Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Second half revue


You’re the hero of your own life only if you are content to lie to yourself. Every day is a decision taken, a choice made not to succumb to these self delusions. To retain a tenacious hold with the realistic earthy perspective of a poor mother who has a child to feed each day and all her dreams do not begin to bloom before she knows what her baby will feed on this whole day, from the warmed milk bottle to the fresh pounded pawpaw to be kept chilled somehow in the unseasonable heat. That range. Lover, it is not easy.

The mornings the sun warming my bare back through the curtains rising into the sky are fewer but the precious few that remain are all the sweeter, and the foreshadowing of a day at home tomorrow, no work, no need to set the antique alarm clock, make us smile and goose pimples rise up from your abdomen upwards, in anticipated pleasure, a whole bed’s morning. A return to the one room simplicities. My confident power returns with my ability to please you supremely. Now that I’m here. Now that you know you have me for good. All the things survived this year, you know better than anyone else, what it all meant, I’m comfortable with that.


The last time I saw you, in those last moments before I stepped on the Kampala bound bus, after you drove me through that unusually chilly morning into Juba Bus Park from Muniki, I wondered if you were okay. I wondered if I was doing the right thing to leave you there alone. Though you were supposed to be out of there in two days too and we would be meeting up in Kampala.

Parked beside the blue Nationdit bus in the black Rav4, I had my intuition that in the events that unfolded after, was optimistic. In you I thought I had found, miraculously, another best friend for life, when I had found my own Judas Iscariot. In those last moments before I allowed myself to clamber on that Sunday morning bus; I delayed my departure, going behind the bus park shacks to piss into a sewage street, taking care not to wet my black jeans. I thought of how that evening without me there you would not want to drive back to Muniki just yet but go to Konyo Konyo market for the rare pork we had found there and for Sherry who rejected so many times but you would not let go.

I should have known in your mind was forming that ruinous plan when on parting, you were taciturn. Emotional, near tears all the time you who had come pleading and your willingness to chauffeur all of us warmed our unwary hearts in that extreme heat. About to unleash a whirlwind of disaster. You destroyed nearly everything it had taken me almost four years to build, exposed in your terrifying ballast the tawdry life we were living. My own disaster before the international credit crunch disaster, you prepared me better than anyone could have to remember a personal rule months long comfort had begun to insulate me to: be ever ready to start all over.


They say Peter denied Jesus Christ three times when asked if he knew him by indifferent, dice throwing guards whiling the night away. Went on to found the church and became the rock upon which it was built. No one wondered if he wanted his master dead to be able to do this. Angered by the slight of Jesus calling John his dearest apostle, embracing him with all the fervour of a lover. Hungry to be loved too.

There was going to be forgiveness after Mercy Atlabara. Sweet, final southerness, your missed chance. You knew. I knew. You were told. The details were especially vivid because everybody but you had been there. Spite inspired, your retaliation was expected and its muddle headed assault prepared for to be thoroughly defeated as it was a month ago finally, dramas of another country crossing borders, Katwe Police station—looking up in horror from Silver Bullitt to see you with four policemen, smirking behind them in temporary victory. I was almost sorry for you.

Monday morning, I have never seen a man more defeated than you were...lying in bed, shirtless, sickly hairy belly up in the air, immobile in your shocked disability, the room stinking of your unwashed sweaty armpits, victory was never more savage or sweeter and I have developed an unhealthy taste for it.

create these moments

Tomorrow, zoo-side, in the canteen, the lake is glorious, and the teenagers awkward fumbling in the first flush, feet in the water, are like heart sepias underneath this controlled calm of you and I, the lovely surprise that sometimes I will catch still that look in your eyes, and I will call you just in the moment when you were wondering what I’m doing.

I found a pink paradise all on my own, wanted to leave, because you were not there. When you were there, there was nowhere else I wanted to be. There's no place better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Some Fond Farewells....

"We keep the day. With festal cheer,
With books and music, surely we
Will drink to him, whate'er he be,
And sing the songs he loved to hear. "

(In Memoriam, Lord Tennyson)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why Edirisa Matters

The weekend was like WOW!

I met this crazy Slovenian. No, that’s not right. You cannot say that about someone who has bought you a beer (in your drinking days) not once, not twice, but every time you have met when he was in Kampala at City Annex hotel on Dewinton road! Okay to start again.

I thought 2008 would be chiefly memorable for one thing. Getting sucked into Mark Zuckerberg’s world when I opened a Facebook account. Facebook like blogs is like a cult, a religion, discovering your favourite band, musician or movie; once you’re in, it is an addiction hard to turn away from. But there are some addictions worth having. Like Edirisa that Slovenian Miha Logar introduced me too.

I thought the name was strange. I did not like the name at first. I still have some doubts about it. But when I met the originator of the concept behind Edirisa I began to understand why he had named it so. It also helped that when I first logged onto the website there used to be a photo shot that showed a panorama seen through a huge window. Edirisa is not the most elegant of names but it is perhaps the most apt.

In my understanding, and from the several meetings I have attended with some of the people who are working patiently and hard to make this website a success, Edirisa is supposed to be a window on Uganda and eventually East Africa. As seen, felt and told by we, the Ugandans, the Kenyans, the Tanzanians, the Rwandese, and hopefully one day, all Africans.

Edirisa, like some of the more popular radio talk shows on the Luganda FMs and in memory of some of the best that used to exist on the English language ones, is supposed to be the initial stomping ground of ideas, a forum for expressing from whimsies to stand-points one is willing to defend with one’s heart’s blood because they believe in them so much. Edirisa is supposed to be a dating site of great minds, a place you go to, like some gigantic cathedral to meet people who will seduce you as much with their ideas as they way they want you and themselves to live.

This is what I love the most about Edirisa. It’s present fluidity. It’s ability to be a cathedral of ideas. To hold any and everything. I love that it can be so high handed it will take a philosophical dissertation as much as it will give equal consideration to a fashion question of Is it right for men to perm their hair? I love the fact that when I’m pompously trying to show off that I can identify the head and tail of a Henri Matisse painting in a MOMA online gallery, someone based in Kabale will get up and put me to rights that what that old man Festo Karwemera is doing is actually far more important in not merely the preservation of the culture of the Bakiga but in ensuring that he passes it on to younger people.

But I used a poor choice of words to call it a cathedral of ideas. It is more accurately a katogo of ideas. A buffet in one place like that meal comprises everything you will ever need to eat all year round in one meal. Strengthening, invigorating, exciting, maddening, a scrapbook and a polished final draft thesis. Edirisa reminds me a lot about used notebooks and a computer that has been in my possession for more than a year and I have no fear that it is going to be taken away from me: you will find everything there because it is not written by one person, one mind and if sometimes it seems like it is, it was written by a free ranging imagination unafraid of censorship or ridicule or being told that cannot be expressed out loud. So this is why Edirisa matters to me. This is why I will be writing for it regularly and inviting you too to.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"You're not going all crazy on me, are you?"

She can crook her eye-brow and her left eye-brow was crooked all the way when she saw my latest screen saver...and then insisted on scrolling through my pictures folder.The addiction is baaaad! I have reached the extent of sub-folders in the folder for different models of cars.

She wanted to know, "What's next? Football and one club you support fanatically every weekend? You're not going all crazy on me, are you?"

Now if she only knew what I actually have in mind... ;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank God for Little Brothers!

My little brother surprised me the other day with a CD full of PDFs of all my favourite Asterix and Obelix comics. Right now my grin is wider than Asterix's! Thank God for little brothers and bullying them right when they were younger, forcing them to pay attention to one's interest! I got Asterix! Lord knows, from the places where I have been lately, I needed the cheering up!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Love Now

I'm more selfish now of our time. Sometimes you find this cutely childish, laugh and beg off my worries that there is never enough time. I'm back and we have all the time, you like to reassure me. I let you believe a lot of the time that your soothing banter is right. Only you don't know I pause, when you are speaking, to watch you, listen to you, literally drinking all of you in quietly ecstatic!

