I started my career penniless, and even though I had a phone, I couldn’t even afford to use it. Let me pause here to explain something to the youth. Hello boys and girls. How’s unemployment? How’s economic uncertainty and the ever-present temptation to inherit your parents’ alcoholism as a coping mechanism? The 2020s suck so far. You missed the 00s. Cos even though you have better phones than we did back then, we had a far easier job market. The only problem was that our phones, even before OTTT, cost money to use. You had to pay something called service fee before the phone company could let you make and receive calls. It was, we thought then, the most unjust thing a phone owner could endure. Little did we know what was coming. Like revenge porn, OTTT, and people making you argue on twitter because they don’t know the difference between stating valid ignorance and stating a valid opinion. Back then our phones could not even text.
But I was saying, even though I started my career penniless, I was working for a very good company and was soon being paid relatively well. It wasn’t enough to be Douglas Lwanga, but it was enough to dress better, to get clothing and caps that really highlighted the sexier aspects of my very attractive physique and face.
But it wasn’t just about the money. It was about the ego. Because back then I was, and yeah I said it, the best writer in the industry.
Really. Apenyo, Kintu and Namugoji had yet to begin their stints as columnists. Kalinaki was active but, at the time, he was yet to become better than I was. I was the best thing typing on Microsoft Word 98 back then.
Unfortunately for me, this was not an indisputable fact.
You see, there was another writer who got there before me. Her name was Barenzi. The fact that Barenzi was regularly feted and widely admired burned me inside. It made me even more furious that I was also one of her big fans, which I found perplexing and perverse and it pushed my envy even further towards the edge.
I wanted her spot.
So I went for it.
She had a column in the Sunday Vision. It took up three quarters of a page and readers enjoyed her wit, style and insight immensely. This pissed me massively off, especially when I, too, enjoyed it.
When she was invited to be interviewed on a TV show called Writer’s dawn and I was not, that was it. I googled workout exercises for fingers and began to plot her downfall. Murdering Sagara and framing her for the crime, was my first thought, but I had to abandon that plot. Saggy was a sociopathic dipshit so anyone convicted of his dispatch would not be jailed, they would just be given a Heroes’ Day medal and made a presidential advisor. I had to type my way in.
That page had a third of paper left, and it was open for the taking.
I told Simon, my boss, that I wanted a column there.
He did the maths astutely and presented me with the conclusive findings that I already had three columns in different parts of the New and Sunday Visions, but I was able to convince him that overkill was not yet a serious media problem. After all, brands jumping on twitter hashtags and ruining them would not be a thing for several years to come.
He allowed it. He instructed me to bring him this column idea.
I slunk into my dank den of bitterness and jealousy and scratched things all over papers all night.
In 2003, rookie reporters didn’t have laptops. We used relics called notebooks. We also had real loadshedding, so it was mostly writing under candlelight because there was nothing to charge the laptop with even after you didn’t have it.
Eventually I emerged from the shadows with a scrap of squiggled nonsense. Nonsense, but hilarious nonsense. I walked to the New Vision from my Kyebando muzigo with The Slim Shady LP spinning in my discman (Look it up. I’m tired of parentheses for history lessons), typed it up on the office computer and filed it on Simon’s desk. I originally called it “Ernest Bazanye’s Column Idea” then, because I always feel profound doubt about what I write once I’m done, as opposed to the unassailable confidence I feel during the actual writing, a fit of modesty grabbed me and I added a note, “Is this a bad idea?”
The column began to run weekly soon after that. After the hefty meal of Barenzi came the little desert cookie of Ernest Bazanye’s Bad Idea.
I hated it. Being on the same page just made it inevitable that we would be compared and Barenzi always wrote in a glamorous ball gown with a glass of Chardonnay in one hand while typing with the other two.
Yes. Writers have three hands. An extra one for either a mug of coffee or alcohol. Ask Hemingway. He’ll tell you it’s true.
The fates were on my side. It was like when Jordan retired and the other team won the championship. Barenzi headed off to do a masters degree in the UK, leaving the page for me and me alone.
And that is how I became the man I am today: former star newspaper columnist. It was as easy as your nemesis being smarter than you so, whereas you were, for all intents and purposes, a Makerere dropout, she was clever enough to go do masters degrees abroad.
Oh, you didn’t know about the being a dropout part? I’ll make that my next post. Meanwhile, okay. Bye. See you next week if you come back.
(Edit: All those typos in a post about being the best writer? Tuswale kko banange.)
After university I left Kampala for Nairobi, where my mother lived and worked. Subsequent posts in this series should establish that she was and is one of the wisest Africans ever.
Despite being very much like her in terms of genetics, facial appearance and temperament, I was intractably foolish. This was her home but I went back there because I thought that it was still mine as well. Unwise sons don’t realise that once you finish Uni, you are on your own. Your mom’s house is no longer your house. After school is finished you graduate from a resident to a parasite in that house.
I was finally done with Makerere when I moved back to Nai. Part of the completion of my sentence in that gulag had included two terms as an intern at the New Vision. Both were behind me now, as were all my exams*. I felt sufficiently educated. The next step was to get a job. The bundle of fatty porridge laced with misfiring neurons in my head told me that I shall find a nice one in Nairobi, one like my mother’s.
I loved Nairobi, which is several percentage points more than I have ever been able to say about this chaotic rabble-heap of trash, discarded liquor satchets and misspelled shop signs you people call a capital city. Kampala? Mbaff. Keep. Take. I made my escape with gleeful haste. I had done my time, served my sentence, paid for the grievous sin of applying to MUK in the first place and was now done.
I went to Nairobi. There to get a job.
I fully expected to find one, and more. I was hoping that I would also find on the cards a beautiful and leggy wife, probably a late 90’s precursor to Sheila Kwamboka or Victoria Kimani or something like that. At the very least I expected to get my Kenyan accent back with it’s rough Rs. I miss those Rs. Those Rs have Rrrrrresonance. They Rrrrealy make a point. I currently have Luganda Rs, which are a mix of R, L and W. Ask Douglas Lwanga how many times he is called “Douglas Ranga” and doesn’t realise the difference.
At the very most, I expected to get a nice job.
I got off the Akamba bus (late 90’s version of Uganda Airlines), rode a matatu (late 90’s what we had instead of Ubers) to my mother’s house, typed up some application letters, emailed them to the top advertising firms in the city then lay down on the carpet and began to watch Kenyan television.
It was after six months supine on her carpet vegetating in the glow of her TV that mum chased me out.
She started by asking me what I was doing there.
I replied, the fatty porridge neurons misfiring wildly, that I was waiting for a job.
