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Monday, May 30, 2011

the ride

I was going to chiromo from town, a ten minute walk if I ran but I didn't feel like running. It was one of those days when I felt I had money, a Saturday when I wasn’t going to spend any money on drink and I felt rich, I felt benevolent like spreading around that ten bob would contribute to economic growth in its way, plus I was feeling lazy so I got into a matatu. I took one of those big hulking sausage shaped ones with a star on it right opposite main campus at the edge of town. I felt all lawbreaking bad boy as I watched out for the cop stationed at the head of the road and snuck in just as he wasn't looking. I settled myself near the back and immediately got caught in this long snarling jam. The kind of jam that had the engines of all the cars protesting at the misuse that they were being put to, angry to share the road with each other, wishing they had full reign, that they could just start and whiz past.

The conductor collected everyone’s fare and came to me. I held out my 10 bob very proudly, I was a fare-paying passenger dammit! And he had better treat me like one. Instead he said “30,” just like that the most natural thing in the world. I sought to assure him that my stage was too close for such obscene amounts of money, I let him know I was just going to chiromo and he said again “30,” at this point 2 options, either it's like that old episode of dexter(the cartoon about a boy genius not the dark tale of a serial killer) where he can only say one phrase in French, omelette Du fomage, or he actually wanted me to pay that 30 bob for a distance I could stroll.

Living in a world where the likelihood of a serial killer who kills other killers is higher than that of a boy hiding a laboratory in his basement I figured he wanted me to pay the 30 bob. I was in shock. But before it could give way to anger the guy besides me jumps to my defence
“you can't expect him to pay 30 for this distance, be serious.”

I understood that I hadn't asked him how much he was charging and that in such situations there was no way to win, plus I was feeling lazy so I told him to take that ten bob and leave me wherever he could, feeling all reasonable and he still refused. We had moved barely 30 metres and he refused to take that money. Being the paragon of patience that day I took out another 5 bob and gave him all the coins I had in my possession, take this then I said,he refused this asshole refused. And I didn't want to break my note but I didn't see this ending any other way.

The guy beside me had become more vocal in his support for me, talking about exploitation and letting the tout know that we were all feeling this economic slump, other people in the mat were shouting at him too. And this gave me the opportunity to be above the fray, good place to be. Except the tout started threatening us or rather me with a police station. I have been to jail and this is a threat I take rather seriously. But I hadn't done shit so I reminded him that I hadn't talked back to him at all. At this point he had moved back to the front of the mat and said in that macho threatening voice that they use to cow cowards, “you know you'll just pay,” I did but I didn't appreciate being treated like this. I wasn't ticked off yet I just felt the situation was a little absurd and I enjoy absurdity so I waited for it to develop.

These two guys are having a word fight now except I seem to be the only one getting threats of being locked up, then he suggests we go to the police station, I decide to distance myself from this guy who might turn out to be a problem and talk personally to the tout, I walk to the front of the mat and I tell him I’m not going to kabete(location of the station) but to chiromo, he doesn't find me funny at all. I even hand him some money. And then he said something tribalist and I got pissed. I don't know why I just felt that tribe didn't have anything to do with that situation so I raised my voice, I already have a very loud voice, one that wont allow a whisper to be associated with it so when I shouted at him I think he thought it was time for him to reassert his man hood, in addition the other passenger had just threatened him with burning the matatu. The drive stops the mat and turns around, just as angry asks me why I want to burn the mat down.

Well, sir I dint say anything about burning the mat down it was the other guy, I at this point can't believe these guys can't tell the difference in our voices or are they just playing dumb, I haven't made any threats and they know this am sure, what the fuck is going on. So just to assuage his fears I tell him
“I don't even smoke cigarettes I think that's unhealthy I wouldn't burn this matatu down how much more unhealthy is that, plus how do you e'en burn a mat down? Memorise the number plate and go by some kerosene and come back to find it then burn it down, because I was overcharged, am not going to do that, too much work.” i think this little speech convinced him because he went back to driving.

At this point I know how am going to make this ride worth that 30 bob, I am gong to piss the hell out of this conductor so i tell him that I can't even buy matches any more because he's taken all my money. So I tell him I don't have any money for matches unless he wants to buy some for me from the money he just unfairly took. Everyone else thought this was funny, because it was. Humourless douche of a conductor doesn’t and he tries to embarrass me.
“why are you complaining so much I charged this guy 30 and he's good”
random passenger speaks up ”but it hurt me to pay that 30”

this douche just can't win today. And every time I talk to him he gets more angry, admittedly this is my aim I am trying to be annoying and he can't see it so he just gets annoyed, there's no pleasure in such hollow victories so I tell him.
“now I’ve already paid so I’m just talking to you cos I know it pisses you off and I want you pissed off”
that pissed him off. i was having such a good time now I could have paid 50(not really this is just a figure of speech like a threat to burn a mat is just a figure of speech.) everyone is laughing at all my jokes, I have no idea if it's cos am some kind of funny or they're also pissed off at being charged so much and want him pissed off too.

