Friday, August 31, 2007

"Love Is Dancing on My Finger"

For the girl who asked and loves this song.

"San Francisco"

I, I know what you did
Like a boy of summer gives his first kiss
Love, is dancing on my finger
He got to the heart of the matter and lingered
Now I'm walking with the living
I always liked Steinbeck and those old men whistling

We're back, we're back in San Francisco
We're back and you tell me I'm home
Talking in the Mission
Over coffee this is my utopia
Man, I'll be your lady
As the ocean rises, the sun is fading

We're back, we're back in San Francisco
We're back, we're back in San Francisco
We're back, we're back in San Francisco

And now I feel the ever after
Over red wine on the eve of summer
The buzz, the buzz of the city
As we settle in it's majestyI, I know what you did
Like a boy of summer gives his first kiss

We're back, we're back in San Francisco
We're back and you tell me I'm home

You tell me I am home
You tell me I am home
You tell me I am home
Back in San Francisco

And I know what you did in San Francisco
I know what you did in San Francisc
San Francisco

Vanessa Carlton
I had a fight I shouldn’t have had. About nothing really. I get like that. When I expect you to get me so perfect no words should be necessary. So I end up saying too many, too much, more than I meant to, more than I mean; an abiding fault. You know I will be back. These journeys have to be gone on. With you I’m walking with the living. I will be back.

I miss hearing you say, “Silly.” Say I was “silly.” It was.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You, Again

I will wait for the rain to stop. Surely it has to stop sometime. I hear it smacking into puddles under my window and the window is not closed, the night is already dark, my light must be the last. I would think I was imagining all this if the cold, chilly wind coming through the window did not make me rub my hands to keep warm from time to time. My ears hurt, the cold again. I have run out of handkerchiefs. I will wait still. I will wait, listening to the rain outside my window. It can’t be much longer. I have been waiting a long time. I have been waiting so long. It can’t be much longer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

He Made Me Want To Defend Amin

I stumbled upon this...

Like every African dictator, he was confusion's masterpiece

Idi Amin, who died on Friday, was not an idiosyncratic murderous buffoon but rather a typical representative of the new African elite that came to power in the wake of decolonisation. His antics, that half appalled and half amused the world, were not by any means unique.

He carried within his breast all the confusions and complexes of humiliated colonised people who both admire and hate those who rule them, and who are suddenly translated, through no virtue of their own, to the pinnacle of power.

Amin's ambivalence towards the British was one of the keys to his character. A semi-literate of cunning but little formal education, he was always aware of the condescension of British approval of him while he was a soldier at their command in the King's African Rifles. He was a "good chap": that is to say, he was obedient, reliable, loyal, strong, unconsciously amusing, but - in the word of one of his commanding officers - a bit short on the grey matter. In summary, he fitted the colonial stereotype of Africans in general: physical giants but mental dwarves.

The natural authority of his British officers impressed him, as did their punctilio, and the spit-and-polish organisation of the army. Amin's favoured uniforms were British, and his love of fruit salad on his chest was but a form of mimicry. Mimicry become satire. His problem was that he admired what he could never be. Admiration and resentment co-existing are very dangerous, especially when you are in a position to act out your ambivalence.

Amin's ambiguous relations with Britain and with all things British (even at the height of his dispute with Britain, he was importing British consumer goods by airlift) were not unique. Mobutu of Zaire wanted the love and admiration of the Belgians, and to teach them a lesson they would never forget.

The Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic was utterly loyal to France, but provoked it frequently at the same time. A fierce nationalist like Hastings Banda of Malawi, once imprisoned by the British for his anti-colonial activities, ended up looking like a city gent of the old school.

Many of Idi Amin's antics were ascribed to his lack of education. It is certainly true that he was sensitive on this point: when he addressed the students of Makerere University and they laughed at him for the bumpkin that he was, he took a swift revenge. The university, which had until then been one of the leading universities in Africa, was comprehensively destroyed. Amin taught the students to laugh on the other side of their faces and very soon, many of them were dead.

Amin's sensitivity about his level of education was again by no means unique. Macias Nguema, the first (and democratically elected) president of Equatorial Guinea after independence from Spain in 1968, harboured deep doubts about his own educational achievements and intellectual ability.

He had everyone who wore spectacles murdered: for spectacles equalled short sight, and short sight meant intelligence and having read too much. When Samuel Doe, the semi-literate master sergeant, came to power by coup against a semi-colonial Americo-Liberian government, he lost little time in obtaining an honorary doctorate from South Korea in exchange for some timber concessions. Thereafter, he was always known as Dr Doe in the toadying press and other publications, for how could a man with a doctorate truly be illiterate?

It is not true, however, that Amin's bloodthirstiness, incompetence and idiocy were the consequence of his lack of formal education. Africa has had many educated leaders whose effects upon their countries were just as disastrous as Amin's, and who were every bit as brutal.

Amin's expulsion of the Ugandan Asians was only the putting into practice, in a rather literal-minded way, of ideas that were widely accepted by many development economists of the time. Wealth was regarded as the mirror image of poverty: in other words, the rich were rich because the poor were poor. In Uganda, as in East Africa as a whole, the Asians were rich: it followed that they had enriched themselves by exploitation of Africans, whose poverty was dialectically attributable to the Asians.

The solution to the problem of African poverty in Uganda was obvious: get rid of the "blood-sucking" Asians.

So the Asians were expelled. But Amin only did by brutality what his neighbour, the much-adulated but deeply sanctimonious Julius Nyerere, did by stealth, making it impossible for them to continue to live in Tanzania. But his and Amin's idea of the role of intermediaries in the economy was fundamentally the same: they were dishonest profiteers.

The tragedy of Idi Amin goes far deeper than is often allowed. His behaviour was not the product of tertiary syphilis as was sometimes alleged. He was sanguinary. Amin's tragedy, like that of so many Africans, was to have admired a civilisation whose external trappings he strongly desired, but of whose internal workings he had no idea, while at the same time he was partly enclosed in the mental world of a primitive tribalist.