She said, “You left a job in Kampala and came to waste my carpet ogling my TV? Get up and go back.”
(I should point out that my internship was basically the bomb. I was really good. I was an intern with a newspaper column, you be there.)
She didn’t ask aloud whether she had raised a man or a skinny, shabby house plant that was going to root in her sitting room for six months, showering only every other day, but, as I may have mentioned, she was and is a very wise woman. So she must have thought the question. And probably didn’t ask it because she already knew the answer.
So I packed my things, nze Son of Nagawa, and returned to this stinking dump of roadkill dogs and public urination of yours.
Mbu Kampala. More like “Dump”ala.
My first stop right off the bus was the New Vision. I had no plan of getting a job there. I still thought I was going to get a job in advertising.
Let me tell you why advertising: Advertising is writing work, but it is easy writing work. You can work for eight months to produce two sentences, usually something inane and unimaginative built around the phrase “your one stop” something or the other, but you get paid for the whole eight months.
Press work was different. Newspapers expect five hundred words from you in one day, and you can’t fall back on cliches unless you are one Sagara — you have to be creative.
The only reason I was at New Vision offices was it was near the Akamba terminal and so I went there to say hi to the friends I made during internship and/or see if any of them had any leads on where I could stay.
So, there I was in the Vision courtyard, skinny, unfashionably dressed, perennial baseball cap over the afore-described porridge mix, backpack slung over my shoulder containing all my life’s belongings, chiefly cassette tapes, novels, even more unfashionable clothing, extra batteries and five hundred 1998 UGX, which mum had kicked me out with, when up barreled Simon Kaheru, who was then Sunday Vision deputy editor, right hand of the legendary Joachim Buwembo.
Simon didn’t walk around, he barelled. He moved with the force of herds of buffalo. He was brash, urgent, and threatened the kinetic energy of an earthquake.
He was also a genius and so instead of running away I stayed to talk, or rather, to be talked at by, or rather, to be talked at from him.
He was joined in seconds, if memory doesn’t play mischief on me, by then-company secretary Robert Kabushenga. I don’t need to describe the force of Robbo’s presence. You already know that he is a mountain of a man, in the sense of: who argues with mountains. That is not a question.
Simon said, “You’re back?” The question mark was a mere formality. “Bazanye is back,” he informed Robbo, who had just arrived.
This is when Robbo, who was yet to become Mr Kabushenga to me, turned, faced me like Muhavura faces scrawny little punks, and asked, “Do you have a phone?”
The answer was that it was 1998. MTN had only just arrived in town and made cellphones not even affordable, just less unaffordable. Their cheapest piece cost five hundred shillings: all the money I had. The money I was supposed to use to find a place to stay and food to eat while I job-search.
The answer I gave was, “Umm, no.”
He turned around to go off and do some busy Kabushengaring. Such is Kabushenga–always going somewhere to do something that is urgent and vital that does not permit the squandering of time with young boys in Red Sox caps.
Before he turned he instructed, “Go and get one and come back.”
I remember feeling as if I was reeling in the aftermath of something massive and cataclysmic like those that happen in movies starring Dwayne Johnson, where the robots have decimated four US States. I didn’t even get to stutter the first syllable of the question “Why” before Simon scribbled down his and Robbo’s numbers so that when I get the phone and report for duty I can inform them without wasting time. This whole conversation, if at all it counts as a conversation, had proven that wasting time was not something these men did.
So I left the Vision, propelled perhaps by the force of these two men and their command, or by the fact that I am very much my mother’s son and, dumb idiot though I was then, I was still wise enough to know that I had just wandered into the leading media company in the country and been given a job instantly.
Now, as anyone caught in the world of shrieking hyenas called marketing will tell you, branding is an actual, real force, and the name of a thing, circumstance or person can determine its success as much as the immediately evident value of the thing circumstance or person itself.
Marketing people are alchemists– their unique power is to believe absurd and illogical things and believe them so hard that they become true. Marketing people made “Lite” beer actually get bought by humans with real human mouths. Repeatedly.
And “Lite” beer tastes like it is the piss expelled by weak, sad and broken-hearted men after they have drunk real beer.
The case of Mr Opolot Apollo is a case of a marketing man’s faith.
Apollo was a thief. A mugger, one would say, if not for the fact of his cowardice, which ensured he never actually mugged anyone.
He made up for it the lack of courage with his cunning, however. He would wait in dark bushes on lonely pathways after curfew for yuppies heading home on foot. Once he identified one who looked likely to own a valuable phone he would suddenly bark harshly from the shadows.
“Gwe falla gwe.
“Don’t run. If we have to chase you we will catch you and we will melee you with our mitayimbwa, yannastan. Stand still there. Don’t turn around.”
At this point the victim either did run, in which case, of course, Apollo, having no actual colleagues, and therefore no recourse, would sigh, sit back down in his ditch and wait for the next one, or the victim would believe the ruse, that he was in fact surrounded by armed thugs, and would therefore stop in his tracks, at attention like a boy scout.
Here Apollo would bark again.
“Take out the phone and put it on the ground. Don’t turn around. Put the phone on the ground.”
It would not often take long, often just an instant for the victim to complete the calculations of which was worth more– intact skull surface un-smashed by mitayimbwa vs his or her phone– and comply.
Apollo would bark, “Now run!”
When the coast was clear Apollo would slink out of his hiding place, pick up the phone, extract the simcard, which he would magnanimously leave at the scene of the crime in case the victim came back (It is a new culture phone thieves are trying to introduce in Uganda where they leave the sim card on the ground. Just out of courtesy. They know getting your number replaced is such a hassle in Uganda that losing the simcard is worse than losing the iphone.)
Simon Peter Kawanga was a shiftless con artist, a leech whose only talent was identifying other people’s talent and using it to his advantage. He was the one to whom the phone muggers of that suburb brought their loot for disposal.
SP knew how to find phone thieves and how to find people who buy stolen phones and this described his job the month he and Apollo’s acquaintance grew. They were not close friends, just business associates, and that is why it was so many weeks before he found out that the skinny, short, wispy fellow with the skin so dark it was as if it was itself made of the shadows he hid in at work, was not just named Apollo, but also Opolot.
And since election season was approaching, SP came to the conclusion that led to the shave, the facial scrub, the suit, the tie, and the photographs of all these combined that came to adorn posters all over the suburb.
From being an invisible member of the local community, lurking in bushes, Apollo became one of it’s most visible.
Vote Londa Opolot Apollo for MP. Development is every Ugandan’s right.
“What if I win?” Apollo had asked, his main objection to the plan when SP first broached it.
“You won’t,” SP had replied with convincing finality that set Apollo’s mind at ease in that regard.
