left the scene. And when I heard that I thought I should have told this guy I was in Nairobi university maybe he would have been more helpful then. But I was scared, I was all alone in the middle of the night, I had no way home, noone nearby, no form of communication so I did as asked and went to wait at the stage.

At this point my worst fear was hat I would fall asleep and never see it coming. So I stood for what felt like hours. I saw the guys who deliver papers come by to drop them off at the junction. I talked to them and they seemed amenable to drop me off but they wee going to kawangware and couldn't help, I saw a security van going on their patrol but they told me the same thing. And so I stood, or rather leaned on a banister.

I remember thinking that this wold be an excellent time to sort out my thoughts about life and philosophy and religion but I couldn't bring myself to think about anything else, I couldn't even think about all the girls I currently had crushes on. All I could think about was the dark and the terrible, horrible mistake I had made.

Thankfully a mat finally came along. With as much emotion as I could I told these guys my story. I told them all I had in my pocket was 50 shs. I told them that I was drunk when all this happened and I believe I was finally talking to fellow drinkers because they agreed to drop me of, at a stage that was out of their way, for a measly ammount of money that barely covered their fuel costs. I should have told them how much I appreciated what they had done for me and that I would defend matatu drivers and touts whenever people make those generalized sweeping statements about them, but I was too tired to think. I got home finally and flopped into bed.

Next day-no hangover. Maybe there are guardian angels.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

cigarettes: hesistations

He found it strange that he would have to write a letter to his wife. His former wife, not exactly yet but it helped him to think of her as part of his past. The cigarette found itself in his mouth, he knew he could multi task with the best of them and he looked at his computer screen, the fucking Internet would even steal from him the physical release of an actual letter. He had been sitting there for such a long time thinking. and he had no idea how to start, but he knew he had to.

i can still remember the first time I met you and why I talked to you. It was your smile you had a way of smiling that opened you up to the whole world. Like the smile was a confirmation of everything right in the world. It opened up your soul and you seemed so vulnerable. And that was it. I needed to be around you to keep you safe and protected. I felt like you trusted the world too much and it was all in the smile. I find it strangely fitting that there was nothing at all in the world that could have been protected me from that smile.”

then he smiled at the memory of her. And he remembered him and the bile rose. He shouldn't be apologizing, he shouldn't be so accommodating, this letter deserved a different tenure. He took a deep puff and started again.

Ctrl+A...Del
you know I couldn't give a shit about you right now, well that's not true just recently I had a particularly bad bout of diarrhea and I named one of them little shits for you. I gave you so much and you threw it in my face.”

no he didn't really feel like that. He didn't want the letter to be the last form of communication between him and her. They had shared too much. Too many memories, hopes, dreams, fears, tears and smiles. He hated he yes but it wasn't that simple and usually he wouldn't even admit this to himself. Maybe it was the liquor swirling around and unlocking the secret places that he couldn't ever find.


Ctrl+A...Del

the truth is I knew it was over or i should have known. The lies we tell ourselves are the worst of all, the most deceptive . Things must have been over for a really long time and I only held on too hope because it created a world for me, a world of glass and lies and I was scared that if I tried too hard to see through the lies the glass would shatter and all I would be left with was the horror of the truth and little piercing shards of glass. I was afraid to confront the truth. Until I was forced too. And even then I could only confront it's present presence but I know the truth is more than what's right now. It draws on the past and history, it draws on what came before and on all the other little truths. And I know too that the truth owes much of it's nowness to the lies of the past. And my heart is heavy because I never confronted more than just the present of the truth. I am scared of what happens if we confront the rest of what happened between us. And am more scared too admit to myself that we'll have to, so I don't know how am getting the nerve to admit it to you.


