What I’ve Learnt

call me maybe

On the week that I was to write my next blog post, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen sat on top of the billboard Hot 100 charts. It went on top almost a month earlier and stayed for another month after my missed post. That’s a really long time at the helm of the billboard charts. It’s the equivalent of an Atwoli at COTU or Amos Wako as AG at a spot where Rihanna’s Diamonds could only manage two weeks. Call Me Maybe reached number one in 18 countries in 2012 and was the year’s best-selling single worldwide. It seems unfair that as one Japs’ experiment with words collapsed, another Jeps’ experiment with words peaked.

I was fast approaching my thirties. Starting to make some money at my new job and what that means in Nairobi is that you drive a screaming red Mazda Demio fitted with a frequency expander to help you catch Maina Kageni in the morning, contribute to the top trending topics on twitter at least three times in a month, live within a 20 km radius from the CBD (Rongai is too far. Hehehe) and you are trusted well enough, at least by the waiters, to be able to drink on bill at Mojos, your office local, Oakley Base, your real local, Sailors, your other local and a string of bars, half the size of a decent bedroom, in Nairobi West.

You quickly settle into that lifestyle. Early hungovered mornings that start with you diving into Sonford on Moi Avenue to feast on a kuku thigh drenched in vinegar in a futile attempt to erase the wringing around your eyes. Morning meeting with the manager. Wish friends an emotionless HBD on Facebook. Mid-morning meeting with colleagues to make fun of managers and share tales from the pub last night. About thirty minutes of work. Lunch with Lucy, the new marketing intern from 4th floor, whom you kissed at the company retreat two weeks back but has skillfully evaded the dinner invite at your house. Pretentious banter in the lift with the Group Financial Controller about the revenue prospects for the second half of the year. You’ll promise heaven, he’ll promise support. Nobody will remember that conversation one hour later. Afternoon reports. Ignore the fourth call from the shylock, Kama, who still hangs on your promise of sending Mpesa in thirty minutes half a day later. Mojos at four thirsty p.m. Coffee with your number one on Wednesday evenings. Friday nights at practically all the bars and clubs you know. Late Saturday mornings. Sunday service at Mavuno, Mamlaka Hill or Nairobi Chapel. Tithe once in a while, mostly on the occasions when a deal went through and you are trying to bribe God to keep that tap flowing because the deal pays five times better than your job. Repeat.

It starts feeling like this is what you’ll have to live with, and then one Tuesday, after Uhuru and Ruto have run away with the main prize, you and your gang are on your third beers, right about that moment when beer starts tasting like paradise, and Kwach jolts everyone, ‘Baba, forget the elections. People are dealing. What are we doing?’ Then you’ll insist on calling Lanx in from his voluntary graveyard shift and start a conversation that will entirely change your life. You grab a piece of paper and sketch a way forward and because you are eight people you’ll order two Glenfiddich’s to celebrate this small victory. The beers will be left wondering if it’s suicidal to taste like paradise. One week later, five members of the gang will have moved on from this conversation and the three of you will set on a journey that will with several twists and turns get us to today.

I am not the same person I was when I last wrote here. Not the same person I described in Analysis. Most of the things I wanted to achieve in Coming Home have come to pass and the others are within my sights. I stopped drinking and smoking and got married to Gypsy. I started doing my own thing. I’m building something that will outlive me. I discovered God. No. God found me. I wake up earlier now, so that by the time Myra and Pilot start their show on Urban Radio at 6 AM (90.7 FM in Nyanza & Western Kenya) I’ll have taken a shower and read my morning bible verses. I now drive a German machine that belongs to my wife which is important because it means I don’t feel like I need to have my own car and it helps her keeps tabs on me. Hehehe. I suspect that she has hidden an alcohol and smoke sensor in that car. I do whatever I say I’ll do. The only thing I lie about is how I stopped drinking because most people who ask are already settled on what they think made me quit (or if I have actually quit) and I have so much fun spinning a fresh tale every time. Nobody seems to believe that I quit by prayer (my wife’s and mine. Mostly, my wife’s.) I check my prejudices at the door. I didn’t build that house I talked about in A Stubborn Heart but as I said in Let’s Make A Toast I’ve always thought of this blog as a space that I would use to record my stab at success so that the growth is not lost on anyone who’s interested in such things and more importantly, that success is tied to God.


This is what I have learnt from first-hand experience in those three short years I’ve been away, in no particular order.

You Probably Don’t Know A Thing About God

There’s absolutely nothing you can do for God. Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. Jesus was/is the only sinless human being. We sin because we are fallen not because we’re human. We live by God’s grace. The bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God. The bible doesn’t contradict itself. All God really wants you to do is to love him ( Matthew 22: 37 – 42) and value others above yourselves (Phillipians 2: 3-4).

You walk around as an adult holding on this concept of God from Sunday school, CRE, your family, friends, preachers and hearsay then one day you join Pathway at Mamlaka (a theology class) and start unpacking your beliefs. It’s unbelievable. A new vista opens right before your eyes. You’ll be shocked how many familiar verses don’t mean what you always thought they meant. Here’s a word of advice, if you are blessed with the gift of literacy please study your bible. Study it the way you would study for a bachelor’s degree. Start small, maybe 30 minutes in a day. It will change your life.

Fear No Man

People are just people. The president is just that desk mate who makes head boy in fourth form. Don’t let fear of another man cripple you, whether it’s a client, a boss, a politician, a policeman, a criminal, etc. You all face the same fate in the end. Fear only God. Respect men (and women) who deserve your respect. Please do not respect idiots especially those who think they are important just because they have money.

 Be Comfortable in Silence

You are stuck with your company CEO at the back of his car on a ride that feels like eternity to the company’s end of year party. You blame Pascal the insurance salesman whom you were waiting for outside the lift on the ground floor when the Big Boss grabbed you. Or it’s this hot ex-celebrity, whom you had a crash on back when Mr. Nice was on Nation TV’s The Beat, who slides next to you at a church pew at All Saints Cathedral because you are both early for BSF and even though it’s just the two of you she whispers ‘This January weather is a little off, don’t you think?’ Or it’s your first cousin, ten maybe fifteen years your senior, the coolest member of your extended family, back from the US after 20 years and asking you questions about your childhood hood Arina Estate in Kisumu which you moved from in 2007 when you joined Egerton, Laikipia campus. Do not rack your brain looking for something witty to say. Try to have a normal conversation but if the words fail you, it’s ok to be silent and not feel guilty about it. If anyone thinks the silence is awkward, let them break it. Let them be the funny one. Do not underestimate the virtue of listening.

Wake Up Early on Saturday Mornings

The accurate quote is actually, The secret to success in your youth is waking up early on Saturday Mornings. I came up with that. It could be because the biggest deals I’ve closed yet happened on Saturdays but it’s mostly because this quote is representative. A metaphor. I’ll explain. My first point. Preparation. Success loves preparation. To wake up early on Saturday Morning, you’ll have to choose carefully what you do on Friday night. What do most young people do on Friday nights? You get it, right? How you prepare for success will play a very huge part in whether or not that opportunity arrives. My second point. Self-initiative. Waking up early on Saturday morning means you are waking up early on a day you don’t have to. On a day nobody will punish you if you overslept which is to say this second point doesn’t apply if you work on Saturdays or observe your Sabbath day on Saturday. Especially if you observe your Sabbath on Saturday because then you should wake up even earlier. Only you can drive your success. My final point. Most people will sleep longer on Saturdays. Success happens when other people are sleeping. You are unlikely to derive success from inventing something the world has never seen. Your most probable route to success will be through taking up opportunities that other people don’t, or are too lazy or scared to take, or ‘sleep through’.

