Saturday, August 29, 2009


Have you ever fallen asleep and had a rather lucid dream where you were all naked and tied, firmly, to a thick post? Then someone approached you with the intent of chopping off your penis with a large, battered and blunt pair of scissors. Just as the scissors were about to make contact with your favourite toy, your body made an involuntary twitch jolting you out of sleep. That is called a hypnic jerk.

“Hold it right there, Potash,” I hear the reader say, “Thanks for the lesson and all, and we totally get the picture, but your phallic obsessive dreams are not universal.”

Please, I say to the reader, pardon my Freud but it is all about the sex: its availability; the lack of it; the desire for it; the inability to rise up to the occasion of it. Now the fact that in your dream you are falling off your bike, does not make it any less sexual. Neither does the fact that, in your dream, you are actually falling off a ladder. Maybe that is because while for me sex is an act reduced to its basal functions, for you it is a means to other ends such as social climbing.

But if you will allow me to return to the matter at hand: Hypnic jerk. I have had at least three of those in the last six hours. That because, as I write this, I have been up and about for the last forty eight hours. Eight of those have been spent trying to raise some money for miraa and the other forty, chewing miraa. This stuff is meant to keep you awake, but would it really be a drug if its effects were predictable?

So what is happening now, is that a couple of uniformed policemen just walked into the base. Uhm, I think we have a problem here.... [Typist's note: Potash, your handwriting has become increasingly illegible, your narration incoherent and your habit of using the lit end of whatever you are smoking as punctuation totally unacceptable. I cannot read the rest of the paragraph.]

Er, excuse me while I pop my eyes back into their sockets. Man, miraa does that to you. Half the time you cannot see a thing because your eyes are dangling in your line of sight. Really does the writing no good and the fact that you need both hands to stick the twigs in your mouth, hold a cigarette, slip a wee bit of chewing gum or a groundnut into your mouth, sip on some Coke, et cetera. All at the same time. It is no small wonder then that sometimes I find myself holding two lit cigarettes. And that is just the fair moments. Better than this time when I lit a cigarette then flicked it casually into a ditch and stuck the used matchstick into my mouth. “Half life,” my boy Njeru said to me.
Sawa,”I replied.
Tihiii, so what has a thatthingic jerk got to do with you 'smoking' a matchstick?
What, what?
Hypno... Hyphen...
Hypnic jerk.
Hypicnic jack.
Hy p nic. Hypnic. Dude, are you stupid or what?
Kuna vile.
Unatema saa ngapi?
Sijui... Wewe?
Sawa. Pia mimi.
Si tugawane tuongeze half?
Utatoa soo basi?
We Potash wachanga kuwa hivo...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


“Warya! Warya! Saidia mate/” Brother, brother, lend me your saliva.

That is yet another punchline from a miraa chewer's oeuvre. The best part of chewing miraa/ khat, I have realised, is not the drug's high but the camaraderie in the process of getting there.

I have hang out in numerous drug dens. The quest for the ideal poison for me to write to has taken me through myriad journeys into intoxification. I have journeyed, variously, as a participant, an observer, a participant observer or even, with alcohol and nicotine, as inveterate consumer. Many substances I have become acquainted with; many delusional trips I have taken with them, but none surpasses miraa.

My recent adventures into the, largely indeterminate world of the miraa high demands an entire series of its own on this blog, but before I can take you there I have to tell you the 'lend me your saliva story'.

For those who might not know, part of the miraa chewing experience, takhzin, involves the telling and retelling of moments of highness that soon take on an aura of urban legend about them as chewers trade them from one chewing base to the next. So this version of the story is as it was told to me at my regular base and there is no guarantee that it is an accurate rendition or even that I will retell it in this same way the next time I chew.

The story goes something like this: A Somali guy has been hired to drive a lorry from Kisumu to Mombasa. As is the custom with a significant number of long-distance drivers on Kenyan roads, the fellow, who we shall call Hassan, is an incorrigible miraa chewer. So he grabs his three Kilos and tucks them on the seat between his legs. He fills one of those plastic Coke bottles with water from a nearby sink and tucks it in a compartment in the door on the driver's side of the cab. He throws a few bags of roasted groundnuts and some of cloves onto the dashboard and he is now good to go. He begins to chew on a few sticks as the engine idles, then drives of.

The thing with chewing miraa is that it dehydrates you: your mouth gets progressively drier and your lips begin to crack. That explains why most miraa chewers need to keep sipping on something. Ironically, because most people use sugary soft drinks, coffee or alcohol, their dehydration increases and their lips crack some more. To deal with that, most people apply petroleum jelly on their lips.

Some people, on the other hand, use cooking oil or whatever oily substance that is easily at hand. For Hassan, all he had was brake fluid.

So Hassan was driving. Hassan was chewing. Hassan was getting high. High. Higher. Highest. Every time he felt as though his lips were too dry, he dipped his finger into a can of brake fluid and smeared some of it on his lips.

Having got exceedingly high, Hassan begun to imagine that he had a puncture. So he pushed the lorry easily until he got to Nakuru where he pulled into a service station.

Hassan stepped out of the lorry and checked out all his tyres. They all looked fine. But he was convinced he had a meddling tear on the right rear wheel. The best way to prove it, as he knew, was to apply a bit of saliva on the tear and wait. If bubbles begun to show, then he would be certain that he had a puncture.