He was a product of multiculturalism, African-style, able to use relatively advanced methods to achieve brutal, primitive ends. Like every African dictator, he was confusion's masterpiece.

Anthony Daniels is the author of Monrovia Mon Amour and has written extensively about Africa for many years

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I'm hoping for A Weekend...

"Alchemist you know me man
I'm the type of nigga that write rhymes right on the spot in the studio
soon as I hear the track; you know what I'm sayin?
Word but I wanted to bring a couple of books to the studio today
Man I foundthese shits up in the crib man in boxes man
I don't even remember when I was writing these..."
My Book of Rhymes, Nas

With her. I have not communed with her in months. I’m guilty of promising so many people I would but I have not, repeatedly. It’s not that anything significant has got in the way. Whenever I look back, I realize it’s because I have lacked motivation, drive, nay even inspiration, because my Muse has abandoned me too!

So my weekends and my free hours when I do not have sit in office, blearily going blind for a man who does not even wear spectacles are spent in pretending that she is not in my backpack, accusing me more persistently than the furious vibrating of my phone in silent mode.

I borrow more movie DVDs, 5-in-1s than anyone at the video libraries where I’m registered does and watch them all through the night. I pretend to myself that I still need to do this. That if I have not watched the latest movie, the people who used to read my movie reviews will be disappointed and wonder what is happening to me.

I stay in the office later than I have to. I have lately run out of what to surf because an internet accessibility that I have never enjoyed before and I have taken to tinkering with photographs, tweaking this way and that. I IM chat for hours. Anything to keep busy. I love to be in town.

My latest obsession is riding on the back of boda bodas. The boda bodas on the stage where I work know me now and do not find it odd anymore when I thrust a 5000sh note in their hand and say, surprise me with a place I have never been too. I will spend a night trawling through gullied roads listening to the life-stories of boda boda riders, I’m living their lives vicariously. Anything to not go back and well, she will still be there waiting, not with tears or reproach or angry confrontation, but by just the mere being there. I see her and I know where I should be. I do not even have to see her.

I have been running, running, for months now. With many excuses, so many. I just created another. But I’m hoping this weekend is different. Faint hope, vain hope perhaps, but I’m hoping to go back to her. I’m hoping to open her up again, take a pen, my yellow liquid sparkling glass not too far, begin again, spitting words that will thrill you!

Liquor Vicious

A girl I used to know.

"Uh-huh, I was a shame, my crew was lame
I had enough heart for most of em
Long as I got stuff from most of em
It's on, even when I was wrong I got my point across"

Sky's The Limit, The Notorious B.I.G

I saw a girl I used to like. It’s been a long time but for a split second there you were again, opposite Makerere University, right where the shiny boda bodas wait. There you were again. Like I used to know you.

Jean strapped girl, tee-shirted lover tucked in but if you looked closely not quite, the back hanging out in a challenge, a hint that she was not cowered. Not naughty that I will go out with you if your offer to fund my need for pork and beer down in Wandegeya but that I have a pick of the man I want, I will pick who I want like a man does.

Walking like no girl I had ever seen, let’s not fool, not bothered by perfecting a wriggle like women learn a man wants to see his woman walk. She walked with a different swagger, comfortable, make way for me--I can put up a fight like a man but if it comes to it am double-armed, I will not hesitate to use my womanly advantages to win.

My kind of girl, once-upon-a-time. My first girl, even. The greatest subversives are the takers on the lam, I learned. Retreat and learn. I will always remember your kitchen efforts, not your field, Friday evening when you did not want another night roistering, let’s get quiet, cook a home meal, sweetie, let’s be like everybody else. Your frustrated tears at your burnt table offerings quickly bursting into throat pealing laughter at my determined verdict this was the best meal I had ever eaten, on my fourth glass of water to the two mouthfuls of black smoking rice I had swallowed. Friday night freak you!

I saw a girl like you again, ah! I can afford the boda boda ride now comfort easy. I can do the car thing. The house thing is sorted. I can eat wherever I please and I’m realizing it was all in the attitude, your Tuesday stolen hamburgers coming back. Yeah, you were right, sky’s the limit with me. I never understood how regal you were, everyone calling you crazy. Yeah, I called you that too, a couple of time or two, tomboy even, why wouldn’t you let me protect you? Yeah, I saw you.

All my dreams will die. I will be broken. The best minds of my generation will go mad or leave, some already are leaving. I know though you will be the last. You will never compromise, you will never mellow, damn I couldn’t stand your stubbornness when you turning away what we wanted so desperately because it came at us wrong angled, you were the craziest! But no one would tangle with you.

I know this too. I know I will see you dead long before my dog’s day comes. You were not born in the wrong country, wrong century, wrong society. No, not any of those. I know this now. It’s not that. I remember the grasp of your hand on my arm. You would never let, are never letting go. There. A fuckin’ shame. They are going to get you before they get the rest of us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Makin' 20

It was all good...


Some Sort

I let it get to me. I forgot you were there and I was gone a long time like you know I'm wont to go. I was gone so long you thought I would not come back. But I have come back.

I'm tired of these dry and dusty leaves. I'm tired of looking over my shoulder while driving. I want you to know that I'm with you. I want you to know we are together. I want you to know that you are all I ever think about. When I compare, I'm comparing everyone against the wonder you are not comparing you to them. I want you to know that when I said that your phone calls always come through just in time, I was not rhyming, they do. I want you to know that you are my roots.

The thought of you makes me smile. I know little rest except when I'm with you. I come home earlier when I know you are there. I have never wanted the company of one like I long for your company, even when you are away from me in the next room. I find all this strange. I find all this normal. I'm becoming more me with you because of you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"He's Gonna Be A Bad Boy!"

Plain speaking.

You watch a movie and wonder, how come so many people have not seen it?

“I have been waiting for you.”