he didn't want to say anymore. He knew he had betrayed her at least as bad as she had him. But a human being is nothing if not a sea of contradictions. And even now as he drowned in his he could not begin to understand them. He would not grasp that maybe he had no right to ask for anything. He had lived his life hard and that could be seen from the black of smoke resting on his lip just below his cigarette maybe the problem was he had never been one of of those people who just push the envelope he liked to light it on fire and throw it bodily off the edge of the cliff so it rains down on the ocean, a spectacular shower of ash and white and danger just like the end of his marriage. He tipped off some of the ash and white that had accumulated. Took another deep breath and continued

i really haven't been able to sleep for a while. I get in bed and toss and turn. I get in bed and think too much. Too. Much. It's always already 3 am and there's always a cloud of smoke surrounding my room a symbol of the bad spirits and evil thoughts that come to me with every memory of you. then I blink and the sun is outside checking in on me. Making sure I still live. And that's when i get scared. Because I have no idea who put out the cigarette. That's not even really it, I get scared because I do the same thing over and over gain. It's like my waking life is this dream I can't get out of, a hell that I have to relieve over and over again” no he decided he couldn't let her see that much he deleted that paragraph.

And started again almost immediately.

you know I read this poem that said in part

feelings nowadays are expressed in back spaces,
haunted memories having only digital traces.

I want you to know it wasn't easy for me to do this. but I had to. And I know it looks like a measly 2 paragraphs but it was not. There are hundreds of digital traces everywhere. And in me there are too many to even count. I miss you when I wake up ad when I fall asleep and when I can't. I miss you when am angry with you and when I hate you and when I can't stand to think about you. I miss you when the fire goes out and the sun goes down, I miss you when all I have to keep me company is thoughts of what could have been-should have been-would have been. I don't like that I miss you this much. And am not sure if this can even end in forgiveness. But i realize one cigarette was perhaps too little time. I want another chance to wait is all am trying to write.

and for the first time in a long time he remembered to turn out his cigarette before he slept.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

balling

Rifles are huge and heavier than you would think and when you squeeze them the right way they release this emission that causes a mess wherever it lands. This can be said of a lot of things that are usually considered the domain of men. But am saying it about paint-ball rifles.

A couple of weeks ago a group of my friends and I went paint-balling. When you arrive they outfit you in different colored overalls so that you can differentiate between your teammates and the enemy. There is something about wearing a uniform t that changes the way you view yourself. If someone who wears jeans for a life puts on a well tailored suit a sense of power and confidence descends immediately as if these 2 attributes were sewn into the suit when it was being made. When you put on overalls and the face mask you become a killer. Well not a killer but a person who paints others with malice. The mask reminds me of a hornet, it has a windshield thing because a paint-ball can put out your eye if you're not careful and it has these 2 breathing apertures that makes your breath sound.

Once we had these huge heavy rifles in our hands it was time for some target training. Before we could start we were given a dress down by the guy in charge. His mandate seemed to be to make sure we knew that those were not toys. He talked on and on about safety and rules, he made it sound so scary and serious that I almost would have rather read for exams. But all thoughts of such a dark bend dissipated immediately I fired my first bullet. It went wildly off base not getting close to where I was aiming but the kickback was sufficiently satisfying.

The ammo consisted of these things that look like ball-gums, so much so that the impulse to eat them is a constant presence at least until you see them sploosh and watch the paint flower over everything.

Once target practice was over we were divided into teams, the game to play was capture the flag, a game whose main objective was to capture a flag that was in the middle between the 2 teams and to manoeuvre it to the enemy base at the other end of the field. This had to be done while evading bullets, getting hit meant pain and the possibility of a welt forming on your skin, it also meant a return to base to begin the harrowing journey again. The field was fixed up like a war zone. There were stacks of tyres everywhere and walls that could be ducked behind to decide how best to run away from a relentless onslaught. There were trees in some corners a development that would soon prove frustrating as they were perfect sniper spots. The best touch was a decrepit car that was left in the middle of the field. A car without the doors, steering wheel, engine or anything but the basic body. I kept thinking about how the owners of the paintball field went and got this one touch, this detail that changed everything, made things more lifelike by making them more unusual a paradox I found fascinating.