So he lunged a finger into his mouth. Hassan attempted to raise a mighty gob of spit from his mouth. Nothing happened.

Hassan hacked. Nothing happened.
Irritated, Hassan begun to yell at one of the station's attendants, “Warya! Warya! Saidia na mate...”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I spent the entire afternoon in conversation with a friend I have not seen in over 12 years. S. Abdi Sheikh, his name is, has been quite busy raising a family and running a couple of businesses. Most important of all he has been writing. Most recently, and this being the particular reason I sought him out, he has published a book that examines the events surrounding yet another horrendous moment in Kenyan history, the Wagalla massacre of 1984.

I will let the blurb from the book, Blood on the Runway: The Wagalla Massacre of 1984 ,speak for itself:

“In February 1984, Kenyan security forces rounded up and detained over 5,000 men from the Degodia clan of the Somali tribe, confined them at the Wagalla airstrip, stripped them naked and held them without food and water for four days. Blood on the Runway is the story of what happened and over 20 years of the ongoing struggle for the justice for the victims and survivors.

The Wagalla massacre story has every bit of a horror movie; blood and scattered brains, severed limbs, rotting flesh and mass graves.

The story of Wagalla is filled with intrigue. There is a conspiracy at every turn and nothing seems what it is. There was a master plan that was drawn up and implemented; it failed at the last minute; what was thought as an easy job of slaughtering 'sheep' became a nightmare. The 'sheep' scattered and bleated loudly, waking up the nearby villagers. Hiding the feast in the bushes became the only hope for the hunter. But scavengers had already smelled the blood and were turning every corpse around. The mortally wounded hid in the bushes only to come out at night and die in the open fields. For a period, the confusion created confounded even its creators. As the drama unfolded something strange began to happen. The world turned around and saw the sorry state of Wagalla. The story could not be killed. “

There is a time and space for commentary, but for me, this is not it. I have a book to read. For those that might want to engage with this issue, and there are legion it can be hoped, please go out and get a copy from your preferred Nairobi bookshop. For a briefer analysis of the issues and events surrounding the Wagalla massacre, KenyaImagine has this week published an opinion piece by the same author.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


This is a vignette in search of a writer, a tableau in search of an artist.

Every tooth hurts. Usually I have cavities... now they feel like something the scope of a moon landing vehicle picked up.

The neighbour is playing Stevie Wonder's Fantasy Paradise and I am humming along. No, truth is I am mouthing the words from the hook of Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise. In my fantasy Island I am calling that a fuck you to that old neighbour for being so old... me, I came of age in the nineties.

Now the old boy is playing Otis Redding. Wait a minute, how do I even know this music? I think I am a time traveller.

I just burnt myself with the Rooster cigarette I was smoking. Damn it is stuck to my finger. The middle finger. Now who is getting a fuck you?

*X&^... Wait! The burning cigarette has fallen on the mattress. Looks like it will cause a fire. And maybe these notes will survive. And then I will find fame, lauded as a latter day Beatnik. Nairobi's first and last Situationist.


Some louts just need to die to make a statement.

I need to pee...

Guess what, you know thing they say that God takes care of drunks and children, watch him now. He just sent me a fire extinguisher: a penis. A penis has never been put to much better use. I mean penises have been known to create life but saving one, now that is new!

“Get on the good foot...” James Brown wails. “Come on...”

But I only have one foot, or so it feels, and it is not a good one. I crash on the smouldering mattress. I am still holding a miraa stick and I continue to chew.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Happy Birthday Barack

Dear Barack,

I do not know you but I Know of you. I have heard a helluva lot about you. The most important thing I have heard is that you are, currently, president of the United States of America. That, if what I am told is true, makes you the most powerful man in the world. (In the big world out there, of course, and not my little one here where the most powerful man in the world is the Administration Policeman with a gun on my head and a paw in my pocket).

Now here is the deal, I live in a small corner, of the big Island of Africa, called Kenya. That Kenya where, the internets keep reminding me, your roots run deep. Good for you. Good for you, I sometimes think, that all you have here is roots because most of us that have more than roots have a lot less than you do. Because you have the world beneath your feet and we don't. We have roots, trunk and head in Kenya (and maybe because of that)we cannot see the world for all the shit that is above us. That does not mean that I am not proud of Kenya, just not a fan of myriad of its everyday realities.

But why am I wasting rare and expensive internet time to write you? It is simply because today is your birthday and I was once told that birthdays are important dates in the West. There seems to be a problem though, some people think that you were not born in America but here in Kenya. That maybe a big deal, I do not know, but beyond suggesting to me that today might not even be your birthday, that matter does not change my life. You only affect my life as much as the next US president. And as long as you remain in office, then it is the great influence that you will continue to wield over the entire world that will always have an impact on my life and not the small matters of your place of birth, your wife's favourite colour or the fact that your grandfather and mine were kicked by the same pair of boots.

I do not know if I am making it clear enough but the name of the place you were born is as valuable to me as knowing whether or not Mwai Kibaki has a second wife. Well, I have lied there because if Kibaki has a second wife, then I want to know whether or not I am paying her rent even though I do not have a house of my own... But you get my general point, Barry, no?

Anyway, I really have to go, and meantime you do your thing son and lets hope that all the wacko people in the internets can go back to providing me with what I follow them for: Good Porno.

Happy Birthday Barrack (alleged or else)