We're coming up to chiromo now and I’ve nearly run out of things to say. Now all he can do is shrug off his shoulders at me, he can't even raise his voice or god forbid his fist, I think he knew that if he hit me the whole mat would erupt and take it out on him. I knew this too and so I got more brazen, I asked him why he has so much anger, I told him anger isn't good for him and he should work on releasing it. I shout at the driver that we’re nearly at chiromo I tell him I have paid and that he daren't pass me that stage, this did not seem to him like an empty threat so he starts slowing down.

M parting shot to the conductor is that the needs Jesus in his life, I tell him then he won't be so angry, I tell him that If Jesus was on that mat he would have paid 60 bob because he was always about turning the other cheek. He was glad to see me go. And yes it was worth every cent.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

kissing the sun

We don't do the things we love to do often enough, nobody stops to smell the roses. I don’t know why maybe because when we're walking in the garden all we can think is to keep our shoes free of mud. I love closing my eyes in the sun. it's a beautiful experience, especially when the sun is just right. When it is goldilocked into place, when the rays caress you gently and warmly, not too hot, just hot enough and you feel like you are in the middle of an embrace from someone you love.

When the sun is just like that I love to close my eyes to it. We close our eyes when we kiss or when listening to a particularly good song, am sure I would close my eyes when I read if that was possible. Closing your eyes makes things mean more, I don't know why I would guess its because its a symbol of trusting whatever you are closing your eyes to. Its saying that when am with you I don't have to worry about anything else, and yes the world is full of big, bad things that I should watch out for but for this moment, for right now I don't want to worry about anything else, I don't want to think about failure and fear, I don't want to consider insecurity and its idiosyncrasies or the future and its possibilities, I don't want to think about the past and its regrets all I want is right now. This moment and if I close my eyes it could last as long as night does and so we close our eyes when we kiss someone we like.

But when the sun holds me in that embrace and kisses me most of the time I don't let it. I keep my eyes open and soon I get teary and bleary, I get angry at the sun for making me remember just how weak my eyes really are and I shield myself from it with my hands above my forehead. A spurned lover, sometimes it gets angry and hot and sends down ray after ray of temperature until I can feel the sweat trickling down my face in little rivulets like the tears of one who has been betrayed and then I hate the sun. I can't wait for it to leave and when it does I miss it so much, its too cold, much too cold without it. I have a thing for anything that's unavailable and nothing can be further away than a sun hiding its shame behind a bunch of clouds determined not to show itself to a world that can't close its eyes.

Yesterday I closed my eyes for the first time this year, maybe the first time in years. The warmth spread through my face making every nerve feel alive and individual making them all feel special. Then it hit my eyelids and I saw that red, the beautiful sun red when it strikes your eyelids. I was in a world of red blankets and red walls. Maybe that's why women in red are always so beautiful, a lingering memory of the kiss of the sun. I fell into that red and I couldn't stop it. It was like I could see my blood passing this way and that. Although instead of the rivers of blood that my mind considers because of all this talk of veins and arteries it was a sea of blood. I was awash in it and I felt good. I prefer seas to rivers. They are not angry, they don't just destroy. Rivers by design cut into the world and leave a scar across its surface, its the only way they can turn into the ocean, the lake, the sea they all want to be. Rivers are like human beings, knowing all their lives that they were made in the image of this deity and so they fight to get there. They leave behind horrible destruction and scars that can't be healed, they also bring life in the form of silt and leave it everywhere doing good and evil. They snake through these paths that seem to be predetermined but are actually dependent on a hundred million little things, a pebble that a child throws in, a leaf that falls into it and changes the course of things forever, a dam that they have to work to get over. When I write about it perhaps rivers deserve more respect from me. I love to listen to them, the sound of a rush, of struggle and ambition, of action and purpose can be intoxicating but then I remember being on a lake or an ocean, being inside a boat and feeling at peace with myself. In the best way a gentle rocking, a consideration of things that we can't understand.

Anyway I was glad to see a sea of blood in my eyes maybe that's why I felt so at peace, so willing to surrender. And so I sat like that for a bit and then the world came crashing in. I held it at bay for a while but fear came to see me again, having missed me for all of one minute. I felt vulnerable and weak. I was scared that something would hit me and I wouldn't see it coming, love is blind they say and when we close our eyes all we do is give symbolic significance to actual fact. I knew the sun would leave me so I wasn't too worried about that but I was worried about other things, I was worried about a rugby ball flying into my face(I was at a rugby match), I was worried about a clumsy human running into me. So I opened my eyes, too afraid to allow myself to be completely swept away in that sea of red. Soon enough the sun went to hide behind the wall of clouds it build up for itself, and even now am not sure when I’ll next close my eyes, soon I hope.

Monday, May 23, 2011

drip dry

Every once in a while my manhood is called into question, this happens at home. In a place that I can't throw fists or make snide remarks about other people's manhood. To allay this I engage in activities that are clearly male. That sentence makes me feel sexist so I will qualify it by saying that I pee while standing every so often all the time. I also change tyres. And while there are women who can do it better than me, am sure many. This is still the traditional role of the man in the house or his sons when he has them. Don't take this to mean that I don't think women should change tyres, I am all for that.i would even encourage a spike in the number of female tyre changers.

