Monday, March 31, 2008

"For the car-dreaming evenings we watched the sun set."

Apt Figurative Speech

A little story to pass the minutes. From real life. Of a friend. He is Ugandan and works in Juba, I meet up often with him. I have never seen anyone as highly sexed as he is. I thought I used to know the most highly sexed man in Kampala; evidently my circle of acquaintance did not include the true Lotharios. This friend of mine confesses, “I cannot sleep alone. I need a woman every night.” So he’s got lots of stories.

Like this one time when he was still new in Juba, with a comfy job with a Sudanese NGO that entitled him to a Landcruiser, allowances that are people’s salaries in Kampala—infact was his salary in Kampala---accommodation in a hotel by the river Nile that would be like one of those lodges people come from Mabira raving about how the sun setting bends through their window to kiss them goodnight—that kind of hotel in Juba. He was having the time of his life! A car ride from where she sleeps to her place of work every morning through the shimmering Juba heat and lunch in an air conditioned hotel with change rooms that actually had working soap dispensers, the women available to him were so many that he was offered a job by one of the main condom distributors because he had become such a regular customer at one of the main clinics---true story this!

But there was a time when all this nearly ended, when he was given serious pause, dating a Kampala beauty who had come to Juba and within two months was more fluent in Arabic than some Sudanese who had been born speaking a smattering of what is called Juba Arabic. She was stunning, she was funny, and she was honest from the first when he met her outside a forex bureau and introduced himself. She was already taken but she was not entirely satisfied with the man, “You know Sudanese…”

He does not often remember how dates went or what he said because, “My tongue has a brain of its own separate from me,” but he remembers the one day when he decided he could not afford to be even just good friends with this lady who, “could have asked me not to wear a rubber and I swear I would have agreed. She was beautiful!”

“I had just picked her up from where she had asked me to pick her up. We had arranged an afternoon tryst at a lodge where the manager is a buddy of mine. No sooner had to I driven not more than two hundred meters when her phone rung. It was a man, her Sudanese boyfriend who I had never met but heard of. He was demanding, “Where are you?” I admired the way she said, ‘I’m very far. Going for a meeting.’ I could hear him replying harshly, “You have just been picked up in a white Landcruiser by a man. I’m looking at you right now.”

“We were in shock but not as much as when she said, ‘Oh my God, he is standing across the street!’ I followed the gaze of her eyes and yes, right there across the street, standing in front of a bank we were driving past stood this huge six foot something Sudanese guy dressed in military fatigues, scarified on his forehead like the Dinka do, wagging a long warning finger at us, two bodyguards behind him. An SPLA big shot! Let me tell you the truth, my balls shrunk and disappeared.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bed

(because April 02 is next week)

What stories will this bed tell when we are no more creatures of this earth,
Dim memories in dim photos,
And this bed is standing still?

Will this bed tell the story of the day it was born
In a humble carpenter’s workshop, finished one afternoon, standing in the furniture front row
Polished, gleaming, smiling, happy, this is exactly what you wanted?
On a Saturday afternoon, the breeze from the lake coming in, your hand on your hip, young, life beginning?

What stories will this bed tell when we are gone? No more,
From this earth our voices faded
Faint, fainter than chirping of crickets in the savannah?

Will this bed tell of the first night you brought it home
The guest of honor for a night and many nights
As the whole world, your house, was arranged around it
Long into the night, ordering and re-arranging the suitcases, the shoes, the clothes racks, your heart
Loving it with the ardor of a first time lover?

What stories will this bed tell when we are no longer here
It stands forgotten in some storeroom, dusty and spidercobwebbed unremembered
Outside hearing the crackle of a fire that will be its end? What stories will this bed tell?

Will it tell of the first night you brought your first ‘real’ lover here that first night
In the evening from an outing, laughing, touching, happy, the taste of your kisses sweeter than all the wine you had drunk
Proud he was coming into your house, to sleep on your bed to make love the whole night.

What stories will this bed tell when our story is done?
When all the lies and the truth make no difference to anyone anymore
Alone, a relic of this past, talking to itself with no one listening?
What stories will this bed tell?

Will it tell of the many nights you lay on it but did not sleep in it
Thinking of someone else while he lay next to you snoring
You asleep while he was awake leaning over you
Whispering love chants into your ears to call out who you truly loved?

What stories will this bed tell now and at the hour of its death
Most blessed of beds at the end of its life
With no one to talk to, wanted no more
After a lifetime of love? What stories will this bed tell?

Will this bed tell of the night you sat at the foot of it, anxious, scared, unable to eat, unable to sleep
Pressed ‘SEND’ and your stomach fell away
Because you did not know if you had done the right thing sending that SMS?

