Wednesday, May 30, 2007
“I’ll kill you and your dreams tonight…”
Momentary madness. Seasons of darkness. But escape… escape paths elude me. Is it the time to die. Today. Tonight. I do not wanna die.
In some places we live, but in most we die. We die in mind, in spirit- but in the physical realm, we live.
Zombies: Wanderers in spaces beyond our perceptively challenged selves.
How do we know dreams. How do we experience them when the subconscious cannot exist unless as a sequel to consciousness. The consciousness that we lack. The subconscious is the staging point of Living and the conscious its aftermath. Those who sleep dream, those who wake live but we slip and slide-- from one pseudo-world to the next.
My mind has taken off to Perdition.
Here is libation...
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
(Holed away from both the marauding militia and the Presidential Guard and his arm too heavily bandaged but his head still where he left it in a drunken stupor last night- in the gutter but still connected to his torso, Thai... ahem, Hallelujah- this blogger has inchoate reminisces on a life a long way gone.)
When some were chasing dreams, we were chasing dragons. They had just bust Akasha and with 960 million bob worth of hash to get through, that shit became cheaper than Saf Cane. But who cared to buy Saf Cane anyway while you could just shop lift it from Sarit Hyper.
The food court was always crowded, but only one kid would be buying. And then there were the girls. Madame wasafi; madame wa kibabi. Girls who were game for where the weed was at, where the booze was at and most importantly, where the dick was at. And they didn’t mind paying for it all.
When M-‘s folks went off to England, The States or wherever else they holidayed, he had the cribs to himself. So the deal was, if you were down for some action all you had to bring were the condoms and have yourself a zung chick, a pointie chick and a miro chick, one after the other or all at once. It was your dick, damn it, you made the choice of where and when to shove it. If the condom broke, well, you moved on to the next shag as the receptacle of your seed was left with the small bother of finding time after school to go for Plan B (A soc over the counter at a chemist near you- proof of age not required.)
Sometimes, if you were so inclined, you could have a Tupac loving chuta chick let you put it in her arse. (Such is the agony of a dick lover who is expected to bleed on her wedding night!)
Life was one big orgasm, or at least it seemed to be in our hallucinations. And we called it
I remember the nights, clearly as though they were days. I remember sitting at the stalls at the corner of Rhapta and Chiromo at dusk. That side of the highway was under one PD and the other side was served by another, but who cared about cops in Westlands when your boy’s surname was a get out jail free card? Those were the Moi days remember.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to some of those kids. The rich ones I mean. Of course they all went to
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Take him to prison, officer; correction and instruction must both work, ere this rude beast will profit. -William Shakespeare; Measure for Measure
Now Johnny has gone out and done it. Yes, Johnny, that homeboy of mine that got himself a gun. Used to be my homeboy, actually, but he moved out. He lives in Kile now. In an SQ he lives, or so I gather, but Kile is Kile. And he drives too. A stolen car, it is but to drive he does and that is about it.
I reckon kids down here have been watching too many movies, picking the wrong images from television; choosing the wrong idols. A while back, Johnny told me that, like rapper 50 Cent, he had to get rich or die trying. That he has got rich I cannot tell but I can see him dying soon, for the trying. You see, he has made it to the top of the Police’s ‘Most Wanted List’ and since when did the police get them alive- see what I mean?
I am sitting at the Stone Zone sipping on Napshizzle and starring at the front page of today’s newspaper, having borrowed it like I used to, from Mutua’s kiok. Yes, that is Johnny there, his glazed eyes peering from beneath a branded baseball cap. It is a good enough mug shot of him. It is as though he was hanging with his Flying Squad buddies after a heist- you know the one where all the thugs are gunned down apart from the one with the loot- and they pulled out a camera and he said: Cheese!
Now these fellows want him. Real bad is how they want him. Knowing Johnny- he has watched his fair share of gangster movies, you know- he must be looking at these pictures, musing: “…dead or alive, it is nice to be wanted!” (Who does he think he is, anyway, Billy the Kid?) But that is the trouble with kids from down here. They have lived in utter squalor and as victims of a system that treats them like they do not exist, for so long, that they begin to covet social and economic acceptance by all means necessary.
Do not be quick to accuse me of justifying their criminal tendencies. In fact, emphatically, I am an advocate for ‘societally approved means’ of navigating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But I am ever a pragmatic believing that what I dictate for myself will easily be shunned by certain elements down here.