Value of A Book

If you haven’t read a good book yet it’s because you haven’t retired your hatred for your literature teacher yet or your Facebook timeline is full of long tales from daily mirror, kahawatungu and ghafla, or it could be because the right font on well blended words and punctuation with a small dash of imagery has not delivered as great a Tom Junod serving as ‘Taylor (Swift) is the J.K. Rowling of pop music, singing songs for 13-year-olds that are also irresistible to their mothers, Beyoncé the Oprah or the Whitney Houston who instead of marrying Bobby Brown married President Obama.’

A book is so premium, God chose it to deliver his message of redemption to the world. Ama you think he could not put it in a DVD if He wanted to? You can’t argue with God, man.

Read. Read the Bible. Read Malcolm Gladwell. Read Daniel Kahneman. Read Nassim NicholasTaleb and Toni Morison and Maya Angelou and John Grisham and Tom Junod and Chris Jones. Read Chimamanda Adichie and Jim Collins and Onyango Obbo and David Ndii and Jackson Biko and Yvonne Owuor. Read for knowledge, read to be transported to other places and times, read to laugh, read to explore but most importantly read because a book crams a lifetime of knowledge and experiences into just a few pages.

Get Out of Your Own Way

When you set out one day to do phenomenal things and things are not quite playing out according to plan, stand in front of the mirror and chances are the problem will be right in front of you. Check yourself man. Check your prejudices. Check your attitude. Check your reactions to situations. Something as simple as an unreachable phone can keep your dreams out of reach. Do not let something you can do or undo keep you away from your dreams. I think the younger people would tell you, ‘Keep it 100!’ Then let the world deal you its cards.

Don’t Say Everything That Crosses Your Mind

You’re a married man? You’re welcome.

Never Ruin A Happy Moment

A junior accountant has royally screwed up the financials that form part of your end of year performance presentation to the board. The directors have chewed your head off. The former PS, a certified accountant, whom your board tapped only recently to add depth, and whom you were particularly hoping to impress, has questioned your level of seriousness. You feel like your job is slipping away. You come back to the office foaming at the edges of the mouth and just as you are about to scream, ‘Joshua, my office now!’ you notice everyone is gathered at the water dispenser. ‘What’s going on?’ you ask no one in particular. It’s Joshua. He has just passed his section six exams, CPA. Guys are celebrating him. Don’t ruin that moment. Don’t say something like, ‘Joshua, is this true? Have you passed your section six exams? Yes? KASNEB has lied to you young man.’ People hate that. People never forgive guys who ruin happy moments. Always join in the happy moment. War can always wait.

Write it down

As surely as the sun rises, you will forget it if you don’t write it down. Write it down.

 You Can Both Be Right and End Up With Different Results

It’s the way the world works. Just because we adopted your idea and achieved the set objective does not mean that the path we didn’t take would not have given the desired results. Or just because a competing idea failed doesn’t mean your rejected one would have worked. It’s not that simple.

The Person of Many Sins Loves Much More

There’s a verse that captures this aptly. Luke 7:47. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

That is Jesus Christ speaking by the way.

 Happy New Year!

The Explosion

She shifted uncomfortably in her stiff seat to the right of the customer service rep. The rep’s indiscretion added to her unease. When my eyes met hers she’d pretend that she was making an enquiry on an unjustified deduction on her pay slip but what she really wanted was a top up loan. I felt bad for her. I felt bad that she was embarrassed to borrow money like that said something about her character. I felt bad that she thought I now knew she was irresponsible and lacking in financial intelligence. I was sad that she thought, of the a million plus get-rich-quick schemes running through my mind, I still had time to pass judgment on strangers.
As her sentences were punctuated with the rep mechanically jabbing the keyboard I’d let my mind run with it. I tried to figure out why she needed to top up her loan. Did she drink her rent money? I quickly discarded that notion because women rarely pay for their drinks (and sometimes rent) in this town and her eyes were not red. Maybe she felt the pressure to fund her boyfriends ‘projects’. Maybe she had her high school reunion at a five star hotel later that evening and she had to appear like she’d taken real good care of herself after school. Maybe it was a fast talking salesman’s phone call that landed her here. The city will always crush you.
The rep stared at the computer screen and announced that she could get the top up amount she’d asked for then paused before she added that she could actually get more. Her eyes lit up and I almost stomped my feet because at that point I knew she would go for more. She did not disappoint.
That was my first visit to the Sacco.


I was in front of the rep on these fancy three-seater benches that are increasingly popular with reception areas. I was seated on this space that loan-seekers line up in, moving up the queue by sliding their butts, as they wait for their chance to placate the rep. I was seated facing the Sacco exit. To my right were three teller counters and a door at the furthest end that led to the Sacco’s back office, to my right was the rep, facing the side of my face, and behind the rep was wall with a door at the mid-section that led to a board room. On the wall opposite me was a waist level shelf mounted on the wall, where the deposit and withdrawal forms rested. You see, this Sacco is also my bank. A bank minus the long queues and, sadly, privacy. The front office is manned by three members of staff, two tellers and the rep. Even a small saccos can never fill all the teller counters. It must be a financial institution thing. But the sacco always feels like an exclusive club which affects a ‘who-is-who’ feeling in me. I feeling I vastly enjoy.
The story is in my second visit.
I was having lunch in the staff canteen seated with three writers of a business newspaper, who felt that each of them was the best thing to have happened to the paper, on a table that seats four. It was such an awful experience even though, to be fair, one of the three writers probably deserved the accolades since he had penned an article that had earned him a fully paid one week’s trip to New York. So they sat there talking things I can’t write about because I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. And my disgust grew with how they wore their pride on their sleeves. I suspect that I found them vain because in my head I consider myself a writer and I must have been thinking, ‘What do you know about writing?’