These are movies about darkness and the edge of darkness and the darkness beyond the darkness. For the Watteau dream revellers.

I watched Caught again and all the movies I have watched with the swaggering bad boys came tumbling back in mind. Movies I have watched like To Blue Moon Junction, Shaft (the original) the deliciously disturbing Last Tango in Paris to novels that made much of the bad-ass brothers, DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley I’m talking, and which boy heart of adventure will ever forget RL Stevenson’s Treasure Island? Personally I’m still getting over that Kenyan who wrote Son of Woman.

Son of Woman in rambling craziness ranks for me with Brando’s turn as the man looking for death and redemption in a frighteningly physical relationship with a young woman in Paris. A relationship that begins when the two meet in an empty apartment both want to rent. His redemption, his solace, his relief, the only thing he will offer this young woman hungry for his attention and love is what is between his legs. He insists that is all he has to offer.

His wife has died, he is a widower and though he did not like her, it is just possible that he was in some way responsible for her despondent death back in America where he lived in her boarding house. He is a rich man now, a businessman in Paris and he will not be entangled with another woman. Except women can’t seem to stay away from him no matter that he is the coldest, most dastardly man they will ever meet. He does not even want to have a conversation with this young woman and every time they meet, all he wants to see is her on her knees, her rump in the air facing him. He is that cold. And yet she can’t stay away and the watcher cannot draw his eyes away from Brando. When he speaks, the little he speaks, fall from his lips with a beauty that makes up for all the sordidness that must reign his shrouded heart. And then there is the way he fucks…

Son of Woman is like that too. Except this is in Africa and he careens through cities in Kenya on the run from women, avenging husbands, irate employers, poverty, his mother, and in pursuit of that one woman who he believes will change his life. Will bring him inner peace so that when he leaves a woman in his bed waiting for him to go to a grocery store to buy condoms, he does not feel the urge anymore to chat up the woman who mans the store for a quickie in the back with the condoms he has just purchased on credit. Son of Woman has loved two women in his life; his mother and his sort of half sister and while both women loved him in their own way and he loves them wholeheartedly, they also made him the kind of cad he has become. In prison or down a mine, this brother can smell and find a woman where you would not expect to find one. And not just search her out; he will have to fuck with her even if it means the next morning he will be scrambling through windows, no trousers on, one hand grappling to pull on his shirt, his belt clenched in his mouth, the next morning, feet beating earth in heart-beating flight for his life. This is Son of Woman.

Nick (Arie Verveen) from Caught is another kind of predator, bad boy. The worst. The taker. The hunter with hands hard as a stone-cutter’s but delicate in handling as a piano players. And he has those eyes that burn holes into inanimate objects like he does in Caught in Betty’s (Maria Conchita Alonso) and wrest her away from her husband. The husband quite fond of Nick who begins to teach him the art of being a butcher, a seller of fish without compare. Nick learns. But while he is learning, when Joe’s (Edward James Olmos) back is turned to see the fish frying and sizzling, Nick is watching Joe’s wife change through the window across the street from their shop. He is not just watching. With an arrogance that would not be forgivable in anyone but Nick, will not let her have her privacy in her own bathroom. And she is a woman with a grown son the age of Nick who watches her wrinkles in her mirror and pastes her face like the fish her husband sells. Time is running out!

“Happiness is boring, sometimes.”

I have watched a movie like this before. It was called Two Blue Moon Junction, a sinful minor classic that refueled an interest in a genre with good movies hard to come back. Not since Basic Instinct had I met another that looked into a side of life the movies prefer fade-out on and in everyday conversations we cover with puns, giggles and flicks of eye that seem to tell more but actually do not. Two Blue Moon Junction is one such movie. A movie you should not watch when you’re in a spell of lonely horniness some weekend afternoon and everyone else seems to have a laughing companion head leaning on their shoulder apart from you and life seems everywhere but where you are.

Perry is no Nick. Perry (Richard Tyson) in Two Blue Moon Junction even owns a dog, a dog he loves more than he has ever loved another human being perhaps in his circus following, living in a truck life. Perry has roots and a flourishing of natural black hair women frantically each week try to earn at a saloon. When Nick leaves, Nick leaves everything behind. Of value to him is nothing. He is a philosopher who wears his sweat soaked white sweatshirt like it is a skin. A skin he would discard if it impeded him. He has not come to deliver you, he has come to take from you. He’s a bad boy.

To die with rain drops beating down on your eyeballs.

To die in the rain.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

In A Spool

I come undone. Standing on the edge of the world.

“It seems like it was only yesterday we were so in love.”
Raining in my heart, Al Green

I liked Lord Byron’s Don’t Fuck with Me attitude. I liked that he was a club foot, obese at times, and while he still had the name his family had become poor and that he said, “I woke up to find myself famous,” and still he did not cower. He was running all his life but he was not running from any man.

I liked John Keats determination to leave an imprint of his feathery tread on time, this life, and a memory of the many things he had seen at the apocathery. I liked that he could stay the course to qualify in medicine and still not die poetically, prove who he was, then walk away, walk out of the door, to be who he was inspite of all the perils and disadvantages he was starting out with. Rome Keats, the bed by the window.

Percy Shelley was the poet of my youth, Oxford University might have been somewhere so many wanted to be, but not Shelley. I liked that Shelley acknowledged that he was from a rich family and never felt shy or bitter about it, did not let guilt get in the way of following what he had to follow. I liked that he knew the prices to pay and paid them, child with the power to gaze into the future, what did you see?

Christopher Okigbo’s complexity appealed to me from the beginning though to this day I do not think I completely understand what each of his poems means. I liked that he did not let surfaces fool him, that he would tell to their faces people what he thought of them. I liked that he tried to be a man of action, woefully unsuited, that he tried.

Cyprien Ekwensi was a favourite even before I ever read any work of his and even when I found out that he was not truly an original, I still liked that he was a beater of odds. That he was trying for something he did not fully comprehend, beating paths on roads where he would be forgotten and covered in dust by the side. I liked that he kept going, even then.