I thought the years would bring calmness to me. A confident husband's taciturnity now that you're mine, perhaps reach that plateau where I can with other men complain affectionately of your nagging ever presence. Among friends in a bar, look at my wrist watch, sigh, and tell them, "Wife-time" no more and they would understand why I would have to hurry out of there. It has not happened.

The calmness I know now is not the sort of calmness I always thought I would know when I came into kissing intimacy with perfect happiness. The calmness of our dusky Saturday evenings, your legs over my tummy, lying in bed in silence, our fingers interlocking and tumbling out of each other like fumbling harmless puppies. Friday nights, chicken barbecuing nights, watching Mulefu work, smiling in anticipation of the feast to come—you asking please, please, please tell me which movie you bought this week, come on! Sunday afternoon in Kampala, from visiting people we must visit, slacks-wearing, leisurely-walking to Canaan Restaurant on Uganda House, Kampala road—Kampala was never a town you loved before, and walking this road never meant as much to me as it does now, walking it with you, we talk about everything. You laugh a lot and it makes me want to make you laugh ever more. Erasing all memories of loneliness I used to know on these streets.

Few pleasures in my life compare to the spine-tingling thrill when I'm home early, in our house, working on Silver Bullitt, hear your tinkling bell-like clear voice, hailing our neighbours from a distance, making your way to our door, me waiting you. And you know I'm home because the windows are open, the curtains are thrown back, and sometimes our door is ajar. Every day it happens, it's like it has never happened before. My heart starts racing. All over again it is like that afternoon before the one o'clock lunch summons, when I heard your voice, you speaking to someone else behind me, and I prayed before I turned my head round to look and see who was speaking, Lord let her be beautiful, please let her be beautiful because I think I'm already in love with her. Though I don't know her, she might not like me; she might even not be single, she is the one. Then I turned. Every day is like that, when first I hear your voice, before I see you, waiting to see you.

I was not used to considering anyone else's needs before. How the change came about, I'm still trying to understand. The first I knew you, you were like me. When did your change begin? Niyenda kumanya.

{This will be continued...sometime...I hope...:-)}

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Don't You Just Wish You Were My Lover?!

I like the title. Really, it has nothing to do with the post that follows. I come up with lines that won't let me alone like that all the time. This is why I carry around with me notebooks all over the place (btw...Timothy Bukumunhe's latest ettiquette article about the obsession with his fountain pen connects oh so well!)

Today is a sort of crossroads. For the first time in many months, I'm in office on a Saturday evening. Not since I left my other job and hightailed to Juba, Sudan have I been in any office on a Saturday
evening. In a nostalgic kind of drinking bitter rum way, I think I have missed this, a little.

I remember the days after such an evening, dialing up the people I used to go bingeing with all night, suddenly impatient to flee the office on light feet, to wait for the taxi alone because Saturday evenings in Kampala before 9pm have about them an understated jollity. Like everyone knows a party is about to begin but no one wants to give away how eager they are for the party. I remember the tingling anticipation of who we might run into in our escapades, who I might meet and if I was in the mood decide I was not going to let her out of my sight for the rest of evening and sometimes the weekend. I remember already knowing how the Sunday mid morning would find me, stretched out in bed-sometimes in my bed, sometimes not in my house, sometimes not even in someone's home but actually still in some club—trying to talk myself into the mood that after I had gotten something down in my stomach, after I had washed up, rinsed my mouth, this time I would see myself in church in the evening and get on my knees and I would reconnect with whatever little glimmers of religion were left in me, knowing even as I tried to gingerly lift myself up, and not provoke a hammering hangover in my head, that walking to whatever church—there would be a video library, there would be a phone-call, there would always be something else so interesting that hurrying feet would lead me to it and Sunday would be over before I knew it and Monday was here and the work week and I was going to do it all over again.

Just a little bit of that has been coming back. But that is not the only strangeness about this Saturday evening. Another bizarreness has crept up on me. This week has been full of them-events so tremblingly traumatic that I cannot help but wonder when I will ever internalize the implications of all of them, how far-reaching some of them are going to be in my life. I have begun another chapter, in a way, you could say….

The unbelievable is about to happen. I'm stepping out to attend the overpriced, over advertised, supposedly glitzy social event of the year, the 2008 Pearl of Africa Music Awards. After five years of turning down invitations, conspiring to be ill with an alibi on the weekends they fall, protesting I'm too broke to afford the drinks at the bar I suppose they set up, justifiably claiming not to have any clothes that would not shame whatever sorry corporation had me on their roster at the time; this year I ran out of excuses. I got caught. I have to go. I wonder what I'm going to make of it all!

PS: I have received a lot of complaints mbu my blogger blocks guys who do not have google accounts and what not from commenting. I have removed that impediment, oh reader! Anything to keep you happy. :-)

Spammers keep away!

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Need of Redemption, I Turn To You Again...

You have watched me take some knocks. For a while there, I know you knew I was wondering. You never doubted or questioned. I have never appreciated your far-sightedness as I do now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For a boy named Joe...(with a day or two to go..:-)

Dear Joe,

Some famous Joes… (I try to imagine where your name might have come from….)

Jonathan—son of a King, best friend to a man who would be king

Joseph—reputed adopted father of Jesus the Nazarene

I like to think but the name could have come anywhere else, from another source….

I don’t think I will be able to write to you again after this. More than most, I’m possessed to an acute degree with a sense of the brevity of our mortality and the appalling awareness that much as I wish to defy time, all this is futile. That I know this is impossible and that won’t stop me from trying. Naturally I wish this would speak for me all that I think I will ever think of telling you.

What do I know?

I know the sound of your voice though you may never know mine. In my stranger solitary moments which are often enough, I’m convinced this is a good thing. It is easier to be a hero when you are never tested by the realities and in a life with too few of those that is nothing to turn your nose up at. Every boy needs a hero as much as later he needs to tear him down to stop being a boy.

I have worried about you when I knew you were ill, in all my travels and the travels I’m yet to make had you commingled in my home coming thoughts though I have never been able to tell anyone how. I have never been able to tell the one person I should have told.

I have these songs that remind me of you, that remind me of various stages, when it shouldn’t be this way but it is; I have been in towns in countries few people I know will ever go to or wish to, silent evenings on the verandah, watching the sky, after hours of internet chatting, thinking of you, then I hear a song that becomes your song and in some hard to explain way it feels like your tiny sure groping fingers reaching out.

Here is something I have learned since I have come to know you. There is nothing grown up about love. There is nothing like world weary maturity when it comes to love. I learned that from you. Love is eternal youth, love is fierce, love is demanding, love is consuming, love hurts, love heals, loves makes you anew. I have learned this from you.

So what do I wish for you?

I wish you lots of happiness. It took me a long time to learn that happiness is not from status, it’s not from how much money I have saved up, happiness does not come from the kind of job I’m doing but you have to first be happy before you know happiness.

I wish that one day you do not just love your mother but understand the love you have for your mother because it will be all the more precious for your understanding of it, and it will teach you a kindness for her when you think your patience is about to fail you.

I wish that when the time is right, no matter how it turns out, you will love a girl enough to stand outside her house in the rain, drunk or sober, meaning everything you say, slurring her a song in whatever key of voice you have and the girl you love appreciates it and you.

I wish you adventure, I wish you a love of danger, I wish you a love of thrills because no man will ever appreciate the settled sedateness of home without having known the extreme perils we pretend do not exist when our front doors are locked for the night. I wish you a judiciousness and luck to come through the wiser.

Love your mother, love your wife, cherish your daughters, teach your sons to be men, be kind to your father. That is all the world is in the end. Happy birthday! For this one and the ones to come.

PS: For all the people who have never enjoyed the magesterial hypnosis of The Godfather I & II, I feel sorry for you! Baz, really, it is inexcusable! Next you will be claiming that you have never watched The Sound of Music and before we know where we are, you're dennying everything!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Credit Crunch Bites

With the international credit crunch chomping up on the world financial market,

1. Does it mean that the Communists and Socialists are winning, never mind that for all intents and purposes their movements are dead and buried, in their original forms?