Will this bed tell of the two strangers who lay in it for the first time
Unsure of each other, themselves,
Held hands across the expanse of this bed,
Walked into life together?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

hELP! Someone is TRYING to eat the PHOTOGRAPHER!

"Am Out For Dead Presidents To Represent Me!"

This Post is for PetesMama, who was the first and original Muse. I’m thankful still and that you’re blogging again fills me with happiness I can barely describe.

I’m incapable of being unfaithful. Fact. I have tried and failed. This is the one post I should not be writing but am dilly dallying before I discover if my latest met deadline is approved and am so nervous I will talk about anything but that deadline so I will tell you. I’m incapable of being unfaithful. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I have a friend, close since I was 16, who thinks it is a major failing. He says the p**** missed because of my failing is inestimable. There was a time when I was even top of a list girls in my school had made of the guy to seduce to prove that they were the queen seductress in our school. I saw the list that explained so much.

I remember walking home that Saturday afternoon on Balintuuma road, elation and confused disturbance mingling. Before I got the job that I currently hold, I met the Zikusooka that Philly Lutaaya sings about in Nkoye Okwegomba, did I ever tell you? A Saturday afternoon before I went to Botanical Gardens alone with a bottle of Uganda Waragi alone and did not leave until proper dark night had fallen. Never disguising that the girl I was going back home to was the only girl I could ever go back home too. Is it somewhat not right that I have never been unfaithful?

After Nkoye Okwegomba, I was listening to Sarah Zawedde’s Kambeere Nawe, a woman who was a familiar acquaintance when I used to work in National Theatre and she was their publicity secretary or some sort of title where a journalist basically has to buy you lunch every time he wants to talk to you. That is if a major beer or telecommunications company is not already camping at your door. I remember her vividly like I remember those walking back home evenings, waiting out Monday evening until the National Theatre end of the month music extravaganzas jam on the green had started; before everyone had heard of Theatre Factory. I remember all those days when Philip Luswata was more in Uganda than out of, when I was the only one who knew Makutano Junction would be on Ugandan television soon and I actually used to sit and watch TV for hours. Not needing a newspaper guide to recite what was on today.

Evenings I have never told to anyone about how I tracked down Red Banton to ask him how he had written Noonya Money and found in the underground of a building after where Cineplex Wilson Street used to be, a man who remembered his glories and was content again with the comforts of weed because no one would help him relaunch a career with innovations that had saved Ragga Dee. And he spoke with no bitterness though he was walking back to some village he now lived in. No newspaper eager for a story of a musician whose influence I hear to this day when I download Lugaflow songs and rhyming posers.

I could tell you about the Rubaga morning with Afrigo’s Moses Matovu, saxophone tooting amidst the boda boda horn honking, and Wandegeya meetings when Ugandan musicians still believed they could control their business, before the PAM Award machines and Mbiire came and took over with and Kampala Music School looks everywhere but home. I have been there.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Okay, okay, last one for the day: One from the archives of my mental blog

Did I Just Upgrade or Downgrade? My new Juba Crib

Can't Stop Posting

Life’s preciousness grows ever more and I tumble through new experiences like I walk through open doorways in the mansions of your heart.

Undo posted again. Did you see that? I have not smacked my lips with such greedy anticipation last since when I had Tracey Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and a free Saturday afternoon to savour every detail.

I have been wondering a lot about economic exiles and those who go away and never return. On their walls paste new flags of adopted homelands and on weekend jogs dress right first with the sweat shirt of a university they would have attended if they had been born there. What takes them away and in night weaving to the fridge for a drink of water, do they still miss home, try not to look back because home was like that woman you loved but she did not love you back enough to get you a job with pay worth you.

Did I tell you about my obsessive purchase of fancy writing pens, free ink rollers, and notebooks I can tuck in my shirt pocket? I cross roads and delay to rendezvous became I came across a stall with a variety of a design of a pen I had not seen before and I’m gone for the day with a goofy smile and writing silly things in notebooks every fleeting thought because I love the way this new pen glides, I’m in love with it!

I don’t buy flowers for girls. Or boys. I have this absurd notion that if you love flowers, you should have a garden of flowers; have flowerpots on your veranda, with ever living flowers. I sniff flowers. I take photographs of flowers. I don’t kill flowers.

God, I desperately want to read D.H. Lawrence’s travel writing again!

I saw a lizard hunting today morning. On a ledge of a hotel where I climb the stairs to have my two morning cups of a coffee. In brilliant sunlight, like a miniature alligator, this lizard whirling around on a moth or a butterfly. I have never seen as many lizards as I have seen in Sudan! They’re like gaily dressed dancers in their many colours.