Barbara Kimenye’s joy is my joy still, the Moses series not my favourites. But in Kalasanda and Kalasanda Revisited, Ugandan village of my youth, I have known these people and they are with me always because of Kimenye. I have never seen Kimenye, she must old now but I have little doubt that she has the most beautiful laughing voice. I hear it every time I read her.

I used to love Lilliane Barenzi before she went from sharp-eyed cynical leaving journalism school to maternal to now fuzzy I do not understand what happened to her crystalline prose. She was fearsome, still is sometimes, but there was a core that chastised from caring too much rather than avenging anger and in her old Sunday Vision columns, falling apart now in my folders, she still lives.

I’m not much of a food person not because I do not love eating food but because I know too few places and people who can satisfy my appetite. But I buy every Sunday the Sunday Monitor because of Kaddu Mukasa Kironde for who a meal is not just a meal, refusing to lower his exacting standards just because he is in a city where the concept has not yet been introduced. I like Kaddu Mukasa Kironde very much, muscular prose flexing, the marry-up man.

“We are two shadows, making love, chasing rainbows, Making memories.”
If These Walls Could Talk, Celine Dion

Sweet sorrow conjurer, friend of the endless night, the breathing presence in humid afternoon rooms the TV off, holding on a little bit longer, laugh at this scenario like I do, living through your rear view mirror, we are still here. I do not want to lose this moment.

In a car with you, Saturday afternoon, driving from Bukoto through to Bugolobi, you driving, to Catch the Sun, how will I ever forget this day? How will I ever want to? You never needed a door to enter my life. Talking to you in the car, when you leaned forward, your perfume intoxicated me, and I can never get enough of your crooked little smile that comes when you say I’m being funny. Well I have never held a smaller hand harder in mine like I did in your car before we went in and where your bangle cut into my skin, I can still feel it. You like to drive with your shoes off. White is your favourite colour with big belts. You were wearing a black crocodile skin belt. I’m leaving parts of me here, giving me parts of you, I will never forget the feel of you breathing on my neck, in your car when we did not need words anymore. When I held your gaze and we were not going to go home again. I do not know how this happened. Your crooked little smile…

I sat all Sunday afternoon in my living room thinking. Thinking. Watching the sun go down, letting the chill come in, unable to go into my bedroom, unable to let go. I sat all Sunday afternoon in the chair you sit in when you come over, I sat Sunday morning thinking. One Saturday, talking in your car, I surprised myself. I surprised you. I have not sat in my living room thinking like I did on Sunday morning, the impossible possible. I have never known this boldness, I have never known these smells, sitting in your car Saturday evening, I have not watched the purpling darkening sky for a setting sun in many years like I do with you, and we have Pringles to snack on we never eat. I have watched you in the backseat waiting for me and I have wondered what your eyes are saying, I wonder still. I sat all Sunday afternoon in my living room wondering, your skin still under my fingernails, all of you still in my nostrils, breathing you.

In the time it will take you to learn from your mistake
In the time it will take you to dial the phone
In the time it will take…
She will be gone.”
Time, Ne-Yo.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It Happened

Make a fetish of everything. Imagine you do not know me. Imagine me as someone else; imagine me as yourself, more me. When there will never be enough drink in the world or enough days and afternoons and nights to come of story telling. Yeah, that’s me, the one in the room with no light, one record replaying, Life After Death, You’re Nobody (Till Somebody Kills You) But then again it could be a Ne-Yo song from In My Own Words, Time, in fact… Yeah, I’m shameless. These are no ordinary chronicles. Let me tell you another one.

There was once a girl with breasts like fresh cherries.

No, that’s not right.

There was once a girl.

Yes, that’s almost it.

There was once a boy and a girl.

This is so clich├ęd!

I want to tell you so much about that girl and that boy because for some months in their lives, their stories were one story. They were one like so few people will ever manage to be even with the help of the entanglements of marriage and blood. It was a few months but it would be an unending story because it was that time of youth longer and longer the older you grow like Paul Kafeero’s Walumbe Zaya?

Let this be said then. There was a girl and there was a boy.

All she ever wanted was love, but when was love so simple? She thought she had it figured out. She had me thinking she had it figured. She certainly conducted all her affairs like she understood her heart as clearly as she understood her mind. I looked to her, I admired her, I was in awe of her, maybe I was even in love with her. But I would never tell her that. Because she did not believe in love. At least she made me believe her when she talked like she did not believe in love. And I believed in her and believed her.

But she believed in love. Like I do and you do. Now that’s the difficult part. How I should have reacted and should react today, when I found out that she had been lying to me along. She believed in love and I was not the one that made her believe in it again. He did not care, the one who made her believe in love again. And I had to watch.

I have done many things in my lifetime. Partied high, partied low, partied alone. All the while, my eye on the main chance. Except when it came to her. Who can I blame? I think I wanted it to be like this, maybe, but I would not acknowledge it to myself.

I knew her perhaps better she will ever know herself. That is no conceit. I’m the partygoer they make movies about. I do all those things you see people who drunk too much, danced too much, talked too much, flirted too much, do when they leave a party. I’m one of those people who never bother with how I’m going to get a place to sleep the next morning’s racking headache through because I know someone will want me to go home with them. In all that yet, it was perhaps only her that I wanted to want me to go home with her.

Maybe that’s why I set her up and I set him up? Maybe that’s why I made it a threesome though they were both not comfortable with each coming back home with me at the same time. Maybe it’s because I had seen, somehow in between the blurring vision of my eyelids, that there could be something between them and I set out to be the spark. The party don’t stop with me once it gets started. I have no doubt that all this was somehow deliberate on my part.

She needed someone with no control. My recklessness was in my very control.

The Comments Section Is Open!