2. Why has no one yet used the title Karl Marx’s Last Laugh in one of the credit crunch stories awash in the media?

3. Now that we know that those very respected Wall Street financial wizards speculations were based on non existent money or money they hoped would be earned in future somehow, does this mean the game Monopoly is crucial training if you ever want to be a Wall Street whiz someday?

4. Why have the International Monetary Fund think tank guys and heads not been bundled up and carted off to jail since they insisted that liberalization of the economy was the way to go and it looks like now we are going to have to renationalize some of the very institutions we were forced to privatize?

5. With privatization, will some kind soul please take down the bathroom tiles that adorn the former Uganda Commercial Bank Building that house Stanbic Bank nowadays and can we have back all those bodies like Coffee Marketing Board and the rest?

6. Did you hear that reporter on BBC who said that he had never heard people in London complain about the rising price of bread before? In all his decade of living in London? That people used to only gripe about the weather?

7. Does the credit crunch really have anything to do with me? Or they just want to me think it does?

John Nagenda has not managed to make me chuckle in quite a while but his last description of a certain anatomical part of U.S.A Presidential candidate John McCain had me catching myself from laughing out loud at the rude unfairness of it all, but naye Nagenda….mbu Mccain’s “fantastically wrinkled neck.”

Which brings me to another wonderment, which Presidential candidate do you support? Do the USA elections mean anything to you? I’m so full of questions today! It comes from having nothing better to do!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Six

“The first thing critics tell you about our ministers’ official residences is that each has seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, one for each day of the week. All I can say is that on the first night there was no room in my mind for great criticism. I was simply hypnotized by the luxury of the great suite assigned to me. When I lay down in the double bed that seemed to ride on a cushion of air, and switched on that reading lamp and saw all the beautiful furniture anew from the lying down position and looked beyond the door to the gleaming bathroom and the towels as large as a lappa I had to confess that if I were at that moment made a minister I would be the most anxious to remain one for ever. And maybe I should have thanked God I wasn’t. We ignore a man’s basic nature if we say, as some critics do, that because a man like Nanga had arisen overnight from poverty and insignificance to his present opulence he could be persuaded without much trouble to give up again and return to his original state.

A man who has just come in from the rain and dried his body and put on dry clothes is more reluctant to go out again than another who has been indoors all the time. The trouble with our new nation—as I saw it then lying on that bed—was that none of us had been indoors long enough to be able to say “To hell with it.” We had all been in the rain together yesterday. Then a handful of us—the smart and the lucky and hardly ever the best—had scrambled for the one shelter our former rulers left, and had taken it over and barricaded themselves in.”

A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe

It was a shock of recognition, reading that passage from Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People. It was like I was back to the year before, breathlessly flipping through African Woman Magazine, amazed at a home like former Health minister Mike Mukula’s existed in Kampala, behind walls on a road I had walked on searching for a boda ride ostentation I would hardly believe was behind those walls that warned I do not approach KK Security guarded this home. Eye popping! In breathless astonishment listening to the wonders of those who had managed to sneak into Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa’s mansion, a home with its own private chapel just like those Italian Renaissance rulers’ villas. All in Uganda wow!

Running on that extracted passage…. “And from within they sought to persuade the rest through numerous loud speakers, that the first phase of the struggle had been won and that the next phase-- the extension of our house-- was even more important and called for new and original tactics….”
Now where have we heard that before?!

Reading that I discovered I now have six favourite novels, writing that better than any other (of course you might disagree and have your own favourites, do tell me!) pins down the little lies our leaders get us to swallow. Well, not so little, when you look back on your life and realise you lived a counterfeit life, cheated, you never lived the life that you could have if someone had not been awarded that scholarship because they had better connections, secured the job that you were naturally talented to do because they were the right tribe, were born deformed because your mother was too poor to go for proper medical care carrying you in her womb and the local herbalists need money too. Yeah, you existed but never lived because you were convinced you did not deserve any inherited birthright. Corruption does that.

They knew, by candlelight, Tilley lamp, gaslight, in library quiet, motor car countryside roaming, backstreets in the evening hurrying; the snares of corruption; in their lives, in the lives of their friends, countries, in the work they were writing. My six books of corruption:

1. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (After reading Dead Souls, you will understand why Gogol had to run mad. Die raving mad, burning up the sequel. Russia seems to not have changed much since he wrote this, the Tsars replaced by the Oil oligarchs, and the scrambling, denied resentful hungry beneath, hatred filled or devious minded, plot their downfall or how to chip away some.)

2. The People’s Bachelor by Austin Bukenya (The continuing baffling mystery that Uganda’s best novel is out of print, most booksellers in first hand and second hand bookshops have never heard of it nor the author continues, hurts. One of the best novels you have never read, the stunning last pages that predict the Uganda we live in today do not lose their power to shock.)

3. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah (The honest man in spite of himself, I have known those strange, home foot-dragging dawns, bizarre skies, watching those eating unable to eat yourself. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born in the Heinemann African Writers Series imprint also possibly has one of the most perfect front book covers ever designed, as moving as the writing inside.)

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (The failed love affair with his dreams, the appalled and temporarily paralyzing sudden second sight at the unworthiness of our dreams; the poverty of spirit, the curse of answered prayers, Fitzgerald’s prose stretches on you on the rack and compels suspension of disbelief briefly and then lingers like a popular song from one’s departed youth.)

5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (The prose musician, the shameless seducer, that Russian! Imagine reading The Red Pepper –3 AM or Mr. Hyena-- and not feeling guilty or disgusted. Thrilled in fact. The novel that achieves what Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray set out to achieve and failed, corrupt the reader or at least sense the silent tread and sometimes wonder if you are not a part of it. A verbal magician!)

6. A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe (The closet admission that given a chance perhaps we would not be so high and mighty if we too had the chance and choices to be corrupt or not. The first African nugu novel I have read. The one novel that convinces me that while Achebe is not a great writer, he is an important one.)

Okay, now really, I know you have your favourite corruption novels, films, songs, paintings, photographs, anecdotes, share! Me I want to know! I have this upcoming cocktail thing where I want to be witty-witty!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Alfred Kinsey and How He Changed Your World.

I’m just beginning to read about Alfred Kinsey in detail. You could say that along with heavyweights like English botanist Charles Darwin, and Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (of course there are lots of people whose names I skip) are responsible in large part to the world we live in. our everyday world. The way we relate to each other and some of the morality we try to live up-to and force others to follow. The way we think about sex, the way we love, our religious beliefs, the way we regard nature, relate to each other.

How I wish now I could get my hands again on that Liam Neeson movie Kinsey again! It was the first movie that made me slowly realise that the 1960s in Western Europe and the USA would not quite have been what they were without this former bisexual American Methodist who wrote Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948, reprinted 1998) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953, reprinted 1998) .

It was Kinsey that made a howling America admit that many men had actually experienced a homosexual encounter in their youth. He proved, with life stories to argue, that many American women who were supposed to be married virgins, often had had sex before they were married. He proved, again with life-stories, that children did think about sex, had sexual experiences and yes there were orgasms and they were a big deal for both sexes. Scientifically.

Anti-Kinsey groups allege, “Kinsey's work has been instrumental in advancing acceptance of pornography, homosexuality, abortion, and condom-based sex education, and his disciples even today are promoting a view of children as "sexual beings." Their ultimate goal: to normalize pedophilia, or "adult-child sex." That’s from the folks at www. cwfa.org (Concerned Women for America) say.

As far as I know, no book on Alfred Kinsey or by Alfred Kinsey exists in Kampala and perhaps Uganda. I know. I have been frantically searching for any. Kinsey’s life story reinforces for me a suspicion that the people who fundamentally change the world are not the headline makers but the academia, the teachers, and I’m beginning to wonder with real worry what our academia and our teachers have been quietly imparting. Perhaps this being Uganda, someone needs to ask what our religious leaders are imparting. It is time, I fully realise, I stopped saying someone, it is time I started actively asking. The world is changed one person at a time. It is no small achievement to convince your child that eating carrots is good for them, their eye sight will be the better for it. We change the world everyday and never appreciate our influence or are ashamed of it.

