Stumbling block

You roll over once more in your bed and check the time, 4 a.m. Well into the night you heard muted intrusions of thunder, rain. You crawl out of that damned bed that has not served its purpose the last hour. You drag your feet to the table, pen in hand and you stare at the blank page ahead of you. It’s a brick wall you’ve hit and can’t muster the strength to jump over it. That page has to be filled somehow otherwise you are backing down from a challenge, you can’t throw this out the window because you are a man, you want to prove to yourself you have it in you to bang something great every week, it’s all that you want; well, that and a beard.

You place your forehead on the table and say a silent prayer because you are failing, you were only told this would be tough but no one prepared you for this kind of feeling, so you sit there holding back tears and it hurts deeply that you have suddenly been reduced to sitting on the lap of the gods to write something. After several calls for help from your ancestors you give up, you shut your eyes and you think back to the days when words could flow through your pen like greased lightning. You can’t lodge your complaints out loud, no one will completely understand, the struggle you go through, as they see it, isn’t worth a thimble of piss, so you suffer silently, in isolation.

You gasp, your eyes widen, your face lights up and you snap your fingers like Dexter, finally it hits you, an intro comes from nowhere so you scribble it as fast as you can. It all comes down to a load of shit when you get stuck barely two sentences in it. You grab your earphones and plug them in but you soon realize that no amount of Jermaine Cole music will be your saving grace, at least not this time. The block has crept behind you and mauled you over. At this point you conclude that you need a stiff drink, but you can only find a box full of terrible red wine. So you pour yourself a glass but you don’t want your mother finding out, she’ll now confirm that you may actually be gay- the first instance was when you were three and you thought high heels were the shit, she caned the hell out of you but not because you could have fallen on your ass and never walked again, no, it’s because she doesn’t want you to be gay.

As expected, that drink does nothing to help, you decide to take a morning walk, to ruffle the dew with your flip flops, the only thing missing now is a dog to walk, and the knowledge of swimming, then you’d be white. A stream has formed somewhere below, you go and sit by it and take it in, the humid air fills your nostrils and your mind shifts to the sound of the water sweeping through the bank. You look up and see an opening, a patch of blue. The ancestors have heard your cries and you are struck by a touch of inspiration. You can only take a shot of that.

By the river where we wept
By the river where we wept

Again I find myself in the middle of a block. Usually I have an article ready two or three days before I actually post. This hasn’t been the case this week; I have even looked at past pictures and tried to piece together a story but nothing came up. Also this week, I’ve seen some great stats which is very humbling. The picture up there was taken by a good reader of mine. I sign out with a picture I took with Sonia one evening; it’s very raw I swear.

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View from the top

I got a new camera last week. Her name is Sonia, when I placed her next to Jacky I could hear her tell Jacky to step aside, “there’s a new chief in town.” I felt sorry for Jacky. The truth is I will never leave Jacky, she means as much to me now as she did when I first held her.

Dear Jacky, I know that things have not been the same ever since I introduced you to Sonia; we haven’t been going out as much, just you and I. Probably on my next adventure I will leave you lying silently on that goddamn cabinet. I want you to know that you will always have a special place in my heart; even though some people want me to sell you to them, I refuse to go all Joseph and his brothers on you. I will treasure you together with the moments we’ve had and my children will hold you like I do some day. So Sonia is bigger and fits very nicely in my hands, so she has a couple of other million pixels in her, so Sonia is higher up the ranks, so what? I don’t like her zoom anyway. But Jacky I have to leave you there for some time, I need to learn Sonia’s ways; this is not the end of us, I dedicate my 15th post to you.

Some kind of zoom
Some kind of zoom

The KICC, this piece of architectural beauty was designed by a Norwegian, Karl Henrik was his name. Ok I just googled that but you’re welcome.

I’m 28 floors above the central business district; it’s silent up here, almost deafening this, silence. My eyes can see just far enough to peek into Nairobi National Park, I can see the stretch of road that is Mombasa Road, Times Tower looks like it’s only a few feet away. In the far distance I here hooting but that’s about it, the rest is peace. Apart from swimming, I also have a fear for heights but being up here takes that away somehow. I don’t know if it’s just me but, do you ever feel like throwing stuff from high places? Just pick something up and see how far it can go? Well, that and peeing, don’t look at me like that Wanderi I know you’re also dying to know how that feels.

As the warm breeze blows over my face I think of the settling dust in Lokichogio as the herdsman in directs his flock back to the homestead, I think of the old woman in Kinangop repeatedly digging on her piece of land, I think of a chap called Okello in Rusinga hauling fish into his canoe, I think of the loud screaming of a new born child in Pumwani hospital, yet, in this turbulent sea of events, you are handed an undisturbed sandbar for just 150 bob. By the way, spoiler alert, I might try to make this place seem like paradise somewhere here.

At the reception desk you pay that modest price just to be on the rooftop but if you want to carry your camera up there, assuming it’s bigger than your palm you have to pay 7k. I’m told this by the guy there who, if you asked me looked kind of gay. Ok, maybe he didn’t but come on, 7k? The only alternative would be to leave the camera there, and this was Jacky.

‘‘She’s only a small kid, are you sure you can’t squeeze her in?’’

‘‘I don’t think I can do that.’’

‘‘Ok now you’re just being gay.’’

I didn’t say that last one. Come to think of it this guy was an Ok person; he was the only one smiling among two other female receptionists. There’s something about a gloomy faced receptionist that tickles my boxers in a bad way.