I care about Ugandan writing, and especially good Ugandan writing. I'm relentless and even ruthless when it comes to defending it. I cannot stand pretenders, fakes, and postulating experts about a topic and part of life that is dear to me. Usually, I'm mild mannered, excessively polite and generally you would never think a swear word can escape my lips. It can, when you start to claim with no basis or little leg to stand on, certain things about Ugandan writing.

Scarlett Lion has been poking in such an area without her facts or much leg to stand on.

I have made some harsh and hard comments on Scarlett Lion's blog about her article "Ugandan Women Writers Shine, But Where Are The Men." About 15 comments back and forth later, we reach at...

"You may call it "negativity" others might look at it as "constructive criticism." The fact of the matter is that you wrote an article that purported to be a report on the current state of Ugandan writing and you had hardly prepared yourself for it. You did not read enough about and you certainly did not do enough research about it to make the bold claims you make in your article among which is that it is only Ugandan women who are leading the writing community here and that they have only begun to tell their stories when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

I find it sad that as a practicing journalist you can plead, "Look, if I don't know every last piece of Ugandan literary history, I'm sorry." Pleading ignorance as an excuse when your writing is going to form the perceptions of so many million minds is simply not acceptable. It is your duty and responsibility as a journalist who seems to take herself seriously to know as much as is there or available as she can before beginning to write. Your writing in that paper, whether you are aware of it or not, forms opinions and eventually stereotypes about what is going on in our Ugandan writing life.

The argument that, "I reported the story. I have my notes. You can see them. Everyone said absolutely everything that was in the story." Is another poor argument. Yes, you have the notes. But what about double-checking the facts? What about seeking the opinions of people who might not agree with your argument? Clearly Mr. Ejiet, you cannot argue, was not on your side of the argument. You did not report the story. You made the story confirm to your already made-up opinion. Or perhaps doesn't Ugandan journalism merit such high standards from you of reporting from both sides as you claim you were doing?

Hi, Dave? Sorry to take apart your girlfriend this way, but SHE IS VERY WRONG. 'Lion, the fact that Dave is your boyfriend of course already automatically disqualifies him to give you an impartial opinion as he already hinted when he was trying to defend you. I also wonder what kind of response you were expecting from Miss Nyeko apart from the one she gave you, considering that the article painted her in overwhelmingly positive light. This remains: YOUR ARTICLE WAS WOEFULLY RESEARCHED. It's not personal, it's about the work.

Sad Movies Always Make Me...

Because that 2Pac shit can’t work anymore. Biggie endures…but…

When you can’t sleep like I can’t when she is not around or the great guilt of what you have not done and you know you should have done weighs down on you, you watch movies. And sometimes those movies have moments that you know will last you a lifetime. Yes, it’s true. Movies can change your life. They have changed my life many times.

I’m intrigued and fascinated by 1960s Italian movie makers because a movie made by an Italian movie maker titled Arturo changed my life. Arturo was directed by and it was seemed like yet another coming of age movie except it was not for me. It was my coming of age movie.

I first watched Arturo on a black and white TV, the first TV my father owned when he was a bachelor and the movie he probably wowed my mother on when he used to convince her to go back to his apartment with him. It was a TV he held onto through all the bad times our family ever went through and even when we had to leave one of our homes precipitously, men after my father’s life, he had insisted we take that TV with us somehow. I’m telling you the story of my life.

I first watched Arturo on that black and white TV, perhaps a 15 year old boy, simultaneously in rebellion and conformity, through one late school night. I had piled my bed sheets on the space between the door and the floor so that anyone outside the room might not see the glare the TV gave off as they wandered the house in the night from the bathroom in the corridor as I watched this late night movie on TNT classics, when some Ugandan TV channel had brought TNT classic movies for us.

I had turned down the volume as much as I could. I was on my knees most of the movie, leaning forward to hear and see more clearly because my eye sight was no longer that good. My knees were numb by the end of the movie but I did not notice until I had to get up when Arturo was over, threw off the blanket I had wrapped around myself to my ears and wanted to get into my bed. None of it mattered because in watching Arturo, my life changed forever.

In Arturo he showed me that I was not alone. In Arturo he showed me that wanting to leave behind certain people and emotions that verbally reminded me all the time how much I owed them for the person I was becoming was not something I should feel guilty about. He through Arturo proved to me beyond my own hazy thoughts that loving women was not something wrong, did not make me less of a man, I should be ashamed of finding much rest lying in the loving arms of a woman, wanting not just one woman, but women in my life all my life. In falling in love with his nubile fertile stepmother and making love to her, Arturo showed me as I already knew that while women might not be my ultimate salvation, might not understand my questing, might betray me sometime, they could also save me as much.

Watching Arturo, a 15 year old boy, home from school because my school fees were not yet fully paid; home because I had omitted to mention to my parents that because of how much they had paid of my school fees I could really remain in school until they completed the minimal percentage left; home because I hated school as much as I always hated it and could not stand it but even more could not bear the look in my parents’ face telling them this so I kept on creating scenarios that excuse me: Arturo began to show me that the greatest education is the education of the heart. Arturo leaving the stepmother he loved, leaving the father whose love he most craved, the island which was his true home for a world instinct and intuition foretold could not compare in riches with what he already possessed: was the first evidence I desperately needed that I could be right without being able to prove why I knew I was right and it was okay.

Watching Arturo was like the early dawn when I first met Larkin. Red Aubade in a St. Paul published book in crisis and knew reading those lines…I must never again deny who I was. Watching Arturo was like that evening when face pressed close to a face full of fear my fist was bunched into destruction mode against a person I never thought I would ever hurt and I knew if that person had pushed me further I would have hurt them because in those moments they were threatening a part of me that is essentially me and shocked as the memory still leaves me, I would have smashed my fist in their face. Watching Arturo was an altar moment. Watching Arturo was a consecration. On that black and white TV that my father finally sold, sold and sold a part of himself he has never been able to recover. Sold and sold so we could live and I was the only one in whose eyes he saw I knew.