Thinking of posting this blog post, I realised that I do not know who the Google founders are, the supposed parent company that supports blogger. Yeah, I do not know who began blogger and until this moment, I did not care. I’m a Facebook regular. It was my lifeline for many months when I could not see my friends and when I chat with them on facebook I do not feel a need to call them or to see them physically. I think they are well. They have got to be well. Their status message read ebullient. They took a while to answer my phone text messages but I mean we all know that the phone networks here are far from reliable and can you believe it that Mango or MTN can suspend its services for a whole afternoon and there are no street demonstrations. The National Bureau of Standards does not say anything the next day, no newspaper announcement, radio or what.

The mind is an inquiring, thirsty sponge, open to soak up influences. Your mind determines who you are. This means that your mind influences greatly determine who you think you are. Your teachers, academic and non academic. In early youth I read the stories of violent revolution, Biblical and French Revolution like they were great adventure stories.

Until a few days ago I thought Guy Fawkes was a bad guy, never did think about his cause. In read a pleading letter in a newspaper that asked how it is that there is only one street named after first Democratic Party President Benedicto Kiwanuka and incredible as it seems, he is yet to be named a Ugandan national hero. A man who in the official records is reputed to have died refusing to compromise the independence of the judiciary and played a more than significant part in the eventual independence of Uganda ( never mind its format). I have begun to wonder how many kids born after 1986 know the name of Benedicto Kiwanuka or care that such a man lived. What about Basil Bataringaya? Musaazi? Why am I bringing up their names? They were gentlemen, at least by Ugandan standards and I’m wondering if there’s still a place for such people in our Uganda.

I should have written for you something else but I could not think of anyone else but Alfred Kinsey and how he changed my world. Changed your world.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And For Today's Class....Discuss


I wrote the main body of this post three years ago. In an email discussion I was having with a couple of people I had just met. It was a heady time for me, very exciting, meeting these people, slowly making up my mind that yes, I wanted the life they were living and learning from them how to live that life. In the process of deciding what in their lives though I did not wish to ever be a part of my life. Some of them lived a life that I heard a line in a movie called Shortbus captures perfectly, “It’s like the 60s, with less hope.”

In the months immediately before and after this email discussion, I wrote some very good work. Many Ugandan newspaper and magazine readers remember My Favourite Part of Kampala. Nicestories.com fans remember Why I Hate Shakespeare and I still receive emotional emails from college students who identify with the anger with which I wrote that article. I wrote in that time also Uganda’s Literary Scene Today, Late Sunrise Nights and began to write an article titled Night Kampala Showers I have never let anyone read because it became something so much more than I had planned it to be that it frightened me.

2006 was a significant year for me. I may have said this before. I had so much less than I do now and I wanted so much. It is from this place that email comes, those states of mind I was in, about to implement some hard decisions, let go of some people, try for a dream.


July 2006

Of course you have been here before. I suspect you know all this but it does not lessen the freshness and shock of its discovery by myself. Edith Wharton or some other American writer said that the world is made of two or three stories but that each writer keeps on writing them in their own way generation after generation because it is incredible anyone else could have felt the way they found those stories in their own lives. Very true!

I cannot believe anyone knows what I want to tell you both yet the thinking reasoning part of me knows very well it is all old news. But it is incredible. I know now, I think, what is the greatest killer of Ugandan writers.

It is not the lack of a reading culture which renders serious writing a clown’s job. It is not the poverty which many writers all over the world anyway live in and always managed to produce great literature.

It is not the lack of government or public recognition that a class of artistes called authors separate from journalists exist in this city thus making us invisible like beggars are invisible to the complete munakampala.

Neither is it the lack of a literary background, a history against which to measure our efforts, look for inspiration and guidance, feel we are continuing and a part a tradition that enfolds us like the protection of a family circle.

It is not the rooted capitalist mentality that has merged into our culture and thinking that prides material possessions over spiritual and mental growth.

The greatest killer of Ugandan writers is the solitude of the task of being a writer. I don’t mean this in the act of writing which is really not lonely when the writing is coming well.

I mean the total wasteland the writer has to confront when immersion in his/her writing ceases for a time and he looks up and all around is aridity. The million thronging people round him/her who might as well be dumb or even inanimate objects because when they try to speak to each other, it is as if they are speaking foreign languages to each other. Henry Morton Stanley meets Kamurasi.

This lack of similar minded souls and minds to commune with, to think and argue and test and, yes, love each other is what kills the Ugandan writer. A lonely profession is made unbearable by living in solitary confinement in an overcrowded prison. It is the aloneness that kills.

As for love, fuck it!, there is no love for one trying to be an artist. In the two or three hours when a room is borrowed and there is supposed to be love, love is the furthest thought on either mind.

He is wondering whether the guy he has borrowed the room from might come earlier than usual and if he will have enough time to clean the bed and clear away the lunch or breakfast or snacks they, she ate from.

She is wondering whether any of the neigbours saw her enter the room with him. Whether there is anyone who lives here who knows her or her brothers or her parents. She is wondering whether he will think her cheap and dump her after this. She is wondering whether he will give her money for transport for the taxi to go back home.

How can there be love when a part of me remains aside, the devil in the corner, notebook open , pen scribbling, amused smile on lips noting not only precariously perched on top he is and how his knees hurt, what is under this damn bed sheet?, but also the moans or they acting?

How can this be love when all is imagined so intensly before anything happens and when it is happening, the writing is taking place? There is no love for the artist. No experience even.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Finding My Way Back To You....

(This is for you, East African poet, for calling me out when I needed to be called out. Because of you Jack Mataachi is considering a return in old haunts, the house spruced up. Thank you, my friend. So this is for you.)

* * * * * *
I suppose we must all betray someone at some point. Afterwards, when you know what happens, when you have seen the look, nothing can make it go away. You know nothing can make it better. You have no idea what feels worse. The look you can never erase, in the dramatic surroundings it travelled across to you. Or that you know you would still do it the way you have done it.

All the pity in the world is for those with remorse and a conscience and the cunning to trade their bleeding hearts at the gaming table like that Ace of diamonds. No one talks about the remorseless, those without conscience, those gifted with ice. Those who know what they have to do, how to do it, the cost of doing it, and do it. The merciless who ask for no mercy when their time comes. No rubbery jelly knees here. They who give the Judas kiss without the self pity of the still dark dawn of the gallows. Those without illusion. The worst you have seen is nothing compared to what they know.

No one talks about them. I always did know the things you did not want to believe could happen, falsely armoured though you were with a purchased toughness that fooled me for a while. Intended to frighten, you were like the prey who vainly thrusts folded bundles of money at the hired night killer you have stumbled upon in your kitchen who has come to kill you and had hoped first you would try and fight at least.

One day I will be a memory for you, physically inaccessible, a life lesson whose details you’ll only go over in your mind in safe solitude. I’ll first be the one who is not mentioned, then the one who makes you sneer, then the sometimes talked about and more thought of, and then I will be the sigh on your lips, life failing. Your sometimes ruin your profoundest memory.

Creatures of a moment propagating instantaneous beauty. Sunday evening Jinja beach, in the chill, watching the lake, you think I did not see, twisting to reach in the back seat for your phone, screen flashing in the dark of the Carib, waiting for me to walk down to you with the fast food takeaway I had been waiting for, taking the call. An excuse must be made. The pleasure does not matter. I’m the one your lover does not want much to talk about, teary-eyed, listening to Foolish Games by Jewel Kilcher.

So let me tell you.

This is some strange kind of love mojo!