Then the whistle was blown. Our plan was simple one of our number would run for the flag while being covered by the rest. Covering meant blindly shooting bullets into the distance and hoping that the wind would redirect it towards a target. I ran shooting, I could see the little bullets flying off the gun into the distance having more of a bark than bite then I got hit. I have heard many stories of bullets making contact, the excruciating pain as it rips apart skin, muscles, tendons, cartilage and bone. But there is this thing called adrenaline that's a natural painkiller well mostly it was the fact that they were not real bullets not even rubber bullets.

In game all there was was you and your gun. i would weave and warp around objects, ducking down, coming out, shooting away,hanging back, shooting again, gaining ground, losing it, driving forward, being driven back, a constant give and take. As a result I kept forgetting that if got hit I should go back to the beginning. But the point hit home because once someone got a line of fire they would use it relentlessly endlessly firing, they were as insistent as a buzzing mosquito and after a while i would start to hurt and that's when I remembered to put my hands up in surrender and go back to base.

My first hit was probably luck but like with most things in life success only came when I decided to repeat. When I would find a person who was too out in the open. And I would begin hammering away at my inaccuracy, shooting wide and adjusting to the left or right, shooting high and bringing the scope lower, getting better and better, getting closer and closer until the satisfying feeling of a hit tremored through my hands. Now that I had him in my scope I continued, I had found a weak spot and continued to pull the trigger again and again, over and over until I saw the sign of surrender. As luck would have it someone else had been scoping me the whole time and I got hit. On my trigger finger, this is the only place that's not covered by any clothing or protection and it hurts. Like hell. So I went back to base.


There is something about shooting and getting shot at that makes everything blurry and quick. In no time at all there were no bullets in anyone's gun but we got a quick refill. It was only on the second round that I even manged to get my hands on the flag. We came up with this napoloenistic ruse that involved one of my teammates running off like he had the flag while I would use this decoy to get it to the other side. I took a deep breath and began to run. The bullets flew right by me like a Rambo movie. I would stop and feint, run in a different direction, brake and turn, slow up and speed down, all in an effort to get to the other side and win the game. When I was within sight of the base I got hit. Right in my face. The paint splattered over my windshield thing and vision was blurry after that.

A useless run that had left me dog-tired. I was panting ad sweating. And I could feel that globule of spit that accompanies exertion. A sports field may be one of the last frontiers in the world that allows one to spit, because that globule forces its way out worming its way up your throat till there is no choice but to hark and let it go like one of those paintballs. While this may be allowed in a sports field never, never do it with a mask over you face. As soon as I spat the stickiness was a part of me. In my mask threatening to invade my face and force itself back in. of all the times I got hit or forced back when I was within sight of the target this was the worst experience of the day. I had to take a timeout to wipe it away before I went back to the carnage.

I can almost see those bullets in my mind's eye, sinking into the barrel of the gun and leaving with enough force to take out an eye. And the thing about missing so much is I got to kill 2 birds with one stone. First I went paint-balling and second because my balls hit everything else I finally painted a landscape.

Codename: Monet.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

pipes

Last week CNN were showing video of the tsunami/earthquake in japan. And I was blown away. There is no getting around the loss of life, opportunity and money this tsunami will bring. This is undoubtedly one of the worst natural disasters we have been faced with in a long time. However there is also no denying the beauty of the thing as it wrecked. It put me in mind of that Tolkien line from the lord of the rings "In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Treacherous as the sea! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me, and despair!" the water was so powerful nearly a nuclear blast. It cut through and carried endless mounds earth effortlessly. Further inland the water had mixed with the debris forming this sludge that looked less like water mixed with solid as it did the earth was melting. And not going easily. It was fluid and in motion, at war with itself and it's environments, swirling and swerving and at the centre of it you could almost see its soul, its black death ready to tear away from the earth its foundations, from the people their loved ones and from humanity a little more of its faith in nature. Perhaps the worst part was the amorality of it all. There was no grander design or purpose to the thing, no sense of malevolence driving it forward just the confluence of movements of tectonic plates shaped billions of years ago coming home to crow. Gods own hosepipe.