That’s a camel laughing at a bull’s hump, right? So I noted the writers’ names, promised myself to look out for their bylines in the business newspaper and walked out of the canteen.
On the ground floor I bumped into one of the very likeable Sacco tellers walking to the canteen and after exchanging pleasantries I decided that now would be a good time to nip into the Sacco to ask why some money suddenly appeared in my account the previous week. It was about ten past one. I walked for about fifteen metres then turned into the Sacco building – an indiscrete building that I always locate by the Mt. Kenya University building opposite it. The Sacco is on the first floor so I went up the flight of stairs and gently tapped the door. The entry to the Sacco is always locked like it’s a forex bureau. I wanted to walk up straight to the rep but there was someone on the seat that the girl had occupied on my first visit. I paced towards the rep’s desk then back to the shelf with the deposit slips – my impatience killing me – then back again towards the rep, wondering whether I should return some other time, and before I reached the door that led to the boardroom – BAAAAAAAAAAM!
I swear it felt like the explosion had gone off in the boardroom!
I’ve never heard an explosion so loud in my life. If I could describe me at that moment in one word, the word would be confused. I momentarily thought the Sacco had been hit from below and we had been hurled up, the landing would be our death. But my knowledge of the gun theory, though unrelated, negated that thought. (Gun theory? Glad you asked. If you hear the bang, you haven’t been hit.) I don’t know how I got to the Sacco door, but I was the first one there. I yanked it open and dashed out barely diving down the stairs to the ground floor. Then I got to the ground floor and I was alone. I paused for a second to think about where I was going to and as I was about to run past the glass door into Moi Avenue, a group of people flew past, running up the road headed towards the bazaar. I froze. I thought someone in top flight might hurl a grenade towards me. So I pushed the glass door and retreated towards the stairs only for some huge guy with a pink shirt to come down the stairs furiously hitting the wall and shouting, ‘Fungua mlango, fungua mlango’ (I could swear I knew what this guy was feeling. Remember that feeling when Kivuiti announced the election results in 2007 after the independent media had been kicked out? Yeah! It’s a feeling that says you’ve just about had enough of this nonsense). Then a woman’s voice behind him – a voice I will remember for a long time – screamed, ‘nani huyu anatufungia anataka tukufe’. She broke my soul. What she had fleetingly suggested was that I was a terrorist. That honestly felt more painful than the bomb that had exploded across the road. I stepped up to the glass door, pulled it back and let the brave guy in a pink shirt step out first. Once he had spilled into the streets and noticing that his head didn’t suddenly stop a bullet I jumped out, staring momentarily at the torn roof across the road then ducking into a slip road that leads to Kimathi Lane.
As I ran towards Kimathi street, I went past guys going towards the blast site and I remembered to calm myself lest I hear in the news that police a looking for a skinny dark young man who was spotted fleeing towards Kimathi street minutes after the explosion. I must have thought that those running towards the blast site were idiots until I stopped in front of the Nation Centre and came across these three young people who had been hit by flying glass – or whatever else fragments fly after explosions – from the blast. Their faces were bleeding and the clothes they had pressed on their faces to stop the bleeding had been soaked in red. I skirted around them like they were lepers. These two young men and a lady. I moved away from them like they were sinners. Like they didn’t deserve my help. Like replacing their soaked shirts with my own would embarrass me. And I was not alone. The huge crowd gathered in front of Nation Centre stared at them like there was a screen between us and them, like that bleeding was a communicable disease. We all stared scared to touch them until some sensible employees of DTB pushed through the crowd with first aid kits and administered quick remedy. That’s when it hit me. It hit me that I am a useless coward! Most of us are, especially the middle class. We never want to get our hands dirty! All we want to do after a crisis is spawn theories on what might have happened.
I would later audit the thoughts that crossed my mind during the whole experience and they all pointed towards self-preservation. My first action was to move away from the blast scene. I didn’t spare a thought for the hurt people, eyes blinded by blood, bodies punctured by UFOs, whose hand I’d probably guide. Then I remembered telling myself that from that day on I’d been walking in the middle of the road in town (you know, like Bamboo once sang, ‘ndio siku hizi tao natembea kati ya barabara’). Then I wanted to avoid other sections of town altogether. Then I thought I’d from that day be on the look-out for persons of Somali origin.
I was in church the other Sunday and this preacher was on about impunity. He says when your water supply is irregular; you’ll install a tank instead of reminding Nairobi Water to do their job. When insecurity rises in your area you’ll take your perimeter wall higher instead of paying the DCIO a visit with a human rights lawyer or Ahmednassir in tow. When you experience regular blackouts you’ll …..we’ll that is in a class of its own. Kenya Power needs our help. Basically, when shit hits the fan, we only want to cover our asses!
I sat next to a lady of Somali origin in a City Hoppa bus this past week and as we went past Serena Hotel I felt her poking my knee. I would have thought that she was giving me, her ‘deskie’, the last chance to bail out before she blew herself up but all she was doing was offering me chewing gum. I hadn’t smoked that morning. I had remembered to brush my teeth. So it wasn’t my breath. It was, as Hon. James Orengo would put it, good manners and good neighbourliness. And that little act touched my heart.
I guess what I’m trying to say is we should make Kenya safe for everyone because I don’t know about you but I really enjoy receiving sweets from hooded ladies.

The Village Drunkard

On some nights, he’ll be into dancing – an uninhibited jig that you cannot refer to as dancing, anyway. On some nights he’ll be funny. The entertainer. On some nights he’ll fall asleep on the table, on the bar couch, in the car.

These are the good nights.

My kid brother says I cannot be made a government minister. I’m afraid he may be right. He says I will easily leak government secrets under the influence of alcohol. He says if I were an ODM minister, PNU would have field day. Shwyzee thinks I have a split personality disorder. He thinks I’m always either Ben or Japs. When he comes over to my place he’ll peep through the door ask whether he is dealing with Ben or Japs. You see, Ben is a member of the Nairobi middle class – a group obsessed with getting ahead. He is a planner, he works hard, he’s stiff, he can be a snob. Japs is random. He’s always down for whatever! He is naughty, he’s cheeky, he is funny, he is fun. He is a ruffian.

Ali insists that that other guy, ‘That guy you become when high, is not you. Jesus!’ The amazing guy who lives in my guest house dreads those nights when I return as the other guy. He pulled me aside last Friday, when I was this other guy and painfully said, ‘Dude, I have my worst nightmare every time you are high. Please just go to sleep.’ I religiously obliged. Tony thinks I should go back to being a teetotaler. He says most of the time you’ll be absolutely fun but the drink will eventually sap the fun out of you. It’s just not worth it, he’ll add. Gypsy cannot stand me when I’m drinking with the boys. She says I will always embarrass her. ‘Do you have to make a fool of yourself to make your friends laugh?’ she’ll painful ask, ‘Why do you have to be the guy dancing on the table? Why do you have to sleep in the bar? Why do you have to be the loudest? Why do you have to be the one who tells all the stories?’ And when she’s not with me and she’ll call, I’ll say hi and pass the phone to my friends so she can talk to them, ‘Why the hell do you have to do that?’

But the lady who takes the cake is a shopkeeper in a small shopping centre near my diggz. After a night on the tiles I went to buy some fruits at her stall. She spotted me and started smiling. ‘You don’t remember, do you?’ she shot. Of course I didn’t remember, I never do! She told me I was shouting in front of her shop the previous night. ‘Maybe there was a fire and I wanted her to jump out.’ I interrupted her. She says I was screaming to no one in particular. I said noooo … I’m a decent guy, such stuff is beneath me. So anyway, I flip the argument and state that even if I was shouting, it wasn’t necessarily because I was high. I can do that even now. She stopped peeling the mango she had in her hand and calculated the value of all the items I intended to buy – 230 shillings. Then she dared me, ‘If you go stand there, in the middle of that road, where you were standing yesterday and shout three times,you don’t have to pay me a cent for all these items.’ I thought Ben could ever do that, he can’t. That is the village drunkard’s forte.

Meet the village drunkard, my alter-ego.

The village drunkard is only nourished by alcohol. He doesn’t eat. He has no other care in the world. He thinks he is funny. He’s occasionally very creative. He ‘s also very dangerous to the vessel that he steers. He’ll struggle to take control of my body, his vessel, as soon as I taste liquor. He is a coward, he can’t live an independent life. He can’t stand scrutiny. He’s never there to face the consequences of his action. You need to have watched Thor or the avengers to understand what I’m going on about here. Think of Ben as the good doctor and the village drunkard as the humongous green creature.

Here’s my premise. When I drink, I become someone else. Here’s how I know. Come morning I will have no recollection of the tales everybody will be sharing. I’ll walk into a room full of the guys we were with last night and guys will burst out laughing. I’ll try to call Gypsy and she won’t pick up. If I insist she’ll send a text that reads, ‘What do you want?’. I’ll go through my sent text messages and read through what I thumbed the previous night to various people on my phonebook and ask myself, ‘Why oh why?’ It must be terrible for those people the village drunkard regards as friends.
Sometimes I’ll walk into a pub I don’t remember passing by and some stranger will shout I phrase I use often like, ‘What do I know?’ and everybody will burst out laughing. They would have got that phrase and the accompanying gestures from me the previous night.

Ali agrees with my premise. He says he too becomes somebody he’s never met when high. He told me about calling his chick friend once when high. He called twice, the girl didn’t answer. She was in the bathroom. She answered the third time and Ali’s alter ego went ballistic. She insulted and abused this girl she loves for about an hour. His airtime would run out, he’d top up with MPESA and call back. This girl recorded the monologue and played it back for us. Even I knew those were not thoughts that rested in Ali’s subconscious. His alter ego seems to enjoy this. Hurling abuses at his chick friends who don’t pick at the first ring. But it once picked on the wrong target. Let’s call her D. So the alter ego calls D and hurls insults. Next day, Ali calls D. Man, I like this woman! ‘@#$%#%^&()*&^$%$ … wewe unanijua vizuru kweli, umbwa hii unabahati sikuwa karibu na wewe. Ningepasua hiyo kichwa yako na chupa. Fala hii. Pigia huyo dem ako kwa profile picture yako!’ she screams and hangs up.