Monday, September 22, 2008

States of Being


No man can knock his human fist upon
The door built by his mind, or hear the voice
He mediated come again if gone;
We live outside the country of our choice.
Leaning toward harvest, fullness as our end,
Our habits will not mend.
Our humanness betrays us to the cage
Within whose limits each is free to walk,
But where no man can hear our prayers or our rage,
And none of us can break the walls to talk.

Exiled by years, by death the present end,
By worlds that must remain unvisited,
And by the wounds that growing does not mend,
We are as solitary as the dead,
Wanting to king it in that perfect land
We make and understand.
And in this world whose pattern is unmade,
Phases of splintered light and shapeless sand,
We shatter through our motions and evade
Whatever hand might reach out and touch our hand.

Donald Hall

Monday, September 15, 2008

Elizabeth Taylor, Olivia Manning

I used to write for pleasure; I used to write for leisure. Now it is a treasure!

I’m in that phase of my career where I study the careers and lives of other men and women to understand why they failed. It is frightening to finally learn to accept that giftedness, talent, and will are not enough to push you to the front rank of success. You may work hard all your life and get no reward at the end of it all.

So I have seen some of the stories and I have read some of the stories and I have been in cafes and hovels in all the cities in the world following around unfolding chronologies. I never did understand the full horror that had Russian writer Anton Chekov’s worst nightmare as at the end of his life to be found dead, alcohol stench emanating from his corpse, in a gutter.

Until you get to this point in your life, you can never appreciate why English writer Charles Dickens, a millionaire before he was in late 30s, would continue to drive himself relentlessly in his work, refusing to rest and eventually killing himself from working too hard and giving public readings of all the works the public loved and could never tire of hearing from lips, until blood in spurts was jolting out of his lips, coughing between performances. The months of deprivation in the blacking factory, and then the London winter streets, freezing, looking for a job were a life long whip lash whose welt never left his face.

French writer Gustave Flaubert could advise young Guy de Maupassant to wait ten years, learning how to write to the best of his ability, before he published his first story, that masterpiece Boule de Suif. Resist all calls to publish himself before he was ready but when he had a niece who was married to a feckless man and she came with tears in her eyes to ask her famous uncle to financially assist, specters Flaubert had avoided contemplating all his life killed him at his desk.

I know understand, a bit, what I heard someone say so long ago, when I was a child, and they did not know that playing hide and seek, I had gone to hide behind the couch, and he was telling her she could leave her husband, be with him, life is a chance, their chance was now and they might never get another. He certainly would not be coming back and if the years once again threw them together, he would not have her because she was hesitant to have him now when he must needed her to have him. Believe in him, take a chance, trust her life to his life.

I guess.

It was the strangest afternoon of my life and when I went blinking back into the afternoon sunlight to my friends in the compound to continue the game, I was changed.

Life is about luck too. You have got to be born lucky to get where you dream you want to get. Perhaps that is what they lacked: the writers Elizabeth Taylor and Olivia Manning. The easiest description of them, a lying deceptive description, is that they were like the Jane Austen’s’ of 20th century English literature. But they were so different from her in vital ways but perhaps not different enough. Or nobody saw the differences enough.

I cannot for the life of me fathom why Olivia Manning and Elizabeth Taylor are not better known than they are. I still love Kampala though and said silent thanks when I bought Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy for Shs. 4000 though I could have paid even less but could not bring myself to disrespect the pleasure her work was going to give him, just after Barclays Bank on Kampala road on Friday evening, walking down to the Old Taxi Park. All last week.

The Balkan Trilogy is a book of war. The World War II and a woman who marries a man almost within a week of knowing him when he’s on leave in England. The man works with the government, attached to a sort of British Council situated first in Romania, except then it was spelt Rumania.

The book is about the advance of war, the inexorable march of Hitler’s German troops plunging Europe into war, and how this woman and her husband forge a marriage and survival in these circumstances. You may know how the war turns out, consult your Encarta to find out what happened to specific European cities as the couple is forced often at the last minute to move by air, by land, by sea in a desperate hurry, but Manning makes you care, she makes you share their highs and lows, listen intently as they do to the rumour of war and the atrocities attendant.

You wonder how you would hold up, trapped in a city under siege, no rescue possible, the soldiers supposed to be defending the city fleeing first. Wartime affairs blossom, unlikely persons turn out to do heroic deeds out of pure selfishness or pique, the deed accidental. John Galsworthy’s Forsytes’ were my most beloved trilogy family in 20th century English literature and now the Pringles’ have joined them and I have another reason to be fonder of the name Guy than ever before!

I have sometimes wondered if there was punishment in here for these two women’s fates because they never had to live an uncomfortable life like some of their male peers. Perhaps there was resentment in that which is why they were ignored in their time, writing their novels and short stories, between feeding the baby in the morning and writing out instructions for the maids how the evenings party was to be seated and who was to be served what. These women married to men who earned enough to grant them city and country homes. Perhaps there was resentment?

Or they were not strange enough? They were not neurotic enough? We all love a diseased genius. They are not so great that that we cannot pity them, we maybe in awe of them but we do not want to be them with their pain and oddities. Is it that? Is this why Olivia Manning and Elizabeth Taylor are not better known? I have wondered. Or did they just not have the luck, the only luck that counts? I have puzzled over this.

Now people might say whatever they may but as far as I’m concerned, the late Heath Ledger only ever came onto the set in two films, Ten Things I Hate About You and The Dark Knight. Brokeback Mountains never scandalized me and to be frank was quite a boring long take, the actors accidental in a motion picture dedicated to showing us landscapes. Quite a view they were too sometimes! Ledger was at his best in those two films. One is a classic and one is a Ledger film. Ten Things I Hate About You is a classic, no matter from which angle you approach it and try to tear it down, and The Dark Knight, well The Dark Knight is like Ledger saying goodbye the way like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Giving you a chance to have a taste of lemon in what you will always think when you think of Ledger. He was talented, he could have been great, and you are left wondering what happened, what went wrong and put him side by side with other dead young promisers like River Phoenix.

The Dark Knight is not a great film but neither is Gangs of New York but I watch both over and over. Two actors in those two films were inspired. Ledger commanded and scene stole just as Daniel Day Lewis might as well have been that crazed killer. The goody two shoes in both films are so cloying and annoying that I have to confess I did not feel much when Harvey Dent was supposedly going mad because the girl he loved with Batman had been murdered.

I must stop though! I have ailments to tend to.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Something strange happened to me at the beginning of this week. Something that so rarely happens to me that when it does, it takes me a bit of time to figure out what has gone wrong with me. What is not right. I fell ill. Sorta.

On second thought, I should not have been surprised. Consulting the calendar would have informed me that it is near the month of December, the month I dread the most in the year because no matter what I do, some sort of mishap usually connected to endangering my health occurs.

With a wedding to attend, at which I’m expected to make some sort of speech about how upstanding my elder brother is and what a lucky woman his soon-to-be wife is, I’m suffering from acute food poisoning (never, never eat those pancakes again!) that threatens to overwhelm defences no Juba disease could.

I have been laid out. Yeah, incredible for me. I have been forced to spend whole days nearly nude in bed with no company but Mr. HP (didn’t tell you I finally got my own laptop and Betsey the PC did not take too well to a co-wife? Shucks! I did.) and some old browning newspaper clippings I have not perused through in quite a long while.

I was thinking of things to throw away, to reduce the clutter, but I did not end up throwing anything out really. Well! It is something to see what one was reading when one was so much younger. Those old newspaper clippings had me wondering why is that nowadays there is no paper I want to keep after I’m done reading it? Why is it that there are no articles I want to snip out and with old Orbit stick in my scrap book before I ever even knew what a scrap book was.

I guess this is why I read blogs and keep some blog excerpts because there seems to be no writer in the newspaper lately who speaks to me. She used to rile me up, she used to annoy the hell out of me, I often wondered where all the bile she had against men originated from but I could not miss reading Lilliane Barenzi especially when she was writing her Never Trust columns.