Closer home, I went for a walk the other day. The kind of walk you take as a child or when you are away from the hassle of city life and it's never ending emphasis on things never ending. am talking about the kind of walk that leaves you dirty. It was through a really dusty place so when I was done I looked half brown . I was in shorts and sandals and the dust clung to me. i got home and I couldn't even enter the house for fear of dragging the memories of my adventures into a place they did not belong. So I had to hose down. There was a pipe so I could get water out of the tap but I had this irrational fear that the water would be too cold but I sucked it in and sprayed. the water was warm for awhile but quickly turned cold. Apparently it had been in the sun for quite some time and been warmed up. I love when that happens, It reminds me of that beautiful romantic notion about light being a memory, a picture of a time past. It takes the sun's rays 8 minutes to get to us, so that by the time they are here the world they illuminate is a little older than the one whose universe they shared. So this warm water was a gift a present from the past


Last year I finally got the chance to purchase a pipe,, my very own tobacco pipe. A symbol of status only outmatched by a waist coat clock, the process of lighting a pipe is in itself an affirmation of class. You pinch carefully remnants of whatever it is you want to destroy your lungs on that day. Even more carefully you tip it over onto the pipe and then set it all on fire. Then you take a deep satisfying breath which is immediately followed by a rasping, wheezing cough that starts from that point in the middle of your throat where all the really painful ones do. This is for men with time, men with space and most especially men with their very own leaves. I have heard tale that vegetarianism has never been so sexy. And this pipe I had was beautiful. it had a black marble head. Perfectly curved and polished with a finishing so fine it had to have been handcrafted.A perfect round crucible in which to deposit the fuel, inside of that it was white and I have always been a sucker for juxtaposition. The marble head tapered to wooden tunnel. It was this tunnel that would finally give me the chance to describe something as having a “woody” texture. But my pipe broke.


I kept thinking that a post about pipes could not be complete without some sly reference to that one pipe that speaks the truth But I have been falling in the habit of proving myself wrong so instead I will end this with a story of a bird. A bitch of a bird. On the day I had all these thoughts relating to pipes, I was standing somewhere in the open. Taking a break from my walk and just looking off into nothing in particular when out of nowhere this bird of prey came and scratched my head. It swooped down on me like I was a dead mouse it would have the opportunity to carry off. Its talons just grazed me and I cold feel how lucky I had been. Then i began to wonder why that bird would attack me. Did I look dead or close to it? Do I have a particularly mousy head shape when taken aerially, did it simply miscalculate or was it just angry that it no longer had the biggest pipes in the animal kingdom?

Monday, March 14, 2011

the one about the godfather

I got to watch the godfather again recently. This was an amazing movie, exploring the limits of family and what we would do for it, it dwelt on rationalization for actions without any justification, on crime and what it does to the soul and body, on the consequences for every action, physical and emotional and it was perfectly cast. I believed all the characters, all their motivations and why they did the things they did. And to make it even better it was based on an amazing book. The kind of book that shakes your world views, that moves you to the core. And most movies based on books usually lose the narrative thread that holds everything together but this didn’t. It stayed true to the vision of the author. I loved every minute of it.

But I have failed to see the inherent comicility (and I know this is not a real word, it doesn’t even feel real but it seemed to fit.) till right now, I have seen this on internet articles ever since I started reading and I feel like it’s something that I can finally do, and it deserves some ceremony so this paragraph is said ceremony, here is my very first spoiler alert.

SPOILER ALERT: if you have not watched The Godfather, this may contain certain plot points that may hinder your enjoyment of the movie.