In fact, a professor I met in a
My professor friend attested that socially induced stress influences criminal behaviour. He gave me a mouldy paper from The Social Service Review of September 1968 by John M. Martin, et al where such ‘tension state’ theories were referenced to as accounting for delinquent behaviour. They wrote: “In essence, this general theory holds that delinquency is a response to the frustration created when a society, committed to middle class ideals, denies to millions of youngsters the possibility of lawfully attaining these ideals because of inadequacy of schools, housing and employment opportunities.”
All that gobbledygook I will have to leave to you to interpret seeing that I am no social scientist my ambitions towards that end having been hampered by the self same inadequacies highlighted above.
There is one thing that I know, though, and it bothers me no end, that down in this dump, Johhny is a hero. A mere six months ago he sat right here not knowing pretty much where his next meal was coming from. In a little while, he started drafting what came to be jokingly referred to as Johnny’s Christmas shoplifting list. Needless to say, that list was ‘alcohol heavy’ indicating how escapism and means to achieving it are basic needs in this neighbourhood.
At that time we could not have imagined that that wee seed of pilferage would blossom, in little time into grand larceny (to use an Americanism that would appeal to Johnny.) But now in a ‘capital starved’ economy, Johnny has discovered a high yield enterprise that requires minimal venture capital. The son of a Council worker and a fish hawker now shops in a mall a long way from that dirty, little ‘credit book’ at Mama Njeri’s grocery stall.
And therein lays the trouble. “That Johnny from the ‘hood has made it, then we too can,” or so Komo, Viki and Zale from down the road think. The import of this: more guns on the streets than there are people to rob. Sooner than later we will have hordes of drugged out adolescents shooting folks for their last pau and shooting them, all the same, for having nothing. In a short while, this will be the next Kariobangi. What is worse; one gun is dangerous but two guns is two spheres of influence.
“I got a gun so get out of the way,” says the tall kid.
“oops easy dude, I got mine too, so you get out of the way!” exclaims the short one.
Pop! Pop! Move over L.A,
As usual though, I worry most about the here and now. That fat woman from Sector III must be busy telling the chief that Johnny was a Stone Zoner. The same woman who said that our friend Timi’s shooting was a case of chicken coming home to roost. That when, even, the good lord knows Timi wouldn’t hurt anybody and Timi got shot by a rogue cop.
The militia must be gathering now- frenzied like the murderous Orcs of Mordor- their machetes gleaming. That they are a belligerent lot of self seekers I know but pray tell, where in our crappy constitution do they draw the right to bear arms?
I know that by the end of this day lots of Stone Zoners will be ‘helping’ police with investigations. Now that is as scary a proposition as they come. Really. Personally,I am tired of this business of being picked up on the premise that since I have no job, then I must be a criminal. The police batter me till the obvious reveals itself- I know nothing of criminal ways (“Huh, Potash?” Shut your mouth, you bastards!)- so they put me back on the street, still with no job, until the next major crime. It is no wonder then that some of us break upon the realization that the system doesn’t see us as ‘individuals in trouble’ but as ‘troublesome individuals’.
When the cops come, I will tell them what I know. Which is not much. Johnny if you read this, know that I will not snitch on you but only because I do not know anything about what you have been up to- merely rumours. But frankly, I hope they catch you.For real. You are my friend and all but someone must send a tacit message to your younger brothers and other little homies that crime doesn’t pay.
My earnest desire is that they take you alive. They should arraign you and give you a fair trial because we all have a right to ou rday in court. That is the only way justice can be done and seen to be done. If they find you guilty, may the penal system straighten you out. (I saw it on TV the other day that jails are no longer as nasty as they used to be. Besides you could make it as the next Mr. Kamiti. Even meet Lord Delamere.)
If they send you to the gallows, do not fret, the hangman might easily hang himself in trying to hang you; he is so out of practice. So you can be rest assured they will not even try to. Anyway, if they take you to the Big House, know that we love you even though we feel that the streets are a lot safer without you.
Hey here come the police... I am out.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
(His conscience pricked, this blogger visits with his old Kiambu cronies and ‘in the cutting of a drink,’ as always, rediscovers that many years since the end of the State of Emergency, to be a young Kikuyu man is still a crime.)
Even the smallest successes are to be celebrated but never at the expense of the things that matter. The Kenyan Urban Narrative was about a people, a dispossessed urban majority.