In those days there was a wonderful counterpoint to Barenzi in The Blue Corner by Arnold Asaba (I later learnt it was a pseudonym) who gave the men’s take on women and relationships and love and was as witty and funny and as engaging as Barenzi was compelling. Before I would scout off to check in with Marcus Tabaza and his Bachelor’s Diary before it all fell apart for him, a precursor to Old Fox by Tumusiime Rush (RIP).

Now let’s not talk only about the glory that Sunday Vision used to be, leaving out a still favourite writer for that publication, Bad Idea by Ernest Bazanye like there were no other papers back then. In the days when Daniel Kalinaki proved his versatility by being able to write from humour to serious political analysis and he had that column in Sunday Monitor about house girls and his character’s predilection for them.

That was then when The Crusader was kicking its last and I first stumbled upon the arty, puzzling and rewarding ruminations of David Kaiza before The East African snapped him up and though Ofwono Opondo has never been an easy man to like, I could not miss reading his columns just as Kevin Aliro (RIP) was still funny too and talked about some things we dared not mention outside of our nightly pillow talk. Just like I still have falling apart issues of Teddy Ssezyi Keeye’s Confidential and the monikers he coined for some politicians still roll off my mental tongue like Sir Rich and I wonder what happened to that wonderful fearless editor to become the man he is today. Before, in the days when the media was truly vibrant, Muno cheek by jowl next to Shariat and I remember walking along Namirembe road, my eyes down, the banners of so many papers I hungered to read jumping up at me.

Do you remember the time when John Nagenda had a rival and competitor for attention in the days when Ear to the Ground by Charles Onyango Obbo was a waited for event of the week, and of course Wafula Oguttu was a fearless gadfly who refused to be intimidated and there was this writer, Timothy Kalygeria who had these ideas and he was going to make them come to life. Do you remember that time?

Timothy Bukumunhe on radio and in the papers bringing some innovations like Table Talk that we had never considered, we who had never read beyond what we could access in the days before the World Wide Web brought the world into Uganda. Kadumukasa Kironde writing as beautifully about food as his style was.

Learning how to write for the newspapers from the Gossip Guru of the Sunrise, wondering who this chap Steven Tendo was because his On Second Thought column was what I wanted to read first in that weekly that was not my starting point but a great mother. Learning a new love of the word, write for the pleasure not the money principle, oh boy!

Do you remember those days of Chic and Belle and so many other magazines before African Woman and the Red Pepper came along and the wonderous stories that were in some editions and there are writers there whose names I have forgotten but not the stories they wrote and it seemed so certain, for a moment there, the literary desert was sprouting, the artistic one too with its first intimations of greatness as Ras and Danny Barongo tried out their cartoon wizardry no doubt at the feet of the master, the first class cartoonist who abandoned the art to become a film maker. Snoggie!

I remember those days. I remember those years. Do you?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Old Notbooks, Beginning New Ones

I have gone back, further in time than I ever thought, in this move from country to country, town to town, to the one liners that used to define my life I wrote in some tiny notebooks, with no covers now, I used to buy, a boy who knew one or two streets in a city he thought he would never love more, would never be unfaithful too.

There’s Camus with that first stunning line that never ceases to amaze, “Mother died today. Or, maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure,” from his novel The Outsider. Some call it The Stranger. It is not the Camus line that has stayed with me all through my reading and feeling life though it is a line I could understand and that spoke at a time when you could hate and love someone at the same time and believe you hated them when your hate really concealed a deeper love than you wanted to acknowledge anymore.

But that was not the Camus line that has lived with me, trench coat wearing author who nearly made me take up smoking because you smoked, that is not the line. Or the Jesus figures in The Plague that had me staying after school, to miss a hostel orgy, because staggered under the load of pain these characters incarcerated inside a city’s walls were going through mirrored certain mental prisons and I wanted to know how was it all going to end. No, not lines from The Plague, a book I dread to read again but I know I must read once more when I’m ready.

Camus you have been with me because, “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer,” though I have never touched snow and felt my fingers becoming cold and brittle as it melted through them, I have carried those lines with me, from Camus, all my life. Albert Camus too, his heritage much debated; French Algerian or Algerian French or Algerian or French, in the years when I did not know the name of one African author and I needed an author a white man had endorsed as great, reeling from Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, Spencer and I did not want to go with the slave narratives of Frederick Douglas anymore. So there was Camus.


“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” Ernest Hemingway!

Of all the authors in my modest and shrinking library, it is to Hemingway for the last five or so years I have continually returned! Outdoors man of American literature, famous drunk and backstabbing envious friend, womanizer reputed to need a new wife for each new novel and hater of his own mother, mocker of his father, macho bearded like 19th century Victorian writers, masquerader among the modernists, most famous writer of the 20th century, Spain praise singer, bull fighting aficionado, Hemingway taught me what D.H. Lawrence meant when he said, "Never trust the artist. Trust the tale." Nor the critics either! You’re the best critic of what you’re reading, never forget that.

The writer did not have to be a timid pussy or interested only in writerly things, Hemingway taught that. Of course I could have learned all this from Tolstoy but have you seen how fat War and Peace is? Then again R L Stevenson was never a stay at home writer but he did need the cuddling of wet nurses all his life and have you read the topics of his essays? Okay, Jack London was so adventurous he was once the nicknamed the Prince of I think Oyster bay in his pirating days but who is going to take seriously a writer whose most famous creations are talking dogs in the wild? I needed Ernest Hemingway, racing through the novels and then I found A Moveable Feast, Makerere University library, my second year of an otherwise wasted three years.

In a few days, maybe a week at the most, I should be reading Speak Memory by Vladimir Nabokov. I have been warned that it is perhaps the best written memory book. But I have heard such trumpeting before for other memoirs and books that fall in this gray area, lately Soyinka’s Ake. I have that book on my shelf too, unread still, because I’m not yet ready for Soyinka. It has taken me years to be ready for Nabokov though dirty mind that I’m, yeah, I used to own a copy of Lolita, read it, was thrilled and gave it away though it is a book that induces minor orgasms in a reader throughout. Maybe Speak Memory will dethrone, I have loved the Russia Nabokov speaks of way back since I started reading Gogol’s Dead Souls, read his short stories, discovered unsung gems like Oblomov, then the Chekhov’s. Ah!

The things I could tell you about Chekhov and Maupassant and Flaubert and oh my, I read the love letters of John Keats to his girl with a delicious name Fanny! Could they choose ‘em or could they choose ‘em! There’s a whole essay, an article, a film, an art gallery show in the lovers and wives of great writers. Oh my! Did you know that actually Joyce day so seriously celebrated by academia enshrined in one of Joyce’s letters to Nora celebrates the first day, “without prompting from Joyce, Nora slid her hand inside his trousers, grabbed his member, and pleasured him to orgasm, in the first sexual act Joyce had never paid for.” I could have kicked myself! James Joyce Day is actually celebrating famed writer James Joyce’s first, how do the English delightfully put, wank!

I love James Joyce’s The Dubliners by the way. Those short stories, unsurpassed yet! To be poor is romantic in retrospect but Hemingway was so right that “hunger was a good discipline.” But when it comes to the novel, when it comes right, F. Scott Fitzgerald! The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night; in those two novels are all the novels of some writers who have written a whole library shelf of novels. Baby, I still love you because…

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…. And one fine morning----

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.”

It is still the most beautiful ending of any novel, written anywhere in the world, I have ever read and I challenge you to quote me a better one. I dare you!

This is for the writers and the readers who love the writers, who, not turning up their noses and sensibilities, Chaucer-like, dive into the murk of their everyday and make their pages pulsate with the lives and concerns, the beating heart of life, want to say…

This living hand, now warm and capable

Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold

And in the icy silence of the tomb,

So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights

That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood

So in my veins red life might stream again,

And thou be conscience-calm’d--- see here it is---

I hold it towards you.

John Keats

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I borrowed five books to read and it turned out only one was worth reading, a Bret Easton Ellis-The Informers, and I’m certain Ellis is as getting tired of being compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald as I’m of reading his work and finding his over moneyed New York types tiresomely predictable with an ennui from a life of too many options and not the will to go down one well mowed lane and living.