Anyway there's a clothing line out back and its main function is to hold clothes up so they can drip dry, its architecture is quite simple, there are 2 pillars but they are only pillars in the way that a vitz is a car(I don't even know why I made that joke I have nothing against the vitz.) anyway these two metal structures are staked into the ground something they didn't do enough of in twilight or so I've read. once there they are fixed into space with cement that seeps into the earth in a disaster more ecologically changing than an oil spill. Can you imagine mud mixed with cement? It can never go back to just being mud and the cement it's not just cement it's a forced hegemony that can't last. Between the pillars are strung a couple o' lines tied by the god of knots himself. They are so tight that every rapper wants to be them. The weighing wet of washed clothes is not supposed to bring them down. But one of the towers was leaning against the wind. It wasn't straight and this cannot be had so the usual suspects were dispatched to take care of the problem.

My cousin and I went to the workplace with one condition this one from him, we would work for exactly an hour, and stop. “Time is important and we are always chasing it.”

It was here that we remembered the difference between the people formulating the theory and those actually doing the work, it is easy to be idealistic from an ivory tower, it's made of ivory if I lived in a thing made of ivory I would drip as much idealism as those clothes do water, unless I was an elephant lover than I guess.... anyway(the ivory tower was all the female housemembers who weren't doing this but reserved the right to comment). We began the work. The first thing to do was to make a hole so we could move the pillar from its sad hole that wasn't strong enough to hold it any more to this new abyss. It was like calling London in a game of bano(marbles) and then you move the marble in a radius from the previous hole. Except now were moving the hole. Four paces from the closest line then another four paces to find the new hole.

This would mean the clothesline would be diagonal and nothing else was, the wall wasn't diagonal, the house wasn't diagonal, but this was not an aesthetics class. The first concern was functionality and if we could get rid of the feng shui concerns for a while this was perfect till the first emissary from the ivory tower came and said that we should make 2 holes to move the whole thing side ways. This was the wrong move in 2 distinct ways; it was more work for me, it was more work for him.

There can be no other better reasons but the ivory tower doesn't heed any reason better than “come and do it if you are not satisfied with how it looks.” We had 2 digging implements for the hole, one was a panga or as I have learned form PEV a machete, the second was a, I guess I could call it a sword but only in the way those 2 pillars were pillars. It hadn't rained in a while and noone likes to stick it to something dry that's hard work, then the tools go soft because of so much resistance. If you saw that double entrendre you are a pervert. Writing this I figure I could have fetched water from indoors and splashed it around the earth to loosen it. Anyway it was slow progress.

As one of us would dig the other would try to uproot the pillar. There were actually clothes on it so the other would collect the clothes. We had anther cousin visiting and we let him get to the work of taking the clothes in. this is a distinctly ivory job. Which explains his comment about my lack of strength when he saw me trying to uproot the pillar. It was stuck in the ground. Really stuck. cement I would pull with all my might and it wouldn't give, I let him know this was a 2 man job and I would appreciate his help. One snide remark later I let him carry on by himself about to find out that roots made of cement don't leave all that easily. After tossing and straining for about five minutes I was the bigger man and accepted an apology from him. I took it the way that guy would have taken the pound of flesh in the merchant of Venice if he had not been outwitted.

It was in the middle of all this upheaval or lack thereof that somebody(I put the me in somebody am even the guy who just made it bolder) thought it would be a better idea to just fix the pillar where itt was, to firm it up and leave. The only objection was that we had already made the hole and that would have been wasted work. That logic was quickly defeated by 3 reasons: my way meant less work for me, it meant less work for him and it meant less work for him. We put some stones in and waited for the cement.

What a rumour. The second reason I had agreed to do this work was that I would play with cement. Throw some water on it and make it hard which is not how many things work.(not even gutters) But instead of cement we got a bag of stones. It's not the same thing, but it's the thing we had. We crashed the stones against the base till the line wasn't sagging any more. From there the plan was to water it every day for a week like it was some kind of plant.

At the end of the job I looked back a what I had created and I saw it was good.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the sea

“the scars of your love remind me of us, they keep me thinking that we almost had it all.
The scars of your love they leave me breathless I can't help feeling we could have had it all.”-Adelle.

I love this song. This lady can sing like noone else I have heard in a while it's like listening to fallin' by Alicia keys all those years ago for the first time. And so I put on her album today. I guess am having one of those weeks.

Don't know whether everyone has this problem or not but every once in a while I alienate people, en masse. This week there are whole clusters of people who have let me go, some politely, some honestly feeling continued relations with me wouldn't be good for me or them. I had 3 of those in one night, not 3 break-ups because then I wouldn't have a lot of reason to complain but 3 friend-ups. It's like when I start I can't stop. I usually only get angry at people for being angry with me but this time I feel like I deserved it. I did some selfish things, not to all these people but to the one who was direct. The rest seemed to be coming for a while, the dam just broke all at once.

We're all selfish I can at least take solace in that and we're all capable of thinking just of us, isn't that what really makes us human and not ants? But I don't get called selfish much,not many people do, you have to be a real douche bag before someone says some things to your face, especially when they aren't just saying them to be hurtful. So I guess I was selfish and I had no excuse for it, no reason at all. And I had this long awkward conversation with implorations for relaxation(from her) where I could have corrected at least some of my selfishness, doused it liberally with honesty making it sting a bit more, but sometimes the wounds that sting right then are easier to get over. As it stands the truth found its way out of a shell where it wasn't properly hidden. It wasn't hidden at all. The truth was right there, a low hanging fruit ripe for the picking that would have fallen to the ground with the slightest rustle of wind and like I said it has been a stormy week.