The first scene I caught was when Michael has been banished to Sicilia. He is walking with his 2 bodyguards when he sees this woman. She is beautiful, jaw dropping and he stops, his whole heart, his head, everything is her for a moment and he must have her. He has been struck by the thunderbolt. they walk into town and start talking to this old man about her. They go into such a vivid description. Made all the more comical cos one of the bodyguards only ever repeats what the other guy says. And for 5 minutes they talk about her. And this old guy joins in, appreciating her beauty and her vavoom vicariously and they talk about her as only an Italian can. The passion clear in every sentence, the gestures wide and exaggerated, the metaphors fit to bring a smile to the face of even the most radical feminist. And then it turns out this guy is the girl’s father. Shit1 right. these guys just talked about his daughter for 5 minutes and worse he joined in. he didn’t know who they were talking about granted but he finds out and this is pure sit-com gold. He is angry, agitated and wants them gone.

But he gets treated to the Corleone stare, he settles down and Michael gives him his offer. He explains to the old man that he is a fugitive from the law in America and that he is in Italy hiding from the cops. He then goes on to tell him that he could make a lot of money selling that information but that if he did, he would be dead.

This is really not the way to talk to a prospective girlfriend’s father. You don’t admit your criminal record right off the bat. You hide the alcohol; well at least you hide the fact that you smoked weed that one time. But this guy he comes right out and says he is wanted by the police and then he threatens the guy’s life. Things are different in Sicilia. And while great literature is a great place to find out how to work through life will not go the full disclosure way of Michael Corleone.

Back in America, his brother has to deal with their bother in law who dared to raise a finger to their sister. He gets in a car and drives over to where the guy is and delivers a beat down. He takes it to the street, he punches him, he kicks him, he takes garbage and pours it all over him before he picks up the pail and uses it to bet him up. He bites his fist, he bites his fist. I have never seen a grown man beaten so mercilessly.

Just a few short scenes later we see domestic violence. Connie Corleone gets a call from her husband’s gumah. She is understandably angry and shouts and screams at him stuff then breaks the plates in the house. She breaks everything. Every cup, plate, utensil. And he lets her. And this scene is really long so you get a sense of her passion. When she’s done he orders her to clean it up. Then he unbelts and uses his belt on her and as much as that may read like innuendo, it is not. He beats her with it. They run through their apartment and we see this guy give no quarter, none at all. He follows her into the bathroom and this woman must be terrified, she calls her brother who jumps into his car to come save her.

In one of the most classically contrived set-ups ever there are assassins waiting for him on the road. And they go into overdrive. Overkill has no description like this scene. They pump him so full of lead it’s practically an endorsement for president. They shoot so many holes in him he could be a saint(holy). They use more bullets than a PowerPoint presentation and when he’s deader than any hope that smallville will become any good, they still kick him in the face.

Overkill.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

permanent midnght

A few weeks ago I went and bought a copy of the Gilmore Girls. This is the beginning of a ritual I have faithfully followed for 3 years now. Before anyone says anything about the lack of masculinity involved in that particular purchase I will share some of the priceless wit that goes into the production of that television show.

[Richard hears from his mother at Friday night dinner.]
Emily: [So] you were on the phone…
Richard: Long distance.
Lorelai: God?
Richard: London.
Lorelai: God lives in London?
Richard: My mother lives in London.
Lorelai: Your mother is God?
Richard: Lorelai…
Lorelai: So, God is a woman.
Richard: Lorelai…
Lorelai: And a relative! That's so cool. I am gonna totally ask for favors.
Richard: Make her stop.
Rory: Oh, that I could.
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Lorelai: I still can't get over that I'm related to God. It's gonna make getting Madonna tickets so much easier.
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I knew I needed to laugh in the coming weeks and each successive season has been an ally of mine when I have to face that bane of student life, the archenemy of everything sacred. I had to do exams. And to do those exams I had to read a tree load of papers. I have found over the years that people not doing law never understand why I have to read so much or so hard. Sure part of it is just me, I have that peculiar genetic mix that drives me to books when I need to do a paper and it’s possible that I do more than I have to. But, there was one unit this semester where I had to cram over a hundred case names, all of them relating to different complicated and highly sophisticated principles; it was here that I learned the term circulus inextribulus meaning a vicious logical circle of the chicken and egg type. And all this came together with the aspect of internationalism so each of those cases had at least 2 nationalities, the average was probably 3, and there was a spectre of an admonishment from the lecture who “loves her authorities.” So for the last couple of weeks whenever someone said “you don’t have to read for law, it’s just a matter of application and how well you argue!” a gun purchase seemed imminent. Not that I’d shoot them, I’d never talk my way out of that, not even that I’d actually buy a gun but am sure that at some point after those observations someone somewhere in the world bought a gun and I understood why they did so.