Watching Arturo return, watching Arturo reclaim the watch his father used to be so proud of, I saw my life. I still see my life in that movie, Arturo. Well, not many people have heard of that movie Arturo but that movie has been with me everyday of my life since I was a 15 year old boy, watching it on a Panasonic black and white TV, alone in the night passing midnight, my father wandering the corridor pretending he could not see the TV light glare flickering under the door of my bedroom through my piled bed sheets on the floor so I could watch until my mother woke up too to susu, as she would, 20 minutes after he had woken up. The 20 minutes my father won for me that day would be sufficient for me to watch that night Arturo to its end.

I watched and I have watched many Italian movies since Arturo since. Just like I have loved and experienced many things and people since the first times of every experience in my life. From Sophia Loren to Mastronellli I have had my fill, gorged my appetites. But I have never again watched another movie like Arturo that was about me. Not exactly. They say that there is always the day that is the beginning of the rest of your life. They are not lying. Arturo was the beginning of the first day of the rest of my life. It still is.

My Weekend Was About...

Thursday, August 09, 2007


From time to time, I lurk in the background. I let my language go and are content to use words like thingy. I relax and while chilling out, I seem to forget old acquaintances, I do not pay visits forever. Or it seems like forever. Yeah! I get random. Thoughts, memories, moments drift back, I’m a child again. All in my mind. Who cares?

A perfect day. A friend of mine in pain told me of his perfect day. A day spent with me, well! I did not know it had been a perfect day except for we laughed a lot. We talked. We were silent. We walked. We bought those ices kids in primary school still love from a man who cycles around with them. I thought we do this everyday? How strange, his perfect day.

Like a post that was supposed to make no sense but lingers. I’ve been back to reading Eddie Echwalu’s blog again. He’s one year old in blogging and he is marking it by linking to all his favourite posts over the year. He took me back to nuggets I had forgotten I had read, it’s like watching a cloud out of the corner of your eye drift past your open window!

I have not lost the wonder. I still love reading. Sometimes I still find an article on that moves me so much I have to print it so I can read it over and over again. I still want to read but what is worth reading is harder and harder to find. I have cultivated certain tastes and it is hard for me to just read anything. But if a true line stands out, I will slog through mush and purple in hungry search for its partner. I know that partner is there. I still do that. Reading in taxis in the back seat, I pull the window nearly shut begin on my print outs.

Some of the best moments of my day are when I’m in taxis in a moving traffic jam with nothing to read but driving past a street full of human activity. I’m a watcher not in the skies but right here and now and I have seen some people I will never meet and wish I could. I have seen faces that were registers of living in Kampala. I have seen women so beautiful I caught my breath. Sitting in taxis is not wasted time to me if for a moment, as the driver is revving to, the lights changing, I see beyond my day into a face, a beauty that will always be with me.

I love boda bodas. I use them all the time. I have had some interesting conversations with some of them. I think I would not mind a taxi driver too who talked too much like some of the boda boda riders who are my friends, if I can call it that, now. I have listened to some life-stories whizzing through suburbs where taxis do not venture. No extraordinary stories, nothing sensational, just stories of lifetime dreams, of wrongs unfairly done, of trials and tribulations and triumphs that made me wish the ride was longer. No story has remained on my mind like the boda boda rider who told me, “I’ve been riding boda bodas for seven years now and I have never thrown anyone…”

I know Kampala has many problems. I know there are sometimes things in the water that should not be there. I know there are more fences coming up and much green going. I know that our formal morning greetings have become briefer, that an old friend who had not seen me in a long time was shocked when I asked for security from him before I lent him money but I still love Kampala. I still enjoy eating downtown more than I do in any hotel and I enjoy my drink the most outside a kafunda than in any sports bar with karaoke. Wandegeya, Kikoni, Kisenyi, Kisekka Market, Owino, Nakawa, Bweyogerere, Kireka, I have eaten and drunk there some memorable evenings, some sunshiny afternoons and though I have dined and wined from Serena Hotel to Grand Imperial Hotel to some wonderful coffees but I have never found a match for the downtown waitress who senses when a lone drinker needs company to talk and when this drinker just wants to be alone with his drink. Or the mute bar owner looking up, remembers that I like my drink super chilled not just cold and distracts me with a meaty beginning nip of roast goat meat while I wait. Or the waitress who knows I like my chair to face the street, my drink with a clean glass, I will pay and pay well if I get what I have asked for the way I have asked for it. No fuss.

I have not been as angry as when I read, "The men are too busy running after money, politics and drinking beer in bars in the evening," said Mr. Austin Ejiet, a published writer, newspaper columnist and former literature teacher at Makerere. At first it was hot indignation, now a certain weariness has come over me. Alberto Moravia is not one of my favourite writers for nothing. To write well is to live well and this so much harder in Kampala than in many places in the world but I don’t know if Scarlett Lion would know what I’m talking about here.

Why Driftin’? I’m listening to Jimi Hendrix.. "driftin’ on a sea of forgotten tear drops…on a lifeboat...sailing…for your love…sailing…home…” Thank you, Magoo.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Why There are No Ugandan Male Writers

"now ask yourself, do you know, what beef is?"
Biggie, what's beef?

"The men are too busy running after money, politics and drinking beer in bars in the evening," said Mr Austin Ejiet, a published writer, newspaper columnist and former literature teacher at Makerere.

I'm on the war path!

Cooke Me A World

Switch that phone off. Let the curtain drapes down or throw them off! Fix me that drink. Hey, take off your shoes and let your feet get some air. Ain’t no need to be formal here. Cooke is in the house. I have been listening to Cooke since the beginning of this week. I have been reveling, drinking in, marveling, sitting back and then jumping up and stomping to a voice so pure, so rich, so varied, so beautiful, I can hardly believe it has taken me this long to listen to Cooke. That it has taken me this long to hear sing, song after song, a man I first heard my father mention as the greatest singer he ever listened to. When he was a student, a long time, in Canada traveling.