Gypsy always says a drunk man tells no tales. Some drunk wise man once said that drunk words are sober thoughts. I don’t agree. I know the village drunkard has said things that have never crossed my mind. Forget about the science. This is about me, I’m the only one in this sample. Some of these things people tell me I said have never rested somewhere in my subconscious. I think they come from the same place as some of my night dreams. Have you ever dreamt and thought now what the hell was that?

The village drunkard should never be let loose in the urban landscape. He has a motor mouth that is a danger to other motorists on the road. He is a rabid beast, the county sherriff must not let him roam the streets. He’s a danger to the vessel that he steers – knocking down street lights, traffic lights, jumping the kerb and double parking.

Three days later ……..

I wrote this post last Sunday at my friend Tony’s diggz. I wrote it on his Mac as he snored a tedious day on the couch. The post was inspired by events that happened two days ago then, on Friday night. See on Friday we had this team drinking shindig at some joint in Hurlingham and the village drunkard took that prime opportunity to tell his alter ego’s bosses what he thought of them. He wasn’t disrespectful, he just exposed the white ball. And every good pool player knows that you always have to hide the white ball. I woke up feeling like an idiot on Saturday.

When I conceived this post I knew exactly how I was going to close it. I was going to say, ‘I’m afraid guys, I have to commit suicide. I MUST kill the village drunkard. By starvation!’

It’s never that serious, man. I’m going to have a drink!




When you write a blog, you’ll always nurse a secret desire to be affirmed. This comes in the form of comments from readers, growth in readership, subscriptions et al. Silas Amunga J. Namale, my former schoolmate, was the first guy to ever tell me he will bookmark my blog address. This Saturday, we will lay Silas Amunga to rest in Butere. He died two Sundays ago.

Fare thee well Amunga F Baby a.k.a Janeko! Your madness will never be forgotten!

Things You Don’t Have To Do As A Man In Nairobi

You’ll occasionally find me hunched over in the streets leafing through fossil issues of GQ and Esquire from the vendors. These vendors are almost always disinterested when I state which magazine I’m looking for. I suspect that they reserve the little customer service for backstreet saloon owners who bend over for old copies of True Love and Drum magazine. But I never let their attitude move me. I believe a good story is timeless and GQ and Esquire stock good stories in heaps.
Anyway, not so long ago I bought the September 2006 edition of GQ for 150 bob opposite the fire station, along Tom Mboya Street. In that edition there is an article titled, ‘50 Things A Man Does Not Have To Do Before He Dies’. What GQ does for the good people of America with this article is helping them scratch some things off their bucket lists. That got me thinking. What are those things you don’t have to do as a man in Nairobi?

Read Shakespeare

My uncle, Prof. Atieno Odhiambo, in one of his books (either Siaya or The Burying of S.M. Otieno) tells of a visit by the members of the Kenyan cabinet to a museum (I think) in London. On display, I think (I don’t remember well), was either an image or the works of Shakespeare and as the learned members of the cabinet – Hon. Isaac Omollo Okero et al– dropped Shakespeare’s quotes, Hon. Shariff Nassir inched closer to ask who Shakespeare was and why he hasn’t come to visit ‘serikali ya baba’. Hon. Okero, is reported to have dismissed Hon. Nassir with another of Shakespeare’s quotes. Therein lies my point. One, Shakespeare is dead (Long live Shakespeare!). And two, all his quotes have been assimilated and bastardized in common lingo – you can’t possibly keep up! Be not afraid of not having read Shakespeare!

Buy a Toyota

My dad, the esquire, drives a 1976 Peugeot 504, GL. I can almost dismantle and re-assemble the engine of that car! And I am not a mechanic. I can short the starter to start the car from the hood. I know how to peel off the air filter and bleed the carburetor. I can change a wheel on this car while eating a bugger. The boot can accommodate the nose-cut of a Toyota Duet. To re-fuel from a jerrican, I don’t have to stick a stick in the gas tank’s inlet. The wheel spanner can settle a small war on Kirinyaga road. I know where to look when the lights go off, when the clutch is hard, when the wiper doesn’t function, when the horn is squeaky, when …… I know that car. My kid bro does too. Once, on a trip to Gambogi, the exhaust pipe was dragging on the tarmac. You know what we did? We pulled off the damned thing and threw it in the boot and continued with our journey. No red light went off on dashboard! But what do you get when you come to Nairobi? A bunch of clueless salesmen lecturing you on spare parts and resale value and consumption. Who said I wanted to re-sell anything? I want a Peugoet 504, KAZ, in mint condition. I have about 85k, holla if you know where the auction is going down.

Forget To Kiss Your Bosses’s Ass

Two of my bosses at my new work station have asked me in an informal setting how it has been so far at this new joint. Before I could mutter, ‘It is a great and totally refreshing experience and ….’ They cut me off with a ‘You know you don’t have to kiss my ass, right?’ Right! You know I could tell them what I miss at the old workplace; forcibly planting kisses on my chic colleagues (hi Terry?); Impromptu dances and whistling in the corridors; vehemently thanking the sales director for giving us a male boss because there is no risk of kissing your boss during office parties.
I would have told them all this if the first thing the HR mentioned during orientation was not the sexual harassment policy!

Live In A SQ

The irony of living in an SQ in the leafy surburbs of Nairobi is that it’s a pursuit of a space that cannot even fit your ego! That 30k for a bedsitter in *insert where you live here* will get you a mansion next to me, here in Rongai.

Sit On The Terraces During a Gor Mahia Match

I know. They are the most creative people in Nairobi. They whip out songs in a wink. They are active throughout the match and they remind you of what you could have been if you shed off the middle-class pretense. But, they are also tough-headed. A group of ten friends can hold up the whole stand! Some of them blow weed like it’s going out of fashion. And they sometimes behave like wealthy people … Wealthy people never loose. So, between the cloud of weed that hangs immobile above the terraces and the possibility of stopping a tear gas canister with your forehead, an extra three hundred will take you across the pitch.

Believe What You Hear

Last week I met one of my confidence-man mentors outside 20th Century. I was rushing to a bank then I heard a combination of words in quick succession that made me quickly turn my head towards the speaker – ‘faboulous’ ‘amazing’ ‘drives the best cars in this town’ ‘but, he used to work for me’. Those combinations of words and phrases only come from one person in my world. There he was dazzling two impressionable wannabes with appearances. On this instance he was telling these two guys how Hon. Gumo is the richest luhya in Kenya and from how these two guys were nodding they must have thought he is in on every deal that goes through the three arms of government.
Do not get dazzled by appearances of fine clothes and fancy cars in this town! People lie in this town for a living, especially on social media. Maina Kageni’s group of friends does not entirely consist of people with momentous marital problems. Alfred Mutua is not an idiot.
Here’s how to know you believe what you hear; you have at least once signed those online petitions to have Classic 105 shutdown.

Walk In A Hurry

I can spot my pal Kapere from a mile on the streets of Nairobi. His pace is from a peri-urban setting like he is careful not to step on the mud. He walks leisurely with his head held high yet he’s never late for a meeting, I suspect that he is loaded, he drinks Heineken, you can consider him middle class and he’s only getting started. The secret of riches (this town’s definition of success) doesn’t lie in your walking pace. If it did, I would be a millionaire.

Be in a Meeting

One of my friends is always in a meeting when he owes you money. ‘Hallo’ is permanently replaced with ‘ Ben, I’m in a meeting, I’ll call you back.’ No, you’re not! Gossiping with your colleagues about your boss is not a meeting. Meetings are not held in lifts and matatus. Be nice, do what I do. Say this politely, ‘I’ll pay you when the first wad of cash runs through my hands, I swear’. Then hang up and add, ‘Only, I don’t know when that will happen.’