When it began as with all these things it seemed impossible to get through all that slog and it seemed improbable that actually doing so would help. A dark cloud descended over my life and the world seemed to pass me by. The servant’s quarter in the house seems to be the only place that is sufficiently apart from all the noises of life that invade the air. There’s always someone watching TV or listening to radio or talking and laughing. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t blessed with that mental shutter some people have that; ability to block out the noise with nothing more than force of will. I have to block it out with doors and windows and endless pleas. And the pleas were endless. I must have asked people to keep down the volume hundreds of times, it’s times like this when you notice how popular a particular spot in a house can be. That window outside the sq was permanently occupied it was as busy as an A, I think that makes more sense cos if a bee actually was so busy why the lackluster grade?

I think those pleas were the worst part of it. They made me feel so selfish and angry at the same time. I was constantly in a state of conflict. How self-centered was I being asking all these people to live their lives at a volume less than what gave them colour. I would berate myself for this and sit there and take it for a couple of minutes and when I couldn’t stand it anymore I would ask with a tinge of frustration in my voice, a tinge that turned into a tan and then became my voice. I would ask them to keep the silence and then I would be so angry that I had to ask. They could see how tired I was all the time. The flash in my eyes went out and I couldn’t contribute to conversation anymore. I couldn’t make them laugh and I had fallen into myself. They could see how hard i was working and I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just sacrifice this small action and close the door behind them or talk elsewhere. This conflict was terrible and it confronted me every day.

And the thoughts. For some reason concentrating on something and trying to keep at bay thoughts of all else is the bringing of these thoughts to the foreground. I thought about life and relationships past and I thought about the fact that noone ever gets closure. Only the person who ends things understands their reason, everyone else is left flailing in the wind like an unclosed door, forever on a hinge never completely shut off, but only kind of open, then I’d get pissed as I realized that yet another person had left a door open and sound was sneaking in and robbing me of the attention I needed.

Another thing that happened is that I fell into myself. It happens when am reading for a paper. I gain this Nazi-like discipline where the whole day is divided into a series of hours and the timetable is followed without change or compassion. I retreat from the real world and enter a universe filled with papers and notes, filled with my handwriting and printed handouts, filled with past papers and predictions, filled with stress and strain. The world goes on and the sun rises and sets, the weeks turn and people enjoy their weekends but I feel like I have entered a really long dark stretch, a kind of permanent midnight. And I can’t talk to anyone at home cos am angry with them and they are with me-though they probably have more reason. And all my classmates are a part of the world that I hate so much. And I don’t see my other friends cos they are a distraction. And it’s all so black.

Then time begins to play with me dividing itself into ever smaller and more insurmountable portions. When previously a week was nearly nothing, a kick-off to the next, now a day seemed to yawn into the abyss. Every second could be felt stretching itself into something it was not supposed to be, time was grotesque, unfamiliar and so very long like I had regressed into childhood. The only thing that passed was sleep. It felt like I would blink and be awake with yet another day ahead. I would drag myself out of bed eager for the time I would be getting back in.

And the harder I pushed myself the worse it was, there’s a Bruce lee quote “there are no limits. There are plateaus and you must not stay there; you must go beyond them and if it kills you, it kills you.” He would have been so proud. This week I had 4 papers in 3 days. On the day I had 2, one was the aforementioned paper(I even write like a lawyer now) the other was a ghost of papers past, a second year re-sit come from the grave of failures to have a visit. I was ran ragged, I could feel the fibres splitting from my skin. And i thought to myself, this can’t be healthy.