Sometimes we lie because we’re scared and have no idea where the truth will take us. We lie because we don't want to find out how it feels to be found out, we construct lies out of thin air and expect to live in those mansions. I had a conversation where someone told me “words are gas, they don't change anything” I obviously didn't agree. I think words are magic and have more power than we give them credit for, power to change and turn and break and make things. They have the power to make us think and make us feel and make us stop doing all those things. Words have the power to heal and to hurt and to make things that were horrible less so and those that were OK a gashing wound that can only be staunched by the silent words that nature whispers with time or the mystical ones that one heart can say to another.

So I don't think words are gas, but I had all the wrong words this week. I strung them together in hopeless sentences. And hopeless sentences can be eloquent, they can be nice to think up and even better to hear, but they are usually false, they lie about who they are especially when they think they are true, when they think that life can be turned around by them and...well I had all the wrong words this week.

The worst part about consequences is when you ask yourself if it was worth it, it usually isn't but you feel like it almost was. And regret fills me up like a soda bottle, there's a small space that sighs for lack of regret and remorse, there’s the gas in the soda that bubbles to the top when you pour it and makes that slight headache you get from drinking too much soda nearly worth it.

But then again words are failing me, I want to apologise, to say am sorry, and say it so honestly it has to be believed. I want to find the words that bypass my actions, that make them better, or forgotten, the ones that wipe the slate clean, I don't even have the right words for the kind of words I want to find. But this feels like one of those situations where words are gas. The right words don't exist or they don't exist in me. “Sorry” is hollow but it's true, it's simple, it's not made up. But it's not enough, I wish I could say something that was enough. But I know that’s not there. I know. I know that was one of those breaks that doesn’t get mended. I was going to write unless with time but I don't think so either. I hate losing people in the brilliant light that is life. I remember in a movie, before sunset, one of the characters said “when we're young we think the world is full of people with whom we can connect and then we get older and realise that's not true” or words to that effect.

So whenever I lose one of these people, or someone who(with the benefit of hindsight) I think could have been one of these people I feel sad and bad. I hate it more when it was my fault. When I realise that the way i have chosen to conduct my life may be the reason these people are leaving one by one, ships put out to sea that I am not going to see again. And I hate feeling like I deserve it or understanding that their reasons are valid, I really do. Other times I can write it off as their problem, their fault, their not being the person I thought they were. I hate when the tables turn and the person I think I am I don't act like . And all protestations to the contrary fall on deaf ears. The solid wall of your actions stopping the gas of your words. I hate feeling like this, I hate thinking it's my fault but I know it is and ces't la vie.

But I don't want to accept it. I keep thinking there's a way out even when I know there isn't, maybe give her time but I don't think so, I’m clutching at straws and I know it, and the straws are coming away in clumps and this only makes it worse. There is no better. I think it ends here, it stops and doesn't move forward, but the more straws I clutch the deeper I drown. I hate knowing that too. Because that means I know the only thing I should do is stop.

Monday, May 16, 2011

i am sorry.

I am sorry.

You have always been there for me and I have treated you like dirt, an abusive boyfriend, emotionally, physically distant . I don't know whether I should use the excuse of youth or the fact that I know you will always be there for me and grow back to what we once we were if you still have the strength. Nevertheless I am sorry and here is a record of my sins and my regret at them. I am sorry my liver.

I am sorry for not treating you like you deserve, for soaking you in so much alcohol you could be used in surgery(let's hope it never comes to that.) I am sorry for years of abuse and for not listening to my one friend who remarked how strange it was that in order to have a life you had to lose your liver, well like an anti-abortionist I chose life and pursued it recklessly. What pushes me to finally write this long overdue apology is the weekend I am looking back on and the events of that weekend. You probably already know the events but a sinner must confess itemically in order to find absolution.

I am sorry that it began on Thursday night, this is when I went with a couple of friends to a joint I will simply call the place. I wasn't planning on staying long, I never am but alcohol changes my mind like a spare tyre. We began with a couple of bottles of brandy mixed with a coca cola. We continued with a few more bottles of brandy mixed with coca-cola. Sitting, talking and progressively getting drunk and then time and its tricks meant it was already midnight, a conservative estimate would say that I had 3-4 hundred ml of brandy floating around inside of me, on top of you. Crowding you, drowning you, sounding you out and I am sorry about that, the fact too that after we left the place we went to hurlingham to sing karaoke, and that there I added beer to the mix, but it was just one day so far, pretty tame by most standards and when I staggered into my friends house and slept you must have felt I would lay off the juice for a bit.


However that night I got a call about a party. I was home at 7 ready to watch TV, read a book and sleep but I went instead. We were meant to start off at the place and so we did. This time with some cane spirit mixed with sprite, I know these are a lot of different poisons by now but I wasn't nearly done. I continued to pour this down my gullet, flooding and irrigating my throat, molecules of alcohol rushing down to join the almighty assault. And the party had still not began. For the party we bought a bottle of vodka before we went. We were welcomed by other bottles that we took in stride, spraying them down the water slide, vodka slide at this point. We were there for a coupe of hours and liver, I did not give you even a moment's respite but I made a deal with you, I let you know that tomorrow which was saturday would only involve me going to that pesky morning class and then coming back home to sleep off the effect.