It was about letting the stories that remained untold, because the mainstream media couldn’t package them into a commercially viable product, be told. Stories about real people; the putting of faces behind the incomprehensible Donor Driven statistics: x % living below the poverty line, y Million youths lack ID cards, z % remain unemployed and live in informal settlements.
The journalistic exigencies of the 5 Ws and the H of journalism and the literary demands of form and structure were of no consequence in these narratives. After all, the story was of more value than the writing; was bigger than the story teller. Always was until people began to listen and suddenly the writing became larger than the real life stories Sooner than later the pursuit of issues was replaced by the carnal experiences of the one protagonist who rose beyond the statistics: Me.
So here I am, my conscience pricked and the school of hard knocks still in dire need of an ambassador. The streets, they say, have been a little safer since Matheri’s death but then the question remains: safe for who? The social economic variables that drive a certain demographic group into crime, especially that of a violent nature, remain in play. The guns might have gone silent in your neighbourhood but elsewhere, in the squalid domains of the Proles, they are still a blazing; machetes are still a flashing.
It is with all these in mind that Monday morning found me with loads of change and a desperate need to assuage my delirium tremens with more alcohol. (Dawa ya moto ni moto!) But this time round, I didn’t walk into Uchumi and buy myself a 750 of rum, as I have taken to doing these days, no; I made my way to the crime capital of
It is 8.30 am on a Monday morning. Those who are gainfully employed are out there trying to afford their Labour Day beer; those without jobs are in here drinking in lieu.
I am sitting at the head of the table at Mbuthia’s Hardware and General Store. Well, Mbuthia’s Hardware and General Store is what the sign up front says, but once you walk into the shop; past what passes for hardware in Mbuthia’s crooked mind and ‘crude weapons’ in a court of law, you go through a side door into a dimly lit chamber. That is where I am seated; holding court before a bunch of characters whose names I know but who police generally refer to as: Suspect, Idler e.t.c.
And the conversation here is intellectually stimulating:
“iii Potash, shias… shias!”
“Cheers House! Wee… Shiku, letea yeye Kane Extra ingine.”
“Ee, dio dio… na ulete pia hiyo kitu yako na ulipishe huyu… hehehe… ni kapoa eh? Anyway, shief, can we appry the Socratic Method to the adage In Vino Veritas?”
“Uhm, well actually I have already used Cartesian logic to conclude that I drink therefore I am.”
“Hehehe… you are another one Potash, I tell you. But I like that wani. In fact I wiro rove it if you say: We drink therefore we are. Yes, WE. In
I know where this conversation is headed: way too left for me. So I excuse myself and follow the tracks of a pungent odour to the urinal.
When I return, I find that the conversation has meandered, as all bar talk is wont to, and they are now discussing the similarities between the military tactics of Field Marshal Kimathi Waciuri with those of Ernesto Guevara.
This definitely intrigues me. In the last meeting of the Potashian Book Club, we discussed an extremely rare text, a manual on guerrilla warfare that is generally attributed to Kimathi Waciuri. It is said that Waciuri dictated it in Kikuyu to an aide. The original manuscript, no one has seen, and its translator into English remains unknown.
Other theories exist on the authorship of the manual. The most credible one is that Timi (R.I.P) wrote it circa 1995. That theory makes sense particularly because he was in boarding school in Laikipia at that time… Go figure! The reason I suppose the manual ended up being attributed to Kimathi was maybe to challenge the reader to take Kimathi’s ideology, for those that knew it, to heart.
Some theorists say that Potash wrote the manual in English and no Kikuyu version of it exists. But that theory is discounted by street intellectuals on the basis that the word Guerrilla is misplaced on the cover. (Hmmm… maybe that was a devise but who cares?)
“But El Che cannot possibly have encountered Kimathi,” I jump into the conversation. “Besides in matters ideological the Mau Mau was not a communist movement, and neither was it nationa…”
My oration is interrupted by a brief commotion that sees the door burst open and six heavily armed men in jungle fatigues and red berets pour into the bar area.
“Mau Mau..eh eh eh… Hii ndio Mungiki kabisa,” the beefy unit commander yells. “Na hii ndio kiongosi!” He adds pointing his ex-shifta battalion Heckler & Koch MP5 at me.
“Kila mtu lala chini…” he continues yelling. “Kiprono ita Sergent!”