Comment on a Blog

Especially if it is a blog with a pink theme allegedly authored by a man!

Margin Call

I’m mighty afraid of high places – an acrophobic. This is not a metaphor. I’m not talking about jobs or businesses here, I’m talking about life. Nothing scares me more than the thought of a fatal fall. (My only other pronounced fear is being alone. I tend to think that if I was left alone multiple ‘me’s’ would walk out of me like in the pure and natural ad and start asking each other tough questions.) So, as I walk up and down the slippery windy stairs that connect the five or so floors in our offices, my heart always clutches to the railings because I literally feel like I’m on the edge. Of course it’s hard to ignore the huge gaping hole at the centre because every arch adds to its depth. Every arch readies it to swallow you fatally.

Thankfully, the circular walls are adorned with these visual representations of the company’s top-lines and bottom-lines; an old analog phone with a cut off cable to signify poor communication; a dart board with a dart at the epicenter to remind employees always to be target driven; ant’s working together to carry a leaf to symbolize teamwork; a wildebeest in half-flight leading its followers to jump off a cliff for poor management; a blue sculpture of a human being talking to two other blue sculptors sleeping on the desk for senseless meetings – hehehe; a knife stuck in half a torso’s back to warn against back-stabbing; and my absolute favourite, the negative – remember negatives, those shiny dark brown pre-photo elements that went down with Kodak in the wake of the digital revolution – of a kid in a very foul mood to signify negative attitudes. These visuals keep me distracted long enough to get to whatever floor I may want to. I will never grow weary of looking at them.

Yes, folks, I took the stairs. I changed jobs.

This is how people change jobs. You get a job and buy your employer’s dream. To be successful you have to believe that your product is absolutely the best. You sell it like an artist would sell his work of art. You use words like ‘value’, ‘unique’, ‘next big thing’, ‘fabulous’, ‘great deal’, ‘amazing discounts’, ‘free’, with your clients because you are a goddamn salesman and you have to find an angle. And the wheels start turning in your favour. Something about the universe conspiring to make real your dreams. And everything is great! That’s when your alarm bells should start ringing because great things can always get better. When things are great, business happens. I guess this is what they mean when they say, ‘should be able to work under extreme pressure’ in job adverts. People bulge under pressure, grow irritable and start looking out for themselves. Not exactly the pre-requisite motivating environment for sales. Then you grow disillusioned. Then new words are thrown into you vocabulary by the management like ‘budget’, ‘bottom-line’, ‘approvals’, ‘capex’, ‘operational cost’, ‘restructuring’. You have never doubted for a second what’s in this for you all this time but now you start doubting it for days and plotting an exit. Then you watch Margin Call.

A movie critic would tell you Margin Call is a movie about how investment banks in the US caused and precipitated the economic meltdown. Nothing can be further from the truth! Margin Call is a movie about how you job is to make money for your employer. Period. Here’s what you take out from it.

Some people always have the early word on what’s about to happen. Your boss can get axed before you, even if his superiors have no idea what it is you do. Risk management is not a natural place to start job cuts. It gets worse before it gets better. Big bosses worry more about their dying dogs than job cuts (even smaller bosses are perplexed by this). Every boss has a boss. It gets ugly in a hurry (I absolutely loved that phrase). If you don’t understand what someone is saying ask them to speak to you in English. Life is more complicated than one guy winning and the other loosing. There is heavy traffic in New York on Thursday at midnight. Everybody – irregardless of gender – who does not wear a tie to a midnight emergency meeting loses his/her job by sunset. You learn to spend what’s in your pocket. They (business owners) never loose. If you are first out of the door, that’s not called panicking. The feeling people experience when you are on the edge (of a high place) is not the fear that you may fall, it’s the fear that you may jump. Some people like to drive a long way home. Young guys are always the first guys to get culled.

Anyway, get your copy of Margin Call. So, I watched Margin Call. Then I prayed, nay, we prayed. You see, I’ve been dating my girlfriend since June 2008 but we have never once knelt together – just the two of us – and prayed though we both intensely believe in God. She had also been looking to change jobs. So on Sunday 12th February we knelt down and prayed. We had both been invited for interviews within the week. We really wanted God on our side. Her interview was scheduled for the following day, mine would follow on Tuesday. We both did two interviews and, I kid you not, signed our new contracts on 22nd February. On the same freaking day! God really has a sense of humour.



Not much has changed. I still sell, just a different brand. My desk is on the second floor like at my previous workstation. I still get a copy of the daily newspaper every morning, only a different brand. I still have targets, and morning meetings, and write proposals, and do sales calls, and use those words up there but I’m a lot happier. I’m happier because I only take one mat to town now. I’m happier because it takes me not more than eight minutes to get to work. I’m happier because I no longer dial phone numbers with a mouse. It feels good to punch buttons on a desk phone. Hehehe. I’m happier because I’ve had a fresh start – I love nothing more than having fresh starts. I’m happier because I’ll earn a lot more, soon. I’m happier because God granted us our prayer. It all comes from him folks.

But, I should also be happy because I was not thrown under the bus on Waiyaki way. On Monday, my old company restructured. Restructuring means laying off 20% of your staff. At least forty people lost their jobs. Most of them my friends. I know some of you read this blog. What do I say to you friends? I’ll tell you that when I was a little younger my sister-in-law used to stay with us while taking some afternoon courses. Her classes would start at 2 p.m. and she’d always iron whatever clad she chose to wear at around 1 p.m. We had two iron boxes, an electric one and the one that uses charcoal. But the electric one was faulty and lighting a jiko just for hot charcoal to iron isn’t exactly cool. So she’d turn on the gas cooker and place the iron on it like a sufuria to heat it. That’s your lesson in improvising. I want you to know that you are gifted, all of you. Do not take this as a failure, as a denigration of your capabilities. Defeat should make you stronger. Fight harder. Write your own story and mark this as a new beginning. I should know. I’ve been there before. It took God and 24 hours to turn around. And by all means, watch Margin Call and The Great Debaters. Good Luck!

The Gaps

The radio will bang on and on throughout the night. On most nights it would belt out tunes from X FM but lately I’ve developed a liking for Radio 3:16 because as I slip in and out of sleep I might just catch a sermon I like. It’s a habit I’ve had for the longest time – sleeping with the radio on, not catching nocturnal sermons. I play my music from my phone, a nokia. I’ll plug the charger in, slot the headset and set it on loudspeaker. You should learn to take those nokia music phone adverts seriously, in the silent night these gadgets live up to the billing.

But here’s the catch. This intro is meant to take you in circles. It’s meant to take your mind off the fact that this blog already has enormous gaps between stories so early in the year – like swerving to avoid those coloured balls in the Sony advert when your favourite presenter, who’s been awol, has just checked into the studio. It’s meant to apologize without kissing ass by making you think of what you do at night; radio; X FM; rock music; suicide; torn jeans; Radio 3:16; sermons; gospel rock; God; (hey, when was the last time you were in church); insomnia; white ceilings; nokia; your phone; free on-net night calls; chargers; iPods; adverts; hell even the Christmas carol, Silent Night.

Let me let you in on what would have filled the gaps. I wanted to write about my girlfriend on the week of her birthday, Jan 20th. I’d have written about how we met in Mon Ami, the first uber-joint in Kisumu that sadly closed down a few years back. I’d have written how she was spotted by my friend Shwyzee, the artist. And how Shwyzee kept going on and on about this girl with big eyes. And how we went to meet her. And what a great conversation we had that night. And how her sentences can be laced with sarcasm, humour and an occasional lisp. And how she insisted that I stay when Shwyzee bluntly asked me to take a hike. And how I am the worst wingman ever (Ok, this has been banged in by Shwyzee for so long it almost sounds true now). And how Gypsy is not her real name – it’s a pet name that I saved in my phone to keep Shwyzee from ‘accidentally’ smashing it on the wall had she called when I’d stepped out of the office. And how we’ve been doing this for almost four years now and I have to be extra careful to place any female names in my stories before 2008 (hehehe). And how she approaches situations from the worst case scenario – a trait that I hate for deflating my optimism most of the time. And how she has a knack for predicting the future. Remember what she said about this blog? And I would have wished her a happy birthday – maybe thrown in a short poem – and thanked her, for being the very best.