I had only 2 hours of sleep before the class, and I was tired all through it, I couldn't keep a train of thoughts fully coaled up and I left everything halfway then I got another call.
“come I buy you a beer.”
what's one beer right? Well location ,location,location. We went to the place and now instead of beer we had a cane spirit and sprite, then someone came over and we had another, then someone else came over and we had another. And the pattern had been established with every new entrant bringing some Jesus juice with them. I was properly sossed by then. And you were exhausted. I was making you work too hard. I don't do that to my heart,, i never run marathons, my brain even when tired is peppered with well organized breaks that make me feel better nearly immediately but not you. You are the girl who never leaves and is never appreciated till she does and I apologize.

I stumbled home at 3 in the morning and closed my eyes putting the alcohol behind me. Then I woke up got dressed and went for a concert at the alliance Francaise. Am glad I went Kathy Kiragu was playing the jazz piano. Which is actually just a normal piano played in the style of jazz. The chords spoke, they sang, they bellowed, they danced. The re-imagining of songs to make them sound jazzy gave me that beautiful mix of familiarity and mystery that we look for in nearly everything.

The concert ended and they said the drinks were free. A glass of red wine , that's it, that's all I started with a glass of red wine. Like I wanted you to know how it would look like to bleed. At this point a drop of alcohol would kick in the institutional memory and i was already tipsy. It's like I hadn't stopped drinking. And then I had another and another until the wine was over. But they had these beers there that mocked us with their freeness and they needed to learn a lesson. So we throttled them, choked them in our hands and squeezed them dry. At 820 my friend and I made a mad dash to a supermarket to beat the mututho closing time of 830, we made it, am not sure how because a run when you are drank is like a stroll any other time. Anyway we did. More vodka, more soda, less liver.

I got into bed and slept. Tired and torn, ragged and raw, sleepy and sore. And I slept.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

the shakiest sight

I am dreadfully myopic, literally. I can't see very far and I have to sit so close to the TV screen at home that am sure it makes things worse. Thankfully someone one day had the crazy idea to burn sand at such high temperatures it turned to glass. Another guy thought that if you curve the glass just right you can change the way light enters and hits the retina. Spectacles were born and with these I enter the land of the seeing.

I don't know if other people have this problem but whenever I’ve worn my specs for along time my eyes begin to ache and hurt I feel like they are being pulled out of their sockets and all I want to do is take them off and be relieved(not the eyes the specs). I told someone about this once and she said I should take them off since we had been sitting there for such a long time I must have memorised everything there, and I wondered why she thought that just because I memorised her I would want to stop seeing her.

When I take of my specs after wearing them for a long time everything becomes blurry, it fades into everything else there are no outlines to what am seeing. The universe becomes one. In a spiritual way this is beautiful. Very deep. Very Buddhist. Its like staring into the oneness of the universe and seeing that nothing stands alone, we are all a part of each other and that blade of grass isn't just a blade of grass, it's the air around it and the insect buzzing overhead, its the human being trampling it and the shit the dog left behind, it is every other blade of grass and every drop of rain that nourishes it. This is an interesting outlook but only spiritually. The physical world isn't supposed to be like that. I think beauty comes from individualism. The real reason everyone has beauty in them is that they all have a spark of something that nobody else has, a special smile or secret or kindness that puts them apart from everyone else. The trick is to find this one unique thing before it all blurs into a part of the everything, when we don't see the beauty in others it's not then we are hurting but ourselves.

And on a physical level that's what specs do. Am usually a careless person but in the last ten years of my spectacle wearing life have owned about 5 pairs one broke(my cousin sat on it), one got lost(again not my fault), I forgot one when we were moving house, am not sure what happened to the other and I have my current pair. The reason I have had such few specs is because of the period between owning them, I don't know why but am never in a hurry to replace them. When one met it's glassy demise and I would walk around half blind and learn to recognise people by the way they walked and not their faces, I would learn to wave back to anyone who waved to me, I learned to not check out girls coming my way because it was such a waste of time, I learned to forget about looking at billboards.


Worst of all everything was an approximation. Nothing was ever quite there and outlines were a rumour I had learned about from all my arts classes. And just like in all those classes someone had shaded outside those lines. Then I would get specs and be blown away. There is nothing like not wearing glasses for a year and then putting them on. The onslaught of beauty is almost too much to handle. Everything is one thing, itself. I stop and look at a blade of grass, I see those three lines furrowing down it, I see it being blown by the wind and proudly defying its entreaties to kneel. It is one blade of grass surrounded by all these others that are also one blade of grass, I love that a field is something I can stop and stare at. I see a little insect walking along it like a pirate walking the plank, weighing the little blade down before it sprouts wings from nowhere and flies off to meet another insect that it was late for a date with atop another blade of grass. And when the rain falls the drops fall one by one and if time was slow enough I could catch each one of them, hold them in my hands before they seep through the space in my fingers into the ground at my feet. And when it rains my glasses get that splatter of wet all over them. It splashes and condenses obscuring my vision but making it like a dream, blurry in the way tv dreams usually are, and I blink take away the blur but when I open my eyes the blur is exactly where I left it, transparent blobs and meteors showing me yet another world.