There are about five tables in the bar and they all empty as everyone dives onto the alcohol and mud streaked floor. All the tables empty apart from ours. Our table is ten deep. And we remain seated sipping on our drinks with decided nonchalance.
The constable who answered to the name Kiprono returns and busies himself with trying to salute cock his AK 47 and at the same time salute the lanky Somali with Sergeant stripes he has just brought back.
“Hi ni ile Israeli trained commando, eh!” Mbuthia observes.
“Ahhh…” I chuckle, “ile ya
The loud guffawing that follows drowns the cacophony of menacingly cocked assault weapons.
Sergent Somali orders everyone who is lying on the floor to squat and hop out in a single line under the armed guard of two constables and the beefy corporal. I cannot help musing if there is such a thing as Indian frog file… and make a mental note to use that phrase in my next blog post.
Sergent Somali approaches our table.
“Nyinyi naona dume, eh?” He laughs while adjusting the frayed string that passes for a shoulder strap for an equally battered Uzi Sub.
“Wewe ati ndio Kiongosi…” Sergeant Somali addresses me. “Ebu leta kitambulisho…!”
I stare at him outraged. In the background, the radio is playing Cross That Line and Akon is moaning monotonously:
...Comin' from a life of crime
Tryna be on my best behaviour
You see my rep's gettin' bigger but still that same nigga bustin' shots at them haters
But only if you cross that line...
“Anauliza kitambulisho Kwani anataka kunadika sisi kazi?” My boy Mbuthia wonders out loud.
“Hapana, anauliza kwa nini hujavaa kipande kwa shingo; Kwani yeye ni Native Police?” Mburu (BComm, UON), an off duty makanga chips in sarcastically.
Over the ridges yonder in Banana Hill, the soundtrack must be from Ice-T in Cop Killer:
F**k the police, for your freedom.
Skip sequence of events that involve me being told to stand aside and the conversation I have with Sergeant Somali as he chews miraa and dandias my gaffs while his boys order my boys to strip. Note that I tell him I am a social researcher gone underground to find out how a quasi-religious entity turned into a social-economic monster and its ramifications on
We, Sergeant Somali and I, are standing outside Mbuthis’s Hardware and General Store. I take a huge gulp from my half bottle of Kibao Vodka and extend the rest to Sergeant Somali. He spits out a huge Big G-less tuksin and swigs the vodka. He throws the empty bottle at the township’s Madman in Residence and misses.
The main street is empty. Two green General Service Unit trucks stand, one on each end of the street. Heavily armed officers watch over long lines of young men being loaded into the trucks. On the sidelines a huge group of women screaming: where are you taking our sons?
This is 2007 but it could be this same place at this same time in 1953. The only difference is that, in 1952, that young officer charging violently at his own people was a minion, in the starched shorts of the Native Police, taking orders from a crazy Johnnie. But he is grown up now… he is a big man in a suit and a plush
He won his independence and his people won dependence on him.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
“O, that a man might know the end of this day’s business, ere it come! But it sufficeth that the day will end and then the end is known.” (Julius Caesar; Shakespeare)
Timi was a nice kid. As nice as they come. A beautiful boy and a humble spirit, he was. And under a hail of police bullets that life was taken away from us. Humanity, in one sadistic pull on the trigger of a Government Issue assault riffle, lost one who the goodness of time would have revealed as a prince of men.
Now we sit on The Stone Zone, sipping on Napshizzle and Coke from used ketchup cans. A dark silence hovers ponderously over us as everyone beseeches their God (whatever they make her/ him/ it to be) to preserve Timi’s soul in eternal bliss.
In times like these, our hearts also reach out to the souls of all those other kids that we have lost along the way. Some were victims and some were villains but when they fell, our hearts cried out. Every bullet hole on their youthful frames was like a gushing wound in our hearts. Every knife wound like a shredder through our own guts.
With their compromised immunity, mottled lunges and flambéed livers, they left us.
Maybe they went off to a better plane…
And now… Timi… Timi is gone from this plane.
Personally, I do not care much for heaven, but if it does exist, then I wouldn’t see what it is worth if Timi cannot reach it. That there is a better place is of no consequence to me. All that matters is that when my life’s work is done, the least common denominator of my moral worth- or whatever parameters they use to send some to hell and others to heaven- takes me to Timi’s eternal domicile.