There was a time when a year did not seem to end, when a month seemed forever and I was in school, waiting for October and November when the newspapers became more colourful with red sleighs and bells and Punky Brewster and Different Strokes had merry tunes. Now the days whizz by and its four months left to 2008 and the time seems so little and I still have so much to do, so much I planned for this year yet to be accomplished but I’m not in despair, just a little taken aback when all this time passed and how come.

There was a book by Tom Robbins, there was a book by Margaret Atwood, there was a book by some woman called May Cantwell with the worst type of memoirs-the syrupy kind, American Girl, there was Frederic Tuten with his deplorable attempt to make Tintin grow up, what the fuck? I loathed all was before me and was complaining to myself when I remembered an American writer who wrote The Last of the Mohicans who was challenged if he could do better than the writers he was complaining of wasting his evening and money with their terrible writing. Apparently he could.

Well, I read his adventure yarns too long to remember exactly what was in them, Daniel Day Lewis reminded me recently when I happened to watch a DVD of The Last of the Mohicans, so I went out and also got There Will Be Blood because I cannot watch one Daniel Day Lewis movie and I’m thinking of getting Gangs of New York again because Lewis was mesmerizing in that one too. I read the Gangs of New York book too and boy could that guy write, a journalist who could write! There is another book in Aristoc Booklex I got my eye on by him too as soon as the money piles stack up. But what I really want is a Daniel Day Lewis collection.

I began to collect one of Morgan Freeman when my heart stopped at the Yahoo! news flash that Freeman had been in a car accident and he was in a stable but serious condition. You never know how much an actor means to you until you think he is about to die or God forbid, actually dies like Heath Ledger did though since Ten Things I Hate About You, I had not found Ledger that compelling, he was always too self aware of how much he could act well to actually get out of himself and act better than he did. A comment on IMDB about Freeman reminded me why I love Freeman so much and why I still scroll through the mostly gibberish of wall posts on such fora… a fan said that if he could have one Hollywood dream come true, he would like his life to be narrated by Morgan Freeman in the Hollywood movie version of his life, if he ever stops being a fan and actually does something more meaningful than being a Dilbert government clerk.

I used to love Keanu Reeves this way. Before the Matrix Revolution and all that came after. I still Point Break. Then again I’m a fan who thinks Tom Cruise has never made a better movie than Cocktail. I have this theory that like in life, in the body of movies an actor makes there is that one movie where you see the actor making a career choice: for the money or the greatness, and I think Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise made their choices in those movies, chose the money. Sometimes I think Johnny Depp did that too after the first Pirates of the Caribbean, duplicating a delicious creation of his fertile mind to the ludicrous gayness he is now. I weep for him. Yeah, I love movies like that, been watching a lot more of them than I have had a chance to do in many months, thinking of beginning a column in any newspaper that will let me a serious critique not just of one movie but a whole history of movies, actors, directors, a mesh of all I have watched because I have watched as many movies and I have read books, I hope there are a few more people out there who would like to know what I think of some and some periods of film, excepting series which I cannot bring myself to watch no matter how much the delicious joys of Grey’s Anatomy are preached to me, 24, One Tree Hill, whatever, I have even stopped watching Smallville which once was a secret addiction The Phantom once found me espousing as the reason to join a certain video library. I will not yet write about series.

So you’re wondering is Daniel Day Lewis my favourite actor? Not really. I do like the quirky story about him that he momentarily stopped acting for a long while to learn the craft of shoe making and supposedly makes great shoes. I thought having a fall back profession was taken by Lewis to the lowest level possible though I must confess I would like to wear a Daniel Day Lewis shoe. By the way! Let me say this and get it out before I forget, American Beauty is a piece of shit movie, yeah Ernest I said that. American Beauty is a pretentious piece of shit movie masquerading as French existentialism. What a crap out. Better to spend your hours watching The Usual Suspects, there Kevin Spacey was truly great and you can learn from there why Sean Penn will never make my list of the greatest actors of his generation no matter how many people sing his praises.

I want to make a list of the greatest erotic films I have watched. Just for just. Movies to make you cream your pants. Movies to make you take out that brandy and forget it in your glass till it goes flat, the curtain edges lighting up because you watched them till morning. Movies that make you go to bed and whisper words you have not whispered to the sleeping form in bed because after them, you cannot sleep until you have emptied, ha!

Then I want to make a list of books so dirty, so subversive, dripping wet with sex, novels that make you hide between library shelves because you do not want anyone to see the flaring of your nostrils as you read, books that describe in detail the sweatiness of sex, uh, Lady Chatterley and Lolita nothing, let’s pay a summer’s visit to the Italians and the Spaniards, and some of those Latin Americans like Marquez who have hidden delights One Thousand Nights of Solitude hide in their confession robes, I want to do that too.

Movies and books should not be dead things but pulsating beings, uncontrolled and crazy and real as that scene from Divisionz that makes you understand what Donald Mugisha is talking about when he talks about guerrilla movie making, yeah! Come on! Movies and books should be as unsafe and scary as when you enter a clinic for a blood check up and you’re waiting for the results of the HIV/AIDS test you asked for, and just for a moment as the doctor goes through his required counseling, you think you just might have the disease, movies and books should be like that, real life! Take a Sylver Kyagulanyi song lyric and see your life, uh huh, I want to make real for you like that!

What am I saying to you? I want books like On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Last Exit to Brooklyn by Selby Jr or the Tropic of Cancer by Miller or The People’s Graduate by Austin Bukenya, fuckit, even Moses Isegawa’s Abyssinian Chronicles is realer, give me that! I’ll take a racist movie like Gone with the Wind, a full of historical lies Sound of Music as long as it pulsates with felt life, a desire to take the cup of life to the lips and drink fulsomely because life is short, life is brief, it does not matter how you live it or at what grade as long as you live it fully, do you get what I’m saying? I want art like that. I want to talk to you about art like that. Better to be wrong and passionate than right and lifeless. So what am I saying to ya?

I’m saying these last four months of the year now that back on Ugandan soil I’m going to go for the Kadongo Kamu singer and the Bobi Wines and the Priscilla’s and the Bella’s and not one Isaiah Katumwa jazz show because these other guys speak the truth of Ugandan life as surely as Chaucer and Boccaccio and Dante did of their Dark Ages and if you find me drinking to Paul Kafeero and Philly Lutaaya, it’s because they were our poet laureates. I’ll spend these four months finding the truest and the illest again, and damn it, I’m going to make some real great art too, and be a part of them too!

Friday, August 01, 2008

At 28

There was a time when what is happening to me right now would have happened then, I would have broken down and wept. Wailed and perhaps allowed myself to be broken. I have not.

I have lost everything. Or nearly everything. I’m the land lubber who has been tossed into a fast flowing river and I have never swum a day in my life, I do not own a life jacket. I used as a child to have screaming nightmares of dying in water, drowning, watched one of my brothers nearly drown when we were crossing a river as a child, and I’m in the water fighting for my life now.

I knew 2008 would be a pivotal year. I did not appreciate my knowledge until right now. There are a few years I can never forget. Years of significance, years that changed me, years that took away or gave me, years that brought certain people into my life and saw the exit of others, years in which I loved and was not loved, years in which I was loved and did not love, years when I did not learn anything and years when I opened my mind.

1989. 1996. 1997. 2004. 2006. Now 2008. These have been my defining years. In each of those years, I changed. I was changed. I might have changed others too. The greatest change yet though must be this year’s. If you knew me before 2008, you will know that I’m not who you used to know. It was a frightening realization for a time but I’m getting used to it.

A friend in grief asked me if I thought those who are going to die young do know they are going to die young. I said yes. If a day ends and the hours do not seem many enough for all you wish to do, you’re going to die young. You’re also going to live more.

When you’re young, you’re wiser than you know and then you grow older and you meet people with no dreams and they want to take away your dream. Sometimes without even knowing that they are doing that. They shake you. They leave you doubtful and you forget the wisdom you had as a child and it will be very many years before you’re as wise again. If ever. Lost in the desert for more than 40 days and 40 nights. Weeping, searching, hungry in permanent night.