“Then why are we even standing?” Apollo had asked.
“Because your name is Apollo Opolot. You sound just like a political candidate should.”
“So why are we…”
“Campaign crowds,” SP answered. SP knew how to close questions in a way few Ugandans that aren’t conmen did. Satisfactorily.
Apollo had never seen that much money before. It wasn’t that much– just enough to get the salon treatment, buy the suit, take the photo and print the posters, but soon after he saw it it was whisked away by SP and his cronies, who were to then get busy effecting the cosmetic changes to be photographed and publicised and transform Apollo the low life thug into a high class thug, i.e. politician, but it was important for Apollo to see it to lay eyes on it. It incites greed and is therefore good for motivation. Plus it tempted away any doubt that would have stemmed the establishment of absolute confidence in the idea that SP knew what he was doing.
Apollo’s poster said he was an NUP candidate, but he never asked why he had never met Bobi Wine or even Joel Senyonyi. He just figured out for himself that SP had covered all the meetings on his behalf.
He just climbed aboard the flat bed of the Isuzu and smiled and waved as it dragged through the suburb traffic blaring Kyarenga and Bada, pausing only at intervals for the raggedy youth hanging off the railings to shout “Peeepopawa!! Peeeoppopawa!” before the music would resume.
His first rally was a success. It was attended by a horde of angry market women, boda boda pilots with frowns so thick he secretly wondered how their helmets ever fit, a few elderly men and women bursting with resentment at what the world and their lives had come to and here and there a policeman looking lazy, content and not only recently well-fed, but absent minded as well, as if lost in daydreams of the next good feeding that would follow this rally.
Apollo had been trained for the rally. There wasn’t much work to do. Just slightly adjust his professional bark and use it to deliver a few scripted platitudes featuring the words “enough”, “the people”, “change”, and “time is now” into a microphone attached to a speaker that produced such overtweeted and indecipherable sound that even he couldn’t understand himself.
Not that it mattered. The crowd cheered every time his DJ interspersed his muffled speech with a snippet of Kiwani or Kyarenga.
Apollo was a bit surprised when he did his first rally in the suburb on the other side of the valley, because this time his posters were yellow and his ragamuffin truck hanging youth were chanting “No change”.
He gave the same non-speech through the same word mangling microphone and got the same cheers when the speaker would sporadically clear up to allow the words “clinic” “school” and “road” to ring through.
The crowds looked happier here, each holding a bottle of soda and an empty kaveera with nothing left in it but grease.
The police were fewer, but still had the same expression as they did on all the other rallies.
Opolot Apollo could not deny that he was enjoying this adventure. Living in a hotel outside of town was only one of the better parts. It was a small lodge actually, discreetly hidden at the edge of a squirrel path off the road to Mukono which was probably not used to housing clients for more than a night. It looked like the sort of place that had hourly rates in the daytime. But it was far more luxurious than the squalor of his own ghetto hovel.
It was fun while it lasted.
But it didn’t last.
Simon Peter Kawanga was not a great brand name for an MP, but Simon Peter Kawanga was a savvy campaigner.
SP had made a killing. Small businesses had let go of donations that added up well when they were tantalised with the hope of an MP who would stifle and strangle any tax bills. SP didn’t tell anyone that Apollo would reduce taxes. He said Apollo would catch any tax law and filibuster, delay, obfuscate and bureaucratise it to death before it could hit the ground.
SP had collected from other candidates who were wary of a people power truck showing up on the same day as their campaign.
And of course SP had a team of pickpockets busy at work at every rally.
One Monday morning in November Apollo realised that it was three pm and he had not been collected from his room. He activated his VPN and opened his WhatsApp. SP was last seen two whole nights before.
By five pm he was still on a single grey tick.
At six pm he was told the number he had dialled was currently switched off.
Opolot Apollo finally realized that he was not going to be called any honourable member, but there is honour among some thieves, so there was at least enough money in his trousers, from the last time SP had handed him a wad of cash, ostensibly in case his fellow hotel guest asked for extra fees for any extra services Apollo might suddenly require, for him to grab a bike to a bus depot and beat a hasty exit to a small town on the border with South Sudan, from where he could work his way up to Juba, where there were plenty of iPhones being carried through lonely dark streets.
This story is made up. It’s all fiction and insomnia. I don’t even think this sort of thing is possible– I am sure the electoral commission has measures in place to prevent it.
I just couldn’t sleep and writing long stretches makes me tired. Okay. Goodnight. NRM Oyee or whatever.
I was a professional writer for twenty years. That’s a long time.
If you are a “lit”, “swaggerific” youth, bathing in all the glory and àdulation my current occupation smothers you with (wait. Hold that point. I am going to take one of many parenthetical breaks. I write like that now. In short bursts for short attentions. That is to say, I write ads now. It’s deep slumming, miles beneath me. My talents are a hawk with a shovel digging a tunnel underneath the rift valley. Time and my own lack of foresight clipped my wings. I an old man. A dull head among windy spaces. )
But for twenty years I was a wonder in full flight, from sky to sky, airborne and loving it as much as my readers did, because I was very very very good.
Twenty years is a long time. To be young is to lack perspective so you need my help to understand this. If you are in your twenties you need to understand how long twenty years is.
When you slipped out of a fallopian tube the night the other constituent parts of you shot out of a pair of testes, I was already out there typing for money.
While you gestated, curled up and asleep, formed a tail then reabsorbed it, when you chose which genes to keep and which to abandon — your father gave you a strong will, your mother a mild and timid demeanor and you picked one and dispatched the other– when you were doing this, I was already out there typing for money.
After you were finally born, while you spent that first year doing nothing but crying and crapping at the most inconvenient moments and driving your poor mother crazy, I spent the whole time with my fingers gliding over keyboards, making words dance.
You learned to walk and started doing it, shakily and badly, falling over often, while I was clicking save and send. You were in shorts and socks the same colour as everyone else in the school when I was spinning spiels of stories out of nothing but my neuroses, the sunlight, and spiderwebs.
When you finally learned how to read, I was already there to be read, my face a cartoon, my name a bold marquee on my own page in the best selling newspaper magazine in the land.
When you were pissing the bed in boarding school, when you broke your voice or had your first period, when you first came to be aware, or rather, (because it usually happens in the other direction) when the awareness came to you that the world is not yours, but that it owned itself, and you were confused and angry and adolescent, I was out there arguing with editors about my commas.
And when you got to legal maturity and the gates of adulthood, when you were finally able to count as a proper human person, I was getting restless. You were just getting started. I was beginning to wind up.