A man whose picture I first saw in a Newsweek or Time Magazine back in the day when I would only read the back pages of those magazines for the film reviews. The scanty art reviews with big colourful photographs falling in love with a group of painters I would later learn were called The Impressionists. That happy, go lucky, determined bunch of painters in 19th century bourgeoisie France, who refused to give up their artistic dreams, starved and were scorned for their steadfastness, triumphing at great cost for some of them the victories seeming Pyrrhic but never giving up.

In these back pages, in a small side article, the picture of a beautiful man laughing, in thin sweater, so sharply ironed black trouser the pleats stood up, black shoes like they had a Kiwi shine, so relaxed he was the epitome of cool. I began to understand where my dad got his style. Then a description that has never left my mind, its phrasing lingering like a saxophone wailing I will never forget, that even in his shoddy prostitute motel death, Cooke had emerged spotless, smelling like a freshly picked rose. Here was a man I knew I would have to listen to myself. Here was a man my father thought so highly of. My father who knew men and knew men in their dark deeds.

But even if my father had not spoken in a quiet whisper of this man, putting down the newspaper he was reading, I would have sought out Sam Cooke all the days of my life until the day I got his music. Until the day in my ears would spill the voice that greats from Otis Redding, to die so soon himself; the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Aretha Franklins, the Marvin Gaye’s would also bow before. Proud spirits putting aside their considerable personal achievements and own voices that few have been able to rival since the beginning of the world when they were asked to speak of Sam Cooke.

My father was the first person I heard speak of Sam Cooke in this way. Like all those luminaries, a man whose praise is hard to pry out of his lips. But he had laid the paper on his laps; not looking at me began to speak of the first time he had heard Cooke singing. Been to tell me of hearing A Change Is Gonna Come meant to him when with a beating heart he would leave his college hall to walk the streets of Toronto and Ottawa expecting any moment some racist hoods might want to punch him about for fun but he was not going back home until he had got what had brought him here: an education to make his own father proud. How Cooke, in his controlled proud sorrow, had in his mellifluousness sung like he had walked in my father’s own shoes.

I remember my father that weekend day before lunch talking about Cooke, my mother who had come to call him to lunch, stopping under the arch to the sitting room area, listening too, like she had never known this side of my father speaking. But I was not thinking of my father or all that I remembered of Cooke when I begun listening to Night Beat, one of the greatest albums ever put together. No, I was not. Cooke was no longer my father’s singer. Cooke was no longer a legend from the past who I was going to show off to prove how much more musically introspective than other people in my circle I was. No. he was no longer, is no longer a curiosity for me. Cooke told me my story in Trouble Blues.

He had me laughing, smiling wryly; he had Sam asking me if this song was supposed to be a reprimand from me when I began to play him Fool’s Paradise. Oh but it was not. Oh but it was far from that. We choose our lives and should not apologize for them. but here is the magic, the fun, the joy of this genius…it is not all sadness. It is joy too, laughter, jokes, wow! We get to really dance…think about girls who have a strange resemblance to a cat named Frankenstein when we want to be out on Another Saturday Night swinging two chics on my arm! Hey!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

For The Souls That Laugh At Life Through the Stars

I often think of the live I've led
And Oh, It's a wonder, I ain't dead
Drinking and gambling
staying out all night
Living in a fool's paradise
My mother told me and my father told me too
Said my child, it's all catch up with you

Drinking and gambling
Staying out all night
Living in a fool's paradise

Though I've learned my lesson
like all fools I've met
Oh, I've learned things in this life
That I haven't forgotton yet
My father told me, my mother said it right
Said my son, you're ruining your life
Drinking and Gambling
Staying out all night
Living in a fool's paradise
Oh yeah, living in a fool's paradise

Written by: Mable Cordle / Jerry Fuller / Avid
(Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.)
Time: 2:37
Recorded February 25, 1963
Produced by Hugo & Luigi
Hal Blaine - drums
Rene Hall - guitar
Clifton M White - guitar
Clifford Hils - bass
Raymond Johnson - piano
Billy Preston - organ

Leaving, Part 1

It has come unexpectedly but the time has come. What do you do when you must leave? Are certain you have to leave. But you do not want to leave? I will have to leave, though everyone is telling me to reconsider, asking me if I really know what I’m doing, is this the only way?

How do I turn around and tell me that I do not know. No, I’m not sure of what I’m doing? I’m as scared and worried as they are? I guess I cannot really tell them what is going on in my mind. That I’m thinking what they are thinking.

How can I explain to them that this is something I do not just have to do? This is not just something I need to do. This is me. It was fated that these moments would come. That I would have this Gethsemane garden of my trials. That I would wound the ones I love the most more than they have ever been wounded so that I could bring them untold rewards I could never bring them in any other way?

I want to agree that it is stupid, it is reckless, it is crazy, it something I should not be doing. I so want to agree with them, throw it all over and come back into the fold but I cannot. I’m doing this inspite of myself. I’m leaving because I cannot help it. I have to leave. I never had a choice to begin with.

I have been on many journeys, done some things many people look at me and cannot imagine I was a part of them. But I have never lived a moment, a time, a phase in my life that I looked back on and was ashamed of myself, wished I had not been there, done that, been that Iwaya. I have lived and maybe sometimes to be able to live completely it’s important to know how to die too. To know and accept that death is not something that happens to other people, but learn that I are mortal too. I want to go and learn this. Not with a death wish smile on my lips but with a heart that seeks the badge of courage perhaps. From tonight I must write many things that people my age never think are necessary to write. I must analyze relationships, weigh loves, scale so much I never have had to scale.

When I’m done, the ledger will contain the life of Iwaya upto this date. All my life will be there and the people who have made me Iwaya, are still in the process of making me Iwaya. There are so many stories I have not written, so many moments I have not yet shared, much laughter I have held back from dispensing, too many visits I have not made, too much loving I fumbled in hours of sulks, too much I have wanted to do and I did not do because I believed I had more time, I wanted more skill, I was not ready, I did not want to share, so much. The book will be written but now I grieve at the missing pages wafting in my mind. I can only write down what I’m, what I have done. Who Iwaya is.