All the Princes of darkness will descend with their allure. The friends you lose now will cut to the quick. The lovers you meet will remain on your conscience. Your wrongs will not leave you alone. All the old solutions will not work anymore. A question of your early 20s will demand an answer; Fight or Run?

I have lost a lot of things in 2008. Precious carry-a-longs’ that I used to pack first. Promises I started living before I had ever made them. Dreams that came unbidden. Decades’ treasures in less than a day eternally lost, Sunday 13th July 2008. Heaven and hell are not that far apart. Residence in either is sometimes a choice you make without understanding what you’re doing until you’re inside.

If Entebbe is home then Jinja is Mecca and that three hour night riding boda boda man John the Baptist with the ragged jacket he gave me as a present. There are people who save you and afterwards ask no price. If you’re lucky in this life, you will meet them in places you least expect. Like a year ago in the waiting lounge of Entebbe International Airport about to board a plane to Juba, Southern Sudan, for the first time. We do not choose our saviors, our saviors choose us.

It took Jinja, three weeks, and residence in a house with only the clothes I had traveled in to realize that I had lost the things I needed to lose at 28 to become a man.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Mute Terror


Beyond all these trials, I envisage a reward, a return to grace and fortune. I hope I have the Biblic Job's luck or I'm done for. Tribulations besiege me but I refuse to bow.

The post below was supposed to be on the other blog. Well small and not so small stumblers keep getting in my way. I cannot presently post there because someone altered my settings to, I think, Chinese or something. Dante, 27th Comrade, Ivan, help? :-)

The post that was not supposed to be here....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


"You did what you did to me. Now its history, I see. Things will happen while they can."
Big in Japan.

Was I in love with her? I cannot say I was. I lusted after her. I wanted to have such sex with her that left us panting and sweating in this heat, completely so exhausted that neither of us would be able to reach down from our bed for the bottle of Aqua Sip water at the head of the bed. I wanted to hear her call my name. I wanted to fuck her so hard that she was so wet it was like I was swimming.

I was not in love with her. I never was. But I liked her. I have seen so many beautiful women to be able to look at her and know that to many a man’s eye, she would not in a conventional way have been beautiful. I have intimately been with women enough to know also too that she was the kind of woman I wanted to be in bed having sex with. Yes, that is what it comes down too.I wanted to have sex with her so much that every time I was in her presence, I was uncomfortably aware of a hard on in my black jeans. Her hand swallowed up in my palm made me think instantly of me inside her, under me, her fingers thrusting the edge of my spine into her deeper. I can tell the story of glances and we looked at each other, above the conversation of others, with a lust and longing that I’m certain unsettled her as much as it unsettled me.

My infatuations are brief. My infatuations are secret. I have fucked the girlfriends of my friends and my friends will never know because discretion is key to me. I did not care that she had told, in excitement, her sister, that I, who was reputed so chaste, had come to her door one night urging her to come with me for a night I was certain neither of us would ever forget. Never mind that when I made that proclamation my trousers were socked to my knees in mud, I had a bottle of Richot in my left hand and though I could hear my own slurring declarations, I meant it, the black Rav 4, full head lights on behind me, back from New York Discotheque, she had been on my mind the whole night and for days before. I was more honest that dawn than I could ever hope to be. This infatuation would not go away or let go of me. I could not forget her, drunk or sober. Sober, my obsession frightened me and puzzled me, 4am in the morning, battling not to smoke my Goldmans, wondering if the electricity was still on, playing with the blue light of my Audi lighter. No reason could reason her out of my needs.

When I knew her better, when we were fucking, I begun to comprehend. She did not change my life; she did not change my goals. To this day though I can still smell her Escada perfume, I do not see a woman in a sleeveless multicoloured blouse without thinking of her, but above all I remember how I was more myself with her than I have been with anyone. My ‘bad’ habits were not ‘bad’ to her; my freakiness was no freakiness to her, my insatiability normal appetite, River Nile craving for coughing moonlighting crocodiles shared, the worst of me became best with her. Kampala to Juba to Nairobi to Mogadishu to Addis Ababa, fear was gone, fear, death was but another experience in the endless downtown market carnival of brief life, saddled with two daughters though she was, one from a teenage rape she had rejected. Lust for life and her justified.

These are the things you leave behind when you leave me. A pillow with the smell of your hair I will never let the houseboy wash. A bottle of your globe shaped perfume bottle among my shaving lotion bottles. Your favourite cream cotton panty on my bathroom hanging line. A bottle of Gilbey’s I will never drink again because I drunk so many with you. An uneaten banana. Your handwriting in a brown hard backed notebook I had never let anyone touch from the day I bought it until you were there. An email address. Your digital photo in the memory of my laptop. I was more temporary than she was though she could not believe this then. This is a dead man writing. I have been dead for quite a while. I’m not coming home to die. I’m coming home to say goodbye. I have found the true fatalists.

Labels: 12 Stories for the Year

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wishing You Peace, Love, Serenity Before Your Huge Undertaking...

To a whole lotta bloggers who have sent me emails and if I might never meet you, we have become friends, and I know how momentous these coming months are going to be for you. So I wish you peace, love, courage, serenity before your huge undertaking...I wish you success.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Have Been Listening to Tupac Again

I have been listening to Tupac again. Over and over. Bought a Tupac DVD on the streets of Juba with the last Sudanese Pounds I had in my wallet that someone with a decade on me in age said is the most beautiful wallet he has ever seen, to watch and listen to Tupac.

I have been listening to Tupac again. Do you sense the unease beneath? I’m coming home in under two weeks, uncertain if I want to but for one person. Or perhaps two. I have been here coming to five months and I have hardly called my best friend in all that time. I have the phone, I have the time sometime but all I do is sit and look at it and not call.

I have been listening to Tupac again. Unable to decide if So Many Tears or Unconditional Love are the best cut tracks Tupac laid, yeah Trapped is so different, raw good hearted youth more innocent than Nas’s beardless beginnings. Looking for distractions. This love for girls with dimples will kill you and you’re being a fool, got everyone so convinced and you know there is no Rosetta stone at the end of all this.

Trapped, yeah I identify. Something changed that day when you decided to ride the night, your days are numbered but known for backing down, suddenly when the situation is hopeless you are refusing to step back determined to claim a costly triumph. Spit in the dirt, trapped in a corner, there is no way you’re going to lose and you must now learn to hurt all those who love you because they are in the way and those sirens that are calling you to shoal waters have the sweetest voices you have ever heard.

I keep going round and round, baby, not because I don’t know what I want or because it is the only thing I know how to do. I keep going round and round, Tupac in my head, because it is you I have to let go and it is going to hurt you more than you have ever been hurt and before you are through with it, you will never be who you are and I’m wondering how I came to this, that I should be the one scarring you. You will never know how many times I have been at Oasis Camp, in the dark, watching the Nile, knowing I have got to go and you’re not going to know I’m gone until I’m gone.

All life is defined by love and the pursuit of love. The lovers and those who are loved. You can choose which one you will be, go against your nature and remake yourself. In windowless rooms in a house that burnt down in Juba and I survived, lost a friend whose white teethed laugh I still hear and sometimes when I see a stripped shirt something balls up in my throat still. A stripped shirt and Gilbey’s all I have left now. I have been listening to Tupac again. I have been to nearly all the places we went with other people now but I have failed to forget and I know I can stand any loss now because I will never love again. I’m doing all the things we said we would do, in the night in my room the simcard of your burned phone in my hand, wishing I had listened and done them earlier.

People wait for me to enter a room, my mood their lives. Yeah, Caesar knew the Idles of March was coming but he still strode into that Senate corridor on feet that between the toes had known the mud of many lands, striking hands with daggers waiting that had never left the city, and he was not afraid. Yeah, I have been listening to Tupac again. Come and get me if you dare.