So now we meet. I have been writing your entire life. You missed most of it. Some of the best paragraphs. But now, here we are.
You know me because I have always been visible somewhere in your life– the cartoon or the photo in your peripheral vision (excuse the pun) of the newspaper every weekend.
You are what? Twenty three now? I was twenty three when I started. I know something about being twenty three. I know that twenty-three-year-old people know nothing at all. Certainly not how little they know.
I have not been a famous writer for some years now. I quit my column and vanished into an invisible wilderness, a dark forest, Selva Oscura some call it, and have not yet reemerged.
I still write, though. Plus, I am forty five now, so, going by unbroken precedence in my field, I am better than I ever was.
You want to be a writer too? You want to be good? Or you want to be famous? Or you want to be rich? Or perhaps all three?
I can help.
The Artfield Institute called me and asked me to do a couple of days of sharing what I can. It’s going to be on October 19th and 20th.
I will tell you everything I know, every secret of success and every secret of failure (The failures are especially enlightening: like why I ditched Anita Everything, Suki and ULK, why Ballad of Black Bosco was free to download and now I can’t use it to get an authors fellowship, why I can’t lie and why I can’t tell the truth, why I can’t be Charles Onyango Obbo or Bikozulu or Jennifer Makumbi, and why I never called Binyavanga.)
I could also tell you how nothing feels as good as making a story, and how words illuminated my darkest times and how reaching people with a funny paragraph gave a mediocre life like mine a sense of meaning and why this crap literally saves my life every day.
I’ll tell you how to be famous and how words can get you laid (then heartbroken, of course) and I will tell you what not to do so that by not doing it you become wealthy.
Remember when I said I write ads for a living now? I thought of writing an ad for this master class.
But then, nah. This isn’t something to advertise. Let Artfield advertise it. They are the ones selling it. I’m not going to sell you anything. I’m going to give you my twenty years.
I have not written for a while. And am not going to for a while longer. Ironically, the reason for this is that I have just become even more prolific. I started working again and now I am too busy to sit down and write blog posts.
I am too busy with proposals and presentations and edits and zoom meetings and concept edits and putting the pins in that for a minute now when the boss suggests that course of action, which is every time the dumbest fu** in the Zoom meeting thinks they have a idea.
That is not an idea. That is your brain doing with synaptical and neural energy what intestines do with methane and undigested protein. That is a fart being formed and seeking a way out.
It has been hard being away from this for so long. Even though, to be frank, between just the two of us, I had kind of planned to take a break anyway…
Because this is the thing.
The difference between a good writer and a great writer is not style. It’s sincerity.
Now, me? I have got style. I’ve got moves, baby, I groove. I have funk and rhythm. I have style.
I perform a song and dance for your amusement, mostly, because I like validation. But I don’t actually write, in the sense that a Writer writes. I don’t tell you what I am thinking, feeling, what I really am behind the screen or beyond the keys.
But guys, I am about to turn 46 years old. Technically, I am now an old writer. It is time to come of age. I have earned the right.
So, I am going to leave for a bit longer and collect myself, and return with my kanzu and kufi. It’s going to be brutal. You have four weeks to get ready.
I was looking for this thing I wrote about Independence last year and found this thing I wrote about Independence in 2012. You guys, I was hilarious.
I had told these two impudent teenagers of mine them over and over again that no one watches Lil Wayne music videos in my house. If that meant I was a hater, then let me be a hater and, true to my calling, let me hate. We had a long argument about this and I remember Chandler’s final submission: “Tunechi swagg too deep for yall!” To which I responded, “My intellect operates in coherent English, not in whatever language the word ‘swagg’ occurs.” Then I turned the channel and walked off with the remote control.
Little did I know they would figure out the secret very few teens in Uganda know — which is that you can actually operate a TV without the remote control. It is an unfortunate result of their inheriting my intelligence and their mother’s cunning; but they managed to find the buttons on the TV itself and switched the station back on to Lil Wayne.
I had to step in to both assert my authority (by turning the station the hell off YMCMB) and punishing them (by turning it into a documentary about Ugandan agricultural development since independence. Yes, you hapless teenagers. Let your eyes watch agricultural development. Let them bleed from this.)
Then: I thought they would writhe on the floor in agony but instead, and you could have bashed my head in with a leaf of lettuce just then, they just actually sat there and PAID REAL ATTENTION. Flabbers have never been so violently gasted in the history of flabbergasting. Chandler and Fraiser were actually interested in this documentary.
They even had questions to ask me after it ended.
Fraiser went first: “Dad, what was Uganda like before independence?”
Still shocked, I replied, “How should I know?”
“Have you forgotten?” asked Chandler. “Maybe you could check the archives and see what you used to write in your column in those years.”
Imagine: How old did these kids think I was, banange?
“As old as the hills?” suggested Fraiser.
“As old as the ancient songs of sadness from the African heart?” opined Chandler.
“Yeah, e’en unto the dawn of time whence thine people spake thusly,” went Fraiser, who then ducked to dodge the shoe I flung at him.
“I was not born in the sixties, Uganda was independent when I got here!” I snorted.
“But what were the old days like? I heard from an economics expert who wrote on a prestigious news site that things were much cheaper then than they are now,” said Fraiser, passing my shoe back to me. “I bet you could get an iPhone for like sh200.”
“Yes, they were,” I replied, “but we didn’t call it an iPhone. We called it foolscap paper. And if you wanted to send a person an email, or an sms or a whatsapp, you would use a stamp instead of an internet bundle.”
Futhermore: I continued, now that I had their attention. “Uganda was excellent when I was your age. We used to focus on our studies and we never wasted time wearing skinny jeans and listening to Lil Wayne.”
“Who did you listen to?” they asked.
“Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes,” I replied.
“You are kidding me. Jay-Z and Busta were there in the sixties?”
I had this Chandler And Frasier story lying around for years. It is not new.
I had tried to self publish a few several years ago, but they came out of the printers looking like — well, I would rather give my work away than try to sell something that looked as crappy as that cheap print-job did.
There is a longer story to this: which involves why there are still four volumes left, but I shall keep that for when we both have the whiskey, the data, the wherewithal and the peace of mind for a long ramble.
But for now, without further ado, Wiggly Nankani Productions Presents, Straight From The Kitchen of Wampisi and Associates Publications, Chandler and Frasier Vol 3: From China With Love In which two Kampala teenagers find love, find heartbreak, and find the true meaning of R&B songs
This is another love story. It includes the following characters: Lydia, Spanks, Ja Rule, E. Bazanye and Genevive. Don’t worry about Ja Rule for now. He comes in later.