I love photographs, ink drawings a bit. Photographs are not just visual memories; a good photograph will win you my friendship. I see in photographs not just what is there but what could be, links, connections, allusions. There’s a photograph of Degstar that has linked him in my mind forever with D.H. Lawrence, Lulu is Katherine Mansfield, Countryboy became a Select Garments men’s suit model, Cheri is a Tsar Russia socialite with her carriage waiting outside, Nevender reminds me of Kafka’s the hunger artist, Magoo is a closet vinyl-record collector, Undo makes me think of Kabalega: and there’s a photograph on my laptop screen saver that reminds me how I fell in love with her.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Positively 4th Street

Success breeds envy. You did not know that, son? No, especially when I was not seeking the success, the accolades or the frowning brows that lower when I enter the room. I have never known stealers of joy like these.

I look into the furnace heat of your frustrations and resentment and wonder how you could use so much energy so negatively. Don’t you know success begins in your mind? I have denied you no opportunities, never schemed against you, yet I see now that all you ever wished for was to see my downfall. I’m puzzled, wondering why. But not too long. Not for long.

Time is so brief and the sands in our hour glasses trickle out so much faster I cannot pause for long to rummage through failed scrap heaps of ambitions that were dreamt of but you never got out of bed to make happen. I’m of the dazzling morning sun, I’m of the breathless sweet lingering sunsets, I’m of the quick limbed, I’m for the laughter and the wit, I’m the changeling!

Thank you, Bob Dylan!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Met in Juba

The Soul Trooperz

When we were all friends and so very young

Her loveliness sometimes was in the way she did the little things

With laid back cool.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Every Moment I Spend With You Now I Treasure

Marvin Gaye, Distant Lover, good vibrations!

I have become the man who does not say goodbye. I have become the man who flicks on the television to drown out arguments that I want to ignore. I have become the man, again, who has to drink to sleep. I have become the man who insists on praying before a meal in a religion I do not believe in. I have become the man with no faith who people come to ask questions of faith when they are in doubt. I have become the man who does not care and people think I care. I have become the man I used to be afraid of and I’m not afraid of myself.

She asked me, what happened before you left? Flippant answers come quicker to my lips than they ever did phrased so you do not ask again. She did not ask again. I had not wanted to answer. With no devastating account of personal suffering to justify my torpor. No beach bench sitting solitary confession of loss to account for my jaded responses. I have become a man I do not know without knowing how I have become that man. A few days’ malady becoming permanent, I have become someone else. Maybe once I was like you. I’m certain I’m no longer.

Beyond dread and fear lies not courage but indifference. Beyond love and hate lies not triumphal bed-stand notches and statistics but a weary forearmed foresight with the unchanging storyline of two lovers and one who thought they were star crossed, romantic story heroes and heroines with purple eloquence, nothing denied. This not saying goodbye to life like she thought. Nor a surrender, like a mother called by her son’s Principal for the umpteenth time who sits silent in his office for the first time not interrupting his rant because she finally accepts her son is as bad as he is accusing him of being. I remember the time before I was the man I have become who I was.

I remember the love stories I had to tell you, when I still believed in all that, of a man and a woman who had to leave Uganda to find themselves in Juba and fall in love. Calling me and my friends to witness this unexpected Indian Summer in car rides past midnight in brooding Juba from the last bar open. A story you would believe because it was the only time I ever allowed to ride in the back of a pick-up watching the lovers through the window behind their seats with the driver and we had braked to a halt, in wonder, when a breeze stirred a tree so hard yellow leaves floated in the air in the moonlight, holding our breaths before this sight. I remember, before I changed, I wanted to tell you the story of the girl who was said to be a man-eater, ruthless, heartless, after money who turned out to be the only person willing to lend me money when no one would. I remember all the stories I wanted to tell you, before I changed. Before she said I had lost my faith. Before. I have not lost everything. I know. I believe.

I still have a few faiths even now. I’m holding onto the thought of her, through the puzzles of watching unfaithfulness come so easy to many here it is almost admirable in rooms next to mine in the hotel we all share. There’s this blog that I have tried so many times to delete and the nerve failed me because all am writing here is not just a hobby for me, something to pass the time. There are conversations with Lulu, guiltless child of a continual Bacchanalian festival to make me titter and think okay, that is something I’m going to do! Through the love and the hate of this job, in the desperate mornings ears hurting from the crackle of bad international telephone connections, grateful that I finally got a job that has taken me to a country I had never thought I would one day make me come as close to renouncing Kampala for as I have ever come; not even the friends I lost here dim the splendour here. These are my faiths that have survived. Oh now voyager, I did not know this trip would be like this!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

“Complicated Love Story”

This is no return.

