The theme for the launch was the 60s and the music was great. James Browns - Sex Machine, The Jackson Fives- ABC etc. etc. Marvelous stuff. There were a few people dressed appropriately- I wasn’t one of them. A couple of fabulous ladies dressed in large afro wigs, oversized sunglasses and colours that could have shocked any Kamba out of his psychedelic self. We were not out of place as most of the people were either unaware of the theme or didn’t make an effort to participate. I am not sure if, had I known earlier, I would have made a conscious effort to dress up.
So there we are at Simba Saloon, my wife, my cousin and I. My cousin is trying to comprehend why people read or write poetry. He tells us that the last time he read a serious book was back in school and he hated every moment of those years. He says he believes in making money not wasting time reading. I tell him that I agree with him on the importance of making money and succeeding, but insist that reading for oneself is good and growth is infinite and more rewarding than those days back in school. As this line of discussion appears to be quickly deteriorating into an argument that I know I cannot possibly win through intelligent reasoning, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.
The place is getting packed quickly and as I leave my seat some dread locked, spaced out kijana comes for the seat. I decide to let my cousin do his macho thing and make sure that my seat is there when I get back. I can almost lip read the exchange of polite obscenities between them and I smile at my wife’s obvious amusement. On the way to the toilets I bump into none other than Binyavanga signing copies of Kwani03. He looks up and I say hello and he asks from where he knows me. I’d never thought that my brother and I resembled each other but Binya was convinced that he knew me. I finally accept this and as I explain that I was Waduma’s brother his face brightened and he tells me that he expects to be in the states during the wedding (Waduma’s) sometime in March next year. He thanks me for supporting Kwani and I tell him that I will be looking out for him a little later so that I can get picture of him and my wife. At this stage I am thinking of how much I will impress Waduma with that photo! An overenthusiastic fan interrupts us and I hurriedly excuse myself for I feel like my bladder is about to burst.
As I weave my way through the human traffic, KJ comes back on stage and is about to start reading Blood and 100% Human Hair by Martin Kimani Mbugua. Damn! I curse. To me this is the highlight because I am proud to know this author personally. I stand against one of the columns willing away my piss and trying to concentrate on KJs booming voice. The story is, as I expected, quite good and most of Simba Saloon is quiet…. transfixed by KJ and transported to Kenyatta Market. I say most people were quiet expect for a table of some 10 people whose appreciation of Kenyan literary works was equal to my understanding of quantum physics. My guess is that they were here by mistake- probably attracted here by the free drinks at the cocktail. Maybe they’d had a few too many there. They played the Kenyan role of overdrinking and lack of concern for others to Oscar standards. They are loud, laughing at some privately shared jokes. They casually ignore all the threatening, demeaning and pathetic looks all the surrounding tables are giving them. I feel I could personally throw the lot out of the Carnivore.
Back to Charles Kiarie (KJ). He is an okay reader; he could have improved on his intonation and clarity in order to bring out the realism of this piece. (When I read the piece later I was even more convinced about that. I could almost smell the nyama choma the hair pomade, burning braids and the trench. I could hear the women clamoring for customers. The fight between Gikuyu and the Luo woman was classic. I could vividly see the alleys cramped with salons, barbershops and boutiques.) KJ finishes and the whole room applauds. The table of the “terrible 10” briefly look to the stage and clap, feigning delight. ‘Brilliant’, they say, ‘Brilliant!’ I run to the toilet pressing myself to keep the piss in and make it to the urinal. There I am, running in place, trying to unzip my trousers to relieve the struggling organ. Finally its out and I feel the sweet release as I throw my head back in pleasure. (Sorry ladies, only men understand this feeling- it’s indescribable!)
Out of the toilet and back to the show. I stop by the bar to buy a pack of cigarettes and I find Judy Kibinge talking to a gentleman at the counter. I love her eyes. I pull out my camera so as to get a photo to send to Waduma (my excuse) and it doesn’t come out very well but at least I got it. She hurries off to the stage before I have the chance to say hello and remind her of who I am. It is upsetting being the elder brother and having to introduce yourself, ‘Hey how you been? Remember me I am the Kenyankukekamba -brother to Waduma?’ ‘We had drinks with you, Kima and Waduma at Chez L’ami a couple of months ago?’ Anyway I didn’t have the chance. A gentleman is reading us his poem on Pattni in a coy Indian accent. Excellent stuff. Next Judy is on stage and is preparing us for the David Munyakei Clip. We all give a fitting applause to David- Kenyas own unsung hero in the Goldenberg Scandal. She reads as the clip rolls. Its amazing and I cant find words to express it. One needs to see the clip to appreciate what this man has done for our country and is still suffering for it. WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING FOR DAVID.
End of Part TWO………
Part THREE may follow.