But why did Ja Rule look like a potato made of potatoes? I mean, his head? An Irish. His body? A pile of Irish. His little muscle bulges made him look like someone had tattooed a kaveera of their vegetable shopping.
But we will come to him later. For now we need to maintain a coherent narrative stream without random digressions. So Ja aside, let’s look at Lydia.
Lydia was the head waiter/cashier of a DVD library in the days before everybody got Netflix and she was very good at her job. She knew all the inventory and where it was located. Just say the film you want and she would find and hand it to you in the briefest of moments.
She was so good she could even completely conceal her contempt when you ordered a really really shitty movie.
Like this bullshit. This movie was not just shitty. It was a visual assault of shittiness. It was aggressively shitty. It was not fecal matter, it was fecal energy. It was as if the photons emanating from the screen had arranged themselves in the specific military formation that soldiers in the 1986 Bush War used for toilet breaks and then marched onto our retinas and shat on them in with the resolve, courage, violent and valiant sense of purpose of the NRA attacking aduyi, only instead of liberating Uganda from tyranny, they were liberating our brains from our love for Tobey’s Spiderman.
If a customer would slap-paw his hyena legs into the lib and mouth-fart mbu he wanted Spider-Man 3, or the toilet Scarlett Johannsen made of Ghost In The Shell, or the war crime M. Night made of The Last Airbender or anything starring Nicolas Cage, nothing in Lydia’s face would show the surging compulsion to immediately kill him for having such awful taste. She was stoic and composed and did not look homicidal at all.
Sometimes she would secretly signal me for my gun (I used to pack a Glock 45 back then because, at the time, I was about that street life) but I would always refuse. I didn’t want her to get caught up in the game, you knowmsayin, cos once you start down that path, yo, ain’t no comin back. That’s real, knowmsayin’. Gangsta for life.
I was one of her customers but most of the time I just came in for the air conditioning and the company; just to hang out, cos she was cool. Another regular customer was a young man we called Spanks.
He told us his name was Spanks. NIRA was to later reveal, many years later, that it was actually Severino Paulo Nkalu-Kiwalidde, and you will see his posters on Umeme poles. He is standing for youth MP. When you meet him, please advise him to step down because he is now 48 years old.
But back then he was young and idle and always at the lib with Lydia and I consuming AC and enabling the bad staff habit of drinking on the job by supplying Lydia with sips of the Bond 7 he always seemed to have on him.
It was one sunny afternoon when a new customer walked in. A very very attractive 2010s woman. She was kacute and even though she picked her nostril when she thought we were not looking– people forget that some shops have CCTV cameras so we saw her bad manners– she didn’t damage it and it remained a very nice nostril.
She didn’t pull her kapintos, though. I noticed, because I ogled her bum, that she should have.
She got to the counter and smiled and asked for the following films.
Age Of Ultron
At the time Lydia had gone to the bathroom. I am not going to besmirch her reputation by making any claims concerning what she had gone to do there. Probably marijuana, but how would I know? Spanks was around so my Eustachian tube was unable to detect and discern any scent but Bondo fumes and Nivea For Men.
The pretty lady assumed, when she saw only Spanks and I in the library, that we were the staff, and asked us for the movies.
I was about to say, “Sorry. We don’t work here. I’m just here for the AC and this guy is here because his developing alcohol habit has already rendered him unemployable. As a result, all he does is wander into other people’s places of work with his Bond 7s trying to spread the habit,” but he had a deft Ip Man move he could execute where he kicked your ankle surreptitiously and made you shut up before you had even started your sentence.
He put himself directly in front of the counter and beamed. “Hi. My name is Brad. How can I help you?”
I then got a headache because I have one of those brains that does not naturally focus effectively. Some of you are like trains on a track: Once you get started with a thought or mental task, you stay with it till the logical end. Me? I am like a dozen fleets of boda bodas. It is very easy to just introduce an unexpected item and create an accident.
And now the thought “Ouch! That hurt” collided with “Brad of where now?” Full Full Condition.
I decided the safe thing to do would be to go and look for Lydia.
She wasn’t burning spliffs in the back of the store, so Mr/Ms Government Agent monitoring sites to see if anyone is outchea promoting illegal behaviour, get off my case.
Since she wasn’t smoking in the back of the store, she was not able to help my headache, but when I informed her that Spanks was dealing with a customer she quickly paused the video on her phone, put away the other gadget and dashed to the counter.
“Hi Jane!” Lydia hastily greeted.
“It’s Genevive, not Jane,” the customer, who was apparently Genevive as per recent revelations, replied.
“Sorry. I always think of you as Jenny, and then my head confuses Jenny with Jane,” Lydia smiled then did that thing Kampala women do where she tosses her eyes to the roof as if that is where all petty confusion comes from and waggled her left hand manicure.
If you were able to picture the gesture accurately from that sentence, then please, someone send me a writer’s fellowship for African Writers Trust because it means I am the best ever. I just described the inscrutable.
You know I always suspected that I was, if not the one, at least one of them. The problem is that none of you take me seriously. You think I am here for jokes, yet I tend to be quite insightful and deliver significant intellectual tonnage in my work. Take for example, the last Chandler and Frasier Book.
It is a trenchant examimation of what it means to be African in a modern global world, and how Western culture has been repurposed by the cultures orphaned by colonialism.
Chandler and Frasier Vol 3 coming August 9th, by the way. Completely bereft of all intelligent content.
Genevive gracefully reassured Lydia that she had been taken care of adequately. She had all the movies she needed. She also had a few series. I did my part by asking her which ones, just to see if she would say “serie” or “series” and she passed the test. And then she left.
The next time we met at Lydia’s Lib, Spanks was wearing a more grown up deodorant. I am not saying you guys who wear Nivea are immature, I am jussaying that you, well, you wear Nivia. I understand; life is not a New York Fashion Show Catwalk and you don’t have to be glamorous all the time. Most of the time all you need to do is just not stink, and Nivea is fine for that. It makes you smell like a vacist but there are worse things to smell like.
Eg, an S4.
Me, as me, I don’t judge people who wear Nivea for men.
But there are some people who do. Jussayin.
Next time we saw and smelled Spanks he was fragrant as a garden of Gillette in hot weather. He had had a hair cut, tucked in his shirt and timed his arrival with precision. The movies Genevive had taken should be done by now, and the FOMO for the next seasons of the series she had taken should be bringing her back today, he calculated, so there he was, ready to receive her.
It was so obvious, Lydia didn’t even ask. She just let him stand at the counter and do his thing when Genevieve showed up with her latest orders.
I sat aside on the bean bags with Lydia and asked her, “Are we really supposed to do this?”