Then I wanted to write about school. The 15th Floor, remember? How the class has swelled. We’ve grown from a family of 15 to, what, 64? The class is so full I can hardly breathe with Kapere’s chest pumping so close to my nose and his eyes fixated on the candy newbie aptly named Zawadi! I’d have written how the class is now multi-racial. There’s Ensel, a white girl, who’s words zoom right past Kapere. Hehehe. And Wahetz who could be Indian, could be Arabic, could be Kikuyu but who cares she’s light enough with long silky hair. We’ll let her rep all three. There’s the new lecturer who’s arguably the second body (we’ll get him and Kapere in a contest then decide) and could as easily belong to the winged chairs opposite the whiteboard as at the whiteboard.

Then I wanted to write about my work. How I ended up in sales. How my work is to sell to salesmen – which pretty much means I can sell to anyone! I read this book collabo by Donald Trump and this guy who wrote Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Of course most of it is baloney that pushed the word count closer to the hardcover but Trump did say something in there that stuck with me. He said, ‘You have no business in business if you can’t sell.’ I want to be in business. I’ve since picked three more gems from local motivational speakers on sales. The first, during our very first in job training was, ‘I know this sounds stupid but if you really want to succeed in this (sales) DO NOT HAVE A PLAN B.’ You’d do well to heed that if you are a salesman. Having options give a quick and easy exit. The second was, ‘Never give up on a client.’ I’m not too keen on that one. But here’s the most important one, ‘If it is not life threatening, it is never that serious. It’s ok to walk away.’ This applies in life as much it does in sales. Never kill yourself trying to secure a sale or a girlfriend.

Then I wanted to write about my oldest client. Oh my God, where would I have started with this guy? This guy is a whirlwind of a story. The poster boy for breaking the rules. I’d have started with the titles that pre-fix his name and how rich and cunning and well-meaning and hardworking and scheming and good-hearted he is, all at once. And how people gather at his feet – and how much he enjoys that, and how he keeps them happy. And his top of the range vehicles – take your pick, I swear, he has it. And how he knows people in very high places in this government. And how he is not moved by things that bother educated people like driving with your car registration on; or keeping left; or making a U-turn in the middle of a highway; or policemen; or demand notes; or time. And how he believes, rightfully, that there are very few situations one cannot talk himself out of. And how he slid towards me on a hotel couch, as we watched ICC confirm charges on Ocampo four, and asked, ‘Ben, Uhuru ataenda kunyongwa?’

Then I wanted to write about my boss. And my ink dried out……….

Then I wanted to write about Shwyzee, my artist friend. A guy whom was recently referred to in a national daily as a person who ‘lives in his head’. No seriously, here are the exact words by Zihan Kassam in the Star’s article ‘Soudan (his brush name) is one of those people that live in his head. In executing a great idea, he can sometimes neglect the aesthetics.’ Shwyzee lives his life on his terms. He pretends (hehehe) not to believe in God. I’ll never hear the last of his accusations leveled against me for being a ‘sell-out’; for giving up my writing ‘talent’ to chase money in advertising – oh he hates advertising, he hates marketing (without realizing he uses it a lot), oh he hates Coca-Cola for all that advertising! But, how can a guy who sells some of his pieces for 200k accuse me of chasing money. You know what 200k can do? Build one IDP family a house in Mai Mahiu or earn a shylock 40k in interest within 30 days! If you gave me 200k (plus VAT), I’d give you a whole week of advertising, on national TV! And he makes that after, what, an afternoon of painting? Shwyzee deludes himself into thinking that anyone who makes a career out something remotely not artistic is a profoundly inessential person, a fool.

I’d have told you about how he lives free of societal expectations and responsibility and how he l.o.o.o.o.o.o.o.v.e.s his drink (…and hates that I wake up with regrets after a night on the tiles). How he sells his paintings without a rate card and soft skills. How he hates the status quo. How, had he have ended up with this girl he wrote about in a guest post on this space (read Little Death by Gor Soudan), B, he would now probably be working at Equity Bank and tacking in his shirts – Would you have taken a shotgun and shot me out of my misery, my friend? He asks me, genuinely, when he imagines that path. I’d have painted two pictures, a portrait of his almost humble self when broke and the arrogant humongous glass sculpture he wears when loaded. How he lives unapologetically and extravagantly, how he calls almost everyone else ‘punk’, how he intensely believes in himself ……… …and how, if your monthly subscriptions to this blog earned me a tidy sum, say 200k, I’d have considered ditching marketing to nurture my writing ‘talent’ or to live like Shwyzee.

Stairs, Lifts and Diving Boards

This could be the first floor or the mezzanine. I’m not sure anymore. I didn’t take the lift up here. There was no bleep and red light indicating the floor number. But I’ve been here too long, I’ve grown comfortable. And this bothers me. It bothers and scares the shit out of me. I’m looking out of the window. The blue swimming pool water dances calmly, deceptively. It bothers me that there are people who are comfortably miling around the pool. People who refuse to shape their destinies. I glance at them fleetingly; my focus is on the diving board. Is that board tight enough? Has fate tightened the screws it hides from my bird’s eye view? Is it windy down there? I wonder. I’m a lot more cautious now and I hate it!

Let me tell you how this all begins.

It begins in a basement of a flat in South C. I’ve recently graduated with a Bsc. A BSc. In Wood Science and Technology. We both know this can only get me to the top of the tree. I want to be a top a skyscraper. The country is still choking from the poisonous PEV fumes but business has to go on. You have to keep on even when the heat is on. People have to watch movies. And it is my duty to get them these movies, for a profit. Eight to five has never appealed to me so I stick to hawking movies. It paid better too. Then my kid bro checks in with a book that changed my life. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. To be honest, I never finished reading that book. I doubt if I went past the first 10 pages. The first pages talk about desire being the secret to success. And when I read that I might have read enough already, I close the book and set my plan into action. I choose to move back to Kisumu to set up a marketing agency and run a video shop. This is how I get to the first floor the first time. Only, I took the lift.

Lifts are deceptive things.

They are like vacuums. They shut out the reality long enough for you to lose focus. They camouflage their movement in a muffled buzz. They are full of people who won’t say anything to you. But the most tragic thing about the lift is that they don’t carry the notice. They don’t warn you that the floor they are about to spit you into may be slippery. That notice is to be found at the top end of a flight of stairs. So, this is how I get to the first floor. Excited, playful and none the wiser since I missed the notice on the stairs. I’ll hang around for a while because I’m a persistent fella but the floor will eventually spit me out. On one playful morning my feet will lose their grip and I’ll fly right past the huge open window and plunge into the pool below. It wasn’t my fault that the window was open.

The worst place to realize that you cannot swim is at the bottom of a pool’s deep end. And why do they always have to design the deep end closest to the windows? But you are thankful that you are still alive down there. You are grateful that you did not hit the edge of the diving board with the back of your head as you came tumbling down. You are grateful that you still have the presence of mind to realize that you are quickly running out of time and you can choose to struggle out or drown. You’ll throw your arms to try and grasp at the feet that hover above you. Most will kick you back down for they don’t want to suffer your fate. Some will kick you because you dared believe that you belonged in the first floor. Some will kick you because you dared venturing into the first floor without taking swimming classes. Others – the ones sent by God – will kick you because they can’t swim you out with their limbs arrested. So, they’ll kick you – they kick the hardest by the way – swim to the surface for a dash of fresh air and dive back in. They would come from behind, grab your hands and swim you out with your hands behind your back. When you pop out and the heavy fresh air rushes into your lungs, you will, just before you pass out, for the first time, notice that different doors lead to the stairs and the lift.