But everything ends, even endings and as I write this I am past all this. I am going to get superbly drunk today.

Superbly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

still broken

Kenyatta hospital is huge, acres and acres of land. Dozens of doctors, hundreds of nurses and thousands of sick people

I once did community service there one day my friends and I went on a little field trip, we walked around for hours and hours never coming back to the same place. During our aimless wanderings we discovered this little hidden place in a quiet corner practically a crook in the wall and the legend above it read ”admissions.” We made fun of all the people who came to this place and lined up for hours sometimes days not knowing that they could just come here and ask to be admitted. Well a few years before that happened which was quite a few years ago, even before we were four was formed I was one of those poor suckers.

To wit I had broken my hand and my wrist was at a disturbing juncture. I finally understood what pain was and in this state I had come to this place, Kenyatta hospital.

The car we were in screamed into the parking lot. And I came out with my splinter in my hand the very picture of a dying dove. By now the spirit had left me I was willing to be sheeped around. casualty. We walked in and for the first time I felt like the spoiled child I was being. Sprawled in front of me was all the misery of humanity. At least that’s what it felt like to my yet protected eyes.

The casualty room at Kenyatta hospital is huge. There are a number of chairs on which people sit and wait to be served. Before me in turn there was a victim of a car accident, there were more broken bones than I could count. There was one guy who was lying down on the stretchers that ambulances bring people in and he was coughing helplessly, there was no soul in his cough, not a scrap of energy, it was a sound of such lethargy like he had given up the fight and was only waiting for time to be called so he could leave the stage. Yet he wasn’t attended to. That place had a sense of hopelessness about it, the despair settled on the walls and the people, it mixed with their diseases making them something more, something worse it felt like even the people who got treated here never got healed.

Its not that this place is filled with heartless characters, I know its not. Like I mentioned earlier I once did some community service here and I was stationed at the cancer ward. This one patient had a tumour on his head so big it looked like he was wearing a turban. I thought he was for the longest time till one day he went to the toilet and toppled over. He struck himself on the tumour and was soon bleeding everywhere. With conscientious professionalism they cleaned him up and took him back to his bed. While I stood frozen unable to do anything but look for a way not to be asked to do anything.

It’s just that there are so many people who are sick and close to death that it’s nearly impossible for everyone to be attended to. There are though a few bad apples. The radiologist was rotten to the core. After a while at casualty we were informed that we had to get x-rays. After finding directions in that maze, we made it there. I was x-rayed and the radiologist asked us to wait for him outside because he had to get through everyone else’s. I had been given some painkillers so I was able to wait the next forty minutes without crying out. Then the lady next to us tugs us and asks if this guy who’s leaving is the radiologist.

We’re sure he’s not but what the hell right? We ask and he remembers that he has not returned the x-rays. Something it takes him the next 2 minutes to do. This guy was ready to leave work and leave all of us poor suffering, broken bodies waiting because of a two minute job. I felt that balled up within him was the whole of African inefficiency and apathy. I was fuming and not just me either there were about 30 people there who would not have been treated but for that lady’s sharp eyes.

Now once we had the x-ray we were told that the only way to get treated is to roam the halls and if we should spot a doctor pull him or her aside and explain the situation, give out the x-ray and be healed. So we started roaming... and as luck and pure ods would have it

Setting a bone is a pretty crude procedure. It hasn’t changed much since the days when morphine was perfectly legal. The only difference is that now we don’t have the painkillers to handle that shit. The process was simple enough, someone was to hold my fingers straight out, another was to hold on to my shoulder blades to prevent me bucking up in pain. Leaving the doctor to do the rest.

Now a medical degree in Kenya costs about 500,000 shillings a year. They slog away in school for something like 6 years. They learn the anatomy of a man from top to bottom and they do this practically, everyone in the class gets assigned a cadaver and they bisect it to learn every nerve ending. They must know the names of every bone in the body and every tropical disease. It’s so hard they disappear in their books in first year and only surface to drink away the depression.