This is why I loved Lydia: she just grinned a small, wry grin and said, “This is the age of chaos. This is the epoch of anarchy. Meaning is incidental. Purpose a shredded spiderweb.”
Get you a girl who quotes movies no one has ever heard of.
Meanwhile Spanks happily joked and bantered and quipped with Genevive about her choice of films, about the plot twists in the things she had watched, about football and UFC (whatever that is. Probably Kyalya’s political party) as he collected the DVDs from her list and finally, when she left, he sighed the way John Cusack always did in rom coms.
I began to say, “I just have a few suggestions. Next time, not Gillette. Secondly, don’t just laugh at her jokes, make her laugh at yours also. Thirdly, if you are thinking long term, you are going to have to go to a gym and work on your core and lumbar muscles because it’s not easy doing it with short women.”
But apparently Lydia also knew that Ip Man ankle kick from the paragraph up those ends so I just ended up saying, “Headache!”
Now, compatriots, you know generalisations and stereotypes are weak and lazy shortcuts that we only indulge in when we don’t want to do the actual work of thinking. It’s a dangerous habit because it can lead you to troublesome and wrong conclusions. Take, for example, the assumption that men are players. Spanks assumed that this was true and that it applied to him.
But in reality, he was no player. He had no game. He was no where near the pitch. He didn’t even know a stage where you can get the taxi that goes to Namboole let alone the direction of Nakivubo.
For three whole weeks this guy was at the library with his expensive deodorant trying to be romantic but never actually shooting a single shot.
Meanwhile, in her own life, Lydia was being developmental. The owner of the shop could not give her a raise so she negotiated for permission to use the premises for her own side businesses. She sold novels and did IT tech support consultancy on the side. One day she came in with a poster advertising jewelery, tiaras, rings, long lace gloves, bouquets of flowers and high heel shoes, all white.
It happened to be Genevie day and Spanks was there, three weeks sober, wearing Old Spice.
Genevive skipped in the way she always did, in her perfectly white little Nikes. Spanks was ready. His teeth were all out in the open, ready to beam for the coming minutes, the Genevive Minutes, the minutes he lived for, the reason his heart beat.
Lydia and I knew our place: out of the way, on the beanbags.
But just as Genevive was about to start asking about Mission Impossible, she noticed the poster. “Lydia! Is that what I think it…I have been looking all over!” and she glided straight to the poster.
Lydia ascertained that it was, indeed, the advert of a hustle of hers which was wedding planning. There was an email, whatsapp number, social media and so forth where you could get all your wedding planning needs taken care of. She even put the requisite cliche: “One stop biki spot” on the poster.
Genevive was elated. She cooed and oohed and aahed about the poster while Lydia did her best to market her business. “So you can get me measured for a wedding dress? But you know me I don’t believe in those things of spending a lot of money for a dress I’m only going to wear once, so I would really rather rent one, but Jeffery? Jeffery acts like I have suggested we serve grilled donkey head meat instead of cake. So someone told me that you can buy a dress from someone, have it altered to your size and specifications, and then, after your wedding, you sell it to the next bride, pay it forward sort of thing…”
Jeffery was her fiance. A man with small tight muscles and a bald head who looked exactly like Ja Rule.
He was outside in the car. We only saw him when he came in and hoarsely asked, “Are you ready?” In an accent that made it sound more like potatoes than he looked, with his bald head and muscles on muscles.
Spanks’ broken heart proceeded to instigate a temporary Bond 7 stock shortage in the mall, but at least, after that, the lib smelled better.
Moral of the story: don’t waste time when it comes to shooting your shot. Use Tinder instead.
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Also, Chandler and Frasier Vol 3 coming up August 9th.
This week’s story is from a restaurant, a cafe, such as Cafe Javas. The posh ones we used to go to before lockdown and, also, before lockdown decimated our disposable incomes.
It was a popular site for dates.
In case months under isolation have made you forget, dates are meetings over a meal in a nice restaurant where two people hold conversations with a view to increasing their mutual affection to the point where they like each other enough to have sex.
They are very useful if the guy is nervous and anxious, in which case he needs time to become comfortable with the lady opposite. He needs to get familiar enough with her, otherwise the sex will be frantic, awkward, clumsy and, if unprotected, result in an asshole child.
That is my theory about kids who are assholes– that they were conceived through unsatisfying sex. The resentment, bitterness and shame hormones that flooded their mother’s bloodstream while they were forming as zygotes are what got them started so, naturally, they would turn out to be wicked little jerks.
I liked dates. We would start out as strangers and next thing you know, a beautiful woman and I have turned a coffee table into our own personal world where we are the only two people who exist, basking in each other’s glow, smiling smiles that smile beyond the smile itself. You know, when it’s not just your face, it’s your soul that is smiling. I liked dates. After such dates, you would go on to make love.
But that was not the only type of date. Our culture became more cynical, perhaps, or we just became too busy to have time. Mu embeera y’okupakasa, no one has time for lovemaking. It’s chaws, hookups and smashing.
So dates are now also places where you each hold, on your part, a sort of interrogation to determine whether there is any reason not to have sex with whichever individual has positioned themselves as available that week.
You have to sweep for red flags first. For example, you might find that he is an unemployed in the worse way. As in, not the kind who would work if he had a chance, but the type who is talented and driven but he is not accepting any job because he is trying to “find himself”.
Of all the wankeristicity, of of all the solipsistic conceits, of all the kyegyo! If you want to find yourself ask google. Google will tell you where you are.
By the way, I shouldn’t be doing this. I am trying to build a base; a recurring readership who come back weekly. I should not be alienating readers in this social media age. I want readers to stay. I want to be able to love Bikozulu the way I used to love Bikozulu before the envy came in and soured my relationship with him.
And I am cynical enough to know that the best way to retain a reader is to find out what beliefs they cherish, what positions they identify with on the more intensely emotional topics, and then, if I can can articulate their preconceptions about these topics well enough, they may consider me intelligent and retweet me.
Of course I am not talking about you, you reading now. You are wise and open-minded. You and I love and respect each other. I mean those other ones there reading there. Not you. You you are my legit peeps.
But pandering to the crowd, following the trends, is the way to grow a blogging base. It’s the way to recover my love for Biko.
But fuck finding yourself. Bomboclart.
If you want to find yourself, reach out, swing your arms behind, grab that big, blubbery flesh you encounter. That’s your ass. You have found it.
Find yourself? Shiiyyeet. When we are nothing but fleas, fleas flocking the hide of a planet, itself just a fleck of dust among millions of other planets? We are infinitesimally insignificant iotas of the galaxy’s biomass. You don’t even have to be here. You can leave and the world will keep spinning. Find yourself? Why? When it makes no difference if you get lost?