This is part of leaving. I have begun sojourns into other lands, other times, other climates. I will be gone a long time and I cannot guarantee I will come back, not even to myself. It’s not the terror that grips me now but the enormity of what I’m doing. A thrill is beginning to course through me, I feel more alive than I have felt in a long time except perhaps when I have been with her. Do I really want to do this? I don’t know. Am I going to do this? Fuck, yeah!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sometimes I Just Wanna Know...

Strange, Dark Furies, Gods Among Men

A long time ago when I was a boy I watched a movie called The Doors. I was taken to borrow this movie by a boy I did not like, the first Indian I had ever met I failed completely to like. After we had borrowed the movie, we went to meet up in the flat of a good, still good, friend of mine whose mother had left him in charge. This friend’s idea was we get up to all the mischief we could conjure. We had conjured quite a bit.

We were truant that afternoon, The Doors in tow, along with a substantial stash of pornography movies. Even then I was the one trusted to select the movies that nearly all the five of us could watch and enjoy. I accepted this part because I was allowed from the movies we would watch to pick one which might appeal only to me. A movie I could watch when the others were either on the porch spitting at people walking down in the street or had spilled into other rooms in the flat with company. It was sacred time and my company often would sit in sulking silence next to me on the carpet as I watched an Ingmar Bergman movie I had fallen in love with because of the luminous beauty of the woman on the cover or a Michelangelo Antonioni I ended up watching because he sounded the closest to Italian and I was reading about Italian painters and I thought the filmmakers surely must be as good the Renaissance painters who dazzled me with their colour, their perfect lines, the endless variety of stories in their crowded canvasses and their life stories Giorgio Vasari told. I was alternative before I knew alternative existed.

I heard never heard of The Doors, really. I picked that movie solely because of the beautiful man I saw on the cover. You cannot say Jim Morrison was a handsome man, you cannot say he was good looking. He was beautiful. He was perhaps the first beautiful man I ever saw. He was so obviously a shinning light who was attempting for the darkness. Lizard King, I would later learn. In those tight, crotch hugging black leather jeans, tousled jet black hair he used to swing so wildly in a trance on stage performing those strange half magical incantations, half songs, half holy script songs with The Doors behind him, as spell bound as uplifted faces of the audience waiting for a revelation, a revelation his lithe body seemed too fragile to carry. But he was going to try and we were all here to watch the tragic comet voyage, before he was broken, because not only did we know he was going to be broken, he sought to be broken. At least it seemed. I did not intuit this on the cover of the film that was The Doors, I did not see all this in a blinding flash but I guess, I knew here was something strange, dark with furies to explain the furies this happy boy with his assembled gang of four never told anyone about, battled with in closed libraries, streets of Old Kampala on Saturday, furies I was certain only black magic and portions could cure and I was looking for Gods among men to show me the way. The Doors would not be the first nor would they be my last. But I had never met Gods like The Doors and it was pure coincidence, talking about movies on a day when I had nothing else to say to a boy I did not like and he mentioned that we might not go to the usual library, we could go to one he subscribed to but that I promise never to tell the others where the library was and the movie must be returned after. It was one of the most pathetic like-me suggestions I had ever heard but he was appealing and I was not too eager to get to the flat because I was going to be the only one whose company was willing to pass by the flat this time and everyone would be watching us. I needed a stronger portion than ever today because a dare was in the air. So I chose The Doors and went to watch.

Songs of the celebration of death, songs of the defiant pouting at night, songs of adolescence, songs of adulthood, songs of confusion, songs of pain, songs of longing, songs of breakthrough, songs of ledge-climbing daring, songs of the edge, songs reaching out to un-betrayed living, songs of beginning again, songs of courage--- you do not walk alone, The Doors are open, walk on through. Only if there is joy in your pain is your joy bursting joy. We are in worship.

I was not the only one watching. Five boys and a girl, how can 27 years be so full? They can be, when you’re a God among men, beautiful like Jim Morrison.

"The blue bus is calling us..."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm a Doors Fan & You Ain't Seen Nuthin' Yet...

"I am the Lizard King. I can do anything." -- Jim Morrison

"This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end."

Hey, You've Been Moving Much Too Fast!

For the Savage One!

Strange. I’m one of the good ones. I did not expect that.

I could have told you that, child, if only you had asked.

I’m one of the good ones and I did not even know. I’m one of the innocents. One of the survivors from a wreck they said there were no survivors.

I’m wandering, in search of company, not sure of what I know. Perhaps I’m wrong? Perhaps everyone feels this way, thinks this way, is sure they are one of the good ones? What happened with me? Why did I survive?

You are marked.

I never wanted to be this. I never wanted to be me. I have been trying all along to be not one of these and now I find I still am. Well send me a Jimi Hendrix album and I will have a night in Samarkand Hotel. I can’t say Fuck the World anymore because I’m not qualified, I’ve been rendered invalid. Oh what the hell?

I want to be in your soul kitchen.

All this drinking, this whoring, these lies, this vanity and nothing remains but these scant memories and they cannot fill the back of an old receipt, ha! You think you have lived, listen to the drunken rumblings, I will not. It will not change me, change who I’m, change my grading, I’m finished.

You cannot be anything other what you are, it’s your nature.

Stolen hours in the beds of rich men’s daughters’ before the back door 6pm escape never counted much, no friendships here. Workshop days without the skill, on boda bodas with helmeted riders who speak another language, to meet the boss’s clever son, when did they ever matter? This is life, in brief sentences. All life. Experience. Sad. I’m one of the innocents, did you not know? Entomb me now, I was always good at that. Where’s my Edgar Allan Poe?

I want my Edgar Allan Poe!

Take It As It Comes by The Doors