I know that in eulogizing our dear and not so dear departed we are given to using rosy superlatives. In fact, where there exist no real virtues in some of our dead that we can exaggerate at their funeral we employ our creativity to attribute to them some modicum of nobility. All this even though their journey through life was a vexation to humankind and society has taken a collective sigh of relief at their passing on. It must be a habit moulded out of our deep seated fear of death and, consequently, an assumed reverence for the dead. That could explain why we sit here and have nice thoughts about Timi but indeed it doesn’t.
Dead or living, Timi was a gentle person. That is about all.
We had great moments, Timi and I. He was the only soul on The Stone Zone who genuinely shared my passion for books. The only kid I knew that had read Plato’s The Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince, and an odd thing that was when we had peers who believed that Machiavelli was a prophecy by Tupac Shakur.
When Timi and I first met, we had our different tastes in books. I swore by the English classics: Dickens, Edgar Poe,
But there was one thing, Shakespeare, in that I found a kindred spirit. His favourite play was Julius Caesar and in an uncanny way, I find Anthony’s eulogy to Brutus so apt as though it was written for Timi: “His life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man!””
But not all my thoughts right now are about Timi. I worry about those of us that are left. What are our chances of seeing the new dawn? Are we doomed to sit here forever and have society ridicule us and the neighbourhood brand us criminals? Is there in some government arsenal bullets with our names on them eagerly awaiting some trigger happy cop or other to bear them?
As I look upon these kids’ faces, I am convinced that they are all thinking, nay, worrying about their tomorrows. When the chips are down, you must allow us one moment, each for himself, when we must see Timi as just another kid with a bullet through his head and the only thing that matters is just not to be the next. Not even a jobless youth sipping on Napshizzle in the ‘hood.
So what will tomorrow bring? Well, nothing really but if any of these kids wake up, then you will surely find them here. Find them here still waiting for the government to create 500,000 new jobs.
Talking of jobs, you might think that they do not look. In all honesty they do. Earnestly. Sometimes I feel as though they look too hard while the successful ones just look ‘smart’. That thinking sort of makes sense because an acquaintance once told me that the jobs are out there; the trouble is in finding someone to give them to you. That would explain how some guy from the other side, who retired in my primary school days, suddenly has a new job and a government limousine.
The good book says that ‘the race is not to the swift, nor battle to the wise, but time and chance come to all.’ (Eccl. 9:11) That may be true but not in my book. Well at least not in my short lived experience. If it were true; then convince me what time and chance came to Timi.
What is it worth to get to the starting point and then sprain your ankle? All those hours spent practising for the race, for Timi had a Diploma, painfully squandered and wasted. All that is what makes me view The Stone Zone as a metaphor for the real world that we all live in where as someone else would say,’ the cost of living has persistently gone up and the chance of living has come down.”
Everyday parents spending down to their last goat just to see their children through school and every other day young adults are dying. What is to console that aging parent whose entire material wealth was invested in his/ her child’s future and that child now merely a clod of mud?
The Christian God they tell me puts as all here for a purpose; but whose purpose does it serve when a twenty year old graduate is mortally wounded by thugs? Personally, I do not care much to die so that my family and friends may learn how to deal with tragedy. If I die today, let it not be said that I lived my life to the fullest because I have plans for the next fifty years and they do not include death.
A sunny day it is today. A beautiful day. I pour some liquor on a spot next to where I am sitting. Right where Timi was sitting exactly twenty four hours ago; the spot where he sat and regaled us with merry tales.
If I was to wind back the hands of time, to exactly this moment yesterday, he would have been sitting on this very stone his eyes forever dancing, his beautiful hands in a frantic dance for emphasis. His mouth… his lips- those lips that always made me blush in flitting thoughts of my closeted sexuality- would be smiling as he told us what he would do if he won a Mercedes Benz worth six million.
My last image of him is and will always be one moment yesterday. He looked at me and said: “That Benzo,I’d flog it. I shika lavash,kwanza I throw you a crate- frotho.. bila ati rock-o, naps, nini nini…!” I remember thinking: how nice it was that he of all people would think of me first.
To have known that he always liked me and let me know it counts as a legacy. And I am happy he died knowing I liked him. Maybe it would have offended him to know I liked him in other ways but I feel his spirit hovering over my shoulder and I know he is reading this.
Rest in peace little brother. And in the words of Brutus: “…whether we shall meet again I know not. Therefore our everlasting farewell take:- For ever and for ever, farewell (Timi). If we do meet again, why we shall smile; if not, why then, this parting was well made.”