I would take my time to take in the sights from the worm’s eye view when I came to. I often focused beyond the first floor that I had fallen from. I fell in love with the 3rd Floor especially because it had metal frames that extended past the windows like a balcony. I wandered as far the door that led to stairs often and when I peeped in, once, I clearly could read the notice for the first time – CAUTION: SLIPPPERY FLOOR. I took my time and read some books and mingled with those around the pool but never took swimming lessons. And when I was ready to go back up, I took the stairs.

Stairs are tiresome things!

You never want to miss a step since you might painfully tumble to the bottom. You never want to go a step back because every step drained the muscle. On the stairs, you will clearly see where you are headed and the people who walk here, when not tapping the railing with their pens, will talk to you – people will point you to the right direction. People will say hi, sometimes that’s all one needs. And, you’ll never miss the notice! But stairs also exercise your muscle, they test you, they keep you fit and open your eyes to the realization that this journey is an endless flight of stairs. You are allowed to pause mid-way or at the end of the stairs but you will as sure as hell learn that going up is always going to test you.


We are now back to this floor where I’ve stayed for too long. We are back to the present.

When I got here, I chose to permanently lock the door to the stairs that lead to the lower floors. I can either go up or use the window. I feel like the stairs have tested me enough. I hate the cunning lifts. I want to chart a new path. That’s why I keep staring at the diving board, I keep wondering if fate has it tight enough. I want to take the plunge from the first floor or mezzanine, whichever floor it is I am on, but I can’t afford to miss the diving board. I still can’t swim. I want to know what the wind is like outside this window. Will the winds blow me away from the diving board into the deep end? Noooo, not again! I still remember how beautiful the third floor was with its protruding metal frames. God, I hope nobody has removed the damn frames. This is why I have to take this plunge.

If I hit the diving board right, and it has been fastened tight enough, it will launch me to the third floor. That’s what I’m hoping for. You understand why I’m scared right now, right? I could miss the diving board and plunge into the deep end again – I’m tired of all that kicking. I still can’t swim. The protruding metal frames on the third floor might have gone. I can’t see the third floor from here. What then will I clutch to? The windows in the third floor might be sealed off. How will I get in? Can I balance on thin metal frames long enough for the window to open? I know how endless a fall may seem. Will I able to hold on? Will I be able to pause momentarily in air as I wait to set my foot on the diving board, on the metal frames, on the third floor? What if God pushes me and I fly past the third floor? Will I be able to handle the fourth or the fifth floor? Will I be able to handle the trappings of success? How many floors are further up anyway? What if the fourth floor is a pub? What if the fifth floor is a brothel? This is not about little faith in my ideas, it is about my little faith in God. When God finally makes it happen, will I use this new platform for the glory of his name? Or will I feel self-sufficient?

This is me as Ari Gold at the end of the second season (I think) of Entourage. When he has been kicked out of the agency he painfully built to stardom. This is me when giving up and being an ordinary person has an attractive appeal. I need gay pep talk from Lloyd (Llooooooooooooooooooooooooooyd!!!!!!!!!!). I need someone to tell me it’s gonna be alright. I need someone to say that I will not miss that diving board and that fate fastened it just right. I need someone to say that that the frames on the third floor still exist and that the windows will be opened by God. I need God to say that even if I flied past the third floor to uncharted and tempting territories, my faith will not falter and I’ll always remember that I do this for the glory of his name and only because he lets me.

What I’m creating here, people, is the next big movie, The Titanic. I’ve written the script, I’ll direct it. But I need stunt coordinators, unit production managers, first and second assistant directors, casting directors, producers, associate producers, costumer designers, and a music supervisor, and a visual effects supervisor, and a story editor, and a script supervisor, and an art director, and a set decorator, and a location manager, and a production controller, and a 2nd 2nd assistant director, and a head make-up artist, and a head hair stylist, and a property master, and a gaffer, and a best boy electric, and the key grip, and the best boy grip, and a construction coordinator, and camera operators, and production sound mixers, and boom operators, and people in-charge of sound utility, video playback and still photography, and genny and dimmer board operators, and leadmen, and foremen, and set dressers, and research advisors, and production accountants, and transportation captains, and special effects coordinators, and historical consultants, and dialect coaches, and dialogue editors, and post production editors, and a producer, and executive producers, and ……. GOD.

Ok, what I’m really creating is a TV Show and way of consuming music that will beat piracy hands down and something else. I really need people who know IT well, extremely well. Get in touch – benogombe@yahoo.com – if you are that person or point me to his or her direction. If you know anything about TV shows, let’s have a drink. Oh, I need lawyers who know something about IP too (Andrew, cuz, are you out of law school yet?). We’ll pick everyone else along the way.





Remembering December

December is like a teenager who sneaks back past the open living room door after a rave night, it passes fast. That’s probably because we are Kenyans. Kenyans are marathoners; we go through the eleven months of the year through more or less the same pace. Then madly dash through the last lap. The twelfth. December. Our minds collectively leave for Christmas on Jamhuri Day and only checks back in when brokenness comes knocking, near January.

Of course the real sprint would start on the 23rd at 6 a.m. as we – my kid bro, Shwyzee and I – shuttled to Kisumu. You need to understand that a man born in the 80’s in unpretentious urban outpost that is Kisumu, has a sacred duty to return every Christmas if not for anything else to break bread with his peers who carry on with their lives as they have for the past decade or so – boldly and unapologetically – and to sneak into shags every so often to imbibe from the wisdom of his folks.

Evening would find us seated at Sunset Hotel because we discover their beers are relatively cheaply priced and they have wireless internet. My pal Mushteng’ would also add, tongue-in-cheek, that we chose Sunset so that anyone who’d like to enjoy the ‘goodies’ we bring from the city in the sun should at least bear the cost of taxi to Sunset.We will later customarily relocate to Wayside since a visit to Kisumu is never quite complete without paying homage to the legendary Tamiez, before dispersing into the night in as a many as the compass directions. And converge back at Sunset on the following day, in the afternoon.

Allow me now to drag you to the side bar, so I can relate to how our dear Deputy CJ, Nancy Baraza, will remember her December. As I write this I’m watching how the incident with a guard at Village Market will shape the Deputy CJ’s 2012. I want to relate that with what happens on Christmas eve, at Sunset Hotel’s entrance. I alight from a motorbike outside the gate. I lost my phone at some point last night so am clutching a brand new phone still in those tiny boxes on my left hand and its charger on my right. As I walk past the security desk a lady guard growls, ‘Wewe, kuja hapa unaenda wapi?’ I quickly check the surroundings to confirm that I actually got into a hotel establishment and not someone’s home. I point out, deliberately in English, that I’m obviously headed into the hotel. ‘Kufanya nini?Hebu ingia hapa kwanza.’ I’m tempted to reply that I’m looking for a ‘short-time’ room but instead decline to get into the security booth stating that I had no plans of getting into any form of jail when I woke up a few hours ago. If they are going to search me, they are going to have to do it at the gate. The lady soloist is quickly joined in her barbaric drivel by her two male instrumentalists, one orders me to hand over the box containing my new phone and I tell him that’s not going to happen. They then delve in gibberish about madharau and how I don’t have go into their establishment blah blah blah at which point I correct them that Sunset is indeed owned by the government which means I, as a tax paying citizen, have a stake which I won’t forfeit on account of contracted security suppliers. One of the more reasonable male guards asks his colleague to run the metal detector and let me go but Bang Bang Bruno on drums with the metal detector here and his lead soprano girlfriend are still spoiling for war so I casually ask if [insert name here] the manager is in. My last question moves mountains. Bruno quickly runs the metal detector and allows me to proceed. I turn back after a few steps and shout in Luo, ‘Kara uluor aluora to udai ka’ – You are acting all tough yet you are terrified (of the manager) – and we all uncharacteristically break into laughter and Bruno shouts back, ‘Mogo nyaka riti’ – we must guard our source of livelihood. I guess, I’m saying it’s not cool to pull out a pistol on a guard but I would understand why anybody would.