I love walking right after then and I walk with my eyes to everything, I stare at billboards till a car hoots and i'm scared it can hit me and then that fear is replaced with a sense of wonder at the car itself, plumes of smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe, the red lights as they signal to each other that it's time to pass and the drivers talking and laughing, fiddling with the radio or the phone. I love the reflection of the sky on the windscreen especially on cloudy days a beautiful imprint like the shroud of Turin capturing something we see every day but not in the way we see it. Nairobi can be so beautiful, every building with its own special architecture and I notice small things like the insane number of red buildings in that town, the night would especially blow me away. I would look up at the stars, I have never been able to see a constellation in my life for half of my life its because the twinkle in the stars is obscured by my lack of eyesight for the other half I can't tear myself away from the sight of one star twinkling and turning, sending messages that I can't understand but it doesn't matter that I don't because its like hearing a beautiful song in another language and knowing it doesn't matter what the lyrics say the message stays. In this case a message of hope, all of those individual stars telling me not to worry I am not alone here. And that if even if I am it doesn't matter because being alone doesn't stop them from shining, from being beautiful, from having an inner light of their own that they want to spread to everyone who would dare look up. and the street lights come on like candles at the most romantic supper ever set, a yellow glow to differentiate themselves from the stars that just now took my breath away. And the message they send is not one of aloneness, earth's answer to heaven's hosts they don't twinkle and they are not too far away to touch they are right there, put up by humans like me to protect humans like me. A message of security painted in yellow against the blue skies. And when I have my glasses on I can see the individual streets they light and that's all i want to see.

And I can see people smile and the twinkle in their eye, I can see it from far away and I can see it from up close. I remember that verse from the bible about god knowing each strand of hair that belongs to us and I can see all those strands. I can see all the special things that go into making a face and the eyes and how they are set, I can see how this changes when they smile and when they think and talk. It's like every single thing in life is under a microscope. And I love watching people when I talk to them sometimes I think the words are just an excuse, something that makes it OK to stare at a girl and look in her eyes because sometimes eyes speak much more and now though they are part of her face, they are also her eyes, just her eyes, a deep mysterious cavern where beauty resides waiting to be found if only you look closely enough and if you say the right words you see that special light that changes them and I feel like I can when I have my specs on and so I brave the pain and don't take them off. And I can't rely on memory because that's the shakiest sight of all.

Monday, May 9, 2011

candles

There was no electricity tonight. It left as we were on the dinner table. Perhaps because there are little kids in north-eastern without electricity and we weren't treating it right. So the first thing done was that every phone with a torch in it was switched on, thank god for those phones. And I don't get why they don't put torches in phones any more, it's not like internet capabilities are incompatible with torches. I would love to have a phone with android software and a torch application, which would be nothing fancier than an actual torch. Writing of which aren't there all those competitions that phone software people do for applications that could be useful. I can smell a winner.

The next thing to come out was the candles. I have no idea why we have candles in the house, probably cos women do the shopping, I doubt my capabilities of foresight extend to situations where I can't see the light(that's almost a triple pun.) Anyway the candles came out and were left on the table and I love candles. I love the cheap candles we use in Kenya, I call them cheap cos I found out the other day there exists a non-drip candle. It's not a new patent, not as new as my torch application for the android for sure. It just doesn't drip.

But I love the drip candles. The wax flows down it like a waterfall or a girl's hair on that one day you have to notice the difference. It forms balls of wax that bunch up in little traffic jams before it falls off. Then the wax goes down one route so that the other side looked almost deformed. And near the end all that is left the fallen and the falling. The string in the candle swims in a pool of its own creation. Ready to die in that it helped create. And this little crater forms and the candle would just nods off like a kid who thinks he can watch TV past his bedtime.

Before a candle dies one thing I always loved to do was to take some of the wax and press it against the tip of the candle string. At the place that's glowing red. Apply it like a hot poker and the first thing to happen is that the red hot part of the string switches off. Right then withdraw the wax before it melts and dampens the spirit of the flames. And then as if on a second wind the flame grows, just suddenly expands to more than its usual height. It reaches for the roof, tries to lick the air all above it and then gives up all of a sudden and settles down exhausted and angry at the journey it had to take. There is an excellent physics reason for this but not being a science blog I won't go into that. I prefer to think that when you taunt something, anything-when you step on a dog's tail, or deny people their freedoms, or not mention that her hair reminds you of candle wax- it strikes back. And I like to think of fire as a living thing. We already know it's a breathing, heaving, passionate, reckless, destructive soul, so why not admit it has a life of its own and when you wax it it works extra hard to get back at you.

In high school(I was in a day school) there were times I would be reading and the electricity would leave. And these candles would be imported into my reading room so that I could continue. That was a disaster. There is nothing more distractive(not a spelling error) than candles when one is trying to read. I burned everything. I burned my papers and watched the ash turn colour and form before falling down on the table in pieces. But the best part was the pens. Have you ever burned a pen. it's a beautiful thing to see and it has a lot of surprises in store for you.