Find yourself? Find deez nuts.
For the most part when a person wants to find himself, he already has and he didn’t like what he discovered. He found a spoilt, needy, unfulfilling waste and did not like it, so he denied it, like a deadbeat dad denying his baby because the child will take his beer and muchomo money for Pampers; That is not mine! That is not me!
Find yourself? That guy is not looking for himself. He is looking for an identity that is cool and glamorous and heroic and sexy enough to satisfy his ego, he is looking for an identity that he can put on and wear and claim, like Tony Stark when he wore the Mark 3 and said “I am Iron Man.”
Mbu find yourself? Humans, I know we want to think we count for something, we don’t want to be meaningless or purposeless or valueless, but we are. The only meaning, purpose or value a human being has is that which he or she creates. So go out and be useful. Or be kind. Or just be humble. When you have real value, you don’t have time to find yourself because people keep looking for you. “Eh mama, as you’re lost!” all the friends whose lives love you will say because they have not seen you for three months and you mean so much to them that… anyway, I think I have made my point.
So, dates became these situations where you check to see whether there is any reason not to consummate your desire to have carnal knowledge with this individual: A few hours to check his finger for ring-marks, to suss out her position on Stella Nyanzi’s candidature, to assess the general scene for warning signs and to give running commentary to your real life Kouncil (This is when you keep going to the loo to give updates to your whatsapp group to see what their input is. I.e. “He says he got a Kanagimelon fellowship. TF is that even?” “Carnegie Mellon, you dwanzie. It means he is very smart. Go for it.” “Sounds like a nerd.” “Did you remember to check his shoe size?” etc).
But this one time, this thing I saw was different.
He was middle aged. The type who looks it. There are some men who look so middle aged because they have been middle aged all their life. The kind who listened to Don Williams during their twenties. The kind who have been waking up at six and tuning in to BBC Africa since they were at Makerere doing something inane like SWASA and getting good grades at it.
The thing with that kind of guy is that he tends to be very hardworking, very focussed, very disciplined, and when you are those things for long enough, you just might get lucky and end up very wealthy.
You will still be a dweeb, but wealthy middle aged dweebs know this– of those three adjectives, two don’t matter.
Now he can finally slow down and pick up on all the stuff he missed out on while he was hustling his way to the top. Like being fashionable (explains the perfectly-cut suit), being trendy, (explains the iPhone and Benz keys), and, of course, when he was younger he never had a chance to have sex with the hot babes of his age. But now, he does. Cos he has a moneeyzzz.
He was sitting at one end of the table eating his carbonara with the fork and knife the way they taught him when he was doing kyeyo in Manchester. He occasionally looked at her, then back at his food. Then looked around. He looked at me. I looked away quickly in case he can read my eyes.
She, on the other hand, was not even trying. She was on her phone tapping-tapping with two thumbs, meaning she was texting– she was spending the whole date ignoring her actual date while having multiple social interactions with other people miles away.
And to make it worse, she had one earbud in. That just makes it worse. As if the un-budded ear is a token gesture, a condescending pat on the head.
She had ordered something opulent that she poked at with her fork intermittently, when she was not tapping into her chat app.
There was a moment when she put the phone down and turned to the table. A brief moment. She was a wolf because the food was decimated in just that brief moment.
Then back the the phone.
He seemed to ask if she was enjoying the food. She looked up, and did a face like, “Wha’?”
He repeated the question.
She gave a cursory, perfunctory, “Oh yeah, sure.” and then was lost in the phone again until the waiter arrived to suggest dessert.
I guessed black forest and was right.
He had a tiramisu and, when it came, he looked at it the way middle aged men look at more and more things as they grow older. There is a look you develop for moments when you realise you made the wrong decision and now it’s too late to do anything but live with the consequences.
Now, I don’t want to sound judgy, but I already did, so I might as well continue to.
I do judge the guy. I judge him for putting up with this in public. This looks like a man who has moved mighty obstacles in his life; he has slain dragons, this guy, he has trophies as well as scars. This is a guy who has won fierce battles and yet he is here being kukula’d by a kid half his age and allowing pieces of shit like me to look at him and judge him.
I think he should demand a bit more from her. She’s going to fake an orgasm for him later, the least she could do is fake interest in his kb now. She could at least pretend to pay attention to him.
And I judge her, too. I am not going to judge her for anything else she is doing. It’s her life, her choice. And Feminism hasn’t settled the question of whether she is being forced to commodify her body by the patriarchy or whether she is emancipated enough to use her sexuality on her own terms as she feels fit, so that is not it.
It’s not the decline of the date either, because just because this is going on, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t love anymore. There are still couples lost in each others’ eyes over a rolex stand #IreneNtale saying, “I have to go. Curfew.” And then staying there for another twenty minutes. Then saying it again. Then staying again.
And of course there is the frantic, “No, don’t start. If you start, curfew will reach nga we haven’t finished. In fact, hint hint,” because much as the D is good, she doesn’t want him to spend the night.
This is what is bothering me about the whole thing: and I will acknowledge the pettiness here, but people: I can understand putting up with unsatisfactory sex for material security or gain. People do that all the time. That is called marriage. But…
How do you allow?
How do you sit there and allow a man to bore you for two hours so you can get free Black Forest? How?
I judge her for poor time management and lack of planning skills. If you don’t like the guy’s company, skip the date and just meet in the hotel or lodge. They can deliver the Jerk Chicken and Black Forest to your crib another time and you watch while watching series.
Me, you see me here, you see a man with a swagger, a man who walks with confidence, a man who walks as if he not only owns the room, but the building and the street. A man who moves as if Rajiv Ruparelia just borrowed this shit for a second.
Rajiv: Good morning sir. I am Rajiv Rupar…
Me: Here, hold kko these titles for me, will you? I need to type.
What you imagine happened
It may look like a sense of superiority, but really it is the opposite. It is because I lack self esteem– I have none at all. My self esteem is so low that I not only don’t expect people to care about me, but I don’t care if they don’t.
The result is that I will (and have done and will do so again) go to the bank in socks and sandals and smile very nicely to the staff as I fill the slip to withdraw my million shillings, some of which is going to buy crocs and more socks.
So now that I have introduced myself. Let me proceed, or at least begin this story.
I was in my former office lobby, having just said goodbye to a visitor, who had just walked out of the main gate and into the street, when I noticed that she had given me the wrong business card.
This was in the days when I still accepted business cards– pre-Covid. Nowadays, gimme a whatsapp number or a gmail address or do not expect us to ever communicate again; you are dead to me.
