Guest: Meet Joe Black.

Posted in: Guest posts    206 Comments

Picture a 17yr old boy living with his grandfather in Majengo slums in Kitui. Now picture this boy shuffling to a dark hot and seedy cyber in a corner of this hovel to write me an email a few days after he’s suspended from school. He says he’s spending his “food money” in the cyber to write that email.

He starts by saying that he’s “literally” my biggest fan, but on the second sentence he changes his mind and says that he doesn’t think “I’m all that,” and he isn’t writing to shower me with praises, a privilege he will hold back until I write a book because apparently that’s the true mark of a prolific writer.

I read this email in Nairobi at 2am, in the dead of the night, my sleep long displaced. The boy continues to say that since he was suspended from school everyone has been telling him he’s a “fuck up and will always be a fuck up in life.” (Strong language for a teenager). But he isn’t paying attention to those naysayers, he assures me. He wants to do something with his life. He says he’s always been “good with the pen,” the best in his class, so good he would charge other students to write love letters for them. Here is this piece I wrote, he writes to me, would you please have a look at it and tell me what you think?

He writes, “I know you write for many publications, and you are busy, but come on, you were 17 once, weren’t you? Plus aren’t you the same people always complaining about the book intolerance ...... Read the entire article

The Man With The Gun

Posted in: Life & people    66 Comments

If you honk at me when the lights have just turned green, I will put on my hazard and pretend the car has stalled. If you cut me off on the road I’m like an elephant, I won’t forget, I will trail you to your house. And report you to your wife. I silently curse those chicks who drive VW Polos and who are adversely allergic to acceleration lanes. You know them. The pesky ones who will have cars backup because they are waiting to join the road when Kingdom finally comes. I’m that guy who will eat his shoelace first before he lets anyone overlapping join traffic. I will eat my whole shoe if it’s a Probox.

I just don’t let things go on the road. I’m vindictive. I curse. I sometimes show the royal middle- finger. I find little mirth on the road and even less in driving. I’m a basket case when my foot is on the pedal.

If I’m a prick off the road on the road I’m a first-class prick. I allow things to foul up my whole morning: I will walk around mumbling to myself, cussing under my breath, feeling lava flow in my veins. I’m inconsolable. Incurable. Irredeemable. Anger is my co-driver on the road.

There is something evil I’ve always wanted to do. Normally while dropping off the princess to school in the morning I usually get off Waiyaki Way and join Musa Gitau Rd into Lavington. In the mornings there are usually this bunch of matatus that illegally join Waiyaki Way by cutting right across Waiyaki Way from Musa Gitau Rd thus blocking the ...... Read the entire article

Like A Thief In The Night…

Posted in: Life & people    131 Comments

It’s highly unlikely you will live to see 90. In fact, you will be lucky to see 63. You will die from heart diseases. Or hypertension. Or diabetes. Or cancer. Or HIV/AIDS. At this rate it’s also possible you will die in your beloved Subaru. Crushed in there, like a can of soda, music still playing as you breath your last through you bloodied mouth. If you don’t die from any of the above mentioned, you will still die. So will I. And everybody else I know. You will die whether you have 50 or 45,000 followers on Twitter because, ultimately, death has the most followers. When your heart has stopped beating, your Facebook account will have droves of “friends” professing your high virtue on your wall. Folk will tag you on pictures you took together while you were a mortal.

Death’s certainty is as indiscriminate as it is absolute. You will die whether you take a latte at Art Café or a chai masala at Kwa Njuguna’s in Dagoretti. It doesn’t even matter that you can spell “croissant”. You will die. We imagine that when we live, we are stalked by the insecurities of modern living when all along we are stalked by the prince of Death. The dark knight, always waiting. Always glancing at his watch.

My grandpa has one foot in his grave. He’s 90. God have given him 20 more years over the 70yrs he has accorded us to live. But sometimes, at that age, life seems like a punishment, not a privilege.

Last weekend I went to shags to see him because he’s ...... Read the entire article

Zanzibar. Dar. A Book.

Warning: Long post ahead (2,500 words), read in bed. Or at your virtual beach.

This will sound mad. But do you sometimes wake up in the dead of the night and lie there, anxious that perhaps there is a book out there you will die without reading? A book that was “written for you”? No? OK, what about a play? A painting? A movie? A small movie about a boy in Basra who dreamt of a life beyond herding goats. A boy who tried to wrestle free of that life, but – tragically – never left. Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that boy’s departed dream?

Do you think of those things at 3am, when the dogs outside have out-barked themselves and the still and the blackness of the night has turned into a cliché? Aren’t you curious that out there exists some body of art that shifts, albeit a little, your whole existence? Well, I’m sure it’s out there. An undiscovered author, or musician or painter or, or, or someone who created a piece of art so profound it seems to know you exist.

I think about shit like that at 3am. When I can’t sleep. It fills me with a harrowing sense of foreboding. This question about my existence and mortality and tasks and experiences that will never cross my path. It’s just me, right? Say it.

Well I found that book. Rather, it found me.

A little background. For the longest time I read books. Then I stopped. You know the way you pull chairs for a chic you have just started dating then after a while you stop, ...... Read the entire article

A letter to Kenyans Abroad

Posted in: Life & people    701 Comments

Dear Diaspora.

There is this time I walked into this shoe shop in Dublin, Ireland. It was winter and cold as a hyena’s snout. I had on this hoodie with “Safaricom” emblazoned on its front in green. So, there I was checking out these shoe when I heard someone ask, “Wewe ni Mkenya?” I looked up to find this grinning miro guy. I said, yes, I was Kenyan. Boy, was he happy to make my acquaintance! He bear hugged me, which is something I try to reserve for the opposite sex. He then rattled on, asking about home and how it was “back there.” Asking about politics and things. He told me he watched Citizen news online most of the time, but that still left him shelled with homesickness. He lived in Northern Ireland, which is really next to the end of the world, and he is probably the only black guy for thousands of miles before you run into a Nigerian.

I asked him when was the last time he was home and he said 11years ago. That depressed me more than the weather. I asked him what he missed most about being home and he surprised me by saying, “attending funerals for close ones.”
He said he had missed his father’s funeral (it was cheaper to send money for burial), something that seemed like a monkey on his back. In fact, he had missed tons of funerals for close relatives. And he missed Mukimo (he was okuyu). On a light note I asked him if he had a kiosk in Belfast and he laughed, that distinct Kenyan laugh that starts from the diaphragm and doesn’t ...... Read the entire article