I had the time, I had the fancy, against all the rules Dante tagged me,
Lulu-Phoenix made me laugh so hard when she said, “He cannot say Baby right and he insists on saying Baby. I can’t date a guy who can’t say Baby right.” I used to be told you will only ever love a woman if you learn to love her with all her irrationality and her irrationality becomes rational in your mind too. I must be in love! Bryan Adams put your guitar away, your sandpaper wall voice, don’t tell anyone ‘Summer of ’69’ was a favourite song sometime, I do not cringe at the memory, and I’m temporarily insane. Let’s go!

Don’t you love her madly?
Wanna be her daddy?
Don’t you love her face?
Don’t you love her when she’s walking out the door?
Like she’s done a thousand times before”

Six (not so strange-to me) Facts about Iwaya

1. I have conversations in my head with people that I take all the time to have happened, as Jack Bauer might say, in real time. That you should see the huh looks I often get when I begin recollecting these imaginary conversations to said persons that naturally they have no recollection of. To die for! Did you know that English dictionary writer Samuel Johnson used to be a parliamentary reporter in his hack work days and when he was writing a newspaper make up speeches for the English MPs that were so brilliant, the MPs were too embarrassed to protest and liked to pass on that they had indeed spoken as brilliantly on burning issues of the day as Johnson made out they had?

2. I read far more than I would like to be reading. I consume books at a pace that alarms me. I want to be one of those readers, boast that I have been behemoth lumbering through a novel, a biography from one end to the other end, for a month now, pausing here and there like ruminating cow to ponder an askew point of view not like a short sprint runner the way I go through books. I want to read slower, think more, intuit no less but it does not seem to be happening any time soon. Did you know that Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyich (my favourite short story of all time!), died running away from home in a railway station master’s house, believing that he had wasted his life, dying at 82?

3. It’s not been a year since Juba, in Southern Sudan, became the city where I live and work more than any other. But every time I come back to a Kampala I had lived in more than 20 years, I find it really hard to think of a restaurant, a bar, anyway to go out with friends and hang out. It’s like am a stranger in Kampala! The map of Kampala I used to know better than the contours of my nose wiped clean out of my mind. I find it unnerving. Did you know that contrary to popular branding as a sickly, tormented artist oppressed by all his visions, Franz Kafka was a ladies man and there was hardly a time in his life when he did not have a lover with whom he enjoyed the delights of the city and beach life when that was becoming a popular pastime?

4. I have been asked by all my friends if I’m quite certain that I’m ready for the big score, the take over of my life, because they know me so well. No one was wilder than I was, at one time; no one was more opposed to being told you can’t do this, at one time; no one hated sitting at home when not writing like I did, at one time; so they ask me, are you sure, are you certain, how can you be? Yes. She makes me want to live. Did you know that Virginia Woolf committed suicide by drowning herself in the River Ouse, walking into the river with heavy stones in her pocket to weigh her down, and she wrote in her last note to her husband, “If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been”?

5. I have not listened to Tupac Shakur or The Notorious B.I.G in quite sometime now. Sure, from time to time someone will say a phrase that sparks in my mind a memory of a line from these two geniuses and I will try to begin listening to that song but my mind strays. I’m thinking that I’m finally ready to listen to all the jazz collections I have collected over the years that are scattered in my four homes and a hostel room in Kyambogo University. Something different. I never thought a time would come when I could contemplate living without Biggie and Tupac. Or maybe I knew and did not want to think of it. Did you know that Richard Wright was also quite a good jazz musician, was on a music scholarship before he started writing and wrote The Invisible Man, that jazz remained a lifelong love?

6. Is any of this interesting to at all? I’m just wondering. Coz I’m bored as fuck. Yeah, I swear sometimes. Why does that surprise people? To live is to care is to love is to be angry. I’m all this about many things from David Kaiza’s article about the overrated Chinua Achebe to the shamefully under celebrated Austin Bukenya who wrote the best Ugandan novel, for now anyway. I care. About politics, about false preachers, about how Kony has denied me ever getting to know a part of my country, about how we let Museveni destroy so much in this society and how none of us is innocent because we let him (yes, you and I) and how I constantly pray that maybe he is building something else in its place whose value will become clearer to us. That all the stunted lives will one day be redeemed. I care. My favourite book title is All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers, Catcher in the Rye used to be, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is one I have failed to forget, The Outsider made me a Camus fan, The Duke in His Domain by Truman Capote remains my favourite essay and I get to tag! Shiver my timbers, I left out Kidnapped by R.L. Stevenson!

It feels almost not right to tag Cavalier (he has been mine for so long!), I have no idea if Undo (will wake from his sun dreaming slumber), Jay (I want to know everything like I used to), Keitetsi (I know you’re hiding out there somewhere and I miss you), Minega ( who writes about films and certain musicians the way I think about them in my head), Ninjaz Mind (Big Mama with the big Bessie laugh and lust!).

The Moon and Sixpence, that’s all we want!