Of what use is a business card in Covid times? I haven’t even been to Aristoc in months, so I don’t need bookmarks and I can’t even pick my teeth with it cos it might have the corona virus on one corner. Kyanja, where I live, is full of casually disregarded “No Dumping” signs and the only reason your business card isn’t bio-degrading under one is that you are not going to waste either of our times giving it to me.
But back in the days people in office had such naive habits as accepting business cards.
But this card had the wrong name on it.
To protect the identities of the parties involved I shall not use the real names. I shall use names of people who were not involved in the story at all, like, say, random pick, Stella Nantumbwe.
So, instead of giving me a card that said, “Stella Nantumbwe, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0777Donotstalk, Twitter @Ellanantumbwe FB.com/Ellanantumbwe,” it said something very opposite. Like “Fatboy Jr, Fatboyskid@gmails.com , 07724ImusingmydadsabandonedMTNline, twitter @Dontmutemeyet FB.com/Tiredofbeingreported.”
Wait. This might get confusing. Ssi ku the way I write. Let me clarify that the person in whose names the card was not was in any way related to Fatboy. I only mentioned Fatboy because I wanted to use the Cartman pic. I just imagine that if Cartman would make Fatboy admit that he has lost an argument. And if Cartman was Fatboy’s kid, it would happen all week long.
The guy whose name was on the card was some asshole names withheld.
I had to move quickly before she got into her uber/taxify and get the right card.
For the record, it wasn’t Ellah. I just used her name because that was the week I first met her and I was crushing on her to such an extent that “crushing” would still be an understatement if I was four elephants sitting on top of her Vitz.
You guys, if you think Ellah is hot, wait till you see her speak. I did not say hear her speak. I said see her speak. Combine the sight of her with that voice and, fam! I crushed like the security apparatus of African states on the hopes of their people who yearn for free speech and human rights.
By the way, if you are one of those people who snitch and show these blog posts to the people I mention, tell her it’s safe now. I am over her. I still think she looks like a gorgeous praying mantis with those large eyes of hers, but I have too much anti-anxiety medication in my heart ventricles to be in love.
So, the guest was outside, about to enter their cab. I was inside, holding the wrong card. Action needed to be taken rapidly. I ran out of the gate shouting for them to wait and give me the right card before departing.
Are we going to keep interrupting the flow of the narrative with these distractions? Now you want to know if she gave me the wrong card as the equivalent of giving a nagging trash suitor at a club a fake name and number. Once again, it was not the actual Ellah.
Ella Nantumbwe would not give me the wrong number because I would not ask. I would give her my number and let her decide. I told you already. Confidence.
What would I do with Ellah’s number anyway? There’s levels to this shit, dude, and she’s like a foot taller than me.
Okay, let’s forget about hiding identities. It was Jane, okay? You don’t know her. Now will you let me get back to my story?
So I ran out of the gate to give Jane back the wrong card and get the right one.
What follows is one of my long speeches. I tend to talk like this in these stories. Follow me now:
“Jane, you have given me the wrong business card. This is K.J.’s card. I am shocked, appalled actually. If I didn’t admire you as much as I do, I would have taken this as a blight on your character– not that you gave me his card but that you actually have this person’s card. This person? This person isn’t just gasiya. This person is what makes me strongly suspect that a secret deal was struck between Uganda and China to dump nuclear waste in our landfills and then the maggots, roaches and bacteria that fester therein spontaneously evolved into a single sentient zombie monster of filth which then located the corpse of a sex pervert who had just died after his attempt to grow a second penis via witchcraft rituals went fatally wrong. The radioactive garbage monster found a way of donning the skin of the dead witchcraft pervert and, in this disguise, infiltrated Kampala society and, in the course of its other toxic, obscene and unholy activities, found time to print business cards. This card is proof that such a creature exists. I can only assume that you got it by accident– someone gave you the wrong card, the way you gave me the wrong card.”
Jane looked at the card and her face went through three expressions.
1: Whose card is this? (Curiosity.)
2: What? His card? How did I end up with his card? (Incredulity)
3: What the fuck! Get that thing away from me! (Abject terror at being in the same acre as that guy’s name alone, not to mention number, email, and social media handles.)
There was only one thing to do, of course, and you know it as well as I do. So I asked the patient Uber driver if his car had a lighter that we could use to burn the card to ash and end the cycle there and then. By the way, my younger readers, that thing which you use to plug in the phone charger in the car? You can stop wondering why it has that weird symbol on it. It was originally designed as a cigarette lighter, and can actually cause fire. I hope none of you know this because I hope none of you smoke cigarettes. They are bad for you. Smoke fish. That is good for you.
The Uber driver turned round and looked at me.
“Aren’t you Ernest Bazanye?” he asked.
At the time I was very famous so I said simply “Yeah. And?” (As opposed to now, when I am less famous, so I will probably answer, “Yeah, why?”)
I reached out my hand for the lighter.
The Uber driver said, “I hated your last article. It was shallow and silly and annoying. And what made it even more annoying is that I read it because they had wrapped my hard corns in the newspaper page, so I had constipation as a result. Meaning I couldn’t even take a dump and wipe my ass with it.”
Friends, at the time I was a newspaper columnist, one with a lot of experience. I had been writing a column for many years. One of the things you learn as a journalist is to focus on getting relevant answers to relevant questions. So I said, “Your opinion is not a lighter. I asked for a lighter.”
“You are such an awful writer I bet if you DM’d Ellah, she would not just block you,” he grumbled, handing over the lighter. “She would block herself as well because now her profile has been contaminated.”
Jane held the lighter to the corner of the card and we set it on fire. It burned briefly but viciously, as if it knew how evil it was.
“Man, your column sucks. No wonder the hard corns that were wrapped in it tasted like toenails. It was like eating the toenails of someone who wears crocs and walks through Kikoni on the way to work,” he said as we returned the lighter and I helped Jane out of the car, the back seat of which was now on fire because, well, you should not burn paper inside Vitzes with plastic upholstery.
Then we went and got another uber. Jane asked, “Aren’t you going to do something?”
“About what?” I asked. “It’s his Vitz and his lighter. Therefore it is his fire. Let him deal with it.”
“About what he said about your article,” she prompted.
This is when I realised the depths of my self esteem. That article was actually brilliant but be that as it may, we know not everyone appreciates the steez. I looked in my heart, in my soul and even in my pockets for the fuck Jane expected me to give and couldn’t find it. “Well, let him read Big Eye instead,” I decided. “Probably more his level.” And we proceeded to call a Taxify.
You know this story didn’t really have a point to it. They rarely do. I usually just come here, try to make you laugh and leave without making any trouble. Let’s do that today as well.
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