The plastic part turns black and drips down like a candle wax, black wax with a smell so toxic Homer Simpson should be in charge of it. And this shit burns. It's painful as hell because the temp is off the track and it falls in clumps like a person losing their hair. Don't play around with it,or do. The next thing to burn is the pen itself. The ink delivery system that has a hollow tube and works in a special way that I could explain but I really don't know and I won't waste google's time with requests for this information. I think that like God google is given so many inane requests that I like to give them both breaks, though I have gotten more answers from google(hint hint big G)

Anyway when you burn that part I like to imagine the ink boiling and melting into the air giving everything in life a tint that looks a little cooler, a little bluer or blacker(I have no idea why people have pens of any other colour.) the best part of it is the nib though. As you apply more heat pressure builds up until it just pops off. But it doesn't exactly pop because that word brings to mind the sound and an action that's passive. It just stops being part of the pen. It comes out with no question about activity as frustrated and docile as the pre-viagra 70 year old.

Then the candle dies in that wax, having melted the stand that was its only true friend, melted to a small sliver of its former self, the little wax that's left is heated by the candle as the candle sinks deeper and deeper into itself before it at last disintegrates too, I like to watch this last part with the lights off. The string is supported by nothing, al it does is float on this lake of wax coming closer and closer to its end, not knowing that all the light it gave can't save it from what lies beneath. Then it goes out. Very calmly turning from light to nothing, no sound, no light, no...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

economic atheism

Terminator seeds are seeds that give a high yield due to being modified in the lab, however since the company that makes them is in the business of selling seeds they are genetically modified so that the plants that sprout don't grow seeds and the farmer has to go back to buy them. In Europe they can now make sugar in the lab, a refined process that needs no sugar cane to be grown, crushed and filtered. The sugar is of higher quality, cheaper, and much more efficient. A lot of pharmaceutical breakthroughs are coming from plants found in Africa and processed in the west. In fact a lot of what is done is that scientists ask traditional healers to provide them with herbs that work, the scientists then set to work extracting the active ingredient. When the healers ask for a share they are politely told that the active ingredient is such a small percentage that their help is negligible or at best the spoils they will get are minimal. Anyway what is their claim? This is not their knowledge there is no novelty or inventive step on their part, 2 things integral to patents.

I believe in the free market. I don't know why but that is my chosen denomination in the religion of economics, the god of supply and demand that evens all out, the true great equaliser. I have always believed that you should put it to the market and let it decide, as long as its free. The oil prices we suffer in Kenya are a cartel, they force demand to go up and make prices artificial so I have no problem with calls for their regulation. But when I watch the news all I see is politics and misery, that's all they bring and am not talking about CNN and the western channels that everyone says portray Africa as a hand basket awaiting a handout. No, look at the local channels. You would think that all that happens in Kenya is the ramblings of a few politicians that are rarely wise or original, then some people rape children left in their care or old women, sometimes they are caught and stoned. Then the stocks go up, the stocks go down, Manchester united plays arsenal, and there is a slight chance of showers. This is news this is what comes without a fail at 9 pm every day. So I don't watch it. I just don't it's depressing, I learn nothing new plus this is a free market, I don't like what they supply so I don't demand it. Am tired of all the people who say they don't like news being only about all the above yet they still watch it faithfully. That's called perpetuating the problem. The media will respond to market forces, if enough people stop watching news they will change the content but that's not going to happen, because a disproportionate number of people love to see politics and wallow in the misery of all the rest, their lives stop when Manchester and Arsenal are playing and as I was reminded yesterday they don't even have to be playing each other. So am not angry at the media, that would be blasphemy against the god of supply and demand. They are responding to market forces pure and simple. And I believe in the free market.

However this same way of thinking tells me to have no problem with terminator seeds because those guys developed them and they should be rewarded for their labour. But these same mechanism is bankrupting the African farmer. The free market tells me that the most efficient way of producing sugar is the best and if we can't cope we should get out of the sugar making industry. It tells me that those scientists who are ripping off the cultural heritage of our ancestors are right, I tell myself they don't give any money to the family or the students of the guy who invented penicillin unless those people prove themselves. In a free market it becomes easy to commoditise humanity to make us only worth as much as we can produce and no more. But I feel guilty about those thoughts. My brain leads me to the well but my conscience won't let me drink the water. I don't know why. I have been free market for a long time. But I can see it's not working. The world produces enough food to feed itself yet there are children starving, millions and millions, I hate thinking about that fact.

Of all the abominations mentioned in religion there should be one about obesity and starvation being 2 of the biggest killers in the world at the same time. But this is what the free market gives me and us. A world of contradictions, where the cost of buying is selling ourselves and even then not everyone makes it. Everything in my brain tells me that if the sugar is made better elsewhere and cheaper this is better for the whole world. The consumers can afford more of it, the guys who used to grow it can grow something else and there's more food for everyone in the simplest economic terms this is how it should work but my experience with the world tells me it won't. They will make the sugar and we won't afford to buy it. Which should be OK since we still have our own guys making sugar but this guy lives off exports and since this is off the shelf he does not make any money. His land may not be suitable for any other agricultural activity and growing a new crop takes time. Some of them have yield time of a couple of years, what does he do in the mean time. Live off the interests of the loan he took with his farm as security? Then suddenly Kenya has no foreign exchange and we can't afford to buy anything. No even processed sugar. gods always have an evil, that of the free market demands sacrifice, nothing given for free. If you have nothing to trade you will have nothing. And now we can't even trade sugar. So we stir salt tears into our tea. But how long before they can genetically modify tea in a lab?