With all this training in her body and mind she grabbed hold of my wrist where it was broken and twisted it in place the way you would attach pipe to the mouth of a tap. I heard the bone snap back in place and that’s the first time I have heard a physical manifestation of my pain that wasn’t a scream. By the time the cast had been set the tears had dried up.

It had been five hours from break to set.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

broken

When I was in secondary school we all used to play sports once a week in a rotating fashion so that we all knew the basic rules of the big 4 manly sports, rugby, soccer, basketball and (I kid you not) volleyball.

One week it was rugby time and during the game I was handed the ball. All the various visions of glory came raining down on me. I had the ball in my hand as tight as a virgin, my focus was on the try line and everything else faded to grey. Its not that I couldn’t hear all my teammates screaming for the pass I just couldn’t care, adrenaline was pumping through all my veins juicing me up, preparing me for a mad dash to the end and a try. The wind and I were strolling partners i was that fast, my brain was already on the win when all of a sudden I felt a tugging on my t-shirt. I was spun around wildly and let go.

My first instinct was to protect myself from the fall so I put out my hand, wrist at right angles and landed with a crunch. The bone in my wrist jutted out not through the skin, that would have been too much to bear. The bone just came out of its socket like it had missed its way to the wrist and was using a different lane that ended nowhere instead hanging over the precipice of a cliff. It looked like it should have been painful, like I should have been screaming and unable to get up. It looked like I should have just lain down with my wrist clutched in my other hand like a bird with a broken wing. It looked like all I should have been able to do was trash around moving my legs in such a sporadic motion that the first thought to enter a spectator’s head was that I had broken my penis. Well looks aren’t always deceiving.

It hurt.

Then while lying there this one guy asks me whether I need anything. The pain screamed at me and I, showing remarkable restraint went with sarcasm

“Yeah a soda would be good right about now.”

Slowly and painfully almost laboriously they took me to the dispensary and I swallowed back a few aspirin. That quieted me down for a bit. My father asked one of my uncles who was nearby to pick me up from school and take me to this clinic where we have been going since we were first sick. It belongs to my aunt and I have always had excellent service there, I am in fact still alive. I have no problem with the level of care there only why, oh why did it have to be down a road that was so bumpy and full of potholes.

As we drove down the road towards it I was ok. A splinter had been set and my hand was not moving around so it was cool. then we onto this road, its perharps 150 meters of bumping, pumping, gravel that should be part of an off-road course for motorcycles. Every bump was a knife being stuck in my wrist and every landing was the blade being twisted till I bled. There was no bleeding and I wished there was so that the pain could be seen. As it happens my uncle could barely understand my facial expressions. At first I took it very stoically. Quiet as could be. Wincing every once in a while and then we hit an iceberg. And just like the titanic there was no way to survive that. My hand was not prepared. With ridiculous immediacy the pain shot through my brain and went straight to my eye glands. And as ashamed as I am to admit this I cried. Tears of honest pain.

Cuts are only skin deep but this was something else. The pain went right through my whole hand and came out the other side refined and reenergized. Recently I read about this jet that has an interesting engine system where the air is sucked into these turbines then combusted and let out the other side. The faster the air comes rushing in the quicker the acceleration the quicker the acceleration the faster the air comes rushing in. So the faster it goes the faster it can go. That’s the best way to describe the pain I was feeling right then.

My brain shut down, all logic went out the window, all my powers of anything except feeling pain as broken as my bone.

We finally reached the clinic. And again I wished for blood for no one was concerned for the poor boy with the broken hand. I even got admonishment for making a scene. “Noise won’t help anyone”. In a while my aunt who I may have mentioned owned the clinic came to the place and using a system of logic I have no handle on it was decided that I should go to Kenyatta hospital.

The lines stretch for miles, the hospital for acres. It has the highest density of medical professionals in Kenya yet they are no match for the multitudes requiring their care. It’s as big as Vatican city and as inefficient as you would expect any African government bureaucracy to be.

And yet here I was pathetic and in pain, the day had only just began…