Anyway, I drop my threat to report the run-in to the manager and walk past the lobby to the poolside where my pals are surfing swimming and drinking. We are soon joined by Gor’s French pal, Fredric, having just touched down from Nairobi and who will be staying at Shwyzee’s digz. At some point, while Shwyzee, Fredric and my kid bro are swimming, my cheeky pal will try to convince me to start a rumour thatShwyzee and his white pal are actually an item back in Nairobi but I’ll resist the temptation most importantly since the rumour will be easily traceable back to me, might quickly get out of control in our small town and also because Fredric’s, a PhD history student, favourite African historian is none other than my late uncle Prof. E.S. Atieno Odhiambo, and we always have a great time discussing the Prof’s books, papers and genius. So I lurk on facebook and twitter and sip a bottle of beer until it’s time to for my bro and me to leave for shags, 62 kilometres away.

Dad is exceedingly excited when we check into his homestead at dusk. He’s asking questions. He has a lot to talk about, he always has. He wants the updates; on work, on the political temperatures in the city, on plans we had been discussing only on phone, on our relatives in the city, on the activities of last night in Kisumu, on how we, his sons, are doing, on everything. And it suddenly hits you that this is the point of Christmas – to bring as much joy to your parents as they did you when you were kids. They might not ask for matching outfits but they want you seated on the lunch table on 25th December and to attend the family’s AGM later in the evening. All mum wants to know is that we haven’t been sleeping hungry and where you put the box with her royco.

Let me back up a little bit to the 2010’s AGM.

My dad calls me in his room and I know this is going to be a windy conversation when mum calls from the corridor that we should not start without her. We start anyway and the first question the Esquire asks is how much money I’ve saved in the past year. But since I’ve watched The Bucket List, I throw him that look that suggests, ‘it is rude to ask about another person’s money’. He half laughs, half smiles. It’s one of those uneasy laughs and I understand when he says, ‘You know, you sit here listening to me talking all this theory because I obviously didn’t practice well the advice I’m giving you. But take this from me son, learn to save. Save lots of your money, son!’ And his eyes get teary, and my heart sunk. My mum takes over the conversation but I don’t hear a word she says because my mind has left. I’m battling with how my dad, at 74 then, a man I have always regarded as a man’s man, an African man, can accept a fault on his part to his 20-something year old son. The truth was, I wasn’t saving at all back then. There was too much month left at the end of my money but I swore to myself that I’ll never have to have that conversation with my son!

Last year’s AGM was an investment conference. I should have seen that coming since the previous year’s was about savings – retained earnings. This year, the ancestral land was divided between my two brothers and I. So we walk to this parcel that is to be divided in two between my kid bro and I. I’m carrying a sharp panga and as Esquire points out the boundary I cut off a cylindrical branch, sharpen one end and drive it into the ground on the borderline. Standing on my side and brandishing the sharp panga I turn to my kid bro and tell, ‘Nigga, you better not cross this line nigga! Coz nigga I’ma chop off your ear and use it as manure if you cross this line, nigga am so serious!’ My kid bro then calmly asks me in sheng, ‘Una ngapi nikuuzie plot? Mi ni msee wa ma tao, ma flashlights, beamer, magwara, nini nini, nta-buy land Kite(ngela), hii story ya ocha siezi toboa mimi.’ I’ve never seen my dad laugh so hard. But there was something eerily unsettling about all this talk of dividing land amongst us because it shoves into the table the question of human mortality. I remember leaving that AGM with the distinct impression that we don’t have so many AGM’s left with the board as currently constituted. That brings urgency into the equation and defines what 2012 will be like for me.

This year, for me, will be defined by three creative articles. One, a recent article by Sunny Bindra in the Sunday Nation that analyzed success in the definition of Ralpho Waldo Emerson who said, ‘To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children … to leave the world a better place … to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’I want success in that definition.


Secondly, and probably the one that will define my business, is an article by Mark Harris, in the February 2011 edition of GQ, titled The Day the Movies Died, which pretty much explains why we are increasingly subjected to crap movies and how hard it is for an intellectually challenging movie to be green lit by the studios. The most illuminating point of his analysis was that marketers were to blame for the crap that is summer blockbusters – you know, X-men, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter and their re-makes, prequels and sequels! I mean, have you ever watched The Great Debaters? Hunting Party? Charlie Wilson’s Wars? Puncture? Have you ever wondered why they were never on the big screen? In summary, he says the rise of marketers influence in movie making with an unrelenting focus on the sell rather than the goods may be why so many of the dispiritingly awful movies that studios throw at us look as if they were planned from the poster backwards rather than from a good idea forward. As a marketer and a salesman, I know how true this statement is even for commodities beyond the realm of movies. I know that consumers deserve better not an endless cycle of recycled relics. At some point this year, I’ll take a break from my current engagement, to pursue business interests that will always emanate from a good idea forward. Wish me good luck.

Finally, is a movie titled Courageous. A movie about honor, fatherhood and God. Let me not ruin that movie for you, please get a copy of Courageous, especially if you are a man. Forget about the execution, focus on the message.

Happy New Year, Folks! Consider the marathon flagged off!

Let’s Make a Toast

You may want to understand how empty things are in twfast right now – how intimidating and stifling the blank page has become and how little nourishment a new good story receives in my mind – it may help to start with the inspiration.

You see, in May this year, I set out on a journey to chronicle my life. I’m sure you have read bios of several successful men, bios that spell out the path trodden after the subject has made something of himself. Bios that sell on the basic premise that the subject went through insurmountable challenges to get to the present. Bios which, let’s be honest, often stretch the truth to get out a good story. I wanted to lend myself a different approach. My goal has always been to capture that gradual rise to the top with all its imperfections as it happens. I wanted to create a space where I defined and redefined success, a place where I’d formulate and shed guiding principles, a place where I’d set myself nuanced targets, a place where if I were finally successful, in my own definition, anyone who wished to set sail on the same path would drop by and say, ‘you know what? Benjaps was just as much of a douche as I am right now, so my future is unpaved but open, I’m going to rule the world’, but most importantly what I desired to create was a space where I could tie success to God, a place where I could put a case for putting God first, however sinful and wicked one thinks of him/herself to be, a place where, well …. this space where thou would find a solace and a chance for reflection.

But this is what you end up with.

We end up with this space. A space that has not carried any story for the whole of December. We could blame it on my girlfriend who jinxed me. We can blame it on exams. We can blame it on work. We can blame it on the government. Or we can choose to remember December in January and make a toast to 2011. We could choose to be jolly and make merry this festive season. To remember that the season has a reason and to be thankful for God’s blessings. For taking out time to read this blog, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart! Thank you KK. Thank you Len (Lupaaaa Lupa?). Thank you Sundit. Thank you Nyaguthii (you see, before I met you I thought that name only existed in Papa Shirandula). Thank you the boy the Hez. Thank you Kapere (the river road chest) and Butunyi (the boy with the biggest head) and Tash and Sergent and Katz (baby!) and Mushteng (Aptiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigis!) and Kerry and Minnie and Pitzevans and all the faceless eyeballs that drop by from time to rhyme. It’s sad that I can’t mention all of you by name especially since this is a small club. But please know that I sincerely thank you for dropping by and enriching this experience. It’s been a fulfilling ride.

May the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God the Father, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

Let’s remember December in January. I promise to make it worth your while in 2012. Have a Merry Christmas and a very prosperous 2012. PEACE!!!!!!!!!!