Back to the rooftop. As the sun sets you can feel it in your ear, you can taste Nairobi at the tip of your tongue, you feel the wheels of the city moving along below your feet but you will only realize the beauty of the peace up here when you’re alone, when it’s not a Friday and there aren’t a couple of university students imbibing cheap liquor to celebrate after an assessment test. As soon as the dark starts creeping in, the receptionist comes up to let me know that time is up, the air up here is different, and it dissuades you from leaving but you have to, before the fare to Kitengela hikes to 100 bob. When I’m reunited with Jacky, I take this one from below.

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Remember that paradise thing? Well if it wasn’t a complete success I couldn’t give a hoot, it’s never that serious and they don’t really pay me enough for this shit.

This camp

A couple of things I learnt during Easter, it’s never Ok to mix two brands of alcohol, it will destroy you my friend, you will wake up feeling like a bear with a sore head the morning after. You know your drinking days are coming to an end when you nurse a hangie for more than 6 hours. Am I the only one who thinks saying hangie is sexy? Another thing I learnt, Betty Kyalo. I tell you friends, you haven’t seen beautiful, nay, gorgeous till you’ve seen her, till she’s walked past you along Kenyatta Avenue with a short black number. I wanted to hear her speak, to see if it was all real this, feeling, to just walk up to her and say, “Na nikuulize, matatu za rongai naweza panda wapi?” but I didn’t, I was afraid for Christ sake.

I didn’t have a story this week, I had an idea but I didn’t have a roof to put over it. So I decided to do what any other sane writer slash photographer would do,(I think I’m finally getting the hang of this, writer slash photographer thing) I went to walk around the city to look for a story and that is how I ended up in the middle of a Gor Mahia camp. Mashameji derby day. I fought hard to keep from pulling out my camera and putting these loyal faces in it, you just never know with these guys. So I hang around the corners, under the shadows, getting a pretty useless view of this green sea, look at what I had to settle for, this man and his Sirikal helmet, he made sure he had to stop in front of me and other unsuspecting citizens to pull out his iPhone, but do I say? I also took out my not so big phone, a galaxy pocket, to take this one. Seriously though, do you know how small this thing is? It’s like a small bar of Imperial Leather; but it’s alright, surely God blessed me elsewhere.

Sirikal
Sirikal

And while we’re talking about this breed, can we throw in a couple of things about fish? I loathe fish, in an aquarium it’s beautiful and all but as a meal it has no soul, it’s right up there with cabbages, my love for these two goes as far as you can throw a toothpick. It’s a daunting task to eat fish, first you have to check if it has been served to you with its mouth closed or open and then there’s that bone thing. Do you know how many people have died from fish bones stuck in their throats? A lot my friend, a lot. You have to turn it over and then you have a whole other part and if that’s not enough, you have to eat the head too, it’s the most essential part, the sweetest thing about it in fact, why is this sweetest part again? Luos? This is the only bone I have to pick with you guys, hehe.

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It’s not all negative, in case someone wants to throw a rock in my direction. One thing I admire about these chaps is the loyalty they have for what they believe in, the team, the Sirikal; Gor Mahia. They gather around in numbers before a match, they jack matatus and they go to Tom Mboya Street, they rendezvous around that monument and they sing their hearts out, a great display that, one of those times you have feel nothing but love for this country. It would be great if someone would explain the sweet head though.

Anyway, I didn’t mean this post to sound tribal, it’s not what we do here, during these trying times in our country, all we want is peace. Be sure to spread the love this week . And one more thing friends, if you ever see Betty Kyalo around town be sure to drop a line. Please.

No blue ticks please

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Upon this rock, where this worn out sandal rests, is where I come to reflect in the evenings, just outside the digs there, I sit and watch as the wind gently brushes the leaves, most stories here are thought upon this rock, I call it my Kit-Mikai, my element is reached when I stare into the distance, as the cold breeze grazes against my lips, I feel the story slowly pour into my head and I don’t get back in the house till I have something my teeth can sink into, or just when it gets too dark; not that I’m afraid of the dark it’s just that I don’t like it that much, who does anyway?

By far, the best writer we have, Jackson Biko once wrote that some stories don’t need guidance, they can tell themselves in complete isolation. You see, it has been a ritual now to lock myself up in my room and visit this chap’s blog, I sit upright in bed and worship the words that come out of his pen, and I bet my ass I’m not the only one in this boat; we who light candles in our hearts and repeatedly read the pieces, we who read till we can feel the words in our throats. With time I have decided that I will not hide anymore, I will proudly stick my neck out of the water and say that apart from being a photographer I am a writer. But wait, there’s a problem here. Forgive me if it’ll seem like sulking from now.

The thing is, after that decision, I stopped guiding my stories. Six or seven posts into this blog I felt like I was the shit, the stats were so high I was ready to take on what life had to throw at me, I bathed in reflected glory, and I was a grandee in this craft. Right now, quite honestly every piece feels like detritus, utter rubbish. I posted here last Monday and the Friday before that but it killed me inside, it killed me that there have been no visitors lately, no comments, and one view, but it’s still very heart-breaking. Stats are to writers what chocolate is to 14 year old girls, what likes are to people with no social light, they are some kind of soothsayer and hope for better things to come.

Last week was a lugubrious one-always wanted to use that one, lugubrious. Got the lowest stats, last week; you might not know this but stats lull me to sleep, I pee better. This isn’t a pity post, no, there are a couple of faithful readers out there, those that make everything seem much better, those that have cheered me on since day 1, those that will never give me the blue ticks, which are easily the worst creation in social media. Bastards!

At this, the 13th post, it feels detrimental to write, but I won’t stop writing, I won’t stop telling the story as it is behind the lens, I might take very long breaks and lie that it’s writer’s block but it really would be to get over another stat-less piece. I have grown to love writing even though it was scary at first, I would drop it soon, which was the plan. Now I feel that my photography feels more at home when writing goes along with it, the two live cheek by jowl. I can’t say I’m begging, but support for our very own maybe?