The free market has brought us a lot. It has created peace more than any other religion, except of course for the fact that some people profit from war so like all true religions millions have senselessly died in its service. I guess am having a crisis of faith, an economic crisis of faith. I don't see any other way the world could run, I don't think there can be, but there are too many holes and I don't want to stay up late at night and ask yet another god why children are starving to death, or why a dollar a day feels like a windfall for some families. The fact that we can feed the whole world means these are problems of our own creating. There is no eternal force determined to make life hell, there is just us and our greed and laziness. Innovation is rewarded but this means you should stand on the shoulders of giants. If you can't innovate hope you live in a country with a rich government and a good welfare system. But our giants are not tall enough and our whole continent needs a welfare system. “a scar on the conscience of the world.” is how Africa was once described.

I don't have any answers to the question why the free market is not working for the world. I have at best a rudimentary knowledge of economics but am beginning to lose faith. I know that economic atheism is around the corner and I don't want to feel that lost. But I have no idea how not to. For the last 2 days the traffic has been impossible because there is no fuel in the petrol stations and everyone who owns a car has been lining up for what's left. Then I heard that this is not a real shortage but an artificial one, the government tried to impose price control and they responded by hoarding the stocks. After a few days of people queuing for hours for petrol they will be ok with forking over whatever prices the oil companies ask for petrol. I think this kind of cartels are the golden calf that god struck down. And I wish everyone would leave their cars at home and use matatus for a couple of days, but I never learned how to ride a horse, or how to beg for that matter. Now am closer to economic atheism than I was before, but that's life isn't it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

thoughts

I love talking to women, a large group of them or one on one, its such a window into this other life where things aren't as simple as they seem unless they are way less complicated than they make it look.

However being with more than one at a time and trying to have a conversation that flows organically there are a couple of things you have to be prepared for, guys don't mind silence and I personally love it, when its comfortable. I have had the other kind of silence where a word is stuck in your throat and it feels like a potato is in there scared to go back down yet unable to rise up. You have something funny, witty, clever or just amazingly prescient but then the silence mocks you towering over the appropriateness of the statement you have to say, sending it scurrying back down your throat. I hate that kind of silence and am not sure what to do about it. It happens with some people and I try to ignore it. Some people will sit next to me in a matatu, people I know even current classmates and I sit there hoping the seat next to me gets taken cos if this person takes it we are both in for some silence.

But there is the other kind of silence, where it just is. It's comfortable and enveloping, maybe that's when souls have conversations. I like that silence.

When you are sitting with a group of girls, especially if you're the only guy it would be important to carry something to think about. The way people carry books in their bags, carry a thought. Hold it in your head, hold it in your heart, hold it tight because you'll need it for 2 reasons;

1.mono-sex conversations.

Am not even sure that’s a word but it says what I want it to. Midway through hanging out with 2 girlfriends chances are they will lapse into conversation you have absolutely no interest in. You can handle this by asking them to be unisex which is good. It shows command and certainty. But you can't do it too much otherwise it starts to show neediness. What you need is something independent to think about so that you get lost in this jamboree of your own thoughts. I was in the middle of this jamboree when I was asked

“do you know a shop called beauty options?”

Knee-jerk reaction. This is a trick question. The place does not exist. So I said that and they nodded knowingly. Apparently its a really big shop. Its on Kimathi street. And that's why I have never seen it, Kimathi street being name after him has a statue of the only freedom fighter whose name we all know. He stands there tall and proud, carved out of stone with dreads to his knees and a rifle to his chin. Not in a suicidal pose but its a really long rifle. And he’s on an altar. An actual altar surrounded by a fence so you can't even touch him. Then down Kimathi street there is an assortment of electronic shops. There are a lot of the Sony shops with blue light seeping out into the day and huge TVs. Some are even 3d. On this street it would be the queer guy who actually saw beauty options.

Anyway for any conversation that may concern a place like beauty options it would be good to have carried some thoughts. The second reason is:

2.what are you thinking?

Remember the silence I mentioned earlier. Not the awkward where-is-my-phone-I-pretend-text kind of silence just the easy silence. The ocean in our heads kind of silence that people lapse into once in a while unless alcohol is in long supply. When you are with females and fall into this kind of silence you had better have something to think about. Because you will get asked.

Recently by some strange coincidence the thought I was having in the middle of one of these silences was “whenever am in this situation and silence stretches this long I get asked what i'm thinking of,” this thought was however interrupted by the question;

“what are you thinking of?”

It happens over and over again. One of my friends came up with the best explanation for the nothing that is men's brain's at that moment. You know when you have this amazing thought. A really good one, the kind you want to write down. The kind you just enjoy thinking about because it makes you feel more, just more. Then you forget the thought and you can't get it back. It has retreated into the deep recesses of your brain after realising you don't deserve to have a thought like that. And all you can remember about this thought is that it was really good. Really good. But its gone forever. It was too good to be true. The moment between the having of this thought and its disappearance. That abyss, that unconquerable crevasse where nothing lives. Guys can have that for minutes. Just sit and let the wind whistle through the brain making sounds like an old abandoned western town form one of those American movies that no one actually watched.

So carry a thought. Keep it because you will need it.